Character: Ziva David
Prompt: What is the background to her perpetual insinuations about sleeping with women (Kill Ari, and other episodes)? Alternatively, how did she actually end up joining Mossad? What convinced her? How did the training change her?
Spoilers: References to 3.01 and 3.02 only
Summary: I believe in magic, too, but not enough to count on.
Notes: Title and summary adapted from Julie Lechevsky's Upstream.
Ziva remembered the whispering the most, a wave of indistinguishable voices encompassing her childhood. There were siblings hidden, secrets kept, and languages yet to be learned. She understood the boundaries of her skin before she learned the ways of speech.
Once, when she was five or six years old, Ziva stood at the edge of a roof, stared down at a cascade of dusty steps beneath her. Talil shivered behind her, clutched the hem of her shirt. The sun gathered in the halo of her hair, and Ziva spat in the dirt.
On the ground, a familiar boy watched them, his hands clenched into fists even as his companions jeered.
Talil murmured caution, murmured hunger as she released her hold on Ziva. She took three steps backward; her sandals scraped against the stone. Ziva looked up at the sky and smiled.
Ziva grew up speaking three languages, and every year after she turned fourteen, her father made sure she began the process of another. French, Italian, Portuguese, German. At the infrequent times they broke bread across the table, he would scatter questions about her schooling, shifting between languages every other moment.
If she wasn't careful, she mixed the words up, used the wrong tense. He would pause, exhale through his nose, look away from her.
She was never fast enough, and she tired of losing her place.
There was never a question about the IDF--some classmates debated the merits of family versus nation, but to Ziva, there was no difference between the two.
She did not discuss the matter with her mother, her aunts. Their lips drew tight at the mention of service, at the avarice with which Ziva discussed tactical maneuvers, already half-classified.
Nobody ever asked her what it was like to grow among secrets, war like weeds around her feet. Everybody knew. Everybody breathed it, like dust and blood and the ever-receding promise of rain.
Ziva couldn't remember a time when the weight of a gun wasn't familiar to her hand.
As a child, Ziva danced. It was an exercise in grace, though her parents espoused different purposes. As a child, Ziva didn't care.
By the time she reached university, though, she had shed most childish things. Dance had bowed to defense, to kicks and jabs and throws.
One night, Ziva's economics class was cancelled, and the warmth of the night air steered her away from the library. She followed a chattering group to a bright, wide room, and she leaned against the wall and watched women dance. They were her own age, maybe older, maybe younger. The arched arms, the fluttering cloth caught Ziva's eye.
She didn't miss it, but as she gazed at the women, she realized she could no longer move as they did. That, beyond anything else, bothered her.
She leaned against the wall until the program ended, and when one of the dancers smiled at her, Ziva tilted her head and winked.
In addition to dance, Ayalah aspired to teaching. Over coffee, Ziva puzzled at the ambition, stopped short of laughing, because she recognized Ayalah's sincerity.
It is the most important thing, Ayalah tried to explain. Her words were never as graceful as her feet, her arms, her neck. It is about hope, she said.
Ziva shook her head and didn't understand.
Ayalah talked her into visiting a discotheque, talked her into it three times before they actually went. Ziva consented because she missed dancing, and because Ayalah tasted like honey and beer.
She felt a shiver as they weaved through the crowded night, a native distrust of the press of strangers' warm bodies, the seething mass she could not assess and identify. She walked backward through the crowd and thought of her brother laughing.
She danced with Ayalah in a dark corner of the room, and she kept her eyes trained on the flickering light of the doorway.
They did not stay long. Ziva persuaded Ayalah there were better ways to while their time.
Ziva did not spend time with Ayalah long, she was already submerging herself into IDF, into the fringes of Mossad. They did not bid goodbye, so much as they drifted away from each other. There were other concerns, and other women, other men.
There were wars to be fought, and Ziva planted hope in efforts other than the classroom.
Her mother still frowned. Her father still interrogated her over dinner.
Simple obstacles, and Ziva no longer hesitated.
A week before Talil died, Ziva dreamed of her. She woke gasping, confused by a smear of gray images, splashes of sound she couldn't grasp.
She reached for her phone, dialed Talil's number blindly.
Talil's voice was indistinct when she answered, muffled by sleep. Ziva?
It's nothing, Ziva said. A bad dream. Sorry.
Talil laughed at her, and they mumbled at each other for a few minutes before hanging up. Silly things, the things they had each had for dinner, a movie Talil had seen. Promises to rearrange their schedules for a lunch that was overdue.
It was the last time they spoke.
She met Jenny Shepherd in Croatia, a sleight-of-hand arrangement between Mossad and a handful of American agencies, none of which liked to identify themselves. The other agents eyed her like an asset, but Jenny watched her even closer. Nobody said anything but the obvious, and established methods and means in the spaces between their words.
After their first meeting, Jenny offered to buy Ziva a drink. They ended up wandering to a bar in the corner of a hotel that catered to American tourists. Jenny ordered whiskey, and Ziva raised her eyebrows and settled for a beer.
I'd like you to join a task force, Jenny said, her fingers playing with the stem of an unnecessary cherry floating in her drink. I think we would work well together.
Ziva tipped her head and took a long swallow of her drink. She looked out, looked at the emptiness of the night sky. She smiled.