A/N: Another insomniac fic! Totally unbetad, so I apologize for any glaring goofs. This is just me coming up with a story to go along with the preview for the season 6 finale. Although its purely my speculation on what could possibly happen, it probably should be considered as spoiler-y, so don't read if you haven't seen the finale and don't want to know anything about it. (I doubt this is what will actually happen, but…yeah.)
"The only way you're going home," Ziva hissed coldly as she pressed the gun to his chest, "is in a body bag." Her jaw clenched as she glared down at him, her contempt for him not even remotely concealed.
Tony only stared dully back up at her, knowing he deserved her scorn. Well, maybe not deserved it, exactly, but he did understand it. He'd killed her boyfriend. Her boyfriend turned rogue, who was a threat to national security, mind you, but her boyfriend. He'd also likely been a threat to Ziva herself.
Tony wanted to think Rivkin wouldn't have killed her when he was through with his mission, and maybe he wouldn't have. But at the very least, her career would have been completely shot. She'd have been deported and likely be put on every government watch list imaginable, barring her from ever legally stepping foot in the United States ever again.
Not, Tony imagined, that it would have stopped her from doing so anyway, if she even wanted to after this was all over.
The gun pressed painfully into his diaphragm, making it difficult to breathe. Maybe this was better, he tried to rationalize as he closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable impact. The thought of being trapped in a prison cell for the rest of his life was almost unbearable. Being trapped in a foreign prison where he'd have virtually no rights, where he'd be viewed as the lowest of the low, and where he'd have absolutely nobody on his side, nobody to watch his six? Odds were he wouldn't survive long. Or if he did, he'd probably wish he was dead anyway. He would be able to handle just about any torture, he figured, except for one.
Solitude was never his strongpoint. Being trapped, alone, with no friends. No Abby, there to make sure he got at least one hug every single day. No Ducky there to talk his ear off any time he just couldn't stand the idea of being alone. No Gibbs there to…just be there.
No. This was better.
Ziva swallowed the lump in her throat. She knew she had to do this, but it was hard. So much harder than she thought it'd be. He'd been a friend. A good friend. One that at times she had wished was more than just a friend. But she did not have a choice.
She looked up and saw Gibbs' vehicle racing toward them. Saw Gibbs jumping from it seemingly before it'd even come to a complete stop. It took a moment for her to realize that he probably had; Ducky was driving.
It was now or never. She took a deep breath as her gaze once again met Tony's and she marveled at the calmness in his expression. How could he be so unruffled as he stared death in the face? Anger boiled within her as she took in his appearance of acceptance. How dare he? Her teeth clenched with fury, but she didn't have time to discuss her feelings now.
"Ziva!" she heard Gibbs' desperate call as he bound up the stairs, racing toward her. Now or never, she steeled herself.
And pulled the trigger.
Tony gasped involuntarily at the harsh impact. His eyes went wide with shock as he looked down at the red liquid spreading rapidly across his belly, his chest. After a few moments his gaze returned to Ziva, watching as she stared back at him, her face completely void of expression. She'd…he blinked as she rose above him, letting the gun fall from her hands as she rose her arms in a gesture of surrender. She'd done what she set out to do and was now ready to face her punishment.
Gibbs reached them a few moments after it happened. For a few moments he seemed torn about what he should do. He looked up to see the officers racing down the stairs toward them. They'd take care of Ziva. It was his job to take care of Tony. His eyes met hers for only a moment, but it was long enough to convey everything he needed to convey. For her part, she remained completely stoic, expressionless even as the officers overtook her, forcing her to the ground long enough to cuff her and then whisking her away.
"Ducky!" Gibbs yelled as he pulled off his jacket and knelt down on the stairs beside his fallen agent. He quickly ripped open Tony's shirt and pressed his jacket tight to the younger man's gut, watching as the grey material rapidly turned red. "Hang in there, Tony," he soothed. "I've got you."
"Boss…?" Tony struggled to speak, though it was hard for him to even breathe. He felt Gibbs' hand brush against his forehead and then caress his cheek. There was so much he wanted to say. So much he wanted Gibbs to know. But he couldn't. From the look in Gibbs' face, though, he could see that the man already knew. He saw the grim, wintery smile Gibbs was giving him.
"Just stay still," Gibbs directed softly. "Ducky's almost here. Just hold on, Tony." He watched the red fluid trickling from the corner of Tony's mouth and swallowed the lump in his throat as he watched the young man's body giving out. He felt his chest tightening as he watched Tony struggle, unable to even raise his head anymore. He almost couldn't breathe, himself, as he heard Tony's breath becoming shallower and shallower. He took his agent's hand tight in his grip as Ducky arrived and took over applying pressure.
"B-boss…" Tony tried once again to speak, but it came out in a deep rasp.
"Don't try to speak, Anthony," Ducky commanded. He smiled weakly as Tony's eyes met his one last time.
"Zi…" Tony gurgled, his eyes drifting back to Gibbs.
"We'll see to it she's taken care of," Gibbs assured his agent firmly. He couldn't help the tears that began to well up in his eyes as he watched his agent…his son valiantly struggling to stay with them. It was a losing battle, and they all knew it. He could feel the strength rapidly vanishing from Tony's grip, but continued to hold the younger man's hand firmly in his own, his free hand gently stroking Tony's hair as he looked down into those trusting green eyes. He blinked away his unshed tears as he watched the body going limp, though he felt one break free as he saw Tony completely still, eyes wide, unblinking.
He held his breath as Ducky reached up, pressing his fingers to Tony's neck, feeling for a pulse. His shoulders sank as Duck looked up and shook his head grimly.
"Looks like we'll be taking you home after all, my boy," Ducky murmured, looking helplessly up at the small crowd of officers that had gathered. He gently ran his hands over the boy's face, closing his eyes. He placed his hand comfortingly on Gibbs' shoulder as he rose to his feet. "It will be okay, Jethro," he assured the man, who simply nodded. With a heavy sigh, Ducky made his way down the steps to go retrieve his equipment.
Gibbs leaned over the body of his agent and gently placed his lips to the cool forehead. "I have never been more proud of you, son," he whispered as he pulled Tony partially into his lap, wrapping his arms protectively around the limp body. He glared up at the officers who dared to come closer.
Nobody tried to stop them as they placed Tony into the black bag and carried him solemnly back to their car. They were left alone in their grief as they loaded the body into the small plane that would carry it home. Vengeance had been served, and nobody wanted to make a potential 'international incident' any worse.
It wasn't until they were safely in the air that Gibbs truly relaxed. He and Ducky quickly released Tony from the confines of the body bag. Not that he could move yet, anyway, but it had to have been completely unnerving. Gibbs stroked Tony's hair as he watched Ducky preparing the syringe.
"Just a couple more minutes, Anthony," Ducky assured the paralyzed man as he administered the counter-agent that would release him from his locked-in state.
"I meant it when I said I was proud of you," Gibbs assured Tony as he waited for the man to regain use of his body. "I am so proud of both of you. Ziva wanted me to tell you that she knows what happened, she understands, and she doesn't want you to blame yourself. This was her idea, you know. Sorry we couldn't tell you; there just wasn't time…" He smiled as he saw Tony's eyes fluttering slightly, trying to open. "She wants me to tell you goodbye. She doesn't blame you," he reiterated.
"B-but," Tony managed to choke out, and Gibbs smiled faintly at his agent's ever-present astuteness. Gibbs didn't answer, but knew that Tony knew anyway. She wasn't ready to face him; possibly never would be. She wasn't coming home.
As soon as he was able, Tony turned his head and looked silently over at the body bag. His. Where he should be. She should have really shot him, she had every right. It was his right to die as well. Anything had to be better than what he was feeling now. Even after the drug she'd pumped into him instead of a bullet wore off, he felt nothing but numb.
Perhaps there was a torture worse than solitude.
Not even the bone-crushing Abby-hug that enveloped him only moments after his feet hit US Soil penetrated Tony's newfound numbness. He completely missed the concerned looks shared by his remaining teammates as they helped him into Abby's hearse. Nor did he notice the worried glances each of them threw him as he absently crossed his arms across his chest and closed his eyes as he lay stretched out in the back, looking far too close to the corpse he had almost become.
They all regret the decision to bring him to Abby's instead of taking him home when they watch him silently take up residence in her coffin, ignoring each of their attempts to snap him out of his self-imposed attempt at isolation.
"We just need to give him time," Ducky gently assured the others, and they tactfully ignored the hint of doubt that reverberated in his tone. "You're going to be fine, dear boy," he promised Tony before he excused himself to go check on his mother.
Gibbs refused to leave and Abby would have it no other way. They didn't talk, as if they were afraid that their voices would only push Tony farther away from them. Neither bothered to try to get him to eat, and no one ate the sandwiches that McGee prepared for them shortly after he'd arrived, nor the ones Ducky brought upon his return. The four just sat mutely beside the coffin, as if holding vigil.
At first Tony didn't react as Abby crawled into the coffin to rest against him. She slung her arm over him as she rested her head against his chest, listening to the soft thumping of his heart that served as the only sign that he was still alive.
Gibbs watched, his heart heavy. If he could have fit, he figured he would actually have joined them, but as he couldn't he did the next best thing and watched over them all. His makeshift family. The family that was already one member short tonight, the one that he feared was on the verge of falling apart completely.
His fear was only alleviated two hours later as he saw Tony's body shift and watched as for the first time his agent showed real sign of awareness. He smiled wanly as he saw Tony's good arm curl around Abby as she slept. It was a small concession, but an important one; the first sign that the man was willing to come back to life.
"She should have killed me," Tony finally voiced his thoughts hours later, in an extraordinarily quiet voice.
"Wouldn't you have liked that," her hard voice snapped, startling even Gibbs. His normally impeccable sense of his surroundings had failed to notice when she'd arrived. He didn't even bother to wonder how she'd managed to clear herself of any charges and get back to the States so fast. Her father had a lot of clout; his daughter had a lot of cunning. Either of those things or a combination of both were completely believable. The lack of evidence at the scene would have helped as well, since he'd carefully pocketed the tranquilizer gun Ziva had dropped and had been careful to leave no traces of the blood-packs that he and Ziva had burst to give off the illusion of a gunshot wound.
"Ziva?" Tony was afraid to look in case it wasn't real.
"How dare you?" she seethed, ignoring the gaping looks from the rest of the team as she woke them from their slumber. "You…you actually thought I was going to kill you and you let me!"
Tony paled as he absorbed the intensity of her anger. "I deserved it. I killed your…"
"Yes," she agreed, her expression hardening even as her eyes glistened with tears she would never shed. "But it was a sanitary kill."
"Clean," McGee whispered, correcting her softly. "A clean kill."
"Whatever. Look, Tony. I am not going to pretend that it does not hurt. I am not going to pretend that it is going to be easy. I do not think that I can…that I can go back to how things were before. But I know you did not have a choice."
"I could have trusted you," Tony admitted remorsefully.
"You did trust me. If you did not, you would not have let me leave your sight at all."
"I didn't want to believe…"
"I know. But you had to follow the lead. It would have been foolish not to. I understand."
"Why didn't you kill me?" he asked, his voice raw, almost pleading.
She did not answer except with a tiny smile as she extended her hand to help him out of the coffin. She and the others would be there for him until he figured it out for himself.
The journey back would be long and hard, Gibbs knew. But as he saw their hands connect, he had faith that his family, in its entirety, would make the trip.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I appreciate all comments and constructive criticisms! (And shameless plug time: for those of you reading my WIP "Acquired Tastes", the next chapter should be up soon.)