Ohkay, this is my first NCIS fic, although I've pretty much read all the ones on here lol. uhh, it took me since last Wednesday to write it, and I put a lotta effort into it, so I hope you enjoy it. I have watched the premiere about 20,000 times, and it still makes me geek out. Yup. Oh, I don't know if this is going to be a one chap fic or multi chap fic. Not sure yet, just need to figure it out. I feel as though it ends like a one shot, but there is a few things that could still be addressed. Not sure tho.

BON APPETIT!!!

The burlap sack was whipped off her head as her body tensed. Ziva's head snapped up, ready for whatever her captors had planned next. A breath escaped her lips, as a course of adrenaline rushed through her veins, followed by anger. Was it not enough that they beat her starved her, tortured her, that they had to bring him. Him.

Her heart fluttered as they locked eyes. After all that had happened months ago, worlds away, after Rivkin, and the fight, and her putting her damn gun to his chest, he was looking at her like that. Tony's eyes were soft, happy, and yet so sad. She wanted to see the anger, the hate that she deserved, that she had dwelled upon all these months in her dark dungeon when she had come to the fact that she would die.

Tony's eyes trailed over her face, and held back tears. Her hair fell in oily locks around her cheeks, and bruises littered her skin. She was at least fifteen pounds too thin, and he hated to see the pain that was so clearly coursing through her body. Ziva looked so young, scared, unsure; and yet it was as if she had aged five years in less than five months. He couldn't decide. The dark circles, the cracked lips, just made him want to hold her, make sure she was real. She was dead, and now she wasn't, and his brain was on glue. And yet she was looking at him as though he ought to be pitied; as if his dirt and cuts were so much worse than hers- as if he was the one who had been held captive for months.

"So, how was your summer?" The words escaped him before he could stop them, stop the bitterness, the melancholy that they dripped with.

Ziva looked down, as he fought the smile off his face-She's alive!­-, "Out of all of the people in the world who could have found me, it had to be you?"

She knew he was going to die, that they were both going to die. It was just a question of when. Guilt wracked her body- he was here for her, and now his life was going to be cut short, because of her stubbornness, idiocy for leaving them. He was willing to risk his life for that?

He nodded, "You're welcome. So you glad to see me?" Her eyes were so dull, lifeless.

She shook her head, "You should not have come." The words struck in his heart, and he passed off the pain that crossed his face as feigned. Did she really not want to see him, after what he had done? Would she really rather die?

"Alright then, good catching up, I'll be going now. Oh, oh yeah, I forgot-taken prisoner." His sarcasm was dully noted, and somewhat unappreciated. Did he not understand that he was probably living out his last moments? That he really was going to die by Saleem's hand right after he killed her?

"Are you alright, McGee?" Tony had to smile, even if just a little bit. Typical the ninja chick would know that McGee was not only alive and breathing, but conscious. That girl had a sixth sense for stuff like that.

"I'm just glad you're alive." The words were true, if not only for the fact that he could just not be Tony's only friend anymore. He loved Ziva, like a sister, but would be able to move on from her death, just like he had with Kate. Tony, however, would not. You don't get over losing your soul mate.

"You thought I was dead?" Gibbs' words flashed through his brain, and he remembered the pain of that day- hazy, blinding pain. Tony was a shell on that day, and the day after, and the day after…

"Oh, oh yeah."

"Then why are you here?" Why would they be here other than to rescue her? If she was dead, if they truly thought she had departed this world, there would be no operation needed to save her.

"Well, McGee…McGee didn't think you were dead-," Clearly, the sarcasm. The lack of the whole answer. It pissed her off.

"Tony, why are you here?" Her tone reminded him of years ago, when she was being Ziva- the real one, not this dying beauty in front of him.

"Couldn't live without you, I guess…" The words made her eyes water, her chest constrict. She had never had someone willing to save her- they would have killed her off or forgotten her by now. Her father would have. And yet, the man who she had threatened with bodily harm after he was looking out for her, the man who she had fallen in love with unexpectedly, was here to save her. He was here to save her.

"So you will die with me. You should have left me alone." Maybe she didn't get how deep it would run if she had died? The cracks in his heart that would have more than likely killed him if he had failed to lay his eyes on her one more time?

"Okay, tried-couldn't. Listen, you should know I've taken some kind of truth serum, so if there's any question you don't want to know the answer to…" It was a warning, and an invitation. She could ask him if he loved her. But after all she had done to him, was this fair? Shouldn't he die with some dignity? Plus, it would be better if they remained in their separate worlds- She pretending he loved her, and him in blissful unawareness.

"I did not ask for anyone to put themselves in harms way for me. I do not deserve it." What a martyr. She could have pulled the trigger, killed him, and he was pretty sure his corpse would still be digging a tunnel to her prison cell. Even if she didn't deserve it, he still would. He loved her. She deserved it though- another lease on life- because she was Ziva. She was beautiful and smart and funny and perfect. Human, and so it was expected that she would make mistakes. He certainly had. Did she not realize that she was not machine? That she could not do everything correct? Neither of them could. If we were perfect, we would be back home, in love, happy, he thought. Not here. Not wondering what is going to happen. Not skirting around our feelings.

"So what you doing out here, some kind of monastic experience? Doing penance?" No, she thought, I'm suffering the consequences of my actions.

"It is justified." Ziva was gone, wasn't she? She had left, and in her place was this hollow girl who had given up hope so long ago. What had these monsters done to her? She didn't want to live anymore, and he wanted to tell her that it was okay, it would all be okay. It wasn't what the real Ziva wanted to hear, however, so he settled on harsh humor and honesty.

"Get over yourself." It was typical of his nature to respond with sarcasm. However, Tony, she thought, had changed. He looked a little worse for the- white? Winter? Something with a 'w'- under the grime. Like he had seen the end of the world, and been changed. Had she done that to him? Had her apparent death really destroyed him all that much? Or was it just everything she had done to him beforehand? It pushed hope further out of her mind.

"I have. Now you tell Saleem everything he wants to hear, and you try to save yourselves. I am ready to die." It was honest. She had accepted the fact months ago. Ziva was not someone worth saving. She had taken over Michael's spot in the Kidon simply because she knew it was a dangerous mission. It was not fair to kill two innocent people because she had screwed up so awfully.

"That's not how it works." Said McGee. She was thrown off.

"How what works?"

"The plan."

"You have an escape plan?" He nodded "Tony, they have thirty men, heavily armed. They have anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. What do you have?" Typical Mossad instinct- to know how many guards, weapons, defenses were holding her back against the fresh air and freedom. It also disheartened him- she really would have died if Gibbs didn't get his gut feeling, if McGee and Abby hadn't been so eager to help, if Tony hadn't pushed to find her.

"Well that's where things get a little tricky."

"Wait. You got captured on purpose?" She had a look of incredulity upon her face, clearly baffled as to why Tony would do such a thing.

"Yeah."

"These men are killers, Tony." I know, he thought, they almost killed you. They almost took you away from me.

"I know. That's why we have to stay alive long enough to not get dead."

"That would involve being rescued." Maybe Tony did know what he was doing? Maybe NCIS and Marines were slowly infiltrating camp as they spoke. Maybe there was hope.

"Yes it would."

"How long will it take?" Freedom, she could almost taste it. It was almost there, tangible, ready for her. She didn't know if she was ready for it, or deserving of it, but dammit, she was going to see the sky one more time.

"I don't know, how long do you think I've been talking?"

"What's the plan?" Her words were concise, and Tony realized that she had actually believed him. But now, she feared that it was wrong what she had felt. Maybe he had no idea of what was going to happen.

"Well, we fail to contact Dubai, word gets to the carrier group…and how long that's going to take, I dunno- hours or days. Ziva, can you fight?"

Ziva's heart had stopped, had ceased. A tear rolled down her grubby cheek, as the possibility of her and Tony and Tim getting out of here alive was snatched away. For a brief, fleeting moment, she had seen the sun. There really was no hope.

And yet, only minutes later, Tim was cutting off her ropes, and Tony was helping her out of the chair. Her legs hurt so much- her entire body ached, really- and they propped her up in between them. Tony's fingers traced firm and delicate patterns upon her hip where he felt the bone that protruded sickly from her body. It was amazing, and surreal, and she was relieved and afraid of what would happen if he woke up and realized what she had done to him, if he let go. She would not be able to go on- physically and emotionally.

Her life depended completely upon him.

It was humbling, and yet, not as humbling as seeing Leroy Jethro Gibbs in his sniper fatigues, gun held down at an angle, face unreadable. He looked at her, and she wondered what he was thinking- she had always done so.

"Let's go home." She was happy that she was leaving this hole.

It would get better- hopefully.

Ziva had hope.


­­­­­­­­­­­

The plane ride had been uneventful. She had recounted her side of the story, and the three men recounted theirs. No emotion was shared, no blame was appointed. Ziva knew it was only time before they saw her as the enemy. But she was so very thankful that they had not turned on her yet. Gibbs, in his fatherly persona, listened to everything that had happened before Rivkin.

Ziva was not at all in fault. Everything she had done, was done on her father's orders via Michael. She did not know what was for Mossad or for Rivkin's personal gain, she probably never would. No one pointed fingers at her; they were just disappointed she had not kept them in the loop. She was more than disappointed in herself.

At sometime during the second flight, from Dubai to Rome, she had fallen asleep on the couch in the jet. The men all observed her, with the exception of Tim, who was dozing off his motion sickness.

"It was all my fault." Tony whispered, afraid to wake the newly freed captive.

Gibbs turned to him, raising an eyebrow.

"I killed him. I sent her away. I could have let him kill me."

"Then, DiNozzo, it would be Michael Rivkin alive. It does not mean that Ziva would not have been played or captured. And I don't think she'd be able to handle your death well at all. Might have to get vengeance."

Tony swallowed and nodded.

"She looks awful." His brow was furrowed, and he was gazing upon her snoring figure. McGee's nerdy watch beeped, like always, on the hour. Ziva shot off the couch, fists drawn, a crazed look in her eyes.

"Ziver," Gibbs stood up and slowly approached her, "It's alright. You're safe." And just as quick as the panic came, it went. Her eyes shot down, her body dejected, embarrassed.

"Sorry." It was merely a mumble.

"Don't apologize…"he growled then softened his voice, "Why don't you go wash your face?" She nodded, and left them for the bathroom.

Ziva's face, upon her return, barely looked any better. The circles under her eyes were still very pronounced, as the bruises and cracked lips were. Tony's lip quavered.

He didn't want to speak to her. She didn't want to speak to him. It was too soon, too raw, and so many things he had said needed explanation and understanding. She might decide to hate him, for everything he had done to her. He might hate her, might see her as a traitor. They would need time.

The jet landed in DC, and they got in the car back to the NCIS building without word- almost as if they had lost a comrade in the fight and were now paying silent respect. But it was true- they had lost something. Five months ago they had lost Ziva and their bond. It was not a victory, but more of a tragedy. Like Kate's death, pieces had to be picked up, glued, nurtured.

As the elevator approached the bullpen, Tony felt an insuppressible urge to talk, to make things like old times. What would everyone think if they came back from a rescue acting as though they had failed miserably?

"Just another day at the office," His tone was meant to be light, but it came out awkward, restrained and bleak. No one responded. The elevator doors opened, and Ziva let out a shutter. What would people think of her- the traitor? The helpless damsel? Gibbs sensed her unease- they all did- and when she failed to walk out the doors, he did so first. He would always have to be the mother duckling, wouldn't he? Gathering his children when they strayed, leading them out into the real world. It was okay though- this was his place, his family, his life. They were all he had left.

They were clapping now. Every person in the room was looking at her and clapping, as if she had just finished La Esmeralda en pointe. Ziva did not mean to notice- it was instinct to know what everyone in a space was doing, pick out the strays. Abby was standing next to Ducky. It was surreal.

Ducky, her grandpa, with a smile on his face, as though he was nothing but pleased she was back. Weren't grandpas supposed to scold you when you did wrong? And Abby, her sister and best friend. At least her reaction was more appropriate- hesitant, unsure, sad. Her hand came up and traced down Ziva's face- skirting over bruises and abrasions.

Before Ziva could respond, could apologize, she was in Abby's arms. It was the first time she felt home, and yet still guilty. Often Abby was left in the dark when it came to people being in danger or being a danger- what did she know? What did they not tell her?


"Thank you for letting me stay here," she said to Gibbs as they walked through his garage door into his kitchen.

He nodded and responded with, "Shower is third door on the left, your room is the door beyond that. I'll put some clean clothes on your bed." Gibbs continued on to his room, where he had a brisk shower. He laid a NCIS sweatshirt and some of his smaller pajama pants on her bed.

Walking past the bathroom door, he noticed the light was on, but the water was not running. She was inside, staring at her reflection. It was her, alright, she noticed the widow's peak, and the eye shape, and the lips from her former self. She knew that she would change- four months without looking at a mirror would shock anyone when they saw themselves again. She refused to look at herself in the mirror on the plane, afraid of what she would see, what the others would see when they looked at her.

The woman who looked back at her was just a skeleton. She could count the ribs from her collarbone down, see the death in her skin. Ripping her eyes away from the mirror, she turned on the water, and stepped in to the frigid stream. As soon as it was hot, almost too hot, she grabbed the soap off the shelf and scrubbed. It was harsh upon her hair- the bar of Lever- but it did its job, the black grime pooling at her feet. Her face was next, and she let out hisses as the suds soaked into a fresh cut. The bar skated over her collarbones, ribs, and over her nipples with the bruises and burn marks that surrounded them from her round with a car battery and its cables. She scrubbed at her arms, wincing but not giving into the pain.

It was funny, that after being home, being safe, she was still fighting not to give in to them- her dead captors. She still refused to show the real pain. Most would expect her to start crying in the privacy of the shower, but it was if the terrorists were still with her, still attached to her skin. She scrubbed with a new vigor, as though mere soap would kill 250-pound men.

The soap ran over her stomach- her once perfectly balanced tummy with steel muscle underneath, but with a nice layer of fill over it to not arouse suspicion when she had a target in the sheets-which was now concave with neither strength nor abundance. The bruises that littered her thighs in between her legs were still so damn tender, as was the ache in her womanhood, it hurt more than she could fathom. Cuts, all the way down her legs, still fresh singed with bitterness. She noticed the hair on her legs- how coarse and long it had become- and for a brief fleeting moment, wanted to shave off all of her hair- legs, head, pubic- if only the shower had been supplied with a razor.

She got to her toes, and started the process again.

Once she was finally clean, dried, and clothed, she went out into the living room to find Ducky quietly conversing with Gibbs. They stopped at the moment she crossed the threshold, Gibbs with the ever-blank expression, and the doctor with a smile upon his lips and a frown upon his eyes. She folded her arms across the sweatshirt-clearly awkward about being in the presence of men without a bra or underwear on- and raised her eyebrow in question as to why Ducky Mallard was here so late.

Gibbs rose off the couch, stalked towards her, stopped and said, "He's here to look you over. That's an order," and continued to the basement. Ducky motioned for her to sit upon the coffee table in front of him, and she followed suit. He stood and immediately started looking over her scalp for abrasions.

"Normally, a doctor might ask a patient what hurts, as a foundation for what needs to be evaluated. But considering the circumstances…"he trailed off, "What is this bruise from?" His thumb skated over a spot that was yellow and purple and awful to look at.

"I do believe that one was from the butt of my Sig. He apprehended it soon after I was caught. I guess it's now his," No emotion, no inflections, just a declarative statement.

"Hm." A concise frown, then he moved on, finding more bruises from earlier injuries, a couple cuts that were healing pretty well. A cigarette burn, and a bald patch, which was growing in at a slow rate. He moved her hair to one side, and felt along her cervical spine and the base of her skull, feeling the lumps from healing trauma.

"Do they still hurt?"

"Yes. I often get headaches. But that might not be from that, it might be from anything…" She was extremely stoic. Ducky's hands continued down her shoulders, but he found the sweatshirt hindering to his ability to feel for injury.

"Ziva, my dear, I normally wouldn't expect you to do such a thing, but I would prefer a better look at you…" she nodded and removed the hoodie, keeping her hands folded across her chest. He took one look at her back and could say nothing but, "Oh, Ziva."

Again the hands touched her, analyzed the courser patches of skin where she had been cut, felt the coursing raised blood pressure, the knots from her beatings. His hand skated over a patch of bruises, shaped like a crescent spaced about an inch apart for nine inches. Her entire body tensed, a hiss escaped her lips.

"His shoe," she said in response, as Ducky probed the broken tender ribs.

"Any trouble breathing?"

"Only if I take too deep a breath." He nodded, thankful that her lung was not punctured, and continued, down her spine. If Ziva wasn't so on edge- so anxious with the fact that any time someone touched her over the last five months they caused her pain- it would have been relaxing. Ducky was such a calming aura.

Ducky walked around her front, and started with her collarbone. A lump told him it had been broken, but was already well on its way too being healed. He noticed the weight of the girl, how her shoulders stuck out, her ribs, and held back a tear. Ziva, no matter what she had done, did not deserve this.

"I know that Jethro has a scale in his guest bathroom, did you weigh yourself?" He inquired as he checked her pulse, which was fast, while counting the seconds on his watch.

"103," she sniffed. Judging her height to be 5'7'', Ducky had to cringe- she was nearly twenty pounds underweight. He grabbed his stethoscope and held it up to her lungs and heart.

"They didn't feed you." It was not a question.

"Every three days they would put a cup of dried rice in front of me. Half of the time I didn't trust them as to whether it had rat poison in it. Sometimes I didn't care. Most of the time I did eat it, it didn't settle." Her lungs were heavy, crackly, and unhealthy.

"I was held underwater for minutes at a time. They put a bucket of chemicals in my room, at first I thought it was paint thinner. It caused me to pass out, cough, my eyes to burn."

Ducky nodded then prodded her hollow abdomen. He could feel the faintest of organs through her skin, and again the bulges from her floggings. Scars, some round, oval, straight. He stitched a couple of the new ones.

"They attached my…" she swallowed, and looked away from Ducky, "breasts to a car battery." Ducky fought to let out a noise of sympathy- she would not want to hear it. He nodded, and she unfolded her arms and his eyes narrowed as he saw the scar tissue and bruises. They would heal, but never disappear. He checked her arms, again, feeling the swells from breaks. He wrapped them in athletic tape, sorry he could do no more with what he had in his medical bag. Upon his command, she placed her hoodie on, and removed her pants.

The doctor checked over her feet, noticing how swollen they were with bruises. He relocated two toes, as she gripped the coffee table with white knuckles.

"Ziva, my dear, what happened?" She looked to where his sight was wandering up her left leg. The cuts were deep, slightly green tinged, spaced evenly apart from her ankle to under the sweatshirt she had tucked around her bottom. Some had healed, mostly the ones near her ankle, which were shallower. The ones near her thigh were deep, and the flesh was pulled open.

"The were good at their job, but Mossad has taught me to be better. I often wonder if I had cooperated if it would not have ended sooner, but with less pain." He had stitched up the cuts then- around half of the nearly fifty that were on her leg- and she refused the pain medication. When he was on the last one, the furthest up her leg, he noticed a bruising pattern often found in the young female victims upon his autopsy tables.

"Ziva, they didn't." His eyes were pleading with hers, but it was no use. She refused to look at the older man, settling on a spot on the carpet a few feet away, as her sleeve came to halt a tear in its tracks down her face. The doctor felt a weight settle in his chest.

"You'll need to come to the lab tomorrow so I can do some blood tests." She nodded, her mouth firmly clamped shut. For once in her life, Ziva was afraid of what the week would bring.


Tony knocked on Gibbs' front door. He was panting slightly, as he had rode his bike the fifteen miles from his apartment to here. He knocked again, impatient, and was about to knock a third when the door was wrenched open. Gibbs' eyes narrowed, in a warning.

Tony assumed he was about to be reprimanded about 'Rule 12' or dared to break it. He was thoroughly surprised when his boss stated, "If you break her heart, tonight, tomorrow, three years from now, I swear to God your ass will be in the middle of the fucking Sahara. The rest of you will be hanging from the bottom of my boat as I sail it around the Atlantic." Tony gulped, as was customary to be threatened with having a buttock removed, and fought a smile, thinking Was that the go ahead?. Gibbs stood back and let him into his house.

Ziva was sunk into the couch, with Ducky next to her. Their silence permeated the air. Gibbs said nothing, but left to go back to his empty basement. Ducky gave a quick glance between the two- Ziva, who was staring at her knees, and Tony who was staring at Ziva- and rose suddenly from the couch.

"Well…uh, it's getting quite late, must be getting home to mother and the dogs." With a snap of the door closing, he was gone. Tony crossed his arms as he leaned against the wall near the door. A smile came over the left side of his mouth.

"You know, after all this time, even getting to watch you for thirty hours and," he checked his watch, "twenty-four minutes since I laid eyes on you in that hole in Africa, I still can't get over it." A look of confusion came over her face, and her eyes came up to meet his.

"Get over what?" Tony's face became serious.

"You're alive, you're home, you haven't killed me yet," a smile came over his face, "How I ever forgot how beautiful you are… how I ever let you go." Something lit up in her eyes, and although it might not have been the fire that raged there before, it was an ember.

"I am…" Sensing and impending apology, Tony cut her off. He walked over to the couch and sat next to her.

"Tonight doesn't need to be about talking. No apologies, no explanations. You were gone…and I would like nothing better than to spend the night making sure you don't go anywhere." Her mouth twitched at the corners.

"I see that these five months has not caused you to lose your mind…oh, wait." A smile, not a full one but a nice one broke out across her face, and he laughed.

"Come on, crazy ninja, bed. But first, to visit Pharmacy de la Ducky." She giggled and they walked into the kitchen. Eyeing the nine bottles upon the table, she rolled her eyes.

She picked up the first bottle, put two in her hands, swallowed. Next bottle, and the one after that, until all but one medicine had been taken. Tony picked it up and squinted at the label.

"Hydra-no, Hydro- coiedne? Codiene? What's that?" Ziva snatched the bottle out of his hand and set it firmly down on the table.

"I do believe it is known as Vicodin in your country." Her nose wrinkled in disgust at the bottle as she turned to leave the kitchen. Tony blocked her path with one shoulder.

"Wouldn't it be good to take your pain meds, ya know, considering you are probably in pain?" She walked the long way around him to the fridge, grabbing a Gatorade out of it, and turned around with zest in her eye and a hand upon her hip.

"No. It is not wise for me to be disoriented." And with that he let it go, and they walked out of the kitchen, her guzzling down the fruity beverage.

"Whoa, fishy, slow down. You'll puke that up if you drink it to fast," he said. She lowered the bottle from her lips and glanced sideways at him as they walked through the bedroom door.

"I know, it's just that Ducky wants me to rehydrate. And I'm so damn thirsty." She set down the bottle upon the nightstand and went to pull down the blankets when she noticed Tony doing the same thing on the other side of the bed.

"What are you doing?" She looked at him as the covers fell from her hand.

"Uh…going to bed?" He shrugged, his head tilting one side, a smile coming over his face.

"No you are not."

"Zee-vah," He started.

"No. You are smelly, and disgusting, and I do not need anyone to hold me as I fall asleep. I'm a big girl." He dropped the covers and sat in a chair in a corner, crossing his legs and looking up at her expectantly.

"Then I shall sit here."

Ziva waved her hand to dismiss him, and climbed into bed, settling down with her back to him. A few minutes passed, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, seeking out the shadows, coming up with logical explanations for them. Distant thunder could be heard, and the rain suddenly hit the windows with reckless abandon. Her body shook a fraction of an inch, and she hugged the blankets tighter around her, reprimanding herself. Four months in a terrorist cell of beatings, and she was scared of storms and darkness?

"Fine," she said aloud to the occupant in the corner, and he got up quickly, as if the decision had been anticipated. Gingerly, he crawled under the covers, as she turned to face him, enjoying the sight that had only been in her dreams, her fantasies for the past months.

They looked into each other's faces for a few minutes, studying the scars, the lines, the shadows. The rain was softer now, almost a lullaby, and Ziva finally felt some peace come over her mind.

"I'm sorry I killed R-Michael. You were right, it wasn't necessary that I shot him four times." His eyes didn't become sympathetic, they were raw and honest. She looked down, and instantly his face softened.

"I'm sorry I lost your trust." A tear escaped her eye, and chased the contour of her cheek to the pillow.

"Zee, you never lost it. I was so scared that I'd lose you, that I ended up losing you." His hand came up to her face, and pushed a strand of hair out of her face.

She nodded, and snuggled in a little closer to him. How in the world did he smell the way he did when she had him tackled to the ground in Tel Aviv? It was such a unique smell, and she had feared that she would lose the ability to recall it those months in her prison. With one last wiff of his shirt, her eyes closed, she was so tired…and the darkness was enveloping her.

Tony felt her breathing relax, and snaked his arm around her torso. She was warm, and he molded his body against hers, needing the physical reminder that she was here, alive, still kicking. Her body was too bony, which was shocking- he had always loved the skinny girls- but on Ziva, she had a little give over the ninja muscles, something that made him want to hold her.

His head rested next to hers, so that their foreheads were mere centimeters apart. He could feel her warm breath upon his skin, and was asleep before he could make the conscious promise to never let her go again.


Ziva woke up twice that night, the first time to empty her stomach contents after fearing she was back in Somalia, the second because she had a dream where Saleem had killed Tony in front of her.

Tony woke when she did, holding her hair back as she bent over the porcelain bowl and sobbed. When she was done, he sat her upon the toilet and went to the kitchen to grab some cold Gatorade and her Xanax and inhaler. He grabbed one of the cleaner looking toothbrushes in the drawer under the sink, put some toothpaste on it, and helped her clean out her mouth. She rinsed, and without any protest, took the medication. They sat in the too bright bathroom while she sipped- "Slowly," he told her- the drink and waited for the medication to kick in.

The second time she woke, her body was shaking, as silent tears fell from her eyes. He didn't ask, didn't wonder why she was stroking his face, clutching at his arms like he was about to run away.

While still in the throes of the mental pain that was taking over her she told him, "Promise me, right here, right now, that you will never do something so stupid again." It clicked in his brain like two puzzle pieces. She had dreamed he had died, and it was tearing him up.

"No."

A look of anger came over her face, and her lips parted so slightly.

"You don't get it, do you? I had to avenge you. I wouldn't be allowed to live with myself if I didn't. So yeah, I had to do a stupid thing. I'd do it again, I'd do it everyday for the rest of my life. You are that important to me. Guys do stupid things, especially when it's for someone who is close to their heart." She nodded and snuggled in closer to him.

"When I had the bag whipped off my head, it was amazing. I had imagined that someone would save me, that someone would be there for the first month. It was always you. I lost hope the second month, and the third month I was ready for death. But when I saw you, it was okay. My heart was home again. I was okay with dying, because even if you were imaginary, even if you were my angel of death, I got to see your face once more. For a minute I had indulged- pretended we were in the squad room, or, no- the elevator. We didn't say anything- all was forgiven and forgotten- and my heart was thumping so loud I could hear it. It was amazing."

"I realized that, after the third month, when my heart still hurt so much, when I had to look at your empty desk, when I really had no desire to hire someone, when I thought you were dead, when I thought I would find some closure, I loved you. I loved you when we were trapped in that shipping container, when I saw you kicking that guy's ass, when you had your gun pressed to my chest. I've been in love with you for…forever. I know it's a little late, its just…I really couldn't live without you. That's why I did stupid. The heart wants what it wants."

"Your heart might get you killed one day…"

"You don't think I realized that when I met you? I said, Oh Tony, of all the girls, you had to go and fall for the one who could kill you with a paperclip? Why not one who wasn't trained to kill full-grown men? Yeah, the heart shouldn't want what it wants. But it does. And all I know is that I love you, and I'm sick of pretending."

She nodded, and wiped the tear from her eye. He kissed her forehead, and they fell asleep with their hearts lighter, happy that the morning would be there for them, ready to start the amazing journey together.


Gibbs took one last swig of bourbon as he glanced at his watch, which read 2230, placed the flask upon his workbench, glanced at the still empty basement, and walked upstairs. He noticed that Tony's bike was still upon his porch, and the lights in the living room had been extinguished.

He shuffled past the bathroom, which smelled of bile, and past Ziva's room. The door was cracked open, and he couldn't help but peek in at his daughter. He ran a hand through his hair, so blessedly thankful she was safe and home again. His heartbeat quickened when he heard a low snore- too low to come from the female agent- and wondered when Ziva looked so big.

Gibbs' eyes adjusted and couldn't help the smile that broke across his normally serious face. The two young lovers were snuggled, so content, Ziva sleeping soundly, and Tony looking so blissfully calm in his rest. It reminded him of a young couple who happened to fall in love one night under the northwest leg of the Effeil Tower…

They had found each other, and he wasn't going to stop that. He couldn't, not only because he would lose two of his best workers, but because he couldn't find it in his heart to. He had given up Jenny, and it had ruined him. He wouldn't do that to them, wouldn't tear them apart, again, when they needed each other to recover.

He would have to have a serious discussion with them in the morning, making sure that they knew what they were getting into, but for now he let them dream.

Gibbs crawled into his own bed, his hand reaching over to the constantly made side of the bed, and took a deep breath, pretending for just a moment, that he could smell Shannon. He thought of love, then and now, and closed his eyes.

Maybe Rule 12 is getting a little old…

Review?? It would honestly make my day. =)