Alright, y'all. I started this on October 1, 2017, 2:53 PM. It took me so long to finish this. But the central idea is that Ziva David deserved so much better than she was given in the show. My Ziva, the one I grew up with, would never have had a daughter and never told the father, would never have just left and never came back until it was absolutely necessary. This is my Ziva.


I.troubles, they may bring you down

Healing—a word she has never known.

She remembers a little girl, staring up at the night sky, lying in the middle of an orange grove. She is thirteen and already knows how to wield a knife to cut a man's jugular.

Somehow, she is proud of that, she likes to think. This is her choice. Her smile is bright as she tells her father yes, yes she would like to join Mossad as soon as she can. She does not understand the flash of remorse in her father's eyes before he congratulates her, his smile brighter and most certainly madder.

0~0~0~0~0

Tony tells her that rebirth is possible. That she, of all people, can be redeemed.

She wants so desperately to believe him, to follow him to the ends of the earth and back, as he has done for her. But if there is anything she knows about herself, it is that she must find her own strength and claw out of this her way. She must feel that she has earned redemption and feel the hard soil of the earth under her fingernails after she has dug her way out of the grave she is trapped in.

Tony, lips lingering on hers and feet tugging him towards the plane, understands that. And that is why, when she watches him leave, she laughs and cries and feels dread all at once. She has signed an invisible contract, one that says that she will return once she has sorted through all of her life. One that says she will do it alone, without the man who loves her unconditionally and understands her inconceivably. One that says she will carve Ziva David out of wood and stone and marble and chisel her out of self-doubt, self-hatred, and misery.

These are her "Wills". And unlike the first list, she will fulfill them all. Isn't that what Ziva David would do?

She once told him she would rather die than take off her necklace. Now it is his. It is, she believes, the beginning of her death and perhaps, with that comes rebirth.

0~0~0~0~0

She returns to the Israeli farmhouse and traces their steps into the orange grove to the box buried underneath years' worth of her family's seeds: grown, watered, and cared for until a sixteen-year-old daughter died and everything was left for vengeance. Her fingers carry the weight of this earth, the warm October soil, rich and wet, sticking to her skin in between them. She shifts the dirt, letting it fall to the ground once more.

It's all she can bear before she returns to the house, to the bed where they whispered their goodbyes. She made a promise, to him and to herself. She intends to keep it.

She just doesn't know where to start.

0~0~0~0~0

The next day, she is knee-deep in a pile of dirt and earth and green. There are weeds close to the ground in front of the light blue porch, their green shocking against its paleness.

She pulls at the weeds, grimacing in disgust as the roots resist, straining as her hands pull their entire being out of the earth they have rooted themselves in. The dirt splatters all over her.

She sighs and breathes in the scent of oranges. Stupid, to think this would work.

When the porch is clear and her work is done, Ziva wipes her palms on already brown-stained jeans and rocks back on the steady heels of her sneakers. She surveys the pale blue once more and decides to leave.


She hitches rides from Be'er Sheva to Gaza. Usually, this would mean a cargo truck willing to take Israeli passengers. Other times, she hikes for miles on foot, her pack slung over her shoulders with a sleeping bag, water, food, and a knife.

She leaves behind any trace of herself and any form of contact behind at the farmhouse. She would like to believe Orli would respect her privacy, that though Mossad is always watching, she will leave her alone. Wishful thinking has rarely comforted her, so she resolves to block the thought of that woman from her mind.

Her boots crunch against the cracks of the earth and the sands of the desert, the rocks flying from her kick. It sounds beautiful, like the innocent laugh of her sister and the crack of lightning as she giggled in Ziva's bed all night. Tali loved storms.

The air tastes of something just beyond her grasp, sweet and uncertain. It feels as if she's just beginning to reach for it.

0~0~0~0~0

She remembers a young woman, barely twenty, hiking through the desert toward a Hamas base.

Her lips were dry, cracked; her eyes squinted into the distant, endless sand. She had two pistols in her holster and a semi-automatic weapon strapped across her body; the team she led saw none of the five knives she had hidden in her belt, boots, and pack, which held enough water and rations to last for a week.

She was close, she knew. She had memorized the map her father gave her, this path towards vengeance, to the terrorist camp responsible for recruiting and training the man who pushed one button and killed her sister.

There was no hesitation. That was not what she was made for. For this, she felt neither remorse or regret at the thought of her being made by her father.

0~0~0~0~0

Splinters in the earth, cracks filled with miniscule strands of grass. There are sand and rocks underneath her feet and dust and sand in her hair and eyes.

She wraps cloth around her head, covering her mouth and nose. She surveys the land, searching for some semblance of the land she saw years ago. Instead, she finds another camp set up, tents gray and brown and light yellow from the dust. It is off the side of the road. Behind it, evergreen shrubs and flowers bloom. The air is fresh, a relief and a breath of life.

A football rolls lazily by her feet near the dirt. She flinches. The sound of laughter and children screaming fills her ears behind her cloth; she steps away before they pay her any attention. Two boys wrestle over the ball, one of them tackling the ball in their teammates' direction from underneath the other's legs, continuing the game. She looks up to find a barrage of girls, ranging from ages three to eight, jumping around the desert floor. Ignorance and obliviousness are bliss for these children. They do not know they are standing in a graveyard.

0~0~0~0~0

She remembers clenching her semi-automatic weapon, swaying it back and forth to track her targets. Her eyes were protected from the sand blowing across her face in the wind by her goggles.

Her heart was blinded by revenge and hurt, almost physical in its manifestation. Her hand clenched more with each pull, the handle of her gun imprinted into the palm of her hand. She doesn't remember any of their faces, only that she carried out each hit personally and that each kill was a headshot, flanked by her lieutenants to ensure the kill with two taps to the chest.

Yes, it was overkill. That should be expected when a Hamas terrorist cell attacks a peaceful Israeli market with the Deputy Director's youngest child as one of the casualties.

This was their reputation: one of the daughters an angel sent home too soon, the other a demon on earth, an agent of death itself. The stench of blood diffused into the air and her uniform is marked by the red dark splatters across her goggles, helmet, and flak jacket.

0~0~0~0~0

Someone taps her on her shoulder. She turns wildly, her head covering nearly slipping out of her grasp, breath catching. The woman who meets her eyes with startling strength furrows her eyebrows in confusion and surprise.

"Who are you? Why are you here?" she asks in Arabic. She is thin, as all are in war, and tanned by the desert sun.

"I… I am just passing by. I'd like a place to stay, if possible," she replies.

The woman's eyes are piercing, studying her, seeing through her. Ziva breathes hesitantly. It would be so easy to turn her around for the sake of the children. If Ziva were her, she would have done anything to prevent an outsider, a potential enemy, from crossing into her territory.

"If you have no business with terrorists, if you bring no violence, you can stay. But you… can you promise this?" Ziva blinks. A strange question to ask in the middle of a desert between two peoples at war. Can she? She knows the answer in her heart, the one that caused her pain and guilt and loneliness. She is a harbinger of death; years of being an investigator cannot change that, not even the family it gave her can.

But Ziva vowed to rebuild herself. Surely this requires change.

"I will do all I can to do so," she promises, meeting the woman's gaze with an equal amount of determination.

To her surprise, she nods after several seconds, weighing Ziva, the steely air in her stare wavering into kindness. "Alright, then. Welcome to our home."

The orphanage, borne out of the remains of the terrorist camp she executed, welcomes her with open arms.

0~0~0~0~0

She remembers there was nothing but the dirt and soil underneath her feet and her hands when she was finished. Blood seeped in through the cracks of the rocks, filling the crevices slowly, working around the stray pebble in its path.

Her hands shook, but her face was steady. She could not let her lieutenants witness weakness from a David. It would be unbecoming for her father. The time to sit shiva had passed. Her father mourned no longer, or, he did not show it except through the manila folders he slammed in front of her and the order to show no mercy.

To mask the weakness, she smiled fiercely and ordered her subordinates to move out. They trembled in the wake of her bared teeth, and she almost snarled at them in response. But she looked down, taking a moment to coach her expression into one of nonchalance before following them out of the desecrated camp.

Death, she believed, is permanent, even for this earth beneath the camp, for the rocks that held rivets of spilled blood, guilty and impure. Blood that deserved to be spilled.

What more could she say of her own blood?


The first night is peaceful. She stays near the front of the tent with the woman she met, Meira, who teaches both boys and girls along with two other women, Serach and Chana. They have no other family but themselves. They offer no explanation. She does not ask, but she knows they all have Jewish names. She does not tell them her name and sticks to Arabic. The next day is filled with half-hearted introductions to the children; they have learned that those who come often leave too soon. They have the sense not to get attached, and so does she. She plans to leave the next day.

In the morning, she packs her belongings. She didn't know what she was looking for, coming back here as if she would find some semblance of peace. It's time to move on.

But her path is blocked by a slim hand on her shoulder, forcing her to look up into dark brown eyes similar to her own: haunted, knowing, experienced. She once told Tony growing up fast was a requirement for everyone here, in a war zone. It was no exaggeration.

"Meira, my deepest apologies. I must not stay," Ziva begins, but the woman's grip is surprisingly firm.

"No, my dear. You must stay." The answer is in Hebrew, but that is hardly what startles her.

"What?" Ziva's mouth opens and gapes in an unruly manner. "Why?"

"We know who you are, child; we know a soldier's eyes and stance when we see it. My home was Tel Aviv for a very long time. I am very well acquainted with details of the David family."

Ziva scoffs. "You know nothing."

Meira's laugh is one of brightness and clarity. It makes Ziva pause and remember the lightning Tali loved to hear. "My dear, I sold fruit to your mother every week. You look just like her."

Her breath catches. Meira's eyes are fond, though she has no reason to be caring towards her besides a single connection with Rivka David. She watches one of the other women, playing games with the children. (Ima!, Ziva hears herself shout as her mother comes home from the market. Come see me dance.) "We live in dangerous times," Meira says wistfully. "Many of my friends could not survive living in this desert. But you can help us survive."

"How?" How could she help them, when all she brought was destruction?

She grasps Ziva's arm. "Teach us how to fight, Ziva. Just for a little while." Arching her eyebrow, Meira pushes on. "God has blessed us with your presence. The least you can do is embrace your calling here."

Ziva, who sat shiva for a father who disappointed her far too often, hunted her father's killer days after his death, and months later killed the boy she grew up with, vying for both her father's love and respect, has not believed in her people's God for quite some time. She asked Him for a sign. She forced that sign to leave her on an airplane tarmac three weeks ago. She closes her eyes and inhales. Thinks. Prays, perhaps, the prayers her mother and the rabbi taught her all those years ago before her mother wanted to stop the corruption that had already begun to infect Ari and left her father with three little ducklings in tow.

And exhales. "All right. I thank you for your hospitality."

"Ziva," Meira says. "It is our pleasure."

0~0~0~0~0

When they return to the tent that night, Ziva sleeps soundly for the first time in months.

0~0~0~0~0

The children blearily swipe at their eyes the next morning as the three women wake them for morning lessons. They are surprised that she is still here, but accept her as their own. Children are innocently blind to mistrust, overeager, and blessed with joy. They are, she believes, the most resilient of humans.

She sits at the back of their makeshift classroom in a dusty corner across from a bookshelf with two small layers of a variety of Arabic and Hebrew novels. She spies a copy of a children's book she used to read Tali before bed, the corners spent and fringed. The smell of old, yellowed paper sifts over to her.

Meira teaches the smallest children letters and words; Serach teaches half of the rest simple arithmetic and Chana reads a story to the remaining children. Two hours pass quickly, and they are given a break - the boys and several girls run toward the battered, worn football that sits on top of the bookshelf, a prize to behold. She follows the rest of the girls out, curious about their lives. When they exit the classroom tent, the sun blinds her, and the dirt and sand slowly shifts in a cool breeze. It cools the sweat on the back of her neck, the heat of the cramped classroom forgotten. The girls run to boxes drawn with chalk on the rocky ground a few feet from the tent; they jump from one to the other.

She stands in the midst of life and livelihood, on the edge of learning what it is to have both. A little girl, the star math scholar of the class, lifts up her hand towards her and asks if she would like to read with her. The words are polite and precise; the voice is shy and gentle. Wide brown eyes stare at her, waiting patiently. She smiles, and to her relief, the girl, Sarah, does not find her terrifying. The girl's soft hand fits perfectly in hers.

They sit cross-legged beside the bookshelf. This corner is well-kept, dust and dirt absent from what must be the girl's little home during recess. They read, page by page, alternating between themselves. The child's voice always rings confidently, reading what must only be the truth on a page. Books never lie. Movies never do either, Tony would say.

When recess finishes, Ziva can breathe the air of Oz, see the little silver shoes (Not ruby, Tony), and wish for home so deeply that she believes that she still has one. Sarah runs over to her designated part of the classroom, waving goodbye ecstatically. Ziva smiles back.

0~0~0~0~0

"The plants' roots are deep, but the weeds are weak and shallow. You must remove them to allow the plants that were meant to be sown to grow and thrive, or the weeds may choke them," says Chana. She is young, with hair as wild as hers was at that age, when she first betrayed the family she had by blood and met the people who would become her own family. It's different now, but she remembers the feeling of being with them before—well, before. The garden behind the main sleeping tent stretches before them. The smallest patch of weeds struggles before them, climbing to reach the sun from under the evergreens. "You must kill the things that don't belong before they grow too quickly and catch you by surprise. Or else, you sign the death warrant for the ones that must survive."

They kneel down in the dirt. The way Chana's fingers move about in the dirt is graceful; they dance in the brown mess and make something simply disgusting look beautiful. Ziva pulls the weeds up, the shallow roots grasping the dirt until her strength outmatches them. Wet dirt splatters onto her cargo pants, and the sifting dirt feels warm on her fingers in the breeze. The December air is calming, though freezing, and yet somehow warm, because between her and Chana sits something like peace—her thoughts contain nothing else but the next weed and Sarah's next book.

0~0~0~0~0

The way Serach moves in the moonlight behind the tent is fleeting; she is a bird, and her steady hands are her beak, ready to strike. Her fists make harsh contact with Ziva's elbows, but Ziva pushes her harder. She knows she can do more, be stronger, and make her fists as powerful as those who tried to destroy her. She is young, fast, and full of energy. Her hair swings behind her as she pants, concentrating, directing her energy to her opponent and keeping herself balanced. "Good," Ziva says, and swings yet again.

She'd told Ziva once that she worked with children to be more than her own parents, to be free of their power. Ziva has seen it before—a girl made only to marry a man, threatened with acid and fire and men if unable to fulfill her duty as a woman, unable to follow the rules that monitor her every step.

Now, watching Serach grit her teeth and spar with her, seeing her grow stronger day after day, Ziva knows her wings are no longer clipped. She is free from a legacy that has haunted her since birth, chained her in a cage, and forced her to sing.

Ziva has sung the same songs for too long. But with Serach, she feels a key in the palm of her hand to the chain wrapped around her legs.


It goes like this: at dawn, she trains Meira before they all wake the children. At recess, she reads with Sarah; at lunch, Chana dances with her feet but spars with her hands—they make the desert a ballroom and the fight a choreographed work of art. At twilight, she watches Serach fly.

She never thought she was worthy of such a life—one that was encompassing and exhausting but perhaps filled her to her core. At night, she sleeps so restfully; in the morning, she rises without a hollow cave in her chest.

0~0~0~0~0

She remembers her mother passing her a heavy bundle, the length of her arm, sleeping, at peace. Something stirred within her, and Ziva felt as if she had won something worth more than her father's approval. "That is Tali," her mother said gently, spent and exhausted, but stronger than anyone she'd ever known.

She didn't expect the strong grip of responsibility on her heart in that moment, or in the moments much, much later when all she could think of was little Tali in her arms, small and fragile and precious in so many ways.

0~0~0~0~0

"Ziva," Meira shouts, and she smiles with pride in her eyes. "Come look!"

There is a patch of green and pink sprouting from the dry, brown desert soil. They coil around each other, intertwined and threaded so intricately Ziva cannot tell which stem traces back to which root. The weeds she and Chana pulled out are long gone, but the results took time and patience.

The children gather around the small garden they have invested in, enthralled by the sprouts of life, which still them to a quiet murmur. Ziva feels the same awe in her heart—that her hands, sticky with mud and dirt and seeds, brought them to flourish. Chana appears next to her to drag her forward, giggling like a schoolgirl, giddy and proud of their work. Ziva feels the smile tugging at her lips turn into a wide, carefree grin as she and Chana kneel down in the dirt and smell the first bloom of the pink desert ice flower.


In another life, she might have seen the inside of a hospital ER and a blue-green gown covering her legs. She might have seen Tony's terrified yet hilariously happy face scrunched up in pain as she squeezed the life out of his hand. She might have seen the wrinkles of his forehead soften as he held the life they made, together, in his arms, because she and he are not alone. (At lo levad, he whispered, and there was something so desperately intimate about his breath against her ear; I know, she said, but her heart was broken and she wondered what could repair the sole survivor of a species, of the list of Davids.)

In another life.

Holding Sarah's hand as she reads the next chapter of Le Petit Prince, she feels no envy toward herself in that one.


The stars shine before her in the way the lights of Washington, D.C. never can. She wishes she could show Tony the stars she was born under, the names of the constellations she taught Tali as children in their native tongue. When she closes her eyes, she can hear Ari teaching her and herself teaching Tali, and she feels not the rocky, barren desert of Gaza underneath her, but the rich, lush soil of the orange grove.

She begins to grow restless. Of course, Meira notices. She had always known how to see through her. But this time, she does not tell her to stay. It hurts more than it should, and then Ziva tells herself how stupid that is: she is the one choosing to leave. She always is.

"Zivaleh," she says, palm to her cheek as she stands before the three of them against the rising dawn, the early dew fresh in the garden she and Chana worked so hard on, the children still asleep. "You have helped us, guided us to be better people. Know this, and know we will wait for you, always."

She looks at Meira with warmth and gratitude, ashamed she has repaid her with abandonment. But Meira merely shakes her head and tells her, "There is no room for regret. Only moving forward." She doesn't try to stop her, but merely gives her the blessing to move on, to find somewhere else to heal her many wounds.

Surprisingly, Ziva thinks that she believes her, and for the first time in many years, she can breathe knowing that the people she leaves behind still love her.

0~0~0~0~0

The next morning, next to Sarah's bed, she leaves The Wizard of Oz, signed with a note that says, "Be good, little one. I will always be proud of my little princess." She kisses her on the forehead.

She's never been good at goodbyes, but somehow she has faith that Sarah will forgive her, a word she has never thought of in a long time.

She stands in front of the tent afterward, drinking from her canteen, and wraps her scarf around her mouth, securing her goggles on her face. She remembers the air around her tasting of something just beyond her reach. Now it smells like the fringed pages of an ancient book, turning towards the next epistle, and she can feel the rough, watered down edges of the chapter underneath her fingertips as she begins her hike forward.


In her dreams, she picks a green fruit from the bush in the mountains behind the old orange grove of her childhood and her rebirth. She slices them open with an old but sharpened knife, and the fruit has nothing but black seeds among white flesh that spreads like spider webs. The juice drips down her fingers, but the fruit itself is empty.


II. if you are lost, you can always be found

After two months in the desert, she returns to Be'er Sheva for a hot shower and a change of clothes. It was easy to lose track of time, to throw herself into the blissful peace the camp lived in. She notices the emptiness of her front porch, where she could barely stand the growing weeds of her feeble garden.

Even though it is January, not November, she buys tickets for the opera. After, she plants seeds from the desert, patting the dirt and admiring the way it smears on the blue fabric of her jeans. Ziva smiles and misses Chana.


There is always some hollow part of her heart that can only be filled with art. She had wanted to be a ballerina, to dance the Nutcracker and make art with her body instead of committing murder. Puccini had the same effect, the notes rising in crests and falling in troughs from Tali's voice, leaving her with a sense of childish wonder.

This never goes away, Ziva learns: the moment when the soft edges of strings reaches her ears, her subsequent steps toward the invisible black speared notes in the air, and the joy and sorrow and longing that she hears emanating as she stands in the middle of a crowd, oblivious to the world around her—this is the beauty of art, caressing her within its embrace.

Ziva sits in the opera house in Cairo, an empty seat beside her. She thinks she can almost hear Tali's voice, and this is what she loves most about this emptiness inside her: it can be filled with the chorus of the dead, immortalized and celebrated through sound.

0~0~0~0~0

Years after she took Tali to the opera house, she met an older woman, bursting with life and love. She was twenty-one with already blood-stained hands, her sister's death buried deeply in her memories, and a brother who ran away to medical school. Jenny was brilliantly brave, and as her hand clamped down on her femoral artery, blood mixing with her red hair, head in her lap, Ziva thought that she was tremendously stupid at times.

They were pinned down in a hotel lobby, at least three enemies with semi-automatic weapons around them. Her handgun had two bullets left. Typical. She dragged Jenny behind the concierge desk, and she whispered to her, "Tell Jethro…" Jenny almost laughed at the sentiment, but Ziva barked back that she could tell him herself, because she knew who she was: the infamous daughter of Eli David, the weapon, gun or no gun.

She poked her head out quickly above the desk and fired to her right, where she heard the heavy footsteps of a man approach the desk. There was a grunt and a heavier thud. She imagined them: right now, they were weighing the options of whether that was a lucky shot or whether she was so well-trained in her art that she could take down a man without looking. She scoffed, stood, and shot to her left, where the steps had stopped heavily a moment before. The third man, directly ahead of her, recovered and started shooting, but she dove to her right before the volley of bullets managed to reach her, grabbing the weapon from the dead man to her right and firing rapidly.

All three mercenaries, hired guns of yet another Hamas cell, were dead before they could register that they dared to face her, the legendary woman who executed an entire camp of their brothers.

0~0~0~0~0

She steps into the renovated hotel barely twenty miles from the opera house and the first thing she notices is that the carpet is all red. She walks toward the receptionist and tries not to look at the floor marked with the color of Jenny's blood. The words she whispered in her ear as they waited for the medics to come—goodbyes never said, never needed to be said, and never were told in the end—she remembers all of it. Even then, she knew how much Jenny loved Gibbs.

0~0~0~0~0

The red-headed agent beside her sipped scotch in silence. She hated stakeouts—the people assigned to her always ask the worst questions. And yet, Ziva had taken a liking to Jenny Shepard, with a decorated yet infamous father she had mixed feelings about. Sound familiar? she asked herself.

"You know, the last time I was here, I had someone to buy me a drink," Jenny chuckled, and it's obvious who she was thinking about, because she's heard all about the infamous "Dear John" letter she penned. It was a long night of tailing the courier of a terrorist cell operating in the area. Jenny shared love stories. Ziva didn't.

"Jethro this, Jethro that," she replied, the tip of her mouth curving with pleasure. "Pining away yet again." She wondered how long their game will go, a game of we love each other but none of us can do anything about it.

"How about you? When was the last time you came here?" Jenny asked, truly curious. Ziva marvelled at her: her heart, the extent to which she desired to protect others, was unlike those of the other partners she had, who only wanted more information about a David, about Mossad. Still, she hesitated. She saw the blood seeping through the cracks of the desert, the fear in her team's eyes, the bleak aura of her father's pride.

"Tali," she said. "My sister. She loved the opera."

Jenny waited a moment. "What happened?"

The courier walked in, two guards behind him, and like electricity, they started forward. "They did," she snarled.

The two of them were quite the team: they made quick work of quietly ushering people to their rooms, until a third man walked in, heavy and robust, clearly the head of the operation, another guard trailing behind him. The bloodthirst in Ziva's veins rose, and she reached for her handgun attached to her ankle, concealed by the length of her dress.

Then something went wrong: the courier looked nervous, glanced around, and noticed there was almost no one left. A furious look in his eyes, the larger man pulled out a 40-caliber pistol and shot him, making a 10-millimeter gap in his head.

She looked toward Jenny, but she couldn't find her until—there, kneeling down and softly urging a young girl to move. She did, but not before the large man spotted her. His arm was already turning, and Ziva pulled the trigger, the bullet finding its way to his chest and throwing off his aim. Jenny screamed.


Tell Jethro that I made a mistake, that I won't apologize, but—I would.

And there was something else Jenny whispered, when she thought she would die: Whatever happened to your sister, it wasn't your fault.


She orders a scotch and drinks it before bed. She wonders if Jenny thought of something different to say in that diner in Nevada where Ziva was too late for her.

She boards the next flight to Los Angeles from Cairo on a whim. She prays no one recognizes her. But look at that, Meira, she thinks. I'm praying again.

0~0~0~0~0

She and Tony didn't have time to truly see the sights. She was too busy yelling at him, inherently putting the blame on him, although it was none of their faults or perhaps all of theirs. So she walks along the pier and the beach, lets the sand gather in between her toes and the ocean to wash away all footsteps toward where she stands today, recognizes the names of the stars Tony has always talked about and she has read about, and listens to the busy noise of the crowded city. It's surprising that she can breathe, but she feels free in the anonymity of the climate around her, everyone minding their own lives and not wasting a minute on any stranger around them. She can move and walk and be free without question, and she loves it.

0~0~0~0~0

She's not sure what possessed her to drive her car north, towards Nevada, to that same gas station where they just barely missed the truck, to the dusty dark green diner that still has bullet holes in the boards covering the windows and the door leading to the water station. The moment she steps inside, she knows the place is cursed: she feels every step, every shot Jenny took, and she can see the blood staining the floor again. The ringing phone. The look on Tony's face when he hears Gibbs's voice.

She wonders if Jenny ever could have told Gibbs how much he was to her, but she likes to think that he'd always known. Tony has always known for her. Do things like this need saying?

She lets out a shaky breath. She knows one thing: if anything needs saying, it is this. "I'm sorry," she whispers to the empty room, to the failure she and Tony could have prevented, to the orders she should have disobeyed more harshly, to the friend she loved dearly, who told her, for the first time, that death was not her shadow.

Whatever happened to your sister, she hears. Ziva wipes the tears from her cheeks and drives back south.

0~0~0~0~0

It wasn't not your fault. So many people have told Ziva this over her lifetime. Maybe, after this next stop, she can finally believe it. So she buys the ticket to Somalia and almost instantly regrets it.


III. just know you're not alone

The humidity strikes her as soon as she sets foot on Somalian soil. Sand drifts in the wind and sticks to her arms. She breathes in the air and immediately feels sick. There are boats docking in the marina she passes, with children running in the fish market. She remembers it was here where she stubbornly refused to return with Malachi. Her father wanted her to prove her loyalty. What better way to guarantee that than with her death?

The sea breeze sweeps over her, and she smells grilled fish and roasted vegetables. The last time she was here, food was a luxury she was rarely given. Water was a necessity to keep her alive or a tool to run her dry for information. Saleem was fond of many tactics; when he found that his original cocktail of sodium pentothal was ineffective, he resorted to less clean, more brutal methods.

"Oranges!" Ziva flinches as a vendor screams in her ear, passing by with his cart, and she focuses on the smell of sweet citrus. "Fresh, cheap, good! Oranges!"

Deep breaths—in, out. Ziva unclenches her fists and walks in the direction of the cart. She buys a pound on a whim, as if she planned to stay long enough to eat all eight of them. Maybe, she prays, she will find someone to share them with. Maybe she can find another orphanage, born of the ashes of that compound.

The cart owner urges her to take the change from him, unsettled by the twenty-shilling note she has given him for the pound of oranges, but Ziva has no need for small bills. (Or maybe she wants to get the Somali currency off her hands as soon as possible and convince herself the reason she must leave the country as soon as possible is because of her lack of money.) When she pushes his money away repeatedly, trying to escape with her oranges, the owner sighs at her stubbornness before giving in. "At least let me and my family give you dinner, no? We have a small tavern on that side of the pier," he says in Arabic. "Come, please! Best fish, good and fresh!" Ziva sees that there is a look of pleading and gratitude in his eyes that tells her that Tony would approve of her kindness. She thinks of when she forced him to give that Secret Santa gift to Dolores Bromstead, and the pride they both felt when she looked back at him with the utmost thankfulness and surprise. When she agrees, she sees that surprise again and smiles with him.

0~0~0~0~0

When she was twelve, her father ordered a drone strike that decimated the population of an entire city, mere miles away from her hometown. Among the casualties was her first friend.

There was fire raining down across the orange grove separating the two cities, spreading among the roots and killing trees and plants and life. She thought she caught a glimpse of him, running with his brother from the fire. She never saw him again.

Two days later, with tears still drying on her face, her father told her he had done what was necessary to protect her. Differences between people could be remedied in two ways, he had said: learning to control them or learning to eliminate them. As a child, she had thought he meant the differences. Now, she knows he meant the people themselves.

0~0~0~0~0

The fish is fresh and crisply fried; the flavor the lime brings makes Ziva burst with joy. The daughter of the merchant smiles shyly as her mother fusses over Ziva, piling vegetables on her plate; the younger son giggles across the table as she makes a face of shock and disgust. Wincing, she makes a show of it, groaning as she spoons the dishes into her mouth, laughing heartily when the children follow her every action, delighted to have a guest. Ziva grins and misses Sarah.

The family shows her hospitality and kindness gratuitously. They play layli goobalay and other children's games to entertain the two ducklings. As their bedtime approaches, their father ushers them toward their bedroom; they whine and stare at her with wide, longing eyes. She chuckles and tells them in Arabic to go to sleep, and that she would never forget them.

"Stay here," the mother pleads. "Just for tonight. It is dangerous to wander about at night." Swallowing the rest of her tea, Ziva agrees.

0~0~0~0~0

The merchant's daughter is dark-skinned, though neither of her parents are. Ziva doesn't press for details, but she admires the shine of love in their mother's eyes and the fierce protection she gives when, at dinner, the young woman had started to talk about her day at the market and her brother teased her for sneaking out with a friend. Lips curling in a sneer, she had burst into a lecture about avoiding men until she was older and about not giving her parents grey hairs. "She's right," Ziva smiles thinly, thinking about the older man who had given her everything, had offered to stay; and yet, it was not what she needed. "Loving a boy doesn't solve your problems, little one. Unless he can give you enough money," she winks at her pouting face, and the dinner continues, light-hearted and soft.

0~0~0~0~0

"What if her lawyer's right?" Tony wondered. "What if her shipmates did do it?"

"Well, then I understand why Petty Officer Burrows has kept her mouth shut," Ziva said.

"I don't. Why would you let someone get away with rape?" She stifled a heavy sigh and picked at her fingernails. She didn't hear herself explain the reasoning to McGee; the only sound in her ears was the thud of her heartbeat and the only thing she felt was the pressure of her nails grinding together. "Well, you're a woman. What would you do?" McGee asked her.

"I'm different," Ziva said. There was anger and bitterness in her, but she felt too exhausted to infuse it into her voice. "After torturing them until they cried like babies, I would castrate them. Give them what they deserve." She couldn't do that now. Most of them had died in the raid when they rescued her. That power to get revenge was taken away from her. Weakness, shame, and disappointment, she heard her father say. The man left her to die in the desert; for months, she thought she deserved everything that happened to her because she had failed him.

She felt Tony still against her, body angled towards her, away from Tim. "Hmm," he said, breath blowing the hair away from her ear, his eyes on her every move. "Spoken like a true almost-American." The way he looked at her then—the way he always looked at her—didn't remedy the hurt inside her, which was stuck in between healing and festering. She never thought it would help. But slowly, in near miniscule changes, she saw that he made her value herself, that she might one day be as priceless in her own eyes as she was in his.

0~0~0~0~0

There are voices arguing in the house. She doesn't mean to pry, but she can hear every word and every warning about men and every confession the mother tells her daughter. Ziva wonders what her mother would say to her now, after everything. After standing up against her father and mourning his death, after forcing Tony to leave her on that tarmac months ago. She swallows the lump in her throat and walks toward the commotion.

Mother holds daughter in their kitchen that night, rocking her back and forth as she bursts into terrified sobs. Ziva's throat is tight and rough as she waits in silence, rocking back and forth on her heels. (Dimly, she tells herself to leave before anything else happens to them. A voice that sounds like Chana's tells her to stay and watch the flowers bloom.) When the daughter's breaths quiet and her body calms and folds into her mother, Ziva holds out her hand, and the daughter takes it.

"Always go for the eyes with your thumbs. Use your knee to castrate him." That earns her a small chuckle, albeit a hysterical one. "And never, ever trust a man."


The merchant's house faces the ocean. Ziva watches the dawn rise and peels an orange as brilliant reds and yellows greet her from the horizon. "Here," the mother says, and she flinches out of her reverie. The older woman smiles kindly in apology and pushes a heavy bag into her hands. "Take them. You seem like you have a long journey ahead of you." She looks down at three more pounds of oranges and her mouth slackens in awe.

Chuckling, the older woman takes one out and eats, watching the sunrise with her. "I was like you, once, I think."

"How's that?"

"Lost," she hums casually. "I can see it in your eyes. But on the way to being found."

Despite herself, Ziva smiles and bites another slice of the orange. "I have never depended on being found. But I do believe I am on my way to finding... who I will be."

Her hand finds its way into hers. "Then I wish you the best of luck."

0~0~0~0~0

As she leaves, she prays that their house would be protected, that the daughter would be safe and healthy and not have to suffer as she and her mother suffered before. She also leaves behind nearly all of her money, sneaking it into one of the bowls in the kitchen.

For the irony, Ziva boards a ship to Yemen and ventures around the coast of Africa once more.


The journey takes two weeks. She spends dawns eating oranges on top of the freighter, watching the sunrise. She spends her nights alone in her bunk. The trip itself is, surprisingly, uneventful. But she thinks, and thinks some more.

0~0~0~0~0

The night the murder of Daniel Cryer was solved, Tony drove her around Gibbs's neighborhood before walking her to the door. They drove in silence until the very last moments; knowing Tony, she knew it must have been difficult to let her think and sit in silence until she was ready to talk. She managed two words (thank you, but how was that enough for everything he'd done for her?) before her breath caught and he stopped the car in front of the house that had become a place for family, the only family she had left, because she killed her brother in that very basement, and all her father repaid her was sand and torture and violation—

And he reached over and took her in his arms and kissed the top of her head and whispered so many things that she needed but now barely remembers. They stayed for as long as she needed, and she knew, knew so deeply that she had never been loved so much before she met Anthony DiNozzo.

0~0~0~0~0

The morning after the murder of Daniel Cryer was solved, Ziva woke to the smell of coffee and muffins from Gibbs's couch. (She had refused Kelly's bed even though he offered multiple times. It felt wrong and imposing to declare herself his daughter when he had lost everything.)

McGee was in the kitchen, stocking up Gibbs's empty fridge with orange juice, milk, and eggs. He turned around and smiled at her, the grin reaching his eyes as usual. It was infectious, and she couldn't help but feel the corners of her lips curve up in delight at his thoughtfulness. "I know it's not much, but this should last until next week. Then maybe you can drag Gibbs to go grocery shopping. I don't know what he eats besides takeout and beer."

She rushed to deny the kindness he showed her. They had done enough to rescue her. "I can buy the groceries next time, please, I insist. Let me pay you—"

"No," Tim shook his head, and his jaw tensed as his smile slipped slightly. "It's really no big deal. I used to do this for my sister all the time." Tim, ever the writer, knew how to spin a conversation to prove his point. You are my sister, he was saying. Ziva smiled and welcomed his love.

The moment passed. "I mean, she used to like anchovies on her pizza, so you can tell why I was worried," McGee said.

0~0~0~0~0

The day of the murder of Daniel Cryer, Malachi begged her to stay back, to not embark on a suicide mission that would surely mean the end of much—for her, her life; for him, her father's legacy and favor; for her father, nothing. Suicide mission or not, even if she didn't risk anything, it would have meant the end of her father's love and his measure of loyalty.

She walked away from Malachi, from her father's doubt, from the only family she had left, if it could even be considered that. She had already walked away from Tony, from Gibbs, from McGee and Abby and Palmer and Ducky. A woman who lost so many and pushed away everyone else still. What was there left for her to give except herself? Even if she survived, what was there left for her besides her father, his stinging expectations, and her guilt?

0~0~0~0~0

Three months later, Ziva met her answer in green eyes and a simple sentence she would never forget for the rest of her life. Couldn't live without you, I guess.

0~0~0~0~0

And then one night I had a dream. Everything was all lined up

0~0~0~0~0

She stands in the orange grove, but it is barren. The trees have empty branches and the air is cold and still. Winter, then. Barefoot, she digs her toes into the dirt, closes her eyes, and begins to count. When she reaches ten, she searches for Ari, who must have wandered into the forest of dead trees, even though Abba told them not to.

It is easy to find him, especially when he screams her name in delight from a tree branch high up above her that only seems to grow more and more. "Climb, Ziva! Abba wants us to."

If Abba wants her to, then she's already decided. She'll climb up to the tallest branch and never come down. But when she touches the first branch, it's already night; when she looks up to the growing tree, Ari is gone, as if he was never there. She would follow her brother anywhere, even to the tops of the heavens where the tree is trying to desperately reach.

She blinks, and the world is dark. Ziva reaches up to take off the blindfold. Tali is crying beside her, tears wetting the black cloth around her eyes. "How do we go home, Zivaleh, how do we go home?"

She shushes her gently, gathering her up in her arms. Four years old. How did she get so big? "Abba said we could, so that means we can, Tali. We can find our way back."

"But how?" Ziva brushes the hair out of her face. Tali's expression of despair is quickly turning into that of anger.

"We just have to remember the way we came here. How did we get lost?"

"You mean, how did Abba lose us?"

There is something lodged in her throat suddenly. "Abba is just trying to teach us something, Tali. He just wants us to know how to get back home if he is not there."

"But how can we know if he didn't let us see the way here in the first place?"

A valid question. Ziva blinks back tears of frustration. "Well, you have me and I have you, little one. Isn't that enough?" She pouts, and Ziva knows it's time to go. She hauls them both up and holds her sister's hand, walking back towards the smell of oranges. "Come now, let's go home."

"Ziva?"

"Yes?"

"If we don't find our way back, will Abba come get us?"

She doesn't answer for a long time. When she turns to say something, Tali is gone, and she finds herself back at the tree that Ari climbed, still growing and growing, terrifying and bare; its branches are empty and bone-like; she swears she sees skulls near the top.

Ziva backs away from the tree that has grown monstrous in the darkening night; she backs away until she slams the door shut. She turns around and she has forgotten how cold it is in Mossad headquarters; she has forgotten the icy look she received every time she came home from a mission. Sitting at his desk, the Deputy Director of Mossad is yelling, "I expect loyalty! To me and only me!"

Like a child, she squeezes her eyes shut to make it go away, and when she opens them, her father is holding her in his arms on the very night her mother whisked them away from him. "Someday, you will dance with a man who deserves your love."

"I know, Abba. I did." It would have been perfect, had they not been there to hunt your killer, she wants to tell her father.

"And then? What happened to the boy?" He wanted to change with her; he wanted her to come home, and she said no every time.

"I pushed him away. I let him go."

A soft hum in the curls of her hair. He knows all about letting people go. "And was it worth it?"

"Yes." She thinks again. "No, not anymore. Only for a little while."

Her father lets go of her. For a moment, she can remember the exact shade of his eyes and the way they looked at her with regret and trust. How simple things were once. "Well, what are you—"

"—waiting for then?" She whirls around, startled. Ziva hasn't thought of Gibbs in a very long time, knowing he deserves more than a surrogate daughter who abandons him again and again. She looks around for him, but the walls are orange and the skylight on the ceiling is much too bright for an office. The bullpen is twisting and turning and her desk is sliding into Tony's and everything is warped.

Even empty and changing, her heart fills with aching joy and warmth at the sight of those desks, the stairway up to the Director's office, even the little hideaway behind the stairway. That's on the ceiling now, and the printers are hanging from there, somehow. She climbs up (or is it down?), winding and winding above the bullpen, towards the intertwined and messy desks above her, with papers flying around but McGee's superglued keyboard still sticking to his desk. The ceiling is somehow higher than it usually is, but that doesn't bother her. She looks down and sees an airplane tarmac below.

"Enjoying the view, David?"

It's him; of course it's him, who else would it be? "I did not think you would find me."

His breath tickles her ear and she turns around. Green eyes, wide grin. He looks older, wiser. Changed. When he answers, there's something petulant about his tone. "That's what you always think."

"You always find me."

He tousles her hair. "Took you long enough to notice."

"I am a—what do you call it?—a slow learner."

"Well, your sense of geography's great. Gaza, Cairo, LA, Nevada, Somalia. Great places to cross off your list, though at least two of them are in the middle of a warzone."

He chuckles and shakes his head. "Only you would be getting your Eat, Pray, Love on in a warzone." He leans in and they are both younger, grieving, and lost. Before Somalia, before Jenny, before Jeanne. "Where are you, Ziva?"

"When have I ever told you? Isn't it your job to find out?"

"Would I be asking you if I had any idea?"

She shakes her head. "If you did, then you would be on the way right now."

"Since when did you have so much faith in me?"

"I told you, I am a slow learner."

"Well, maybe I'm tired of waiting, then." He takes her hand and leads her to the orange grove. His bare feet sink into the soil and it is autumn.

Crinkled paper in her left hand. In her right hand, a blank sheet. He takes the one in her left hand. The paper rustles and unfolds in his hands, and he reads out, "I will go to Ireland. I will go to America." He looks up. "Not sure what you'd want to do in Ireland, but America sounds like a good place to start your next adventure."

"Old dreams. I do not want those anymore."

"Then what do you want?" he asks.

He receives no answer. Clearing his throat, he makes his suggestion, her compass and her guide, like she knew he would. "Personally, I've always wanted to go to Paris. Bogie and Bergman will always have Paris."

"And now, so will we," she finishes for him, and she hands over the picture. Black-and-white, a Mona Lisa smile on her lips. Recognition shines in his eyes, and she smiles. "Your favorite picture."

"And then, after that?"

"I've always liked Berlin," she says. He's smiling so widely, now, the soft kind of thing that he gave her so many times, as if to show her tenderness like she's never known before. She pushes her forehead softly into his. Ziva smiles, closes her eyes, and sleeps through the night.

0~0~0~0~0

She eats the last orange on the shore of Yemen, when the sun is setting. Tony was right when he found her again: she wasn't looking ahead, she was looking behind. But now, Ziva knows which direction she wants to go. Forward, as Meira told her months ago.


It is the end of March, and there are flower buds on her front porch in Be'er Sheva. They grow with time, a little water, and distance. One more trip, Ziva thinks. One more, and they will be blooming.

0~0~0~0~0

Paris greets Ziva like an old friend. She walks through the Louvre, climbs up to Montmartre, and stands on the steps of Trocadero, the sight of the Eiffel Tower never disappointing her no matter how many times she arrives in front of the metro station. She hears ghosts of laughter, but sleeps soundly in the same bed as she did the last time she was here. When she wakes up, her arm is outstretched to the other side, grasping at thin air, and she misses something (someone) that was never here with her.

She wonders where the picture he took of her is now. She likes to think it's next to her necklace in his desk, hidden away but always there with him.

0~0~0~0~0

If Paris is an old friend, then Berlin is an acquaintance; it is both familiar and unfamiliar all at once. The last time she was here, the hazy recesses of grief and vengeance clouded the time she could spend "seeing the sights". But now, she laughs at the lederhosen in the markets and drinks the beer in the pub. She walks along the Oberbaumbrucke and listens to the cathedral bell towers strike noon.

She takes pictures of everything, because she knows she wants to show everything to Tony one day.

0~0~0~0~0

One week of travel, and the only past she thinks about is the past she had with him.

0~0~0~0~0

In April, Ziva finds her way home to Be'er Sheva, to the house that she was born in, and the desert flowers that she planted are in full bloom. Home, but empty.

As she steps inside and drops her bag on the floor, she looks around, and she can almost see her mother and father, holding her, crying. There—she can see Ari running and folding paper planes. In the kitchen, she can hear her grandmother singing prayers before dinner. Ziva is no stranger to old ghosts, but she thinks this is the first time she does not dislike seeing them.

Here, she listens to her father teach her how to read, sees herself sit on his lap as Ari sits on the floor beside them. Her father is alive in this house, in every stove and picture and floorboard, in the dust near the windows and in the cracks in the wall.

She runs her fingers along the walls, feeling the uneven bumps in the paint. She follows the path to the orange grove and wanders around the woods until she sits next to her father's grave, below the olive tree.

It is spring, and everything is fertile and growing. The brown-green grass is soft and the soil rich underneath her fingers, and she remembers the feeling of sifting the sticky dirt in between them. She feels the wind on her feet and realizes that she is barefoot.

She breathes. Inhales, exhales. "Abba," she says. Whispers. Or does she say it at all?

Her father was stubborn, angry, and ruthless. He raised her well, flawed and controlling and effective. No one expected any less from the Deputy Director of Mossad. But even if in the most unconventional ways, he was loving and, in the end, regretful.

She pats the dirt on the grave, as she did a year ago in this place, after Tony told her that she was not alone. She utters three words that doesn't quite erase her past, but allows her to live and learn from it. "I forgive you."


IV. home

The flight to DC is the most nerve-wracking thing she has ever had to commit to. But with her chin up and shoulders straight, she boards the plane and drums her fingers on the armrest nervously the whole flight. She cannot sleep; she hasn't slept since she booked the plane ticket. At one point, she looks over to the seat next to her and sees Tony; he holds her hand sweetly and says, "Don't worry, Ziva. We'll be okay."

She blinks and the man sitting next to her asks her if she's all right. No, she wants to say. She nods anyways.

0~0~0~0~0

The path to Gibbs's basement is a familiar one. The smell of wood and the feel of the sand underneath her fingers. The scotch and the bourbon, the jars of nails he empties out and uses as cups to get drunk, reserved for nights in the basement when Gibbs's door is unlocked (read: every night) and anyone can come in to talk. There's a half-finished boat again, and she wonders how many he's finished by now. She wonders if he named one after her (even though she's not dead, she might as well be to them). If anywhere, this is home, where her heart feels crowded and full though no one is around her.

But she—

She walks towards the back and pulls the drawer open. Feels every part of the sniper rifle there, thinks about how many times Gibbs must have cleaned it to get Ari's fingerprints off the weapon.

The door creaks open. She flinches and turns around. "Breaking and entering is your way of saying hello, now?"

"Gibbs. Hello." He stands where she had crouched at the top of the stairs to kill Ari. A single gunshot wound to the head, a painless way to die, for both him and her. She stands where she knelt next to his body, cradled him to her chest, and sang one of the prayers their grandparents had taught them in Be'er Sheva.

No matter how many times she stood in this basement, she could never stop hearing that prayer she sang.

Gibbs just stands there. "Well? Aren't you going to say something?"

He smirks that knowing smile he always has, teasing and wise and somehow both infuriating and endearing. "Are you back or are you just visiting?"

She bristles at the implication. "I thought Tony already told everyone that I was done. I will let go of the badge," she echoes.

"I know," he nods. "I meant are you back home, kid."

She twists her hands in front of her. Home, he'd said, as if everyone would forget that the way she left all of them was painful and nearly unforgivable and disastrous. Ziva meets Gibbs's eyes again and he jerks his head towards the open drawer. "Admiring that?"

Quickly, she slams it shut with her back and walks away from it. Gibbs seems to understand something and walks down the stairs, the heavy weight of his shoes pounding against the wood until he reaches the bottom and reaches for her. Wrapped in his arms, she is once again bewildered and grateful at the love and kindness he has always given to her.

"It's good to see you, Ziver," he whispers in her ear.

0~0~0~0~0

The night the murder of Daniel Cryer was solved, she and Gibbs sat across from each other in the grey interrogation room. It was cold and she felt each of the new scars she'd earned from her time in Somalia as if they were happening in the moment, thinking and thinking of how her father had not bothered to come, had not bothered to send a message, had not bothered to ask of her well-being.

When she told Gibbs how it felt to come within a fingernail of killing Saleem only to fail miserably, she imagined herself explaining the mission to a father who came to rescue her after all that she had done to please him. When Gibbs leaned forward and whispered, "We are your family, now," and kissed her temple gently, her resolve splintered and she broke for the first time since coming back from Somalia. Ziva felt more alive than she ever was in that camp.

0~0~0~0~0

They sit on wooden stools and the nails clattering from the jars mixes in with the song in her ears. Gibbs pours them both some scotch and they take tentative sips. He waits for her. A common Gibbs interrogation technique.

So she tells him everything, just as she did that night, just as she usually does in this basement: Gaza, Cairo, Los Angeles, Nevada, Somalia, Paris, Berlin, Be'er Sheva. Gibbs has always been a good listener. Functional mute, Tony had said. He wasn't wrong.

When she finishes, there is a comfortable, dense silence as they drink. "How do you stay here? How do you not think of them every time you turn your head?" Them. Gibbs has lost so many people—not only Shannon and Kelly, but Jenny and Mike and Kate and even—even her.

Gibbs sighs. "I remember the ones I still have left." He turns to her. "And the ones who can always come back."

Something warm grows inside her chest, something hopeful and beautiful and peaceful. She thinks that maybe, maybe she knows what that word means, now: healing.

Ghosts and orange groves and desert flowers. All along, her father was waiting for her to come home.

"I think I understand now," Ziva says, and hesitates. "I think I will, but—I—"

"What are you waiting for, David?" Gibbs smirks. "He's never stopped waiting for you, either."

She smiles so widely her cheeks hurt. Kissing his cheek, she runs out the door with a goodbye.


Early morning, and she stands outside his door with desert flowers in her hand. She can see it all happen: his wide, easy grin and green eyes lighting up as he notices her flowers with amusement. The way he amazes her with how much he is willing to love her, to wait for her, and understand her need to do all of this alone, with how easily he welcomes her back.

"You know, it's usually the man's job to bring the flowers."

"You know I am nothing if not unconventional, Tony."

There will be a beat while they realize they're staring at each other, smiling shyly when they've never been shy with each other before. A beat, and the rest is history, because he'll pull her across the doorway and into his apartment; she'll launch herself into his arms and kiss him and finally, finally tell him she loves him.

Later, Ziva will show him what remains of her flowers in front of the house in Be'er Sheva. Tony will kneel in the dirt with her, pulling the weeds out while she plants more seeds. "Never thought I would be gardening with you one day." She will laugh, thinking of how young they once were, and tell him about Chana. She will show him where she and Ari used to play in the woods and tell him gruesome stories of Tali's birth; then, the pictures she took in Paris and Berlin, and she will savor each smile he gives her, even if she'll see them for the rest of their lives.

This time, she'll lead him into the grove, pulling him to the chest they buried last time. They'll walk outside in the summer breeze and pick oranges along the way.

As the sun sets, they'll eat together in the field, the citrus tangy and sweet and wonderfully filling.

Ziva knocks twice. The door swings open.

FIN.


I know not many people will read this because it barely has any Tony and is the least Tiva fic I've written for them, because it's all just Ziva. But if anything, it's what she deserves. I wanted Ziva to heal and find peace, and this is what I've written (or, at least, tried to). Thanks to my beta 3.