A/N: Well, my friends, we have reached the final chapter of this story. For those of you who usually skip over the author's notes, please read this one. I know this has lagged and has probably lost some of its appeal as we reached the later chapters. Because of that, I want to thank all my reviewers who stayed with me, even when I was not updating as regularly and even though the story lost quite of bit of luster. The only reason this has even made it to the last chapter is because of you guys and gals out there who were kind enough to take the extra time to leave a comment. Unless you're a fellow writer, you can never know the boost an author gets when they get something as simple as a "Well done!". So, thank you, reviewers. And to those who read without reviewing, I hope you enjoyed the story, too.
Writing this chapter, I learned one thing: I'm an idiot. I wrote a beauty of a finisher, polished, edited, and one to be proud of. Then my computer died. All's okay though, right? I mean, no writer is that much of an idiot where they don't save their work as they go, right? WRONG! I lost all of my progress, and therefore, I am an idiot. That is why it is late, because I had to take a few extra days to get over the discouragement and crank another version out, and it may not be as good as the original, but it is finished. So, enjoy, I am not sure, but this is probably a little anti-climatic, but it is finished and wraps up most of what was started. Hope you like!
"Why?" Ziva felt the word slip through her lips, the question that had plagued her since the moment she had been taken into captivity. And there were so many whys. Why did he send her on a mission he knew could not be completed? Why did he send her without backup, making it more of a suicide mission than anything else? Why had he not taken greater strides to find out what had happened? Why, when he already had an officer in place within the cell, did he not rescue her?
Why, why, why…………
So many answers she was looking for, though she knew there would only be a couple made available to her. And most of them would be lies. She would never know the true workings of her father's mind or the motivations behind his actions. But she had to ask. Why?
"Dear Ziva," the sentiment sounded terribly wrong on his tongue "Believe me, this was not how things were supposed to happen."
"No?" She asked simply, her voice was much stronger than what she expected, concealing the shaky feelings and emotions that were brewing just below the surface. In fact, she sounded in control and self assured. "Then what were you expecting out of this, father? What other outcome were you hoping for?"
Eli David was silent for a moment, his hand fingering the little golden Star of David under his desk and away from her eyes. When he finally found the words, he looked up to stare her straight in the eyes.
"I do not explain myself to you, Ziva!" He snapped, "There are no questions! There are no explanations! You complete your duty and then move to the next one. You knew that when you were younger and you were better because of that. Somewhere along the way, you have stepped outside your boundaries and this is where we have ended up."
Ziva stayed silent, watching in resolved defiance as her father ranted about duty and boundaries. Yes, she when she was younger she had followed his rules blindly, stayed inside the lines, listened to the flimsy excuses, but she had also been foolish. Young and foolish.
"I never listened." Ziva stated quietly. "I never listened when Ari told me how it truly was. He may have done the wrong thing and believed in the wrong cause, but he knew the truth and did something about it. The only thing I am sorry for is not having listened to him earlier. Maybe then I would have been able to help him better."
Now it was Eli David's turn to regard her wordlessly, sharing in the epiphany that had just taken place. They both knew this was it. They both knew Ziva was no longer of Mossad and that she would not be returning to her father. They both knew that, in that moment, she was more American than she was Israeli. They both knew that Ziva was more Gibbs' agent than she was Eli's daughter.
It felt both liberating and excruciating. It felt both relieving and devastating. Mossad had been such a big part of her for such a long time, and even though feeling that part of her ripped away was for the best now, it was still painful.
"Just tell me, Abba," Ziva asked, the emotions finally flooding through to shake her voice. There was no reason to inquire about why, or what, or how. It would do no good to her when she would be met with carefully crafted fairytales that she knew had been prepared and were well rehearsed. So she let those go and allowed herself to ask a more personal question, "Did you ever see us as more than tools? Did you ever see me and Ari as more than weapons?"
The director of Mossad's eyes remained cold, his face void of compassion, or any emotion for that matter.
"All three of you were born for a reason, your futures carefully mapped out by no other than myself. All of it meant to benefit Israel, Mossad, and, in turn, yourselves." He paused here, "I have been failed by all of my children."
Another silence stretched between them, the thousands of miles separating them geographically doing nothing to ease the tension.
Ziva continued to stare at him, saying nothing, but her glowing eyes speaking a thousand words.
"You have proven where your allegiance truly lies on more than one occasion. For that, you are dead to me. I have nothing more to say to you." Ziva watched as the Mossad director signaled for the feed to be cut and as her father's stony face flickered and disappeared.
The physical healing process had been significantly successful, but the emotional repercussions were still being felt. She knew it wouldn't be easy to overcome the onslaught of blows that seemed to constantly bombard her, but as Gibbs sat steadfastly by her side, her silent rock and supporter, she knew it was possible.
Ziva leaned on the railing outside, feeling the heaving of her chest as she silently drowned in a sea of regrets, sadness, and pain. Her eyes were dry. It seemed as if she had run out of tears after the floods that she had shed upon her return.
No one was out here, a place Ziva hardly came. The small patio was a common meeting place for the frequent smokers and tired office hands of the building, but no one was on break at the moment.
That's why Ziva was surprised when she felt someone place their hand on her back. She immediately stiffened when she saw who had joined her. Tony stood next to her, not looking at her but rather staring out into the gray gloom of the sky.
"It's a little chilly. You alright?" Tony broke the silence, and Ziva knew his question was addressing more than just her lack of a jacket.
"Yes, I am fine. Thank you." She answered.
Tony sighed, his warm breath coming out in a visible puff. Small droplets started to darken the ground and patter against the aluminum awning they were standing under.
Ziva knew what she had to do, but wasn't sure where to start. It was imperative that there be resolution between them. There had to be, they were going to be colleagues once again and in their line of work, tension between partners meant possible disaster.
"Tony, I-"Ziva began before he turned to her and cut her off.
"I know, Ziva." He said.
"No, there are a lot of things that need to be said." Ziva persisted, trying to recall all of the numerous ways she had phrased her apologies, explanations, and expressions.
Tony remained silent, and she took that as a cue to continue.
"I have treated many of the people I care about badly. I have said and done many hurtful things. I have not been the partner or the friend that is deserved by you and others. I know asking for total forgiveness is too much, so all I ask is that we can put this all behind us." Ziva laughed a little, nervousness rattling her. This was not a situation she was used to. She usually did not find herself apologizing.
She went on when Tony did not respond but instead continued to watch her thoughtfully. "There were so many ways I planned on doing this. This is what I wished for so much when I thought it was….the end. A second chance. Do you think you can give me one?"
Ziva looked away, feeling her subconscious succumb to shame, a natural reaction that she had been taught to feel whenever revealing weakness.
The rain was pounding harder now, and Ziva took a deep breath, the smell of stale cigarettes and wet asphalt permeating the air around her. She became even more nervous when Tony still hadn't answered yet.
As Ziva started to consider just walking back inside to escape the growing feeling of apprehension, his warm hand slid into hers.
"Consider it behind us." He said simply, and all of her discomfort melted as he gave her a teasing half smile. "And if you ever need me, for anything, I'll be here."
Ziva nodded, uncomfortable with all the different feelings that she had all of a sudden. She closed her eyes, not to stop the tears, because there were none there; rather, she was simply reveling in the content that had wrestled its way to the forefront of her emotions. The warmth of his hand on her's seemed to be giving her strength. Before all of this, the two of them had been on the brink of discovering a whole new facet to their relationship and, while it had scared her, she had been eager to begin learning more about that part of her. Now, Ziva knew there was a long, long way to go before they could ever think about finding themselves in that place again.
But right now, with him standing there with her in silent support, his rare affectionate gesture swelling her heart, she felt comfortable with the friendship they were sharing. He was a true friend, one that was willing to be there for her and help her and one who had the same knowledge that she had about the far off potential for something more. There was no way for her to express the gratitude and relief that he had so forgivingly accepted her apology and offered his companionship once again.
The rain was picking up, the hammering on the awning growing to a deafening volume. Deciding that it was time to return to the bullpen, she gently disentangled their fingers before returning his smile. She wasn't sure if he was following her, but he was there a few minutes after she had settled into her chair behind the familiar desk.
Sitting in front of her were two files that had been placed there, presumably, by Gibbs. After all, he had promised them within the week. Her hands hesitated over the cover of the first one before falling limply on top of the manila folders.
McGee was behind his own desk, talking on the phone to some bank representative regarding a minor case they were handling. He gave her a friendly grin when he saw her.
Tony was now pulling up some credit card records on his computer, trying to spot any anomalies while making some snarky remark about how PFC Jacobs was apparently quite fond of some shady bar. Gibbs came striding in, then, hanging up his phone after conversing with Ducky.
"Grab your gear. The wife, Carol Jacobs, just returned from Toronto and found a body waiting for her." Gibbs slung his bag over his shoulder before point at Ziva, "I want those on my desk completed when I get back. I can only get Vance to allow you here as a consultant for so long."
The sides of her mouth twitched slightly as she watched the three of them walk to the elevator, Tony giving McGee some grief over the cold coffee he had brought back.
Ziva turned back to the files, flipping the top one open with confidence.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION
With her eyes scanning the document, she quickly filled out all the preliminary information, itching to get to the full-time NCIS agent application that was resting just below this one.
It was going to take a while to regain any sense of the easy normalcy she had enjoyed in what seemed to be a lifetime ago, but it was slowly getting there.
Ziva signed her name with a flourish at the bottom, excited and slightly fearful to finally be getting that fresh start that had seemed so elusive in the pit of a terrorist cell. Her questions had not been answered, her scars not completely faded, her emotions not yet figured out, but she had the people who loved her most by her side, ready to help her piece together her new life as an American.