I do not own NCIS or any part thereof.
Spoilers for all of season 7 so far through Code of Conduct.
Saleem stole something precious from Ziva.
Friday Night Memories
It all happened in a split second. Tony stood with McGee at the bar getting another round of drinks. They were laughing about something when Tony noticed Abby and Ziva coming single file down the narrow hallway, back from their trip to the ladies room. Abby was in front waving her arms in large movements obviously describing either Bigfoot or her latest nightmare of a boyfriend. As Abby left the hallway entering the main room she looked behind her. Ziva had hesitated.
She'd hesitated earlier today, too, when Abby had pressured her to come out with them on their traditional Friday night end-of-week celebration. Two months and more she'd been back and hadn't been out with any of them yet but when Abby turned on the full mojo she became impossible to resist. McGee had added his soft-spoken persuasion and Tony had perhaps spoken a word or two or a few hundred in his full-on assault to get her to join them.
And now he regretted every syllable as he saw two big guys, big young football player-type guys, turn into the hallway and one shove the other who rammed into Ziva, pressing her face first against the wall. Didn't even realize he had left his place by McGee and was running across the crowded room until he shoved the first person out of his way. He lost sight of Ziva for a moment and when he could see again he screamed at her.
She had the young man, at least twice her size, up against the wall with her knife at his throat. He heard McGee yelling Ziva's name too. Then Tony was at her side and he saw the tremor in the hand holding the knife. It gave him hope.
"Ziva, 's okay. It's just an accident. He didn't mean it. Right, Buddy?"
The man, with his round baby face looking barely old enough to drink, nodded once but felt the knife edge against his skin and stopped.
"Yeah, yeah, it was an accident. Dewey, he shoved me. Honest, lady, I didn't mean to run into you."
Tony put out his hand, palm up.
"Why not give me the knife, Ziva? Please? He's not going to hurt you. He's just a drunk kid."
He reached out until he could just barely touch her forearm with his fingertips. She jerked and then he saw the change. Her eyes widened and she took a deep breath. She didn't hand Tony her knife but she pulled it back and edged away from her victim.
McGee huffed behind him and he heard Abby's voice asking what was going on. Ziva turned and sent Tony one look and then shoved past him, replacing her knife. He watched as she made her way through the crowd, most of whom paid her no attention, having missed the drama in the hallway. After all, it was Friday night, the place was crowded and noisy and little dustups were all too common. Keeping her in sight until she went out the front door, Tony spoke to McGee.
"Smooth it over with the big guy, Probie. Call Gibbs if you need an authority figure."
"What are you going to do?" He heard Abby ask from behind McGee.
"I'm going to find Ziva and see what's going on."
As he moved toward the exit he said to himself, "Although I got a pretty damned good idea."
The air outside was cool, almost cold, but it felt good after the heat of the bar. He paused, looking around, wondering where she would go. Across the lot crowded with cars, near the end of the block, was a small urban park; a few trees, a fountain with a weird statue at the center and some scattered benches. He headed toward it at a half jog. Since her return from North Africa she spent her breaks outside, sitting in the sun. When he remembered the cell he and McGee had been held in during their one-day captivity, he thought he knew why.
He slowed as he came up the sidewalk, taking in his surroundings. Where would she be? The fountain was murmuring as the water ran its programmed course. He headed toward the sound. A shadow moved as he came closer and he turned in that direction.
She didn't answer but he hadn't expected her to respond. She sat on the far bench, the one further from the sidewalk. He could see the pale blue of her face as it turned away from him. Gingerly he sat down next to her, leaving a few inches between them. Long moments of silence passed. He began to get restless but he didn't say anything. Honestly, he didn't know how to start. However, when she spoke first, he was surprised.
"The first Shabbat I was there Saleem and three of his men came in just as the sun was going down."
She hesitated, taking a deep breath. Tony opened his mouth to tell her she didn't have to do this but she spoke again before he could say anything.
"They stripped me. They locked my wrists in manacles placed high up the wall. I could only touch the ground with my toes. Then the others left. Saleem left too but he came back in a few minutes with two candlesticks. The kind the woman of the house lights to welcome the Shabbat. The kind my mother used to light as she said the ritual prayers. He lit the candles. He came to me, unzipped his pants and exposed himself, turned me so my face rubbed against the wall and raped me…"
She stopped again and was silent for so long he wondered if she would continue. He let his breath out noisily, not realizing he'd been holding it.
"He raped me anally, pushed up against that hard, cold wall. Ground my face into the concrete. When he was done he spit on me and left me hanging there. No one came to release me until the next morning. I watched the candles burn down to nothing."
Tony felt a spasm in his jaw. He'd been clenching his teeth so tightly he was in actual pain, the muscles in his lower face in spasm. Dear God, what could he say or do to counter her remembered pain?
"Every Shabbat he came back, only on the Shabbat. At first he always had helpers because I could still fight then. But near the end he came by himself. I could no longer fight anyone. He always left me chained, naked, waiting for the darkness to come as the light faded."
He heard a soft whimper and realized with a shock it came from him.
"He took my Shabbat memories. Like the candles. Melted them away."
In the dim light he saw a tear roll down her face, reminding him of the single tear she had shed when he asked her if she could fight while they were still both tied in chairs.
"They all came to me over the months I was there. All of them. But he was the only one who made me cry."
Neither of them said anything for a few minutes. Tony had no idea what he could say. And he was terribly afraid if he opened his mouth he would start sobbing uncontrollably and how the hell would that help Ziva?
"When that man in the bar…" she began but stopped, clearing her throat.
"When the man inside pushed me against the wall, suddenly it was Saleem and he was going to hurt me again. I did not even think. My hands were not bound this time. I could fight."
She turned and looked at him.
"You stopped me from killing him."
Reaching up her hand she gently touched his cheek and he realized his face was wet. He had been crying.
"Do not cry, Tony. Please."
He covered her hand with his own.
"Ziva, I…I don't know what to say. My God."
She tried to pull her hand away but he wouldn't let go. Instead he interlaced their fingers and moved their hands to rest on the bench between them. It was hard to just sit there. The urge to take her in his arms was almost overwhelming but he knew she wouldn't welcome it, at least not right now.
"Do not say anything, Tony. It is not necessary."
Her voice was soft, so soft he almost didn't hear her. He continued to look at her as she stared at the fountain. They sat like that for several minutes. Suddenly, he saw her brow wrinkle and her eyes close. He thought of slow motion photography as he watched her face crumble. She leaned on his shoulder and he felt her body shake as she cried silently. Carefully, he let go of her hand and put his arm around her, pulling her until her head rested on his shoulder. Still he didn't know what to say so he just held her, reaching around slowly with his free arm and then, when she didn't object, snuggling her closer, holding her within the shelter of his arms and chest.
How long she cried he didn't know. He only knew it broke his heart. He'd been living his life here in D.C. Sure - not happy, missing her, going into deep freeze mode when he thought she was dead, but he'd been safe. Killing Saleem once was not nearly enough.
He became aware she no longer cried. He heard a soft intake of breath, then another. She had fallen asleep. He took the chance now of resting his head on hers. Tightening his hold on her even more. Wanting to protect her.
"Crap," he whispered as his phone rang.
Trying desperately not to jostle Ziva he grabbed it off his belt before it could ring again.
"What?" he whispered.
McGee's voice sounded weird to him, intrusive. For what seemed like an eternity it had been just him and Ziva and Saleem here in the park.
He almost laughed. Everything okay? Not a word in his vocabulary right now.
"What do you want, Tim?"
"Just checking. We were worried when you guys didn't come back."
He heard Abby in the background pushing McGee.
"Is Ziva okay, Tony? Ask him Timmy. Are you coming back in? Stop pushing me away, McGee."
McGee obviously turned away from the phone.
"Abby let me talk, okay? Go get us another drink, on my tab. Sorry, Tony. You need me to do anything?"
"Not unless you have a time machine, McBraniac. I could sure as hell use a good time machine right about now."
Silence on the other end then....
"It's not your fault, Tony."
"Yeah, McGee? You think?"
"Yes, I do think, Tony. It's not your fault. And if you let your guilt eat you up you won't be able to help her or yourself."
Tony could picture McGee's earnest green eyes, honest and true, boring into him. .
He closed the phone. Ziva moved. He looked where she rested on his shoulder.
She sat up straighter but didn't try to move away.
He cringed when he said it. Duh…stupid Tony.
She almost sounded normal, whatever that meant now.
"I am cold though."
"Yeah, it's getting chilly."
He pulled her closer again for a moment.
"You want to go back in, or home or…"
Her fingers touched his mouth.
"I think…" she stopped.
He opened his mouth but she kept her fingers in place.
"I think, Tony, what I would really like to do is go to your place and watch a movie. And maybe call Abby and McGee. Ask them to join us. Order a pizza. Sit and eat and laugh. Enjoy being together again."
Tony thought he knew where she was going with this.
"And maybe make some new Friday night memories?"
He felt her move against him again and then, for a brief instant, the soft warmth of her lips against his.
"Thank you, Tony."
Carefully he unwrapped his arms from around her then pushed up from the seat. He took off his coat and then held out his hand to her. Pulling her up he placed the jacket around her shoulders making sure to snug it tight. Handing her his phone he put his hand to the small of her back, guiding her toward his car, reluctant to lose all physical contact with her.
"You call McGee, I'll drive," he said.