Title: Illusions of the Mind
Rating: T
Summary: Because in the game of illusions, she was the reigning champion —Tiva-ish, 9x02 spoilers—

Beginning Notes — Possible Spoilers(?): So…I'm not going to lie. I only saw half of tonight's episode. See the thing is, I'm an editor on the school paper and we have our general meetings Tuesdays at 6, and they tend to run a little late sometimes. Tonight it went until almost 8:30. But I caught the last half of the episode, and something from it kind of stuck in my mind — there was this…look…on Ziva's face when they went to arrested the guy at the end. And then I thought back to the pictures Ducky and Gibbs had been looking at, and the scars on "Lindsey's" back and I dunno…it just got me thinking. You know me, I like trauma. And if you don't know me, now you know a fun little tidbit. And I know I should really watch the episode before I try to write something but this idea has been refusing to leave me alone since I saw that, and I'm working on getting the episode but the Internet here really sucks so…I should have it in the next hour or so. Luckily I'm good at multi-tasking — I can watch an episode and type a story and do my job all at the same time. Anyways, sorry for talking so much — read on please!

Disclaimer: Don't own it. After this long you should know that already. Ha-ha.

When all was said and done, it had really been a long day.

Tony had never been more grateful for the sight of his couch; he collapsed onto the piece of furniture and let his head fall back, breathing deeply and closing his eyes. His head hurt. Not a "my concussion is coming back to haunt me" hurt. More of a "there are too many thoughts going through my head at once" hurt. People being in the wrong place at the wrong time and paying for it, stories becoming confused and warped and changed somewhere in the space of time, innocent children having their childhoods robbed of them by evil men…


Tony's eyes snapped open. Damn it, where had that come from?

He had tried very hard not to see it while they had been arresting "Lindsey's" uncle, but the slightly empty, scary expression had been hard to miss. And Tony wondered now what had been going through her head at the time. Had she been thinking about the man that had scarred her, a grown woman, as easily as Lindsey's uncle had scarred an innocent child? Or had she been thinking about the man who had effectively robbed her of her own childhood?

And what was she doing now?

Damn it all, now Tony was curious. It figured that the first thing to spark his interest in days would be her. He sighed as he dragged himself off the couch and grabbed his car keys, heading to the door.

Twenty minutes later Tony was knocking on Ziva's door. He could hear a low murmur of a voice on the other side of the wood. Maybe she was on the phone? But with who? Ray? Tony's stomach clenched at the thought. He didn't care if she, for whatever reason, trusted the man. Something about him just got under Tony's skin—

The door opened, revealing a rather surprised Ziva with her cell-phone still to her ear. She stared at Tony for a moment before muttering, "I will call you back" into the phone and promptly disconnecting the call.

"CI-Ray?" Tony asked with what he hoped was a bit of his usual bravado. He didn't like that Ziva — and more significantly McGee — had noticed his current state of mopey-ness. Clearly it was time for a change.

"My aunt Nettie."

"Oh." A pause. "Next time you talk to her tell her I say hi."

The scowl that overtook Ziva's expression told Tony that she hadn't quite forgotten the last time Tony had said something to her aunt. "You are not here to ask me to accompany you to female mud wrestling, are you?"

So they were going to start off with jokes. Okay, that was fine. Tony could handle jokes. "Nah you know, I was actually thinking maybe we could make that Palmer's bachelor party. Me and him and McGee and…I dunno, does Palmer have any other friends? Maybe we'll just invite Ducky. It'll be a grand old time."

Ziva almost smiled at that. "Then what are you doing here?"

And at that, Tony was tongue-tied. He knew this had been a pointless journey — all of his previous attempts to get Ziva to talk about Somalia (and there were more than one might believe) had failed miserably. Why did he think now would be any different?

"I just…ya know…I was bored at home." It was such a lame answer and he knew Ziva knew he was lying. But for whatever reason…

"Would you like to come in?"

She played along. "If you don't mind." Ziva stepped aside, allowing Tony into the apartment, and she closed the door behind him, throwing her phone onto the coffee table as she made her way into the kitchen. Tony took a moment to inspect the coffee table in front of him. Adorning the surface was an empty glass and a bottle of alcohol that was three-quarters full. He wondered what the bottle would have looked like if he had come later.

"Would you like something to drink?" Ziva called from the kitchen, snapping Tony out of his reverie.

"Uh…just water, please." Alcohol would have been a blessing, but he was pretty sure he was still in some kind of stage of recovery, so better safe than sorry. Ziva returned, handing him a water bottle and going over to the coffee table, picking up the bottle and glass and pouring herself another drink. They were silent for a moment as they sipped their respective drinks.

Surprisingly, it was Ziva who broke the silence.

"What is going to happen to her?"

Tony looked around; Ziva was staring at the ground, the bottle hanging loosely in her fingers, the glass halfway to her lips. "Lindsey?" Ziva nodded silently. "I dunno. I suppose it depends on what kind of impression she makes on the doctors. Either they think she's crazy or they think she's capable of functioning in society."

"Do you think she is crazy?"

Now Tony paused. He could tell there was a deeper meaning to that question, even if his slightly muddled brain wasn't allowing him to comprehend it at that moment. He needed to be cautious about what he said here. "I think she's…traumatized," he finally said, slowly, watching carefully for any reaction on Ziva's part. There was none, of course; she was the queen of poker faces. "And I think it's sad that she had to lie to get the childhood she should have had the first time around. People shouldn't have to work that hard to be happy. And they certainly shouldn't have to do certain parts of their lives over and over and over."

"But you think she is crazy."

Damn it all. Ziva was right, of course; Tony did think Lindsey was crazy, at least a little. To suffer the way she had, and then to spend so long pretending to be something she wasn't…no normal person would be able to handle it all without cracking up just a bit.

"I think she needs help. And now she's with the right people who get her that help. Isn't that all that matters?"

Silence. A very long moment of silence in which Tony began to worry. Had he said something wrong? "What if the lies are all that is keeping her sane?"

Tony had a feeling they weren't talking about Lindsey anymore. "Can you imagine how hard that must have been though? I mean she was with what, four families all together? I don't know how she kept all the stories straight, remembered which name went with which place and which version of which story…I wouldn't be able to do it."

"Perhaps she is a better liar then you are."

"I suppose," Tony ceded, hesitating a bit now. He was in dangerous territory and he knew it. "That doesn't mean it's easy though, keeping all the lies in order."

"Even if the lies are better than reality?"

They definitely weren't talking about Lindsey anymore. "Maybe it depends on what your view on lying is. Me, I don't like lying unless it's absolutely necessary. I don't think McGee has ever told a lie in his life. And you…" You were raised to lie. Your father raised you to be the perfect spy, the perfect killer. You lie like you breathe and don't give it a second thought. Not that he would ever even think about saying that out-loud.

More silence. Tony wondered if Ziva had guessed what he wasn't saying…

"Ray still does not know."

The sudden shift in topic through Tony off. Were they no longer pretending to talk about Lindsey, then? "Know…what?"

Ziva shrugged, turning away from Tony and beginning to walk slowly around the room. She set her glass on the table, opting instead to just sip from the bottle at random intervals. "Anything. I have not told him about my…history…with Mossad…or who my father is…or Somalia. I know he could easily find those things out, of course, if he really wanted to. But if he has, he has not said anything to me about it. And I have just…not told him. The only thing he knows is that I am an immigrant, and when he asked why I came here I just told him I wanted to live a better life. He did not ask for specifics and I did not volunteer any details."

Tony was torn between being surprised and…well, not being surprised. "You've been dating him for a year…and he still doesn't know anything?" Ziva shook her head slowly. Damn. That was kind of impressive, actually. "But…I mean…you have scars. I know you have scars, I've seen them. How have you explained…?"

"Car accident."

"And when he asked what you did before you came to America…?"

"I told him I worked with Mossad but I…downplayed exactly what I did. I made it sound as if I was more of an information gatherer than an…"

"Assassin." Tony supplied the word as Ziva's voice drifted off. She nodded silently, taking a sip from the bottle hanging loosely in her fingers and continuing her slowly journey across the room.

"If I were to ever tell him the truth…he would probably forgive me for lying to him. It might take time, but considering what he does for a living, I think a part of him would understand the lies. But if he knew everything…he would never look at me the same."

"You don't know that," Tony protested, instantly wondering why he was defending the guy. But it was too late to take back the words.

"You do not even look at me the same. How can I expect anyone else to?" Well. That brought Tony up completely short.


Ziva turned around, slightly distant eyes meeting Tony's gaze. She was no longer with him, at least not completely. The bottle was now a little more than half empty. "I do not think it was a good idea for you to come," she said after a moment. "Maybe you should—"

But Tony cut Ziva off, albeit a bit roughly then he had originally intended. "What? Leave? You want me to leave because the conversation is getting too deep for you?"

"Oh look who is talking," Ziva shot back angrily. "When was the last time you had a serious conversation about how something? With anybody?"

Tony thought back to earlier in the day, in the car, with Gibbs…then further, back to the week before, in his hospital room with Dr. Cranston…but neither of those were experiences he was going to bring up. This was one of Ziva's classic avoidance techniques; she turned the topic of the conversation on him, leaving him explaining himself, instead of the other way around.

But not this time.

"Ziva put down the bottle."

She looked down at the bottle in her hands, looking almost surprised to see how much she had drank. She put it down quickly, disgust clear in her features. "You know I was fine before you came," she informed him stubbornly.

"Fine, I drive you to drink. Whatever." It wasn't like she didn't have the exact same effect on him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd wanted alcohol more than he did at that moment. "But at least answer me this: were you really fine before I came, or were you just lying to yourself about being fine so you would feel better?"

The question seemed to stump her and for a moment Tony was reminded of the druggies he used to pick up when he was working in Baltimore; he'd ask them some really roundabout question to keep them occupied while they were waiting to be processed and they'd spend hours staring at the ceiling contemplating what he had said.

Wait. Had he just compared Ziva to a junkie?

"Don't you ever want to lie to yourself Tony?" He'd admit that the question surprised him, just a little. "Don't you ever just want to…pretend…even just for one day, that you are not you? That your past is not really your past, but instead it is just a story that someone told you? Don't you ever want to escape? Just for a day?"

The way she asked him these things almost broke his heart. He knew that there were things in Ziva's past that even he didn't know about — knew that they were the things horror stories were made of. And he couldn't blame her for wanting to escape. But…

"It hasn't been a day, Ziva. It's been two and a half years. How much longer do you plan on pretending?"

Another moment of silence as Ziva considered the question. "I guess…we will find out when the day comes." And for some reason, that felt like it was the end of the conversation. Tony knew he wasn't going to get much further with her; he'd given up on finding out about Somalia a long time ago. Ziva would take those secrets to the grave. He'd made peace with the fact.

But he also wanted to make clear that the option to talk to him was always open.

"Why did you come here, Tony?"

He wasn't sure how to answer that. I was worried about you. I wanted to make sure you were okay. I saw the look on your face earlier and it scared me. I want you to know I still care, even if I haven't been acting like it lately. I needed to make sure you were okay. For my sake as well as yours. I still care. I still care about you, Ziva. I promise I still care.

"I told you — I was bored at home."

And Ziva almost smiled. Almost. "Well I am sorry to disappoint you, but I think I am going to bed. It has been a long day. Perhaps you should consider doing the same."

"Tony sighed, running a hand through his hair. It was amazing how easily she could slip in and out of illusions. He wondered if he should be worried. "Yeah. Maybe I should." And with that he started towards the door, pausing right as he moved to turn the doorknob. "Hey…Ziva?"

"Yes Tony?"

"You know you're not crazy…right?"

His back was to her; he didn't see the look she gave him as she answered. "There is a reason you call me a 'crazy ninja' yes?"

Tony had to laugh at this, just a little. "That's different. It's a term of endearment."

Well she succeeded in distracting him for a moment…but Tony wasn't an idiot. He made a note of the fact that Ziva never gave him an actual answer to his question.

Author's Note: So…I'm not crazy. I mean they focused on her face at the end of that scene, right before they cut to the car. I want to say there has to be a reason, but I'm not quite that optimistic, sadly. Anyways you may have noticed that I'm slightly fascinated by Ziva's mental state. I don't like to believe that it's as stable as she lets everyone think. Especially that whole thing with Ray…am I the only one that thinks it seems a little too perfect? I don't know. I could go on for hours about this, I probably shouldn't get started. Moving on. What do people think of these little post-ep one-shots? Do you think I should keep going? They'll probably all focus on Tony and Ziva — those are just the characters I feel most comfortable with writing. Let me know your thoughts — review please! — Sam