I love NCIS, and I really loved Jenny Shepard. While I'm a Kibbs fan, I really do love Jibbs as well because it was canon and because it fit. I hate that Jenny died, too, and I swear it's like the coolest women end up dead on this show. Anyway, this is my tribute to Jenny and the team and the beautiful eulogy that is Judgement Day I&II. If she had to die, they couldn't have made it more beautiful. Reviews are always appreciated. I own nothing, and the little dialogue is from the episode and is property of Bellisario, NCIS, CBS and all other powers that be.
It occurs to Ziva that her NCIS coworkers are the closest thing she's had to a functional family. It's only been three short years, and yet it seems like they should have always been like this. And even as she's reaching this realization, she finds herself breathless in the face of reality—her family has broken again.
Jenny is dead.
If they are a family, then Gibbs has always been the father. And in his own strange way, he has become more of an Abba than her own. It hurts her a little to admit it. Not because Eli David would be hurt, likely angry, at the admission. But hurtful because it means admitting to herself that her moments of idealized childhood, the few glimmers she can remember, are all a thin façade. The Americans have a good word for this, she thinks. Dysfunctional. The mere phonemes make it sound as messed up as it is.
Right now, her American Abba has been wearing his mask of anger. It is comfortable on him, comfortable for them to see. All Ziva can remember is the time she was nine and took Tali with her to the market. They had begged for days to be allowed to go, and she had been charged with looking after her younger sister. Tali had loved the beautiful purple scarf they bought. Until they were stopped on the way home by an overly zealous Palestinian guard with more strength than brains and no regard for Mossad. It hadn't mattered that Ziva had tried to insist they take the bus home or that a Mossad officer had tailed them and finally caught up and intervened. It hadn't mattered that Ziva had a split lip by the end of it. Because Tali had tripped when shoved, and in the end her wrist was sprained, and Ziva had not even bothered to carry a knife with her.
It doesn't matter how many times she tried to convince Tony that they should find their director. None of it matters now. Jenny is dead.
If they are a family, then McGee and Abby are the youngest children. Abby worries, and McGee frets. McGee is something like her third cousin Moshe, who hit his growth spurt quickly one summer and became lanky and brooding. Forever looking over his shoulder and second guessing.
Abby is too much like her Tali. She is sweet and light, despite little physical resemblance to her young sister. When they were children, her father never spoke of when he was going on a trip, much less what his mission might be. In America she has learned the expression ignorance is bliss. And as she grew into her teen years, she knew the truth of this. But Tali always wanted to know where and when. More than once, she caught her little sister talking to the picture of their father that Tali kept at her bedside whenever he was away.
McGee and Abby were all questions, questions she overheard through Tony's end of the phone. She can't even meet the questions in MGee's eyes. Because those questions are her questions. And it boils down to why. There are too many why's and not enough oxygen to give breath to them. How many why's did Jenny die still holding?
If they are a family, then Ziva still cannot place Jenny. How does she give a label to someone who was so many things to her? Despite the times when Abby and Tony have referred to Gibbs and Jenny's quarrels as 'mommy and daddy fighting,' it never fit for Ziva. She spent time with the woman in Cairo, when they put their lives in one another's hands. There was a reason why Jenny chose her as Archangel in the war on La Grenouille. Jenny was part sister and friend, occasionally something like a close aunt. Maternal was not an adjective that she would apply to their director.
Frankly, Ziva cared little for the title. Jenny is Jenny, and that is enough. Until she isn't any more. It's hard for Ziva to grasp the concept of speaking of Jenny Shepard in the past tense. It's the only tense left to them. It feels hollow, and when did a person's history become so oblique?
If they are a family, then Tony is the eldest. The first born of sorts, and the one upon whom responsibility lays. For all of his flaunting of his position of Senior Field Agent, he stands solidly under it now. He hasn't defended himself to Gibbs, nor has he thrown Ziva or anyone else under the bus. He is standing, waiting for the blow. Not a head slap, but something more.
In truth, she is waiting, too. He may be the eldest son, but she is the second oldest and bears her own responsibilities. They act, the others follow. Their privileges come with steep responsibilities, and they weigh upon them both. Any other day and Tony is joking and risk taking, and she would do anything to rewind the last forty-eight hours. To stay with Jenny, to talk her into that drive down Rodeo. Tony was carefree, and reminded her for a heartbeat of this same quality of Ari, one of his few better qualities.
But Ari did not like responsibility, and he shrugged from under it at first opportunity. It was one of his greater flaws. This American brother of hers stands up under it. Tony is the first to step between any of them and danger. Whether the danger comes from an enemy's weapon or justified accusations. At first, this quality irritated her. She assumed it was American chauvinism at its finest, always trying to take lead because she was a woman, and a foreign woman at that. But she has learned, slowly, that it is because he has honor. He will take the bullet for his friends.
And now he's angry, and he's trying to pick a fight with the little brother because he knows Ziva is too tired to fight. Tony has been boiling for hours now, snapping on the phone, defensive and angry. At one point, she was certain TSA was going to pull him aside for extra screening, and by some miracle they had escaped that eruption. But now McGee had to start in like the little one left behind, sullen and taking his own upset and confusion out on the elder.
What's more, she can't help but feel like slapping him herself for bringing up that stupid picture of her by the pool. The pool because she had insisted on staying nearby. Trying to relax when every muscle started to ache with tension, never admitting to Tony that he interrupted her from reading the same page for the fifth time.
"Say it!" Tony dares, and Ziva slips in beside him, her gaze warning McGee not to take the bait. Tony has been a boiling pot for hours now, snapping on the phone, defensive and angry.
It's a testament to how solid they are that the younger field agent can look them squarely in the eyes and answer the answer they've longed to hear. The one they hope is true but don't really trust.
"It was not your fault."
Ziva is the one thanking him, thanking him for finally speaking the words. For not escalating it any further and ending up with injuries. Jenny would have hated to know that her passing caused such tension. For all her talk of how they bickered and fought among their team, she herself admitting to Ziva that it was like its own family. They could snap (or was it snip?) at one another, but if anyone outside tried to pick on them, they quickly formed ranks and retaliated.
Before another word can be said, they're being summoned. In the lab. Their core team. The family. By dad. In every step, Ziva can read the dread that she and Tony share. It would be better to be yelled at. To be punished to permanent status as filing clerks. To have whatever he will say done and over with. Waiting. Dragging out the inevitable. Or didn't she tell Tony yesterday that nothing is inevitable? It seems like they had that conversation a lifetime ago.
The elevator takes longer than ever, but before she knows it, they're in the lab and in Abby's arms. Abby who has worked herself over and above, and is saying something about how they dress and how much she loves it. The hug aches, and Ziva wishes a moment too late that she had hugged harder, held on longer.
"Boss, I—" Tony is going in, ready to have this conversation over with.
But Gibbs cuts him off. "It's not your fault." Ocean blue is staring straight at both of them, and Ziva knows that if anyone has a right to be the most upset at Jenny's passing, it's this man. The man who is blurring the line between boss and father right now, who lost a woman he cared for. Jenny had alluded to it once in Cairo. It had been obvious as the months in America passed who she had meant.
Gibbs is easing the load, finally speaking the only words they needed to hear from the only person they needed to hear them from. As a child, Ziva remembers visits to the synagogue, the prayers and the men who would gather the family close and lift their tallit over the family. The prayer shawl would raise, covering all while he spoke the words of life and forgiveness over his own.
He is their tallit now. Maybe it isn't their fault. Maybe someday they can believe that. Truth is… it might not be their fault, but it was still their responsibility. And they have new responsibilities now.