A/N: As I'm sure many before me have, I add my take on Ziva's reaction to PO Burrows' rape in "Patriot Down." I won't tell you to enjoy, because there isn't much enjoyable about it, but thanks to all who'll take a moment from their lives to read on anyway.
"Why would you let someone get away with rape?" McGee asked. It was more a statement than question, really, but from one glance Tony could tell that whatever it was, it wouldn't be left hypothetical.
"Perception." Ziva said. "Burrows is in the military. If a woman cries rape, no man on that ship would ever totally trust her again." The curt words tumbled from her lips like ticks on a metronome, each carefully-chosen syllable detached, scientific in its delivery. She kept her eyes trained in front of her. Tony's flickered to McGee and back to Ziva.
"Well, you're a woman. What would you do?"
Tony bit the inside of his cheek and suppressed the urge to headslap McSenseless. The kid was oblivious, he really was. For an MIT grad, he could be dense as a brick.
But Ziva, on the other hand…Ziva was unfazed.
"I'm different," she said after a pause, and Tony released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Her eyes hadn't strayed from their dead-ahead focus, but the pitch of her voice…lightened, if that was the word for it. Not by a lot, not even by more than a smidgen, but enough to raise the hair on the back of his neck.
"After torturing them until they cried like babies, I would castrate them…give them what they deserve."
That was all she wrote, but it was that vacant gaze of hers that kept Tony off-kilter; as if she were watching a movie playing out behind her irises. It wasn't a feature he felt the need to see, nor one Ziva seemed keen on sharing.
Tony sidled up behind her and fought the impulse to brush her arm.
"Spoken like a true almost-American," he said, and with that her eyes snapped back to focus.
He'd let it all go by the time they'd left the bullpen that night. Hell yeah, he was curious, almost to the point of morbidity; there was very little pleasant in Ziva's past to be curious about. But Tony had learned his lessons a long time ago and knew by now that the only information Ziva would ever reveal would be on her terms, or not at all.
Sometimes her terms weren't always so tightly boxed-up the way he thought they were.
Ziva had left the bullpen roughly the same time as Tony. They'd shared the elevator down to the parking garage and parted ways from there, Ziva shooting off to wherever it was she usually took that candy-red Mini Cooper after work. And Tony? He'd gone to the gym.
It was a habit he'd picked up since they'd left her behind in Israel nine or ten months ago. Once his shoulder healed he'd gone most every night, foregoing after-case drinks with McGee and Abby for the company of a punching bag in a room full of sweaty men the old Tony would never have set foot in.
The new Tony, who'd gotten the shit kicked out of him by Rivkin, wasn't taking any more chances. He could've easily been the one bleeding himself out on Ziva's carpet. He swore he wouldn't be bested like that again. And he hadn't been. Yet.
He couldn't say he was surprised to find Ziva on his couch when he got home. She could pick any lock he'd ever seen and then some, and he'd never had any delusions that his apartment deadbolt would be the exception. She'd broken her way in various nights since he'd met her, in varying states of composure. Sometimes, in years past, even varying states of undress.
What was surprising was the way she leaned forward, elbows braced on her knees, lost in thought. A half-empty bottle of beer dangled from her fingers. An empty one lay on its side by her feet.
"Fancy meeting you here, Probie," he said, rubbing the back of his still-sweating neck with a towel he'd filched from the weight room. She didn't answer, and he took that as his cue to head for his shower.
"I was seventeen."
Tony had gotten as far as one foot on the tile bathroom floor, one on the wood of the living room. He froze there with his back to her.
The pause stretched out for far too long, so long he would've been thankful to hear strains of awful intermission music cut the silence. At least then he'd know the scene was over and it was safe to start talking again.
A slosh of liquid told him she'd taken a swig from her beer, and while she swallowed Tony turned towards her, leaning against the doorjamb.
"When…?" he prompted.
"When I'd joined the military. Nineteen when I'd joined Mossad."
Her voice was mechanical, but for once Ziva wore the emotions behind it openly. It wasn't the same drawn surrender he'd seen in Somalia. But it came damn close. Her gaze hadn't moved since he'd let himself in, but her teeth had worried her bottom lip raw.
"It is no different for women in Israel than it is here," she said, and Tony felt a prickle of relief when she broke her stare and watched what was left of the alcohol swill inside of the bottle. "The ones that suffer do so in silence."
Ziva fell mute, as did any intention she may have had of revealing more. Seconds grew into minutes and everything about her was still, save for her fingers; they rolled the neck of the bottle against her palm, over and over. The remains of her beer swirled against the brown glass, each swish evenly spaced from the last, slow and soft like clockwork.
Tony pushed himself off the doorframe and left her to her thoughts, then grabbed two more Coronas from the fridge. Yeah, he was still sweating like an animal, and yeah, he was sure he stank like one, too, but she'd smelled worse coming off him in waves before, and he didn't particularly give a damn at the moment. She looked up when he eased himself beside her into the couch. Knocked back out of her headspace, he hoped, and handed her one of the beers.
"How many have you had?" he asked, twisting off the cap.
She threw back the remains of the bottle she'd held and opened the next. "Just the two." The empty slipped through her fingers, wobbled on its base, then settled upright at her feet. "They're mine anyway."
So they were. She'd left them here the other night, after Abby had handed them all a solid trouncing at Hold 'Em. Tony smiled, if you could call it that.
Some of the resignation seemed to leave Ziva's eyes and for a minute he could've sworn she looked contemplative, sipping her Corona as if nothing in the world was more interesting than that bottle. Hell, she was bordering on Jedi-calm, the kind of stillness that only existed in beings no less than Yoda. But ZIva looking contemplative and actually being so were two very different things. Not being the highest authority on things-that-go-on-in-Ziva's-head, Tony could only guess it meant that she was putting her thoughts back in order, feigning control she didn't have while she packaged up every emotion chasing its tail in her head into those neat little boxes. Burying them away again somewhere not as close to the surface.
It wasn't the first time, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. Tony exhaled. One step forward, two steps back.
He watched her hold a mouthful of beer on her tongue, and the pained look that spread and disappeared once she swallowed.
Then she surprised him.
"I had surgery the year I finished training for Mossad. One week recovery," Ziva said, and for all the evenness of tone and expression, her eyes were glassy. Tony didn't know what scared him more, the words that waited in her mouth, or the fact that after five years, he'd found the one tell in her unreadable face.
"So nothing I did—or anyone else did—" Tony could see her throat working, forcing down whatever it was that wanted to boil up, "—would interfere with my work."
She set her jaw and brought the bottle back to her lips.
He didn't know what to say. So he did what he did best. Pushed her farther.
It came out a statement. He was fairly sure he knew what the answer would be.
"I learned quickly what sort of things partners would demand of me. It was better to prevent any more…accidents—"The word sounded like something delicate, like stressed glass about to snap, "—than to attempt to change the system."
Ziva wasn't sugar-coating any of this; the red rimming her eyes was indication enough. For all her steely control, he didn't think she had the willpower to voice what sort of accident she'd meant. Tony set down his untouched beer before the neck of the bottle broke off in his hand, and Ziva leaned back into the couch. Her gaze trained itself again on the wall ahead.
"Any more accidents," he said; a prompt that left his throat feeling rough and overused. Because, much like her wrath, pushing beyond her limits was something he'd never learned how to avoid.
Silence. But her knuckles had gone white around her beer.
So there had been an…an accident. He wasn't sure if he'd taken it the way she'd intended, but he could damn well guess. God, he thought he was going to be sick.
"I suppose it is better," she said finally, as if this were any other day, any other mundane conversation, "—that my father never expected grandchildren."
Tony felt rather than heard the thousand and one strains of undercurrent she tried so hard to hold away, though whether it was for his sake or her own remained to be seen. Maybe it didn't matter.
"Your father is the director," he ground through clenched teeth; if he'd opened them, bile would've risen into his mouth. "You were nineteen."
Ziva's eyes narrowed, still locked dead ahead, but the mix of emotions he'd seen behind them had deepened into something not fit for this exchange, and so she had stowed them back into the recesses of memory.
"I said that those who suffer do so in silence."
She took another drag from her Corona, rolled the bottleneck against her palm; by now the gesture was almost comforting, something that stayed the same no matter what bombs she'd dropped from bitten lips. The dregs of her past swilled with the dregs of the alcohol. Tony threw back half his beer in one gulp. He wondered darkly how much else about her he'd never want to know.
"Did he know?" Tony asked. His voice sounded rougher than he'd intended, but mastery over it hadn't exactly been his top priority.
"He is Mossad, Tony," Ziva said. The words were curt, impatient. Evasive. The last of her third beer slid down her throat. "Use your imagination."