This story is set after Ziva has returned from Somalia during her recovery period while she strives to regain control of her life. It takes lots of help.
I do not own NCIS or any part thereof.
They took turns, her teammates. During the day she was mainly alone but at night someone was always with her; at night when the terrors came and stole her voice away if no one was there to wake her. Gibbs or Tony or Tim, one of them was almost always there; if not one of them then Abby and Palmer, never Abby by herself. And never Ducky since the first night when after she'd settled in one of his guest rooms he'd heard her distress and tried to touch her to offer comfort. The elderly M.E. had been thrown across the room, suffering a concussion when his head hit the wall. Luckily, Gibbs had wandered by to see how things were going and called 911 because Ziva had been unable to control her hysterics once she became aware enough to realize what she'd done. In fact, the EMTs had wanted to take her to the hospital too; more worried about the skinny, bruised woman who couldn't stop crying than about Ducky who'd already come around by the time Rescue arrived. It had taken a severe glare from Gibbs and Ducky's word as a physician to keep Ziva out of yet another emergency room.
After that night always one of the field agents, or Palmer and Abby as a team stayed with her. She never knew who she'd wake up to in her bedroom or how they'd comfort her.
Tim would sit on the side of her bed and hold both her hands, calling her name softly. When she'd recognize him he'd take her in his arms and hold her tightly telling her over and over again it was all right. She was safe now. She was back where she belonged. They'd keep her safe. He'd hold her until she went back to sleep no matter how long it took. If she didn't fall back to sleep right away he'd recite poems to her in whispers; Shakespearean sonnets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath…every poem he could remember on those nights. She'd close her eyes with the beautiful words circling through her mind, keeping her sleep safe.
The first night Abby and Jimmy stayed Ziva came to herself confused. She had a person laying on either side of her, cuddling her close, their arms around her. Then she heard Abby's voice.
"Ziva, its Abby and Jimmy. We're here. We're not going anywhere. It's Abby and Jimmy. You know us."
Her voice broke.
"Abby," Jimmy had said.
"I'm okay, Jimmy."
Abby sniffed and wrapped Ziva closer, spooning her while Jimmy pushed the hair back from her face.
"And you're okay too, Ziva. Me and Jimmy's got you tonight. We're all going to be okay."
Ziva had fallen asleep to Abby and Jimmy humming "Brown-Eyed Girl;" their impromptu duet building a secure barrier against the bad dreams.
Gibbs came more often than Tim but not as often as Tony. He'd sit by her bed in Ducky's grandmother's rocking chair not saying much until she drifted off. When the nightmares came he'd pick her up and hold her in his lap, his strong arms cradling her while rocking back and forth in the old, creaky chair, humming tunelessly. She thought he must have comforted Kelly in much the same way when she'd had her little girl nightmares. Sometimes she felt like her hair was damp where Gibbs' face rested on her head as he rocked; the rhythmic back and forth motion soothing her, weaving a blanket of care to keep her safe from the nightmares haunting this big girl. In the morning he'd still be there in the rocking chair, her silent guardian.
When Tony came he'd bring his laptop and a movie. He'd set it up on the small bedside table, start the movie, always a comedy, and turn the rocking chair around where he could watch too. Taking her hand in his he kept up a running commentary through every movie. When she couldn't laugh at the funny parts he'd flex his grip on her fingers and close his eyes for a moment frowning as if in pain, then he'd start again explaining all the punch lines, telling her stories about the actors, pointing out inconsistencies. She stared at him, could not keep her eyes off him. She never watched the movies she only watched Tony until she fell asleep.
Then the dreams would come and she'd scream and Tony was there. He'd climb into the bed with her and hold her, cradling her head to his chest, whispering.
"It's alright, Ziva. I'm here. Nobody's going to hurt you. Nobody. I gotcha. I won't let go. Never going to let you go again. I gotcha. I gotcha. Shussshhh."
He'd say it over and over, like a prayer. She'd listen to his heart beat in counter point to his words and the life sounds of her partner would drive away the remembered fear and pain and slowly pull her eyes closed and she would sleep again. In the morning when she awoke Tony would still be holding her, sleeping with her, his presence her shield.
By the third week the nightmares had lessened. She even had one night without awakening at all. It disoriented her all day. By the fourth week her counselor and Ducky both said she could do without the night-time sitters but she noticed someone still came by every evening and she often woke up to see someone sitting by her bed, or in Tony and Abby's cases laying in bed by her.
Fifth week she got the okay to move into her own place. Abby found an empty efficiency near her building so she claimed it for Ziva. Gibbs rounded up a bed from somewhere and delivered it with Tony and Tim's help, setting it up. They all contributed what they could; Tony a small table to use by the bed, Tim an old easy chair, Abby a multicolored rug to go by the bed, and Ducky a combination television/DVD player he no longer needed since his mother's admission to the nursing home. Jimmy had given her a set of dishes he'd won in a raffle. Since everything she owned had been destroyed in the explosion and resultant fire at her last apartment she had no linens or even clothes beyond the few Abby had bought her upon her release from the hospital. Abby took her shopping the day she was to move in and they bought a simple sheet set and coverlet as well as a soft blue blanket. By the time they got back to the apartment Ziva was exhausted. Abby helped her make the bed and then said goodbye, giving Ziva a hug.
"Get some rest, okay? Call me if you need me. I'm only a coupla blocks away."
She must not have liked what she saw in Ziva's face.
"I promise, Abby," Ziva said.
With one last Gibbs-worthy glare Abby left and Ziva turned to look at her sparse new home. Not much there but then she felt it was, in some ways, too much: too much to remember, too much to think about, too much to miss.
She lay down on her crisp, new linens in her clothes and pulled the soft blanket up to her chin, rubbing her face on it and closed her eyes.
Some time later she sat up in the bed, eyes searching the darkness. Not screaming. No, she wasn't screaming. But she was scared. She shook in fear wanting to close her eyes but knowing if she did then the screams would start in earnest and not stop for a long time.
She hadn't had a nightmare, not really. Had awakened as the heavy wooden door closed on her one more time. Had forced herself to open her eyes. Surely that was a good thing? Not to have the dream again? Turning on the bedside lamp, another hand-me-down from Mrs. Mallard, she looked around the small room she now called home. After a moment she reached to the table again and picked up the TV remote and turned on the set Ducky had given her. She found an old movie to watch; a very old movie with a very young John Wayne. Too bad Tony wasn't here to tell her about it. Yes, too bad Tony wasn't here to sit next to her and keep her company. To hold her hand and to pull her close so the touch and smell and sound of him filled her world instead of the bad memories waiting to pull her back under when she slept.
The movie ended and another began and she watched it too. By the time the third movie finished the sun had come up. The sun was her friend. Now she could forget about sleeping and nightmares. She could start with a new day.
Perhaps tonight would be better?
Gibbs came by the third day after she'd moved in. He walked in, looked around and snorted. Then he pushed into her personal space, taking her chin in his hand, turning her head from side to side, laying her secrets bare.
"You're not sleeping," he said.
It wasn't a question.
He nodded and dropped his hand.
"How long, an hour, maybe two then you wake up and don't sleep again."
Again, it wasn't a question. She looked away from the man stripping away the little self control she'd regained.
"Yes. But I am fine."
He shook his head and then stalked over to the kitchenette area, opening the small refrigerator door. He looked inside then slammed it shut. He opened the cabinet doors and took out a box of power bars.
"This is it? This all you got to eat?"
She said nothing. Had nothing to say.
"Ziva," he said.
She kept her head down. He put his hands on her upper arms and pulled her close.
"Ziva, you got to take care of yourself. You got to eat and sleep."
Nodding into his chest she kept silent.
"Someone will be here tonight with food. You eat and then you sleep. Or you're going back to Ducky's."
He hugged her tighter.
"Yes, Gibbs. I understand," she finally said.
Patting her back as he pulled away he gave her one final hard look, opened the door and left, closing it firmly behind him.
She went to the bed and lay down, curled into a ball and cried into her pillow.
It sounded like someone was trying to kick her door down.
"Ziva, hey Ziva! Open up. My hands are full."
Tony's voice broke through the fear that had frozen her in place. Tony was here.
She opened the door. He had several plastic bags looped over his wrists and hands and a pizza box.
"Take the pizza. It's slipping," he gasped.
She did as he asked and he gave her a big grin.
"Thanks. I hated the thought of that winding upside down on the sidewalk. The smell of it was driving me crazy. I'm starvin' like Lee Marvin."
He set the bags on the counter and started pulling out groceries.
"Tony," she said.
"You know, I got some cheese and milk and eggs, bread, peanut butter. Staples."
"Tony," she tried again.
"What say we just put up the cold stuff and then eat? My stomach's making noises a grizzly bear would envy."
She spoke louder, the loudest she'd spoken in…in a while.
"You do not have to do this, Tony. I am fine."
He set a box of teabags down and came toward her. Standing only inches from her he studied her face for long moments then he shook his head.
"No, you're not fine, Ziva. Even if Gibbs hadn't told me you weren't sleeping I can see it in your face. And it's obvious you're not eating. Your new clothes are baggy."
Not smiling now, his green eyes guileless.
"Please, you've got to take care of yourself."
She wanted to tell him she would. She wanted to tell him to leave her alone. She wanted to but she did not. She could no longer lie to him. Never again. So instead she walked away. He followed, putting his hand on her shoulder and turning her back to face him.
"And you've got to help me take care of myself."
That stopped her. Help take care of him? He smiled at her. Not his sexy, making women swoon smile, and not his hail fellow well met smile, but a genuine smile and seeing it now made her realize how rarely he truly smiled. It made her want to touch his face and before she could stop herself her hand had made its way to his cheek. She felt the prickles of his beard against her palm and the way the flesh moved as his smile widened. He put his hand over hers.
"Look at me, Ziva. I'm a mess. Since you moved into this godawful ugly apartment I haven't stopped thinking about you. Look at my face. I haven't slept in three nights. We have to get you a better place."
He confused her. Why was he talking about her apartment?
Moving her hand from his face he put it at his waist and drew her closer to him.
"I'm kidding. There's nothing really wrong with this place. It's adequate for right now but you do deserve better, much better. I'm dithering because I don't want to tell you why I can't sleep."
Looking up at him she saw the dark circles and the deepening lines at the corners of his eyes and around his mouth.
"Tony, I do not…"
He put a finger on her lips.
"So I was hoping you'd eat pizza with me tonight and you have to eat at least two pieces, big pieces. Then I was hoping you'd watch a screwball comedy with me, Bringing Up Baby with Hepburn and Grant. Fantastic movie. Funny as hell. And then I was hoping I could stay and sleep with you."
She tried to pull away but he wouldn't let go of her.
"Not sex, Ziva. Like we did at Ducky's. Sleeping. Holding onto each other. It's got to be the answer. I haven't slept more than a couple of hours a night since the last night I spent with you there. Please! I need your help, let me stay the night."
This time when she stepped back he let her. She turned and walked away from him a few steps and stopped. There were thoughts, feelings tumbling inside her but she could not begin to put a name to them. She knew he wanted to be there with her so she would sleep. But she also knew he told the truth about his own lack of rest, about needing to be there. She knew she needed him but now she might almost believe he needed her too.
Nodding slowly she said, "Why not start with the pizza and see what happens, Tony? I think I can eat a least one big piece."
The real smile came back and he hurried to get the pizza served.
An hour later they were lying in her secondhand bed watching Cary Grant walk behind Katherine Hepburn in an effort to save her modesty as the back of her skirt had torn off and her old-fashioned undies were showing. They were propped up on her pillows or rather Tony was propped up on all the pillows and she had her head resting on his shoulder trying to keep her eyes open. The movie really was funny. She felt him move, reaching over her. He pulled the blanket up around them. Lifting her head she wanted to tell him thank you but he just pushed her gently back down on his shoulder. Yawning he hit the off button on the remote and then turned out the bedside light.
"We can finish it tomorrow. Sleep tight, Ziva," he said and kissed her forehead. Keeping an arm around her shoulder he carried her with him as he squirmed down into the bed until he was almost flat, leveling out the pillows. He turned on his side facing her, moving her head to a more comfortable position and basically adjusting her to his satisfaction like he had the pillows. Then he sighed and in a couple of minutes she heard his breathing change and then the lightest snore. Snuggling a little bit closer she smiled and closed her eyes, safe for the night.