Of Sinking Ships and Prodigal Daughters
Ziva doesn't want to talk, but if she wants to stay at NCIS, she's going to have /Ziva on the light-ish side. Lots of angst.
"Are you sure about this?" Gibbs asked slowly, regarding her with scrutiny.
She sighed, tired of that question. It had been going around and around in her head for days now. Undoubtedly, her father was bound to ask it as well when he emailed her back. By then, though, it would hardly matter.
"Gibbs, I am fine. I have been working here for four years, no? I am a good investigator!" she said emphatically, waving her hands around as though it might prove her point.
Gibbs glared a her, a patented response to anyone who spoke too much. "Not what I asked, David," he growled. "Are you sure?"
Ziva paused before answering. By resigning from Mossad, she could very well be turning back on her whole life leading up to NCIS. But no; that life had ended the moment she had stepped into this building—the moment she had watched the life fade from Ari's eyes. Looking at her boss (or, perhaps she should say, former boss, because she still wasn't sure where they stood), she could see his hesitation.
It only hardened her resolve.
"Yes," she said clearly, her expression determined.
Gibbs sighed inaudibly, though whether in relief or apprehension, Ziva couldn't tell.
"OK, then," he said, pressing his pen once more to the paper.
"Morning, Tim!" Ziva said as she practically bounced into the bullpen. McGee, knowing this behavior to be totally uncharacteristic of the Israeli, glanced up in worry.
"M…morning, Ziva," he said slowly. "What's got you so excited?" A thought dawned on him. "It's not your birthday, is it?"
"No, Tim, that was yesterday."
McGee paled. "Oh, God. I knew I was forgetting something! I'm so sorry, Ziva! I'll make it up to you…"
Ziva laughed in pure amusement. "I was only joking, Tim. My birthday is not for several months now. Besides, I do not often celebrate it."
"Oh," Time said, sighing in relief. "Well then, what are you so happy about?"
Ziva's smile widened, and it took McGee's breath away. She hadn't smiled much since her return to DC, and now he realized exactly how much he had missed it. He had almost forgotten that Ziva, though physically one of the most beautiful women he knew, was most beautiful on the inside.
"Oh, McGee," she breathed, moving toward his desk. "It is wonderful. I-I have been approved to be an NCIS agent!"
McGee did a double take.
"An agent? As in 'Special Agent Ziva David'?" he inquired. Ziva nodded. "But…wouldn't that mean…?"
It was not the right thing to say because as soon as Ziva comprehended his meaning, her smile fell a little flat and her eyes hardened around the edges. She turned away slightly.
"Yes," she said quietly, but her voice was not sad, only filled with resolve. "I resigned from Mossad. I could not longer work for…my father after…."
She did not complete the thought, but she didn't have to because Tim got it; he remembered. If one day for him and Tony was total hell, he couldn't imagine four months.
Attempting to bring Ziva's smile back, McGee reached out, squeezed her hand, and said brightly, "Hey. Congratulations."
Ziva's reply was interrupted by self-proclaimed Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, who, hearing McGee's comment, asked, "Congratulations on what?"
Ziva turned to face him as McGee announced, "Ziva's an official NCIS agent!"
Tony's head shot up and his bag dropped to the floor. He studied Ziva for a moment.
"No more Mossad?" he asked quietly.
Keeping her eyes trained on Tony's, she replied steadily, "No more Mossad."
As though without thought, Tony, with a smile that rivaled his partner's, took a few steps forward and pulled her into an almost bone-crushing hug. McGee attempted to hide a snicker as he watched Ziva's ears turn red. Closing her eyes, she allowed her arms to wrap around Tony's torso comfortably.
"Congratulations," he whispered into her hair.
"Thank you," she mumbled uncertainly.
They remained this way for a few moments, both either unwilling or unsure of how to pull back.
Inevitably, Gibbs entered before either had moved. Sparing a glare at his two agents, he exchanged a look with McGee before barking, "Hey, DiNozzo! What happened to fraternization in the work place being a bad thing?"
Tony and Ziva, caught unawares, jumped at Gibbs' voice, awkwardly untangling themselves. Tony glanced guiltily around the room before stammering something about a report and practically racing to his desk. Ziva, straightening her blouse, followed suit.
Gibbs shook his head, glancing down at his desk. After going over a new case silently, he looked back up, saying, "Gear up. We've got a dead marine."
Walking toward the elevator, Gibbs heard DiNozzo say to Ziva, "I'm glad you're back, Zee. McGee was so slow. Too many hamburgers in the diet if you ask me."
Gibbs smiled. Maybe now things could go back to normal.
Everything was going smoothly until later that day. They had returned to NCIS headquarters shortly after investigating the home of one Petty Officer Santiago, who had been trouble for NCIS before.
Ziva, recalling this, decided to check the records on Santiago.
However, when she attempted to access the archive of cases using her new password, one word came up in bright red letters under her picture:
Ziva frowned. Rejected? But why? She had been cleared by Gibbs, and, she had thought, by Vance as well. What was rejecting her?
Assuming she had simply mistyped her password, she tried once more. And then again. And again. And again. Each time with the same result.
REJECTED. REJECTED. REJECTED.
"Argh!' Ziva exclaimed, slamming her hand down. "Why am I being rejected?"
Tony and McGee both looked up in sharp surprise.
"Something wrong, Ziva?" McGee asked nervously.
Ziva glared at him. "Is something wrong? Of course something is wrong! It is rejecting me!"
McGee frowned, standing up. "The archives?" he asked, bending over her shoulder to get a look at her computer. Tony joined him on her other side.
"Yes. I do not understand it! I thought…Why? Why won't it accept me, McGee?"
"I can tell you why," a new voice said gruffly. All three agents lifted their heads to find Leroy Jethro Gibbs standing darkly in front of Ziva's desk, looking more-than-usually pissed off. "Two words: Leon Vance."
Ziva frowned in confusion as Tony and McGee exchanged looks, wondering, once more, what the hell Vance was up to.
Ziva was livid by the time she had gotten up to Vance's office. Gibbs had explained to them all that Vance, though originally willing to allow David a spot on the team, had changed his mind suddenly and without much explanation.
"I don't understand," Ziva had said desperately. "The paper work has been taken care of! I thought…"
Gibbs had had no further explanation, which led Ziva here, flying up the steps toward the director's office with a fury that none of her team members had seen since Aliyah.
Cynthia was shocked to see her come bursting in with such anger, but Ziva ignored her as she practically sprinted toward Vance's door, heedless to the fact that Director Vance could be doing any number of things in his office—heedless of whom he could possibly be talking to.
It turned out that he was, in fact, in the middle of an important meeting with some lesser member of the US government, but this did not hinder Ziva in her quest to learn why Vance had rejected her as an agent.
"Ms. David," Vance said slowly, barely glancing up, as though he had been expecting her. His lack of surprise did not fail to increase her rage. She marched up to his desk, fully intent on giving him a mouthful (or perhaps it is 'earful'…'noseful'?) when Leon beat her to it with, "If there is something you would like to discuss, it will have to wait until after I'm finished with my meeting."
Ziva took a deep breath in a vain attempt to control herself. "No," she said firmly. "I am going to speak to you now." Vance raised his eyebrow as a response, and she continued heatedly, "Why have I been rejected?"
Vance sighed, "Ms. David…"
"I am a good agent and you know it. I passed my psych evaluation! I am prepared to work just as hard—even harder!—than I did as a liaison officer. I am fully committed to NCIS. I showed you my letter of resignation from Mossad! Why is this not enough for you?"
The member of the government coughed quietly and stood, saying to Vance, "Director, perhaps we should finish at another time. Obviously, you have pressing matters."
"I…" Vance began, but one look from Ziva forced him to finish with, "Yes. All right. I will be sure to contact you." He stood, escorting the representative out the door and turned to face Ziva with a grim look.
"Let me tell you, Ms. David," he said with barely-contained anger. "This type of behavior will not help your case in becoming an NCIS agent." He sat at his desk and glanced up at her.
Ziva let out a quiet breath, standing as straight as possible. "Please, director," she sighed. "I just want to return to my home. My real home. Here."
Vance regarded her for a quiet moment, as though unsure of how to broach the subject. Finally, he leaned forward. "Have a seat, David."
Ziva did as she said, suddenly quite uncertain. She felt her hands begin to shake as she took in the director's frown. "Director?" she whispered.
"Ms. David, I understand that you are a great asset to the team. Everyone thinks so: McGee looks to you as some sort of mentor, DiNozzo has never had a more capable parnter, Gibbs thinks of you as something akin to a daughter, and Ms. Scuito would murder me if I were to let you go." He paused. "It is also true that you would work hard here. You obviously love it. And after your resignation, you have nowhere else to go."
Ziva watched Vance carefully as he stood and crossed closer to her. "So listen carefully: I am prepared to take you on as a full NCIS agent, but you must do something for me."
"Tell me—and your entire team—about your time on the Damoucles."
The words hung in the air for a pregnant moment as Ziva was rendered speechless. She stared at Director Vance in horror before sputtering, "What?"
"Explain to us everything that happened on that ship. Everything that happened in the desert."
"But…you read the report! It was accurate..."
Vance shook his head swiftly, cutting her off. "Frankly, David, I don't believe you. And I don't believe that report." He leaned down into her face. "And you're going to tell me the truth, or you're going to get the hell out of my office."
Ziva sat for a moment, very still, as though contemplating the consequences of her next action. Stay and face the horrors all over again, or leave and let go of a life she had been dreaming about for the past three days?
She knew, as she stood up without so much as a word, what Ziva Of Four Months Ago would have done. She knew, as she turned away from her director (ex-director), that Old Ziva would have bucked up and told the truth. But New Ziva, silly girl, ran away from her problems, and lost her footing when there wasn't anything around to hold her up.
She wrestled with New Ziva in her mind, trying desperately to cling to everything she had once been. Trying to regain the confidence that had once resounded throughout her entire being.
As she walked out the door, she knew she had lost.
If Anthony DiNozzo told you he was not a man of many words, he would be lying. In fact, there could not possibly be a man of more words—at least, not in DC. That was why it was no surprise that he began launching a thousand questions at his partner as she walked slowly down the steps, her head held as high as possible.
He wouldn't have said anything, he thought, if it hadn't been for the fact that she was packing up her bag and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
"What happened up there?" he asked, as lightly as possible. "You got it all figured out?"
She did not even look at him. That never failed to scare him.
"What did Vance say?" he asked, getting up and walking toward her. "Was it just a mistake?" No answer. "Come on, Ziva, I need you to give me something…" He reached out a hand to touch her arm, but just before he brushed against her, Ziva's hand shot up and smacked across his face.
He stepped away, shocked.
Her head shot up quickly, as though she had barely processed what she was doing. She stared at him for a long moment, her lips parted in want of saying something—anything—that might make it okay, before gathering up her bag quickly, and, with a swift glance at McGee and Gibbs (who were looking on intently), turning on her heel and walking quickly toward the elevator.
She did not look back until she reached it. She let her eyes drift deliberately to Tony. He wished, for a moment, they she might say anything to let him know she was okay—to clear up his confusion.
But theirs was a relationship made up of stolen moments—glances that conveyed more than any hundred words ever could. So with that single glance, she was gone.
It felt, to Tony, too much like a goodbye.
But before he could gather up the courage to chase after her, Gibbs was out of his chair and heading up the steps toward Vance's office. DiNozzo glanced after him.
"Boss? Where are you going?"
"To get answers," was Gibbs only reply.
Abby had been pacing for nearly an hour now, as though putting a hole in the floor would solve the current mystery that had befallen Team Gibbs. McGee sat at her desk, watching her walk, wondering for the hundredth time exactly what had transpired between Vance and Ziva to cause her to walk out the way she had.
Abby flipped to face McGee, interrupting his thought process. "She has to be coming back, right? I mean, she wouldn't just leave like that! Not without saying goodbye—again!" Before McGee could answer, she flung herself into his arms. "Oh, Timmy, what if she doesn't come back?"
"She's coming back," DiNozzo stated darkly as he entered the room. "She has to."
Abby, leaping off of McGee, threw her arms around Tony in need. "Exactly," she said, though the usual optimism was missing from her voice." She sniffed a little, adding, "I mean, maybe Vance just sent her on like a mediation day to, you know, 'atone for what she's done' or something. Not that she's really done anything. I mean, we've all forgiven her, right? Gibbs has forgiven her?" She pulled back from Tony, saying significantly, "You've forgiven her?"
Tony smiled as best he could, though it came out as more of a grimace. "I don't think there was really ever really anything to forgive," he said softly.
They were all silent for a moment until McGee interrupted by saying, "Find anything out?"
Tony shrugged. "It's weird. I listened at the door for a good ten minutes, but couldn't make anything specific out. They're both yelling at the top of their lungs, though." He shrugged, plopping down in an empty chair. "What d'you guys think happened?"
"I'll tell you what happened," Gibbs said as he entered. "And DiNozzo, the next time you decide to play spy, don't breathe so loudly!"
Abby would have laughed, if not for her distress.
Gibbs sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Director Vance...doesn't believe that the Damoucles went down the way Ziva claims it did. He wants the truth or she doesn't get to be an agent."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Let me guess: this is the point that Ziva walked out."
"Yep," Gibbs answered. "Vance thinks there's...little chance of her returning. Whatever went down on that ship..."
"Must have been hinky," Abby finished, and Gibbs nodded.
"There's more," he continued, frowning. "We've been assigned to figure out exactly what happened on the Damoucles. And Vance won't take no for an answer."
Abby and McGee glanced at each other as Tony, glaring at nothing in particular, spat out a quiet, "Wonderful."
Ziva did not know where she was going as she slid into her rental car and pulled recklessly out of the NCIS parking lot. She drove as fast as she knew how, ignoring the blaring horns and pedestrian cries of anger that went on around her. For the moment, nothing existed but her and the speed.
She used to do this when she was sixteen. She had taught herself how to drive because Ari had gone away that summer and her father never had time for her. When she was angry (at the world, at herself, but mostly at her father's oblivious and constant over-looking of his eldest daughter) she would drive out into an open patch of land and push on the accelerator until she simply could not go any faster. Then and there, she felt truly alive, her heart beating a million miles an hour and her head spinning in a high she couldn't get any other way. That summer, out in the open with her anger and her desire to be seen, just once, by Eli David, she decided she would join Mossad.
It was funny, she thought as she sped, how life always seems to come full circle. Once, she had been an angst-ridden, impulsive teenage girl with a dream to become a part of something her father might love her for, and now, nearly twenty years later, she was a lost, broken, manic woman with only the dream of leaving her father far, far behind.
She would probably never get away from him, though. He would forever be there, no matter where she went in life, standing over her shoulder, passing judgment on things he could never understand: her hopes, her dreams, her sorrows, her joy, her friendships. Her love.
Driving ninety on the highway, Ziva wondered when it started. When love began creeping it's way into her life. Assassins didn't do love; she had told Tali that only a week before she had been murdered.
"Do you think you'll marry Michael, Ziva?" Tali had asked, her eyes wide at the merely idea of love or anything like it. Ziva had laughed, giving her sister a curious look.
"Why would I do that, little sister?" she asked.
"Because he loves you. And...he would make you happy, yes?" Ziva had frowned in thought as Tali continued, "Don't you love him?"
"I..." Ziva's answer hadn't been definitive, but perhaps that was because she never really had known if she loved him. "I do not know him well enough," she had said vaguely. "Besides, I do not know what love is."
"You will," Tali had told her, and the certainty in her voice was almost enough to make Ziva believe it. "When you find it, you will."
Perhaps Talia had been right. Perhaps she had known when she had found love. Perhaps she had thrown it away by walking out of that stupid building. Perhaps she would never know.
She had felt, that first day working at NCIS, a quiver of something, something that ran deeper than anything she had ever felt for her father or the mother that had died too young or Ari, who had betrayed Mossad but mostly just betrayed her. It was a feeling she had not identified with since Talia's death.
Perhaps it was love, after all. Or perhaps it was just living.
Either way, she grew to enjoy NCIS. She grew to laugh at McGee's stammering, to not mind Abby's hugs, to want to listen to Ducky's stories, to know when Gibbs needed a break and (more importantly) a new coffee, to appreciate the movie references that Tony seemed determined to keep throwing out. She grew to need them around her, to support her, to make her laugh, to keep her from drowning in everything she was becoming and everything she would one day do. And it scared her shit-less, because she had never needed anyone the way she needed these people who were supposed to be just another assignment.
It was her first (best) mistake.
And she had destroyed it now, not once, but twice. Walking out of that building and driving away, she knew she could not return. Not now. Not ever. She had to move on, as they were obviously doing because if they wanted her back, shouldn't they have chased her down, made her stay?
(In her heart, Ziva knew life didn't work like that, but she was done listening to her heart.)
So she drove.
She was surprised to find herself standing at the edge of a cliff, the car somehow parked relatively well, despite the fact that she couldn't remember parking it. She stood on that cliff, looking at the rushing water below, wondering for a moment, what it would be like to fall, to jump, down into its rapid waters and let her body be mangled as it would. Would it matter, now that she had nowhere to go and nothing to live for? Would anyone remember her or care if she did?
She considered it for a moment, but eventually shook her head, and stepped away from the edge: she was violent, not suicidal.
Climbing back in the car, she continued to drive.
"I can't believe this," Tony muttered as he glared at his computer. "It's so fucking stupid."
McGee glanced over at him sympathetically. "Does Vance really expect us to figure out what happened? There's no way to back up anything Ziva said, but there's no way to determine it's not authentic either!"
"If I didn't like my job, I would go give Vance a piece of my mind."
There was silence until Tony, his voice thick, asked quietly, "She's really gone this time, isn't she?"
Tim didn't answer, unsure. He glanced over at DiNozzo in helplessness, astonished to find the senior field agent brushing away a tear.
Standing and walking out of the bullpen, Tony muttered, "I can't do this anymore."
Gibbs wasn't surprised when he found her in his basement, working diligently on his newest boat, one he had been working on since Jenny's death. He stood at the stairs for a moment, watching her, taking note of the tiny frown that creased in between her eyebrows and the way she clutched the sandpaper tool as though it was her life support. Finally, he coughed, announcing his presence.
She glanced up sharply, stopping her work. Guiltily, she set down the tool and crossed a couple steps toward him, her hands clasped behind her back.
Neither spoke for a moment as they regarded each other, unsure of how to proceed. Eventually, sick of silence, Ziva said, "I...am sorry, Gibbs. I broke into your house. I know I should not have. I..."
"Don't apologize," Gibbs grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. "Sign of weakness, remember?"
Ziva smiled half-heartedly. "Yes. Yes, I remember."
Gibbs' frown deepened as he asked, "Vance is right, isn't he? The report is a lie?"
Ziva glanced down, not sure what to say. "I...you must understand..."
"Oh, I understand," Gibbs said sharply. "But, Ziver, you were the one who wanted to be an agent. If you really want it, you have to let us help you."
"It is..." Ziva began. "You would never...look at me the same way. Not you. Or Tony. Or Abby and McGee. Especially them. And I...I could not bare that." She shook her head. "No. It is simply better that I just leave." She laughed bitterly. "I thought that must be the case; I just came here to make certain. Thank you."
She attempted to walk past Gibbs but he grabbed her arm roughly and halted her. She looked into his face, tears moistening her eyes. "Please," she said softly. "Just let me go."
"Can't do that, Ziva," he returned.
"Why not?" she demanded, forcing back the tears. "Why did you have to rescue me from Somalia? Why did you not just let me die there? It was what I deserved! Why can you not simply leave me be?"
Gibbs put both hands on her shoulders. "Because," he explained, "you are one of the best investigators I have ever had. And what's more you're like a daughter to me. And I'm finished with losing people I love." He wiped one of Ziva's tears away, adding, "Besides, DiNozzo would have been inconsolable and you know it."
Ziva felt a laugh bubble in her throat despite herself. "Truly?"
Gibbs nodded. "He would never have let us pick a replacement."
Before Ziva could answer, a younger voice calling, "Boss!" was heard from the hallway, and Tony DiNozzo rounded the corner and leaped down the steps quickly, landing at the bottom. "Ziva isn't at the navy yard! I think..." He looked up to find Ziva and Gibbs in the middle of the room, staring at him oddly. "...she's right here. Right. Great."
Gibbs rolled his eyes, giving Ziva a look. "Yeah, DiNozzo. She sure is."
"Right," DiNozzo repeated, his eyes never leaving Ziva. Gibbs, noticing this, coughed and excused himself to grab a drink, leaving the two in peace.
"So..." Tony said after Gibbs had disappeared upstairs. "How's it going?"
Ziva rolled eyes, angrily reaching for one of Gibbs sanding tools to continue her earlier work. Tony, berating himself, moved a few steps closer. "Sorry," he said. "That wasn't what I meant to say. I...I just..." He gazed directly at her. "Were you really going to leave without saying goodbye?"
Ziva paused, looking down. "It is better this way," she said resolutely. Tony scoffed, shaking his head.
"Do you honestly believe that? Do you honestly believe that leaving NCIS will solve all your problems?" he asked scathingly. "You have nowhere to go, Zee."
"I will find somewhere!" she snapped, flipping around to face him. She tensed as she realized he was closer than she had anticipated. "I cannot do what Vance has asked of me. It is impossible."
"Why?" Tony demanded. "Because of your pride or your fear?" More gently, he took a step closer to her, saying, "Do you think we would ever judge you or your past? Do you honestly think we would desert you because of it?"
"You already have," Ziva said, tasting the lie.
"No!" Tony yelled. "You deserted us! And you owe it to us to explain what happened those four months." He reached out a hand and cupped her face. "Look, Ziva, if I'm totally truthful with you, you're the strongest woman I know. In fact, you may be the strongest person, aside from Gibbs. Sometimes, I wonder where you keep your cape, because you have to be Wonder Woman for all the things you can do. But I saw you, in Somalia. And I know now: you're not Wonder Woman. You're awfully good at pretending you are, but you aren't. You're human, and every human, no matter how strong she is, needs a hand or a shoulder every once in a while." He let his other hand settled on her other cheek. "Let us help you."
Tears that Ziva hadn't known she was crying were streaming down her cheeks, and she moved quickly to wipe them away. She looked toward the window, wondering for a moment when it got to be so late. Her thoughts quickly drifted to the summer, to Michael, to Tony's cheek on her lips, to the broken feeling in her chest she was so sick of.
Tony's gaze was still boring into her as she caught his eye once more.
"Yes," she whispered almost inaudibly. "Yes. I will do it."
She entered NCIS the next morning slowly, as though she was afraid of what was to come. Vance, expecting her arrival, met her at the bottom of the steps. The rest of Team Gibbs looked on silently as he approached her.
"David?" he said. "Follow me."
She did as she was told.
The interview was to take place in the interrogation room. It unnerved Ziva a little, to know that her teammates were all most likely on the other side of that glance, listening as she poured out the whole heart-wrenching, terrifying story.
Vance sat across from her, looking as solemn as he had the day before. He dropped the report in front of her.
"Start talking. Why were you assigned to the Damoucles?" Vance asked harshly. Ziva shut her eyes and took a calming breath.
"It was...supposed to be part of Michael's mission. When he died, I...decided it was appropriate that I finish what he had begun." She paused, shaking her head. "But you mean, why was Mossad on the Damoucles in the first place, yes? It seems more complicated than it really is. It was a ship that Saleem's men had commandeered a few months prior. All his men were there, and we knew he was planning an attack on Mossad. So I was sent with a few others to infiltrate the ship."
"What happened while you were there?" Vance inquired, standing up.
"I became close with all the crew by any means possible. I was...I was the only woman, so you can imagine. I flirted with many of them, slept with a handful of them, and earned the trust of those I needed the trust of. My crew of Mossad agents gained their trust as well. It was all going according to plan for the greater part of a month."
"And then?" Vance asked sharply.
Ziva breathed shakily. "And then...then it was time for, for phase two of the assignment." She paused.
"I..." She glanced at the window. "Please, Director, I would feel more comfortable if we went somewhere else. Somewhere I could speak...speak directly to my teammates. It would be...easier."
"David..." Vance said it warning. "You gave up that option by walking out yesterday."
Ziva looked down, her face hardening. "Yes. Yes, sir."
In the observation room, Abby looked on, frowning. "What's wrong with her? When did she get so submissive?"
In unison, McGee and Tony mumbled, "Somalia."
"David?" Vance demanded sharply. "What was phase two?"
"We...we had been given orders to...You must understand, they were Saleem's men. Terrorists. They had..."
"David. Tell me."
Breathing heavily, Ziva looked up toward the observation room, her eyes pleading. Abby, seeing this, stomped her foot.
"It's not fair!" she snapped, walking out of the observation room.
"Abby?" McGee called after her, watching as Abby appeared again in the interrogation room.
"Listen here, director!" she spat. "Just because Ziva may not have told the truth does not mean you can treat her this way! If she wants to speak with us face-to-face, then she can! No buts about it!" She put a hand on Ziva's shoulder, glaring at Vance as if to remind him that she could kill him and leave no forensic evidence. Vance studied her for a moment before sighing.
"Yes. You are probably right." He glanced down a Ziva. "We will recess for a brief moment and meet up again downstairs. Perhaps Dr. Mallard should hear this as well."
Taking Ziva's hand, Abby led her out of the interrogation room.
"Are you prepared now, Ms. David?" Vance asked as they all stood gathered in Ducky's lab. It seemed an odd place to tell her tale, but it was better than the interrogation room, and Ziva wasn't about to complain. She nodded.
"Take me back to the Damoucles," Vance ordered simply. "What was 'phase two'?"
Ziva breathed in deeply and began her story. "They were all Saleem's men, on that ship. That was why we were sent there in the first place, as I explained earlier. We remained stationed on that boat for a month until I gave orders to move forward. Phase two began well enough..."
"Hallil, Jeremiah, David, you three will take the back. Bram and I will take the front. Be certain to bring them down fast and hard. Understood?"
They all nodded solemnly.
"The plan was to stop Saleem before he could attack Mossad. So the other men and I..."
She crept through the front of the boat, around supply boxes to where one lone man slept.
"We were to take them all down."
She reached the man, placed her gun to his neck - bam! bam! bam! - she watched the light fade from his eyes.
"I shot them. One by one. All of them. I was merciless. I...did not listen to their screams or cries for mercy." She paused. "It was what I had been taught."
"Ziva," Bram said after her fourth shot into the same man. "What are you doing? He is dead. Let him rest."
"They were nearly all dead on the front of the boat when I heard a commotion coming toward us. It happened to quickly for me to remember most of it. All I know is that Jeremiah, David, and Hallil had been a part of Saleem's men the entire time. They had aroused the men and warned them and planned to attack Bram and I." She looked into the distance blankly, licking her lips. "Bram and I fended them off as best we could. We were both good shots, and I had ten other men on the boat that were Mossad as well. We shot down about half of their men, but...they were...more numerous..."
"It was a massacre," Tony breathed quietly, a look of brief terror in his eyes. Ziva nodded.
"I did what I had to do," she said quietly. "I had known when I got on that ship that I would not live to see another mission. So I did what I could: I blew it up."
Ziva paused as she heard a brief collective gasp. "Even then. I was ready to die. I did not want to continue living the way I was: broken, empty, aching, and cut off from everything I had grown to...love. I would have liked to die."
As she paused, Vance said, "But you didn't."
Ziva laughed bitterly. "No, I did not. Something simply would not let me rest. And I was so very tired." She glanced back up at Vance."Is that all you wanted to know?"
He shook his head. "What about Somalia? What happened there?"
Ziva looked away, clasping her hands in front of her. "They...wanted to know about NCIS. They never told me why. It was the same routine every day: they came in..."
Saleem was there, it seemed, all the time. Every time Ziva found herself conscious, he was in the corner, leering at her. She would have punched him if she'd had the strength or desire to undo her bindings.
"...they asked me about NCIS..."
"Tell me everything you know about NCIS," he breathed into her ear, his breath sending unpleasant chills down her spine.
"...they gave me truth serum that never worked..."
She mouth stayed tightly shut.
"...and then they hit me."
The pain stopped coming after a while. Eventually, she could hardly feel the contact.
"It was a brutal process," she said, the tears gracing her eyes once more, "but...it was no less than I expected. Nor did I care. I had no hope of anyone finding me. Nor did I want anyone to. I believed that my punishment was justified for betraying NCIS. For leaving."
Vance asked quietly, "Is that all they did?"
A tear slid slowly down Ziva's cheek, and for once she let it fall. "No," she breathed. "They would beat me out of enjoyment. They only stopped if I screamed loud enough. They gave me more truth serum than my body could...could handle, and I-I would pass out at best, vomit at worst. They'd starve me. Make me go without water for days on end! Sometimes, my mouth was so dry I could not feel my own tongue." The tears came more quickly. "And-and when that was not enough, they raped me - alone, in groups, depending on the day and how Saleem was acting. And he - oh, he - would watch as though it was some-some sport!" She was sobbing openly now, not bothering to wipe away her tears.
She looked up and found Abby covering in mouth in horror. Tony's face held an expression of pure disgust and he breathed a resolute, "Bastards." Ziva felt her lip quiver as she finished, "I was ready to die. I had planned to kill myself before the week was out. I...I could not live with such lack of hope anymore." She glanced at Tony. "And then you were there, and I hated you because I thought you might die too, and I couldn't bear it if I was the reason for your death."
He gazed back at her, the way he only seemed capable of nowadays, and that look conveyed so much and yet so little.
Looking away, she found herself sobbing once more, in a ways she hadn't known she could before today. And the stood and watched her with her pain, because there was nothing more, really, to say.
Vance dismissed everyone and in the privacy of his office, he congratulated Ziva on being an official NCIS agent. She thanked him without emotion, drained of all her energy. Released, she returned downstairs to find the entire team waiting for her, Palmer included. They each offered her hugs, even Gibbs, and congratulations and "welcome backs." She tried to smile, but found it simply too difficult.
After they had all left, Ziva sat alone in the bullpen, a sole light on at her desk, debating whether to read an email from her father. She had been fearing this; after all, he was certain to be upset - possibly to disown her. Could she bear that?
She was spared the decision as Tony walked back into the bullpen, bag swinging over his shoulder. He paused as he reached her desk.
"Hey," he said finally, his throat a little dry.
"Hello," Ziva said softly.
"So..." Tony answered slowly. "What happens now?"
A year ago, Ziva would have blown him off, and acted as though she had no idea what he was talking about. But his gaze was more intense now, she thought, and she was truly tired of pretending now.
So now, she gazed back. "I do not know," she said. "Any ideas?"
"Oh, plenty. But most of them involve very little clothing," he half-joked. "So perhaps it's best if you call the shots for a while."
Ziva smiled - her first true smile, Tony thought, since returning to DC - standing up and putting her bag over her shoulder. "Well, then," she said, standing in front of him. "We better get moving. I suppose I have many movies to catch up on, yes?"
Tony grinned. "You betcha." He followed as she walked toward the elevator. Before stepping onto it he said, "Uh, Zee?"
Without replying, he leaned over and placed a light kiss on her cheek, blushing slightly as he pulled away.
"What was that for?" Ziva asked.
"Just...repaying the favor."
If the janitor saw them holding hands as they entered the elevator, he didn't say anything.
After all, who was he to come into between something as sweet as love?