A/N: If you've read any of my other stories, you know by now that Ziva is one of my favorite NCIS characters. (I really love them all except maybe Vance. I'm liking him a lot more after Good Cop, Bad Cop, though.) I do, however, respect that not everyone likes Ziva as much as I do. This story was inspired by a comment I read in an NCIS forum. The poster (can't remember the name to give him/her credit) pointed out that Ziva seems to have a sense of entitlement with regard to being an NCIS agent. I agree she has come across as pretty audacious about her reinstatement the last few episodes considering the mistakes she's made. However, I think there are much deeper motives behind it and this is my attempt to explore them. If you are Ziva fan like myself, I just ask that you stay with this story through the second chapter. You may still not enjoy my perspective after that which is perfectly understandable. I think it is a testament to the talent of the show's writers that these characters are so multi-faceted that everyone sees them from so many different perspectives.
I've noticed other authors pointing out the obvious so…they aren't mine. Hello! If those boys really belonged to me, I hope I could think of better things to do with them than write stories.
Gibbs put every ounce of strength he had into pounding the nail into the wood in front of him. "Damn, it feels good to finally hit something," he thought to himself.
It was only Ziva's second week as a probationary agent and he was ready to strangle her. He was a good leader. He was hard on his team but he did it for their benefit. And he always had their backs when they needed it. Ziva was proving to be quite the challenge, though. The baggage she carried combined with her strong-willed nature left him searching for answers. And if her defiant behavior today was an indication of what was ahead, he better find those answers soon.
Only a parent could truly understand the way he feels right now. Until he became a parent all those years ago, he had no idea he was capable of this kind of anger. He certainly never thought he could feel that way about his own daughter. With a bittersweet smile, he remembers Kelly as she stood in the living room of their house on base. Shannon was gone for the day and Kelly had used the opportunity to test every limit possible. After intentionally pushing his buttons all day, she had finally worked herself up to her grand finale.
"I don't care," she yelled with her hands on her hips and a glare that could have intimidated half of the marines in his unit. "I can do what I want. You are not the boss of me."
It had taken every ounce of self-control he had not to lose it completely and show her that he was indeed the boss. He never thought he could be so tempted to spank a child. Shannon had bad memories of being punished in anger while growing up so he had promised her he would never do the same thing with Kelly. In that moment, his promise was the only thing that held him in check. Even so, he had still yelled at her. "Lose the attitude, princess," he had shouted while plopping her down in the chair they had designated for time outs. Fortunately, Kelly was a smart kid and realized she had finally pushed him too far. She had shut up and stayed put while he went into another room to calm down. After gaining a little perspective, he had returned and apologized for yelling at her. He followed his apology with a calm but very serious talk about obedience and respect. Within minutes, his sweet little angel had reappeared. With her tearful "I'm sorry, Daddy," all his remaining anger had melted away. Too bad he couldn't say the same for his sweet little agent. Even pounding the wood had done little to calm his anger towards her.
He and Shannon had been lucky as parents. Kelly had tested her boundaries occasionally as a natural part of growing up but she had mostly been a compliant child. Considering how strong-willed the two of them were, it was amazing they had produced such an easy going kid. Although he had disciplined her when it was necessary, Shannon had often accused him of spoiling her as well. He had definitely encouraged her sense of adventure. He had been comfortable doing so because he knew he could trust her to respect his limits. Parenting Kelly had been a walk in the park compared to the situation he was facing now.
He had dealt with his share of rebellious marines over the years but that was different. You did what was necessary to break them because defiance on the battlefield led to certain death. With most of the agents he had trained over the years, he had been able to find the right balance. He always taught them to respect his leadership and follow orders while still encouraging them to develop into their own person. Dinozzo was a perfect example. He had his own style and it worked well for him. He asserted himself when it was needed but he also respected the boundaries the majority of the time. Dinozzo had matured a lot over the last few years although it had taken more than a few head-slaps to facilitate the process. Really, though, it had been simple with Dinozzo. Dinozzo's relationship with Gibbs was a lot like Gibbs's relationship with Mike Franks. Gibbs understood it. His relationship with Ziva, on the other hand, could very well be his most complicated challenge yet.
To start with, Gibbs wasn't sure if he was a parent or a team leader or some of both. There was no doubt Ziva could use some good parenting. Unfortunately, it was about twenty years too late for that. Instead, he was left dealing with an emotionally immature adult who was a complex paradox in many ways. On the one hand, she blindly obeyed her father's orders to the point of suicide. Yet, when it came to almost everyone else, she was as strong-willed as they come. "Always full of fire" was how Amit Hadar had described her and the description fit her well. Gibbs suspected that as long as she remained loyal to Eli, the man hadn't really cared whether she respected or obeyed anyone else. Gibbs doubted anyone other than the director's daughter would have gotten away with putting Mossad's second-in-command in a headlock. Eli David was a complete narcissist. It probably gave him great enjoyment to watch Ziva take advantage of her position as his daughter.
When it came to Ziva's position with Mossad, she clearly had been given too much power at too young of an age. Given the survival rate of the average operative, it wasn't unusual. It also wasn't surprising that it led to a certain amount of arrogance. After all, her only identity had been tied to being a Mossad operative for as long as she could remember. It was what Eli had raised her to be and she was very good at it. Gibbs couldn't deny the value of her skill or experience. However, the sense of entitlement that goes along with them is a problem. She needs to start over and she needs to earn her place as an NCIS agent instead of expecting them to hand it to her. It is the only way she will ever leave that part of herself she loathes completely behind and embrace a new identity.
Gibbs wonders what it would have been like raising a young Ziva David in a healthy home. A buddy of his in the Core had once described his eight year old daughter as having a quiet will of iron. That fit Gibbs's picture of a young Ziva. With her, you would have had to pick the necessary battles carefully and then win decisively. The rest of the time, the best thing you could do as a parent would be to let her make her own mistakes and learn from the natural consequences. With kids, you could let them learn to make choices in a safe environment. It taught them to make smart decisions before the consequences were too severe. Trying to do that with Ziva as an adult meant the consequences could be deadly.
He had tried giving her a choice by leaving her behind in Israel but it had backfired on him. He had underestimated how little will she had when it came to her father. She knew nothing about how to make wise choices because Eli David had never given her the chance to make her own decisions. Gibbs wondered what the man must have done to her over the years to conquer such a strong will so thoroughly. He suspected that manipulation and withholding his love had been an essential part of Eli's parenting style. Fear was obviously a big part of the mix as well.
Fear was significant part of the Ziva that Gibbs was dealing with right now. He suspected at least some of her arrogance was a bluff. He knew she was desperate to assert herself as an agent because it was all she had left. He could relate to that. It had been the same for him as a new agent. One option Gibbs had in dealing with Ziva was to use her fear and insecurity to gain her compliance. Threatening her with losing her place on the team would likely result in her submission and obedience but at what price? Did he really want to take her only security away? Was doing that any different from what Eli had done to her? Her fear didn't just stem from her father, either. It was more complex than that. She needed to be in control right now because for the better part of four months she had been completely out of control of every aspect of her life. She had no choice in the little things the rest of them took for granted. Someone else had been in control of even the most basic things like whether she ate or slept. For whatever reason, being called "Probie" had become a control issue with her. No one liked it at first but they tolerated it. Gibbs never even protested when Mike still called him that. She, however, seemed determined to fight it, especially when Dinozzo used it.
Gibbs called her "Probie" in the first place because he wanted to remind her that she was making a new start. At this point, he would consider forgetting the nickname if he could be assured she would follow orders in the field. She hadn't disobeyed him. No, she was too smart to openly defy him. She had done it indirectly instead by disobeying an order from Dinozzo. This was after Gibbs made it perfectly clear the senior field agent was in charge of the scene whenever he wasn't there. Teasing and practical jokes directed at Dinozzo were fine but ignoring his orders was unacceptable. Gibbs tolerated the pranks because they had always been part of the team dynamic. Not to mention it had been great to see Ziva smile and to see her quirky, sneaky sense of humor return. Plus, Dinozzo gave as good or better than he got on that front. If it had been true disrespect or had interfered with their work, Gibbs would have stopped it. For the most part, though, it was just good, clean fun. It was pretty damn entertaining for him as well although he would never allow his team to know it.
After two hours of serious contemplation, Gibbs was still no closer to deciding how best to handle this afternoon's events. He would be forced to deal with it in the morning. Otherwise, he risked looking like he wasn't backing Dinozzo's play. He owed his senior agent that much. "How do you solve a problem like Ziva?" Dinozzo had joked as he handed Gibbs his report. It was a movie reference, no doubt, but Gibbs had no idea what film. In any case, he pretended he knew nothing of the contents of the report and remained silent. In truth, he had covertly listened in on the two agents as they returned from the scene. He had come awfully close to tearing into Ziva right then.
"What the hell were you thinking Agent David? I told you to hold at the back entrance until I gave a go command. If you think I'm going to cover your ass and leave this out of my report, think again, Probie," Tony told her.
"Oh, so this how it is going to work now? You are going to prattle to Gibbs every time you think I have screwed up?" Ziva responded.
"It's tattle, Probie, not prattle. And you moved in without waiting for my signal. It was a stupid thing to do and it could have gotten one of us killed. You, of all people, should know how important it is to know where the rest of your team is if a suspect starts firing. I expected you to be where I told you to be. I don't have a choice here. I have to tell the Boss."
"Fine, then. Do whatever you think you need to do."
"You know, Ziva, you might want to take this a little more seriously. Do you understand what probationary means? I don't want to see you lose your agent status or even worse, your life, over something like this." At this point, most of Tony's anger had dissipated and he seemed genuinely worried.
"You do not need to worry about me. I can take care of myself."
"Yea, well, good luck with that. Last time you told me it wasn't my job to protect you I ended up in Africa saving your ass from a deranged terrorist."
Hearing that, Gibbs headed into the bullpen, essentially shutting the conversation down before it could turn ugly. Truthfully, none of this was Ziva's fault although he had no intention of letting her play the victim. It was unrealistic to think that four years spent with them could magically undo a lifetime spent in the complete control of her father. She wasn't responsible for what Eli had done to her. She at least had enough conscience remaining to hate the things he had forced her to do. She had survived a horrific ordeal and was trying to let it transform her into a better person. She was determined and strong but she had a tough road ahead of her. Gibbs doubted she realized just how tough it was going to be. And it was going to start getting harder first thing tomorrow when he introduced her to the agent equivalent of time out. It was called indefinite desk duty. He wondered if Vance might also be up for another round of "good cop, bad cop." Gibbs had an idea that just might threaten her agent status enough to get her attention without destroying her security. This time he was going to be the good cop. He was determined to find a way to bend her will and channel it in the right direction without breaking her. The end result wouldn't be worth it unless he was able to keep her trust and respect in the process.