Chapter Three

Tony sat on the couch, not really knowing what to do. If he went to talk to her, she might shoot him. If he left a plate out by the bedroom, she might shoot him. If he knocked on the door, she might shoot him. His options for consolation were highly limited. He couldn't exactly blame her though – Ziva had seen a lot in those three months and she had survived. Tony began to wonder if, in her shoes, he would have been strong enough to do the same.

The bedroom door creaked open and Ziva came out into the living room in an over-sized sweatshirt and jeans. She walked over to the couch and sat down next to him.

"I am sorry."

"Hmm?"

"I am sorry," Ziva sighed, defeated once again, "I shouldn't be angry at you but I am. It's just…it's easier for me to be angry than to show weakness, Tony."

"Hey, whatever way you deal with this is fine by me, just as long as you deal with it. Zi, you know I meant what I said, right? When I said I couldn't live without you?'

"Tony…"

"I had been given truth serum – I couldn't lie, Zi. I meant what I said."

Ziva fell silent, she stared down at her hands, folded neatly in her lap. To be perfectly honest, Ziva wasn't sure she could have lived without Tony. The thought of him was what kept her going, at least the first couple of weeks. When things began to look hopeless, she began to think that he had given up on her. But he hadn't. He had risked his own life to save hers and Ziva just couldn't understand that.

"Why do you care so much about me, Tony? I do not deserve to be treated this way. I have been nothing but cruel towards you and yet, you have shown me nothing but kindness. I do not understand why."

"Honestly," Tony grinned, "I don't really understand why either."

"Well I think I am going to get some sleep. I will see you in the morning."

"Sure thing," Tony stood up and followed her to the bedroom to grab his pillow and a blanket.

"I am sorry for throwing you out of your bed," Ziva tried her best at an apology. It wasn't easy but she was honestly trying to be kinder to Tony. He hadn't deserved the way she had treated him.

"Don't mention it. Get some sleep, Zi."

"You too, Tony."

After he left, Ziva turned off the light and gently lifted the covers. She slipped in between the comforter and the sheets, relishing in the crisp, refreshing bedding. It had been so long since she had had a good night's rest and she silently prayed that tonight they wouldn't come.

They haunted her sleep, eating away at her memory. With each shut of her eyes, she was transported back to that room, in that cell, upon that chair. The sack upon her head, the knife against her flesh. It was a nightmare she would never awake from.

Slowly she placed her head upon the pillow and breathed in the scent of aftershave – cinnamon and mint and musk. She had never noticed the scent before until now and Ziva couldn't help but find it comforting. Like a familiar friend that she had long-since taken for granted.

While Ziva fell asleep, Tony was lying awake on the couch. He would never admit this to her, but the couch was highly uncomfortable in regards to sleeping. Too many knots, bumps, and pressure points. At least, Tony tried to blame his discomfort on the couch. In reality, the thought of Ziva in his bed was the most terrifying thing. She was asleep where he slept, her head on his pillow. The thought was nerve-racking.

Ziva couldn't sleep. The concrete flooring was hard, cold, and uncomfortable. She had gotten used to her stench and her discomfort but she doubted she would ever grow accustomed to the lack of sleep. It had been a month and she hadn't slept at all.

The door creaks open and Sallim walks in, strutting over towards her. He gives her a kick to her ribs and she doubles over in pain. She is broken.

"Wake up," he orders. Ziva opens her eyes and stares at him, as if trying to make out an unfamiliar shape, a shadow of a man.

"Now then, you are going to tell me just where exactly your team is."

"I have told you," Ziva replied weakly, "I do not know."

"See, I just do not believe that. Now you have one more chance."

Ziva couldn't answer his question, she wouldn't even if she had known. This was her pain to endure, her punishment for everything she had ever done: for not being loyal to NCIS, for not trusting Gibbs, for almost killing Tony, for not being there for Abby, for everything.

She hardly even felt the pain as the knife sliced into her flesh. It was too familiar.

Ziva awoke with a start, letting out a gasp and glancing around the room, trying to remember exactly where she was. She was in the dark, alone. The bed was unfamiliar and the dresser. Where was she? As if suddenly hit by recognition, she shouted, "TONY!"

That was all Tony needed – that single cry – and he was off the couch and running into his bedroom. Ziva was sitting up in bed, a look of panic upon her face. He flipped the light on and went her.

"Zi, what's wrong?"

"I-I had another nightmare," she answered, ashamed with herself for being so weak. She had needed him, cried out to him. The humiliation was cutting.

"Oh, Zi," Tony let out a sympathetic sigh as he sat down on the bed next to her.

"It happens every night," she admitted, "I-I haven't slept in months, Tony. I fear…I fear I never will be able to. The memories are constantly with me, constantly reminding me of what happened there – the pain, the suffering. I can't escape from it."

"Shh," Tony wrapped his arms around her and realized that she was quaking. His jaw firmed with anger towards Sallim, "Zi, you're safe now, alright? I'm here and I am not going to ever let something hurt you – do you understand?"

Ziva nodded and allowed her head to rest against his chest as he rocked her gently in his arms. He wasn't exactly sure what to do except be there and protect her. He couldn't erase the memories but he could at least be there for her to help her get through them.

"Do you want me to stay with you?" Tony asked.

She nodded again. Quietly, Tony turned off the light and crawled into bed next to her. She nestled against him, relishing the comfort of him next to her. His presence was the biggest comfort, the greatest solace. And for the first time in three months, Ziva David fell asleep –

- in the arms of Anthony DiNozzo.