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Tali's Second Year

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Tali's Second Year

As Tali grows, Ziva ventures out of the farmhouse more, but at a price. She is now more visible to others. When Ziva notices that she is being watched, things get ugly fast. The events leading up to 'Family First' on the Israel side.

Chapter 1: Leaps and Bounds - October

Ziva watched Tali running in the yard. The little girl was chasing after a butterfly, laughing and squealing in delight. At nearly sixteen months, Tali had changed so much since her first birthday that Ziva felt as though she chronicled a milestone every day.

"IMA!" Tali called out. Ziva looked over at the toddler and smiled. The butterfly was perched on Tali's hand! Tali grinned at her mother; then she waved her arms excitedly and the butterfly flew away. She pointed at it and reached as though trying to get the insect to return to her hand.

As Ziva watched her little girl, a glint of a reflection of the sunlight off something in the olive grove caught her eye. She scanned the trees, hoping to spot the source. "Come, Tali, it is time to get a snack," she picked up the protesting toddler and carried her inside.

Tali did not want to go inside, but when Ziva offered her a handful of crackers, she quickly settled down and started munching away. Ziva sighed and looked outside towards the olive trees, hoping to catch another glimpse of whatever had caught her eye earlier.

She was startled from her thoughts by Tali tugging at her shirt hem, reaching up her hands and opening and closing them to signal that she wanted more crackers. Ziva turned from the window and handed another handful of crackers to the toddler and then poured some juice into a lidded cup with a straw for her daughter.

As she watched Tali devouring her snack, Ziva reflected on the summer. It had been relatively quiet, but Orli's assignment of a security detail to watch over Ziva and Tali still had left Ziva unsettled. She wondered just how much of it was purely Orli keeping an eye on her and Tali out of some misguided guilt for breaking up the David family years ago. Ziva trusted Orli, to a point, but she still had her doubts about the Mossad Director's ulterior motives. More than once, Ziva had wondered if Orli was trying to make sure that she (Orli) would eventually acquire Eli's private files for her own use.

Despite the detail's best efforts, Ziva made them every time. She pretty much knew who the individuals assigned to the detail were now. She had point-blank asked Orli if the officers were trainees or experienced. Orli had not replied, but her nonverbal cues let Ziva know that the individuals were mostly young trainees. Having that knowledge helped Ziva identify when she and Tali were followed in Haifa by two unknown persons in July and August.

More importantly, Ziva had sent a brief email to Tony on his birthday, wishing him a happy birthday with two additional words: "Someday soon." She had debated sending anything, but her new resolve to determine the path ahead gave her the courage to hit send. She had reminded herself that she was in charge of creating the future she wanted and that she did indeed deserve his love. If only she could get the monkey of Eli David's world off her back! Maybe finding those files that supposedly existed, or proving that they did not exist was her ticket out.

"IMA!" Tali tugged at her mother's shirt, wanting attention. Ziva looked down at her daughter, seeing the eyes of the man she loved with all of her being.

"Yaldati, would you like to go to Haifa for a few days?" Ziva knew that Tali loved the beach and with the cooler weather, mother and daughter could play on the beach during the day. Tali followed her Ima into the bedrooms as Ziva gathered what she needed for the trip. She packed a duffel bag and put it into the car along with a box of diapers for the baby and some snacks for the ride.

She buckled Tali into her car seat and headed to the highway. On the drive to Haifa, Ziva told Tali stories about her Abba. How so many years ago, Ima and Abba had played on the beach when they first met. How Abba had spent many nights with Ima watching movies and cuddling on the sofa in Ima's apartment. How Ima and Abba had been so happy when they were sharing time together.

As Ziva pulled into the driveway, she glanced back at her little one in the rearview mirror. Tali was sound asleep in the car seat, her head to one side and snoring softly. Ziva smiled; Tali had inherited something from both of them! 'I will reunite with your Abba before your next birthday.' Ziva made a promise to her daughter.

She carried the sleeping little girl into the house and gently placed her in the bed in the room that had once been her own. So many memories within those four walls. While the baby was sleeping, Ziva made a shopping list for groceries; mother and daughter would go shopping after Tali woke from her nap.

The little one slept for about an hour, giving Ziva time to get some light cleaning done around the house. When Tali did wake, she padded to the kitchen where her Ima was wiping down the counters. "Ima," Tali tugged at Ziva's shirt hem. "IMA!"

Ziva picked up the still waking toddler and hugged her, "Did you have a good nap, yaldati? Would you like a snack?" She moved to the refrigerator and took out a small bowl of diced peaches, one of Tali's favorite snacks that she had brought from the farmhouse. The little girl moved excitedly in her Ima's arms, reaching for the snack. Ziva placed Tali in her high chair and opened the bowl. She placed the fruit on the tray and watched as her daughter grabbed pieces in each hand.

"You are so like your Abba with food, motek," Ziva chuckled.

"ABBA," Tali mumbled through the food in her mouth.

When the snack was finished, Ziva wiped the baby's hands and face. She lifted her from the high chair and went to the girl's room to change her diaper and shirt. As she worked, she told Tali a story about her own Ima and sister Tali. "Your Savta would have loved you, yaldati. She would have spoiled you too." Tali grinned at her mother, her DiNozzo genes apparent.

At the market, Ziva placed Tali in the child seat on the grocery cart and headed down the aisles. She placed bread, hummus, milk and cereal in the cart. She was in the produce aisle, talking to the baby as she selected fresh peaches from the display. "How many should we buy, Tali? Three? Four?"

"Hello, Ziva." A voice startled Ziva from her chat with Tali. Ziva looked up to see Adam Eschel looking at her with a question in his eyes.

"Hello, Adam," Ziva responded.

Adam looked at Tali, "And who is this little beauty?"

Ziva hesitated, not many others knew about her daughter, would she be safe in disclosing that information to Adam? "I… she… is my…" Ziva thought about what she would say, deciding that the truth would be best. "This is my daughter, Tali." She instinctively moved closer to the baby, and Tali clutched her Ima's arm.

"Tony's daughter," Adam had seen the little girl's eyes and quickly made the connection. "Is he here as well?"

"Ima," Tali whimpered, burying her face against Ziva.

"Shh, yaldati, Adam is a friend of Ima and Abba," Ziva soothed her daughter by speaking softly and rubbing her back as she picked the child up from the seat.

"Abba!" Tali raised her head to look at her Ima.

"Adam," Ziva repeated as Tali shyly looked at her mother's friend. Adam smiled and Tali gave a small smile back. "She is a bit shy," Ziva explained to Adam.

"Kelev," Tali pointed to her stuffed dog in the seat of the cart. Ziva shifted, trying to balance the little girl and her purse to reach the toy. Adam picked it up and offered it to the little one. Tali at first turned her face back into her mother, but then reached out and took the toy from Adam. She grinned at him as she clutched her favorite toy to her chest tightly. Adam grinned back; Tali's grin was purely her father and any doubts as to her male parent were erased from his mind.

"We must go, Adam," Ziva told him. "We are staying at Ima's house; come see us tomorrow around 1000." She put Tali back in the cart and nodded to her Shin Bet friend. She grabbed the bag of peaches and put them in with the other groceries and moved off toward the checkouts.

Back at the house, Ziva made chicken tenders and veggie sticks for dinner, knowing Tali would devour the food. She had peaches and strawberries for dessert, but made sure not to let the baby see her favorite fruits before dinner. Mother and daughter sat on the screened porch as the sun set, Ziva telling her daughter more stories about NCIS and Abba.

At bed time, they followed the same routine the pair had established over the summer. After Tali's bath, Ziva put the toddler's pajamas on and then read from one of the story books that had been hers. After the story, mother and daughter looked at the picture of Tony and Ziva in Paris. "Laila tov, Tali," Ziva pointed to Tali, tickling her slightly.

"Lai tof, Ima," Tali giggled and tried to tickle her mother.

Together they pointed to Abba, "Laila tov, Abba." Tali kissed both of her parents' pictures and then her Ima. She held the picture to Ziva to kiss Abba.

Ziva placed a kiss on Tony's image; "Ani ohevet otach," she said softly. She then kissed Tali and pulled her covers up. "Ani ohevet otcha, yaldati."

Adam visited with Ziva and Tali several times since their encounter in the Haifa supermarket. On the third visit he brought his partner and the man's son and daughter to meet Ziva. The boy was about five and the girl almost seven. Tali delighted in having other children to play with, and ran after them happily in the farmhouse yard.

Adam and Zevi Ben Gashri had been together for almost three years; they had met when Adam investigated the suicide bombing by a Palestinian that killed Zevi's wife. Zevi worked for Aman, the military intelligence counterpart to Mossad and Shin Bet. The children, Adina and Avi, had taken to Adam easily. Within six months of meeting, they had moved in to one residence and formed a family. Ziva was happy for her childhood friend.

It was Zevi who alerted Ziva to some international chatter about Eli's alleged secret files in early November.

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Chapter 2: Signs of Trouble - November

Zevi had also sent a detailed report to Orli informing the Mossad director of the new chatter about Eli. Several queries had been sent through communications channels used by international mercenaries and guns for hire about Eli's secret files and their where-abouts. What had concerned Zevi most was the mention of several of Eli David's known residences, one of which was the farmhouse where Ziva and Tali lived most of the time. He did not let on to Orli that he knew Ziva or that she was living in the house with her daughter.

Nettie took the three children to her house on the weekend of Ziva's birthday. Ziva, Adam and Zevi searched the entire farmhouse, using imaging equipment, heat sensors and other technology to determine if the farmhouse was hiding any secrets. Again, nothing out of the ordinary showed, but Adam did mention that if Eli had used a thin layer of lead over any bunker entrance or hidden panel, it would prevent the equipment from detecting anything.

Because of the Mossad detail watching by Orli's order, they could not search outside the house without being detected. None of them wanted to tip off Orli to the search; Ziva had clearly expressed her opinion that Orli's hidden agenda in protecting Ziva and Tali surely had to do with the desire to possess Eli's files. Adam had agreed with Ziva; Zevi didn't know Orli that well, but he felt that both Ziva and Adam were much better to judge Orli's motives.

Mossad determined that the queries were originating from three main sources: a Hamas-linked organization in Iran, a South American cartel, and former associates of Jacob Scott, a former MI-6 officer convicted of treason. Orli shared minimal information with Ziva, telling her that she was increasing the security patrols at all of Eli's (now Ziva's) properties in Israel. Adam and Zevi shared more with Ziva about the alleged origins and Adam offered to provide security for Ziva and Tali at the Haifa beach house whenever Ziva decided to spend time there.

Ziva was determined not to let her past and especially the world of her father determine how she lived her life with Tali. She tried to go about daily living as 'normally' as possible; she did not want to disrupt Tali's routines. More importantly, the new Ziva, the Ziva who was determined to put the past in the past and keep the mind demons out of her head, stubbornly refused to let the new information push her into a backslide.

Many nights after she put Tali to bed, she read to occupy her mind. She often fell asleep with the book in her hands or under her face if she read in bed. But still, there were the nights that the thoughts in her head would torment her no matter how hard she tried to push them away. What if she hadn't been so stubborn and had contacted Tony? What if she had gone back to the States with Tali? What if Tony had moved on? What if her father's world never left her alone?

"DAI!" she spoke aloud to herself. She could not let her demons come back; she would not let them rule her thoughts again. She sat up and turned on the bedside light. Her eyes focused on the picture of Tony that she kept on her night stand. She picked it up, hugging the image to her chest, tears streaming over her cheeks.

"Oh, my love, what have I done? I miss you so much. I love you more than anything, well except for Tali. I need you, my little hairy butt." She kissed the image of her soulmate, and then clasped the picture to her again. "Ani ohevet otach, Chéri."

'At lo levad,' the night seemed to whisper in her ear in his voice. She smiled though her tears; just when she had needed it the most, the Universe had yet again given her a sign. Tony had given her the strength she needed yet again.

Ziva fell into a peaceful sleep, the picture of Tony wrapped in her arms. When she was awakened by the sun in the morning, she felt refreshed and had a new resolve to put the world of Eli David behind her once and for all.

As she made her way to Tali's room, she noticed a text message alert on her phone. She swiped the screen. A huge smile formed when she saw that the text was from Tony. She opened the message. 'Happy Thanksgiving, Sweetcheeks! Sorry I missed your b-day; was out of country. Long story. Ani ohev otcha. T' He had sent the message about an hour earlier; she did a quick calculation of the time difference and figured it was 0015 in DC. She typed a quick reply, 'Ani ohevet otach. Happy Thanksgiving. Z' and hit send. He was probably asleep but she wanted to reply before she got busy with Tali.

The little girl was sitting in her crib happily babbling to Kelev and her other stuffed animals. Ziva paused in the doorway, watching her baby. Tali was a happy child for the most part and her Ima vowed to keep her world as pure and innocent as possible for as long as possible.

"Boker tov, yaldati!" Ziva called out as she walked into the room. Tali turned and grinned at her mother, standing with arms outstretched. Kelev's ear was clutched firmly in the baby's mouth. Ziva laughed at the antics. "Silly girl, you cannot eat Kelev!"

As she picked the little one up, Tali grabbed hold of Kelev with her hand. "Ani raev, Ima," she looked Ziva in the eye so seriously that her mother burst into laughter again.

"Oh, you are so much of your Abba, Miss Tali! Let us get you some breakfast," Ziva put the toddler down as they moved to the kitchen. Tali ran to her chair, climbing into the booster seat and looking at her mother expectantly. "Are you hungry?" Ziva repeated the English words. Tali nodded and reached her hands out, opening and closing them to signal that she wanted food.

Ziva placed some dry cereal and sliced bananas on a dish and put the food in front of Tali. The girl grabbed food with both hands and shoved it into her mouth. Ziva poured some milk into a lidded cup and juice into another cup. She put her own breakfast on the table and sat next to Tali.

"Your Abba sent us a message today," Ziva started telling Tali about the American holiday of Thanksgiving. "When I was last with Abba for Thanksgiving, he set up a special performance of the opera for me in the bullpen to honor my sister, your namesake. It was on Thanksgiving Day and we were supposed to go to Gibbs' house for turkey dinner. Abba told me to listen all I wanted and then come to the dinner. He would wait for me at Gibbs' house.

"When I got there, Abba was looking out the window. He saw me drive up and ran outside to greet me. When he smiled at me, I could not help myself, I just kissed him right there in Gibbs' driveway. Your Abba held my hand as we walked to the front door. Even though we were together at that point, we had not let the rest of the team know. I think we both were still afraid of Rule 12. Abba kissed me again before we went inside; we almost decided to go back home and just be together alone, but Abby opened the front door just as we broke apart.

"I am glad we stayed; we had a family dinner with everyone that Thanksgiving. Ducky made the turkey as he did every year. Gibbs made pies from his mother's recipes. Abby and Breena brought vegetables. Tim brought rolls and wine. Abba brought the salad that I was supposed to bring. We ate so much food that we were all full." Ziva got quiet as she remembered sitting in Gibbs' living room after the meal. She and Tony sat side by side on Gibbs' loveseat and Tony had wrapped an arm around her in front of everyone. She had leaned back against him. No one had said anything, but Gibbs had watched them carefully.

"Tali, I felt so loved by Abba," Ziva smiled at the memories.

"Abba!" Tali spoke with a mouthful of food.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Holidays, Horrors, and Hope - December

Things were quiet again as Ziva prepared for Chanukah. She invited Adam and Zevi and the children over for the first night's celebration. Zevi brought sufganiyot that he had made that morning. They also brought chocolate dmei (gelt) and some small toys for sevivon (dreidel) games. Ziva made applesauce and levivot (latkes) for dinner. Tali was more interested this year in the activities and especially in the chocolate and sweet jelly-filled doughnuts. Adina and Avi played with Tali and showed her how to spin the sevivon.

Ziva lit the candles each night, explaining the rituals and holiday to her daughter. Just after sundown marking the end of Shabbat, she heard what sounded like gun fire. She quickly picked up Tali and then went to the safe to get her weapons. As she was unlocking the safe, she heard footsteps on the front porch, followed by a pounding on the front door.

"Ziva David, this is Nisi ben Aharon with Mossad. Director Elbaz sent me to bring you and your daughter to Mossad."

"What is the code phrase?" Ziva handed Kelev to Tali in hopes of keeping the toddler quiet. The little girl looked at her Ima with wide eyes. "Shh, Tali; it is okay, yaldati."

"Y-not porcupine." Ziva sighed and opened the door to see three heavily armed officers on the porch. "Come with us, please." The leader led Ziva to a waiting armored vehicle. No sooner had she settled herself and Tali into the back of the vehicle than they sped off. Tali started whimpering and clinging to her mother.

"It will be okay, motek," Ziva rubbed her hand on Tali's back, placing soft kisses on her baby's head as she spoke. "Ima loves you and so does Abba." Tali buried her face in her mother's chest as Ziva held her little one tightly.

At Mossad headquarters, the vehicle went into a secure tunnel into an underground area of the building. Ziva had been in this entrance many times herself as a Mossad officer, usually escorting a high-level official, a secret visitor, or a maximum-security prisoner. That knowledge did nothing to calm her; it only set her alertness on a higher level. She was trying to remain cool and calm for Tali's sake, but she could feel her anger rising. She needed answers now!

The vehicle's door was opened from the outside and Ziva stepped out; the Mossad officer she assumed was Nisi ben Aharon motioned for her to follow him. She knew immediately where they were headed, recognizing the hidden access to the Director's office. She did not need anyone to guide her; she had walked these same passages more times than she could count.

"Ziva," Orli greeted her with a terse smile. Ziva nodded in response. "It is for your safety that I have had you brought here. Please accept my apologies for the abruptness."

"What do I need to know?" Ziva wasn't playing any games with Orli tonight. She wanted straight answers and information. "What is the threat this time?"

"Ziva, so impatient," Orli tried to make small talk. "Well, hello, little Tali." Ziva pulled her daughter tighter to her, and glared at the Mossad director.

A knock at the office door interrupted. Orli opened the door to Officer ben Aharon. "We are ready," he informed her and walked off.

"Let us leave Tali with my personal assistant and then follow me to interrogation," Orli directed Ziva.

"No, Tali stays with me," Ziva shot back angrily. She took a deep breath, trying to center herself and get her emotions in check. She would not let her child out of her sight. Tali looked at her Ima at the sharp words. "It is okay, yaldati. Ima has you."

Ziva followed Director Elbaz to the interrogation rooms. The woman opened the door to one of the observation areas and motioned for Ziva to enter. Orli spoke into a headset and two interrogation rooms came into view on the monitors.

"Do you recognize either of them?"

Ziva looked closely at the man and the woman on the screens. "No, neither one. Who are they?"

"Hamas." Orli's clipped answer raised Ziva's hackles. There was a lot that the Mossad director was not telling her.

"What are you not telling me?" Ziva tried to control her anger.

"These two, along with four others were found in the olive grove, approaching the house. The other four are dead now. We captured these two. They were all heavily armed. One of the security detail officers has been gravely injured; she may not live. Two others are wounded but will survive.

"I thought you might have seen them prior to today as they seem to have a great familiarity with your property." Orli tapped a button on the console and the images of the four dead appeared. "Do you recognize any of the dead?"

Ziva looked over each image, "None of them. I am sure they are enemies of Eli." She tried, unsuccessfully, to hide the sarcasm in her tone. "Just how many security officers do you have at my property?" Ziva had counted at least six with the three injured and the three who had come to her door.

Orli evaded answering the question by leading Ziva out of the room and trying to engage Tali in a bit of play. Tali was having none of it though; she just clung to her mother and her Kelev. She watched everything with wide eyes, not understanding much other than that her Ima was upset and angry. Ziva simmered, not wanting to engage in an angry exchange with the Mossad director and risk scaring Tali.

Back in Orli's office, Ziva put Tali on a chair as she turned to confront the Director. Tali watched her Ima.

"I will have you taken to a safe house for a few days," Orli's tone left no uncertainty that she was giving an order. "Mossad will inspect each of Eli's properties to determine if they are safe for you and Tali."

Ziva took a sharp breath in, and tried not to shout, "NO! I will not live my life in fear because of my father. If you feel a need to check MY properties, then do so with my permission. Just do not damage anything and if you remove anything, I do not want any evidence of the removal left behind. Tali and I will be safe in Haifa."

Orli shook her head, "Oh, Ziva, still so stubborn. Officer Eschel cannot protect you. He is merely Shin Bet. You will be safer with Mossad."

"No, I will be under your control with Mossad!" Ziva spat the words, not regretting them one bit.

"Then you may have Tali's blood as well as your own on your hands," Orli angrily responded. "I am trying to protect you."

Tali let out a wail, scared from the angry exchange between her Ima and Orli. Ziva turned to pull Tali into her arms, soothing her by rubbing her back and talking softly. "Shh, motek, it will be okay."

Ziva turned to Orli, "DO NOT try to use my daughter to manipulate me." She spoke with her teeth clenched and fire in her eyes. "My baby will NOT grow up in fear."

"Then take her to her father in America!"

"WE will be with Tony when the time is right," Ziva was now fighting tears, both of anger and frustration. How dare Orli use the two people who meant everything in the world to Ziva to try to manipulate her and play whatever game she was trying to play. "I will go to the Haifa house tonight, with or without your approval and help."

Orli sighed and lifted her desk phone, calling for an officer to bring Ziva's car to Mossad headquarters. Ziva sat silently fuming; her mistrust of the Mossad director had grown significantly that night. If she had any way of knowing if they existed and where her father's alleged secret files were, she would hand them over to Orli and be done with it all. Tali would have a normal childhood, hopefully with both parents and free from any of the horrors and heartache that had scarred Ziva's short childhood. She had realized recently that her childhood had ended at about age six when Eli had started training her and Ari to be assets for Mossad.

~December~

Ziva and Tali spent the rest of December, the latter half of the month, at the Haifa house. At Christmas, Ziva put up a small tree and told Tali stories of Christmases in DC with her Abba and the other NCIS family. Tali loved tearing the colorful wrapping paper off of the presents. As she had the year before, Ziva made sure that she told Tali that at least one of the gifts was from Abba.

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Chapter 4: A Brief Respite - January and February

January started with Ziva and Tali returning to the farm house. Whatever Mossad had done to or inspected at the property was not obvious, for which Ziva was grateful. She did not want to know of any more of Eli's secrets and lies. If only she could convince others that she wanted nothing more to do with the man or his legacy. All Ziva wanted was to be left alone to raise her daughter free from fear.

She had to admit to herself that also included bringing Tali to meet her Abba, so that he could be a part of her life. Ziva still had her doubts that Tony could ever forgive her for not informing him about their child. She hoped that the three of them could someday be a family, but her greatest fear was the hurt that she had caused Tony would be unforgivable.

Her inner demons still reared their ugly heads, but it was becoming less and less frequent that she would have the nightmares or the serious bouts of self-doubt and self-loathing. Tali was her focus; she had to be whole for her daughter to thrive and to live free from the horrors and hurts that Ziva had seen way too much of in her life.

Orli came by once a week, presumably to check on Ziva and Tali. Ziva knew that Orli had ulterior motives, but let it pass. She was cordial and civil to the Mossad director. It never hurt to have a 'friend' at Mossad, especially if your last name was David. Ziva actually started to look forward to her weekly visits with Orli.

Adam and his family came for dinner about every other week. Tali followed the two older children gleefully each time they came to visit. Zevi and Adam briefed Ziva on any new intel while the kids played out of earshot. Since the beginning of the year, very little chatter or activity had come up.

Ziva tried to keep life as normal as possible for Tali; she was determined that her daughter would not live a life filled with fear and always watching over her shoulder. She and Tali spent time at both the Haifa beach house and the farm house. They visited with Doda Nettie, both at home and at Nettie's house.

Despite the apparent lack of activity or threats, Ziva was constantly on alert. She carried at least one weapon when she and Tali were out of the house and had readily accessible (to her) arms in both houses. Tali, in her nearly two-year-old world, was blissfully unaware of her mother's vigilance. For that, her Ima was grateful.

At Valentine's Day, Ziva sent a text message to Tony, 'Happy V-day. Ani ohevet otcha. Soon, very soon I hope.' She didn't expect to hear back from him, but when her phone chimed with the incoming text alert while she was preparing dinner, she quickly moved to check her messages.

'Should I count to a million? Ani ohev otach.'

Ziva smiled; memories of their Valentine's Days together bubbling to the surface. The last Valentine's Day that the pair had been together was especially in the forefront of her memories. That Thursday, they had done paperwork all day at the Navy Yard, but Tony had managed to sneak out to get their favorite take-out from the sandwich shop across from the Yard. He set up a table in the break room with a tablecloth, flowers, and a candle. He had texted Ziva to come meet him in the break area and surprised her with the lunch. Gibbs had let the team go home for the day before 1800. Ziva planned a special meal at home and cooked lasagna for Tony. Dessert was supposed to be tiramisu, but they got distracted by each other. Dessert had been a multiple course helping of each other. Both had barely kept awake at work on Friday due to their lovemaking and lack of sleep the night before, but neither regretted any of it. Ziva sighed at the memories, and realized just how much she missed the physical relationship with her soul mate. Tali would get a G-rated version of the stories from her mother for bedtime stories.

Ziva started checking into flights to the US, specifically to one of the DC area airports, from Tel Aviv. Her target date for going back to her family in DC was 20 May, a Friday. She purchased tickets for herself and Tali, one way from Tel Aviv to Dulles, via New York. As she printed the e-tickets, she smiled. 'Home' was not so far away anymore. Israel was once her home, but she had come to realize that a physical location was not truly home unless the people she loved were also there.

The last day of February dawned with bright sunny skies and unusual warmth for that time of year. Daytime highs were predicted to be around twenty two degrees Celsius (seventy one Fahrenheit); above normal for February in Tel Aviv. Ziva dropped Tali at Doda Nettie's house and went grocery shopping. After making her purchases, she headed back to the farmhouse to put the groceries away before picking up her daughter.

As she drove up to the house, her ninja senses tingled. Something was off. She reached under the driver's seat for her handgun, placing it in her lap as she slowly approached the house. She surveilled the area around the house, the front porch, and the yard. Nothing seemed out of place or out of the ordinary. Still, her senses were telling her otherwise.

She parked the car and shut the engine off, listening and watching. She slipped the weapon into the pocket of her jeans as she stepped out of the car. She grabbed several bags of groceries in her left hand; her right hand ready to grab her gun as she stepped onto the porch. Still nothing unusual…

She unlocked the front door and opened it slowly, gun ready if needed. She pushed the door further open with her foot and canvassed the room. Still nothing, so she carried the bags of groceries to the kitchen, placing them on the counter. She turned to go back out for the remaining bags of groceries. She swore she heard a floorboard creak and turned with her gun drawn in the direction of the sound.

"Show yourself, or I will shoot first and ask questions later," she called out. One of the farm cats ran out from the hallway to Tali's bedroom. It ran towards the kitchen door, which Ziva quickly opened to let the frightened animal outside. She tucked her gun back into her pocket after relocking the back door and went back to the car to retrieve the remainder of the groceries.

Her mind was whirling with emotions and questions. What if Tali had been with her? How did the cat get into the house? Why were her senses still on high alert?

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Chapter 5: Trouble is Brewing - March

Ziva could not shake the unsettled feeling for almost a week. She was constantly checking the house and the area surrounding it; every little sound heightened her senses. Tali picked up on her Ima's tension and became clingy and needy of her mother's attention. At night, Ziva slept with a gun under her pillow; something she had not done in many years.

Adam, Zevi, and Orli all contacted Ziva, independently, about new chatter and inquiries about Eli and his assets. Orli mentioned former MI-6 operative Jacob Scott; Ziva had never heard of the man. Apparently Eli had played a part in the conviction of Scott as a traitor who sold sensitive information to the Soviets. Zevi informed Ziva about several groups associated with Hezbollah, Hamas, or South American cartels that had been putting out feelers about Eli. Many of the feelers were directed towards mercenaries and assassins for hire. Adam had uncovered internal searches on Eli's cases as a Mossad agent and several on his properties and holdings in Israel and links to Trent Kort, former CIA operative.

All of the new information only served to worry Ziva further. She was very glad she had purchased the tickets to DC and vowed to continue her plan to return to her NCIS family. Every person who passed her on the street, every vehicle that was near her on the road, and every Mossad agent who patrolled her property was suspect in her mind. She didn't know who could be acting with less than the safety of herself and Tali in mind.

One afternoon in late March, she had taken Tali to Nettie's house again so that she could run some errands in Tel Aviv. She had started moving assets to banks around the world, including a deposit to her DC account. After she left the bank, a vehicle followed her for several blocks. She tried evasive maneuvers to no avail. When she finally stopped in the parking lot of a supermarket, the vehicle had sped away. She did get the tag information, which she relayed to Adam.

At home, she spotted an unfamiliar car on the side of the road just before the driveway to the farmhouse. She put her handgun on the seat next to her, and checked her knives that were tucked into pockets of her cargo pants. She hated that her world had come full circle, but if becoming a warrior again was what she needed to do to protect her daughter, so be it. She would even kill again if that's what it took to ensure Tali's safety and well-being.

She parked her car in front of the house; her weapons at the ready as she stepped onto the front porch. She opened the door and noticed a person sitting on her sofa.

"Identify yourself!" her gun was aimed at the head. As the individual slowly stood and then turned, Ziva drew a sharp breath in. "Amit? What are you doing here?"

Her father's oldest friend and most trusted confidante sighed, "I came to warn you, Ziva. Your life is in danger. There are still many enemies of your father who would wish you harm or even death. You must flee and become invisible. It is the only way to save yourself now."

She motioned for him to sit again and moved over to face the man. "What do you know? Who sent you?"

"I cannot tell you who sent me, but I do know that there will be a price on your life very soon if not already. Do not ask me for more information; I cannot give you anything more. Ziva, as your friend, I implore you to go now. I have transportation out of the country for you if you will go with me. We must leave within the hour."

Ziva realized as he was talking that Amit did not know about Tali. She could not just leave her child to go with him, even if it meant dealing with more threats from her father's enemies. She would NOT abandon her daughter at any cost. She shook her head, "No, I cannot leave with you. Please, tell me what you know." She bored into his gaze with her eyes, pleading for anything he could tell her that might be useful.

"I cannot; they will kill me." He got up to leave, "Come with me, Ziva."

"No, it is not possible."

He turned and left quickly at her response. She watched him stride purposefully down the driveway to his vehicle. When he reached the turn towards the road, shots rang out and he dropped to the ground. Ziva moved to the gun cabinet and removed several weapons and ammo. She loaded the three semi-automatic rifles and checked the cartridge of her handgun. She slung one of the rifles over her shoulder and carried the other two, one in each hand; her handgun was tucked in her pocket on the left side.

She moved cautiously towards the back door, sliding out quietly. She scanned the yard and olive grove for possible movement or threats. Seeing none, she moved stealthily along the side of the house, coming around to the front yard. Amit's body was still visible in the driveway. She watched for at least fifteen minutes, wondering where the Mossad protection detail could be. Surely they had heard the shots and reacted. She was about to move towards the driveway when she spotted a lone figure in the trees.

As she watched, the man moved towards the body of her father's confidante. She was sure Amit was dead; he had been hit at least five times while she watched. The man did not seem to be aware that she was watching, which would work in her favor. She quickly moved into the tree line along the driveway and paralleled the man's walk to the turn in the driveway.

He turned Amit's body over, and felt for a pulse on the man's neck. He patted Amit's clothing appearing to look for weapons or maybe a phone. Ziva waited until he was bent over and raised her rifle, aiming it at his head.

"Put your hands on the back of your head and stand up slowly," she stepped out of the tree line. "If you do not cooperate, I will not hesitate to take your life." She really did not want to use that option before she grilled the man for any information she could use.

He did as she requested, slowly standing with his hands behind his head. She directed him to turn to face her, which he did.

"Who are you?" she was now close enough to see the fear in his eyes. "Why are you here?"

He said nothing, but could not maintain eye contact. He looked at the ground at her feet. Ziva asked again for answers. He still said nothing.

"I will ask one more time, and if you do not respond, I will shoot you in the knee," time to play hardball as Tony would say. She pushed the thought of Tony from her mind; she could not afford the distraction at the minute.

"I am Farsoun," the man replied.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Threats, Plans, and Safety - April

From Farsoun, Ziva learned that he had been hired by a "group of enemies of Eli David" to kill Amit. The group had learned of his planned trip to the farmhouse and that Amit was assigned to get the secret files belonging to Eli. Farsoun had nothing to lose; his wife and children had been killed in a bombing ordered by Eli. The money he was to be paid by the group would be donated to an orphanage in his country.

When Farsoun learned that Amit had no such files on him, and that Ziva had no idea as to their existence let alone whereabouts, he started crying. "They will kill me," he stated sadly. "I am not to return without the files. I have thirty days to complete the assignment."

Ziva felt sympathy for the man; she understood the need for revenge. "I will help you, if you will help me," she offered. "If you cooperate, I will try to ensure that you get to safety if that is what you wish."

"I will help you; I do not want to kill you," he replied. "It is Eli David that should die."

"Have you not heard? Eli is dead; he was killed in the United States over three years ago."

"They did not tell me," Farsoun was now concerned that he had been set up. "What can I do?"

"You will report back to the group that you need more time; that you have learned that there are more files hidden in other locations. You will need to have the deadline extended to 19 May."

"Okay, but why that day?"

"Because I will be gone by then," Ziva said simply. "You can do whatever you want to the farmhouse once I leave." She moved to her safe and pulled out two of the burner phones from inside.

"Here is a burner phone; use it to call me and ONLY me. I will program the number for the other burner phone into yours. You are not to come to the house unless you check with me first," Ziva emphasized.

Farsoun nodded his agreement and looked Ziva in the eyes for the first time. As he raised his head, he noticed the toys in the corner of the living room. "You have a child." It was not a question.

"Yes; and I do not want her to know any stress or fear because of my father. Is that understood?"

He nodded again; "Yes. I cannot harm a child ever. I already have nightmares from seeing the mangled bodies of my own children." His eyes teared up at the memory.

"What languages do you speak?" Ziva asked.

"Arabic, Hebrew, English, French, German, and Spanish."

"Very good; when you call me, I will answer in one of those languages. The entire conversation for that call will be in the language I use. It will vary by call, so be prepared to speak in any of them." Ziva was glad she could use languages that Tali did not understand in case he happened to call when the little girl was nearby.

"If I need to call you, let the phone ring. Once it stops, wait ten minutes and call me back. If you do not call, I will assume that you have been disloyal to me and I will find you and kill you." Ziva hoped that situation did not arise; she really did not want to have his blood on her hands. If all went well, she would be out of the country when he carried out whatever he was assigned by the group once they learned of potential additional files.

"Now go call your handler and report about the additional files and ask for more time. Call me in four days to report back. I will have a plan in place that we will execute to assure my daughter's and my safety and your freedom. Understood?" Ziva needed some time to make a plan that would give her the chance to leave for the US.

"Yes." He left her with the assurance that he would call in four days.

Ziva retrieved Tali from Doda Nettie's house and packed bags for the two of them to head to the Haifa house for the four days. She would not stay where she was a sure target while she waited to see if Farsoun kept his side of the deal.

In Haifa, she met with Adam while Tali was napping. She explained her plan for Adam to take Tali to Orli who would then take the little girl to her father in the States if Ziva felt any threat to the child's life was imminent. She gave him a duress code that she would use to contact him should they need to execute her plan. Adam knew better than to question Ziva as she explained the plan; she would share what she wanted him to know and nothing else. He agreed and added that he hoped that plan would not be needed.

Farsoun called as they had agreed and informed Ziva that the group had given him until 15 May to get all of the known files to them. He said that they had not said anything about her so he had not asked. The group's sole focus was obtaining the files.

After her call with Farsoun, she contacted Orli to arrange a meeting at Mossad headquarters. Ziva would leave Tali with Nettie to go meet with the Mossad director. Orli agreed to a meeting after Pesach. Ziva had hoped to make it sooner, but she had to go with what the Mossad director suggested. She did not want to sound too urgent in her request and raise the woman's suspicions.

While she waited for the end of the month, she put more of her plan into place, contacting Farsoun twice for updates and laying out her plan to him. She had Zevi expedite an Israeli passport for Tali to travel to the States and obtained certified copies of the baby's birth certificate to take with her when they left. She also contacted her banks in Israel and in DC and authorized access to the accounts for Tony. She explained that he would be available in May to sign any needed documents when he returned from an undercover mission.

Ziva accessed the deposit box at the Tel Aviv bank and took two of her fake IDs and passports for use if needed; if she didn't need them, she would destroy the documents before she arrived at Dulles. All of her planning would be in vain if Farsoun was unable to keep his end of the deal. She had told him that once she left, he could do whatever he needed to search the farmhouse and any documents that were found would go to the group that hired him.

While she was laying her plans in place, she tried diligently to maintain a normal day to day routine for Tali. Ziva knew that if she stressed, Tali would react and become clingy. The last thing Ziva needed was others noticing a change in either her or Tali because of the threats that only Ziva and Farsoun knew about.

Finally the day of her meeting with Orli came around. She dropped Tali at Nettie's house, explaining to her aunt that she had some important errands to complete in Tel Aviv. Nettie, as always, was thrilled to have her grandniece visit and told Ziva to take as much time as she needed.

At Mossad headquarters, Ziva was given updates by Orli before she even got to explain her emergency plan to the woman. Apparently Jacob Scott had escaped from prison and was on a killing spree. Orli wanted to put Ziva and Tali in protective custody, but Ziva adamantly refused.

"I have tickets for Tali and me to fly to DC on 20 May. We will be gone in less than three weeks. I will not have her life disrupted unless absolutely necessary. I want things to be as normal as possible until we leave. She will be stressed enough flying to a country she has never seen and being around people she has never met. Let me at least give her a normal routine here," Ziva pleaded.

"Besides, I have an emergency plan that I need to brief you. If something should happen, I will get Tali to Adam Eschel. She is comfortable with him and will not be too upset if I leave her with him. He will get her to you. I want you to take her to her father immediately. She will have a go bag with any documents you will need to travel with her. I will also make sure there are some of her favorite toys and books to help keep her quiet on the trip to DC." Ziva hoped that Orli would agree to her emergency plan.

"I will agree, Ziva, on one condition."

"And that is?"

"That you will promise me that you will do everything you can to make a family for Tali with her father."

"I cannot make that promise; I cannot speak for Tony. I do not know if he will want me in his life. I have hurt him too much," Ziva fought back the tears that were forming. She would not cry; it was her most fervent wish that the three of them would be a family, but she did not know if Tony had moved on or how he would react to the news that he had a child; that THEY had a child. "I will promise that I will try…"

"Oh, Ziva!" Orli drew the younger woman into a hug. "Do you not see that he will love you no matter what? I saw that when he was looking for you in the summer of 2013. His love for you is unconditional; he is your soul mate."

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: Letting Go and Getting Away – May

As April turned into May, Ziva began packing for the trip to the US. She sorted through Tali's clothing and toys, putting items that the toddler had outgrown into boxes to donate to the women's shelter in town. She hid weapons and all but one of the last of her burner phones in strategic places on the property. Every possibility was covered and should she not need her emergency plan, Farsoun could take what he pleased of the stashes. If nothing else, the items might appease the group if he did not recover anything of interest from inside the house.

On 13 May a distraught Farsoun called Ziva; he had been given an ultimatum by the group. They had told him that he either produce the secret files of Eli David or he destroy the farmhouse by the end of the day on 15 May. They had supplied him with a mortar launcher and two incendiary mortars to complete the job. Ziva was sure he was crying on the other end of the line.

"Give me thirty six hours to get my daughter to safety; then meet me in the orchard by the second well at 2300 hours on 15 May." She ended the call, cursing under her breath. Yet again, the world of Eli David had come crashing down on her. But this time, she was ready. She would not be a victim of her father ever again. She contacted Adam, asking him to meet her at the Haifa house at 2100 hours the next day, using the duress code they had set up for the emergency plan to be put into action.

The first item Ziva took care of was to destroy her cell phone that tied her to everyone else. If anyone tried to call, the phone would no longer be in working order. She smashed the phone with a large rock and threw the pieces into her bedroom scattering them under the bed. She would leave the burner phone that had been her contact with Farsoun with him to destroy along with his burner.

Ziva packed a go bag for Tali, including the little girl's favorite clothes, her board books, three DVDs, and the documentation that Orli and then Tony would need to ensure Tali's safety and well-being in the States. She copied the pictures, videos, and journals from Tali's nearly two years of life onto a DVD and wrote a letter to Tony as well as recorded a video to him. She explained as much as she could and promised him more details once she made it safely back to him and Tali.

Even with the doubts that crept into her mind, she knew in her heart that Tony would love their daughter as much as she did, if not more. He would be a fantastic Abba for their child; of that she had no doubts at all. Tali would be safe with Tony and the NCIS family to protect her.

She steeled herself for what was to come. After putting the DVD into the liner of Tali's bag, she slipped a note written in lemon juice into the back of the photo of herself and Tony in Paris that was kept by Tali's bed. She tucked the photo into a padded pocket of the bag and hoped that it stayed intact on the journey to the States.

At 1900, she fed Tali and then buckled the child into her car seat, heading to the Haifa house. Tali dozed off on the trip there, but Ziva continued to tell her baby stories of her Abba. Her favorite toy, her Kelev was clutched in her arms. She told Tali multiple times that she loved her with all of her heart and to be strong. As she pulled into the driveway of the Haifa house, she tried not to think of the next time she might see her daughter. She could not afford to let emotion into the equation at this point. She had to steel herself and show no emotions; her Mossad training would be put to use yet another time. How ironic, she thought. She put Tali on the bed in the room that had been hers so long ago. She made sure the stuffed dog was securely in the little girl's arms.

Adam appeared at exactly 2100 and Ziva hugged him. "I will bring Tali to you. Take her in your arms and do not let her go. Give me thirty minutes to leave the area. Take her to Orli. Please keep her safe!" Ziva went to get Tali from the bedroom after handing the bag to Adam. Tali murmured sleepily as her Ima picked her up from the bed still clutching Kelev.

"Yaldati, remember this. Ima loves you more than anything. You will see your Abba very soon; be good for him and remember me. I hope to see you again very soon, baby." Ziva tried to stop her tears, but a few slid down her cheeks as she approached her Shin Bet friend. She hugged her baby one last time and handed her to Adam.

She turned to leave the house and Tali woke up. She realized that she was in someone else's arms and looked around for her Ima. She saw Ima's back headed to the door.

"IMA," Tali cried. Ziva bit her lip and forced herself to keep going out the door. "IMA! IMA…" Tali wailed and struggled against Adam's hold. "IMA…"

Ziva shut the door behind her and wiped a hand over her face. It took all of her will to get in the car and head back to the farmhouse after transferring Tali's car seat to Adam's car. She turned up the radio to keep her thoughts off the cries of her baby. Tears slid down her face as she drove, her resolve wavering until she reminded herself that this was for Tali's safety. She WOULD see her baby again; she just did not know when.

At the farmhouse, Ziva parked the car near the front porch. She took the last new burner phone from the desk and her handgun, tucking both into her cargo pants pockets with two of her best knives. She headed to the orchard with the burner phone to communicate with Farsoun in her hand. At the predetermined meeting place, she scanned the area and sat on the side of the well to wait for Farsoun. She spotted him walking towards her from the back of the property. He was carrying the mortars but she did not see the launcher.

"The launcher is further back on the property on that hill that overlooks the house and the olive grove," he answered her question before she could ask. "Ziva, I cannot do this. I cannot destroy a child's home."

"Come; show me where the launcher is and I will take care of it," Ziva was determined to complete the plan as he was directed. She followed him to the hill and crouched down. With the night vision goggles he brought, she detected movement in the trees.

She pointed out the woman in the trees and told him to wait for her to come back. He sat down low and watched her move away until he could no longer tell where she was. Ten minutes later, Ziva returned.

"She is dead; I had to slit her throat. She was stupid and talked on her cell while she was watching the house. She had orders to kill both of us. Her body is now in the house, in my bed." Ziva relayed the information in what Tony used to call her Mossad mode; no emotion, flat delivery. "That may help with my plans to escape the area if a body is found and they think that I am dead."

Farsoun looked at the Israeli; "Do not hurt your daughter that way. She cannot think that her mother is dead."

"I will do what I must to ensure that my daughter is safe. When and where is the meeting with the group?"

"20 May in Cairo; they will text a location two hours before." He held up the burner phone that he used with them.

"You will be in Mossad custody before then. Give them the phone and the flash drive and you will be assured of safe passage to a safe country. May you live a long life, Farsoun."

He nodded and slipped off into the night. Ziva loaded the mortar round into the launcher and aimed it at the center of the house. She pulled the trigger and watched as the house exploded in flames. As she moved to the olive grove, she could hear the Mossad security detail coming up the driveway. She climbed into a tree to observe before she made her final exit from the property.