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Smoke In the Wind

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Summary: He sees her each night in his dreams, and she's never the same. Post Aliyah (Season 6 Finale), eventually TIVA.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
NCIS > Non-BtVS/AtS StoriestigerlilyFR131438,8341488,1408 Jun 0927 Aug 09Yes

Blue, White and Red

Author’s Note: Apologies for the wait between chapters. It took a tree through my roof (and yeah, I do mean that literally) to spur me back into writing. That's what I get for complaining that there was no wind in my Smoke sails.

Next time, I’m hoping it will be a more subtle message – like maybe a lottery win, or a packet of Tim Tams that never runs out. Hey, a girl can dream ;)

Hope you enjoy…




“Have you heard from Gibbs?” McGee asks as he enters Abby’s lab, jacket draped over his right arm and backpack hanging from his left. A shot rings out from within the firearms testing lab and he startles slightly at the sound, his jaw clenching at the effort not to gasp.

He’s come a long way since his probie days in Norfolk, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to the sound of gunfire, especially since it’s been weeks since their last shootout-type situation.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Truth be told, he’s glad of the relaxed work schedule since Gibbs and Tony left. It gives him time to catch up on paperwork and do all of the filing that Tony has somehow neglected for the past… well, judging by the sheer amount of paper, it’s been at least a year. Though government agencies are notorious for overuse of paper, so it might have just been the last month or so.

He reminds himself again to talk to Vance about making the transition to paper-free reporting. No point asking Gibbs, since his boss has the same level of appreciation for technology as he does apologies and instant coffee. Really, the need to create endless paper trails in triplicate is tiresome and redundant, since everything could easily be accessed online or through the NCIS mainframe…

“Who died and made me Gibbs’ secretary?” Abby gripes as she stomps through the inner doors of the lab, pulling off her protective gear with an irritated swipe. “Nice to see you too, McGee, and congratulations for abandoning all the pesky social niceties. When’s the boat building start?”

“Sorry,” he says with a sigh, dropping his bag near the refrigerator and moving closer to Abby cautiously. “It’s been a long day of shuffling paper and trying to decode Tony’s file labelling system, which is in no way connected to our Earth logic.”

Okay, maybe he’s not so glad of the relaxed work schedule. At the very least, it reminds him why exactly he joined NCIS in the first place – for something more than a life of paper-pushing and programming.

“What are you doing, anyway?” he asks curiously, noticing for the first time the open programs on the monitors. Things are beeping and scanning and scrolling on three different screens and he can’t for the life of him figure out why. All the new cases have been temporarily reassigned to the Norfolk Field Office, his own former stomping ground.

Agent Yates from the San Diego office is acting as temporary team leader in Gibbs’ absence, chasing up leads from their current cases along with an agent borrowed from the Domestic Violence Unit.

McGee isn’t particularly bothered by this, because while part of him had entertained the thought of having his own try at being the boss, a larger and far more sensible part knows that he still has a lot to learn about the operational side of things. Besides, there’s no point being the boss of a team that currently consists of one.

Also, it seems he has a lot still to learn about dealing with women, if Abby’s current mood is any indication. He almost wishes Tony was here. Almost.

“…and so I said to the one-armed man, why is your nose hair green?”

“Not sure,” Tim answers absently, instantly regretting it as pain shoots through his leg. Abby’s kicked him like a petulant five-year-old, but he’s smart enough not to point that out or pretend he was listening to her.

Some snakes you just don’t poke.

“If you’d been listening, McGee, you’d know that I’m running the files we pulled from Rivkin’s laptop through a new program. It should be able to tell us the exact time and date the files were modified, and maybe even source a remote log-in ID from the email, if we’re lucky.” She’s typing furiously as she speaks, and only pauses to pin McGee with a meaningful look.

“Plus, I’m tracking Vance and Officer Hadar’s cell phones for Gibbs,” Abby adds as she turns back to the monitors with a flick of pigtails, “which he asked me to do when he called yesterday. Vance is still sitting pretty in Tel Aviv, as far as I can tell, and Hadar made a call at 0615 this morning from Nirim – near the Gaza Strip – before disappearing off the grid.”

“That something we should be worrying about?”

“Well, he is Evil David’s right hand goon, but I don’t think we need to worry unless – ”

There’s a whirr and a beep from one of the programs, and Abby seizes the mouse and clicks through the screens until she finds the one she wants. McGee shifts his weight and suppresses the urge to rub his shinbone.

“Unless?” he prompts, slightly unnerved by her silence. Perturbed, even, though he’s a field agent and is afraid of nothing. Except boats. And heights. And thanks to Tony and Ziva’s constant pranks, cyanoacrylate.

“Unless I find evidence that the bugged email found on the computer in Ziva’s apartment and those supposedly sent from Rivkin to Ziva were actually sent by said evil goon,” Abby replies tightly after a minute of furious scanning, “who has also been communicating with a group in… wait for it… Nirim – who are on the FBI’s terrorism watch-list.”

“I’m guessing from your tone that, uh, this group are not on the ‘allies’ list,” McGee says with a frown, looking over her shoulder at the damning text. This would be the time to start worrying, right? Highly trained Mossad agents do not just vanish into thin air, and especially not into places that are so close to hostile territory (though admittedly, he has only the barest idea of how Israel-Gaza relations stand).

Well, unless they’ve been sent there on someone else’s orders, that is.

“Excellent deduction, Special Agent McGee,” Abby mutters, reaching for the phone. “I’m calling Gibbs. If you want to be useful, you could work off some of that worry with a short walk to the Caf-Pow machine…” she hints, dialling Gibbs’ number a touch more forcefully than necessary.

Tim sighs and hangs his jacket from a knob on one of the many machines on his way out the door. Tim always follows instructions without question, his fifth-grade teacher had written on his report card much to his parents’ delight, but is prone to daydreaming.

He tries to hide the slight limp, at least until he’s out of Abby’s sight. He forces back the sudden unsettled feeling in his stomach and wonders if this is what Gibbs means when he refers to his famous gut. There’s only one way to describe it, even if you are a famous and celebrated (and possibly blocked forever) writer.

It sucks.



Gibbs leans against the outer wall of the infirmary, watching a trail of dust approach at a blistering pace across the horizon. It rises, thickens and then fades among the vivid red-gold of sunset as the vehicle creating the disturbance moves closer to the outer fence of the camp. He watches carefully with an air of nonchalance, ignoring various personnel moving around the camp lazily in the waning heat and paying him varying degrees of attention.

Despite his feigned confidence in Ziva’s safety for Tony’s sake (the baking heat is softening him like butter on a hot bench), Gibbs is troubled by the impending visit, if only because of what it could mean for Ziva. She herself had needed no further explanation beyond the fact that Vance was in Israel.

Or at least, she had not asked for further explanation. Whether she needs it or not, Gibbs isn’t sure. He’s torn between his usual stoicism and sharing DiNozzo’s reaction to all of the secrets, personally. Once upon a time, he would have punched a wall too.

Part of him can’t help replaying his conversation with the SECNAV as the heat of the bricks seeps through his shirt and into his coiled muscles.

“You’re not the only one looking out for the integrity of NCIS… Leon’s going to be point man in a major operation.”

“You ordering me to trust him?”

“No. Just to follow him.”


The trail of dust crawls toward the main gate and stops dead. In the distance Gibbs can make out a uniformed figure leaning in the window of the Mercedes SUV, unhurried and unsurprised. Figures that Vance would have called ahead. If he’s being honest, he’s grateful to the Director for putting the visit off until now. From what DiNozzo told him of the brief conversation, Vance wanted them to know that he was coming, and that in itself was almost enough to quell Gibbs’ lingering suspicion.

Almost. After all, rule #3 (or 3.2, as Tony had finally pointed out; he’s surprised none of them picked up on the doubled numbers before now) requires more than just ‘almost’, and Gibbs has some questions of his own before the pair of Directors get past the front door.

He hopes his Senior Field Agent can keep his cool when the inevitable happens. Hell, he hopes Ziva can keep her cool. Not that he’s especially worried about the latter’s ability to keep her emotions in check – her knife, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Gibbs saw the assumed betrayal ice over her eyes when she spoke of her father, and wonders now if it was the right thing to do, not to share his suspicions.

Trouble is, he still doesn’t quite know what his suspicions are, except for his gut feeling that there is something happening here that’s beyond her, beyond him, perhaps even beyond Vance. Eli David is certainly no father of the year, but the father in Gibbs is screaming in protest at the thought that a child could be tossed away so casually like yesterday’s newspaper.

And yet… there remains the spectre of Ari Haswari and his bitter words to Gibbs in his dark basement. Baptised by fire in an unrelenting land and groomed to kill and deceive and misdirect as easily as others laugh and love.

If Ari was the pawn, Ziva is the queen, deadly and unpredictable and filled with grace beyond her years. In the end, though, even the queen is expendable, though if it comes to that Gibbs will fight tooth and nail to keep her from being sacrificed in the endgame.

The car crawls toward him in a spit of stones and a subdued whirl of dust as if even the ground beneath the tires is subtly protesting its arrival. Gibbs folds his arms and waits until the dust settles, watching as two figures exit the vehicle and exchange an unsurprised glance before moving toward him. For a moment, he thinks they’re going to pass by him, but Eli David meets his eyes and changes his trajectory so that they meet somewhere in the middle. Brown eyes meet ice blue and hold; unwavering and carefully expressionless.

“Shalom, Agent Gibbs,” Eli says evenly with an almost imperceptible nod. “I had hoped we would not meet again so soon, and under such circumstances.”

Vance is looking on warningly, but Gibbs has never been one to be silenced by authority.

“You here to take my agent, Director?” he asks bluntly, noting the flash in the other man’s eyes at his direct question and terminology. Unlike the last time they met, Eli does not correct his use of the word ‘agent,’ merely glances toward the entrance impatiently.

Pointedly, Gibbs shifts so that he is standing in between the doors and the man, a silent if ultimately futile challenge. He might challenge his place in the pecking order at times, but he certainly knows it – and if the Director of Mossad has come to take his operative back to Israel, there’s really not a lot that Gibbs can do to stop him.

Doesn’t mean he won’t fight it tooth and nail, though.

Resignation replaces irritation as Eli focuses on him. “I have come to see my daughter,” he says in a quiet, measured voice, and for the first time Gibbs notices the shadows under his eyes. He bites down on the scathing retort that hovers on the tip of his tongue.

“Gibbs,” Vance says as he steps into the conversation, “Is there someplace nearby that’s safe to talk?” Despite the lift at the end of the sentence, it’s not actually a question.

“Doc Angelou pointed me to the conference room,” Gibbs replies, keeping his eyes on Eli. “Took the liberty of having it swept for bugs, just in case.” The narrowing of the Mossad Director’s eyes says enough about his role in Vance’s little early warning system, and Gibbs can’t help but respect the NCIS Director’s nerve.

“Guess you got my message then,” Vance says with a quirk of his lips and an apologetic shrug in Eli’s direction. “Your boy might be a clown, but he’s quick on the uptake.”

The mild surprise in his tone makes Gibbs bristle. He’ll have to talk to DiNozzo about laying off the joker routine when they get back to Washington. He’s alienating the wrong people, despite Vance’s approval of his ‘interrogation’ tactics in Tel Aviv.

“Food’s usually served around now,” Gibbs says with a quick glance at his watch, “Can’t guarantee it’ll be gourmet, but it’s mostly edible.” Let her eat in peace before you intrude, he thinks to himself, and to his surprise Eli doesn’t try to fight it.

“Very well,” the Director says with a dismissive hand wave. “Let us adjourn to the conference room until after the meal. There are matters that we need to discuss.” His eyes harden and in that moment he looks very much like his daughter does when she’s pursuing something. “But do not forget, Agent Gibbs, that I came to see Ziva and I will see her regardless of your wishes.”

“Never said you couldn’t,” Gibbs says calmly as they walk into the building and down the corridor in the opposite direction to Ziva’s room. Beside him, Vance tenses briefly in anticipation of a fight, relaxing subtly when stony silence falls instead.

Gibbs nods to a nurse down the corridor and she comes with her keys to open the conference room door. No bigger than any other room in the not-quite-hospital, it is sparsely furnished and smells like antiseptic and stale dust, though the walls are a lemon yellow that brightens the space considerably.

His phone rings as Vance shuts the door behind him, and Gibbs checks the display and frowns. Pointing to the table and chairs, he holds up two fingers and answers the call.

“McGee giving you a hard time again, Abby?”

“Hey!” he hears echoing in the background and he fights not to smile at McGee’s indignant tone. Abby clears her throat meaningfully and starts talking so quickly that Gibbs can barely keep up.

“Gibbs! I miss you. We all miss you. All of you. No, McGee, don’t try and deny it – you’ve been moping around like a little kid forbidden from playing on the swings until he’s eaten his broccoli. He really has, Gibbs; and just yesterday he was saying – ”

“There a point to this story, other than payback?” he asks distractedly, mindful of Vance’s pointed glare. On the other end, Abby stops short and he can almost feel her indignant glare down the phone.

“Is it safe to talk there?” she asks oddly, but doesn’t wait for a response. “Right. Cell phone. Never safe with all the pesky satellites roaming around honing in on things. By the way, have you seen our fearless leader lately?”

“You could say that, Abs.”

“Oh. Damn. Gibbs, we found – well, I found, but McGee helped distract me while I was waiting – a digital signature on those emails Rivkin sent Ziva…”

He listens without expression as Abby outlines her findings and signs off hurriedly, citing the ever-growing phone bill as a reason for not having time to chat. Gibbs suspects she actually wants to leave him so that he has the chance to rip Vance a new one.

“Everything is well back home, Agent Gibbs?” Eli questions from his seat at the table. He lifts the percolator in front of him and pours a cup, and the heavenly scent of freshly ground Jamaican blend curls around the room. Sometime during his chat with Abby, Eli – or perhaps Vance – have boiled the kettle and made…

“Coffee?”

“This a bribe?” he asks wryly, though if it is, it’s working better than he’ll ever admit.

Vance shakes his head and despite Gibbs’ resolve to stay aloof the rich smell clouds the air temptingly, the offered cup black and strong and missing the oily film on top that he’s almost gotten used to over the past week. Almost.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, he thinks as he pulls out a chair.

“Not my house we should be worrying about, Director,” he replies to the earlier question. “Hadar didn’t care to join you on your road trip? Seems a little risky, two esteemed agency directors travelling without security.”

“Officer Hadar is overseeing matters in Tel Aviv,” Eli replies calmly, and Gibbs looks at him for a moment, assessing the truth of the statement. “We had a Mossad protection detail travel with us on the helicopter. They remained behind in El Aryish at my request, to avoid drawing a crowd.”

“Helps if your enemy don’t know where you’re going, yeah?” Gibbs adds lightly, taking a long sip of coffee as David draws back and puffs up like a poked cobra. There’s a rattle from outside as the meal trolley goes by and the three figures wait for the noise to pass before Vance leans forward with narrowed eyes.

“What do you know, Gibbs?”

He would laugh at Leon’s audacity, but it’s really not that funny. “That depends. Are you or are you not here to take Ziva back to Tel Aviv? Because if you are, I have no information to share.”

“Agent Gibbs, you have no authority to question the Director of the Mossad, nor to suggest that you will essentially hold him hostage for information!” Vance says sharply, banging his hand on the table and looking at Gibbs as though he’s gone mad.

Gibbs just tilts his head and stares at Eli. “Good thing Mossad doesn’t negotiate in hostage situations, isn’t it? Well, perhaps not so good for some.”

Ziva’s battered and frightened face when they found her flits into his mind unbidden. He rages on her behalf. “According to my people, your loyal number two has gone to visit family in Nirim… you sign off on that, Director?”

Eli’s face shows his surprise for just a second too long before the mask flutters back into place. It’s enough for Gibbs, and he breathes a sigh of relief at correctly assessing the threat of the fighters in the latest inter-agency operations.

It’s a dangerous game in the agency ring, circling and eyeing each other; nobody wanting to throw the first punch in case they leave themselves open to attack. Each man (or woman, as it may be) protecting themselves and their agency at all costs while still ducking and dodging questions. Gibbs hates dancing the political tango. If the world were less about duck and weave and more about the strength of the punch, that would suit him fine, though he’d probably have perpetual bruises.

He’s learnt to get around the endless political snafu mostly, and deal with the fallout later – hell, there’s even a rule about it.

“I did not,” David replies with a fleeting look at Vance before turning back to Gibbs. “You are aware, then, that there are certain… security problems… within Mossad. You may find it especially ironic that Hadar is head of the investigations task force, at least publicly. Privately, I have been concerned about his loyalty to Israel for some time now.”

“Ziva?” Gibbs asks simply.

“Was… an unfortunate and unintended casualty in a far greater game. As you said so succinctly before, Mossad does not negotiate with terrorists.”

Gibbs is not disturbed by much these days, but nausea rises in his gut when Eli says those words in an expressionless voice, as though he was talking about the weather. Sunny and warm out, isn’t it? My daughter is being tortured in Africa. Pity we haven’t had more rain this season. Mossad does not negotiate with terrorists.

“Who?” he asks instead, biting back the swell of almost fatherly protectiveness. After all, someone has to fill the role that has obviously been vacant for years.

“Hamas,” Vance fills in simply, his face unreadable. As a father himself, one would hope that Vance is at least a little sickened at what he’s just heard. He pulls two sheets of paper from his briefcase and hesitates before handing it to Gibbs. “This information does not leave this room, Gibbs. Not DiNozzo, not David. Nobody. Got it?”

“Yeah,” he says, because what other answer is there? No sir, I would rather bury my head in the sand outside and wait for them to come for her. Not a chance.

The writing is scrawled across the pages, clearly a conversation between Vance and Eli. An old spy trick when you believe you’re under surveillance – talk aloud about trivial things to fool the listeners and write the important information down.

*

Extraction successful, doctor reports recovering well under medical care at NBC.

Status of camps?

Target eliminated. Your agents?

Most likely enjoying the desert sun.

Keep them there. Status of investigation?

Domino secured. Leak remains plugged. Sitrep?

Increased chatter noted re: Hamas activity. Files on my computer have indeed been accessed without my permission.

Who?

Suspect.

When?

Prior to Puntland operation. Mission details/coordinates accessed for three minutes at 0146 the day before operatives scheduled to report.

*

“Hadar wasn’t read in on the details of the raid?” Gibbs asks without looking up.

“I was… displeased with his handling of the Rivkin situation,” Eli replies. “He was on administrative leave for awhile, and only returned to the office the day before the raid. I saw no reason to read him in, but I suppose he found out in his own way.”

*

Further contact?

Two days ago. Same demands. My resignation for my daughter.

And?

Domino.

*

Somehow, Gibbs always knew that would come back to bite them. Domino: the top secret military contingency plan which specifically details how the US would respond to a terrorist attack on target of interest in Israel or the Middle East. In short, a nightmare in the wrong hands.

*

They do not know of Mossad’s role in the rescue.

Not Mossad. Private contractors, if you will.

Risky bluff.

Necessary.

Suspect status?

Still active, but assigned only non-sensitive tasks. Unaware of my surveillance order.

*

Gibbs supposes it’s not all that uncommon to have multiple secret investigations going at one time, especially in an agency such as Mossad. After all, Jenny was pursuing La Grenouille for months without him being aware, and once upon a time he could read her like a book. Once upon a time in Paris when they were young.

*

Next step?

Phase Two. The leak must be plugged on both ends.

There is a summit in Cairo tomorrow that we should attend. Perhaps a detour to El Gorah first?

Agreed.

*

“How far?” Gibbs asks, his head swimming with the implications.

Hamas are after Domino. NCIS were known to have Domino in their possession at one time, or at least could obtain it. Ziva was kidnapped to force her father’s resignation and to gain information about the workings of American intelligence…

“If Ziva had been operating as a true Mossad Liaison Officer, rather than the somewhat dubious role Director Shepherd assigned to her? Further than this. As it is, her monthly reports to Michael Bashan at the Embassy were mostly insignificant.”

Gibbs has been wondering since the beginning why Ziva was put on his team and not in the CIA… or somewhere that could put her skillset to good use. He didn’t know she was reporting back to Mossad quite so frequently, however, but Ziva is nothing if not a staunch keeper of secrets.

She has the scars to prove it.

Eli David sighs and folds his hands on top of the table, the yellow walls giving his skin a sickly cast. “You do not have suitable clearance to be read in on Phase Two. However, we are left at an impasse regarding the safety of my daughter.” He smiles sadly. “I do not wish to cause her any more harm.”

“If you take her back to Israel, Hadar will know instantly that you were involved in her rescue. He’ll disappear, probably put a hit out on both of you, and you’ll be caught in the middle of a terrorism clusterfuck,” Gibbs supplies matter-of-factly.

“Colourfully put, but essentially correct.”

“Well? What’s your Plan B?”

Gibbs listens, and when the voices fade he is smiling.



There’s a knock on the door, and Ziva blinks awake suddenly in the half-light of dusk, cursing the painkillers that leave her somewhere between slightly drowsy and fall-out tired. Her ribs still ache from her walk with Gibbs earlier, though it was worth it to be able to walk without an eager nurse or an eager physiotherapist providing inane commentary about how well she was doing. Tony falls somewhere in between the two – casually supportive, but a little protective at times.

Considering how she came to be here, she can almost understand it. Sometimes, it’s almost nice to think there’s someone watching out for her – but the feeling is still new and it chafes a little. Yes, he ‘watched her six’ when they worked crime scenes together, but this new protectiveness is tempered with something deeper and infinitely gentle.

Ziva is terrified of what it might mean – for her, for him, for everyone.

“Hey,” Tony says from his spot in the corner, unusually far away. He cocks his head toward the door when she looks at him curiously. “It’s your call. You want me to shoot him, you just say the word.”

She grins despite herself at his half-serious tone, and thinks for a brief moment of asking him to come closer. She’s not weak, and she’s certainly not about to give the impression that she’s dependent, so she keeps her mouth shut and glances toward the door.

“Ziver?” Gibbs calls softly, cracking open the door enough so that she can make out the two figures behind him. Unsure of what to do – the child inside her wants her Papa, and the adult wants to punch him in his smug self-important face – she closes her eyes and breathes raggedly.

The bed dips under Tony’s sudden weight and he touches her hand tentatively. “You don’t have to – ”

“I am well aware of that, Tony,” Ziva says curtly, then curses herself for being such a witch. “Sorry,” she mutters, feeling stupidly close to tears. She’s cried more in the past two weeks than in the last ten years, and that bothers her more than her healing bones and bruised flesh.

She takes a deep breath and bites her lip, trying to focus on the anger she feels. Being angry is preferable to being afraid, and certainly easier to work with when one has something to hide.

“Entrez,” she says, and then blinks and translates, “I mean, come in.”

Gibbs opens the door but does not step through it, moving aside instead for another hard-eyed silver haired man. Only, it looks so unlike her father that she blinks in surprise. The great Director of Mossad does not often look weary, and he certainly does not look apologetic. She’s seen this expression on his face only twice in her life, both times for other women that he has lost. He is mourning.

Her first reaction is sympathy, and then her ribs remind her who exactly is the wronged party here.

“Director,” she says evenly, and he barely hides a flinch. Gibbs meets her eyes and she nods her assent. He leaves silently, taking Vance with him, and Ziva hopes that neither men are armed if they have to spend any length of time together. Luckily, they’re close enough to medical care to fix things if the need arises.

Her father is saying something to Tony, something about… “No,” she interrupts firmly. “Agent DiNozzo stays, or you go. It is that simple.” Finally, the anger she’s been searching for.

She slips into Hebrew unconsciously, aware that Tony cannot understand but not particularly caring. Perhaps it is a good thing.

“You used me, Aba,” she says furiously, “You lured me back to you by destroying everything I cared about and then once that was complete, you sent me on an end run. Forgive me for not being entirely comfortable being alone in a room with you, when you’ re clearly armed and I am…” she waves a hand down her body scornfully, “reaping the fruits of your labour.”

Ah, idioms are not so hard in Hebrew. If Tony could understand, he would be proud.

Tateleh,” her father says gently, taking a single step closer and stopping as if stung at her expression. The tears burn hotly behind her eyes. Good soldiers do not cry, she tells herself, an echo of his words from the past.

“Don’t call me that,” she bites out, seeking to wound. “I am not your little darling, and I am not Talia or Ima. Don’t you dare look at me as though you are in mourning for a loss that you have caused.”

The words come out punctured and broken through a throat of jagged glass, and unseen by her father, she squeezes Tony’s hand so tightly that her nails leave little crescent moons in his skin. He does not flinch under her grip.

“Ziva,” he says instead, his voice heavy, “I did not know that you would be taken from the ship. I am not….” He bows his head and when he raises his eyes to her she can see every line etched into his face.

Old, tired men and their regrets, stripped to the bone and raw at the edges like the burns on her weary shoulders.

The dead stir and churn behind his eyes and she looks away because they are too much like her own. Tony’s weight is warm comfort beside her, and oh if only she could sink into it and be lost for awhile.

“I have done many things that I am not proud of in my life,” he says quietly, and Ziva has never heard such raw sorrow in his voice. “The day that you were born, I looked into your eyes and swore that from that point on, I would be a better man. All that I have done – all I have worked for – was to give you and your sister a safe and bright future, and I have failed you like I failed Tali. I am asking you now, though I know I have no right, to believe me when I say that had I known how your story would end, I would have chosen a different path for you.”

Despite herself, despite her anger and grief, Ziva cannot help but believe his pained words. She cannot find the words among the tumble in her head, so she nods instead and his face comes so close to crumbling that she almost feels the disintegration like a knife through her heart.

It is the best she can offer – not absolution, not forgiveness, but acceptance – and for now that will have to be enough for him.

Pushing herself up on the bed despite the weary blunted pain in her wrist, she studies her once-hero with a measured gaze, slipping back into English so that Tony can understand her words.

“I will not go back there,” she says with steely determination. “I have no further business with the Institute. If this were America, I would be surrendering my badge and weapon; but it is not, and so I have nothing to put before you but my words.”

That will have to be enough, because she has nothing left to give, having given her soul and bled blue and white for most of her adult life.

“I did not come to bring you h… back,” he says, stepping closer. “Director Vance – or perhaps Agent Gibbs – will explain everything on the flight home. You leave tomorrow at sunrise.” He frowns and glances at Tony, and slips back into Hebrew. “You are happy, my daughter?”

Ziva blinks back a stray tear. “My story has not ended yet, Aba,” she says quietly.

“Be safe,” he says in reply, and with a nod to Tony he turns and strides from the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.

Tony turns and stares at her wide-eyed. “Remind me never to piss him off,” he says lightly, his face breaking into a disbelieving grin. “And you know I don’t speak Hebrew, so please tell me he was serious, because if I have to spend another day breathing in the goddamn dust in this shithole excuse for a camp, I won’t be held accountable for my actions.”

Ziva can’t help but smile, imagining him waging a one-armed, one-man war on the dust rabbits and tumbleweed. “We’re going home,” she says with light tone and lighter heart, and laughs out loud at his triumphant little dance around the room.

He leans into her and presses his lips to hers and despite the lingering image of her father’s broken expression and what it means to abandon her past, she allows herself to freefall into the promise of the future, bright and warm and red-gold like the sun disappearing beyond the horizon.



And that, wonderful readers, is game, set and match, at least as far as this particular story goes. I’m torn between doing an epilogue and starting a whole new story/sequel, because there’s still more to explore here (not in the least some quality fix-Tiva time). Thoughts??

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me so faithfully despite my shockingly patchy posting schedule. If you’re the kind of person who waits until the end to review, now would be a good time to tell me what you thought. Again, I can't find enough words to thank those of you who took the time to comment on my mad scribblings.

In the words of Ringo Starr, peace and love. :) xx

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