The case didn't seem right from the start. Something about it screamed atypical.
A few months back, Vance and Eli David had met over conference call to discuss the relationship between their respective agencies. Vance suggested bringing in more liaison officers from Mossad. Ziva had been fairly experimental but overall she had turned out well. So well that she would never be going back. So Eli agreed on another trial run of the program, and sent another of his officers – a young woman – out to Seattle. On her first mission with the team there, they boarded a Navy ship and she was shot within minutes.
The team had been on the case for two days, and so far all they knew was that the officer had been shot with a standard issue weapon – hard to track. They were still waiting on DNA confirmation. Luckily for them, Abby soon called.
The Goth introduced the team to the image of a sailor named Zac Baehr. His prints were found on the body and on the gun that had been recovered at the scene. The team initially wondered why the gun had been left there and not taken with the shooter, but then realised someone must have heard the shot and Zac had hidden it. The best way to act like you hadn't just shot someone was to…well, not have a gun in your hand.
They were soon in contact with Baehr's CO, who informed them that he had not been seen at the base they had docked in at since last night. They called in Baehr's bunkmate.
"Did Zac say anything about going somewhere?" Gibbs asked the sailor.
The bunkmate, a man named John, thought long and hard. "He said something the other week – I don't know what he meant – but he said that those in charge have to take responsibility for their actions. I don't know if that relates to you at all, but other than that he hasn't said anything unusual."
"Those in charge," Gibbs reported back to the team in the squad room after letting the bunkmate leave. "That's gotta mean something."
"Yeah, Boss!" Tony exclaimed, taking the clicker from McGee. "Zac Baehr is an Amercan citizen, but he was actually born in Israel. He had a sister named Dina who stayed over there when he moved and joined Mossad while he joined the Navy."
McGee took over. "While on a mission, Dina Baehr's partner at the time abandoned her and she ended up getting shot."
"When did all this happen?" Gibbs asked.
"About a year ago. Baehr's CO says he's been angry all the time and really quiet – not at all like he was before she died," Tony answered.
"So he killed the liaison officer for revenge?" McGee suggested.
"Because of association. She reminded him of his sister. But the next one…that'll be revenge," Gibbs said.
"Then who is the next one?" Ziva asked.
"Whoever's in charge," Gibbs answered. The team exchanged glances. "Eli David."
"You mean to tell me," Vance boomed. "That an American sailor is going after the Director of Mossad?" Gibbs stood before him in his office, straight-faced.
"We have reason to believe that Zac Baehr is in fact on his way to Israel as of now, sir," Gibbs replied.
"Mossad's relationship with NCIS is important, Agent Gibbs. I suggest you get your team on a plane to Tel Aviv right now before Baehr can do any further damage."
McGee stayed at the office while Ziva, Gibbs and Tony boarded a plane to Israel that afternoon. McGee tried hard to contact Eli but his secretary told them he was on leave for a few days, resting. He tried to reach him several other ways but none prevailed. His cell phone was off but the last activity had been seen at his registered address. He told Ziva this as soon as he could.
"When Eli as it home he only has the one bodyguard – he's cocky to think that no one would try to attack him. The bodyguard is well-trained but alone. It's possible to get past him."
The flight seemed endless, and Ziva was growing ever-anxious as the hours passed. There was no use trying to console her.
"Gibbs," she said suddenly, and the boss looked up. "I think we need to call in a favour from Mossad."
"And what favour is that, exactly?"
"I hate to admit it but I think we need Malachi's help." Tony groaned – he wasn't all that fond of Malachi. "He is one of my father's best agents, and he has protected him many times."
Gibbs sighed. "If you think it's necessary, Ziver, call in the favour when we get there."
She nodded professionally, like a soldier.
Fortunately, Vance had been one step ahead of them and called Malachi to meet him at the airport, and he was outside the plane when it landed.
Ziva hurried out, with Gibbs and Tony on her tail, and wasted no time in planning their next move.
"Your father's been at home for the past few days. And if he's at home, from what I remember from guarding him a few times, he spends most of his time in the study," Malachi informed them, more cooperative in one sentence than the last three years combined.
Malachi drove the team to the David residence – a large house on the edge of town – at breakneck speed.
"Jeez, Ziva," Tony wheezed, "He drives worse than you do."
She didn't reply. She was too apprehensive of what would happen next.
They pulled up out the front of the house and saw a body lying in the front yard, with a bullet wound in his skull. Malachi was just about to speak when they heard yelling from inside. The all rushed in.
Zac Baehr was standing in the centre of the study with a gun pointed right at Eli David's skull. Eli was stiff but his eyes were wide.
Droplets of sweat ran down Zac's face and his hand trembled. The young man jumped when Gibbs burst through the door.
"NCIS! DROP THE GUN!" he shouted, and was quickly followed by Tony, Malachi and Ziva.
"Ziva," Eli said softly. He seemed extremely surprised to see his daughter, though there was hardly time for that now.
"It's his fault," Zac sobbed. "It's HIS FAULT! My sister is dead because of HIM!" Tears streamed down the man's face.
"Drop the gun, Zac," Tony coaxed. "No good's gonna come of this. Just put it down."
"I can't," Zac whispered.
"Yes you can."
That was one word too many for Zac. He let out an ear-splitting howl and fired. Gibbs and Malachi tackled him to the ground, seizing the weapon and pinning him down to handcuff him. Zac continued to scream, and the men called for Ziva, but she had already run to her father's aid, pulling him to the floor and trying to resuscitate him. Tony, with nothing left to do, stood in helpless agony watching his partner watch her father die. Ziva applied pressure to the bullet wound in his chest, but little comes from it. She began to cry out to him, "Abba! Abba!" Still he barely stirred.
Then he let in a gasp of air and opened his eyes to see his daughter above him. His fingers twitch and she takes his hand. "You…you have made me proud, tateleh," he wheezes. "I am sorry you never knew that." And with those words his eyes began to close, and Ziva's body began to shake. She tried even harder to revive him. She began crying for him louder and tears began to fall, until a strong hand was placed upon her shoulder – Gibbs'. She looked up, with the teary eyes of a lost little girl and lifted her hands from Eli's chest and rose, covered in his blood.
Tony's eyes shone with his own tears as he watched her pass.
Of course it was Ziva's job to contact Eli's lawyer. She asked Gibbs to accompany her, though he couldn't understand a word of the Hebrew they were speaking.
What the lawyer told Ziva, and what she later relayed back to Gibbs, was that Eli's Will had been finalised thirteen years ago, and since then not a single change had been made. He then handed over a thick, worn, yellow envelope and left. Inside was Eli's Will. The very first line read:
Anything that is mine is to be divided equally and shared among my children, or whichever are still standing when it comes time for this document to be read.
"Whichever are still standing." Because he couldn't bear to think of changing such things if he should lose a child.
Ziva gulped and reached inside the envelope a second time, this time pulling out three smaller envelopes. She placed them on her father's mahogany desk. Each looked old. Each had a name inscribed on it.
Ari. Ziva. Tali.
Ziva opened her own.
My dear Ziva,
I sincerely hope as I write this that it will be a long time before you read this. You are seventeen now. In fact, it happens to be your sister's thirteenth birthday. You are all so very happy, and at this moment I can hear you both calling me to come back into the living room with you all.
Look after her, please. Look after yourself, too. I know you will do great things in your life. Things far greater than I could have ever dreamed. Do not doubt yourself.
But do not lose yourself on the journey, Ziva. Don't forget where you come from. Don't forget who you are. But most importantly, do not forget where you are going. Don't have the life that I had, where I raised my children to be prepared for danger. Danger is something children should not have to be able to fight off on their own. Sadly, this is a lesson I learned too late with you. I hope you have children someday, Ziva, and that they may grow old and fat and be carefree. I wish this for you, and anything else you so desire.
Be strong, Ziva. I know you will.
There was no signature. But there were the words. Words written to a seventeen year old girl from a father she never knew cared that much about her.
The other two envelopes lay on the table, with her siblings' names written so carefully on the top. She ran her fingers over the rough, dusty paper, but didn't open them. If the words hidden inside the envelope were for Ari and Tali's eyes only then so be it.
The team were on a plane home the next day. As the long, endless hours stretched out, Ziva seldom spoke a word to anyone, and Tony seldom took his eyes off her out of worry.
They headed back to the office before going home, and Ziva went ahead when they parked in the garage. Gibbs switched off the engine of the Dodge, and turned around to face Tony, who was sitting silently in the back seat.
"You're worried about her," Gibbs stated.
"This sure would be a good time for one of your little pep talks, Boss," Tony said, staring at his hands.
Gibbs glared. "Fix it."
"I don't know how."
"That's not important, DiNozzo. What's important is that she needs you right now. She needs her partner. On the battlefield no honourable man leaves one of their own out there to die when they can pull them out. It's the same in here. She's not just any soldier. She's the best. It takes a lot to make her fall – it's gonna take even more to pick her up."
He found her in the bathroom. At the creaking sound of the door, she turned around with a start, and spoke his name with surprise. She acted casual but she sounded at looked like she'd been crying. Refusing to acknowledge it, she asked if there was something work-related that she needed to know.
"I'm not here for that," he stated simply, edging ever closer to her.
"Then why are you here?" she asked with a sniff.
She closed her eyes. "Close is something my father and I never were," she stated, opening them again and looking at her partner. "But still, this has not been an easy week. He had been in contact with me recently, you know. But I…I did not answer his emails. His calls. I did not feel like it. Maybe if I had…"
"Ziva, you can't blame yourself."
"Then who am I to blame?" she snaps, anger swelling inside her. "The man who killed him in mourning of his sister? I cannot blame him for reacting that way. I have lost count of the bullets I shot for Tali. And I am sure that if we are to blame all mourners then we should blame Gibbs too? For shooting a man while mourning, hm?"
"OK, OK." He touched her arm. She didn't pull away.
"I would have liked it if he had known that he mattered to me." She swallowed. "He was family, Tony. You and I both know this feeling. The feeling of losing a family member."
"Yeah. Yeah, we do."
They were silent for a few seconds. Then Ziva began to speak again. "There is a saying I was told when I was a little girl, that no matter where you go, whether you are around the corner or halfway around the earth, something inside you will always tie you to your family. But now I don't have any family left, Tony. My parents are gone. My brother is g—gone. My sister…" she trailed off into soft sobs. "I feel like everyone feels that tied feeling, except me."
Tony was quiet. He had no idea what to tell her.
"He was a cold and cruel man a lot of the time, and I often thought I hated him for it. But he was my father. And these past few years I think he had tried to redeem himself. Maybe it is pointless to mourn so much over someone who I barely felt a connection to while he was alive but…I feel alone. Like my father was the last person on this planet that loved me, or had ever once loved me. There's no one left, now."
Tony inhaled, and gulped. "I…I love you, Ziva."
"Tony, you don't have to say that just because –"
"No," he replied, with a softness to his voice. He looked her right in the eye. "I do. I do love you."
"I love you too," she whispered, and fell into his embrace. It was OK, just being in his arms. Feeling his warmth. Hearing his heartbeat.
And there it was. The simplest confession of love there ever was. For once, those words came with no strings. No conditions. Just the original purpose that those very words were meant to have – the expression of love from one person to another, with nothing obligatory about it. And Tony didn't think he'd ever meant anything more in his life.
She was quiet – understandably – for a while. She said little unless it was about the case. She declined offers to go out with the team, despite going to such efforts to do just that in the past. But slowly, Tony began to notice little changes in his partner. She wore her hair down and curly in that beautiful way. She'd stuck to buns ever since they came back from Israel. She smiled at one of his jokes a few days after that – surely that was a sign of improvement. And she began talking again. Began screwing up American idioms again. She began laughing again and oh, how he had missed that laugh of hers. To hear it made him so happy.
It was six weeks later that he finally approached her after work. She was still sitting at her desk.
"Yes, Tony?" her words were stern but her eyes were bright as she spoke.
"I just…uh…" he stammered. "About what I said in the bathroom a while back." He stopped.
"I meant it."
"Me too." She reached out and took his hand.
"You wanna go grab some dinner?" He sounded a little hesitant, but instead she nodded.
"I'd like that."
He waited patiently as she gathered her things and they walked to the elevator together. They stepped inside and Ziva began to smile.
"What are you smiling about?" he asked, though he certainly wasn't complaining.
"Nothing, I'm just…happy."
Suddenly he turned, slipped an arm around her waist and kissed her. Kissed her. Ziva David. His co-worker. His partner. The woman he loved. He pulled away and they both smiled. Ziva's breath was warm on his lips.
"I think I'm gonna need to do that again," he breathed with a grin.
"What makes you say that?"
He shrugged. "Let's call it a gut feeling."