Setting: during end of Truth or Consequences
It was strange, the relativity of time. The summer had seemed to pass slowly, the normal rhythm of their days thrown out of synch by the change in the group dynamic, but compared to these past few days, those months had sped by. Now the last few hours made the previous few days feel like the blink of an eye. Ducky had spent them watching Abby pace back and forth through the bullpen, jumping every time the elevator dinged.
Director Vance had called them both up to his office when they had arrived for work that day. Jethro had reported in from Somalia. Mission successful, Saleem dead, his camp and organization being dismantled and contained by the Marines, and most incredibly, they had found Ziva alive, if not at all well.
It was wonderful news, of course, but in Abigail's head it most immediately just seemed to mean a switch from mourning to worry. He had spent most of the last few hours trying to steer her mind back to the heart of the news: that she was alive. Anything else was just detail that they could deal with. Unfortunately, Abby's generous imagination kept trying to fill in those details as she had nothing better to keep her busy.
Ducky, though, did not need to use his imagination to speculate on the condition she might be in. A prisoner of a terrorist in the Middle East for as much as three months. No ransom offered, unless Director David had chosen not to respond to it and left Ziva there, which angered Ducky more than it was productive to dwell on for the time being. No ransom meant interrogation, which meant torture, he was certain.
His mind was pulled inevitably back to the camp in Afghanistan where he'd cleaned up the messes of "Mr. Pain". He knew what interrogation techniques could do to a human body. Ziva had survived for months, which likely meant they had had someone with medical skills there to tend her worst injuries between sessions and prevent infections. He wondered if that medic had felt the same qualms he did for the young men he had treated. If so, he clearly had not offered Ziva the merciful way out.
Ducky was grateful that all of the victims brought to his care back then had been men. If a battered young woman had been brought to him, he likely would have broken sooner.
Abby must have seen the look in his eyes because she forestalled her most recent lap of the bullpen to come stand beside him. "If it was really bad, Vance would have told us, right? They would be going to a hospital instead of coming here."
Ducky smiled to see that the role of comforter helped her keep her own nerves at bay. "Absolutely true, my dear. You're quite right." Mentally, though, he was a bit concerned how Abby would handle it if Ziva did come in with the type of wounds he'd seen in his time.
The elevator dinged and this time, when they looked over, they froze. There, dirty, tired, and bruised, were Jethro, Anthony, and Timothy. And between them, like a ghost, pale and thin, was indeed Ziva. She was beaten and worn and looked at the room with a certain amount of wariness, but walked in under her own power and actually had almost no visible injuries. Relief flowed through him to see all four entering the office together again.
The room burst into applause around them, a welcome for the returning heroes, and Ducky went to clap the men on the back while Abigail, dear Abigail, wisely skipped her usual enthusiastic greeting and gently checked Ziva's face, either looking for wounds or just proving to herself the woman was really there, then enfolded her in a hug like a warm blanket. And Ziva didn't flinch, as he'd suspected, but accepted it like the first kind touch she'd had in a very long time.
He knew that, gradually, the scars would come out; not the visible kind that could be treated by a doctor, but the insidious type that cut deeper. However, seeing Jethro and Anthony watching her, Timothy smiling warmly, and Abigail offering her own brand of healing, Ducky knew that Ziva had a good chance to make a full and complete recovery.