Seeing the Forest Through the Trees

By Mamapranayama

Summary: Can Ziva and Tony survive being pursued by a mad man with a penchant for blowing things up? For Thing-a-Thon 2009 at NCIS_Shared on LJ. Prompt :Explosions

A/N: I'm still working on the T.A.D., but this story I just had to write and with it coming from a prompt from the Thing-a-Thon, I had to have it done before the end of the month. Anyway, you should check out the NCIS Share point community on Live Journal, there are still lots of prompts to choose from and its a fun way to get the creative juices flowing- (community).(livejournal).com/ncis_shared/ (sorry, I wish there was a way I could actually link directly to this community, but I guess this site doesn't like that sort of thing.) :(

******

"I'm driving."

"No, I believe it my is turn to drive." Ziva tried to correct Tony as they walked towards the black sedan they had been assigned.

"Too bad....I've got the keys." he pointed to himself.

"You do not anymore." she smiled and he came to an abrupt halt, patting down his pants pockets.

"Wha-?...Oh man....did you pick my pocket?"

Ziva just smiled smugly and produced a set of keys, twirling them on her index finger.

"Aw...C'mon, Ziva...I just ate. You can't really expect me to ride with you on a full stomach, can you?"

"You will survive."

"That's debatable."

"Sack it up, Tony"

"You mean 'suck it up' and no, I will not 'suck it up' because...." Tony reached into his jacket pocket and produced another set of keys, jingling them in front of Ziva's face with a huge grin. "you picked the wrong pocket and the wrong set of keys-so there...HA!"

Tony was still smiling broadly as he drove off with a pouting Ziva sitting crossly beside him in the passenger seat. Tony tried to change the radio station, but Ziva slapped his hand away.

"If you are to be driving, I would appreciate it if you kept your attention on the road and not on the radio dial."

"Fine, then why don't you pick a radio station, Zee-Vah. Anything would be better than having to listen to you complain about my driving for the next hour until we get to there."

"Alright then." Ziva turned the station to NPR.

"Ugh...public radio?....You want us to die when I fall asleep at the wheel?"

"It is informative and relevant, unlike that other station you like to listen to with that Brittney Spikes girl you love to drool over."

"Her name is Brittney Spears and just because I think she's young and hot doesn't mean I like her style of music.. I happen to like much classier stuff."

"Such as?"

"Pussycat Dolls." He replied with a sideways grin.

"You are an ass, Tony." Ziva sighed with a roll of her eyes. How long of a drive was it again? she wondered.

"That's right, a bright, shiny, handsome ass...and just admit it...you can't get enough of me."

"I believe it is you who cannot get enough of you."

And so it went on much like that for the next hour until Tony got them lost. He assured Ziva that he was indeed not lost, but had just been distracted by another one of Ziva's arguments about how the US military was inferior to the Isreali and had missed the turn.

A half hour later after much cajoling to get Tony to finally stop at a gas station and get directions, they stumbled upon their intended destination in the sleepy little town of Chester Gap, Virginia, just outside the Shenandoah National Park. Pulling into the local post office, Tony and Ziva exited and made their way inside.

"Hi, there." Tony cheerfully greeted an old lady that sat behind the counter. "I'm Special Agent DiNozzo and this is Officer David with NCIS, we've come to ask about a couple of packages that were sent from this location a couple of days ago."

"Oh," The lady stood and came around the counter slowly, straining from the effort it took for her frail body to walk over to them. "May I ask why?"

"These two packages contained explosives and seriously injured two Marines when they were mailed to their homes form this post office." Ziva explained.

"Oh my" The little old woman took on a shocked and horrified face. "I should have known better." She muttered, putting a hand to her forehead. For a moment Ziva was certain the woman was going to pass out, so she carefully held onto the woman's elbow and steered her to a chair to sit down.

"What should you have known, ma'am?" Tony asked.

"Desmond Rogers...He's loner...he lives in a trailer out by the forest....he only comes into town for supplies, but mostly sticks to himself. I always thought he was just an eccentric hermit, but a couple of days ago he came in here for the first time and mailed two packages....I didn't think too much of it at the time....but now...." Her guilty feelings were evident on her face as she shook her head.

"It's not your fault, but we need to know where this Desmond's trailer is."

"Like I said, it's out in the Forest, that's all I really know. From what I've been told, he moves it around often since it's illegal to camp out in the forest without a permit. Folks here usually leave him be and he leaves us be, that's why I should have been more concerned to see him come in with those packages. "

Tony and Ziva left the post office a few minutes later with a suspect's name, but little else to go on. They walked out into the sunny street and stood on the sidewalk, wondering where to go from there.

"What now?" Ziva asked, Zipping up her windbreaker as a cool breeze blew by. "Shenandoah is a very large forest for us to go and try to find this Desmond on our own. We should call it in to Gibbs and get help."

"Or....I have a better idea." Tony brightened as he looked across the street at the establishment on the other side.

"Like what?"

"We could just ask the people in town that probably know the most about everyone else in town."

"Who would that be?"

"If there is one thing you should know about small town America, Ziva, it's that one of the best places to get the juiciest gossip on your neighbors is at the local church."

Tony was already crossing the street towards the church and ten minutes later they had the location of Desmond's trailer from the ladies sewing circle that was meeting there that afternoon. Each one of the elderly ladies having their faces charmed off by Tony may have played a part in their exuberance in trying to help give them all they knew about their suspect: his full name, peculiar habits, and best of all, directions to where he most likely was now. Arguing over the fastest way to get there, the ladies offered the both of them enough cookies, coffee and pimento and cheese sandwiches to fuel them for the rest of the day.

Walking back to the car while eating a cookie, Tony whipped out his cell phone and called Gibbs to relay the situation to him.

"Gibbs."

"Hey, Boss." Tony spoke with his mouth full, disgusting Ziva as little specks of crumbs flew out. "We may have a name for our bomber guy. It's Desmond Rogers and according to the Patchwork Sisterhood at the First United Methodist Church of ....of..wherever the hell we are, he's an ex-marine that's lived out in the woods since he was discharged a few years ago for mental illness. People say he's had a grudge against the Marine psychologist that recommended his discharge and his commanding officer that signed off on it. Ziva and I were about to go and check it out his trailer in the forest."

"McGee and I are interviewing the injured marines, one of them is a psychologist, so you may be on to something. We'll come out to join you when we're done, but if you find him, bring him in. Just be careful checking out that trailer, DiNozzo. Abby thinks it was a pretty sophisticated bomb for it to go undetected through the post office, so who knows what he's got stashed away in there, so don't get yourselves blown up."

"Got it, Boss. We shall do our best not to go kaboom." Tony snapped his phone shut and gave Ziva a smug smile which remained on his face until they found the trailer under an hour later, just off a narrow gravel road in a clearing, partially hidden by a copse of trees and dense foliage. They easily could have missed it if it hadn't been for the information the quilting group had given them, something of which Tony was quick to point out.

"Yes, Tony...I get it...You are an investigative genius asking a gossipy group of elderly women that have nothing better to do but talk about other people's business."

"I'm just saying...it was pretty impressive thinking, that's all."

Ziva sighed as they they slowly pulled up near the dilapidated, aluminum trailer. Tony kept some distance between the car and the trailer, not only in an attempt to catch him off guard, but to keep some space away from the trailer that may or may not be loaded up with bomb making materials. Ziva felt her Mossad trained instincts snap onto the alert as Tony parked the car and pulled out his weapon. She too wrapped her finger around her own Sig Sauer 9 mm, enjoying the way the weighty feel of the steel in her hands made her feel powerful, confident and safe.

Scanning the surrounding area, she and Tony carefully came up along the side of the rusty trailer and checked it out before going near the entrance. There was no movement coming from inside, but Ziva and Tony were on their toes as they took up positions on either side of the door. Tony climbed up the steps to the entrance and banged loudly on the door with his fist as he shouted:

"Desmond Rogers, NCIS, we have a warrant, come out now with your hands up!"

Still, it was silent inside and Tony pounded on the door once more. He was about to try opening the door when Ziva noticed the wire.

"Tony, Stop!" She pointed to the wire, barely visible at the bottom of the door jam.

Taking a deep breath, he nodded his thanks to Ziva, grateful that she stopped him before he opened the booby-trapped door and blew them both to smithereens. She knelt down and examined the wire then looked underneath the trailer to where it lead to a full stick of dynamite, primed to explode as soon as the door opened. Ziva recognized it as a simple and crude set-up, easily diffused. It would have been effective if she hadn't noticed it and Rogers was apparently counting on the element of surprise rather than the sophistication of the bomb's design to inflict a lot of damage.

"I can diffuse it, Tony." She told him with confidence.

"Let's just leave it and get the bomb squad down here. They can do it. We should wait until Gibbs gets here anyway."

"You do not trust that I can handle it?" She asked with her hands on her hips.

"That's not the issue here." He snapped back.

"Then what is? What if Rogers is still in there?" She argued.

"And what if there are other booby-traps waiting inside for us." He fumed. "I don't know about you, but I've grown pretty attached to having all of my body parts...attached to my body."

"Fine, but we should at least get a visual and see if he is inside."

"Fine." Tony agreed then cautiously tried to look through the window on the door, but a curtain, blocked the view. Ziva was already moving to the side window, but she was too short to reach it and get a glimpse inside.

Tony himself had to stand on his tip toes to look over the cafe curtain that covered the bottom half of the window and he could only make out a little of what was in there, but it did appear that the place was deserted for now.

"Do you see anything, Tony?"

"Yeah, a lot of crap.....I don't think this guy's ever thrown anything away.....Whoa...Hold up....." Tony stiffened then tried to get a better view of the interior, but he wasn't able to make himself any taller.

"What?"

"I think this guy might be taking lessons from Ted Kaczynski's guide to crazy survivalist bombers..... Here, maybe you can get a better look." Tony holstered his gun and stooped a little, clasping his hands together so she could use them as a step and get a better look inside than he could. Stepping into his hands, he boosted her up and she grabbed onto his shoulders for balance. Tony couldn't help but smile up at her as he caught a whiff of her berry scented shampoo, it was a nice reminder of her femininity, yet then again, the view from below her was also a nice reminder of just how much of a woman she really was.

"Wow." Ziva let out in surprise.

"Yeah, wow." Tony grinned, responding not only to her statement, but to his own point of view and the feel of having her so close to his own body.

"He must have enough materials here to take down several buildings. I think see timers and detonators.....My goodness, he has even has some c-4 in there and several other firearms just laying out in the open."

"Definitely enough to warrant a search and arrest him."

"I would certainly say so." Ziva looked down to see the juvenile leer on Tony's face. "You can put me down now."

"But I thought you liked it on top."

Ziva lifted her hand as if to slap him, but he got the hint and helped her back down, getting a little closer to her face than she was expecting and eye contact was made. Their noses a hairsbreadth away, they could both feel the breath of the other, taking them off guard for a tense few moments. Ziva regathered her bearing and looked quickly away to the ground, trying to hide the flush that came to her face.

"We should look for signs of where he might have gone." She suggested, trying to rid her mind of the feeling she felt creep up having Tony hold her and the look he held in his eyes when he brought her down. She couldn't let herself get too close; she was skirting the line as it was when it came to him as it was and one false step might send her crashing over it.

"Yeah, I better call Gibbs." Tony broke off as well and reached for his phone, but realized it wasn't one him anymore.

"Dammit!" It had been a sunny day, but it was still early spring and there was a definite chill in the air. Ziva, being used to warmer climates, had insisted on keeping the heat on in the car at full blast despite Tony's reassurances that they wouldn't freeze to death. Having lost any hope of talking her out of the heat, he had to take his jacket off when it became too warm for it in the car and he must have forgotten that his phone was in the pocket.

"What?" Ziva asked.

"I left my phone in the car...I'll be right back." He grumbled.

Tony walked off towards the car while Ziva continued to look around the area surrounding the trailer for any tracks that might tell where the suspect had gone. Going around the back of the mobile home, she spied an open window and figured that Rogers may have used that as a way of escaping the moment he might have seen them pull up next to the trailer. There was an old pickup truck still parked next to the trailer, indicating to the Mossad officer that he most likely ran off into the forest on foot in his haste to get away unseen.

Ziva turned to look back at Tony as he approached the car when her senses picked up that something was amiss. She wasn't sure what it was at first, but then she saw it. Just under the car, a small, but unmistakable flash of light and her mind screamed out a warning long before her mouth could catch up, but it was too late.

"Tony, Run!"

Tony stopped and turned back towards her shout, but it all was happening too quickly for him to react. Flames shot out from underneath the carriage of the car followed by the deafening roar of a blast after that. Flying metal, heat and pain registered across his body as he flew towards the ground and landed face down, his head meeting the earth with a sickening crack.

Ziva was forced to the ground by the explosion, but ran to Tony as fast ask she could get her legs to move once the initial blast had passed.

His back was on fire and she quickly whipped off her jacket and used it to put the flames out before he could be badly burned. Thankfully, as she looked him over, he didn't appear to be burned, except on his back, but the sweater he had been wearing had prevented him from serious injury. His skin showed red under the blackened holes of the sweater, but not blistered; a good sign.

"Tony?...Do you hear me?.....Tony?" The lack of response had Ziva extremely worried for her partner as she tried to turn him over and get a better look at his possible injuries. A nasty open wound mingled with dirt and bled down his face from where his forehead had made contact with a rock on the ground which accounted for his unconscious state.

Ziva would have continued to try to treat Tony right there, but before she could do more than assess his injuries, a shot rang out and hit the tree right behind her, blowing off pieces of bark in all directions. She realized then that Rogers must have been waiting for them out in the woods and planted the bomb on the car while the were checking out the trailer, perhaps setting a remote detonator and blowing the car as soon as Ziva yelled out for Tony to run. She cursed as another bullet whizzed by and she thanked God that the man was apparently a much better bomber than he was a marksman.

With the flaming car out of the question for cover, Ziva had no choice but to grab Tony from behind his shoulders and haul him backwards towards the treeline. Once she had him behind a large tree, Ziva grabbed her weapon and aimed in the direction the shots were being fired from. She saw the flash of a muzzle nearly 150 yards away and she fired off a few rounds just as the tree she was hiding behind was hit again. His aim was improving, but she was confident hers was better. Another flash and she fired again.

She heard a yell across the distance and she was certain she must have hit him and from her vantage point she could she that he had come out of his hiding spot and fallen face down onto the ground.

After making sure Tony was still doing okay and well hidden, she cautiously made her way out with her weapon trained on the suspect. He was still and unmoving as Ziva approached.

"Desmond Rogers?" She called still yards away from the shooter, yet he remained motionless on the ground. Ziva couldn't see his weapon and that concerned her, but before she could react, he suddenly came to life and rolled over.

Two shots rang out simulanteously across the forest, sending birds flying from the trees and animals scurrying, one from Ziva and one from Rogers. After the sound of bodies hit the ground, all went deathly silent.

OOOOOOOO

Tony squeezed his eyes shut against the blinding pain in his head. However, his back was screaming at him to get off of it, so with a groan he rolled as well as he could onto his stomach. Burying his head in his hands, he tried to make some sort of sense of what was going on. He found his face was sticky and he gingerly touched the wound that continued to bleed into his eyes. He wasn't sure what had happened. All that he recall was walking back to the car....and....and...Ziva...she called out to him. The rest he can't recall. But where was she? Was she hurt too?

"Ziva?" he weakly called for her, but received no answer. Worried he pushed himself onto his knees with considerable effort. The fuzzy world spun around and he felt the rush of his lunch coming back up to say hello again and he was sick all over the forest floor.

He shook all over, his hands trembling after the physical toll his stomach took on his body and when he finished he sat back onto his heels and tossed his head back, hoping to quell the riot going on in his head. It didn't help much.

Then he heard the shots.

His heart rate shot up.

"Ziva?" He called out, but he heard no answer once again.

Immediately concerned, he found his gun holstered still to his side and her pulled it out before trying to get up, but his legs failed to work properly and he fell back down to his ass. What was wrong with him? Where was Ziva?

He finally grabbed hold of the nearest tree and used that as leverage to bring himself up to a standing position. He had to hold the tree tight for a moment as the world faded and threatened to send him back to the ground, but he refused to give in to his body's desire to pass out, he couldn't allow that, not when he had to find Ziva.

He saw the burning wreck of the car and he made his way towards it clumsily. So that's what happened, he realized through the murky haze in his brain. He scanned the area with his weapon held out in front of him. It felt too heavy in his hands as they shook with the effort to hold it up and he couldn't maintain his balance well as the trees and forest around him swayed. He spotted a figure limp off into the forest ahead of him and he called out for them to stop before he fired off a round, but being barely able to stand had made it difficult to aim worth a shit and he missed him by a mile, that's when his eyes fell on the body laying out in the open before him. One look at the dark curls blowing in the wind from her still form and adrenaline took over, his pain disappearing into panic.

"Ziva!" Stumbling, he scrambled to get to her and crashed to his knees at her side. She was bleeding from her side and he fumbled with her shirt to get a look at the gunshot wound that struck her side.

"Shit. Shit shit." He cursed, thinking at first that he may be too late, but when he placed his fingers to her neck, he breathed a sigh of relief at the steady thumping of her pulse against his touch. He cursed again at the pain it caused to the burns on his back as he tore off his sweater, leaving him with only a holey, half burned t-shirt on. Balling up the sweater he pressed it into the wound to staunch the bleeding.

"Ziva?" He swept her hair out of her face and patted her cheek. "Ziva, c'mon..." She moaned and turned her head. "That's it...Time to wake up."

Her eyes opened to slits as she peered up at him.

"There you go..." He encouraged her.

"Harah....." She grumbled, her eyes closing again.

"No, no, Zi....Stay with me here."

She opened her eyes again and looked right into Tony's.

"Tony?" She asked with concern "You alright?"

"I'm just peachy, Ziva." He told her sarcastically. "But no worse than you."

Ziva put her hand over his and lifted it up and off of her side and half sat up to get a look at it. "It is not too bad. Mostly a flesh wound."

"You've been shot. I'd hardly call that a flesh wound." He gently took her hand off and pressed her back down, placing pressure on the wound and causing her to hiss at the sharp pain.

"Sorry." He apologized.

"Where is Rogers? He was right there. Where did he go?" She asked.

"I think he ran into the woods. He looked hurt, but I couldn't really tell....things are kinda fuzzy right now."

"Your head...you're still bleeding."

"I'll live...Now...we need your phone...Mine was in the car...." He looked back at the still smoldering car. "And so was my nice new jacket it was in."

"You almost get blown up and you are worried about your jacket?"

"Hey...It was suede."

Ziva snorted despite the stab of pain it caused.

"Just lie still."

"My phone....it is in my jacket pocket as well....I had to use it put you out."

"Put me out?"

"You were on fire."

"I was?"

"Yes, your back. Did you not notice?"

"Actually, that explains why my sweater looks like it was eaten by moths and why I feel like sat out at the beach for twelve hours without any sunscreen." Tony put Ziva's hand over the sweater. "Here... hold this and I'll get the phone."

Tony got to his feet and made it about three steps before the world went black again and he fell to his knees, holding his head in pain, worried that it just might actually go out the same way the car did, in an explosion.

"Tony!" Ziva sat up, pushing the pain away with her concern for her partner.

He waved her off.

"Lay down.....m'fine." His words slurred slightly as he struggled to his feet again after the darkness in front of his eyes passed. He saw the jacket laying on the ground in front of the car and he made his way over to it slowly. He felt a wave of victory wash over him and he congratulated himself for making it the whole 20 yards back to it without falling over.

He stooped carefully to pick it up the jacket, but noticed with growing pessimism the melted NCIS letters on the back of the windbreaker. He reached into the pocket and found the phone and pulled it out. One look at the melted plastic casing he knew it was toast...literally. He couldn't even flip it open.

"Perfect." He groaned, running a hand through his hair in frustration. "Just perfect." He let the phone fall to the ground, but held onto the jacket as he walked unsteadily back to Ziva.

He flopped to the ground next to her.

"How are you doing?" He asked her.

"It justs hurts a little." She attempted to sit once again, biting her lip to stifle the moan that threatened to escape her lips. Tony made to push her back down onto her back, but she refused to just lay there and waved him off. "I told you...I am fine."

She gave him a weak smile as she came to a full sitting position to prove to him that she was indeed not at death's door, even if she was battling against a wave of nausea and feeling a little more than dizzy.

"We need to get out of the open. If Rogers is still out there and armed, there is no telling if he will come back." She began. "We are not safe here."

"Yeah, we should try to get out of here." Tony agreed, then continued with a snarky snap of his fingers and sudden anger"..Oh wait...That's right. Our car is on fire, we have no phones and that guy's trailer is a booby-trapped bomb waiting to go kablewy, so how do you suggest we get out of here?"

Ziva closed her eyes not just in pain, but in frustration. She felt his anger and knew he was hurting just as much as she was.

"How about his truck-We could hot wire it."

"You know how to hot wire?" Tony asked then shook his head despite the pain it caused him. "What am I talking about?... of course you do. You're Ziva."

"Why? You do not?"

"No...I'm not really into stealing cars. Besides, if he rigged his own trailer to explode and blew up our car, who knows what he has waiting inside that truck of his."

"Good point." Ziva conceded. "So what do we do now?" she asked just as a cold wind whipped up and stirred the leaves around them. She shivered and Tony took notice, wrapping what was left of her jacket around her shoulders. Their eyes met and he found himself shivering as well, but not only against the dropping temperature.

"How 'bout we take cover in the woods, wait for Gibbs to come and hope we don't die of exposure before then." He suggested.

"I suppose that is a good a plan as any you have come up with before. I just hope Gibbs can find us."

"This is Gibbs we're talking about. Of course, he'll find us." Tony carefully wrapped his arm around Ziva and helped her to her feet, taking his time, so he wouldn't fall over either as the land continued its blurry spin around him. Slowly they walked towards the trees and Tony would have laughed at their pathetic attempts to see just who was holding whom up if it wasn't for the rock concert blasting away in his head.

At last they made it to the cover of the forest, but where they could still see the clearing where the trailer sat. Tony nearly dropped Ziva as they came to a stop and he fell to his knees unexpectedly, his stomach revolting once again.

"Tony?" once Ziva was on the ground, he scrambled away from her and was sick once again behind a tree. Ziva could only watch as he struggled to make it back to her after he was finished. When he came back, she was worried by the glassy, unfocused appearance his eyes had taken on as he leaned up against the tree next to her, his eyelids half-closing from exhaustion.

"lemme see your...your...you know...thing." He pointed to her side breathlessly, having trouble forming and finding the right words and given the concerned look Ziva was giving him, it finally dawned on him that he might be experiencing more than just a mild concussion. This one was quite a doozie, he thought vaguely.

"I am fine, Tony. You should rest." She assured him, but she could see that he wasn't buying it.

Without her permission, he lifted her shirt again and pressed the now bloody sweater back against the wound. It was still bleeding, but not as badly anymore. However, with the sun continuing to set, and the wind picking up, it was getting quite a bit colder, especially in the shade of the trees. He knew somewhere in his fuzzy brain that shock was going to be a problem if they couldn't stay warm.

Both of them shivered and shook as another gust of wind blew through their thin and tattered clothes.

"How long do you think Gibbs will be?" Ziva asked as she took over covering her bloody side with Tony's sweater. She asked more as a way of keeping Tony and herself distracted from focusing on their injuries and the cold than for an actual answer, but he obliged her with one anyway.

"He'll be here in time...." Tony stated softly, but with confidence while taking up a seat against the tree with Ziva, their shoulders touching and leaning his head back. For a moment, Ziva was worried he was losing consciousness again as his eyelids slid shut, but then he spoke up with his eyes still closed and surprised her. "Remember being trapped in that shipping container?" He asked through chattering teeth.

"It is hard to forget."

"It was cold then too....."

"Yes, it was...Then you came up with the brilliant idea to try and burn money."

Tony smiled feebly at the memory, as did Ziva.

"Probably not the best plan, huh?" He chuckled.

"No, but neither was trying to shoot our way out." Ziva admitted referring to the bullet she fired that ricocheted across the container as she grew desperate to free them from that confined space.

"We're lucky I didn't blow us up then too." He recalled.

"The container never actually had any explosives, Tony." she reminded him.

"It was c-cold then too...." He muttered tiredly as a shiver shot through him.

"You said that already."

"Did I?" He asked confused and with a slight slur to his words. She could see that he was losing his fight to stay awake and she too was more than aware of the effects cold and blood loss were having on her as well. All she wanted was to be warm and to sleep, but Rogers was still a threat and on the loose and they were both going into shock. With Tony not thinking straight, she was going have to take charge if they were to make it out of there alive.

She carefully slid over so she could sit between his legs with her back to his chest. He stirred and woke at the feel of having her weight leaning up against him.

"Put your arms around me, Tony." Ziva demanded, her lips quivering from the cold.

"N-now...There's something I thought I would only hear in m'dreams." He joked, barely able to form the words through his chattering teeth.

"It will keep us both warm and I will still be able to keep watch." She explained, resting her gun in her lap as Tony wrapped his arms around her. She couldn't help but feel a little safer in his arms and a warm feeling rose up in her, but it was more than just a physical heat she felt. Still cold, but no longer freezing, they snuggled a little closer to conserve what little body heat they had to share. Ziva felt Tony's chin rest on her shoulder as he spoke.

"This is funny...." he began with a weak snort.

"I find nothing about this funny." She let him know.

"No, it's just weird, ya know? I could get used to this." He told her softly, his hot breath near her ear. "Not the nearly getting blown up or you getting shot part of course, but...this." He squeezed her. "It would almost be nice if we weren't freezing, bleeding and wondering where our serial bomber got to."

"Yeah, it would be" She had to admit with a sigh and secretly she wondered what it would be like for him to hold her like this at a time and place where it wasn't necessary for their survival, but merely for the pleasure of having each other close.

"S'minds me of a movie." he mumbled quietly and when he didn't say anything else after that, she realized he had fallen asleep, his soft breaths warming her shoulder.

She did her best to remain awake as day turned to night and she fought against ever increasingly heavy eyelids. Each time her head snapped up after a micro-nap, she knew she was not going to win out over her exhaustion and the effects of her blood loss for much longer.

Intending to just close her eyes for just a moment and hoping it would clear some of the cobwebs out of her mind, she was surprised when she was awoken from a peaceful dream by the unmistakable sound of a stick being stepped on. Someone was in the woods near them. It could be Gibbs, she thought or it could be Rogers looking to settle the score.

Still groggy, she fought to focus as she hefted her weapon.

"Tony...." She whispered to her partner's still form. His hands had loosened their hold on her, but his head was still resting on her shoulder. "Tony, wake up." Still there was no response from him.

"Tony?" She turned to see his face, pale, covered in dried blood and dirt, yet peaceful in the moonlight. She touched his face and he still didn't wake, however, the warmth coming from his cheeks brought a wave of relief to find he was a still alive, but merely unconscious. She gently pushed his head back against the tree so she could have her shoulder free to aim should whoever was in the woods come closer.

She listened intensely for anymore movement when she heard a rustling come from her right side. She tried to focus her vision into the dark woods, but she could make out nothing through the dense trees. Sitting up a little taller, despite the protest from her side and the realization that she had re-opened her wound as warm blood gushed out, she held her side with one hand as she trained her weapon in the general direction she heard more noises coming from with the other.

Holding her breath as a figure came into view, she tried to slow her pounding heart when a wave of dizziness took her off-guard. Despite her resolve to remain conscious, she found she was too weak and shaky to keep her weapon trained on the forest and it grew too heavy for her to hold up any longer. Her vision grew dark as black spots floated across her eyes so she couldn't make out the face of who it was emerging from the forest. However, she recognized the glint of the weapon in his hand, she knew who it was and she mentally prepared for her impending death, her regrets and the things she had left unsaid. especially the things she wanted to say to a certain unconscious agent laying beside her. She wasn't ready for it to be the end yet, but she was to weak to fight any longer.

"There you are." Rogers limped towards their vulnerable position against the tree, holding on to his side and breathing heavily. At least she could have the satisfaction of knowing that she had at least wounded him as bad as he had hurt her.

"NCIS...I should have known...." He growled "just as bad as the rest of the Marines and their psychologists...You come....invading my home...." He stumbled forward. "Trying to take my life away....again" He lifted the weapon in his hand. "And I shall take yours."

With her last bit strength and resolve she lifted her weapon, but it was a futile effort, her fingers were too cold to respond to her mind's commands fast enough and a shot rang out before she could pull the trigger back.

The last thing she heard before falling over and sliding into the abyss of sweet oblivion was the sound of a body hitting the ground, more noise coming from the trees behind her and a familiar voice shouting.

"Over here, McGee! I found them!.....DiNozzo, put that gun down, it's me."

OOOOOOOOO

He was warm and that was all that mattered. He luxuriated in the feel of soft, clean sheets and blankets against his body. All he knew was that he had been cold before, but now he was not and that was good enough for him.

However, the pleasantness of being warm was quickly being replaced with a growing pain in his head and a dull ache in the back. Something was missing as well, he had a vague recollection of As sleeping became less and less of an option, he opened his eyes a smidge, cursing the light coming in from the window.

He threw and arm over his face, but realized he was attached to an IV as it tugged painfully against the skin on the back of his hand. He groaned as he switched arms, catching the attention of the man napping next to him.

"Tony? You awake?"

Tony lifted the arm off his face to peek at the man standing over him.

"Probie?.....What the hell? Where's Gibbs?"

"Across the hall checking in on Ziva."

"Ziva?" Tony's fuzzy memories coalesced; Things blew up...She was shot..his head hurt.... They were cold....He was holding her....He shot someone....Gibbs was yelling at him.....He couldn't think straight enough to remember anything else.

"She okay?" Tony asked.

"She should be fine. She was shot, but it missed anything vital. They're mostly treating her for blood loss."

Fighting the weariness and pain, Tony rolled over to his side and began to swing his legs over the side of the bed.

"Whoa, what are you doing?" McGee put a restraining hand on his shoulder

"What does it look like, McMom?" Tony replied grumpily, groaning and holding his head as he sat up. "I'm getting out of bed."

"I think that's a bad idea, Tony."

"It wouldn't be my first." Tony agreed as he repulsed a wave of dizziness.

"Fine, at least let me help you." McGee knew where Tony wanted to go and that he wouldn't be able to stop the other man, so he grabbed the portable IV stand next to bed then offered a hand for Tony to grab and pull himself out of bed.

"Thanks." Tony said as he waited for the pounding in his head subside enough to where they could hobble slowly across the hall.

"Gibbs is gonna kill me when he sees this." McGee complained as they neared Ziva's door.

"Nah....Seriously injure you maybe, but he won't kill you, Probie. Who else would he get to program his phones before he destroys them?"

McGee didn't look convinced, but pushed the door to Ziva's room open for Tony and let him in. Gibbs had been standing near the foot of her bed speaking with Ducky when he turned to see the two men enter.

"Goddammit, McGee, What the hell is he doing in here and out of bed?" Gibbs narrowed angry eyes onto Tim.

"Um, um.. well you see, Boss..."

"I made him do it." Tony spoke up.

"He made you do it, McGee?" Gibbs tore into him incredulously with a fury Tony hadn't seen in a while. "He actually manages to crack that thick skull of his and you couldn't keep him in bed?"

Ducky placed a hand over Gibbs shoulder to hold back his wrath.

"I think you are forgetting how skilled Anthony is at getting his way, Jethro. As long as he takes a seat and promises to go back to bed right afterward, I see no harm in him staying for a brief visit."

"Fine." Gibbs grumbled, diffused once again by Ducky's calming words and moved to grab Tony's arms from McGee and help him take a seat next to Ziva's bed.

"What happened to Rogers?" Tony had to ask as took in the sight of his partner lying still and pale in bed, her long, dark hair splayed out across her pillow. His still fuzzy memories were returning, but like Swiss cheese, they were full of holes and missing pieces, but one thing he did remember was the feeling of closeness he had never felt before as he held Ziva next to him. That was something he could never forget.

"You killed him, Tony. Don't you remember?" McGee informed him.

"No or I wouldn't be asking, Probie." Tony pointed out with an irritated glance in Tim's direction.

"Oh, right." McGee realized sheepishly.

"So...How did you find us?.." Tony asked, still confused. "I remember our cells phones being useless when we were out in the middle of nowhere...I mean, I knew you guys would come and all, but it's a pretty big forest."

Gibbs smiled a bit.

"You can thank the ladies at the patchwork sisterhood again, DiNozzo. Turns out they were having a potluck at the church that night and they were more than happy to tell us where they sent that handsome young man and his pretty partner they met earlier."

"Well, I'm glad we made an impression." Tony grinned.

"I'll say...." McGee rolled his eyes. "They couldn't stop asking if you two were a couple or single."

Gibbs' hand landed square across the back of Tim's head.

"You. Coffee. Now!"

"On it, Boss." McGee flew up and out the door to find Gibbs his favorite brew.

"You are all very loud." A tired and quiet voice spoke up from the bed and all eyes turned to its source, seeing that Ziva was now awake. "I was trying to sleep."

"Oh dear, our apologies, Ziva." Ducky patted her leg gently. "We shall get going and let you rest, shall we not, Jethro?"

"Yeah, we'll go." Gibbs walked over to Tony and moved to pull him up under his elbow. "C'mon, Tony. Back to bed."

"Wait." Ziva stopped him. "Can Tony and I have a few moments alone?"

Gibbs looked between his two injured agents, seeing their need to speak in private. Understanding, he let go of Tony's arm and gestured to the door for Ducky.

"Five minutes." Gibbs informed them as Ducky left the room and he closed the door.

Tony turned his attention from the entrance back to Ziva and she tossed him a light smile. The memory of sitting in the forest wasn't far from her mind either.

"You are alright?" she asked, seeing his brow furrow.

"Yeah, just a headache."

"About what happened....in the forest..." She looked deep into his eyes and they both held each others gazes.

"You don't have to say it, Ziva. I know." He told her with a hint of resignation in his voice. "We were just trying to keep warm, that's all. It doesn't mean anything."

She couldn't help that same wash of regret fall over her that she felt in the forest when Rogers found them and she had resigned herself to her own demise. She felt her resolve slip for an instant before she could stamp her emotions back down and draw the same conclusions that Tony apparently had. They were partners after all, friends on good days and rivals on others. There wasn't supposed to be anything more than that.

However, that reasoning did little to fill that gap the was growing inside of her heart. Was she ever going to be capable of opening up the way she truly desired; was she, the highly trained and fearless Mossad assassin, actually afraid of what it meant to love? Was she afraid that she in fact, was the dispassionate killing machine others thought she was? Was she even capable of loving anyone, let alone her irritating and eternally sophomoric partner.

"But, this means something." He said suddenly as he finally made a decision that he should have made long ago, but had been too afraid to act on, not wanting to take the chance at actually feeling something for someone in ways that went way beyond the purely physical. He had denied it for too long, but he could no longer. He stood slowly and bent over her, placing a hand to the side of her face and brushing away a strand of her hair with the other.

His face drew nearer and Ziva closed her eyes as she felt his warm lips make soft contact with her own and she gave into it, welcoming the passion that stirred inside and she found herself returning the intimate act. The hole that had appeared in her heart just seconds ago when she thought about pushing him away once again was filled and she felt that this did indeed mean something.

It meant she was no longer afraid.

It meant she would never know what it was like to be lonely anymore.

It meant she was loved and she could give love in return.

The End