DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As usual, abbyforever was awesome enough to beta this for me. Much appreciated.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for seasons two and three.

The Promise of Home
By Jaina


It's been a year and a half since she's been in Gibbs' basement - not since she needed a place to stay hidden and out of sight until she could contact Gibbs. She was moving too quickly then, even when she could do nothing but sit and wait, for her to take in her surroundings, to notice where she was and let it all sink in.

Ziva can almost feel the weight of the pistol dangling from her hand in a loose grip.

She hears footsteps on the stairs leading down into the basement. Did she leave the door open? Is her breathing as loud as it sounds in her own ears? Or is it just Gibbs' gut kicking in?

The footsteps continue down and Ziva stiffens. Those aren't Gibbs steps, the step is too light and the cadence is all wrong. There's a whisper of sound, barely audible, but Ziva knows that sound in her sleep. It's the whisper of leather against metal - the drawing of a gun.

She doesn't look up. Will this be an awkward, stilted, improbable conversation with Hollis Mann? Explaining is impossible, but to give the woman the wrong idea will not be good either. Mann is too proud and too smart for that.

She leans her head back and thinks - I was sitting just like this, yes?

Her eyes close. She's tired, too tired for this. Too tired for any of it, really.

She never thought it would be this different. Never knew it could be. Did time make this much of a difference? How had she not noticed the slip from hard to soft?

Now she knows.

The footsteps continue.

One more and she can see me, Ziva thinks. Three more and she will be down the stairs.

Ziva opens her eyes, her head turned towards the woman coming down the stairs. She sees red, her vision glows with it. Ziva's glad she's in the shadows, because it means that no one will see her flinch. Ari's blood had pooled on this floor. If she looks hard enough she will see the stain.

Her eyes clear, and she swallows. It is not retired Colonel Hollis Mann she's staring at. It's both better and worse.

"Jenny," she acknowledges the other woman's presence with a soft word.

"Ziva?" Jenny sounds surprised and worried, but not angry, Ziva notes.

She thinks that she should be surprised to see Jenny here, dressed only in a robe that is clearly not her own, but Gibbs'. Even though she has been expecting Mann, she's not really. Jenny tucks the gun into the pocket of the robe, and Ziva hears it rasp into a holster that she cannot see.

She wonders for just a moment if the gun was in the robe already or if the gun is Jenny's, but really it makes no difference.

Jenny approaches her slowly, a wary look in her eye. She's never seen Ziva like this before, but she knows her well enough.

"Is Abby okay," Jenny asks slowly.

"Abby," Ziva rolls the name around in her mouth. The word summons the image engraved in her mind. Abby laughing and happy, pig-tails swinging as she leans into Ziva and teases her with a kiss. Dark serious eyes, gazing into her own as Abby's slender, talented fingers run over her skin. "I do not know. I haven't seen her since this morning. She was going into work." She tilts her head up to Jenny. "Did anything happen today?"

"You caught a case. Gibbs was pissed." Jenny keeps her sentences short and sweet, but she doesn't try to coddle Ziva. She appreciates it.

"What happened, Ziva?"

Ziva lets the words roll through her mind. Jenny knows, she has to. She is neither naive nor stupid and she has access to many avenues of intelligence.

No one will notice the death of one more homeless man. No one will investigate too hard or fight too long to discover why someone shot him. It is of little consequence. But Jenny, Jenny will know.

It feels, not comfortable, but right in her hands. The weight of it is perfect, the butt of the rifle is tucked up in the crook of her shoulder, held perfectly. She gives the target one last quick glance before she focuses through the sight. It only takes her an instant to find her target.

She's been careful. She doesn't screw missions up. There's a recent surveillance photo in her pocket. She had taken a glance at it before she raised the rifle. She's certain that it's him. There's no doubt in her mind.

The cross hairs settle on their target. She's close enough that she can see his face in detail. She inhales then exhales. Holds. Her finger exerts steady gentle pressure. The target looks up suddenly and she sees his eyes.

Sound explodes and she loses sight of him for an instant and there is nothing. In an instant she has the sight refocused. There's no doubt in her mind. It was a good, solid shot and she knows it, but she must have confirmation and there it is. He's lying on the ground, his legs sticking out oddly and his arms sprawled at his sides. From between his eyes blossoms red, and a pool of blood is growing on the concrete.

Ziva shudders, the look in his eyes suddenly flashing in front of her again. Suddenly she cannot get off of this rooftop quickly enough.

Her debriefing by her control officer is relatively quick and painless. She gives no sign of what she's thinking or feeling. She doesn't blink twice when once would be sufficient or ask the man to repeat himself, but when she gets in her car she sits in silence for a moment.

One part of her wishes to go home - home is Abby - but she can't bear the thought of telling Abby about the look in the man's eyes before she killed him. And Abby will ask what is wrong. She won't accept 'nothing' as an answer.

"Mossad does not need me anymore, at the moment." Her voice is perfectly steady and composed. "I'll be back in the office on Monday."

"Jen, what are you-" Gibbs cuts himself off as he saunters down the stairs and sees Ziva and Jenny standing there. "Ziva?"

He's wearing loose sweatpants and an NIS t-shirt.

Ziva stands and for the first time, Jenny thinks that she looks lost. "Gibbs, I'm sorry-" She gestures around the basement. "I needed to think."

Very gently Gibbs places a hand on her should and a finger over her lips, silencing her. Jenny is transfixed. She has known that they have some kind of bond, but she's never witnessed it before now. She doesn't think anyone has.

"You can think here anytime. You know that. No apologies."

Ziva nods. "I saw his eyes today."

Gibbs hesitates for a moment. For the first time he glances back at Jenny, and then his attention is back on Ziva, fully and completely. He reaches out to her and wraps his arms around her. There's nothing sexual about the embrace, Jenny realizes. Nothing at all, but the moment he touches Ziva, she melts into his arms. A tear slides silently down her face, and she crumbles. Gibbs holds her steady.

An instant later she straightens and Gibbs lets go. He steps back as she wipes her face.

"Abs know you're here," he asks in a low voice.

Ziva shakes her head shortly.

"Go home," he orders her, but there's a gentleness in his voice that belies the fact that it is a command. "She'll be worrying about you."

Ziva nods, and this time it's her eyes that flick to Jenny and then back to Gibbs.

For the first time that night, she manages to summon a smile. She can still see his eyes - Ari's eyes - as they stared at her out of that man's face, but now they're muted, replaced by Gibbs' understanding and the promise of Abby waiting for her. The promise of home.

"Thank you."

The End

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