A/N: OK , this really is the last chapter I'm going to add to this. Honest.

Little bit of borrowed dialogue from Truth or Consequences but of course everything still belongs to CBS and those lucky people that actually own NCIS... *sigh*

Gibbs looked up, his eyes falling on the still form standing silhouetted in the basement doorway, and a slow smile pulled at the corners of his lips. There was only one person he knew that carried themselves as if there were a threat around every corner, in every dark recess, behind every door. There was only one person on his team that was still that thin after their skirmish into the Sahara desert. Another small smile graced Gibbs' face as he remembered a conversation with DiNozzo...

You know, in Arabic the word for desert is 'Sahara'... So Sahara desert is actually Desert desert... Lot of sand...

The sanding blocked slipped from his hand, clattering to the floor with the paper fluttering close behind it. He swore softly and then bent down to pick it up, his back grateful for an excuse to stretch out of its hunched position. The figure took one tentative step down into the gloominess, making the wood creak, but still Gibbs did not acknowledge the visitor, instead grabbing the nearest rag and carefully covering the lump of wood he had been working on.

"Always let the frightened animal come to you, Leroy. Do it on their terms; don't force the action..." His father's words of wisdom pushed through Gibbs' thoughts, fighting their way to the fore, capturing his attention. Gibbs drained the mason jar of Bourbon then turned to face his late-night visitor.

After another moment of silence with the silhouette standing stock-still on the stairs, there was a series of creaks and then she stopped, flicking the light switch and standing on the concrete floor, her fear barely concealed behind her feigned confidence and darting, astute eyes. "I hope I am not... intruding, Gibbs." Her voice was so quiet, so timid – her usual blunt self-belief gone – that Gibbs looked up at her in surprise, his eyebrows climbing. "Intruding?" With a small shake of his head, the Marine added, "No, Ziva, you're not." He stepped away from the bench and rolled his shoulders with a groan. "It's just— I was— the light—" The words tumbled hurriedly from Ziva's mouth and only clamping her hand over it stopped the stream of nervous babble. Gibbs took a couple of steps towards her but halted instantly when she flinched away, erecting old barriers she thought had been stripped away from her in that desert camp. Gibbs looked thoughtful for a moment then smiled kindly as if there had been no reaction. "You're more than welcome to stay here, Ziva... If that's what you want and feel comfortable—" A raised hand stopped Gibbs in the middle of this rare invitation into his home. Surprised, he stared at the pale arm, scarred and emaciated – a little of her muscle tone had been built up in the weeks she spent in hospital but it still was not the same. "Gibbs, I would not wish to burden you with my... problems... If I stay, neither of us will get much sleep." At Gibbs' raised eyebrow, Ziva scowled, which only made his amusement greater. "I suffer siyút... nightmares, as you would say..." she continued, her eyes boring holes deep into the concrete flooring.

Slowly, so as not to spook her, Gibbs stepped closer and placed a calloused finger under her chin, gently lifting it until she looked at him. He was surprised that she had not recoiled or attacked him, but she still looked guarded and frightened. Instead of closing off his emotions, Gibbs dropped his own mental barriers, letting Ziva read him. "You're not the only one, Ziva..." Blushing slightly – a new side to the Mossad assassin – Ziva nodded as though she understood, as if she had known since the first time they met, in fact. "Kelly... Shannon..." It was a hesitant question, gently teasing the conversation away from her own frailties, but Gibbs met it head on, his voice steady and authoritative, "No. You, Ziva. Ever since we left you in Israel." He stopped and took a sudden, deep breath, puffing it out slowly as he thought of what next to say, knowing exactly where this was leading. "If I had chosen you over DiNozzo, you would never—"

"Gibbs. Stop. Do not second-guess your decision, it is not—" Gibbs opened his mouth to speak again but Ziva raised a hand, keeping him quiet. "When you left me in Israel I felt... betrayed... But if you had not left me in Israel, left me with my father, I would not have learnt who I could trust... and who I could not," Ziva continued, stepping away from Gibbs and perching on the wooden stairs, her elbows resting heavily on her knees as she stared at the floor. "I know that you did what was best, for the team. I understand that now." Briefly looking up from the floor, Ziva studied Gibbs' face. He looked calm, relieved even, standing there in his basement, but did not say anything. Stiffly, Ziva stood and made to walk up the steps, understanding that Gibbs would most likely want to be alone to process everything she had told him. "I will go..."

Her foot was on the next step when his voice called her back. "Ziva, my offer still stands." Momentarily, Ziva was confused but then she remembered the rest of their conversation. "It's a long drive back to the lodge," he offered gruffly, with a small, defensive shrug. Ziva nodded gratefully, conceding that the Marine was right – as usual – and, taking a deep, calming breath, stepped out of the way, allowing Gibbs to warily brush past her on his way up the stairs. Despite all her 'positive thinking', Ziva's breath hitched as he passed her and she froze, resisting the urge to push her father-figure away from her. Noticing her discomfort, Gibbs chose to ignore it completely and carried on striding up the steps. He reached the top step, turned back to smile reassuringly at the young woman standing tensely at the bottom, and asked, "Coffee?"

Her fear quashed by Gibbs' attempt at normality, Ziva nodded once then followed behind him. "Coffee."

A/N: Thanks for sticking with me through these and I hope you enjoyed them. Please leave a review and give me some feedback on this.

For those of you waiting for my next multi-chapter, I promise I'm writing it at the moment. It's just that schoolwork has been catching up with me lately and... /continues rant for a long time