Title: Silent Volumes
Spoilers: Season six's/seven's Ziva arc.
Summary: Ziva never talks about Somalia, but she visits Gibbs' basement regularly, and her silence speaks volumes.
Warning: Deals with the aftermath of rape. I've done my best to avoid the Healing Cock trope (if you don't know what I mean, look it up!), but I don't know how successful I've been. I haven't even attempted to explore the whole PTSD issue in depth, because I didn't want to get too far into that stuff. I don't usually write stuff that deals with non-con, but I interpreted Cote's performance throughout season seven as implying that Ziva was sexually assaulted during her four-month-long captivity. If you take a look at her face while she's interviewing the rape victim in Patriot Down, you might be able to see what I mean. Anyway. You've been warned.
Author's Note: Written for Zabby, who donated to my help-the-kitties JustGiving page a while back and has been patiently waiting for Giva angst ever since. Thanks for not killing me, Zabbs!
It is quite a while after she becomes a probationary agent that she begins to visit Gibbs' basement. It was her safe haven when she was suspected of terrorism, hiding from the FBI, NCIS and Mossad alike. She visited it a few times after he came back from Mexico, when she needed to talk things over with him, or when the rest of the team was also present.
It feels strange without his boat there, but the boat was never the one that dominated the room with its silent presence, despite its larger size. Gibbs can command her attention with a word, and the day she put a name to the way she feels about him, she realised immediately that she was wrong.
She spoke the 'F' word in despair and frustration, struggling to make him understand what his opinion means to her. For the briefest moment, he was honestly startled, and part of her even imagines she saw a flash of... what? Resignation, possibly, or disappointment.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking. Perhaps it is not. But it is too late to take back the word she spoke, and there has been no reason to do so.
She went through enough at the hands of men, the four months she spent at Salim's mercy. More than any woman – any living creature – should have to bear. It did not come as a surprise to her; he was a man, living in a compound devoid of women. That is not to say that she does not revile and fear him to this day, though she witnessed his death with her own eyes.
For a time, she could not imagine desiring the intimacy of sex ever again, and for a while, she even forgot who she could trust; who has always had her back, regardless of politics and the absence of family ties.
Months of therapy – with an outside therapist, though she has no doubt that Ducky is well qualified – have not banished her personal demons entirely. She runs, builds up her strength, re-hones her self-defence skills by degrees. She finds it in her heart to forgive Tony for his role in Michael's death.
She begins to truly feel again, though it comes slower than she would like. Though she banters with Tony and McGee, works through cases as she used to, keeps up appearances… inside, she is raw and bleeding, and those wounds can not be healed in days or weeks.
It is not a conscious decision to visit Gibbs, the first time. She simply ends up in front of his house, and since she is already there, she goes inside. The door is never locked, and he would never answer a knock. Anyone he welcomes a visit from knows that they can just walk right in.
The basement is just how she remembers it from that fateful day, months before, when she came here to beg his approval to return to his team. She had half-expected him to have started a new boat, but instead, he is working on what, once finished, will be a dining chair.
He glances up as she descends the stairs, and one brow arches quizzically. "Haven't seen you here in a while, Ziva."
She nods, hesitating at the foot of the staircase. "I am sorry."
His lips twitch slightly in what could be a smile, and he returns his attention to the wood under his hands. She fills in the blank with a nod, coming over to sit on the sawhorse he pulls up. "Rule number six."
They make a little idle conversation. He works. She watches. After a while, silence falls, then deepens with every moment that passes, until she gets the sense that to break it would be impolite.
Eventually he turns to face her, ceasing his task for the first time since he looked up and saw her. "There something you came here to say?"
Her brain seems to short circuit, leaving her without a clue. She chooses the truth; she is through with lying to him. "Honestly, Gibbs, I do not know."
For a second longer, he watches her thoughtfully. Then he shrugs. "Want coffee?"
"Do you have cream and sugar?" Even before she's finished the sentence, she knows the answer.
Gibbs looks at her as if she has just asked him if he drinks blood, and she laughs softly. "Then I will decline. Thank you."
"Got beer, if that's any better," he says, subtly amused, as only Gibbs can be.
She agrees, and so begins a new and unspoken tradition between them. She visits him at least once a week, sometimes bringing food or beer of her own, and quietly watches him finish the dining chair and start on a second. By nature, he does not speak much, and she senses no pressure from him to carry the conversation.
Much of her time in his basement is spent in contemplation. He does not ask her again why she chooses to spend her time here, and she does not offer a reason, because she is not entirely sure how to phrase it.
A couple of months in, he makes an offhand comment about Caf-Pow!, and the reference to Salim's favoured beverage makes her flinch. He notices, of course. He's Gibbs.
"You never talk about it."
Feeling ridiculously vulnerable, she snaps, "I have told you and the Director everything that happened since I returned to Mossad, right up to the second I was captured. Do you doubt me?"
His gaze is level; analytical. "Wasn't talking about that."
She is the first to look away. He doesn't pursue the topic, instead taking a swig of his beer and making pencil marks on the wood where he intends to cut.
The silence stretches interminably, and he is done sawing before she gathers the strength to speak. Her mouth is drier than the sawdust in the air, and she gulps down the remainder of her drink. It does not help much.
"I wished for death."
He gives her his full attention without moving, speaking as quietly as she is. "Understandable."
"But hardly commendable," she says bitterly.
"Takes strength to survive what you did. Most wouldn't have."
"Salim was reluctant to kill the only woman in his compound. The only blessing is that he was selfish enough to keep me for himself." The words slip out before she can stop them, and she stares fixedly at the concrete floor of the basement, reluctant to look up and see the shock and pity in his expression.
After a couple of seconds, he speaks her name, and she obeys the unspoken command to meet his eyes. In them, she sees only regret that she has suffered, and beyond it, an anger not meant for her. She gets the sense that if Salim and his men were not already dead, they soon would be.
"You already knew."
It is strange. She had supposed it would be a terrible thing, to have Gibbs know her secret. Instead, she feels lighter; almost relieved.
"Beautiful woman held by men who probably hadn't seen one in months? I suspected. Hoped I was wrong, though."
She finds it hard to speak; what is there to say?
"You need to talk, let me know."
For that, at least, there is an automatic response. "Thank you."
It is a few weeks later that she speaks the words she has been hesitant to voice. It has taken time for her to adjust to the fact that Gibbs knows the full story of her captivity, and that he does not judge her for it.
On the night in question, she is feeling invincible. It surprises her that it has not taken a drop of alcohol for her to feel this way. Perhaps it is because of the smile he directs her way, upon hearing her footsteps descending his basement stairs. Perhaps it is the fact that he casually initiates a pop quiz on the US Constitution, something that she is attempting to memorise for her naturalisation exam, or because she is able to answer every question but one correctly.
Perhaps it is simply because despite the traumatic events that lay in her past, her heart skips when he crouches with his back to her, retrieving a chisel from the floor. His jeans might be worn and dusty, but at times they can be extremely flattering…
Whatever the reason, it makes her bold.
"I am sorry, Gibbs. That I misled you."
He misinterprets her, shrugging. "Eli David's a difficult man to cross. That's all water under the bridge."
"I am not talking about that." She would have preferred a moment to gather her resolve, but his gaze sharpens, a slight wariness returning to the posture that had been relaxed a moment ago.
Giving his imagination no time to formulate possible betrayals, she says, "I told you, the same day I visited you for permission to return to your team, that you were the closest person I had to a father."
He waits for her to continue, motionless.
"I was mistaken. You are…" She hesitates, knowing that if her instincts are wrong, she will have achieved nothing but to make things awkward for them both.
Gibbs takes a step closer, as regardless of her personal space as he always has been, but keeps his silence. She has no choice, now; she has committed to this conversation, and she must see it through.
"You are more." She lifts her chin defensively, staring up into his face, practically daring him to dismiss her feelings.
With a slight nod, and a faint smile that turns her knees weak with relief, he tells her, "I noticed."
She feels instantly ridiculous. Of course he noticed; he is Gibbs. He notices everything.
"It's your decision, Ziva." He has not closed himself off, exactly, but there is a note of seriousness to his words that acknowledges the ordeal she has been through. "You get to make all the moves."
She takes a breath to protest that she does not need handling with goat gloves, but he beats her to it, sliding his fingers up across her jawbone and into her hair. "Except this one."
The gentle graze of his lips against hers triggers a reflexive gasp, and he misinterprets it, beginning to draw away. Letting instinct drive her, she slips a hand to the back of his neck, pulling him down to her and kissing away his caution with a seductive fire that surprises them both.
She pushes as close as she can, yielding control of the kiss to him with only a momentary quiver of trepidation. Under the rough hands of Salim, she wished for death, but the difference is easily apparent with Gibbs. He is insistent, but not sadistic; fierce, but without cruelty; hungry, but with no intent to do harm.
She does not long for death, but if the world was to end while she was in his arms, she would not fear it. She does not fear him, and she clings to the moment, lingering until he breaks off, his hands gripping her hips and keeping a few inches between them.
Looking down to see the first signs of his arousal, then up to meet his lust-darkened gaze, she asks, "Finished so soon, Jethro?"
Torn between frustrated amusement and caution, he presses his thumb against her lips, silencing her before she can continue. "Barely even started. But you're not ready for this."
Without breaking eye contact, she presses her body back in line with his, her racing pulse jumping at the feel of him, growing harder against her abdomen. "I understand if you would prefer me not to start something I cannot finish tonight, but there is a lot of ground to cover between kissing and intercourse, if you do not mind remaining… unfulfilled, for a time."
He kisses her again, leaving no doubt in her mind that he does not begrudge her this choice. And then he makes his own decision, his voice a low growl. "Start whatever you want… but I'm gonna need to sit down."
Laughing, she brushes past him, heading for the stairs. "As much as I like your basement, I would recommend that you sit on the couch."
"That I sit on the couch? Where exactly are you planning to sit?"
"On you, of course." She throws the statement back over her shoulder as she reaches the top of the stairs, along with a half-playful, half-smouldering look she has not felt confident attempting in far too long.
From the way his footsteps accelerate on the stairs behind her, it has the desired effect.