Author's Note: I'm jumping on the bandwagon of post-Aliyah fics after reading some fantastic fic by authors like Sashile and DrawMeASheep (to name a few). This is my first NCIS fic, so comments and reviews would be much appreciated...

Disclaimer: NCIS characters, plot etc are the property of someone far more clever (and a whole heap richer) than me. No profit is being made from this story. I own only my computer, NCIS Season 3-5 DVDs and the ramblings of my mind (and even those are probably borrowed from somewhere else).

He sees her every damn night in his dreams, and she's never the same. The only thing that never changes is that she disappears, fading into the shadows, like smoke in the wind.


On Monday she's shrouded in khaki, her hair wild around her face like a halo. She doesn't speak, just smirks at him wickedly in a way that sends heat flooding through his body.

She's not wearing makeup, and Tony is reminded of the first day they met, when she stood before him proclaiming a man's innocence and he told her that he couldn't – wouldn't - help her.

("I want the bastard dead too.")

She was as adamant about saving Ari as she was about protecting Michael, though the events following Ari's death didn't lead to him lying winded on Mossad concrete; half-fearing for his life and reminded in a split second exactly what she was capable of. In the end, two men she loved were killed by NCIS agents.

He thinks of the shadow of a stain on a basement floor and wonders if she's made that connection.

She gives him a look that makes him wonder if he said that last part out loud. He wishes she would say something (he misses the sound of her voice), but she simply raises an eyebrow and turns, walking away with a leonine grace he knows comes from years of training.

He tries to tell her to stay, but the words stick in his throat. He opens his eyes wide and tells himself he won't blink (that way he won't miss a second) but she disappears anyway.

He wakes up thinking of all the blinks in the last three years, all the things he missed.


They've been back in Washington for eleven days and haven't caught a case. The lack of distraction is infecting the team like… something other than the plague, because they've been there, done that.

McGee quite obviously prefers to spend his time 'helping' Abby in the lab than sitting at his desk amongst the oppressive silence. Tony wonders, not for the first time, if McGee and Abby have a MOAS of their own that they're not sharing. Maybe more than one. He's seen the way they look at each other when they think nobody's paying attention. It would be hypocritical of him to joke about it, so he keeps his mouth shut and remembers a time not so long ago when he was the one stealing glances across the bullpen.

The original man of secrets, one Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, appears to be hiding something himself. Gibbs has never been one for sharing, but after eight years Tony thought he'd seen all the Gibbs-moods in the book. He wonders if he left his ability to read Gibbs on the tarmac in a foreign country with his heart.

If Z… she… was here they'd be playing Guess the Mood right now (Left shoulder muscles slightly tense: tired. Tense shoulder + head tilt of less than 15 degrees: tired and brooding. All of the above + narrowed eyes: refill required, stat). It almost makes him smile, thinking about it.

If she was here…

Maybe that's the root of the problem. She's chosen to be a world away (probably channelling her anger at Tony into secret Mossad ninja business, the specifics of which he both does and does not want to know), and Gibbs seems distracted and angry, and Tony didn't dare ask what she said to Gibbs on the tarmac. All he could muster was a pitiful 'One down, boss?'.

He wishes he'd had the cojones to ask, but he was not a little afraid of the answer, and the throbbing of his shoulder was a reminder of just how much he's fucked things up for all of them – Gibbs, and the team, and the Director (whose agenda he doesn't trust anyway), and even Director David (who obviously sent Rivkin for a purpose and now will have to send someone else to do his dirty work).

Mostly for her (and him, and not just in a we're-friends-and-partners sense), though inside his head a little voice says "You're not the one to blame here..."

He aches inside when he thinks of her a world away, hating him. He hopes she's not so blinded by her anger that she becomes reckless. It wouldn't be the first time.

('It was just a little love tap!')

He's combing through the seemingly endless cold case files, half-wishing the phone would ring, that he'd hear the familiar 'Grab your gear!'. It's not lost on him that what he's waiting for (a distraction from the ever-present feeling of loss) would mean someone else out there losing their life, or someone they love.

Tony has new sympathy for those that are left behind, especially those who find out that the person who left them is someone they don't really know at all.

Sometimes when it's quiet at work he hears her laugh echo from across the bullpen, or feels the prickle on the back of his neck that usually means she's crept up behind him again. The first time he whirled around unthinkingly and scared the bejesus out of Chuck the filing clerk. The second time there was only empty air. After the third time, there were whispers about a certain Senior Field Agent who was scared of his own shadow.

He doesn't bother turning any more (though he makes a point of talking loudly about his most violent takedowns around the other agents), and he's fairly sure it was McGee who glued Agent Friedrichs' desk drawers shut after they traced the rumours back to him.

He remembers his Nonna, who saw her little brother Antonio in her dreams for a month after he died, and almost finds himself praying to a forgotten God that his – and her – ending will be different.

He's been trained not to believe in coincidences.

'Petty Officer found dead in Rock Creek Park. Grab your gear!'

But then, he thinks wryly, as he hears the words he's been waiting for and snaps back to reality, he's also been trained to follow the rules.


He grabs his backpack and races toward the elevator, popping himself across the back of the head with his good hand as he runs.

Rule #1: Never screw over your partner.

Some days he can't help but wonder exactly who screwed who.