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FIGHTING YOUR DEMONS

CHAPTER 20

~*~

What do you do when you know that something is wrong, but you don't know how you can fix it? How do you react when all of your loved ones are continuously hovering around you, waiting for you to finally snap? How do you stop the prying eyes and concerned glances? How do you make everything go away, before it can finally break you?

She thought things would get better, she thought everything was going to change. She had been wrong. Again. She felt more smothered than she had before, and it was all because they finally knew. She had caused this, she had caused her world to become infinitely smaller, everything seemed cramped, and now she was sure she wasn't able to breathe. This time, she wasn't sure she had the means to escape.

--

The steady hum of the fluorescent lights that hung over head seemed to become louder and more sporadic as the time went on. She hated every second of it. It grated on her nerves and tested her already thinly stretched patience. She was on the verge of snapping, and she wasn't sure just how that would affect her.

"Something wrong?" Gentle, deep, soothing; just what she needed to hear in order to forget the annoyance that lights seemed to be causing.

"I am fine," she responded quickly. Her words were spoken slowly, yet she still wasn't sure how – or why – the lies continued to fall freely from her lips.

The laughter that emitted from his throat was dry and humorless. "Oh, 'cause I haven't heard that before." His eyes were narrowed with what she assumed could only be anger.

She shrank back into her seat, unsure of what she could possibly say in response to that. He continued before she had time to formulate the proper response and she wasn't sure if she was thankful for this or not. "I thought we were over this," his voice was hard, and his eyes narrowed into even thinner slits. "I thought that you knew I was here to help you!" The change in his voice would have been startling had she not known him for as long as she had.

"I am sorry…" she apologized because she had no idea what else there was for her to say. She nervously began to trace invisible shapes onto her desktop with her fingertips, and her eyes traced the nonexistent paths that her hands created.

"You don't need to apologize," he said gently, cupping his hand beneath her chin as he forced her eyes to connect with his once more. "I am here for you, I always will be. I just want you to know that." His voice was sincere, almost too sincere and it caused her heart to palpitate in a way she had nearly forgotten.

The intensity that remained within the emerald depths of his eyes frightened her. Never before had someone invested so much emotion into her. It was a rather exhilarating feeling, but at the same moment a continuous bout of fear clung to her like a second skin.

She turned her head away, breaking away from his gaze and his touch all in one moment. She returned all of her concentration to her desk once more feeling that that was the safest place for her to look.

She cleared her throat uncomfortably, still feeling the heat of his gaze on her face. "I have work to do," she stated, surprised that her voice was able to hold firm with the way her heart was constantly quivering.

"Just… don't push me away," he murmured his plea into the air before turning away in order to make his way back to his own desk. His words seemed to cling to her like static electricity, sending her already unstable heart into a new frenzy.

She couldn't help but to think that she would continue pushing, because it was all that she knew how to do.

--

"You going to stop that anytime soon?" It was half a question a best, but she still had complete understanding of what he was getting at, and it wasn't the way she had been staring off into space like it held the answers she was seeking.

"I do not know," she replied, and for once she was being completely honest, with herself and to everyone else. She turned to him then, connecting her dark brown stare with his ice blue one. The intensity that lingered within his gaze didn't scare her half as much as the one that lingered within Tony's, it was a different emotion and it was that difference that scared her.

"Figure it out," his words weren't a command, they were more like a request. One that she would follow because she was sick of it, sick of this ever-present, sick of the wariness that was always inside of her, and sick of everything that she had become.

"I will," she promised, and just maybe she meant it.

He was proud, and he gave her a nod to let her know that she had better mean her promise, and that she had better keep it. He wasn't going to accept any half-assed efforts in this, he wanted things to be done right; he wanted his team back the way it had been.

It had taken her longer to steel her nerves than she had thought it would. Deep breaths, and clenched fists helped to get her ready, but she still felt shaky despite how prepared she thought she had been.

"Can I talk to you Tony?" She needed to talk to him, this was more than just a want. She needed to speak some things aloud that were floating in her mind before she could even begin to move forward.

He smiled then, that smile that told her things were going to be okay. She melted, and she believed him. "Of course," he responded, the smile still quirking at the edges of his lips.

She nodded her head, signaling for him to follow her before she began to make her way to the tiny alcove that sat beneath the stairs. It wasn't the most private of places, but it would have to do for now.

When they had both stopped walking she attempted to gather what remained of her shattered strength. She took in yet another deep, fortifying breath and squared off her shoulders to gain even more resolve. She could do this, she would do this because this was the way out of the hole that she had dug herself in to. "I am not … fine, Tony," she had to force the words out of her mouth, they came out slower than she had meant them to and they each left a sour taste on her tongue. She took in one more deep breath in attempt to regain her strength and her gaze shifted to the floor. "I cannot tell you when I was last okay with myself." She was being honest now, and it felt like she had ripped off her bandaid and exposed a ripe wound to heated air. She brought her dark stare back onto his face, feeling that familiar tingling of determination racing along her spine, the one that she had thought she lost. "I am not okay, but I believe that one day I can be." This was not a lie, anymore. He was helping her to see that things didn't have to be the way she had made them, they all had helped her.

He pulled her into an unexpected hug, one that she would have expected from Abby but not from him. His strong arms gently wrapped around her lithe frame making her feel something she didn't want to name. She didn't stiffen or tense in the slightest, she allowed herself to welcome the warmth that he was offering, though she wouldn't admit those thoughts to anyone.

"I'm here," his voice was a whisper upon her hair. His arms tightened around her, momentarily shielding her from the world. "If you ever need me Ziva, I will be there." He wanted to make sure that she knew, that she really understood what he was trying to say. The feel of her nodding against his chest alleviated his nerves.

"Thank you, Tony," she stated genuinely as she pulled away from his firm embrace. She took a step away from him, ready to return to her paperwork once more. "Thank you," she repeated, gracing him with a tiny smile before she finally turned and walked away.

His heart seemed to flutter as the tension in him seemed to lift just like the corners of her lips had. This must be what steps in the right direction feel like, he could get used to this.

--

They days didn't feel as long as she remembered, she hoped that that was a good thing. She couldn't remember a time when the days didn't creep by with agonizing slowness, it all felt strange to her.

Sleep still continued to evade her despite her best attempts at claiming it. The dark circles that continued to cling beneath her eyes were evidence of this, and she wondered if this was the way things were supposed to be.

She sat upon her bed, her table light on, as she surveyed her room. The dark still held secrets that she wasn't sure she would ever be able to face. There was a part of her that was able to admit that it frightened her, but another part of her wanted to hide this secret away. She couldn't' allow herself another liability when she already had so many. She was going to face this head on, she would be strong.

With a deep breath she turned off the light. Darkness shrouded the room in an instant, bringing with it the demons that lived inside of her mind.

Her heart rate picked up, and she squeezed her eyes shut as she waited. The nightmares were sure to come, and she hoped that she was ready to fight the demons that lie within.

--

The darkness was coming. She could feel it in the pounding of her heart, and the squeezing of her throat. The darkness was trying to claim her, to take her back to that place where her thoughts were not her own, where her feelings spun out of control.

This time she felt she was ready, her feet were firmly on the ground, and she held a firm grip on reality. Nothing could send her back into that place of no return. Nothing could tear her down.

A figure appeared before her, holding a white light that nearly blinded her with its intensity. She sucked in a heavy breath, and clenched her hands in order to calm herself down.

She stumbled back as the figure continued towards her unexpectedly. It was a mere silhouette illuminated by blackness. This was different; she realized suddenly, her heart turning to ice at the thought. This was unexpected in the worst way, and she had no idea what it would bring, or what it would mean to her.

As the figure came closer, a faint hum could be heard. It sounded around the area, steadily rising in pitch and in volume as the figure drew nearer. That hum quickly turned into an unintelligible string of words – a chanting of sorts and it terrified her. She couldn't make out the words that were being said, but she could feel that there wasn't any good hiding within them.

She could hear the person before she could actually see them. Her shoulders stiffened in response to the words surrounding the air around her. "It's all your fault, Ziva. All of it is your doing." It was like a broken record, ringing in her ears, and resonating throughout her mind.

"It is not my fault," she called out, and she hated the way that her voice shook.

The figure stopped approximately four feet from where she stood. It took her a moment before her eyes adjusted to the light, but when they finally did she gasped as the shock that filtered through all of her nerve endings sent flames throughout her body.

"Kate?" she choked out, connecting the dark should length hair, and the pale skin to the photos of the woman who had been murdered by her brothers hands.

"You did this." Kate replied stoically as the light in her hand finally began to dim. "You caused this." Kate nodded to the fading light in her hands. "Everything that happened is because of you." A glare sat upon her features, the light nothing but a speck within her fingers.

"No!" Ziva shouted, her own fingers curling into fists as she vehemently denied the accusations. It wasn't her fault, she hadn't been there. "I couldn't!" she insisted, "There is no way!" Despite her protests doubts were crawling in now, eating away at her carefully placed strength like it had been nothing at all.

"How do you feel knowing of all the pain that you caused?"


Ziva was shaking now, slipping away into the darkness that she had tried so hard to keep away. She couldn't defeat it now, no matter how hard she tried. She thought that she had been ready for this, she thought that she had the strength to fight against it. Apparently she had been wrong. So very wrong.

--

Her chest was tight, and her eyes were swollen from the tears that had fallen during her slumber. Things had gotten progressively worse in such a short amount of time that she didn't even know what she could do to fix this. She grabbed her shoes, placing her phone in her pocket and her headed for the door. She could run this out, she could do this.

The wind blew strongly against her face, causing the tears that still clung to the backs of her eyes to cascade down her cheeks. She couldn't get away from this, it just wasn't happening no matter how far she ran.

She stopped suddenly, looking around warily as she recognized the place she had came to. Her body froze, standing stock-still as she stared up att he building before her. Of course this was where she would come, in the haze of darkness that had been surrounding her for so long she remembered feeling safe her. She pulled out her cell phone to place a quick call, she now knew what it was she had to do, even if it wasn't something she would normally turn to.

"Hey, Ziva." His voice was gruff, and she knew that she had woken him up. He didn't seem to mind though.

"Hello Tony," she greeted gently, unsure if she was doing the right thing or not. She quickly pushed her fears aside and continued. "Can you pick me up in an hour?" She questioned hesitantly, hoping he would say yes.

"Where!?" He sounded frantic now, and she sighed in response. She hadn't meant to worry him, but it would seem that that was all she was capable of doing lately.

She rattled off the address before she even bothered to reassure him. She had to get this out, before he made her change her mind. "And Tony?" she could practically hear the wheels turning in his head, and she knew that he was now fully awake; "I am fine." It wasn't a lie, because she knew that one day she would be.

She hung up the phone after he promised multiple times that he would be there. He didn't need to do that, but she didn't have the heart to tell him. After everything he had done to help her she trusted him implicitly.

She pushed her way into the double doors of the five-story building after much mental preparation out in the bitter cold. She headed straight for the elevator without glancing back, pushing the button for the top floor as soon as she was encased inside the metal box.

As the lift began its climb, her chest seemed to loosen. The elevator chimed a few seconds later and she stepped off with stiff legs and a pounding heart.

"Do you have a moment?" She questioned the man behind the newspaper. She knew who he was as soon as she walked in the room, he radiated a presence that called to her.

The man looked up startled, but when he saw who was in the room with him he simply put his newspaper aside with a smile on his face. "Ziva," he greeted warmly, "I didn't expect to see you again."

"I …" she faltered, her words falling short as something thick seemed to worm its way into her throat. Could she really do this? Could she really put herself out there? She had never done anything like this before because she had always been told that this was the greatest weakness that anyone could have. She no longer saw any other option, so she would take this weakness and wear it as a badge. "I think I need help," she finally forced out. Her words were slowly spoken in near inaudible tones, but she already felt a bit lighter having them out in the air rather than bottled up deep inside of her.

The man gave a nod, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He stood then, making his way to the open doors in the back of the waiting area. "Come along then," he insisted, motioning for him to follow him, and like a puppet she did without question.

He stood by the doors, patiently waiting for her to precede him into the room. She smiled at him softly, genuinely. "Thank you Dr. Rawlins."

He gave her a smile in return before shutting the door after them. "Not a problem, Ziva." She didn't feel like an agent, or an assassin in that moment. She felt like Ziva, the girl she had been before all the pain and suffering, the woman she would hopefully become.

She didn't know how long it was going to take for her to become that woman, she wasn't even sure if it was possible. She couldn't tell you what was going to happen in the future, and at that moment she didn't want to know.

What she did know was that she wasn't alone in this. She had Tony, Gibbs, McGee, Abby, Ducky, and Palmer to help her through this. She learned that asking for help was a strength not a weakness. And most importantly, she learned that being okay was something to be treasured.

She had demons to fight, and she had friends that would help her win.

END;;

Crap. Seriously, I have had this written on notebook paper for months. [It's been finished since the last chapter was posted actually] I can't believe how long it took me to sit down and write it up. There may be one or two more chapters. And epilogue of sorts, but right now this is the end of the story so I am marking it as complete because you will not need to read the epilogue in order to feel the sort of catharsis that I was going for with this.

I really do hope that you enjoyed this. I am quite proud of it myself; I think it turned out better than I had hoped.

I would like to give a big thank you to everyone who stuck with me through this. It means so much and I can't express with words how much it means to me to have such wonderful readers and reviewers encouraging me and letting me know their thoughts on this. You are all absolutely wonderful, every single one of you and I appreciate it. This story is for you, because things can turn out good even on your worst days.

Don't ever give up, because there are people who will help you fight whatever demons that you are facing.

Thank you again, you all will be forever cherished in my heart.

The 300th reviewer will still be gifted with a one-shot of their choice.