Chapter 96: The Spider and the Fly 8x01

This chapter is for those of you who were also bothered by the fact that Alejandro Reynosa was set up to kill his sister. And of all of them, I can't imagine for a second that Ziva would have actually helped make that plan.

"We've got a car." Mike Franks voice came through the radio in a burst of static.

Ziva sat up alertly, her eyes seeking out the dull gleam of Tony's vehicle on the other side of the safe house. "Ready," she murmured. Tony's echo came a moment later.

As they'd anticipated, Alejandro pulled up in front of the house and got out, armed. Ziva braced herself to flip on the car lights and arrest him.

"Wait!" Gibbs barked over the radio.

Ziva paused. She'd set up the microphones inside herself. If Alejandro was relieved to find his sister alive, there was a chance they'd speak freely. Suddenly Ziva felt a bolt of tension shoot through her. She had to lean closer, squinting, to realize what had triggered it. Alejandro was cocking his gun. Ziva flipped her radio to a private channel. "Gibbs!" she protested. "He's going to-"

And then there was a burst of rapid gun fire.

"Go get him," Gibbs said softly when it was over.

Her breathing was too quick. Ziva pressed down on the gas, sending the car flying forward, then stopped abruptly and flew out, tackling Alejandro with Tony.

"I did this for my sister! To finish what she started," Alejandro protested defiantly.

Then Gibbs stepped up, his expression impassive, his voice coolly logical. The doll he threw down, a final taunt, chilled Ziva again.

"Who was in there?" Alejandro began to beg, fear and realization flooding his eyes. Ziva jerked him by his elbow toward the house.

Ziva couldn't help the wave of relief she felt when she saw Paloma's eyes flutter toward her brother. Then she felt Alejandro start to tremble and had to leave. "I'll call an ambulance," she murmured to Gibbs as she strode quickly out into the cool night air.

Tony was just outside the door.

"An ambulance-" Ziva started to say, but he gestured to the phone already at his ear. She glanced back inside, at Alejandro crouching over his fallen sister, then headed away, walking toward the treeline without looking back.

Ziva was ten yards into the forest before she stopped, far enough that the safe house was still a light in the distance, but too far for any of the men she'd come with to see her. She was so angry she couldn't breathe deeply, just in frantic little puffs of air that eventually merged into a sob as she dropped to her knees on the mossy ground.

She crouched there, shoulders heaving although her cheeks were dry, for a long while. The sirens came and left and slowly the lights from the cars went out in the distance.

"Ziver?" came a shout at last.

"Here," she said, just loudly enough that she knew her voice would carry to him.

Footsteps behind her alerted Ziva to Gibbs presence. He stood quietly over her.

"You knew he'd do that!" she finally burst out. "You made him kill her."

Gibbs took a moment before answering. "You can only know what someone will probably do. You can't make them do it." His tone was as cool and imperturbable as it had been with Alejandro and for some reason that made Ziva furious.

"Of course you can!" she snapped, rising to her feet. "You set me up to kill Ari just like this."

Gibbs' mouth fell open as he realized what had set her off. "I didn't know he was your brother," he said, still reasonable but less patronizing.

"You knew he was my friend," she spat.

In the moonlight, Gibbs' face was suddenly conflicted and Ziva shook her head, staring off into the distance. "You can't know what that's like, that feeling. Knowing you've killed someone dear to you." She met his eyes. "We would all have done anything for our families, Gibbs. You, me. Even Alejandro. Maybe especially him."

Gibbs' eyes explored her face for a moment. Ziva left her expression open, titled her chin up into the moonlight, let him see how broken she still was in that small place inside.

"Then it is my fault," Gibbs said bleakly.

Ziva looked at him in shock as she heard his voice cracking.

"If I hadn't killed his father—he wouldn't have just killed his sister, you're right about that."

They stood in silence for a moment, Ziva at a loss for words.

"I changed all your lives."

She tilted her head, the movement invisible in the darkness. "If I had not been forced to kill Ari...I would not be here, that is certain."

He took a deep breath. "I wish I'd found another way."

She squinted, trying to see his eyes. "Do you?"

Gibbs sighed heavily. "This, tonight—maybe it had to end this way. Back and forth between our families until they're finally all dead or behind bars. But back there in the desert..." He titled his head back, searching through the trees for the stars, as the real meaning of the words he'd written down months ago hit him like a ton of bricks. "I was wrong when I killed their father. Impulsive and young and grieving, but...wrong." The words felt strange leaving his lips, and they left behind the bitterness of knowing he was responsible for not just the evening but for two whole lives warping and falling apart.

Ziva settled her arms around his waist in the darkness, her cheek pressed against his ragged heartbeat as Gibbs struggled to accept what he had rationalized away for so long.

"Do you still believe people can change?" Gibbs asked softly, a hint of roughness still in his voice.

"Yes," Ziva answered quietly. "I do."