Despite Ziva David's desire that Gibbs not contact Tony, the older man thought he should at least bring his former SFA up to date. He dialed the international phone number on his basement landline.

"Gibbs. Long time no hear. As in never since I left DC. Something wrong?"

Gibbs clenched his jaw at the implied rebuke. "Thought you'd like to know that Ziva is mostly in the clear."

"Huh. Well, good for her."

The obviously uninterested response aggravated Gibbs. "It means you and Tali can meet up with her again."

"Again?"

"She told me how you tracked her to Cairo, the three of you meeting up there. How she warned you of the danger if you stayed together."

"Fuck," Tony muttered. "Look, Gibbs, I'm gonna tell you some things you won't want to hear, might not believe, but I really need you to listen."

"DiNozzo."

"Nope. You can say whatever you want after I am done. Agreed?"

"If I don't?"

"I hang up and we go years before you call me again. If ever. Up to you, Gibbs."

Gibbs had never liked being forced to do anything, not as a child and not as an adult. It was something he struggled with in the Marine Corps. However, he was also curious about what DiNozzo had to say. "Fine."

"I never tried to trace Ziva's location. I never met her in Cairo. I did suspect that she was still alive, so it doesn't surprise me."

The older man could hear Tony shifting in whatever type of chair he was sitting on. Gibbs settled in a sawdust covered easy chair he pulled closer to the work bench the phone was located.

"You know me, I can't stand a mystery. I wanted to know what happened and what had been discovered by Mossad. Orli had said almost nothing when she brought Tali here. So I flew to Israel where we had a very interesting conversation."

"Orli? She's the new Mossad director?" Gibbs asked.

"Yeah. She was also one of Eli's many mistresses when she was a young agent. Until she realized just how manipulative he was, not only personally but professionally."

"You trust her?"

"Not an inch. She's Mossad. But I had some sources that I did trust who were able to verify what I was told."

"Good. So, what did you learn?"

"The David family was obviously dangerous, no surprise there. Too intricately connected to corrupt officials throughout the Middle East and Europe, not to mention their own corrupt Prime Minister, to successfully challenge. Although Ziva was officially an American citizen, Orli explained that she will still be considered an Israeli citizen. As to her retirement to run the groves? Well, let's just say that more than Mossad had her under surveillance."

"Yet Kort and his accomplices still managed to sneak onto the property and blow the place up."

"So glad you agreed to just listen," Tony said with a quiet chuckle. "It's okay. At least I know you're listening."

Tony's deep intake of breath came clearly over the phone line. "I think Kort was telling the truth when he said he didn't expect anyone to be at the farmhouse. Neither did Mossad or British Intelligence."

"British Intelligence?" For Tony to know that meant his contacts and sources were farther ranging than even Gibbs had been aware. Although the Senior agent had been on assignment in London for a period of time.

"Yeah, uh, moving on. Ziva was supposed to have been traveling to visit an old family friend in Tel Aviv, taking her daughter and nanny with her, leaving no one remaining on the property. All employees lived off the grounds, including the housekeeper and the cook. Yet Tali was found fully dressed and in her stroller in the storage shed with no adult in sight."

"Where was the nanny?"

"With her family in the south of France. She stated that Ziva gave her two weeks off. She also believed that Ziva was going to Tel Aviv with Tali."

"Ziver wouldn't just leave her daughter alone," Gibbs protested.

Silence crackled over the phone line before Tony finally spoke. "Gibbs, all I can tell you is what I've discovered. Was she or someone else watching from a distance until Tali was found? Doubtful. It was over two hours after emergency services arrived that she was found, only due to a sweep of the grounds for possible victims or evidence."

"What about the surveillance?"

"Pulled since Ziva was believed to be gone and not returning for at least a week or more."

Gibbs didn't know what to say. He was reminded of when Ziva was first added to the team. "I thought you got over all this years ago."

"Over what? Resenting how you let Shepard force her on us? The woman who was not only Ari's sister, but his handler, the one who compiled the dossiers on the team? Dossiers that put a target on Kate and all the other women you were closest to." Tony's voice rose with long suppressed anger. "You trusted her for killing Ari. You must know she was ordered to do so by her father! Even if she hadn't been under Eli's orders, even if she honestly wanted out of Mossad, she had no business on any investigative team. You knew this! I told you that at the time. Security concerns aside considering her computer access level was too high from the start, she couldn't legally handle evidence collection without supervision. Something you elected to ignore. Ziva never went to FLETC. Not under Shepard, not under Vance. Not even after you and Vance fast-tracked both her American citizenship and conversion from liaison to Special Agent."

"DiNozzo."

"No, Gibbs. You want the truth? I never fully trusted her. Every single fucking time I though she had changed, I was quickly reminded that she was an assassin, a member of Kidon, her father's daughter. Loyal only to him and possibly you, if your orders and demands didn't contradict her father's. And I was proven right! She had been sending information to her father mined from NCIS computers. Yet Vance looked the other way and you brought her back on our team. Maybe SecNav was aware, but as time went on, I have my doubts."

Gibbs heard his former SFA take a shuddery breath. He didn't know what to say. He wanted to defend Ziva, excuse himself, but it was all true. And if that history was true, was the explosion at the farmhouse and Ziva declared probably dead all a setup from the start?

"Sorry, Gibbs. That's old news. I thought I was past all this shit. Guess it's still a hot button for me."

"Don't apologize."

"I know you consider apologies a sign of weakness, but I don't. I never did. That was always your rule."

"It's a good rule," Gibbs muttered.

"Bullshit! A sincere apology can help mend relationships, both personal and professional. A sincere apology lets the offended party know that the offender recognizes what they did was wrong. Not to do it again."

More crackling silence flowed over the line.

"Like I said at the beginning of this talk, you can believe me about Ziva or not. Your choice. But there's never gonna be a Hallmark or Mills and Boon ending. I will not be contacting her in any way or form. I have no desire to be with her ever."

"Tali's her daughter."

"Yes, according to everything I've found, she is. And I will allow her to see Tali in the future, if she asks. But it will be under approved supervision."

"Supervision? What the hell, DiNozzo? Ziver would never harm her own child!"

"Maybe not. But she might very well take Tali and disappear. I'm not taking that chance."

"Legally…"

"Oh, I took care of all the legalities the moment I was given Tali in Vance's office. I have sole custodial care of her. I provided the courts with a full account of Ziva's family and professional history. They all agreed that, once Ziva expresses a desire to see her daughter, it will be under close supervision. Anything further, such as possible overnight visitation will require some time, a stable address, and a psychiatric evaluation."

"You said courts? As in multiple courts?"

"In Maryland, where I had legal residence at the time. In Israel, since Tali has dual citizenship. That was a tough one, but luckily the help from both Mossad and the Israeli government allowed me to be declared the sole guardian there as well. I've also made certain that both the French and the British courts will recognize and honor these custody orders."

"Huh," Gibbs grunted.

Tony's smile could be heard in his voice when he replied. "Didn't want to take any chances. The David family have too many enemies to be complaisant with regards to the courts."

"If you are so hellbent on staying away from Ziva, why did you send a video from Tali to her?"

"What video?"

"Ziva showed it to me on her phone before she left." Gibbs thought about what he saw when he was driving. "Looked recent."

Tony huffed. "I didn't send it. I'll be taking care of it."

"Why stop them?"

"Not stopping them, just making certain I know what is contained in them and what response might be received. I don't want others doing this shit behind my back."

"DiNozzo, what do you want me to do?"

"Nothing. I just need you to listen to what I discovered, to be careful about what you take at face value. Trust, but verify, remember?"

Once again Gibbs fought back his anger and instinctive need to snap back at Tony for daring to…he froze, realizing he wasn't moved to protect and defend Ziva David. He was angry that Tony had the nerve to tell him what he didn't want to hear, to tell him the truth.

"Gibbs?"

"Yeah, I'm still here. I'll take it under advisement."

"Sure. Didn't expect anything else considering you still don't trust me."

"DiNozzo."

"Sorry, sorry. It's okay. I became used to that from you a long time ago. Done deal, I didn't address the issue when I should have, too late to change anything."

"DiNozzo, I swear I always trusted you."

"To have your six? Yeah, you did. Anything else, including trusting my judgment? Not so much. All I care about is that you never do that to McGee. He's grown a lot over the years, but he's still a squishy center and could be hurt by any distrust or disrespect. He doesn't deserve it."

"And you thought you did?"

"Not relevant, Gibbs. I've shared what I know and what I discovered. Believe it or not, I'm done. My only purpose is to keep Tali safe, to make certain she knows she is loved and wanted. That's it. Unless you have any other questions, I think this call is finished."

Gibbs sighed, knowing there was no repairing his relationship with the man he once considered a friend, not today. Best to just leave it for now. "No questions."

"Okay then." He paused. "It was good to hear from you directly, even if it didn't go the way either of us might've hoped. You can call me to just shoot the breeze, if you even want to. Take care of yourself, Gibbs."

"You too, Tony."

Gibbs, for the first time, didn't hang up first. He heard a soft goodbye followed by a dial tone. The older man was determined to consider everything he was told as well as how Ziva had been acting when she suddenly reappeared in DC. Maybe it was time to rethink just who Ziva David was.

~ August 2020