Title: McGee: Ziva's Keeper
Summary: The team is back in DC but just because they're back, doesn't mean everything is back to normal. Some things aren't being said. #15 in McGee's Keeper series.
#15 in McGee's Keeper series.
McGee: Ziva's Keeper
"How has it been since we last spoke?"
"It's been tough."
Tim sat on the couch while Dr. Waters sat in her chair across from him. The team had been given orders by Director Vance to see the agency's psychiatrist after a few weeks of returning from Somalia. None of them wanted to do it, but after receiving the orders, and pretty much hearing Ducky ordering them as well, they all grudgingly went.
Jethro hated it and Tim was sure he didn't speak unless Dr. Waters threatened to keep him out of the field. Tony was talkative, but when it came to how he thought and felt, he clammed up, so Tim was sure he too hated it and barely spoke. Ziva, she needed it the most after her months as a prisoner, but he knew she wasn't happy about it and didn't think she needed one. Tim didn't mind that much; he just had to keep quiet on a few things. He knew all about the therapist-client privilege—been plenty of cases where a case led them to a doctor of some kind and they were told they couldn't tell them anything—but he also knew that she worked for NCIS. And if they told her something that she thought that the director should know, she'd tell him in a heartbeat.
"How has it been tough?"
Tim sighed as he ran a hand through his hair.
Ziva was all but broken when they had found her in Somalia, both physically and emotionally. Tim's first priority had been getting her on that plane to take them home.
He took the full weight of Ziva when she shifted to release Tony. She almost released Tim in return but he wasn't having any of it and not to mention she nearly fell over when she tried. "Come on Ziva. I got you." With a last look at Tony to make sure he was okay, and getting a nod, he walked Ziva onto the plane while Tony spoke with Jethro.
Tim got her to sit down and she sighed. He knew she was far from completely relaxed, she was too stiff for that, but took what he got. When he left and came back with a blanket to cover her with, it was cold and he knew she would take comfort in the small form of more coverage, he tried to hide the sadness he felt when she flinched from him.
"Just covering you up with a blanket," he reassured, hiding what he was feeling as Ziva was his priority. His feelings of the situation wasn't important right now, Ziva was.
"Thank you McGee," she said with a nod.
Nodding back, he uncapped the bottled water he had also grabbed and helped her take a long enough drink to soothe her throat but not get her sick. After recapping it, he set it aside and gave her a small smile when she continued to stare. "I'll be right over there if you need anything Ziva." His touch and presence probably wouldn't be very welcomed right now.
He was prepared to leave, but the quick vice like grip on his wrist stopped him. Tim looked back at Ziva and finally saw something in her eyes that wasn't blank. Her chin trembled a bit before she controlled it, but she couldn't hide the unshed tears in her eyes. Knowing that she indeed wanted him to stay with her, he slipped in beside her, taking the seat between her and the isle and after he situated them so she was leaning on him and the blanket was wrapped over both of them so they could share some heat, he wrapped his arm around her.
She trembled with silent sobs, he could feel her tears on his skin and shirt as her face was tucked under his chin. The adrenaline from the rescue crashed down on her and the fact that she was finally out of there. And he had no doubt that the fact they came there to avenge her when they thought she was dead was probably a small part of it.
But he didn't say anything. He just ran his fingers through her hair, softly working out the tangles, and let her use him for support. She was going to need it.
Jethro stopped beside them and after looking over both of them, he moved on to sit a few seats over after running his own fingers through Tim's hair. Tim knew Jethro needed confirmation that Tim was fine but a short pet would have to hold him over for now.
Ziva jerked when the plane got started and Tim just held her tighter to him. "Tim?"
"We're going home Zee."
When they had gotten home, and stopped by NCIS, Tim had taken Ziva home. Abby had wanted Ziva to stay with her, and it made sense since Abby was the only female, but Abby didn't own anything but a coffin and a couch and neither were good for Ziva. Ziva wouldn't have lasted long in the coffin and the couch wasn't ideal. So Tim had had Ziva come with him.
She had been ready to decline, but Tim had promised her a nice bed with breakfast served in said bed and a promise to help her find her own place. He had thrown in the fact that they still had Jett and she had quickly caved. It was a low blow to use the dog, but Ziva couldn't be alone.
Jethro hadn't argued one bit. While Tim had helped Ziva up the stairs and into the bathroom, Jethro had set up the pullout couch and made a light meal for them, soup and crackers for Ziva. Tim had also changed the sheets on the bed in their bedroom so Ziva had clean and soft sheets. When he had heard Ziva end the shower, he had given her a while to get to their room and change into clean clothes before taking up her dinner.
"Ziva?" he asked when he knocked on the door. But when he received no answer, he cracked open the door to find Ziva curled up in the middle of the bed with Jett lying out beside her. She was holding onto Jett and he saw the silent tears. Not having the heart to wake her, he gave an order to Jett, who was looking at him with sad brown eyes, to stay with Ziva and headed back out and downstairs.
"She asleep?" Jethro asked.
"Yeah. Didn't want to wake her. Probably the first time she'll get a good night's sleep before the nightmares start."
Jethro nodded in agreement before pushing his small sandwich in front of him and ordering him to eat something. "Eat, take a shower, then we'll go to be bed."
"Sounds like a plan."
He blinked and brought himself back to focus, looking at Dr. Waters who just stared at him. "Uh, it just is."
"How?" she stressed, clearly looking for a better answer.
"Things are different."
"Your team went to another country to avenge a teammate you thought lost. Of course things will be different."
"I didn't think she was gone." He hadn't meant for it to come out harsh but he hated when people said and thought that he himself thought Ziva was dead.
Dr. Waters didn't look offended though. She never did when he had few moments of snapping. Instead, she turned the attention elsewhere. "Tim, tell me how you felt when Director Vance ordered you and your team to talk to a psychiatrist."
He shrugged before fidgeting. "I don't know."
"Oh come on Tim. You know."
Sighing, again, he answered, "Wasn't happy about it. But," he shrugged a shoulder, "I can see why it's necessary. Like you said, we went to another country for a teammate. We were roughened up."
"And you were injected with truth serum," she added.
"Yeah." That stuff had really gone to his head and he had made sure to keep his mouth shut when they had gone back to NCIS in case he said something.
"How'd you feel about that?"
"Wasn't pleasant if that's what you're asking."
Dr. Waters wrote something down before asking, "How has it been tough lately?"
Tim rubbed his hands on his pants as he knew she was just going to keep asking. "Trust is…trust is important in our line of work." He ignored her nod. "Without trust, we don't work well. We really don't have to like one another, but if we trust each other it's fine." At her slightly confused face, he explained honestly. "When I first met Tony, I didn't like him. At all. He reminded me too much of the jocks and popular kids that picked on and beat me up when I was younger. It used to be that I would pray to God that I could go one day without hearing him talk and talk and talk. Never happened though," he softly chuckled to himself. "Thing was, even though I didn't like him, I trusted him completely to have my six."
"I'm his Probie." It was that simple. "He has my six and I have his."
"But you grew to like him."
"He grew to like me in return. And because of that, our trust has only solidified. There's no doubt in my mind that he will have my back here, and I didn't doubt it in Somalia."
Her head tilted a bit as she turned side to side a little in her swivel chair. "Then how does this trust play into how tough it's been lately?"
"The trust between our team has been…a bit broken lately."
Things have been better between him, Tony, and Jethro. However, the trust between Ziva and all of them has been battered to almost nonexistent. Tim had tried to play neutral through it all, to just keep his attention on helping Ziva. Nightmares has kept her awake most nights, in turn keeping Tim and Jethro awake, and then she felt bad so some nights she didn't even come back to the house but went to stay in a hotel. There were nights she couldn't go to sleep without him with her, and then some nights she couldn't sleep with two men sleeping downstairs. So again she'd stay at a hotel.
He tried to help her find a place, but that wasn't going to happen overnight.
The tension between her and Jethro was so suffocating most of the time that he had to tell Ziva to take Jett for a walk or Jethro to go down into his basement. Ziva was all but avoiding Tony and though he didn't say it, Tim could tell that that hurt Tony.
He was stretched thin, and he may not show it, but he could tell that there was something that he was missing. More importantly, there was something that they weren't telling him. Still, he tried to stay neutral and in everything that was happening. But he knew it was only a matter of time before something happened.
"And how do you feel about that?"
Tim nearly scoffed at that. It was the typical psychiatrist question. "How do you think? We have some new agent sitting at Ziva's desk. It's wrong, especially when we know that she isn't gone. That we know where she is. Her absence is just glaring us in the face." He looked away and out the window before looking back at Dr. Waters. "But I get it. She has to be cleared for duty first."
Not to mention that Jethro still wasn't sure if he was going to let Ziva back on the team.
"Are you serious?"
Jethro gave him a look that said he was dead serious.
"After all we did, you're not sure if you're going to let Ziva back." He frowned at the look on Jethro's face. Again, he could tell that something wasn't being said. "Why?"
"I have my reasons."
"So…" he huffed, "so when she is cleared for duty, what is she supposed to do?"
"We'll figure it out when we get there."
"Tell me about your relationship with the team."
Tim frowned as he sat on the couch, looking at Dr. Waters. "What do you mean?"
"Tell me about your relationship. Who are you the closest to?"
"Uh…" Okay, how was he supposed to answer that? Jethro was the obvious answer, but he couldn't say that because he would have to explain why and he wasn't getting into that. He must have looked panicked or taken too long to answer because Dr. Waters spoke up.
"Timothy, you have nothing to worry about. Anything you say will stay between us."
She offered a reassuring smile with a nod. "Anything."
Nibbling on his bottom lip, he finally answered, "Gibbs."
"Really?" He could tell he surprised her by the way she said that.
"Okay. Describe your relationship."
He scratched his ear as he tried to think on how to answer it. Though she said anything, he was still worried.
What if she told?
"You can tell me."
What if Vance found out and moved him to another team? Or worse, moved him back to cybercrimes?
"In one word."
Well, no going back now.
"For how long?"
He watched her put her pen to the paper and panicked. "Could you…not write this down?"
Dr. Waters looked back up at him and she must have seen the panic because she watched him before finally nodding and setting the pad of paper aside. "Okay. This won't be written down. Now, how long have you and Agent Gibbs been lovers?"
"Uh, a little over two years."
"Yeah, yeah it is." He smiled just thinking of the two years. Major ups and downs, but worth every second.
"Does your team know?"
Tim nodded as he thought back to how they found out. Not exactly ideal, especially with what happened between himself and Abby, but really, there were some things you didn't have control over.
"How'd they react?"
"Surprised, like you could expect. But I think they were mostly surprised with the fact that we had been seeing each other for months by then. And the fact that Ziva knew when they didn't." He chuckled. "She was actually the one that got us together, though she likes to say that she just gave the nudge and we did everything else."
He looked back at Dr. Waters and suddenly felt like he walked himself into the very topic that she wanted to discuss. "Tell me about your relationship with Agent David."
"She's my sister in everything but blood."
Dr. Waters leaned back in her chair, grabbing her pen and paper again. "Tell me how you felt when she joined the team."
"Well, she was intimidating to the say the least. I knew that she worked for Mossad, so that was a little scary, didn't help that she was threatening to kill Tony eighteen different ways with a paper clip. Though, it was funny to see how quickly Tony stopped talking after that," he chuckled. "Though Gibbs seemed to trust her, I could tell it went only so far and Tony didn't trust her at all after what happened with Ari. I figured I'd give her a chance, let her show that she can't be trusted. I offered a smile and partnered with her."
"Why not? She didn't kill Kate. I wasn't going to shun her because of her brother's actions. That's like shunning a kid for something their parents did. Something they have no control over, and most likely had no idea was happening. Ziva didn't control Ari and actually believed that Ari was innocent."
She hummed and nodded as she wrote down on her pad. "So you two became close?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "It took a while. I mean, she intimidated me big time. I've seen some of the things she's capable of, but I knew she would never do it to me. After a while, we became closer and…next thing I know I'm thinking of her as a sister, turning to her like an older sister. She takes care of me, and I take care of her in return."
"So you trust her."
"With my life."
"Do you think the others do?"
"I don't know how they think."
In all honesty, he didn't think Tony or Jethro trusted Ziva after what happened with Michael. And her actions didn't help. The way she lied.
Tim plopped down on the couch and put his head in his hands. He couldn't believe what he just heard. He had been out walking Jett, and when he got back and let Jett get his water, he had gone looking for Jethro. Only to find him in the basement, talking with Ziva. Ziva, who he hadn't seen or heard from in a week.
"You know when I was injected with truth serum in Somalia?" he asked as he started playing with his hands, not looking at Dr. Waters. He had called her to talk after what he heard and thankfully she allowed him to see her.
"Well, before Saleem died, I had needed to distract him so that Tony didn't get hurt. I had been questioned for I don't know how long, and he asked about everything and everyone when it came to how we found him. I had told him because of the truth serum. But I hadn't told him about myself, so to distract him, I told him."
"What did you say?"
He rubbed his thumb over the palm of his hand, watching so that he didn't have to look at her or anything. "After he suggested that I was just the geek, I let him know that that wasn't all I was. I told him the truth."
"And what is the truth, Tim?" she asked softly.
"That I'm the baby of this weird family that is our team. And being the baby…it comes with certain things. Things that I like and things I don't like."
Dr. Waters sat silently before she set her pad and pen away, and then she leaned forward with her elbows resting on her knees. "What are the things you like Tim?"
He softly smiled as he remembered. "Ziva teaches me things so that I can protect myself more. In return I teach her things about the computer. Tony jokes and pranks me; sometimes we actually set up a prank together." He smiled. "I like that the best."
"You like when Agent DiNozzo pranks on you?"
Tim shrugged, though he could understand her confusion since a few sessions ago he told her that he hadn't liked Tony at first because he reminded Tim of the people who picked on him when he was younger. "It wouldn't be Tony if he stopped pranking and joking on me. He doesn't prank me so much anymore, but every now and again he'll do it. It's our thing. He pranks, I get him back by winning the banter, though he won't admit that. Besides, he may prank me, but he won't let anyone else get away with it. God forbid someone try to call me Probie or try to give me a McNickname like he does."
"So he's protective of you."
She gave a comforting smile. "What else?"
"Ziva and I like to get together to prank Tony every now and again. But that's mostly if Tony pranked us together. Or like the time," he chuckled, "when Tony thought it would be interesting to create a woman on this online game I played and introduce himself under the name of Claire. I had talked about it at work and after I said that I wanted to actually meet her, Tony told Ziva and tried to play it like Claire was suddenly brushing me off and wasn't interested. Ziva told me and so to get him back I played it like I wasn't going to let her go so easily and that I thought she could be the one. Oh man," he chuckled, "you should have seen his face."
Dr. Waters chuckled as well before looking at him seriously. "What don't you like about being the "baby" of the family?"
Tim looked back down at his hand as he went back to rubbing his palm with his thumb.
"Tim, you called to talk. So talk to me."
"Sometimes I feel left out." He sighed. "No, that's not right. I don't feel left out, I just feel that…they leave me out of things or don't tell me things because they think they're protecting me. Sometimes I get left behind while they go out in the field. They say it's because they need me here to do the computer stuff, and I understand that, but I also know that they want me to stay behind when there's a possibility of it getting really dangerous so that I don't have a chance of getting hurt. They left me here while they went to Israel after the Michael incident, and I knew something happened over there.
"At first, I thought they just left Ziva there without a glance back. Just left her there without a word of warning. But then we got her back and I could tell after a while that I was missing something. Something they weren't telling me. It was all in the tension."
Dr. Waters nodded. "How did that make you feel?"
"Angry. Sad. Left out again. But I didn't focus on it," he declared. "My main focus is on Ziva."
"Because she's family and she needs help and support after what she went through."
"You know?" she asked.
"No," he said, "but it doesn't take a genius to figure out some of the ways they tortured and interrogated her over there. I'm trying to be there for her, especially since the others aren't. Gibbs won't stay in the same room as her for long, or the tension just gets unbearable, and Ziva and Tony haven't spoken at all."
Again Dr. Waters nodded. "So you weren't focused on the silence of what happened in Israel, but now you are."
"I can't be focused on the silence when they're not silent about it."
"…So you know what happened?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "I overheard Gibbs and Ziva talking."
He started to head to the basement to find Jethro when he heard Ziva. It was possibly the first time they've spoken since they got back.
"We need to talk."
Tim listened to the movement, and Jethro tell her to sit down, and then finally Ziva spoke. "When I came to talk to you and said I wanted back, you said it was the director's call. But I sensed your hesitation."
So, they have talked before this.
"I sense it now. Even though I…thought I made myself clear. I understand what you did in Israel—"
"Your brother Ari," Jethro interrupted.
The pause was long enough to make Tim believe that Jethro surprised her with the topic. "You know what happened that night. It was here."
Immediately he knew it was about Ari's death. They all knew that Jethro killed Ari in his basement that night years ago.
"I want to hear it from you." What? "…You had orders to kill your brother to earn my trust?"
"That's a problem."
"You don't understand."
"You're damn right I don't understand," he said angrily.
"When I volunteered for that mission…"
"You killed your own brother, Ziva!"
"It was because I hoped my father was wrong about Ari and I did not want someone else blindly following orders. I volunteered to protect him, Gibbs."
"You lied to me."
"No, when I told you Ari was innocent, I believed it. But yes. I would have lied to you. He was my brother. And you were nothing." She paused. "But I was wrong about Ari. And you. When I pulled the trigger to save your life, I was not following orders. I mean, how could you even think…? He was my brother. And now he is gone. Eli is all but dead to me. And the closest thing I have…to a father…is accusing me."
There was such a long pause that Tim almost turned to head out, his mind spinning. But Jethro spoke then. "Okay, but what about Tony? I won't have you on my team Ziva if you can't trust him. If you make me choose again…"
"No," she interrupted this time. "No, Gibbs, as I told you. I had a lot of time to think when I was in Somalia. You were right to leave me, and I was wrong. You did not abandon me. I had no right to make you choose between myself and Tony, especially after…" She let out a breath as Tim felt out of breath. He didn't know any of this. "I have talked to Tony already, and I have told him that I was wrong. Wrong to question his motive, to question my trust in him."
"Why did you?"
"I trusted Ari and Michael. I could not afford to trust Tony as well."
Ziva sighed so loud Tim could hear it from where he was at. She felt relief, relief that he didn't feel himself.
"I want to thank you. Not only for rescuing me and letting me back on the team."
"Then for what?"
"For protecting Tim when I could not. I know that none of you told Tim of what I did, and I thank you."
As Tim looked at Dr. Waters, he could tell that she knew. She knew about all of it. Obviously she knew from Jethro, Ziva, or Tony, or all of them, but it was still the same. She knew and he hadn't. And the only reason he knew was because he overheard them talking.
"I can't tell you by whom, but yes," she nodded, "I know."
Tim shook his head before he leaned back on the couch so that his head tipped back and he was staring at the ceiling.
"Because for the longest time, I was upset at Gibbs and Tony for leaving Ziva behind. They didn't give me a warning, just told me that Ziva, my sister, was still back in Israel. And that was it. They didn't speak about it anymore and honestly I was too upset at them to find out what happened. Then, when I start to wonder, they won't speak a word about it and my focus was on the fact that I hadn't heard a word from Ziva after months.
"Now…I find out that Ziva had killed Ari by her father's orders, just to gain Gibbs' trust. And that Gibbs didn't just leave Ziva. Ziva made him choose and he chose. How am I supposed to take that? How am I supposed to look at Ziva the same?"
Dr. Waters leaned back in her seat after watching him for a while, crossing her leg again. "Have you ever thought that they were trying to protect not only you, but Ziva as well? They were trying to protect the relationship you two share?"
"And it almost broke our own relationships."
That was what pissed him off the most. Not only did they keep something like this quiet and away from him, but they basically took the blame for Ziva being left behind. Instead of just telling him and letting them work everything out, they again treated him like some fragile baby and let Tim be mad at them for something that wasn't entirely their fault.
"Tim, I would like to recommend something."
"Talk. You are upset about your team not talking to you, well then you talk to them. More importantly, talk to Ziva."
Tim thought about that as he headed down and out of the building. He had talked to Dr. Waters before the day started and decided to get a coffee from the vender outside along with some fresh air before he had to go back inside and work.
He just paid for his coffee when he looked past the vender and saw Ziva sitting on a bench. Frowning, he thanked the vender and walked over. "Ziva?"
Ziva looked up and tried to offer a smile but Tim could see it didn't reach her eyes. It never reached her eyes these days. "Tim. What are you doing out here? I thought you would be at work by now."
He sat down beside her, sipping his coffee. Tim didn't look at her, but at the people walking by and anything but her. "Decided to get a coffee, saw you sitting here and thought I'd come say hello."
"I was actually going to go look for you."
Tim finally looked at her with a frown. "Are you alright?"
"Yes. I just wanted to…say thank you. Not once have I thanked you since we came back." He nodded as there was nothing really to say to that. Ziva knew he'd do it again in a heartbeat if necessary, her doing the same. They both looked out to the field and watch people walk by. "You left early today," she stated, he felt her looking at him, but he didn't look back.
"…I went to go talk to Dr. Waters before I started the day."
"Yeah." He took another sip of his coffee before looking at her. "So, how have you been Ziva?"
She stared at him, a flash of guilt entering her eyes before it left. "I have been better. I will admit these past three months have been a challenge."
He nodded in agreement. Her time in Somalia was the worse, and recovering wasn't easy. The nights he stayed up with her after a nightmare was proof. Or even when she woke up and couldn't be alone in the same room as him as fears came back. The worst was when Abby stopped by and accidently knocked over her Caf-POW! The flashback Ziva had had been rough and Tim nearly thought Ziva would kill Abby though in her state she would think she was killing Saleem. Thankfully he had been able to pull her out of it before anything happened.
"But that was all in the past, and the past is the past."
Tim looked at her as she was the one looking away now. "Is it?"
Ziva glanced with a nod. "Yes."
"…Then why didn't you tell me?" At the confused look she sent him, he clarified, "Everything. Why didn't you tell me about Ari? About Michael? About how you doubted Tony and asked Jethro to choose? Why didn't you tell me any of it?"
Her wide eyed look of surprise was expected since he obviously wasn't supposed to know. But he just stared at her and waited for her answer. He wanted to know why.
"I heard you and Jethro talking this morning."
He spoke when she looked to be thinking about what to say and not to. "Zee."
Ziva took a deep breath before letting it out. "I did not want you to hate me. I was a killer Tim, and you knew that. But knowing that, and after what happened with Ari, you still welcomed me. I…treasure that. And, I was…afraid, to tell you that I was the one to kill my brother. Not only was I afraid of you thinking me a monster, but also losing your trust if and when you thought that I did all of this, getting close to you, was just a cover."
The question was on the tip of his tongue, just waiting to ask her if it was, but all he had to do was remember what he overheard in the basement, the pain that Jethro questioned her, and he didn't.
Tim looked down when he felt her small deadly hand cover one of his. He moved the coffee from between both his hands to his right so he could grab Ziva's hand in return with his left. Her voice had him raise his head back up and look at her.
"About Michael, I have no excuse. I was ashamed about doubting Tony and asking Gibbs to choose. I had a lot of time to think and I realized that he was right to leave me behind. My feelings at that time would not have only caused problems, but it could have cost one of your lives out in the field. And I, nor Gibbs, would risk that."
"I wish you had told me."
"I know," she nodded. "And for that I am sorry. But I could not lose you Tim. I trusted Ari and Michael. I trusted my father at one point, but our relationship is too broken to fix now. Somalia proved that. You are the first man I can say that I put my trust in and have and will never let me down. I did not want to tempt losing that with my actions."
Sighing, he released her hand and wrapped it around her shoulders, pulling her to rest her head on his shoulder. "I would not abandon you Ziva. No matter what you do. Sure, I'll be disappointed and mad at times, but I'll always be there for you."
"Yeah," he said and smiled down at Ziva when he looked up at him. "You're mine and I'm your keeper."
Ziva laughed before leaning back into his shoulder and relaxing.
Yeah, there were going to be fine. They all were. But in time.
A/N: PLEASE REVIEW! They're appreciated.
Next (and final) in McGee's Keeper series...
"Faith" - It's Ziva's citizenship ceremony and she can't do that without a little something from Tim.