Warnings: Spoilers for season 11, specifically "Past, Present, and Future", "Kill Chain," and "Double Back", mentions of past TIVA, hints at Tony/OC
Disclaimers: I do not own NCIS or it's characters. They belong to CBS and the show's creators.
A/N: I'm not sure about the flow of this one shot. It was just an idea I had the other night while watching "Double Back". It's definitely Tony centric. I've done my best to keep the other characters in character. Bishop is hard because we've seen so little of her compared to the others. And like I stated in the warnings above it does have mentions of TIVA and hints at a Tony/OC pairing, although the OC does not appear in this story. I haven't decided yet how I want or if I want to introduce her. Feedback is welcome on that. As always, enjoy!
Good-bye, My Love
It was late. Almost three in the morning and Tony was still awake. He didn't care about the fact that he had to be back at work in four hours or that his stomach was wildly protesting that he had not eaten in about six hours.
Tonight, however, he could just not turn his brain off.
He fiddled with his cell phone. Keeping his hands busy was in a weird way helping him think, while his eyes were posed on the screen of his laptop. Had it really been almost eight months since he had stared at it in May, willing it to tell him where Ziva had disappeared too? A lot had happened in those following months. Not all of it was good. Some of it had been, but after the attack at the gala, well, the blood of the wounded and the six dead had just stained that good. And there had been so many times in those months that he had sat in front of that computer, writing email after email to the woman he'd left behind. There was never any response, he didn't expect one, but he liked to imagine that Ziva was at least reading her emails.
So, here Tony sat at three in the morning, a blank screen in front of him. He had started this email at least a hundred times but quickly erased it. He knew, deep down inside that this was not something that could be written in an email. He thought about calling her but didn't know if she would be receptive. At this point, he'd come to the conclusion that he should just send a text asking if it was okay to call her. What would the harm be in that? A simple text asking if he could call, that he needed to talk to her.
Tony found himself playing a game of roulette—the odds of her answering his text was probably astronomical, but he had to send it. So, with slightly shaky fingers, he carefully wrote out, Ziva—I need to talk to you, please let me know when I can call. He hit send, slammed his laptop shut, drowning the living room in darkness and laid down on the sofa to finally fall asleep.
He must have checked his phone at least twenty times before getting off the bus. Even though it was on he was afraid that he'd miss her text or perhaps her phone call. He kept telling himself that she was going to answer him this time. She had to answer him this time.
"Oh, hi," Bishop's voice cheerfully greeted him when he strolled into the squad room. "Gibbs called to say he won't be in today but rule 3 still applies—what is three again?"
"Never be unreachable," Tony rehearsed monotonously. He put his badge and weapon away in the top drawer, resisted the urge to open the other to look at her necklace.
"I'm not even sure how you guys keep up with all the rules. I mean…there are sixty-two of them."
Tony sat down in his chair and glanced at his phone once more, even though he knew it had not vibrated to indicate he had a message. "Guess it's just apart of the job."
Bishop wasn't taking the hint that he wasn't in the mood to talk. He liked her. She was smart. But she definitely could not read people socially, and it wasn't like she did it on purpose after all. "He doesn't have them written down somewhere? I mean that would be really helpful. And I tend to get things to stick better in my head if I read them so, I'd really enjoy a Gibbs Guide to the Rules or something similar."
"They're not written down anywhere to my knowledge. His job is to teach them to you," Tony mumbled, rifling through his paperwork to dig into reports and requisition forms that he was severely behind on thanks to their hunt for Parsa. "Any more questions, Bishop?"
"Nope," she said with a smile and a shake of her head. With that she went back to work.
Something else he liked about her. Despite the fact that she wasn't the best at reading subtle hints, she did know that when the conversation was obviously done, it was done and she didn't push. Kate had pushed him, Ziva had pushed him, and to extent at times McGee had pushed him. All to the point where he'd found it difficult to open up to his team—Tony was trying to change. Hell, he'd made that damn casserole for McGee after all. Which reminded him, when he'd gone to drop it off the night before Tim had not been home. He'd left it on the doorstep with a note. Hope he got it. Damn, I should have called.
Thinking about this now, he glanced at his phone again. Tim was probably at the hospital with Delilah who was still recovering from her injuries. He wouldn't answer his calls, but he would answer a text message.
In no time his partner had responded thanking him for the casserole and that it was a really nice gesture, and Tony felt a sharp pain in his gut. Ziva still had not responded to him. Again he found himself typing a text to her, Please, Ziva, there's something…there's something important I need to talk to you about. Can we chat? Tonight maybe?
With a sigh, Tony put the phone back into his pocket. It was going to be a long day of paperwork and waiting for her to answer. At least it couldn't get worse.
It got worse. It got much worse.
Tony came back from lunch to only be called into the conference room. Bishop, Abby, Ducky and Jimmy were already there waiting. Tony glanced around the table at them and his nerves suddenly were on edge. "What's going on?"
"We don't know, Anthony," Ducky said, gesturing for the SFA to take a seat at the table. "Jethro called twenty minutes ago and asked that we meet him here."
"Last time we had a covert meeting I ended up loosing my badge," Tony snarked as he sat down.
"I highly doubt that if what Jethro had to say to us is confidential, then he'd be meeting us in here, where there are cameras," Ducky said with a smile.
Tony felt very little ease at his words. Something was obviously wrong. Gibbs would not have called to gather them all here, in the conference room, at the same exact time if something was not wrong. His fears and worries were justified when the team leader opened the door and walked in, McGee slowly walking behind him. The probie looked defeated, he did not look fine like he had suggested the day before. And Gibbs, while his body posture was the same as always, Tony could tell by the look in his eyes that the news they were about to share was not good. And for a fleeting moment Tony feared that Delilah had succumb to her injuries and passed in the middle of the night—it would explain Gibbs' absence this morning. He'd been with Tim, helping him mourn. Right? After all we've been through Tim has to loose the best girlfriend he's had in years, what more can you throw at us, God?
Gibbs shut the door and nodded towards McGee. "Tim has something he wants to tell you."
Tim. He used McGee's first name, Tony noted, Gibbs very rarely used the younger agent's first name. Tony's fists clenched nervously underneath the table. He felt the cold dread that he felt in the orchard at the first moment he knew that Ziva was not coming back with him.
"I…I haven't been very honest with you," McGee began with a heavy sigh, "everything is certainly not fine."
"Oh my God, McGee! Did Delilah need to have another operation?" Abby squeaked, her eyes welling up with tears. "What haven't you told us?"
"No, there are other operations planned," McGee assured her. "It's just…her injuries, well…they're more critical than I let on."
Ducky nodded his head. "Understandable, Timothy. Miss Fielding had numerous pieces of shrapnel removed from her body and that alone would cause trauma to vital organs in her body—oh my, I did not realize until now. I apologize Timothy."
Tony noted the sudden change of tone in his voice but he didn't need the medical examiner's tone change to let him know what Tim was trying to say. He was a trained investigator after all. "She's paralyzed," he simply stated.
"Y-yes. A piece of shrapnel transected her spinal cord," McGee stammered.
Silence fell into the room like an anvil. Tony suddenly felt so small and helpless—and stupid for pining away for Ziva to call him. McGee had a real life problem, with real life consequences and all the emotions that came with it. He should be the one falling apart, not Tony. "Aw, McGee, I'm sorry," the SFA whispered, sounding so terribly cliché to his ears.
But it was all that needed to be said. In an instant Abby was on her feet engulfing McGee into one of her hugs, Ducky and Jimmy were offering any medical advice that they could. Bishop bit her lower lip and glanced at Tony. And he knew—she felt as helpless as he did. Delilah and McGee had a long, painful road a head of them, and his probie was going to need him to hold him up, look out for him and he couldn't do that if he couldn't stop himself from running around in circles. Suddenly, his whole life the past six months had been shoved into perspective. Only he could end this misery he'd put himself in.
It was time to move on.
Arriving home after what was arguably one of the worst, case-less days of his life, Tony shoved his way into his apartment and slammed the door shut. He'd spent the rest of the day going through his paperwork as if he was a robot, all the while thinking about how McGee must be feeling. Bishop had talked his ear off, nervously, for the rest of the afternoon—citing articles and research about people who had suffered traumatic injuries rising above the challenge and living a normal, happy life.
What is normal? Tony asked himself as his back pressed into his apartment door. He had no doubt that Delilah had the determination to rise above, after of course her grieving process. But really, what was normal? Wheelchairs and doctor's appointments and whatever else accompany a person who has no use of their legs.
"Be happy you're goldfish," he mumbled to the two white and orange fish swimming about in the bowl. "Your life is so much easier than mine."
Tony put his weapon and badge away, hung up his coat, and went into the bedroom. He flicked the light on and looked around. Since returning from Israel he'd made some changes in his apartment. Maintenance had filled in the bullet holes and painted, replaced the glass in his window. Tony had bought a brand new, state of the art stereo. But the biggest change had come in the room that hadn't been touched by bullets. If he wanted to change, if he wanted to let people in—if he wanted to let a woman in—he needed a bigger bed.
Yanking his tie loose, Tony tossed it on that bigger bed now before he discarded his suit coat. Finding his sweatpants and a tee shirt, he changed, knowing that tonight, with half of his team at the hospital with McGee they wouldn't be called on a case. He was glad for this, because, frankly he was exhausted. Parsa was Homeland's problem now and the MCRT could recover from another one of his blows.
So, for the second night in a row, Tony found himself staring at his computer screen. This time he knew what he had to do. He found his cell phone and dialed her number, the landline number she had given to him just before disappearing. It rang a few times but then a machine picked up and her voice could be heard asking the caller to leave a message.
Tony took a deep steadying breath. "Hello, Ziva. If you're there, pick up or even if you are but just can't come to the phone—at least listen to me. Parsa struck again, gala in DC—Delilah was hurt, badly. Tim is fine. I'm fine and so isn't Gibbs. I just…I just thought you should know. We miss you Ziva. But I didn't call to beg you to come home—you made your decision. I hope your clean break, fresh start, whatever you want to call it, is treating you well." He paused for a slight second trying to gain his line of thought. Calling her at this number had been so impulsive. "We're…well Homeland is still looking for Parsa. I hope someone has your six over there, Ziva. Parsa…he isn't the only reason I called. We got a new team member. She's NSA, on loan really, but I'm starting to warm up to her. I think you would like her. Anyways, you don't have to call me back. Just felt like you'd…be interested in what's going on. And don't think that it's all bad news—cuz it's not. I, um…I met someone."
It seemed like the perfect time to pause. He wasn't sure why. Maybe to give her some time to process. He took another deep breath. "Nothing…nothing's happened between us..yet. I've been so confused, Ziva. About whether I should wait for you or not. But then…I remembered something you said to me. You told me that I had to let you go, that this clean break was not just for you, it was for all of us. It's just taken me longer to make the break I guess…and…and I'll always hold you in a special place in my heart, Ziva. Shalom ahuvati."
Holding back his tears, Tony hung up the phone and felt the weight lifting from his shoulders, the freedom letting go had offered him, even as halfway around the world, she sat next to her phone crying—not for them, or their opportunities lost, but for their clean breaks finally coming to fruition.