I do not own NCIS or any part thereof.
This story follows a few weeks after "Broken Bird." Mainly a Ziva/Ducky story but I couldn't resist the tiniest bit of TIVA at the end. Sorry.
Ziva walked into the Autopsy Suite late in the afternoon. She saw Ducky sitting by himself near his desk with an empty glass in his hand and a half-full bottle of scotch nearby. She was reminded of the discussion she had had with Tony after Jenny's death. Not a happy memory. She shook her head to dislodge the thought.
"Ducky," she said his name softly.
He looked up and gave a small, sad smile.
"What can I do for you, Ziva?"
His voice didn't hold its usual welcoming warmth. He wouldn't meet her eyes. Not surprising since he never looked anyone in the eyes these days. He didn't smile. He didn't tell stories. He wouldn't joke with Abby. He ignored Gibbs as much as he could. In fact, he ignored all of them. Poor Jimmy Palmer was falling apart under the continued silent treatment. He had spoken to Abby of perhaps seeking a new job outside of NCIS.
"I have gotten chilled today, Ducky, and am tired of coffee. I was wondering if we could have a cup of your most excellent tea? It is almost 4 o'clock; tea time yes?"
For a moment he didn't say anything, simply sat and looked at the empty glass in his hand. Sighing he put the glass on the desk and stood up.
"All right, Ziva. Tea it is."
Ziva made a table for them out of a high rolling cart, pulling up a couple of stools while Ducky went through his elaborate ritual of tea making. After the tea had brewed he looked at Ziva.
"Still take it black, do you?"
Ducky shook his head.
"Uncivilized," he said as he poured milk into his cup.
She smiled and sipped the cup he had set before her. Ducky made good tea. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Holding her cup in both hands to savor the warmth Ziva thought back to her childhood.
"When I was a little girl, before my mother died, we lived next to the Bellinsky family. Their daughter, Miriam, was my age and we would often play together. Occasionally her grandmother would come to visit and she would have an afternoon tea just for the little girls. My mother would dress me in my fanciest dress. I even had to wear gloves and a hat. Miriam and I would go into the very formal dining room and Grandmother Bellinsky would serve us tea. Oh, Ducky, we felt so grown up. I was always very careful not to drop any crumbs on my dress."
She looked out of the corner of her eye at Ducky. He was still looking down but seemed to be listening. Ziva continued her story.
"One afternoon Grandmother Bellinsky had on a short-sleeved dress and I saw numbers on her arm."
She saw Ducky jerk a little.
"I asked her about them. She did not answer for the longest time but then she asked me if I had ever heard of Warsaw, Poland."
Ziva stopped as she remembered the woman's eyes when she has asked her that question. Wise blue eyes looking seriously into Ziva's own brown eyes, taking the measure of the little girl she had been.
"I told her yes. I had. I knew my geography. Many people had come to Israel from Poland after World War II; as many as could anyway after that terrible time. She smiled at me, Ducky; such a soft, gentle smile. I did not have a grandmother of my own and at that moment I wanted Grandmother Bellinsky to be mine, too."
"I told Miriam later and she told me she would definitely not share her grandmother with me. She was selfish!"
She thought she heard Ducky give a quiet chuckle.
"She began to talk about Warsaw. Her father had been a doctor and she and her family lived in a big house before the Germans came. Then they had to move to a tiny apartment and live with two other families and her little brother died because there was no medicine. The Nazis told her father he could not be a doctor anymore because they were Jews. But it was all her father knew how to do, be a doctor, take care of people. He and some other doctors and nurses set up a hospital of sorts where they could help the Jewish people around them."
She took a sip of tea. Remembering the story and how she, a 5-year-old, had sat mesmerized by the older woman's voice.
"One day the army came and began to close down the ghetto, taking everyone away. Some hid and fought back but her father was no fighter and he and his comrades did the one thing they could. They hurried to help their patients one last time even as the soldiers entered the buildings. They gave each of the sick ones a drink to make them sleep so the soldiers could not hurt them."
Ziva put her cup down and looked straight at Ducky.
"I did not realize it then Ducky but they poisoned every single patient so none of them had to undergo transport to the concentration camps or face being shot where they lay. When the Nazi troops arrived in the building not a single patient was left alive."
Ducky looked up at her now, glaring at her. She smiled at him.
"Grandmother Bellinsky and her parents and two remaining brothers were taken to Dachau. This is where she had the ugly blue numbers tattooed into her forearm. Once they were separated she never saw her mother or little brothers again. She found out later they did not survive the day of their arrival, had been sent to the gas chambers immediately. She was 15 when this happened."
Now Ziva was the one to look down. Telling this story was harder than she had anticipated. It was not her story, not really, but it was the story of her people and it hurt even two generations removed from the events.
"She saw her father from time to time in the camp and she noticed when others greeted him they called him 'Dr. Angel' and would often shake his hand or hug him. One day she asked him why? He would not tell her but a man nearby followed her and told her the truth. He told her it was because her father had helped their loved ones to die in peace. The relatives were thanking him and honoring him by calling him Dr. Angel. He and the others like him were heroes to those in the death camp."
She set her tea cup down and looked steadily at Ducky, reaching over and laying her hand gently on top of his arm.
"He helped them to escape, Ducky. Yes, he violated his oath as a doctor but he helped them in the only way he could. Their deaths would still have been certain and much more painful and humiliating if he had not followed his heart. There was no escape. There was no future for them."
He looked at her then, looked her in the eyes.
"It's not the same, Ziva."
"No, Ducky, it is not the same and yet it is. A man, a good man, dedicated to saving life forced to take life to end unendurable pain and suffering caused by other men."
Ducky shook his head and looked away again. Ziva picked up her tea again.
"Grandmother Bellinsky told us her father died in the camp. She did not know why she survived. It must have been God's will, she said. Her entire family died there. I know there must have been many times afterwards she wished she had perished with them."
Ziva felt her eyes sting but refused to let any tears fall. Now she knew how Miriam's grandmother must have felt. How alone.
"For years afterwards strangers would sometimes approach her and shake her hand or hug her and praise her father, the famous angel doctor. Not one person ever expressed anger or hatred at his actions. Not one."
She set the cup down and stood up, going to stand behind Ducky. She put both hands on his shoulders and leaned in close to him.
"Sometimes death is all that awaits, Ducky. I not believe most people want to die screaming their lives out in agony but would rather pass as painlessly as possible and with some dignity. When there is no more life then to offer a person that possibility becomes a good thing."
She hugged him from behind and he touched his head to hers for a moment.
She whispered, "You are a good man, Dr. Mallard, one of the best. I am proud to call you friend."
She stood up and said in a normal voice, "Thank you for the tea, Ducky. I will see you later."
As she turned to go out of Autopsy the automatic doors opened and Tony came barging in.
"Hey, Ziva, Gibbs is looking for you. Your phone must be on mute or something."
She smiled at him. When Tony entered a room you always knew it. His personal energy always sought to fill the empty spaces.
"I am on my way up, Tony."
Suddenly, she heard her name. Ducky came up to where she and Tony stood in the doorway. He had a slight smile on his face but most importantly he looked her in the eyes.
"Thank you, Ziva, for the most informative story," he said and pulled her to him as he kissed her cheek. "A most informative story, my dear girl," he whispered for her ears only. He turned to Tony and shook his hand vigorously.
"Anthony, my boy, good to see you. Jethro keeping you on the straight and narrow these days is he? Haven't seen you down here for a while. Don't be such a stranger."
Tony looked at Ducky and then he looked at Ziva and back again to Ducky. Ziva only smiled at her partner. Tony did not need to know everything.
"Hurry up, Tony, I do not want Gibbs yelling at me anymore than he already will," and she pushed her partner out the door.
* * *
Tony stood by Ziva in the elevator as they made their way to the Bullpen. What had she done to Ducky to cheer him up? The poor guy had been out of sorts for weeks. He knew he could never get it out of her and he doubted he could get it out of Ducky. Maybe if Ducky told Abby he might have a chance of finding out? The doors opened and Ziva walked out ahead of him. He followed more slowly contemplating the woman she was rather than the body she inhabited which was his usual reason for following behind her. His partner was ever a mystery to him. She presented an emotionless façade to most people but he knew she hid a heart every bit as tender as Abby's coupled with a determination of epic proportions. She constantly surprised him by her empathy with certain people; all the way from an African refugee's wife to a bare knuckle fighter. Would he ever really know her?
He saw her standing patiently in front of Gibbs accepting her modified chewing out. Tony had noticed Gibbs rarely penalized Ziva as harshly as he did McGee or himself. But maybe that was because Gibbs too felt the power of Ziva sometimes. He grinned at his fanciful thoughts. Power of Ziva, right? Maybe power to kick ass...
Still and all, he thought, watching her sit at her desk and begin working, she was a kind of magical being, his partner. She had sorted out Ducky right enough. Their ME hadn't been himself since the whole Afghani refugee camp thing and now he was back, just like that. She had sorted out Gibbs when he had lost his memory and no one else could. She sure as hell had sorted him out more times than he cared to remember. He could do a lot worse for a partner.
He laughed at himself. Who was he kidding? He couldn't have a better partner than Ziva, his mysterious, magical, beautiful partner. His partner, his Ziva.
"DiNozzo, get your ass in gear with that paperwork if you want to get out of here before midnight," Gibbs said.
"On it, Boss," he said, sneaking one more look at Ziva before getting down to business.