Disclaimer: I own nothing related to NCIS, Bellisario Productions or CBS. I'm just doing this for fun, no filthy lucre will be accepted.

A/N: Italics indicate quotes from the episode Reunion. Several people have asked when I'm going to post a story or words to that affect. Be careful what you ask for.

Mewofford, thanks for the help and encouragement. Elflordsmistress, thank you for the beta and all your help.


Ziva had been waiting in Gibbs basement to clear the air after their earlier conversation was interrupted by the phone call and left hanging unsatisfactorily. She'd sensed Gibbs hesitation to bring her back to the team and had wanted to plead her case. He'd asked her point blank whether her father ordered her to kill her brother and gain Gibbs' trust. She'd had to say yes.

"That's a problem," said Gibbs.

"You don't understand."

"You're damned right I don't understand!" Gibbs said with anger and hurt in his voice and eyes.

"When I volunteered for that mission…"

"You killed your own brother, Ziva."

"It was because I hoped my father was wrong about Ari, and I did not want someone else blindly following orders. I volunteered to protect him, Gibbs."

Gibbs almost whispered, "You lied to me."

"No, when I told you Ari was innocent I believed it. But yes, I would have lied to you. He was my brother…and you were nothing." Ziva pauses, "But I was wrong about Ari…and you. When I pulled the trigger to save your life, I was not following orders. He was my brother … and he is gone. Eli is all but dead to me. And the closest thing I have to a father is accusing me…"

"Okay." Gibbs said with acceptance in his voice.

Her words hit him solidly in the gut. He couldn't get her final words out of his mind. He did not want to be thought of as someone's father. He had a daughter. He had no room in his heart for another. He was very well aware that his team thought of themselves as family, but he rejected the idea that he was father to any of them. He was their leader, their protector, their boss, their friend even, but never their father.

"Ziva, give me some time," Gibbs said softly. "Go back to your quarters. I'll be in touch."

Ziva looked down at the floor, not meeting his eyes. Her shoulders drooped at his words. She turned and walked away saying nothing.

As she walked up the basement steps Gibbs said, "Don't give up Ziva. I will be in touch with you soon."

She continued up the steps and Gibbs could hear her footsteps as she left the house.

'She answers your questions and you send her away.' he thought to himself. 'Be more gentle next time, she's still hurting.'

He didn't dwell on it though, he needed time to think through what he'd just heard and whether to accept her onto the team again. The team needed her just as he'd told Vance, but he wasn't certain the time was right, and he wasn't certain that he trusted her enough yet to bring her back.

What he was certain of was her sincerity in what she said. It was what she hadn't said that still bothered him, the questions he hadn't asked. How many orders had she received from Eli David over the past four years that were in conflict with NCIS? What had she done to complete those orders? He knew she had aided Rivken, but he did not know to what extent nor how damaging it might have been to NCIS. All these things played through his mind before coming to rest on the words that bothered him the most.

"And the closest thing I have to a father is accusing me…"

He'd had a daughter and couldn't save her life, obviously didn't deserve her though he loved her so deeply it still hurt to think about her. His family, Shannon and Kelly, his only family, the only family he ever wanted – and he wanted them so badly that it ground into his gut like broken glass. He knew the people around him wanted him to be a part of their feeling of family, but he couldn't accept it…wouldn't accept it. It hurt too much to lose family.

Gibbs mind turned back to the matter of trust. Eli had ordered Ziva to kill Ari to gain Gibbs' trust and she had accomplished that mission incredibly well. He listened to her words again in his mind. "When I pulled the trigger to save your life, I was not following orders. He was my brother … and he is gone." That statement was certainly sincere. "He was my brother…and you were nothing." Straightforward and honest with no double meaning he could find. But did that mean he could trust her?

He thought of the chisel she had given his as a gift, a thank you gift. He knew he would use it often and think of her. Then he realized she had given him a second gift…a second chisel, a way to cut and scrape away the veneer of distrust he still felt. She thought of him as a father, so he would watch her as a father would. He would discern when she was being devious. He would question her as a father would. He would discover whether his trust had been misplaced and whether it could be fully restored. He hoped Ziva was salvageable. He hoped she was trustworthy. He wanted her on his team so he could help her gain the trust necessary to be fully accepted again. He made up his mind.

As he drove his Challenger to the Navy Lodge, he thought to himself, 'Be careful what you say to her. She's already hurt, no need for more."

As Ziva opened the door at his knock her red eyes made it obvious she had been crying. She only glanced at him before looking downward and saying, "Come in, Gibbs. I have been hoping you would come tonight."

Gibbs stepped inside the door and shut it but stood within a step of the door.

"I can only stay a minute, Ziva, but there's something you need to hear…something I need to tell you."

Tears began to fill Ziva's eyes and she took a breath to speak, "I understand. I have overstepped my bounadries." Ziva said, somehow keeping the tears from falling.

"No, I don't think you do understand, Ziva. You are the strongest woman I know. Even with what you've been through, you're fighting for your place. You have my respect, and I do trust you. We've all had our bonds of trust tested the past year and hopefully we'll all come out of it stronger. I appreciate the idea that you think of me as a surrogate father, and I am going to use that to make certain you belong with us."

Ziva was watching him carefully now, looking directly into his eyes, waiting for his next words.

"You were right earlier. I don't fully trust you. Even with what you told me, I need more proof. I absolutely do not trust Eli and at some point he is going to try to come back into your life, either as Director of Mossad or as your father. When he does, I want to know it…immediately."

"I will tell you, Gibbs," said Ziva, nodding her head and looking him straight in the eyes.

Gibbs reached into his inner jacket pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper folded lengthwise.

"I expect you to be at the office at 0700 tomorrow, Ziva. Here is your reinstatement authorization."

Ziva smiled though it looked like her face might break as she did. "Thank you, Gibbs."

"Don't thank me yet. You are going to be watched like an errant daughter, Ziva. You are going to get very tired of me watching your every move, testing all your words, learning to trust you. You will truly begin to understand why DiNozzo jumps when I come into the area, but know that I am on your side. I want you on the team or I wouldn't give you this chance." He gave her a small smile. "It won't all be bad, Ziva, I'll give you time to get Tony under your thumb again."

As he turned and opened the door he heard her softly say, "Thank you for giving me the chance, Gibbs."


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