Chapter Three: Happy Ending
"How's my favourite patient today, sweetcheeks?" Tony asked brightly, poking his head around the door of Ziva's hospital room.
Ziva rolled her eyes from her hospital bed and looked annoyed. "They still do not wish to let me leave," she announced bitterly.
"Well," Tony started, trying to keep it light, but his words came out slightly sad, "you did almost die, Zee-vah." He paused and frowned. "Scratch that, you did die."
"Do not remind me," Ziva murmured, closing her eyes and leaning back against her pillow.
"Don't have to ask me twice," Tony replied with false cheer. He sighed. Ziva really had died on the way to hospital, but they had managed to restart her heart and here she was, as alive as ever.
Ziva opened her eyes and smiled softly. "So, Agent DiNozzo, what delights did I miss out on today?" She brightened a little as Tony took a seat next to her bed.
"Oh, you know, the usual," he started flippantly. "Dead bodies. Pretty female witnesses. Gibbs verses the Director. Coffee. Just your everyday, really." Tony grinned.
"Sounds like fun," Ziva commented dryly.
"You don't know the half of it," Tony replied, making a face. "I wouldn't mind a few days off, you know." He looked thoughtful. "Maybe I'll have to chuck myself in a river." He looked at Ziva and she knew that he was joking and not making light of her recent accident.
"As long as you do not take me with you," she replied lightly. "I have had enough streams for awhile."
"Deal," Tony smiled and then crinkled his nose. "But I bet Gibbs would have me back at work the next day with a slap on the head. He's had a short fuse ever since you nearly kicked the bucket. He even snapped at Abby the other day, and today Probie . . ." Tony trailed off as he caught Ziva's look and mentally kicked himself.
Ziva had been in the hospital five days. Tony had come everyday, as had Abby. Gibbs had been in most days, trailed by Ducky and Palmer. Jen had visited her twice and she'd even had visits from personnel she only vaguely knew. But the one person she really wanted to see had not made an appearance and it was starting to irritate her.
So far, the others had done a good job of avoiding mentioning McGee's name in Ziva's presence. They had learned quick smart that the name of the agent made her moody and somewhat depressed.
"Uh, err, um, well, did I tell you what Abby discovered today?" Tony tried lamely to change the topic, but it didn't work.
"Why has he not been to see me," Ziva asked and Tony knew exactly who she was referring to.
"He's been busy?" Tony tried to make excuses for the absent man. "With the cases and all." But Ziva saw straight through his excuses.
"Don't, just don't," she sighed, looking away. "I do not need you making excuses for him."
"He'll come when he's ready," Tony said quietly. The bond between the two men had strengthened recently, since their moment on perhaps the worst days of their lives. "Just give him some time, Ziva. He'll come."
"But . . ."
"No buts," Tony said firmly. "He's hurting, too. You didn't see him after the accident." Tony shuddered, remembering how broken and alone McGee had looked after he'd lost Ziva.
"Yes, I gather that," Ziva said, and then said so softly that Tony had to strain to hear her, "I just want to tell him it was not his fault."
Tony sighed as he heard Ziva's words. "You know that. I know that. The others know that. But he doesn't. He blames himself. And I don't think he'll ever stop."
"But that is why . . ." Ziva looked frustrated and couldn't finish her sentence. She growled in annoyance.
"I can't force him to come, Ziva," Tony replied gently, placing a hand on her shoulder. "I've talked to him about it, but he just brushes it off. The others have tried, but they get even less of a reaction that I do."
McGee had barely mentioned the incident in the five days since it had happened, and when he had, it had always been to Tony. It was like McGee was keeping the others at arm's length as if he believed they hated him and blamed him for Ziva's near death.
"Can you try again?" Ziva asked, almost pleaded. "Please?"
Tony nodded slightly. "I can try, but I cannot promise anything."
"I know," Ziva replied quietly. "But you can try." Then she said, louder, "Seen any good movies lately?"
Tony breathed a sigh of relief as Ziva not so subtly changed the subject. "Well, have you seen . . ." Tony started and proceeded to tell Ziva about the latest movie he'd seen, making her laugh.
But still there was one thing that lingered between them . . .
Another two days passed and finally Ziva's doctor announced that she was well enough to go home. She was packing her bags as her doctor, Dr. Riley, was outlining her recovery.
"Now, Ms. David," Dr. Riley said authoritatively, "I must stress the need for at least a week's recuperation . . ."
Ziva opened her mouth to argue, but Dr. Riley cut her off with tone that clearly said 'do not argue with me'.
"And then I strongly recommend light duties for a few weeks after that," Dr. Riley finished, giving Ziva a hard look.
Ziva huffed. "It is not like I was shot or stabbed. It was only a bit of water." She started to collect the get well cards sitting on the table, looking annoyed.
"And that bit of water nearly killed you," Dr. Riley countered seriously. "Your near-drowning experience caused damage to your lungs and your body needs time to get over the hypothermia contracted by the weather. I am going to make this very clear to, uh, whoever picks you up."
"Tony," Ziva supplied, distracted as she placed the pile of cards in her bag.
"Right, Tony," Dr. Riley confirmed. "I am going to make this very clear to . . ."
"Yes, I get the point," Ziva cut her off curtly. "Stay at home for a week, light duty for a few weeks after that, got it." Ziva smiled sweetly at the doctor.
Dr. Riley nodded. "Good. I am going to get your discharge papers ready. A nurse will be in shortly for you to sign them and discharge you."
"Thank you," Ziva thanked, grateful to be finally getting out of this place.
Dr. Riley nodded again and gracefully exited Ziva's room, leaving her alone. She sighed, and sat down on the bed. She had been in the hospital for a week, and McGee still hadn't been to visit her and she was getting fed-up. Ziva had decided that she would make Tony take her to NCIS headquarters on the way home so she could corner the elusive Timothy McGee.
But, as Ziva was about to discover, there was no need for that.
Ziva felt the presence before she heard it. She looked at clock; Tony was a little early, but that was okay. It would be nice to have some company other than the hospital personnel.
"You do know that you are early, Tony," Ziva observed, keeping her back to the door. She received no reply. "Tony?"
Ziva twisted around on the bed just as a male voice whispered, "Ziva."
"McGee?" Ziva gaped, completing the turn faster than she had planned.
"Uh, hi?" McGee stood in the doorway, looking absolutely petrified and awkward.
Ziva blinked twice. She hadn't expected to see McGee standing in her doorway; she had all but given up hope of him coming to visit.
"If this is a bad time, I can, uh, come back?" McGee said so quickly that Ziva almost missed it. He looked ready to run back down the hall and far away from the situation.
"What? No. It is fine," Ziva said after regaining her voice. "Please, come in." She gestured for him to step into the room and he did so timidly, yet he still remained close to door.
"Sorry about the mess," Ziva said conversationally. "Tony is meant to be picking me up today. I'm going home." Ziva smiled.
"I know," McGee responded, blushing. "I mean, Tony, he told me. And he drove me here." At Ziva's quizzical look, McGee added, "He's parking the car. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a car park. It's not as if this place is a shopping mall . . ." McGee laughed nervously and Ziva looked at him sympathetically.
"You can come closer, I am not going to bite," Ziva commented, adding a small smirk to her comment.
McGee made an almost inaudible noise, but stepped closer to where Ziva was still sitting on the bed. She rose and sauntered over to the kettle Abby had managed to smuggle in.
"Coffee?" she offered, picking up the kettle. "I still have a little wait until my discharge papers come. The coffee is not great, but it is better than the muck they call coffee from the dispenser down the hall."
"Err, okay," McGee replied as Ziva busied herself with filling the kettle. "I-I can do that. You know, if you should be resting . . ." McGee looked awkward.
"I am not an invalid, McGee," Ziva said, her words coming out a little harsher than she had intended. McGee flinched and Ziva groaned internally.
"Sorry," McGee whispered, diverting his eyes.
"Don't apologise, it's a sign of weakness." Ziva tried to humour him, but all it achieved was McGee sinking further into his shell of self-loathing. Ziva mentally kicked herself.
"No, it is I who should be sorry," Ziva corrected gently, putting the kettle on to boil.
McGee looked shocked, but kept his eyes firmly on the ground. "What? What do you have to be sorry for?"
"I should not have snapped at you before, for that I am sorry," Ziva apologised.
McGee blushed again. "You, uh, have every right to be angry with me. I wouldn't blame you. I honestly wouldn't." The devastated look on his face nearly broke Ziva's heart.
"Why would I be angry with you, McGee?" Ziva asked softly, though she had a very good idea as to why McGee might think that.
"Because, well . . . you know," McGee mumbled, the words getting caught in his throat. He blinked back the tears that were threatening to fall.
Ziva sighed and walked up to him. "McGee, look at me." When he didn't comply, Ziva tried again, firmly. "Tim, please look at me."
Slowly, but surely, McGee raised his head so that his face was somewhat level with Ziva's. He still refused to meet her eyes.
"No, look at me," Ziva ordered and gently placed her hands on the side of his face to force it around to look at hers. "That's better." She smiled.
"It was not your fault," Ziva said with pure conviction, keeping hold of McGee's face. "It was not your fault."
McGee blinked and pulled away from her touch. Although he maintained eye contact, he immediately put up some defensive measures.
"You don't understand," he murmured.
"Don't understand what?"
McGee was silent.
"Don't understand what?" Ziva repeated.
Suddenly, McGee burst and said, "I let go of your hand." Ziva faltered. She had never heard such vulnerability and childlikeness in his voice before.
"I let go of your hand," McGee repeated pathetically, in the same tone of voice. He looked at her, disgust at his actions clear in his eyes.
"That was not your fault," Ziva said firmly, almost angrily.
"But I let go." McGee sounded desperate, as if he really wanted Ziva blame him and start yelling.
"It could have happened to anyone," Ziva tried, taking a step closer to McGee. She ignored the kettle as it whistled.
"But it didn't!" McGee burst out. "It was me and I let go! Tony wouldn't have, neither would have Gibbs!" He looked pained.
"How do you know that?" Ziva said reasonably. "It could have been anyone in your position and the water would have been just as strong. It could have been anyone. It could have been me in your position and the water still would have taken me . . . well, you."
"I wish," McGee mumbled so softly that Ziva almost didn't hear it.
"I wish it was me that was caught in the stream," McGee spoke, a little louder this time. He sounded weak and tired, and Ziva cursed the Gods for letting this happen in the first place.
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do. It was . . . is . . . the only thing I am sure of."
Ziva shook her head angrily. All of this self-loathing was getting on her nerves. It was not good for McGee, or her. He had to understand that there was nothing more that he could have done.
"I do not know what I can do to make you understand it was not your fault," Ziva said harshly. "You do not wish it was you in my position; I certainly do not wish you were in my position. I don't blame you, Tim." She hoped that by using his first name, she would somehow get through to him.
"You don't?" McGee looked disappointed and it pained Ziva to see him like that.
"Fine," she huffed. "I blame you. It was all your fault. You should have held on to me. Gibbs and Tony would not have let go. It is your fault that I nearly drowned!" Although Ziva in no way believed this, she was running out of ways to get McGee to see this.
"It. Is. All. Your. Fault," Ziva managed to say, with as much bitterness as she could muster, though she hated herself for it.
McGee nodded. "Yes, it was my fault." He looked a little relieved at Ziva's declaration.
"No, it wasn't!" Ziva exploded, coughing. She cleared her throat. "It wasn't. I do not know how to make you see that."
"I see it very clearly," McGee stated bitterly. "I killed you."
Ziva looked furious at this new revelation and closed in on McGee's personal space, making him flinch.
"Do I look dead to you?" she snapped, nearly ready to slap him. "Do you think I would be standing here if I were dead?"
"No," McGee breathed.
"No, is correct, McGee," Ziva replied, a lot more calmly. "And that should be enough to convince you. I. Am. Not. Dead. I am here. It was a stupid, stupid accident that could have happened to anyone." She took a breath. "Please, Tim," she almost pleaded. "Stop this . . . I hate seeing you like this."
There was silence and then McGee broke it.
"It-it wasn't my f-fault," he said slowly, as if he were testing out the words. Ziva nodded encouragingly so McGee said with more conviction, "It was not my fault."
"Yes!" Ziva took a step back. "Finally! It was not your fault, Tim!"
"It was not my fault." And then he smiled; the first genuine smile in a week. "It was not my fault!" Ziva grinned.
"It was not my fault," McGee muttered with a smile, getting used to the words.
"Correct, and it took you, what? A week to figure that out? I thought you were cleverer than that," she said cheekily.
"Well, I wasn't thinking straight, was I?"
"No, you weren't, but now?"
"I'm getting there," McGee said truthfully. "I'm not quite there, but I am getting there."
"Good," Ziva smirked. "Because I would hate to take advantage of that . . ."
McGee opened his mouth to ask what she was on about, but instead found Ziva's lips on his own. He nearly choked at the soft kiss, but when he didn't pull back, Ziva deepened it. McGee parted his lips to allow Ziva more access and she pulled him towards her body, pressing against him.
When Ziva finally broke the kiss, she stepped back and smirked at McGee's breathless expression. "That was a thank you."
"Thank you?" McGee squeaked, still in shock over the kiss.
"Yes, for finally snapping out of your, how you say, funk, yes," Ziva answered, still grinning widely. "And anyway, I am not in the habit of kissing men that tried to kill me." She looked flirtatious.
"I . . ." McGee still didn't know how to respond, but was saved when a blonde nurse knocked on her door and entered without waiting to be called in.
"Ms. David, I have your discharge papers," she announced brightly, handing Ziva a pink folder. "If you will just sign here." She pointed to a couple of spots that Ziva signed.
Once the nurse was satisfied with the paperwork, she disappeared and reappeared with a wheelchair. Ziva groaned when she saw it, but the nurse said, "Hospital policy. Oh, and Doctor Riley also wants a word." She paused. "And before you go, your friend, Mr. DiNozzo, left this for you." She handed Ziva an envelope and departed the room with a wave.
McGee's eyes widened at the mention of Tony. "Oh, Tony, he was meant to be picking you, us, up." He looked a little confused as to where the agent might have gotten to. He was about to pull out his phone and ring Tony when Ziva laughed loudly.
"I would not bother if I were you, Tim," she said, still laughing and held out the sheet of paper that must have been in the envelope.
As McGee reached for the piece of paper, he heard the jingle of car keys and saw Ziva holding some that looked strangely like the ones Tony owned.
McGee looked down at the note that Tony had left, and his eyes nearly bulged out of his head as he read:
I happen to know that there is a very nice Italian place about five minutes down the road. We passed it on the way here. Perhaps Ziva might like a meal other than the stuff the hospital calls food. Take my car (just don't destroy it) and don't worry about me, I had Abby pick me up.
Enjoy yourselves; I know you both need it.
P.S. She might be getting discharged, McDirty, but I don't think she's up for extra curricular activities just yet. Maybe in a few days . . . ;)
McGee looked up from the note and saw Ziva smiling at him, sitting dutifully in the wheelchair.
"I am waiting, Tim," she ordered, lounging in the wheelchair.
"Yes, ma'am," McGee saluted before grabbing her bag and hanging it on the handles of the wheelchair. "Ready?"
"I have been ready for a long time, Tim."