Chapter Two: Best Kept Threats


"Three may keep a secret, if two of them are Dead."

-- Benjamin Franklin


She's dreaming.

A memory.

She's sitting in her father's car, waiting for him. She doesn't like it, it's too hot and the back of her legs keep sticking to the leather of the seat. She's been waiting for ages. She winds down the window, annoyed enough to risk his wrath.

Without the dark of the window, she notices something. There's a hare caught in a steel trap, near the chain link fence. It wriggles weakly.
Her hand touches the door handle, moves it almost until it reaches resistance. But then she falters.

A boy wanders along the fence. He's younger then her, still chubby with baby fat. When he reaches the hare, he pauses.
Then she sees what's in his hand, and she wants to scream.

She can't move, she's frozen. She watches from the window as the small boy grinds the metal stakes into the hares flat feet, then lifts the knife.

The hare's eyes slide up and around in that tiny skull, the eyes are on her and that blackness rises in front of her eyes like sickness.

And those little boy's eyes too, round and seeming to grin, dancing for her and the darkness.
The scream she hears in her head when she wakes is just a dull, dry choking. She wants to weep, but there's nothing left in her.

It feels somehow sad that the dream is better then where she is now.


BEFORE


They were in serious trouble.

McGee was breathing hard, eyes darting from one to the other.

He was tall, monstrously so; shadowed skin and dark liquid eyes. She was smaller, pale with reptilian movements. They were talking to each other in low voices—Russian? Something European.

He snuck a glance at Ziva. Her eyes were without expression, skittering slightly into middle distance. Red flared on her left cheek. Her chest was rising and falling rapidly, and he hoped she was thinking hard, because his mind was blank, white noise.

They were having an argument, and it was definitely about them; the woman pointed at Ziva and snarled something. The man shook his head slightly.

"Ziva—" McGee's voice was hoarse.

"Don't." Her lips barely moved.

The man won; with a snarl the woman turned away. She stomped out of the room, picking up McGee and Ziva's weapons as she left.

Silence. McGee glanced at Ziva, saw she wasn't moving; looked at the man, at the hard line of his mouth.

"Who are you?"

The dark eyes swivelled away from Ziva to focus on him.

McGee recoiled involuntarily. Those eyes seemed to stare right into his thoughts, and they were not impressed.
He never got his answer because the woman returned, dragging an irate Tony behind her. She dumped him against the wall.

"Hey, Mc—" The noise was choked off as there was a blow to his windpipe. He bent over, coughing.

"Hands behind your head. Now." The woman snapped. Her head swiveled to Ziva. "What is Hamas doing at this house?"

"What?" McGee blurted it out without thinking.

"She is Hamas." The man jerked his head towards Ziva. There was a split second where McGee thought he felt her hesitate, but then Ziva was laughing.
He blinked. "I don't see how this is funny."

"Because we're not Hamas, you idiot," Tony croaked. McGee could see the marks of fingers glowing livid on his neck. "We're feds; She's Israeli."

The man looked down at him, puzzled. Tony reached into his pocket, but froze as the gun darted from McGee towards his forehead. The man reached down and pulled the ID out of his pocket, flipping it open.

He looked at it, snorted with disgust. "NCIS." He said it with long drawls, dark mocking dancing in his eyes. McGee felt Tony bristle. "Little far from your jurisdiction?"

"The man who owned this house killed a Marine officer," Ziva said quietly.

He glanced at her, and there was something unreadable in his expression. "Show me your ID."

She looked at him, but didn't move.

He pulled the safety off McGee's gun; Tony flinched slightly. "Don't make me ask twice, Israeli." There was a bite in the final word.

"Ziva, if you wouldn't mind…" Tony's eyes were slightly cross-eyed as the muzzle lightly touched his forehead.

She reached into her pocket, tossed it on the floor. The woman picked it up, glanced at it, passed it on wordlessly. The man looked at it, eyes hardening.

"I see." He pocketed the badge, looked at Tony coldly as he handed McGee's gun back to him.

"We'd better go back to your office."


It was hard to tell who was more annoyed by the time they got back to NCIS. McGee was annoyed because he'd been grabbed by the throat, Tony was furious because he had been shoved into a cupboard.

Gibbs was apoplectic that his team had been brought into his own office like criminals by two of the CIA.

Once the situation had been ironed out, the two weren't particularly apologetic (although Toulouse, the male agent, had agreed that shoving Tony in a cupboard was probably overkill); they refused to give any information as to why they had been in the building in the first place, asking politely to see the director then nothing more.

Gibbs was still fuming when they were led up to speak to Jenny. Across the bullpen Tony was muttering darkly, rubbing his neck and feeling the bruise rise.

McGee had been quiet, and Gibbs noticed his eyes kept flicking away from his work. He followed his gaze, and frowned.

Ziva was sitting stock still, staring towards the door to the directors' office. The bruise on her cheek was darkening to a mottled red, but she didn't seem to have noticed.
Her face was carefully blank.

Gibbs looked her over thoughtfully. It was difficult to gage Ziva's emotions from her mask of a face, although he had learnt over time to watch her movements. Restlessness meant she was anxious, while her more graceful gestures were excitement, anticipation.
But she was so still; he didn't think he had seen that before.

She seemed to have noticed his gaze because she slowly, almost naturally, moved her gaze to her computer, slumping into an almost relaxed position.
His mouth quirked. Didn't fool him for a minute.

She straightened suddenly, jerkily (didn't know that one, either), and Gibbs turned to follow her gaze.

Jen's mouth was a hard line; she was pissed. Agent Toulouse looked not even the slightest perturbed, while the woman – Agent Parke – was expressionless.

"Agent Gibbs, a word." She jerked her head as she walked past. Definitely pissed.

He eyed them, following her.

"Jen…"

"Don't even start with me." She snapped. "I'm not in the mood." There was a flush of red to her cheeks, her eyes were glinted.
Make that very pissed, he thought to himself.

"Are they who they say they are?"

"Yes. The director of the CIA confirmed. He's an ex-ranger who works from Eastern Europe, she's an interrogator who worked in the Middle East. That's as much as Cynthia could wrangle from their records, anyway."

Gibbs shifted, uneasy. The CIA, without fault, always meant trouble. "Why were they in that house?"

"This particular investigation is not privy to open discussion for the time being," she mimicked. "Their way of saying fat chance of us knowing."

"Then throw them out, Jen," he growled it, eyeing them.

"If I had my way I'd toss them out on the street myself, but Director Kelly was very insistent on learning about our current investigation."

"I'm not giving them anything." God dammit, he wasn't. They had no problems with bruising his agents, like hell he'd let them take over.

"I know that. I managed to weedle a joint investigation." She caught his look. "It's better than them taking this away from us. We've been investigating for three weeks, and I'm not letting them take credit for it."

Gibbs couldn't help grinning. Jen was defiantly scalded by this, and she wasn't ready to budge an inch for the CIA. He loved how stubborn she got.

"Why did they think we were Hamas?"

We. Very careful wording. Not a mention of their focus on Ziva.

Jen sighed. She knew exactly what he meant. "Apparently Agent Parke thought she recognised Ziva from an operation in the Middle East. She was part of a surveillance team on Hamas while Ari was there."

"She didn't know he was undercover."

"No. It was several years ago. She wasn't aware that he was a rogue Mossad agent when he shot Agent Todd, nor that Ziva was his containment officer."

Gibbs looked down over the bullpen. Agent Toulouse was by DiNozzo's desk, obviously having his ear talked off. DiNozzo had that look in his eye when he was trying to charm information, though by the disgruntled look he wasn't having much success. McGee was on his computer, no doubt researching. His eyes kept flicking towards Parke, who had her eyes shut as though deep in thought.

Gibbs eyes trailed to Ziva's desk, then they narrowed.

Her chair was empty.


Toulouse drifted away to take a phone call. Tony stared after him, a hard look on his face.

McGee watched the dark figure. "He kind of reminds me of Morpheus."

Tony didn't even blink. "From the Matrix?"

McGee couldn't fight back the smirk. "So, you did watch it."

"Only for the kick-ass action scene. I refuse to acknowledge the geek parts." He cocked his head to one side. "Morpheus and Trinity, you think?"

"A very, very scary Trinity.'

"Definitely." He looked around, then frowned.

Agent Parke had vanished.


Ziva needed air.

Tony was bugging Toulouse, and McGee was distracted. She slipped out of her chair, heading for the elevator. She couldn't bear to sit still and think about what Jen and Gibbs could be talking about. She pressed the button, took in a breath.

God. Her legs were shaking.

Not only that. Her heart felt like there was a heel grinding down on it, she could her how her breathing was too fast.

This awful feeling was there, all the time in the car, while they were in the bullpen.
The waiting.

The doors opened, and she slipped in, pressing the first button her fingers touch.

But there was nothing.

The thought was not comforting, because it had a suffix.
Yet.

The doors closed... almost.
So close, barely a whisper between them. But at the last instant, a hand slipped between the doors, and they slid open gently.

Ziva stared straight ahead, suddenly cold.

The owner of the hand stood beside her, pressed the button for the Lab. Ziva thought wildly about jumping through the doors, but they closed in her split second of indecision.

Now they were alone.

The hand reached over, turned off the lift. It jerked to a stop, the light snapping to darkness.

"They know where I am." Ziva said. Her voice was cold, and not a trace of fear. What a lying voice.

Agent Parke ignored her. She was looking at the doors, thinking. "Strange," she said after a moment. She spoke in Hebrew, impeccable and cold.

Ziva said nothing. Her hand started inching down, towards the knife at the small of her back.

"Strange," she repeated, "That they open their team to the sister of the man that killed one of their own."

Ziva didn't ask how she knew. These facts were immaterial compared to the others Parke had.

"I remember Ari. He certainly did have that viciousness about him." Her voice was bitter.

She was turning slowly, slightly, hand close enough to snatch...

The next movement was a blur. She wasn't sure if Parke moved first or she had gone for the knife, but the next second Parke had her by the throat. Ziva's gasp was cut off as the hand crushed her neck. Parke's face was suddenly wild, teeth bared and murder in her eyes.

No mercy.

Ziva stabbed, the point deflected by Parke's protective vest. The knife was wrenched from her grasp. Her hands yanked at the other Agent's arm, but the grip became tighter and she gagged.

Parke's finger prodded just under Ziva's ear.

She froze, sucking in fragments of air. One twist of her wrist, and Parke would yank her vertebrae apart.

Parke watched her without emotion. Her lips barely moved as she spoke. "When all this is done, we're going to have to talk." The grip tightened.

Red was rising in front of Ziva's eyes. She lashed out, kicking Parke in the stomach. Parke dropped her with a snarl, and Ziva twisted away. Her palm landed on the knife, and she scabbled half to her feet, knife up, coughing. The air felt raw.

The knife was between them, but Parke ignored it, eyeing her coldly.

"You always were a little coward, Achoti."

She reached over, turned the lift back on.

It hummed quietly in its descent, and not another word passed between them. When the door opened to Abby's Lab, Ziva was standing, her head turned away. The knife had vanished.
Not a sign of what had happened, except for the blood starting to ooze across the knuckles of Ziva's clenched fist.

It was only when Parke left, and the doors slid shut, that Ziva touched the raw skin on her neck.