Title: Picking up the Pieces and Filling in the Gaps
Summary: Tony and Ziva spend the four months between 'Hiatus' and 'Shalom' strengthening their partnership…and their relationship, but Tony still winds up working undercover for the Director, and Ziva has demons of her own to deal with. Can they come together to make everything alright again?
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS, although I'd like to. No infringement intended, Mr. Bellisario.
Author's Note: I've had this story stuck in my head for a long time now. It comes in parts, or stages, depending on what you'd rather call it. I, personally, prefer stages, but one thing at a time, right?
Here's the layout:
Part 1 – the missing four months between 'Hiatus' and 'Shalom' –Tiva-style.
Part 2 – Season 4 with a new spin—Tiva-style.
Part 3 – The rest of seasons 4 and 5 re-written…Tiva-Style.
And remember, if you like what you read, let me know because there's no point in me writing this if people aren't enjoying it. Also, if you want to make suggestions, I'm open to good ideas if I can work them in.
That being said, I hope you all enjoy!
The team watched as Gibbs descended the stairs, his shoulders slumped, defeat and disgust surrounding him. Their eyes tracked him as he moved across the bullpen to his desk and wrenched open his drawer—looking for his gear, Tony realized.
"Oh, I got them, Boss," he said, handing over Gibbs's gun and badge. "I got them from the medics when they took you."
Gibbs nodded silently, stuffed his wallet in his back pocket, and considered his gun and badge for a moment. "Appreciate it," he said, not looking up quite yet, and then he smirked—a not-quite smile to match his not-quite laugh. "You'll do." He handed Tony back his gun and badge, clapped a prideful hand on his shoulder, and stared at Tony, the conviction of his decision blatantly obvious upon his face. "It's your team now."
No one knew quite how to react in that moment. And that's all it really was—a moment. A series of seconds during which you knew what was happening, but you didn't know what was happening—there was no comprehension, not immediately, because there was no precedent. It was Gibbs's team, so what was he saying?
Ducky knew, though. He knew that look on his face. The determination. The disappointment. And Ziva had in some way expected it. The way he was at the hospital, his reaction to her prompting, the memories, and then later, the anger—at what had been done, at what was about to be done, and of course, at what he hadn't been able to stop.
But Abby got hit full blast. Not Gibbs, she thought—sadness tinting even her inner voice. Not Gibbs; he wouldn't leave—he couldn't. Could he?
Gibbs turned to McGee, all dedication and pride. "Tim, you're a good agent. Don't let him tell you otherwise."
McGee for his part, understood, and nodded like the dutiful soldier he was. "I won't, Boss."
Abby sniffled. "Gibbs—" she squeaked, but was silenced by a determined finger to her lips, and a final kiss dropped on her cheek; the final farewell to their own little ritual.
When Gibbs got to Ziva though, the look he wore reminded her of the secrets they shared, bringing up emotions in Ziva that were simply unacceptable. They made her uncomfortable, and she did everything she could to compose herself.
He was simple and straight to the point—no muss, no fuss. "I owe you, Ziva."
For a moment, Ziva wondered what for. Ari? The cover-up? Bringing his memory back?—abandoning her industrial strength emotional armor to do so? All of the above? She didn't know exactly; but it didn't really matter. She smiled and nodded—her composure intact and a very dangerous but knowing sparkle gleaming in her eyes. "I'll collect, Jethro."
Finally, he clapped Ducky on the back, needing no more than that where Ducky was concerned. "Give me a ride home, Duck." It was a statement, not a command. Of course, Ducky would do it; of course Ducky would be the one who he'd ask. "Of course." Ducky slapped the button for the elevator, calling it up to take one of their own away, presumably, forever, though, no one was thinking that at the time. In a situation like that, very little thinking happens.
Gibbs took one last look around, looking almost carefree. His demeanor was changed—less put-upon and more savoir fare. The elevator dinged, signaling its arrival—and Gibbs's departure. "Semper fi!" he said, his final sign-off—once again, very care-free. And then he nodded, and the two stepped into the elevator before disappearing behind the two closing metal doors. Ding.
Tony didn't really comprehend much. "Tell me that didn't just happen."
McGee wasn't much better. "That didn't just happen."
"Great." Tony gave McGee a smack on the back of the head. "Lie to me next time, Probie."
"Lying to you will accomplish nothing, Tony." Ziva made a move to return to her desk. It was a sleek move and revealed no emotions to the team about her feelings on what had just happened—not that that was an unusual occurrence, though. "Gibbs lost his Faith, Tony—he quit. We must now accept that."
Disgusted, Abby stalked across the bullpen towards the elevator. She couldn't bear to use the conveyance though, after what had just happened, so she stalked her way angrily to the stairs, presumably returning to her lab.
Tony's face was determined, his voice laced with a hard edge as he diverted his attention from a distraught Abby to Ziva—the closest thing he had to a target at the moment. "Gibbs doesn't quit, Ziva, so I don't have to accept anything."
"Guys," McGee said weakly, trying in vain to calm the situation.
Ziva wasn't fazed, though. "Grow up, Tony...And move on."
He'd taken her words to heart. And he'd moved on, all right—moved on to her apartment, which was where he found himself that same night, just after two in the morning because he'd worked himself into a frenzy.
They'd all separated after Gibbs left—no leads to follow, no case to solve, no Gibbs to lead them, they'd all scattered—each one dealing with their loss independently and in their own way. Tony had sat in the bullpen until long after it had emptied out for the night. He'd sat there in the dark, staring at Gibbs's desk, willing himself to accept the fact that he wasn't coming back. It wasn't working.
Gibbs's cell was trashed in the explosion—so he called him at home. No answer. He slammed the phone back down in the cradle and cursed a few times. He stalked over to Gibbs's desk but stopped himself just shy of turning the corner around to the other side. He cursed again and took off for another part of the bullpen—any part. He did a couple of laps around the office before stalking back to his own desk. He wrenched the phone up and redialed Gibbs's house. Still no answer. This time when he slammed the phone back down he nearly cracked the screen.
He pounded his fists into his desk, sending his belongings jumping up and off his desk. He screamed in futility. He took in the sight of Gibbs's desk—his belongings strewn about; a life stopped in the middle. It was like Gibbs had died and left all his possessions behind—including his house, and his boat. It wasn't right. He looked at his own desk, filled with all sorts of signs of life, now scattered all about. Then he looked back at Gibbs's desk and saw the signs of his life all over—books, paperwork, folders—except he wasn't there, and it didn't look like he was coming back.
He cursed again and punched the air, his eye catching sight of Ziva's desk. Nothing. No mementos, no pictures. It was sterile—everything in its place; neat, organized, and locked away—emotionless. And Tony got angrier.
And that's how he found himself on Ziva's front porch red-faced with steam coming out his ears, his fist bawled and almost painfully pounding on her door. A couple of dogs barked and he saw a small light snap on in the duplex to the left. He realized that he'd more than likely disturbed some of Ziva's neighbors but he didn't feel especially bad over that at the moment; not that he'd had much time to contemplate that, though—Ziva never gave him the chance. Before he'd even been able to muse over the idea of having Ziva's irate neighbors to deal with in some capacity or another, the over-sensitive, trigger-happy Mossad operative already had her Sig trained on him, anger emanating from every pore of her body—all traces of sleep gone as she took a moment to evaluate the "threat" before her. "It is 0230, Tony." She still had the gun trained on him, but unlike before, he was too annoyed to actually care right now.
"I'm well aware of that, Zee-vah." His words were clipped and harsh; evidence of just how much frustration he had pent up, as well as just how much he was trying to keep it in check.
She lowered her gun in a huff. "This is something that could not wait until the morning?"
"It is the morning, Ziva." His tone wasn't so much sarcastic as it was menacing, a mockery—and menacing. He had an almost manic gleam in his eyes.
Ziva wasn't scared of him, but he was worrying her so she stepped back and widened the space between her body and the door, allowing him entrance if he so choose—which he did, apparently—as he barreled his way past her, making sure to knock into her rather roughly as he went. She shut the door with more force than necessary to close it but not more force than necessary to get the point across to her visitor that she was in no mood to be toyed with.
They'd all had a hard day, but Ziva's mood was compounded by her actions at the hospital earlier. Breaking down was not something she did often—or at all. It went against every instinct that had been so ardently instilled in her. She had certain emotions running through her for the first time in a quite a while. They were raw and they were making her extremely uncomfortable. Her actions, her breakdown, her tears—they were weaknesses and they made her feel as if she did not belong in the skin she was wearing. She had been lying awake in her bed in a persistent state of unease.
She was disgusted with the way she'd behaved and all it was doing now was playing tricks with her mind. She was losing focus and she needed time to compose herself and readjust her settings, so to speak. Tony's sudden, unexpected, and unwanted appearance was only serving to aggravate her current situation. "What do you want, Tony?"
"You were out of line today, Ziva. You—"
Ziva scoffed and crooked an eyebrow, dangerously. "You have come to scold me, Tony?"
"Our usual brand of jibes and jokes is one thing, Ziva, but today you went too far. Wrong thing to say and the wrong time. No one appreciated it."
"I think you mean that you did not appreciate it, Tony. Just as I do not appreciate being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night so that you can stand here and throw a sissy fit."
"Hissy fit," he corrected through clenched teeth. "It's HISSY FIT."
She stepped dangerously close to him, her whisper laced with dangerous intent, "This is where I advise you to leave, before I lose my temper."
There was a part of Tony's brain that warned him against crossing this very dangerous line he was straddling with his very dangerous partner. Tony ignored it. "I'm shaking, Ziva," he mocked. He'd barely finished speaking before Ziva had him up against the fall wall near the hallway, her arm at his throat, all but crushing his larynx. He made a choking sound. "Okay," he croaked, "I lied."
She pushed down harder for a moment and his eyes went wide before she released him with a shove and an exasperated scream. Tony sagged a little and rubbed the red mark staining his neck. Ziva paced her living room furiously, much like Tony had been doing in the office not too long before that. She was muttering in Hebrew and gesticulating wildly. Tony was far from fluent but he imagined—from the harsh sounds—that Ziva wasn't describing her love of fluffy little bunnies. She stopped suddenly and crossed back to where he still stayed pressed up against the wall. "You are not the only person who is allowed to be angry, Tony!"
"I know that," he rasped, his voice hoarse. "Ziva—"
"No!" She punched the wall. "Today was…horrible. Yesterday was…horrible. The past few days have been by no means easy, Tony—for any one of us. Do not allow yourself to believe that others do not feel as you do, but we no longer have the luxury of continuing on as if things were usual business."
"Business as usual," he muttered dejectedly.
"You are allowed to be angry, Tony. At Pin Pin, at Welsh," she hesitated for a moment, "At Gibbs. You are even entitled to be angry with me for my hasty words. But you are not entitled to do it whilst you look down your face at me."
Nose. He didn't correct her this time; he knew what she meant—and he knew she was right. He hated that. "I know." He took a deep breath and straightened his spine. "I'm—"
"Do not apologize, Tony. I do not want your apology. I do wish to have my privacy—so I too may have the opportunity to be angry."
He nodded and walked calmly to her door. When he looked back she was right behind him, her hand on the doorknob, with no trace of her previous anger towards him showing on her face. He hesitated for only a moment before turning around and locking eyes with her. "So which one are you angry with, Ziva?"
She blinked. There were a few moments of terse silence during which Tony thought perhaps her answer would be that it was he she was angry with. He started thinking of something to say in response to that when he heard her say in an almost inaudible voice, "Myself." He didn't exactly have a response to that and he never got the opportunity to give one. "Goodnight, Tony," she said stiffly but with a small nod.
Tony didn't sleep that night. He went back to NCIS—back to his desk and Gibbs's desk—and started to slowly trade places. He was displacing Gibbs with every item that he removed and replaced with one of his. He shook his head ruefully. Transitions weren't supposed to be as painful as this—if at all; but then again, this wasn't exactly a transition. Transitions were meant to ease a change over time; to gradually remove the old and gradually add the new. But Gibbs quitting was never going to be something easy, nor, Tony thought to himself, gradual. It was a hard blow, a slap to the face so hard that there was no point in offering the other cheek because it was already bruised. Gibbs was gone, Tony was in charge, and he couldn't think of one single thing to do to help better the situation other than to remove Gibbs from the bullpen. It just didn't seem right. Nothing did.
It didn't take long after Tony left her apartment for Ziva to feel guilty—and concerned. She knew Tony was under undeniable pressure right now and he had a right to be upset. He was her partner and she'd just let him stalk off into the night, upset, and as far as she knew, alone. That was unacceptable to her.
Ding. She got off the elevator and walked through the bullpen, not at all surprised to see Tony staring back at her expectantly. She knew he'd probably have come back here after leaving her place, and he didn't disappoint.
"What are you doing here, Ziva?" His tone was softer now than it had been earlier. Tempers had obviously cooled—or at least succumbed to the same exhaustion as the rest of them.
Ziva cleared her throat and readjusted her stance awkwardly. "You may be the team leader now, Tony, but you are still my partner, and I am sorry for not—"
He gave her a little half-smile, "Ziva, I'm okay. I promise."
"You are not okay, Tony, and that is not to be unexpected. I was harsh earlier—and I did not listen to what you were saying. I am—"
"Don't apologize, Ziva," he said, smiling at her and coming closer to her. "It's not necessary."
She nodded and took a deep breath. "Okay."
"Okay." Tony turned back to his task, clearing more space on what was now his desk and transferring more of his juvenile possessions to their new home. When he turned around, though, Ziva was sitting at her own desk looking at him with an expression that he couldn't quite place. "What?"
She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees, "I'm listening, Tony."
That was how it started. He and Ziva talked through the rest of the night about his worries and apprehension. They didn't talk much about Ziva's own feelings—she mainly listened and reassured him that he was not crazy, or weak, or any of the other particularly unsubstantiated adjectives he'd applied to himself over the past few hours.
Initially, he didn't think that she would understand, or at least, fully ascertain what was going through him—but she did. She did him one better, as he found out that night—she sympathized and even empathized with the situation on some levels. He had to deal with the pain of Gibbs leaving compounded with the responsibilities and fears of running his own team, all the while feeling as if Gibbs were still looking over his shoulder because, she knew, it would always be Gibbs's team, if for no other reason than they all would be loyal to Gibbs and each other above all.
"It's like the answer is right in front of me, but I can't see it. It's a hazy picture of what I should be doing and no matter what I do; I can't make it any clearer."
"You do not have to have all of the answers, Tony—not now or ever for that matter."
"Gibbs did. Every time there was a problem he knew just what to do. He made it seem so easy, too, and obvious."
"No one is expecting you to be Gibbs, Tony."
He scoffed at that and bucked out of his chair, almost violently. "Yes, they are." He turned his back toward her and shook his head.
She didn't say anything because she knew he was right. They were all expecting Gibbs-caliber excellence out of him—including Gibbs, wherever he may be. She sighed in defeat. "Yes," she agreed, reluctantly, "They are."
He chuckled bitterly. "So what do I do?" It wasn't so much a question to her or to himself, so much as to the room—the room that would always hold Gibbs's shadow.
Tony felt Ziva's hand on his shoulder as she prompted him to turn around. Her eyes were determined, and her voice was steadfast. "What you have to."
He shook his head. "So, am I supposed to be Gibbs, or myself?" he asked rhetorically, and rather jadedly as well. "Am I the fill-in or the replacement? Do I hold on to hope that he's coming back or do I force myself into believing that he's not still here? And how do I make everyone else feel that way too? Cuz, I'm tellin' ya, Ziva, there isn't going to be one person here who'll actually believe Gibbs isn't still here—he's a damn entity around here. Christ, the man'll be an un-dead ghost haunting this place until—"
"Until what, Tony?"
There was silence. "This isn't going to be easy…"
"No one said it would be, Tony. No one even thinks that." He was shaking his head, blowing her off as if she were blowing smoke up his ass. She grabbed his face, sandwiching it between her palms. "But he chose you, Tony! He did not just quit and leave, he left the team to you for a reason. You are more than capable, Tony. This I know. And you know it as well. This is why you will pop yourself out of this funk—"
"Snap myself out of this funk, Ziva?"
She just ignored him and regained his attention by gripping his shoulders, "—and do what you have to do. You do not need to be Gibbs, Tony; he trained you, you know what to do, Tony. You know what to do; you do. I promise."
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