Chapter 09

Steve opened his eyes and soaked in the unfamiliar surroundings of the safe house. Quickly recalling the events of the previous night he slipped the gun from under his pillow and placed it on the bedside table before picking up his phone. It was 8am. Gently turning over he found Ziva watching him, already wide awake.

“Good morning,” he whispered as he ran his hand up her arm.

“Good morning to you,” she replied just as softly with a smile. “The clown and his partner are downstairs wishing to take you and I to breakfast. I did not commit to it, wanting to wait for you to waken.”

“Well, we have to eat. But I think I’ll need to shower first,” he explained, his brow creasing as he caught a whiff of his body odour.

Ziva chuckled and nodded. “Very well. I already showered so I just need to change,” she said as she leaned forward to drop a kiss on his lips. “I’ll be downstairs waiting for you.” After she finished dressing for the day and Steve continued to lay in bed, procrastinating on getting up, she made her way back to the other agents waiting for them.

“So, is McGarrett coming for breakfast?” Deeks asked. “If not I can head out and grab something for him to eat on the way to the office.”

“He should be down in a minute or so. He is just going to take a shower and is not usually long,” she smiled slightly at him, still unsure. “You are more than welcome to go up and attempt to ask him yourself if you like.”

“No, I’ll never come between a SEAL and the water again, I learned that lesson the hard way,” he replied. “I’ll wait.”

“Aww did Agent Hanna take away your costume when you did?” Ziva teased.

“No, he got Kensi to do it,” he sighed, suddenly unable to look his partner in the eye. “I swore that was the last time we go to the beach together and I meant it!”

She did not know what to say in response to him and only stared with a blank expression. “Are related to an Anthony DiNozzo by any chance?” she asked.

“Who?” Deeks asked with a frown. “Never heard of him.”

“Right,” she nodded slowly, turning to slowly leave the room to get herself something to drink in the kitchen, just to get away from him.

Following Ziva, Kensi joined her in the kitchen. “I’m sorry about Deeks,” she smiled. “Contrary to his appearance and the way he acts, he’s good at what he does.”

“I am sure of it, however it just has been a very long week and his – jokes are not quite welcoming,” she admitted. “Steve and I came here to escape our work and those around us and to get pulled into this…I am sure you can imagine the frustration.”

“Yeah,” Kensi nodded, “I’d be feeling the same way if our roles were reversed. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this and you can get back to your vacation.”

“Looking forward to that,” Steve said as he entered the kitchen. He was dressed and he had showered, given that his hair was still damp. “Morning Kensi.”

“Commander McGarrett,” she nodded.

“As I said last night Kensi, call me Steve. Thank you again by the way for making sure we got most of our stuff back,” he smiled.

“It was no problem really,” she replied as Deeks joined them.

Ziva looked from one to the other and remembered the mention of their belongings. “Yes! Do you know anything about that tracker that was found? Maybe who made it?”

“Our experts picked it apart last night. It was a DIY tracker, very low tech according to Eric. The components are readily available from hardware and electrical goods stores across the US,” Kensi explained. “He was able to get a partial fingerprint from the inside of the casing but so far he hasn’t had much luck in identifying who the print belongs to.”

“What databases are you running it through? Have you tried international ones?”

“All of them,” Kensi replied simply. “We’re checking every Agency from the US Coastguard to Interpol to try and get a match. When we’ve got the Director of NCIS, SECNAV and the Governor of Hawaii eager to find out who is targeting some of their best LEO’s, Hetty doesn’t pull any punches.”

“You’ll let us know when you find out though, right?” Steve asked as he slipped an arm over Ziva’s shoulder and gave her a reassuring hug.

“Of course,” Kensi nodded. “I’ll uh, I’ll check in with Eric right now. Deeks why don’t you give me a hand.”

“To call Eric on your cell?” Deeks frowned. “What? Have you suddenly lost the ability to use your fingers and thumbs?”

Deeks!” she hissed before heading outside to the car.

“Alright already… jeez…” he sighed as he followed her. “We’ll see you in the car.”

When they were out of earshot, Steve turned to Ziva and gave her a full on hug. “So much for that lead.”

“I hate not being able to work this myself. That I have to depend on people I barely know,” she complained.

“You said that Gibbs and Callen are close right?” he asked. “That they worked together?”

She shrugged, pulling back. “Have you seen Gibbs be close with anyone? I think they worked together in Europe previously. I did not ask. I do know that they were not on the same team as I had worked a dossier on him before I came to the team.”

“Well, he obviously trusts Callen with this, otherwise he’d be on his way here with the rest of your team,” Steve replied.

“No. If he is involved in another case there, he would not leave like that. Nor would Vance approve it.”

“I know what Sam is capable of, he’s not about to let either of us down. He’s never once let you down has he?” Steve asked with a small smile.

Ziva looked up at him with a frown. “You are really going to play that card, are you?”

“Well, you stepped on it,” Steve grinned. “You just won’t admit he saved your finely shaped ass.”

Undisclosed Location, Vietnam, 05:40 hours local time, 25 August, 2001

Steve groaned as he woke up on the dirt floor of the cave. The rain was easing off finally, which meant that they would likely be heading out later that morning. Gently sitting up, he looked around, Michael and two of his SEAL teammates were still asleep, as was Ziva who had bedded down beside him. He had to admit, even with her gentle snoring and dirt covered face, she was gorgeous.

Ziva slowly started to stir from her sleep at the groans that met her ears. Opening an eye to peek out, she sat up at seeing the American awake.

“Hello,” she whispered after seeing they were the only ones awake.

“Hey,” he said. “Sorry if I woke you, you should go back to sleep.”

“No,” she said sitting up more and pulled her hair back, securing it with a wrist band. “With everyone sleeping now, someone capable needs to keep an eye out. How are you feeling?”

As he responded, she pushed herself up and made her way over to the food packs that had been left near the fire and dug through them to find the water and instant coffee she recalled during the inventorying of their supplies the night prior. Preparing a cup for him and herself, she was quiet, eyeing those around them cautiously.

“My men are capable of keeping watch Officer David, I had more than just Sam and Caplan with me remember,” he replied with a small smile. “And to answer your question, I’m feeling much better. Thank you.”

“Perhaps, however they appear to be out doing rounds in the area. Which means we are on our own in here,” she pointed out as she waited for the water to heat up, keeping her distance however looking over in his direction often.

Giving a short sharp whistle, Steve sat back against the wall of the cave as Daniels appeared at its mouth. He nodded to the medic and gave him the all clear signal before the SEAL vanished from view once again. “This isn’t our first mission Officer David. My team knows what they’re doing.”

“What that told me was that you imply that man to be a dog,” she smiled at him.

“You should see him while he’s on leave,” Steve grinned. “What that should have told you was that we’ve worked together long enough to work out an efficient form of communication. Relax, you’re protected.”

“I am not afraid,” Ziva replied sharply, sending him a glare. “In any regard, we should discuss between your people and mine about moving on. Going back into the village is not safe now. I doubt that our friends will leave knowing that we are in the area somewhere.”

“Our orders are to escort you and Rivkin to a secure location about two clicks north of the village. Hopefully Agent Shepard is there with the information we require. If not, we wait,” he replied before looking at his watch. “If she doesn’t arrive within a 56 hour time frame, the mission is scrubbed and we proceed with the extraction plan.”

“Michael and I are more than capable of taking care of ourselves…”

“We all have our orders Officer David. I’ve been instructed to get you to the secure location and get you out of the country if Agent Shepard fails to get us the intel. The orders come from high up, higher than my CO or even my CO’s CO’s CO.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes. You have said that already. Are you in the habit of repeating yourself?”

“When I get the impression that the person won’t listen, then yes, I do,” he grinned.

“And I become quite inept at ignoring annoying people,” Ziva pointed out before taking notice that the water was boiling.

“No arguments here,” his smile broadened as Sam stirred.

“Heeey, L.T. You’re up,” he yawned as he propped himself up. “Thanks to Daniels and our girl here I bet.”

“You helped Daniels? Your dossier didn’t say you had any field medical training,” Steve frowned looking to Ziva.

She did not look up as she prepared the coffee mixtures. “And your dossier did not indicate you were a fool. I already explained to you when I dug out the bullet that it is not my first time in the field. It would be wise to eat something so that we can pack up and move on soon.”

“Well forgive me for forgetting, but you know I was injured,” he sighed, getting to his feet. He was a little unsteady at first but he soon adjusted. Grabbing his weapon and body armor, he headed for the mouth of the cave. “Break out the rations Sam. I need some fresh air.”

Ziva’s head canted slightly to the side as she heard Steve’s attempt at an exit and found that for some reason she was displeased by it. It was a reaction that surprised her and was unsure of how to deal with it so she simply continued on making cups of coffee for everyone as they began to waken. Looking up after finishing one cup, she held it out to Sam. “Carry this out for him.”

“Take it yourself,” Sam replied. “You were intent on keeping him alive last night. Just because you pissed him off doesn’t mean you get to avoid him for the rest of the mission. He saved your ass don’t forget. It could have been you laying there.”

“Just as you were intent on keeping me away from him? I am not avoiding anyone. He may have saved me but I did the same for him. It is even. So please, just take the coffee out to him so that I can finish preparing for everyone else?” she sighed, her eyes expressing a great deal of exhaustion.

“Lady, you are all kinds of crazy,” Sam groaned as he took the cup from her. He couldn’t wait to get home after this mission. He missed his new bride and he hated the jungle climate something fierce. “L.T. Coffee for ya,” he whispered as he approached Steve’s position. He had his body armor on and his weapon poised on the trail leading to the cave, as did the other SEAL’s.

“Don’t say it Sam… I know what you’re gonna say,” he shook his head.

“That you shouldn’t have let Joe talk you into accepting this mission?” Sam grinned. “That you needed the leave time more than all of us combined? No, it doesn’t need to be said.”

“But you said it anyway,” Steve shook his head. “Babysitting Mossad officers isn’t what I was hoping to be doing this week.”

“Your Dad will understand Steve, and you’ll see him when this mission is done,” Sam reassured his friend.

“Yeah, I know. But we’ve both been putting this trip off. He’s been working on some important case and we’ve been worked like dogs,” Steve replied.

“Well, we’re good at what we do,” Sam grinned. “What are your orders L.T?”

“Get everyone fed and watered. Tell our new friends that we’ll be leaving in thirty,” Steve replied. “And do me a favor. Keep David busy. The last thing I want is for her to keep criticising everything I do or say, even while delirious.”

“You got it. There’s a ration pack with your name on it. I’ll have Caplan bring it out,” Sam nodded before silently making his way back into the cave.

Inside, Ziva was kneeling beside her partner, whispering quietly with him in their native language. Occasionally, Michael raised his voice argumentatively with her and waved a hand towards the Americans but she kept her temper even as she gave him a deathly glare before saying something inaudible to the ears of the others in the cavern but caused the man to sit back and shut up. Standing, she walked away from him, pulling her one of knives out of her boots and walked out into the nearby treeline.

Steve watched her approach. If she had seen him, she gave no indication of it. He could tell that she didn’t want to be there any more than he did. Maybe he was being a little harsh on her earlier, but it was only because she had been harsh herself. “If you’re here for fresh air, at least stay out of sight,” he whispered softly, moving slightly to make his presence known to her.

Ziva knew he was around, somewhere, but she did not care at the moment. Pausing in her steps, she just let out a breath and let her head fall back as she looked up into the trees absently. “No. I am not. I simply wished to be alone with my thoughts. I will find somewhere else to go,” she said as she turned to head off in another direction.

“Stay within visual range of the cave,” he whispered, understanding her need for privacy all too well.

Doing an about face she looked at him with fire in her eyes. “I am not an idiot. I am aware of the – rules – in the field. There is no reason to instruct me as if I am fresh out of school.”

Suddenly, a familiar click could be heard. Steve had heard it dozens of times in the past. “David… don’t move your foot.” His eyes went wide as he looked down to find her booted foot applying pressure to a very well hidden mine.

Ziva heard it at the same time, instantly freezing in her place. She had let her emotions take over from her senses and it just got her in trouble. Something that only happened to her once before that had her beginning to shut herself off from forming any relations with people.

Pointing in Daniels general direction he gave a silent signal and the Medic emerged from his sniper’s nest. “Aww shit L.T. Is that what I think it is?” he asked.

“Go get Sam, and pull everyone back,” Steve ordered.

“If I live through this, I am going straight home and demanding reassignment. I cannot say how much I hate this part of the world,” Ziva complained.

“Look at me David,” Steve snapped. “You’re going to be fine. You just need to keep pressure on the plate. Sam’s diffused hundreds of these things.”

“I believe you. I have as well but I very well cannot reach the contraption without my weight shifting too much – and you can at least call me Ziva considering we are likely going to be stuck with one another for at least another few days. If there are more of these in this jungle, it will take significantly longer to get to the rendezvous point.”

Steve simply nodded, not liking the new complication to the mission. As Sam arrived with his gear, he shot the Lieutenant a concerned look before he knelt by Ziva’s feet. “Looks like we’ve got us a problem.”.

“No crap. Can you do something this one?” she snapped as her previous agitation she developed during her discussion with Michael increased tenfold.

“Definitely,” he said as he reached for some tools. “When I give the word, you know what to do L.T.”

Nodding, Steve looked Ziva squarely in the eyes, never blinking, barely even breathing. “It’s gonna be okay,” he whispered, trying to reassure her once again.

She nodded, only wanting nothing more than to be out of there. Even to be back in the cave would have satisfied her at that moment. “Just do it.”

“On the count of three,” Sam said as he finished his preparations.

As his friend and teammate began counting, Steve carefully took Ziva’s hands in his own. Squeezing them gently, he waited for the go signal.

Before Sam had even finished saying three for the second time, Steve had pulled Ziva from the mine, he’d thrown her into the long, grass behind him and he shielded her body with his own. Sam in the meantime had leapt away from the mine quickly. Thankfully, it had worked, the mine didn’t go off. Sam had disabled it.

And yet Steve lingered on top of Ziva, his eyes still staring into hers. Gone was the look of concern that he had just a few seconds ago. In its place was something else. He was definitely attracted to her, even if she had driven him insane thus far.

She laid underneath him, one hand held tightly inside his and the other squeezing on his arm and feeling the blood seeping through his bandage from the much too fast movement that he should not have done. Still, she could not find herself to be upset by him as heat flooded her body as she soon realized just how close they were to each other and their position. Opening her mouth, she was prepared to say something, but nothing came out. A part of her not wanting to lose that contact.

Steve was about to speak when Sam’s hand patted him on the shoulder firmly. “You guys okay?” he asked.

Ziva’s eyes blinked finally before looking over the Lieutenant’s shoulder at the man. “Yes. Thank you,” she let out, her voice tense with difficulty speaking. “I think – I think I have had the air banged from me…”

“Uhh… okay,” Sam said as Steve got up and they both offered her a hand up. “I think you mean you got the wind knocked out of you. The other thing… is just plain wrong…”

When she was back on her feet, she simply nodded as she hunched over to stare at the hidden pressure mine. Michael was walking up to them slowly with one of the other team members, appearing unfazed but pleased that she was alive. It was something that was far too common where they were from that either result that could have happened, the mission would still be followed through. “Perhaps we should set out now,” he said as he made his way to her side, flashing McGarrett a look that was unreadable.

“We can eat on the move,” Steve nodded. “The terrain’s gonna be rougher on everyone now because we’re not taking any of the main trails. I doubt this is the only mine left laying around the jungle paths.”

“Let’s get our things and go,” Ziva said, speaking up again as she pushed past the men back towards the cave. “We have a lot of ground to cover before it gets dark. I do not believe we will make it to the original rendezvous point in time.”

“We’ll make it,” Steve grinned. “Even if I have to carry you.”

“That is if you survive long enough to get me onto your shoulders Lieutenant,” she replied, her voice disappearing into the trees as she exited the woods into the cave again.

Los Angeles, California – PRESENT DAY

The journey to the NCIS Office of Special Projects was a short one. After a brief and quiet breakfast in a roadside diner, Steve and Ziva were shown into the building. Kensi made a point to mention that none of the neighbouring buildings occupants had any idea what they were up to in there. Rather then being led into some offices that Steve had caught a glimpse of as they walked in, Kensi showed them to a large hall which was clearly used for training and exercise.

Three people dressed from head to toe in what Steve knew to be Kendo training garb surrounded a fourth, much smaller person, attacking her from all angles with quarterstaffs but having very little success in hitting her. After breaking one of the assailant’s weapons, the fourth person said a simple phrase in Japanese and all three people stopped what they were doing and proceeded to leave the room quickly.

“Who is that?” Steve whispered, shaking his head in disbelief.

Ziva smiled knowingly as she watched on, recalling stories she heard from Abby after her trip to LA. “Henrietta Lange. My father hated her with a passion. Which is likely the reason he pulled all of his operatives out of the area once he learned she had been appointed to this office.”

“I’ll say this for your father Miss David, he is a smart man if nothing else,” Hetty said as she removed her helmet and gloves. “My apologies for meeting under such… difficult circumstances.”

She nodded, not saying another word as she was confident it might not have been so pleasant. Luckily for her, the coughing fit that escaped her lungs kept her from having to say anything else to her for awhile. She merely stepped closer to Steve, just needing to feel him by her. “Will this ever go away?” she sighed.

“I trust your accommodations were satisfactory, given the circumstances,” Hetty said somberly as she dabbed her face with a towel.

“The safe house was comfortable, thank you,” Steve replied diplomatically after holding a silent eye-look conversation with Ziva. “A bit extravagant for an NCIS safe house, don’t you think?”

“That’s because it wasn’t a regular NCIS safe house Commander,” she replied. “At least, not as far as anyone else knows. Given the circumstances, I didn’t want to take any risks with your safety so I outfitted one of my secure properties for your use.”

“Well that’s not fair,” a voice spoke up, a hint of amusement in it. “All these years and I still haven’t seen the inside of one of your houses before now and you let them camp out in one, no questions asked. Tsk tsk.”

“Mr. Callen, it took Mr. Hanna and I almost a year to persuade you to move into some form of regular accommodations, so you’re one to talk. As to why I handled the security arrangements just so. Let’s just say that although Eli David and I aren’t exactly friends, I respect him. Also no amount of training would stop Agent Gibbs coming after me if something were to happen to Miss David on my watch. Now please escort our guests to the briefing. I’ll join you there shortly,” with that, Hetty stalked away quickly, reminding Ziva of Gibbs in that respect.

Sighing, G scratched the back of his head as he waved his hand towards the opposite door they came through. “Anything I can get you guys on the way? Coffee, tea, tequila?”

“Just answers,” Steve replied. “Your hospitality is great and all. But we want to get to the bottom of this and get on with our lives. No offense.”

“10-4,” the man nodded and stuck his hands in his pockets as he lead them through the facility and up to the tech room where the rest of the team was waiting. Whatever they were talking about was enough to cause Kensi to smack Deeks on the back of the head, shutting him up quite quickly.

“Remind you of anyone?” Ziva whispered to Steve, a smile ghosting her lips.

“Doubt she hits as hard,” Steve grinned.

“Just in time. Director Vance and Agent Gibbs would like to talk to the two of you and to Hetty,” Eric, the LA team’s resident computer whiz said.

“Wonderful. Just how mad are they?” Ziva asked, not wishing to have to deal with Gibbs after he had learned about her father’s attempt to take her back to Israel those months ago. “If things like this are going to continue to happen, I would not doubt that Gibbs and Tony would try to lock me up in the basement with whatever new boat he is building.”

“They’re not mad,” Nell said. “Well Director Vance isn’t. I’m not to sure about Agent Gibbs, it’s hard to tell with those eyes of his.”

She only ended up sighing as she leaned back against the situation table and let her head fall to the side on her shoulder. “Let’s get this over with. Maybe we can at least have some fun in during the trip despite having babysitters around.”

The large monitor was filled with an image of Vance and Gibbs stood in MTAC. “Agent David, Commander McGarrett. Trouble seems to be following you around lately,” Vance stated. “How are you holding up?”

“Tell me who is doing this so that I could kill them and get back to my life,” the DC agent replied in her way of saying How do you think I’m holding up?“Before you ask, I am confident it is not my father. It is simply not his style.”

“I know that Agent David,” Leon replied. “I spoke with your father two hours ago. He has some theories that his people are looking into but he can’t say anything more yet.”

“Just say the word Ziva and DiNozzo and I will join you in LA,” Gibbs interjected, clearly disturbed by the recent goings on. Probably because he currently can’t do anything about it.

She sucked in a deep breath and shook her head. “Steve and I are fine. If we change our minds, we will certainly let you know.”

“Are you armed at least?” Gibbs asked.

“Yes. Miss Lange had Sam give us each a sidearm for our stay,” she smiled.

“Good. Well we’re doing what we can from this end. Ducky’s going over the autopsy report now and Abby’s looking over the evidence from the shooting,” Gibbs nodded. “I’ll be in touch when we have something.”

“Commander, I have informed the Governor of the recent events, she told me to pass on her best wishes and to assure you that your team will be kept in the loop,” Vance explained. “Is there anything you’d like me to convey to her or to your team at this time?”

Ziva couldn’t help but to chuckle at the thought of Danny’s reaction when he learns of what transpired.

Steve shook his head, but he understood that he and Ziva would be on a communications blackout for the foreseeable future. “No sir, not at this time. Are we permitted to assist with the investigation, or are you ordering us to stay in the loop but let everyone else do their jobs?”

“What do you think?” Gibbs replied curtly, raising an eyebrow.

“I’ll have Ziva home safe by the end of the week,” Steve nodded.

She did not speak a word but the sideways glare she gave Steve was enough to make Deeks let out a low whistle and slowly move behind the table and Kensi. “Yeah, I’m so not going near her right now,” he mumbled.

Shaking his head, Gibbs knew that the Commander was in trouble. He’d made the same mistake dozens of times with all three wives. “Not unless she kills you first McGarrett,” he grinned. “Keep in touch.”

“I will,” Ziva said, still not moving a muscle as she kept her eyes fixed on her boyfriend.

“Tell Ms. Lange that I’ll call her in an hour,” Vance added, looking squarely at Callen.

With that, the feed from MTAC ended, leaving the group to go on with the briefing.

Clapping his hands together, Sam grinned at his old friends. “So – shall I set up a tent out back for you two to square away your issues?” he teased.

“I will break both of your legs and throw you off a boat if you even consider actually doing that,” Ziva remarked, turning her focus onto the man.

“Look, I’m sorry but the last time I failed to protect you, I almost lost you,” Steve sighed. “I’m not letting it happen again. Call me overprotective, call me a chauvinist even… but I intend to keep that promise.”

“Why does everyone behave as if I cannot take care of myself?” she asked incredulously, her eyes going from one man to the other. “Yes I have had close calls before, but I am sure that I am not the only one in this room who has. It is beyond the point of ridiculous.”

“You know what, forget I said anything,” Steve sighed, shooting her a hurt look. “Let’s just get this briefing over with.” He loved her, he had faith in her and her skills and abilities but that didn’t stop him from wanting to protect her. He knew that if the tables were turned she would want the same, she’d walk through the fires of hell to see him safe so why couldn’t he do the same? Why shouldn’t he admit how he feels?

Ziva looked back at him and frowned. His dismissal of her hurt, and it was a sharp reminder of the reason why they took the trip to Los Angeles in the first place. “I am sorry,” she whispered softly to him and looked around taking a deep breath. “I – um. I need to go outside. I need some fresh air,” she announced before leaving the room, escaping the awkwardness she just created again.

“Uh, it’s okay… I’ve only been working on this since last night!” Eric droned.

“Just go on with the briefing Eric, Steve can fill her in later,” Sam sighed.

Hetty watched as Ziva left the operations centre and followed her to the open air balcony looking over the quad. After a few moments of watching the young NCIS Agent as tears stung her eyes, Hetty cleared her throat.

“Are you alright my dear?” she asked softly. A foolish question she knew, but it was an effective way to break the ice.

“I am fine,” Ziva replied, not budging from where she gripped the rail. “I just wish to be alone right this moment.”

Nodding, Hetty was about to leave when it suddenly dawned on her. She was being a very poor host. “Would you care for some tea?”

“Thank you but no,” she replied, shaking her head. “May I actually go outside or is that off limits?”

“You may go wherever you wish, whenever you wish,” Hetty explained simply. “You are your own person and I certainly won’t get in your way. May I ask why you wish to go outside though? Or where you intend to go?”

“It is not inside here. I won’t go anywhere but I just cannot stay inside right now,” Ziva answered before pushing away from the bars and headed towards the stairs.

“You know, as much as your father tried to manipulate you into becoming like him. You really do remind me of your mother. Even with her friends rallying around her during the difficult times in her life, she wanted to face the world on her own,” Hetty called after her.

She paused for a minute, her head turning just slightly to listen before sighing. “I will be back up. I just need a few moments to myself. I am sure you understand.”

“I understand many things Ms. David. I understand how Commander McGarrett’s investigation into the death of his father and the case he was working on has prompted a response from the wrong people,” Hetty replied. “And I also understand that it was your investigation, with unsanctioned government resources that escalated the response to where it is now.”

“I have permission from Director Vance to continue what I was doing,” Ziva commented sharply. “How do you even know the two are related? Unless you know something that you are keeping from us about whoever has been causing these problems, I fail to see where you are going with this.”

“You had permission from the Director yes, to gather what intelligence NCIS has on Victor Hesse. However you failed to inform him that you’ve been in touch with some of your old friends in the Mossad,” Hetty replied. “Five days after you contacted Officer Reznik for the information. He was found dead in his apartment. Two gun shot wounds to the head and two to the heart.”

Ziva looked at her, sad and in disbelief. “What would you have had me do to acquire the information I was trying to find to help Steve? I do not see anyone else doing anything about this Victor Hesse.”

“Commander McGarrett killed him and is looking into his associates with the help of his team,” Hetty replied. “The point is my dear. You ruffled some feathers that go beyond the work you did for your father, your former country and now your new one. Commander McGarrett’s life as well as that of your own is at risk. It’s cost a Mossad Officer his life and has put everyone associated with you and the Commander at risk. Can you really blame a man that loves you so deeply of wanting to protect you like he does?”

“Victor Hesse is not dead,” she whispered, leaning forward and looking around to make sure that no one else heard. “No one found the body. The salt water of the sea would have cleansed the bullet wounds quite well to prevent infection. There has been some chatter that indicate that he is in hiding.”

“And you are certain of this?” Hetty asked with a frown.

She shrugged a shoulder but nodded. “Yes. I have no reason to think otherwise. It is foolish to assume his death. Steve is a good shot, yes, but not everyone is perfect.”

“I think you and I really need to sit down and have some tea,” the older, much shorter woman replied. This time, she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Ziva took a deep breath and nodded. Following her through the corridor and down the stairs, she looked around at the office space and thought of how warm and inviting it felt compared to the DC office. “I still do not have much more information. I had been waiting for call backs from someone I had met during a trip to Japan.”

Reaching into one of her secure desk drawers, Hetty pulled out a file and slapped it on the desk between them. “These were taken a week ago by a contact of mine from the CIA. Do you recognise anyone?”

She took the file and opened it to see the photos inside, unsure of the men photographed. “I do not know. I have come face to face with many manydangerous men during my time as a Mossad officer that the faces tend to blend together now. Perhaps if you have names, I may be able to place them more easily.”

“Meet Victor Hesse,” Hetty said simply, pointing to the one of a man talking aggressively on a cell phone.

“I have seen pictures of him but that does not look like the same man,” Ziva commented as she studied the image closer. Of course, she thought, it could be. Dirtied up and colored his hair to not be so obvious.

“Bare in mind that he’s still recovering from the wounds inflicted by your boyfriend. He’s lost weight and is trying to hide himself in plain sight. But facial recognition software confirms, this is Mr. Hesse,” Hetty replied.

Sitting back, she rested her chin in the palm of her hand as she looked off at nothing, lost in her thoughts. “Are you going to tell Steve?” she asked.

“Do you want me to tell him?” Hetty asked. Something which surprised Ziva and even Hetty herself.

Ziva looked back at her for a long moment before shaking her head. “No. I will tell him myself. But not right now. May I keep this file?”

“Of course,” Hetty replied. “And I understand the need to project the ones we love Ziva… you want to protect the Commander just as he wants to protect you. I know it’s difficult but sometimes allowing someone else to stand with you during the hardest of times is never bad, it’s never wrong. You should talk to the Commander, assure him that you’ll be there for each other. You don’t have to run away anymore, especially not from him.”

She nodded as she stood, not being able to find any words to say. Taking the file with her she made her way back upstairs and slid into the briefing quietly, trying to hide in the back. Her eyes fell on Steve who had his eyes in a folder, reading.

“So, we know that these two men have ties to Hesse and his brother, and that they arrived in LA an hour after the two of you did. So they have answers we need,” Callen said as he looked at the large monitor where the images of two previously convicted felons were displayed.

“Or more questions,” Ziva commented lightly. “They are lower level muscle in that particular organization despite their – histories.”

“And you know this… how?” Sam asked with a frown.

“A contact of mine,” she said simply. “The only name he was able to give me was that of a Japanese citizen that defected from their military. A Wo Fat. Does that sound familiar to anyone?”

Steve paled suddenly. “Wo Fat… I’ve met him. Briefly…”

“Where?” she asked, her fingers toying with the file on Victor Hesse in her hand.
“Danny and I were tracking down a suspect at a golf club,” Steve replied. “He was one of the suspect’s gaming partners… I knew there was something shady about that guy.”

“Eric,” Callen said simply and the computer tech ran Fat’s name through every criminal database he could think of.

“Searching,” he said, looking over to Nell who ran her own search. Since they’d started working together, he and Nell had worked out a system that would make them the most efficient Ops team available.

Ziva shook her head. “You won’t find his name other than mentions of suspicious behaviour. He does not dirty his hands. That is why he has people like Gerard Matteo and Victor Hesse on his payroll.”

“She’s right,” Nell sighed, “I’m not getting a single hit other than a couple of parking tickets. Which he paid.”

“So we’re back to square one. Press the hired help for info and work our way up to this Wo Fat character…” Kensi sighed, shaking her head.

“Not quite yet. Here,” Ziva interrupted as she handed the folder over to have the images added to the screen and went over to stand nearby Steve to wait for his reaction, keeping herself guarded to what he may say or do.

Placing the images facedown on the large scanner tablet, Sam pressed a button and swept his hand over to the large wall monitor as if throwing the invisible images onto it. Sure enough the scanned images appeared on the monitor.

“That’s Wo-Fat,” Steve said as he pointed to the image of the Asian man. His eyes darted across the other images until finally stopping on the last one.

“Where did you get these? When were they taken?” Steve asked, frowning at Ziva.

“Hetty gave them to me. I mentioned my suspicions after I had spoken to some old – friends and she confirmed them. These are no more than a month old as there is the newspaper in one of the photos about that church bombing in November.”

“No more than a month?” Steve asked, his anger rising. “You’re telling me that the man that killed my father is still alive?”

She wasn’t sure what he wanted her to say but nodded. “I had been tracking him down. His body rather but came across chatter that Director Vance allowed me to keep an eye on. Nothing truly definitive has come of it yet, except for these photos that I only just saw myself today.”

“So you’ve been conducting an investigation of your own? For how long? Since I told you about my Dad?” Steve asked, scowling. “And you didn’t think to tell me?”

“Very nearly. I did not want to tell you if I did not find anything. I was trying to protect you too. Do not look at me like that!”

“Damn it Ziva, do you realise how risky that is? Hesse has ties with every major criminal organisation in the world. Not to mention terrorist groups, psychopaths-.”

“Yes! I do know! And I have not gotten information that you have not already had on your own. Does the governor and SECNAV know that you have askedfavors of your friend on the carrier in the Pacific? For satellite use?”

“That’s different, I needed her help to prevent more deaths, to catch killers. I didn’t put anyone’s life but my own at risk by pursuing this,” he snapped.

“Do not patronize me. I am trying to catch killers myself as well. Everything we do is a risk not only to ourselves but to those around us. If you want me to stop, then tell me. I’ll just go back home now if that is the case.” She stared him in the eyes, struggling to keep herself together.

“Sam, I’m holding you responsible for Ziva’s safety. I need you and your team to take her home to DC,” he said, his voice eerily calm.

“I’m not going to go because you want me to. Clearly – clearly you and I just cannot work like this…”

“Not when you’re keeping secrets like this from me, no…” Steve said as he pulled the gun that Sam had given him and tossed it on the table beside him. “Thank you all for your help. Just make sure she gets home safe will you. I’ll need the last known address of those two thugs.

“And you haven’t from me? Just – do what you want. I do not care anymore,” she said, turning away and leaning against the table for support.

Sam got the address from Eric, even though they were all stunned at just what transpired. “Steve, you can’t do this man. You’ll get yourself killed.”

“Just give me the address Sam, and do as I’ve asked,” he said before his brother in arms reluctantly handed him the address.

Steve took one final look at Ziva before storming out of the ops room like a man with a purpose.

“This is insane, we’re not just gonna let him go are we?” Kensi asked looking to Callen.

“So go stop him. I’m not responsible for him,” Ziva replied as she left the room as well, going the opposite direction that her former boyfriend took, heading towards the gym to beat some inanimate objects down.

The team were left to ponder Steve’s actions. He was unarmed and without transport, but he was resourceful.

“We’ve gotta do something… follow him, back him up,” Kensi said. “Sam?”

“We can’t move on this without Hetty or Vance’s go ahead,” Callen interjected. “We have nothing on these guys except that they may be in touch with Hesse and that they’re possibly following McGarrett and Ziva.”

“Then you have my permission to move Mr. Callen,” Hetty said from the doorway. “I take it that Ms. David has informed the Commander of her investigation?”

“You didn’t hear the screaming match that went on in here?” Deeks asked, “How do they ever work as a couple when they’re like that?”

“They love each other, Mr. Deeks,” Hetty replied softly. “Now what are you all standing around for. Take Mr. McGarrett into custody.”

“Wait, what?” Sam asked. “You mean take those two scumbags working for Hesse into custody, right?”

“No Mr. Hanna. Right now, your friend is a danger to himself and to others. We’ll help him find Hesse through his contacts, but we can’t do that until he’s calmed down and he and Ms. David sort things out or she is returned home to her team, now bring him in.”

“Oh yeah… because that’s how I love to spend my days, chasing down pissed off SEAL’s and arresting them,” Deeks sighed as he, Kensi, Sam and Callen headed for their cars while Nell and Eric began tracking Steve via CCTV imagery and GPS tracking.

Nearly an hour after they were sent off to find their ‘target’, Ziva was still in the gym, beating the poor dummy that had been taped up to look like the new Assistant Director of NCIS. She didn’t care who or what it looked like. She hadn’t met the man but she was too busy envisioning Steve’s face on the head of the contraption when she punched it in just the right weak point that it snapped. Only then did she finally take a step back and just stare at it, wondering where he was.

Unbeknown to her, across town, Sam and Callen were fighting to keep Steve alive as Kensi and Deeks waited for Paramedics to arrive.

“Come on Steve, you’ve been shot before man! Don’t you die on me now because Ziva will kill me!” Sam growled as he performed CPR while Callen applied pressure to the gun shot wounds to Steve’s chest and stomach.

As the ambulance arrived and the paramedics got out to treat McGarrett and get him to a nearby hospital. Victor Hesse looked on from across the street, a small smile playing on his lips.

“Paybacks a bitch eh McGarrett?” he said softly before tossing the half smoked cigarette from his lips onto the sidewalk and walked away, disappearing into the gathering crowd.