[] This is Endure and Defy, a story I have been contemplating writing for some time. It will become a multichapter fic, as long as nothing drastic happens, and may turn into an eventual M rating. For now though, we are here with chapter one, a bit of a post ep for Truth and Consequences. Enjoy.

[] As normal-none of the characters are mine, I will return them unharmed and perhaps a bit more happy

She wouldn't sleep. Apparently wasn't even going to consider it. Just kept sitting there with her eyes getting all tired and trying to close on her and her body jerking itself back out of the rest it obviously needed. She wouldn't lay her head down either. Wouldn't let her back unwind from whatever coil she'd got it set in. Perfect posture that looked outright painful to him. McGee was asleep, snoring like a tiny teacup McPoodle. But Ziva was still sitting in that damn chair, straight up and down with her eyes open like she was afraid someone was going to kill her while she wasn't looking. The minute the thought crossed his mind he winced. That probably wasn't too far off the mark and that was just scary and terrifying and fodder for all sorts of nightmares.

And because she wouldn't go to sleep neither would he. He was sitting in his chair with his eyes going all slack and then snapping back open as he watched her do the same thing. Nope, if Ziva wasn't sleeping then neither was he. She could just consider him her new shadow for all he cared because if someone else decided to drag her off into the middle of freaking Somalia then he sure as hell was going too. 'No survivors' was way too hard a pill to swallow for him to willingly do it again. Her eyelids fell again, hid her brown eyes for the briefest of seconds and then snapped open again. Stubborn woman, he sighed and switched hands. Unlike her, his head felt way too heavy to stay up using only the support of his neck.

She shifted the tiniest of bits in the chair and her face muscles moved for just a second. That had been pain, or he thought it had, then again, her mask had gotten so much better sense the last time he had seen her he wasn't really sure at all anymore. The doctor had said she was okay to fly before they'd hopped on board this very large US Air Force bird. Bruised ribs, concussions, healing fractures, abrasions, stitches, bruises and contusions and a whole host of infections and everything had been in plural and the list had been so long. The whole 'she'll be fine' sentence at the end of it all had only made him want to slug the guy. Unfortunately his slugging ability was going to be impaired for a bit; all his muscles felt like warm grape jelly. And what he wouldn't give for some warm grape jelly spread on a biscuit with some coffee served on a room service tray right after he had gotten out of bed. Course, that would mean he would have slept. And he definitely hadn't done any of that lately.

And neither had she and that was the whole problem. They were both so damn stubborn that no one was ever going to get any sleep. Just a nap would have been sufficient at this point, a couple of minutes of dreaming about beaches and swimsuits and ice cream cones, not the crazy terrorists that were more likely to- His elbow slipped off the armrest and his head dropped. The motion made his neck pop and he jerked upright. Oww. Apparently there had been another part of his body that could hurt. Tony was attempted to tell her she won because this was ridiculous, and he wasn't even really sure what they were competing for or about or whatever the hell they were being stubborn about now.

Not sleeping wasn't really the issue after all, it was some underlying trust or argument or something that he hadn't figured out yet but would have to soon because not doing so meant he would be in the dark on the arguments they were going to have over suspects and interrogations and what color the damn sky was that weren't really about any of that at all. And if he didn't figure out what they were really about then he wasn't going to be able to pretend they weren't about that and talk about them at the same time and God was this confusing. He pressed his hand across his face and immediately regretted the action. There were cuts on his skin, when was he going to get that? Cuts and scrapes and all sorts of bruises and pressing on them was so far from being smart it might as well have been his father acting like a dad.

And his head hurt and all he wanted to do was just sleep. But he couldn't do that until she slept and she was still sitting there, blinking like her eyes weren't quite working and her face and body looked so tired and just hurt that it made his body hurt in sympathy. Hell, he might even be able to pull off a little empathy at this point cause he was tired and hurting and yah, not as much as her, but still. She could just hold it together better than he could. She blinked at him and her eyes met his and that was not holding it together at all. The air in his lungs left in a tiny sound that was way too close to a whimper for a guy like him. Blank, empty, hollow, dead. Those sparkling dark eyes of hers looked so scared and scarred that he just wanted to fix it.

Wanted to fix it so badly that he opened his mouth.

"Dinozzo," Gibbs ground out the word and he drug his eyes away from Ziva's to look up at him.


"Move." It took his muscles longer to obey the command than it should have, but eventually he pushed himself out of the chair and onto his feet. The plane lurched to the left and he stumbled onto McGee's feet. Probie didn't even shift and the puppy-snoring cadence stayed strong. Gibbs had sat down in his chair by the time he'd managed to regain something that was supposed to be balance.

"Over there," Gibbs mumbled, leaning back and closing his eyes. "Go sit next to her Dinozzo. And for God's sake get some sleep." Gibbs lifted one eyelid and stared at Ziva, moved to spear him with the creepy one-eyed gaze. "Both of you."

Now wasn't this great. Go sit next to her. Gibbs might as well have told him to jump out of the plane. He wasn't sure which would be less likely to cause him bodily harm and do the opposite of getting him to sleep. And if Ziva wanted to sit by anyone less than she wanted to sit by him he'd love to know who it was. Maybe Saleem, but they'd left him on a dirt floor next to a warm, spilled Caf-Pow that was mixing with the blood seeping out of his head and Tony didn't think he'd ever seen such a welcome site in his entire life. Except for when they'd brought her in the door and pulled that sack off her head. That had certainly made the whole trip seem a lot more like a real mission and not just a 'hey, let's go kill the bastard that Ziva was trying to get to and see if we can maybe manage to not die at the same time too'.

And it had been really good that Gibbs had been there because his whole plan had really ended in killing Saleem. There had never really been much on his 'now how do we get out of here' stint of the mission. He hadn't really expected to need to get out. Yet here he was staring down at Ziva who was blinking so slow her eyes looked like they weren't working properly and trying to decide if she would kill him if he sat down beside her. Gibbs would kill him if he didn't. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. He'd been intending to die anyways. He dropped down into the seat heavily and groaned when his back screamed at him for the abuse.

If he'd had a bad back before boy was this going to be a treat. Therapy was no longer sounding like something for sissies. Carefully he reached up for the armrest Gibbs had pushed up, trying to avoid locking gazes with Ziva. The plane lurched again, sending him sideways and towards her. The skin of his arm brushed against the hand she had placed on the seat and it was so unexpected and quick that he couldn't help but look at her. Her eyes were still dead, still lifeless and hollow and cold and strangled, but he couldn't force himself to move back, to put the three feet of space back between them. This one foot seemed so close, not that it would have been close at all back then. Back then this would have been work appropriate, not even Gibbs' slap worthy, but now, it seemed so close.

She exhaled and the sound was so close to a sob that he froze. He hadn't heard that sound from her before, had never heard her so broken and splintered and hurt and he wanted to fix it so badly. Wanted to pick her up and tell her that it would be all right, even if he didn't know that and she'd accuse him of wishful thinking. She could accuse him of whatever she wanted as long as she stopped looking so hurt and promised him she'd get better. Her inhale was no better than the exhale, shuddering and sharp, it sounded like the air was being scraped across razor blades as it passed into her lungs.

"Ziva-" he whispered, and apparently that was the magic word because she was suddenly scrambling across the seat and burrowing into his body so fiercely it took him a second to figure out if she was trying to hurt him or just trying to get close to him. He settled on the second one when she sob-exhaled again and began frantically clawing at his shirt. Her head hit his chin, her hip dug into his sore left side, the bones of her wrists and back were too close to the top of the skin and he couldn't get the live wire in his arms to calm down.

"Shh, shh, Zi, shh," he murmured nonsense sounds, syllables meant to calm and tried to get his arms out from under her so he could get them around her. Her elbow collided with the funny bone in his arm and he hissed and that single sound of pain from him made her stop moving completely. He froze, afraid she was going to vault right back off of him as fast as she had lunged on to him and way before he was ready for her to move at all. Instead she turned her face very slowly into his chest, clenched her fingers into his shirt so tightly the material pulled at his back and made the scrapes on his skin scream in protest. Tony wouldn't have complained or told her that it hurt when she held onto him like that even if he had to give up quoting movies for a month, because at that second she pulled her legs up to her chin and curled into him like a child or a small kitten and she was so small in his arms that it was alarming.

He looked up, trying to figure out what to do with this Ziva that climbed into his lap and breathed in whatever crud he smelled like as she silently cried, and Gibbs was staring at him with a very blank expression on his face.

"Well hold her Dinozzo."

"Right," he mumbled, finally getting his arm free enough to wrap around her. And it was alarming how easy it was to surround her shoulders, and alarming how light she was when he moved her up a bit so that he could slump down in the chair, and outright terrifying how the bones in her face nearly stuck out, and beyond scary that she was whimpering so silently he wasn't sure they were whimpers at all. And that wasn't the worst thing, the worst thing was that even when her breathing had evened out and she'd stopped crying and went just a tiny bit limp in his arms as she finally, finally, went to sleep, even then she continued to whimper and when he lay his head back and pulled her just a tiny bit closer it was the sound of her whimpers he timed his breathing to. The sound of her whimpers that he fell asleep to, and the sound of her whimpers and the feel of her fingers clutching his shirt so tightly her fingers would ache when she woke up that he would have nightmares about for months to come.

[] Look for chapter two sometime in the next few days, I'm generally fairly fast when I get excited about something, and this has caught my attention. :)