A/N: Part two! I guess if I wrote it, I may as well post it. :) I'm glad that part one was well-received, and hope that this will be as well. This chapter contains spoilers for "Semper Fi" and "Aliyah", and takes place very shortly after the latter. There are small spoilers for "Grace Period" and "Judgment Day" also. I tried to write it so that hopefully everything will remain canonical even after the season premiere, but since I'm not psychic... -abby
Tony groaned softly as he shifted to look at the clock. Not quite 0100 hours. God, he thought miserably. I haven't slept this badly in ages. Probably since Kate's death. Tony pushed the memory aside and tried to focus on the present, not that it was any more pleasant to think about. How did everything go so wrong? I only wanted to protect her. Did a real bang-up job there. His broken arm throbbed relentlessly and he could not find a position that lessened the discomfort. I'm so sorry, Ziva. I know I hurt you. I wish this whole trainwreck had gone differently.
After tossing and turning for what seemed like hours, Tony finally gave up. He eased his injured arm out of the sling, awkwardly undressed with his one good hand and stepped into the shower. The hot water helped take his mind off the pain – both mental and physical - and he stood underneath the calming spray for a very long time, refusing to think, refusing to dwell on the events of the last few days.
Finally the water started to run cold, so he turned it off and managed to struggle, one-handed, into a pair of pants. The shirt was more of a challenge but eventually Tony wrestled it on, along with his sling. He slipped on his shoes and grabbed his badge before heading to the door. He wasn't on active duty because of the injury so his SIG and backpack stayed behind.
It was just after 0230 when Tony stepped off the elevator and into the bullpen. He was suddenly struck by a long-buried feeling of déjà vu when he saw Gibbs sitting there. Tony did not contemplate leaving, but simply walked over to his own desk and sat down gingerly.
"Hey, Boss. What are you doing here?"
The older man smiled faintly. "Same as you, I'd guess. Trouble sleeping?" Gibbs, too, was stricken by the disturbing familiarity of the situation.
Tony sighed. His relationship with Gibbs had evolved to the point that he felt comfortable just jumping right in. "I can't stop thinking about Ziva. This is all my fault, Boss."
Gibbs shook his head. "It most certainly is not. Things went bad, but not because of you. We have Mossad and Director David to thank for this mess."
"I killed Rivkin," the senior field agent pointed out.
"Yeah, you did. In self-defense."
Tony kept pushing. He wasn't about to let himself off the hook that easily. "Ziva doesn't trust me anymore. I'm her partner, and she thinks I betrayed her."
Gibbs knew that there was no refuting the unfortunate truth in those words and did not try. Instead, he just murmured softly, "You're not the only one."
"What?" Tony wasn't sure he'd heard correctly.
Suddenly, Gibbs realized what he'd said. He had not originally intended to let Tony know of Ziva's demand. Until now, he had allowed his team – save for Ducky – to think that she had decided to stay in Israel of her own accord. Gibbs paused to select his words carefully, knowing they would be difficult for his agent to hear. "Right before we left Tel Aviv. Ziva said she would not work with you anymore." He sighed at the crestfallen look on Tony's face before simply stating, "She made me choose between you."
Tony was completely dumbfounded. He opened his mouth and then immediately closed it again.
Gibbs pinned the younger man down with an icy blue stare as he firmly repeated what he had told Dr. Mallard. "But she made the decision the moment she asked me to choose. There was never a question."
"Boss, I…" Tony trailed off as realization dawned. He chose me. Just like that. Without a second thought, he chose me and left her behind.
Over the years, Gibbs had become very adept at reading his senior field agent's thoughts. "I didn't abandon her, Tony. I didn't want to leave her there. But she lied to us. She withheld information. Don't forget that. I know she had her reasons, and I'm not going to give up on her, but we'll need to set a few things straight when she comes back."
Tony's voice was hardly audible. "If she comes back."
The older man did not falter as he stated, "She'll come back. It's just a matter of when."
Tony chuckled humorlessly. He shifted uncomfortably, cradling his injured arm. "Your gut tell you that?"
"Actually, right now my gut is telling me this isn't over, Tony. I'm worried about Ziva. Something's not right." Gibbs' concern was clear.
"I know, Boss. I feel it too." He scrubbed his free hand through damp hair. "This all seems a bit too familiar, doesn't it? Hard to believe it's been four years since we lost Kate. And then Paula and Jenny…I don't think I can lose anyone else, Boss."
"I know, Tony. We'll get her back. I promise."
When Tony continued, pain and guilt were evident in his voice. "This could have been avoided. I know you say it isn't my fault, but right now it sure feels like it is. I should have done things differently. I should have..." He trailed off, not really sure how to finish the sentence.
"What could you have done, Tony? You didn't go to Ziva's apartment with the intention of killing Rivkin. You didn't know he was there. You were trying to give her the chance to explain herself. You were looking out for your partner. I can't say that I would have done anything differently." Gibbs knew that his words were unlikely to change the younger man's mind, but he continued. "Besides, I told you to stay on Rivkin, to find out everything you could."
"You probably wouldn't have killed him. You would have found another way," Tony said flatly.
Gibbs shook his head. "It was either him or you."
The younger man looked lost in thought, staring vacantly into space. He shrugged without thinking, then winced at the pain the movement caused in his broken arm. Ziva made it clear that she would have preferred it to be me.
Gibbs leaned back in his desk chair, regarding his senior field agent. Tony looked exhausted. He was thin and pale, and fine lines of pain seemed permanently etched in his features. Gibbs knew that the younger man had been refusing his pain medication, and probably hadn't eaten more than a few bites of food since the incident with Rivkin. He made another decision, just as clear-cut as the last, and rose to his feet. "Come on, DiNozzo."
Tony looked puzzled. "Where are we going?"
"There's nothing we can do about Ziva right now. But there is something we can do about you. You need to take care of yourself. Let's go get some breakfast at that all-night diner." Though Gibbs' voice was soft, the command was clear.
Nevertheless, Tony began to protest. He got as far as "I'm-" before Gibbs cut him off.
"So help me, DiNozzo, if the next word out of your mouth is 'fine' I will break your other arm. Now come on." He gently squeezed Tony's good shoulder.
Tony sighed heavily, but allowed his boss to guide him to his feet. The two men headed toward the elevator in silence. Suddenly Gibbs stopped and turned to his senior field agent. He looked Tony in the eyes and said solemnly, "I'm proud of you. No matter what happens or how this turns out, I'm proud to have you on my team. Always have been."
The younger man's smile was faint, but grateful. "Thanks."
Gibbs nodded sharply, then headed for the elevator once more. "You coming?" he tossed back over his shoulder.
Tony straightened up and adjusted his sling. "Yeah, Boss. On your six."