Written for the "If You Prick Us…" challenge on NFA. It was something his father had never understood: that love could surpass all boundaries. That it was something worth pursuing, worth hurting for, worth fighting for, worth dying for.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of NCIS or any character mentioned but never seen in NCIS.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

(Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, 3.i)

I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I aimed the M40 at Gibbs. I didn't dare turn to look, or to break my gaze with the bastard, because I knew that if I did, I would see the hurt in her eyes, see the betrayal in her face, and I would lose my nerve.

I had never intended for her to hear the terrible things our father had done in our lifetimes. The words I had spoken earlier, filled with hatred and scorn, had never been meant for her ears. She was my little sister, the only family I had left. There was nobody I trusted more on this Earth than Ziva – though I was less than thrilled when she had first joined Komemuite and Mossad.

"But Ari," Ziva pleads with me as I shake my head and turn away. "Ari, please don't. I did it of my own free will. I want to help protect Israel."

"Then do your time in the military, Ziva!" I snap. "Is it not bad enough that you must serve them two years? Why Mossad? Why Komemuite? Why learn to shoot and kill? Or have you forgotten that I'm a Hamas militant, Ziva?"

Ziva shakes her head, her hand catching my sleeve. "Father gave me Azrael's old position, Ari."

That statement, said with such pride and excitement, with her eyes sparkling and the slightest hint of a smile on her face, makes my heart stop cold. Would our father be so cruel? "Father made you my control officer?"

I still remember the day her mother – my stepmother Chanah – had pledged to marry my father. I still remember how their neighbours in the Jewish quarter had nodded in approval, blessing him for making the right choice, the proper choice. Very few noticed that Chanah was hardly older than myself, my father already in advanced middle age.

I could see how my mother had tried not to cry as she dropped me off at his house that first day following the wedding, seeing how her place had been taken by this young woman, a Jewess. He didn't even come out to greet her now, though their relationship had lost any chance of reconciling when he had changed his name. He had left his past as Benjamin Weinstein behind, and that included his one-time lover, the mother of his son.

That day had been the last day she had brought me to Tel Aviv. After that, she had simply put me on a bus and kissed me farewell in Gaza.

I never could bring myself to break it to my mother that he had had other children with his new wife. That would have broken what was left of her heart, the last vestiges of her pride in knowing that she alone had given him a child.

Ziva and Tali had been my secret, my hidden delights. All my childhood, I had wanted a younger brother or sister. Somebody who would look up to me, who would be glad to see me when I came to Tel Aviv and didn't have a hidden agenda.

They and my mother were the only ones who had ever been permitted to call me Ari. Even Chanah, especially Chanah and my father, were only allowed to call me Ali – an Arabic name, one that warned them that I was not a Jew but a Muslim and that I would never truly belong with them.

When I was 16, my mother bought me my first motorcycle. The first mark of freedom, and the chance to not only irritate my father (a guilty pleasure of mine, I'm afraid) but to delight Ziva.

My baby sister, only 5 at the time, has always been a mystery to my father and his wife: wild, almost untamable with her energy, brilliant and a quick learner – she has always been my favourite sister. The last time I had been in Tel Aviv, she had confided to me, with the whispers that children do when divulging a secret into one's ear, that she wanted to ride a motorcycle.

So when I had driven up the pathway to their home, I could hear Ziva's shrieks of delight and excitement before she had even opened the front door. And she had run at me with such speed, that I had swung her onto the passenger seat, put on her helmet and instructed her to hold tight by the time our father had arrived at the doorway.

"Don't you dare, Ali!" he roars, even as I kick off and tear back down the pathway, Ziva laughing in exhilaration behind me as her hands grasp tightly at my jacket and shirt.

"Ari, Ari, when did you get it?" she gasps as I skid to a stop at the harbour. I pull off my helmet and hang it over one handlebar, gently knocking at the side of her helmet. "Ari, get this off, I can't do it."

I laugh and pull the helmet off, making the winds whip her hair back from her face almost immediately. "Mother gave it to me for my birthday. No more buses from Gaza for your brother, little Ziva."

"So when you move to Edinburgh, can I have it? May I have it," she quickly corrects herself.

"That's not for two years yet, Zivaleh," I reply with a ruffle of her hair. She had evidently unloosed it from Chanah's strict braids, because it curled and tumbled and blew free in the wind. "You'll still be too small."

"I won't always be small!" she exclaims indignantly, giving me the 'you're-about-to-break-my-heart' look. "Ari, I won't always be small!"

"You will always be small to me, Ziva."

I'm not sure what first made me turn from him. I have always detested my father, for various evolving reasons. No, wait, I do know what first made me think of turning: Ziva.

The poor girl was only 12. Barely more than a child, and her life revolved around three things: school, Tali and I, and Ismael. My father had never liked Ismael, likely because he was Muslim. But Ziva adored her little Muslim friend. She, Ismael, and the Bashan brothers used to get into quite the trouble, from what I heard on my visits to Tel Aviv. Another reason why her parents never understood her: Ziva has always preferred male friends for reasons unknown. Possibly because she found girls too frustrating, too easily swayed. One mild threat and they caved. Ziva likes fighting to get her way – and there is no shortage of fights among boys.

Any way, from what I understand of the event (I was in Edinburgh when it happened), Ismael was in Syria visiting relatives when the Israelis made a retaliatory missile strike at an airbase near his relations' house. The resulting explosion took out every house and building within a ten-block radius, including Ismael's entire family save one brother who had been unable to accompany the rest of them. I later met Kamal in Hamas, though I of course didn't divulge any ties to the Israelis.

My roommate at the university nearly killed me when our phone rang at 4:30 AM the day of an 8:30 final exam. When I picked up the receiver, Ziva was on the other end, sobbing and begging for a sympathetic soul. Our father had brushed her off, saying that Ismael had gotten what he deserved, and Chanah had been so occupied with Tali, who apparently had the measles, that she wasn't so much as acknowledging Ziva's presence in the room.

I spent no less than four hours on the phone with her in Tel Aviv, just listening to her grieve her poor little broken heart out. Our father had come in at the end of those four hours and was howling at her when the call was disconnected. I made arrangements to leave to Tel Aviv sooner for winter break as soon as I hung up. I was late to my exam, but I explained to my professor that there had been a family emergency and they allowed me to stay later to finish.

I didn't tell Mother why I was leaving early, only that I was needed in Tel Aviv for a short while. My little Ziva needed me, and I had sworn by Allah that I would never let her hurt when it was in my power to stop it.

Ziva laughs as I enter the room, Chanah and Tali both fussing over her hair and dress. "Ari! Oh, Ari, you made it!" she exclaims, edging away from her mother to fly at me.

I can't help but laugh as I catch her tightly and swing her around. I've never seen Ziva this happy in her lifetime. "Mazel tov, Zivaleh," I reply, kissing her cheek lightly. Though briefly, I wonder: is she doing the right thing? I mean, she's only 17. Little more than a child – is it really good for her to marry so young? And with so much going on: both she and her husband would be serving their mandatory time in the military, our father had just signed her onto Mossad as well…

"Ziva, child, come back here!" Chanah orders. Giving me one last delighted smile, Ziva returns to her mother, let her begin pinning the veil over her curls. I'm shocked and maybe a little dismayed to discover that I am actually tearing at the eyes.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Raphael Bashan!"

And I know that this is my cue to exit quietly. I have been in the back, in the shadows for the whole ceremony, watching the young woman where the baby used to be. Keeping my distance, because when a Muslim is spotted at a Jewish wedding, it never ends well. Realizing as the yells and laughs and song and dance begin that despite our common blood, we are still from two different worlds. She is Jewish, Mossad. I am Muslim, Hamas. Nothing will change that: I am well and truly Hamas, our father made certain of that when he had killed Mother. I will never again call myself Mossad.

I pause and cast one last glance behind me. Ziva has spotted me leaving, and she sends a quiet smile. She knows that I can't stay. She's glad that I did. I blow her one last congratulatory kiss and swing onto my motorcycle, roaring off down the streets of Tel Aviv, onto the highway to Gaza.

Three months later, as we're in a control meeting at my home in Gaza, Ziva ends business talk abruptly to tell me that she's pregnant. That I'm the only one who knows right now, because Rafi is away on border patrol with IDF and incommunicado.

Of course I congratulate her. What else am I supposed to say to her? She's still my little Zivaleh, she can do no wrong.

I should have known that it was all too perfect to last for her. Her husband was captured by one of the other Hamas cells on the border of Israel and Lebanon barely three months later. She begged me for weeks to find out where he was, how he was doing. And when I didn't do it (I told her I couldn't, not without placing him in grave danger), she was so distraught that she went into the hospital in trauma-induced labour. Baby Asa survived all of two days.

She changed after that. She had lost the last vestiges of her innocence. When our father instructed her to become metsada, she didn't argue. My dear, sweet little Zivaleh was a cold-blooded killer of my people.

Four years passed. Then Tali died in the bombing of Haifa Harbour, and Ramallah Hamas sent the head of her best friend, her brother-in-law. I didn't even recognize her. She was wild, nearly uncontrollable in her rage and her grief. She wanted revenge. She wanted blood flowing and men screaming. She wanted the names of the men in Haifa. She wanted the names of the men in Ramallah. She wanted me to give her what she needed to 'fix' it.

I spent nearly two days trying to calm her down. I still have the scar in my shoulder from where she stabbed me with her knife in a momentary of rage. And it was the first time, I think, that I knew this would end badly.

That was last year. Now, now I'm standing here in this dusty, dingy American basement with an M40 pointed at a Marine's head and I'm beginning to pull the trigger.

I hear a shot, feel a pain in my forehead and then all is black.

How had it happened, I wonder as I descend the stairs, fighting back tears as I realize what I've done. How had I been his control officer for almost eight years and never known that he had turned on us?

I answer Agent Gibbs' questions on autopilot, still stunned at what I've done, hearing my father's roars of anger already.

Gibbs leaves, and I drop back against the railing of the stairs, trying to gather the composure to pray. And I do so softly, because Ari has never considered himself Jewish or particularly religious and he would probably slap me silly if he found out I was praying for him.


"Hold on tightly, Zivaleh! I don't want you to fall!"

Then let my heart be hardened

And never mind how high the cost may grow

This will still be so…

(The Plagues, The Prince of Egypt soundtrack)