*A/N~ After I saw the scene in the warehouse in Masquerade, I knew this had to be written. I think that quick exchange is my all time favourite between Tony and Ziva. This is a heavy, rather sad fic probably due in no small part to the fact that I was listening to 9 Crimes, by Damien Rice, on repeat. It deals a bit with what happened to Ziva in Somalia, as well as with how she's dealing with being back. As this was written between the hours of 11pm and 6am, expect a few SPAG mistakes. Reviews, as always, are very much appreciated.*
The Past Is Not Prologue
"I have seen first hand what happens when...convenience...wins out," she says and her voice is barely above a whisper. She has her back to him, and so she doesn't see it when Tony gets up and moves to stand behind her. She is lost in her own thoughts; rather they are nightmares and, for a moment, she slips away from the warehouse and goes back to Somalia.
"You never talk about it." Tony says gently behind Ziva and she is snapped, rather abruptly, back into the present. I didn't hear him move, she thinks to herself and that thought scares her.
She turns toward him, a snide remark on her lips, until she see's Tony's look. His eyes are sympathetic, but there is no hint of pity within their blue depths. This surprises Ziva, as that was not exactly the look she was expecting from him.
Casually she says, "What is there to talk about?" She hopes her tone is light enough, but when the sympathetic look increases slightly, she adds a small smile for good measure.
A moment passes where the two say nothing to one another. Tony continues to watch her, and as he does, Ziva's pretend half-smile disappears. She thinks, for a moment, that his gaze penetrates into her very soul and that he can see what she is hiding; what she refuses to talk about. She is not the type to admit when she needs help, though. She especially is not the type to talk about feelings. Something Tony should get as he is almost exactly like her in that regard. However, the way he is gazing at her now indicates to Ziva that he has had enough of the silence.
"C'mon, Ziva," he says, his voice so soft she has to strain to hear him.
Her resolve flickers for an instant and she almost gives in, almost tells him what he wants to hear. Then the wall is back up and she whispers back, equally as quiet, "What Saleem did was bad enough. Becoming like him would be worse." She studies his reaction for an instant, but does not wait for a response. She turns and moves off toward the other side of the warehouse and does not see the mixture of hurt and deep concern that passes over her partner's face.
They are back to rummaging through the warehouse and Ziva locks her conversation with Tony into a small compartment in her mind.
The two say nothing about it for the rest of the day.
"Hey, Ziva," Abby shouts as she shuffles through the Bull Pen to Ziva's desk. "Me, Tim, and Jimmy are going for drinks now. Do you want to come?"
Behind Abby, Tony's head snaps up from his magazine. His gaze is intent on the woman who sits across from him, but she does not see him because of the tall Goth who stands in front of her desk.
"No, thank you, Abby," Ziva answers. Her voice is strained, like she is trying to be polite, but it's an effort. "I am quite tired, so I think I will go home and go to bed."
Abby's black-clad shoulders sag. "You sure? It won't be the same without you."
"I am sure." Ziva replies and Tony can hear the slight tremble in her tone. He wonders if Abby can, too. Apparently she doesn't hear the inflection in Ziva's voice because she nods and moves off toward McProbie's desk.
With the line of sight between the two partners suddenly clear, Tony can see the look in Ziva's eyes. They look haunted, like the demons from her past are all around her, and she can find no escape. He has been surreptitiously watching her since their conversation at the warehouse and this is not a new look for her. In fact, it has been with her all day.
"Hey, Tony, you're coming, right?" Abby's voice chimes in to his right.
Without taking his eyes off Ziva, who is now doing her best to look busy reading a report, Tony shakes his head. "Can't Abs. Tired."
His tone is preoccupied, which catches Ziva's attention. She looks up from her report and locks gazes with Tony. His eyes narrow at the look on her face, which almost mirrors the look in her eyes. She says nothing, though, just stands up and grabs her backpack off the floor.
"Goodnight, all," she mumbles and makes for the elevator before waiting for a response from anyone.
Tony counts to fifty in his head, then gathers up his things and, with a wave over his shoulder, follows his partner out into the night.
As Ziva steps out of the scalding hot shower she decides to forgo the towel that is draped over her drying rack. Dripping, she makes her way to the sink and reaches up to wipe the condensation off the mirror. As her reflection becomes visible she notices the tiny, almost invisible needle scar on her right arm, just inside the crease of her elbow. It is where Saleem injected the truth serum into her time after time, for month. Suddenly, Ziva feels like she can't breathe. She's not sure if it's because of the onslaught of memories the scar conjures up, or because of the closeness of the hot, moist air in her bathroom. The shower she thought would calm her has done nothing and the fears from before return ten fold. Anxiety overwhelms her and she flees the bathroom and moves into her bedroom. Across the room her full length mirror greets her and she can see the various scars that cover her naked body. Most were inflicted by Saleem and his men, but there are others, older, that pepper her mocha skin.
What is there to talk about? Her own voice echoes in her ears, but she is unsure if it's in her head or if she has spoken aloud.
C'mon, Ziva, her partner's voice whispers and now she knows this is all in her head.
Ziva's face crumbles. She shivers, despite the warmth of her bedroom, and slowly sinks to the carpet. She draws her naked legs up to her chest and wraps her arms around them. She rocks herself, for how long she cannot say. All she knows is that Somalia has followed her home from her conversation with Tony and she cannot shake the terrible feelings that have been brought along for the ride. They are her waking nightmares, ones that come flooding back at the drop of a hat; a casual touch from one of her team, the smell of Abby's CaffPow's, a certain sound, or word. She has done her best to ignore these nightmares, to put on a brave face, but she is not sure how much longer she can continue to do so.
She turns her head to the side and rests it on her knees. That's when she sees her Sig, tossed on her bed in her haste to get undressed and into the shower. The thought of ending it all has crossed her mind before. Quite a few times since her return, if she is honest with herself. Her betrayal at the hands of her father; the thought that, while she is back with NCIS she is not really "home"; the looks she gets from other agents. These have done nothing to quell the desire to kill herself. She has no one and nowhere to go. She was betrayed by three men that she loved and two of them were family. Two of them are also dead; one killed by herself, the other by her partner.
Tony, she thinks his name and, for a moment, a tiny smile lights her lips. He saved me.
It is true that McGee and Gibbs accompanied him to her rescue, but it was Tony's refusal to give up on her that ends up saving her life. He was tortured, too, because of her. So was McGee. They were beaten by Saleem, just as she was. It is Ziva's fault. It is all her fault and she hasn't even apologised for it. Of course, there is the small apology she gave Tony for having her back, but there was so much more to say. And what has she given Tony in return for saving her life, besides that one apology? Not what he wants, she suspects. Perhaps it is best that such things remain unspoken, she muses. Theirs is a relationship, five years in the making, of sexual tension, ridicule, and jealousy. To say how she really feels will only spoil it, she knows. And yet...
Ziva unfurls herself and makes her way over to her bed. Next to her Sig is her cell phone. She contemplates picking it up and dialing her partner, but instead she reaches for the gun. She removes it from the holster and turns it in her hand. The metal is cool and smooth beneath her touch and, for a fleeting moment, Ziva is reminded of the touch of a lover. She shoves herself back, gun in hand, and rests her head on the wall behind her bed. She absently turns the safety on and off while her mind drifts back to before Somalia, and then before Somalia: to the fight she and Tony had. She was so mad at him for killing Michael and she said some terrible things to him. While she was being tortured in Somalia, that fight with him had kept her alive. Her desire to tell him she was sorry was what had kept her going.
Then, he had turned up to rescue her, or so she thought. In fact, he and McGee were there to avenge her death, or supposed death. Ziva is not sure what makes her more proud; that she has people in her life who are willing to risk their lives to save her, or who would avenge her death when they believe her to be lost.
Why are you here?
Seeing Tony had seemed like a dream, at the time. He couldn't possible be there, sitting across from her, pumped with truth serum. She hated seeing him like that: beat up, drugged, and unable to help him. And the look he had given her when the hood had come off...
Couldn't live without ya, I guess.
She shivers at the emotions that remembered look stirs within her.
It is ironic how the thought of him had kept her alive, if only to tell him she was sorry, then have him end up in the same situation: captured. Ziva knew she didn't deserve him, or any of the rest of her team. It killed her to think she would be the cause of their deaths.
"I am sorry, Tony," she whispers now into the empty room. Her hand is still fiddling with the Sig in her lap.
"Don't be sorry, Zi, the view's much better than I expected."
His lazy draw makes her smile, but then she freezes. That was definitely not in her head. She grabs one of the pillows next to her and brings it up to cover herself, thought it barely covers anything. She turns in direction of his voice.
Tony is leaning nonchalantly against her bedroom door, however, the look he is giving her is anything but. She can see the tension in his body; his muscles coiled like a snake about to strike.
"Tony." Ziva says and cocks her head to the side. She thinks maybe she should be angry at his presence because not only has he broken into her apartment, but he is also staring at her while she's wearing nothing but a pillow. The anger never comes, though. Instead, a sense of relief, and of peace, descends upon her, and she smiles at him.
"Can you do me a favour, Ziva?" Tony asks and he pushes himself off of her door. Slowly, he makes his way over to her bed. His gaze never leaves her and the tension he radiates moves before him like a tidal wave.
Ziva laughs, languidly. "You want me to put clothes on?" The thought makes her laugh again.
"No," Tony replies, softly, and a shadow of the famous DiNozzo smirk plays across his lips. He reaches the bed and extends his hand. Ziva looks at it in confusion. "Far from it, in fact. I would, however, be very grateful if you'd give me your gun."
Ziva blinks and looks down into her lap. Her hand is still clutching her gun, so tight that her knuckles are white. "I'm not going to shoot you, Tony," her voice holds a hint of incredulity, like she can't believe he would even think that.
Tony laughs nervously. "It's not me I'm worried about, Ziva."
She blinks again and holds the gun out to him. In the process, she doesn't realise that she has taken away the only thing covering naked flesh. She doesn't understand why her partner's eyes go suddenly very dark, and he swallows audibly.
Slowly, he meets her gaze and takes the Sig from her. Without breaking eye contact Tony flips the safety back on and slips the gun into the waistband of his trousers, at the back.
"Have you taken anything, Ziva?" He asks slowly, as if talking to a child.
Her brow crinkles. "Taken anything?" She repeats, her tone curious. She feels like she's floating, like she's watching the scene unfold from somewhere near the ceiling.
"Yes," Tony nods and turns her head back toward him, as she is frowning down at her quilt. "Have you taken any pills?"
"Pills? Tony," she chastises him and tries to pull her chin out of his grip. He doesn't let her go, though, and so she regards him with her eyebrows raised. "I have not taken anything. You can let me go now." He does so reluctantly.
"I'm going to get you a robe, OK?" Tony waits for her nod before moving off toward her closet. He never takes his eyes off her, and her gaze follows him all the way to the closet and back. "Stand up, Ziva. I won't look."
Ziva gives him a sultry smile, but does as she is told. When she removes the pillow from in front of her body, Tony's gaze flicks to the right and stay there. She slides off the bed and stands in front of her partner, then turns her back to him. As he helps her into the robe his eyes betray him and slide over her naked back, and the scars there.
Ziva can feel the air around him tense and when she turns to look at him, Tony's eyes are tight and angry. "I thought you said you were not going to look." She says simply, knowing the reason for his sudden anger.
Tony says nothing to that, only clenches his jaw. She can see him grinding his teeth.
"You've seen my scars before, Tony. In Paris, remember?" Her tone is casual as she says this, but he winces as if she's slapped him. Ziva is unsure if he is recalling what happened in the hotel room, or trying to forget the scars.
"It still sucks that they're there, Ziva," he replies, answering her question.
"I was not going to do it, you know." She says, trying to change the subject, and sits back down on her bed. Tony joins her a moment later.
"Actually, I didn't know." He retorts and there is a hint of anger in his tone. The two regard one another, lapsing into silence because Ziva doesn't have a good retort of her own.
After what seems like an eternity she whispers, "You came for me, Tony. You risked your life after what I said to you in Tel Aviv. You didn't even know I was alive, but you came for me." The last bit leaves a slight smile on her lips.
Tony says nothing, only holds her gaze. His eyes repeatedly scan her face, as if searching for something.
"You refused to give up on me." Ziva says to break the silence. Her brow furrows and moisture springs into her eyes, unbidden. "Why?" She asks and her voice cracks.
"Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to," he whispers, echoing their conversation in the cell in Somalia. His voice is husky and the look in his eyes is one of caution, but his words break something in Ziva. She shakes her head and closes her eyes. Tears spill down her cheeks, but she makes no move to wipe them away.
"No," she sighs and her voice fails. Ziva opens her eyes and looks at her partner and, again, shakes her head. "I have been not asking questions because I fear the answers for as long as I can remember. I am done with not asking, Tony, and I am done with the fear."
Tony's eyes flutter as he scans her features. His hand moves up to Ziva's cheek and, gently, brushes away the tear making its way down to her chin.
"I don't know if I'm ready for truths, Ziva." He admits and there is fear in his tone.
Ziva laughs softly and brushes at her other cheek. "I do not know if I am, either, but I owe you the truth. After all you have done for me, I owe you that much and so, if you do not want to talk, just listen."
Tony shifts uncomfortably next to her. She is unsure if he's aware that he has shifted away from her body by a millimeter. He closes his eyes and runs a hand through his hair. When he meets her gaze again, there is resignation in his eyes.
Ziva takes a deep breath and begins. "I am unsure of the exact moment I realised it, but I was...in love...with you while you were with Jeanne. This was long before I knew it was a cover." She holds his gaze, but it takes some effort. She has never been this open with anybody, ever, in her entire life. "When I realised that you were in love with her I was...shattered."
Tony's eyes narrow in pain, but he keeps silent, and he continues to hold her gaze.
"Then, Michael happened and I thought, finally, that I was over you." A pause. "And then you killed Michael." Fresh tears well up in her eyes and she averts her gaze as they fall.
"I was so angry with you. Not for killing him, as bad as that sounds, but for taking away my chance at getting over you." Her voice is thick with tears and still she refuses to meet his gaze. "I could have been happy with Michael, I think. I would have made myself be happy because it was easier than admitting what I felt for you."
She finally turns to him and it is to see that he is doubled over himself, head in his hands. She touches his shoulder and he tenses, but doesn't pull away.
"You were the reason I stayed alive in Somalia," she says, offhandedly like she is discussing the weather. "Do you know that?" Tony lifts his head and gives her a confused look. She nods. "I made myself stay alive so that I could apologise to you about our fight."
He gives her a half stricken, half shocked look. "That's it?" He asks and his tone reinforces his look. "You stayed alive through unbelievable torture because you felt bad about our fight?"
He laughs, hollowly, and shakes his head.
Ziva lets her gaze fall to the carpet. "I wanted you to know it was not your fault, my being in Somalia." She lifts her eyes to his in time to see him swallow hard. The look he gives her confirms what she thought: Tony felt it was his fault she decided to stay and, thus, was captured.
"Ziva, if I hadn't-" Tony began, his tone almost angry. He stops when she holds up her hand.
"It. Was. Not. Your. Fault." She enunciates each word, hoping that will help her words penetrate his thick skull.
"They tortured you, Ziva," his tone is still aggravated. "They had you for months and they hurt you and I wanted to kill them all!" He practically shouts and she is uncertain if his anger is directed at her, so she flinches away slightly. He sees this and reaches for her, but stops himself just before he touches her arm. He looks stricken. "I hate myself for what happened to you."
Ziva shakes her head. "It was not-"
"Yes, it was!" Tony bellows and leaps up from the bed. He is towering over her now. "They beat you, could have done much worse..." he trails off at the look she gives him and she wonders how he could possibly know about that. She has told no one about the rapes, not even Ducky, who know more about her injuries than any of the other team.
"Did they...rape you?" He asks through clenched teeth. He can barely finish the sentence he is so livid. She can see his hands trembling at his side.
Ziva shudders, but bites her lip, and wills herself to be still.
"Tony, I was a female prisoner with male guards," she starts to say, but breaks off when Tony whirls around and slams his fist into her closet door. There is the sound of splintering wood and a bang as the door slams back into the wall. When he pulls back his knuckles are bloody, and there is a large hole in her door and in the wall behind it where the knob is embedded.
Ziva leaps up and goes to him, but he holds up his uninjured hand before she can touch him. Instead, she goes into the bathroom and grabs a hand towel from her drying rack. She soaks it under cold water, rings it out, then returns to the bedroom. Tony is back on her bed, cradling his injured hand against his chest. Blood stains his lavender Oxford and, fleetingly, Ziva wonders how much he paid for it.
She goes to him, then, and kneels down in front of him. Gingerly, she takes his hand and, even more gingerly, wraps the hand towel around it. "I have some bandages in a First Aid kit in the kitchen. I will go and get them." She moves to stand, but Tony's other hand is suddenly on her shoulder, stilling her.
When she looks up at him, his eyes are a dark and stormy blue. "Fuck the bandages," he grinds out through clenched teeth.
Ziva nods, albeit reluctantly, and makes herself more comfortable by going back to her knees. She still holds his injured hand.
"Ziva," he sighs, but she shakes her head.
"What is done is done, Tony. I will heal. I am alive and I will heal."
Their eyes meet and a bit of the pained look flees. His uninjured hand finds her cheek and his thumb caresses her jaw. It is a few moments before he breaks the silence.
"I knew you were jealous of Jeanne," Tony confesses, and he looks slightly abashed when her eyes widen in surprise. "I knew, and I said nothing because I thought it was just an infatuation. I had no idea that you..." he trails off before finishing, but Ziva thinks she knows what he means. She also knows how hard it is for him to say that word, perhaps as hard as it is for her to say it.
"Well, I knew that you were jealous of Michael," she confesses in turn, a small smile on her lips.
Tony snorted. "Was I that obvious?" He asks, a small smile of his own forming.
"You were only trying to protect me," Ziva says and her eyes and tone soften as she gazes into her partner's face.
Tony's eyes sparkle. "But you're Ziva. You don't need protection," he says, his tone slightly sarcastic. Ziva flinches at her own words, albeit twisted, from their argument in Tel Aviv.
"I did, though," she whispers and the wild look in his eye relents. "A part of me still does, Tony."
"I have your back." Tony says, echoing her words to him a few weeks ago in the men's room.
Ziva nods once. "I know," she squeezes his fingers gently.
"I will always have your back, Ziva, and I will never let anyone hurt you, ever again." She smiles at the seriousness in his tone and at his promise.
"That is a silly thing to promise, Tony, given my chosen profession."
He shrugs. "I think my track record speaks for itself." When she looks at him in confusion he elaborates. "I've killed two people who hurt you, right? Michael and Saleem."
Ziva smiles despite herself. "Michael had not hurt me yet and, as I recall, Gibbs shot Saleem."
Tony waves his hand dismissively. "Michael would have hurt you eventually and I may not have killed Saleem with my own hands, but I set him up for the kill shot. I think I deserve at least partial credit for that one."
And just like that the seriousness that surrounds them is gone.
Ziva shakes her head and gets to her feet, pulling Tony off the bed at the same time. Then she pauses. "How did you get in here, anyway? I know I locked the door."
Tony flashes her his classic grin and says, proudly, "I picked your lock."
"Well, I guess I will just have to give you a key, then," Ziva says nonchalantly and then laughs at the look Tony gives her.
"Key," he says, incredulously. "That's a big step, Ziva."
"Bigger than seeing me naked with a gun in my lap?" She asks, a smile on her lips. The smile fades, though, as she sees something dark pass across Tony's features.
"It was the single greatest, and most terrifying, sight I've ever seen," he says jokingly, but even his attempt at humour doesn't hide the haunted look in his eyes.
Ziva chooses to ignore the look, but places her hand on his arm, reassuringly. "I said I was not going to do it."
"It's kind of the thought behind the action that worries me, Ziva." Tony says, seriously, and suddenly the heaviness from before is threatening to surrounding them again.
"Well, now that I have something to live for..." Ziva trails off and raises her eyebrows at him. He returns the gesture with a knowing smirk. They don't need to say it out loud. They have always been good at non-verbal communication. Ziva supposes it comes from being partners for so long. Either way, she knows Tony understands when he nods and holds up his injured hand.
"Got any ice?"
She smiles and nods, gesturing toward the kitchen. She leads the way, Tony close at her heels. She pushes him down into one of her chairs and goes to the freezer to grab an ice cube tray. When she returns to the kitchen table she notices the way Tony is looking at her: a mixture of pride, residual guilt, and something else.
"Ziva, I just want you to know that I..." his voice falters. He shakes his head, then. More at himself, she thinks, than at her.
"I know, Tony," she says softly and, gingerly, unwraps his hand. She puts the ice cubes in the towel and holds it in place on his rapidly swelling hand. With her free hand she reaches up to touch his cheek. When her hand makes contact his eyes close briefly.
"I hope you know, too." She says, and despite her best efforts, her voice quivers.
"I do," he answers, barely above a whisper, and the look he gives her makes her knees buckle. He covers her hand with his own and they share a companionable moment of silence.
Then, "Hey, Ziva?"
"Your robe is so totally open."