Firsts

She has her first shower in hospital. She's not allowed a razor because the doctors think she is a self harm risk, but Tony smuggles her one and some shampoo and soap, because the universe feels the need to remind her how much she doesn't deserve him.

The water is frothy with soap and dark with dirt and a little bit of blood. She scrubs every particle of that cell from her, until her skin is red and stinging. Her hair is so ridiculous that she considers cutting it all off, but the feeling of it warm and wet and heavy on her back makes her realise how stupid that would be – so she attacks with shampoo and conditioner that smell a little bit like orange blossoms but mostly like being clean, finally.

*

She gets her first hug from Abby at NCIS, careful and cautious, on Ducky's orders, almost definitely. Her hands are gentle and Ziva almost loses it right there with everyone watching, but instead puts her chin on Abby's shoulder.

She feels Tony watching her – hard and, she hopes and fears, protective. She hadn't hugged him on the plane or at the hospital because she couldn't deal with what he wanted her to feel, not after months of pushing life away.

She looks at him, and asks please, wait a little longer with her eyes.

*

She sleeps in her first bed in a hotel room that Ducky paid for, since all her money and cards and ID are destroyed. She doesn't want to go to the Israeli consulate – perhaps if she rings one of her aunts, they will have her spares sent, discreetly.

The room is overwhelmingly soft and comfy, which is disorienting, she thinks about asking to be downgraded to a less luxurious suite, but it would hurt Ducky's feeling and make Tony frown.

Speaking of Tony, a knock on the door tells her that he has followed her here. He brings take-out Chinese, all her favourite dishes, and some rom-coms that he swore he would never watch.

During a sappy scene, she reaches for his hand – he hasn't touched her all night, mindful of even accidentally brushing against her, and she knows how much it costs him. He tangles his fingers between hers, palm to palm.

She wants to apologise, she wants to thank him, she wants to make promises and vows, but she can't seem to open her mouth.

*

She goes for her first run a week later. It's not really a run, it's a sloppy jog, because her shoulder is so sore. The cold morning doesn't make it any better, but there's less people out and about to stare.

There are ducks at the park. It's closer to Tony's house than her hotel, so she goes there and knocks on the door.

She is a little puffed, so when Tony answers his face creases up with worry. He is dressed in his Ohio State shirt, the one she knows he sleeps in, and Ziva smiles, a little, just the corners of her mouth turning up, but it's enough; he relaxes, the shape of his eyes more puzzled than fearful, now. Ziva asks:

'Do you have any bread?'

*

She solves her first case a little while after that. She knows she hasn't been much use, confined to desk duty, and even then she spends most of her time wandering down to autopsy and the lab, to talk to someone and have them see her, to reassure herself that she is still there.

A Marine's daughter and wife had been killed, so Gibbs wasn't seeing things clearly and Tony and McGee were too terrified to offer up any real theories. Tony sits at his desk, quietly watching her, as he does a lot now, as she spreads witness reports and police statements over her desk in a collage. Then she sees it.

She looks up, and Tony raises an eyebrow. 'I know whodunnit,' she says, and Tony chuckles, practically vaulting his desk.

'Congratulations,' he says, holding his hand out to her. 'Now we can all go home.'

And she is home, she knows that now. He brought her home from Somalia. He's been waiting since then, she thinks, waiting for her reply to I couldn't live without you.

'I once said that I would kill myself before I got captured,' she begins, and Tony takes a sharp breath. 'Because my life could be used as leverage. The reason you found me alive is that I did not think anyone would care enough to want to save me.' She makes an effort to look in his eyes. 'But you did.'

Tony stares at her, probably because this is the most she has spoken since her return. For a terrifying moment, she thinks he is going to say something flippant or walk away and soul-mates echoes painfully in her head – but then he leans across her desk and kisses her firmly, chastely on her lips.

'I want you, Ziva,' he says, and Ziva is caught off-guard by the naked longing in his voice. 'But not until you're better. I'm not avoiding it – I'm just waiting for the right time.'

The right time is now, Ziva wants to say, but she knows she is not unbroken, and Tony deserves the whole of her. Besides, he will still be there while she heals, which almost makes it better.

'Thank you,' she says, softly.

He leans back, smiling. 'Come on, let's go tell Gibbs.' He begins to walk away and Ziva gets hurriedly to her feet.

'You better not be thinking of taking credit for this,' Ziva warns him, and he begins to sprint towards interrogation. Ziva chases him, her laughter startling McGee as he steps out of the observation room to see what all the ruckus is about.

'Ziva solved the case!' Tony announced, and McGee gives her a hug.

The hug says 'I'm glad you are happy', not 'you are an investigative genius', but Ziva supposes she can settle for that.

*

She has her first date after ten counselling sessions and a psychological evaluation. Your resilience is incredible, her doctor had said. You should by all rights have severe PTSD. She makes a photocopy of the report that gives her medical clearance to return to the field, and puts it on Tony's desk with a post-script:

Movies, tonight, 8:30?

*

They have sex for the first time; they fight for the first time (well, not really); they make up; they fight again; they spent nights out and weekends in; they almost get killed and almost kill each other.

*

When Ziva says 'I love you' for the first time, truly for the first time, and wonders why for the whole of her life she had believed that this was a weakness instead of a strength.

The end.