Disclaimer: NCIS does not belong to me.
Author's Note: Oh, my God. OH MY GOD. This is the end! And it's MASSIVE!! I MADE MY DEADLINE!!! =D
SEASON 7 PREMIER IN 2.5 HOURS. I. AM. STOKED.
As a writer, I use words every single day, all the time, to explain what's going on inside my head. Finishing this story, with the amount of support it's gotten.... There are no words for how I feel right now.
Every one of you who has read and/or reviewed this story has made it what it is. I love writing for its own sake, but without an audience, it has no point.
Thank you so much.
In the next two days, I'll be editing any silly mistakes through the whole story, particularly this chapter. I haven't slept in over 36 hours and I am sure there are some typos. lol Please forgive them for the time being.
And the pre-NCIS Ziva story that I have received a ton of great feedback on should be starting in a few weeks. Keep your eyes out. I PROMISE to get at least several updates done on Control first, though, for all of you who have asked and waited patiently.
Here you go, guys!! Thanks for making this such a rewarding journey.
Vance's face was as unreadable as ever when they stepped into MTAC. At Gibbs' glare, he granted entrance to Tony and McGee, but drew the line at their forensic scientist and medical examiner.
Ziva worried Abby was going to get herself fired, given the protest she raised at being excluded. It took more than a few reassurances from McGee that she would not be kept out of the loop before she made her way back down to her lab with a scowl on her face.
They took their seats in the front row, Ziva flanked by Tony and Gibbs as Vance stood opposite them. McGee's eyes darted between Tony's and Gibbs' matching scowls before walking around them all and sitting behind them. Ziva almost smiled at his none-too-subtle tactic.
"This is one of the few times I can say I'm glad we received bad Intel," Vance began, removing the toothpick from his mouth and tucking it in his pocket. "It would be a shame to loose an operative of your caliber, Miss David."
Ziva nodded, ignoring the compliment. "I, too, am glad your intelligence was wrong," she replied simply. Intel saying that she was dead was not a good thing for her.
"I am curious, though, as to how you got out of there alive," Vance said, watching her. "From what I'm aware, the entire camp was leveled during the strike. No survivors."
She could feel everyone's eyes on her, but she kept hers forward. "Yes, that is true."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, David, but that means you were gone by the time the strike happened. Care to inform me how that happened?"
"Care to explain just what the hell you're talking about?!" Gibbs growled, his tone demanding response from the both of them.
Vance raised an eyebrow at Ziva. "You didn't fill them in?"
Ziva shook her head. "Not yet," she replied. "It is a story I would only like to tell once."
"Understood," Vance replied, nodding to her before looking to Gibbs and the rest of his team. "When we were in Israel, Director David informed me of a terrorist cell Rivkin had been gathering information on in the Horn of Africa. After reviewing the Intel, I recruited Officer David to go undercover in the area and stake out the location of their camp."
Ziva sat still as the news spread over the others.
"You what?!" Gibbs asked, standing to glare at Vance. The director watched him coolly, waiting for Gibbs to make a move. He didn't.
"Undercover?" asked Tony, his tone more contemplative than questioning. McGee drew in a long breath behind them.
"Even if I had gotten on the plane with you," Ziva said to Gibbs, "I would have been leaving for Somalia within the week."
"Why, Ziva?" Tony asked, his voice tense.
She focused forward. "The leader of the camp placed several cells in Israel in the past," she replied with level inflection. "I did what I had to do to ensure his suicide bombers could not ruin any more lives."
Confusion sat heavily in the air before Gibbs finally turned away from Vance to look at her.
She looked up at him. In that brief second, a mutual understanding passed between them. Gibbs had illegally entered a foreign country, violating countless international laws to exact vengeance on the killer of his wife and daughter; Ziva did the same in pursuit of the man indirectly responsible for Tali's death. It didn't matter if it was her sister, rather than a husband or child. Family was family.
"The end justifies the means," Vance said, reminding them both of prices they paid for their revenge.
"What went wrong?" McGee asked, startling Ziva with the reminder of his presence, though she managed to contain her surprised reaction in favor of clenching her fist.
"I had not been involved in such deep reconnaissance for a long time," Ziva said, her other fist coiling to match the first on her thighs. "My instincts were down and I was not prepared."
"You slipped up," Tony said, both his tone and expression showing a mix between sorrow that she was caught and marvel that wasn't actually infallible and was, in fact, human.
"I made a mistake, yes," she admitted, not looking at him. "I was caught. I am sure you can figure out what happened next."
The room fell silent. They didn't the details spelled out of how she'd been tortured. Their imaginations could fill in the blanks. Ziva had to restrain the urge to ask Tony to borrow his firearm. She didn't need it forever, just until she could procure her own.
"How'd you get out?" Gibbs asked softly, breaking her from her thoughts.
She closed her eyes, breathing in.
People were screaming and everything hurt. She could feel her heart clinging desperately to its job of beating inside her chest. Her pulse rang out in every part of her body that couple with the smell of blood, churning her stomach as the thundering of footsteps filled her head with its sound.
Rough hands hauled her up, making her cry out at the sudden jolt of pain. The threat of the unknown was not enough to keep her conscious as her vision tunneled, turning black before she fell limp into the unidentified pair of arms.
A warm hand on her cheek. The scent of expensive cigars.
A flash of blue, a glimpse of graying hair.
Pain that overshadowed the relief of cool water trickling down her throat.
A familiar face stood over her, brushing a matted piece of hair from her eyes.
"I am so sorry, my Ziva," he whispered, standing slowly and turning on his heel to walk away.
Barely more than a rasp escaped her burning throat as she tried to speak. "Papa…."
A shiver ran down her spine. When Ziva's eyes opened, Gibbs was still waiting for an answer.
"I do not know," she replied.
"You can't remember anything?" Gibbs asked, his stare making it clear that he knew she was lying.
"I was not in the best condition to be observant," she said, snapping at him. She sighed. "There were footsteps, panic. And then nothing, until…."
"Until?" Vance prompted her.
She swallowed thickly. "My father. He brought me to the Somali hospital."
"Your father?" Vance asked. "He brought you himself?"
"Or he met me there," she replied, shifting in her seat. "I doubt he was involved in any actual rescue. That would be too risky."
The Director of Mossad would never be actively involved in infiltrating a terrorist cell known for blowing themselves apart.
"Of course he wasn't," Gibbs said sarcastically. "Why would a father go out on a limb for his last remaining daughter."
She frowned at Gibbs. Yes, he was her father and he certainly had his fair share of faults in that capacity. Yet still…. He had been there.
Choosing not to provoke Gibbs' 'father-bear' tendencies, she looked up at Vance. "I am sorry, that is all I remember." As vital as their conversation was, she was digging her nails into her palms to resist the urge to flee the room.
He nodded at her. "You've done well."
Ziva turned her attention to Tony, who had remained silent far too long for her liking. He sat hunched over, elbows on his knees and a deep crease in his forehead.
"Tony?" The last thing she needed to hear was that he was upset with her, angry that she would leave them to try and find someone who'd wrong her years before.
"Hmm?" he hummed in response, doing nothing to settle her.
"Are you alright?" Are you angry with me.
He looked up at her. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said flashing her a smile that showed exactly how 'fine' he happened to be.
She felt her stomach drop to the floor and schooled her features blank.
"What I don't understand," Tony continued, completely unaware of her slowly shutting down her emotional responses, "is why the hell Mossad erased your records. I mean, before the op I could understand, if your cover needed to be that deep. So why did the good ol' Director tell Vance you were dead if he knew you weren't?"
Ziva opened her mouth to speak, but never got the chance.
"That's a good question, DiNozzo," Vance replied. "One I'd like the answer to myself."
He nodded to the MTAC technician at the control panels. The young woman typed at the keyboard, powering on the large conference screen.
"Agents Gibbs and DiNozzo," he began, turning to the two men. "You are strictly here as observers if you choose to remain. Should you feel the urge to disobey that order, I suggest you leave immediately."
Ziva frowned in confusion before Vance signaled to the technician again, who brought the feed online and revealing Director Eli David in his familiar Mossad office.
"Shalom, Director Vance," he greeted cordially. "I must say I was surprised to hear from you so soon. Most men would not have the gull to keep me waiting this long."
"We both know I'm not most men," Vance returned. "And shalom to you, too, Eli."
Ziva couldn't tell who was hiding more behind their matching smirks.
"I thought you might like to know that I've found a stray this week," Vance said, his tone so neutral that no one would know he was speaking about a person and not an actual pet. "Thought you might like to know."
Ziva held her breath as her father's eyes narrowed, focusing on her image in his screen before sitting back in his chair. "While it is good to be reassured that my friends are generous, Leon, I do not know how this is of any importance."
Ziva blinked as Gibbs stood, ignoring Vance's order as he stepped forward.
"You bastard!" he spat at the screen, pointing at Ziva. "That's your daughter!"
He never even blinked. "My daughter is dead, Agent Gibbs. I do not wish for her memory to be maligned in such a manner."
Gibbs gapped at the screen as Eli turned his attention back to her.
"I hope the issue of your identity can be resolved," he said to her, not indicating that she was anything more than another foreign officer. "The dead should be free to lie in their tombs."
Gibbs opened his mouth to speak again, but Vance furiously waved him off. Ziva paid them little attention as he kept her eyes on the screen, nodding after a moment as her lips pulled up at the corners.
"Of course, Director."
Eli nodded, turning his attention back to Vance.
"I am sure you understand, Director Vance, I have a lot of business to attend to. If we are done here?"
Gibbs took another step forward. "How dare- !"
"I understand completely, Eli," Vance interrupted, stepping in front of Gibbs. "Shalom, my friend."
Vance's quick wave had the technician cutting off the feed. "Heather, you are free to go."
The young woman departed quickly, sensing the heated atmosphere charging the room.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Gibbs demanded the moment the door closed behind her, stepping directly into Vance's personal space. "You're going to let that bastard deny his own daughter after all the shit he's put her through?!"
"I don't think Ziva has nearly the problem with it as you do, Agent Gibbs," he replied dryly.
The attention was back on her, making her feel like a cornered animal. Once again, she had the distinct urge to grab the nearest weapon and flee.
"You can't be okay with this," Tony said, his face etched with shock.
Ziva licked her lips before responding. "Why not?"
His jaw dropped. "Ziva, he's your father! I mean, come on, I got disowned, but to have your father tell you to your face that you're dead…."
"Exactly, Tony," she said, more sharply than she had intended. "Ziva David is dead. The death of the Director's daughter would not be kept secret. Therefore, she no longer has any loyalties to Mossad."
"And any enemies she may have had are reveling in the sweet justice of her death," Gibbs added, eyes narrowed at Vance. "You play a dangerous game, Leon."
"Our jobs are dangerous every day, Gibbs," Vance replied without batting an eye. "Some days more than others."
"It isn't that simple," McGee said, standing from his seat, slightly ashen-faced. "I mean, yeah, Ziva doesn't have the threat of returning to Israel hanging over her head anymore, but she doesn't have the right to stay in America either."
"I've got a friend who owes me a favor in Homeland Security," Vance replied, tilting his head to Ziva. "You got any ideas for a name, Agent?"
Ziva blinked at him.
"It might not have the same ring as 'Mossad Liason Officer,' but I find it seems to get the point across just the same."
"That better be an agent assigned to my team," Gibbs warned, though his voice was much less threatening than it had been before.
Ziva's chest felt remarkably lighter.
"What about 'Lisa?'" Tony suggested with a smirk.
The joke and the familiar sound of Gibbs' hand colliding with Tony's head made her smile.
"You know," McGee suggested, glaring at Tony. "You could always do something like the boss."
Gibbs turn to stare at his younger Agent.
"Not have people call you 'boss,' of course," he backtracked quickly. "But I meant with the multiple names. No one calls you 'Leroy,' Boss."
Gibbs raised his eyebrow. "Yeah, there's a reason for that, McGee. They're not that stupid."
McGee's eyes widened. "Uh, right… Boss."
Gibbs smirked and shook his head.
"McGee does have a point," Vance said. "David is a common enough last name and would save us all a lot of confusion."
"Ziva could always be your new middle name," Tony added. "Not that I ever knew your real one. But then we could still call you Ziva, 'cause I really don't think I could change that now."
Ziva smirked. She had to agree; there was no way she could picture Tony calling her something else, especially after finding out how gratifying it was to hear him moan it in the throws of pleasure.
"So choose a first name, Agent David," Vance prompted.
She blinked. Just… pick a name?
"Talaria," she said suddenly, nearly speaking before she finished the thought.
"Talaria?" McGee questions, scrunching his nose. "Like the winged Greek sandals? Well, you are agile, and supposedly they helped kill Medusa…."
He trailed off and Ziva shifted her attention, finding Gibbs giving her an odd look.
"Very fitting," he said. She nodded to him, the significance of the name not lost on anyone, except apparently McGee.
Tony's hand rested on the small of her back as he came up beside her. "This better be like the boss," he said, trying to shake off the heavy burden of the past few weeks in order to truly smile. "The IRS can call you whatever you'd like, but you're still Ziva."
Ziva rolled her eyes at him.
"Well, Agent David," Vance interrupted. "It might take a few days to get some documentation, but I'll have your e-mail you the proper forms within the hour. Starting filling out the paperwork as soon as possible. You've got a lot to catch up on."
Ziva's small smile came easy. "Thank you, Director."
"It's good to have you back, David."
By the time Ziva got her identification five days later, she was about ready to use Tony's own weapon to blow his head off.
"Tony!" she snapped, looking up from her recently reacquired NCIS desk as another spitball landed on her lap.
"What, Zee-vah?" he complained, lulling his head back. "You know I hate cold cases."
She rolled her eyes at his whine. "Yes, well, some of us have work to do."
"You still haven't finished the employment forms yet."
She scowled. "No. Every time I think I am done, Vance e-mails me another one. Tax forms and work history and background checks. I cannot tell the truth on any of it, so I hardly see the point in the first place."
"What, did you think it was always as easy as getting your orders handed to you in the morning and showing up for work?"
Tony laughed, lobbing another spitball at her and causing her to grind her teeth.
Her eyes flicked up to the computer as the speakers beeped.
One new e-mail.
She bit back a sigh. Another form?
… Vance's e-mail address hadn't suddenly been changed to 'dwatson2,' and no one else had her new NCIS account. She'd stopped all forwarded messages from her old account.
She clicked the message open.
I'm not sure why you left me your e-mail address, but I'm glad you did.
I just wanted to apologize for the way things ended. I was hurt and I didn't want to understand why you couldn't just stay.
But I do understand, Ziva.
You can thank Kima for smacking some sense into me. She knew that you were spoken for the whole time, even when you couldn't remember it. I can't stand in the way of that kind of connection, and if I'm honest with myself, I don't want to try. You're a special woman, Ziva. You deserve to be happy. If that's not with me, then I have to accept that. I don't want to stand in the way of your happiness.
Stay safe, Ziva. I hope to hear from you again some day.
Ziva read the letter through several times before her brain seemed to catch up with her eyes. She couldn't stop the smile that spread across her lips.
"Hey, what's that for?" Tony asked, looking up at her from his desk.
"Nothing," she replied, still smiling. She closed the e-mail window, folding her hands on her desk. "I am simply thinking."
His face lit up. "About me?"
"Yes, Tony," she replied sarcastically. "About you."
"Well, I completely understand. I am pretty damn hunky."
"You're going to be pretty damn unemployed if you don't get back to work."
Ziva smirked as Gibbs stepped into the bullpen, cuffing Tony on the back of the end.
"Of course, Boss!"
They both went back to their respective paperwork. It was only a matter of minutes before her computer beeped again.
It was from Tony.
Dinner tonight? My place?
If you're nice, I'll maybe even offer dessert.
Ziva rolled her eyes, putting her hands on the keys to reply.
Still my Little Hairy Butt,
I have not had dinner anywhere except your place in a week.
And if you don't offer dessert, I will simply be forced to take it.
She heard his cough and watched him shift in his chair.
Well, you know I like a woman who goes after what she wants.
And for you information, I do not have a hairy butt. Not anymore.
She bit back a smirk.
A woman who goes after what she wants? And what if I want the new analyst downstairs?
It is most definitely still hairy.
The refused to look up at the heat of his stare.
Harper?? No, you're entirely not allowed to want Harper. Me, yes. Harper, no.
AND I SHAVED IT! I draw the line if you ask me to wax it. That's a deal breaker.
Ziva couldn't suppress the chuckle that made it's way to the surface.
"That better be one funny work history you're writing, David."
Ziva cleared her throat before picking up her pen. "Of course, Gibbs."
Gibbs' phone rang a few moments later, giving Ziva a chance to type her latest reply to Tony.
Harper would wax if I asked him to.
She flicked her eyes to Gibbs, making sure he was still on the phone before opening Tony's reply.
That's because he's afraid of a woman with a weapon. Unlike me.
Ziva's reply was quick.
Are you saying you're not afraid of me?
She watched him hasten to correct his error.
Well, of course I'm a little afraid of you. Who's not afraid of someone who can kill them with a paperclip?
I'm just not AFRAID afraid of you.
Because I know you're really just a softy on the inside, sweetcheeks.
She looked up, glaring at him for just a second too long after Gibbs' hung up the phone.
"What the hell did I tell you too about keeping it out of the office?!" he asked, scowling at them.
They both smiled, turning back to their paperwork.