Disclaimer: Ehm, so there was this lucky draw where NCIS was the grand prize ... unfortunately, I didn't win it :(
Spoilers: 10x01 "Extreme Prejudice." And pretty much everything Gibbs and Ziva, because I'm lazy to look up specific episodes.
Warnings: This fic ... does deal with Eli David, and in fact implies a parallel between the behaviour of Gibbs and of Eli. If you hate Eli David with like, a passion, then please don't read this and please don't say I didn't warn you. Also: There is a certain part of this fic that might possibly be construed as the misuse of alcohol. It's mild. In fact, if you blink, you might miss it. But I thought I might mention it anyway.
Enjoy; please review!
Bury the Past
He stomps into his house and heads straight into his kitchen, seemingly so oblivious to her presence that she wonders for a moment if he hasn't at all seen her sitting on his couch. She sighs to herself and lowers her head and waits. Waits for him to notice her, like she had once used to wait for Eli to take his attention away from things more important than her.
She hadn't had to pick the lock. Just like when he is at home, Leroy Jethro Gibbs' door remains unlocked when he is outside of it; it is as if he's handing burglars and vagrants an engraved invitation to make themselves comfy in the house that is merely physical space for his meagre belongings. His house hasn't been home to him since Shannon and Kelly passed away, she knows. It hasn't held treasures since then, either. With a sudden pang, she wonders if she's ever mattered to Gibbs as much as Kelly had. Probably not, and she is selfish for wishing so.
The sudden plonk of a beer bottle onto the coffee table before her makes her jump. She looks up to find Gibbs staring down at her with another beer in hand and a small smile on his lips. "I'd offer tea," he tells her gruffly, "but I doubt you're here to chat about the weather."
"No," she answers, breathing out deeply and giving him a wry smile of her own. "You are home late. I do not suppose it is likely that you were out 'celebrating with the guys'?"
"Paperwork." He shrugs and sits down on the short wooden stool by the coffee table. "Wanna tell me why you're here?"
His words make her chew on her bottom lip and tap her fingertips together. The anger that had been so strong throughout the day suddenly fades to be replaced by a mild uncertainty; to speak up would be overstepping the line, she is certain, because it is not her place to share what is on her mind.
"Ziver," Gibbs prompts, startling her.
Still, she hesitates. Gibbs has always been a lone wolf; for him to have gone after Harper Dearing on his own is practically a matter of course. She knows that. She knows him. But still….
"I am here to tell you that what you did this morning is still stubborn and foolish," she blurts out, even though that isn't entirely what she means to say.
Gibbs bobs his head. "I know."
She expects him to say more, but he's apparently waiting for her to elaborate, because his eyes are fixed unwaveringly on her face. It makes her sudden burst of courage disappear. "And that I am glad you are alive," she finishes lamely.
"Yup. Me, too."
"Because otherwise, we would have to be picking out coffin patterns by now." The words fall murmured from her lips, as painful and jumbled up as her thoughts. "I mean, none of us knows how to carve. We would certainly not be able to give you something as unique as—"
"Ziver," Gibbs interrupts, his tone suggesting that planning his funeral probably isn't the best thing to do in his living room.
"You were being stubborn today," she says angrily, hating the catch in her voice and the tears in her eyes.
"I always am."
"And I am thinking," she continues, ignoring his reply, "that if something had happened to you, the last thing you would have heard was me calling you a stubborn fool."
"It's not, though." His voice is gentler now.
"I have buried … too many loved ones, Gibbs. I do not want to bury you, too."
He stays silent, although she cannot begin to fathom the reason for it. She tries to swallow back her tears, continuing, "You are always telling us to watch out for each other. If any of us did a single thing alone, without backup, you would've killed us. Well, I do not know why you do not think that it means the same for you. We are a team, Gibbs. You are always telling us that."
"Ziver." He cuts her off mid-spiel, and she looks up to see him leaning forward and watching her intently. "If I'd gone in with backup, there is a good chance there would've been more damage than just Dearing's blood on my hands."
"Maybe it is supposed to be that way," she argues.
He chuckles humourlessly. "D'you think I coulda lived with that? You have Tony and the Elf Lord. I'm not worried about what would happen to any of you if I weren't to survive Dearing. But you are young. You have a life ahead of you, and I wasn't gonna be responsible for turning you into collateral damage."
"We would not have been collateral damage. Dearing was as much our enemy as he was yours."
"Ziver, the way Dearing was playing this game … it was man to man. He lost a child, I lost a child. We both made mistakes in dealing with that, and it was time to pay. It had to be either him or me. Couldn't be one of you."
"Why? Because I have never sinned?"
His impatient sigh informs her that she is grasping at straws, and that he knows it. "And what if it was Tony or McGee who got injured?" She falls silent, and he continues, "You knew how his game worked, Ziva. That's why you didn't come after me. You knew that he wasn't going to play fair unless it was just him and me, alone."
She wants to protest, but finds that she cannot. Gibbs is wrong; she had not known. At least, not before he figured it out. If she had, she would have planned ahead; come up with some way, any way, to make sure that his back was covered. But he is also right, because she had understood the logic the moment he stepped out of the office. Man to man. She's never exactly had the details of what happened to Shannon and Kelly Gibbs' killer written out for her in black and white, but she can guess. She did the same for her mother and her sister, after all, and even though the consequence of the whole situation she had partaken in had been Mossad-approved, her act itself had been carried out in far more vengeful a manner than had been strictly necessary. So, she understands. Sometimes, she still finds herself waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Drink," Gibbs suggests quietly, nudging her beer bottle towards her with his own, and she does. She gulps.
"My abba called," she says through the burn in her throat, because she is in desperate need of a change of topic.
"Oh, yeah? What'd he say?"
"That he was worried … he offered to send us some manpower to help with the hunt."
"Shoulda taken that up with Vance. Protocol."
"He really called to check on you."
"I know." She shakes her head, unsure of whether to feel overjoyed or devastated. "I do not understand. After all that has happened … why is he calling now? Why is he worried about me now?"
"Man's gettin' older." Gibbs shrugs with nonchalance that she doubts he feels. "Wants to spend some time with his daughter before it's too late."
She twists her fingers together despairingly. "Do you not think it is already too late?"
"Can't answer that for you, Ziver." He leans forward to press a kiss to her temple, and her eyes brim with tears. "You're the only one who gets to decide how much you want him to be in your life."
"I want him to be in my life … but I do not like the uncertainties involved in making such a decision."
"Well, I just hope Eli David knows how lucky he is that his daughter is right here." His piercing blue eyes hold her gaze. "If Kelly were still alive, I'd tell her I'm sorry I left when she asked me not to."
Her vision blurs for a moment, and she wonders if she will ever get to hear her own father say that to her—if, in hindsight, Eli David will ever realize that his daughter should have mattered more. But then Gibbs whispers, "Guess that means I owe you an apology as well, Ziver," and she gets it.
When she breaks down, Gibbs finally moves from his perch on the wooden stool to hold her tight in his arms.