There are some things that I will never say. Some truths that it would only cause hurt if shared. So I will keep my secrets and deal with the aftermath in the only way I know how.
I am not trying to be a martyr; do not claim to be a hero; I have done nothing to deserve the epithet nor the acclaim. There are others who deserve the title, others who have suffered and endured more than I could ever take
I do not have their fortitude.
The indignities I suffered were as nothing to that which was inflicted upon them and I am humbled by their bravery. They looked death in the eye and did not flinch, their bodies bloodied and broken but their will intact.
I was chosen for a different torment. I was the weak link. They did not want me for the information I could reveal. I was the spare, a side player kept in reserve for if their first choice proved too tough a nut to crack.
They kept us separate and while I was occasionally given a canteen of brackish water and a small loaf of hard dark bread my partner was not. I was kept blindfolded, trussed and gagged but from the sounds filtering into my bare dusty cell he was not; I could hear his screams and his taunts, his pleading for water, their smug denials.
He resisted, as I knew he would.
My torment was silenced, screamed into a filthy rag. He did not have to witness my degradation and for that I am grateful. . .the body heals, the mind locks away that which is too painful to remember.
The words I will never say.
And when they could not get what they wanted from him through violence they changed tack. They threw me into his cell, trussed up like a Christmas turkey, a last careless kick to the kidneys to keep me in my place, dimly baring witness as he took on four of them but he had no real chance to resist, too weakened by pain and thirst they had him secured to a chair before they had even broken sweat.
Truth serum, a pharmacological cocktail. . .and still he resisted and defied with movie quotes and carefully selected half truths; goading, pushing, taunting . . .angering.
Ziva. Alive! Barely. An empty shell, though I do not realise that until later.
A helicopter, a cargo plane and a Lear-jet; three steps home. . .three silent steps home. There are no words. What can you possibly say in the face of the unimaginable?
Tony sleeps off the residual effects of drugs and captivity.
Gibbs just sleeps.
And Ziva. . . huddles into a corner, clutching a bottle of water as though it is the only thing keeping her alive, flinching from touch and avoiding eye contact, refusing medical attention.
I keep watch over then all, pinching myself awake when exhaustion tries to pull me under.
It is Abby who finally gets close enough to do what we all have wanted to do, a female presence finally tolerated sufficiently to offer the comfort of caring arms. . .but her eyes are still dead and we all know it.
The applause hurts because we are back together but still broken, still mired in the dust and the sweat and the filth of the desert.
They usher her away to Bethesda to get her put back together. . .the whole team with a vacuum at its center. I leave a note on my desk, even though the contents are a lie but I do not want them to worry, there has been enough of that to last us all a lifetime.
I shower in the locker-room, scrubbing away the dust and the filth until my skin is scalded and raw and all that is left are the bruises and the pain, sanitised by sandlewood and hidden beneath soft but faded sweats.
I choose a different hospital; tell my tale of assault, of bruised kidneys and bloody urine. They take bloods, swabs, perform x-rays and scans, prescribe prophylactic shots and pills and recommend counselling.
I take leave; a week with my family to allow the bruises to fade and the truth to be expunged. There is a de-brief when I return and by then the team are finally back together even though Ziva will be on desk duties for the foreseeable future.
She is changed; still empty, still broken, a soulless shadow of her former self; more gentle, more fragile.
And sometimes I see a glimpse of understanding when she catches my eye; she was in their clutches for months, me, only days, but I think she knows.
But she will never ask
And I will never tell.
Shireling Sept 26th 2009