Post "Truth or Consequences" so SPOILERS for that episode.

Tim offers some wise words to Tony after their return to NCIS with a damaged but very much alive Ziva.

I do not own NCIS or any part thereof.

Words of Wisdom, Words of Comfort

Tim waited until it was just him and Tony in the squadroom. The opportunity came when Ducky insisted on examining Ziva down in Autopsy and Abby went with them. She wouldn't or couldn't let go of Ziva yet. Vance had called Gibbs into his office. Pushing back his chair, Tim made his way to Tony's desk and stood there silently until his presence was noticed.

"You want something, McGee?"

There was nothing friendly or welcoming in Tony's voice. His jaw was clenched so tightly his teeth didn't part as he spoke. Had been that way since they'd boarded the plane for the return trip and Ziva'd remained silent, sitting between her teammates with Gibbs across from them. She was exhausted, they all saw it, but she wouldn't relax. Wouldn't sleep. When she would eventually weaken and nod off she'd slump toward one or the other of them but the minute flesh touched flesh she'd start up with a gasp, her body tensed for a blow that never came. And every time she did Tony would close his eyes as if in pain.

"You wanna get a drink or something?"

Tony looked up at him and for a second his aspect softened but almost immediately the emotional shell hardened again.

"Nah, thanks. I think I'll hang around here for a while."

Taking pity on his teammate Tim put his hands on Tony's desk and leaned over to him.

"I heard Ducky say she was going home with him tonight. She'll be taken care of, Tony."

After a moment Tony's shoulders slumped. Tim could almost hear the creak as his jaw muscles relaxed.

"I think you need to go somewhere and tie one on, Tony. I think you need to realize that you've brought her back, realize she's alive, and maybe, maybe even realize exactly what you told her while you were under the influence of Saleem's truth juice cocktail."

Tony's head jerked back and his voice came out hoarsely.

"What are you talking about, McGee?"

Standing up straight again Tim looked down on his friend.

"You know what you said, Tony. You basically told her you loved her. Told her you couldn't live without her."

Tim remembered hearing those words forced from Tony under the influence of the drugs running through his veins and thinking the crap had finally hit the fan. Understood how Ziva's non reaction must have hurt him after all the two had been through together. He could only imagine what Tony must have felt, must be feeling now.

Crossing his arms on the desk, Tony put his head down on them, hiding his face from Tim.

"C'mon, Tony. Let's get a drink. It'll make it a little easier, at least tonight."

Tony's voice was muffled.

"I don't even know if she really understood what I said, Tim. She's broken. She's not our Ziva."

He faltered then snarled.

"I only wish I could bring that bastard back to life and kill him again and again for what he did to her. He hurt her so bad, Tim."

Tony's voice cracked. Tim squatted, setting his backpack on the floor by him. He took time to consider carefully his next words.

"I think," he paused. "I think we're going to have to take it one day at a time right now, Tony. She's not processing things like she did. But our Ziva, YOUR Ziva, she's still in there. She's still in there! You got to believe that. We just have to be here when she needs us and we have to give her space too. It's not going to be an easy recovery for her or for us. She'll need you. More than she's ever needed you before."

He stood up.

"But tonight she's in the care of Ducky and Abby and they're not going to let go of her. They love her. We all love her, you know? Maybe not like you do but we all love her. She's part of us."

Tony finally looked up and Tim saw tear streaks catch the light.

"So tonight, my friend, we're going to go and get drunk and if Gibbs has to come and get us, then he'll have to come and get us. We did a hard job well, Tony. We did it. We got her back. Alive. Damaged but alive. And, to quote a cliché, while there's life there's hope. "

He stopped and when he spoke again his voice was deeper, more intimate, filled with sorrow, "Where there was no fucking hope before."

Wiping his sleeve across his face, Tony nodded decisively.

"You're right, Tim."

He stood up and grabbed his backpack. Tim picked up his as well. When Tony came from behind his desk he slapped Tim on the shoulder.

"Thanks, Friend Probie. You're right."

They walked side by side to the elevator. As the door opened Tony turned to him.

"I hate when you're right," and smiled, a small smile but nevertheless a smile.

Tim smiled back.