I don't care if it hurts,
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
The first thing she has when she gets her new apartment is a mirror from Abby, who claims all girls need to be able to look at themselves in the morning. It is wide and tall; its frame of contorted animals is painted in a bright gold that clashes with anything else she would realistically put in her home.
For a while, it sits in her bedroom, the sole piece of furniture.
She tells herself she's waiting for the rest until she can paint the walls.
But she knows it's just easier to defend herself from the couch.
It is a slow day.
Tony sits at his desk, bored to tears as he mentally wills his paperwork to do itself. McGee has given up even trying and is now playing one of his silly computer games. Gibbs is nowhere to be found.
Ziva observes her teammates, as she has for the past three weeks, always wondering what they are thinking.
"Grab your gear," Gibbs barks as he enters, cup of coffee in his hand. (Ziva's beginning to think it must always be the same one.) "We've got a dead marine."
They seem like strange words to anyone else, Ziva realizes then, but to her they are commonplace, almost monotonous if she's honest. They ring in her ears the way "Good morning" does.
They are small and insignificant, but they define who she is, so she obediently picks up her bag and heads out after Gibbs.
McGee and Tony soon follow.
One of the victim's names is Petty Officer Ann Richards. She cannot be any older than Ziva, and they have absolutely nothing in common.
Richards is white, American, devoutly Catholic, free-spirited, and heart-broken over a man who was not given the opportunity to live past thirty. She joined the Navy because it was what her father had done and because she wanted to prove to her parents that she was strong. She dreams of picket fences and children. Of little hands and feet and a perfect wedding.
Ziva is Israeli, a relapsed Jew, controlled, and heart-broken over two men: one who betrayed her and one she always should have trusted. She joined Mossad because it was what her father wanted—what would make him happy. She dreams of a makeshift family of crazy co-workers in a country not yet hers. Of saving lives and fumbling hands at midnight.
They have nothing in common, yet somehow Ann Richards still manages to effect Ziva in a way no victim has before.
She can sense that it will be a difficult case, though she doesn't know why.
"Ms. Richards, please—"
The facts: Petty Officer Joshua Bryant, murdered in an explosion, was engaged to Petty Officer Ann Richards, now hospitalized and devastated.
"Officer Richards, I must ask you to calm down."
Ziva does not know who thought it was a bright idea to put her in charge of soothing the sobbing woman.
"I-I just…I can't believe he's…ooh!" Richards cries loudly as Ziva attempts to take her statement. They are in the hospital; Richards has burns—courtesy of the explosion—up and down the left side of her body.
It is a pitiful sight, Ziva thinks, to see this grown woman so out-of-control. Looking at Richards—the blonde hair wild around her face, the burns on her face, the tear streaks of defeat and anger and despair—something in the former Mossad officer shifts. She can feel her stomach clench in something that might be guilt. Or even grief.
Shaking her head, she pushes the thought out of her mind. This is not the time or place for feelings.
After a few more moments of failed attempts to calm the Petty Officer, Gibbs walks in and gives Ziva a stern glare that is an obvious order to retreat. She does so gratefully.
Entering the hallway of the hospital, she finds Tony leaning against the wall. He glances up at her as she exits Richards' room.
"Unable to tap into your womanly skills of comfort once again, Probie?" he asks, smirking, as she crosses to him. She rolls her eyes at the name and finds herself wishing, for once, that "sweet cheeks" would be his preference.
She does not address his question. "What are you doing here, Tony? I thought you were at the crime scene."
Tony pushes himself from the wall, taking a step toward her. "Boss told me to come. McGee went back to Abby with the evidence." He pauses. "She say what happened?"
"No," Ziva said, shaking her head. "All she did was sob hysterically." She begins to walk down the hall toward the vending machine, needing to move. Hospitals make her cranky: it seems every time she enters one only bad things can occur. "Why do women feel the need to cry all the time?"
"Her fiancé was just killed right in front of her. I think you'd be in hysterics, too."
It's too familiar, and for a moment she loses the perfected control she's worked so hard for since Africa.
"Would I, Tony?" she snaps, and she can see in his face as he processes his words. She breathes in and out slowly for a moment, letting it go. She represses the memories she's kept at bay so well.
For a moment, Tony is silent, which Ziva thinks might be worse than biting comments.
"I'm sorry," he finally says quietly, barely able to hold her glance. It doesn't matter, though, because she quickly looks away. "I didn't realize…"
"Do not apologize," she says firmly. "Sign of…"
"Weakness, yeah," Tony says, looking at her fully. "But still…"
They say no more until Gibbs finds them there.
He takes them back to the crime scene. The police are still there, standing in huddled masses as they attempt to comb through what might have happened. An accident? A crime of passion? Revenge?
There's always the possibility that they'll never figure it out, but Ziva would bet that it was somewhere in between because if she knows anything, she knows passion and revenge does strange things to people.
She glances over at Tony and sighs, wondering, as ever, if things will ever be as they once were. He is flirting with the pretty cop closest to him, the usual twinkle in his eye brighter than normal. It makes Ziva's stomach twist in knots to see this, to be here to witness him perhaps take her number, but she must learn to move on.
After all, he obviously has.
She supposes she was wrong when she thought "couldn't live without you" sounded like "I love you."
(It's funny how that doesn't hurt as much as she thought it would.)
"Hey, Ziva," Gibbs calls, jogging over to her as she tears her eyes away from her partner. "What are you waiting for? Get to work."
Acquiescent as ever, she does as she's told.
Back at NCIS not too much later, Ziva finds herself sitting alone outside on a bench, eating her lunch. Usually, she eats in the squad room, but today the silence of the outdoors is a relief. Tony and McGee had started another argument, and she needed to be able to hear herself think.
Then again, sometimes she feels she's done too much thinking in the past four months, anyway.
She is not alone long. Ten minutes into her break, Tony walks in and finds her sitting there. A wide smile graces his features.
"Hey," he says with too much cheer. She wonders if it's how he genuinely feels or if he simply feels guilty. "I…uh, McGee was wondering where you'd got to."
She spares him a glance, feeling the disappointment rise in her chest that he still cannot own up to anything. "He has no reason to be concerned about me," she says, her tone flat.
"Yeah, well, that's what friends do." For that, she has no answer. She can't even tell if they are truly her friends, anymore. Or if they ever were.
She does not invite him, but Tony sits down next to her anyway, looking at her frequently. Finally, she breaks the silence by saying, "Did I invite you to sit?"
"Nope," Tony returns lightly. "But then again, you also didn't invite me to do this—" Reaching out, he digs his hand into her bag of chips and pulls one out, popping it into his mouth.
Ziva knows that a year ago, she might have threatened to take his life, generally with some random office supply. She longs, for a moment, for that sort of normality, but she has changed. She is emptier now, more controlled, so all she does is raise an eyebrow and put the bag farther away from him.
"What? No comeback? No threat?" She gives no answer, so he asks tentatively, "Ziva…you okay?"
Ziva. It's the first times he's said her name in a month. Ziva. It doesn't mean much; it sounds all wrong on his lips.
Looking ahead, she answers, "Why would I not be?" A pause. "Please, Tony, I would just like to be alone."
It might be the first time he does not argue.
The mirror is there when she gets home. Instead of heading to the kitchen to eat something, as she originally intends, she heads to the empty bedroom, peering once more at the odd gift of Abby's.
Carefully, she moves toward the mirror and sits on the floor, dropping her bag beside her. She peers into the glass and allows herself, for the first time since Africa, to try to see her reflection.
She doesn't like what she sees, and it's really no surprise.
She is broken, so broken, and aching with want and uncertainty of person. Her usual candor is gone; she has no life in her eyes. She hates this person she has become.
She would like to place the blame on someone for that: on her father for never loving her the way he should have; on Gibbs for leaving her in Tel Aviv; on Tony for taking away the one person she might have loved; on Mossad for sending her to America in the first place only for her to become this foreign person who feels.
But what if they had not sent her? What if she had gone instead to Italy or Turkey? Would she still be Ziva David? Would she even be alive? (Probably not.)
And what if Michael had killed Tony instead of the other way around? Would she still love him? (Had she ever really?)
What if Gibbs had forced her back? What if her father had kept her close? What if he had let her know he cared for her? Wanted her alive?
The questions spin around in her head again and again. The phone rings, but she ignores it, even as Gibbs voice echoes in her head, "Never be unreachable."
(Unreachable. The thought sounds nice.)
Eventually her thoughts rock her into a disturbed calm, and the abyss of sleep claims her as its own.
In her dreams, the monsters of her mind chase after her, and all she can do to stop it is run and run and run until her legs give out. She always wakes mere seconds before that. She's always left to contemplate what would happen if she didn't.
Sometimes, she wishes she wouldn't.
"Hey," Tony says as she enters the next morning, giving her his best calculating look. She does her best to appear as innocent as possible. "Where were you last night?"
"At home. Why?"
"You didn't answer your phone. I called you three times."
Ziva forces a smirk, wanting normality, wanting the teasing, wanting something other then the answerless questions in her head. "Checking up on me, Tony?"
He's not having it; she hates these days because the boyish charm is gone and all that's left is concern for someone who used to occupy her skin. "Why didn't you answer?"
It's not jealousy, not this time, but it's something else and it scares Ziva so much she wants to run away, run far, far away, though where she'd go, she hasn't a clue. "I fell asleep," she answers pathetically. "I…"
In that uncanny way of his, Gibbs enters at that moment, smacking her on the back of the head as she passes. It is not gentle: it is hard and rough and Ziva finds herself aching for more abuse because at least it gives her something to feel that isn't despair. At least then she has the option of being angry.
"That was for not answering your phone," her boss says, reading her mind. "How many times have I explained that rule to you?"
It's rhetorical, so she keeps silent, glancing at the floor apologetically. His feet quickly pass by her once more. Only then does she look up.
"Grab your gear."
Her eyes find her partner's. In books, it is written that heroines and heroes get lost in each other's eyes both passionately and frequently. Intense though they are, Tony's eyes never cause her any identity crises, though she knows he is a hero.
She wonders for a moment if this means she is not a heroine or if books simply lie.
It is probably both.
She and McGee visit the hospital to check back with Ann Richards once more.
"I'm sorry, she's actually sleeping," the nurse says, her face apologetic. She is young; her eyes hold a compassion that reminds Ziva of Tali. "It's the first time she's slept in days. Is there a possibility you could come back later?"
"Actually," McGee says. "It's really important. I really hate to ask, but could you possibly wake her up?"
The nurse's face falls, and she turns her deep eyes to Ziva, looking for some sort of escape.
Thinking about dead sisters and disloyal boyfriends and months and months of torture, Ziva shakes her head. "No, McGee. We will simply return later. Thank you," she adds to the nurse.
McGee, confused, follows his partner down the hallway, stopping as she pauses in front of the window of Petty Officer Richard's door. "Ziva, Gibbs is gonna kill us."
The ex-assassin sighs, much too tired to argue. "It does not matter."
McGee says no more, glancing into Richard's room. Ziva wonders if he sees what she does (devastation, devotion, aching, and pain), and if it means the same thing to him as it does to her.
Gibbs doesn't kill them, but he comes close. They get well-deserved head slaps.
Ziva hardly even feels it. It's difficult to feel anything when you're drowning so far under water.
Violence has been imbedded into her being since she was a small child. She got into her first fight at eight, and all her father did was smile and pat her head. Ima fixed up her damages with sadness in her eyes but no comment. Ziva can still remember the smell of her perfume that afternoon.
When she was first handed a gun at thirteen, she could feel the drive coursing through her veins—the overwhelming desire to fire.
She killed her first man at seventeen, and she's never looked back.
Still, she learned when joining NCIS that violence is not always the best tactic. That it can get you in trouble if you aren't careful.
Today is one of those days she isn't careful.
In her defense, the suspect himself is getting a little ruff and leering at her the way Saleem did in that cell in Africa. And is it her fault that the lack of evidence is making this case impossible? Or that Tony's rendition of "Benny and the Jets" in the car had already driven her to boiling point?
It happens before she even has a chance to think. She sees the suspect open his mouth and hears him call her names that rarely manage to rile her, and suddenly she is shoving him up against the car, ready to strike.
Tony and McGee are quickly upon her, pulling her back, forcing her away from the car. They cry out her name, as well as profanities aimed at both her and the suspect. They get her back more easily than they should be able to; she used to be stronger.
Gibbs is angry—furious—but Ziva pays no attention. Anyway, she expects it because in the logical side of her brain, she knows what just occurred was out of turn. The impulsive half, though, the larger half, doesn't quite know how to care.
"McGee, get Mr. Sommers in the car," Gibbs barks. "DiNozzo…just, deal with your partner."
Ziva, half-hearing this, turns and stalks away, stopping as she reaches the side of the house. Leaning her head against the brick wall, she takes deep breaths, attempting to calm the sudden, unbidden rage in her chest.
Closing her eyes only brings the red that people associate with fury—that many people she knows have come to associate with her.
She feels Tony's presence behind her before he says anything, so obviously all of her ninja stills aren't entirely gone. "Zee?"
She ignores him, still attempting to calm her breath. One of the major ramifications of Somalia: physical exertion may cause shallow breathing.
Hands reach out and touch her shoulders, startling her. Still full of that inexplicable anger, she lashes out, flipping around to kick Tony in the leg. He jumps out of the way just in time, staring at her with wide eyes.
All anger immediately evaporates when she realizes he is frightened of her.
"Tony…" she says piteously. He steps back, guarded.
"Come on," he orders roughly, his eyes hard. His jaw is set, and she knows his fear has evolved into a disturbed anger. "Let's get back to NCIS."
In the car, she lays her head against the window and pretends to sleep, just so she will not let him see her cry.
Back in the bullpen a half hour later, Gibbs and Vance whisper about her from their position on the stairs, and it is all she can do to keep from throwing something across the room. McGee and Tony keep exchanging glances, and Abby has already come upstairs under the premise that she needs to speak to Gibbs, but Ziva knows it's really just to check on her.
Eventually, Vance turns and heads back up to his office, just as Gibbs struts back the his desk. For a moment, Ziva thinks that he will yell at her—perhaps call her into the elevator, or perhaps not. In fact, she wants to be reprimanded, more than anything; maybe that is why she struck out in the first place.
He passes by her desk without even glancing at her: all she can feel then is defeat.
It continues throughout the day. She does her job as well as she knows how, and they all ignore her, tiptoeing on eggshells in case she cracks, in case she decides to have another round of insanity.
It's too much, in the end. They are in the bullpen, and Tony and McGee are unintentionally paying her no mind, even as she fights to offer a suggestion. Gibbs waltzes in.
"Gibbs," she says in relief, prepared to complain about her lack of recognition from the boys.
"McGee," he begins, not hearing her or perhaps ignoring her, "I need you to help Abby run some tests down in the lab. DiNozzo, come on, you're with me in interrogation." He turns to walk back the interrogation room.
"Gibbs, what about me?" Ziva questions, following after him.
"Oh, and McGee, make sure to take those fingerprints with you."
"Gibbs," she tries again, more loudly.
"Uh, right, Boss."
"Gibbs." Ziva halts, staring after the father figure who refuses to meet her eye.
"Come on, DiNozzo," he says. "Hurry up."
"Gibbs." But she must truly be invisible because he's walking away now, and she doesn't know how to stop him, just as she didn't know how to stop her own father from trying to kill her, so she cries out, "Will you just look at me!"
For who knows how long—a second, a minute, an hour?—time stops. She stares at Gibbs and everyone stares at her, and she wonders if this is what she's been searching for these past few months: for someone to just see her and how much she's hurting.
She's never wanted that before.
After an eternity, Gibbs sighs softly. "I am, Ziva," he tells her sadly. "I am."
Without another word, she gathers up her things and heads to her car, not quite sure what she's doing.
Escaping, she thinks, because isn't that what she's wanted all along?
She arrives home caught somewhere in the middle of fury, anguish, and confusion. Entering her apartment, she lets her bag fall to the floor.
Gazing around at her nearly bare apartment, she suddenly wishes it were empty. Without thinking, she charges forward, knocking over chairs and flinging dishes left and right. She rips papers from her refrigerator, tearing up important papers and menus to her favorite take-out places.
When she finishes with the main room, she races into the bedroom. For a moment, she studies the mirror; she wonders what it would be like to smash it, if it would hurt to slam her fist into it.
The mirror cracks, but that is not good enough. Again she punches it and over and over until it is in tiny little fragments on the floor, just like the broken pieces of her soul. She wishes for a minute that someone would come and pick them up.
(She isn't sure which she's talking about, the mirror or her soul.)
Staring at the shattered mirror, she begins to cry. She buries her head in her bloody hands and sobs.
She falls asleep there once again. When she dreams, she dreams of exploding ships and hands dirty with the blood of every person's life she has ever helped to end.
She can't ever quite wake herself up from the nightmare, but it is probably justified anyway.
She calls in sick the next day. Exhausted with mourning her lost soul, she works to reorganize her living room. It is only then that it occurs to her that no one called the police in all her havoc. She chalks it up to not many people being around.
That day, she gets seven phone calls: two from McGee, one from Tony, one from Gibbs, and three from Abby. Ziva supposes she will owe the forensic scientist an apology soon, but she cannot bring herself to give it now.
She plays the messages over and over, hoping to find some sort of solace in them.
"Hey, Ziva. It's, uh, McGee. Gibbs is just…wondering where you are. I…Yeah, call me back."
"Ziva! You aren't here. Just wanted to make sure you were feeling all right. Cause I got this hinky feeling yesterday when you left. Call me back soon, okay?"
"Hey. McGee again. You might want to avoid work for a few days. Gibbs is, uh, pissed that you're not here, to put it mildly. Actually, on second thought, maybe you should come back as soon as possible. We could really use your help. Yeah. Okay. See you later, Ziva."
"Hey, Ziva. Abby here. Well, obviously it's Abby. I mean, what other girl would be calling you? Um, not that you don't have other girl friends. It's just that…wait, do you have other girl friends? Oh, no, that came out wrong! I'm sorry! I just… I'm, I'm gonna hang up now, and try this again."
"Okay. Take number two. I just wanted to check up on you and make sure you were doing all right. Tony…told me what happened. Yesterday, I mean. And I don't really know what's going on with you, but I assume it has something to do with Africa, and I just wanted to let you know that I'm here for you, if you need anything. Seriously, anything at all. Really. Because I love you, Ziva. We all do." A pause. "You should know…Tony is really worried about you. I mean, we're all worried, but he's, uh, he's…in a bad way, as they say. And he might deny it and act like a total jerk, but he cares about you. A lot. Just don't forget that, okay? I'll see you later."
"Zee. Come on, answer, I know you're there." A sigh. "Okay, well, call me back. Gibbs is…getting antsy, which is never good."
They are messages that mean both everything and nothing, and they all make Ziva want to curl up in a ball and cry herself asleep again.
But the last phone call is the one that means most. Because it's from Gibbs. Because he knows how to say so much without saying anything at all.
"When you're ready, my door is always open."
Ziva was born in the heat of the summer without a single cry to her name. When she came to America, Tony taught her the phrase "born ready." She always thought she was.
She's beginning to suspect she was wrong.
"Ziva," McGee says in cheerful greeting as she enters the bullpen the next day. Her hands are covered in bandages, but she tries not to let the pain they give her show. It is her burden to bear, not his.
"Good morning, McGee," she says politely.
"Hope you're feeling better."
"Yes," she lies easily. "Much."
Tony enters suddenly, pausing as he catches sight of her. She catches his eye for an instant before looking quickly away.
"Hey," he says slowly. "Feeling, uh, feeling better?"
"Yes," she repeats. It's not a complete lie, but it's not the truth either. Glancing up, she can see he knows that she's lying. He surveys her and catches sight of her hands.
"What…?" he asks, but she turns away from him, turning on her computer in order to avoid his questioning. Because they speak the same non-verbal language, he understands and drops it. Ziva can only be thankful.
Then Gibbs enters with the usual, "Gear up," and they are off to the hospital once more.
Tali wanted to be a doctor, she remembers as she watches the nurses bustle about Officer Richards' room. There are three of them: two female and one male. They glance at her politely every once in a while, working as quickly as possible to allow Ziva and the petty officer some privacy for the follow up interview.
Richards still looks worse for the wear, though she is not sobbing as she was three days ago, which Ziva takes as a good thing.
The nurses exit, their footfalls like silence. Richards asks tiredly, "You have more questions for me, Agent David?"
"Yes," Ziva answers, opening her notepad. "Just a few." She pauses, observing the woman, unsure of where to begin.
"We…" A cough, readjustment of seating. "We believe that the…attack…may not have been meant for Petty Officer Bryant but for…" She trails off.
Richards looks up suddenly, her eyes piercing. "For me." It's not a question. Ziva nods anyway.
Tears lace the petty officer's eyes, but she does not cry. Instead, she takes a deep breath and whispers, "You want to know why."
"Yes." Another pause. "Do you have any enemies, Officer Richards? Anyone who might have tried to kill you?"
"No," Richards answers quickly, but after a moment of reflection, she says, "I mean…lots of people weren't too happy about me marrying Josh, but no one in particular."
"Who did not like you marrying Petty Officer Bryant?"
"Lots of people," Richards reiterated. "My dad, my grandparents, my brother." She shakes her head. "But I don't understand. Why try to kill me?"
Ziva shrugs, uncertain of how to answer. "Violence rarely makes sense to anyone but the perpetrator."
Richards sighs softly but seems to accept this. "It was my fault he died, then," she whispers. "That doesn't seem fair."
"Life never is."
"I love…loved him," she declares softly, catching Ziva's eye.
The former assassin sighs; conversations about love have never been her thing. She much prefers the ones about grief and violence. "I know."
Richards studies her, and Ziva feels for a moment that this woman—this girl, really—knows every secret she's ever kept. "Have you ever been in love, Agent David?"
"Once," she mumbles. Thinking of Tony and the ambiguous something that has always been between them, she adds, "or twice."
Ziva studies Richards a moment more before standing to exit.
"Life," she finally responds. It's the best explanation she has for the past six months.
That night, Gibbs' door is open, as it always is. Ziva lets herself in quietly. For twenty minutes she stands at the top of the stairs, debating whether to join Gibbs in the basement.
In the end, she chickens out and walks back out the front door. She is not ready.
If Gibbs noticed her presence, he does not say anything.
Leads continue to take them nowhere, as anyone Richards named has an airtight alibi. They stay all day and night without sleep and with little food.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, McGee gets a breakthrough they never saw coming.
"Boss, you might want to see this," he says urgently, calling the attention of all his teammates. He points to his computer screen, which projects the image of a young woman with wild eyes and tangled hair.
"This is Morgan Richards, Ann's sister. She was checked into a mental facility five years ago," McGee explains. "She disappeared a week before the explosion."
Swallowing, Ziva feels her stomach drop. If what she suspects has occurred, they are way in over their heads.
"DiNozzo, David, you go in that way. McGee, you come with me," Gibbs barks as they stalk through the hospital toward Officer Richards' room. It is too early for many people to be around, so their path is relatively clear.
The blinds on Richards' room are closed when they reached the room, which can only be taken as a bad sign.
"David, DiNozzo, go in. Quietly," Gibbs orders.
Nodding once, Ziva attempts to inch open the door, but finds it locked. She swears silently, and quickly begins to use her hairpin to break in. It comes loose after thirty seconds.
It is thirty seconds they cannot afford to lose.
Quietly as possible, Ziva pushes open the door. A weaker woman would have gasped at what she saw: a young girl, who, by the looks of her, is Morgan Richards, holds a gun pointed at her older sister, who is shaking her head, tears streaming down her face.
"Don't come any closer!" Morgan cries, her eyes trained on Ann. "I'll shoot her if you do."
"Morgan, please, come on, put the gun down," Tony begs softly, inching forward.
"Stop moving!" the girl screams, looking in his direction. Ziva feels her breath quicken, her eyes fixated on the gun. "I'm not afraid to shoot her!"
"Morgan," Ziva says urgently. "Please. Do not do this."
Morgan laughs maniacally, the laugh of a crazy person. "Why not, Agent David?" At Ziva's confused expression, she adds, "Oh, yeah, I know who you are. I've learned everything about you for the past week. You're not an American citizen yet, you recently broke ties with Mossad, and you're—you're falling apart. You look in the mirror and don't know who's looking back." She pauses. "Just like me."
"Morgan, stop it!" Ann pleads. "Put the gun down!"
"No!" Morgan says. "Don't you understand? I want you dead. I've always wanted you dead. Maybe then, Mom and Dad would pay attention to me. Maybe then, I could get engaged and married and have the perfect life! Maybe then Jeff would call!"
"Morgan, they love you…"
"No, they don't. They love you. After all, you're the beautiful one, and I'm just the girl in the mental facility," the girl spits. Her eyes grow hard and determined. "And I'm finished."
Before she knows what is happening, Ziva finds herself running forward. She hears the gun go off and Ann scream, but the bullet never reaches the petty officer because Ziva throws herself in front of it. Her entire life flashes before her eyes in that moment.
She is four, falling from a tree. Her father shakes his head and tells her to bear it because it will make her stronger.
She is thirteen, running through the open desert, chasing a runaway horse.
She is seventeen, shooting and shooting with everything she has. She sees the light go out of a man's eyes, and who she will become is suddenly decided.
She is twenty-five, laughing with Jenny as they discuss men and the stupidity of government officials. They will be responsible for someone's death that night.
She is twenty-nine, in a strange American's basement, mourning a disloyal brother.
She is thirty-three, laughing with her new teammates. Her family. She listens to Ducky's story and grins at McGee. She catches Gibbs' eye and hugs Abby. She engages in playful banter with Tony.
She lands in a heap on the ground.
Morgan is thrown off by Ziva's action, giving DiNozzo enough time to wrestle the gun out of her hand. McGee and Gibbs come into the room quickly, handcuffing the girl. Tony looks quickly down at his partner.
"Zee," he says quietly. "Zee, are you all right?"
Groaning, Ziva turns toward him. "Yes, yes," she assures him. "The bullet did not go through my vest."
Tony laughs in relief. "I guess that's why we wear them," he says. Ziva can see something like recognition in his eyes, and she wonders for a moment if this is the way Kate Todd died, protecting someone.
Tony helps her up, and Ziva turns to Officer Richards. "Are you all right, Officer Richards?"
The petty officer nods, tears of relief in her eyes. "Are you?"
Glancing at her teammates, who are now escorting Morgan Richards out of the building, she smiles a little bit. "Yes. Yes, I think I am."
It is the truest thing she has said all week.
The case wraps itself up nicely, and Gibbs is obviously happy because those are the best kinds of cases.
Before he leaves, Gibbs calls her into the elevator.
Ziva sighs. She has been expecting this.
It is quiet at first because neither is a person of very many words, but eventually Gibbs says, "So gonna explain this all to me?"
Ziva takes a deep breath, looks him in the eye, and says, "I do not know if I know how." Gibbs' expression doesn't change, so she adds, "There are still many things I have yet to…repair. My time in Somalia has left me more…vulnerable than I would like to admit."
Gibbs studies her for a moment before telling her gently, "Sometimes, you shouldn't try to repair things on your own." He smiles a bit. "You have lots of people who would like to help."
Ziva pauses, smiling as well. "I think that I understand that now."
"Good," Gibbs says, leaning over and placing a kiss on her temple. "Don't ever forget it."
They are allowed to go home as soon as the paperwork is finished, and McGee, as always, finishes his first. It is then just Ziva and Tony.
It's been this way before, but not for a while. They don't quite know how to function on their own.
"You seem…better," Tony says finally, breaking the silence. He has been staring at her for the past fifteen minutes, a fact that Ziva has not failed to notice. "Calmer or…something. Are you feeling better?"
It is not a question about the gunshot, but instead about her overall health as of late.
She smiles at him because she can honestly say she no longer feels so broken.
Time to pick up the pieces of that mirror, she thinks. Maybe she'll glue it back together as a reminder of what she's gone through to get here.
"Much, thank you," she informs him, still smiling.
"Good, because you were kind of scary Probilicious. I mean, your ninja skills were just sort of…off, and then with the storming out thing the other day, and before that you tripped, and we've just kind of never seen you trip. Ever and…"
He's rambling like Abby, and it makes her chuckle. "Thank you for your concern," she tells him graciously, "but I will be fine. It has…been a rough few months."
She sees in his eyes that he understands, and it gives her chills down her back because the last person who understood her quite so well was killed in a Hamas bombing, and she doesn't ever want to be in that position again.
She studies Tony for a moment as he often studies her. Finally, she says slowly, "I was not always so graceful, you know."
"I find that hard to believe."
Ziva allows a small smile to grace her lips. "No, it is true. I used to stomp around—tripping over things, falling up and down stairs, running into doors." She pauses. "The only time I was ever truly graceful was when I danced. I could twirl and twirl and never fall once.
"When I joined the army, I worked hard to retain that grace. I still…struggle with it, sometimes."
Tony's eyes bore into her, and she wonders what he sees when he looks at her—if it's the same thing she sees when she looks in the mirror or something more.
He licks his lips. "Why are you telling me this?"
Not looking away, she shrugs, though the weight of her words feel far from blasé. "It is real," she whispers. "And I would like it very much, if you could see me when I am real."
"Why me?" he asks, his voice slightly hoarse.
She flicks her eyes searchingly across his face.
"Because I know what you meant: not being able to…live without. And, in my, in my heart…" The word tastes strange on her tongue, as if she doesn't quite know its meaning. "In my heart, I realize that is not something that should be ignored."
They hold each other's gazes for a few moments more, daring each other to speak. Finally, Tony gives in, saying softly, "OK."
Somehow, that manages to make up for all the lost months, and with a smile, Ziva David moves a step closer to finding herself again.