Hey there, this is my first dip into the wonderful world of NCIS. *smiles at everyone nervously* I know it kinda jumps for past tense to present tense and back again, and I did try to fix it, multiple times, but I couldn't get it to flow smoothly without leaving like that. So I apologize in advance. I do feel like I have an issue with capturing the NCIS team because they are so unique and exceptional, so if they seem OOC, please tell me. A fair warning, I do ship Tiva, so if you don't like, I'm sorry.
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS, or any characters associated with it, or the song at the end, which is Dance on Our Graves by Paper Route. If I did own any of these I would be somewhere hot where the weather is trying to decide whether it wants to snow or rain... Or both.
Spoilers: Major spoilers for 7x01: Truth or Consequences, 3x01 and 3x02: Kill Ari Part 1 and Kill Ari Part 2, and anything with Michael, Jeanne, Tali, Ari, Rivka David, and Eli David.
Ziva jerked her head up. She looked around quickly.
Shifting, she moved further up the wall. Her legs were stiff from the position she had fallen asleep. She glanced at the small slit in her cell. The sun hadn't moved. She sighed in relief. They hadn't come in yet.
She rolled her shoulders against the wall, trying to find some relief. Moving around to the other side of her cell, well it was more of a box really, she picked up the stone she was using to count the days and made another mark on the wall. It had been sharp when she was first captured, and she had considered using it as a weapon at first, but it had long since dulled and she had long since stopped resisting.
She added and new tally to the rest and scanned the dizzying line of short white marks.
Three months and nineteen days.
One-hundred eleven days.
Two thousand six hundred sixty-four hours.
One hundred fifty-nine thousand eight hundred forty minutes.
Nine million five hundred ninety thousand four hundred seconds.
No matter how many ways she put it; it was still three months and nineteen days in this godforsaken cell.
She outlasted her mission, her use. Eli David would spare a glance to her picture if she was lucky. Maybe she'd even get a quiet Shalom if she was really lucky.
Or really unlucky.
She didn't want hissilent brooding. After all, she was just a solider in his eyes. A damn good one, but a solider nonetheless. Just a child who, like his son, had disappointed him.
She wondered what Ari would say if he could see her now. Probably, keep fighting, Archangel, hang in there.
At least the Ari she grew up with would have said that. The one the held her and Talia while their parents fought and had given her that silly nickname, Archangel.
Not the one that she shot, who had killed an innocent woman to get to a man who reminded him of their father.
A surge of memories rushed forward and she forced her mind from her team and surrogate family, she focused instead on Tali.
She would probably be crying for Ziva. She had always been so different from Ari and herself. She wore her heart on her sleeve, letting the whole world know how she was feeling. She was the best of the David family. The most innocent, the most compassionate.
She had a spark of life in her that the rest of the David family lacked, something that made her different. She wasn't scared of the evil in the world, her heart had not been tainted.
She wanted to be an author, going on about how the pen was mightier than the sword. Ziva and Ari had smiled at her and gone back to practicing their knife throwing.
Ziva had never realized the irony of it until after Tali had died during that pointless suicide bombing. What kind of person blew a café sky-high that was right nest to a playground anyways? Ziva was afraid that she knew too many people who could fit that bill.
Talia had been the glue that held their family together. Ziva had been what kept their parents together after aba's disastrous affliction with a doctor on one of his missions. It would have been fine, nobody would have known that Eli David had another child, but he had brought Ari home with him and made Rivka raise him as her own.
Ziva had kept her parents from separating after Ari, and Talia had made them a family.
When Ziva was born, she and Ari couldn't have been closer than if they were full siblings.
Ari bore the brute of Rivka's anger, she was too terrified of taking it out on Eli, and Ziva was the bane of Eli's life, he would never hit Rivka, knowing that she would take Ziva away, and because Ziva was an exact replica of Rivka, she was punished for things she didn't do.
So Ziva and Ari would watch each other's back. When he was locked in his room, she would slide food under his door. And when Ziva was left in the forest to find her way back, Ari would wait up for her and flash the strongest flashlight out of his window into the forest and help her find her way back. Ari taught her how to shoot and throw knifes before Eli did, and he no longer had a reason to yell at her for making mistakes, because Ziva never made any. Ziva eventually stopped searching for Eli's face in the crowd at her dance recitals and started to look for Ari's.
He had been her first partner.
Then, little sweet Talia, Ziva couldn't pronounce her at first so she became Tali, had came along and their parents had scrambled to put back together their crumbling marriage. Slowly, Ari and Ziva had let Tali into their circle, protecting her with every fibre of their being, and the David household was filled with laughter and joy for once.
When their parents started to drift apart, they took it out on the David kids again.
But not Tali, never Tali.
Ziva found herself back in the forest. Ari was locked in his room again and again, forced to stop coming to Ziva's dance recitals. Ziva eventually just gave up and quit dance.
But through it all, Tali was never hurt, never touched. She slept soundly at night, free of nightmares.
Ari and Ziva snuck into each other's rooms, falling asleep to the sound of the other's breathing. And when the nightmares came, they spent the rest of the night lying awake beside each other on the small bed.
They soon found themselves letting Tali into their rooms at night as their parents fights became louder and more violent, objects crashing against the walls. Soon the entire street was aware of the fights; bets began at school as to when Rivka would take the kids and leave. Ari and Ziva learned of them, fights at school became more and more frequent, Tali was even in one. But she didn't cry, not even when the much larger kid had hit her square in the face.
They told Rivka that she had fallen off her bike.
Soon all three David kids were sleeping on one bed, curled into each other like lion cubs.
On Ziva's ninth birthday, Rivka made them pack their things in the middle of the night. She took a sleeping Tali and buckled her into her carseat, but Ziva went out fighting. Rivka had to drag her from the house and Eli was forced to hold Ari back. Both parents were left with more than one bruise.
Ziva cut herself off from everything, Tali excelled in school, Rivka lost herself in depression, Ari turned eighteen and was shipped off to Scotland to become a doctor, Eli was promoted to Deputy Director of David.
Ziva and Ari kept in contact, Ziva told him about Tali and her life in Be'er Sheva. Ari told her about his university and his real mother and how he found out that Eli had been training him his entire life to become a Mossad operative and infiltrate Hamas, he was inconsolable.
Ziva finished school and went into the mandatory two years of service in the Israel Defence Force, and then she joined Mossad. Her missions made contact with Ari and Tali impossible.
Ziva rose through the ranks of Mossad quickly, Tali was killed in a Hamas suicide bombing, Rivka passed away soon after from her depression, Ari changed his last name to Haswari and he became a Mossad operative.
They both ended up in the Kidon Unit, Ziva as a control officer and Ari as an assassian.
Then things began to blur.
Ari became a traitor and Ziva was ordered to kill him and earn Special Agent Gibbs's trust. Ziva accepted, only wanting to get her Ari back, the one who protected her and taught her how to shoot and bought her ice cream with the money he earned and called her Archangel, she just wanted her older brother back and safe.
She tried to get Ari out of America and to Paris and prove him innocent, she really did. But she heard from his own mouth the truth, the hatred for Eli David and why he killed Special Agent Todd.
His eyes had meet hers in the semi-darkness and the pleading to end his life was evident, to end the monster he had become. His eyes were a dark brown, the same shade as her own and Tali's.
The single shot rang out in the sawdust filled air, the relief on his face and the peace in his eyes. His blood draining from the back of his head mixing with the sound of falling rain outside.
She had sung the Kaddish far too many times.
And then, Gibbs had squeezed her hand in passing and she fought the urge to cry until he had left the basement. And he pretended not to hear the sob that forced its way up her throat as she sang in Hebrew.
Later, he found his basement cleaned, the blood no longer staining his floors and the body of Ari Haswari gone, replaced with a wreath of flowers and a note with a delicately scribbled toda on it.
The ride back to Israel had been long and the talk with Eli even longer. The only two remaining David's had parted ways with bitter words and harsh orders.
She had gotten a place as the NCIS liaison and everything slowly lost blurred-like effects around the edges until it was in crystal clear clarity and she had a surrogate, albeit dysfunctional, family supporting her.
And then Jeanne and Michael had happened and she was left back in Israel to pick up the pieces of her heart.
The Damocles had left them in Somalia and she was captured by Saleem and his men and tortured. But she hadn't given up the information, even when he injected the truth serum in her. And the Chinese Water Torture drove her close to insanity.
But she never gave any information up. Not about NCIS, not about Mossad, not about Aba, not even about what the last thing she had to eat before she came. She couldn't, because they was asking the wrong questions.
But the long three months and nineteen days had made her question her decision to remain in Israel, but she eventually made peace with every member of her surrogate family, and even herself.
She coughed and the remains of blood and sand and dust crawled out of her throat at last.
She counted the lines, just to double check.
One hundred eleven days.
Two thousand six hundred sixty four hours.
One hundred fifty nine thousand eight hundred forty minutes.
Nine million five hundred ninety thousand four hundred seconds.
Three months and nineteen days alive in the cell.
She could hear the curses of Saleem down the hallway. His voice was more strained than usual, and she was disgusted with herself that she was able to recognize how he was feeling just from his voice.
But three months and nineteen days in his almost constant presence made her able to recognize those things no matter how much she didn't want to.
The door to her cell was thrown open and the angry face of Saleem was bearing down on her. A kick to her already broken ribs, one to the stomach where she was sure her spleen was close to bursting, if it hadn't already, then she was being dragged up by her dirty, matted hair. Her hands were tied with sharp plastic, falling into the ruts that were already there from being rubbed raw and it drew more blood from her wrists. A dusty cloth bag was shoved on her head and she sneezed, the butt end of a machine gun was shoved just under her ribs and drove the breath from her body.
Saleem was gripping her arm hard enough to leave bruises, the skin was still tender from her early bruises and she let out a silent exclamation of pain.
"Come." The voice was rough and practically spitting with anger.
Ziva followed because she had no choice and because if she didn't, surely she will be beaten again and she is not sure she would make it through the next form of torture.
She was dragged down a hallway and into another room and thrown into a chair.
The sunlight didn't reach the chair and an unnoticeable shiver ran through her, her body was ready to give up, even though she wasn't. Though that wasn't the complete truth, she wasn't sure if she knew the truth. She wasn't finished here, that much she knew, and she wanted to see them just one last time, but her body was so heavy and her mind was so clouded and her eyes were so fogged up she was not even sure if she could make it if she tried.
She senses someone across for her, sitting, and wonders if it was another round of questioning or if she was just going to be executed now and get it over and done with.
Saleem is talking loudly, just behind her and to the right, and she supposes she should be listening, but can't force herself to react.
Until his words broke through her fogged up brain.
"One will tell me the places of all American operatives in the area, and the other one will die."
In that moment she realized two things, one, now is the time that she will die after all, and two, that the person sitting across from her is someone that she knows, someone from America.
And she prays to whatever deity up there who was actually listening to her hopeless pleas that its not one of them.
The bag is ripped off her head.
The man across from her breathes in quickly.
A gasp escapes her, because the man sitting across from her should not be there.
He should be far away in America, safe.
Green eyes catch brown and the sunlight from the window rises just enough to warm her slightly. Or maybe it's the man that is sitting across from her, instead of in America, safe, that has that effect on her.
"I will give you a moment to decide who lives." Saleem left the room and with a thud the room is quiet. She realized that someone else is in the room as well. A third person lying on the floor, and she briefly wonders who it was.
But the green eyes boring into hers are so intense she can't bring herself to care at the moment.
Millions of words fight to get out, accusations and admissions, but in the end, neither comes and she's content to stay silent for a little while.
The man across from her seems to be battling the same urge, but because DiNozzo men never run out of words, just like they never cry, he finally settles on something.
"Well, how was your summer?"
Ziva wants to smile at that, because after everything that happened after the three months and nineteen days of torture, he acts like nothing happened, not Jeanne, not Michael. It was just them again, bantering across the bullpen, back when every thing was simple and actually made sense.
There is a long moment of silence and then she finds her voice.
"Out of everyone in the world who could find me, it had to be you?" Her voice is rusty and her throat is fighting her fiercely at every syllable, threatening to go back to its unused state.
Tony smiled, his voice gentle when he responds. "You're welcome." He paused, "So, are you glad to see me?"
Ziva can feel the sliver of self-doubt that has been her constant companion through the three months and nineteen days of pure hell perk up at that.
"You should not have come."
His shoulders slump slightly. He was obviously going for a more enthusiastic welcome, but she can't find in herself to care about that, because he is here, a prisoner like her.
He simply shrugs and nods. "Alright, good catching up, I'll just be going now." He tries to get up from his chair but the same hard plastic keeping her hands together are keeping him tied to the chair.
He blinks as if some great realization comes to him and smirks slightly when he responds. "Oh yeah, I forgot. Taken prisoner."
His eyes flicker ever so slightly to her right, to the body lying there, and she realizes that it is McGee and she hopes that he is alive and not a decomposing corpse.
"Are you alright, McGee?" She is expecting the worst, so when he responds so almost jumps.
"I'm just glad you're alive."
She is staring intently at Tony and when his words sink into her she is left breathless. "You thought I was dead?"
"Oh," Tony pauses, "Oh, yeah." He nods to emphasize his point.
She narrows her eyes and fights the coming headache and the pain of her body and the confusion of Tony being here, in this terrorist camp, with Saleem. "Then, why are you here?" Her brain is trying to make sense of all the possibilities until it gives up, the headache rearing its ugly head.
"Well, McGee," there is another lengthy pause, "McGee didn't think you were dead."
"Tony." It's a statement, not a question. When he doesn't answer right away she repeats her question. "Why are you here?"
He fidgets and huffs a breath. "Couldn't live without you, I guess."
She blinks and her heart stumbles over itself and refuses to regain a steady beat after that, but in the end a small ghost of a smile crosses her lips.
Then Saleem is in her head, counting off the minutes she has left in her life and the smile dies.
"So you will die with me?" He breathes out hard and the self doubt is now dancing around her chair, she stops herself from turning and telling to stop that right now like a mother scolding a child, barely. She has not completely lost her mind, but another month might do that to her.
Then the self-doubt leers at her from behind Tony and she scarcely stops herself from jumping across the gap between them and strangling it, because she is sure that Tony would get the wrong idea and think she has definitely lost her mind and decide she isn't trying to rescue after all.
You're not worth it, the self-doubt taunts. You don't deserve him. And now it will be their blood staining your hands along with the hundreds of others. Faceless, nameless now. Just missions. They had a family too. A Tony and a Gibbs, a McGee and an Abby and a Ducky, and maybe even a Palmer.
She curses the voice that sounds suspiciously like Eli, but she can't stop the words leaving her mouth, doesn't even know if she wants to stop them.
"You should have left me alone."
He seems to be fighting with himself and the "Okay, tried, couldn't," that comes out is almost against his will. "Listen, you should know, I've taken some kind of truth serum. So, if there's any questions you want to know the answers to," he trails off, clearly uncertain.
Questions swirl in front of her eyes, thousands of them, three months and nineteen days to try and pick a question that she would have asked him if she could, but she still can't pick one. One particular question violently tries to come out but is only met with her whole-hearted resistance.
In the end she chooses a safer path, one that won't lead to her ultimate destruction, which in the current situation she finds very ironic.
She's been seeing a lot of irony lately.
"I did not ask for anyone to put themselves in harms way for me."
And the self-doubt is dancing beside her, flaunting in her weakness.
Why would you deserve to be rescued? You knew that you would die here, that's why you accepted the mission. So you wouldn't return, so you'd never return.
Eli David must be laughing right now, surely, knowing that she was being taunted by him even in the dead end of the world.
"I do not deserve it." The self-doubt took the face of Eli and smirked at the truth in her words and she wishes she could turn and throttle him now, which would be exceptionally hard considering her hands are tied and she is contemplating how comfortable the ground would be right now, as she is so close to collapsing that she can almost taste it. Or maybe that was the sand in her mouth.
Tony's eyes flash in something she can't quiet identify and his words sting more than she'd like to admit. "So, what you're doing out here is some kind of a," he pauses for a second, searching for a word, "Monastic experience? Doing penance?"
Though he says it lightly, playfully almost, she can see the battle raging in his eyes.
Her eyes drop. "It is justified."
He rolls his eyes. "Get over yourself."
The ghost of a smile makes a reappearance and she can't help but feel that if she has to die, at least she got to see him one last time.
"I have. Now, you tell Saleem what he wants to hear, and you try to save yourselves. I am ready to die," but she isn't, not truly, for she can not even comprehend how someone could be ready to die. Willing? Yes. Ready? No.
Behind her, McGee shifts on the floor, "That's not how it works."
Ziva whipped her head towards him and just as suddenly wished she hadn't, her head pounded and she closed her eyes for a second before the exasperation came back. "How what works?"
She looks back to Tony and he smiles goofily. "The plan."
Her exasperation turns to incredulous so fast she wonders if it was that to start with. "You have an escape plan."
Tony nods and gives her a secretive wink.
She tries to reason with them; though what else they could do besides die she is not sure. "Tony, they have thirty men, heavily armed. They have anti-tank, anti-aircraft weapons. What do you have?"
Tony smiles again. "Well, that's where it gets tricky."
The story he spins her is so utterly unbelievable and so utterly them that she has to believe it. She smiles slightly at the cleverness of how they found Saleem, Caf-Pow. She knew she recognized the sickly-sweet smell from somewhere. That must have been the red liquid always staining his lips.
Then a part in his story shines like a sunbeam through her cloudy mind and makes her breath hitch. "Wait. You got captured on purpose?"
The simple "Yep," that she gets in response makes her blood boil.
"Tony, these men are killers."
He nods, "I know. That's why we have to stay alive long enough to not get dead."
His response makes her head pound even more, which is what his cryptic answers usually do to her. But while her mind is still trying to decipher his answer her mouth is already a couple steps ahead. "That would involve getting rescued?"
She wishes it were that easy, but the odds are stacked against them, as per usual. But Tony seems to think that it is, of course, that easy and grins, "Yes, it would."
Hope flutters in her chest before the realistic part of her comes through. "How long would it take?"
He shrugs. "I don't know. How long do you think I've been talking?"
She leans forward as far as she can without melting into a pile of exhaustion on the floor, and hisses. "What is the plan?"
"Oh." He looks over her shoulder, seeing the door firmly closed, and breathes a sigh of relief. "We fail to contact Dubai, word gets to the carrier crew in the Med and they send out twenty-two raptors and they burn sand into glass." She wonders what the world that means and decides to just go with it.
He doesn't seem to realize his voice is barely above a whisper and she is leaning closer to hear. "How long that's going to take? I don't know. Hours?"
She stares at him and he amends his last statement. "Days?"
There are shouted orders in Arabic outside and she winces as a particularly nasty word goes through her mental translation
Tony looks at her seriously. "Ziva, can you fight?"
She stares back in shock.
She can barely stand by herself, let alone walk.
So fighting is definitely out of the equation and so far from the answer she can't even see it anymore.
She opens her mouth to respond when the door swings in on its hinges. Saleem is marching in, a new sense of urgency to his stride.
Tony looks up calmly, as of they were discussing the weather. "Oh, hey Saleem. What's up man?" A vehicle roars to life outside the window. "What's the commotion?"
Saleem glares at Tony. "Moving out," he snaps abruptly. Ziva sees the large, curved knife in his hands and sees her life draining out on to the floor with it.
Tony pretends to sigh in relief. "Oh, that's good. I was getting kind of tired of this place."
Saleem peers out the window for a second before turning back. "And we're not taking prisoners."
Tony smiles lazily, "Oh, well, then, it was nice talking to you."
The single syllable carries an executer's coldness as he yanks Ziva's head back by a handful of hair and presses the cold knife to her throat and she cannot stop the gasp that forces its way up her parched throat.
"We're not done yet."
She sees an outlet, a way to possibly save their lives at the cost of her own, but she's been willing to die for months, not ready however, even before she was captured. But if there is a way to save Tony and McGee she as ready as she had never been before. "If they do not check in, their people will come looking for them."
"Ziva, shut up." His voice is harsh but his eyes lack the harshness his voice carries, they are suddenly filled with concern and fear.
But she ignores him and continues, "Kill me, you will need the Americans as leverage."
There's a half bitter edge to Saleem's voice now, mixed with a cunning smile, and the blade draws a thin line of blood, threatening to cut off her air supply. "I do not make bargains."
Tony is smiling again as he looks up. "Do you make pizza?"
Ziva's eyes widen and Saleem frowns, taken aback. "What?"
His feet are kicked out from under him as McGee springs into action. The knife is dropped and McGee jumps after it. His hands close around it as the deafening click of a gun forces him to freeze. He looks up into the barrel of it when Tony's voice echoes across the room like a kid who missed a present on Christmas.
"Stop! Stop! There's something I haven't told you yet."
Ziva looks up in shock and Tony winks at her, which goes by undetected by Saleem.
Saleem is panting heavily. "And what is that?"
"Well," he shifts forward slightly and his chair's ugly protest is ignored as it scrapes across the floor. "I told you about the brains, I told you about the guts, I told you about the muscle. The scientist, the politician, the leader." Saleem stood, keeping the gun pointed at McGee and moved around to the left of Ziva. "I told you about every member of the team." Tony took a deep breath. "Except myself. The part I play."
Saleem shrugs as if it doesn't matter, which it doesn't, Ziva realizes. They will all still die in the end. "Which is?" He sounds uninterested but his eyes are aroused with curiosity, as if he actually cares about the part Tony plays in their surrogate family.
Tony finally caught his breath, though why he was out of breath in the first case is beyond Ziva, and looked up at Saleem, a glint in his eyes. "I'm the wild card. I'm the guy that looks at the reality in front of him and refuses to accept it. Like, right now, I should be terrified, right? But I'm not. I can't stop thinking about the movie True Lies, you know? When Arnie's strapped to the chair, shot full of truth serum, and he picks his cuffs and kills everybody?"
Ziva rolled her eyes, leave it to Tony to make a movie reference in the face of death.
Tony smiled, suddenly, "You have thirty seconds to live, Saleem."
Ziva narrowed her eyes, he had to be confused. They have thirty seconds to live, not the other way around.
Saleem chuckled nervously. "But you are still bound. You're lying."
Tony smiles deceptively and shakes his head. "I can't lie, remember? But I didn't say I was going to be the one to kill you. Remember when I told you that my boss was a sniper?"
Saleem is breathing heavily when the glass on the window shatters and he drops to his side, dead.
Ziva wants to cry in relief, her tormenter is finally dead, but they will soon be too in they stay any longer.
Gunfire erupts outside and the door opens as one of the guards burst in before another bullet flies through the air and connects with his forehead. McGee jumps up and cuts the plastic binding his hands together with difficultly before working on hers and Tony's.
Tony jumps up and she tries to stand up only for her legs to finally give way. Tony catches her and an electric shock shoots through her veins. He lopes one arm around her and McGee grabs the other and throws it over his shoulder as well. She tries to help them carry her weight, but soon realizes that she is lighter than she usually is and gives up, her feet dragging behind them.
Another guard attempts to stop them but is shot from behind and he crumples lifelessly from the waist. They round the corner, where dark figure covered in leaves and sand stood. It turned towards them and Ziva prepared for her death, but there was no gunfire from it and Ziva opened her eyes slowly. Tired, though proud, icy blue eyes looked at them and something akin to relief is swimming in their depths.
"Let's go home."
Tony and McGee drag her forward and transfer her to him while they catch their breaths.
Her side hurts, her stomach was clenching and she is certain that her spleen really has burst now, she is pretty sure her ankle is broke, or at the very least sprained, her head is still pounding, the gash on her back is most likely infected, along with the hundred other cuts and abrasions on her body, her head is pounding and her bruises have never hurt more than they did now, and blood is slowly dripping down her throat from the knife cut.
Tears are stinging her eyes and for the first time in three months and nineteen days they aren't from pain.
And when Gibbs whispers in her ear a tear does carefully trek its way down her check moving the weeks of dirt and sand and blood out of it's way.
"You're safe now, Ziver."
She leans against him heavily.
She is finally reunited with her family, or at least part of it.
And it only took three months and nineteen days.
~When we see the light when we're going home
We'll dance on our graves with our bodies below
We'll sing glory and Hallelujah
Review, please? *nervously smiles again*