Ziva slowly walked into Tony's apartment, wearing a backpack and clutching a small blue duffle bag in her hand. It was the extent of what she owned. She had collected a few more things every day since her return, and at least had the necessities now. Everyone on the team was taking turns hosting her while she adjusted to being back before looking for her own place.
Abby had been first, eager to share anything she had that might help. But after the first time Ziva woke up screaming, nearly scaring Abby to death, she'd made McGee come and stay for the rest of Ziva's time at her place. Ziva was embarrassed to be so unable to control her dreams, but it was also nice to open her eyes from her bed on the couch and see McGee and Abby, cuddled up in sleeping bags on the air mattress together. It seemed those two couldn't say away from each other, even in their sleep. Ziva wouldn't admit it, but she was afraid to be alone with herself, and so she continued agreeing to the offers of another couch to sleep on.
Now it was Tony's turn. Two weeks ago this would have been terribly awkward, but after she'd finally got up the nerve to apologize and cornered him in the bathroom this morning, things were beginning to feel more and more like the old them and Ziva was glad to have these next two weeks to work on rebuilding their friendship back to what it had been, before everything else messed things up.
When she started to put her things down on the couch, which was nicely made up with a pillow, sheets, and blankets, Tony grabbed her arm and dragged her down the hall to his bedroom instead.
"Tony, what...?" she started to ask, but he interrupted before she finished her thought.
"Look Ziva," he said proudly, stopping when they were inside his room. "I made the bed, clean sheets of course and cleaned my room. I scrubbed the bathroom, put the toilet seat down. I even did laundry," he grinned, "just for you."
Ziva looked puzzled. "Why?"
Tony rolled his eyes. "Because. It's rude to make a guest sleep in the livingroom. So, for the next two weeks," he gestured around, "this is your room."
"I do not want to take your room Tony," she tried to protest.
"Hey, Ziva, I'm trying to be a gentleman here. I know it doesn't happen often, so please, just...play along, will you?"
The look in his eyes stopped Ziva from arguing further. He was desperate for her to agree, wanting to do something, to give her something that might help. So she smiled instead.
"Thank you Tony. That is very...sweet of you."
Biting back a retort, Tony reached out to take her bags, but despite how close she'd gotten in the bathroom this morning, it didn't take a genius to see that she wanted to avoid his touch. Trying not to react to the look in her eyes, Tony threw on his signature grin to cover any other emotions. "I'm gonna head out and throw on some pasta for dinner. Just...make yourself at home.
He left her standing in the room, clutching her meager belongings. It felt strange to be given a whole room and a bathroom when she'd been prepared to live out of bags and steal snatches of sleep on other's couches. She tried to smile, the expression still feeling foreign on her face. Tony was going to complain about his sore back for the next two weeks, but refuse all of her offers to switch places with him. She was thankful for this man, her friend. Thankful that she could still call him that.
Back in the kitchen, Tony was pulling out pots and pans, boiling water, and searching for the bag of twirly pasta he knew he'd stashed somewhere. He didn't hear Ziva enter the room and spun around when he saw a movement out of the corner of his eyes. He sagged back against the counter, gasping and holding his chest.
"Gosh Ziva! At least warn me next time! You're gonna give me a heart attack here!"
Ziva's smile was still a ghost of what the old one looked like, and while Tony seemed to remember how she loved walking around in bare feet, tonight Ziva sported black socks. He nodded towards the livingroom.
"Why don't you just chill on the couch for awhile? Supper will be ready before you know it."
Ziva frowned. "I am not cold. Besides, I could help."
Tony was glad his back was to her right now. The kitchen wasn't that big, and the two of them in a fairly small space would challenge his declaration to be a gentleman. At the same time, he didn't want to hurt her feelings or act like he didn't want to have her around. Tony was thrilled that she was staying for awhile. They needed a firmer foundation for their previously broken friendship.
"Okay Miss David," he said, covering up any nerves with a cocky grin, "you get to be in charge of salad."
They made the meal in silence, which Tony was getting more used to. Ziva talked a whole lot less since she'd come back, and he often wondered what it was exactly that she was keeping inside. How much was she still hiding from them? Two weeks of close quarters - maybe this was his chance to finally find out.
When the pasta was drained, the sauce warmed, and the salad made up in a clear plastic bowl, Tony and Ziva sat down at the small table in his kitchen. Despite their moment this morning, neither really knew what to say. Ziva listlessly moved her fork back and forth through the salad and pasta in front of her. She'd been starving in Somalia, another of her captors' ways of trying to break her.
And as grateful as she'd been to see food again, the first meal she'd tried to eat once home had sent her running for the bathroom after only a few bites. So Ziva was more careful now, eating slower, and to her surprise, finding that sometimes she did not want to eat at all.
Tony sat across from her, hating how quiet it was. They used to have no shortage of comments to make to each other, or sarcastic remarks to trade. For the last week she'd sat at her desk, so long empty, looking at him and occasionally smiling, but not speaking unless spoken to. He didn't like it.
But above everything else, Tony was so glad she was alive. Two and a half weeks ago he'd never expected to see Ziva alive again. His world was crushed when Gibbs came into the lab, announcing that the Damocles had gone down with no survivors. So when they dragged her into the room and pulled the bag off her head, for a second Tony's heart had stopped beating. And then he said the first thing that came to his mind.
There hadn't even been a flicker of emotion or life in her eyes when he'd asked Ziva about her summer. And when the truth serum forced him to spill his heart to her at the wrong time to answer the question of why he was there, he'd looked into her eyes and seen nothing. Like her body was sitting in front of him but she was no longer there. And in the middle of the joy inside him that she was real and alive, a niggling fear started to grow. Perhaps they really had lost her after all, even though she was found.
Tony thought back to that first night at Gibbs' house watching her try to sleep. That was the closest they'd been, because once life went back to normal as much as that were possible, they'd hardly spoken for these last two weeks. Finally Tony sighed and dropped his fork with a clatter. The simple noise made Ziva tense and jump and he had to fight not to ask what they'd done to her in Somalia, to make her afraid for the first time since he'd known her.
"This is ridiculous," he declared, picking up his plate and walking over to the couch. He came back a moment later for Ziva's, and offered his hand. She sat staring at her lap and shook her head. It was a such a tiny movement that he barely saw it. "Come on," he called over his shoulder, attempting to quell the feeling of rejection.
After a minute Ziva followed him and settled gingerly on the couch. Standing at his wall of movies, Tony ran through their options. Nothing too serious, nothing scary, nothing too close to real life. He didn't want anything violent or anything that would confuse her too much. Romantic wouldn't be a good idea and Ziva had always scoffed at chick flicks anyways. So that left comedy or something animated.
While Ziva waited, Tony hemmed and hawed, finally selecting three he thought would do, deciding that she could choose. "Okay Zi, what's it going to be? Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, a 1940s classic, Evan Almighty, Noah's Ark in the twenty-first century, or Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss at his finest." He noticed the way she was looking at him and gave her a half-grin. "What?"
She shrugged one shoulder. "I had forgotten you called me that."
He cocked his head to the side. "Called you what?"
"Oh." Tony frowned. It wasn't like her to forget things. Or maybe he should say it wasn't like the old her to forget things. This new one he wasn't quite sure about yet. "Is that okay?"
She didn't meet his eyes, but that was another trait of this new Ziva, difficulty keeping eye contact. "It is fine."
He tapped the DVD cases. "Movie, Ziva?"
Again she shrugged helplessly. "I do not think that I have seen any of them. They are your movies, you choose."
That was one of the longest sentences Tony'd heard her speak recently and figured that was as good as it was going to get.
"Evan Almighty it is then," he grinned, popping the movie into his DVD player. "Prepare to be amazed."
Tony lifted his plate onto his lap and leaned forward eagerly as the movie began. Ziva soaked in the familiar picture for several moments before arranging herself in a cross-legged position and carefully balancing her plate on one knee. The food felt strange in her stomach, her new clothes still smelled faintly of the store. And while, if pressed later, Ziva wouldn't've been able to say what the movie was about or if she'd even laughed, which she hadn't done in months, she spent the time sitting on Tony's couch, breathing in life again and wondering if she really deserved it.
A few hours and a movie and a half later, Tony and Ziva's plates were on the coffee table and both were slouched comfortably on the couch. Ziva was surprised that Tony could get so involved in a movie about an animated elephant, but she was thankful that he had selected something light.
Moving carefully, the marks on her back not yet healed, Ziva changed positions so she was propped in the corner of the couch but laying down a little more. She winced when the material of her shirt caught on a scab and pulled. Tony looked over when he felt Ziva shift. He'd been checking on her every few minutes, mostly to make sure she was still there. Some days having her back felt like a dream, and he was afraid he'd wake up one day and find out that she was still dead, instead of rescued from the death she thought she was ready for.
Just as he was turning back to the movie, it registered with him that her shirt had ridden up when she moved. Before Michael, before Somalia, Tony would've taken every excuse or opportunity to catch a glimpse of more of Ziva's skin, but not now, and certainly not like this. What he saw in the couple of inches between her shirt and pants was her beautiful tanned skin marred by several different lines and marks, and that was only what he could see.
Tony sat up suddenly, pointing at her stomach. "Ziva," he said, trying to keep his voice from shaking, "are there more?"
Ziva's eyes widened and she yanked her shirt down, shaking her head and looking away. He reached for her hand, but Ziva shrank back from him. Tony couldn't hide the hurt that flashed in his eyes this time and she tried to explain.
"Tony, I..." she began, but then her eyes changed, the panic overwhelming her again. She couldn't think, she couldn't breathe, and she was afraid she was going to be sick.
Ziva scrambled off the couch and raced to the bathroom, needing to be somewhere no one's eyes would be on her. Tony didn't even hesitate before following her. He stood outside the bathroom door, listening to her ragged breathing and wondering if she was crying. He'd never seen Ziva cry, but this seemed like the most likely time, if it was going to happen at all.
He knocked softly. "Ziva?" he asked.
Sitting curled up on Tony's bathroom floor, Ziva couldn't've answered even if she'd wanted to. She was too busy focusing on taking deep breaths and trying to convince her dinner to stay down.
Eventually Tony slid down to a sitting position against the wall. A few minutes later he turned the handle and found she hadn't locked it. He let the door swing open and saw her huddled against the tub.
"Zi," he spoke quietly, not wanting to make whatever it was worse. "Hey," Tony tried again when she didn't answer, "wanna talk about it?"
Ziva's eyes finally met his and he saw in them a vulnerability and brokenness he hated, because it wasn't her. She shook her head slowly.
"I should not have let myself be captured alive," she whispered, her words dripping with the pain of that summer.
Tony wanted so bad to hug her or something, but he was afraid to touch her, afraid it might hurt or scare her. His throat was tight and his heart squeezed at her soft admission. When he spoke, his tone was firm.
"Don't ever wish that Ziva," he said fiercely. "No matter what happened, you're alive."
She closed her eyes, suffering clear in her face. "You do not know what they did Tony." She opened her eyes briefly and looked at him. "I did not mean to live through it."
Tony's jaw clenched and he tried not to hear her words, not wanting to go back to the nightmares he'd had, wondering what she might have endured at the hands of those terrorists. He swallowed, determined to make her see something.
"You don't know what life was like for us while you were gone Ziva." His smile was half-hearted, his joking tone faked as he sought to interject some levity into the situation. "Abby...Abby was so broken. She was mad at everyone and everything for weeks." He tried to chuckle. "If possible, I think she wore even more black. None of us were allowed to be out of her sight for more than an hour at a time without calling to check in."
Tony focused on a point on the wall, feeling sick as he remembered those dark days. "McGee, he wandered around like a little lost puppy dog. Gibbs never stopped looking at your desk, it was like losing Kate all over again only worse." Because I didn't love Kate like I realized I loved you. Kate was my sister. But you Ziva...you're my heart. And I still might not get the chance to tell you that. "Ducky lost his spark, he looked so much older, Palmer didn't know what to say to anyone and every time he tried he made a mess of it, I guess that didn't change..." He trailed off and met her gaze again. "Life was a mess without you Ziva. We need you."
Ziva regarded him with serious, questioning eyes. "And you Tony?" She wasn't sure what she hoped to hear, but he was the only one left out of the story.
Tony knew what she wanted, what she was asking, but he'd never been good with feelings and deep emotional thoughts. He shrugged, slipping into his old persona as a shield against being rejected.
"Oh...well, I was the rock that held everyone together, the glue that made us all stick. I had a joke for every situation and only I could make Abby smile. It's just all part of..." His lies faltered under the weight of her stare and Tony dropped his head into his hands.
"I was the worst of all of them," he muttered darkly. "It was like I forgot how to function without you there Zi. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, but most of all I couldn't accept that you were dead." He met her dark brown eyes again and took a deep breath. "You didn't mean to live through it all Ziva." Tony paused, then admitted the truth for the first time. "Neither did I."
Her eyes never left his and her brow creased. "Did you come to die with me Tony?"
Tony's fingers itched to hold her hand, to not be having this conversation while sitting on the floor, the cold bathroom tile between them. "I came to die for you Ziva." He still remembered the way her skin smelled like honey, how her hair felt when he ruffled it to annoy her, her body so close to his as they looked at a report or fought for control of the plasma screen remote. "It seemed the least I could do."
If Ziva hadn't wanted to cry before, she did now. This was how he felt? How long had it been like this? After she left, or long before that, his jealousy over Michael covering up deeper feelings? She closed her eyes.
"I am not worth anyone dying for me," she whispered, her gaze dropping to her knees.
This time Tony did move closer. He scooted across the floor until their feet were touching, countering her movements when she tried to remove her hands from his grasp. He needed to be touching her for this.
"Ziva," he said, squeezing her hands to get her looking at him, "you are worth everything. Someday I'll make you believe it."
Ziva didn't want to deal with this now, didn't want to try to understand the meaning behind his words. "I am tired," she said finally, pulling her hands out of his, needing him to get out of her personal space.
Tony seemed to get it, that everything was too much right now.
"Me too," he said, standing up. "Guess it's time for bed."
Grateful for his understanding, Ziva slowly stood up. Her eyes searched his face. "Good night Tony."
Wishing he had the freedom to kiss her forehead or squeeze her hand, the corners of his mouth lifted slightly. "Laila tov," Tony replied quietly, leaving Ziva standing in the hallway, her gaze following him down the hall.
The first thing she did in Tony's room was turn on the lamp, dispelling the shadows. Unzipping her duffle bag, Ziva found the white and purple pyjamas Gibbs had given her that first night. When she tried to return them later, he had told her to keep them. "Nobody I'd rather see wear them." For some reason that was a comfort to Ziva, so she slept in them every night, washing as needed, still getting used to the feeling of clean clothes again.
She brushed her teeth and hair, then went back into the bedroom and slipped quickly under the covers. She never thought she'd be sleeping in his bed without him in it. That thought startled her, because right now she it would freak her out a lot more if she was sleeping here and Tony was in his bed.
Ziva rolled onto her stomach carefully, mindful of everything that was still sore. She believed Tony that he'd cleaned up and changed the sheets just for her, but the top blanket was the same one he'd slept under. It smelled like him. Ziva wrapped it around her body and took a deep breath, not willing to speculate as to why Tony's scent made her feel safe for the first time in a long time.
It was sort of like sleeping in Gibbs' house and knowing he wouldn't let anything happen to her, but different. That first night she hadn't been afraid to fall asleep, she hadn't know how bad the dreams could get. Now Ziva knew what to expect. Abby and McGee had adapted well to what she needed when Ziva had stayed there. But now it was another new place, another new person, and she did not want Tony to hear her dreams. She didn't know what they sounded like, but she knew what they felt like, what they looked like, and could only imagine what someone would see from the outside.
That moment in the livingroom drifted back to her, when Tony had pointed to her body and asked about the scars. She would have to be much more careful in the future. Ziva knew Tony thought he needed to know, thought he could handle it, but she had seen the look in his eyes when they found her alive. To see her scars would break her friend, and Ziva couldn't bear to see the revulsion that would fill his eyes if he ever saw them all and not just the few he'd glimpsed.
She didn't like to look at the scars and they were hers. She did not like to see how the hands in Somalia had changed her body. Forever she was marked by them. How could she ever let anyone else look?
Her body had always been something she was proud of. Sure, there was the odd battle scar here and there, but she knew what could be accomplished with her body, knew that men found her attractive and that she could easily make them want her. She had done so with Tony on numerous occasions before, it was part of their game. Her body had always been a security for her.
Now, she shook her head slowly, now it would never be the same. She would never be beautiful again, not when she looked like this. Instead of the tool, the shield she had used it as all her life, now her body was just broken, ground into dust and ashes like the rest of her soul. Ziva blinked back the tears. No man would ever want her again.
It was a very lonely feeling because all her life Ziva David had longed to be wanted, to be appreciated, to be loved. And now, after Somalia, that would never happen. She shook her head, too tired for all the nonsense swirling around in her sleep deprived mind. Closing her eyes, Ziva took a deep breath, repeating the same line over and over in her head, just like she'd been doing for two straight weeks.
I will not dream...I will not dream...I will not dream.