Tim sighed as he waited for the elevator to reach Abby's lab. It was only 10 a.m. and it felt like he'd already been at work for hours. They'd had a major conversion over the weekend to replace the document management system they used for logging evidence and filing and retrieving all their reports. They'd gone from a fairly user-friendly, menu based type system to something completely counter-intuitive. Just figuring out how to print your report was a pain in the ass. Of course, the transition had been simple for him but Gibbs had yelled every five seconds when he couldn't make the new system do what he wanted. Tim had reminded him that the conversion was Vance's idea and very nearly gotten a head-slap. In hindsight, he probably should've kept his mouth shut.
Unlike Gibbs, Tony had actually taken the training class so he was a little better off. The training had been almost three months ago (what idiot decided that was a good idea?), though, so Tony had a few questions. He'd been compelled to ask them with all his usual teasing about computer nerds, of course. Ziva had been the funniest one, though. She'd still been in Somalia during the training and by the time Tim had arrived this morning, she was already cursing up a storm in Hebrew and threatening to shoot her computer. It reminded him of when she'd first come to NCIS and had trouble making the transition from Macs to PCs. She'd come close to doing some serious damage to her computer then, too. She was so good at so many things that it always surprised him when she couldn't seem to pick up the computer stuff as easily. She'd asked for his help early on and it was part of what solidified their friendship. While she sometimes participated in Tony's teasing of him, from the very beginning, she'd had a subtle way of letting him know that she respected him. He'd been pretty worried about her lately, but this morning he'd seen another flash of the old Ziva again. It was always fun to watch her threaten to kick ass even if it was just her computer's ass. Now that he thought about it, maybe it hadn't been such a bad morning after all. Especially given how bad the prior week had been with Ziva being forced to talk to her father for the first time since they'd rescued her.
"Hey, Abby! Gibbs sent me to see what you found on that knife from the Riley case," he said as put a fresh CafPow! on the table beside her.
"Is everything okay? I thought someone would've been here already. I mean, I've had the results for like two whole hours now," she worried.
"Oh, no, everything's fine. Just the new system conversion is slowing everyone down. Gibbs is in a bad mood and Ziva's about to shoot her computer," he explained.
"When is Gibbs ever in a good mood, Tim? Poor Ziva. She would have had trouble even if she had been here for the training," Abby replied with amused sympathy.
"Yea, when it comes to computers, she just doesn't have the skills. Of course, I'd never say that to her face, seeing as how she could kill me with a paperclip and all. I'm amazed she found a way to set up that highly encrypted email account she used with Rivkin." Even as he said it, Tim realized how inappropriate it was. Damn, sometimes his mouth just got ahead of his brain.
"Timmy, don't say that name. You know I don't like to talk about that time when we thought we'd never see Ziva again and Tony was all depressed…oh my God, Timmy, oh my God, oh my God…we screwed up!" Abby was well on her way to working herself into a rant.
"Abby, slow down. What are you talking about? What did we screw up?" he questioned.
"We traced the emails off Saleem's laptop from Rivkin's email accounts to the encrypted NCIS account they were sent to…"
"Then, we translated the emails from Hebrew to English. Which was really hard and took a long time..."
"And then Gibbs called with his global 'What ya got Abs?' so we gave him what we had. We told him we thought Ziva might know more than she was telling."
"I know, Abby. I was there, remember?"
"Tim…when we saw the account was set up using Ziva's login id, we just stopped. We just assumed it was Ziva because the emails were between her and Rivkin. We didn't think about how she actually got the account set up or what it would take to configure the encryption. How could she do that? Did she have help? Or was it someone else entirely? Oh, my God, Tim, what if she wasn't really the one who was using the NCIS account at all? What if someone set her up?"
"I'll call Gibbs."
Gibbs tried to listen to Abby's rambling but after all the computer frustrations of the morning his patience with her was wearing thin.
"Get to the point, Abs, what are you trying to tell me?" he barked.
"We screwed up, Gibbs. In the biggest way possible. We don't think Ziva was the one emailing Rivkin. We should have checked on the NCIS side to find out who set the account up and who was using it instead of assuming it was her because it was under her login id. There's no way Ziva set that account up herself, at least not without help. The encryption was too complex. She doesn't have the computer skills." Abby finally explained.
"No, but I know someone who does," Gibbs thought to himself before replying out loud. "Get me the printouts of those emails, Hebrew and your English translation, and then figure out who the hell was using that account. Now."
Gibbs approached Ziva cautiously. He was going to have to handle this very carefully. He didn't want to destroy the fragile confidence she had in him by causing her to think he was questioning her loyalty again. "Ziva, need you to look at something for me." She reached for the stack of papers in his hand and then looked up at him with surprised eyes when he didn't let go of them immediately. "Need you to know something first. I've known about these since last May. Doesn't change anything. Got it?"
She said okay and then began reading the papers. He watched as her face changed from an interested to puzzled and finally to a near panicked expression. "I did not send these Gibbs. I have never seen them before. This was not me. You have to believe me."
"I do. I just wanted to hear you say it. Now, what can you tell me about them?"
She studied them for a minute and then answered, "Well, for one thing, the Hebrew is pretty basic. The grammar is fine but the vocabulary is not very sophisticated. In fact, I doubt Michael wrote this either, at least not if he thought he was writing to me. He used slang, abbreviations, stuff like that when we corresponded. And this one that closes with 'I love you' can not be real. We were not at that point in our relationship. We never said those words to each other. The translations are fairly accurate but I guess that would not be so difficult with the text book vocabulary."
"So, you're thinking at least one of the people corresponding wasn't a native Hebrew speaker? Maybe learned it as a second language?" he questioned.
"Yes, that is exactly what I think. Also, I am not convinced that the requestor is the same every time. The communication style varies a little between some of the emails. And whoever it was, they were not trying very hard to be accurate about my relationship with Michael. They make references to things we never did, never said."
At that point, Gibbs became distracted by his phone. "Got it, Abs." Without another word, Gibbs grabbed the emails out of Ziva's hands and marched toward the stairs to Vance's office.
"Just what in the hell were you playing at?" Gibbs shouted as he stormed into Vance's office.
"Uh, honey, I'm going to need to call you back," Vance said into the phone before hanging up and turning toward Gibbs. "You want to tell me what the hell you think you're doing storming into my office like this?"
"Trying to figure out what the hell you've been doing. You speak Hebrew, Leon? Got any encrypted email accounts?"
"Just what exactly are you accusing me of, Gibbs?"
"Not accusing you of anything, Director. Just finally asking the damn questions, that's all. Last May, were you feeding Mossad the intel they needed to kill terrorists in the U.S.?"
"Yes, and since you probably won't ask, let me just go ahead and tell you that it was sanctioned."
"Sanctioned by who, Leon?"
"You trying to tell me you had orders form SecNav to help Mossad conduct assassinations on American soil?"
"Not help directly, but indirectly, yes. I'm not even sure Eli knew it was me that was feeding the intel. I gave him the email account and told him his people could submit requests through it when they needed to, requests they couldn't legitimately make to Officer David. And, yes, we agreed to use David's relationship with Rivkin to cover it up. We couldn't afford for it to get out that the information was coming from a U.S. government agency. Having it come from an over zealous liaison officer was acceptable. But I had no intention of letting her get hurt by it. I would have given her a simple reprimand and Eli would have ordered her to play along for the common good. I didn't know you'd find out about it and choose to leave her behind in Israel."
"You didn't try to stop me from leaving her either, Leon. Didn't bother to try to create any doubt about whether she'd been disloyal. In fact, you added to it by telling me she was under orders when she killed Ari."
"I was just passing along something Eli told me after we got back. I can see now that he wanted to be sure you didn't try to stop her from undertaking Rivkin's mission. Do you follow politics at all Gibbs? Current events? See any of the speeches at the U.N. last week?"
"You going somewhere with this or just planning to give me a civics lesson, Leon?"
"The political climate for Israel is complicated, Gibbs. This is not just about some isolated terrorists groups like Hamas or Hezbollah and their suicide bombers. Entire governments are against Israel and men like Saleem, radical extremists, are rallying those governments to unite – Iran, Libya, Turkey, the list goes on. They have one purpose and one purpose only, to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. Eli David is a visionary. He sees what the future holds if men like that continue to exist and he has the balls to do something about it. He does what we can't, so, yes, we help him when we can. Do I trust him? No, but he's what we've got to work with right now. We need Israel to remain intact if we want to have enough presence in the Middle East to be able to prevent another 9-11 or worse."
"Eli David is a visionary, Leon? He's a psychopath who ordered his own daughter to kill his son to gain my trust and then sent her on a suicide mission as a reward for a job well done. That doesn't bother you at all?"
"He wanted her for that mission because she was the right one for the job. You and I both know that she is one of the very best there is, Gibbs. Yes, it was a risky operation but he thought she had the skill to pull it off. She's been a Mossad operative since she was a teenager. She knew the risks and she also knew why it was necessary."
"Is that how you do it? That how you remember her face the day we brought her back from Somalia and still sleep at night? By telling yourself she knew what she was getting into? That she signed up to spend three months at the mercy of a man like Saleem?"
"What do you want from me Gibbs? What happened to Ziva is done. It can't be undone. What do you want me to do about it now?"
"I've already told you what I want, Director. Two things. I want to be able to trust the person who sits in that chair and I want to protect my team. There's not much you can do about the first one unless you're planning on resigning any time soon."
"I'm afraid that's not happening. And the second? What about that?"
"Fix it, Leon. You owe her that much. Fix it so I can keep her here with me. Keep her safe. Permanently. You fix it or I will."
"I already have, Gibbs. I was just waiting to be sure you wanted to keep her."
Gibbs was half way out the door before Vance stopped him. "Gibbs, regardless of how you feel about him, Eli David is a vital part of the security of Israel right now. Ziva may be loyal to you and she may make Washington her home now but Israel is still her birth place. The place where she grew up. She loved it enough to defend and protect it for more than half her life. She was willing to defend it with her life. Think long and hard about that before you do anything that could inadvertently lead to its destruction."
Leon Vance waited out of sight until he saw that all of Gibbs's team was assembled in the bullpen, Abby and Ducky included. He wanted to be sure everyone was there to witness his conversation with Ziva. "Officer David," he said, loudly enough for everyone to hear. "You have an interview at 9 a.m. in the morning with Mary Weatherford at the I.N.S. field office in Fairfax. Don't be late. They frown on that. She needs to review your application for permanent residency with you before she issues you a green card. The interview will just be a formality. Be sure you bring a copy of the paperwork to HR when you get back so they can update your employment status. Oh, and Ms. Weatherford will also have information on how you can apply for U.S. citizenship if that is something you are interested in pursuing."
"What application? I did not submit an application to I.N.S." a confused Ziva replied.
"I believe it was dated the day after you got back from Somalia. There was a lot going on that day and it was a difficult time for you so I can see how you might not have realized what all you were signing. Nevertheless, the processing is complete, and the interview is all that remains, so I think it is safe to say welcome aboard, Special Agent David."
Vance winced at the sound of Abby's high-pitched squeal and then smiled as a jubilant Dinozzo swung an arm around Ziva's shoulders. "Hell, yea, I like the sound of that! This is my partner, Special Agent David." With a brief nod to Gibbs, Vance turned and went back upstairs, leaving the team to continue their celebration.
Gibbs watched Ziva intently. He didn't think he'd ever seen her with a more vibrant smile. As she hugged Abby one more time, her eyes caught his and she silently mouthed, "Thank you" and then a slightly hesitant "I love you." His eyes never leaving her face, Gibbs thought maybe that smile alone might be enough for him to forgive Leon Vance for the part he'd played in her ordeal. Or maybe not.
Halfway around the world in Tel Aviv, Israel, Eli David was getting an early start to his day. As he opened his office door, he nearly stepped on the plain manila envelop lying on the floor. He opened it to find a glossy white sheet of paper with a message written in black felt tip marker. It read simply "Never forget who she belongs to." Turning it over, he found a picture of a Bravo 51 sniper rifle.