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Never Cold

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Ziva did not believe in ghosts. Not really, not in the way the idiots on cable television believed in ghosts. Nor did she believe in ghosts the way that Abby did, with pseudo-scientific speech about spirits and auras and things that shouldn't be as quantifiable as Abby made them out to be.

But after everything she had seen, and after all the lives had taken, Ziva believed there was something that could be believed in.

Ari never let her think otherwise, even after she killed him.

*

 

She had liked Ari, long ago. When they were children, and he was the boy her aunts despised. He taught her how to play cards, and she taught him how to subdue someone using specific pressure on the thumb and wrist. (Ten years later, only their father knew why Ari bore that scar.) He was bright and clever and quick, and Ziva never learned how to trust him.

Their father had trusted Ari, and Ari left them a trail of bodies in thanks.

This did not disturb her as much as, she suspected, it would the others, aside from Gibbs. The longer she stayed with NCIS, however, the more she had to recontextualize her reactions. And one morning at a crime scene, she saw victims instead of bodies, and loss instead of blood.

Ari's laughter was present in her ears, soft and mocking.

Ziva shook her head. She cursed in every language she knew and half-knew, and still it did not drown Ari out.

*

 

Ari was an enemy. A terrorist, a turncloak, and a traitor. He was vindictive, vicious, and psychotic.

On the anniversary of Ari's birth, Ziva bought a bottle of Goldschläger--which she detested, as Ari had known when he sent it to her, the day after she had become his handler--and she drank one shot in his memory before pouring the rest of the bottle down the drain of her kitchen sink.

Their father called. She let the phone ring.

*

 

On the anniversary of Ari's death, she did not do anything out of the ordinary at all.

*

 

Ziva was not a religious person, but she believed in many things. After Ari died, she could not decide if she believed in more, or in less. So she put her guilt aside, and allowed the truth to exist.

She once had a brother, and when she killed him, he did not see.