AUTHOR'S NOTES: I did some tweaking of the first chapter before writing this one.
Next chapter, Tony, McGee, and Abby do some digging into the Centre and Ziva starts acting… different.
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"Another round, sir?" Jarod asked the man sitting alone at the bar.
Tony sighed, looking at his empty glass. It was almost 1am and this had been his 5th drink. He would likely feel like Hell in the morning, but right now he didn't really care. "Sure," he said, shrugging. He hadn't had a hangover for a few days, anyway.
"Rough day?" Jarod asked as he poured Tony another scotch.
"Have you ever… been so in love with a woman who… drove you insane?" Tony asked, sipping his drink.
"Not… in love…" Jarod replied, thinking of Miss Parker. "There's this girl I've known since we were kids… We were… best friends for a while…"
Tony smiled as he thought of Ziva. The way she'd get her phrases mixed up… even the way she'd threaten him… All of her little habits and quirks… Tony loved everything about Ziva David. "There's this woman I work with. She's… She'll threaten me, but… she'll risk her own life for me…"
"What's she look like?" Jarod asked, intrigued.
"Tall, dark hair… beautiful smile… absolutely amazing legs…" Tony replied, grinning as he thought of Ziva when they were undercover and pretending to be married. Looking around nervously in case Ziva had come in and he hadn't noticed—unlikely since she'd started to wear that new perfume—Tony pulled out his wallet and pulled out a picture and slid it across the counter to Jarod.
Jarod looked at the picture of a woman wearing a skimpy bikini—trying to avoid imagining Miss Parker in the get up— and said, "She's beautiful." Handing the picture back, he asked, "What's her name?"
"Ziva David," Tony replied putting the picture away.
"She's from Israel?" Jarod asked, the name ringing a bell. Thinking for a moment, he raised an eyebrow. "She's not related to Eli David, is she?"
"Yeah," Tony said, surprised that the bartender knew that. "How did you…?"
"It's… a long story," Jarod replied, thinking that that phrase was starting to become something of a trademark with him.
"I like long stories," Tony replied, his curiosity officially piqued.
Jarod looked hesitant, but looking around the nearly empty bar he pulled a stool over and poured himself a drink. Since he didn't have much of an alcohol tolerance—one of numerous side effects of life at the Centre—Jarod tried not to drink too quickly… lest he spill more than he should. "When I was a child I was… taken from my parents."
"Taken?" Tony said, suddenly sobered and absorbed in the story.
"By an organization which… exploited genius minds," Jarod went on, giving the basics. "I was instructed to perform simulations… One of which was used by Israeli Mossad."
"What kind of simulation?" Tony asked, wanting to know more. What had this man been a part of? But Jarod seemed unwilling to say and Tony tried another tactic. "The girl you were friends with…"
"Miss Parker," Jarod replied, unaware that he was smiling as he said her name. "Her father runs the Centre." Sipping his drink, he said, "Sometimes, I think… she's been a prisoner of that place as much as I was."
Tony thought for a few moments and then asked, "Why didn't you take her with you when you got out?"
Jarod thought about that for a while. He wanted to. He wanted to show Miss Parker a world free of… everything… A world Thomas Gates had tried to show her… "Sometimes I wonder…"
"If she really wants out?" Tony finished, thinking of Ziva. "Ziva's the same way." After finishing off his drink, he said, "I want to help her, but…" Looking at Jarod, he said, "But I want it to be her choice. I want it to be what she wants."
"How do you do that?" Jarod asked, wondering if maybe there was still a way to help Miss Parker.
"Be her friend," Tony replied, simply. "Be someone she can depend on. Be honest… and just be there."