A/N: Hey guys, welcome to my new fic, Falling Apart. It's inspired by the song of the same name by Matt Nathanson, who sang All We Are, which was featured in episode 5.2, "Family", and inspired my last fic of the same name as well.
I really like this story. I'm still writing it, so I'm not sure where it's going yet, so take this chance to tell me what you'd like to see—a lot of emotion and angst, or more action and development? I'm trying to do a nice balance of both, so I guess we'll see how it pans out. Nonetheless, share wit me what you'd like to see—some firefights? Bombs? Honestly, just share. I'd love to make this a fabulous story but I'll need your help, so chip in—I'll take anything you've got.
Now, I know this fic is somewhat similar to All We Are, only reversed, but let me just tell you: it's going to be different. The beginning may seem very much the same, but a lot is going to be different, so stick with me, ok?
I got the major ideas for this plot when I was trying to fall sleep the night I began it—I had to find paper and a pen and a light and my glasses (I usually wear contacts) and wrote it all in the dark. That's right, my notes were written looooong past my bedtime and in the dark. So I'm hoping it pays off.
Oh, and just so you know, I'm also planning on posting a second story very soon. I usually don't like to do 2 at once, but I think this could be a good thing for me and for you. Want a hint? Listen to Fall for You and then Maybe by Secondhand Serenade.
Alright, have a fabulous day. See you soon! Don't forget to review.
As the old saying goes, you never know what you have until it's gone.
Tony never intended to learn. He thought he would never have to know. He thought they had all the time in the world. That she would be there forever.
How wrong he was.
So tonight he stood alone, in the dark of the squadroom. The silence of the building echoed the pain he felt inside, screaming at him to get up, to do something, to stop wallowing and to change the facts.
It wasn't supposed to happen this way. She wasn't supposed to die.
It had been a relatively calm morning. She was just supposed to check out Petty Officer Sara Holt's house after he had failed to report to court that day. She had been a witness in a fraud and grand theft case, dealing with weapons shipments that the team had been working on for three weeks when one of the missing weapons was used in the murder of Petty Officer Eric Jacobson, a colleague of Holt's. It was supposed to be simple. She was just supposed to pick Holt up and bring her to NCIS headquarters so Gibbs could lash out at her in anger for causing the prosecution major… well, issues.
All morning Tony had had this unexplainable feeling in his gut. He felt uneasy about the whole ordeal. He had come into work looking over his shoulder after speeding down the highway in a way that much resembled Ziva or Gibbs' driving. He couldn't shake this fog. And yet the beltway birds still sang, the Jamaican coffee still brewed, and the busy elevator still sounded.
Everything seemed normal when he got in that morning. Everything was quiet. McGee sat at his computer, typing away. Ziva turned her knife around in her fingers, eyes intent upon the sharp blade. Gibbs was out for coffee. Everything was fine.
"Petty Officer Holt didn't show up for her testimony this morning. Not answering her phone,"
"Maybe she slept through her alarm," Tony suggested. "Musta forgot,"
"Who would forget that they're a key witness in a major case?" McGee said.
"I need someone to pick her up," Gibbs said, sitting down at his desk.
"Ziva will do it!" Tony said loudly, pointing to her.
"DiNozzo, you go," Gibbs said, not looking up.
"Ah, come on, Boss, I was up really late and--" He began to complain.
"Hot date?" Ziva said slyly, but her eyes spoke something else.
"No," Tony corrected her. "I watched the Titanic. It's a long one,"
"Most cruise liners are," She said, missing the point. Ziva stood. She walked out in front of her desk, knife still in her hand. "I will go," she volunteered before sending a smirk Tony's way. "I have been sitting at my desk far too long this morning," She explained as Gibbs stared at her strangely. Finally, he nodded, and she absentmindedly set it on Tony's desk. She grabbed her things and headed toward the elevator. "I'll be back," She called cheerily, happy to get out of the building. Ziva had never been one for desk work, much less being indoors sat all. She needed to be out. Active. It was why she was so good in the field and hated stakeouts with such vehemence.
Holt lived on base. The drive was only half-an-hour, fifteen minutes if Ziva was driving. She should have been back within the hour. But two hours later, Tony was growing nervous, and so was the rest of the team.
"Have you called her?" Gibbs finally asked after they had run out of reasons she would be gone for so long.
"I called four times. No answer," Tony said. "It wasn't off though. Rang a whole bunch before it went to voicemail,"
"Can you run a trace?" Gibbs asked McGee.
"Yeah, give me a minute," He said, typing furiously. A map of the United States came onto the screen, narrowing quickly into Virginia. "She's at Holt's house,"
"Maybe they're having a heart to heart?" Tony suggested hopefully.
Gibbs gave a silent sigh. "Tony, McGee. Get the car. We're going to Holt's," He said.
Tony swallowed. This couldn't be happening. Ziva was fine. She had to be.
Thirteen minutes later, they were driving down Holt's street. They jolted to a stop in the middle of the street, and all three men all but flew out of the car. The car Ziva had taken was sitting in the driveway, the driver's door open. Tony's heart skipped a beat as they ran to it, finding the one thing they had never hoped to see.
It wasn't Ziva.
It was her badge.
Drenched in blood.
Tony glanced inside the car. Ziva's cell phone was on the driver's seat. Gibbs motioned to Tony and McGee that he was going around the back. They nodded in agreement and headed for the front door.
McGee reached the doorknob gently, but the door flew open, unlocked. They made their way through to the front room. Petty Officer Holt was on the ground, lying in a pool of her own blood. They cleared the front rooms and Gibbs met them in the front room, having cleared the back rooms.
"Any sign of her?" McGee said.
Gibbs shook his head. "No," He said simply.
Tony didn't hear anything after that. He looked around, feeling lost. He didn't know what to do, where to go. It hadn't quite hit him. He looked out the open front door, staring down the driveway. The blood was dripping down the gentle slope of the concrete, shining in the bright sunlight, taunting him. It was an incredible amount. Marks near the edge of the pool indicated that whoever's blood it was had been dragged out of it, likely into another badge gleamed and shone a single reflective ray into his eyes, followed by an even brighter rage of light as the car beside the blood exploded into flames.
So there he stood by the window, awaiting the results of the DNA test Abby had run from the sample they had brought back from the scene and of any evidence that was left in the ashes of the skeleton that used to be a car. McGee was down with Abby, trying to console her and keep her sane as she did her work. Gibbs was out getting coffee. The silence of the squadroom echoed the aches of his sorrow, reminding him of what he was missing, what he had lost.
And he was alone. Just like the day he and Ziva had first met. He looked down and smiled, remembering their first conversation. He didn't know how she did it, but she knew exactly how to get him. She could read him like no one else could, and over time, he got just as good at reading her. They found a way to communicate without words. They bantered and teased and joked. And it was comfortable. It was amazing.
And now he'd never have that again.
It was all his fault.
The elevator sounded with a ding! He didn't look to see who entered the room. All he could think of was another of his lost chances.
"I'm tired of pretending." Tony said, looking her straight in the eye. He was angry with Gibbs, with Vance, with SecNav, with the whole freakin' government. Lies just seemed to flow freely from these men's mouths, and they didn't care. They didn't care that they were using their people to accomplish their own personal agendas. They didn't care if anyone got hurt. It was all about power and gaining more of it. And deep down inside, he felt the same way about something else. But he couldn't deal with that now. It wasn't the right time or place.
"So am I." She answered honestly. Her tone was soft, regretful. Was she talking about the same thing he was? No, his heart answered. There it was. He had a chance.
He didn't take it.
"DiNozzo," A quiet but authoritative voice called.
Tony didn't move from the window, didn't look to his boss who stood only five feet from him. He could only stare out the window, watching the nation's capitol lit by the city lights. Ziva had loved this view.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs called again. His voice was softer this time. He was hurting. It was obvious in his eyes, but he didn't let on. Not with his words.
"Yeah," Tony said, unable to say anything else. What else could he say? That he was sorry? That he shouldn't have complained? That he shouldn't have let his partner do his dirty work? That he should be the one dead? All of those seemed to be true, but he couldn't bring himself to say any of it. He knew that if he did, he might break.
Gibbs seemed to feel the same way. He didn't say anything. He simply stared at his senior agent. Finally after a long moment, he spoke. "I'm sorry,"
Tony just stared back, despite the immense weight those rare words carried. His moistened eyes reflected the lights below. He blinked a few times before turning away, his arms folded. There was nothing he could say.
"The Israeli Embassy took the investigation," He said slowly. Tony turned back to Gibbs, his eyes now wild and raging. "They don't think there's reason to connect Holt to Ziva. Based on Ducky's preliminary findings…"
"I know. Holt was dead at least four hours before Ziva even left her apartment," He said, his voice low with frustration.
"Vance has given Holt's case to Agent Balboa's team,"
Tony nodded, not caring. Ziva wasn't anywhere to be found, but with such an extreme amount of blood loss, he knew there was only one other possibility, and he refused to believe it.
"She isn't dead, Boss,"
"Tony," Gibbs said. He rarely called him by his first name. He must have pitied the poor agent. He had even apologized.
"No, Boss. She has to be alive," He said taking a step forward.
"No body. No connection--"
"She works for NCIS! This should be our case!"
"According to Vance, she's always worked for Mossad,"
"First and foremost," A voice behind them said.
Tony turned to see Vance. "Sir," He said, his eyes rebellious as his tone.
"Your team is too involved to investigate,"
"We investigated Kate's death," Tony said.
"And look where that got you," He said.
"It was Kate's death that brought Ziva to us," Tony replied, his voice raising a decibel.
"I've already made my decision. Mossad will have your full cooperation. You will not investigate," He ordered. He gave each agent a look before walking away.
Tony turned to Gibbs. "This isn't fair," He said with certainty.
Gibbs looked at him. "I know," He said, walking away. "I know."
Tony sat in his apartment silently. No movie played. No cans of beer were open, much less any other kind of alcohol. He couldn't bring himself to. He couldn't even make himself stand up from the couch he sat on.
The hours had been ticking by, creeping slowly about. Memories haunted him. Memories of her. Of him. Of everything they had. Memories of paper-ball wars and finding the most possible foods to eat for lunch. Of the way she loved her Berry Mango Madness and memories of Roy, the dead man walking. He remembered the way she would smile at him when she saw him being mischevious—lips pursed sweetly, looking up through her lashes, dark brown eyes twinkling. She knew what she was doing, and yet, she never saw what it did to him. The shock he felt when she told him her favorite movie was The Sound of Music. He remembered the day they were at the hotel in Los Angeles and all she wanted to do was read her book, but he convinced her to come with him to go sight-seeing. He remembered that day so clearly. He smiled, remembering how she looked in that bikini. He still had those pictures. He kept them up on his room on the USS Reagan and USS Seahawk. But those pictures weren't there to remind him of how hot she was, or how he missed seeing a beautiful woman aboard a ship of 5,000 men, as true as both statements were. They were there to remind him of how much he loved her.
It wasn't a thing hard to forget. No one ever forgets that. But he was scared. He didn't want to forget her face. Her eyes. Her sly smile that made him go crazy, that made him love her even more. Tony sighed as remembered that summer. He tried to call. He would get so close, then give up. She had probably found someone else. Someone better. She deserved better than him anyway. Someone who wasn't a failure in everything he did.
And her life ended because of it.
Because he was a failure.
He killed her.
His best friend.
The woman he loved.