Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS. If I did, season six would have been run differently. I'm just saying.
Spoilers: Maybe the last thirty seconds of Aliyah?
Summary: After Ziva is rescued from her captors in Northern Africa, it takes awhile for her to recover, to learn how to trust again.
A/N: I started writing this at about 11:30 after watching Aliyah, as my mind was frantically trying to figure out how SB was going to fix Ziva and, just as important, fix Tiva, and my mind did not stop. I swear, it woke me up ridiculously early so I could finish it, and when I did, I just had to post it. Don't worry, I'll return to "Truths and Covert Lies" shortly. It's written quite a bit differently than my other fics, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
The last time he had seen her, it had been under the hot desert sun, a sling on his arm and a bag over his shoulder, waiting for permission to board the plane. He had been staring at her intently; she had been ignoring him just as intently. Then he got the plane and she didn't.
The next time he saw her, it was in a dark room in Northern Africa, sun coming in through narrow slits near the ceiling, the bodies of three dead men in knock-off digital camo pants surrounding them. She was on a mattress on the floor, her hair knotted with dirt and sweat and blood, her right arm obviously broken, her face an assortment of bruises and broken bones that made her almost unrecognizable. He was gentle when he lifted her up and carried her from that room, and when she opened the one eye not swollen shut, she sighed and closed it again before muttering a single word: "Tony."
It had been four weeks to the day since DiNozzo and Gibbs returned to DC sans Ziva that Director Vance got the phone call from Director David telling them where she was. DiNozzo had asked why a man who had an entire intelligence agency and the ear of a Prime Minister at his disposal would be calling them with that information instead of taking care of it on his own. Vance apparently had asked something similar, because he reported that David had told him that Ziva was NCIS's problem. DiNozzo had frowned at that; what was that supposed to mean? That Ziva was captured because she had worked with NCIS? That couldn't be right. He could come up with a list of fifteen countries that wouldn't hesitate to capture and torture a Mossad officer, but honestly couldn't think of fifteen countries that even knew NCIS existed. Surely David's intel was faulty. Then again, the man didn't ascend to Mossad's top office with faulty intel.
DiNozzo's arm was still in a cast when he boarded the C-130 with Gibbs to take them to Bahrain to work with the NCIS team and a team of Recon Marines on figuring out where Ziva was and how to get her out. Gibbs had frowned and tried to take McGee instead, but DiNozzo had told him, in a tone that brokered no argument, that he was going. His cast was taken off in the clinic at NAS Bahrain three days ahead of schedule, and he accelerated his own physical therapy. He wanted to make sure he was on the helicopter that went to extract her. His arm hurt like hell as he repelled down, but he never said anything. It was a hell of a way to spend his birthday.
For as long as those two months had been, the next fifteen hours seemed longer. The helicopter that had dropped him and Gibbs and the small group of Recon Marines two kilometers away from the camp was gone, replaced by a medical helicopter that took them to a fixed-wing MEDEVAC site. As soon as the corpsmen saw Special Agent Tony DiNozzo approach with Officer Ziva David in his arms, they sprung to action, relieving him of the load he didn't want relief from. For more than an hour, the senior field agent was left alone in the plane. Gibbs' arm had been grazed by a bullet, Ziva had been obviously tortured, and for once, DiNozzo was fully intact and unscathed. He sat there, alone, while the corpsmen did their thing. He wasn't sure how Gibbs had found coffee on a C-130 at 30,000 feet, but the older man offered him a Styrofoam cup of what had to the worst coffee he had ever tasted. "You look like you need it," was all his boss said in response to his questioning look.
Their plane had landed at Andrews Air Force Base and they were immediately transferred to another medical helicopter, this time bound for National Naval Medical Center. Ziva was whisked into surgery almost immediately—orthopedic surgeons went to work on that open fracture of her right radius and ulna and the closed fracture and sprain of her right ankle; a team of plastic surgeons worked on repairing her zygomatic arch and temperomandibular junction, whatever those were.
He was waiting in her room when she was wheeled up from the recovery area, and for what seemed like hours, he sat unmoving, watching her sleep off the last of her anesthesia. It was around 0300 when her unbandaged eye opened and her mouth frowned as well as it could. "Why are you here?" she managed, her words slurred and quiet.
"Because someone needs to be," he replied simply. She looked away before speaking again.
"I do not trust you anymore."
"You will again," he replied confidently. She fell back asleep.
The two military medical centers in the DC area—NNMC in Bethesda, MD, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC—were in the process of combining forces at a new hospital, to be called Walter Reed National Medical Center at Bethesda, and construction was already wreaking havoc on the medical care in the area. As the rehab wing was still being built at the new facility, Ziva was transferred to Walter Reed—the old Walter Reed—for her rehab. Everyone seemed nice enough over there. The resident on the rehab team was Captain J.P. McCallin; the intern was Captain Elisabeth Hesse. The two had an easy familiarity with each other that suggested that they knew each well and had worked together before, but judging by the wedding band on Dr. McCallin's finger and the lack of one on Dr. Hesse's, it was nothing beyond friendship. DiNozzo once overheard them joking about obstetrics rotations at OSU; he later heard them talking about Columbus and was pretty sure that the OSU they were talking about was Ohio State, but didn't say anything to them about his alma mater.
After three weeks of intense in-patient rehab and even more intense rehab psychology, Ziva was almost ready for discharge. She had asked Gibbs to help her search the area for a new apartment. DiNozzo found out and asked his boss if he could take her instead. Gibbs had frowned and hesitated, but eventually nodded his assent.
When he showed up at the hospital, Ziva had frowned and hesitated, but eventually nodded her assent.
Ziva's birthday was November 11. The first year she had been working with NCIS, she had frowned at the date on her calendar and asked why the number was red. DiNozzo had to explain Veteran's Day and joked that if Gibbs had ever observed national holidays, she would never have to work on her birthday again. He had taken her out to dinner that night to celebrate, which she had insisted wasn't necessary, but he had caught her smiling when she thought he wasn't looking.
The second year they worked together, he left a cupcake on her desk before leaving for a date with Jeanne.
The third year, they were working a case, and he was so focused on his work that it was after midnight on the twelfth before the date registered to him.
The fourth year, he had shown up at her apartment with take-out and a DVD. She had smiled and let him in, but halfway through the movie, she got up to answer the phone. He hadn't missed the smile on her face as she talked to whoever it was in Hebrew, and he had felt a stab of jealousy that he hadn't been the one to make her smile like that.
This year, he again arrived with take-out and a DVD. She hadn't smiled, but she did let him in, only to discover that she had never replaced the TV that had been blown up the spring before. They ate their food in uncomfortable silence before he handed her her present.
He had spent a lot of time in jewelry stores trying to find a necklace to replace the Star of David that had been taken from her during her time in captivity, but couldn't find one to match the hammered gold of the previous charm. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that maybe one that wasn't identical would be better, to keep it from being so bittersweet, and the new one, while about the same size and weight, was entirely smooth. "I know your old one probably had some sort of sentimental meaning," he said, "but your neck looks lonely without something."
She gave him a smile that didn't reach her eyes as she fingered the new charm. "Thank you," she replied simply before closing the jewelry box and setting it aside.
She returned to work—desk job only—in January. When DiNozzo walked in, he could immediately feel the heaviness in the air. She was trying to act naturally, but McGee was staring at her as if she had grown another head while she was gone.
Instead of making a big deal about her almost-eight month absence from that office, Tony just smiled and wished her a good morning. The smile she gave him in return was full of relief.
In March, they were on a stakeout. Like it always seemed to be on stakeouts, it was DiNozzo and McGee, Ziva and Gibbs. While McGee was out getting breakfast one morning, Tony was left alone with his thoughts. He wondered what went on in that room when it was Ziva and Gibbs, if they sat around and discussed what had happened in Africa. He decided they didn't; they didn't talk about such things. They probably sat around in silence and cleaned their respective weapons.
Ziva shot the suspect, a tidy double-tap to the head, on Thursday. She wasn't at work on Friday, nor the next Monday. On Wednesday, when she still hadn't showed, Tony showed up at her apartment with take-out, sans DVD. She wasn't there when he arrived. Five minutes later, she approached from down the hall in work-out clothes, her wrists and ankles wrapped, which told him she had been beating some piece of equipment or some six-foot-tall Marine. She didn't say anything, but let him in before heading to her bathroom to clean up. They ate their General Tso's chicken and drank their beer in silence. When Tony claimed that he had had too much to drink to drive home safely, she grabbed him a pillow and blanket for her couch. The next morning, they drove into work together.
On a Friday in April, Ziva was lingering at her desk after finishing her paperwork to wrap up a case. She had smiled and wished McGee a good evening when the junior field agent headed for the elevators, and then went back to pretending she still hadn't finished her own work. After adding a flourishing signature to his own reports, DiNozzo began packing his things to go home, and Ziva finally made her move, an advertisement for the Exchange in her hands.
"I still do not have a TV," she said haltingly, "and the NEX is having a sale. Will you help me pick one out tomorrow?"
He grinned and said he'd be glad to. They bid each other goodnight and headed for their separate cars and both went home alone.
It was May before Ziva would bring up anything of the events of a year before. They were sitting in a booth at the bar, celebrating the capture of another murder suspect in a case that had gone on a week longer than it should have. Abby had forced McGee to the dance floor, and after a few minutes of chuckling at the junior field agent's attempts at dancing, they both lapsed into the silence that seemed to be defining their relationship since her return to DC. "I did not love him," she finally said, her eyes on her half-empty mojito. He didn't need to ask who she was talking about. "I could not love him, because you can not love somebody you do not trust."
On his birthday, he found a cupcake sitting on his desk. When he looked for his partner to thank her, she was nowhere to be found.
Abby had, inappropriately enough, decided to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Ziva's return to DC with cake and balloons in the squad room. Ziva had smiled thinly and thanked the forensic scientist, but ducked away five minutes into the 'celebration'. Only Tony seemed to notice her absence.
The next night, it had been her to show up at his apartment bearing pizza and a DVD. "I still only have a few movies in my apartment," she said haltingly, still standing in the hallway outside his front door, "but I saw this at the store and thought it would be something you would like to see." He actually had the movie already, but didn't tell her that as he welcomed her in. He grabbed her a plate for her pizza before putting the DVD in the machine and relaxed into the couch. He ended up dropping a chunk of pepperoni and cheese onto his lap after his first bite, which made her laugh. "That is why you should use a plate, Tony," she mocked in the sing-song tone that he had missed over the last year. Before he knew it, he was laughing with her as he tried to wipe the offending toppings from his jeans.
The final credits were rolling, but she still didn't move from her position on his couch. "A year ago," she began, unsure of her words, "were you in my hospital room when I woke from surgery?"
"Yeah," he said softly.
"And I told you that I did not trust you?"
"You told me that I would again."
She nodded at that and finally turned to face him. It was only at that moment that he realized she was wearing the gold Star of David that he had given her the previous November. "You were right," she said, her voice quiet but honest. "I do trust you, Tony. How... How did you know that I would, that I would be able to forgive you and trust you again?"
He swallowed, not sure how to explain his reasonings and not sure that she wanted to hear it. He bit back the impulse to joke about his natural charms and decided that he had to be honest. "When I picked you up and carried you out of that room, you opened your eye and looked at me and said my name, and then you relaxed, and I knew that you still trusted me. I just had to wait for you to realize it, too."