They were closer than they should have been really. By the time Klara was born, Lev almost gone away to the United States, and she didn’t see him for the first time in her memory until she was five years old and he came back to visit, his two young daughters, one older and one younger than her, with him. He was more of a father figure to her than a brother anyway; he was different than their father, Alexei. He was hard, and had that Bratva mean streak that none of them had really been able to run away from, but he still was gentler than Alexei had ever been with her. She remembered when she was five years old and he came to visit, Esther was six and Zoya was three, and he held Zoya in his arms, and looked down at the young Klara, offering his other arm, and he scooped her up too, to her young heart’s delight. That was the summer right before she lost her hearing, one that she’d never forget. And that was a moment she’d never forget either.
Lev was aging, but they all were, even her. But with him, you’d never know. The few gray hairs she’d found on her head had absolutely horrified her, and she made sure to hide them away. But she was only in her thirties and had plenty of good years left. Lev was in his early fifties and yet didn’t look a day over thirty five, and she sat baffled at him every time she saw him. He looked the same as he had that day twenty five years ago when he’d leaned down to pick her up, a soft look upon his face.
Klara loved him very much; she always had. He was the only man in her family, in her life really, that seemed right, whatever that meant. Even her own father she knew was just another mob man at heart, nothing special, although others might disagree. She knew better. Alexei wasn’t a good man. Sasha wasn’t a good man. Maxim was a god man but he was also devout and so that took away much of the respect she would have had for him otherwise. But Lev was a good man. He was never cold; even in some of the nastier things that went with the job he had taken on, there was always flickers of passion that went through him, for his job or his family, and she admired that. She didn’t know anyone who was passionate; she couldn’t even truthfully put herself in that category. In the world she lived in, passion wasn’t something to be desired; they didn’t have room for it.
So she lay across the dark colored couch in his office, across from his desk, the sunlight coming in from window slowly beginning to fade, and her large pregnant stomach poking out from under her shirt. This was a boy; her first. And to think they hadn’t even been married a year let. Stefan was out somewhere, with Luka maybe, but not with her, and that’s all that mattered. Lev was behind his desk, doing something, reading, working, whatever. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been there, and that itself said something. Klara was completely comfortable with him. No self consciousness, no awkwardness. She could say without a doubt that he was the only man that she loved. And she’d be truly beside herself the day he died.
Esther being away from the family for months at a time is quite typical, but when she was twenty four she went away for almost a year with limited contact with her family. None of her family members knew where she was, but the assumption was that she was away on a job, so they raised no alarms. There was a part of those months where she was indeed on a job, but the majority of the time was spent in Arizona, with Garrett. This was the only time she pent so long in Arizona with him, and for one reason: she was pregnant. She had been on birth control for years since the two of them had met, and this was the only time the pill had failed. Esther didn’t believe in abortions, and Garrett wasn’t sure exactly what to do, so she disappeared for those months and gave birth to their son Emmanuel Alexis Ibarra was born at Garrett secluded ranch in Arizona. This was extremely problematic. Neither family was happy with the relationship in the first place, and Emmanuel wouldn’t be accepted, as both sides were borderlining on violently opposing the other. Him staying with either of them was absolutely not an option. Garrett set up for Emmanuel to be sent away secretly to live with Garrett’s sister Salome in Chicago until he came of age. Besides Salome, only Esther’s aunt Klara knew of the children, as she’s the one who first examined her and told her she was pregnant in the first place.
Esther hasn’t seen Emmanuel in over a year now, and he’s four years old, and knows Salome and her husband Damon to be his parents, which is probably for the best in the long run. She’s not sure if even when he’s old enough to understand she’ll tell him otherwise, since Garrett is dead, and Esther has nothing to give him.
Even though Derrik is the boss, Lars is the brains behind the organization. He does the majority of the organizing, and is his younger brother’s right hand in every operation that they might have to do. This is not because Derrik is invincible of doing so himself, but because Lars wants everything done and done perfectly. Derrik has proved to be a fantastic conqueror, but Lars wants to make sure more than anything that they keep the kingdom.
Joseph could’ve spend more time by the sea as a child. He could’ve but he had always been more of a land child than a water one, so he stuck by the land, by the forests, with his bow and arrow and the animals around him. He once believed that there was nothing like the sound of the of the trees and the birds and the animals around him. Joseph found peace there, in the wood of South Africa, like nothing he’d ever found peace in before.
That was until he touched the waters, really felt the blue, and heard the sounds of the Mediterranean. He was older then, but in his mind he could appreciate it better. He was old enough to know it better than he would have as a boy. And there was no sea that touched South Africa that could have matched the majesty of this great one.
When he was there, he felt almost like he’d been lying to himself his whole twenty five years. There was nothing like the forests of South Africa, he knew that, and yet they were only second to this. When he came, he knew that this was the place he was meant to be. And he could spend hours sitting there, watching the waves roll up, hearing nothing but the water crashing back in forth against the land.
And he always came alone. He would have brought other’s there, his loves, Scarlett and Kenzi, or Nate, but no one would understand is connection to those waters. No one would understand. This was what Joseph loved the most. This was his god.
DO YOU TRUST EASILY?
ZIVA: No. Absolutely not. Ziva has grown up in a world, basically, of liars and criminals, and she knows better than to trust people because they flash a pretty smile at her. The only people she trusts without a shadow of a doubt is her mother Bianca and brother Marcus. Not even her father, who she adores, does she trust because she knows better than that, and that in a hard crunch, she has no pretense over the fact she might not be the one he stays loyal to. She trusts her mother because her mother doesn’t lie; Bianca is the most honest person she knows. Bianca is also the most truly family oriented person she knows, and Ziva is aware of the fact that her life would come before anything else in the world. She trusts her brother because he’s her closest and oldest friend, period, and she trusts him with her life.
NATASHA: Not really. She wishes she did, but she’s made the mistake in the past of trusting people that she shouldn’t have and gotten hurt. She’s well aware of the fact that her parents aren’t very trustworthy, and the only person she can say she relies on without a shadow of a doubt is her brother Joseph. Nate doesn’t have many close friends, so she doesn’t have anyone else to lean on.
BLAKE: Out of anyone, Blake trusts her mother Sam. She trusts her mother Alex and sister Riley as well, but Blake sees Sam’s innocence, and her good heart, and knows that Sam would never betray her trust if she didn’t have to. Otherwise, Alex has kind of taught her to be hard, and somewhat suspicious of people, so Blake’s trust is something you need to wine.
A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR PARENTS.
ZIVA: Ziva had three parents: her biological mother, Bianca Ibarra, Bianca’s wife, Ryan Lazar, and Ziva’s biological father, Stefan Tabanov.
Bianca was the head of a prostitution ring run out of California and the sister to a major drug/human trafficking/weapons manufacturing Cartel. But she’s honestly not hard or cruel the way her brother’s were; she’s levelheaded and passionate and knows the line between business and personal life, and that’s very important to her. Ziva loves her mother very much and admires her ability to build her “empire” basically from the ground up for the most part on her own. In all, Bianca has three children, two with Stefan, Ziva and Augusto, and one with her wife Ryan, Noelle.
Stefan, her father, is the one she loves the most, though, which is ridiculous because he’s a major asshole and doesn’t even love her properly. He’s the nephew of the Russian pakhan, Andrei Tabanov, and runs the prostitution and drug trafficking part of the Tabanov empire. Ziva from a young age absolutely adored her father, who she didn’t see on a regular basis until she was eight. Just like the rest of the Tabanov men, he’s got that mean-streak of emotionlessness and general lack of love. That’s quite unfortunate because Ziva’s passion just oozes from her, and that’s not normal around there. Ziva was Stefan’s first child, and along with her he has three bastards and four legitimate children with his wife, Klara.
Ziva’s biological parents were in a relationship, a loose relationship, for three years, when her father was twenty three to twenty six, and when her mother was twenty four to twenty seven. It was a long distance relationship, and mainly sexual, when Stefan would come to California on business, and sometimes they would meet at other times he was within the states (i.e. Vegas, although by that time they were already broken up.) It was two years after they ended their relationship because of Stefen’s marriage, when Ziva was five, that her brother Augusto was born, the last of Stefan’s bastard children.
Ryan came into Ziva’s life when she was four years old and her mother was pregnant, and had her own issues, many of which Ziva didn’t completely understand until she was older, and even more neither she nor her mother will ever know about. Ryan comes from a very abusive household and had a tough childhood and very strange teenage years as a result. She also suffers from psychopathy and other issues. She’s a mess. As a child and a teenager, Ziva really loved Ryan, because Ryan was more like a sister than a mother to her, and she felt like she was the one she could tell things to before she told them to Bianca.
NATASHA: If her parents hadn’t both been the most stubborn and bullheaded people in the world, she would have had a bit of a more normal upbringing instead of being thrown from country to country every few weeks.
Her mother Marina was born in France to a Spanish mother and French father, which is why she still has such deep roots in Spain as well as France. Marina was a professor of biology at a university in France, which is why when she married Anderson she made it very clear to him that she had no plans in any time to move out of France, as she loved her job, and she loved her school, and her country, and although she said she loved him, she didn’t love him more than she loved her job. Marina is all in all a very mean woman; she was to her husband, she was to her children. She was a perfectionist and very work centered. She had no time for fun and games, and Nate and her mother were never friends. That just wasn’t possible.
Nate’s father was a chemist for a South African government. Because they lived in different countries, they had hardly any relationship with each other at all. Anderson was just as stubborn and bullheaded as Marina, but his was a little more undertoned, whereas Marina’s was all out there, all of the time. He was a lot gentler in telling you how fucking stupid you were than she was, but nonetheless, he did the thing.
BLAKE: Blake had her two mother’s, Alex and Sam, and her biological father Zechariah Simon, who she never actually knew.
Before Blake and her sister were born Alex (birth name: Emma Carson) was a drug dealer from California. Alex’s mother was in prison on drug chargers and her father raised her. A lot of Alex’s history is unknown, and that’s just the way she wants things to be much of the time. Even Sam doesn’t know all of the details of Alex life. Alex does suffer from alcohol abuse, and is right on the edge of being a straight up alcoholic. She’s not a drunk, yet, but she can be violent when she’s drunk and angry. She and Sam both worked to clean up their lives before they had the girls, and she was working towards going completely legitimate and stopping her history of drug dealing, and going back to culinary school. Unlike Sam, Alex is quite the serious person for the most part, and isn’t that big on physical contact and love the way Sam is, but Sam has kept her from being too serious too much.
Sam grew up in an abusive household, being daily physically abused by her parents, and later sexually abused (although she’s not agreed to call what was happening abuse) by the same man who ended up being the twins father. Sam also has undiagnosed (so far) bipolar disorder and as she was older became a serial killer and a rapist. With all of that in front of her, her traumatic history only scratching the surface, no one can say Sam was an unhappy person. Describing her as eternal sunshine wouldn’t have done her any justice. Sam works as a mechanic and dreams of some day opening her own shop; she went to school at Columbia in New York where she was raised, her parents expecting her to go to law school, but ending up with a mechanical engineering degree. Sam also wanted to clean up her act before she had the children, and she and Alex worked towards finding a therapist that could help her control her urges.
Alex and Sam met when Alex brought her car in to get worked on at the shop that Sam had been working in. They were attracted to each other immediately and have been together ever since, even with the obvious contrasts in personality, they complete each other, and neither would give the other up for anything in the world.
WHAT WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD/FAMILY LIFE LIKE?
ZIVA: Typical, up until she was about six years old. From birth until four years old, it was just Ziva and her mother Bianca. Her father lived in Russia, and although he did come and visit frequently, and call her as well, at that point Bianca was the only person in Ziva’s immediate world. When she was four, Bianca met her girlfriend and later wife, Ryan, and a year later Bianca gave birth to her son Augusto, by the same man as Ziva. That’s when the family structure she really grew up knowing started, and being so young she doesn’t much remember time before Ryan and Augusto. When she was six she started making more frequent trips to visit her father, and that structure was a lot different than what she was use to at home with her mothers. The Tabanovs weren’t very warm or passionate like the world was at home in America, but she found her calling with them regardless.
Bianca was as passionate as Ziva turned out to be, although Ziva is more open and loud about it. Ziva grew up in a household, at least with her mothers, where honestly she was able to speak her mind, even if she was going to be reproved for it later. Bianca wanted to be able to talk to her daughter about anything, and wanted Ziva to feel she could talk to her mother’s about anything too. But Stefan’s home wasn’t quite like that. The Tabanovs had ice cold Russian blood running through their veins, and the loud American child didn’t quite fit the bill. Ziva got herself into trouble many times for doing shit and saying shit she just shouldn’t have said or done (i.e. getting angry and throwing a knife at her grandfather Ivan).
Being the head of a prostitution ring, and having uncles who were part of a Cartel, and having a father who is part of the Russian Bratva, Ziva knew crime from a young age. Bianca tried her best to shield her daughter from it, but in the end she knew it was no use; someday Ziva would take over her empire, and maybe even a part of Stefan’s.
Ziva’s relationship with Ryan was strange. She considers Ryan to be her mother, and doesn’t much remember a time before her being in her life, but at the same time she has this fantasy that her parents Bianca and Stefan might have been able to stay together had Ryan never come in the picture (ridiculous, but she feels the same about her stepmother Klara), so sometimes when she’s in the mood she seethes with hatred towards Ryan. Other times, mainly when she’s older, she has this an issue which the fact she knows about Ryan’s unfaithfulness to her mother, and nothing makes her angrier, because Bianca deserves better than that.
NATASHA: Hectic. Her father lived in South Africa and her mother lived in France, and neither of them wanted you yield and move to the other country. Nate and her sister Kira both were born in France and lived there the majority of their childhoods. Their mother also spent a lot of time working in Spain, so they went back and forth between the three countries, while her brother spent most of his time in South Africa.
Her mother was a hard person to please; she was a perfectionist and expected the best out of Nate, especially considering Nate was her first born, which is why Kira seemingly got away with a lot more than Nate was allowed to. Her mother expected her to be involved in after school activities, to never have less than perfect marks in school, and never to get into trouble. Marina was also usually pretty unemotional, which took a toll on Nate, who has a lot of emotions she has to share. In the end, she did everything she was supposed to, and came out generally unscarred.
Natasha was all but the typical little girl, only she only saw her father and younger brother Joseph a few times a year. She didn’t think much about her mother’s hardness, and assumed that all mother’s were like that, and that Marina just wanted the best for her. With all of her mother’s expectations, she still did get to do just about everything any other little girl would do; she had her fair share of friends, boyfriends, went to dances, traveled, had fun as a teenager (after everything her mother wanted her to do was done, that is).
Natasha didn’t have that much of a relationship with her father until she was older, though. When she was young she saw him so rarely that she knew him as little more than the man who she called daddy and who sometimes brought her gifts when he came to visit, or they came to visit him.
BLAKE: Surprisingly normal. With parents who were a former drug dealer and a recovering semi-bipolar serial killer, you’d think that she and her twin sister Riley would have had a really fucked up childhood, but you’d be wrong. There were the kinks and setbacks that any family might have, but for the most part they were really normal. Blake learned early not to ask about her father because of the reactions she’d get from both of her moms, and soon she started not to really care about who he was or why they weren’t in contact with him anymore. He just didn’t matter. For much of her life it was just them, though. Her mother Alex only had her father, Garrett, Blake’s grandfather, and Sam didn’t talk about her parents, the only old relatives that Blake was aware of was the twin that Sam had lost, Thomas, and her great aunt and great uncle, Nina and Jason, although Blake was pretty fucking sure Sam had another sister she just didn’t talk about. The family did pretty normal stuff together; Sam taught the girls how to repair cars and build and take them apart, and Alex taught them how to cook and about gardening.
Blake was pretty young when she started to develop her love of sports and was angry when she found out a lot of the sports she was actually interested in when she was younger weren’t allowed to have girls on the team (mainly football). So in elementary school she joined a girls soccer team for the district, and in middle school she was part of the soccer team and the volleyball and basketball teams, as well as putting together her own team of girls who would play field hockey during the summers if the weather was right. In high school she did all of the above, and also developed an interest in rugby, while also joining a girls state football team. She ended up with a sports scholarship to University of Michigan and then switched to medical school in Chicago when she was done, majoring in sports medicine.
Blake didn’t have any obligation to grow up fast. She had all of the opportunity in the world to be a generally normal child, thanks to her mothers trying to clean their fucking act up before she and her sister were born. She took a lot after her mother Alex, though, cultivating Alex’s love for cooking and gardening, making Blake take various agricultural classes in high school and college and developing her own vegetable garden in their backyard. She did pick up her mother Sam’s love for science, though, and that’s one of the reasons she decided to go into sports medicine, and not into professional sports.
GIVE A TWO WORD DESCRIPTION OF YOURSELF.
ZIVA: Passionate antihero.
NATASHA: Natural humanitarian.
BLAKE: Addictive strength.
DO YOU HAVE ANY NICKNAMES OR TITLES?
NATASHA: Her family calls her Nate.
WHAT IS YOUR FULL BIRTH NAME?
ZIVA: Ziva Stefanovna Ibarra-Tabanova
NATASHA: Natasha Maxwell Abbey
BLAKE: Blake Cassidy Lazar
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
ZIVA: St. Petersburg, Russia
NATASHA: Madrid, Spain (later: St. Petersburg, Russia)
BLAKE: Augusta, Maine (for university: Chicago, Illinois)
WHY DO YOU LIVE THERE?
ZIVA: Originally born in Santa Ana, California to her mother, moved to Russia officially when she was eighteen for university, and stayed there to be with her father and his family. Ziva truly loves Russia, and although she does miss her mother, wouldn’t completely move back to America unless she absolutely had no other choice.
NATASHA: During her childhood she spent her time between France, South Africa, and Spain and Madrid ended up being a type of home away from home for her. After getting her degree in France she moved to Spain to work under an art dealer. (later: because of marriage)
BLAKE: Augusta is where she was born and besides college she at the moment doesn’t have any plans to move out of state and leave her family.
WHAT IS YOUR CITIZENSHIP STATUS?
ZIVA: Dual American and Russian citizenship.
NATASHA: Duel French and South African citizenship (later: Russian)
"You always seem to like making bad decisions, don’t you?" Marina reached across the table for her glass, refilling it halfway up with the blood red wine. "I don’t understand either of you. At least I can predict Kira, the little shit." Natasha looked away from her mother, her arms folded across her chest, trying to block out her words. Something about what her mother was saying seemed so sickeningly true, and that’s what made her the most angry. Joseph didn’t seem bothered by her, and Nate wished she was more like him—laid back and less emotional. But she was a bed of emotions, and the abuse that their mother dishing out cutting a little too close this time.
Their father spoke up. "Where is Kira?” His voice was gentle and almost apologetic, as he always was for her. Nate understood why they lived in different countries all of their marriage, why they made their children choose who they wanted to live with, and yet said they were a normal, happy couple. Because otherwise they would have divorced twenty years ago. And somehow they knew this and married each other anyway. When she was a child she use to look at them and say they were the perfect couple, who could be in different countries and still be so madly in love. She looked at them as an adult and realized they were never in love at all. It made her sad.
Joseph, on the other hand, felt more or less indifferent to the peculiarities of his parents. He knew long ago that they disliked each other far more than they let on. By now, all of their children were adults, and he didn’t understand why they didn’t just split up already and move on with their lives. Marina was hotheaded and stubborn and just outright mean, and Anderson was gentler but could be bullheaded and overly confident. They were not soul mates. They did not belong together. It was by gods good graces, Joseph believed, that none of the three of them turned out too fucked up.
Natasha looked at her phone. Zero messages. "She said she was coming. She’ll be here."
"Drunk, probably, assuming she shows up at all," Marina snorted and shook her head. "And I wonder every day what I did wrong on that one." There was a silence. No one wanted to discuss this anymore than they actually wanted to be together. They rarely all got together anymore, as they all were in different places; Joseph in Egypt with Ammon (Leah and Ammon had separated a year ago and she had come back to South Africa, but Natasha believed they’d come back together again at some time, because they were a perfect example of true soul mates), and he spent the majority of his free time with his girlfriends. Kira was still studying, assuming she actually got any done, in France, and Marina was there too, still on her same job, at the same university, at the same house. Anderson was working the same place he had during their childhood as well. Natasha was glad to know some things never changed. And she herself spent her time between Spain and Russia; work and pleasure.
Joseph and Nate met eyes for a moment next to each other and she smiled slightly, and he smiled back, her unhappiness showing all over her face. Joseph didn’t consider himself abnormal, but his older sister was just so chronically normal he almost wanted to reach over and wrap his arm around her. Their lives were typical, only they saw each other only a few times a year, and were born in two different countries. He knew Nate well, though. She was a simple person, the best type of simple person. All she asked for was contentment. And love and art. Joseph raised and eyebrow at his mother across the table. Nate surely wouldn’t get any of those things here.
"But whatever," Marina took another sip of wine. "It’s Christmas, let’s not start off on a bad note, eh?" She turned her face in the direction of Joseph. "Why didn’t you bring your girlfriends? I’d love to meet them."
"I’m sure you would."
She looked at him hard but didn’t continue that line of questioning, looking over towards her daughter instead. "What about you? New Russian boyfriend too good for us?"
Natasha pressed her lips together. "He’s got his own family, mother."
"Too good for us, too good for you," she shrugged. "It’s the same."
Natasha felt her face reddening, and just as she was about to open her mouth to object, the door behind her open and Kira slinked through. "Sorry ‘bout that." Her words were slurred.
"Good of you to finally join us."
"Mhm." Kira plopped herself down into the chair next to Nate, across from their parents. The house was mainly silent. It stayed this way, silent, whether they were here or not. Nate couldn’t ever consider South Africa home, while that was the only real home that Joseph knew. "Sure, whatever."
"Kira don’t be rude," Marina said, and Natasha groaned, knowing what was about to happen. Her mother glared from across the table but didn’t say anything. "Kira, I think you owe us an explanation as to why you held up dinner, don’t you?"
"No I fucking don’t." Kira licked her top lip and arched one of her eyebrows. They had never gotten along, because they were all but completely the same. Kira was just as bullheaded and stubborn and arrogant as their mother was, and they could hardly sit in the room together.
"Anderson, be quiet—"
"Goodbye." Natasha stood up, pushing her chair from behind her and picking her phone up off the table, leaning down to kiss Joseph’s cheek and whispering to him, "I’ll call you," before turning around and exiting without another word.