Three Sabbaths: Chapter 3

Ziva stood in the street outside her cousin's home and tried to steel herself to enter. It was a row house, constructed of tan colored stucco with a small front yard. The rainy season had just ended and there was greenery sprouting from every patch of soil but Ziva did not notice. She felt as though every drop of feeling had been wrung from her, leaving her soul so parched and dry that the only thing that could grow was the weed of her anger. For days now she had been tending it. Encouraging the thorns, waiting for the poisonous blooms, wanting to sow the seeds anywhere she could. But this was not the place and tonight was not the time. She sighed and schooled her expression into a mask of neutrality as she walked up to the door.

When Michal opened the door, Ziva was glad to see her father was nowhere in sight. She stood woodenly as first Michal and then her Aunt Sarai embraced her, her aunt patting her cheek like a child.

"Oh bubbeleh, you have been through so much, but you're with family now. No need for the ferkrimpter ponim ... you need to smile." Ziva's attempt at a smile must have looked like a grimace because Sarai just shook her head in dismay. "We will not let your father send you away again. It is not good for you."

"Not his choice. Not yours either," muttered Ziva under her breath. Sarai appeared not to hear but Michal gave her a quick, nervous look as if she expected an explosion at any moment.

"Come see the children. Shoshanna has been asking after you and Uri is so big now, walking and everything."

Michal led the way into the living room where both children were playing at the feet of their grandfather Shimon. At the sight of his mother little Uri ran over to the women but when he saw the stranger in their midst he gave a frightened yelp and hid his face in his mother's skirt.

"Uri, don't be shy. Say hello to Ziva."

"No ... scarewd," said Uri as he burst into tears.

Out of the mouths of babes, thought Ziva before she was distracted by Shoshanna's

wild greeting.

"Ziva, Ziva, Ziva!" the five and a half year old yelled as she catapulted herself across the room.

Ziva found the first true smile she had felt in days start to spread across her face but it fell quickly at the child's next words.

"Look, Cousin Ziva, I have been practicing," she cried as she gave her best approximation of a karate kick. "I want to be just like you." The move was comical when done by Shoshi's pudgy child's body but Ziva was far from laughing.

"Ah, Ziva," said Shoshanna's father Levi, "I see you have found our little ninja. She cannot wait to follow in the family tradition and tells anyone who will listen how she wants to be Mossad. She reminds me of you as a child."

Ziva felt her breath catch in her chest as she looked back towards Levi. "You must not," she pleaded, her voice cracking with emotion, "You must not let her be like me."

She clenched her hands into fists and left the room before the tears forming in her eyes could begin to fall, leaving the others standing behind in bewilderment.

She shut herself in the powder room and sat on the toilet with her head in her hands, fists pressed against her eyes. She thought of Michael lying broken and bleeding on the floor and Tony looking at her, expecting her to feel sorry for him. Expecting her to be grateful. I did it for you, he had said. Ziva made a small angry snort as she remembered their confrontation. No, she thought, you did it for you. You understand nothing. She thought of her father, sitting smugly in his office. She thought of his lies and manipulations. A kiss for your father. She used her tears to water her anger until it grew, sending its tendrils into every corner of her soul. When it was strong enough to support her again she rose and left the bathroom with a scowl pasted on her face once more.

After the blowup, everyone treaded carefully around Ziva until her father arrived. Ziva successfully avoided him but when dinner was served he was seated across from her and there was little she could do but try to ignore him. This was meant to be a happy family gathering. Ziva had told herself that no matter what she was feeling she would not ruin it but she was not sure her resolve was up to coping with her father.

"So Eli, this time you will keep Ziva home where she belongs, yes?" asked Sarai.

"Yes," he said, smiling fondly in Ziva's direction. "She is back with us for good as soon as she completes Michael's mission."

"Feh! Eli," sputtered Sarai angrily, "The fate of Israel does not rest on her shoulders. Find someone else to go,go; it is too soon for Ziva."

Michal looked nervously over at Ziva who was staring fixedly at her plate, her lips moving soundlessly. I will not, I will not, I will not ... she chanted to herself as she tried to hold her temper.

"No, she needs to go," answered Eli. "This mission will be her Aliyah and when she returns all will be forgiven."

Ziva could take no more. "Forgiven, Papa?" she spat, not even trying to keep the venom from her voice. "It is I who should be forgiving you!" She shoved her chair back and ran out of the room.

Levi and Eli started to rise but Michal took one look at the thunderclouds gathering on Eli's brow and waved for them to sit.

"The Mossad is good for many things but this is not one of them. Sit ... eat. I will handle this."

She found Ziva in the kitchen, her head resting against the wall as she pounded the doorframe with her bare fist.

"Ziva, stop ... stop, you're hurting yourself," cried Michal when she saw the disturbing tableau.

Ziva appeared not to hear and went on pounding, eyes nearly closed and her face pinched in agony. Finally Michal walked over to her and, putting her hand on her shoulder, tried to pull her away from the wall. Ziva whirled with her fist still raised. Without flinching, Michal caught Ziva's fist between her own two hands and gently lowered it. She turned it over and examined the bruised and bleeding knuckles.

"We need to get some ice on this," said Michal as she led Ziva over to the stools bystools by the kitchen counter.

She filled a bag with ice but Ziva waved her away. "The pain helps," she said.

"Helps with what?"

"The other pain."

"Talking might help more," said Michal in a soft voice.

Ziva gave a derisive snort. Michal did not know what to say that would not provoke another outburst so she held her tongue. Eventually the weight of the silence was too much and Ziva spoke.

"It was not my fault. What was I supposed to do? Refuse to see Michael? He was my boyfriend. Refuse to help him and betray the Mossad? Or maybe I should have told Gibbs what I was doing, but how could I do that and still stay at NCIS? You would not understand."

"Why? Because I am not Mossad?"

"No, because you are nothing like me. Look at you, your happy family. Your biggest worry is whether the soup has enough salt in it or if the kids will be late for school."

"That's where you're wrong Ziva. Do you think I don't worry about Shoshi. Do you think I don't lie awake at night and wonder if I'm being disloyal for wishing she would like ballet instead of karate. For hoping Levi will not get sent on a dangerous mission. I know about the cost of loyalty and I know about hard choices. That was your problem. You needed to choose and you couldn't do it."

"No, I needed Tony to stay out of it. It was his fault - not mine."

Michal shook her head at Ziva's blindness. "Perhaps he was trying to help."

Ziva snorted. "Perhaps he was jealous and had to stick his face where it was not wanted," she said sarcastically. But inside her head Tony's voice repeated I did it for you. She could not think that way. She would not think that way. "I know Gibbs understood the line I had to walk so why did he leave me here?. I didn't lie to him but he still chose Tony and left me here."

"You may not have lied but did you tell him the whole truth? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not blaming you, but you needed to choose. NCIS or Israel. Unlike your father, I think the choice should have been yours, but you still had to make one."

"It doesn't matter now,now; the choice has been made for me." But is that really true, whispered a small voice in her head, was it Tony and Gibbs and your father or was it you. Ziva shied away from the thought that maybe her inaction had brought these circumstances down on her head. She was sure of one thing. If she went down that road she might never find her way back.

Michal started to object but Ziva held up a hand to silence her and Michal gasped.

"Ziva, your hands! What have you done?"

Ziva looked down at her hands where she had unconsciously been worrying at the wounds on her knuckles with her fingernail. Now they were bleeding freely and she had barely felt it.

"There is blood on my hands," she said in a bemused voice. Then she looked up at Michal, stronger now and angry once again. "But that is what you are saying isn't it. There is blood on my hands."

Before Michal could protest, Ziva rose and headed for the door. She could not listen to any more of this. Not tonight.

"I am leaving."

"Ziva wait," called Michal.

Ziva paused in the hallway and caught sight of the wall of family pictures. There they were, amongst the smiling photos of vacations and birthdays. Tali and Ari and her. She looked back at Michal with a disdainful expression.

"You should talk to my father. There is much he can tell you about blood," she said as she left the house.