Tony raised his eyes from his computer and studied his partner. He had been keeping an extra close eye on Ziva since they had returned from the crime scene. That dusty warehouse where the body had been found reminded him painfully of his brief time in Somalia, so he could only imagine how Ziva must be feeling. He had tried to talk to her about it, but she had pushed him away like she always did. It hurt him to think that she didn't trust him.
There was just no way that even someone as strong and capable as he knew Ziva to be couldn't be affected by what had happened in Somalia. He also had a feeling that the report she had written was missing some very important details. After all, Ziva had been the only woman among countless, sick, twisted men. He didn't need Ziva to confirm his suspicions. She had tried to hide it, but he had seen the look on her face earlier that morning when Ducky informed them that the petty officer had been raped.
She did a pretty good job of pretending, and maybe someone who didn't really know her might actually believe that she is, indeed, fine. But Tony does know her, knows her better than he knows anyone else. Which is why he notices that while she still engages in their usual witty banter, her soul isn't in it. He also can't help but notice that she doesn't laugh as often and when she does it sounds almost forced and doesn't quite reach her eyes. The feisty ninja who could kill you eighteen different ways with just a paperclip is gone. She isn't his Ziva anymore.
The ringing of Gibbs's phone interrupted his thoughts and he watched as his boss answered with his usual barked "Gibbs", and listened intently for a few seconds before hanging up with a weary expression. This can't be good.
"Grab your gear; we've got a second victim."
Tony saw the tears forming in Ziva's eyes as she gazed down at the body, and suddenly wished fervently that he had been the one to kill Saleem Ulman, the bastard that had dared to do this to his partner. But he had to put that anger aside for now if he wanted to get through to Ziva, plus he had a feeling Ziva had enough anger for both of them. She had a right to be angry, given what Saleem and his men put her through. And he didn't mind her directing the anger at him if it helps her to feel better. He wouldn't even mind if she hit him, would gladly suffer broken bones if it brought back the old Ziva.
He hadn't been able to save Kate, Paula or Jenny. But he could save Ziva. He had to, because he lost her once and there's just no way he's going to lose her again. She was just going to have to accept his help. But he would wait until they were alone. He didn't want to make the coming conversation any harder than it had to be, he would do anything to make it easier for her. He would have gladly put himself in her place for all those months. He had a feeling that enduring Saleem's torture would be easier than seeing that dead look in her eyes and knowing that he could not fix it.
So when they arrived back at NCIS and Ziva headed straight toward the bathrooms he decided to follow her. He opened the door and then was shocked still at the unmistakeable sound of throwing up that was coming from the only occupied stall. The sounds tore at his heart and he knew that this cannot go on; she had to let him help her. He leant against the wall and waited, thinking about what he's going to say. What he hasn't already said.
She unlocked the door and stepped out, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Then she noticed him standing there and her eyes hardened angrily. He opened his mouth to speak, though he still didn't know quite what he was going to say. But he didn't get the chance.
"Is it too much to ask for you to just leave me alone? She asked fiercely.
"I'm just worried about you, Ziva. Please just let me help you", he said, stepping closer to her.
Ziva looked up into Tony's eyes, and saw only concern for her. She wanted nothing more than to finally give in to the tears she had held back for so long, was so tempted to tell him how she was afraid she'd never recover from what those men had done to her. But then he'd find out that she was cutting herself and he'd never think of her the same way again. He probably wouldn't want to help her anyway if he knew what she was doing to herself. He was getting too close and she couldn't let him find out her secret.
"Tony, just drop it. Please", she pleaded, before turning abruptly and walking away.
Tony stepped out of the bathroom, intending to follow Ziva, but she was already halfway across the bullpen. He saw the rest of the team watching Ziva stalk angrily away, and then their eyes turned to him, probably wondering what the hell he had done.
He internally debated about what to do. He knew she shouldn't be alone right now. He should just go after her whether she liked it or not. That's what friends do for each other. But, on the other hand that could just make things worse. And for some reason he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something else, some other reason why she didn't want to talk to him.
Tony walked slowly to his desk, deep in thought. Sinking into his chair, he ran his hand through his hair and sighed with frustration. Looking up, he found his boss's eyes watching him with an unreadable expression. He waited for the terse "Get back to work, DiNozzo." But it never came. Instead, Gibbs said simply, -
"Go. She needs you."