A/N--This is set during Gibbs and Ziva's private discussion in Interrogation during "Good Cop, Bad Cop." I have to say right now that this is NOT a "Zibbs" story (I find that pairing very unnerving). It is firmly a father/daughter piece. With that out of the way, this is the first story I've written in first-person. I felt that, given the situation, it demanded a more personal touch than my other oneshots. I find it particularly hard to capture Ziva's "voice". She's a very complicated character, but I think I succeeded. I tried to show the evolution she goes through during this short scene by changing the writing style as the piece goes on. I'm not sure if it's too subtle though; I hope you see it ;)
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or its characters. They are the property of CBS.
It is a powerful thing to realize that you are loved. It is even more powerful to realize that you deserve that love. At this moment, I am having some trouble with these two concepts. He sits across from me, concern the only emotion in his deep eyes. I wait for him to speak, knowing what will inevitably come.
"We're not done. Finish it." And there it is. It sounds like a command, but I know he is giving me a choice. Open or close? Open or close? I cannot decide what to do with this box of regrets and fears that I have hidden inside of myself. I have struggled with it for the past few weeks. Really, the past four years since joining NCIS as their Mossad Liaison Officer. It is so hard to maintain an aloof front for so long, and especially in front of those you deeply care for. But I suppose it is unavoidable. You must, at some point, let something through. Reluctantly, I realize I must start now. I owe it, not only to myself, but to my team as well. It was my past and my bad choices that brought us here. They do not deserve to be burdened with my mistakes.
He touches my folded hands with a single fingertip. As if knowing what is in my mind, he calmly says, "Don't bury it, Ziva." Once again, I am brought into his eyes and feel a sense of security that I have never found anywhere else. So I open the box. Not by much, but just enough to begin to clear the air within my own heart, my own soul. I slowly begin to reveal myself to Gibbs as he sits, staring patiently into my face. As I continue, my mind flashes through the past four months. They are all still-frames, never complete memories. I wish I could say these snapshots were blurry and incomprehensible, but they are not. They are vivid and tearing, vicious in the way they attach themselves to me.
But I do not show these to Gibbs. I decide to only give him the minimum that he needs to understand what had happened to me. I look at him, and I cannot bear to place more worry onto his shoulders and heart. But as I tell my story, he continues to look at me in that way that only he can. He scans my soul and mind, seeking out the details that I refuse to give him.
And he succeeds. He always does. I find as I recount my story, I am revealing more than I had planned. Before I can stop myself, I tell him in an almost trance-like state, "I fought my way through his defenses. I got within a fingernail of Saleem before I was...overpowered." Frozen. That is how I feel. It all suddenly invades my memory, the pictures becoming videos, every detail in sharp focus.
It is arid. There is no moon in the Somali sky above me as I trod through the still scorching sand. I am almost there. I must complete the mission. I cannot disobey a direct order. I touch the golden pendent at my neck to give me strength. To give me courage. I have already neutralized the first few terrorists I have encountered, and I am on my way to the building that I know holds Saleem Ulman.
Gun in hand, I skirt the edges of the dilapidated complex looking for the best route to the center. It is silent. No one knows I am coming, and no one is alerted to my presence. The stillness envelopes me as I creep to the door of my target building. Saleem. That is my mission. If I manage to kill him, then my mission will be a success. And with that in my mind, I slowly crack the door.
Crouching as low as possible, I take out a small mirror and insert it through the door. No one. The passage ahead is empty, occupied by not a single person. I know I should be worried by this, but instead I feel relief. Naively, I actually let myself think this will be easy. So I open the door by just the slightest bit and slip through into the now almost complete darkness. I silently close the door behind me so as not to allow any possible light from outside to reveal that someone had entered. I kneel on one knee, allowing my eyes to adjust to the blackness of my surroundings.
All the while, I am aware of everything that is happening within the structure. That is to say, I am aware of nothing. There are no sounds. No movements. Nothing to alert me that someone may be there. For the first time, I feel unease creep up my spine. Something is not right. This is just too simple. But I think of my father's single command. "Proceed." So I steel myself. Mossad officers do not show fear. We do not show weakness. We do not feel either of these. I am the sharp end of the spear. I am strong. I must do this for those that cannot.
My eyes now accustomed to the darkness, I slowly move down the passage, the walls closing in around me. There is an open room ahead. No door. Cautiously, I reach the end of the hall and begin to peek around the corner.
And that is when I hear it. A loud CRUNCH breaks the silence as I step on something dry and brittle. All too late, I glance down and see dead branches and twigs along the floor. Idiot! Poor mistake! I internally scream at myself. But the damage is done. I should have known they were waiting for me. It was foolish to think otherwise, but I suppose that is what I had become, in more ways than one.
Twenty men, at least, emerge from the room in front of me and through the door at my back. Lights flood from somewhere I cannot see, temporarily blinding me. I cannot see, but I do feel. I feel rough hands grab at me, forcing me to the ground. But I do not give in so easily. Still unable to clearly see my assailants, I fight back. And I fight hard. My gun has long since been torn from my hands, so I result to my unarmed skills. I punch, kick, jab, knee, grab. I feel my hits connect, men falling around me.
I begin to feel confident as I continue to knock them down. But I am not prepared for what happens next. I feel the butt of a gun connect with the base of my skull. The sickening crack and thud reverberates through my body, stunning me. And that is all it takes. The filthy hands grab at me again, only this time, I cannot fight. I feel the weight of multiple men on my back, pinning me to the floor, my face roughly pushed into the dirt.
No. No no no. It is not supposed to happen like this. My mind is reeling. I cannot move. I will myself to struggle, to break free somehow, but my body will not respond. The weight on my spine becomes heavier as my wrists are roughly tied behind my back. I feel hands moving up and down my body, searching, seeking. They find what they are looking for at my waist and ankles. The knife and the extra guns that I forgot I had as backups. In my panic and confusion, I had forgotten that I even had them. I mentally beat myself. You fool! How could you forget?
My ankles are then tied together, rendering me incapacitated. The weight is removed from my back as the men stand up, knowing that I am immobile. I glare up at them from the floor, but they do not look at me. Instead, their eyes are locked on the man entering the passage from the now-lit room. He stares at me with a smirk on his face, and I stare back, refusing to allow my own face to betray the fear that is quickly creeping through my heart. Saleem.
He squats in front of me, roughly jerking my chin up, exposing my neckline. Dangling in the harsh glare of the floodlights, my Star of David necklace catches his attention. "So you are Jewish. Mossad?" he calmly asks me in Arabic, knowing I understand him. In response, I angle my head and spit in his face, trying to convey with that one action all the hatred I have for him.
Saleem smiles and slowly stands. He continues to grin as I continue to glare. I suddenly see the flash of his leg as his boot connects with the left side of my face. Pain. I feel a white-hot crack and know he has just broken my cheekbone. Still cringing from his kick, Saleem brings the heel of his boot down hard on the area just above my left eye.
"Israeli filth," he mutters, turning his back on me. As I rapidly lose consciousness, I feel the rough hands once again grab me, dragging me across the dirty floor.
The hands are still working over my body as I absently stare at a spot on the surface between us. "I had nothing but death in my heart..." And there it was. The confession I had not intended to make forced itself from me and lay bare on the tabletop. It was something pitiful, weak, just looking up at me. And I stared back, lost in it.
A very brief pause. "You never had a choice. He didn't give you a choice." Choices. That is what it all comes down to: Did I make the right choice? Did I ever make the right choice? Sometimes I feel as if I have made one wrong decision after another. What if I had chosen different? What if I had only just trusted the surrogate family I had gained instead of the man I can no longer call "my father"? The man who can no longer rightfully call me his daughter?
Gibbs gazes at me from across the span between us. His face no longer holds worry. Instead, there is only compassion in his eyes. Eli has never gifted me with such a stare. And yet, here is a man whom I have only known a small fraction of my life, giving me acceptance. I feel close to breaking under this weight of undeserved sympathy. I had abandoned them. I had instead chosen the false protection and safety of the man who had sent me to my death. There is nothing, nothing that I can give to atone for what I had done to these people that surround me now. All I can do is extend a simple apology.
"I am sorry. Gibbs." It is such a poor attempt at making amends. But I can offer nothing more. I am too tired, too weak to fight any longer. I am afraid he will not accept this, and when he stands without a word, he confirms my worst fears. Waiting for the words I do not wish to hear, he walks around the table to bend down at my ear-level.
"Don't apologize," he whispers softly, catching me off guard.
...What? I am confused. I was expecting a dismissal, a reprimand of some sort. I stare into the corner, letting what he says sink in. Don't apologize. It is a Rule. And rules are meant to be followed. However, they only need to be followed by those they pertain to. To Gibbs' team. To my surrogate siblings. To me. My breath hitches in my throat as the truth and meaning of the two-word Rule settles in my mind.
I am a member of this team. I am a betrayer, but I am forgiven. Just like that, something has changed, something is different. But I smile because I know, I feel the change is for the better. When Gibbs lightly kisses the side of my head, I let myself go. I allow myself to crack and break in the presence of the man at my side. And it is because, in him, I feel the truest sense of security that I have ever known. I have never found it in my guns, my knives, my Mossad training, or in the man by the name of Eli David. But it is here in the form of a silent and stoic man who knows how to bring out the most hidden parts of yourself with almost no words at all.
If Ducky were here, he would call this a cathartic experience. As it let myself crumple, I realize: I am loved. And I deserve that love. It is graciously given to me by those who accept me for all of my faults. They do not expect apologies or repayments for any damage that I may have caused them. All they wish for is my love and presence in their lives. There is nothing else. There are no ulterior motives, no schemes of gain. It is only me.
As Gibbs stands at my side, offering the berth he knows I desire, I think upon my life, who I was, and who I have become. And I accept the simple truth that my team has revealed to me in all of their actions in the past few months: I am worth it. I am worth the struggle they put themselves through, and I am worthy of being in this place they call "home". And I am worthy of calling NCIS my home as well.
A/N--Thanks for taking the time to read! Comments and reviews are always appreciated, and I hope to post something else in the future. Until then, happy reading!