This is the conclusion of my ‘Tabula Avatar’ crossover universe story The King of Elfland’s Daughter, sequel to Debt of Blood. An NCIS/Stargate SG-1/Forgotten Realms crossover.
Summary: Gibbs and the NCIS Major Case Response Team investigate the brutal murder of a Marine and the trail leads them first to a Congolese immigrant named Cierre LuaLua, working for a secret Air Force project, and then to a deadly, seemingly invulnerable, assassin who might be a literal devil. Chapter 11 is 6,900 words, rating 15.
Abby handed Gibbs a sheaf of papers. “Floor plans for the Farrow-Marshall building,” she said. “The executive offices are on the top floor, just like every Evil Overlord lair that isn’t in a deep basement, or inside a volcano. Only one of the elevators goes to the top floor and it needs a special key-card. Guess they don’t want the minions interrupting their evil plotting.”
Gibbs took the papers and, in exchange, gave Abby a Caf-Pow. “Good work, Abbs,” he said, and then dipped his hand into a pocket and pulled out the studded choker. “And here’s something else for you.”
Abby raised her eyebrows. “It’s lovely, Gibbs, but shouldn’t you have waited until Christmas? And wrapped it? You always wrap my presents. And I wasn’t expecting anything and usually I feel your presents in the Force.”
“Huh?” Gibbs frowned for a second, then it clicked that Abby was making a Star Wars reference. Most popular culture passed him by but Star Wars was ubiquitous enough that it had, just about, sunk into his consciousness. “It’s not from me, Abby. And it isn’t really a gift. It’s a translation amulet.”
“Like Cierre’s? Wow. Totally cool,” Abby said. “I have to try it out!” She set down her Caf-Pow and quickly exchanged her current choker for the new one. “Say something in Russian, Gibbs.”
“Russkiy yazyk ochen’ krasivy,” Gibbs obliged.*
“I’m sure it is, but say something in it,” Abby said, and then Gibbs’ half-smile registered on her and her eyes widened. “That was in Russian? Oh, wow!” She bounced on her feet, and clapped her hands together, but then her brow furrowed slightly. “I thought the SGC only had thirty of these and couldn’t get any more. But this looks like it was custom-made for me. How come?”
“I met two women in Starbucks yesterday,” Gibbs related. “They said they were goddesses, well, one goddess and her herald angel. Shar and Egeria.”
Abby’s eyebrows shot upward like surface-to-air missiles leaving their launchers. “Shar? But she’s… Evil. With a capital E.” Her eyebrows began a slow descent. “Although… so is Cierre’s goddess, according to all the books, so maybe I shouldn’t jump to conclusions. She gave you this?”
“One for you, one for me, and one each for McGee, DiNozzo, and David,” Gibbs confirmed. “All personalized and she said that no-one else can wear them. If they do… the amulets work in reverse. Everything gets translated into gibberish.”
“Neat,” said Abby. “So, what’s the catch?”
“She wants us to do something for her,” Gibbs said. “She wasn’t specific but it sounded like an investigation. Probably with some combat involved. On her planet.”
“Another planet?” Abby’s eyes became so big and round they could almost have been planets themselves. “That would be awesome. Except we couldn’t go, because NCIS.”
“She said it would only be if NCIS could spare us,” Gibbs said, “and we do get lulls sometimes. If there wasn’t any major case on the go then it might count as repaying the Air Force for AFOSI helping us out on this one. I said I’d think about it, and it would depend on what you and McGee said about what she wanted to do.”
Gibbs frowned as he tried to remember Shar’s exact words. “To… tear down the… Wall of the Faithless and free the souls trapped in it.”
“Oh,” said Abby. “Wow. That is… big.”
“So, what is this ‘Wall of the Faithless’?
“It’s… well, it’s the place you go where you die, if you don’t worship any of the gods,” Abby said. “I mean, in the Forgotten Realms, not in real life. Uh, real death. It’s… like a wall built out of the souls of the dead. They’re all kinda… glued together with this stuff like evil moss. And they stay there, helpless, until they crumble away to nothing.” She turned away, snatched up her Caf-Pow, and took a big drink.
“Tearing it down does seem like a good thing to me,” Gibbs said. “But if she’s a goddess why can’t she just do it herself?”
“It’s in the realm of Kelemvor, God of the Dead,” Abby said. “He’s not going to allow that. And on his own ground he’s pretty much invincible. The latest expansion for Neverwinter Nights 2 has it as the main plot. I haven’t bought it yet, I didn’t think I’d have the time to play it – it took me months, maybe a year, to get all the way through the Original Campaign – but I’ve heard about it in the forums. A lot of the players are pissed that they can’t do anything about the Wall because Kelemvor is just too powerful to fight. Unless they turn to the Dark Side of the Force, but if they do that they don’t care about the Wall.”
Gibbs shook his head. “She can’t expect us to fight a god,” he said. “And I got the impression she wanted us for something not that different than what we do here.”
“It might be to do with one of the… sub-plots,” Abby said. “I think I’d better get the game and see what I can work out.”
“If you think it would be a good idea,” said Gibbs. “I take it you think we should go along with her request? Assuming it doesn’t come in the middle of someone hijacking the Theodore Roosevelt, that is.”
“I think so,” said Abby, “but maybe we should check with the SGC people.”
“Shar suggested I should talk to Daniel Jackson,” Gibbs said. “I’ll get Cierre to arrange it.” He glanced at his watch. “Later, that is,” he said. “It’s time to be heading off to Bethesda. I’ll ride with McGee and ask him about Shar, and this Wall thing, on the way.”
Gibbs and McGee emerged from the elevator into a scene of carnage and confusion. There was the smell of gunfire in the air, and blood, and a woman was cowering in a corner and screaming. The legs and butt of a man were sticking out from under a desk and he was trying, unsuccessfully, to crawl in further. He was making little whimpering noises.
A door, bearing the legend ‘Charlotte Mayfield. Executive Vice President’, stood open. A man’s body lay in the doorway. He was lying on his back and Gibbs recognized his face, from the dossier on Farrow-Marshall that NCIS had put together; Devon Hibbert, described as Charlotte Mayfield’s ‘Personal Assistant’ but assessed as being more probably her bodyguard and enforcer. There was a blood-rimmed bullet hole in his shirt front and another just above his right eye. The carpet around his head and upper body was soaked in blood. A Glock pistol lay on the floor near his right hand.
Gibbs entered the room, gun at the ready, and saw another body. Charlotte Mayfield was leaning back in her chair, her mouth hanging open, her arms dangling limply at her sides. There was a hole in the center of her forehead and a splatter of blood on the wall behind her. Blood, and a paler pinkish liquid, was oozing out of her nose and ears.
She’d been dead only a minute or two. The killer was either still on this floor – possibly even the screaming woman, or the man hiding under a desk – or making a getaway. Unless the two deceased had killed each other – unlikely but just barely conceivable – but it took Gibbs only a couple of seconds to eliminate that possibility. Hibbert looked to have dropped where he was hit, and he wasn’t in line of sight of Mayfield’s desk, ruling out one having hit the other with a shot fired by reflex as the fatal head-shot hit. There was no sign of a gun anywhere near Mayfield. And there were no ejected cartridges on the floor near Hibbert; nobody would spend their last dying seconds policing their brass.
No, a third party had taken Mayfield by surprise and killed her with a single shot. Hibbert had come running in response to the shot but the killer had been ready for him and had fired first. And then departed… but where to? If it had been another of Bodhi’s kind then she would have teleported out and could be anywhere. Washington, Cleveland, or back to Faerûn and completely out of reach. But Gibbs doubted whether the female devils would care if Mayfield talked or not. The Trust, on the other hand…
He moved closer to Charlotte Mayfield’s desk. There was a drawer partly open with a pistol visible within it; he guessed she’d made a futile attempt to get to it when her assailant drew his, or her, gun. And then he saw her computer screen…
“McGee! Get in here!” Gibbs yelled. He moved to the doorway, where he could see the woman – no longer screaming, as McGee had calmed her – and the man who was slowly emerging from under the desk.
McGee hastened to meet him. “Yes, Boss?”
“The computer in there. It’s wiping itself. Stop it and save what you can.”
“On it, Boss,” McGee said, and scurried off.
Gibbs went to the two witnesses. “Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS,” he introduced himself. “What happened here?”
“He started shooting,” the man babbled. “Mr. Jameson shot Ms. Mayfield and Devon. He must have gone m-mad! I thought he was going to kill us all.”
Jameson. That had to be Alex Jameson, Chief Financial Officer of Farrow-Marshall, already flagged up by McGee and Agent Drummond – and also, independently, by Michelle Lee, who was still working on the case despite her future with NCIS, and her possible criminal prosecution, still being up in the air – as an almost certain member of the Trust. But him acting as his own hit-man, silencing a potential weak link violently and personally, hadn’t been anticipated by anyone.
Gibbs frowned. It didn’t make sense. Sure, silencing someone who could compromise the company, and expose the Trust, was logical. The CFO doing it personally… was not. Any damage Charlotte Mayfield could do by talking, Alex Jameson could do too. So why not have a low-level employee primed to shoot both of them in the event of Federal Agents arriving with warrants? And Jameson doing it for his own benefit didn’t make sense either. Trying to dodge the rap for the Trust’s activities by committing a double murder in front of witnesses? Pointless. There had to be some factor Gibbs was missing.
“Mr. Jameson went into Ms. Mayfield’s office,” the woman said, “and I heard her yell ‘Devon!’ and then there was a shot. It was so loud! And Devon came running with a gun in his hand and I heard another shot, and Devon fell down, and Jameson came out and he had a gun and he shot Devon again. And then he looked at me and I was sure he was going to kill me and his eyes – flashed. They went like… silver. And then he ran off to the fire stairs.”
That was the missing factor. Jameson was a Goa’uld. The human body was expendable. The creature inside would leave Jameson behind as a corpse, or a brain-damaged shell like Olympia Farrow, and move on into someone else.
Gibbs considered possibilities. He and McGee had been coming up in the elevator, at the time of the crime, leaving the fire stairs as the only feasible escape route. He expected Jameson’s plan would involve descending to one of the lower floors of the Farrow-Marshall building, going into a bathroom, finding a lone junior employee and taking him over. Or getting out of the building altogether and possessing a cab driver, a random passer-by, a cop… Finding the Goa’uld again would be pretty much impossible once it had changed bodies. It was a good thing that he had all the exit routes covered.
He moved away from the two witnesses and, just in case they weren’t telling the truth or were mistaken, he checked out Jameson’s office. Empty, and the computer on the desk was displaying the same message as Charlotte Mayfield’s had been. He activated his microphone.
“DiNozzo, David. Mayfield’s dead. Shot by Alex Jameson. He’s making a getaway down the stairs. And he’s…” Gibbs glanced around, making sure no Farrow-Marshall employees were within earshot, “…a Goa’uld. Watch out.”
“Understood, Boss,” DiNozzo’s voice came through the earpiece. “We’re at the fifth floor now, no sign of him yet.”
“He’s armed, probably with a heavy-caliber revolver.” The absence of spent brass, and the size of the bullet-holes, pointed to that being the likeliest possibility. Normally it would be a poor weapon for a gunfight, the recoil making it hard to control, but a Goa’uld’s host was as strong as Cierre, or even stronger, and wouldn’t have a problem. “Amos, did you get that?”
“Heard and understood, Jethro,” the AFOSI team boss responded. His people were covering the exits on the first floor.
Gibbs went back to Charlotte Mayfield’s room and met McGee coming the other way.
“Good news, Boss,” McGee reported. “She’d launched the data shredding program but it required a confirmation before it did anything irrevocable and she hadn’t entered it. Everything she wanted to destroy is still there.”
“So Jameson killed her too soon,” Gibbs said. “Unfortunately the same won’t be true of his computer.” He pointed at Jameson’s door. “Get in there and see if you can do anything to rescue the stuff on that one.”
“On it, Boss,” said McGee.
“I’m going after him,” Gibbs said, and he headed for the staircase. It opened with a swipe of a security pass, like so many things did these days; maybe it was the delay while they got those passes from Reception that had given someone the chance to tip off Mayfield and Jameson that NCIS were on the way up. He set off down the stairs as fast as he could but he hadn’t even gone down one flight when he heard the thunder of gunfire from below.
Charlotte Mayfield found herself standing on a grey, featureless, plain that seemed to stretch away to infinity in all but one direction. The only things in view were a high wall of an oddly sickening grey-green color, that seemed to writhe as she looked at it, and behind it a tower that looked like a skyscraper of solid glass. Above her the sky was just as grey and featureless as the ground.
“Where am I?” she wondered aloud.
She had been starting up the SHREDDER program to erase the incriminating files from her computer when Alex Jameson had rushed into her office.
“Are you running SHREDDER?” he had asked, urgency in his voice.
“Of course,” she had answered, annoyed. Did he think she was an idiot?
And then he had smiled, pulled a massive revolver out from under his jacket, and leveled it at her. She had screamed for Devon and reached for her desk drawer, in which she had a pistol, but then there had been a shattering noise and then an instant of unbearable pain. And then she was here.
“What… is this Hell?”
“Not yet,” a voice answered from behind her. She turned around and saw a dark-haired woman, very pretty in a sultry way, clad in black leather. With wings. Large, white, wings. She would have thought her to be an angel except no angel would have such a wicked smirk on her lips and such a devilish glint in her eyes. One of Bodhi’s kind, then, and the next words from the being’s lips confirmed it.
“Bodhi says I should tell you ‘Kom vith me if you vant to live’,” the female devil went on. “Apparently it’s from some movie I haven’t seen yet.”
“Terminator 2,” Charlotte confirmed, unable to think of anything more pertinent to say. “Judgement Day.”
“How… appropriate,” the devil said. “I’m Hezebel, Bodhi’s commanding officer. Take my hand.”
Charlotte obeyed. The scene blurred, she felt a momentary sensation of falling, and then she found herself standing on a glacier. A blizzard was blowing, the icy wind instantly chilling her to the bone, and in seconds she was shivering violently.
Hezebel seemed unaffected. “This is the realm of Cania, where traitors go,” she said. “If you don’t take up my offer you will spend a hundred years here, laboring as a miner, and being tortured whenever the whim strikes one of the overseers. And then…” Again there was a sensation of movement and the scene changed again. Now they were in the middle of a fetid swamp. Things that looked like man-sized blobs of rotting flesh oozed across the surface of the swamp seemingly aimlessly.
“Lemures, the basic grade devils,” Hezebel explained. “You will be transformed into one and will fight, or labor, at the command of higher devils. If you survive long enough someone might change you into a slightly higher type, and maybe in a thousand years or so, after several transitions, you might make it to Erinyes. Or you could just…” the scene changed again, “join up now.”
Now they were in a rocky, barren, wasteland that could have been Iceland or the Badlands of Dakota. The sky above was a mass of swirling dull yellow clouds that could have been a sandstorm, or volcanic ash, or poison gas; nothing pleasant, that was for certain. A dozen or so winged women, all tall, slim, and pretty, were sitting on rocks watching two of their type engaged in a bare-handed sparring match. One of the two combatants, and obviously by far the superior of the two, was Bodhi.
“So, Charlotte, what’s it to be?” Hezebel asked. “A century of torture, and then more centuries as an almost mindless creature that makes a slug look beautiful, or jump the queue and go straight to being an Erinyes?”
Charlotte didn’t reply for a moment. She blinked, shook her head, and pinched herself on the arm. “It’s hardly a choice,” she said at last. “Of course I’ll take the second option.”
Hezebel gave her a broad smile and then took her by the shoulders and kissed her on each cheek. “Welcome to Hezebel’s Harpies,” she said. “You’re exceptionally lucky. I only know a handful of cases where new recruits were allowed to start this high up, and to keep their memories. It only occurs when they have something really special to offer. In Bodhi’s case it was her capacity for extreme violence; it was only later that we realized that her knowledge of Earth was even more valuable.”
“And that’s what you want from me, I take it?” Charlotte said.
“That’s right,” Hezebel confirmed. “You’ll be teaching us your language – I’m speaking it now with a Tongues spell, when it wears off you wouldn’t be able to understand me – and about your customs and technology. We’ll teach you our languages, how to fly, how to fight, and how to write misleading but binding contracts.”
“Like the one I signed?”
Hezebel laughed. “I’m sure Bodhi made it clear that you were signing over your soul,” she said. “It’s not our fault if you didn’t understand the implications. I don’t know what kind of afterlife you’d have got in your own world but, considering you’re a traitor, I doubt if it would have been pleasant.”
“I never thought of myself as a traitor,” Charlotte said. “I started off trying to do my best to defend Earth and the United States. I just thought I could get rich along the way.”
“There is a saying, in Faerûn, that the road to the Nine Hells is paved with good intentions,” said Hezebel.
“We have the same saying on Earth,” Charlotte replied, “except that we only have one Hell.”
She saw Bodhi, whose sparring partner had fallen back a couple of steps, glance in her direction. Bodhi lowered her hands, apparently distracted by recognizing Charlotte, and the other girl seized the opportunity and leapt forward with a fist swinging. Bodhi performed a smooth backward step-turn, not even looking at her opponent, and the blow missed. As the other Erinyes stumbled off-balance Bodhi continued round with the turn, kicked her foe behind one knee, and as she fell to her knees seized her by one arm and the neck. Bodhi applied a combination arm-lock and choke-hold for a few seconds, until it was obvious that her victory was inevitable, and then released her grip.
“You should know me better than to think I’d fall for that one, Charylis,” Bodhi said, and then she headed for Charlotte and Hezebel at a fast walk.
“Charlotte! How lovely to see you,” Bodhi purred. “I expected you’d get killed before long. Was it NCIS or your own people?”
“One of my own,” Charlotte replied. She still felt strange and disoriented, not surprisingly considering what she was experiencing, but Bodhi’s presence was oddly reassuring – despite her having been terrified of Bodhi since a few seconds into their first meeting. “Alex Jameson. You didn’t meet him. NCIS came to the HQ with a warrant and as soon as Reception told us Alex walked into my office… and shot me in the face.”
“Oh, you poor thing,” Bodhi said. “Of course now you can get your revenge and he’ll never see you coming.”
“I don’t think I need to,” said Charlotte. “NCIS were in the building and Alex… killed me… with other people around. NCIS beat you, right? Then they won’t have any problem with Alex. NCIS will take care of my revenge.”
Ziva leapt for her life as the gun – a Taurus or a Smith & Wesson in .44 Magnum, she classified it without the need for conscious thought – swung to point at her and then bellowed. She went over the guard rail and dropped ten feet to the stairs below as the bullet passed through the air where her head had been a tenth of a second earlier.
Tony’s bullet hit an invisible barrier a few feet short of his target and stopped dead in mid-air. Not that he’d had any real expectation of anything else, as Ziva’s bullets had met the same fate, but he was using his Colt .45 and just maybe its heavier, slower, bullets might have succeeded where the 9mm SIG had failed. No such luck.
And now there was nothing to stop the creature that called itself Alex Jameson from blowing his head off. Unless… Tony threw himself into a vault over the rails, emulating Ziva’s move, even though he was higher up the stairs and would be dropping nearly twice as far. A broken leg would be better than taking a .44 magnum bullet. He grabbed for the edge of the stairs, as he fell past, and held on only for a brief fraction of a second before releasing his grip and falling the rest of the way. It was enough to turn a potentially bone-shattering impact into one that just knocked the breath from his body and sent stabs of pain through his legs and back.
But there was no bullet. No deafening ‘boom’ and no near-miss whistling past him as he hurled himself into the evasive maneuver. Jameson hadn’t fired, even though he would have had a good chance of scoring a hit, and Tony wondered why not even as he thanked his lucky stars. Then Jameson leaned over the bannister rail and pointed his gun downward. His other hand, the one wrapped in some sort of wire-mesh glove with a freaky glowing jewel in the palm, was held out beside the gun.
Tony raised his .45 and fired, aware on a conscious level that it was likely to be pointless, but unable to stop himself from following his training and instincts. It did make Jameson flinch but that was all. Tony scrambled to get out of the line of fire, knowing he wouldn’t be able to make it before Jameson fired and expecting to feel the shocking impact of a bullet, but it didn’t come. He made it around the corner onto the landing, clear of Jameson’s sight, and almost crashed into Ziva coming the other way.
She snapped off two quick shots; Tony couldn’t get a clear view of her target but, from what he could see, he guessed that she was aiming at Jameson’s gun hand. If that was poking out past the force-field it might be vulnerable. Her shots had no effect and Jameson’s revolver boomed out in reply. Ziva ducked back just in time.
So Jameson had held back from shooting at Tony but not Ziva. Tony had a horrible feeling that he knew why. He had no idea if the Goa’uld had preferences about the physical forms of their hosts but, if they did, he could see why Jameson’s Goa’uld might choose him. Jameson was about the same height and build as Tony, and a fairly good-looking guy, although the grey in his hair and beard pointed to him being older; if adjusting to a new host depended on the similarity to the last then exchanging Jameson for Tony probably would be like trading in a 2002 BMW for the 2007 model. And then the Goa’uld would drive around in Tony’s body and use it to betray the USA and, indeed, all of Earth.
But if that objective made Jameson reluctant to shoot him then maybe it was something Tony could use…
Jameson advanced down the stairs. Ziva backed off, descending the next flight, but Tony stayed on the ninth-floor landing and went to meet Jameson head-on. From what little he’d heard about the Goa’uld shields they stopped fast-moving things, such as bullets, but not slow-moving objects like knives. And the field didn’t go all the way back to the device wearer’s skin, according to AFOSI Agent Dorsey, which meant if you could shove a gun through the force-field and fire it right up against the Goa’uld’s body it would penetrate just fine.
Tony charged at Jameson and tried to do exactly that. And was struck across the face by an arm that felt like an iron bar. He was smashed from his feet and landed on the floor with his head spinning. He lost his grip on his gun and the wind was, for a second time, driven out of him.
“Foolish human,” Jameson sneered, in a weird voice that sounded somehow metallic. “You cannot oppose me. Cease your foolish struggles and accept your destiny as the vessel of the great god Hayasum.”
Cierre had said that the Goa’uld were as strong as her, maybe stronger, and the blow Tony had taken confirmed that. Even so, Tony was sure that Cierre would eat this guy for breakfast. Unfortunately she wasn’t here.
But Ziva was and she, too, had remembered about the force barrier’s weakness. She stepped into view, at the bottom of the next flight, with a knife in her hand and her arm already poised to throw. The knife flashed through the air and struck Jameson just below the breast-bone.
And penetrated for only a small part of its length.
Tony knew how deadly Ziva was with a thrown knife; she’d killed someone that way on her very first case with NCIS. The force-field must have slowed the knife down enough to turn a mortal wound into one a long way short of being lethal. Jameson cried out in pain but stayed on his feet and managed to aim his gun and pull the trigger.
The hammer clicked on an empty chamber.
The supposedly super-intelligent alien, of a race that liked to pass themselves off as gods, had forgotten to count his shots. Tony would have taunted him with a ‘Do you feel lucky, punk?’ but had neither the time nor the breath to do anything but lie still and groan.
Ziva started to throw herself aside again but when she realized the gun was empty she reversed her course. Her hand dipped to her waist-band and she pulled out a second knife; this one a tanto-style blade, not well suited to throwing, but ideal for close combat. She came up the stairs in a rush, knife at the ready, but didn’t make it.
Jameson held up his left hand and a beam of bluish light shone forth from the gem. It touched Ziva’s face and she was brought to a halt, her face twisting in pain, and then the beam forced her down to her knees.
“You shall die in agony, human bitch,” Jameson growled. He flipped the revolver’s cylinder catch and allowed it to swing open, and held up the gun for the fired cartridges to fall free, but then seemed to realize that completing the reload one-handed was going to be a laborious process. He cast down the empty gun, pulled the knife out from his chest, and bent down to retrieve Tony’s .45 while still keeping his hand device aimed at Ziva.
And Tony slipped his left hand under his windcheater, drew his SIG, and brought it up under Jameson’s chin. He pulled the trigger twice in quick succession and blew Jameson’s brains out through the back of his head.
“Hasta la vista, baby,” Tony gasped out, and then had to fend off Jameson’s toppling corpse. He cursed as blood, and a bluish liquid that must have been the blood of the Goa’uld parasite, splattered over his clothes. Hastily, or at least as hastily as he could manage in his winded state, he clambered to his feet.
Ziva grasped the staircase rails and hauled herself to her feet. “That was… to the face,” she groaned. “I do not know what he did to me but it hurt like some bitch.”
Tony bent over, sucked in a deep breath, and then stood up straight. “What? I get that ‘some bitch’ is you getting ‘sonofabitch’ wrong but what the Hell does ‘to the face’ mean?”
“I spoke Hebrew,” Ziva explained. “These… amulets… must have translated literally. It means ‘horrible’.”
“I’ll second that,” Tony said. “That… thing… wanted to take me over. Walk around in my body.” His lips drew back from his teeth in a sudden flare of anger as he holstered his SIG. “Fuck you, great god Hayseed.” He bent down to retrieve his Colt.
Footsteps on the stairs above caused Tony to jerk erect and bring the gun to the aim. Ziva drew her gun and swapped her knife over to her left hand. Then both of them relaxed as Gibbs came into view.
“Great god Hayseed?” Gibbs queried. He slipped his own gun back into its holster.
“Something like that,” Tony said. “I was a little too busy, and hurting too much, to catch his exact words.”
“It was ‘Hayasum’,” Ziva said.
“The SGC people might be interested to know that,” Gibbs said. “It might be a name they can cross off a ‘Most Wanted’ list.”
“These amulets are better than Cierre’s, I think,” Ziva said. “I hear you in English, not Hebrew, but when I cursed in Hebrew Tony heard the English words.”
Gibbs nodded. “Useful,” he said. “So they don’t translate what you would understand anyway. Which means we can wear them most of the time without having to worry about giving away that there’s something hinky going on.”
“Because glowing-eyed freaks with personal force-fields isn’t hinky at all,” DiNozzo muttered.
“I mean for our regular cases, DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled. “And, hopefully, once we get tidied up here we can get back to them. I never thought I’d say this but, right now, I’d be grateful for a nice straightforward robbery or murder.”
“I agree, but I will miss Cierre,” said Ziva. “Our first meeting was not good but it recovered.”
“Got better, you mean,” Tony corrected her.
“They mean the same thing,” Ziva said. “Anyway, she is the best practice partner I have had. I have learnt from her and she from me. She will always beat me, because she is so strong and fast, but we can improve each other.” She retrieved her throwing knife from beside Jameson’s body and began to clean the blood from the point. “She has shown me a nerve strike and an arm-lock I did not know and I have taught her a wrist-lock and a throw.”
“Only you could measure someone’s friendship potential by their martial arts skills,” Tony said.
“It is not just that,” Ziva said. “She told me that the Drow have much in common with the Jews. They were driven from their lands, and scattered, and suffered the Dark Disaster which was almost as bad as the Holocaust. And, like us, they have had to become hardened to survive. They have not yet regained their land of Miyeritar but they dream that, one day, they will. In many ways we are kindred ghosts.”
“Kindred spirits,” said Tony, “unless you were speaking Hebrew again and it’s another idiom that translates wrong.”
“No, I spoke English,” said Ziva. “Ghosts are spirits, are they not?”
“Enough of the bickering, already,” Gibbs said. “Get things tidied up here. I’m going back to see how McGee’s getting on with the computers.”
“On it, Boss,” Tony said, and he pulled out an evidence bag. He started to gather up Jameson’s fallen gun and spent shells but, as Gibbs headed back up the stairs, he resumed his conversation with Ziva.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about missing Cierre,” Tony said. “From what I’ve seen of her and McGeek she’ll be coming back to Washington every chance she gets. I don’t know what she sees in him but she definitely sees something she likes. Maybe it’s because he’s Elf Lord.”
Ziva rolled her eyes. “The Elves are the enemies of the Drow, Tony,” she told him. “She likes men who show her respect. Perhaps it is something you should try.”
Tim sat back in his chair, sipped at his drink, and watched Cierre as she talked to the DJ. She was well worth watching; she was wearing a white mini-dress that clung to her body and showed off her legs and her butt, especially as she bent over to speak into the DJ’s ear, in a way he found very appealing.
It had been an enjoyable evening so far. They had eaten at his favorite Italian restaurant and Cierre had been enthusiastic about his choice. She devoured dishes containing mushrooms as ravenously as a whole fellowship of starving hobbits. Tim wasn’t wearing his own new translation amulet but Cierre wore one that translated only between Ilythiiri and English. That meant that she could fall back on Ilythiiri when her English failed her, without the possibility of arousing curiosity in any nearby native speakers of unusual languages, and made the conversation easier. With the potential language barriers removed he’d been fascinated by her tales of life in Faerûn.
She hadn’t told him much about her work with the SGC but, from what she had told him, he was confident he could put Gibbs’ mind at rest about the implications of the possible mission on behalf of Shar. The goddess had, according to Cierre, directly saved the life of Daniel Jackson and Egeria had saved the lives of other friends and colleagues of Cierre. She had even fought at Egeria’s side, on more than one occasion, and had a great respect for the seven-foot angel.
The only down note had come when she told him that she would have to go back to Colorado earlier than she had planned. Daniel Jackson had been called back because of some event at the base and, when he had arrived there, he’d become involved in what she would only describe as ‘an awkward situation’. Cierre was going back in case he needed her help. Apparently there was a woman involved, and Cierre would be inflicting a severe case of limb amputation on the woman if any harm came to Daniel, but that was as much as Cierre was willing to reveal and Tim didn’t press her on the issue.
After the meal they’d moved on to a club for drinks and dancing. Not that Tim was much of a dancer but Cierre had dragged him onto the floor – not literally, although he wouldn’t have put it past her if he’d resisted – for a couple of dances. Now she had something special in mind. The DJ at this club would do requests but Cierre wanted him to play something she had brought with her. Tim saw the DJ shaking his head but then Cierre proffered a handful of bills. The DJ grinned, laughed, and nodded.
That was something of a relief. Tim thought Cierre was unlikely to have picked the guy up by the throat, and shaken him until he’d given in, but he wouldn’t have been confident enough in her restraint to have put money on it.
The track playing ended and Cierre moved out into the center of the dance floor. She didn’t gesture for Tim to join her; in fact she indicated that he should stay where he was. Cierre’s chosen music started and she began to move.
Tim didn’t recognize the opening notes and, when the vocals started, was surprised to find that the song was in French.
J’ai la peau douce
Dans mon bain de mousse
Tim could see Cierre’s lips moving to fit the lyrics; she spoke French as well or better than she spoke English, according to Ziva, but he was surprised that she had chosen what sounded like a lightweight, bouncy, pop song sung by a girl with a breathy, little-girly, voice. Cierre’s favorite band, she had told him, was Snow Patrol and, apart from that, she was into grunge and skate-punk presumably picked up through her snowboarding. This song didn’t seem to fit in with Cierre’s tastes at all.
Despite the somewhat unexpected music choice her dancing was well worth watching. She seemed to be performing a choreographed routine, with exaggerated arm and hand gestures and intricate steps and kicks, that somehow seemed vaguely familiar to Tim but that he couldn’t place. The best way to describe her movements was, Tim decided, as ‘sinuous’. She was as lithe and graceful as a panther and his were by no means the only male eyes following her every move. Some of the watchers held up their phones to video her dance.
A woman rose from a table near the dance-floor and joined Cierre, going through the same moves, although less gracefully and in a less practiced manner. She wasn’t copying Cierre but seemed to know the dance already. Tim frowned. He’d definitely seen this before but still couldn’t place it. The other woman didn’t have the look of a dedicated clubber; in fact she looked a little geeky, more the sort of girl he’d expect to see at a gaming convention than a dance club, and he wouldn’t be surprised to find that she dabbled in cosplay.
And then the song went into a chorus, the tune changing slightly, and both Cierre and the other girl went into a different pattern of moves. Wiggling their hips, hands waving behind their butts, and at last Tim recognized the dance. The female Night Elf dance from ‘World of Warcraft’.
J’ai la peau douce
Dans mon bain de mousse
Pas de secousses sismiques
Je me prélasse
Et me délasse
C’est mon état aquatique
Y a comme un hic!
This was the song from which Blizzard Entertainment had taken the performer’s dance and used it for the female Night Elves. Tim remembered now that he’d seen the video on YouTube, quite a while ago, and he was a little annoyed at himself for taking so long to catch on. But primarily he was impressed, fascinated, and extremely turned on.
The music ended and a few people broke into applause, which spread until most of the people in the club were clapping. Those who weren’t were those who hadn’t been watching and who, now, were looking around with puzzled expressions on their faces. The DJ gave a wide grin and called out to Cierre; Tim couldn’t make out his words clearly but it was something like “I’ll play that for you any time, lady.”
Cierre grinned back at the DJ, bowed to the crowd, and then performed a back-flip. She bowed again as a fresh round of applause broke out, smiled at the girl who had joined in the dance, and walked off the floor to rejoin Tim.
“That was… amazing,” Tim said.
“I know,” said Cierre. “I thought you would like it.”
“Oh, I did, definitely,” Tim said.
“I can see that,” Cierre said, looking at his groin, and Tim blushed slightly and shifted in his seat. “I think that is enough dancing for tonight. Now I think I would like to… lie down.”
“I think,” Tim said, hoping he was reading her correctly, “I can arrange that.”
“You’re looking a little rough, Probie,” Tony DiNozzo remarked. He most definitely did not look rough; his glossy dark hair was brushed sleekly down, his casually elegant clothes were unblemished, and his eyes were clear. “Stay out late with Cierre last night?”
“I did not stay out late,” Tim McGee denied. His fair hair was slightly awry and a little line of stubble on one cheek showed where his shaving had not been as thorough as it might have been. “But I have to admit,” he added, and gave a satisfied little smile, “I didn’t get a lot of sleep.”
*Russkiy yazyk ochen’ krasivy = Russian is a beautiful language.
Song lyrics quoted are from ‘J’en Ai Marre!’, sung by Alizée Jacotey, written by Mylène Farmer. It really is the original source of the ‘World of Warcraft’ female Night Elf dance.