Author's Note: If I could be anyone in the world, I would be Leroy Jethro Gibbs because he is one badass mutha fucka. Oh, also… 3 Tony/Ziva.

no one more than you

I.

She gets shot in the knee four miles outside of Baghdad and hits the dirt to the sound of shattering bones. Ziva doesn't scream (big surprise) and lands with her gun already drawn, firing six successive shots at a broken window on the second floor of a nearby apartment. There's the sound of exploding glass and a muffled shout and then utter silence.

She doesn't let Tony help her back to the convoy but she does trade a villager her nine for a rifle and uses it as a cane until she's on the plane flying home. The doctor puts her on mandatory desk duty for six months before she can get back into the field, a fact which has the ex-Mossad assassin restless and cranky.

Her knee is wrapped and casted at the annual NCIS fundraiser that year, so she stands in the back, shoeless and self-conscious and furiously drinking bourbon.

"Whoa, easy there, Gibbs," Tony teases, swiping her glass out of her hand midway to her mouth. He sets it to the side and wraps his arm around her waist before she can protest. "At least let me have one dance before you're too wasted to even stand up."

She glares up at him, resisting. "What part of 'shattered knee' do you not understand, Tony?"

"Um, the part where that seems to have some influence on whether or not you dance with your favorite field agent."

"What? I do not see McGee anywhere."

He scowls. "Oh, look, the ninja's got jokes," he grumbles. "One dance, Zee-vah. Then I'll let you dive back into the swimming pool of alcohol that makes these things bearable."

Ziva crosses her arms over her chest. "My knee. Is shattered. Do you think that I am making this up?"

He grins down at her and in one quick motion lifts her feet off of the floor and rests them gently on his. Startled, she looks down. Her feet are much smaller than his are, dwarfed by his huge dress shoes, and she wriggles her toes self-consciously. She can feel him laugh against her. "I feel like a child," she complains, wrinkling her nose.

"Oh, trust me, sweetcheeks… in that dress you look like anything but a child." She laughs, complimented despite herself, and lets him whirl her around the dance floor. She has to cling tightly to his neck to avoid falling off, and for a moment she forgets everything but the feel of Tony's arms securing her against his chest, of her feet against his warm leather shoes, of the way his pulse seems to keep rhythm with the music. Her control slips for a single second and a wide, foolish smile blossoms across her face. She laughs.

When she chances a glance at his face he is looking intently at her, eyes unwavering, and for a moment she feels herself blush. "What?" She asks, cocking her head to the side. "Is there something on my face?"

Tony smiles fondly, wrapping her just a little tighter. "No," he tells her. "No, there's nothing, my little ninja."

II.

On what would have been Ari's thirtieth birthday, Ziva takes the day off. She drives to the Arlington Cemetery—not because he is there but because so many others are, and she does not want to feel alone.

She sits in the grass overlooking the graves and draws her legs to her chest, resting her chin on her knees. She can see ten or twelve other families, each gathered around a tombstone, or more, placing flowers on the place where pieces of their heart are buried. Ziva wishes she had brought flowers, even if she'd had no where to put them. Maybe—the gesture would have meant something, to Ari, the romantic. Ari, the tenderhearted.

Or at least, so she'd thought.

Ziva lies back in the grass and closes her eyes, remembering with painful clarity the way the gun had felt in her hand, heavy and hot; the way he had crumpled to the ground without even realizing that he was dead; the way she had reached out and snatched his life from underneath him, even though she loved him more than politics, more than the Mossad, more than herself. One moment he had been alive and he had been her brother, and the next…

"Gibbs said I would find you here."

She opens her eyes at the sound of Tony's voice and tries to conjure some sort of smile. "I just needed to think."

"Yes," Tony teases, "I, too, find that cemeteries are excellent thinking spots." He softens, settling himself in the grass beside her, so close that their shoulders are brushing. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Ziva shakes her head, chest tight. "I can't," she murmurs. "I just wanted to feel… I wanted to be someplace where… I didn't even think to bring flowers."

Tony takes her hand in his own and gives it a squeeze. Wordlessly, she leans her head against his shoulder and seeks refuge in the way he automatically wraps her in his coat. They settle into silence until Tony murmurs, "We can stay as long as you like."

III.

Originally, he keeps the photos beneath his pillow. It's more or less the safest place for them, because what sailor is going to go treasure-diving beneath another man's pillow? The photos seem too… intimate, somehow, to be hung for everyone to see. The last few hours before everything spiraled out of control—just him and Ziva, by the pool, laughing at his Hawaiian shirts and trading barbs. It had been a nice morning. And anyway, he gets enough joy out of seeing the reactions that the photo of Abby causes.

He loves that spiked dog collar. It's a real crowd pleaser.

It's not until the second month that he hands them on his bulletin board. They've fallen out from underneath his pillow case and Petty Officer John Morgan spots them with a wolf whistle. "Now I get why you hate it here so much," he laughs, pointing at Ziva's smirking face. "I would too if I had that waiting for me back home."

The Lieutenant at his side grins. "She looks like a real firecracker, that girl of yours," he agrees. "Man. What is she—Spanish?"

"Israeli," Tony corrects. "Her name is Ziva."

"Ziva DiNozzo," Morgan muses. "Now there's a politically correct name for you. Israeli, Italian… she's like the most international babe ever."

"How long you been together?" Lietenant Johnson asks curiously, stepping forward to get a better look at the pictures. He gives a long, low whistle.

"Three years," Tony replies unthinkingly. He considers correcting them—she's just my partner, that's all—but stays quiet. It's simpler this way, and he likes… he doesn't mind pretending, for a little while.

"You're a lucky man, DiNozzo," Lieutenant Johnson compliments with a sly grin. "That sure explains why you've been so well-behaved at all the port stops. I'd been beginning to think that you were… how do I put this… batting for the other team?"

He hangs the photos up that night.

IV.

He's got a hole in his chest the first time that she says it out loud. Her hands are slick with his blood and she is pressing her shirt against the wound, trying desperately to slow the bleeding until the ambulance arrives. They're in a back alley, somewhere near the capitol.

"You are not going to die here, Tony," she tells him firmly, every nerve in her body alert and hair on edge. She sets her teeth, tries to regulate her breathing. "You are not doing to die in some dirty alleyway, do you understand me?"

He coughs. "It's… it's lookin' like maybe…I am, sweetcheeks," he manages, his voice low and rasping.

Ziva growls, applying more pressure to the wound and ignoring his pained wince. "No, you aren't," she snarls. "You have a hundred years of life in front of you, Tony—I am not letting you go now. I can't let you go now." Her voice begins to break as his eyes begin to close, as his breathing becomes more and more shallow. "No!" she screams at him, trembling. "Don't you dare give up on me, Tony DiNozzo! You can't die because I love you, you great, blind idiot, and I am not going to lose anyone else that I love!"

The medics load him onto a gurney and let her ride with him to the hospital. She holds his hand, but it's limp, and cold, and wet from her unwelcome tears.

V.

His return to NCIS is heralded with a party and Abby's incoherent screams. She hangs back, a little, overjoyed to see him but uncomfortable with the displays of affection. He nods to her and she nods back, and that's enough.

On the way home that night they take the elevator together. "So… the nurses told me you rode with me to the hospital," he says after a beat of silence.

"Yes," she replies, tone clipped. "Of course I did."

"They said… they said you looked pretty upset."

She casts him an amused glance. "I wouldn't go that far. Perhaps 'mildly concerned' would be more apt a description."

He laughs, and the relief she feels is enough to last her the rest of the ride to the parking garage. They stand in the cold for a moment before he asks, "And the guy that shot me…?"

"I shot him in the head four times," Ziva answers unflinchingly.

He raises his eyebrows. "Four times? Jesus, Ziva. Talk about 'excessive force'."

She reaches out and traces the place on his chest where her hands had been, holding him together and wet with his blood. "I thought he'd killed you," she tells him unapologetically. "I had to make sure that he was punished."

She feels that tightness closing in on her chest again so she takes a step back. "Goodnight, Tony," she says briskly, and turns to walk away. She's made it three steps before she feels his hand on her wrist, tugging her back to him, against him, and she goes willingly into his arms, clinging to him ling he's a buoy and she's drowning. They stay that way until her breath is under control again and then she murmurs, "I'm glad you aren't dead, my little hairy butt."

He ruffles her hair, and it makes her smile. "And leave you, sweetcheeks? Wouldn't dream of it."