All We Are
Author's Note: I began the first several paragraphs about a month ago, but then got distracted by Here I Lay. This week I picked it up again and won't stop 'till it's finished. I think this one will be my best yet. It's gonna have some action, romance, tears, investigating, and head-slaps, so stay tuned for quite a ride. But please, review! Tell me your thoughts. I want to know. It takes only a few seconds.
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS or its characters and such.
Tony was stunned. After going through a week of hell on earth, what with being at fault for Jenny's death, he was now losing the rest of his family too. Punished. He knew in ever fiber of his being how much he deserved it, and more. But a part of him ached from somewhere deep inside him—the constant reminder of what he couldn't have anymore.
It was hard enough being away from NCIS those four months. Nonetheless, he kept in contact with Abby and the rest of the team. Well, almost.
Every other minute of his days spent aboard the Reagan and Seahawk, Tony thought about calling her. He wanted to. Sometimes he would even begin to dial her number or type in her email address, but there was always something holding him back. Each and every day he stared at her photos. Most of the guys aboard the ship who saw them drooled. The old Tony would have. But when he looked at those pictures, he thought only of her smile… of her crazy ninja skills… of the way she would gaze at him when she thought he wouldn't notice… and the way he gazed back. It was during those four months he realized just how much he loved her. He couldn't live without her. And now he'd never see her again…
Tony's eyes shot open in his bed. He had been having that dream again. Or rather, nightmare. It seemed to repeat itself once a week since the team was split last summer, and they were now becoming more frequent. This nightmare wasn't like any of the horror films he had seen. Yet it was filled the most terrifying thing—the idea of losing her again. In his dreams, Tony dreamed that she left for some guy in Israel, never to come back. He dreamed that she forgot about him. He dreamed of slumping back to Jeanne. He dreamed of losing it… even more.
Ziva slowed to a walk that morning. No one was around in the park she was running through. It was foggy, the air full of mist. Her thoughts drifted to Tony. No, she thought. I cannot think about him.
She wasn't sure when the first time she realized she loved him. The idea had been posed a number of times over the past three and a half years. Maybe it was when Jeanne first began calling him at work. Watching him walk away from her with Jeanne on the phone time after time… Or perhaps it was when he was nearly killed by the bomb in his car, and she had to watch it explode, not knowing for hours whether it was him in the drivers' seat or not. Ziva wasn't sure if she'd ever really know.
Despite what she said, Tony was right; it was inevitable. The attraction had been there from the beginning. But somehow it grew from such petty conversations and joking to really caring and then eventually, to love.
She had changed when Tony and the rest of the team came into her life. They taught her how to laugh, how to enjoy life, to investigate, and how to love. They were the world to her. Things with her father had never been easy, and he was the only family she had left. Over the years she built up a nearly impenetrable wall around her heart. When she came to NCIS, it began to melt like ice over a flame.
Ziva walked over to a bench. Normally she wouldn't stop. But today… today was different, and she couldn't understand why.
Ziva stared at the scene in front of her. The apartment was covered in black, dripping wet from top to bottom. Remnants of smoke filled the air. She could hear the flashing of a camera coming from the back room. Ziva closed her eyes in pain. She couldn't go back there. Remains of what had been a wide screen TV lay on the ground before her, and a skeleton of a couch in front of it. Beneath the smoky stench, the air smelled faintly a plastic, likely from the melted, burnt, and crisped DVD cases that were in a heap throughout the apartment, having been knocked over. Ziva smiled weakly to herself, her heart aching with a pain that matched any injury she'd had before. Her stomach churned in such a fashion she never thought it could.
Ziva tried to will herself to move, but her legs couldn't get past the door. Police, NCIS, firemen, and paramedics swarmed around her. An EMT walked past her, talking with a fireman. They lowered their voice when they saw her, and the EMT gave her a sympathetic look. Ziva hardly noticed.
"Ziva," a familiar voice sounded. He sounded far away. "Ziva," he tried again, bringing her back.
"Tim," was all she managed to say as he came to face with her. His eyes were sad, but a brave and yet confused expression filled her face.
"Ziva, we need you back there," he said softly. He put a comforting hand on the shoulder of his surrogate sister.
"I… " Ziva tried to say.
"Ziver," a soft voice called out.
"Gibbs," Ziva looked up at the older man. His face wore an expression she had seen the last time they had met under such terrible circumstances: courage covering defeat. "Is he…"
"He's back there. He would want you working on this," Gibbs encouraged quietly. He had never seen her in such pain, not even the first time this had happened.
Ziva nodded as Gibbs put an arm around her shoulders, leading her to the back of the apartment. When she stepped into the bedroom, all voices ceased. Everyone stared at her, waiting in reverence. Ducky stood by the bed, Palmer behind him. For once Palmer said nothing as he looked down.
Ziva stood silently, her eyes moving from object to object, face to face, until they finally and unwillingly landed on the bed. Tony. Ziva's eyes welled as she looked over the burnt body lying there. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't be gone.
"Is it..." Ziva began. She couldn't finish her sentence, for fear she might burst into tears. She had to stay strong. But how could she?
"I believe so," Ducky replied solemnly. Ziva bit her lip, but she couldn't hold it in any longer. A small cry escaped and she covered her mouth. Gibbs pulled her into a tight embrace as sobs racked her body. This couldn't be possible. Not again. She wasn't strong enough.
"Ducky, is it possible that it's not him? It wasn't him last time," Tim asked in a low voice, referring the last time Tony had died. Or rather, the last time they thought he had.
The medical examiner shook his head slightly. "Possible, yes. Probable…" he didn't finish his sentence. "I'll know more when I do the autopsy,"
"Top priority, Duck," Gibbs reminded as he held the young woman in his arms. Her sobbing had slowed, but she was still crying. His team had never been so out of sorts. McGee was a mature leader. Ziva was broken in tears. Tony was…
"Of course, Jethro. No need to ask," Ducky nodded understandingly.
"This cannot be," Ziva said through her tears as she pulled back a little to look at the scene again.
"He already avoided death by fire once. The odds this isn't him aren't very good," Palmer piped up. Gibbs, Tim, Ducky, and Ziva all stared at him, mouths slightly open in shock. "Not that I want him to be dead," Palmer stuttered. "It's just…" Gibbs cocked his head warningly. "Sorry," he said, returning to the task at him.
"Was it an accident?" Ziva asked after a moment.
"I don't know yet. Once we process the evidence we'll be sure, but it looks like…" Tim sighed. "There are some distinctive burn patterns moving from the bed leading out of the apartment, and it appears the bed was also the sight ignition. There is some evidence of gasoline,"
"Murder?" Ziva asked straightforwardly.
"We don't know yet, Ziva,"
"Is there anything you do know, McGee? Anything at all?" Ziva pulled away completely from Gibbs in her anger. Tim sighed. He knew it wasn't personal. Her connection to Tony had been evident from the start. The attraction was mutual, and the flirtation had become an Olympic sport since the first word. But over time, it grew, but it never got to blossom. And now it never would.