A/N: Here's a new update! I realized in writing this chapter that I kinda backed myself into a corner earlier, and this is kinda to helpme out of it. But thing's are going a little more smoothly now, and more updates should be coming. So, Betrayal's off summer hiatus, Apoc's off summer hiatus, Something More is waiting for the show to start again... I think I'm doing pretty decent considering all that's happened this summer!
When Gibbs woke up the next morning, his body was heavy with contentment. The warmth he felt in his chest was only partially a result of the frail woman leaning against him, just as peaceful as he had last seen her the night before. For a long moment he simply gazed at her lax features, taking in her unmoving lids—no dreams—and the gentle curve of her lips, which were blessedly still as well. He didn't think he could handle a repeat of yesterday morning, of the screaming and pleas for mercy.
But the morning was quiet and peaceful, and Gibbs remained where he was. He watched the colors of the Israeli dawn play on the wall opposite him, dancing through the window glass behind him. He had realized months ago that dawns here were different from the ones in America. The colors seemed sharper, more vibrant than the colors DC's skies. And they seemed to last longer too, lingering as if for the benefits of their viewers.
It almost made him come to an understanding about Ziva. If he hadn't known what he did about her family, about how she'd been recruited into—bred for—Mossad, watching the sun rise in Israel made him understand her desire to protect her nation.
The place was beautiful, what he'd seen of it anyway, and it to have been born and raised there… it would have been easy to sacrifice everything for it. He would do the same for Stillwater in a heartbeat. In fact, he already had in joining the Corps, in an obscure way he hadn't realized at the time of his commitment.
By becoming a Marine he'd given his youth and offered his life in service of his country, and he'd lost his family in doing so. He'd re-enlisted, but it wasn't until he got out that he'd had the maturity to realize that he fought to protect. It was more than getting some, more than the honor-courage-commitment.
It was the certainty that he was doing something to ensure that the violence he saw as a sniper would never occur on American soil, that he would never see his Stillwater ravaged the same way.
And just like Ziva, he'd lost, and he'd sacrificed. He now knew that Ziva at least had a semblance of a happy childhood. There may have been some abuse at the hands of her father, but she'd loved and been loved by her brother and sister, and had been a near prodigy with dance and martial arts. But Gibbs had had that childhood and ten years with a family of his own. Ten of the happiest years of his life—years that Ziva never had. She didn't have such fresh memories to fall back on when the going got tough.
No, she'd relied on the experiences she'd shared with the team, a team she'd left on less than friendly terms. But somehow it'd been enough, and now Gibbs had the chance to help her heal. So long as he could keep her grounded, as long as he could somehow get her back to the States, where she could get some real psychological help. Because he wasn't it—he didn't even know where to start.
All he could do was keep her in the realm of reality, to not allow her to slip back into hallucination. And even that was a tall order, with so many ears and eyes—
Gibbs froze, stiffening where he lay.
There had been ears and eyes last night. There had been ears and eyes when Ziva had awoken from her confusion, and had finally recognized him as who and what he was. There had been ears and eyes when she had given voice to his true identity.
Panic gripped him, and Ziva seemed to sense his sudden distress. She shifted next to him, rousing slowly in the early morning light. It took her long enough to open her eyes that Gibbs had time to school his features, ease his expression so that she wouldn't be able to see his concern. She didn't need that added worry.
So when brown eyes finally did look up at him, all they found was a gentle smile that allowed her to maintain her peaceful awareness. But she seemed slightly apprehensive nonetheless.
Her voice was tiny, fragile, and questioning.
"Yeah," he answered warmly. "It's me. You're in Israel, at home."
Groggily, she shook her head. "No," she whispered. "Not home…"
"I think I was," she continued, almost thoughtfully. "I think I was home. But something happened. They took me away…" She looked at him in question. "Was that real? Was I really at NCIS?"
Gibbs nodded. "Yes," came his reply. "For a short while."
"I do not understand… Why am I here?" Confusion tinged her voice. "Why would I come back to Israel? I would not have, not after…" Her words trailed off, and she shuddered involuntarily. "I do not understand."
And with a tone that tried to hide his guilt and self-reproach, Gibbs explained everything that had followed from her rescue. Everything from his doubt in her, to her desire to leave Mossad and join NCIS, right down to his inability to keep her at home in the States when Ben-Gidon came to burn her. And when he finished, she was quiet as she processed everything. Finally, she nodded.
"I think I remember…" she said, her voice slightly stronger, though she shook her head as if to clear it. "But I am not sure, everything feels fuzzy…"
"It's okay," he told her. "That's okay." He smiled. "It's okay to be confused. I would be too."
Silence fell for a few, almost comfortable minutes—Ziva seemed relaxed enough, but he could not shake the feeling of unease that gripped him by the pit of his stomach. But he swallowed it back as best he could, determined to keep her unaware as long as he possibly could.
This was the calmest she had been, the most alert, and he wanted to prolong it, because as much as he hated it, he could not shake the feeling that her lucidity would not last. The most he could hope for was that it was reduced to intermittent periods, periods that might grow longer and closer together as time passed.
But even that was dependent on his ability to keep them both out of harm's way—a task that now seemed beyond the realm of possibility.
Gibbs' only hope was to appeal to Officer Odavia's admiration of Ziva, and his naïveté as a young agent to stay his tongue. And that would only be any good if the younger man had not already gone to his superiors with the wealth of information he now possessed. No doubt even the newest of officers knew Gibbs' name, if not his face. He would know Gibbs as the man who had killed Ari Haswari—or to the David's inner circle, the man who had tried to take the fall for the traitor's death.
But eventually, Gibbs' worries were interrupted by Ziva sitting upright on the bed next to him. For a moment she seemed unsteady, but then she shook her head once, and proceeded to climb off the bed.
"What's wrong?" he asked quickly as she found her feet.
"I need to shower," she said softly. "I feel sandy… and dirty…"
Gibbs nodded in understanding. "Go," he said firmly. "Are you hungry?"
She shook her head no, but there was a moment of hesitation that told him otherwise. And a glimpse into her eyes told him that she knew he could see the truth. In a move that was distinctly Ziva, her brown eyes gave a slight roll of exasperation. The sight almost made Gibbs laugh, but his relief forced him into a small grin instead.
"I'll see if Chava still has something leftover from breakfast," he told her. "It's late, but—"
Ziva's voice cut through his voice like a razor. Its edge made Gibbs pause warily.
"She is still alive?"
Gibbs nodded. "So's Benjamin. They've been concerned about you. If you want to see them—"
"No." Again, Ziva cut through his offer like a scythe.
"No," came the sharp reiteration. "I do not wish to see them. I do not want to see either of them."
She remained where she was for a moment, as though waiting for him to protest. But when he didn't, she simply turned from him, and without another word she disappeared into the depths of the bathroom.
He waited until he heard the shower running—a result more of habit than of true desire, he was sure—before he ventured out of the bedroom. Almost as soon as Ziva had vanished from sight his earlier apprehension returned, but when he stepped out into the hall, it compounded into near panic.
For there, standing not ten feet from the doorway, was none other than Officer Odavia.
Gibbs almost paused in surprise, but forced himself to close the door behind him with a certain sense of finality. As Odavia looked up to meet his gaze, Gibbs took quick inventory of the weapons he carried on his person—two knives—and his exits—all three of which were through Odavia and down the stairs, unless he utilized the wall of windows as a last resort—as he returned to the skills he'd learned as a young NCIS agent. But he knew his best shot, should Odavia prove unaccommodating, would be to eliminate the young officer with a quiet twist to the neck, and then somehow spirit Ziva away from the estate.
It was in that moment that Gibbs realized that he had wasted the time Ziva's condition had provided him. The months he had spent talking to her, and to the staff, learning about her past… it had all been a distraction. What he should have focused on was securing safe passage for himself and Ziva back to America. He shouldn't have waited for her to wake from her stupor. He should have worked to free her from this childhood prison the moment he got here.
And now they may both pay for his oversight.
Warily, Gibbs approached Odavia, but came to a stop well beyond the officer's reach. In an instant, Gibbs knew what the officer had lingered for, by the look in his eye, and Gibbs decided to not play games.
"Have you told the others yet?"
The younger man regarded him with a long look before responding. "No," came the simple reply. "Not about Officer David's improved condition nor your true identity."
"What do you want?"
"I wish only happiness for Officer David," the officer declared bluntly. "She deserves that much, after all that she has suffered. There is nothing right about what has occurred in this house since she has come here, and now the least I can do is look the other way in this matter. I have seen your concern for Officer David, and it is not my place to deprive her of such care. You are good for her, especially given her recent improvement."
The younger man squared his shoulder, facing Gibbs head on.
"I am at your service, Doctor Ross," Officer Odavia stated, emphasizing the use of Gibbs' false identity. "I will do what I can to ensure that you retain your position here within the David household for as long as possible."
The words were simple, but the weight behind them was undeniable. He might be green as far as Mossad officers went, but he knew exactly what he was doing, and Gibbs could see that. He meant exactly what he was pledging, even though it could mean his job, or his life, should his role in the conspiracy to help Ziva be discovered.
But Gibbs knew he could not afforest to turn down the offer of help. He nodded once, and a fraction of the weight on his shoulders disappeared. It was no longer a burden he had to bear alone.
It was a risk to trust Odavia—Gibbs knew that. But there was something in the younger man's tone, or perhaps in the way he had first spoken in defense of Ziva when Gibbs had first come to the estate, that made it impossible for Gibbs to doubt his honesty.
He gave a heavy sigh.
"I could help her better if she was back in the States," he said carefully. "We have better facilities there." He might trust Odavia, but he did not trust whatever listening devices may have planted in the hallway.
Odavia's eyes darkened, though his features remained soft. "I am afraid my expertise does not include being a travel agent. And I have strict orders to ensure Officer David remains on the property."
The message was clear—Ziva's presence was closely monitored, if not her activities as well. The officers were not guards so much as they were wardens.
Gibbs had already discerned as much for himself. He nodded.
"I'll be spending the next few days here, in case she relapses, but if she doesn't I'll be expected to go home in the evenings, and then I can make some calls." He gave Odavia a pointed look. "Get in touch with some of my colleagues in America, get their input on how to proceed with her treatment."
The officer's expression remained stoic, but Gibbs knew he got the message loud and clear.
"That seems practical, Dr. Ross."
"But I'll need someone here with Ziva, someone she—and I—can trust," Gibbs continued. "She'll need someone to socialize with, keep her connected. I don't want her to shut herself off again."
"I would be honored to fill the role when the time comes," came the quick, almost eager response. This time, there was no secrecy to the younger man's voice. Gibbs' suspicions were confirmed—a full blown case of hero worship.
But Gibbs bit back his grin and only nodded.
"Once she's had a chance to adjust, I'll introduce the two of you. Do not—and don't let anyone else—approach before that. We'll let her get used to you before we throw you into the lion's den."
Odavia's turn to nod. "Very well. In the meantime, I will direct Chava to arrange a breakfast tray for the both of you."
Gibbs nodded in approval. The conversation finished, both men turned away.
But before Odavia could disappear around the corner, Gibbs turned back with a final thought.
"Tell Chava about Ziva's improvement," Odavia finished with a grin. He looked back at Gibbs with sparkling, mirthful eyes. "Yes, I had come to the same conclusion myself. If I did tell Chava, neither hell nor high water would keep that woman from storming the bedroom." His grin grew. "And I do not think anyone would be able to weather such an assault at this hour."
And with that, the young officer was gone, his footsteps silent on the carpeted floor. Gibbs watched him go, staring after him for a moment as he wondered what exactly made the idealistic man tic.
He didn't fit the bill for Mossad. He wasn't like Ziva. He was physically strong, yes, but the hard cynicism that came from seeing too much had not yet settled in his eyes. Perhaps he was well adjusted, or maybe it really was because this was possibly his very first assignment. Either way, it didn't really matter, because Gibbs recognized the flash of something deeper in the man, something that suggested there was more going on within him that Gibbs could see.
In some ways, the young officer reminded Gibbs of DiNozzo.
But, finally, with a grin of his own and an amused shake of his head, Gibbs opened the bedroom door and slipped inside.
To his surprise, Ziva had already finished in the shower.
He met her wide eyed gaze from his position just inside the door, his gut sinking in realization as he realized something had changed in the few minutes he had been gone. She was poised near the bed, her body frozen in suspicion; in her eyes, he found a mixture of fear, hate, and distrust.
When she spoke, her voice was rock hard, any previous trace of the familiar-Ziva he'd seen earlier gone just as abruptly as it had appeared earlier. The question cut at him through the air, her lips almost curling into a snarl with the ferocity of her words.
"Who were you talking to?"