Nothing stays buried for long.
It is a lesson that Ziva learned as a child, in her training in the Israeli Army, in Mossad, and now in NCIS- no matter how well you cover your tracks, no matter how much you fight to ignore it- whatever you are hiding, whether from yourself or others, it will always rear its ugly head. So when Tony glances at her after he hangs up the phone, she already knows by the look on his face that it's something bad. But isn't it always?
Gibbs decides that he wants her to take the interview because he thinks Petty Officer Burrows will respond better to another female, so she sits down at the table and asks the girl to tell them what happened in France, though she knows before the words are out that she won't.
They break the news of Special Agent Macy's death and then she lets Tony take the remainder of the interview. He nods and she bolts, nearly knocking another agent over when she bursts from the room and sprints down the hall. She almost doesn't make it; as it is, she barely gets the stall door open before she's bent over porcelain and retching. Each wave of nausea feels like a full-body blow, an ache settling in that she hasn't felt since that first night after Somalia. When she can finally stand, she wipes her mouth and stumbles to the sink; cups her hands beneath the rush of cool water and splashes her face with it. The shock of temperature makes her feel a little more centered, but only just barely; her head still spins as her heart races. She keeps her eyes closed and her head bowed as she tries to steady her breathing, though it's difficult when all she can think of was the way her wrists always ached after, because she always fought them, because she never learned that five against one are impossible odds. And with that small admission, she's lost again. Back in that room again.
The restroom door opens and when she hears the lock, she knows it's him. She can feel him behind her even before his cool hand brushes the back of her neck, but she can't bring herself to open her eyes until she hears his voice in her ear, low and serious. "Ziva. Come back."
And just like that, she can breathe again. She exhales, straightens, and leans against him, finally meeting Tony's eyes in the mirror. He's staring at her with that intense gaze that makes her uneasy, because it makes her feel like he's staring directly into her soul. It's the gaze that says he knows her better than anyone else. Every inch. Every touch. Every sigh. It's the gaze that says that she is going to be okay. If not now, then soon.
That night, he holds her tightly while she cries.
"Why don't you call Gibbs, give him a heads up- tell him our attacker's been attacked." Tony directs, exasperated as he pulls her aside. Ziva sneaks a glance back at the young rapist despite her better judgment, grateful for the arm Tony has snaked across her back as a barrier between her and the decision to tear this kid's throat out. He's barely beyond childhood, a frat boy crying over a black eye, and yet old enough to choose to intentionally ruin someone's life. She shouldn't want to kill him, but her assassin side still controls her instincts and the desire is there regardless of how much she may want to change to adapt to her new country and its laws. She plays with the idea in her head, entertains the notion that she could do it with the ice pack he's now holding to his mouth, and then- distracts herself by following orders, calling Gibbs to let him know what's going on, making the conscious decision to be an NCIS agent first and assassin second. Gibbs instructs them both to wait until he can make it there and though she agrees without question or comment, the thought of hanging around makes her want to scream. Maybe Tony senses it, because she is suddenly being pulled back down the driveway and deposited behind the fountain, shielded from prying eyes where they cannot be overheard. Before she knows it she's in his arms, and his grip is tight. She hesitates for a fraction of a second, then encircles her own arms around his torso, buries her face into his jacket. "You do not need to baby me, Tony. I am fine," she tells him, though her voice is muffled and she doesn't mean it.
She can feel his heartbeat through his shirt and doesn't miss the hitch, or the way his voice is just a little bit hoarse. "Look at me," he says and she obliges, angling her face so that she can see him properly; Tony leans down and his lips move from her temple to each eyelid as the pads of his thumbs press along the curves of her cheekbones, up the bridge of her nose to smooth just above her brow bones. She can feel the tension melting from her body with each caress, and she isn't sure where he learned how to do this but it does wonders for the pounding headache she didn't know she had until its absence. He wipes away the tears that managed to sneak away, steals a quick brush of lips before she has a chance to protest. "You're not allowed to kill this one, Zee-vah," he tells her with a wry smile. "This is one of those times we've got to do it the American way."
"Slowly, and with too much paperwork?" she offers.
That gets a chuckle from him. "See, you're learning."
"What if the lawyer's right? What if her shipmates did do it?" There's defeat in Tony's voice, and disgust- though he has done an incredible job of keeping his thinly veiled rage under control, it's there- just beneath the surface, enough to receive the occasional startled look from a coworker or passerby. They're all frustrated because they're inching along, no closer to catching Lara's killer than before, and all they have to show for their investigation thus far are an irate team leader and long-buried demons. But Tony's particular brand of frustration runs deeper, and though Ziva ordinarily appreciates his protective instinct, it occasionally makes her want to punch him. Like now. Because nothing can be solved by him snarling at the interns, even though it makes them all feel better.
She looks up from annihilating her cuticles. "Then I understand why Petty Officer Burrows has kept her mouth shut," she says mildly, though it takes more effort than it should.
"I don't. Why would you let someone get away with rape?" McGee asks, incredulous, and Ziva would like to weep for his blessed ignorance. What she wants to say is that only people with choice ever ask that question, but she knows he'd never truly understand. She'd asked it herself, before.
But logic is imperative. "Perception. Burrows is in the military; if a woman cries rape, no one on that ship would ever trust her again."
"Well, you're a woman," McGee fires back. "What would you do?"
She looks back down at her nails, contemplating the question. It would be so easy to be honest, here- but it is not the time and she would like to maintain McGee's ignorance for as long as possible. Trust may not be an issue within her own circle of coworkers, but having just one person know has been bad enough and the thought of having everyone look at her differently is enough to make her chest constrict with panic. She closes her eyes again, steeling herself against the barrage of memories. "I'm different. After torturing them until they cried like babies, I'd castrate them. Give them what they deserve." Before the sentence is out of her mouth she feels him at her side, and while McGee considers this she can feel the brush of Tony's hand against the small of her back. Come back.
"Spoken like a true almost-American," he comments, non-committal, but he doesn't move his hand and she sneaks a glance at him, hoping that he knows how much it means without having to say anything out loud. She presses back against him ever slightly, and while they're briefing Gibbs she finds that for just a little bit longer, her demons are at bay.