Author: Mechabeira PM
"You can still swim, can't you? You're going to have to tow her in, DiNozzo. We aren't going to let her just tread water."Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Drama - Tony D. & Ziva D. - Chapters: 36 - Words: 191,744 - Reviews: 989 - Favs: 243 - Follows: 401 - Updated: 03-29-13 - Published: 03-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7928553
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Wow, I owe yous all. I can't believe it's been so long, but this weird thing called Real Life has kept me away for far, far too long.
So I need to thank Doeboymomma for the gentle nudge, astrafiammante and Amilyn for the betas, and Chemmie for being her sweet self.
Happy 2013 to you all. We could all use a good year, yeah? Love to you.
. . . .
When things get messy we'll just tidy up the room.
We'll be no stranger to that dustpan and a broom.
-Indigo Girls, "Peace Tonight."
The edge of the map curled up and Ziva groaned; it wouldn't stay down. Abby brought it to her in a roll and not even the heaviest paperweight was enough to keep it flat. She adjusted the mug at the corner closest to her and hunched over again to trace the red dotted line that was the path of her progress. Behind the building, across the road, down the embankment. A red X marked where Tony found her.
But they didn't make sense: the dots and dashes, the walking path, the tall townhouses. Her dull, mulish brain couldn't decipher how these images and her paralysis were connected, though she knew the story of the men who'd been out for her, how she'd been blindsided, how the early days on Bethesda's neuro floor had more than likely scarred Tony for life. Scarred her for life. Nothing worked the way it had—not her head, not her hands, not her body, and having a cold made it worse. She spent two days sipping watery tea and watching movies on the sofabed with Tony, but he'd returned to work once the roads were passable. She glanced back at the bedroom and wanted to cry; damn she was tired, and it was only eleven am.
She found Gibbs in the hallway, measuring with a stick that had green bubbles in the middle. His pencil was fat and square. She smelled sawdust.
"What you are doing, Abba?"
She gritted her teeth. "I see that. Why?"
"Project I'm working on."
He put the pencil behind his ear and the tool by the basement steps. "You want lunch?"
She shrugged. "We have soup?"
"Nope, you ate it all. Want a sandwich or some leftover chicken and rice?"
Irritation tightened her hands on the pushrims. "No, I want soup."
"Leftovers or a sandwich," he echoed.
She grunted and launched into a volley of coughs, pressing a fist below her sternum. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve. "Soup."
He let his hands fall. "Then we're either running to the deli to get some, or to the market to buy the ingredients so you can make some. Pick your poison."
The world blotted out. When it came back, he had his hand on her cheek. "Ya ok?"
Her eyelids were heavy. "Tired," she admitted, hating how vacant she sounded. It always took a few minutes for the postictal period to fade. Oh, she wanted to sleep.
Abba stroked her hair and kissed her brow. "You need more meds," he said softly.
"Yes," she croaked. Her head began a steady pounding. The kitchen lights were too bright. Gibbs put a pill in one of her hands and a cup of something in the other. She sipped experimentally—grape juice. The sweetness was nice as she gulped down the caplets.
"Food," he ordered, and put an English muffin in the toaster for her. She didn't want it. She wanted soup. She wanted her mother's soup, redolent with saffron and pieces of real chicken. Tears pricked behind her eyes. She sniffled and he turned. "What?"
She shook her head. "Nothing."
"Don't lie to me, Ziver."
The toaster popped. He buttered her muffin and slathered it with peach preserves, then slid it across the island at her. Her stomach rolled.
"I miss my mother," she admitted softly. He swallowed his coffee. Wasn't it cold by now? Her stomach rolled again. "I have never missed her before. She died and I moved on after the shiva week. And that was all. Then I was in the army and Mossad and then…I came here." She left things out on purpose. "And then my accident and I wanted her to be there with me." She rolled her eyes, feeling foolish.
Gibbs nodded and watched the snow out the window. Ziva shivered.
"You had a few days in the hospital that were pretty bad," he said quietly, still staring at the trees. "Nothing would make you stop crying. The night nurses used to call me in when you had a nightmare. Remember that?"
"No," she replied, also quietly. "I hardly remember anything from hospital, Abba."
He nodded again. "You cried every night. But one night I just picked you up outta bed—they had you all strapped up because of the muscle contractures—and held you until it finally stopped. That's when I knew it wasn't about the pain."
She took his hand; it was rough in hers, but warm. "Thank you," she said heavily. "Thank you for that...peace." She sniffled. "And I still want soup."
He smirked. "I gave you your choices."
She sat up, confident. "You go, Abba," she commanded. "Get the in—the things. I will wait here."
He scoffed. "I'm not leaving you alone."
"Will be fine," she promised. "I will eat this and read while you gone." Her tablet was by the phone. She picked it up and waved it at him, then set it next to her plate. "See? Safe. Go."
He shrugged, put her phone by her plate, too, and lifted his coat from the hook. "Half an hour," he swore. "And you call the second you leave that spot. Got me?"
"Yes," she said solemnly. "I will not do anything but this. Bye."
He kissed her brow. "Bye."
The English muffin was ok—cold, but ok—so she finished it quickly and washed down the remains with the rest of her juice. She turned to face the living area. The house was silent. Really, really silent. It was thrilling, yes, but also terribly frightening because she hadn't been alone in months. Doctors, nurses, hospital aides, her family—they'd spent every single second caring for her, doting on her. Now Abba was at the store, Tony and Tim at work, and Abby in her lab, leaving Ziva alone in her new house in the suburbs. She took a breath, then another, then a third before the tension left her shoulders.
This was her house. Her home. Her refuge, built to accommodate her needs by the man who loved her. She'd made a few changes not because she needed to, but because she wanted to. She'd had Gibbs and Tony hang artwork and photographs, she'd ordered window treatments, and she'd decided, under Abby's tutelage, to have the empty bedroom painted a pale robin's egg blue.
She rolled there slowly, eyeing the pencil marks on the wall before stopping just inside the door. It needed curtains and a rug—something light and soft—with enough pile to absorb some of the echo from the teak floors and bare walls. The room was also cold. Its emptiness provided little insulation from the snow blowing outside. She thought about a crib in the corner, or a toddler bed, maybe a desk for homework or drawing, but sighed and whirled away before her imagination could carry her away. Dizziness made a brief assault.
She went to the bedroom closet for a sweater. An old one caught her eye. It was soft, loose, and the color of a ripe melon. She wanted it, but it hung on the upper rack. Usually someone helped when things were up high, but Ziva was cold and achy and impatient and wanted to start the new book she'd downloaded. It was fine. She could do it herself.
Her neck twinged when she reached up, but the pain didn't increase so she took the sleeve and tugged. Nothing. She tugged harder; it didn't budge. Ziva snarled in frustration and threw her weight against the back of her chair, leaning into it, watching for the sweater's loose collar to pop off the hanger. There was a creak and then a louder, lower groan, and the whole rack came down. It landed hard on her shoulder, knocked her out of her wheelchair, and knocked the breath from her lungs. Ziva hit the floor with a yelp of surprise and her thought was not Ima, but Abba.
. . . .
"Ziver?" Gibbs bellowed, tossing his keys on the entry table and the bags on the kitchen island. He'd taken longer than expected because of icy roads. "Hey, I'm back. Get your skinny butt out here and start the soup." He lifted a stockpot onto the stove and stashed the chicken in the fridge. There was silence once he stopped rustling bags."Ziver?"
Nothing. He checked the pool door—locked—and the basement. The wheelchair lift was folded neatly against the wall at the top of the stairs.
Office, guest room, master, bath—no Ziva.
"Ziver," he thundered, anger rising. "Answer me, dammit!"
A soft, surprised voice came from behind the walk-in closet door. "Abba?"
His pulse slowed. "You decent?"
"You have soup to make."
He didn't move. Something was up. "Are you changing your clothes again?" She'd changed earlier because the waistband of her leggings folded under and left a deep red welt across her belly and hip. Her reflexes had gone crazy. Two seizures stole her from him. It took half an hour to get her comfortable.
"I am stuck," she admitted slowly.
"Did you fall?" Ziva was quickly building a record of bumps and spills as she got more confident with her chair. He was beginning to see some of her trademark recklessness and that scared him. It also made him totally, unbearably proud.
"Yes," she finally answered.
"I'm coming in." He tried the door but a yelp and a round of coughing stopped him.
"I am here," she rasped. She meant pinned behind it.
"Can I open this at all?"
She hemmed. "Maybe. Push a little, Abba."
He pushed. There was resistance but she didn't cry out again. He got the door open enough to shimmy through it, where he stumbled over a pair of DiNozzo's sneakers and a hatbox. The closet was big—eight-by-eight, if he had to guess—and Ziva and Tony filled it to the brim with their combined wardrobes. It was a disaster now, though, as the closet organizer had come down. It lay diagonally across the room. All the clothes had come down, and all of them were piled directly on top of Ziva, who was on the floor and covered to the chin. Her chair was tipped over and draped with at least six pairs of jeans.
Gibbs smirked. None of the usual worry bubbled to the surface. "The hell did you do?" he asked, picking delicately at the pile. It seemed pretty stable. Nothing else was about to come down on her.
"I wanted my sweater," she whined. "And I am stuck." She scowled when he chuckled. "Stop it."
"Are you hurt?"
"Did you have a seizure?"
"Are you having spasms?"
Her scowl deepened. "I am stuck!"
"Did you try to get out?"
Her chin creased. Her eyes grew big and wet. "Yes."
"Don't cry," he said. "You're not hurt."
He carried out armloads of clothes, swearing each one was the last, but it seemed Ziva was buried under every single article of clothing she and DiNozzo had ever owned. He picked up her winter mess dress, still in its dry cleaning bag, and realized with some regret that these were the things she'd never wear again.
Ziva was panting when he lifted her back into her chair—panting despite the fact that he'd done all the heavy lifting. She nodded her thanks and gave his hand a squeeze.
"You're all right," he said quietly, stroking her hair.
She nodded, trying to catch her breath.
He crouched beside her. "Were ya scared?"
She scoffed. "No."
He rose and examined the walls where the organizer had pulled away, then gave a derisive snort; it hadn't been anchored to the studs. Hundreds of pounds of DiNozzo's expensive custom tailoring had been hanging directly on the sheetrock. It would've come down eventually, especially if someone—even a small someone—was hanging on it.
"You can fix it?" she asked quietly.
She shivered. "I did not get my sweater."
He knocked on the wall, checking for studs, already considering how to rehang the rod. "Can you find it?"
He turned and fixed her with a pointed stare. "Your sweater."
"Oh." She went slowly to the pile of clothing and poked around, then retreated back to his side. "No."
She stared, confused, and he wondered if her fever was rising. "Dunno."
Dammit. "How about a nap instead?"
She shook her head.
Gibbs was running out of options. "Then we'll put a movie in and you can relax."
Ziva shook her head again. Her eyes flickered, her hands contracted on the pushrims, and she swallowed reflexively. He cradled the crown of her head in his palm until she came around and looked up at him.
"Rough day, sweetheart?"
"Yes," she admitted. She blinked and shook her head. "This is a mess," she sighed, looking dejectedly at the piles of clothing around them. She made a face. "We should clean it."
He touched her cheek; it was hot. "Yeah. Want to help me fix the plaster?"
"Before Tony is home, yes?"
Gibbs laughed quietly and had her hold the patch in place while he stirred joint compound. He applied it with a steady, practiced hand and she watched, awed. "I cannot do that," she mused.
He scraped off excess with a putty knife. "Hm?"
"So...smooth. I cannot do not do that anymore. This morning I was try to hold the map and follow but I could not because my hands are so bad."
"You work on them with Dev."
"Yes," she agreed simply. "We will have to go to Bolling when the snow is gone. And my injury is high. I will never see that same grisp."
"Grasp. Yeah, I know. You're doing better in the kitchen." He sat back. The joint compound needed to dry before they could go any farther. "Haven't spilled anything in a few weeks."
"Until today," she muttered glumly. She'd dropped her first cup of tea on the kitchen floor and then stared at the mess, uncomprehending, while Tony packed his lunch and Gibbs threw her a towel.
"It's just an off day," he said gently.
She bobbed her head and rubbed her eyes. "What we do next?"
He sat back, observing. There were bags under Ziva's eyes and her cheeks had grown pinker from the rising fever. "Why don't you take a break?" he suggested. "You can either take a nap or we can go in the living room and put the TV on."
The corners of her mouth tipped down. She looked at her hands. "This is a mess."
He stood and shrugged. "Messes can be cleaned up."
She coughed harshly. A splinter of concern wiggled in Gibbs' chest. Dr. Monroe's advice had been simply to wait it out—to keep her home from the gym and out of the pool until the fever broke and stayed down for twenty-four hours. He was obliging, but barely. "C'mon," he urged. He considered taking her chair by the handles. "You need something else to eat?"
"This is a mess," she said again, still staring at her hands.
He put his hands on her knees and waited for her to look up at him. "Messes can be cleaned up," he repeated slowly.
She nodded, chin creased. "I know," she replied. Her voice was small. "But I am tired."
He smirked, having been waiting for that concession. "Ya think? Bed?"
She shook her head, sneezed, and went quickly to the dresser for a tissue and hand sanitizer. "No. I want to sit with you."
Gibbs went to the living room couch. She followed. He sat. She transferred with some difficulty and came to rest against him. He drew the blanket down around her.
She coughed harshly into the crook of her elbow. "Yes," she croaked.
She scoffed. "I will not tantrum, Abba."
He gave her a dry look. She laughed, coughed, and caught her breath. "What a mess," she sighed.
She didn't mean the fallen closet organizer. "No you're not."
"I cannot . . . cannot . . ."
"You cannot stay awake."
She hummed and snuggled in, tired and sick. One thin arm fell across Gibbs' middle. He held her tightly, smoothed her frizzy curls, rubbed her back in long, soothing strokes. It took a while for her to relax, but Ziva's rattly, raspy breathing eventually evened out and she slept, head pillowed on his barrel chest.
. . . .
Ziva was parked in the kitchen when Tony got in, head propped on one hand, an empty plastic cup dangling from the other. She blinked at him, vacant and wan, and made a small, distressing sound.
He put a kiss on her cheek. Her skin was dry and burning hot. "Hey," he said gently. "Heard you're not doing too good."
She bobbed her head. He checked her chart—she'd gotten the maximum dose of her anticonvulsant meds. No wonder she was fuzzy and nonverbal. He kissed her other cheek and took the cup from her.
Gibbs appeared with a bag over his shoulder and one of her small sweaters in his big hands. "Monroe's meeting us in the ER," he said gruffly. He threw the sweater at him. "Get her into this."
He caught it easily. "Hey," he said again, trying to catch her wandering gaze. "It's cold out. Let's put this on." She nodded and he threaded her arm through the sleeves, rolling the cuffs away from her hot, sweaty hands. "What's her temp?" he demanded.
"High," Gibbs answered sharply, pulling on his coat. "Let's go."
He buttoned Ziva into her coat and waited for her to look at him. "I'm going to push, ok?"
She nodded. He cupped her cheek and gave her a delicate kiss on the mouth.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs barked, holding the front door open. "Let's go."
He took her chair's push-handles and guided her out the door, down the ramp, and up to the Charger. He'd left the engine running. The exhaust left a fog over their frozen front lawn. "In ya go," he muttered idly, lifting her into the back seat.
Gibbs broke down her chair and stuffed it in the other side. "Keys," he ordered. Tony threw them across the roof of the car.
He pushed Ziva into the middle seat and slid in next to her, draping an arm around her shoulders like two kids at a drive-in movie. A blanket landed in his lap. He spread it over both of them and smiled. "Should we keep our hands where Dad can see 'em?"She quirked the side of her mouth up at him and he grinned. "Feeling lousy, huh?"
She cut her eyes away and nodded.
"Well Dr. Monroe is meeting us at Bethesda. We'll get you fixed up, ok?"
She nodded again and laid her head on his shoulder.
There was a bed waiting for them when Tony carried Ziva into the emergency room. He laid her down gently while Gibbs took off her coat and spread a blanket over her legs.
The doctor arrived before Tony could start the paperwork. "A sickie, huh?" she asked, already scanning Ziva for symptoms. "What's going on?"
"Fever of one-oh-three point five," Gibbs reported officiously. "Congestion, cough, some labored breathing. Four seizures in two hours. Still postictal."
Tony frowned and worried a little more. Gibbs hadn't made it sound that bad when he'd called him home from the Navy Yard. We should take her in, he'd said easily. She's sounding pretty bad.
"When did symptoms start?"
It took a second for Tony to realize that she and Gibbs were looking at him. "Oh, uh, Monday night. Fell asleep watching a movie and woke up with a cold. Was mild until..."
"Until today," Gibbs added. "Fever starting going up around noon and got really high when she woke up at fifteen-thirty."
Dr. Monroe nodded and checked Ziva's eyes, ears, and throat. "How many seizures, total, since she got up this morning?"
Tony's heart sank. "She was doing really well until she got sick. We had a really fun snow day."
She gave him a soft smile and listened to Ziva's heart and lungs with a stethoscope. "I'm pretty sure it's pneumonia but I'll order a chest x-ray to be sure. Tell me about how well she's been doing."
He ran a finger down Ziva's hot cheek and gave her a look, asking permission. She gave him another vacant smile. "She's getting stronger," he said proudly. "Her balance is better, her moods are better, she doesn't have those crying jags anymore, and she rarely has issues with autonomic dysreflexia or spasticity."
The doctor smiled grandly. "Fantastic. I'm thrilled. How many seizures on an average day?"
"Monday there were none—not even when she started to run a temp."
She nodded. "I'm so happy. It sounds like you're pretty stable, Ziva, aside from this bug. Can I check over your arms and legs and do a quick neuro exam?"
Ziva nodded blankly but tucked her hands beneath the blankets. "Zi, come on." Tony prodded gently.
Gibbs was obviously in no mood to negotiate. He pulled her hands free of the covers and tried to smooth her tight fists. They curled further. Her wrists contracted.
"Oh," Dr. Monroe said softly. "Did you bring her wrist supports?"
He was already pulling them from the duffel bag. "Yeah."
"Put them on her while I order the x-rays and a nebulizer treatment. They'll be down to get her as soon as they can."
Tony picked up a splint. "I got it, Boss," he said, and threaded Ziva's thumb through the appropriate hole. She blinked at him, confused, and winced when he pulled her fingers straight. "Sorry," he apologized softly.
She gave a tiny shrug and swallowed. "I do not feel good."
"I know. They'll do some pictures and a breathing treatment and we'll get some meds before we go home, ok?"
She swallowed again, noisily, and coughed. "Ok."
He ducked his head. "I love you," he said next to her ear.
She leaned into him, putting one splinted hand on his chest. "I know," she murmured, and tilted her cheek out in a silent request for a kiss.
. . . .
Gibbs paced. He paced while the doctor did her exam, he paced while two aides took Ziva down to radiology, and he paced when they brought her back. Around the room, up the hall and back down, around the waiting area, down to the vending machines and back. He paced and he relished the worry that bloomed in his chest and hands. Worry is what fathers do, he told himself.
His anxiety only increased when they brought her back. Ziva was pale and weak, limp on the gurney mattress. He scooped her hot hand into his own and brushed his thumb over her cheek.
"They moved with one of those...those..." she murmured feebly.
"A sling," a nurse supplied. "A patient sling. It's common for para—"
"I know," he snapped. "And she hates that. You should've let me go with her."
"There was no need," she said coolly, moving Ziva's oxygen supply from the portable to the wall unit. "She was fine once she calmed down."
He kissed her knuckles. "Did you give 'em hell?"
She nodded. "Tantrum."
He smirked. "That's my girl."
The nurse huffed. "You shouldn't encourage her to be uncooperative," she carped.
He reared up, angry. "Her anxiety triggers are in the file. Why didn't you check that first?" Ziva tensed at his raised voice and he grew only angrier. "And don't talk around her like that. She's paralyzed, not comatose."
Tony returned from his soda run with Dr. Monroe trailing a step behind. "Look who's back!" he said happily, and kissed Ziva's cheek. "And look who I found? What's the word, Doc?"
She put the x-rays on the lightboard and frowned. "Moderate pneumonia. We'll get her on a course of antibiotics and do nebulizer treatments like before, but she'll be on the respiratory care floor instead of neuro. I bet you'll be home within a week."
"No," Ziva said. Her voice was faint and raspy but resolute.
The doctor looked over and frowned. "No what, Ziv?"
"I will not stay," she argued.
Dr. Monroe was aghast. "You have pneumonia," she maintained. "You need to be monitored for complications."
"Which Abba can do at home. Please, let me go."
"DiNozzo and I got this, Doc," Gibbs added.
"We do," Tony added.
"Fine," she sniped. "But I'm sending you home with antibiotics, a nebulizer for twice-daily treatments, and you'll have to schedule a visit with a respiratory therapist every other day until the infection clears. That means no more green sputum."
"Gross," Tony gasped.
"You said you got this."
"And we do," he amended, hands up. "Send a nurse around with the paperwork while I help Zi cath and get dressed."
Ziva put one hand in Tony's and used the other to drag Gibbs closer. He went willingly, a small smile playing across his stony features. A month ago she would've broken down at the mere mention of being readmitted, but tonight she'd remained cool and forthright. He remembered her as an agent—the sly, feline way she had of taking down suspects—and pride warmed his heart for the second time in one day.
"Your chair is in the car," he said. "I'll grab it while DiNozzo helps you."
She didn't let go of either of them. "Not yet," she said tightly. "In a minute. I just need you close." He propped his hip on the edge of the bed. She leaned against him without letting go of Tony's hand. "Just close."
. . . .
"One last go, Ziva. You can do it."
She groaned aloud. Respiratory therapy was hard and uncomfortable. Her therapist, Joe, was a clueless meathead body builder and that made her hate it even more. "Fine," she grumbled, wincing. Her throat was sore. Her hands hurt. She hadn't been able to take the splints off yet, and it had been almost three full days since the contractures began.
Joe fitted the mask over her nose and mouth again and she balked. The anxiety she'd initially ignored was building steadily.
"No," she said clearly.
"It's fine," he argued, and dialed up the pressure.
"No," she repeated. She struggled and tried to pull back, but he palmed the crown of her head and forced her face against the mask. Panic ran its familiar, icy fingers up her neck and she cried out, clawing at his hands. "Let go!" she shrilled. "Let me go!"
Gibbs was there in an instant, pulling Joe's hand away from her face and shoving him aside. "She told you to let go," he snarled. Joe backed off and he turned his attention to Ziva, stroking her cheek and rubbing slow circles on her back. "Are you ok, sweetheart?"
"Yes, Abba," she rasped. She unlocked the brakes and whirled on the therapist. "Why you did not stop? I told you."
"Cough-assist is uncomfortable but it doesn't work if you struggle," he huffed. "Just like, calm down or something."
"You should go," she said angrily, panting. "And please do not come back. I will have my father call and arrange for someone else."
He left and she tried to calm herself with slow yoga breaths. It didn't work; the air thinned and she coughed instead. Gibbs sat down next to her and she put her head on his shoulder, exhausted. "I feel bad."
He loosened her ponytail. "I see that. You ok?"
"Fine. He...scared me."
She toyed with the edge of her neoprene wrist support. Her heart was pounding. "Can I have a Xanax, please?"
He eased away and rubbed her back. "You're not ok."
"He scared me," she repeated. "I cannot make my pulse slow."
He fetched the pill and some grape juice to wash it down. Ziva took it set off for the bedroom, but stopped at the edge of the bed and waited for him. "You can help?" she asked, holding up her arms. She was still breathless and fatigued. He put her in the bed and she snagged the tablet off the nightstand. She was craving distraction from her aching joints and fever. "I want to read."
"Mind if I hang that rod while you're still up?"
Ziva nodded absently and listened to him bang around in the walk-in closet, adding supports to the organizer and rehanging the rod. The clothes went up last. She called out a raspy thank you when the hangers clinked together and put the tablet aside; she couldn't concentrate. Her heart was still galloping and her eyes kept wandering to the growing shadows. She wanted Tony to come home. The long winter evenings were a little brighter when he was around.
"Abba?" she blurted, hating how nervous she sounded. How young.
He was tapping on the wall where she'd asked him to hang a mirror. "Hm?"
"You are busy?"
"No." He took a measurement and made a mark with his fat pencil.
"Can um...can you hold me?"
He was there in two long strides, pulling back the duvet and lifting her onto his lap. She snuggled in and was immediately calmed by the slow thudding of his heart.
He draped a soft blanket over her. "Warm enough?" She nodded, still feverish, and felt her hands finally loosen. He kissed her head. "You should tell Dr. Hess about this."
She grimaced. "I am doing well. It was just small, Abba."
"Tell her anyway," he ordered gently.
"This is peaceful," she mused, changing the subject.
"Yeah," he agreed lowly. "Haven't done it in a while. You only ask for this when we're on the couch."
"Not this," she argued. "Is different."
"How?" he snorted. She could hear a smile in his voice.
She smiled, too. "The cushions are too soft. If I do not lean on you I will fall over. This I want because...because you bring me peace, Abba. Peace I have never known."
He held tighter. "Not your fault, Ziver."
"I know," she continued. "But it still was not there." They fell silent, thinking, and she broke it slowly. "I want to call my father."
He squeezed tight. "That's your choice."
She hummed. "Yes. But I want to. I want to know why he gave me away."
"You know why," he countered.
"I want him to say it."
"Don't let him lie to you."
"I cannot control that but I will—how you say? Call him it?"
"Call him on it. Fine. Just..."
"Just be careful. I don't want you getting hurt."
She laughed. "You must be kidding, Abba."
"I don't want you in any more pain."
"I am ok," she said easily. She was—the meds were working. "There is dinner for Tony?"
"He's bringing home takeout and soup for you—Italian."
She smiled. "Ok."
Gibbs tucked the blanket tighter around her shoulders. "He'll be home soon. You sure you want to sleep?"
Ziva hummed again. Sleep was pulling at her, pulling, pulling. Good. She was tired. It was hard to breathe, hard to eat, hard to ignore the pounding in her poor, battered head. She wished hard for the fever to break. Gibbs was warm, though. Warm and safe. She tucked her head under his chin and her eyes drooped.
Gibbs swayed and it lulled her further away. "Abba's got you, Ziver," he whispered. "Abba's got you."