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Days of Summer
Absent, she dreamed, intoxicated and pure, of the things that she wouldn't allow herself to think of when she was awake. Abby, wearing an incredibly short skirt and a dangerous smirk featured very prominently. Even rarer still she dreamed of hard embraces and whispered endearments. Lately her dreams had haunted her leaving her gasping for breath as she had woken and with cold sweat clinging to her spine.
Every night she found herself back on the stairs in Gibbs' basement, with her pistol in her hand, listening to her brother speak the words that would seal his fate.
Except that night last night- her dream had been different. She had fired the fatal shot in the inevitable way and waited for her dream to release her from the prison of that moment. Instead Ari had turned to face her.
In the sudden silence, he leered his disgust up at her and took a stumbling step towards her. Unbelieving she had stepped backwards, only to run into the step behind her. She stiffened her arm and squeezed the trigger again.
Her second shot hit him as squarely as the first. He kept leering and walking. Ziva felt herself start to panic. She fired and fired until her gun was spent. Ari didn't slow.
An instant later he had reached her and was standing only a step below her. His hand pressed his chest and came away sticky with blood. He reached out and pushed her wrist away, so that her gun was no longer between them. With his bloody hand, he cupped her face.
"My dear little sister." He smiled. "I taught you so well." His grip on her face tightened painfully. "You run away from what I betrayed," he laughed, "And yet at least I fought for what I believed. You you only hide and leave death and destruction in your wake."
He let her go then and swept his arms back to let her see the damage that she had done. It was only then that she had woken with a muffled scream. It had left her with no desire go back to sleep.
Instead she had gotten dressed and slipped out onto the street. She walked carefully, but without purpose down the streets of the city where she had grown up.
Ziva stopped at a small corner store that she knew from long experience would be open at that hour and bought a pack of cigarettes. She lit the first one and took a long drag as she stood on the corner. She finished the cigarette before she moved on.
It was two blocks later when she noticed the man following her. She lit another cigarette and glanced into the reflection in the window of the store in front of her to get a look at her stalker.
Three blocks farther on Ziva was just about to act when her tail disappeared. She considered following them for a moment, but she had no reason to except for the fact that he had been following her. Still she wouldn't forget that face.
Ziva kept walking until she reached an old abandoned building. The back half had been reduced to rubble some years before, but the door to the front was still locked. It seemed futile to Ziva, but she still let herself in as she had so many times before. She stubbed her cigarette out on the cracked walls and then let her eyes adjust to the now even darker room.
She made her way to the back corner of the front room where an ancient punching bag still hung. Cobwebs clung to it, but they broke apart quickly as she struck the bag. Ziva didn't top until her knuckles were bloody and her body sore.
It was early the next morning when Ziva slipped into the line of workers waiting to enter the building. She held out her security pass and waited as the guards ran it. It was only when she entered the building that her pace picked up. She didn't particularly want to speak to her coworkers or exchange boring gossip and if she had to listen to one more unimaginative come on, she would find herself writing reports on why she had broken a fellow Mossad Agent's arm in three places.
It was a far cry from NCIS.
Dutifully Ziva took her place and began on her paperwork. She noted a moment later that someone was in the previously unoccupied cubicle across from her. Using the excuse of going to the restroom, Ziva caught a glimpse of the man.
Only her years of training, kept her from doing a double take. She recognized the man as the one who had followed her the night before. It made Ziva's blood run cold. If the man had gotten through security, it meant he was sanctioned by someone who could make that happen and that made her very nervous indeed.
The shrill ring of her cell phone pulled her attention away from her thoughts.
"David," she answered it curtly.
A quick exchange of words followed before Ziva hung up. The conversation left a sour taste in her mouth as she walked back to her cubicle to claim her backpack before she left the building.
Ziva walked several blocks away before choosing an outdoor café seemingly at random. With a half smile to herself, she ordered a cup of coffee and waited for it to arrive. The coffee came and a moment later, the woman.
She took a seat across from Ziva and eyed her warily, leaning back in her chair. It didn't stop her from pulling Ziva's cup of coffee across the table and taking a sip. The woman dangled the cup between her hands and raised an eyebrow.
"Coffee, Ziva? You always preferred tea."
"I could say it was simply to surprise you, but I wouldn't want to give you the satisfaction."
"I see." The words were bland but amused. "You look well, little sister."
Ziva glared. "And I see your manners still have not improved, Shamina."
The other woman waved her words away with a flick of her fingers. "How long have you been back home?" She asked, taking another sip of the filched coffee.
Ziva was truly surprised for the first time. "The Director didn't tell you when he brought me back."
Shamina set the cup of coffee down on the table that was between them. "No, but then I haven't seen him in several months."
"Oh?" It was Ziva's turn to raise a brow.
"I've been away on business." Shamina replied bluntly, inviting no further questions.
Ziva hesitated and then looked up. "Mama?"
Shamina shook her head. "She has not spoken to him either. What you did stopping Haswari it was a dangerous thing, Ziva. Even he couldn't cover it up completely. Mama was angry, especially when he sent you away."
Ziva shook her head quickly. "He may have wanted me gone, but it was not only his choice."
Shamina quirked a smile. "You have always found trouble easily."
"It finds me," Ziva corrected her lightly. "I do not know why he recalled me, especially with so little notice." She said with a more serious tone.
"You are being careful?"
"Of course," Ziva replied. "I have not grown stupid."
"Good. I would not like to lose another sister."
Ziva shut her eyes against the reminder and nodded sharply. Talia's death had hurt them all deeply, but she had been the one closest in age to her and she had always felt responsible. She couldn't contain a cynical laugh, but the fear that choked up in her at the fact that she would always hold herself responsible for the death of two of her siblings was enough to push her to her feet.
"I have to go," she said.
Shamina rose as well. She reached one hand out as if she would push a wisp of hair back away from Ziva's face, but stopped mid gesture.
"You should come by for dinner tonight," she smiled broadly. "Meet your littlest niece. She looks just like you did as a child."
Despite the guilt and the terror that had clutched at her a moment before, Ziva found herself nodding. "I would like that."
"Good, it is settled then. Eight o'clock."
Ziva nodded and then watched as she walked away.
Ziva arrived early for dinner that evening. She smiled when her sister answered the door and held out the bottle of wine that she had bought in the little marketplace on the way over.
"For dinner," she explained.
"Excellent," Shamina said, drawing her inside and kissing her cheek. She was obviously more relaxed within the walls of her own home. "You always chose good wine," she smiled and gestured towards the living area of the apartment. "Yosef is in there with the children. He was glad to hear that you are back home a while. He missed having someone to talk football with."
Ziva grimaced. "Between work and American television programming, I am a bit behind on the season."
Shamina grinned and touched her arm as they headed towards the living area. "I'm sure Yosef will rectify that quickly." She gave her a little push. "Help him get the children to the table and I will get the food."
Ziva almost refused the gentle command, but bit her automatic response down. She and Shamina were getting along well. There was no need to start a fight over old habits or sibling rivalries.
"Ziva! It is good to see you again," the big man clapped a hand on her shoulder and hugged her quickly she stepped into the living room. "Tomas, come and give your aunt a kiss," he said to the small dark haired boy on the floor.
When the boy slowly stood and began to walk hesitantly towards Ziva, he added, "He's a bit shy, although he'll get over it in a few moments."
Ziva nodded, remembering the very outgoing toddler that her nephew had been. She went down on one knee, sinking to his eye level.
"Do you remember me, little one?" She asked him softly. "I used to watch you occasionally when you were younger." She nodded her head at the man behind her. "I taught you how to out score your Papa."
The little boy grinned, showing two missing teeth and it was clear that he did remember her then, even before he nodded enthusiastically.
"You'll have to tell me what you've learned since I've been gone," she said, holding her hand out to him.
He took it eagerly and pulled her towards the table already starting to rapidly talk to her. She let him pull her into the other room and sat down across from him. She smiled at the little boy, glancing away as Shamina and Yosef entered the room.
Yosef was carrying a small baby while Shamina set the food down on the table.
"Ah, is this the niece that I've been hearing about," Ziva asked her brother-in-law with a teasing smile.
Shamina smiled. "It is."
"She does look quite a bit like you," Yosef added.
"What is her name," Ziva asked as she reached over to take her from Yosef. She cradled the little girl in her arms and tenderly smoothed down the thin wisps of curly dark hair that covered her head.
There was a sudden hush in the room. It was enough to make Ziva look up. She found herself staring straight into the face of the man who had come into the room and was now standing slightly behind Shamina.
"Her name is Meital," the man said harshly.
Ziva smiled, even if it was slightly forced, and brushed her hand over the tiny, delicate head once more. "She would have liked that." Ziva kissed her forehead and tried to keep her hands steady as she handed her niece back to Shamina.
Shamina took her daughter from Ziva carefully, and kept her back to the man, blocking the child from his view. She reached out to touch Ziva's arm in a reassuring gesture, but then she caught a quick glimpse of Ziva's face and she purposefully didn't touch her. Some moments weren't the time for reassurance that they both knew would be in vain.
Ignoring Ziva's comment, the man glanced at his other daughter. "Shamina, you should have spoken to me first. I will need Ziva for something this evening."
Shamina glanced across the table at Ziva. The tension that had been slowly seeping out of Ziva as the evening progressed had all come back in an instant.
Ziva rose, not slowly, but not with any haste either.
"Another night perhaps we will have better luck."
Shamina nodded her agreement, putting on as optimistic a face as Ziva. Neither would have put it past their father to interrupt their dinner purposefully.
"Yosef, it was good to see you again. Do not let Tomas beat you too badly," Ziva gave the little boy her last genuine smile of the evening and then turned to face the Director.
"We cannot wait any longer," he said flatly and held the door open. Ziva brushed past him and into the hallway.
Outside the Deputy Director tossed the keys to the car to a young man who was waiting at the entrance of the building. Without a word the man caught the keys and got into the driver's seat.
Ziva's father opened the back door and held it open for her expectantly. With a tight glance at him, Ziva slid into the backseat, feeling for the small pistol strapped to her thigh for reassurance as she did so.
The Director had barely gotten in when the driver floored it and launched them sharply into the city's traffic. They careened past cars, buildings and milling groups of people before Ziva broke the silence.
"What did you wish for me to do?"
"I need you to obtain some information."
Years of training kept words of biting sarcasm from spilling across her lips, but it was a closer thing than it had been in years.
"What are the specifics of this assignment?"
He didn't answer, but instead, leaned forwards and tapped the driver's shoulder and when he had his attention, pointed him towards a small side street.
A few moments later, they were getting out of the car, in front of a rundown. As he led her inside, they passed several guards, who nodded to the Deputy Director, but ignored her. They walked down a long corridor and stopped in front of a non-descript doorway.
"She claims that her name is Channah and that she is here to go to school. Her father is a wealthy international business man who sent her here to get in touch with her heritage while she is here. She is lying. We know that she is connected to a small group of terrorists who have been trading drugs for money, intelligence and explosives. We need to learn where to find the rest of her group. It is vital."
Ziva nodded, her face slipping into a cold, empty mask. Her eyes were cool and empty of emotion.
"Do they know what frightens her?"
"No, that's why I brought you here." For the first time he smiled when he looked at her and he seemed genuinely proud of her. "You were always one of the best at extracting information."
Ziva didn't respond to the compliment, she simply opened the door and slipped into the room. She closed the door behind her and then hesitated for an instant as she looked at the girl. When her father had said school, she had assumed that he meant the university. This girl was barely older than a child, and there was something something in her face perhaps that reminded her of Abby when she was angry and pouting.
Ziva felt panic building in her chest and slowly stalked around behind the lone chair in the middle of the room where the girl was restrained to hide her expression. She had once told Gibbs that she didn't torture children and she had meant it. There were many things that she could do, but this
This she could not do, not even knowing what the consequences would be when she told her father. She forced herself to calm down and think think quickly. Time was another issue.
What would Gibbs do, she asked herself suddenly, or even Tony or McGee.
She smiled at the thought of her NCIS colleagues and then set her mind back on the business at hand. Three hours later she had the information that she needed from the girl.
Ziva signaled to the watching guards, when she was done. She was unsurprised when Director David walked in instead of the expected guards. She waited for him to speak first.
He reached out and grabbed the girl's chin roughly, pulling her head up sharply to look at him. Without looking at Ziva, he spoke critically, "You've grown weak, Ziva."
"I will not torture children."
"You cannot afford to be squeamish," he said finally looking at her. "Have you lost your nerve since you began working with the Americans? I remember when you and your brother still made me proud," he said wistfully.
"My brother was nothing to be proud of," she said softly. "He killed a good woman good people. He betrayed Mossad." She could feel anger beginning to build in her chest, an anger that she had never allowed to surface around her father. She stalked towards him until she was so close to him that he was forced to look sharply down at her. "But what he wanted most was to betray you to hurt you - and for that I do not blame him. You killed his mother!" Hate and horror filled the sharp accusation as she hurled it at him. "Oh yes, I know. I read the American's file on him. You shaped him to be your tool, but you did it too well. You made him too much like you and he betrayed what you call your cause."
He slapped her across the face without warning. His hand caught her at an awkward angle and she stumbled off balance. Her father's leg kicked out and hooked behind her leg, intending to knock her off of her feet. Ziva fell back sharply and landed on the lap of the girl Channah.
"You know nothing," Director David said coldly. "You were always a failure." He turned away, and Channah moved instantly.
Ziva barely had time to react as she felt Channah slip an arm around her neck and start choking her. She fought to breathe as she felt the girl reaching for the gun that was strapped to her thigh. She struggled with Channah for an instant to stop her from reaching the pistol, but she could feel her arm growing weaker and weaker from lack of oxygen.
Channah had the pistol out and pressed harshly against Ziva's temple when the Director finally held his own weapon trained on her.
"Put it down, or I will kill your daughter," she threatened.
Ziva could feel her vision start to grow dim, and she fought to stay conscious. There was a knife in her boot, if she could just reach it. Her other hand scrabbled weakly for it from the awkward angle bent over the girl's body.
"I do not negotiate. Kill her or not; you will still die."
Ziva struggled to remember whether she had heard Channah slip the gun's safety off or not. She couldn't think. She could barely feel the tip of the knife's hilt in her fingers. She pulled it up slowly, offering an incoherent prayer that she not lose her grip on it, and grasped it as firmly as she could. With her last bit of strength, she planted her right foot on the floor and shoved back sharply. As she had hoped that it would, the chair tipped backwards, sending them both crashing to the floor.
Instinctively Channah loosened her choke hold on Ziva's throat to catch her balance as she fell. Ziva sucked in a giant gasp of air and ignored the pain that shot through her throat in favor of twisting around to face the girl.
Channah hit the floor hard, but jerked the hand that held the gun back up. Ziva shoved the blade into her shoulder. She screamed and involuntarily dropped the gun. Ziva kicked it away and held the knife to the girl's throat. A thin line of blood trickled down behind the knife.
She stared back at Ziva her expression still defiant. Even with the knife pressed to her throat she laughed.
"You lose," Channah whispered. "You can't kill me. You won't even hurt me now," she spoke with disgust, "when I tried to kill you." She laughed again. "He was right. You are a disgrace."
Confusion poured through Ziva. Pressing the knife into skin harder, she risked a glance back at her father.
She'd hardly had time to turn when he shot twice. The sound rang loud in her ears and she fell back away from Channah. She caught herself with her left hand and managed to maintain a semi kneeling position. Ziva scooped up the pistol off of the floor as quickly as she could and straightened. She held the gun low at her waist, but quietly she eased the safety off. Channah had made an amateurish mistake, or perhaps it had been deliberate. Either way, Ziva would not make the same choice.
The Director glanced from Channah's fallen body to her and there was something in his eyes that made Ziva's grip on the handle of the gun tighten. Every muscle in her body was tensed and ready for a confrontation. None came.
Director David slipped his weapon back into its shoulder holder and looked down at Channah's lifeless body. He shook his head. "You should have put the knife in her heart."
"She still would have had a chance to kill me with the gun before she died."
"We do not have time for this now, Ziva."
"We have plenty of time, Director," she corrected him coldly. She had a suspicion that she knew why he had killed Channah and it had nothing to do with the fact that she had held a gun to Ziva's head, but very much with what she had been saying. Ziva had been set up and her father had been the one to do this.
"You are going to reassign me back to NCIS."
"Why will I do that?" He asked, showing no concern at her words.
"You will do that, or I will tell the world why Ari betrayed Mossad. I will tell them what you did to his mother and I will let them decide your fate."
He laughed. "You have no proof only the baseless accusations of a traitor."
She didn't move. He stopped laughing.
"Very well, but you will never be welcome here again." He turned away and stopped in front of the door. "Know this, Ziva. That will only work once. Do not try to force my hand ever again."
She let him go.
Ziva made her way back to Shamina's apartment in a haze. She hadn't let the medic examine her at the site; her only thought was to get away from there as quickly as she could.
She could feel her hands shake slightly, and she fought the urge to stop and lean up against the nearest wall. Every moment she delayed, she gave her father a chance to change his mind, to figure out a way to force her hand and make her stay purely out of spite. Ziva let out the breath that she had been holding in. Just a little bit longer.
She knocked sharply on the door to Shamina's apartment. There was no response. Unreasoning panic clenched her heart. If something had happened to her sister
The door swung outwards almost knocking Ziva off of her feet. She looked up into the barrel of a pistol and froze for the instant that it took for her eyes to travel up to the face of the person who held the gun.
"Ziva," she exclaimed, slowly lowering the gun. "Are you " Her voice trailed off as Ziva half-slumped against the door frame. Shamina quickly tucked her gun into the back of her belt, hooked her arm through Ziva's and pulled her into the house.
She settled Ziva on the couch. "Can you tell me what happened?" She asked gently.
Ziva shook her head. It was too dangerous, not for her, but if her father even suspected that she had told Shamina, brought her into their quarrel, it would not be good.
"I'm going back. I have to." Ziva thought about what she could say; how she could explain what she needed to do. "I left things unfinished," she said slowly. "I had a place there and when I left I could give no explanation. It was not fair to them, my teammates." She hesitated. "It was not fair to Abigail. I have much to make amends for, and I cannot do that here. I cannot be here." Impulsively she reached out and touched Shamina's hand. "I have changed too much to take my place here as if nothing had changed."
"But you do have a place here!"
Ziva shook her head. "It is a place that I no longer want to be." She squeezed the hand that she held. "I am sorry. I missed you and my little nephew." She wiped away a tear irritably. "I would like to get to know Meital, but I do not have a choice."
"What did he do to you?"
Ziva shook her head again. She wouldn't answer. "I need to leave tonight. Come and visit me?" She had intended her last words to be a firm statement, not the hesitant question that they became.
"I will when I can."
They hugged and Ziva started towards the door. She looked back as she twisted the handle to open it.
Shamina's face was solemn, but she gave her a nod of encouragement. "Shalom, Ziva."
The air was the cool, crisp air of autumn. The sky was a vivid, deep blue that seemed to go on forever. Slowly summer was giving way to the change of seasons. When Ziva had left, it had been in the midst of humidity and sweltering heat. She had come back, but it wasn't unchanged. Life had gone on without her.
Ziva took one last deep breath of the wonderful air and entered the building. Instead of the elevator, she took the stairs. She took them slowly and savored every familiar step. She exited the stairwell at the appropriate floor and walked down the hallway.
Ziva smiled at the sight of the familiar black door in the middle of a long hallway of beige doors. She knocked quickly, annoyed with the nervousness that was making her stomach churn, and stepped back.
The door was yanked open.
"Yeah?" Abby was grinning. Her eyes danced with mischievous amusement as she dragged her attention away from whatever was inside her apartment and turned to face Ziva. Her expression changed in an instant.
The door slammed in Ziva's face.
Ziva couldn't help but smile. She hadn't expected Abby to be pleased to see her. She had actually expected Abby to be pissed about what she had done. It had still sent a jolt of adrenaline through her though to see that familiar grin, even if it hadn't been directed at her even if Abby was furious. It was good to be back home.
She knocked on the door again. For a moment she wasn't sure if Abby would respond.
Then the door opened slowly. Abby was no longer grinning. Her arms were folded across her chest. She stomped one black, booted foot and glared at Ziva.
"What do you want," she demanded in a decidedly unfriendly tone of voice.
Ziva tried to contain her smile. It was difficult. Instead of what she had planned to say to Abby, she said what she was thinking.
"I missed you very much."
It wasn't what Abby wanted to hear. "You missed me?" She demanded incredulously. "You never even emailed me!" She grabbed the door handle to slam it again. "You didn't even tell me goodbye," she raged. "At least Gibbs said goodbye!"
Ziva caught her wrist before she could actually yank the door shut. Abby tried to yank her arm out of her grasp, but Ziva tightened her hold. Ignoring the angry glare that Abby was directing at her, Ziva bent over slightly and lightly placed a kiss on the palm of her hand.
"I am sorry, Abigail."
Abby started to interrupt, but Ziva put a finger over her lips to silence her. Abby retaliated by biting her finger hard. Ziva gasped, but ignored the pain.
"I shouldn't have left without telling you goodbye. I shouldn't even have gone," she whispered. "After Gibbs left after we fought I was upset." She let go of Abby's arm to cup her face with her hand. "You thought I didn't care and that hurt. I thought you knew me better than that. I did something very foolish. I accepted my father's invitation to go back home, where I thought I belonged."
Abby's free hand slipped up and grabbed Ziva's arm as if she would pull it away from her face, but she didn't try to pull it away.
"I dreamed of you every day, while I was gone, and then I realized that I couldn't stay. Working with NCIS has changed me, but being with you has changed me more. I don't want you to think that I don't feel."
Abby released Ziva's finger with her teeth. Ziva smiled and let her hand drop back down to her side, but she held Abby's gaze intensely.
Abby stubbed the toe of her boot against the shag carpet of her apartment.
"Are you back?"
Ziva nodded. "Yes. If I still have a place on the team."
Abby heard what she didn't say. If I still have a place here. She took a small step closer to Ziva and leaned her forehead against the shorter woman's. She used the moment to catch her breath and think.
She tilted her head up at Ziva. "Come in?"
Abby smiled, leaning forwards and pressed her lips to Ziva's. The kiss surprised Ziva. She didn't hesitate to deepen it and slid an arm around Abby's waist. Her fingers touched skin bared by Abby's short top and her hand danced over it. She lost herself in the feel of lips and skin.
Abby pulled away from the kiss slowly. "Missed you," she said with a grin, as she impatiently tugged Ziva into her apartment.
And she loved, loved.
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