SPOILERS: Anything up to and including "Suspicion" is fair game, although I don't think this really gives that much away.
NOTE: This distracted me while I was working on the next chapter of Rictus. I know I've already done one aftermath of La Grenouille story, but this wouldn't go away.
Fade to Black
When Tony comes into work the next morning, he finds a box of Turkish Delight on his desk. He knows what it is—his grandmother used to ship him whole cartons at Christmas: rose, hazelnut, pistachio, and chocolate—and what it means—there's no coincidence to Ziva bringing him a dozen rose-flavored candies now. He doesn't know if it's mockery or an apology. He tucks the box into the very back corner of his very last desk drawer, hides it under extra paperclips and printer mistakes and dust bunnies, and doesn't meet her eyes.
He and Ziva are the first two in the office, so no one catches him at his now-you-see-it-now-you-don't candy treat, and he doubts that they all called each other beforehand to work this out, but when everyone trickles in over the hours, they come bearing food. Tony thinks that's a little weird—he wasn't her husband, this isn't a wake, and he's hardly starving. But McGee brings chocolate chip cookies—homemade and on a plate with robins on it, and the jokes are so obvious that Tony can't even be bothered to make them—and Ducky brings pie—ostensibly from his mother, so Tony avoids it even though it looks delicious, because Ms. Mallard thinks that he's an Italian gigolo furniture mover and Tony wouldn't put poison past her—and Abby brings rock-hard brownies—she tries, God bless her, but Marilyn Monroe just looks better on her than Betty Crocker—and Gibbs brings coffee—enough said.
By midmorning, two of the secretaries pass his desk and assume that he's hosting a bake sale. He sells them two of McGee's cookies but won't let them near the pie. He has responsibilities to the rest of humanity. He has to save someone's life.
(For the rest of his life, he will remember the way her blood covered his hands when he tried to hold her. When it was over, he looked down and couldn't remember and thought he was wearing gloves. He started laughing, laughing at all that red running down his fingers and sticking to his wrists and drying on his shirt, and Gibbs hauled him forward. He laughed and screamed into Gibbs's shirt but it didn't make anything better. He wanted to go over and sit down beside her body and ask her what was up with that, all that blood.
You're a doctor, he wanted to say. Tell me why it had to happen like this.)
It's a slow case day. McGee notices the disappearing cookies and the suspicious lack of crumbs; he leaves around noon and comes back with pizza (pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese) and plastic baggies so Tony can sell his goods more effectively. Tony is actually grateful enough to choke down one of the cookies himself—it isn't that they're not good, because they're actually moist and full of chocolaty goodness, it's just that, underneath everything, he can still taste sawdust and blood. He's lost anything else she might ever have tasted like, even though he remembers that her mouth used to taste of better things: red wine and coffee ice cream, salted peanuts and raspberries.
The first time he kissed her, she tasted like cinnamon rolls; the first time he made her breakfast, he went shopping at six in the morning so he could find some, bake them for her, and get that moment back.
Sweet, she told him, licking icing and smears of cinnamon off her fingers, off his.
I bet you tell that to all the Pillsbury doughboys.
He never said he loved her. That, more than anything else, makes all the flavors turn to dust.
She didn't know anything! I've been with her for months, she doesn't know anything! She was just a way in. It's not her, it was never her, she's not—
Everything important in his life, he thinks, is inevitably going to die on a roof. No one even needed to pull a trigger. She was on the roof and so was he and he loved her. The bullet was implied.
(She died in his arms. He brought her up to his chest and cradled her against him, not worrying about disturbing THE BODY because they had all been there and they all knew how and where she had died. He put his hands over the fresh wetness at her heart and put his head against the curve of her neck, where she smelled like sweat and the faded remnants of last night's shampoo. Coco mango. He'd liked it when he'd found it in her shower, liked the way it smelled on her and the way it rolled off his tongue, broken into drumbeat syllables: co-co man-go. She'd laughed. She'd laughed at everything.
He breathed in co-co man-go and said, You didn't have to do that. No one had to die here.
Someone was going to, Tony.
He tilted his head to the side and looked blearily at her. Everything was red, like the blood had glazed his eyes, too. Your shampoo never smelled like anything.
In his head, it even made sense.)
Gibbs lets him leave at five o'clock—or after he has sold the last of McGee's cookies, Tony isn't sure which—but he won't let him drive home alone. Having dealt with an impromptu wake and an impromptu bake sale, this final bit of insanity is really the last Tony can take for the day. He puts his hand down hard on McGee's robin plate, splitting open one of his knuckles, and says, I'm not going to do death by car, boss. Not going to let go somewhere out on the interstate and become a smear on the pavement. I wouldn't do it like that.
It takes him a good ten minutes to figure out why that only freaks them out more.
McGee volunteers to drive him home, but Gibbs says no. It has to be Ziva.
If you want to stop me from going boom-splat, boss, I think you're going about it the wrong way. (This is before the ten minute mark, so he's still an idiot, still clueless to how much he can hurt them by hurting himself.) Forget death by car. Death by Ziva. Death by Ziva-related traffic fatality. Death by road rage, by wrong side of the road, by yellow light—
McGee closes his eyes. His face is white. Gibbs's mouth is so tight that Tony thinks his jaw will break from the pressure.
Tony's ten minutes are up.
(He was still shouting across the roof—she isn't and she never and just don't—and he heard the gunfire crack right next to his ear. She fell. She fell and her elbow brushed past him, her hand came up in the air like she was going to hold onto him, but instead she just fell. What had been in her hand went skittering across the rooftop. He saw it run across his field of vision and disappear beyond his periphery, but by the time it did, he was already down on his knees beside her, pulling her up to his chest.
I'm so sorry. I never wanted this. I'm so sorry. Don't. Don't go.
His face in the curve of her neck, his hands trying to hold her blood inside her body, and the whole of him feeling her pulse fade, feeling her body cool.
No one had to die here.)
He takes the box of Turkish Delight out of his desk before Ziva brusquely gathers him up with her purse, her leftover pizza, and her Sig Sauer. One more thing she has to carry home. He crams his mouth full of Turkish Delight until it sticks his teeth together; Ziva's symbolism tastes like roses, the first thing he's eaten all day that hasn't hurt him going down. She does not smile in response to his pink, candy-coated teeth, she just starts the car with a twist of the key and a foot on the gas pedal that sends Tony and inch further into his seat. Death by whiplash, he wants to say. Death by seatbelt strangulation. Death by windshield dive. But there are only so many ways Ziva can kill him.
At their first red light—and the way Ziva drives, he's amazed they even made it to one—she says, I'm not going to apologize.
He has a dozen roses in sugar form that says she already has apologized, but the candy sticks his teeth together until he has no hope of explaining it to her. He knows what she thinks of him. She thinks that he made a mistake or that he didn't understand; that somehow, with a gun to his temple on the rooftop, he missed the fact that Jeanne was La Grenouille after all. She thinks that he doesn't understand that even now, but he does. It's just that, compared with months of coco mango shampoo and old movies, the roof was irrelevant.
"You didn't have to kill her." It's the first real thing he's said since then; the first real thing he's heard, too. "You could have let her kill me."
"That was never an option, Tony. For any of us." She takes one hand off the steering wheel—she can drive just as badly with one—and touches his cheek. "Why would you think that?"
"I went so deep," he says. His voice catches in his throat. "I got so far down and I think I drowned. I don't remember how to get back up. And I loved her, Ziva." He leans back against the headrest and closes his eyes. He can still taste the roses, can still smell the coco mango shampoo, and he wishes he and Ziva had done more, been more, told each other more, because someday she'll be gone too. She'll disappear like Kate, like Jeanne, like his mother, like all the women he's ever loved, and he doesn't know how to stop it.
"I loved her," he says. He isn't sure anymore of who he means. He just knows that he's done, finito, through with all of this. He doesn't want to have to care anymore.
Ziva takes her hand away. The absence of touch leaves him cold. "She didn't love you."
"I know," he says. "They never do."
He slides over in his seat and puts his head on the too-sharp bone of her shoulder and breathes in the nothing-scent of her shampoo. He loves Ziva, too, but she can't pull him back to the surface. No one can, not anymore. He looks at the clear green light of the radio and waits for the numbers to blur together. Eventually everything becomes the same.