A/N: I was just rummaging through some files on my old desktop computer (which has been gathering dust for the better part of two years) and stumbled across a bunch of incomplete and fragmented pieces of NCIS fanfics. This was one of the more viable samples, so I decided to go ahead and finish it. It's a couple of years old, and takes place shortly after Truth and Consequences, after Ziva returns to NCIS and applies to become an agent, but before she has a chance to personally confront her father about the debacle in Somalia.

As a sidenote, the non-English phrase which Netty uses here isn't really Hebrew, it's Yiddish. Netty would be just about the right age to have emigrated to Israel from elsewhere, and, as in most cases, would have grown up in a Yiddish-speaking household rather than a Modern-Hebrew-speaking one.

"Dear girl, today you have become 'other.'

The streets in which you spent your childhood have today

become 'other.'"

– Departure Song of North India

"A letter," she wailed, and Ziva flinched, wondering how someone so old and so small could sound so daunting; but reminded herself that Netty had never been frail, not ever, and that was probably something that ran in the family.

"And it was not even for me," she continued, "a letter for your father and I had to hear it second-hand, no less. Not coming home! Not ever?" She paused. Her voice dropped a hint lower and Ziva could vaguely sense the hurt that had been exposed, like a raw and wicked wound glinting bare beneath its wrappings: "A letter, Ziva. Not even a call. Not even for me."

It was a wonder, she thought, that one of the few human beings on the planet who was fully capable of striking fear and guilt straight into the heart of Ziva David, trained assassin and soldier, was a woman half her size and three times her age.

She tried to find the words to reply, but before she had the chance, Aunt Netty was shouting again.

"You should've changed your name, just as well, you're so ashamed of your family. I was so relieved to hear that you were alive and well, Ziva," and in the same breath, "not that it seems to make much of a difference. Not to you."

The words stung, but she didn't quite know where to start or how to say what needed to be said. Bitterly, she found herself heaping another layer of anger on her father – the letter she'd written had been meant for him, Netty was right about that; she had never intended for those words to reach anyone but him, and their weight and their sentiment was a burden being inappropriately shouldered by her aunt, a woman who had done her no harm and did not deserve to be treated so callously.

Still, she swallowed hard and conceded, she had at least written the letter for Eli. Netty had been greeted with silent estrangement.

"I'm sorry…that you had to hear about this from my father," again she paused to collect herself. "I should have called you, I know. You would have listened. But…" She tried to pick her words carefully, and found herself growing painfully impatient with her own voice. There was simply too much to be said and none of the words with which to say it. She leaned back against the headboard and fixed her gaze upon the doorjamb, trying hard to narrow her attention to her next statement. "I did not choose to return to America out of spite. I am not ashamed of you, or of Israel, for that matter. There is something for me, here, and it's an opportunity that I need to explore."

She was met for a moment with silence, and spared a pointed look at her bedside clock. It read 3:23am. Ziva sighed and scrubbed at her face with her spare hand. 3:23am in DC meant 1:23pm at her aunt's place in Haifa, which might have been an unfortunate circumstance of time zones; but she was pretty sure that Netty had deliberately taken it into account, just to rouse her from her sleep.

At length, the voice on the other end of the line returned.

"I know you are not ashamed," Netty said. "You have never been ashamed of anything."

"I'm ashamed that I left without saying goodbye," she admitted, almost without thinking. "I'm ashamed that I didn't come to see you in Haifa before…before I left." She wasn't quite sure if Netty knew about Somalia, if she'd known about the mission. She wouldn't burden her with that knowledge unless absolutely necessary.

"Your father is very upset, too. You should know."

"I know," Ziva said. She wasn't sure that was completely true.

"He misses you."

"I know." And that was almost certainly a lie.

Another pause, and then, in a smaller voice:

"I know you are hurting, Ziva. Oh vez mear, I know what it means to hurt. You are not alone. As long as you are living, you are not alone."

Ziva stared into the darkness of her bedroom; let her eyes roam over the tangled bedsheets and nodded to herself.

"I know," she said again, meaning it this time.

"Please do not forget."

"I won't."

"When are you coming to visit?" Netty asked, at length.

Ziva didn't miss the hint of childlike hope in her voice.

She wriggled a bit beneath the covers, feeling sad and disappointed in herself.

"When I can," she said. "I will visit as soon as I can. I promise."

She laid the phone back down on the nightstand and leaned against the headboard of her bed. Headlights reflecting from the street outside and below her apartment window glanced along the windowpane, and for a moment, she watched it. Finally, with a sigh, she curled herself back up beneath the covers and turned to face the wall.

Tony snaked his arm around her midsection and hugged her from behind.

"Who was that?" he asked sleepily.

"Netty," she said. "She is mad at me."

"Hm." He slurred, already drifting back to sleep. "I'll send flowers."

A/N: Very different from what I normally write, but still worth posting.

You know they say that every time you leave a review, an angel gets its wings? No, seriously. It's legit. I read an article in the Journal of Persuasive Literary Pseudoscience which discussed a recent study in which wingless angels* were strapped to chairs and exposed to various external stimuli to test for wing growth. The only thing that worked was reviews! So, you should totally get on that.

*many angels were harmed in this study