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I'm Better Than That

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Title: I'm Better Than That
Category: TV Shows » NCIS
Author: SASundance
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Genre: Hurt/Comfort/Friendship
Published: 06-06-12, Updated: 06-08-12
Chapters: 3, Words: 7,909
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
I'm Better than That
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS characters and do not stand to make financial gain from this work.
Rating: T
Genre: Angst/comfort
Chapter 1
We are back in the bull pen at last. Officer Ziva David and I had been trapped in a shipping crate for most of the day and we were revelling in being back with the team again. We had just busted a bunch of terrorists in a counterfeit money smuggling ring and now we were kicking back in the office, relieved to have closed another case. We are safe and unharmed, apart from a very minor gunshot wound that I incurred; just a scratch really. It is hardly worth mentioning, let alone having to use the sling that Ducky and an ER Doc insisted I wear, so all's good with the world.

Ziva is fine thank goodness! If anyone has to be hurt then I'm glad that it's me. I'm the senior field agent and it’s up to me to look after the team and take the hits. It was a tough day though. Ziva especially seemed rattled by the experience which was quite a surprise, considering her history as a Mossad trained operative and all. While I can't say that it was exactly a fun day, it certainly wasn't even up there on the scale as one of the worst situations in my professional career. (Thinking about getting the plague, beaten, stabbed, drugged, abducted ... well you get the gist I'm sure.)

Truth be told, I guess that I am really pretty shocked by how panicked Ziva seemed to be when we first realised we were trapped. So I chose to overlook her incredibly insubordinate behaviour in flaying me verbally about how badly I screwed up. We came under fire by multiple assailants, without warning and there was no time for reconnaissance. It was a split second survival decision to seek shelter in the shipping crate and yes it didn't turn out so good but it was better than getting killed or badly wounded. The verbal insubordination in and of itself was nothing new, except that it wasn't the subtle barbed variety that I have come to expect from Officer David. She has a superiority complex, that's for damned sure and she's pretty insolent with me in particular. I can't help but wonder what makes her so damned contemptuous of me. Maybe she just hates me; I am almost as good at pissing people off as Gibbs!

What I do know though is that for a highly trained agent, used to facing life and death situations, it isn't normal to freak out in a situation where there isn't an immediate threat to life or limb. Nor is it SOP to fire a gun inside a metal container to try and shoot your way out. I should not have had to tell her not to fire her gun; for all the good it did me though. If it had been the Probie, I could maybe understand the panic given his inexperience, but I would have also ripped him a new one too for such a stupid move. Ziva knows much better than that though, she isn't inexperienced like McGee.

Ziva panicked; she wasn't listening to anything I said, certainly not when I told her not to discharge her weapon. What sane person tries to shoot her way out of a locked metal shipping crate? We were just incredibly lucky that the inevitable ricochet didn't hit either of us. Lucky that is, apart from the bruised shoulder that I suffered as Ziva forcefully pushed me down after firing her weapon. I hit the metal floor without being prepared to do so and combined with her bodyweight on top of me it hurt. Not as much as a bullet would have hurt I'll grant you, so I am grateful for small mercies I guess. But come on, it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

Such a huge procedural error would normally be cause for a serious censure and by rights I shouldn't let it slide but I saw how out of control Ziva was and knew that there must be a reason. Even when we both thought we were about to die that time we were playing undercover assassins, she had been cool and calm, something that we both have been trained for. Today though, there was real fear in her eyes. She had been out of control and I recognised the signs. Perhaps as a child or because of some traumatic experience as an operative, she had developed a doozie of a phobia. Maybe even had some type of PTSD flashback that had been triggered by being trapped in the crate. I know because I have plenty of my own demons as well, so I recognise the signs.

I really hadn't been kidding about liking dark small spaces; I spent too many hours during my childhood, hiding away in my closet. In the dark, comfort of my sanctuary I was out of the line of fire of my alcoholic father, his physical corrections, his scornful tongue and 'DiNozzo's Don't Rules'. It was also a soothing haven from my confusion over my mother's strange periods of obsession with me. Of dressing me in sailor suits well beyond what could be considered to be appropriate, not to mention her own battles with the bottle. Tucked up with a blanket, pillow, flashlight and one of my beloved mystery stories, I whiled away a lot of my childhood huddled in my closet. Even when it was safe to sleep in my own froufrou Louis XVI canopied bed, I often chose to sleep in my hidey hole instead. To this day, I sometimes wake up after a particularly bad nightmare and find myself retreating to my closet to regain some equilibrium.

While I like dark, small spaces, I equally loathed echo-filled, dank, cold, and mouldy spaces. No doubt my loathing is courtesy of a 'lesson' when my father locked me away in the basement and was so drunk that he forgot about me, leaving me all alone for several days. Even the scent of mould as an adult is enough to make me want to run a mile and my heart always begins to race. So I recognised in Ziva something of a kindred spirit and I decided to cut her some slack for now, while resolving to talk to her when the time was right. Partners needed to watch each other's six and depend on each other. This time, I thought it needed a lighter touch than our favourite functional mute could offer with a size eleven jackboot up her butt and a "suck it up Marine" type speech. When it comes to the emotional touchy- feely stuff, Gibbs has the emotional IQ of a cactus

I didn't mention her loss of control and insubordination in my report and when I dig into the cause of her panic and I will, I will chose an appropriately private time and place to do so and I will get to the bottom of it. As much as I sympathise, it cannot be allowed to jeopardise the wellbeing of the team. Still, all things considered, I felt despite the drama today, we had made some progress as partners. Ziva had been grudgingly impressed with my knowledge of counterfeit currency, I got to do a MacGyver and build an antenna for the cell phone (or maybe that should be a McGee) and best of all she had invited me home for a meal. While admittedly, I was hurt that Tim and Jimmy Palmer had already been invited before me, I chided myself for being childish and needy. Two unattractive traits unfortunately, that are legacy of a so called privileged childhood, where my parents' servants showed me more genuine love and acceptance than the two people who conceived me.

We also had a shared moment together about our respective pianos, although I chickened out and couldn't tell Ziva that it was my mother who taught me to play. That I still play but only ever for her which would probably make me sound completely psycho seeing as how she is dead! It was just too personal to share this with someone who I have only known for a short time, even if she is my partner. Hell who am I kidding, it is something I haven't shared with anyone! I'd prefer to go to work stark naked than share something that intimate with anyone I work with, even if they are like my family.

So there I was, kicking back in the bull pen feeling glad to be back with the team, letting Abby fuss over me. Enjoying watching how mad it made McEnvious, who despite his fizzled out fling with the forensic Goth, still got jealous about Abbs and my close friendship. Then when the subject of Ziva cooking dinner for me came up, I felt as if they all lined up to take turns in stabbing me in the heart with a very sharp knife. (No doubt of the Peruvian steel variety.) Apparently last night Ziva invited all of the team apart from me to her dinner party.

She could have at least told me that while we were in the crate together, instead of letting me find out in front of everyone that I had been the only one not invited. Finding out that way was like plunging and twisting the knife around to make sure that they did the maximum amount of damage. I really wish that I didn't care so much what my team thinks of me. When I glanced at Ziva, I guess to see if it was really happening, I saw no remorse, embarrassment or apology but something else. What I 'm not sure – amusement, malice or triumph but when my glance passed over McGee I recognised his expression. Tim is so easy to read and he wonders why he doesn't get to do undercover ops and why I always beat him at poker. He had a smug, self-satisfied grin on his face as he enjoyed my exclusion and my pain.

My father was a pitiful excuse for a parent or even a role model, but he did teach me one very important lesson that I really took to heart.
'Never let your enemies know that you have a soft under belly.'

It is advice that I used against him when he decided to use me as his personal punching bag when he was drunk. The harder he hit me, the louder my mouth ran off and the strategy has worked for me when I am undercover or taking on scumbags and even, smug, supercilious superiors. Never let them see you hurting. I didn't expect that I would need to use that same advice with my own teammates but I guess that when it all comes down to it, they aren't my family - even if I needed them to be. So I plastered on my most megawatt grin and made some lewd comment to Ziva and then headed out with her as she had offered to drive me home and cook dinner because of my arm. Consummate actor that I am, I was able to prattle on as if my heart hadn't be torn out of my chest and ripped in two.

I so needed out of going back to Ziva's place tonight but I also didn't want her figuring out that she had succeeded in getting under my skin. As she drove away from the yard I started rubbing my head and frowning before getting all quiet, which always throws people when I do it. Finally I spoke to Ziva and said that I was developing a migraine and would she mind if we did dinner some other time? That I needed to go home and sleep. Better that she think that I have a physical weakness like migraines (which I do sometimes) than for her to know she has shaken my equilibrium to its very foundations. Truthfully, I did feel a headache coming on although whether it will progress to a full blown migraine or not remains to be seen. Hopefully not but I do need to go home and be alone so I can try and regain some semblance of control over my emotions. Tomorrow is another day and I need to build my impenetrable defences back up again.