Note: This story is Gen, but the character focus is on Tony and Ziva.
Tony sets his passport on the bedside table and pushes the curtain aside for one quick glimpse of the view. Ziva is un-strapping the weapon on her thigh with one bare foot up on the bed, smiling slyly at him from behind the strands of her curly hair. "It is beautiful here, is it not?"
Tony's eyes are guarded as he glances around the room. He is still getting a feel for this job, this new person he has been asked to be. Ziva's there already, because this is who she really is.
"It's not what I expected," he says.
Ziva drops her gun onto the bedspread with the kind of indifference only those that have killed can have. "You know, this whole city used to be only sand," she says.
"We're not very good at empty spaces," Tony tells her, as he sits down beside the gun on the bed. "We've always got to fill them up with something."
When Gibbs walks into the office on Monday, he only finds McGee.
He yells and kicks the door shut and threatens to make her life hell and all Director Shepard does is lean back in her chair with her fingers arranged in a steeple on the desk. "They've been temporarily reassigned," is all she'll say.
Gibbs hates her as this person. No field agent should ever switch sides; they gained too much power with too much knowledge of how the other side worked. Gibbs knew how to play the bureaucrats, but he'd already taught Jenny every single one of his games.
"You tell me where my people are," Gibbs says, quiet and demanding and dangerous.
Jenny only smiles. "You know it doesn't work like that," she says. "Even I don't know where they are."
Ziva is wearing a dark red dress. It has two thin straps at the shoulders and the skirt flares out at the bottommost edge, swirling around her ankles every time she takes a step. Tony's trying not to wonder where she's hidden all of her guns, but he knows she's got at least two of them. That's rule fifteen.
He's wearing a tuxedo and he's got one gun at his ankle and one hidden by his jacket, and he's wearing a wedding ring with some inscription he hasn't bothered to read. Ziva has a single diamond set in a silver band, far too delicate for an inscription of its own.
Tony is pretending to drink the Champagne while Ziva stands pressed up against him, scanning the room. "Three more hours and he's dead," she tells him. Her eyes are bright and distant, and she steps away, taking his wine flute with her, and setting it on a passing waiter's tray.
"You don't act like you care at all," he says. He regrets it the moment it comes out of his mouth, but it's too late to take it back by then; it always is, and he never learns.
"And you say that as though I should," Ziva says, bright eyes turning back on him, glowing like the night. Tony vaguely remembers hearing somewhere that Ziva means light of God.
He's always found it kind of fitting that no one seems certain what Anthony is supposed to mean at all.
Tony and Ziva both wrote letters before they left, because they didn't get to say goodbye and they might not be coming back.
Ziva wrote one to Gibbs that said 'Thank you for everything' and 'Goodbye.' She wrote one to McGee and to Abby and to Ducky, just one letter addressed to them all, and it said "I'm glad to have met you, take care of yourselves and do not mourn for me.'
Tony had never really been that good with the written word. He could talk for days without pause, but when he sat down to write his hand clenched around the pen, and he was terrified for a moment, struck by the thought that this was it, this was everything, this was all that he would leave behind.
In the end all he did was write 'goodbye' to each of them except for Gibbs. To Gibbs he wrote 'I'm sorry' without knowing why.
"Stay beside me," Ziva says.
There is a beat to this music that is insidious, creeping under Tony's skin, and he glances over to the orchestra, so innocent-looking in their nice clothes, their fingers nimbly playing out each and every note.
No one is dancing. That was the first thing Tony noticed when they walked into the room.
Ziva makes her way through the throng of people, stepping around them like they are cracks on a sidewalk, pulling Tony along behind her by a tight grip on his hand.
They slip out of the ballroom and down the staircase on the other side of a velvet cord. No one notices them as they leave. Ziva removes a lock pick from the ruby clip in her hair, and twists it in the keyhole of the door at the bottom of the stairs.
The door clicks open and she hikes up her skirt, wrapping her fingers around the pistol at her thigh, and then holding it low, at her side, as she enters the room first.
Tony grabs his own from his shoulder holster and looks back behind them, but there is no one there.
"You don't have to come," Ziva tells him.
Tony pulls his tux off the hanger and tosses it to the bed. He grabs his good Italian shoes, and tosses them on the bed too. He won't need much else, because one way or another, they won't be there long.
Tony examines his shirts, the way there is one pressed against another, most of them white. They are arranged short-sleeved to long-sleeved, pull-overs to buttons. If Ziva is surprised at this near-obsessive organization she says nothing about it.
"I know that," he tells her. Ziva comes to stand beside him, head tilted and eyes searching the way they always do.
She pulls a long sleeve blue shirt off its hanger and folds it in her hands as she walks back to the bed. "I'm glad you're coming," she says. "You're the only one I would trust to help me with this."
"What about Gibbs?" Tony asks.
Ziva places everything into the suitcase, and doesn't look at him. "I trust Gibbs too," she says. "With everything else."
"You grew up here, didn't you?" Tony whispers.
The hallways are beige and the lights are bright. There is nowhere to hide, and he is watching all the corners of the ceiling for prying camera eyes.
Ziva is moving down the hall in front of him and she does not stop to look back. "I have lived here many years, yes. I still pay rent on my apartment."
"Then you like it here?" he asks.
"The heat is suffocating in the summer, and in the winter all it does is rain," Ziva says.
"That's not really an answer to my question," Tony says.
"And this isn't really the time to ask it," Ziva says tightly. "Tell me, where did you grow up, Tony?"
"I haven't grown up," Tony tells her.
They fly to Israel in the back of a cargo jet. It isn't the first time for either of them so Tony just leans back against the plane wall, and tries not imagine he can feel the sky pressing in from the outside, or to remember Kate's smile that first time they dove towards the ground.
Ziva sits across from him, hands clasped loosely between her legs. She says nothing and Tony lets her have her silence for now. It isn't easy, and he has to bite his lip the whole way there, just to keep himself from saying all of those things that will do no good at all.
He had spent two hours sitting in his car across from Gibb's house before he'd driven to meet her at the airfield. One of the streetlights had burnt out and Tony had parked beneath it, head pressed against the steering wheel as he talked himself out of going inside.
Gibbs would have stopped him, Tony's almost sure of that. He wouldn't have been able to stop Ziva, but Tony knows that had Gibbs ordered him to, he would have stayed.
Anyway Gibbs has taught him well, and that's rule eighteen. Never ask permission if you don't want to be told no.
Ziva motions him quiet with a finger held fleetingly against her lips, and then she is opening the next door. She lifts her gun up as she enters and Tony follows her through, scanning everything with his own.
There is a man sitting at the desk, being held in place by two men behind him, one with his scarred hand upon his shoulder and his fingers holding tight enough to rustle what would otherwise be a pristine Armani suit.
Ziva shoots both of these men in the head before Tony is fully inside the room. She hits one dead between the eyes and he falls straight behind the desk and out of view, but with the other the bullet goes through his left eye and he hits the wall--stays there a moment suspended, and then slips down.
The man sitting at the desk gets to his feet, startled, staring at Ziva as though he hasn't noticed Tony is even there. "What are you doing here?" he asks.
"I have come to rescue you," Ziva says, but she does not lower her gun.
One of Ziva's sources tells her that her father has only fifty-six hours to live.
Mossad would not have told her on its own, but when she contacts them they have no choice but to give the mission to her. She's the best for it, and anyway they know that if they say no to her she'll pull strings they can't afford to have come loose.
She hasn't spoken to her father in she's not sure how long. She looks in his face now and she only sees Ari's dead eyes, hears his soothing serpent voice--he was always her favorite, Ari was. She wanted to be him when she was young.
There were two of them, they tell her. They have them on tape. They could be Al-Qaeda, or they could just be mercenaries. It made no difference at all to her. They were dead when she found them, either way.
Mossad tells her they will not give them what they want and the deadline is counting down. There are only forty-seven hours and thirty-six minutes left by the time she steps out into Tel Aviv with Tony at her side.
She never asks Tony to come, exactly, she just tells him and he just goes.
"Director David," Tony says.
David turns him, but doesn't move from where he is. His eyes go back to Ziva. "Who is this?"
"None of your concern," Ziva says. "Close the laptop."
"Ziva," David says. "You've done well, just as I've taught you. The men are dead. The room is secure."
"I said close the laptop," Ziva says.
David reaches out and presses it shut, before holding his hands up palms out. "What's the matter with you? We need to get out of here. There are more of them."
Tony glances out the door into the hallway. "He's right, we've got to leave."
"You think I don't know?" Ziva asks her father. "That I didn't figure it out? That video of your abduction is time stamped five hours before the last time you accessed our secure networks. You never would have given them the access codes unless you wanted them to have them."
"You don't know what you're talking about. Ziva, please, let's not discuss this here," David says, and lowers his hands.
Tony frowns, and steps closer. "Ziva--"
He doesn't get far before Director David grabs him around the neck and drags him straight across the surface of the desk, the muzzle of a gun pressed almost into his ear.
It isn't easy to find them.
Tony poses as the clumsy tourist, luring people in with that gorgeous grin of his as he stands on the side of the road with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans. But no one saw anything, because no one ever does.
Ziva remembers the parties her father used to take her to, in this ballroom as large as a football stadium, ceilings with murals of blue and white and high enough to fool a child into thinking it was the sky. She remembers the man who would stand guard at the doors and give her candy peppermints with his wrinkled, scarred hands.
She watches the video twenty times in a row, and has the tech support zoom in on the second gunman. His face is blurry and unfocussed because there isn't an Abby here to clear it up, but she recognizes the molted half of that face, and those hands.
She is not surprised to learn there is a party there the next night, scheduled to end the same hour she has been told her father will die.
Tony only laughs as he comes tumbling back to the floor, Director David's arm holding him tight at the neck. His feet slip on the tiles and he goes crashing back against him, knocking them both into the already bloodstained wall. Ziva's eyes are as steady as her gun as they track their every move.
"I gotta say," Tony says. "I didn't see this coming."
"I suppose I should have warned you of my suspicions," Ziva says, but she does not look at Tony, because she does not take her eyes off her father.
"That would have been nice," Tony says, but then David holds him tighter and he can barely get in air, let alone get out words.
"You have to understand," David says to his daughter. "I've done this all for you."
"Let him go," Ziva says.
"We can finish this together," her father says. "I have enough money hidden over this world that we can live the rest of our lives in luxury. We can go together, Ziva--it's time we stopped wasting what life we have left trying to save this broken place. Your brother understood that."
"I won't ask you again," Ziva says.
And when he doesn't immediately do as he's told, Ziva fires and doesn't miss.
They stay in that hotel room almost a day waiting for the party to begin. They study blueprints and watch Magnum PI on television dubbed in Arabic. They begin getting ready four hours before they have to leave.
Tony adjusts the black bow tie as Ziva sits on the bed in her red dress staring at a photo of her father. It is not a candid shot from what Tony has glimpsed of it, he is serious and alone, staring at the camera in an official, distant manner.
He doesn't know what to say to her, or what kind of reassurance he might be able to give. His family and his job have never been mixed in this way.
"Hey, we're going to find him, okay?" he tells her at last. "He's going to be there, and we're going to find him, and he's going to be fine."
Ziva has no way to explain that that's exactly what she's afraid of.
Tony gasps for breath and pushes himself away from the bodies. Ziva is there in a moment, grabbing him by his arms and pulling him away. She shoots the laptop with the last of her bullets and then holsters that gun, and reaches for the other, on the inside of her other thigh.
"Are you alright?" she asks.
The side of his face has been sprayed with blood and he rubs at it almost frantically with his sleeve. He chokes on the air and pushes the heels of his hands into his eyes. "Am I alright?" he asks incredulously. "Ziva--"
"Not now," Ziva says. "There's no time. My father told the truth about one thing, there are others here."
"Then we should stop them too," Tony says.
Ziva shakes her head. "That was not our mission. We were sent to stop the traitor, and that we have done. My father was the one selling our secrets."
"Ziva, I'm sorry," Tony says, but Ziva just drags him unsteadily to his feet and pushes him towards the door.
She doesn't have the luxury of feeling sorry and she knows better than to think about it at all--because she will never be able to ask them why.
The dead do not speak to her or to anyone.
Ziva still remembers the moments before she got that phone call. She was sitting on Tony's desk and he was leaning back in his chair. McGee was gone and Gibbs was off somewhere else, they didn't know where because Gibbs rarely announced where he was going when he left a room.
The lights were only half power and everyone else was gone.
Tony was telling her jokes that weren't funny except for the way they were said, and for awhile Ziva was able to pretend she wasn't capable of all of the things that she will do.