DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is one of my early NCIS stories. Also, I do not try to define any foreign or technical words, but any Google search on anything will get you a definition. I also assume that Ziva speaks Hebrew when in Israel, but this is very Star Trek in that you'll just have to imagine it. ;) Special thanks go to karjens40 for beta-ing for me. All mistakes are still mine.
PROMPT: Abby's upset/jealous when Ziva takes vacation to go back to Israel.
SPOILERS: Parts of the show up through season six & "Nine Lives"
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To cirroco[at]gmail.com

The Tip of the Spear
By Cirroco DeSade



The sound of the locks withdrawing rang loudly throughout the room. The heavy door that sealed her into this section of the cave swung inward, yet the young woman did not move. She hung limply by the chains around her wrists, the flesh deeply cut and in places becoming infected. She was awake but knew that putting energy into standing for her captors was futile at this point. She was only days from death, if that. She would not give the terrorist jiffa what they wanted; they had not broken her, of which she could die proud. Her hope was her father would eventually know and he would be as proud of her as he was of her older sister.

However, it was doubtful that they would ever find her body nor find out what went wrong with the mission into Esfahan. She was not even sure where they were now. She guessed they were somewhere in the Zagros Mountains, just by the length of time they traveled after her capture. She did not know how long she had been down here in the caves, only that somehow, something blew her cover well before they had captured her and the group was very interested in getting any information out of her that they could. She had been lucky that this group of men were highly devout Muslims who would not think to use rape as a torture tactic.

The man who had been her constant tormentor throughout her ordeal was now in front of her again. He had heavily accented Farsi and she had already guessed he was not originally from Iran, but rather an immigrant. He spoke to her softly and slowly, offering her swift end to her pain if she would just tell him what he wanted to know. The implication of more pain was a given. He grabbed her hair, lifting her head and she stared into the eyes of the man who she was sure would eventually execute her. She could withstand his tortures and never give up a clue or even a confirmation of their suspicions. Sadly, she was not as good as her sister, who she knew would have already found a way out of this disaster by now.

He watched the minute play of emotions he could see in her eyes but nowhere else on her face. He had rarely had the chance to interrogate Mossad operatives, but this one was proving tougher than any other he had encountered before. He could see she was in pain; she could not breathe through a swollen and obviously broken nose and her eyes were nearly swollen shut. Yet still she endured; she would not budge. He expected he would get nothing at all out of her, and in a way, he admired her for it. It was too bad she was a Zionist and she had to die.


Chapter 1

She could hear the thump of bass the second the elevator doors opened. This floor belonged to the NCIS scientists; the hardest working of those was Abby Sciuto. Her brilliance as a forensic scientist granted her allowances from administration that perhaps nobody else might receive, one of them being that nobody ever questioned her music. Gibbs may ask her to turn it down when she was reporting to him, but that was as close to a criticism she would receive from anyone. Ziva smiled as she recognized the artist whose music was currently blaring in Abby's domain. Recently she had undertaken the task of trying to understand Abby better by learning about her favorite musicians, her favorite foods, her tastes in general. Everything had changed since her latest return from Israel.

The Israeli paused on her way towards the lab and stood just outside the doorway, taking a moment simply to observe the scientist. The other woman was dressed in one of her typical outrageous outfits: a short plaid skirt, a very small red t-shirt covered by a long-sleeved black mesh shirt, with a spiked collar and spiked bracelets. The first time Ziva had seen the scientist she had wondered if there had been a security breach in the building. To be honest, she was sure that the older woman was a punk who has snuck in from off the street. She had barely restrained her shock when they introduced Abby as the senior forensic scientist. Now, she could not imagine anybody who could come close to her brilliance.

The first few months after Ziva had joined the team, Abby was actively hostile to the Israeli, seeing her as unfairly replacing her friend Kate. She definitely did not know about Ziva's true relationship to Ari Haswari at the time, and if she had, she might never have spoken to her. At first, Ziva did not really mind Abby's hostility. She saw her only as support, not a necessary team member. However, it took very little time at all for her to realize just how wrong that idea was.

Many months, and a lot of effort on Ziva's part, passed before they developed a friendly relationship at work. A full year passed before the two women went out just the two of them to grab a bite to eat and just get away from the guys. A few months after that Abby began to ask Ziva to go to lunch with her, or occasionally she invited her to hit a club. Ziva was happy to eat lunch or dinner with the young woman but hesitant to go with her to the American clubs. She was not sure what held her back, but she had always demurred on the trips out to Abby's clubs.

However since she had returned a month ago, she went out with Abby at least once a week, letting the older woman drag her to all sorts of different bars and clubs. Every moment had been an education and a blessing. She could not imagine begrudging the other woman anything now.

She watched in fascination as the older woman literally hopped and danced across the room with evidence bags in her gloved hands. A bright smile decorated Abby's face and unknowingly Ziva began to smile also. She finally took the final steps into Abby's domain and came over behind the taller woman. Standing there silently, she waited to see if Abby would sense her presence on her own. A little over a minute passed before Abby's head popped up and she looked around to spot the Mossad officer.

"Ziva," Abby exclaimed happily, "hey. You got something for me? Some new and juicy case? Cause Gibbs didn't call, but he doesn't always. I mean, sometimes he sends Timmy, or Tony or…"

"Abby," Ziva interrupted. "How many Caf-Pows have you consumed today?"

"Only three," Abby answered, too quickly.

"Have you eaten?" Ziva asked trying to contain her amusement.

"Well, I had a honey-bun from the machine. Actually, you could say I had a few bites of that honey-bun, because frankly it was disgusting. These yankees don't know anything about honey-buns, and I guess that one had been sitting in that machine since the last millennium, so it was really gross and," she rambled on then immediately stopped when Ziva put a hand on her arm.

Abby had noticed early on that Ziva always had a very impressive personal bubble of space that nobody invaded. It had taken Abby quite some time after they had started becoming friends to learn to control her urges to hug and generally touch the woman, but she had gotten better. Therefore, the changes in Ziva's behavior since the team had gotten back together still surprised her at times.

"Abigail," Ziva said patiently and with a small smile on her face, "I think you need food to balance out the caffeine. I know I need to eat. This is why I came here: to ask you if you want to get lunch. Yes?"

"Oh," Abby replied then smiled. "Great! Let me grab my coat."

Ziva simply nodded and watched the other woman walk away, smiling to herself, happy to have been able to arrange more time alone with the Goth, even if it was for just a lunch hour. Yes, her priorities had certainly changed while she was away.

Ziva had insisted on paying for a cab so they could take a quick trip up to this little deli she knew of on the other side of Folger Park. The fall weather was unusually warm so they elected to take their meals with them and sit on one of the benches halfway into the park. The trees around them had already started losing their leaves, but most were still painted in brilliant hues of yellow, orange and reds. The leaves that had fallen would occasionally stir around the park with the light wind.

They sat in comfortable companionship, Ziva mostly silent in contrast to Abby's odd bursts of conversation in between bites of her sandwich. They did discuss a little bit about the case they had worked the week before, but not for long. Abby suddenly bounced closer to Ziva.

"I just remembered," she beamed, "I wanted to ask what you're doing Saturday night."

"I have made no plans," Ziva replied, grinning at Abby's obvious excitement. "Why?"

"A really cool band is coming to town and playing at the Velvet Lounge I think you just may like," Abby said. She appeared to consider then added. "Well, you may not like them, but they aren't as hard-core as some of the others I've introduced you to, and well, I like them and was hoping you'd keep me company."

"I would love to accompany you," Ziva answered with a knowing smile.

"Really?" Abby beamed.

Ziva simply nodded briefly and received the explosive hug that came next with a grin on her face. The grin faded completely away as she looked across the way and noticed the man leaning against the tree facing them. He nodded at her and made a small gesture with his hands letting her know he was going to drop something with her now, unless she thought it unsafe. She continued to hold onto the other woman a moment longer than necessary in order to compose her smile again. She nodded briefly at the man and he began a leisurely stroll around the park even as she leaned back and asked Abby to describe the band.

By the time the man was about to intersect their area, Ziva had finished her sandwich and had collected all of their trash. She was slowly walking to the nearby trashcan and engaging Abby in a story about Tony and McGee's bickering in the field when the man bumped into her slightly as he approached the same trashcan. He reached over as if to steady Ziva by holding her forearm briefly. Then he ran his hand down her arm briefly and Ziva felt the piece of paper palmed quickly into her hand. His accent was an acceptable British imitation as he apologized and he was quite charming until he started to try to flirt with Abby.

Ziva was quite obviously angry with the man so Abby decided to cut him off before the Mossad officer could show off some of her more deadly skills on the poor sap.

"Hey, yeah, well we've gotta' go, don't we honey?" Abby said then grabbed Ziva by the hand and started pulling her away.

"Yes, dear," Ziva answered. It was not the first time Abby had decided to act as if they were more than just friends as a ploy to get a man to leave her alone, but it was perhaps the most inconvenient. Nevertheless, she did not begrudge herself the pleasure she always felt when Abby wrapped an arm around her as they walked away.

When they made it to the street and Abby looked around for a cab, Ziva turned back and found, as she expected, no trace of the man at all.

Ziva rode down in the elevator with Abby to drop her at her domain and finish her conversation with the woman. Her friend's ebullience had chased away most of her negative thoughts and she was once again mostly relaxed. However, as soon as the elevator doors closed again she chose the ground floor and pulled out her cell phone. Leaving the building, she dialed the number she had memorized.

"Hello?" A man answered after three rings.

"Speak," Ziva said tersely.

"Is that the way Americans greet their friends?" the young man mused on the other end.

"I thought I had made clear to you we are not friends, but co-workers," Ziva replied. "I told you only to contact me if we had business. If we do not, I must get back to work."

"Meet me at Dupont Circle Park in 20 minutes," he said before she could hang up. "I have something that needs your attention."

"I do not have time for games, Goel," she warned tersely.

"I assure you it is not a game, Ziva," he said seriously now. "Time is of the essence."

Then he abruptly disconnected. She was already walking at a rapid pace; she headed for the Metro, knowing the traffic around Dupont Circle would be murder at this hour. She called Gibbs as she walked and explained that she had to take care of an important errand, and that she would be back as quickly as possible. He was not happy, she could tell, but since there were no active cases now, he gave her some leeway.

She crossed the traffic bravely as the light was about to turn green. Dupont Circle was never not busy, and she was not sure if he would wait for her or not, as he was an impatient man, more impatient with her since their last argument. As she made her way between first auto traffic and then wound her way around the circle dodging foot traffic, she reflected on her last trip to Israel.

When she was in the homeland the last time, Goel was with her to track down the American traitor named Roberts. They had traveled to Morocco, where she had posed as a singer in a nightclub where Roberts was to meet with a terrorist. Her father was clear in his instructions that she was in charge, but Goel was a typically macho man, trying to assert himself during the case. To her discomfort, he became overly attached to her, especially after the bombing that had ultimately killed the American injured her.

She remembered their return to Israel from Morocco and his sudden overly solicitous behavior. The outrageous thing was that initially, it appeared that her father approved. It had taken her off guard, since he had never encouraged her to engage in romances. In fact, he had always seemed of the opinion that they were a danger to operatives of her caliber.

Two days after their return, she caught her father alone in his office late one evening.

"You must not encourage Goel, Papa," she said without any preamble.

"He is a good man," he answered with a smile. "He would understand your life, your duties, and not interfere."

"I will choose my own partners," Ziva said hotly. "You chose the rest of my life for me. You will not have a choice in this."

He frowned. "Is it the American? This Anthony DiNozzo?" he asked as he stood and moved around his desk. He stopped in front of her and casually leaned back on his desk.

She sighed and turned away. "Tony is nothing more than a friend. He is," she hesitated, "a good man, but not who I think of when I shut my eyes at night."

Her father made a thoughtful humming noise. "So there is somebody you have in mind," he stated more than asked.

"Yes," she said softly. A long silence ensued, which she finally broke by stating, "You would not approve."

He stepped forward, placed a hand under her chin, and brought her face up, looking into her eyes. "Would he make you happy? Would he understand your entire life and not put you in danger?"

She closed her eyes briefly at the questions. How could she tell her traditional father that there was no man in her heart and instead there was a woman? "I will probably never know, now will I? I am here now."

"Things change rapidly in our business," he said softly. "Do not give up hope." He pulled her in for a hug. "It does not matter what I might think initially. I will be happy for you if you find love." She allowed herself to relax into the hug. "I will talk to Goel. Discourage him."

"Thank you, Papa," she said into his shoulder. After a moment, she moved away from him and turned to leave. She stopped before she got to the door. "Father," she said hesitantly, "she knows who I am and what I do, yet she is not afraid of me. And without even trying, she makes me smile even on the worst of days." She paused long enough to see the shock in his eyes move into acceptance. He nodded and moved back around his desk.

"Shalom, Ziva," he said, effectively dismissing her.

The next day, a call came in from NCIS. Goel was standing in the room watching her very carefully and she could sense his curiosity. Her father left the phone call on speakerphone while the new NCIS agent connected her with her old team leader. Then he came on the line.

"Ziva?" he spoke softly. Ziva actually had to repress a smile when she heard his voice.

"Gibbs?" she replied in kind.

"You okay?" he asked, and she heard the genuine concern in his voice.

"You heard?" she asked, wondering how this man always seemed to know everything, but not entirely surprised.

"Yeah, raw feed out of ZNN," he replied. "You might want to call them."

Ziva answered with some inanity, not really paying too much attention to it. She was divided between giddiness at hearing from her old boss, annoyance to be having this conversation in front of Goel and wariness as to where this was heading. He wanted to know about the bombing and after looking at her father for permission, she sketched an outline of her mission. She was surprised when he knew the name of the American she and Goel had been watching.

Gibbs went on to describe how their cases had intersected. He described in brief his team's finding an old friend of the former naval officer dead. In typical Gibbs gruff style, he hit only the salient points. Then he asked more about the bombing that killed the officer Ziva was tracking.

Ziva responded with the basics about how the officer was in the club to meet with a Chechnyan terrorist, who by luck escaped the blast. They spoke back and forth about small details until Gibbs asked the hard question.

"Who tipped you off about Roberts?"

Ziva inhaled, once again looking at her father for permission to continue. "Director Vance," she finally answered. She was uncomfortable with the ensuing silence and finally prompted him again. "Gibbs?"

"We miss you, Ziva," he finally replied.

She crossed the small distance to the desk and picked up the phone, unwilling to share the personal part of this conversation with Goel, or even her father. She could not stop them from hearing what she said, but whatever Gibbs might say was for her only.

"I miss you too," she replied. "All of you." Joking, she had to add, "Even Tony."

Then, too quickly, Gibbs was ending the conversation and telling her to take care of herself.

Now, here she was back in America and for some reason Goel sat at a park bench in her town demanding her presence. She swore that if he did not have a very good reason for his visit, she would make sure he felt her displeasure with a deep and lasting pain.

She approached him wearily and sat down on the same bench but with some distance between them.

"I do not suppose our acting as lovers would be a convincing cover in this country," he said with some amusement, "since it is obvious your heart and your," he paused, "inclinations lie elsewhere."

"Goel, there is no need for cover that I know of," Ziva said not very patiently. "Do not waste my time. What did you wish to speak of?"

For an answer, he simply handed her a large manila envelope.

She pulled out a stack of papers and photos. On top of the pile was a picture of a relatively handsome man of Middle Eastern descent on a sailboat. There were other candid shots of the same man below that, then some maps plus satellite imagery of central Iran around Esfahan and the Zagros mountains. The bottom of the pile was a dossier of some sort.

"His name is Bahman Farahani. He is suspected of trafficking weapons to terrorist groups in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria as well as smuggling drugs, slaves, and whatever else might be profitable," Goel explained as Ziva skimmed through the dossier.

"Why are you telling me this?" Ziva finally asked and stared into his eyes wanting to trace any deception if it was there.

"Your sister left for an intelligence gathering mission two weeks ago in Esfahan," Goel responded, then pointed to a location on a map. "Farahani's main house is here, outside of town, at the foot of the mountains."

Ziva felt her blood run cold at the mention of her sister. "Where is Shobi?"

"We lost contact with her," Goel replied gently. "She has not contacted her handler at the appointed intervals, nor has she returned to her accommodations." He hesitated. "There is more. A terrorist group is claiming to be holding one of our operatives. They are demanding a ransom and a prisoner exchange. Unfortunately, one of the prisoners they are demanding is already dead."

Ziva stood and paced away from Goel. She stared out into space as she brought her emotions back under control and her thoughts into focus. He approached her slowly and tried to hand her a smaller envelope.

"I secured tickets for us to first Turkey, then into Hamadan," he spoke quietly. "We will find her."

"You go ahead," Ziva answered. She turned and firmly gave him what she considered orders. "Get a contact number to my father before your final flight. I will make my own arrangements and will contact you to see what you have found once I land."

"Ziva," he said firmly, "It will make more sense if we go in as a tourist couple. It is less risky."

"Goel," Ziva growled and he finally saw the steel in her eyes. "I know what I am doing. Do not stand in my way. You are not trained for what must happen now. I am. Thank you for telling me this. Now, go; I must make preparations."

As she went to walk away, he grabbed her arm. She turned back, and the icy glare in her eyes actually chilled him. Despite that, he forged on. "Ziva, why must you always do everything the hard way? I have offered you everything I have. Despite how things turned out, I would give you no less now."

"Goel," Ziva began, but he immediately interrupted.

"I see now why your father told me I had no chance with you," he said softly, "but would he approve of this woman?"

"I do not need permission or approval," Ziva snapped at him, actually drawing the attention of a woman walking by them. Sighing, she lowered her voice and continued. "There is nothing there yet to approve of, even if I want it. None of this saves my sister. If you are such a friend as you claim, you will do as I say and leave now."

He stepped back and nodded. "As you wish," he said softly. "Shalom." Then he turned and departed, losing himself in a sea of afternoon foot traffic.

After Ziva returned to NCIS, she immediately started researching the possible routes she could take to get to Iran the fastest and with the least suspicion. First, a quick trip to Israel to see her father was in order. She was making little headway in securing the tickets she wanted and slammed the phone down angrily, letting out a string of obscenities in Hebrew. She continued to mutter angrily in Hebrew, garnering the attention of both McGee and DiNozzo, who exchanged looks over the unusual behavior.

"I don't speak Hebrew," said with a smug grin, "but I'm pretty sure you just swore. Mossad calendar get lost in the mail?"

"If you must know it was an airline reservation that got lost," Ziva answered. She had not thought about what she might need to tell Tony and Timothy. She did not want to tell them the truth yet, for some reason. She felt she should talk to Gibbs first, but he had already left by the time she returned.

"Going to Israel?" McGee asked pleasantly

"Not if I cannot get a seat on the flight I want," Ziva muttered angrily. She watched Tony pace around in front of her, looking at her curiously before sitting back down at his desk and staring at her. "What?" she demanded.

"Is it a what, or a who?" Tony asked saucily.

Ziva laughed at the irony. "Now you're speaking in a language I do not understand," she replied.

"Weren't you just in Israel?" Tony continued to prod.

"What is it that is bothering you so much Tony?" Ziva asked, now deciding to tease him a bit, in order to get him off her back. Besides, teasing DiNozzo was excellent stress relief.

"Do I look bothered?" Tony answered defensively.

"Matter of fact," McGee spoke, garnering a smile from Ziva as she walked over to stand next to Tony for a moment.

"What is it that has you all hot and bothersome?" Ziva asked. "As you know, people go on vacation all the time."

"Normal people," Tony taunted as Ziva made her way back to her desk.

"I am normal people," Ziva replied said as she sat.

"You're normal people like the people from Ordinary People are normal people," Tony muttered.

By then Ziva's cell phone was ringing and she had put the banter out of her head. When she realized it was a call from her father's office, she got up and left for the stairway, hoping for a little privacy. Even though she knew neither Tony nor Tim spoke Hebrew, she felt odd speaking in front of them about what she considered private things.

After she stepped out of the room, Tony snuck across the way and casually started to shuffle through the pile of papers on her desk. He found the small stack of papers in Hebrew interesting. He jumped when Tim suddenly appeared next to him.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Well, McGoo," Tony answered, "don't you have the smallest curiosity as to why our friendly Mossad agent suddenly has a hankering to return to Israel, even though she was just there last month?"

"I'm not curious enough that I'd risk getting my fingers broken," McGee said sagely, "which she will do to yours if she catches you."

"Well, you see, McProbie," Tony said, "That is why I am a Senior Field Agent, and you are not." Just then, he stumbled upon a snapshot of a Middle Eastern man on a sailboat, shirtless and smiling. "And just what do you think of that, McGeek?"

Tim pursed his lips in surprise. "I think I'm going to forget I saw it," he finally answered, "because I refuse to get in trouble again over your snooping."

"I'm thinking somebody is wracking up the frequent flyer miles for a booty call," Tony said as he walked back slowly to his desk. He was so caught up in his theorizing he had not heard the elevator. Until he felt the smack across the back of his head, he did not realize Gibbs was back.

"I'm thinking you are lucky that was me, Tony," Gibbs said gruffly. "And you should be more careful with your speculation. You're off base." He had just spoken with Ziva in the lobby before returning. He knew the real story and her desire for privacy. He had already given her permission to leave as soon as she was ready and to take as much time as was needed.

Gibbs glared at both DiNozzo and McGee until both men buried their heads back in their work. He briefly grinned in amusement at how easy it was to fluster both men. Then as thoughts of Ziva's story crept back into his head his expression turned more serious, and he started digging through a list of contacts he had left in the region, hoping he might be able to help Ziva in some way.


Chapter 2

Ziva realized with great regret that she was going to have to cancel her "date" with Abby for Saturday before she left town. Deciding to get that over with she made her way down to Abby's domain, unsure how she would explain if asked why. She entered the lab with a large Caf-Pow! in hand as a bribe. She found the scientist on the far side of the room looking up at the large LCD screen.

"Isn't it beautiful?" Abby said as soon as she felt Ziva's approach.

Ziva looked at the microscopic cross-section displayed on screen and wondered exactly what Abby was looking at. "It is," Ziva took her time choosing a word, "colorful."

Abby explained that another team was working a case about a dead marine and this was a section of the rope used to tie him up and torture him. She then launched into a speech of the rarity of the particular type of mold found on the rope and then described how the mold was about to reproduce. When Abby started to wax poetic on how wonderful it was, Ziva dared to interrupt.

"I wish I had time to let you truly explain this," Ziva said softly, "but I really can only drop in for a moment."

"Oh," Abby shook herself out of her mold-loving reverie, "sure! What's up? You need help with something?"

"No," Ziva answered. "I have to cancel our date for Saturday." It broke her heart to see the Goth instantly frown then pout. "Something important has come up and I must go out of country."

"Okay," Abby finally said with a slight pout, "but you owe me a concert now."

"Of course," Ziva answered happily.

"Will you be gone long?" Abby asked, somewhat nervously. She was thinking of the three months that had passed without Ziva's presence at NCIS and how unhappy she had been.

"I," Ziva hesitated, knowing she would not be returning until she had scoured Iran for her sister, "hope not."

The Israeli suddenly found herself engulfed by a crushing hug, but she gamely dug in and hugged the taller woman back. "You can't be," the Goth stated emphatically.

"Then, I will try my best to be back quickly," Ziva spoke softly into Abby's ear. She chanced a tiny kiss on the other woman's neck, not knowing how to interpret the shiver that Abby did not try to suppress. She backed up quickly at that point, hoping to disengage her brain from the direction it had been heading. She could not let herself begin this mission distracted by thoughts of Abigail Sciuto. "I will talk to you later."

Ziva's quick departure confused Abby; especially since she was sure that she felt Ziva's barriers coming down a little more. She knew she had not imagined the kiss the other woman placed on her neck. Well, Ziva was a lot like a wild animal, Abby decided, not for the first time. She would take several steps forward in her trust, only to take a few back afterwards. Abby knew she just had to be patient and she would eventually get Ziva exactly where she wanted her.

With that happy thought she bounced, then took a sip of the Caf-Pow! that Ziva had brought her before going back to examining her mold.

Later that afternoon, Abby decided she wanted to visit her favorite team. Therefore, after she had dropped off the results of her mold spore analysis to Gibbs counterpart on the other side of the bullpen and explained the ramifications of her findings she made her way to Gibbs desk. Finding it empty, she looked at McGee and Tony, who were the only ones present. She took the few steps left, came up beside Tim's desk, and sat on its edge.

"Where's Gibbs?" she asked Tim.

"He took off early," Tim replied. "Said he had to take care of some business."

"Oh," Abby answered and then looked at Ziva's empty desk, noticing it was clean. "Where's Ziva?"

"I'll field this one Probalicious," Tony broke in. "Our resident Mossad Assassin has left to go get ready for her pending trip back to Israel. Why is she going back home you might ask?"

Abby looked at McGee wondering whether she should encourage Tony or not. Frankly, she was surprised to find Ziva's trip was back to Israel. "Should I ask?" Abby said gently, to which McGee rolled his eyes and shook his head, but Tony ignored him.

"Of course you should!" Tony replied. "Personally I find it a bit disconcerting that one of our team-mates would make a nearly six thousand," he stressed the words, "that is three, count them, three zeros Probie. What was I saying?"

"Six thousand," Abby prompted.

"Oh yes," Tony stood and paced over to his teammates. "I'm a bit disconcerted that Ziva would suddenly make a six thousand mile journey just for a booty call, and never tell us she had met somebody while back home."

Abby felt like somebody had punched her in the gut. She missed whatever the guys were saying while she processed the idea that Ziva might have a romance going on and not have told her. She just did not want to believe it. Then some of what Tim was saying finally broke through.

"A picture like that really doesn't mean anything," McGee said hotly. "After all, you had pinned up those pictures of Ziva in her bikini while you were on the Seahawk, and you certainly don't have a relationship with her."

"You have pictures of her in a bikini?" Abby blurted, "Wait, never mind that. What are you guys talking about?"

"Super secret agent over here snooped around on Ziva's desk and found a picture of a good looking guy," McGee answered.

"Yeah," Tony said snidely and with a hint of jealousy, "I guess you could say he was good looking in that, shady, I haven't shaved and don't need a shirt because I'm so macho kind of way."

"He was on a sailboat, Tony," McGee prompted. "It's pretty normal for guys to forego shirts while sailing."

"Whatever, McGoober," Tony said impatiently, "The point is, she didn't share with her friends."

As unreasonable as Tony was acting, Abby had to admit she was feeling just as upset as he was acting. If Ziva had a boyfriend, would she tell her? What did that say about all the time they had been spending together and the way Ziva had been treating her?

Abby left the two men debating with each other without even saying goodbye. She was done for the day here, and she decided it was time to go visit her friend and get the story straight from the source.

Ziva was surprised to find Abby pacing the sidewalk outside her townhouse muttering to herself. The Israeli was just about to head to the airport to catch a flight she had managed to secure. She just had time to make it to Dulles and get her car settled in long-term parking. If it had been anybody other than Abby, she would have brusquely ignored his or her presence and continued on her way. However, the scientist just was not somebody Ziva could ignore; it broke a tiny piece of her heart even to think of it.

"Abby?" Ziva prompted.

"Ziva," Abby replied, startled out her internal debate about what to say to the other woman. Since she had not decided, she just blurted the first thing on her mind. "You left without saying goodbye."

"I told you I had to take a trip," Ziva said, a bit surprised by her reaction to Abby's pout. She needed to go, but she wanted to stay here and get Abby to understand. She took a chance. "Abby," she said gently, "I have to get to the airport in a hurry to make this flight. I was planning to park my car in a long-term lot, but you could save me a lot of time, if you are willing."

"Sure," Abby said. "Hop in."

As Abby walked around to the driver's side of her hearse, she noticed that Ziva was not carrying anything more than a large backpack. That fact gave her hope that the other woman would not be gone long. She watched Ziva toss the backpack into the backseat as she settled into her own seat and started up the car. She checked her rearview mirror and then pulled out into traffic.

"Which airport?" Abby asked in order to decide which route to take.

"Dulles," Ziva answered.

"Oh," the Goth mumbled, "that'll be fun at this hour."

"I have faith in you," Ziva said with a grin.

Abby drove determinedly through the DC rush hour traffic, finally reaching the beltway. She had let the silence stretch while she concentrated on the road, but now that she was on the loop, she could focus a little more on her companion. "Why didn't you tell me about this trip earlier when we had lunch?"

Abby's question and the tone of her voice felt like unexpected slap to Ziva. She had been thinking about the trip ahead. "Because, it was not planned at that point," Ziva said slowly. "I am not accustomed to sharing these details with people, and since I have joined the team, I now feel the need to share with Gibbs and" she paused, wondering how this would sound to the other woman, "and with you."

"Well, the guys knew you were leaving," Abby accused. "They even know about your boyfriend. A detail you didn't seem to want to share with me."

"Excuse me?" Ziva asked.

"I mean," Abby continued on, not seeing Ziva's confusion. Instead, she felt the indignation she had been feeling earlier bubbling up again. "I thought we were friends. Well, I thought that we were becoming closer," she stopped herself. She would not admit what she had thought to the Israeli.

"Abby," Ziva said patiently, "I have no idea what you are talking about."

"The picture Tony found on your desk," the scientist exclaimed. "He said you were going home to visit some hunky guy with no shirt."

Ziva found herself torn between laughing at the ridiculousness of it all and shouting her disbelief at the outrageous circumstances that in which she found herself. She looked at the Goth who was most definitely pouting and cursed, quite hotly in her native tongue. Finally, she dug back in with English.

"Abby," Ziva said patiently, "have you ever known Tony to jump to conclusions?"

"Well, yeah," Abby responded. "But what about the picture?"

"I will get to that," the Israeli responded. "Have I shown any interest in anybody since I returned to America?"

"Well," Abby replied, "I don't know what you do when you're not around me. But, you don't ever seem to be paying any guys any attention, but I was not sure what that meant since you never say."

Ziva watched as the other woman negotiated through the traffic to pull the over-sized car off the interstate. "I do not communicate my feelings well," Ziva said on a sigh, "This is true." She tried to gather her thoughts. "I am also unsure as to how to get what I want without breaking one of Gibbs rules."

"Huh?" Abby said. She was a bit confused now. She had no clue what the guy in the picture had to do with Gibbs rules. "What does Gibbs have to do with some hunky guy in Israel?"

"There is no boyfriend!" Ziva said, beyond exasperated. "The man in the picture is most likely responsible for my sister's kidnapping. I am heading first to Israel then ultimately Iran to try and find my sister."

"What? Well, why didn't you just say so earlier?" Abby said animatedly.

"Because it happened too fast," Ziva said. "I felt I owed an explanation to Gibbs before anybody else. You remember the man who bumped into us at the park?" Abby nodded so the younger woman continued. "He is Mossad. He had come to meet me and tell me of my sister. I got the pictures from him."

"Wow," Abby said her eyes as big as saucers. "You guys did all that without me seeing it?"

Ziva laughed, albeit softly, for the first time in hours. "No," she replied. "We met again later."

Abby navigated through the lanes heading for departing terminals. She glanced back at Ziva and was happy to see a smile back on her face and glad she had made her laugh despite the horrible circumstances. "I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions," she said.

"I believe Tony had a great deal to do with that," Ziva answered, "for which I will be repaying him when I return."

"So," Abby grinned mischievously, "no hunky boyfriends?"

"None," Ziva answered, her eyebrow rising. She looked at Abby, wondering where this would lead now.

"Sexy girlfriends?" Abby asked, and then bit her lip.

Ziva looked at Abby pointedly and grinned wickedly. "Not yet." She had to resist laughing when she saw Abby swallow hard.

"Well," as she pulled up to the curb Abby tried to find something encouraging that she could say. "If there's anything I can do to help you, call me anytime, day or night."

"Thank you, Abigail," Ziva said. She was about to get out of the car when she felt Abby tug on her sleeve. She suddenly found herself wrapped in a strong hug.

"Let's see if I do this right," Abby said then kissed each of Ziva's cheeks. "Shalom."

Ziva leaned back and smiled brightly at the other woman. "Very good," she told the Goth. "Let me see if I can do this correctly."

Gently she put one hand on Abby's face, tracing the soft cheek for a moment before smoothing her fingers back behind her head. She slowly pulled the taller woman's head down, meeting her lips with the softest of kisses. When she felt Abby start to respond, she put more of the passion she had been feeling these past months into the kiss. She did not let it go on for long, knowing she needed to get going. The tiny whimper that escaped Abby as she pulled away charmed Ziva immensely.

"Goodbye, Abigail," Ziva said. Releasing the taller woman she grabbed her bag and was out the door before Abby could react.

Abby just watched her walk away, her heart still beating hard in reaction to Ziva's actions. "Well," she said to herself. "That was a much better goodbye."

"You will read!" the young man screamed in thick Arabic, right before delivering a right hook to the already battered woman.

The Israeli woman was in a new room and now tied to a chair in front of a camera. She had been told to read a scripted statement to which she had laughingly refused. She was baiting the young idiot, hoping he would slip up. "Leh tezayen kivsa," she said then laughed weakly.

The irate man grabbed Shobi by the front of her shirt and hauled her back upright. "What did you say?" he demanded with a growl. She only laughed which he responded to by pulling back to punch her again.

"Stop," a loud voice barked. "Move away from her Mahbod. Leave us."

"I want to know what she said," Mahbod said to his leader while staring at the woman.

"She told you to go fuck a goat," the older man said as he pulled the young man out of the room and closed the door. "You should not irritate Mahbod."

"He has no discipline," Shobi said and coughed. "If you had given me a little more time I could have had him kill me. Short fuse on that one."

"I am not ready for you to die," the man said. "You will get us at least some of our demands before you will be allowed to die."

"They will not trade for me," Shobi said certainly. "And I will not renounce my faith and country simply because you threaten pain or death."

"I do not need you to speak," he answered. He called out for guards and instructed two to take her arms and another to start the camera. He stepped behind the young woman and grabbed her by the hair, making sure the camera captured her battered face.

"It is obvious that you care little for your women and your warriors. Although strong and brave, this one will not live forever," he said calmly. "We have given you time to secure the release of our brothers but thus far you have not met our demands." He moved over to her left hand and looked into the guards eyes, indicating her should hold her tightly. "For every day you do not release one of our brothers your brave warrior will lose a finger," he said while grabbing her pinky. He made a show of the large pruners in his hand and then cut the appendage off.

Shobi could not stop the scream at the pain and did not hear the next bit of his speech. She missed when he walked away briefly and then came back with a hot iron. However, when the iron seared into the bleeding stump where her pinky had just been, the pain finally overcame her and she just passed out.

"You are cruel to leave this fine warrior woman to die like this," Siamak said into the camera. "We will make sure she lives long enough to give you the opportunity to deal. However, when she runs out of fingers, we will simply kill her and deliver her body to the vultures. Then we will release all tapes to the internet so that they may see how Mossad takes care of its citizens."


Chapter 3

Director Eli David looked up as his office door opened and his daughter walked in unannounced. He had expected her arrival within the hour and had in fact sent a driver to the airport to retrieve her. However usually she would wait long enough for her assistant to announce her. He only needed a cursory inspection of her to see the carefully concealed energy that he doubted many would see.

"Ziva," he greeted. He crossed over to her and firmly grabbed her shoulders. Looking into her eyes, he studied her even as he tried to convey his thoughts. "We will retrieve her."

"Yes," Ziva answered firmly. She was somewhat rested, having slept some on the plane, and she was ready to get the part into motion.

He moved back and retrieved a remote control for the LCD imbedded on one wall. "An hour ago we received a new video from the group holding Shobi," he said, moving back into his comfortable role of director. "It confirms her identity."

"Has the electronics intelligence group tracked down their location?" the woman asked.

"They have not," the Director sat flatly.

"I would like to give Timothy McGee a shot at this," she said, crossing her arms over her chest, expecting an argument.

There was silence for a moment. "You think so highly of this man?" the man asked.

Ziva briefed her father on McGee's background and skills. After his curt nod, the young woman picked up the phone on his desk and called her team's computer guru.

"Ziva," Tim answered jovially. "How's Israel?"

"Timothy," Ziva said. "I need a favor. I need you to trace an email back to its source. I need it now."

"Okay," Tim drawled out slowly. "Who received the email?"

"My father," Ziva answered.

"You want me to hack the Mossad?" Tim answered with a squeak. "Ziva…"

"It is not hacking if you are let in," she interrupted. "However, I am asking you to hack into Iranian records most likely." She heard him cough in the background and imagined the look on his face. "My sister's life depends on it Timothy."

Ziva was relieved by the speed at which that got him moving. She stayed on the phone with him as he began to work, hearing him muttering to himself as he sometimes did when he was solving a complex computer problem for Gibbs.

"This is going to take a trick or two," he said suddenly. "Can I call you back at this number in a few minutes?"

After looking at the Director for permission, Ziva answered, "Of course." After she disengaged from the call, she faced her father. "I would like to see the video now."

Eli David closed his eyes briefly. Sometimes his job, his life, was truly distasteful. He knew that in order to do her job, she would need to see this. However, that did not stop him from wanting to shield her from it. "Yes," he said wearily, "we shall watch it."

Ziva paced back and forth very deliberately in her father's office. She was channeling her rage the best she could for now, letting it serve her as energy for the mission ahead. "Director," she stopped and faced him. "I propose that Mossad request a high altitude flyover of the Zagros Mountains by the Hel HaAvir."

"For what purpose?" the Director asked.

"I will perform a HALO jump," Ziva answered. "It is the only way I can get to the area in time to help her and with the weapons I will need."

He stood impatiently, unable to believe she was suggesting such a rash method without speaking of alternatives first. "Goel should be in route from Turkey now to Hamadan," he said. "He will be able to secure weapons while you are in route."

"Respectfully, we do not have time for me to travel traditional routes," Ziva said flatly, but her brown eyes sparked with impatience.

"We do not even know where she is yet," he stated calmly.

"McGee will call soon, and we will know," Ziva said. "Trust me, father. Start the ball rolling with the military. Do it for Shobi."

He sighed and then picked up his phone and called his assistant in and told him whom to contact. The young man nodded and immediately left to follow his orders. He hoped Ziva's had not misplaced her trust in the American, but he did have faith in her instincts. "What else will you need?"

She sat in the chair in front of his desk and began to outline her general plan, plus what she would need to make it happen. She knew she could get in and get Shobi out of wherever, but getting out of the country with a badly wounded woman was still a problem. However, they both knew that these things were unpredictable and moved quickly; loose plans were for the best anyway.

A half hour later, Tim called back. The Director answered, to which Timothy asked for Ziva with a stutter. The older man put the call on speakerphone.

"McGee," Ziva greeted.

"Ziva," he answered and cleared his throat. "Okay, this isn't perfect, but I can tell you that you were slightly lucky. The email originated from an account as you suspected in Iran. The lucky part was the ISP is a cellular service and the emails owner obviously connects with an Air-card of some sort."

"Meaning," Ziva said impatiently.

"Well, I hacked into the ISP's database and can give you a tower nearest the signal," Tim answered. "The location will be somewhere within cellular range of the tower. The range would vary with what kind of Air-card the person was using and…"

"McGee," Ziva interrupted gently.

"Yeah, okay, um," he stammered. "So, the tower is about one kilometer east of a town in the Zagros Mountains called Jelowguir. I'm sending you its GPS coordinates now. I've hacked into that provider and am trying to find you data about the account's owner, but its slow going because of the translation programs."

"Send all data you have Mister McGee," the Director interrupted "and we will be able to translate it."

"Okay," Timothy said. "That would be better." A moment went by and the director's computer indicated he had new emails. "Look, Ziva, I'll keep my eye on this number. If they try to do anything else, read their email or anything and stay on long enough, I can hack back to where they are by their signal. I'll get you the coordinates."

"I will send you a phone number that you can text or call momentarily," Ziva said. "Thank you, Timothy."

"You bet," he said softly. "Oh, and Gibbs wanted me to tell you that he's working on something for you. He'd be in touch if it works out like he wants."

"Tell Mister Gibbs I said thank you Mister McGee," the Director said. "Mister McGee, I will not forget what you have done. Shalom." Then he hung up.

"I must go prepare," Ziva said as she straightened to leave. She was surprised when her father crossed the small space they were in quickly and hugged her. "I will bring her back."

"Bring both my daughters back safely," he said gently, then kissed both her cheeks. Nodding he said, "Now go; prepare well."

She dipped her head respectfully, then turned and left, heading for the armory area on the lowest floor.

Ziva had taken a Yanshuf helicopter down to Nevatim Airbase outside of Be'er Sheva. There she boarded a C-130 Qarnaf that was waiting for her on the tarmac. The men inside were surprised when the small woman boarded the plane carrying a large duffel. She threw the duffel to the floor of the plane and looked for the ranking officer.

"Please, let us be underway," she told him. "Time is a killer."

"Do you not want to check your own parachute?" he asked.

"If I die because one of your officers did not follow instructions well enough," she said and paused meaningfully, "your officer will have killed more than one Mossad operative. You can imagine the consequences, yes?"

"Of course, Officer David," the man said, straightening.

"Then, you tell me," she said casually. "Can you bet your own life that my parachute is fine?"

"I have faith in my men," he answered. A flush crept up his face as he acknowledged the implied threat.

"As do I," she said and her lips quirked at the surprised look on his face. He inclined his head respectfully and left to get the flight underway.

Ten minutes after take off, she had finished stowing her gear and the crew's physiology technician was asking her to join the others at the oxygen pre-breathers. They would all be breathing 100% oxygen for thirty minutes before they could ascend over 10,000 feet. She brought all the gathered intelligence she had with her and sat at the most distant station.

When their thirty minutes were nearly complete, she overheard one of the young men talking with his friend. "I cannot believe such a good looking woman is a Mossad killer," he said. "I am afraid to even let her near the bay doors. She doesn't look like she belongs here."

Without even looking up from her printouts Ziva said loudly, "I cannot believe such a pretty boy like you is old enough to be on such a prestigious assignment." She looked up and pinned him with a stare. "But here we are. I will trust you can do your job, you should do the same." She looked back down to her papers. "And I have probably done this more times in real situations than you have in training. Don't worry about me, pretty boy."

His teammates started to harass him and call him "pretty-boy," to which Ziva tried not to smirk. There was always at least one man she had to bring down a few notches before a crew like this seemed at ease with her. The young ones always seemed to be the ones.

Four hours and twelve hundred miles later, they were over the Zagros Mountains and she was finishing adjusting her jumpsuit. The PT had already put her on a temporary oxygen tank and helped her confirm her flight tanks were working properly. Now she needed to confirm the experimental flight suit's function. They were 40,000 feet above Iran, and less than 10 minutes from her optimal jump zone.

The helmet she was wearing had a built in heads-up display that would help her map the landscape and locate a safe landing spot in the target zone. The entire suit was a desert camouflage pattern and made of a lightweight polymer that would keep her warm enough so she would not go into hypothermia while she was at such heights. The crew was suited up in thick winter gear suffering along with her.

The young man she harassed earlier approached almost shyly and she turned her head, waiting.

"I'm your weapons specialist, Officer David," he said.

"Then help me strap these on," she said pointing to the row of weapons she had laid out. He nodded and then impressed her by his ability once he dug in. There was hope for Hel HaAvir's future yet, she mused.

Soon after that, she was getting a countdown and the tail of the aircraft opened. The PT changed her oxygen over to flight tanks and she thanked the Captain and crew as she made her way to the exit. Then she took two hopping steps towards the open doors and dove as simply and gracefully as if she were diving off a ten-meter board into a pool.


Chapter 4

Ziva sat in front of a small fire that she had built, eating a MRE. It was nearly dark when she had landed and she had decided not to go any farther than getting to the side of the mountain, which was only about a kilometer away. She had built herself a small camp in the lee side of a large boulder on the side of the hill.

Just outside her little camp, she had piled the gear that she no longer needed. She had covered it with Thermite so that she could destroy it when she left. She had torn down all the parts of the flight suit that would no longer be of use as well as the papers she had been reading on the trip over and her parachutes. The flight suit's camouflage made it unnecessary for her to change

She had contacted both her father and Timothy to see if anybody had managed to hone in on a location, but there had been no luck. Then she had contact Goel to find out where he was and what supplies he had procured. He had gotten most of the supplies she had asked for and would be setting off via the long road through the mountains to arrive in the town she overlooked by the next afternoon. In the end, she decided to wait out the night hidden from sight and perhaps try to get some sleep. Unfortunately, she was finding it difficult to relax.

Unzipping the front of her suit, she pulled out a small black case. From the case, she retrieved the little iPod that Abby had given her, positioning the ear-buds in hopes that a little music might help her relax. She remembered getting the tiny music player from the scientist; that night, she had spent a long time just holding it in her hand grinning. It had been so unexpected, and even though she knew Abby had given the whole team one of the gadgets, she felt special getting the gift from the Goth. She knew she should have left it behind, but had wanted it with her. She had even gotten a special Kevlar sleeve for the device for when it was not in use. It would not do at all for the little player to be damaged.

Uneasy, Ziva sat staring at the fire, cleaning her gun. It made her feel truly helpless to know that her sister would probably have to undergo yet another torture session before she was likely to be tracked down. The Israeli had complete faith that the moment the terrorist broadcast again, Timothy would track them back to their lair and give her the coordinates she needed. However, she would pray that somehow she would be able to get to Shobi before she suffered too much more.

The call came very early the next morning. Ziva practically pounced on the answer button of her phone when she saw that it was from NCIS.

"I've got some GPS coordinates for you," McGee said with no preamble. "They barely stayed on the line long enough, so I don't think they were sending a large video file. So, maybe…" he trailed off.

"The coordinates?" Ziva demanded, and then wrote down the numbers he rattled off. "Thank you, Timothy. I will go into silent mode soon, but if you find something terribly important and need to contact me, text a 911 to my phone. I will get back to you as soon as possible."

As soon as she got off the call, she started breaking down her camp, calling Goel at the same time. She got an update about where he was and consulted a map to get an idea in her head exactly how long it would be before he could meet up with her. It would be difficult waiting to get underway until he was closer, but she would need to try. Ziva knew her sister would be in no position to run once they left the place she had been held. Regardless, the location was another four kilometers away and Ziva needed to do reconnaissance. Flicking a match onto the pile of goods to be destroyed, she watched it flare up, for a short burning brightly and intensely hot. She did not have the patience to wait around to see it burn down to ash, but she waited long enough until she could stir the bits there were left just to make sure that everything was burning consistently.

Then she shouldered the pack that carried what little gear she had kept and started jogging towards her ultimate destination.

The Israeli officer lay on her stomach watching her targets less than 200 meters away. She used the specialized binoculars the IDF recon teams and officers tended to carry in the field. The thermal imaging, rangefinder and GPS integrated in the MARS unit had let her know she had found her target and had already alerted her to a guard just inside the cave entrance. She could even tell from his heat signature that he was smoking something and had some sort of machine gun lying across his lap.

There were two trucks parked outside the cave entrance and she realized she would need to disable both of them before any kind of extraction would be possible. She thought about how much better this would be if she had time to observe for a few days. However, she knew if McGee was correct, Shobi might not have lost yet another finger. She needed to get some plan moving if she wanted to keep it that way.

Nevertheless, she watched the entrance for a full fifteen minutes before moving a bit closer. Once she was within a hundred meters, she stopped again and crawled into a convenient natural lean-to made by two large rocks. Here she confirmed her earlier observations while dialing her connection to Goel. She relayed what she could see and discussed her ideas with him. He was still about 45 minutes outside the northernmost edge of the nearby town. According to her map, he would still need another ten or more minutes beyond that driving through town and into the hills before he would be near her.

"I am going to disable one of the vehicles, but leave the other available just in case," she said to him.

"In case?" he asked, disturbed by her current thoughts. If she would only wait for him, it would make him feel so much better.

"Never mind," she answered. "Stay on route. Do not speed or draw attention to yourself. We will need to meet up in the middle if I can pull this off. If not, you will need to be able to approach here without the town wondering about you. If the worst happens, you will have to come in for her yourself."

She disconnected as he started to argue with her, ignoring it as he tried to call back. She disabled the vibrate function on the phone so that not even it had a chance of giving her position away.

The ten minutes it had taken her to traverse the last one hundred meters stealthily felt like an hour. She crept up alongside the SUV closest to the cave and pulled her knife out silently. She punctured the left front tire so that it would slowly and silently leak. Then she lay down and looked around underneath the vehicle. It took a moment, but she finally located the main drive shaft. She used a length of string from one of her pockets to rig a grenade pin to it and then wedged the grenade itself in between the body and the shaft. Finally, as she pulled herself out, she reached up and cut the nearby fuel line. If anybody decided to drive despite a flat tire, that person would not live long enough to regret it.

Pulling her gun out, she twisted on its silencer and crept to the best vantage point for looking into the mouth of the cave. She saw nothing but the guard who looked to be taking a nap instead of truly guarding. She smiled, grateful for her luck but just in case he woke, she sighted her gun at his chest. Rising, she strode forward swiftly but silently and was upon the man within moments. He never even knew what hit him as she reached up and twisted his head, quickly breaking his neck. She laid his head back into the most natural sleeping position she could accomplish. Taking the time to remove the ammunition from his weapons, she tossed it all as far away from the cave as she could before she head back in.

Ziva activated the sensors in her helmet and examined the footprints along the cave floor. Following the trail, she came to a fork where several sets broke off in both directions. However, there were shallow parallel grooves leading down one path and she knew that those would lead her to her sister. She did not hesitate to head down that path, holding her gun at the ready and carefully maneuvering at every turn.

It did not take long before she found a large steel door. She slowly slid a slot at eye level open, and confirmed her sister was inside. She was hanging limply from the ceiling looking decidedly worse for the wear. What disturbed Ziva more was the young man standing next to Shobi with a decidedly disturbing look on his face. He sneered at her little sister and grabbed her broken nose until she moaned loudly. He laughed and let her go.

Ziva's blood was boiling. She wanted to go in and properly teach this man what true pain felt like, but knew it was not the right move. Instead, she aimed her silenced weapon through the slot and picked him off with a clean head shot. After looking back and forth down the hall to make sure the brief sound the gun made had not alerted anybody, she finally entered her sister's cell.

When she approached her sister, the young woman did not even move and it frightened Ziva greatly. "Shobi, I am here," she said softly as she examined the locks holding her sister.

"Ziva?" the young woman asked, confused by the sudden appearance of her sister. Was she hallucinating?

Ziva started going through the dead man's pockets hoping he had the keys. She had nearly given up hope when she flipped him over and found a set of keys in a pocket on his left thigh. She quickly figured out which key would open the shackles and then put a supporting arm under her sister.

"I need you to wake up more, sister," Ziva said gently. "Stand up."

It obviously hurt the young woman but she did as asked. As Ziva started to remove the iron that had bitten into her skin for so long, Shobi had to bite her lip just so she would not cry out. After she was free, Ziva looked at her. "Do you want a weapon?"

Shobi nodded so Ziva took one from the harness that was between their bodies and handed it across to the younger woman's left hand. She winced as she realized it was the injured hand, but since she currently was holding her up by her right arm, there was little choice in the matter.

"I have not found the man who did this you," Ziva said softly. She kissed her sister's cheek and continued. "I am sorry. I want to kill him. But I want more to get you home, quickly." Shobi nodded mutely.

"Let us just go," the younger woman said tiredly.

They managed to make their way out of the cave once again uncontested. Ziva checked the keys she still had from the dead man when they got to the car and realized none of them matched. Leaning her sister on the side, she quickly broke into the passenger side and helped her in. Racing around, she hopped into the driver's side and hotwired the car.

The ease at which they were escaping was disturbing her, but she did not dwell on it. She contacted Goel and the two of them quickly found a place to meet. She tossed the helmet she had been wearing all this time in the backseat as they approach the town and made Shobi lay her seat back flat. They skirted through the town unchecked and it took them very little time to find Goel's truck. She parked the stolen car not so far off the road, impressed with Goel's speed as he came around to get Shobi.

"Did you bring the C4 and charges?" Ziva barked at Goel.

He only nodded at the back of the truck he drove. She found where he had stashed what she needed and then went back to the stolen car and began to rig it to blow whenever somebody came to inspect it. She hoped would not be killing some innocent farmer. However, she really doubted anybody in the area was innocent if there were terrorists hiding out so close to the town.

An idea hit her right before she finalized her setup. She disabled it for a moment and stepped out of the vehicle. "Goel," she yelled to get his attention. "Give me your cell phone." He looked at her puzzled, and then ran over to hand her his phone. "I will be ready momentarily. Get us ready to leave just in case."

Pulling out her own phone, she dialed McGee. The second he answered, she asked him if what she had in mind was possible with what she had available. He was silent for a few moments before laughing nervously and saying he thought it could be done. Therefore, she spent the next few minutes listening to complex instructions from her American teammate. Once that was complete, she finished rigging her explosives.

"Thank you, Timothy," she said as she jogged to the waiting Jeep.

"Hey, no problem. Oh, and Gibbs wants you to call him when you get to Pol-e-Zal," he said quickly. "He's got something up his sleeve and he seems happy about it."

"I will," she answered and disconnected. She was puzzled, but had learned to trust Gibbs. He may be on the other side of the world, and it may be the middle of the night there, but she would call him.

Gibb's surprise was a navy seal extraction team waiting for them ten kilometers outside of Pol-e-Zal. He had pulled in favors with some old Navy friends. He had also spoken with Eli David about his plan, which in turn led to the Mossad Director pulling in his own favors with the Israeli Military. The Hel HaAvir conducted a large-scale practice flight all the way to Mosul, Iraq. Iran's military scrambled to protect their northwestern borders and did not even notice the brief American incursion into their country.

The American military doctors in Baghdad had not wanted Shobi to travel once they treated her, but Ziva had convinced them otherwise. The younger woman only wanted to be back in Israel and Ziva knew she would get the best treatment possible back home. Eli David had arranged for one of the transports that had been part of the earlier maneuvers to pick up his agents, so they were able to get a direct flight back to Israel.

They transported Shobi directly to one of the best hospitals in the city, while Goel and Ziva followed orders to report to the Director. Eli David crossed the room as soon as they entered and embraced his daughter. He whispered into her ear, "I am so proud of you, daughter." Once he let go, he shook the other man's hand then went back around to sit at his desk. He indicated they should sit also and he began to question them.

After half an hour had passed, Ziva's phone rang. Breaking protocol, she answered it as soon as she recognized McGee's number. "Hello?"

"Ah, Ziva, good news," he said. "Well, maybe."

"What is it McGee?" Ziva asked.

"Your little cell phone and MARS setup got some pictures before being blown to kingdom come," he said. "I had to work with Abby to enhance the pictures, but we managed to clean them up so you can see the two men closest to the car before it exploded."

"Can you send those to my father's email address now? I would like to be able to share these," she said.

"Sure," he said and she heard a keyboard in the background. "Oh, and Abby wants me to tell you that you better get home soon. She said something about unfinished discussions."

Ziva smirked. "Tell her I will be happy to finish our discussion when I return. Timothy? Thank you for all that you have done for my family."

She hung up and told her father about the email. Once he opened the photos, they recognized the man immediately. He was the speaker from the videos. The director looked up at his daughter in question. She was looking at Goel.

"Well, Goel," she said with a smile. "Our trap worked." She asked her father to print the photo. Once it was printed, she handed it to Goel. "I think you should go give this to Shobi. Tell her that her tormentor is dead. You can be proud that it was your explosives and fast work that did that. Thank you."

Goel stared at Ziva for a moment as if questioning why she wanted him to deliver the news. "It would be a comfort to me to know Shobi has a friend like you, Goel," she said simply. "I will meet you at the hospital soon." She left unspoken that she had seen how gently he treated her sister while they had traveled. She did not know where that may lead, but she did not disapprove of the thought of her sister and a man like Goel.

He nodded at her then bid goodnight to the director.

Ziva turned back to her father. "I will stay the night with Shobi, but I will probably try to return to America after that."

He stood and inhaled deeply, walking slowly to his daughter. "I always miss you, daughter," he said. "However, I know you are doing as you are meant to." He put his hands on her shoulders. "Your friends obviously care a great deal for you and they helped both my daughters this time. I will not begrudge you or them." He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Go with my blessing. Shalom."

She leaned forward and hugged him fiercely. After a few moments, she straightened and made her way out the door.

Ziva entered Shobi's room well after the official visiting hours. She had spoken with the night nurse, convincing the woman to let her stay with her sister after explaining that she was going to have to leave the country again and that this was all the time she could spend with Shobi. When she entered, she found Goel asleep in a chair next to her sister's bed, his hand underneath Shobi's smaller hand.

She spent a few minutes just examining her sister. There seemed to be bandages everywhere, including a large one covering her nose. Machines beeped and flashed behind the young woman, taking measurements of her vitals. The slow steady beat was reassuring to Ziva. Her sister was alive; she was safe. Moreover, Shobi would be grounded for a while. She would need time to recover physically, psychologically. She would most likely require plastic surgery to fix her nose and the scars from the cuts would have to heal before Mossad would consider using her as any type of field agent. Ziva was ashamed to realize she wanted her little sister grounded and safe for a good long time. This had scared her.

She walked over next to Goel and put her hand on his shoulder. He came alert, but made no big move, afraid to wake the small woman in the bed.

"She was happy with your pictures," he told Ziva, his voice a bare whisper. Looking at her, puzzled, he added, "why did you not bring them here yourself?"

"I have my reasons," Ziva replied enigmatically.

"She cried," he said sadly. "She tried not to, but she did." He looked at their joined hands. "She let me hold her when she finally let go."

"Good," Ziva said. "I trusted you would be here for her when I can't."

He looked back at the older of sisters. They really were very similar in features, but he could see now how much harder Ziva was when compared to Shobi. He could see how much of her father she carried within her. He wondered if the young American woman would be the one to peek into her heart and see the side she still kept hidden away.

"Goel," Ziva spoke again. "I will leave tomorrow." She crossed over to kneel down in front of where he sat. "Please, watch after her since I cannot."

He knew there was much more to that statement than what she said. In his experience, this family spoke little even when they meant a lot. "On my word of honor," he answered.

"Good," she said then stood again. "Now, would mind if I had a few hours of sister time? I know she is asleep right now, but I would like to be here when she wakes."

He snorted. "She will wake as soon as I stand. But I will be happy to give you two some privacy."

He was right. When he stood and slowly tried to remove his hand without waking the young woman, she woke and sat up, holding his hand harder. He soothed her in a quiet voice, a deep baritone murmur telling her she was okay. He showed her that her sister was there and extricated his hand. He said his goodbyes, promising to be back in a few hours.

Ziva took his place in the chair next to the bed and reached over, pushing Shobi's hair back away from her face. "I am sorry I did not get there sooner," she said sadly.

Shobi just blew out her breath, a cross between a sob and a laugh. "Did you not… I…" Shobi seemed to fight with herself for words. "When you came in, I thought you were him, there to bring me back to the cameras." The younger woman looked at her left hand. It throbbed madly, especially where her finger should be. "I did not expect to live Ziva. By then, I was wishing to die."

Ziva stood then sat one hip on the edge of the bed facing her sister. She ran her hand over her little sister's head in a soothing motion. "I am so glad that wish did not come true."

"It must be tiring to have to running to your pathetic little sister's rescue," Shobi said bitterly. Fat tears rolled off her eyelashes, splashing down her cheek. "Father must be so ashamed. I know I am."

"Stop it," Ziva said firmly. She grabbed Shobi's chin, turning the young woman's face so they could see eye to eye. "You did what few can do. You survived nearly two weeks of hell. You gave them nothing, not your name, not even confirmation of your nationality. They tortured you to the point of near death and when it was obvious you wouldn't break, they resorted to cowardly videos to try to intimidate."

Shobi closed her eyes, beginning to cry harder.

"You did nothing wrong, Shobi," Ziva said firmly and gathered Shobi into her arms to hold the young woman. "I am proud of you. Father is proud of you. You amaze me."

Those words seemed to open a torrent within the younger woman and she began sobbing in earnest. Ziva held onto her throughout the storm of emotion and said soothing words, before singing a song their mother used to sing to them when they were little. Eventually, the tears subsided, but Shobi did not want to let go, so Ziva stretched out next to her and they talked through the night as they did when they were little girls.


Chapter 5

Ziva parallel parked her Mini Cooper on the narrow one-way street about three cars behind Abby's hearse. She had been to Abby's apartment many times now, especially since she returned from Israel the first time, but for some reason this trip was making her nervous. She picked up the flowers she had carried all the way back from Israel, hoping the Goth would like them. It seemed like such a silly gesture now, but she would not forego them after carrying them all this way.

It only took a few moments walk to reach the doors of Abby's apartment building and she was just about to hit the buzzer when a young couple made their way out the door. The young man seemed to recognize the universal signs of a nervous suitor and took pity on her by holding the front door open to let her in. He had seen her coming and going with that Goth scientist on the third floor, so he figured it was safe.

Ziva had climbed the stairs, was standing in front of Abby's door before she knew it, and stood there for a short time, simply pondering why she was so nervous. Deciding that she was stalling she lifted her hand and knocked on the door solidly. She heard the older woman crossing the room and smiled when there was a long enough pause to let her know that Abby checked the peephole.

"Ziva!" Abby exclaimed as she threw the door open.

The smaller woman was quick enough at thrusting the hand that held the flowers out of the way so that Abby's quick bear hug did not get a chance to crush them. However, she did not expect it when the scientist grabbed her by her free hand and yanked her enthusiastically into her apartment.

"I'm so happy you're back," Abby said excitedly. "Did you find your sister? Did you get all of the bad guys? I mean, I know you blew a couple of them up. Seriously, wow! That was one big explosion." Abby examined her up and down. "You weren't injured were you?"

Ziva laughed as Abby began to poke and prod at her, turn her head back and forth, grabbing at her ribs and even patting her down a bit. She saw the moment Abby noticed the flowers and it filled her with joy to watch the reaction. "I brought these back for you," Ziva said and extended the arm holding the flowers towards Abby. "They are Purple Irises from Netanya." She ducked her head a bit and grinned mischievously at the Goth. "As close as I could get to black flowers this time of year and on short notice."

The thousand-watt smile that the scientist gave to Ziva in return more than compensated for all the care she had to give the flowers during the long flight back. It even compensated for the arguments she had with the customs officials at Dulles. The Goth took the flowers gently from her and inhaled the very light fragrance before excusing herself to go get a vase.

Ziva removed her coat, hanging it up, and then sat down on the couch to wait for the older woman. She did not have to wait long before the other woman came back and positioned her flowers with care on a nearby table. After that, the Goth joined Ziva on the couch.

"So," Abby said. "Can you tell me what happened?"

Ziva shared what she could of the incident, leaving out why her sister was in Iran in the first place, but she did not get far before Abby interrupted.

"You jumped out of plane at 40,000 feet?" the older woman asked with a squeak in her voice. "Wasn't there a way to get there by car?"

"I did not want to risk waiting," Ziva answered. She continued her story, and Abby tried to listen without interrupting. Once she got to the point where Gibbs had Navy Seals waiting for them Abby cheered.

"Gibbs is such a good guy," the older woman said while bouncing.

"Better than many know," Ziva agreed, thinking of how he had kept the secret of Ari all this time. "However, Timothy and you were also great help to us. Mossad will not forget this. I will not forget it." Ziva finished telling her story, ending it once they had returned to Israel.

"Is your sister okay?" Abby asked softly.

"She is a fighter, like me," Ziva answered. "She will heal with time."

Abby only nodded. A comfortable silence fell between them. Before Ziva could think of some way to talk about what had truly brought her here, Abby blurted out a question. "Why did you kiss me goodbye?"

The Israeli turned herself on the couch so she was fully facing the taller woman. "Let me ask you this first: Why did you come here the night I left? You seemed a bit," Ziva tried to choose the right word, "angry."

Abby ducked her head a little but knew she could not hide her blush. It was a curse with her pale skin. "I was jealous of the guy in the photo, even though I didn't actually see the photo," she mumbled. "When Tony said you had a boyfriend, I was jealous and, yeah, kind of angry." She looked up and saw Ziva grinning at her. "I really didn't want to lose you again. When you went away the last time, you didn't write, or call, or email and I missed you. A lot."

Ziva reached over and took Abby's hand in her own. "I missed you too," she said to the Goth. "I," she started then swore in Hebrew briefly, cursing her lack of skill in this area. She could seduce a target, but felt unskilled at opening her heart. "When I went back to Israel the first time, I realized then what I had left behind. I like the city. I enjoy the work we do. I am happy with the friends I have on the team," she said and paused to gather her thoughts. "I found I did not realize how much I had come to care for some of you."

Abby could see that the other woman was having difficulty getting her words together, so she just sat patiently.

"I like McGee as a friend, so I emailed him as I could," Ziva said. "Tony, he is like an annoying brother and he moved too much for me to keep in contact. I was ordered not to contact Gibbs."

"And me?" Abby asked.

"You," Ziva answered. "I could not find the words to tell you how I missed you. It took me off my guard." She muttered in her mother tongue. "I did not realize until you were no longer in my daily life how much I needed you there." She reached up and touched the pale cheek nearest to her. "And not knowing if I would ever be back was breaking my heart."

The look she gave Abby made the Goth shiver. "I could not bear to speak with you, when what I really wanted was to be back in your presence."

"Oh," was all Abby could think to say. Silence stretched on between them for a few minutes while Ziva let the scientist digest what she had revealed. Eventually Abby broke it. "So why did you kiss me?"

"Because, in that moment, even as I knew I needed to leave, all I wanted to do was stay and show you what you meant to me," Ziva said. She snorted. "And I was also a bit determined not to leave the country again without at least once tasting these full lips." She ran her thumb over Abby's lower lip, enchanted when the Goths mouth parted minutely at the touch. "From the way you were acting, I did not think you would mind."

Abby smiled. "I didn't," she answered. "But I will mind if you wait until you have to say goodbye again before kissing me again."

"I don't plan on waiting any longer," Ziva said and closed the distance between them. This time their kiss was not rushed, and a great deal of time passed before they separated, both of them breathing heavily. Ziva's smile was one Abby had never seen before on the officer: a smile of pure joy. "Hello," she said.

"Oh yeah," Abby said. "I definitely want more hellos from you than goodbyes."

Ziva thought that was a wonderful idea and told her so. Drawing Abby back within her embrace, she set out to show her just how fun her hellos could be.

The next morning as a surprisingly cheerful Ziva David entered the NCIS bullpen, Tony DiNozzo watched her with suspicious eyes. His eyebrow scaled up on his forehead as she set a large paper bag on her desk. She was humming, actually humming cheerily, he noticed with some disgust.

The rest of the team was filtering in behind them and he observed her getting McGee's attention as he walked by her desk. Reaching into the bag, she pulled out a box that he remembered as being from that bakery that made the killer cupcake that Abby went ballistic about. She stood and handed Tim the box then kissed both of his cheeks, speaking in tones a little too low for Tony to hear.

"So, Ziva," Tony drawled, "how was your little vacation back to the motherland?"

Her eyes tracked back over to his and although she had a small smirk, there was little friendliness in them. "Eventful," she finally said. "But, in the end, satisfying."

"Well good," he said with false cheer. "I'd hate for you to be unsatisfied."

McGee rolled his eyes at his desk. "Tony," he tried to interrupt. "I keep trying to tell you…"

"Oh be quiet, cupcake boy," Tony said.

McGee and Ziva shared a glance. The junior agent simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "Well, I tried." She just shook her head and smirked. About that time, Gibbs got off the elevator and as he passed by her Ziva stood and grabbed another item from her bag. She followed him to his desk and set what Tony figured was a bag of coffee on his desk. He did not bother to try to listen in on their conversation since Ziva and Gibbs were conducting it in rapid fire Spanish for some reason. Gibbs surprised Tony by standing up and hugging Ziva before gruffly sitting back down and opening up his emails.

"Did you do anything out of the ordinary? Exciting?" Tony continued grilling at Ziva, oblivious to Gibbs eyes tracking his way.

"I kept myself well occupied the whole time," Ziva answered. "Why? Was your weekend dull? Need to live vicariously through me again?"

McGee snorted, earning the stink-eye from Tony. Even Gibbs sported a small smile. The elevator dinged and everybody was treated to a very cheery Abby. She waved at Tony and McGee right before she stopped in front of Ziva's desk. The Israeli drew another of the boxes out of her bag and gave Abby a full-blown smile when the Goth squealed with delight.

Abby leaned down to whisper something in Ziva's ear, which to everybody's surprise, except Gibbs, made Ziva blush. Gibbs acted as if he did not see any of it, even though they all knew Gibbs saw everything. Ziva placed a gentle kiss on Abby's cheek and said, "Later, Ahuvati." Abby smiled broadly and bounced back out of the bullpen.

"So," Tony persisted. "Got anything for me over there?"

Ziva smirked. "Yes, Tony," she answered. "Come here, and I will give it to you." She stood and retrieved something from the bag. When he approached her, she handed him an envelope.

Opening the envelope, he found some papers and a photo. He skimmed down through the write-up, realizing that the papers were a write-up on a man that Mossad had been watching. He flipped the photo over and recognized it as the one that was on her desk before she left. About that time, Ziva smacked him solidly in the back of the head.

"You should really learn to read Hebrew if you are going to continue spying at my desk," she said. "In the meantime, I had this one translated for you." Turning to Gibbs, she explained that she had a small gift for Ducky. "McGee," she said, "Keep DiNozzo away from my desk, would you?" After that, she walked away, heading towards the elevator, leaving a confused DiNozzo in her wake.

Gibbs stood as he got off the phone. "We got a case," he announced and started heading for the elevator. "McGee, when Ziva gets back up, you two get the van and meet us at the scene," the older man said. As he stepped past Tony, Gibbs hit the back of his head soundly. "I'd say you got off easy this time."

Tony rubbed the back of his head, "What did I do?" he whined.

Ziva had delivered her final cupcakes to Ducky and Jimmy. She found herself standing right at the edge of Abby's lab, watching her as she was often wont to do. Reflecting on the night before made her smile. Thinking of what Abby had said to her upstairs made her blush anew.

Just as she was about to sneak into the lab and possibly tell Abby exactly what she thought of her earlier suggestion, she felt her phone vibrating in her coat pocket. Pulling it out, she read the text from McGee. She shrugged and headed back to the elevator, with Abby none the wiser.

It was okay. They had all the time in the world.

The End

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