"If that's what you want," Leon said.
"It is what I want," Ziva responded.
He could see the reticence in her eyes, and the resolve. He was absolutely positive this decision was much more complicated than she had made it sound. Things with the David's were never simple. So, he offered his hand to her, and she took it. Offered good luck, and that too she took. Almost offered her more, something that spoke of their years together, on his side of the ocean and hers. Something that acknowledged the deaths that ran between them like a river. But this was the Director's office, and any room that required a SCIF precluded congenial hugs.
She turned to leave, and had made it to his door before she heard, "Officer David," and then a more gentle, "Ziva." She took a deep breath and turned back to face Director Vance. He grappled with his next words, probably his emotions, too, she would have bet. But his focus was clear, and clearly on his friend, not his subordinate, and he said, "You will always have a home here."
She clenched her jaw, smiled and nodded. And then she was out the door before she let honesty get in the way of a clean resignation.
This was not her home, even though she had tried to make it home for years. Jenny Shepard had offered her this home eight years ago; whenever she went on a mission, Abby always made sure Ziva came home to them; McGee listed Ziva as part of his family on Facebook; Gibbs had even created a universe that included Ziva in his home; Tony had asked her to… Well. Everyone, it seemed, considered Ziva part of their home.
The problem, of course, was the considerable lack of a home Ziva had created. Rather than be connected to many homes, all for which she was quite grateful, Ziva wanted one home. One. A center of her world.
The irony, of course, was that she had chosen America over Israel and NCIS over Mossad so that she could make a home for herself. Something permanent. Something of her own. But one was sold, one was burned down, and one never felt right.
Left alone in the US, by her own choice, she knew, but alone, nonetheless, Ziva often looked at the one remaining part of her past—a small Israeli flag her father had placed on her desk. More than placed it, her abba had planted the flag in front of her, and had as much declared that it and all who beheld it belonged still to Israel, and to him. She knew that. That one small flag, bought at a tourist booth, no doubt, was the sliver under her skin that she could never excise. It made her fiercely, and in some ways disingenuously, love her new country all the more.
But with the gravitational pull gone since the passing of her father, Ziva felt adrift. No more connections to Israel, no more family, no more enemies to be taken care of. This central focus of her life- avenging this wrong, making that right- had simply dissipated once Ilan Bodnar was dead.
She had left Mossad to be a liaison to NCIS; she had given up her citizenship to spite Mossad. Without the emotional fuel that drove that type of conviction, things fell apart.
Walking down the steps from the Director's office, Ziva concentrated on breathing. On keeping her hands from shaking. On not looking them in the eye, because she could feel their eyes on her, boring into her. There seemed to be a vacuum of air and sound the closer she got to the bullpen, and her heart began to race.
It was unmerciful, truly, the way they expected her to speak first. The way they silently followed her with their eyes as she walked from the steps to her desk. The way they waited as she sat and smoothed down her shirt.
The way they waited. Relentlessly, and silently.
What happened to the plan? Tony wanted to ask, and he would ask her that, as soon as she explained why her talk with the Director had taken half an hour. Unlike when he and McGee had returned to their desks, Ziva hadn't stored her gun and badge in her top drawer, because she had returned to her desk without them.
But he would wait. Just like Gibbs was waiting, with his hands bound so effortlessly on top of his desk, his spine a hickory broom handle. Yes, Tony would wait, because McGee was waiting, but Tony was sure Tim was just waiting out of confusion, not the type of waiting Tony and Gibbs were participating in. Theirs was interrogative waiting. Theirs was careful insouciant waiting, even if his stomach roiled and he had the feeling that his life was about to come tumbling down.
What happened to the plan? Tony needed to know. And, of course, the answer was the same as it had always been—Ziva had a different plan. So, he waited to hear this new plan. He thought maybe he should call his bookie, lay money on the odds that this new plan didn't include him. More than likely, they'd be pretty even odds, and he wouldn't win much, but he ought to get something out of the deal, since he was about to lose so much.
"I have decided," she began, and Tony, in that infinitesimal moment between her last and her next word, silently supplied his version of her decision, "to leave NCIS." Which were not the words Tony had hoped for, but they were the words he knew were coming.
"Wait. What?" Tim was the first to say. Poor bastard, Tony thought. You broke rule number one—let the suspect do all the talking. And then he added, but thanks for asking.
"Since my father died, and…and since the events that came after his death, I have been considering what my future holds," Ziva said, gesticulating as if she were trying to capture the words in her hands. "I do not believe, unfortunately, that NCIS is part of my future."
"Then what is?" Tim asked, saving Gibbs and Tony the effort.
Ziva glanced at him, unable to make eye contact just yet. "I have been offered a position with the FBI." That aroused a reaction from Gibbs, a narrowing of the eyes, a rolling of the shoulders. Ziva held up one finger, and went on, "But I did not accept the offer." Which seemed to appease Gibbs.
"Okay, well," Tim continued, looking from Gibbs to Tony, imploring them to help him out, "where are you going?"
She pressed her hand to the top of her desk, spread out her fingers, and breathed. Here was the worst of it, and she did not wish to bring any more pain to them. "I am moving to Miami."
Of course, Gibbs would make the connection, Ziva thought. "Yes," she said, and dared to lock eyes for a moment with him. "Yes, I am moving to Miami to be closer to Schmiel. He is getting older, and his health is…" Any more would be gratuitous, she thought, so she closed down the descriptors, and simply added, "It is something I need to do."
His cheeks burning with indignation and something akin to betrayal, Tony said, "Maybe you'll get to hook up with ol' CIA-Ray's family, too."
Ziva gritted her teeth and glared at him. "Perhaps, I will."
"Of course," he said, rounding his desk to lean against it, his arms crossed over his chest, "they may still hold a grudge, what, with you having assured his arrest."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs warned.
"That was unfair. I shouldn't have brought up the past," Tony said, never taking his eyes off Ziva, who returned the favor, with added bitterness. "So, Schmiel's not the man of steel, after all."
Bolting to her feet, Ziva began throwing items into her backpack. "We are finished."
"Tell me something I don't know," he jabbed.
Gibbs was in his face before Tony even knew he had risen from his desk. "Something you need to tell me, DiNozzo?"
"No," they both said, taking the time to punctuate their words with withering stares.
"Then knock it off!" warned Gibbs, inches from Tony's face.
"Got it, Boss," Tony said, without his focus ever slipping from Ziva. "Sorry about that, Boss."
Tim, stunned by Ziva's announcement and the heated exchange, stumbled toward her side of the room. "When did all this happen? What are you gonna do down there? Does Abby know?"
Ziva yanked her attention from Tony, took a moment to soften her features, and said, "It is something I have been considering for a long while, McGee. As for what I will be doing once I am in Miami, I do not know. Not yet. But, I am sure something will come my way."
"And Abby? Have you told Abby?" Tim asked.
She searched his somber eyes for a way to lessen the pain, but his pain was far too expansive. Ziva knew she should somehow apologize for that. So, she reached out, tentative at first, and placed her hand on his chest. "No, not yet."
"This is gonna break her heart, you know that," Tim said, covering her hand with his.
Ziva tilted her head, the weight of her own sorrow becoming heavy and cumbersome. "I know," she whispered.
Tony opened his mouth to speak, but Gibbs bore down on him, all blue-eyed fury.
"And Ducky?" Tim asked, releasing her hand. "What about Ducky? And Jimmy?"
Here was the next bit of pain she would bring to the room, so she diverted her attention away from Tim and to her desk, hoping somehow her answer might go unheard. Rifling through her drawers and finding that she had few personal items to speak of, Ziva cleared her throat, and said, "Jimmy does not know, but I will tell him as soon as I speak with Abby. As for Ducky," she said, and Gibbs turned to hear her reply, which made the hairs stand up on the back of her neck. "As for Ducky, he and I have had a few…private conversations leading to my decision." She felt her eyes begin to well up, so she shrugged and gave Gibbs the respect of looking at him when she explained the rest. "I needed to talk to someone impartial. I needed to talk to someone who…who would not make me want to stay. Because there is a part of me, a large part of me, that is afraid to leave, and if I didn't talk to…the right person, I would have never found the courage to come to my decision. Excuse me," she said, whisking past Tim, her hand pressed to her quavering lips.
Ziva was inside the elevator, punching the down button, when Gibbs popped in, and the doors slid shut. She stepped back, and he stepped forward. He hit the emergency toggle, and the compartment jolted to a stop. She felt like a caged animal, dizzy with the anticipation of a fight. Her eyes went wide, and she grasped hold of the railing behind her. She braced herself for his anger, his acrimony, his spitting judgment.
She had not prepared herself for his hands on her face. For the compassion in his eyes. For the way he stroked her cheek with his thumb.
Soon, the tears came. Gibbs kissed her hair and pulled her into his embrace, where she cried, and where she clung to him. And where she was embarrassed to admit she needed to be.
He held her and stroked her back, rocked her from side to side, a vestige of his fatherhood. She begged his forgiveness, and he dissuaded her need for it.
She clung to him, shook her head, and whispered, "I do not want to go, but I must. Please tell me you understand. I cannot leave if you do not understand. Please. I cannot lose you, too."
"You will never lose me," he whispered back, kissing her ear. "And I do understand."
It should have been a relief, hearing his words. But something in them, perhaps the emancipation they brought, also brought the pain of separation.
She wondered if she would ever be able to stand without shaking again.