I found this in my secret folder, just waiting for me to do something with it. This takes place right after that weekend where Ray (is it just a coincidence that whenI type his name I always manage to hit the t key instead of the y and it comes out Rat? Hehe, you know what Gibbs thinks about coincidences...) comes to see Ziva and they go to Vermont, I think? Correct me if I'm wrong. But its right after 8.12 Recruited so, yes, spoilers, but I'm fairly sure everyone's watched that one by now...

Disclaimer: Sigh.

Oh, and any similarities to "Scars Won't Take Your Beauty," is completely coincidental, I wrote this a while ago and I just found it.

The flickering TV faintly lit the intertwined couple on the couch. The movie playing was quite interesting (as it should be for the price they paid to watch it), but only one of the two was even trying to pay attention. The man was too busy trying to find ticklish spots on the woman's neck with his lips.

Ziva couldn't help the giggle that escaped her mouth as he was successful. A part of her, deep down, was disgusted with that giggle, but the rest of her was too busy to care. "You insisted that we watch this movie!" she complained half-heartedly as he continued his ministrations.

His answer was incoherently mumbled into the soft skin behind her ear, which made her laugh again. Turning her head, she asked, "Are you even going to try to pay attention?"

With a self-confident grin he said, "No," and leaned down to kiss her on the lips.

Kissing him back quickly, she pulled her lips away and turned her head back to the TV.

Frowning playfully, Ray said, "I wasn't quite done with those."

"Well, I'm attempting to watch the movie you said was so excellent," she said, smiling.

Reaching over her to grab the remote, he hit the pause button, freezing the star actor's face in an extremely strange expression. Laughing, he replied, "We'll watch it later." As his mouth returned to hers, Ziva fought back the wave of panic that washed over her with his words. They'd had a conversation months ago about how she wasn't ready for that final leap. Since then they had kept their clothes on, even during their occasional make-out sessions. This felt different to Ziva though. She'd sensed his slight impatience the last time they'd been together, and was worried he hadn't taken her seriously. She tried to focus on his kisses and ignore the little voice in her head telling her he was interested in more than kissing tonight.

The voice was proven correct however, when he shifted them on the couch so he was pressing her into the couch from above and his hand slipped under the hem of her shirt. Fighting down the wave of panic and nausea that always accompanied these situations, Ziva shoved back the threatening flashbacks hovering on the edges of her mind and told herself that she could handle it.

However, she was saved from having to decide if she should stop him when his hand suddenly froze on her back and he pulled back so he could look at her.

"What's wrong?" Ziva asked, confused.

"Ziva..." His hand moved higher on her back, not exploring as a lover would, but searching, examining through touch. And suddenly she understood.

Before she could fully comprehend what she was doing she had pushed Ray back and sat up, pulling her shirt down. The flashbacks were gaining strength, though she refused to let them take over.

"Let's watch the movie," she said as if nothing had happened. She grabbed the remote, needing something to hold onto to keep her grounded.

Ray reached out and took hold of her arm before she could hit the play button. She tried not to flinch at his firm grip. Ray didn't seem to notice.

"Ziva, what is that on your back?" he demanded.

"It is nothing," she responded quietly. Her accent saturated the words, as it always did when she was panicked or angry.

"Ziva... are those scars?"

She was silent.

"Ziva-" he tried again.

"I'm tired," she said abruptly, standing up.

"Baby!" he called after her as she strode quickly into the bathroom, grabbing her bag as she went. She shuddered at the nickname. She'd told him before that she hated that term of endearment. Every time it was said, she heard his voice echoing it. This time was no different. His terrible laughter floated around her, filling the small room until it drowned out even her harsh breathing. Tearing her eyes from the mirror, she yanked open the shower curtain, stifling a scream as her mind conjured a very realistic image of him in the bathtub.

Trembling, she reached out and turned the water on, leaving it on the coldest setting. Quickly stripping, she jumped into the icy jets. She gasped as the shock of the freezing water jarred her from her terrifying thoughts. She sank to the floor of the shower, and wished for the first time that it was Tony waiting for her in the room, instead of Ray.

A long time later, she managed to pulled herself up off the floor and turned the shower off. While she dressed and readied herself for bed, she braced herself for the unknown. They had never had a fight like this, and she wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Finally, when there was nothing else for her to do, she took a deep breath and opened the door.

The room was dark, the TV switched off. For one terrifying moment, she feared he had gotten fed up with her and left, until she spotted him in the corner, staring out the window. She took a few steps toward him, then hesitated, unsure of what she should do. Suddenly, Ray turned away from the window and walked past her into the bathroom without a word. Ziva opened her mouth to say something, then closed it when she realized she had no idea what it was.

He didn't slam the door, but the firm click of the lock was loud enough. Feeling herself deflate, Ziva climbed into the one bed in the hotel room. She lay staring up at the ceiling for what felt like hours, listening to the faint noises coming from the bathroom.

When Ray finally joined her, the silence lay upon them like a heavy fog. When Ziva couldn't take it anymore, she said quickly, before she could change her mind, "Yes."

The room was silent again for a minute before Ray finally asked, "Yes?"

"Yes," she confirmed. "They are scars."

"Why couldn't you just tell me that?" He sounded slightly exasperated.

"They..." Ziva paused, unsure of how to go on. "They aren't pretty."

"Scars rarely are," he said.

Ziva didn't know how to respond, so she remained silent.

Ray broke the awkward silence by saying one of the two things she prayed he wouldn't.

"Let me see them."

Once more battling the panic, she debated quickly. Then, before she could regain her senses, she sat up and turned on the light. Blinking against the sudden brightness, she grabbed the hem of her t-shirt and pulled it up in the back, displaying her gruesome collection to him.

There was a long, tense silence before Ray finally said something. "Who else has seen these?"

Ziva frowned. It wasn't exactly the response she had been expecting. "Um... Gibbs, Ducky, and Tony." Her frown deepened when she heard the sharp intake of breath at her partner's name.

There was another long pause before he asked (of course) the other thing she'd hoped he wouldn't. "What happened?"

"Ray," she whispered, dropping her t-shirt to recover her ravaged back. She turned to face him. "Please... not tonight."

"Why?" She jumped at his angry voice. "He knows, why can't I?"

Feeling like she'd missed a conversation, Ziva asked, "He who?"

"Tony." The venom with which he said the name made her flinch. His face betrayed nothing, but his eyes were full of jealousy and anger.

"He... he was there," Ziva answered hesitantly, not sure how to explain Tony's role in the ordeal. "He and Gibbs knew about them, and Ducky helped treat them." She was concerned by his priorities. The questions he asked weren't even close to the reactions she'd gotten from the others.

"Well, why can't you tell me?" he asked. "I thought you trusted me."

"I do," Ziva said, slightly desperate. "I just... I can't tonight. It's a long, terrible story that most days I just try to forget. Please don't make me relive it. Not tonight."

She waited tensely for his answer, watching his eyes. This time, they were blank. Finally he said quietly, "'kay," and rolled onto his side to face the wall.

Feeling her heart sink, Ziva slowly reached up to flip the switch on the lamp. As the room filled with darkness, she closed her eyes and fought the tears that threatened to spill. She curled into a protective position she used to calm herself on the nights that the nightmares wouldn't leave her alone. Breathing deeply through her nose, she focused on the scents of her soap... the sheets... Tony...

At this last, her eyes snapped open in surprise. Tony? Sure enough, the scent that was distinctly him surrounded her. Puzzled, she quietly tried to figure out where it was originating. It didn't take long.

She had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. She hadn't even noticed that when she was packing she'd grabbed the old Ohio State t-shirt he'd left at her apartment eons ago. How it still smelled like him was a mystery, since she was certain she'd washed it at least three times. Then again, the man himself was a mystery, so she supposed it was only fitting.

With his calming scent wrapped around her, she drifted into a peaceful slumber.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~}{~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later, Ziva was on a different couch, watching a different movie with a different man. She'd tried to deny it all night, but the fact was, she was much more comfortable with this man than she was with Ray.

Taking her eyes off the flickering screen, she gazed at her partner and tried to decipher why that was. He was completely fixated on the movie, explaining something about a character or actor, she wasn't sure which.

Why was she so relaxed around this man when she had a perfectly wonderful boyfriend waiting for her call? The day after the scar fiasco, Ray had acted like nothing had happened, though he had been noticeably less touchy-feely, only kissing her goodbye that night as she boarded her flight.

"Ziva?" Tony's voice broke through her troubling thoughts, and she quickly wiped away the frown that had begun to form.

"Yes?"

"You... okay?" he asked hesitantly, knowing how much she hated the question.

"I showed Ray my scars this weekend," she blurted out, desperate to tell someone. Tony's eyes widened as he took in the significance of her statement. Quickly he paused the movie and turned completely to face her, giving her his undivided attention.

"It didn't go well," he stated.

Sighing, Ziva shook her head. "No," she whispered. "No, it didn't. But then, when has it ever gone well?"

Apparently the demons that plagued her day and night were evident on her face, because Tony reached out and took her hand in his, gently bringing her back to him. She met his eyes and tried to smile, knowing she failed miserably.

Tony didn't say anything, knowing she would tell him everything she wanted to on her own time. Ziva couldn't help but compare the steady, patient manner of her partner to the demanding, somewhat brusque demeanor of her boyfriend that past weekend.

"I... He wanted to know how I got them," she said slowly. Tony nodded in understanding. She was the only one alive that knew exactly how she got all her scars. Occasionally he would ask about a specific one, and occasionally she would tell him the story of how it came to be. Sometimes however, her eyes darkened and her breathing became shallow, and he would immediately change the subject. He knew her well enough to know when to back off. Clearly, Ray did not.

"You couldn't tell him, and he didn't like that," Tony said. Again, it was not a question. Ziva nodded.

"It was just too hard. He doesn't know anything about my past except that I was a Mossad liaison here until I decided to become an agent," she sighed. "He doesn't know why. Maybe... maybe I should tell him more."

"Hey," Tony cut in, seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. "Don't feel like you owe him anything! You don't owe him that explanation. I'm sure he would love to have it, but its your choice. He can't force you to do anything." He brushed his hand against her cheek, ignoring the small flare of happiness that ignited when she leaned into his touch.

She nodded. "I just, I want him to be a separate part of my life. I don't want him to know all that I've been through. I don't want him to look at me differently. He's my safe place right now, the person who still sees me as just a woman. Not an assassin, not a victim, not a killer, just a woman."

Tears had started flowing from her eyes and Tony's heart went out to her. "Hey," he said softly. "You aren't any of those things to me anymore. When I only knew your history, yes, you were a little intimidating, but I know you now. You are different from your past. I don't see you as a victim, or a killer. You're my ninja, my partner, and a beautiful woman who has an unfortunate past. You don't let it determine who you are today though. You didn't become some psycho serial killer out for blood and revenge against the people who made you an assassin. You let all that go and became someone new. None of us see you as the person you were years ago anymore. You've changed."

Her eyes closed at his soft, comforting tone and she let the tears fall. She felt him wrap his arms around her and let herself be pulled onto his lap. As she buried her face in his shoulder, he tightened his arms around her and let her cry.

When her tears finally subsided, he pulled back slightly so he could see her face. "Do you want to stay here tonight?" he asked softly. Without even thinking about it, Ziva nodded; it just seemed right.

Softly, he kissed her forehead and stood up, pulling her with him towards his bedroom. "Do you want me to stay here or on the couch?" he asked, unsure of the boundaries tonight.

"Stay," Ziva whispered.

"Okay," he smiled. "Let me find a shirt for you..." he trailed off as he started rummaging through drawers. Finding a suitable shirt, he tossed it to her and said, "Um.. I'll just... I'll go in here and let you... yeah." He quickly disappeared into the bathroom. Ziva couldn't fight the smile at his nervousness. The few times they'd shared a bed, he always seemed so confident, until it came right down to it. Even on their undercover op when he couldn't show it, she'd known he was tense.

She quickly slipped the t-shirt on and removed her pants, folding them neatly. As she laid in bed waiting for Tony, she laughed quietly at the resemblance to the scene the weekend before. How had that gone so wrong when this was going so right?

When Tony climbed in next to her, she didn't feel the tense silence that had dominated her night with Ray.

After a few moments of comfortable silence, she sighed and voiced the thought that had plagued her since she had revealed the scars to her boyfriend. "I think they disgusted him."

Tony immediately sat up. "Your scars?"

Her silence was answer enough. His anger was palpable in the dark room. However when he spoke he sounded utterly calm. "Can I see them?"

Ziva again was struck by the differences in her partner and her boyfriend. Where Ray demanded, Tony asked. "You've already seen them, Tony," she replied, confused as to why he would want to view them again.

"I know. I just can't figure out how he would find them repulsive. I think they're just a part of you."

His explanation was so sincere that Ziva was completely shocked, and didn't even feel the terror that she usually did when she rolled onto her stomach and bared her back.

Tony didn't turn on a light to see them as she thought he would. Instead he gently laid a hand on her back, feeling for the scars rather than looking for them. She shivered as he traced them gently with his fingers. She'd just started to relax into the feel of his hands when his lips took their place.

Gasping, she tensed. Tony froze, waiting for her to give some sort of sign as to what he should do. She didn't hit him or throw him off the bed, so he took it as a signal to continue.

Slowly, gently he kissed his way along the path of one of her many scars. Ziva surrendered to the calm that overtook her. She was so focused on the feel of his lips against her ragged skin that she almost missed his quiet reassurance. "They aren't ugly Ziva. They're just different."

Again she felt a tear slide down her cheek, but this time, it wasn't from sadness.

She dozed off into a deep, peaceful sleep, lulled by the feel of his lips and hands against her 'differently' textured back, her last conscious thought, This is right.