A/N: I've written a lot of fanfiction over the years, but it's been a while since I did, and this is the first time I've attempted to write NCIS fic. This short piece is just a little look into Ziva's thoughts as she returns from Somalia (after the events in "Truth or Consequences"). Although some may see this as romance (McGiva), I tend to think of it more as the comfort of a friend. Yes, I'm a McGee fan! (Could you tell?)
As Tim McGee helped her into her seat on the small passenger plane, Ziva David looked back toward the hatch and saw Gibbs' hand on Tony's arm lending his support to his exhausted agent. DiNozzo's eyes met Ziva's and suddenly she knew she just couldn't face him again, not yet, not when she was so tired and had no idea what she was feeling, let alone what she wanted to say to him. Not when she was weak and confused and still trying to come to grips with the concept that she wasn't about to die.
On the helicopter that had delivered them from Somalia to the aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, she had been sandwiched between Tony and Gibbs. The noise of the propeller had saved her from any conversation. But she knew the quiet cabin and the over thirteen-hour-long transatlantic flight would offer too much opportunity for her rescuers to ask the questions she just didn't want to answer.
Tim's hand had just released her arm as she settled into the window seat. He seemed to hover over her for a moment, then was about to withdraw when her hand grasped his wrist, holding him there. She looked up into his eyes and saw the silent question. She nodded her answer and was rewarded with the briefest of smiles as his free hand rested atop hers and he slid into the seat beside her. Her grip on his arm loosened slightly, but she didn't let go, and her eyes rested on his hand as it remained atop hers.
She could sense their other two teammates pause in the aisle next to them, but she kept her gaze trained on Tim's hand, and after a moment, they moved on by, she could hear them sitting in the row across the aisle behind them. The soft murmur of conversation lasted only a few minutes, then all was quiet until the pilot stepped into the near-empty cabin and told them they would soon be leaving.
A corpsman settled into the front row, two rows in front of them on the opposite side. It was the same young navy medic who had tended to their cuts and scraped when they had arrived on the carrier. They could all have used several hours rest in an actual bed, but there were no life-threatening injuries among them and no one wanted to delay their flight any longer than absolutely necessary. By unspoken agreement, they all wanted to put as much distance between them and the winds and sands and dangers of Somalia and the ruins of Saleem's camp.
The sound of the engines starting made her jump, and she felt Tim's hand begin to rub back and forth over hers.
"It's okay," he whispered.
She glanced up at him and tried for a smile. Tim smiled back.
"Anything you need, just let me know."
"I just. . ." she cleared her throat slightly. "I don't want to talk."
"You don't have to," he assured her.
They sat in silence as the plane left the carrier and made its way over the African continent. Occasionally, Ziva could hear Tony's voice behind her. She couldn't make out the words and she wasn't really trying. For a while, she let her mind remain blank, not wanting to think about what had happened, or what was to come. Her world for this moment was the soft hum of an engine and the warm skin beneath her hand and resting atop it. It seemed as long as she wanted to hold on to Tim's arm, he was willing to hold onto her hand. And she knew that with the slightest tug from her, he would immediately release her.
She didn't want to let go. She needed to hold on.
After a while, she started to think about why that was. Why she felt such a need to have human contact wasn't exactly a mystery. After months of imprisoned isolation when her only contact with anyone was the beatings she had endured, it was only natural. But why had she instinctively chosen Tim McGee? They were probably the most completely opposite people on the team. Tim was quiet, geeky, somewhat naïve. Certainly not someone you'd expect a trained and hardened assassin to gravitate to for companionship.
But Tim was also loyal to a fault. He was dependable and steadfast. And he was undemanding and easy to be with. The truth was, McGee was the exact person she needed to hold onto right now.
He had been the first to offer her friendship when she came to America to work with NCIS. Offering and asking nothing but friendship in return. Considering the circumstances — her brother had just murdered his friend and teammate — it was all the more amazing. He hadn't asked her to prove anything to him. He had been willing to take her on face value, and risk being disappointed or rebuffed. Tim saw the good in people until he was proven wrong. Oddly enough, he had seemed to be able to sense the uncertainty and self doubt she had always sought to hide behind the hard as nails, cold as ice façade of a Mossad operative. It had taken her longer to really see the steel beneath his surface. It was easy to underestimate Tim McGee. She had learned that in time, and yet she was still occasionally surprised by his gentle strength.
Right now, Tim was the person she needed to hold onto. With Tony, there was the ghost of Michael Rifkin that still had not been put to rest. And the memory of Gibbs leaving her behind in Israel would fill any silence between her and her mentor. These matters needed to be addressed, but not yet. No, only with McGee would the silence be peaceful and undemanding, just as her friendship with him had always been.
As the plane gained altitude, the temperature had dropped and she began to shiver.
"Cold?" Tim whispered.
She nodded. She felt his hands release hers and almost whimpered at the loss of contact. But she heard him say something to the corpsman and only a moment later a warm blanket was being spread over her. Tim placed one hand lightly on her shoulder and leaned down where she could see his face. She met his eyes, then followed him as he sat back and held his other arm out invitingly. She hesitated just a moment, then leaned into him, her ear pressed to his collarbone as he resettled the blanket, then wrapped his arms around her. She felt the soft touch of his lips touch her hair as she settled against him.
She felt safe. She hadn't felt safe is so long.
The tears came unbidden and silent. Her body began to shiver with soundless sobs and the arms around her tightened, a slightly scratchy unshaven cheek resting against her bruised forehead. He didn't whisper that everything was all right, didn't tell her she was safe, didn't even say "shhh" to calm her crying. His arms told her she was safe, and his silent support allowed her the release she had needed and hadn't allowed herself.
She didn't even know when the tears had stopped and she'd fallen asleep. If she dreamed, she never remembered it. The next thing she consciously knew was when she awoke to fingers gently combing through her hair and the steady descent of the plane. She raised her head and looked up into smiling green eyes.
"We're almost home."
"Home," she whispered.
His lips hovered next to her ear and repeated the offer/assurance he'd given before. "Anything you need, just tell me."
Her fingers rose to touch his bestubbled face for just a moment. "Thank you." Then Ziva David kissed her friend's cheek, took a deep breath, and prepared to reclaim her life.
There was much to sort out, but she knew she wouldn't have to face it alone.