Most writers have their own version of Ziva's reunion with Eli (Despair and Deliverance, by wingsofenbarr, is one of my favorites) and this is mine. The plot-bunny came to me before Eli's reappearance in "Enemies Foreign," but the fic isn't necessarily AU to that episode. Set shortly after "Good Cop Bad Cop," but not tagged to any episode.
Warning: This fic is a little weird, very angsty, and something of a talkathon. I still can't believe it ended up at five chapters when it started out as a one-shot!
(For my own reference: 13th fanfiction, 9th story for NCIS.)
Gibbs takes the side stairwell out of the Navy Yard when he leaves work that evening. He learned years ago that at this time of day, it's quicker to take the stairs than the elevator, which makes constant stops at every floor of the building and is always hot and crowded with other employees heading home for the day. The stairwell, by comparison, is cool and drafty. Gibbs doesn't encounter another soul, and he's almost reached the ground floor when he hears the noise.
Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
Following the sound, he leaves the stairwell and pushes open the door to the storage locker area. The strange thwack-thwack noise, hard and fast, is nearby now, accompanied by labored breathing. Gibbs starts to feel unsettled as he casts around for its source. When he turns the corner onto the next row of storage lockers, he recognizes Ziva's silhouette at the far end. Most of the lights have been switched off for the day, and in the dimness, it takes Gibbs a minute to make out what she's doing.
She's punching the door of one of the lockers. Punching it hard and fast, with all her strength. Punching it as though her life depends on it. The locker door has nearly been knocked off its hinges from her blows, and the thick metal surface is covered with dents and dark red streaks of blood. Ziva's blood.
"Ziva?" he calls as he starts down the hall towards her, but she either doesn't hear him or is ignores him. Either way, her lack of response makes him a little angry. As he gets closer, he can see the bloody gashes on her fists where they connect with the locker. Just looking at it makes Gibbs want to wince. What's the matter with her? Why's she doing this to herself?
"Ziva!" he calls louder.
Still nothing, even though he's standing right next to her now. Ziva's arms are moving in a blur, but Gibbs catches hold of her wrists in his hands, restraining her, and shoves himself between her and the locker.
Ziva jerks violently when Gibbs grabs her wrists. "Ziva, what are you doing?" he asks, but she doesn't answer. Doesn't even look at him. It's like he's not there at all. She tries again to punch the locker, but Gibbs keeps a tight grip on her wrists, and for a wild moment they struggle together.
Gibbs has always been one to stay calm in emergencies, but he starts to feel alarmed as he fights to keep a hold on Ziva. He doesn't want to use more force on her. She's nothing but fighting instinct now, not thinking clearly. She might panic, break his arm.
"Ziva, stop it," he says, his voice loud but steady. "Come on, Ziver..."
And just like that, she snaps out of it. Her arms go limp in Gibbs's hands, and her shoulders heave as she tries to catch her breath. She swallows hard and finally tears her eyes away from the battered locker door to look at Gibbs. He's relieved that she's not trying to fight him anymore, but his worry doesn't lessen. There's a defeated look in Ziva's eyes that makes him think of an animal in a cage, trapped and hurt.
"Ziva, what are you doing?" he asks quietly, concerned and a little appalled at her recklessness. Then, since it's obvious what she was doing – punching the locker door – he adds, a bit rougly, "What were you thinking?"
Ziva looks hard at Gibbs, her chest rising and falling with her ragged breaths, and seems to think carefully about how to answer. At last she licks her lips nervously and says slowly, "Gibbs. I am sorry. I was just – I did not mean to – " She pauses and casts around the room, as if hoping to find an explanation there, then finishes lamely, "I was so... angry. I did not know what to do with it."
She watches Gibbs's face closely for his reaction, hoping he won't press her for more details. He's still holding onto her wrists, and she resists the urge to jerk them out of his hands. But she can feel her arms trembling uncontrollably with with rage, and she knows Gibbs must have noticed.
Gibbs has noticed, but he doesn't say anything. He looks down at Ziva's arms, at the bloody, mangled mess on the back of her hands. His face gives away nothing, but he's already planning to send her back to see the shrink again, if this is the only way she can deal with her anger. He's about to ask what could've possibly upset her so much, but before he can form the question, Ziva blurts out, "Eli called me."
Gibbs's head jerks up sharply at her words. Ziva immediately looks away, furious with herself for telling him, but he puts one hand on her chin and turns her head back to him.
"Ziva, what did he say to you?" Gibbs asks, and now his voice is low and dangerous. "Did he threaten you?"
It seems to take all of Ziva's strength just to shake her head. Her anger is suddenly gone, deflated, and her dark eyes are blank and empty, like doors have closed behind them, as they stare back at Gibbs. Then she drops them down to look at her hands, and she feels a vague surprise when she sees how much damage she's done to herself. Ziva knows she should feel pain – at least a little pain – as she takes in all the blood and bruises, but she doesn't. They may as well be someone else's hands. She wiggles her fingers, triggering a fresh flow of blood, and waits for the shockwaves of pain to penetrate her numbness.
Gibbs has half a mind to catch the next plane to Israel and straighten Eli out himself, but then he notices something small and shiny amongst the blood on Ziva's right knuckle. As he raises her hand to his face for a better look, it catches the light and seems to wink at him. It's a fleck of metal from the locker, lying there in her open wound. He glances over the back of her hand and sees more. She could catch her death of blood poisoning if they're not cleaned out properly. He lets go of Ziva's wrists and puts one hand on her back.
"Come on," he says, guiding her down the hall. "Autopsy," he adds shortly, before she can ask where they're going. "I want Ducky to take a look at your hands."
Neither of them says another word as they walk through the hall and down the stairs to the autopsy lab, but Ziva knows their conversation isn't over. Her head is still ringing from the phone call with Eli, from her attack on the locker, but as she walks, she tries to collect her thoughts. She tries to rehearse the words she's going to say when Gibbs starts asking her more questions...
But Ziva doesn't know what she can possibly say to make Gibbs understand, when she still doesn't understand it herself.