It's four months since Toni dragged her back – almost literally, dragged her back – and nine months since Ziva had driven herself half across the world from her when a Marine Corporal is found to have beaten both his children to death. He also shot his wife. The scene is bloody and wrenching, broken bodies sprawled in bedrooms, and yet it is as if the horror of it does not manifest entirely until Toni steps through the door.
The case spans three days.
Gibbs steps aside for interrogation. It tells Ziva just how furious he is, that he would give Toni this one. Toni opens the interview by leading the Corporal on, letting him think that Toni is easy prey, and Ziva has to step out of observation even though she knows just how far from the truth that is.
Toni is never vulnerable unless by choice, and Ziva knows what that looks like.
Ziva stands at the end of the hall until McGee steps in to arrest the man. When Toni steps out seconds later the first thing she sees is Ziva, waiting for her by the door, and it puts the same look in her eyes that she had in Somalia when she'd said, Couldn't live without you, I guess.
By the time the paperwork is wrapped, Gibbs pulls Ziva aside.
“Go with her tonight,” he says. No names, no reasons; Ziva doesn’t need them. She just nods.
It's not like she intended to do anything else.
Ziva picks up her overnight bag on the way out of the office. She finds a grocery store, buys Toni's favorite ice cream. She picks up a bottle of tequila, too.
She still has Toni's spare key.
Toni doesn't even startle when Ziva lets herself in, and it's as if Ziva's chest has been carved out and the endlessness of the desert poured in. Ziva puts the grocery bag on the counter and drops her own bag by it, noticing the careful way Toni holds herself, absolutely still but for her breathing.
"Toni," she says, surprised at herself when she finds the gentleness on the first try.
Toni has the air about her as if she wishes so strongly to be anywhere but there, that the wish alone transports her. She's still like a rabbit in front of a cheetah, and Ziva silently lists the names of the people she would rip apart limb from limb for this even as she reaches out, painfully slow, to touch her fingers to the other woman's shoulder.
Toni shatters into her and Ziva has to catch her or she'll fall. She wraps Toni in her arms, cradles her against her chest, presses kisses into her hair. When Toni lifts her face her pupils are dilated all the way; the one and only time she had had that look on her face before, she had been laying bleeding on Ziva's living room floor and Ziva would have shot her just to make it go away. This time Ziva presses a kiss to her mouth and Toni opens up to her, collapsing against her bonelessly, trustingly, completely.
That night they end up on the couch with Toni lying on top of Ziva, clothes still on and ice cream melting on the countertop, and it's the first time since she had been sixteen that Ziva sleeps peacefully despite the absence of a weapon under her pillow.