A/N: So, this is it. The end. I hope you enjoyed it, and remember to thank Woody2792 the most for the last half of the story. Members of FFN, I request you send her messages to thank her, more so than reviewing this. She deserves it more than me for finishing what I started.
Thanks to all of you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!
Taking one last look around the white room that encased her, Ziva sighed deeply and rubbed her eyes tiredly; the rest of the team could not get here soon enough – she had had enough of Bethesda hospital!
She had a very clear recollection of what had happened back at the house, and that both the killers had been arrested, but what was really getting to Ziva was that she had no idea why Kelly and Hadil had teamed up together to kill the Middle Eastern wives and their Marine husbands; she would also have liked to witness the interrogation, but that would have been done by now – she had been in this hospital for three days.
There was a commotion outside her room, and Ziva was unsurprised to see that Tony was at the center of it. With a stumble and a loud voice protesting his right to be there, Tony entered the room with 'style' as he would say. All the Israeli could do was to roll her eyes and slap his arm when he got close enough to her bed.
The doctor was quick on her partner's heels, entering in a more understated and quiet manner and he did not spare anytime apologizing to her.
"Agent David, my apologies; I told him that he couldn't come in. As you can see, he is here anyway."
"Yeah, that's right buddy. Care to tell my ninja just why I wasn't allowed in?"
"Because visiting hours haven't started yet, and the nurses have yet to change Agent David's bandages."
"Pfft, that's hardly a good reason, hey Ziva?"
She narrowed her eyes at Tony before turning to the doctor and smiled apologetically.
"Please, ignore him and his stupid tendencies – he means well even if it does not always come across as so."
"Well, if you're sure… The nurse will be along in a couple of minutes, visitor or no visitor."
The doctor turned on his heel and walked out of the side room, throwing a dirty look back at Tony before he shut the door.
"You just could not wait an extra twenty five minutes, Tony, could you? You just had to cause problems for everyone here."
"I just thought you'd like the company Zee. I know I don't like being cooped up in hospitals, and Gibbs-knows you can barely stand to be in one place when you do have company."
" I am just tired of being in here; it is making me slap at the small things. How comes you have not visited before today Tony?"
"Snap… Well, I spent the night here after they brought you in, making sure that you pulled through properly and there wasn't anything too wrong; Gibbs was letting the suspects sweat it out before interrogating them, and McGee was at the Navy Yard to get all the evidence together. And, well, we were working solidly yesterday to get a confession out of them, on tape, and then we all had reports to do–"
"Speaking of which, mine is in the top drawer over there – I had a spare day to fill yesterday."
"Wow, you sure do keep busy…"
"Tony, I am in the hospital, not a coma, there was no reason for me not to do it, and so I did it."
There was a moment's silence while Tony considered this; the nurse stuck her head around the edge of the door, stopping him from continuing their conversation.
"Now, Ziva, I've got to change your bandages, so your friend will have to leave for a few minutes."
"It is okay Jo, he can stay."
"If you say so. Now, I was thinking that instead of a bandage we could put some steri-strip across the cut on your forehead, but as for the others they have to stay covered until the stitches come out."
"Whatever you think is best. Would you also get the discharge forms for me? I wish to go home today."
"That's not really a good idea. You should stay in for another 24 hours–"
"I have already stayed in longer than I normally would, and I am aware of all the possible consequences. Besides, I shall not be alone when I leave so there is no chance of something going wrong and not being noticed."
"OK, I'll get the doctor to bring them in next time he comes."
There was bustling around the room as the nurse took the dressings off her wounds, cleaned them and redressed them all; the coverings were smaller than before – presumably because there was less fluid coming out, and less padding needed. Ziva took a quick look at each wound before they were covered from her view; she preferred being pre-warned as to what she would have to deal with when she was at home and dealing with them herself. She did not really have a good look at the ones around her shoulder, and there was no chance that she would see her facial ones before she was at home with a mirror, but simply from the way that Tony reacted she knew that they would take a bit of getting used to.
Once the nurse exited the room and the doctor had brought in the discharge forms in to sign, Tony turned to face Ziva fully, concern filling his eyes.
"Ziva, are you sure about this? I know that you can move reasonably well and everything, but they look pretty nasty… and on top of that you said you weren't going to be alone – both you and I know that you live alone; you can't just disobey hospital advice like that either." What he was really wondering was, what if she was not alone, and he was completely jumping the gun. If all they were to her was heat of the moment.
"Tony. I have recovered from far worse and as for being on my own, I cope normally, so what is different about this time?"
"I'd be a lot happier if you weren't on your own, is all, just for the next day or so. Come over to my place, I'll set up the spare bed and we can grab a movie or something. We need to talk as well, and tonight will be as good a time as any."
The Israeli closed her eyes for a second, considering the possibilities. She would be perfectly fine on her own, but after spending the last few months in a house with Tony, posing as his wife, she could not help but concede to his wishes. She nodded her agreement, unable to form the words, and Tony covered her hand with his own.
Their eyes stayed locked for a minute, unspeakable words passing between them until there was a gruff cough from the doorway. The senior agent jerked his whole body back and stood up, chuckling nervously.
"Hey boss, didn't notice you there, I–"
"I did knock, DiNozzo."
"Right, of course you did, Boss, my bad."
"You okay Ziva?" Gibbs asked, looking past the fumbling Tony to the invalid Israeli.
"Yes Gibbs, I am being discharged in an hour or so; I just need to wait for my final check up from the doctor."
"Glad to hear it. All your personal items are being shipped out from the house to your places tomorrow morning; both of you," blue eyes flicked to an open-mouthed Tony, "get the day off tomorrow unless we get another case."
"Of course Gibbs, no problem." Ziva was all business as usual, though lacking her usual coiled muscles.
"The doctor's coming. See both of you in two days."
On the drive away from the hospital, Ziva asked Tony to stop off at the Navy Yard first.
"Why'd you wanna do that, Ziva? Boss'll probably kill me if I take you in..."
"Because I have a report to hand in, Tony, and can you imagine seeing Abby in two days' time? She will take it as a personal offense I did not come to see her. Besides, this way someone can keep her from breaking something." Tony knew she was hurting when she admitted, even jokingly, that she expected something to hurt.
"Good point, last time I had time off she managed to squeeze me so hard it was painful, and not painful in a normal Abby way either."
"Tony, why did they do it?" And she did not mean why did the hospital let her discharge, which was what Tony had been wondering.
"Ducky would call it a marriage of convenience. Kelly was xenophobic, especially people from the Middle East. Hadil was cultural, a purist you could say... She came from a liberal, Westernized Muslim family which encouraged her and her sisters to marry outside the faith, hence her marriage to Garrett – it was really the opposite of stereotypical arranged marriages. She wasn't too concerned with the exact religion of the 'perpetrators' just that they were People of the Book and that they were going against her idea of religious purity. Both of them were the means to an end for the other… It explains why Hadil and Garrett weren't targeted, though there were some notes indicating that Garrett was being watched and possibly targeted by them. At least, Hadil. And as for their background, well, Hadil's parents died in some form of house fire – whether it was deliberate or an accident we don't know. And Kelly had a normal childhood, nothing that would suggest she would grow up into an extremist killer anyway."
"I wonder what the outcome would have been, had they continued without being apprehended."
"What dya mean?" Tony asked, concerned she was dwelling on her torture. He knew next to nothing about practical psychology, but he figured that was not good.
"Well, Tony, would it have come to a natural end, or would Kelly have killed Hadil because she was Muslim, or would there have been a different outcome?" Ah, the serial killing in general. Well that was better he supposed, though Tony tended not to think about those things at all. Too long doing that and he would go crazy.
"Ah, well I guess we'll never know… Are you okay? You're never normally like this after a case."
"This was not a normal case, Tony… We were undercover for a long time. I suppose I formed more connections to these people than normal. How did they listen in to us, do you know? When you were coming up the path they mentioned hearing that you were not due back until late evening."
"A bug in the living room… I'm not sure when they got it there as we've been sweeping regularly."
"It was a shame I could not watch the interrogation." Something of a feral glint flashed in her eye, and Tony was reminded of the old Ziva. He could not help but smile ever so slightly.
"Yeah, but you know Gibbs, leave them to sweat it out over night then hit 'em hard the next morning."
They took the elevator up to the bullpen, standing not too close together, but closer than they would were it someone else. It pinged their arrival at the floor, and they walked out, Ziva slightly ahead of Tony. She took the steps towards her desk and sat down for a minute, waiting for Gibbs to return from wherever he was.
Right on cue, he arrived a few minutes later, coffee in hand, file gripped in his fingers.
"Agent David, what're ya doin' here?"
"I have my report to hand in to you Gibbs, and I wanted to thank you for everything."
"Just the job, Ziva."
"Does not matter. Now, I shall go and see Abby before I go home, is McGee with her?"
"Okay. I will be back in a few minutes, Tony."
The two men watched her walk to the elevator and get in it – there was a barely noticeable limp present, and if it was not for the visible bandages on her face neck and shoulder then you would not think there was anything more wrong than a twisted ankle.
Not that a twisted ankle would stand in the way of Ziva David, not in a million years.
There was a moment of silence in the bullpen between Gibbs and Tony before Gibbs nudged Tony's shoulder and nodded towards the lift.
"We need to talk."
Tony nodded and trailed his boss. They waited in silence for the elevator to return from the depths of the Navy Yard. Inside, Tony's thoughts were going at a scarily fast rate of processing – what was Gibbs going to say to him?
Did he know about his intentions with Ziva?
Rule 12, oh dear lord, rule 12…
There was no time for anymore to be considered though, as the doors opened, and Tony was pushed in by Gibbs. The metal box closed itself on the two agents, and then the emergency switch was flipped, plunging them into semi-darkness.
"You and Ziva."
"How did you know boss? We haven't actually done anything, not that you'd know if we had, and that's too much information, but I mean, we haven't spoken about it yet, so we don't really know what's happening or not happening…" Tony paused, well aware he was digging a hole about six feet deep with every word he uttered.
Gibbs did not even validate that with an answer, instead just raising an eyebrow at the younger man.
"Good point. You know everything."
"Don't push it, DiNozzo. She's Ziva." Gibbs' simple response left room for interpretation, but Tony thought he saw the hint of a smile on the older agent's face.
"Are… Are you giving me advice, boss?"
"Nope, just making sure my team doesn't get broken up."
"Of course… I mean, we were going to talk about it, and get everything clear between us, but then the whole capture thing got in the way, and I swear I never meant for it to happen… Not while on a case anyway, and certainly not with Rule 12 in place." He rubbed the back of his neck, unsure of why he was so flustered. Tony usually kept himself fairly suave.
"Just keep it out of the office and there won't be a problem. Everyone thinks you two are together anyway, so I don't foresee Vance having a huge problem when it eventually comes out. Least, none that he'll deal with publicly." Now Tony knew he saw a smile.
"Are you sure boss? Rule 12…"
"Sometimes rules can be broken. Besides, they're more guidelines – my rules, your guidelines. You need your own rules to live life by, Tony. You're serious about her; it's not just a stupid fling. I trust you. Just know that if you screw up, I won't hold her back."
"Yes boss, understood. Thanks–"
"Don't thank me. Just keep it out of the office, and don't let it affect work."
"Sure thing." Tony sighed, almost laughing in relief. The seal of approval.
There seemed to be nothing else that needed saying, so the switch was flicked again, and the elevator returned back to their floor – Ziva was stood waiting for them when the doors opened. Gibbs stepped out and past her, placing a kiss on her cheek and told them to go home. A little confused, Ziva took a couple of steps into the elevator and pressed the button to take them down to Tony's car. They had travelled less than a level before she flicked the emergency switch.
"Is everything okay, Tony?"
"Everything's just fine. In fact, it's better than fine."
"But, Rule Twelve… Are you sure?"
"As sure as I am about you and me, I heard it straight from the horse's mouth."
"There is not room in here for a horse Tony, do not be silly."
"It's… Never mind. The important thing is that Gibbs said it, and I can't have misheard."
"Maybe we should have our talk now, not later then, to clear things up straight away…" She was nervous, more nervous than Tony felt she ever was, but then, this was just as big for her, too.
" I'll go first, if that's okay?"
She nodded at him to go on and speak. He took a deep breath – for the first time in his life he was going to honestly lay his heart wide open and on the line for a woman. Wetting his lips nervously, Tony dove in.
"I don't exactly know what the hell I'm saying, but we've always had a thing, but then again it's more than a thing. I don't like you this much, maybe love you like this, because you're sexy or a ninja. You're, you're you, you're beautiful and fierce and loyal to a tee… And…" Tony faltered, not sure where he had been going. "I'll fight for us. If you give me a chance. I'll fight, and I'll always be there, Ziva."
Ziva took a small step towards him and placed one hand on his chest with her other on his hip.
"Tony, I can think of no one as infuriating as you, no one that makes me this crazy, and no one I would rather be with."
There was a pause, and neither was sure where to go from here. Finally, Ziva smiled at him and Tony smiled at her, small and full of hope. Maybe they could make something work.