AN: This is unbeta'd. All mistakes, typos, plot no-nos, rushing characters, etc, are MINE not my betas'. (Because they're awesome and keep me in line and would never let me do anything bad.) This JUST got written and I don't want to wait to publish, so up it goes. Hope you all don't hate it too much... :-/
The sound of the shower running in the background was somewhat soothing. Tony sat on the sofa, his head tilted to loll across the back of the couch and he stared blankly at the ceiling.
His mind swam with images of things he had never wanted to know. His nightmares had been confirmed and they were more heinous than he had imagined even in his most fitful slumber.
Chinese takeout and a bottle of wine had set the stage for a night of comfortable companionship after they left the gym.
She had started her story telling somewhat reluctantly has he picked at the beef and broccoli with his chopsticks.
Tony was sure he'd never be able to have beef and broccoli again without remembering every word she said.
Good thing it wasn't his favorite because he sure as hell was never ordering it again.
For someone who had a habit of using as few words necessary to speak, she had spent the better part of two hours reliving every miserable moment with Saleem. He was sure she had spared the worst details – the way her eyes flicked and she paused in contemplative silence at particular moments gave her away. She was still holding out.
Despite everything she had been through, she was holding back to protect him. He knew. He knew how she would keep the dirtiest of the secrets as her own burden to bare.
If only he had been the one to pull the trigger, he'd feel a small amount of satisfaction in Saleem's death.
Gibbs had been efficient. And unexpected. And one hell of an ace-in-the-hole.
But right now, right this minute as the bitter and foul taste of Ziva's memories was still fresh on Tony's tongue, he would have happily traded a life without sex just to be the one to beat the ever loving breath out of the bastard that had raped Ziva. And raped her again. And again.
She had said that the beatings were the relief. The beatings were the nice part of the day. The men that were permitted into her cell for their own form of relief- that was the torture.
Her lip had quivered and he had set his food down on the coffee table and gently pulled hers out of her own hand while moving towards her on the couch.
Watching her weep wasn't something he was accustomed to.
But he still wiped her tear with his thumb and refused to flinch when she leaned into his touch and moved so she rested her head on his chest when she cried.
He wrapped his arms around her, careful to not be too tight and make her feel restrained. Tony rubbed gentle circles on her back and placed light kisses to the crown of her head, completely unsure of what else he could do.
When her sobs stopped and the tears slowed, she had pulled away with a look of embarrassment on her face.
Tony refused to allow her a moment of regret and defused the situation by looking down at his tear-stained shirt with false anger.
"Well those mascara marks are going to stain," he teased, knowing full well she didn't wear mascara nor did he see any marks on either his shirt nor her eyes.
He stood and reached gently for her hand and pulled her to her feet.
She followed silently as he lead the way down the hall and it was the silence that made his heart break a little more.
When they reached his bedroom, he let go of her hand in front of the foot of his bed.
Tony riffled through his drawer before coming out with two sets of more comfortable clothes.
"Why don't you go splash some water on your face or something?" he said softly, handing her an OSU t-shirt and a pair of yoga pants that were obviously not his.
She frowned down at the pants when she recognized them as a pair she had left behind many many months ago - and the look she gave him was nothing less than incredulous.
He shrugged. "I have trouble throwing away important things," was his reply to her unspoken question.
She watched as began unbuttoning the buttons on his dress-shirt. He paused when he realized she was watching him undress. "Hey! The show isn't free! Go on." he said, shooing her into the bathroom and shutting the door behind her.
He quickly switched from his work clothes into his casual sweat pants and t-shirt and remembered to put his dirty clothes into the hamper instead of just a pile on the floor.
On the way back out to the livingroom, he was pleasantly surprised to hear the sound of the shower.
It was just a shower.
To any other woman, it was just a shower at a friend's house.
But to him, it was everything.
A shower was incredibly intimate.
She trusted him.
She trusted him enough to bare her bruised soul over Chinese food and a good bottle of wine.
And now she trusted him enough to bare her bruised body to his apartment, trusting him to protect her while she showered.
He had settled in to the middle of the sofa, leaning his head back and regarding the ceiling with numbness before finally closing his eyes, letting his hands cover his forehead and trying to tame the herd of hateful emotions that were almost overwhelming.
He vaguely recalled hearing the water turn off. And he vaguely recalled hearing the bathroom door open.
Yet when he felt her fingers settle gently over the back of his hands and delicately pull his hands away from his eyes, he was still slightly surprised.
Surprised she initiated contact. Surprised he had been so lost in his word of hate, that he hadn't heard her enter the room and cross to stand behind the sofa.
He looked up, her wet hair framing their faces as she leaned down over him.
"Stop it." she said simply.
He opened his mouth to offer a witty reply which implied that he didn't know to what she was referring.
"Stop it," Ziva repeated.
He sighed and closed his eyes again for a moment. He felt her fingers shift on his hands, twisting so that she laced their fingers together.
"Stop thinking of ways you could have prevented it. Stop thinking of ways you can resurrect Saleem and kill him again. Stop thinking of all those things."
He allowed his fingers to tighten around hers.
Sometimes it was freaky how she seemed to live in his mind.
"I did not tell you so you would spend hours brooding, Tony," she said, slipping one hand from his grasp and moving around his couch to the front and sitting next to him – the other hand remaining firmly clasped in his.
"I do not know why I told you," she said with a frown, speaking more to herself than to him.
"Because you needed to tell someone," he said, hooking a finger under her chin and meeting her gaze.
"No – I could have told Man-Hands. Or Gibbs. Or Vance," she said clearly. "But I needed to tell you."
"I'm glad you did." Tony nodded, letting his free hand slide from her chin to her cheek and he allowed himself the luxury of caressing her check with his thumb once. Twice. "Thank you."
She nodded and cleared her throat, her voice taking on a more businesses-like air. "I have found that there are some things that make me uncomfortable now. Things that did not bother me before."
"Oh," was his quick reply as he quickly removed his hand from her cheek.
He tried to slip their linked fingers on the other hand, as well, but her grip tightened and wouldn't let his hand go.
"No," she said quickly. "What I mean is that these things – the more I do them with people I trust, the less they make me uncomfortable."
Tony felt the furrow of a frown between his eyes, clearly not understanding.
"Like Abby. And her Hugs," Ziva said her voice rushed. "I was worried about hugging people … but… Abby, Gibbs, McGee…I was uncomfortable at first- but just briefly."
"And me?" he said softly. "Did I make the list?"
Ziva let a quick chuckle cross her lips. "Yes. But I was uncomfortable for an entirely different reason."
Tony nodded once with a half-shrug. Fair enough, he thought to himself.
She squeezed her fingers around his. "You cannot resurrect him, Tony," Ziva said, her voice soft. "You cannot go back and fix it."
"I know," his words were course with the hatred he felt towards that particular truth. "I hate it, but I know."
"But you can help me fix me," she whispered. "It is a lot to ask, I know, after everything that's happened, but-."
He sighed in frustration and couldn't keep his hands under control. He twisted his fingers from her grasp and moved his hands to gently cup her face. "You're not broken, Zi. There's nothing to fix."
She leaned into his touch and closed her eyes when she felt him place a gentle kiss to her forehead.
"I feel broken," she said, feeling the tears peak from her eyes again. She swiped at them with the back of her hand, frustrated that she cried more often recently than in the rest of her adult life.
"You're not broken," he repeated as he carefully pulled away from her embrace and stood up from the couch. "Just a little bruised. Nothing that time and good friends won't fix."
Ziva watched as he moved towards the large bookshelf next to the TV which housed a small portion of his very large movie collection, make a quick selection and then pop the film into the DVD player.
He resumed his place by her side, his arm extending across the back of the sofa. Tony flipped his attention between the remote and his partner. "Do movies make you uncomfortable these days?" he asked, only slightly teasing.
"Good. How about movies with your partner?"
"No, Tony." she said, shaking her head.
"Best news I've heard in a while," he replied.
She nodded and turned her attention to the film, the Paramount logo coming onto the screen, followed by the opening scenes for Sabrina.
"But snuggling is something I need to be more comfortable with," she said softly, somewhat uncertain if she had gotten the word 'snuggling' right until she felt this hand move from the back of the sofa and settle on her far shoulder, ever-so-gently pulling her into his side.
"That is something I am happy to help you out with," he said. "Just promise me you won't do any of this particular stuff with McGee."
"Jealous, Tony?" she asked, snuggling into his side, resting her head on his shoulder and tentatively resting her hand on his chest.
"Always, Ziva," he said, turning and placing a quick kiss onto her crown. "Always."