Summary: When the team discovers that the suspect on a case has a history with Ziva, she's forced to confront a few things that she's buried, and they try to help her through it. This is a multi-chapter hurt/comfort Ziva-centric fic, but all the team members will get important scenes.

Pairings: None, but lots of team love, if that counts.

Author's Note: Chapter 1 was one of the very last chapters that I wrote, and unfortunately, I still feel it's one of the weakest. So if you don't like what you read here, I do hope you'll go on to the later chapters anyway.

Disclaimer: Oh, and I don't own NCIS. Shocking, right?

For my own reference: 26th fanfiction,18th story for NCIS.

Chapter 1
The Suspect

The cops arrived before his team did, because a neighbor got suspicious and called 9-11. But both of them arrived too late. The group was tipped off somehow - or maybe they realized that they weren't keeping the lowest profile - and relocated. Boxes and sparse furniture have been thrown around the tiny living room; they obviously left in a hurry, but they were careful enough to not leave anything behind except a few bits of bomb-making materials - wires and precisely-cut pieces of pipe and other things that could be written off as circumstantial.

Dammit, Gibbs thinks, frustrated. His team has pulled Corporal Beason's phone records and e-mails and managed to follow the trail here, to this tiny shotgun house that the terrorist cell had been using as its base. They were sure that they would find some answers here, maybe find out who killed their corporal, but instead the trail has gone cold.

He should've known that finding Beason's killer wouldn't be one of their quick-and-easy cases. The man was a Marine Corporal who'd been selling military secrets to a terrorist cell, for God's sakes. Any number of people might've wanted him dead. Hell, Gibbs felt tempted to kill the man himself, when his team found out what Beason had been up to. In all the years that he'd been working for NCIS, he was hard-pressed to remember when he ever came across a Marine who did such disgrace to the uniform.

He must look frustrated as he glances over the sparse evidence in front of him, because the police officer says, almost as a last thought, "They did leave one other thing behind. In the back." Gibbs waits for him to go on, but he doesn't until he gives him the spit-it-out glare. "One of the cell members is still here. We're not sure why he didn't get away with the others. Found him hiding in the utility closet. Musta thought we would assume the place was deserted and not search it too thoroughly. I got one of my men with him."

If he were on his team, Gibbs would head-smack the cop for not mentioning it right away, but he isn't, so he has to settle for his most withering stare. Tony asks, "And you didn't tell us this sooner because...?" He looks pissed, and Gibbs can tell that on the way back to the Navy Yard, he'll gripe about how he spent years busting his ass as a cop in Baltimore, and now they let idiots like this guy on the force.

They leave Ziva and McGee in charge of canvassing the rest of the house and follow the officer through the house into a narrow back room. The suspect is sitting in a chair against the wall, his hands cuffed together behind his back, with another officer guarding him.

"We haven't been able to find much out from him yet," the head officer tells him and Tony. "He doesn't speak much English. He speaks... well, we're not too sure. It sounds like Arabic. Definitely some desert language."

Some desert language? Gibbs decides not to waste another withering stare. He turns to tell Tony to go get Ziva, but Tony has already started to leave the room. "I'll go get Ziva, boss," he says over his shoulder on his way out.

Gibbs turns back to the man in the chair, their suspect. He's long-legged and very thin, sitting slightly slouched down, wearing a kiffeyeh around his neck. Gibbs studies him, trying to get a reading. His gut can usually sense things about a suspect right away... but not this one. He can't even tell if he's going to be a hard one to break in interrogation. The man glances once at Gibbs, then looks away, his eyes shifting around the room. Until Ziva walks in.

He sees Ziva before she sees him, and his whole posture changes. It only takes a second, but Gibbs notices how quickly he straightens up in his chair. The police officer notices too and checks him, in case he tries to get away. But he doesn't. He just stares openly, his eyes wide and his mouth falling open a little. Gibbs doesn't know what it's about, but he doesn't like it. His gut is working now, all right. There's something about the look in that man's eyes...

His protective instinct kicks in, and Gibbs starts to move towards the man, intending to put himself between him and Ziva. But one step is as far as he gets. Because just as he moves, Ziva turns her head and sees the man sitting there. Handcuffed in a chair. Their eyes meet, and his widen a bit more in surprise. But Ziva - her eyes narrow.

The air in the room stretches thin until it disappears. Gibbs's chest tightens, worry and pressure squeezing like a vice, like it always does when he realizes that his team has just stepped into something serious. But his eyes are calm, and he doesn't take them from Ziva's face. Ziva doesn't take hers from the man in front of her.

"Ziva..." the man says, and it's almost physically painful to Gibbs's ears. It sounds so wrong to hear her name coming out of his mouth. There's disbelief and something else - a sort of awe - in his voice. Gibbs can tell that however this man once knew Ziva, he expected her to dead now. And then he says more to her, shocked-sounding words that Gibbs can't understand because they're in Arabic.

But the man has barely gotten the words out before Ziva turns on her heel and walks very quickly out of the room. She doesn't so much as look at Gibbs before he leaves. In the silence behind her, for a split-second, Gibbs can hear the foamy, white-crested waves breaking against the sand on Mike's beach in Mexico. Everything's got its breaking point, Probie.

He takes a deep breath, to brace himself for what's about to come. Then he's on the move, hurrying out of the room, practically running after Ziva.