Title: Coming Home

Pairing: Gibbs/Ziva NCIS

Ratings: PG -13 for violence (Not any worse than the show)

Spoilers: Season finale!

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. No profit made, no infringement intended.

Warnings: Het!fic! (Obviously) But just so there was no confusion since, you know, het!fic is really not usually my thing. But after the season finale of NCIS, I couldn't help it. Something about the dynamic between Gibbs and Ziva just begged to be played with. And so here it is.

A/N: Many thanks to my betas! Serenitymeimei for the squee, Ariestess and Shatterpath for the reality check!

"I don't know who it is you answer to anymore, NCIS or Mossad."

My father's words, but the truth was that I myself did not know any longer.

"I expect your loyalty to me, and only me!"

It is perhaps ironic how alike my father and Gibbs are. Both are driven, intelligent; the best at what they do.

But there is one key difference, one difference that means everything.

My father demands loyalty. But it was only Gibbs who has ever given it in return.

My father saw in me a weapon, but only Gibbs saw in me a person: Saw i me./i

And I nearly betrayed him.

My last – in truth my only – hope, is that he won't turn away from me, because I fear that I am slipping away. I fear that what was done to me has pushed me too far. But most of all, I fear that without his trust, without the safety that comes of being able to place imy /i trust in him…no one will ever see me again.

The last weeks are a blur in her mind: a blur of beatings and darkness, of stinking terror and blinding anger. A blur of rage that burned so deep and hot, sometimes it managed to eclipse the pain. A blur of confusion, and loss and bone deep exhaustion.

And eventually, somewhere between the fists on her face and the hands on her body…clarity.

It was inevitable, of course. No one can resist torture forever. Not without cost.

Ziva paid that cost. Alone in that tiny cell, some part of Ziva David, Mossad Officer, died. Yet even as the husk fell away like the ashen skeleton of a burned tree, in its place rose something else: something small, and clear and certain. Something that the beatings, and questions, and the pain couldn't touch.

Her imprisonment was intended to break her, but instead, those weeks were a crucible: a fire into which Ziva was thrown, body and mind. Though the process was excruciating, though she lost count of how many times she sensed her hold on life slipping away, it strengthened her; annealing the cracks of doubt and uncertainty in her soul. Forging her whole.

Her father had endeavored to turn her into a weapon.

He had succeeded far better than he ever could have wished.

Escape, in the end, is not as difficult as one might think.

Ziva's captors think her broken and make one fatal mistake.

They underestimate her.

She takes their guns and what supplies she can carry and sits silently in the front seat of a battered jeep on a nameless hillside covered in rock and scrub brush and watches as the charges she planted blossom into fireballs: deadly, beautiful flowers over the desert, their fleeting existence sending a swift surge of fierce satisfaction through her aching body.

What she has stolen gets the battered agent to Cairo, and from there, she manages to recover one of her stashes of what passes for emergency supplies for an operative like her: cash, weapons, fake identity. As she fits the familiar form of a Sig on her hip, Ziva can only be thankful to God that after all this time, it remains untouched. The cache is only a step on the road she travels now, but it's an important one. It means less risk of exposure. It means her chances just went from 'impossible' to merely 'improbable.'

'Piece of cake," as Tony would say.

The injured woman lays low for a week, taking what rest she can and waiting to see if she has been pursued. She squats in a burned out building, one eye always on her escape routes and her hand on the trigger of her gun. Peaceful it's not, but it gives her body a chance to heal somewhat. At least enough to function.

Enough to take the next step.

Commercial flights are out of the question, but she can still be invisible when she wants to be, and Ziva makes the trip back to the States crammed between shipping crates on a nameless cargo plane. It's freezing and loud, and the floor is hard. It's the best sleep she's had in months.

The plane lands in New York, but it's child's play for her to get to D.C., and from there…

Picking his lock is as easy as ever, and the agent shakes her head, the ghost of what might once have been a smile touching her gaunt features before fading as she slips in the door. The house itself she passes through with barely a glance. Her destination is down the stairs at the back.

The metal of the doorknob is cool and smooth, familiar to her hand despite the time that has passed. Whether out of reverence, or a lingering disbelief that her ordeal might actually be over, Ziva pauses for a moment before closing her eyes, and opening the door.

It's the smell that tells her she is truly here; that this isn't just some fever dream or desperate attempt by her own mind at escape.

Wood and dust, varnish and steel and peace; if there is such a scent. At that moment, she is willing to believe that there is. It pervades the very air that she pulls slowly and deeply into her lungs. The feeling is akin to a free diver finally reaching the surface. Some ache she had ceased to be aware of in her chest eases, and the muscles of her shoulders loosen slightly, no longer feeling the imaginary cross-hairs on her back.

Whatever else will come, Ziva takes this moment and holds it, knowing that nothing can touch her, for now.

Taking a last breath, she steps down the stairs, only to hesitate when she realizes the cement floor is empty. The ever present boat is gone, only a tidy pile of shavings in one corner and a stack of saw horses attesting to its former residence here.

The absence of the wooden sculpture troubles her, as integral to her memories of this place as the smell and the sound of his voice, but exhaustion is finally beginning to tighten its hold on her body and she pushes away what might be regret? Confusion? She cannot name the feeling. In reaching her destination, the drive that sustained her these last hours of her journey is gone, rushing from her like water from a broken vessel to be replaced by a weariness not just of flesh, but spirit and she has no energy to examine what she feels. No energy for anything.

She's so tired.

Of running. Of fighting. Of being alone.

As the edges of her vision begin to darken, her knees give way and she curls up in the corner next to his workbench, the hard cement floor almost welcoming in a strange way.

Even the quiet peace of this place can't wholly overcome her survival instincts however, and as her breathing evens out, her fingers wrap protectively around the grip of her gun where it rests on her leg.

Somewhere beyond exhaustion, she doesn't hear him come in the front door, but she's jolted out of her sleep by the awareness that someone is near when he reaches the hallway. Struggling against the last vestiges of sleep, Ziva tightens her grip on her gun, unable to put it down even now, when she can hear his familiar tread beyond the door at the top of the stairs.

The soft footfalls pause and she knows, somehow she just knows he's aware that someone is down here.

Her intuition is confirmed when he comes through the door gun first, the flashlight in his other hand cutting a harsh path through the gloom of the basement. The light flashes across her eyes and she makes an involuntary sound of pain, twisting her head as her dark-adjusted pupils constrict.

Because of this, she doesn't see his reaction, but she hears it: hears the swift intake of breath and her name exhaled almost as if in prayer; hears the click of the gun's safety and the pounding of his boots on the wooden stairs as he moves swiftly toward her.

When she manages to look up again he's halfway across the empty floor. The gun is gone and his hands stretch toward her slightly as he slows, approaching her like one would a wounded animal.

Ziva wants to reach out to him, to say something, but she can't. The injured agent has reached the end of her endurance and remains, crumpled like a discarded doll in the corner, her torn jeans and sweatshirt that belonged to someone else before she stole them dirty and threadbare, her face still sporting the fading remains of bruises and the cutting lines of near starvation.

For a moment he doesn't move, just looks at her, and dark eyes watch as pain fills irises normally the color of a stormy sky.

He crouches in front of her, just inches from her leg so that she believes she can feel the heat of his body. Even though she understands it's a trick of the mind, right now she doesn't care.

"Ziva," the word is whispered, but his voice is so raw and heavy with emotion that her heart at once swells with joy, and aches with regret. It's a nearly overwhelming dichotomy.

She wants to speak, but the myriad of tangled emotions clog her throat, all but making her choke, pricking the backs of her eyes with tears. Sitting this close to him, so close to everything she's wanted these last weeks, - months, maybe even years if she is being honest - Ziva can't even be upset at herself for the threatening tears. She's done being ashamed of what she wants, and she's too damn tired to fight it any longer.

Cracked lips open as she finally tries to say something, ianything,/i but at that moment, he cups her face, his callused hands infinitely gentle. A thumb strokes under her eye, wiping away a tear she didn't even realize had slipped from her eye.

"Gibbs." It's a plea, and a question.

"I'm here. Ziva, I'm here." He answers what she can't ask, and her eyes close in relief.

"I did not tell them. I did not tell them anything." Her voice is rough and cracked, barely recognizable to her own ears and her throat is dry, but she says it again, because she has to make him understand, to make him see that in the end, she was always loyal.

Something swirls in his storm-colored eyes and she sees the muscles of his jaw clench.

"I didn't…"

"I know. Ziva, I know." His voice is soft, barely a whisper, but it's as choked as hers. And just like he did months ago when the stood on the tarmac of the airstrip, he leans forward and presses his lips to her cheek.

This time though, its not goodbye. This time, it is so much more.

Nor does he stop there. He kisses her other cheek, her forehead and then, almost hesitantly, the corner of her mouth.

Nearly shaking, she reaches up and cups his cheek, mirroring his actions, and fighting the pain in her body, leans forward and presses her mouth to his.

It can hardly be called a kiss. There is no passionate embrace, no tangling of tongues, only the merest brush of her bruised lips to the softness of his. And yet the meaning it carries is so much greater than the action.

She pulls back, holding his gaze, watching the storm clouds clear from his eyes as she meets them without flinching. She wants this, wants him, and will no longer back down or hide from it.

His answer comes not in the form of words, but – as is his nature – in deeds. His hands are so gentle, but she can't help the tiny sound that escapes her when he slides his arms around her.

Moving carefully, as if she might shatter, he picks her up. Her frame – telling of weeks without regular food – is easy for him to lift and he cradles her against his chest. She doesn't protest, doesn't make a sound, simply rests her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest and lets go, breathing in his scent, letting the warmth of his arms surround her.

The stairs creek under their weight, but Ziva barely notices. She is already drifting back toward sleep. It's only when he's tugging off her shoes and pulling the covers around her that she rouses enough to hold out her hand, touching his arm.

"Stay?" she whispers, fighting to keep her eyes open.

He does. Slipping off his own shoes, he slides under the covers with her, gathering her into his arms, mindful of her injuries.

She rests her head on his shoulder again, where she can hear his heartbeat, steady and strong, and he tucks her head under his chin.

He is warm and solid and the bed is soft, but still she fights oblivion.


"Shh, Ziva. Sleep. You're safe now."

His hand strokes her hair and finally she surrenders.

She is home at last.