My apologies for the delay. For those who haven't noticed over the past ten or so chapters, it will become very evident at the end of this chapter. I had never intended to add this storyling, but it worked its way into my story on its own. Enjoy and please review.

Disclaimer: See Chapter One.


Chapter Fifteen

"Confess yourself to heaven, repent what's past, avoid what is to come, and do not spread the compost over weeds to make them ranker."
–William Shakespeare.

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The morning dew set across the lawns of the embassy's property soaked Ziva's joggers through to the inner sole. She couldn't sleep, even though she desperately needed it, and decided to exercise to clear her head. She promised the officials on her way out that she wouldn't leave the grounds and she had no intention of breaking that promise—the grounds were beautiful, especially in the warm weather they'd been having so far that winter. She stopped for a breather just under the Deodar tree that she and Tony had discovered just two nights earlier, and saw a figure approaching her.

As he got closer, she recognised the silhouette of the man drawing near and waited for him. It was not as though there was anywhere to escape to on the grounds anyway.

"Boker tov," Ziva greeted her father as he came closer.

"Good morning, Ziva," he replied simply and in English.

"I heard that you were here," she told him, sitting down on an exposed root of the large tree. Her father remained standing. "Why didn't you see us last night?"

"I was busy."

"And now?"

"I return to Tel Aviv in an hour. I just spoke to your brother inside and he told me you came for a run."

"I always run," she told him matter-of-factly.

"Do you want to tell me why you didn't come to me yesterday when you suspected that Alexei Stokgov was still alive?"

"No," she merely replied with a shrug.

"This did not work with me when you were a little girl, Ziva," her father warned, "and it will not work now. Tell me."

"It is not of your concern, papa."

"Is this about your mother? You don't trust me to take care of it now because I didn't take care of it then?"

Ziva stood up immediately. "This is about Emily. Not about what happened more than twenty years ago."

"Your brother had the same answer."

"Well, he's right," Ziva spat out aggressively.

"Okay, okay," David conceded and stepped away from his daughter. "If you need anything, I want you to call me."

Ziva only nodded.

Her father glanced back at her sorrowfully. He took a few steps closer to her and placed his hands lovingly on her cheeks. Leaning in, he kissed each of them, and then whispered in her ear, "Slih'a."

Director David slowly let go and turned around, leaving his daughter behind under the sagging branches of the Deodar tree.

And Ziva's younger brother saw the entire exchange from the window in the Ambassador's office, to which he had been summoned.

"You were saying, Ambassador?" Kalev inquired politely.

"I have received some information from ISI," she told him, "but I do not want it known that it was I that received this information. It could stir up a whole can of worms that I cannot deal with at the moment."

"I understand," Kalev replied, "so what is the information?"

"Fahan Waseer revealed that he handed Emily over to two men dressed in Western clothing near the Kashmir border. They were driving a white panel van but he couldn't remember any other details."

"So Emily's in the Kashmir province? It'll certainly narrow our search radius down."

"But remember, Kalev," Ambassador Prentiss warned, "that this information was obtained under severe physical duress. All of it will need to be verified by secondary sources."

"Just because he was tortured, it doesn't make the evidence produced false," Kalev told her.

"But it doesn't make it true, either."

oOo

Ziva sat under the drooping branches of that large and expansive tree for more than an hour before anybody else approached her. It wasn't her father this time, or her brother, but three women that she knew very well and spoke to more often. They almost skipped through the grass to meet her, but Ziva suspected that that was because all three of them—JJ, Abby and Garcia—had been cooped up inside the embassy for far too long.

"Watcha doin' out here?" Abby asked as she plopped down on to the soil next to Ziva. JJ and Garcia took up seats on the soft grass just a metre away.

"Just thinking," Ziva replied, looking off into the horizon.

"About?" JJ asked pointedly.

Ziva smirked at the question. Well, JJ, it was about what I learnt yesterday in New Delhi. Unintentionally, she started shaking her head. And not from my friend, Will.

"Come on, Ziva," Garcia pushed. "Tell us."

She bit her lip automatically.

"We won't say anything," Abby added. "We promise."

Ziva gave in. She was backed into a corner anyway. "Alright." She looked up at her friends. "I went to a pharmacy after Kalev and I met with our friend in New Delhi. I bought a pregnancy test."

"And what happened?" JJ asked seriously.

"Well, I got back on the jet, I went to the bathroom, peed on it, and then waited five minutes."

"And?" Abby prompted with her eyes wide.

"And it was positive," Ziva replied. There more than just a trace of disappointment in her voice. She didn't appear at all happy or excited by the news. "It's not like thosethings are one hundred percent reliable."

But Abby ignored the quip. "Yay!" she screamed as she crash-hugged Ziva to the ground.

"Congratulations, honey," Garcia cried, just as happy.

"I can't believe this," Abby started excitedly as she helped Ziva back into a sitting position. "I can't believe how many of my friends are pregnant! First Jenny and then my sister, and now you!"

"You're sister's pregnant too?" Garcia asked, almost ignorant now of the other two.

Abby nodded. "These things come in threes, you know. It's true," she shouted over the looks of disbelief, "and numbers like two or four are just unnatural. They always come in threes."

"I thought that it was bad things that come in threes," JJ put in confusedly.

"I could agree with you there," Ziva commented, scoffing.

And only JJ that seemed to pick up on Ziva's disappointed attitude. "This is a good thing," she tried to tell her Israeli friend.

"But it could not have come at a worse time," Ziva replied, still brushing leaves and dirt from her jacket.

"Why?" JJ asked demandingly.

Ziva shook her head and then looked up at them, forcibly changing her expression to feign a smile. "You know what, it's not important," she told JJ happily, patting her knee lightly. "What's important now is that we find Emily, so we should go back inside and do so."

"Aren't you going to tell your husband?" JJ asked with the same tone.

"Not right now. Right now, I'm going to find Emily."

Nobody argued. In a sense, Ziva was right. They had to find Emily first before they thought about their lives in the future. So they all stood up and followed Ziva back across the sun-baked lawn and towards the grand entrance of the embassy's building. Hotch and Rossi were talking on the stairs, but quietened when they saw the ladies approach. Sensing that they were having a similar deep and meaningful conversation, Ziva headed directly up the stairs and into the lobby, the others following her, and leaving the two men outside to continue their chat privately.

oOo

But it wasn't as though their chat was going anywhere. Rossi was still trying to break through Hotch's tough exterior. And it seemed to be a lot harder than usual.

"Aaron," Rossi almost pleaded. "Will you please just tell me what is tormenting you?"

Hotch was silent nonetheless.

"You know that I will keep to myself anything you tell me in confidence."

"I know that, Dave," Hotch finally replied.

"Then why won't you tell me?" Rossi asked rather demandingly.

Hotch was silent again.

"Are you worried that I will judge you on your actions when you do?"

The FBI Unit Chief looked up at him expectantly.

"I won't," Rossi promised. "It is not for me to judge you on what you have or have not done, Aaron."

"I'm just..." he paused and inhaled, "not sure how I feel."

"About?" Rossi asked, drawing out the end syllable.

Hotch sighed deeply and looked around rapidly, his eyes flicking everywhere but towards the questioning man. Rossi could see that Hotch was struggling with the weight of his conscience and the decision of whether or not to come clean, when finally, he saw the struggle end.

Hotch looked up at him, seriously and resolutely. "Emily."

"What do you mean?"

"Just that. I'm not sure how I feel about Emily."

"Okay," Rossi said understandingly.

"It's just now that with everything that's happened I remember so much... I don't know. And then there's this other thing now, too."

"What other thing?"

"I can't say," Hotch told him, before clarifying himself with, "I promised I wouldn't say."

Rossi just nodded.

"Look, we need to go back inside and work on finding her."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Hotch replied and he stood up and turned around to head back into the embassy. He felt bad, lying to Dave Rossi, his friend and former mentor, like that, but he had so much trouble revealing the truth to himself, let alone anybody else. He was in love with Emily Prentiss.

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"I could do almost anything to you."