Rating: FR7
Characters: Ziva David, Tim McGee
Genres: Songfic, Friendship
Warnings: spoilers for the events of seasons 6 and 7
Summary: Tim gains some insight into Ziva's behavior.

Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or any of its characters. I also do not own any rights to the song Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears composed by Brendan Graham.

Thanks to Augrey07 for beta-ing this story.


The elevator doors opened on her floor and Ziva stepped off ready to begin the workday early. She couldn't understand her neighbor's dislike for his job. It was good to have somewhere to go and something worthwhile to do.

As Ziva rounded the corner, she saw that she was not the first one to arrive. Tim was at his desk with earphones on staring at his computer screen; he was so preoccupied that he hadn't noticed her walk in. Curious as to what was consuming his attention, she walked over to investigate. To her surprise, he was watching a video of a man playing the pipes. She smiled as she remembered something Tony had said about McGee's musical taste. Well, he was safe today; Tony wouldn't hear of this from her. As she moved to go, Tim became aware of her presence and jumped.

"I am sorry to have scared you, McGee."

"I wasn't scared, I just didn't realize you were there." Tim hit a few keys to hide the window.

"You were so absorbed in whatever was playing on your computer that it was making me curious. I did not mean to intrude on something private."

"Well, it's not really private." Tim considered. "You know, with the studying you're doing for your citizenship exam, you might find this interesting. I'd prefer you didn't tell Tony about it, though. I'd never hear the end of it."

As Ziva pulled over a chair, Tim turned screen so they could both watch. "A couple of years ago my mother became interested in tracing our family history. She joined one of those ancestry web sites and collected stories from every relative she could find. She discovered some of our family came into the States through Ellis Island."

"I have read about Ellis Island. But it was open for many years, cannot many people make this claim?"

"Yes, they can; it's special to her because of her great grandmother. Over Labor Day weekend, she dragged Sarah and me there to tell us the story in its proper setting. Margaret Sullivan and her father Patrick left Ireland following the deaths of her mother and younger brother. En route, her father, who was weak from the fighting the disease that had killed his family, died and left Margaret alone. She was seventeen years old when she arrived at Ellis Island clutching the address of an uncle and aunt she'd never met who were waiting for her in New York City. Mother is a natural storyteller and Sarah was in tears by the time she finished."

"You, too?" Ziva teased.

"Don't you listen to Tony? Real men don't cry." Tim smiled. "But it was moving. Since that weekend, Sarah's been a bit obsessed about the immigration experience. She found this and sent it to me." Tim restarted the video. The picture was grainy and it was evident the recording had been made by an amateur but the words were clear.

On the first day of January,
Eighteen ninety-two,
They opened Ellis Island and they let
The people through.
And the first to cross the threshold
Of that isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was all of fifteen years.

Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it's not the isle you left behind.
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you'll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind.

As she listened, Ziva grew thoughtful. The technical part of her found the lyrics compelling and the arrangement heightened their effect. During the interlude following the second chorus she asked, "I understand why they would call it the isle of hope, but why would it also be called the Isle of Tears?"

"Not all of the people who came to Ellis Island were allowed to continue into the States; some of them were insane or had criminal records and were sent back. People with serious health problems were quarantined until they recovered, and over three thousand of them died while waiting."

When they closed down Ellis Island
In nineteen forty-three,
seventeen million people
Had come there for sanctuary.
And in springtime when I came here
And I stepped onto its piers,
I thought of how it must have been
When you're fifteen years.

The song ended and Ziva broke their silence, "I can see why Sarah sent this to you."

"And I can hear what DiNozzo will say if that is still playing when he walks in." Gibbs' voice brought their attention back to their surroundings.

"Getting to work, boss." Tim said and Ziva moved back to her desk.

Tim smiled as he began work; it had been nice to share the song with Ziva. She didn't tease him and seemed to be interested in the family history he shared. He looked across the bullpen hoping to catch her eye. His grin faltered. She wasn't looking up, but what he could see of the expression on her face troubled him. This was a new look for her; he'd only seen it since she'd returned in the fall. He'd never understood what caused it, but now with the words of the song replaying in his head he wondered if he might know.

In a little bag she carried
All her past and history,
And her dreams for the future
In the land of liberty.

Ziva returned to NCIS with only the clothes she wore on her back, which had been burnt by Abby as soon as they were replaced. Everything she'd owned here had been incinerated in the blast that destroyed her home. Her employment at NCIS was conditional. She was a probationary employee and would not become a full agent until she was granted citizenship, whenever that might be.

And courage is the passport
When your old world disappears
But there's no future in the past
When you're fifteen years

She'd left her homeland and former ties behind; Ziva had no choice in the matter after the events of the summer. To return to Israel would mean to put herself back into her father's power. Tim remembered something she'd said when they'd first met. Gibbs had been surprised that Ziva could be a control officer at her age. She'd said that the good ones didn't make it to Gibbs' age. How long could she expect to live now if she returned?

That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you'll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind.

Even as she chose to stay with them and make the States her home, Ziva must mourn the loss of her homeland. She'd served her country passionately and had given so much to keep it safe. Ziva didn't speak much of her past, but occasionally she'd mention vacations in Haifa or time spent at her uncle's ranch riding Arabian horses. Israel was the place she'd been born, where she played hide and seek with her friends, rode her first bicycle, and delighted her mother with her dancing. Her mother and her sister were buried there. In the midst of all the pain and complications of her life, none of them had thought to ask if she were homesick. Knowing Ziva, it would probably be something she would deny rather than address.

Tim knew he wasn't qualified to help her deal with the deeper issues that surrounded her return to Israel in the spring and her captivity in Somalia over the summer, but maybe he could do something to help her with this one.

As the morning went by, Tim watched Ziva surreptitiously. She gradually came out of her pensive mood and by noon she was responding to Tony's teasing. He laughed out loud when, without looking, she grabbed a wad of paper out of the air and threw it back hitting Tony in the middle of the forehead. Tony scowled at him and turned to Ziva.

"I think it's about time for lunch, Probationary Agent David. Would you pick up an order for me from the Chinese place that just opened up? Throw in some extra egg rolls; I've been working hard and I deserve a treat."

"Of course." Ziva rolled her eyes and stood up. "McGee, would you like something as well?"

Tim made his decision. "Actually, I think I'll go with you."

"Are you afraid that I will get your order wrong?"

"No, I'd just like to get out of the building for a while." He picked up his coat and followed Ziva to the elevator. "That Chinese place isn't bad, but I'm more in the mood for Italian food."

"We would not have time to wait for the food today; that restaurant is always busy at noon."

"You're right. Their food isn't as good as your cooking anyway."

"Thank you." Ziva looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Are you fishing for an invitation to dinner?"

"I'm not, but I wouldn't say no if you were offering. That was one of the best meals I've had in a while. Where did you learn to cook like that?"

"My mother believed that my sister and I should take responsibility for some of the work around the house at an early age. My favorite job was helping her in the kitchen. She was a wonderful cook."

Tim smiled and kept the conversation going.

But the isle of home is always on your mind.