Disclaimer: NCIS characters and situations borrowed. No profits made.
A/N: This five part fic is completed – will post a chapter every couple days.
More A/N: Post-Somalia stories have been done to death, but none I've seen has quite hit all the things I've wondered about since Ziva's rescue. I hope this one has some elements not done before. This fic was written for screamingmonkeys as a part of the NFA Secret Santa exchange; it's a bit different for me, as while I'm fine with happy endings and even some fluff (both requested) she also wanted "lots of angst" which, if I've done in the past, wasn't intentional! And sorry about the poorly punctuated title on the NCIS index - FFN just wouldn't let me use the punctuation I needed to put up the title properly!
So thanks for reading! All comments, of any sort, are appreciated – always love to hear what you think...
"OKAY, TRIED - COULDN'T. LISTEN..."
The news of the team's successful mission in Somalia and the safety of its personnel had been transmitted by the carrier group's communication officer to the Director of NCIS, who had been standing by for long, tension filled minutes in MTAC. It had begun with the very brief, coded message from the insertion team to the waiting carrier. The rest of the stunning information came in small portions thereafter, surprising and even energizing the usually unflappable Leon Vance.
First, the count: four civilian personnel, not three, were en route to the ship, making this an extraction as well as the "eyes on the ground" mission that they'd hoped – and planned – to become so much more. When Director Vance himself barked a request for clarification, the reply was the same, four civilians. Then, the damage: three out of the four being evaluated by the pair of medics tasked with the incursion force; none appeared to be seriously wounded. But the most unexpected and positive news came about twenty minutes after the first, in the form of a direct call from the team leader himself and the news Vance had been unwilling to consider until he had confirmation. Team Gibbs had been more successful than anyone had hoped: not only had its ostensible fact-finding mission located, and eliminated, the terrorist cell's leader, Saleem Ulman, but DiNozzo's unstated, ill-concealed personal mission – avenging the loss of their teammate – had suddenly been turned on its ear as Ziva was not merely avenged, but rescued.
And that, for many more reasons than the mere saving of a life of one of their own, was huge.
So when their cargo transport landed back on American soil, the word went from Vance to his personnel almost as quickly as it had come to him. And the audacity and skill of their mission, now known by every employee at the Navy Yard, had nearly everyone in the building waiting for them to appear, to celebrate their victory and to welcome their lost warrior home.
The elevator dinged ... the door opened ... and the exhausted, filthy, event-rattled team slowly moved out of the elevator into the long-familiar squadroom that each, at least one time or another, had considered home. It was the Director who broke the waiting silence, offering his public approval and pride by leading off the applause, adding his silent nod and genuine smile to Gibbs. All eyes turned quickly to the Mossad officer thought dead, as Abby's emotional, relieved hug welcomed Ziva for every one of those looking on. In the emotions of the moment, it was no surprise that no one really noticed the others on the team.
No one noted the weary, grim expression of the team's leader who, understanding exactly all that they had accomplished, also had understood not only the implications of Ziva's rescue and return to them, rather than to Mossad, but the inescapable conclusions about what must have happened to her during her months of captivity. And no one – other than Gibbs, and, with a quick glance of his own, McGee – noted the quiet withdrawal and haunted, intense expression on the face of their senior field agent as he slipped from the knot of people meeting them near the elevator to go retreat behind his desk and watch Ziva intently, the look in stark contrast to his usual mask of juvenile indifference and mischief.
As the applause swelled, then subsided, the analysts and agents and assistants stepped away from the emotional scene and turned back to their desks and their own work. Abby's hold on Ziva extended well past the last clap, hugging her close as Ducky murmured his soft encouragement, and together the three slowly turned back toward the elevator, doubtless to allow the team's de facto medic to assure himself that at least for the moment, Ziva faced no immediate physical risks due to her maltreatment.
Gibbs allowed himself to give Ziva up to the pair, confident that they would ensure her a safe place to stay for the time being, until they all got their balance back. He turned to the two men left waiting in the bullpen. Tony remained at his desk, unmoving, in exactly the same position he'd taken since his arrival. McGee, who had greeted Ducky and stood close as the scientists had taken Ziva under their wings, now moved toward his desk to drop his bag there, trying not to be too obvious as he glanced again in concern to his partner.
"Go home, McGee." Gibbs was suddenly at the younger man's elbow. With a tired, supportive squeeze of his shoulder, his boss added, "that was a hell of a job you two did out there. Go home, get a shower and some food ... I'll see you tomorrow. You too, Tony," Gibbs turned to the senior field agent, whose gaze remained unbroken and focused on images that Gibbs feared would eat him alive. "You two have earned more than just a few hours, but at least for now I can give you that much."
Gibbs' words, and his weary, concerned tone, made McGee look back at his boss, and the look he saw as Gibbs considered DiNozzo led him to look back at his partner, not bothering to hide his own thoughts now. Tony had made a few efforts to joke or to prod as the drugs worked their way out of his system, but they were all thinly disguised efforts at drawing out Ziva, pulling her back to them and out of the hell in which she'd been held for four months. Now that she was out of his sight, he fell back into his own black brooding, clearly focused on her and what must have happened after they'd left her behind.
It took a couple moments for Gibbs' voice – and the piercing gazes of two sets of eyes on him – to work through the layers of worry and rage and regret and a host of undefinable emotions pulling for his attention, but finally, Tony drew a breath and, without any outward sign of change in him, said quietly, "the Director will want a report as soon as possible, Boss. When I get that done and on your desk, I'll head out."
"The Director got enough of a preliminary report with us making it back here intact to hold him until tomorrow. Go home," Gibbs repeated. As he looked at the unmoving agent, he sighed softly and looked back at the younger agent. "Go on, McGee. I'll see you tomorrow at 0800."
Wavering only a moment, Tim finally nodded and murmured, "right. G'night Boss." As he started walking, he arced around to the edge of DiNozzo's desk, tapping the surface lightly, a kind of substitute pat on the back of the man whose obsession had brought them all – all of them – to this moment. "'night, Tony," he added.
DiNozzo nodded, vaguely, aware of Tim's efforts and of Gibbs' lingering presence, but still too wrapped up in events to react as he might under other circumstances. He knew that Gibbs would persist until he did something, and a part of him appreciated it, but at the moment it didn't really matter. Several moments passed, the only sounds around them the quiet bustle of a normal day's work by the other employees just outside their bullpen...
The voice was low, the sound rare but not new – Gibbs was concerned about him. Tony's unbroken stare finally wavered as he blinked suddenly, tiredly, and slumped a little.
"She's with Ducky, and Abby won't let her alone for a minute. She's in good hands, Tony. It would be a good time to go home and get a shower and something to eat."
The green eyes lifted to Gibbs, finally, and revealed the pain he felt, both old and new, both his own and what he now felt for Ziva, all in a hazy muddle as events and the outcome started sinking in for him, in waves. "I will," he stalled.
Gibbs frowned. "Tony – are you sure you don't need to see Ducky, let him take some blood for Abby? God knows what was in that crap Saleem was shooting into you..."
The senior field agent shook his head. "I'm fine, Gibbs, it's just..."
"You're not even close to fine, DiNozzo," Gibbs interrupted, "but I'm willing to believe that you either finally ran out of adrenaline, or ..." Unlike his usual directness, Gibbs gave himself a moment to choose his words with some care. "...everything that's happened just all piled up at once." Even though the circumstances were far from what he would want for his second, Gibbs was mildly heartened that Tony looked back up to meet his eyes at his words. "You tell me honestly that I don't have to worry about any chemicals still shooting around in your body and I'll take your word for it."
At that, Tony drew a deep breath, sighed, and slumped a bit more as his taut, tight muscles finally released a little more of the tension he'd carried for weeks now. "Thanks, Boss," he murmured. He was quiet for another few moments before drawing another breath. "I'm good."
To be continued.