Aah, closure. How sweet it is.
The Meaning of Life
By B. Cavis BekaCavis@gmail.com
Rated: Adult for language, not for sexing up.
Spoilers: Through season two.
Prequel to “Big Bad”, part of the plot line set up in Five Things That Never Happened to Ari Haswari. There’s no reason to read either one of those, as this is the thing that sets both of them up (let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to staaaaaart). But you should. Because I’m mega proud of both and I would love for others to join me in the AU Sandbox.
Summary: “Little sister, why did you shoot this man?”
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never mine. Don’t ask.
I don’t have any. Enjoy the story.
I feel so to the point. It’s awesome.
Feedback to: BekaCavis@gmail.com
New Fic: The Meaning of Life
By B. Cavis
You remember a grand total of four memories before the age of seven. You’re not sure if this is normal (shouldn’t the most important years of your development have left more of an imprint?) but you do your best not to dwell.
You’ve had six concussions in the past eight years. Probably didn’t help.
Still, all you have and that rot. You hold the memories tight in your head and allow no one into them. Many things in your life have been taken from you; many people, many small and strong comforts. You don’t want to risk it.
(This is a miserable lie; you’re not nearly this emo. However, you are smart, and you figured out a long time ago that people like people that look like they need someone to fix them—put them in a bag with some love and shake until everything is better. You’re not this emo, but you are smart and you know how to work it.)
(You got drunk, once upon an exam night, and hinted to your roommate that your father used to hit you, and suddenly found yourself with a lap full of writhing, thrusting Thomas as he stuck his tongue in your ear to try and make you whole again.)
(It didn’t work, but you’ve always been a sucker for having your ears played with.)
So anyway. Four memories. None of them seem all that important, or that particularly scarring, based on your one semester of psychology. But things stick, as things will, you when you look back to boyhood you think of them.
Nothing really in common with each other. Varying degrees of clarity and detail, varying emotions. All involve other people, which you suppose is only fitting considering how transient your existence is without someone to witness it.
Four memories, and weak proof that you had a childhood at that. You got drunk in a hotel a few months ago and had an out of body experience as to whether or not you actually existed, and had to strip down naked in front of a mirror before you believed you were real.
You counted your scars (42) and smeared sweaty handprints over the clean glass. When you closed your eyes and the world span, you leaned your cheek against the shine and let the coolness of it ground you in one place and time for a while.
When you need a reminder of the length (truth) of your existence, you can’t look at your memories (so easily corruptible, so flighty, so lacking tangibility and the insightful dissection of an unbiased observer) but rather to the marks on your knees and the white lines on your hands. Scars on you, painted lightly over the surface of your skin offer more reassurance that yes, you are real and yes, the world has not gotten rid of Ari Haswari quite yet.
Logical conjunction. That mission happened. You were on that mission. Ergo, you exist.
You’ve always liked to keep your memories in flesh. You sit quietly in a car, listening to the rain beat down upon the roof and the sound of your sister’s voicemail message (“Shalom. Ziva David. Shaolm.”) and wonder what marks you will have by the end of the day.
The emo part suggests cutting yourself. You veto the idea-- it probably wouldn’t get you laid by anyone not wearing a Dashboard Confessionals T-shirt and too much mascara.
(It’s a bitch to get eye make-up off of your sheets, and you secretly prefer Fall Out Boy.)
Today, three very important things happened in your world.
Timothy McGee was shot.
Your sister let her cell phone go to voice mail.
Caitlin Todd curled up on a park bench and waited until her fingers went numb. Waited for someone to find her. (For you.)
She doesn’t move when you sit down next to her, and when the umbrella goes over her head, a pristine sky blue, she seems confused at the lack of rain, or by the fact that it was raining in the first place. (It has been for five hours.)
She’s broken. You keep your eyes turned away because it actually physically hurts to see her like this, and you’re afraid that will show in your face and give her even more of a foothold than she imagines she has.
(You don’t know how large it actually is, the foothold that is. You prefer not to confront personal truths like that. It requires a level of masochism that you’re not quite comfortable with.)
You try and think of something supportive and manly to say, and all you can come up with is “Terrible weather.”
You’ve always been terrible at comforting people you actually notice (care about).
“Did you kill him?” she asks you back, all soft words and broken posture, and you wince.
“Oh. That’s good.”
The two of you sit side by side for another hour, watching the world walk past with newspapers over their heads or faces turned up to the rain, and she leans against your shoulder, subtly. You slip your coat off and wrap it around her when she starts to shake, also subtly.
Spies can never do anything obviously, or so you tell yourself, the thought booming through your head in his exact tone of voice and verb inflection.
“I think the Mossad killed him,” she whispers to you, turning suddenly sharp eyes on you and examining every twitch of your face, your body, your oh so perfectly still surgeon’s hands. “I think someone tried to make it look like you did it, so that we would kill you.”
“I don’t know why. But that’s what I think.” Her mouth twists, hard and without humor and so unlike her that you want to shake her until she settles back into place and starts to be the person you want her to be again. “I don’t know what to do with that, though.”
She’ll never be the person you want her to be. It’s what makes her so frustratingly attractive, such a pull on you. You can never change Caitlin Todd into a mirror, and you can’t make her suddenly more pliable, more easy to manipulate. She is a woman you can not bend past where she allows it, and the very thought pulls you more tightly than any amount of pandering ever could.
Caitlin Todd doesn’t pander. You want her so badly that sometimes you wake up with her name hiding under your tongue and your hands clutching the sheets.
Puberty was never this angsty. You’ve always been a late bloomer.
“I have enemies,” you acknowledge quietly, looking out at the park. There’s a dog under the gazebo, looking at you both with sad eyes. You wonder if it’s hers. “I did not mean to bring them to your door.” And then, because you are, you really, really are: “I’m sorry, Caitlin. I know he was a good man.”
She doesn’t say anything for a long time, but hunches down further in your coat and slips her arms into the sleeves. They hang over her hands like she’s a child playing in her father’s clothes, and when she slips the cuffs up to expose her hands, they are pale and scuffed up with scratches. Little marks where she hit the pavement after her knees gave out over Timothy McGee’s body.
“He was,” she says quietly, and looks up at you with a soft smile. “He really was, Ari. I think you would have liked him.” Her smile grows larger, teeth bared in a moment of pure delight. “He would have made a wonderful character out of you.”
The two of you sit quietly for a while longer. She turns her face into your shoulder for a moment after about twenty minutes, takes a deep breath, and asks you to take her home.
You do, and complain bitchily about the wet dog that sits on your leather backseats.
(You tell yourself it’s not because it keeps her smiling, but don’t really put much effort into it. You’re preoccupied, after all.)
One of those memories, of the five ones you have, involves you and your mother.
One of the neighbors, a woman whose name and face you can’t really remember, but associate with the color yellow for some reason, came over after slipping and cutting her hand while making dinner. Her two children were crying hysterically (“Why is mama bleeding, make her stop, mommy, you’re bleeding, stop it!”), and your mother had gone to that mental place where she was all sutures and needles, and had no room in her heart to comfort anyone.
You took them outside and played A Dragon Kidnaps the Pretty Princess and the Daring Knight Has to Come to Her Rescue But Can’t Because the Dragon is a Magical Dragon and Likes the Princess and Wants her to Watch TV With Him, So the Knight Has To Come Up With a Cunning Battle Plan to Get Her Back, While the Princess Uses Her Magic To Make the Dragon Small and Crushable And Turns Him Into a Kitten.
When the woman was sewed up, and your mother returned to someone you could be warmed by, she took you in her arms and called you “My little hero,” and kissed your forehead with dry, chapped lips. It made you feel warm and loved and approved of, and like you were helping.
That was always your favorite part of saving the day.
So you take Caitlin home and give her to Gibbs, and wait expectantly for the snarling growl to warn you away from her and back to the relative safety of your distance.
You get a blank look and a soft bark of “Don’t do that again, Kate, okay?” and it sounds like the wounded whimper of a dying dog.
It hurts you. A lot.
The goth girl—Abby—comes up and fusses over her, petting the wet dog and Caitlin with equal parts relief and fear.
Her eyes set on you and she licks her lips, eyes wide under the carefully applied liner.
“You’re Ari Haswari,” she says.
“Yes,” you acknowledge, and wonder how someone wearing rainbow tights can be so proficient at her job.
She looks you over, and sets her jaw. “You’re dangerous.”
You grin your best grin, and nod. “Yes. I am.”
She comes up closer to you, invades your personal space, and what the hell is happening here? You flinch backwards, trapped against the desk and leaning away from her and she gets closer and closer, eyes narrowed. Her lips are painted black, and a less observant man would barely notice how red her eyes are and how tightly she’s clutching her control.
She examines you, face scrunched up seriously, and lips pursed.
“You’re not so scary,” she says. “And I could totally take you, kill you, and leave no forensic evidence. And I’m Gibbs’s favorite. Remember that before you go kidnapping Kate for a third time.”
What the hell is going on here?
But she’s still on you, and you know that’s not what you want right now. There are more than enough people out there who want you dead—it might be best to play nice with this one.
You swallow and nod. “I, ehh, I will.”
Her face brightens. “Good!” She enthuses, and leans into wrap her arms around your neck and hug you tightly. You choke. “Thank you for bringing Kate back!” And then turns and grabs Caitlin’s hand, and flounces away.
She pulls her towards the elevator to “come put something warm on” and carefully keeps her eyes on you at all times. Caitlin throws a look over her shoulder, a promise to come back, and you nod passively. The dog follows them, and you watch Gibbs wander away, just as lost, out of the corner of your eye.
You wait until Abby is behind closed elevator doors to gulp and try and clear the confusion from your face.
Some part of you hums in approval. Smart girl, your survival instinct mutters appreciatively, and you quietly tell it to shut up.
You sit on the corner of Caitlin’s desk and imagine yourself as a wolfhound, untamed but obedient, tagging at her heels and snarling at anyone who comes close. The image doesn’t bother you, which bothers you, which forces you up to wander.
Tony glares at you, openly, and you have the strange and desperate thought of how good of a handler he would be—quick to keep you on your toes, put you through your paces and make sure to pull you back from the lines that you shouldn’t cross—before remembering why you’re going to need a new handler and biting the inside of your cheek, hard, in punishment.
You slip away to call Ziva again, and get the same voicemail as before. Leave a brief “I’m worried about you, call me,” message and hang up the phone. You’ve never heard Ziva’s voicemail before—never had a call go through unanswered. It’s happened twice today.
It hurts you. A lot.
Tony’s eyes never leave you once, and there is both hatred and understanding in his eyes. He would have been a wonderful handler.
But he’s just as empty as everyone else right now, just as still, and he fills that hole with anger. The anger distracts him, as he’s quick to take it out on everyone he sees, and you slip away easily when his attention is turned elsewhere. You have better things to do than stand and be glared at.
Well, not really, but you’re not in the mood for the strong, silent type right now.
You’ve known the building outline for NCIS since you came in wearing all black and a body bag, and you slip through corridors easily. People flutter around you, but no one asks for your security clearance or visitor’s badge.
First rule of spying, your father’s voice reports in the gruff voice he always used to report “These Are the Rules.” Always look like you know where you’re going. People are hesitant to question someone who looks like they have authority.
It’s true. It upsets you how true it is, in some distant part of yourself, but who the hell cares?
You pass through various conversations, scraps of nostalgia for the dead. “Do you remember how Tim”’s and “Oh, Tim would always”’s. You try and come up with someone who would care this much if you wound up dead, and the only one you can come up with for sure is Ziva.
Find the roof, you think to yourself. You’ve always been good on roofs.
Your apartment in Tel Aviv has a narrow balcony, and Ziva likes to sit on it with you and drink white wine as the city moves below.
After your first mission to NCIS, after popping out of the body bag and holding them all hostage, you came back and sat with her and she leaned her head against your thigh as you played with her hair.
You’ve played lovers on missions before—your both comfortable with each other and your bodies, and there was always a highlight in your day when she would walk into your apartment and plop down on your lap with a little kiss to your cheek.
(Ziva has very sharp claws, but like all kittens, she really wants a good petting.)
“The one that almost stabbed you,” she began, but never went anywhere with the statement.
“Caitlin,” you offered, and she nodded but didn’t say anything else about it.
After Marta and the farm you called her to come and join you on your balcony, but she was busy in meetings all day. You nursed your patched shoulder and drank water and the city seemed to be almost still.
Stand still. Categorize your life.
Item: Agent McGee is dead.
(You had no intention on this being a fact of your life, but it is and you can’t very well avoid it now. Dead men are unchangeable facts, for the most part, and you aren’t vain or egotistical enough to think you can really do anything about this one. Dead man, dead agent, what the hell are you going to do about it—nothing.)
Dead!Agent McGee+You=Dead!Agent McGee. (Equations add finality.)
(A pre-item should read: You like NCIS. Because that’s really what all of this boils down to anyhow, isn’t it, and it’s not like you planned that either. Your life has been like shitting jalapeños since you met these people. Since some part of your (obviously dysfunctional) mind decided that it was really very interested in how those on the Morally White Side of the law lived, and wouldn’t it be lovely to fuck up the status quo of things to stay involved? )
(You’ve been fucked over since you climbed out of that body bag and had a conversation about steam locomotives with an old man who hated you.)
Item: Agent McGee is dead because Ziva killed him for some unknown reason.
(…no, can’t deal with that yet…)
Retraction: Item: Agent McGee is dead because Ziva killed him for some unknown reason.
Item: You want to throw yourself off this roof right now.
Item: Suicide is a sin.
(The masochism is still there.)
Another one of those memories is of the first time you went over to the Director’s house to stay the night.
More of a flash of images, really. You remember the large leather sectional in the living room (brown) and how you and Tali and Ziva had to put blankets down before you were allowed to sit on it. You remember the Director’s office (the largest room in the house) and how the dust mites in the air flashed gold and beautiful in the sunlight streaming through the windows.
You remember getting yelled at for playing in there, and Ziva pressing her teddybear into your arms to try and stop you from crying that night, as Tali whispered “It’s allright, Ari, he’s never mad for long.”
Ziva’s eyes, you remember, mainly because they’ve been the same for as long as you’ve known her. Dark and liquid, hard and warm. Little girl Ziva held your hand until you stopped crying, sniffling against the bear’s fur.
She wanted to let you take the bear home with you, but the Director told her no, and she watched you from the door until you and your mother were driving away, bear clutched in her hand and her lips playing in a smile.
The David women smile at everything.
“It’s me,” Ziva says into the phone.
You take another drag on the mostly burned out cigarette and keep your eyes unfocused on the horizon. You bummed it off of some agent with the lovely misanthropic thought of “I’ll stand on the roof and smoke until I feel better and reject the world at large.” You doubt, privately, that there are enough cigarettes in the world to make you feel better, and you really should quit—you’re a doctor, after all.
“I gathered. The obnoxious ring tone you set for yourself gave it away.”
“Come on, you know you love Britney Spears. I’ve seen you do your little wiggle when you think no one is looking.” She laughs and for a moment, you think everything might just be fine.
“I do not wiggle.”
“Do too. Oh, I shot McGee.”
“I gathered that, too. Why?”
“Hm. I need to get out of the country, big brother. Are you in a position to help me?”
“Our sisters are doing a fine job of that, Ziva. There are more false passports in your purse right now than sanitary pads.”
“I use tampons. And yes, there are. I’m running far, far away until things cool down. Does this inconvenience you terribly?”
“Why should it? You shot an innocent man, endangered our relationship with a foreign agency, and are now running off to escape the consequences of your actions. Inconvenience is not the first word I would choose, Ziva.”
“You mean your relationship,” she says, suddenly darker than she has been playing at, and you feel yourself go cold.
“Ziva, why did you do this?” She doesn’t answer. “Little sister, why did you shoot this man?”
She sighs, suddenly all lightness and fluff again, and turns her voice deep and dramatic and over the top, trying to make you laugh. You don’t. “Well I wasn’t aiming for him, idiot. Look, there’s no talking to you when you’re all superior and snippy. Meet me in Paris. Shalom, Ari!”
“Adieu.” But she’s already hung up. “Why did you do this?” You ask the empty space between you, and know that she is truly lost.
Ziva and you against the world. It has a poetic, beautifully epic sound to it that lets you know it will never work.
Adieu. To God. The goodbye to someone you will not meet again.
Gibbs is sitting at a table in the third conference room you try, reading a file that has “CLOSED” stamped along the back and is probably from before you were born.
You politely (more politely than you normally are, at least) don’t mention this. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone in your line of obsession has tried to avoid the current bad memories by wallowing in the fuzzier ones from the past.
Let him tell you and himself that the two of you aren’t the same. A liar always knows another.
The fluorescent lights hum quietly, buzzing in an uncomfortable white noise; the only sound in the room as well as the only light. He looks so solitary that you almost go to leave. His shoulders tense up, just a bit, and you walk all the way into the room and close the door.
Apparently, you’re acceptable company.
You sit down in a chair across the table from him and try and keep yourself tight and firm with purpose, but the exhaustion has hit you and you’re feeling a little light headed from the cigarette. Your limbs splay in every direction with a lazy lack of grace, and your head falls to one side as you stare at the reflections on the table’s lacquer.
You feel like a rag doll. A sexy, exhausted, homicidal ragdoll with a fucked up life and a fucked up sister and a fucked up father who did it to the both of you out of some misguided fucked up belief in fighting for ones fucked up country.
Gibbs is watching you. You watch your fingers trail lazy patterns over your wrinkled pants and wonder if you could have prevented everything by running away from home as a child, or throwing yourself off of a bridge at Edinburgh. Would Timothy McGee be dead if you were?
You wonder how many ghosts will haunt you this time next week.
“My little sister is the one who shot Agent McGee,” you say quietly, and Gibbs puts his file down. “I did not know she was going to do it, nor do I completely understand why, but she did. I had no part in it, but he is still dead. And she shot him.” You look up and see nothing on his face, and this is strangely comforting. “I am telling you this because I can not tell anyone else, Agent Gibbs.”
He looks back down at the folder on the table, winces, and rubs a hand over his face.
“I should have been able to stop that,” he says quietly. “That’s my job, to protect them. I should have been able to keep him safe. I failed.”
You smile, and it feels weird on your face. “Yes,” you agree, and from the look on his face you know you are the first one around to allow him to own the guilt he knows belongs to him. “Everybody does,” you say, and it’s true. You should have been able to stop Ziva. Should have known or at least suspected that she would do something like this, but you couldn’t ever entertain the thought and even now it feels like it’s burning a hole through you.
Your little sister shot McGee. You ache for it.
“Everybody fails, Agent Gibbs. You forget that you are fallible, and then it hurts all the more. And you remind yourself never to do it again, but you will and then you fail again and it hurts just as badly as the first time, and you’re left sitting in a pile of shit up to your eyes. And then you get up and it happens again.” Tali’s lithe body, bruised and bleeding and torn and oh my god where is her other leg, where are her ears, oh my god… “You failed. We all do, and it will happen again.”
The two of you sit in silence for a long time, and you wonder if Gibbs will put that bullet in your head this time, if you ask him sweetly enough.
“Yes,” he says finally, and leans forward to rest his arms over the file. The papers wrinkle and creak a bit, but he doesn’t seem to hear. “I guess so.”
“Yes,” you agree quietly, breathing deeply. You feel quietly empty, as if you have nothing else in you now that you have said this thing to him. You close your eyes and take another breath and hold it for longer. It’s the first time in your life that you’ve felt such a void, and you can’t decide if you like it or not.
Nothing happens for a long time, and you wonder if he’s forgotten about you when the chair creaks and he leans back again, squishing up the file some more. “Your sister?”
“My sister,” you say in agreement, and the words float all too easily off your tongue. “She was here as my handler. She was supposed to be keeping an eye on me, making sure I did as I was told. And then she shot your agent through the head.” You keep your eyes closed, as if opening them is going to expose Ziva standing right in front of you, her betrayal fresh and red on her hands. “She is not returning my calls and I can get no member of my family to admit that she did it. But I know it happened. And now you know as well.”
“Telling me isn’t going to make them very happy with you.”
And it’s such a simple statement that you find yourself grinning, eyes wide open now, and beaming up at him. “No,” you admit, almost giddy now. “It will in fact make them extremely unhappy with me. Betraying your relatives to foreign governments tends to make Pesach very awkward.”
“Will they kill you?”
Over this? “Eventually. Probably. I am the closest agent they have to Al Qaeda, but bloodlust and revenge will eventually win them over, and I will be most likely put in a situation where once I have given the Mossad all of the information they need, I will be tortured and then killed.” You nod, thinking about the possibility. “Yes. My father thinks I am tainted by my mother, and he loves my sisters when it suits him to do so. I will be turned over, sooner rather than later most likely.”
He doesn’t say anything, and you stare at a point over his left shoulder for a time. There’s a feeling of relief in your chest—almost as if by signing your death warrant alongside Ziva’s has taken the weight of the world off of your shoulders. You suppose it has. You’re very tired of living in the barrel of a gun.
Gibbs’s hand comes down on your shoulder, warm and tight, and you wonder why you didn’t hear him move. Why you can never seem to be one step ahead of this man, out of all of the ones you’ve met.
“I can’t protect them all of the time, but I have a better chance of it with you. Come work for me.” He’s serious, and it occurs to you that if there is one moment in life that you wish could be funnier, it’s this one. Talking about your sister in such morbid tones is depressing, and looking at your own lack of a future is even more so. What you wouldn’t do for a good joke right now, or a nice chuckle.
So you smile. It doesn’t make you feel better, but it seems more in character and it reassures you in that same distant way that everything seems to touch you today.
“You’ll make enemies.”
And he will. You’re on more international shitlists than you know, and no one gets to just leave the Mossad, especially not a prized asset such as yourself. You will be watched. You will be tested. This is a very bad move, politically, for Agent Jethro Gibbs to make.
“Fuck it,” he says quietly, and you want to fall to the floor and worship at his knee.
He helps you up from the table and walks out of the room with you, leaving the file on the table. You follow and know Sanctuary for the first time since your mother died, and it feels good.
You picture yourself as a lost puppy this time, and it works. Your loyalty has always been absolute and very easily bought with a warm word or a pat on the head.
You dog, you.
Another one; a random day at school. You chased a girl around the playground, and then she chased you. At lunch, you sat down next to her and opened your fruit snacks pouch and gave her the purple ones.
You remember her pigtails and the squealing, shrieking laugh that turned every head on the playground.
Gibbs has everyone gather together, and you watch idly as he puts information up on the board and your sister becomes a target—another name to track and find. You lick your lips and taste the remnants of the cigarette and wish you had another addiction to indulge.
Caitlin sits down next to you and looks you over critically. “Are you all right?”
You offer what you hope is a reassuring smile, and must fail absolutely abysmally, because the worry in her eyes increases ten fold and her hand comes down under the table to wrap around yours and hold on tight, fingers interlaced with yours.
You’ve always hated holding hands. Palms get sweaty too quickly to be pleasant for elongated periods of time, and you never know how to let go without feeling like you’re rejecting the other person’s offer of affection. This usually isn’t an issue (You’re a Bad Ass. Bad Asses don’t hold hands.) but when it is, it’s always an awkward one.
Caitlin, you remember, is a woman. Women like to fix things. (Things like you.)
(Contrary to anything you have previously thought about, you really hope she doesn’t stick her tongue in your ear right now.)
“Subject’s name is Ziva Haswari,” Gibbs says, and you say “David,” quietly and quickly without thinking about it.
Ducky looks at you, really looks at you without glaring for the first time all night, and you wonder if that’s a flash of pity or disgust across his face. Caitlin’s fingers tighten gently, and you find yourself squeezing back.
Gibbs outlines a plan. A bit riskier than he normally would go for, you can tell, but it sounds perfectly like one of yours—solid planning based on a good knowledge of human nature and a bit of luck thrown in—and you feel strangely safe with the knowledge. You can do this. You can do this.
When they eventually all rise to go about the steps that Gibbs has laid out, careful vowel sounds and hard, sure consonants, Caitlin’s fingers drop from yours and you realize you’ve been holding on this entire time.
You can do this, you tell yourself again, and move quietly out the door before you can do something pathetic like ask her for a hug.
You haven’t completely lost all self-respect, after all.
Tony watches as you walk around Gibbs’s basement, picking up on liabilities and limiting damage. That hammer there, needs to go. The saws should be removed to somewhere else, as unlikely as they are; Ziva can do damage with throwing sharp objects. (She’s always been better with knives, though you’re, of course, proficient.)
Blanks in the shotgun—she’ll be unlikely to use her own weapon and it’s impractical to bring her own bullets when his has been loaded and has his fingerprints on it already. You know your little sister, beautifully, horrifically well. This will be a suicide scene. If you know anything, anything at all, it’s that this will be a suicide scene.
“You done this sort of thing before?” he asks.
“Planned a crime scene out.”
Your mouth twitches, separate from the rest of you, and you smirk. “I am Mossad. We are generally sneaky.”
“The screw drivers, move them to the locked tool chest.” He does as he’s told, and you examine the room, clinically detached. “Good.”
“So,” he says, moving the hand sander into its drawer. “This woman is your sister?”
You clench your jaw, once, twice, and take a deep breath. “Yes.”
He watches you for a moment longer, then nods at something he obviously sees as satisfactory. “That’s pretty…”
“Yes,” you say again, moving the shotgun back into its place and taking off the latex gloves you’ve been wearing. You don’t want to know what he was about to say, because there’s no way it will make you feel better about anything. “It is.”
He nods to himself again, and the two of your survey the room quietly, making sure everything is where is should be and shouldn’t be. Your heart beats rapidly in your chest, and you wish, almost seriously, that you could reverse time so that you could never get this good—never know how to plan a crime scene before it’s a crime scene.
You’d give anything right now to be a doctor in an ER, working yourself into an early grave and seeing your somewhat distant half-sister on holidays and pretending to be impressed with her ever growing crop of children with her lump of a husband.
You close your eyes and open them again.
Nope. Still here.
“Do you want a hug?” Tony offers, shifting from one foot to another. “Because I’m not really into that kind of thing, but Abby would probably hug you and we can get her down here.”
You laugh hard and long, and Tony pretends not to notice that you run to the bathroom after a minute so that he doesn’t see you crying. You watch yourself in the mirror for a moment and wonder if you really have the strength to go through with this.
When you come out he gives a brief, manly pat on the back and the two of you get into the car and go somewhere else for a while.
The last one, probably the most useless of all, but the most clearly defined.
Tali coming to visit, the only time the Director brought one of them to Gaza with him. The two of you sat on the couch and watched cartoons, kicking each other back and forth, while the Director and your mother talked in the kitchen.
When he left, he took Tali with him, and you were silently so resentful of the loss of your playmate that you couldn't offer nearly enough reassuring words as you sat in your mother's lap and listened to her cry. You remember the feel of her shirt against your cheek and the desperate way she clutched at your hair, rubbing her fingers over you in the guise of soothing.
“I won’t let him,” she whispered to you. “I won’t let him take you, Ari. I won’t.”
The first time you hated the Director. The last time Tali came to play.
She was trying to frame you. Good job, Caitlin.
“Keep hating him,” she says with a laugh, voice lyrical and happy. “Every one of you will keep hating him, and he’ll have to stay away.”
“We’re not exactly best friends,” Gibbs says drily, and she laughs again.
“No,” she admits, “but you’ll give him just enough that he’ll keep coming back. Ari is remarkably simple like that.” She smiles.
“He’s your brother.”
“Yes. And once you are gone, and he can’t come back here, we will be like two peas in a pad again.”
Pod, you correct silently.
“Pod,” Gibbs says.
“Oh, yes,” Ziva nods to herself, making a mental note. “Of course. Thank you.” She smirks happily. “I am still going to kill you.”
Why? you mouth, watching Ziva's gun barrell level at Gibbs. No shaking. She knows what she's doing.
“No, no sweetness, you hold it like this, see? Shoulders here.”
“I’ll figure it out, Ari. Go set up the targets again. Can’t I shoot a something moving?”
“Focus on the Coke can, brat.”
"Why?" Gibbs asks, throat dry.
And of course, her answer will burn you for the rest of your life.
"Because he cares too much about you and yours, and all you're ever going to do is hurt him," she replies quietly, and tightens her finger on the trigger.
Gibbs stands in the corner. He’s been there for a while, but he isn’t moving and therefore you don’t have to look at him.
(An illogical association. Ziva isn’t moving either and you can’t take your eyes off of her.)
You kneel over her body, gun warm in your hand and the Sh'mai still fresh on your lips, you think about how appropriate it is that Ziva's last act (motive) on this planet was as your protector, and cry quietly against the chapped skin of her palm.
Her hair spreads dark on the floor (no, no, that’s blood, that’s blood ohmygodthat’sherblood) and you thought you couldn’t feel anything today, thought it was all too empty to feel anything but you are, you are, you are.
Her heart isn’t beating anymore and the red flow is slowing. You hide your tears in her skin and hope for something else.
Gibbs hand is a strong weight on your shoulder, an indefinite amount of time later. You follow him blindly, and spare a quick prayer that he won’t lead you off of a cliff.
You think you might just deserve to carry this hurt for a while.
Sleep, Gibbs says, and you’re a good soldier, you really are, so you do. He pushes you into a guest room and you lie on top of the light blue quilt and stare up at the ceiling until oblivion takes you.
When you dream, you dream of fighting zombies with Albert Einstein, and somehow defeating all of them with a stick of chewing gum. All of the eyes that watch you from underneath decomposing Zombie lids are Ziva’s.
You slide into something different a bit later, and dream of sitting on top of the Western Wall while Ducky dissects you, alive.
He removes your liver and both kidneys, putting them in sarcophagal jars next to you. “Oh,” he says, “you don’t need those right now. In fact I could replace them with stones and you would be able to function just as well.”
“What about this?” you ask, pointing to the electric green heart that beats, open to the air and pulsing, arching up at your hands like a kitten begging to be pet. “Can you take this out? Because I killed my sister, and that’s going to hurt here, when I wake up.”
“No,” Ducky says, and shakes his head. “Sorry, but they don’t have stones for that yet. But here, how about I take a lung?”
“Yes,” you says. “That sounds good. Thank you, Doctor Mallard.”
“Oh, my boy,” he says with a paternal smile and a gentle stroke of your left lung. “That’s what I’m here for.” And cuts into you again.
You wake up around five AM and stare at the ceiling for a while longer, and think that yes, you’ll quit smoking today.
Gibbs is sitting on the back steps of his house, two open beers in his hands. One is for you, though how he knew you would be awake and in the mood to drink is beyond you.
You drink it when he hands it to you, though. He tells you to.
“The report says I did it,” he offers quietly. “I thought that would be best.”
“Yes,” you say quietly. “I’m sure it is.” If you could feel anything right now, you think it might be hurt. It almost seems worse to have Gibbs take the blame for Ziva’s death—as if by letting him do that you’re denying her some kind of honor. Is it worse or better for her to have been killed by someone who loved her?
You loved her. You killed her. You cared enough to kill her.
You’re aware, if dimly, that you are majorly fucked up, and it makes you wish you could smile.
“I’m sorry, Ari,” he says gently.
“I’m sorry,” you respond. “I’m sorry she killed Agent McGee. I don’t understand why she did that.”
You heard her explanation, but it made little to no sense to you. It’s the kind of thing that Ziva would say, you would say “What?” to, and she would roll her eyes, call you a stupid boy, and explain again.
You miss her.
“She thought she was protecting you,” Gibbs says gently. “She loved you. People do stupid things for family. Kill for family.”
“Have you?” you ask quietly, and know the answer already.
Gibbs nods quietly, drinking more. Manly conversations require beer. You idly think that women have it easy—they talk and cry and then they hug each other and say “Thanks, I needed that” and then eat ice cream. You have to get drunk and carefully avoid eye contact or mentioning it ever again.
“I had a daughter. A wife. Someone took them from me, and I shot him. Killed him.”
You nod and don’t say anything. The crickets cackle in the long grass. You swish your foot through it and think to yourself for a long moment about the nature of love and death and if you'll ever feel strongly enough about someone to go out and randomly start killing people for real or perceived slights.
(You think you might. You've always been good at being a passionate idiot when it was least helpful.)
You drink the rest of the 6 pack by yourself, and watch the sun rise over the fence. Gibbs doesn’t leave your side, and when you go in later, his hand is the weight of God on your shoulder.
Feedmefeedmefeedmefeedmefeedme. Please. I crave it. LIKE BRAINS!HE OMG!!1