Title: Snow
By: Robin
Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst, Character Study
Spoilers: 6x25 Aliyah
Disclaimers: Neither NCIS nor any of its characters belongs to me.
Note: Major thanks to Rose Wilde Irish for betaing. However, all mistakes are my own.

The first time she saw snow, it was not really snowing.

Around her, she could hear screaming and shrieking, moans and cries; the sounds of buildings collapsing and crumbling; the sound of sirens. People shoved and pushed past one another, either unseeing or uncaring in their haste, their blind panic; or they stumbled and crawled, wailing, begging for help; and many, not even moving - whether dead or otherwise, she could not tell. It hurt to breathe, and the smells she inhaled were making her sick, so she tried not to. In the distance, she heard another explosion.

The air was thick with drifting white flakes. But they were not cold, and they did not melt when they landed on her skin.

She remembered her father saying, "Don't cry, Ziva. Good soldiers don't cry." Her back hurt, her head hurt; everything hurt except for her left arm, which she could not feel, but she was nine, not a baby, and good soldiers did not cry, so she did not either. Instead, she watched as the snow-but-not-snow fell, covering everything and sticking to her bloodied face, and she thought about her mother.

When Ari finally found her, he was crying. She felt his tears on her cheek and managed to murmur, "Don't cry, Ari. Good soldiers don't cry," but instead of being reassured, Ari only clung to her and cried harder.

The first time she saw real snow, she was twelve and visiting Jerusalem. She was fascinated; it was a light snow, and there was scarcely any wind, so it was easy to stand in, easy to watch.

"Look, Tali," Ziva said, staring at the flakes intently as they landed on her gloves. "They all have their own designs. Aren't they pretty?"

She tried to catch the falling snow on her tongue. Tali, always imitating her, copied her. Ari, who thought himself an adult ("you're only three years older!"), affected boredom and disinterest, but she knew by the look in his eyes that he was secretly excited, too.

When their father exited the hotel, Ziva said, "Look, Papa, it's snowing!"

"So it is," her father said. "It's snowing to welcome you home." He patted her on the head, then Tali; he smiled at Ari.

They stood on the sidewalk for several more minutes, their father indulging them, until Tali sneezed and they had to go inside.

The first time she saw foreign snow, she was in Russia. When she arrived in the city, it was the beginning of Moscow's snowy season.

It was not her first mission, nor her first undercover mission. Her target, intrigued by her lightly accented Russian, attracted to her exotic looks and flirtatious smiles, was easy to seduce. He was good-looking, fairly young, and experienced in bed, so she enjoyed the sex for what it was - mindless physical pleasure.

Afterwards, she stood at the window of his hotel room, looking outside. The glass was cold, her breath condensing on the panes. Across the city, snow was falling, blanketing the buildings and streets in white, stirring memories in her that she had tried to move past but could never forget.

She heard when he awoke, felt him come up behind her. In the reflection, she could see desire in his eyes. He pressed fervent kisses against her neck, reached around her slim body to caress her, then pulled her back to bed.

Several days later, when she had gotten everything she needed from him, she shot him in the back of an alley. The Russian police would not find his body for another two days, the almost non-stop snowfall having nearly completely covered him, and by then, she was already back in Tel Aviv.

The first time she saw American snow, she had been in D.C. for six months. Her first months at NCIS had been more difficult than she would ever admit, even to Jenny. There were times Ziva felt certain that she would never really belong on Gibbs' team, but slowly, gradually, she had gained their acceptance and their trust; maybe even their friendship. There was no longer much awkwardness, even with Abby.

It was late, and Ziva was still at the office, finishing up paperwork. Gibbs and McGee had already left for the evening. Jenny had departed two hours earlier, nodding and smiling to Ziva on her way out. Tony was... somewhere. Actually, Ziva had not seen him for the past hour, but his computer was still on, his jacket still on his chair.

She completed her report, saving it and sending it to the printer. She stood, stretching. Her gaze wandered to the windows, where the first snowfall of winter had begun. Drawn to it, as she had always been, she moved to the windows to get a better look.

Everything always looked so much cleaner, so much purer under fresh snow. It was deceptive in that way, hiding flaws, secrets, and sins. Occasionally, snow could wash those sins away, but more often than not, it simply melted, revealing all the things it had tried so hard to conceal.

Aloud, Ziva said, "It does not snow in Tel Aviv."

"It's creepy how you do that," Tony said, appearing at her side. He leaned his shoulder against the window so that he was facing her.

"I saw your reflection," she said, not looking at him.

'Crazy ninja senses,' she thought she heard him mutter.

After a moment, he spoke again: "I guess when you were a kid, you never had snowball fights, built snowmen, or made snow angels."

She glanced at him. "Never."

"That's too bad."

She shrugged. "I don't even know what a 'snow angel' is."

"It's, uh... Well, you lie down in the snow and make motions with your hands and legs like this-" Tony flapped his arms like a bird, looking slightly demented. Ziva only furrowed her brow in confusion. "- and when you get up, it looks like an angel's wings."

"I see." She did not.

"It's hard to explain," he admitted. "It's something you have to see for yourself. Trust me, though, you were missing out."

She smiled coyly and said, injecting the right amount of sensuality into her words, "Maybe one day you can show me what I was... missing."

Still not completely used to her blatant flirting, he colored faintly before recovering and flashing one of his winning smiles. "Maybe I will, Officer David."

She let his embarrassment slide without comment. They both turned back to the window and silently watched the snow together.

The last time she saw snow, it was not actually snowing.

When she came to herself, she was someplace, somewhere dark, lying on a cold floor. Desperately, she tried to remember where she was, who she was, but there was fuzziness clouding her mind, like white interference on an old television set. Random, jumbled images managed to find their way through, but they did not make any sense.

Her head was killing her. She tried to move her body but immediately regretted it, vomiting blood onto the ground as she tried to contain her nausea and the blinding pain.

It was then that she realized someone else was in the room with her. She slowly lifted her face to see a man sitting in front of her, watching her. He had dark hair and kind, compassionate green-blue eyes. She was certain she knew him; everything about him was familiar even though she could not recall his name.

Regret, and something else, suddenly hit her, and she heard herself speak without knowing why.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I should not have blamed you." Tears blurred her vision. (The flash of a memory: Good soldiers...)

"It's okay, Ziva," he said, his voice soothing. "I'm sorry, too." He carefully held her broken hand, leaned down to gently kiss her bloody temple; she could not feel his lips, any more than she could actually feel his hand, any more than she could actually hear his voice. "Go to sleep now. Everything will be okay." She felt comforted.

In her head, the white fuzziness was so thick, it blanketed almost everything, and a cold numbness spread through her body.

It's snowing, she thought, and closed her eyes.