"Gibbs." Ziva nodded slightly at him as he tucked his camouflage helmet under his arm and took up the rear of their staggering procession, obviously prepared to catch the first of the three of them to lose their balance on their way to their evac plane.
Supporting her on her right was Tony, who, despite his battered face and the occasional wooziness the truth serum was causing, seemed fairly steady on his feet. On her left was McGee, who looked somewhat worse for wear and had obviously been kicked hard in the leg, among other places; he was limping and trying to hide it.
She was thankful for their presence under her arms; without them she would have had to crawl out of that cesspit of a camp they'd kept her in. Ziva's legs were as bruised as the rest of her, but it was the lack of food and the sudden discharge of adrenaline when Salim had held that knife to her neck that had rendered her hardly able to stand.
"You two take a break," Gibbs said from behind them. "I'll take her."
DiNozzo started to protest, but a look from Gibbs quieted him and he moved aside as the older man slid an arm around Ziva's waist and took her weight from him and McGee. "Ya could have called, Ziva," Gibbs teased quietly.
"I am sorry, Gibbs." She took a breath, held it, then let it out. "You did not need to come here. You thought I was dead, but you still risked your lives. Why?"
"Didn't Tony tell you?" He smiled slightly. "Vengance."
They piled into the transport plane, McGee and Gibbs on one bench and Ziva and Tony across from them on the other. "You are alright?" she asked shortly when she noticed DiNozzo wince as the plane shook under them.
"Oh, just fine. I was about used to my arm being broken anyway, what's a few more months."
She raised her eyebrows and, before he could stop her, took hold of his arm, giving it an experimental squeeze.
"Ow! What the -" He yanked it back with a yelp.
Across from them, McGee watched his partner cry out and opened his mouth to intervene.
"Leave it," Gibbs ordered out of the side of his mouth.
"But she's -"
"She's checking out his arm, McGee."
"Looks more like she's trying to re-break it for him. Maybe she's still mad about -"
"If she wanted to kill him, she'd have done it in Israel four months ago. Leave them alone."
McGee sighed. "Yes, boss."
"It is not broken," Ziva announced, releasing Tony's arm. "Just bruised badly."
"How would you know? Did you become a doctor in the four months since we've talked to you?"
She glared. "There are no medical schools in terrorist camps. I know because there is no grating when I squeeze your arm." When he started to protest, she added, "And because your face is not the color it was when you broke it last time."
"Hm." It was on the tip of his tongue to comment on what, exactly, had happened 'last time', but he thought better of it and instead leaned his head back against the wall of the plane, staring into space. "You ok? I mean, more or less?"
"I am fine."
"We practically had to carry you out of there," he commented mildly, still not looking at her.
"If you had been starved and beaten for three months, you would have had to be carried out of there, too," she snapped. "I am fine."
"Want something to drink?"
Despite her attempts at self-control, her eyes lit up at the offer. "Yes! I feel I like have been thirsty for longer than I can remember."
"Yeah, me too. And it was only a day for me." He smiled slightly and reached under the seat for his gear. "I only brought one bottle, hope you don't mind sharing." He popped open the top on the sports bottle and handed it to her.
She took a long drink, for what seemed like hours to her dry mouth, then handed it back to him, gasping. "That is delicious."
"It's just water."
"I do not care. It is delicious. Now, drink your share before I finish it all."
Tony tilted the bottle to the side, eyeing the amount remaining. "You almost did. But damn, I'm going to enjoy the two sips you left me." Closing his eyes, he made a show of doing just that, then wiped his mouth, closed the bottle, and tossed it at McGee, who had just opened a book.
The lightweight bottle hit the younger man on the shoulder. McGee looked up, surprised, then picked up the bottle and held it out to Tony. "Is there a reasonyou just threw this at my head?"
"Yeah, Probie. Exchange. Gimme yours."
"And why would I do that?"
Tony smiled slyly and played his trump card. "Because Ziva's thirsty."
As expected, McGee dropped his protest and reached for the bottle sticking out of his gear. He handed the bottle across the aisle to her with an apologetic smile. "Sorry we didn't bring one for you. If we'd known we were on a rescue mission, we would have. Uh, not that we're not glad to have been wrong."
Ziva accepted the bottle, smiled at him, and opened it.
"No more for you, Ziva," Gibbs spoke up, holding up a warning finger at her. "There's no doctor on this plane, and the only head is plastic bottles."
"It is not for me, anyway," she replied, and passed the bottle to Tony.
He grinned at McGee and opened the bottle. "Thanks, Probie."
"I drank his, McGee."
Tony took a triumphant sip, then paused, holding the bottle out to Ziva again. "Sure you don't want more?" he asked, gesturing to her with the bottle.
Gibbs raised his eyebrows at him. "I said she doesn't get any more, DiNozzo."
"Right. Right, boss." He took another sip and set the bottle on the bench between him and Ziva.
Gibbs nodded. "Settle in, folks. We've got ten hours before we're on the ground." And with that, he leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and slept.
Tony dozed off, finally paying the price for the chemical cocktail he had managed to fight off until they were safely on the plane. He slept a deep, dreamless sleep until, hours later, he became aware of something tickling his nose.
Suddenly afraid that the rescue had been a dream and he was about to be tortured, he threw a hand up to block whatever was coming at him. His wrist smashed into something bony, and Tony cracked open his eyes.
It took him a second to interpret the mass of brown stuff half-covering his eyes, and then he realized it was hair. Ziva's hair. She, too, had apparently given in to sleep, and ended up with her head against his cheek. Which meant what he had just punched was...her jaw.
He opened his eyes the rest of the way and braced himself, preparing for her retaliatory strike, but none came. Ziva remained limp against his shoulder. Worried, he lifted his head and elbowed her gently. "Ziva." No response. He elbowed her a bit harder. "Ziva? You ok?"
She mumbled something in Hebrew, shifted her weight, missed his shoulder, and landed in his lap, apparently still asleep.
Tony stared down at her for a moment, wondering how exhausted a Mossad officer must have to be to sleep through being punched and then elbowed.
Then he thought about the fact that Ziva's head was in his lap, and couldn't resist. Carefully, he reached his free hand into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. A few button presses, and he aimed the phone downward to capture the image he knew she'd kill him if she ever saw. He checked the stored image, smiled, and put the phone back into his pocket.
"Ziva's gonna kill you," McGee spoke up from across the aisle, startling Tony, who had assumed everyone else was asleep.
He jerked his head up and stared at the other man. "You saw nothing. You hear me, Probie? Nothing."
"Right. Nothing," McGee commented skeptically. "You know, Tony, I'd have thought that even you would have respect for a little while considering we just raised her from the dead."
"I have respect!" he protested. "I respect this awesome shot I just got, for one."
"You're not even the slightest bit relieved? Glad to see her? Aware of the fact that she was tortured for three months?"
Tony narrowed his eyes. "Of course I am. But I'm not the one who's been hoarding bikini shots of her for years!"
McGee rolled his eyes, but admitted defeat. "Fine. I won't tell her. But I'm not gonna protect you when she finds out anyway."
"Deal." He looked down at the woman sleeping in his lap, then back up at McGee. "Now go to sleep."
McGee blinked. "I'm not tired."
"Not a request, McGeek. Sleep, now."
McGee spared him another roll of his eyes, then made a show of closing them. "I hear a camera shutter go off, our deal's off, Tony."
"Yeah, yeah. I want to hear you snoring within five minutes."
"I'm not the one that snores. Ziva told me that you -"
Tony gave him the five minutes he'd allotted and then, gratified to hear a gentle snore out of the other man's mouth, smiled. "Ziva?" he whispered, so low he could hardly hear himself.
As he'd expected, he got no response.
Safe. He set to work, beginning a careful, gentle examination of what he could see of her. No bruise was rising where he had accidentally hit her, and that was good. She had a large cut on her forehead. A black eye. A small slice on her neck where the terrorist's knife had slipped. A goose egg on the back of her head. Scrapes on both arms. He paused, checked her face again to be sure she was asleep, and eased her shirt up an inch. As he'd suspected, bruises covered what he could see of her ribs. He could guess at the state of her legs by how weak they'd been as he and McGee helped her out of the terrorist camp.
In short, she was a mess - but nothing appeared to be life-threatening. He touched her cheek, feeling the roughness of the skin where it had scabbed over, wishing they had gone after her months ago. Wondering why they hadn't, and whether it had, somewhere underneath, been because he had been so resentful of her anger. He wondered whether this failure would be added to the list of things she blamed him for.
He let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding and allowed himself another whisper: "What the hell were you thinking, Ziva?"
He froze in shock when she answered him in an equally low voice. "I was thinking that when I find out why I am face-down in your lap, I will decide then whether to castrate you."
Tony winced and wedged a hand under her side, helping her sit up. "You fell there yourself, thank you very much. You sleep hard, Officer David."
She leaned back against the seat and nodded, accepting that. "I have not slept for more than a few minutes at a stretch for months. This was perhaps inevitable. I apologize for falling on you." She paused, then asked cautiously, "I did not, what do you call it, 'drool' on you, did I?"
They both looked down at his crotch, checking for drool spots, then back up at each other. "Nah," he grinned. "But if you had, I'd treasure it always."
"So, uh," Tony ventured, "how do you feel?"
"I am fine, Tony. Why do you keep asking me that?"
"Um, I don't know, maybe because until a few hours ago we thought you were dead? And then we found out you'd been held captive at a freaking terrorist training camp? And because you look like someone's been working you over with a baseball bat the whole time?"
Ziva cocked her head to the side, then smiled slightly. "Good point. I promise you, Tony, I feel better now than I have since I left Washington."
He couldn't help himself. He made a comical show of preening and said, "I assume that has something to do with your getting eight hours of sleep in my lap."
She didn't argue with his joke, just said, "That, and the fact that, unlike my hosts for the past few months, I do not believe that you want me dead."
He paused, swallowing. "No, I don't. You know that. On the other hand, the last time I saw you, I'm pretty sure you wanted me dead."
There, the words were out. Anyone with half a brain wouldn't have said them now, with both of them beaten and exhausted, but then, he was sure Ziva would agree that he lacked significantly more than half a brain. So he'd said them, and now they hung in the air between them.
"Michael," she said softly.
He nodded. "Michael."
She sighed. "Michael is dead. I believed I was too. I had little to do for the last few months but think." She paused, licking her dry lips. Tony offered her the bottle of water that lay between them, and she took a sip and then continued. "Michael should not be dead. I should not be alive. And neither of those should be blamed entirely on you."
Tony took that in, tried to process it, failed. "Meaning...?"
"You do not shoot people because they are your rivals, Tony. Or because they taunt you without a weapon in their hands. I have worked with you long enough to know that. I...have come to accept that Michael must have attacked you. You shot him, yes. But there must have been something that made you have to do it. Now, I am angry at the world. I blame you. I blame him. I blame me."
He blinked. "You can't blame yourself. You didn't do -"
"I do blame myself. I brought the two of you together."
"Look, Ziva -"
She held up a hand, cutting off what he had been about to say. "Don't. I will survive without whatever you feel you must say.." She lifted her head, looked directly into his eyes, and said it again, fiercely, as if to convince both herself and him. "I will survive." And with that, she looked away from him, tucked her head into her shoulder, and closed her eyes.
Tony watched her sleep, or pretend to, for the rest of the flight home. He didn't know if he'd been forgiven or not. And he wasn't going force her to raise the issue again. He was just going to have to...wait. He could keep an eye on her, make sure she was safe, without her knowing. He'd been doing it for years.