Challenging the Faith

Spoilers: Episode 7.10 "Faith"

Summary: Secret Santa provides Tony with the perfect opportunity to surprise his partner.

A/N: Many thanks to Tigerlily25 for looking at this and giving pointers when she was so busy.

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Ziva returned to the squad room from MTAC and eyed the brightly wrapped small square box sitting in the middle of her desk. A tentative smile touched her lips as she picked up the small package. Like Tony, this year she had participated in the Secret Santa, something she had not done before in her years at NCIS. Abby had been the one to encourage her to do so. Encourage was maybe too gentle a word to cover her threats and methods of inducement. Though, after having spent Thanksgiving with her team mates, she was more interested in embracing the customs of the country that she intended to adopt as her own. She had been pleased when she had been given Abby's name as her recipient and had easily been able to find an appropriate gift for her.

A spark of excitement filled her as she fingered the package wrapped in red paper featuring gaudy pictures of reindeer and elves set on silver background.

"You can open it, you know." Tony's voice broke through her reverie from across the room.

"I will open it later." Ziva quelled her eagerness to open the package. She pulled open her drawer, ready to place the package inside.

"No. You can't do that." Tony jumped up from his seat and was over at her desk in a few strides. Tony slammed shut her drawer before she had a chance to put it away, Ziva only just missing having her fingers jammed. Noticing the stunned look on her face at his spirited response, he toned down his argument. "Secret Santa means that you must open it when you get it. You can't open it later. Part of the fun is seeing what everyone else gets."

Ziva didn't doubt the truth of his statement. She had witnessed the opening of some Secret Santa gifts that entertained the whole department. She now looked at the gift with trepidation. Right now she was wondering what had possessed her to even participate in the Secret Santa.

"Come on. Open it. What did you get?" Tony was almost dancing beside her in excitement. Ziva wondered what Christmas morning in the DiNozzo house had really been like. There were so many conflicting facets to Tony's character that it was hard to tell what he had experienced in his childhood Christmas celebrations.

She looked around the room and realised that at this hour there were very few people around. Her risk was low should the gift be embarrassing. She started to gently prise open one end of the paper.

"You can tell you never had Christmas as a kid," Tony commented, a smirk on his face. "You do know that you're allowed to tear the paper. People don't get offended."

Ziva raised her eyebrows and complied with his request, tearing away the shiny paper covering the box and looked at the mahogany velvet box with gold on the edges. She slowly opened the lid and gazed at the present contained within. A small, gold Magen David on a thin chain shone brightly against a bed of red velvet. Ziva traced around the six points gently.

She instantly flashed back to the delicate filagree Magen David her parents had given her upon her Bat Mitzvah, a time of happiness with all her family and friends present at the celebration of her twelfth birthday. And then how the same Magen David had been ripped from her neck viciously those months ago, lost to her along with everyone else she had held dear.

"What's wrong?" Tony saw the look in her eye and the emotions flickering beneath the surface. The necklace had triggered something in Ziva and he wasn't sure if this was such a good thing.

"I do not think I can ..." Ziva stopped, not allowing herself to break down in front of her partner. She dropped the box on her desk, pushed past Tony and left the squad room, hoping that by placing distance between her and the necklace that she would be able to relegate the memories to remain in the past.

"Ziva..." Tony watched his partner leave, her back straight as she strode determinedly away. He was pretty sure he knew exactly where she was going. Grabbing the jewellery box, he followed in her path.

Tony gently opened the door to the ladies room, surreptitiously looking around before slipping inside. 'This is beginning to become a habit and a teenage dream I really ought to have grown out of.' he thought to himself, 'But it was also seemed the best way to corner his partner when she didn't want to speak to him. He'd learned the hard way that waiting for Ziva to talk could lead to him being in a cell in North Africa. But he also cautious, knowing that she had a full arsenal of ninja skills that could knock him senseless. He locked the door behind him and waited, that annoying Jewish tune once again running through his head while he thought about what he would say.

"Tony, if you do not want a person to know you are there, you really should not tap a beat with your foot." Ziva commented dryly as she came out of the toilet stall to the basin and washed her hands.

"How do you know I didn't want you to know I was here," Tony countered, flashing her a wide grin in the mirror as he came up behind her.

"You would have spoken sooner." Ziva turned around to face him and gave him a small, forced smile. "I am fine."

"Are you?" Tony questioned, his eyes seeking the truth from her not just placating words. "If you are so 'fine', why did you leave so quickly after opening this?" He held the offending jewellery box out to her.

"It took me by surprise. I was not expecting that to be inside." She pointed at the Magen David he was holding.

"Then there's no reason why I can't place this necklace around your neck now, is there?" Tony pushed because he suspected that there was more to her not replacing her Star of David necklace.

"No, Tony." Ziva said quietly, shaking her head, her eyes glistening under the fluorescent light. "That necklace was who I was before. I have changed; everything has changed."

"Change doesn't mean leaving everything behind."

"For me it means leaving many things behind," Ziva whispered, looking away from his intense gaze.

"Ziva, you are still Jewish and this is a symbol of what makes a part of who you are. You always wore your Star of David even though you did not observe all the rituals and follow all the kosher rules. Wearing it now doesn't mean that you are still Mossad or under your father's thumb. From what you've told me, Judaism is passed down through your mother anyway, not your father. Don't let that part be taken away from you..." Tony trailed off as he really didn't want to add his last thought 'too'. Ziva didn't need to be reminded of how much her father's zeal for revenge had taken from her.

Ziva looked up and saw the worry etched across his face. She knew that he was concerned about her, was continuing to watch out for her as he had done ever since they had become partners over four years ago.

"My Magen David was a Bat Mitzvah present from my parents. I still remember Tali touching it and saying how beautiful it was. My parents gave her one just like it when she turned twelve." Ziva crossed her arms and looked to the ground. "Daniel told me that I should remove it while we were on the Damocles. I ignored his warning. Much like I should have listened to you."

"Wearing or not wearing your necklace would not have made a difference." Tony reached out and gently touched her face, bringing her chin up so that she would look at him.

Ziva shook her head, denying his words. "If Saleem had not known who I was, he would have killed me. One clue was my necklace - he knew exactly where to ask the questions as to who I was. And that put you all in danger."

"No, Ziva." Tony said emphatically. "It saved you so that we could bring you home. Alive."

Tony remembered vividly the day that Ziva had told him that she would never allow herself to be taken alive. He was thankful every day when he came to work that she was sitting at her desk across from him, slowly returning to the strengths that she had prior to her capture in Somalia. He may tease her mercilessly, but it was only to have the old Ziva return with threats of torture in twenty different ways and have her once again invade his personal space with the tantalising smell of the shampoo she used on her lustrous dark curls.

Ziva used the back of her hand to swipe away at the small trail of tears that had finally spilled and trickled down her face. Tony gently cupped her hand in his as their eyes met. They had never needed words to communicate, and he couldn't remember Ziva ever thanking him for anything, but in the spirit of new beginnings, she looked at him and whispered, "Thank you."