Chapter 2

“Gibbs – we need to work this from our end. I truly do not think that the FBI know how crazy these people are,” Ziva repeated as she followed him into the bullpen. He had met her at Bethesda for when the FBI dropped her off but since she laid eyes on him, she was a woman on a mission.

Even the relieved looks on her friends faces weren’t enough for her to deter her concern for her fellow prisoner considering she’d been missing for nearly four months.

You need to go home and rest,” her boss replied and shook his head, he had disagreed with her at the hospital for signing herself out. “I only took you here so everyone could say ‘hi’.”

“I appreciate that but you know -”

“You need to rest, Ziva,” Tony smiled at her. “And eat, you look like you could use some food, a shower, a bed and maybe some more food.”

Ziva turned and glared at him. “Are you volunteering yourself because I could have become very much a cannibal while I was away,” she growled.

“You’ve been gone for four months! Let us try and pick up the trail and find them. Go home.”

She shook her head as she paced the floor, her hands wringing themselves around her wrists in agitation from the withdrawal of the opiates that they drugged them up with. “I won’t be able to sit still. I need to do something,” she mumbled as she eyed everyone and their movements with paranoia.

“Go home, you’re making me nervous,” McGee muttered as he kept typing away on his computer. Fornell, being the best friend of his boss, had given them some leads to start with, only it had to be on the down-low and McGee was currently trying to hack the FBI database in search for more clues.

“Take a Xanax then,” she snapped only for Gibbs to give a nod to Tony who practically had to drag her out of the area. “What? What are you doing?” she asked trying to push him off but the time without proper nutrition and exercise left her weak against the strength of men as fit as he was.

“Let’s get you home,” Tony smiled. “We’ll go food shopping first, and I’ll make you some delicious pasta. Then, you’ll rest. And when you wake up, we’ll see what’s going to happen. Let Abby, Gibbs and McGee do what they do best.”

She looked at him, blinking her eyes as she tried to register what he said. “We have to find him. He doesn’t belong there – he doesn’t deserve that. They will kill him. I believe that strongly.”

“We will find him, Ziva. We will. And you’re going to help us, but you can’t do that right now.” Tony put an arm around Ziva and directed her towards the elevator. “You’re not thinking straight, you’re jittery and you need to eat and sleep. No doubt the FBI has their best people working on it now, and we’re going to do the same.”

She nodded absently as she let him lead her out and to his car. She was very much like a walking zombie, not really knowing her surroundings or acknowledging them. Ziva mumbled incoherent words as she followed Tony aimlessly.

He woke up in a very cold place, darker than the basement he had been in with Ziva for a long time and his head was groggy and pounding. He managed to sit up but had to throw up as soon as he did and then he realized that they must have dropped him on the head or kicked him when he was out.

Throwing up on an empty stomach didn’t feel too good either. The last time he recalled eating was when Ziva was still there with him. Oh, how glad he was she was out there now, being taken care of by her team, getting medical attention, food and a decent bed.

John finally stopped throwing up and rested his head against the wall. It was thick and solid; and it had a smooth surface. Well, he thought, this could very well mean the end.

Should these people kill him off for being a compliant hostage who only tried to escape once, then he had no regrets or last wishes. Well, maybe one. He wanted to see Ziva healthy and happy. He had grown a liking to her during the time they had been together, maybe he liked her even more than he liked to admit, having had to hear all her horror stories about her boyfriends made him loose hope fast. He’d never want to hurt her. Hell, one time they gave him the wrong dosage of sedative and he managed to hit a few of the guys when they were taking advantage of Ziva. Pigs. Poor Ziva.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to listen for any noise coming from outside the walls and he heard nothing. Maybe they did leave him somewhere nobody could find him and maybe they had fled the country.

At least he’d never have to deal with Nancy ever again.

He closed his eyes and evened his breathing. If he’d be able to fall asleep, he wouldn’t have to think so much anymore. John wasn’t surprised when he heard a big door open, some disembodied voices he couldn’t really make sense of. Did that mean that he was going to have to deal with Nancy again? Or did they come to shoot him dead?

He slowly opened his eyes and flinched when the light of torches shone in his face. “John Sheppard?” a voice asked.

“You’ve got the wrong guy,” John managed to reply. “Kill me already, this has been going on long enough.”

“Ziva would kill us if we did.”

He was then hauled to his feet by two strong men, one smelling faintly of sawdust and the other of expensive cologne and he decided there and then that the world didn’t make any sense anymore.

It had been nearly three weeks after Ziva’s own rescue that the team managed to get a lead on the location where her friend was being held hostage. Of course, when they got there, not one of the suspects were around. In fact, it had appeared that they hadn’t been around for several days, leaving Sheppard to die in that musty basement.

She was happy that they at least let her join them on the raid considering she wasn’t cleared to return to active duty yet. Unfortunately, Ziva was not allowed actually go in but stayed out with McGee in the car.

“Where are you taking me now?” John muttered as the two men had dragged him up the stairs. They were probably going to throw him down the stairs and hope he’d break his neck.

“We’re taking you to the hospital, buddy,” one of the men replied. “I suggest you close your eyes, we’re about to take a walk in the sunlight.”

“You’re not making any sense.”

The guy huffed out a laugh. “You know, Ziva said the same thing. She’s waiting outside to make sure you are fine.”

“I think I’ve died and the after life doesn’t make much sense,” John flinched when the door of the building opened and the sun shone right in his face. “See? There’s the big white light.”

“You’ll be fine,” the other man replied. “Where’s the bus, boss?”

“We’re taking him to the hospital, I don’t want to alert the FBI just yet.” Another man replied and John felt him shrug. “Besides, I think that Ziva would raise hell, again, if he’d be taken away without her.”

Tim turned around and smiled at Ziva. “Look!” he pointed outside, “Tony and Gibbs found him!” The man looked more of a zombie than Ziva had been just a few weeks ago. She was looking a bit healthier now, but everyone could tell that she was still damaged from the event.

She was almost plastered to the back window of the sedan as she watched her friends pull him out. The previously tall, healthy, good looking man looked nothing like the one she remembered from the bank. What they were dragging out was a thin shell. Ziva reached for the door only to find that they had put on the childproof security on it. “Let me out McGee,” she growled as she slammed her hand against the window.

“Don’t break him,” McGee jokingly said as he got out of the car and opened her door.

Ziva sprinted from the car to go help them with him. “Are you alright? It is me John,” she said as she reached them and nudged her way in to help carry the weight of the man.

“Ziva…” Tony sighed as he got pushed away by his friend. John nearly took a tumble but Gibbs managed to keep him upright.

John chuckled as he felt Ziva’s familiar form against his. Even in this weird after life, he was happy to feel something familiar. “Heaven,” he smiled.

“No, not heaven but when you get that steak and potatoes you spoke of, then you will be there,” she grinned after glaring her partner a warning. “We will be at the hospital before you realize it.”

“I’m not dead?” John managed to open his eyes and not get his eyes burned, it did make him feel sick again. For some reason the trip to the car would have been a lot easier if he could use his leg properly. “Damn…”

“Gibbs? How are we all going to fit in the car?” she asked, realizing that she had ridden in the back with Tony on the way. Considering his size, it would be a tight and painful fit for Sheppard.

“I’ll take a cab,” McGee offered. “Or the bus, and I’ll go to the office and try to stall Fornell a bit longer. His people have been sending me texts all day.”

“Fair enough,” Gibbs replied, opened the door to the car’s rear and gently helped Sheppard on to the back seat.

Ziva went in on the other side so that she could help pull him in and let him lay against her for support. “You’re safe now,” she repeated softly to him. Turning to Tony she frowned. “Can you get his next of kin or someone from Abby and call them to have them meet us?”

“No… please don’t,” John sighed as he settled against Ziva.

“What about that Teyla friend of yours? Who you told me you saved from her husband?” she asked.

“She… no.” John shook his head slowly. “No one. Maybe later, not now.”

“Okay. It’s okay,” she said. She just held him as Gibbs drove, wishing him better already. There was so much more about him that she learned the past weeks but despite everything, she wanted more and from him himself.

John was definitely not dead. He realized that as soon as they got into the hospital – he hated hospitals – and Dr. Carson Beckett was there. Beckett had been his family doctor and had been there to pronounce Sheppard’s father dead when he finally went. Of course, it could all have been a major coincidence, but Sheppard feared that his brother may have pulled some strings with his best buddy, the Secretary of the Navy.

Carson poked and prodded him everywhere until it hurt, then hooked him up to some IV’s filled with saline and something gooey, probably having something to do with blood. He just wanted to sleep and had fallen asleep during the assessment.

Ziva sat at his bedside through the entire assessment and refused to leave after John succumbed to his exhaustion and weakness. As much as she wanted to be at his side even during the surgery on his leg, she stayed in the waiting room, toying with her phone. She debated with herself whether she should go against his wishes on contacting someone from his family to let them know but she was afraid of his disapproval. Why she worried about his approval or disapproval confused her greatly.

John woke up from his sleep; he was confused and felt alone and sad. He didn’t understand why he was in a bed, unfamiliar at that, and why there was an obvious IV line in his hand. It stung like hell. He took a deep breath and couldn’t stop himself from crying. Then it hit him – he had been put under and they had done something with his leg. There was no other explanation for crying like this.

He managed to bring one of his hands to his face and put it over his eyes, willing them to stop shedding tears. “Stupid surgery,” he muttered, and sincerely hoped he was alone. At the Air Force, whenever he had to have surgery – which had been only twice, once to get his appendix out, the second time because he had been in a helicopter crash and broke most of his bones – they would put him in a private room until he was stable, because he knew he was an emotional wreck when waking up from anesthesia.

Ziva had fallen asleep, curled up in the chair beside his bed while she waited for him to awaken. The sound of muttering and jingling from tubing clanging against steel poles stirred her awake. “Hmm…” she hummed as she rubbed at her eyes. Looking around confused, she saw no staff in the room which spurred her to look over to whom she kept vigil. “You’re awake,” she said softly.

Crap, he thought and sighed. “Yep, and you’re here.”

“I told you that I would come back for you,” she smiled as she shifted the chair closer. “You have some color back already. How are you feeling?”

“Like I could sleep some more,” he replied and then removed his hand from his eyes to look at her. “You’re looking good.”

“Haven’t had much of a choice. My team refused to let me help with the search for you for the first week and even now they don’t let me do much of anything,” she smiled. “The doctors said you will be here for at least a week. More if you have no place to stay…”

John shook his head smiling with an incredulous look on his face. “You’ve been reading up on me, haven’t you?”

Ziva shrugged a shoulder innocently. “I would not be an NCIS agent if I was not thorough. You’re welcome to stay with me. I have an extra room and everything is on one floor so no stairs. Elevator access to my floor as well. You cared for me there – let me help you.”

He thought for a moment and knew it wasn’t a good idea. “You’ve spent weeks cooped up with me, haven’t had enough of me yet?” He joked. “I’ll be fine, thanks for the offer though.”

“Actually I haven’t,” she replied sitting up straighter. “If anything I feel more at ease around you. I don’t know – almost safer.”

“I didn’t manage to keep you safe, Ziva. You found your way out on your own.”

“You made sure that I got out of there. You did what you could despite everything. Besides – what am I going to do with all that hospital equipment that I managed to talk NCIS into covering for you if you don’t come with me?” she asked.

John took a deep breath. “Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“You will find that we will drive each other bonkers before we know it but I am not about to let you off in the world without knowing if you are going to be alright.”

He hated to see that determined look on her face. It was the same look that Nancy had when she had taken him in after a bar fight where he needed stitches, and even though it was nice for a while, things went the wrong way quickly, and it was mostly his fault. “I’m always going to be alright, you won’t have to worry about that, but thank you.”

Ziva narrowed her eyes on him before nodding slowly. “Dr. Beckett was in before you woke up – and evidently before I nodded off – but he said that the surgery to repair your leg went well. Are you willing to try to eat or drink something? They left some bread and broth here if you wanted something.”

He managed to sit up a little straighter and nodded. He could eat a whole horse, but probably would throw it right up again. Broth would have to do. For now.

She grinned at him as she stood to bring the lunch cart over to him. Setting him up she helped him adjust himself in bed so that he was more comfortable. “Is there anything else you need? I’m just going to go let the nurse know you’re up.”

“I’m good,” John nodded and started on the broth, savouring the taste of it. “This is good stuff.”

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