Disclaimer: I own nothing, CBS et al do; for fun, not profit; etc.
Setting/Spoilers: Through season six's Aliyah.
Notes: Aside from mentioning briefly that I've never attempting writing any sort of father/daughter-esque relationship (indeed however tentatively this concept applies to Gibbs and Ziva) and that this is possibly the most disjointed thing I've written yet, I came back and realized I should probably clue people unfamiliar with any of the Judeo-Christian tradition into the fact that several people in the Jewish canon, beginning with Abraham himself, state that they are a "stranger and a sojourner". This theme is something I imagine she'd likely be familiar with.
They'd been on a case at the time, staking out a man they believed had killed a Jewish former Marine. He'd mused on the seeming inability of the deceased to remain in one country for more than two years at a time, and she'd been quiet until:
"I am a stranger, and a sojourner," she'd quoted to him, the words flowing (for once) with the grain of her accent. Her face had been turned toward the passenger-side window and reflected the moon, and he'd wondered to himself if her background had ever afforded her a place to call home. He'd been met by her silence.
It is not in my blood, he now imagined she would say, because she wasn't here to say it.
"Ziva," Gibbs had said, "this is your home."
"No, it isn't," she'd replied, and unbeknownst to him, the look on his face would stay with her into her cell in Somalia through repeated beatings and rapings, her breaking spirit laying amongst her broken bones far away from wherever she had truly called home.
It is not in my blood, she mused, and it covered her face and matted her hair and stung in her every one of her wounds until she believed it.
He'd wondered once, in her first few weeks at NCIS, displaced by the world and her own choosing into the desk next to his, if he would always see a young girl crouched and gripping a rifle at the top of his basement stairs when he looked at her.
But over the course of four years and too many jokes about her Mossad training, that identity had become distant to all of them who had never known it or lived it; and even for Gibbs, that always had receded into sometimes, but never gone down from there.
But then, "Who's next?" she'd said, and asked without asking if he would betray her as well, and both of them added this question to a long list of betrayals that may-or-may-not-be; and for the first time in a while, he thought of the hole in Ari's head, and heard her soft voice singing El male rachamim, and wondered if it could come to mean so very little after all.
"Americans throw around the word home very callously," she'd noted once to him, almost offhandedly, but he knew better.
"Not that way in Israel?" he asked, putting his gear in the trunk, and following suit with hers. She didn't seem to notice him taking it out of her hands, although again, he knew better.
"Or anywhere else in the world that I have seen," she responded.
She did not like to talk about home, though she thought of it often; and when she did, her thoughts inevitably drifted into a thousand different places, and she would feel her mind scatter under the weighty misdirection of it all.
Perhaps I am not so unalike you as you and I have both believed, she thought, because she would not say such a thing aloud to him or any other person she trusted unless the circumstances were either far more dire, or far more philosophical.
"Well, whatever Ziva did to prove herself, it was not nearly so momentous as you believed," Ducky said, later. "Or was it?"
He was sanding a curved wooden skeleton, softly but not delicately, and he only had to glance up to see the place she lived in his mind's eye, not quite broken and not quite hardened and not crying at all; because all that was to come much later.
This was (not) the only thing keeping him trusting her.
They all tried not to think of her, all for varied reasons, but all with relatively the same amount of success. Which is to say, none at all, the Abby in his head mourned; and he suppressed her as he couldn't and wouldn't with the real Abby.
He'd have thought the memory that stayed with him now would be her flinch on the Tel Aviv airstrip as he kissed her cheek (this is your home), her Star of David gleaming bright and gold in the harsh Israeli sun, and her long dark hair fanning and waving wildly behind her in a goodbye she couldn't – or wouldn't – articulate.
(But not when he closed his eyes, and the strains of a Hebrew cadence rose up the basement stairs, four years past and still crying no tears. And he thought, two birds with one bullet, and he replayed that moment over and over, proving and disproving it with a thousand shifts in a thousand idiosyncrasies, and a hundred different hitches in her mourning voice, chasing him to Kate's funeral and far beyond.)
This is your home, but I am a stranger and a sojourner; and they hadn't heard from her in weeks; and maybe, after all, it meant nothing at all.