Disclaimer: If NCIS were mine, there'd be more sex and less murder.
A/N: How could I resist not following up on this ep? It was AMAZING! Also, completely un-beta'd and written during the wee hours of the morning, so all mistakes are mine.
She had almost died.
That murderer, Andrew Hoffman, had killed four other women. Lured them into his home, his bed, and then stabbed them brutally. Cut off their ring fingers. Buried them in shallow graves. All of them dead for cheating on their husbands.
And all Ziva could think was- she could have been the fifth.
She should have been the fifth.
She had dodged that bullet, both figuratively and literally, by near millimeters. Been less than seconds from being stabbed. She should have reacted faster. Knocked the gun from his grasp before he had the chance to blink, let alone pull a knife, and subdued him until backup had arrived.
But she'd been too slow. Forced to pull that trigger. Over and over again. Slugs ripping into his body, stopping him in his tracks. Dead weight crushing her, warm blood seeping through her clothing as lifeless eyes stared down into her own.
That look on his face haunted her. His last breath fluttering across her cheek. The feeling of her heart pumping furiously in her chest as relief flooded through her, realizing through her daze that she was still alive.
It's why she had ignored Gibbs when he told her more than once that he didn't want to see her at work the next day. She had to stay busy. Focus on the case. Anything to keep her mind from straying.
That's where Michael had come in.
She didn't know why at the time, but she'd trusted him. Let him keep her in company and in pleasure. If they'd met under different circumstances, another day, another place, they could have had something.
But she'd betrayed him. Known that she'd been stepping over the line when Abby had run his fingerprint, and done it anyway. Her only saving grace had been finding Devon, his missing ex-girlfriend. A truce between brief lovers parting their separate ways.
Ziva had driven for hours after leaving him at the bar. Getting herself lost in the rhythms of traffic, miles of highway blurring together. She'd looped around the city several times, passing by Tony's apartment twice, tempted to park behind his car and let herself fall into his arms; his bed.
He'd wanted to comfort her so badly. She could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. It had been too much. Too overwhelming.
It still was.
That's probably how she ended up at Gibbs' house.
It was past two AM and light was shining from the basement window as she pulled into the driveway, spilling across the front path and onto the lawn. Of course he was still up.
She had no idea what she was doing there. She didn't want to talk, or share her feelings, she'd never been that kind of woman. Yet something still made her slip the car into park.
The door was unlocked when she got there. She could just barely hear the TV muffled through the floorboards, the smell of sawdust and fresh brewed coffee in the air. His sofa looked so inviting when she passed through the living room. She wanted to curl up on it, wrap the worn quilt that rested across it's back around her shoulders and finally let herself sleep. She couldn't though. She was already past the state of exhaustion, but that didn't matter, she had to keep moving.
She heard Gibbs pause, mid sandpaper stroke, when she found the creaky wooden steps that led downstairs. He was wearing ratty sweatpants and an old NIS shirt, his hair spiked in all directions, working until she'd stopped only a few feet away.
"You forget where your apartment is, Ziva?"
She leaned against the edge of his boat, her gaze never leaving the floor. Fresh tears began welling beneath her lashes. She wasn't going to cry, damn it. That was the one thing that she refused to do.
"No." She paused, searching for the right words. "I just... I don't-"
He cleared his throat and she finally met his eyes with her own.
He looked surprised.
She didn't understand why until she felt cool air hit the trails of wetness sliding down her cheek. Her brow furrowed in frustration- in defeat. Giving up the last pretenses of her pride as the dam broke and rapids slowly started to fall.
He gestured her forward and opened his arms, pulling her into a hug when she willingly stepped into them. Strong hands trapping her against his chest; one at her lower back and the other tangled in her hair.
Her fingers dug into his shoulder blades, hiding as she let it all go. Face nuzzling into the soft skin at the crook of his neck as a little sob escaped her.
He just squeezed her tighter.
Tears began staining his shirt. Wet patches growing as she melted into him, her body just barely held up by her own legs.
Lips pressed gently against her temple. A simple gesture. Hair being smoothed away from her face, circles rubbed firmly into her spine.
What did she do to deserve this?
She had almost died, and for the first time in her life she'd been absolutely terrified.
That didn't matter to him, though. He still cared. Still held her against him as she fell apart.
He still respected her.
And that's all she could ask for.