Disclaimer: All I want for Christmas is some Tiva lovin' in the latter half of season 8! C'mon, Santa, you can do it!
A/N: If you haven't already guessed, this story delves into the sensitive topic of rape and how it relates to Ziva's captivity in Somalia. Because if you actually watch Ziva's facial expressions and haunted, empathetic eyes during "Patriot Down"- kudos to Cote de Pablo for her prowess at relaying emotions without uttering a single word- it's pretty obvious Kaylen Burrows' case hits a little too close to home. One of my favorite parts about the episode was how Tony stood steadfastly by, always having Ziva's back, whenever there was the slightest hint Ziva was uncomfortable. I think on some level he knows what may, and probably did, happen to his partner out in the desert. Would've been nice if the show confirmed my suspicions with a nice Tiva comfort scene, but eh, guess that's why I'm here in the first place!
Undone, by AngelMoon Girl
Fall on my knees, fall on my pride
I'm tripping over all the times I've lied
I'm asking please, but I can see in your eyes
You don't need tears for alibis
It's true what they say
Love must be blind
It's why you're still standing by this sinner's side
You're still by my side when all the things I've done have left you bleeding
Come undone, surrender is stronger
I don't need to be the hero tonight
We all want love, we all want honor
Nobody wants to pay the asking price
- FFH, "Undone"
Tony twisted the lock into place, eyes never leaving Ziva's wary brown in the mirror as he made sure there would be no uninvited guests to interrupt their imminent conversation. Sure, there were probably a couple different things wrong with his method of attack- this was the woman's room he was warding off, after all- but he knew Ziva and he knew that this chance was perhaps the only one he'd receive for the rest of the day. If they were going to proceed with this case, they would first need to clear the room of all elephants. Ziva would undoubtedly try to brush him off, of this Tony was positive, but he needed closure just as much as she. Too many ghosts, too many memories clouded by a consumingly hot African sun, rivalled to tear Tony's focus away from the job. At least, that was the reason he had force-fed himself while debating whether or not to shadow Ziva as she beelined for the bathroom immediately following their interrogation with Petty Officer Kaylen Burrows.
Because if she was going to go personal on this case, that would be a problem. Because Ziva's problems were his. Because they were partners.
And partners have each other's backs, Tony concluded his mantra firmly. But as the Special Agent watched Ziva throw up her usual devil-may-care mask, he couldn't help but recall the pang in his heart as Ziva allowed the walls to slip, just for a moment, in Kaylen's company. Shared misery between victims... It had hurt, more than he expected it would, seeing Ziva come face to face with her Somalian demons. And it was her face- her haunted mahogany eyes- that had occupied the forefront of Tony's mind while he debated whether to confront the Israeli or not.
"Lost, DiNozzo?" the subject of his concern drawled, folding her arms over her chest beside the immaculate sink. The posture suggested nonchalance, but Tony- whose keen senses had lately become more attuned to Ziva than ever before- observed more strain than usual.
The king of smooth-talking made a show of leaning back against the door, arms languidly supporting his head like he, too, could pretend he had not a worry in the world. "Actually, I think I'm exactly where I need to be."
Ziva snorted, inflection a cross between amusement and annoyance, but Tony swore he saw the the edges of her mouth twitch with disconcertment. And it bothered him that it was proving easy, too easy, to see past his partner's defenses. Normally they were as inflexible as stone, almost impenetrable, but now- now she was struggling to maintain the facade.
Ziva David was ruffled; teetering even. And Tony was all too aware which buttons he could push to send her toppling.
"I've never seen a rape case affect you so deeply," he commented, in a mild tone more fitting for discourse about the weather. Ziva's eyes changed from impatient indulgence to something charged and stormy.
"I do not know what you are talking about," she snapped, body coming to rest hard against the countertop. There was a sickening thud as her tailbone collided with marble. Tony cringed, but Ziva either compartmentalized the pain or was too worked up to notice.
"I sat directly across from you!" the brunette exclaimed, arching off the door to advance at his partner. "I watched you build a rapport with Petty Officer Burrows; I saw the understanding in your eyes, the recognition of something hitting close to home! You know exactly what I'm talking about and I know exactly what you're hiding from."
When Tony was directly in front of Ziva, she straightened up and glared into his countenance. "Your concern is noted."
"Ziva." Tony reached out to touch her hand, but she jerked back as if scalded. Tony froze, completely unnerved by the faint trembling ravaging Ziva's frame that he had missed noticing until right up in her space. So he took a slow step back, as if afraid of causing the raven-haired woman to withdraw inside herself further. The intensely knowing look Ziva bestowed on him as he did so frightened Tony, but headstrong young man that he was, the Special Agent plowed on. "You were a prisoner for four months. The only woman, captive in a camp of thirty men. I can do the math, Ziva."
The aforementioned Israeli curled her fingers into fists, as if attempting to squeeze the uncontrollable tremors from her body and failing miserably. She looked like a wreck, and it was all Tony could do to watch his normally unflappable ninja come undone at the seams.
"It is what it is," she ground out around deep breaths, and Tony wanted to grab her shoulders; shake her.
"How long are you going to spew that crap before you fall apart, huh? By not confronting the truth, you're bottling it all up inside, letting the pain fester until it has nowhere else to go. Don't pretend like nothing horrible happened to you out there and that you're over it, Ziva, because you're not... you're human and you said so yourself to Kaylen, there's no excuse for rape!"
"Kaylen was innocent. She did not deserve the fate that befell her," Ziva murmured, eyes drifting to stare off over Tony's left shoulder. He gaped, hardly daring to believe the self-loathing condemnations pouring from Ziva's lips.
"And you did?"
Just like that, the woman's visage snapped back to accost Tony, dark russet boring into agonized viridian. "You have no idea the sins I have committed over my lifetime, Tony. Terrible, terrible things I can barely hope to atone for. I am not innocent like Kaylen."
"That may be, but dammit Ziva! There is no. excuse. for. rape!" Tony said, loudly, and his palm connected with the sink as he tried futilely to resist from freaking out. "I don't care who you are, or what you've done, or how many times you've fucked up! No one should have to endure four months of torture and think they deserve that kind of treatment!"
Ziva's shaking had increased to the point where she seemed either on the verge of panic or emotional breakdown, but when she spoke next her voice was feeble and child-like. "But if I do not have excuses, what do I have left to hold on to? What keeps the nightmares at bay; the overreactions when someone grazes me the wrong way or happens to catch me off guard? What then, Tony?"
And suddenly Tony realized that at the crux of the matter, what Ziva feared most was not culpability... it was claiming weakness. The fact that she had been powerless to defend herself, despite all her training. And he wanted to tell her it wasn't her fault; that she couldn't have done anything, but then Ziva repeated insistently- brokenly-
"What do I have left?"
And Tony gently pulled her into his arms, anchoring the shivering Israeli against his firm chest. "You have me," he answered seriously, simply, and Ziva finally let go as his words clicked into place-
Because she did, she did have him, goofy immature sensitive dependable rock that Tony was. He had her back and always had, even before rescuing her from her own personal hell. And she realized, happily, that he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Arms protectively cradling Ziva's head as she sobbed into his shoulder, Tony helped her silently through the raging emotional tempest, unwavering heartbeat against Ziva's ear an unspoken promise that no matter what, he would be there.
Because they were partners... in more than one sense of the word.
Reviews are appreciated.