Green or red?
Beyond the pain and confusion, Ziva knew that the decision was important. Green or red … Christmas colours? She didn't celebrate that holiday… maybe she was choosing a dress? Except she rarely wore the ones she currently owned, never mind about buying more… An idea of flashing gold light occurred to her from somewhere; maybe it was something to do with Christmas after all. But that holiday was over, wasn't it? She had been making plans for the New Year with McGee… Maybe she was choosing a dress for that?
She woke up slowly, her eye lids heavy and her vision blurred. Someone grabbed her wrist and she tried to twist her arm to dislodge their grip, but her muscles didn't respond. She began to panic, but she refused to let it consume her. Panic was a natural response, her father told her. Utilise the adrenaline.
Ziva tried to utilise it to dig her nails into her attacker's knuckles, but could barely make a fist.
'Ziva? Everything's okay, just keep still.'
McGee. Ziva tried to say his name but only managed: 'Mm…glee?'. After that, she stopped trying to talk until she could focus properly on his face, which was drawn tight and worried. He had a long scratch down the side of his face.
Abruptly, Ziva remembered what was so important about green and red. She'd been disarming a bomb, trying to ascertain which of the two wires to sever. The numbers still glowed fiercely red under her eyelids, impassively counting down to her death.
'Where're Tony 'n Gibbs?' she slurred, deciding that information was worth more than her pride.
'Gibbs is okay,' McGee reassured her. 'He and I were outside when the shed exploded, do you remember? Turns out the drug traffickers worked out that the Petty Officer was a double agent and fed him mis-information. The traffickers meant to send a message to the Feds about how much they dislike under-cover missions.'
'They still traff… still selling drugs?' Ziva asked, her voice rasping and breaking through out the sentence.
McGee shook his head. 'Abby traced the materials used in the bomb and tracked one of them down. Gibbs is interrogating him now.'
'What 'bout Tony?'
McGee hesitated, which forced Ziva's stomach towards her knees. 'He's asleep. The doctors put him into a drug-induced coma, to help him recover more quickly. They said he'll – Ziva, what are you doing?'
Ziva winced as she ripped out her IV tube and then again, harder, when she lowered herself from the bed. Her ribs felt brittle and soft at the same time. Still, she managed to make it to the door without falling over.
'Take me to Tony's room.'
McGee hovered around her. 'Ziva, I don't think-'
McGee looked her up and down and then moved to stand in the doorway, seeming reasonably sure that he could over-power her if she made a break for it. Ziva scowled; he was probably right. She changed tactics.
She held his gaze and let her eyes drift closed. She knew she had won him over when she felt his hand come up under her elbow, leading her out of her room and down the left-hand corridor.
Once they made it there, Ziva was almost in tears from the awful sensation of not being able to feel her legs properly and being unable to walk in a straight line. She collapsed into the uncomfortable vinyl chair beside Tony's bed and looked at his face.
His face was pale and slack and Ziva hated it. She wanted him to wake up and give his stupid grin that he had while he was mocking her. More than that, she wanted that quiet smile he sometimes gave her during an all-nighter, when they both looked up from their files at the same time.
Keenly aware of McGee's presence behind her, Ziva mumbled softy in Hebrew. 'Wake up, please, Tony, you have to wake up. I'm begging you. In fact, I'm bribing you, I'll cook you that stupid cheese roll thing that you like and we'll watch your stupid movies and you can quote as many damn lines as you want. Just wake up.'
'Miss David?' A young girl with her short mousy brown hair tied up in a pony tail addressed her from the doorway.
'Duh-veed,' Ziva mumbled tiredly. 'Wait. Who are you?'
The girl smiled. 'Your nurse. Your friend called the nursing station to say that you'd left your room. I'm afraid you're going to have to leave and go back to bed now.'
Ziva looked at the girl critically. 'I suppose I am tired,' she allowed, and nurse looked relieved.
'Excellent. I'll just get you a wheelchair. Don't go wandering about anymore, okay?'
The next day, the nurses weaned Ziva off her pain medication and she couldn't even think about wandering anywhere, since she could barely sit up and eat without nearly passing out.
Three days later, and Ziva had gotten thoroughly sick of four white walls, an egg-shell blue curtain and a weird abstract painting which was either a dog or a windmill. Visits from McGee and the nurses were her only reprieve.
'Why can I not travel in a wheelchair?' she asked one of the nurses.
'Your blood pressure is still elevated, you shouldn't move about until you've completely stablised,' he replied, adjusting something on her monitor. 'Good news is we'll probably get out up and about by tomorrow, the day after.'
'Good news,' Ziva repeated glumly, but cheered up somewhat when McGee entered just as the nurse exited.
'Tony's awake,' was the first thing he told her.
Ziva actually smiled, despite just having been told she couldn't do something, which she knew brought out the worst in her. 'What did he say?'
'He said "Hello" and then asked for a toothbrush and a comb.'
Ziva laughed, which hurt her ribs a little, but overall the pain seemed to be easing up a bit, finally. 'Obviously there is nothing too wrong with him. Did he ask for a mirror next?'
'No, actually,' McGee replied, oddly serious. 'He asked for you.'
Something twisted in Ziva's stomach. Probably a side effect from the medication. 'Tell him I am okay.'
'I already did,' McGee informed her promptly. 'He gave me this. Don't worry, I didn't read it.'
Ziva took the slip of paper and placed it on the table beside her, not wanting to be impolite, but also wanting to be alone when she read it. A half hour or so later, McGee said he had to get back to the office and finish up paperwork on the drug trafficking case.
'I asked Gibbs if he wanted to come with me,' McGee said on his way out. 'But he said that if you guys wanted to see him, you have to get yourselves out of hospital and come to him.'
Ziva chuckled wryly. 'Sounds like him. Thank you for visiting me, Tim.'
As soon as McGee closed the door behind himself, Ziva reached over and unfolded the note Tony had written her. He had scrawled it on the reverse side of a hospital breakfast menu.
No hard feeling about the explosion thing – you did tackle me to the ground. Probably saved both our lives. I'm going to call that even. Lucky for us there was no shrapnel and only half the fuses blew. I'm going to find that guy's mother and thank her for raising him up to be an idiot.
A series of strike-outs and crosses make a series of sentences illegible, before the letter ends:
Miss you, ninja-girl.
Ziva resolved to be walking the next day.
She sort of regretted that resolution once she was on her feet. Without the pain medication to deaden everything from her waist down, every step hurt. Even standing still hurt.
'Maybe you'd like to sit down?' the mousy nurse suggested, but Ziva kept putting one foot in front of the other, following the path she had memorised when McGee lead her down it.
She was shaking by the time she reached Tony's room, and had to lean heavily against the wall to compose herself before she went in. Once the nurse girl made sure that Ziva was seated and not in pain, she quietly excused herself for some coffee, leaving Ziva alone with Tony. Ziva wondered if she should wake him.
She was still deciding when he opened his eyes and chuckling.
'You don't look so bad. McGee said you were a wreck,' he quipped softly, his voice barely above a whisper. Then he reached out his hand to touch her hair.
Ziva gave him a small smile and tried to blink the water in her eyes away. Nevertheless, she felt a tear slide down her cheek. Tony's glanced at it, but he didn't stop stroking her hair. Ziva relaxed and tried to capture in her mind the sensation of his hand's gentle pressure on her scalp and the brief, light, accidental brushes against her face. She hoped he didn't speak, because her throat hurt and she didn't think she could speak.
Inevitably, though: 'I don't want to pretend anymore.'
Ziva felt another tear drop, but was saved from answering when a jovial voice called out from behind her.
'Well, Anthony, looks like she's finally here. Now maybe you'll shut up about it!'
Ziva quickly dried her eyes with her wrist and turned around to look at the speaker. He was begin wheeled into the room, a cast on one leg and another arm in a sling, grey hair beginning to whiten and liver spots beginning to appear on his hands. Despite currently being an invalid, he looked more animate than the nurse standing behind him, and she was wearing tacky blue eye shadow and too many gaudy rings.
'Call me Tony, Joseph,' Tony replied, with the tone of one fighting a losing battle. Ziva felt a grin slide onto her face; her chest tightened pleasantly when Tony smiled back at her. Ugh, hormones.
The man refused the nurses help to get into bed, before tilting the bed the whole way up and waving his good arm at Tony. 'No, I do not think so. Although, you could tell me this lovely lady's name,' he prompted, his voice chiding Tony for his lack of manners.
'Ziva David,' answered Ziva quickly. 'I would come over and shake your hand, but I am not very adept in walking lately.'
'I already knew that,' Joseph said, winking at her. 'But I thought it would be impolite to call you by your name when we haven't been properly introduced. Tony has told me a lot about you.'
'It is all lies,' Ziva joked easily, finding Joseph's quirky charm likeable.
'I don't think it is,' he replied enigmatically. 'Well, I shall leave you to it,' he continued as his bed lowered back down to parallel with the ground. 'I'm a bit tired, y'know…'
Ziva nodded, although he couldn't see her, and turned back to Tony. 'You have a nice roommate. All of mine are women who spend all their time talking shrilly on their mobiles and badly parenting hordes of rats.'
Ziva frowned and made an expansive hand gesture. 'Annoying small children.'
Tony chuckled. 'Brats. Hordes of brats. I wouldn't wanna be the next soccer mum you meet once you're back to full health.'
Ziva smiled and suppressed a yawn, failing minutely. 'Apparently that requires a great amount of sleep. It seems to be all I do, in between cross-word puzzles and talking to McGee.'
'Yeah,' Tony said, his voice suddenly sombre. 'You should probably go back to bed and rest.'
Ziva looked doubtfully towards the doorway. 'To be honest, I do not know if I would make it.'
Tony gazed at her for a long second before sliding over to the far side of the bed. 'You could lie down here, if you want. Just until you feel up to walking back. If you want.' He drew the sheets back hesitantly, keeping his fingers curled around them as he waited for her answer, ready to smooth them back into place as if nothing had happened.
Ziva took his hand away and kept it in hers. 'Thank you,' she said softly, as she managed to switch seating position from the chair to the bed.
Clenching her teeth, she slowly lay down beside Tony, resting on her side, her chin level with his shoulder. 'Ah. Ow.'
Tony looked at where her hand had instinctively moved to protect her ribs and then pulled the sides of her hospital gown open to reveal her bruises and stitches. Ziva let him, because she didn't want to ruin this by being cagey.
She tilted her head up to see Tony's expression, but he leant down and pressed his forehead against hers. Ziva became acutely aware that they were still holding hands, since Tony was now squeezing her fingers hard. Both her head and her hand hurt, but Ziva didn't care. Their noses brushed, and Ziva could smell Tony's familiar cologne and the smell of his skin.
Ziva could not stand any more. She lifted her chin and tilted her face, slowly leaning in to kiss him. She let her eyes fall closed, so she didn't have to see his expression when he pulled away from her; but he didn't.
It wasn't like she imagined. She had imagined his mouth opening, hot and desperate under hers, their tongues exploring each other's mouths, his hands urgently sliding down her body.
Instead, his mouth pressed softly against hers, his lips briefly parting to brush hers, his hand staying still and gentle on her waist. Ziva didn't dare open her eyes, but she could hear and feel Tony breathing hard. If it was even possible, their kisses got softer and slower, and it felt better than Ziva had imagined. Weirdly, she felt herself drifting to sleep; one of Tony's kisses landed on the corner of her mouth, and one of hers on his jaw.
In the end, they fell asleep like they started, their foreheads and hands pressed together.
I've got a maybe-sequel in mind in which Ziva and Tony have a bunch of conversations with each other (about how "serious" this whole thing is) and with the rest of the team (about Rule 12!). Before that, though, Christmas fic!