I do not own NCIS or any part thereof.

Set after Code of Conduct, season 7, so slight spoilers for the entire season so far.

Ziva has difficulty accepting her probie status.

Doing Your Best

Gibbs needed coffee. So he watched the metal doors close impatiently and when at the last possible second he saw slim fingers poke though and force them back he frowned. Ziva. She came in without looking at him and allowed the doors to close. After the elevator started to move she reached over and hit the emergency stop button. He waited but she didn't say anything, still didn't look his way.

"You got something, Ziva?"

She took in a deep breath and turned to face him.

"Yes, I do, Gibbs. I do not think I can do this 'probie' job."

He blinked. Her mouth was in a straight line and the worry lines were between her eyes, all signs she was deadly serious.

"Not quite sure I follow you," he said.

She'd been an agent now for almost a month; a probie for a month. Yeah, he knew her teammates ragged on her about it and DiNozzo was in his absolute glory lording it over her but it didn't seem unduly cruel or out of line, especially compared with the way Tim had been treated when he'd first joined the team.

"It is not what you think, Gibbs," she said shaking her dark hair back out of her face. She'd been wearing it down a lot more since her return.

"I can handle the jokes and the increased workload when I do their share as well as my own. And I can handle the two of them making fun of me. After all, I have survived it before when I first came to NCIS years ago."

He remembered her coming back to work her second day, covered in dirt, after DiNozzo had made her crawl around in a dump truck. And he remembered how she hadn't been allowed to shower by his own order. Yes, she'd been put through a modified probie hazing before but now she was an actual probie, one of them, and she needed this time.

"Still not sure what you're getting at…"

Straightening her shoulders and holding her head up high she looked him in the eyes.

"I cannot NOT do my best on any case, Gibbs, just because I am the probie. I cannot NOT use my skills and intelligence and experience just because I am the probie."

Now she slumped a little and let out a ragged breath.

"I have tried. I have, Gibbs!

She looked at him again.

"But I cannot."

Turning away, facing back toward the door she reached over and released the hold.

"I wanted this more than anything and I am failing."

He flipped the elevator off button again. The metal box they were riding in made a horrible screeching noise. One day the damned thing was going to fall with him in it. Reaching out he touched her shoulder and pushed gently, turning her back to face him. She refused to meet his eyes. Just another sign of the new Ziva. Ziva from before Somalia, before Rivkin, before her rift with Tony, would have glared at him without hesitation - now she rarely tried to stare anyone down. He sighed.

"Ziva, I don't think it will be for much longer. Tony will grow tired of it. Tim already has."

"McGee has been here over six years, Gibbs, and Tony never grows tired of belittling him and rarely gives him any respect."

He smiled.

"You sure about that, Ziva? Things changed between them quite a bit while you were gone."

Silently she nodded.

"I have noticed. And now sometimes Tony listens to Tim's opinion and lets him run aspects of the investigation. But, Gibbs, I do not think I can wait six years. I…I need to feel I am useful. I need to feel I am doing my job. And not being allowed to speak during interviews or interrogations, not being allowed to present my conclusions when we gather together to go over the case…I cannot do that."

Shaking her head she looked away again.

"I cannot continue to do that. It will destroy the part of me that is left."

Now he understood. He pulled the stop button out and when the doors opened this time he crooked his finger at her and she followed without hesitation.

He led her, silently, to the wooded area outside their office where there were a few benches. Once there he motioned for her to sit down. He knew she'd been spending more time outside and he assumed it was in direct reaction to her captivity. He hoped the surroundings might make it easier for her to hear and understand what he had to say.

Sitting beside he put his arm across the back of the bench and leaned toward her.

"No one denies your skills, Ziva. If anything Tony and Tim envy them. Your intelligence is not in question. And nobody underestimates your experience as a Mossad operative or your qualifications to be an NCIS agent."

She looked up at him.

"I am waiting for the 'but," she said.

He chuckled.

"DiNozzo's smartass attitude's starting to rub off."

Ziva didn't laugh. He nodded.

"You've been Mossad for a long time. This is your time to learn to be an NCIS agent. I know you feel like you already know the job but you don't. You've got to learn to think and function like an agent. No more shooting first and then sorting them all out later. It's a time to learn a different way of doing things."

He'd lost her he knew. Ziva had very few things left of her old life and now he'd just told her what she did have left wasn't going to work anymore. A heavy thing for a young woman to hear.

Reaching over he pushed her hair back from her face so he could see her profile.

"Something else. You need to let us carry the load right now. Me, Tony, Tim…even Abby and Ducky. Let us do this. You become the student for a while, the probie, and don't make the hard choices. Give yourself a chance to recover fully."

She spoke in a monotone.

"Vance says I am damaged goods. I see you believe it too."

He didn't want to agree but he had to be honest with her.

"Yeah, you are damaged and the hard truth is some of the damage is irreparable."

He reached down and took her hand in his, closing in her cold fingers. She remained stiff and unresponsive.

"You're a different person, now, Ziva. You've got a chance most people never get, a chance to start over. You can choose now who you'll be, what you'll do. Who you'll love. Consider this a new beginning for Ziva David, NCIS agent and, right now, a probie."

She didn't relax. He knew how she felt. Had felt something similar when he'd become an NIS agent after Kelly and… He thought he knew now how to reach her if he would but it was going to hurt.

"Franks still calls me "Probie" you know? I was damaged goods when I came to him, like you. Broken. More than ready to die if given half the chance. But Franks took me on, hammered me into an agent. He makes DiNozzo look like a schoolgirl when it comes to hazing a newbie. He taught. I learned. I survived. Now I teach."

Still she wouldn't look at him.

"Now I teach. You learn."

He spread her much smaller fingers over the palm of one of his hands. He made his voice softer.

"You already know how to survive, Ziva. You proved that."

The woman sitting next to him remained silent. So he tried a different tactic; he smiled and let it show in his voice.

"You're not telling me you survived all those months in the desert only to come here and let a couple of candy asses like DiNozzo and McGee bring you down, are you?"

She jerked and then slowly pulled away. Standing, she turned to face him.

"No," she said. "No, they will not."

He stood up beside her.


They walked side by side back into the building and then into the squadroom. As they left the elevator DiNozzo looked at them.

"Hey, Probie, why didn't you bring me a cup of coffee while you were out? Go back and get me one!"

Ziva looked over at Gibbs and whispered, "I still hate being a probie."

Turning around she got back on the elevator.

Gibbs smiled.

"Somedays I do, too," he whispered.

He walked to DiNozzo's desk. Leaning over it he spoke in a low voice to his senior field agent.

"Careful, Tony, don't push her too hard. She might snap…your neck."

The green eyes looking up at him widened and the smile disappeared.


Gibbs shook his head and left the room once again. He still needed his coffee.