Warning: Some swearing. But frankly, if that offends you more than the violence, you've got other problems.
- CD -
He shuts the car door, and there is an echo like distant thunder from through the dock warehouses.
Ziva says nothing.
"It's quiet." His voice goes low. "Too quiet…"
"Don't." Ziva doesn't like the openness; It reminds her of home. The clouds are low and blue against a hysterically orange sky.
Her scalp starts to prickle.
She's being telling herself this a lot since she was at NCIS.
She moves, but then his fingers are around her bicep, pulling her back.
"Do you hear that?"
He's frowning, head up with wind rushing across his face. Like he's trying to catch some far off scent, listening to something just out of hearing.
He shakes his head. "Nothing."
She looks at him for a moment, then turns towards the low slung buildings.
He locks the car, follows her to the warehouse, and above the clouds roll and circle.
Small breaths, tiny breaths.
That way his ribs won't squeeze his lungs till they pop like kielbasas.
He breathes in, and the faint taste of copper lingers in the air.
The pain is like static.
There's something in his hand. Knobbly, sticky. Uneasy sensations. When his wounded tongue finds the two oozing holes in his gum, he remembers. Teeth.
How strange, to be holding bits of your own head.
Her voice is weak.
He can't speak, can't turn his head.
She makes another noise, a hard gasp that makes him force his eyes open, though they are nearly swelled shut. His arm reaches out, fingers grasp for her weakly.
He can't find her.
She's been with them two months.
2 AM. Late day at the office, later dinner.
Just him and her. Testing the territory.
The word date is far away from what this is. The underhand tactics are the same, but the purpose of the information gained is different.
She got the pasta, he massacred a hamburger. She asks him about his life, he asks her about hers. They dodge the questions, and she's never had someone as hard to crack as him.
She enjoys the challenge.
He eventually lets one slip.
His father cut him off from The Money (the way he says it demands importance). Twelve years old.
She wheedles more, and he wears a look as though he's not quite sure how she's doing it. More about his father, because she's interested to see there's another who shares the same ability for injustice as hers.
The list racks up, and she finds herself frowning.
He's looking slightly uneasy.
"Your father seems…" she searches for the right word. Too many.
She knows in an instant this is the wrong one to choose. He closes off in an instant, guarded.
She tries to back pedal, but he slips in before she can repair the damage.
She must have hurt him, for him to say what came next with such a cold look. "Monster like Ari?"
Ari, who hangs between them like a curtain.
Ari who took Kate the eternal stranger, took Kate the partner, the friend.
Ari who in the end was like the scorpion and couldn't deny his nature.
"Ari was not always a monster." This lie is important, because she knows she came from the same mould as him.
"But he became one. That's all that's really important."
He shoots it at her with a clang of fork on china, and she doesn't reply because he is of course right.
They say nothing, eat in silence.
She's found the reason people don't pry into Tony. Because if you get him he'll fling one right back, and he knows exactly where to hit.
Tony later gives her half his dessert, she dots ice-cream on his nose and laughs when he suggests she licks it off.
But he still just walks her to her door and only that, she still just says goodbye and shuts the door.
A little too much hurt.
Too different. That is her reason. That and the cold look when he called her brother monster, because the word applies to her too.
They were not monsters, those who did this to them.
Different types of people in the world. Ari was cruel, to wait till Gibbs thought he could breathe out before he fired that bullet. The ones who did this were not cruel. Not monsters, just scared shitless.
Thought they had been back home, where police meant people who would take them and kill them slowly, murder their families. Actions with logic but in their essence senseless. Like killing spiders, crushing them to pulp so you know they can't hurt you, even though they never could.
Tony's been pulped; limbs twisting inward like spider legs.
He hears her moving.
Then she grips his wrist, and he groans.
He can't help think that's a damn stupid thing to say. What a waste of breath. She's whispering; his head turns slowly, and the face that looks back is like horror.
He shuts his eyes. Not possible
She touches his face, and he jerks to alertness.
"We have to get out, they're going to come back."
"Your face is oozing." He feels drunk, and his eyes keep drifting shut. This feeling is nice, like anaesthetic and sweet dizziness.
"Please, Tony. Get up."
There is a pleading in what she says, and he knows why; there are angry voices shouting from outside the door, and any time now a Scared Shitless Sudanese Smuggler is going to jump ahead of their natural dying, shoot them so the bodies can be hidden and the car taken care of.
He knows he must move.
Too bad the numbness is spreading slowly up his chest.
The knife zipped passed the tip of his nose to embed itself in a tree trunk.
As the hilt quivered, the spider twitched, then curled.
"Ziva, have you never heard of the term overkill?"
"Yes. It is a stupid phrase. One cannot overkill. One kills just the right amount."
"Right," he mumbled, yanking on the knife hilt. He fell backwards, and the spider plopped to the ground.
"What did the spider ever do to you?"
She ignored him, stomped a little away to see where they are. He heard her mutter as a curled branch smacks her in the face.
They're lost. Severely so. Chasing a suspect into woodlands without phone signals was not the smartest idea. And with the sky clouded over, there was no chance of finding their way out by the stars.
So. A creepy night in the woods it was.
Tony flinched as a wail cut the quiet.
"Oh man. If you find my shirt wrapped around a bunch of sticks—"
"Leave you and save myself?"
"No, come and find me!"
He flinched despite himself when she comes out of nowhere. Her fingers removed the knife from his, and he was somehow reluctant.
"Do you not trust me?"
He made a noise of exasperation.
"I don't not trust you. Actually, I have an excess of trust in your control of knives."
His gun is useless at night. Pocketknife is too small. Stupid reasons, too hard to explain.
"Ziva, I trust you."
He was surprised at her reaction. She swallowed. Visibly.
He wanted to grab that small surprising slice of emotion and drag her out of that polished shell, but then it's gone.
Sunlight found them in a hollow. Tony woke, listening for a moment, wondering how he had slept through the racket that was coming from his left.
There was a piece of hair over her mouth, fluttering with every breath.
His fingers twitched.
A thousand different reasons.
He expected Ari. Gibbs waving a finger.
But it was the taste of copper, and watching a piece of him fall away with that look of blank uncertainty and a bullet in the forehead.
Strike one, because he pushed the thought away and didn't move.
His head lolls; his eyes roll up into his head. Ziva touches his skull, and her palm came back dark.
He isn't moving. There's a dent in his skull, she feels it and it makes her feel ill.
Her options are falling away fast. And it's just her now.
Agony makes her curl, gasping into the dirt. A kick has ruptured something, vital enough that she can't stand for the pain.
No matter. She's been in worse, for sure…
She must have.
They have to go.
She links her arms under his, so his head lolls onto her shoulder. Weight presses down, but she can't think now. Brings her left leg up (right's broken), places it firmly, then pushes.
On her back, she drags them both.
The pain is electric. Her teeth sink into her bottom lip because she cannot make a sound, they can't hear. Head back, she pants as blood runs down into her throat and Tony is limp and heavy on her chest.
One pull down. Many more to pull.
She drags again, and doesn't make a peep.
It doesn't even occur to her that she could leave him.
She's pressed against a wall, two hands either side of her face. They're after a rapist, a sailor who eviscerates. And here she is, dangling like a hook.
There he is, breathing down her neck. Her eyes are dragged up in the corners to pixie slits, and she's grinning with a flash of white hyena teeth as he whispers in her ear. She must be crazy, because Tony would swear to god that's not acting.
Tony lurches forward, but is yanked back by Gibbs's hand on his collar.
Turns out it wasn't, because when he pulls the knife and takes a swipe, she's laughing her head off as she throws him against a wall.
They get the guy, and Ziva gets a cut from her belly button to her hip that stains her leg red and leaves her dizzy.
Later, he goes to the hospital and breaks it to her that's she's crazy. When she thanks him with that smile he decides he'll never understand.
He bends over to resettle her pillows.
"Thank you." She says, and her fingers brush the bandage across her side.
"Just doing my job."
Then she gets that look again, the pensive one that closes her eyes like shutters. "No such thing."
She looks up, he looks down. Noses nearly touching.
They haven't been this close to her they were undercover.
When he woke up in the night, his forehead touching her temple, and how suddenly his ribcage felt like it was about to explode.
Her eyes go soft, like fog.
Who pulled away? He's not sure, because they could both legitimately claim that it was the other.
He tries to bring it up again, but she avoids the question, and now he'll never know.
Strike two, because they pulled away.
His eyes open. Twist left, right.
Above him, the sky is black and rolling.
She's dragged them halfway towards the fence, but now she isn't moving. The car is almost there, if he could stand he could take three skips then they'd be gone.
Much harder, now.
She's bleeding out. No. Bleeding in, because they didn't split the skin and the bruise is spreading like smoke.
He pulls her with him to the car.
Phone. No, gone. His, hers. Car keys, weapons.
He knows there is an answer, there's something important inside. His cheek's against the door, and it's cold and eases his head for a little time.
Under the seat.
McGee's emergency phone. Must thank him for being such so anal-retentive one day. It takes him about half a minute before he realises the door's locked.
Fan-fucking-tastic, he tells himself. He falls back, hand coming to rest on a fist sized rock.
The first time it bounced off, and he blacked out from the effort. His eyes open again, watches his breath fog.
Sees Ziva on her back, lips parted and too red. She looks like she's sleeping. Find the rock again. Throws, listens to the crinkle of glass. The alarm goes off, and lights start flashing. He unlocks the door, opens it, digs under the seat. Like moving through water.
Must thank McGee for speed-dial, he thinks softly.
It rings twice. Or maybe three times. Tony closes his eyes, slides down and rests against the car.
Tony listens, but all he hears is like static.
"Gibbs. We're in trouble."
When Tony puts up his strongest walls, he is at his lowest.
One of the unofficial rules lined up in her head. Never push Abby the wrong way. Gibbs will not speak in the car, and you should not distract him anyway. Never underestimate McGee.
One does not mention Gibbs's family. Kate. Ari.
And now Paula. Paula Cassidy, burnt to crackling.
It broke him. She knows because when he had that look that dared anyone to go near him.
Now he's gone to her to heal.
He did not think of you.
It shouldn't hurt. He is not hers to claim.
Monstrous creature, that someone has died and she has idiot thoughts like these.
So here she is.
"I know what you're looking for."
Gibbs sits down. She doesn't notice the body language, but he somehow procures a scotch.
"What does anyone look for in a beer?"
Oblivion. In it and the other forms it leads to.
She scowls at a coaster. She doesn't like being so easily read.
Gibbs sighs. Deep, sad.
It makes her bristle. "If you're going to quote a rule at me, I will leave now."
Her eyes are angry. His are carefully blank.
She watches him for a moment, then her eyes turn back to the drink.
"The rule is a deterrent. It's not made for situations like this."
"So what do you do then?" Challenging tone. Hides the desperation.
That non-committal shrug. "Pray."
For what? Nothing to happen, or something? She wishes to God she knew which one she wanted.
He leaves her alone on a barstool, twisting the beer and reading her fortune in the foam. Looks like it will be white like clouds.
Strike three, because she never got another chance.
Tony can hear shouting. Must have realised they were gone.
By now, there's not much in Tony's head. He's down to a few basic instincts, the rest lost in the oncoming black tide.
Have to hide.
He tries pulling her by the leg, but she screams. Gets her by the arm, yanks her under the engine with him so they might not be seen.
"Ziva." Blood oozes out. Leaking life to say her name.
One eye opens, black under the shadows of the car. "Kar li…"
He doesn't understand. He feels her shaking, rolls closer to touching. Eye to eye, breath for ragged breath. His forehead touches her temple, and he feels she's cold. Yet his hand brushes her abdomen, and it's a boiling core of heat.
Stillness. Noises under the car alarm. Breathing, his uneven and hers high gasps.
He touches her cheek, to remind himself he's not alone. Feels the fractured orbital bone beneath the skin, the flutter of eyelash.
Between them, there's a burning fear that's like nothing on earth. They've crossed that invisible line, now. No longer injured, but something else. On the road down, beginning the free fall.
Towards the point of no return.
His lips brush her cheek, and there is a plea in the movement.
Silent begging without form.
One desire, one regret.
She shudders, and a tear comes to rest against the heel of his hand.
The buzzing in his head lessens, and his left eyelid is twitching without his consent. Heat trickles from his ear.
So he holds on. Grips her tight.
The drum-roll of feet reaching her ears like distant thunder.
A hand against her cheek, turning her head.
The world opens in hazy slits, and Gibbs's face is so close she can see how the coffee has shot his eyes with blood.
His breath touches her battered face. Her eyelids twitch.
"Ziva, don't shut your eyes."
Taps on her face. Rain?
Gibbs is crouched over her like a bear, and she thinks she hears the crack of guns. They've dragged them out from under the car. Tony's across her stomach. She can see McGee, he's gripping her hand so tight the bones must be breaking.
Why can't she feel it?
"Tony. C'mon, let go."
They try and move Tony from her stomach; but he's barely conscious, and his fist balls shut in the folds of her shirt. Gibbs forcibly uncurls his fingers. She makes a noise when they drag him away, but there's too much noise, and it's lost.
Then there's just fog.
McGee hasn't stopped shaking, and it's been hours.
He's still praying too, half remembered begging. It's either that or remember how they looked, lying there. How can bare fists have done that?
A surgeon comes through the doors. He's got blood smeared in his left eyebrow.
Gibbs stands, but McGee can't bring himself to follow.
The surgeon doesn't have to say a word. There's a hot buzzing in McGee's head, and he can hear Abby start to moan.
Gibbs is still, like stone, like ice, like vacancy. When he speaks, he sounds lost. "What about--"
"They're still in a critical condition, but the most we can say is they're not getting worse..."
The sound fades out and out into nothing. Abby is shaking silently into Ducky's shoulder, and the mouths of the doctor and Gibbs move without sound.
McGee is looking at his hands, at the darkness that is still locked in his cuticles.
It is true, then, what they say; the hearing comes back first, when one rises from unconsciousness.
You hear them talking, the low rumblings of Gibbs and Ducky and the baritone of McGee. Then, softer, Abby's breathing as she dozes not far.
Someone's holding your hand. Thumb moving slightly under your fingers.
"I don't understand how this happened."
"I should have gone. Maybe-"
"We'd have two dead. One's enough, McGee."
"How do we tell..."
They keep talking, but there is a hollow whine in your ear.
They don't hear. How can they not hear how your chest just cracked in two?
Gibbs pauses. Looks down.
An eye is watching him.
Dark knowledge in that eye. An awful knowing.
Begging him, asking for it not to be true.
He didn't move. That was enough.
The eye goes dark, and the eyelid shuts.
You feel her fingers trembling.
What do you do, when the events are beyond your control?
Pray no one gets hurt.