A/N: This story comes from a pretty personal place for me. I felt like a good way for me to wrap my head around my experience would be to write through it, which is exactly what I ended up doing. I hope you enjoy this story, and that my catharsis forms a good, in character story. ~Em


Tony walked down a back alley-like street near his apartment, for once dressed less than to the nines, to go have a drink with his buddies. It had been two months since they had returned from Somalia, and they had been bugging him incessantly to come out with them. He shook his head as he walked further into fairly sketchy territory, they really were a bad influence on him sometimes. He couldn't blame them, though. He had become so occupied with work he didn't have much time to be out making irresponsible decisions for which he knew he would be head slapped in the morning.

As he walked through the end of the alleyway, he spotted something that should not be, a woman, sitting in the fetal position against the wall of the bar. He approached her slowly, checking to make sure that she was okay, but when he saw who was sitting in the dark, grungy alleyway, his heart stopped. Ziva. It was Ziva, with her head leaning against the wall behind her, arms hugging her legs to her chest. Her hair was falling out of the tight ponytail she had adopted as of late, and her clothes that were always so neat and fitted were hanging loose on her frame, slightly dirtied from the cool DC ground. Most disturbing, however, was her face. It was completely blank. It held no sadness, no anger, not even the steely Mossad expression she so often wore to hide anything and everything she felt, it was just emotionless, lost almost.

Tony knelt down to look at her eye level.

"Ziva?" He said, refraining from touching her just yet. She slowly met his eyes, and he was even more saddened by what he saw there. Her face was pale, much paler than it should have been, which emphasized the dark bags that formed under her eyes. Her eyes themselves, they were as void of emotion as the rest of her face. He saw recognition in her eyes, but nothing else. He reached up to touch her face, and still she gave him no response. It was worse than he thought.

"Tony," she said. "What are you doing here?" He could smell the alcohol on her breath. Tequila, if he really wanted to be particular.

"I was on my way to the bar when I found you. I think the better question is why you're here."

She seemed to contemplate his question for a moment before responding. "I needed to be away. So I went to the bar, but then they sliced me off, and I sat down here. I saw no reason to get up, so here I am now." He wisely chose to let that one slip by.

"How long have you been here?"

"I do not know"

"How long were you planning on staying here?"

"As long as I needed to. Maybe forever." she said, dropping her head so that it rested on her knees. That didn't sound good. He struggled with what to ask her next, both craving and dreading any kind of emotional response.

"Zi, why are you here?"

"Because I want to be here." she answered, still talking to her thighs, head resting on her knees.

"And why is that?"

"I do not want to be anywhere else." That one took him aback. He wasn't quite sure what to say. What did she mean by that?

"What do you mean by that?" He said lacking a more appropriate response.

"I do not want to be anywhere anymore." He took a deep breath, trying to remain as calm as possible, which was quickly becoming more and more difficult as he realized what she was talking about.

"Anywhere in DC, or anywhere in the US..." She lifted her head up and released her legs, allowing them to fall into a butterfly position on the ground. She took his face in her hands and said, "I do not want to be here, or anywhere anymore. Never again."

"Do you really mean that?" He asked, still crouching in the same spot in the alley.

"I do not know. I think so. All I know is that I do not want anyone to see me like this anymore."

"Like what, Zi, because I want to help you, you just have to give me something here. What is so wrong that you're sitting drunk in an alleyway talking about ending it?"

She took a while to think about his question. Whether it was the tequila muddling up her brain or a serious contemplation he wasn't sure. He adjusted his position so that he was sitting directly in front of her, their knees touching lightly, settling himself in for a long haul. When she finally answered, he wasn't sure if he should be relieved or terrified.

"I am tired." She said, her voice cracking slightly, her eyes filling with tears he knew she would fight to keep from falling. "I am tired of fighting, tired of remembering, and tired of pretending. I am not fine, Tony. I am not fine and I do not know how to fix it." He remained silent as she took a breath to speak again. "All I want is to be fine, I want to be able to tell you the truth when you ask me how I am, but I cannot. I must soldier on." Tony watched as she squeezed her eyelids tightly together, twin tears falling down her cheeks.

"No one said you have to be fine, Zi. No one expects you to be the same person you were."

"But that is what I want. I want to be the same as before. But I cannot do that. I cannot be the same ever again." Her voice was cracking even more, the tears flowing faster than before as she fought to stay in control of her emotions.

"Zi, it's okay if you aren't the same. We will all love you just the same." He said as she wiped her eyes with her sleeve "Now, I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to give me an honest answer, okay?" she simply nodded. "How are you?"

"I am not fine, that much I know. I have not been fine for a long time, and I will never be again."

"Okay." He said.

"Okay?" She said, looking at him skeptically

"Thank you for being honest with me. It's okay that you're not fine. I get it I know I will never know what you've gone through, but I do understand a little bit of what you're feeling. "

"You've felt like all hope is lost for recovery? Like you could just disappear and no one would be worse off?"

"I have, and not all that long ago, either."

"When?"

"I'll tell you the story, but you have to let me take you home first."

"I do not want to go home."

"I'll bring you to my apartment then."

"Just leave me here, Tony. Your life will be far more simple for doing so."

"Zi, if you think that I'm going to leave you sitting in an alleyway in downtown DC in the middle of the night, you're crazy."

"That's the problem, is it not?" she said self deprecatingly.

"You're not crazy, you're just lost."

"But I am. You just said so yourself."

"That's not what I meant and you know it. Now come home with me."

"Funny that I can get you to say that now." she said.

"What?"

"Nothing. I do not want to go anywhere. You should just go."

"Well I'm not gonna do that, so you can go with me, or we can sit here until you decide where you want to go."

She remained silent as he moved so that he was sitting beside her, knees bent leaning up against the wall. She didn't even cast him a glance as they sat staring at the dirty brick walls of the alley. Now all there was to do was wait.