Title: The Happiness that Comes from Tragedy

By: Sophie McCrory

Rating: T

Pairing: Tony/Ziva; frequent mentions of Kate

Summary: Every year, on the same day, she is left outside of a pain she has no part in. On the fifth year, he lets her fully in.

Disclaimer: If I owned NCIS, Tony, Ziva, Gibbs or anyone else, do you really think I would be writing this for free? No. Therefore, nothing in the production of this piece actually belongs to me. Sorry.

Notes: One of the things that annoys me about television is when a main character dies, how they only mention it for so long and then never talk about it again. But I feel, since NCIS is such a close-knit team atmosphere, that even if they never mention it on screen, they do think about Kate frequently, especially around the time of her death. So there.

Any errors are my own, I was so excited to have finished this amongst the frenzy of horrid papers and projects I have this semester that I needed to post it immediately. Seriously.

* * * * * * * * * *

The first year, she is confused.

At first, she had no idea what was going on. She woke up in the morning, and Tony was gone. This was a strange occurrence for them, not just because he was usually still there when she awoke, but that he rose before her at all. She pushed back her covers, crawling out of bed, intent on investigating. He complained often of her snoring, it was entirely possible that he had gotten fed up and moved to the couch in the hopes of garnering some rest.

She glanced at the clock. 7:30AM. On a Saturday. There was absolutely no way he was awake already.

She was wrong, she would discover. He was not on the couch. Or in the bathroom. Or in the kitchen. His shoes were no longer by the door, his clothes were gone, and there were no physical reminders that he'd even been there. There was no note, no text message, no voicemail or even a call. It was odd, even for him, that he wouldn't even kiss her goodbye in the morning, no matter what was going on.

But she would not dwell on it, she decided. Whatever it was that caused him to leave; whatever thought or pressing engagement, she didn't have the place to be offended. They were not a couple, this wasn't a relationship, and they were not supposed to be together. She knew it. He knew it. Her only hope at this point was that it would not end badly.

She returned to her room, digging through her closet before pulling out her running shoes. She dropped them next to her bed, and proceeded to change into some more suitable for exercise clothing. It was better to go on as though this were not anything out of the ordinary.

The day would go on as normal, with one slight exception. There was no message from Tony when she got home from her run. She heard nothing from him while she did her laundry, or went to the store, read or had dinner. It wasn't until she had changed back into her pajamas that she finally got a knock on the door.

She carefully tied her hair back in a ponytail before she went to open the door. Tony stood before her, still wearing the clothes he'd had on the day before. No sooner did a breeze flow into the apartment than she could smell the order of alcohol wafting off of him. She furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at him… to be honest, he looked more tired than drunk.

She opened her mouth to speak, but he quickly pressed a finger to her lips, "Shush," he said, "Can I come in?"

She stepped back, allowing him space to enter. She closed the door behind him, pausing as he turned toward her, and waiting for him to say something. "I'm sorry," he finally mumbled.

Her eyebrows rose, "For what?" she asked, brushing past him on her way to the kitchen. He was going to need some water to wash down whatever it was he'd decided to ingest, "Have you been drinking all day?"

There was a pause as he considered her question, as though he had not thought of it before, "I, uh,… I guess so, yeah. Not so much in the later half, though."

She nodded and handed him the glass, which he took without preamble. He held it in his hand for a second and stared at it, as if it held some kind of answer, before he took a sip and cleared his throat, "Anyway, I'm sorry. I left this morning and I didn't tell you were I was going or even a goodbye, really. I mean, I said goodbye, but I'm pretty sure you were sleeping because you didn't say anything back and—"

She waved a hand to dismiss him, "It is not a big deal. I am not your mother; it is not my duty to know where it is you are at all moments of the day."

"I was with Abby and McGee," he blurted, like a little boy no longer able to keep a secret from an authority figure, "It's kind of a big day for us, you know? And I didn't know how to big it up to you, or even tell you about it, because it doesn't really even involve you and let's not get started on the fact that for all intents and purposes you might not even know what today is to us and—"

This time, she pressed a finger to his lips, in an effort to stop the uninterrupted flow of words that seemed to be falling from his mouth without a filter, "What are you talking about? How is there something that has happened to the team that has not also happened to me?"

Tony sighed audibly, "Kate died," he mumbled from behind her finger, "a year ago today."

Instantly Ziva's finger pulled back, as she took a moment to be surprised. Had it really been a year ago? Quickly she shifted her emotions to empathetic and sad. That meant that soon it would be the anniversary of the day she shot Ari. She didn't want to think about that. "I am very sorry for your loss, Tony," she said, quietly.

"I didn't know how to bring it up without offending you," he said, "Well, not that the anniversary would offend you… just that it might offend you that we would mourn a former team member," his wording not saying what she already knew: the woman she replaced. "Or that we wouldn't want you there with us."

That got her attention, "You would not want me with you?"

He leaned up against her counter, putting the glass down behind him. He seemed to be thinking of what to say to her next, and she allowed herself the time to really take him in. He looked haggard and tired, like he'd been fighting something all day long and the only reason he would stop would be if he just simply ran out of the energy to continue. She tried her best to school her features, to not let him see that she was upset.

"It's not that," he finally said, "it's more like… I don't know how to explain it, Zi. We're happy you're here, we're really happy you're here… it's just that sometimes it's hard to know that you're here because she isn't. Sometimes it's like there has to be an equal level of happiness for you and sadness for her… that it's just impossible to allow yourself to have one surpass the other."

She nodded. He tightened his grip on her countertop, shaking his head, "So when I say we didn't want you there, I mean it's easier for us to feel bad about losing her without having to feel like we're hurting you. Does that make sense?"

"No," she replied honestly. It was normal for one to feel the loss of a partner, and it was really no reflection on her as a person, "But I understand that you are feeling a sense of conflict. I cannot be bothered by that."

Tony bit into his lower lip. That wasn't even the worst part. The part that tore him up more than it could ever home to tear up Abby or even McGee, was that the two women, who were in some ways so similar, could not be more different to him. He had loved Kate in a sisterly way, in both the sense that pissing her off was one of his favorite things to do and that when she'd died he had almost split in half. But Ziva… the similar banter and agitation was alive and well in that relationship, but there was something else. It was a different kind of affection. He didn't actually have a sister, but he was pretty sure it was both illegal and immoral to think about and do the things he'd done with his current partner.

They stood in silence for a few moments, before she stepped closer to him, "What can I do?" she asked, "I'm not very good at… how can I help you, Tony?"

He grabbed her hand and pulled her in to him, not even cushioning it when he pulled her straight to his lips. He kissed her in a casual way that they had gotten eerily used to, and hugged her close, "Just be here," he said, burying his face in her hair, "always be here."

* * * * * * * * * *

The second year, she knows he's running on empty.

But this year, she knew it was coming. With Gibbs back in charge of the team, there is no substantive day of mourning in remembrance of Caitlin Todd. Her boss was not the kind of man who would take a day off from saving the innocent because of weak emotions such as depression. She would normally agree. But that day, she noticed the older man walking a little slower. His shoulders are a little slumped forward, and his usual swagger is just a little bit off. She was instantly reminded of the day she met her teammates, and the way that Gibbs had been so incensed with finding the man who had taken their teammate's life. She could only hope to be worthy of such importance within their hearts.

Looking around the bullpen, she could tell that even though nobody had actually said anything, they were all thinking about it. When Tony took a dig at McGee, their partner was slow to respond. Ducky's stories were not so long that day. Abby was happy, and bouncy, but there was a spark in her that was just slightly faded. And Tony… well, he'd seen better days already, so for the most part, he was just quiet.

The fact that no one really bothered to acknowledge it took her back to the year before. How in her kitchen, Tony had confessed their convoluted need to not offend her in the remorse for a fallen friend. Her instincts told her that today would not be a good day to bring up how ridiculous that was, but she put it in the recess of her mind to bring forth to one of them at a later time.

She waited a whole hour after they finished the work day before she showed up on his doorstep, bottle of wine in hand. He stood at the door after he opened it, his hair sticking up in all directions, like he'd been running his hands through it rather often. His eyes where red-rimmed, and his sweat suit-covered body was slouched, in a way that told her that he was both physically and emotionally exhausted.

She held up the bottle like an offering, "I remember what today is."

Without words, he took the bottle from her, eyeing it like an old, thirsty man, before turning and walking into the apartment, motioning for her to join him. She did, quietly shutting the door behind her, and following him to the kitchen, where he'd already opened the bottle and pulled out some glasses.

After he'd filled one for each of them, she followed him back into the living room, where he had what looked suspiciously like a chick flick paused on his DVD player. They sat down next to each other on his couch in silence, her carefully sipping her drink, him staring straight ahead. He was wary and tired, she knew. Perhaps a little depressed. The heartbreak of his botched undercover mission with the pretty Jeanne Benoit and the disappointing aftermath had had him out of sorts for a while already; today was not going to make it much better.

"Tell me about her," she finally said.

"Who?" he asked, several possible women coming to mind.

"Special Agent Caitlin Todd," Ziva replied, putting her glass on the coffee table. He gave her a sharp look, as if offended. "No one has ever told me anything about her," she clarified, "only that she was a good friend and apparently worthy enough to warrant Abby expressing open distain toward me for months."

Tony went back to staring at the wall, "Don't take that personally. She likes you now."

Ziva gently pulled the glass from his grip and put it on the table next to hers, using her chilled fingers to force him to face her, "I would like to know, Tony."

He sighed and sat back, tugging on her shoulder to bring her back with him, sliding an arm around her shoulder, "She was bossy. And she absolutely always had to be right. Very into health food—that woman could never understand the value of a good burger. She loved to bicker with me," he took on a look of fierce concentration, "You and her would have really gotten along… and suddenly I'm thinking it would have been entirely at my expense. Now, I'm disgustingly glad you two never got to bond in any way."

Ziva smacked him in the gut, "Seriously, Tony. Tell me about her good qualities."

There was a paused before he said, "Those were her good qualities."

She glanced at him, and he had a small smile on his face, "For real though," he digressed, "She was a great person. Very caring. Very loyal. She helped to force me to be a better person."

"You miss her," she said. It wasn't a question.

"Every day," he responded.

"I am sorry that you have had such a rugged go of it lately."

To that he grinned again, "I think you mean rough go if it… and yeah, I know."

There was a beat between them, "What were you watching?"

He pulled her in tighter to his side, "Hope Floats."

* * * * * * * * * *

The third year, she was only slightly less upset than he was.

Gibbs had left early without an explanation, and no one blamed him. He'd had a horrible week. First, his second shot at the love of his life had died. Then, he'd had to protect her memory by destroying almost any remnant of her in this world. Finally, just after returning from her funeral, the day they put Jenny Shepard in the ground, their new Director took it upon himself to simply take his team away. Like a parent taking away a child's favorite toy. Except they weren't toys and what Vance seemed to not notice was that they—his team—were all Gibbs really had left in the world.

They each sat at their desks, one box per person. It was ironic, she would later reflect, that they were all wearing black… because in many ways, what they had was metaphorically dead afterwards, never to really be the same ever again.

Abby stood by the windows, crying as she watched her friends pack up their personal effects. McGee took a moment to get up and hug her in an attempt to calm her down, but it only seemed to make it worse. Tony didn't look up as he tossed his Mighty Mouse stapler into a box, and then opened a drawer and just began pulling things out and dumping them. It was hard to explain, but there was an edge to him that was not usually there. Ziva took the time to delicately place her items in her box, stealing papers out of the recycling bin to cushion the items she thought might be breakable. Secretly, she hoped it wasn't obvious that it was because she would be shipping it, as is, back to Tel Aviv.

McGee had managed to drag Abby back to his desk with him by the time Tony carelessly ran his arm across his desk, pushing all he could into his box, and placed the lid on top. "Well," he said, putting his suit jacket back on, "It's been nice knowing you, guys."

Abby's face, if it were possible, dropped, "Don't say it like that, Tony," she said, "Don't say it like we'll never see you again."

Tony laughed mirthlessly, "You'll probably never work with me again! I have to go spend half a year on the high seas and when I get back I'll likely be put on a different team, possibly even in a different state, maybe a different country. So yeah, I'm going to say it like I'll never see you again because it's a completely real possibility."

Ziva stood, "Tony," she said, softly, as she watched Abby dissolve into tears once again, "Stop it."

"Why, Ziva?" he asked, his expressing becoming slightly more manic and distraught, "Are you going to hug her and say, 'See you soon?' Because if my ears weren't deceiving me back there you're going back to the promised land to go back to your super ninja-spy-assassin gig! This time next year you won't even remember us at all!"

"That is not true," she said, his expression skeptical, "That is not true," she repeated, looking over to McGee and Abby, who was now curled up at his side, "That is not possible."

She felt a sense of relief as Abby nodded slowly, knowing that she'd gotten her point across to at least that side of the room. Her heart sank, however, when she looked across the bullpen to see Tony, eyes dark, with an angry, frustrated expression marring his face, "That's your job, Ziva," he said, arms hanging limply by his sides, "You'll go home, take on a mission, go to some foreign land and become someone else. It's who you are."

He's angry, she had to remind herself, as she walked around her desk, and stalked over to him. When it came to Tony, she often found that invading his personal space was the most effective way of getting her point across, "Not anymore," she said, standing right up in his face, "Not anymore, Tony."

As soon as he moved, she knew exactly what he was going to do. He grabbed a hold of her upper arms with a strength she hadn't previously known he'd had, and carefully moved her out of his way. She stood by in a state of semi-shock as he picked up his box, and turned right back in her face, "Goodbye, Ziva," he growled, "It was nice knowing you."

She said nothing, simply hung her head as he brushed past her, apparently taking her inability to look him in the eye as validity to his argument. He didn't joke as he went. He didn't laugh. He didn't even bother saying anything. He just walked to the elevator, pushed the button, got on, and left.

When Ziva looked up, she saw McGee and Abby staring at her. Abby took a moment to brush one delicate tear from her eye, "Ziva," she said, pausing to blow her nose, "Why didn't you kick his ass?"

Ziva smiled, "Tony is having a hard time."

"But," McGee interjected, apprehensively as though he were sure that if pushed she would snap and shoot up the place, "You're just going to let him go? Like that? Just snap on you and then you leave, possibly to never see each other again?"

She managed to bark a laugh as she returned to her desk, plucking up the last few items that rest there and placing them in her box, "Do not worry, McGee," she said, digging the lid to the box out from underneath her desk and placing it on top, "You may write our story in your books however you wish."

Abby made a noise that sounded something like a laugh she was trying to cover up as a sniffle, and McGee flushed. Ziva, for her part, picked her box up and moved out of her cubicle, "Do not worry. I promise I will see you again," she said, reassuring smile firmly in place, "You will forget about me long before I forget about you." She turned to leave, before she stopped and twisted around again, "I will see Tony again, too. You can be sure about that."

She smiled and left, her now former coworkers watching her leave.

She would see Tony again, that very night. After she spent time boxing up things, a process she always managed to complete quickly as a result of her nomadic way of life. She'd moved so many times, to and fro, back and forth, that she didn't need to take the time to dwell on where things should go or how many boxes she would need. She had the number memorized and saved boxes in her storage locker in her building. She would be ready to go back to Israel in a matter of days… her things would be boxed up and sent by Saturday. She'd already contacted Mossad, who had in turn gotten in contact with her landlord in order to break her lease.

She turned up on his doorstep just after ten. Most nights, she might have been concerned that he would have company, but not tonight. She knew exactly what he would be doing: sitting in his living room, watching a movie, probably drunk, pitying himself.

He opened the door after her knock, just far enough that he could stick his head through, resting his head against the frame on one side and against a bottle of scotch on the other. He looked kind of like he was using the door to hold himself up. She didn't say anything at first, just tilted her head to the side, and he sighed, "We have to stop meeting like this."

The corners of her mouth tilted up slightly, "Are you going to let me in?"

"That all depends," he slurred, "am I going to need to protect my boys?"

Now she did smile, "I understand, Tony," she said, carefully pushing him back so she could enter his apartment, "I am not going to hurt you," she paused for a beat, "yet."

He closed the door behind her, dragging himself along as she helped herself into his kitchen. She opened the drawer next to his sink, pulling out several take-out menus, shifting through them with purpose. He gave her a concerned look as she pulled out the one for what she knew was his favorite pizza place, and she flipped open her phone, punching in numbers, "You are about to go to sea, Tony," she answered to his expression, "You need to ingest something other than booze before you go."

He looked down at the bottle in his hand, that he had, in all honesty, forgotten he was holding, "Oh," he mumbled.

"Go sit down in the living room," she instructed, "I will be right out." He nodded his head, turning and walking out of the kitchen, carrying along his bottle of scotch in much the same way a toddler would carry a teddy bear, mumbling as he went. She smiled as he went, awaiting the response of the woman on the other end of the line, so she could order them a pizza—half cheese, half pepperoni.

When she joined him in the living room, complete with reassurance from the pizza delivery place that their food would be there in about an hour, he was sunken into the couch, cradling the bottle of alcohol to his chest like a child. Ziva walked closer and sat down next to him, slowly tugging the bottle away from him. He resisted at first, before he closed his eyes and sighed, releasing the bottle into her grip. She put the bottle down on the coffee table, and waited.

They sat in silence for a little while, before he sighed, "I'm sorry I snapped at you, today."

"It is fine," she responded, "You were upset. You are being forced to leave your home for months; it is understandable that you would be angry."

"That doesn't make it okay," he murmured.

"I will not hold it against you."

He looked away from her, "Do you think about it?" he asked, "Do you think about what happened?"

She knew instantly that he meant, 'Do you blame me?' She sighed, and placed a hand on his thigh, "Do not blame yourself, Tony. There is nothing more we could have done," she said, "She knew what she was doing. Had we been there, we might have been killed as well."

Tony snorted a bitter laugh, "That would be poetic justice."

"What are you talking about?"

He grinned an unpleasant grin, crossing his arms over his chest, "I am toxic to women," he said, "fatal, even."

"That is not true," she said, turning her body more fully toward him, resting her arm on the back of the couch, "You are not fatal to women. I am a woman, and I am fine."

"For now," he said, twiddling his thumbs in his lap and looking to the clock as if to see if the pizza man would be there, soon. "Kate died, Paula died, I failed Jeanne miserably, and now Jenny is dead. Everything with ovaries that I dare even come close to caring about ends up in the morgue or on a plane to Africa."

"I am still here."

"I'm sorry," he amended, "Ends up on a plane to Africa or Israel."

"Listen to me," she said, pulling one of his hands into hers, "you have never failed me. Yes, Jeanne got hurt. Jenny and Paula both jumped into situations to save people they cared about… to protect and avenge them." She ran a thumb across his knuckles softly, giving him a sad smile, "It was I who should have saved Caitlin," she breathed, "I should have stopped Ari."

His eyes took on a faraway look, "It's three years today."

"I know," she replied.

They sat in silence for a moment, before she added, "I will miss you, when I am gone."

He used the hand he was holding to pull her in close to his side, as he kissed the top of her head. "I'll miss you, too."

* * * * * * * * * *

The fourth year, she was not with him.

Instead, she was lying on the floor of a dirty cell, in the same clothes she'd been wearing for months. She was left to reflect on her life, one the people she'd let in, and perhaps most importantly, her time at NCIS. She wasn't sure how she knew what day it was, or how it was that day, but that night, when she was left alone, she just melted down.

She'd never been religious. Sure, she knew all the rules of being Jewish, she even admired people who held the ability to have faith in an entity they could not touch. But she'd never prayed before. She had not once in her memory taken the time out and sent a message to God or any angel. That day, she needed to.

She'd spend the time between and during occurrences of torture and rape to think about all that she'd left behind her. She thought about how she had betrayed her friends. How she had placed all of her faith in Michael instead of Tony, and the crushing blow that must have given him, to basically declare him right about being a failure to every woman he allowed close. She wondered if he would take that in stride, or if it would finally be the one thing that broke him. How stupid she had been, to not give him her faith.

"I am ready to die," she whispered to the straw she lay upon, "Please, please just let me die."

She thought about what that would mean. She wondered if her former teammates would mourn her when they found out she was dead, the way they would undoubtedly mourn Caitlin today. There was a part of her that was hollow in her chest, and that part of her undoubtedly hoped that they wouldn't.

There were times in the dark of that cell, when she would feel the dead in her life around her. Sometimes, she would see Tali and Ari together, standing before her and laughing together, almost welcoming her to the other side. Other times, she would sense Michael there, the stink of evil and deception radiating off of his being, and she hoped he was rotting in hell. She hoped, in that hollow part of her chest, that her father would join him. Occasionally, it would be Jenny, or her Mother, with her in a friendly and maternal sense, telling her she would be okay. She never believed them. But that night, that cold, dark night, she could almost see someone else.

She'd never known her, personally, but she had seen her picture from time to time before someone would tuck it away. Ziva had needed to lean back to see her fully, a beautiful, ghostly figure in white jeans and a black NCIS jacket. "Hello, Ziva," she said, stepping ahead, and sitting on the straw-covered ground before her, "Do you know who I am?"

"Kate," Ziva breathed, her eyes filling with tears, "You are Caitlin Todd."

The ghostly figure smiled, "Yes, I am."

Of all the things she had decided she did not deserve while she was trapped here, waiting for it all to be over, this had to be the worst. She sobbed lightly, obviously deciding that Kate was safe to cry in front of, "Why are you here?"

"I am…" Kate paused, "returning a favor." She grinned at the end of the statement, proud of herself like a child who had just donated a toy to charity.

Ziva was confused, "To whom?"

"To you, of course."

Ziva slowly began to sit up, Kate did not move, just sat there, her hands on her knees as she watched the ailing woman sit up, just to stare at her for a few moments, "What do you mean? To what do you owe me?"

"Technically, I'm here to make sure you don't die," she chirped happily, "And I owe you because… well, because you saved them."

"I do not understand."

"You saved them, Ziva," Kate clarified, "you saved Gibbs from destroying himself. That man only has so much heartbreak left in him before he just never functions in an even remotely human way. Abby needs a girl there… someone she relates to on a distinctly feminine level. In a weird way, McGee feels better about how you and Tony bicker and Tony—" she sighed, "what you have done for Tony, there are no words for."

"I have done nothing for them," Ziva whispered, "I have betrayed them."

Kate shrugged as though this were nothing, "They want you to come back to them. They need you to come back. Gibbs is in denial. Abby and McGee are simply huddled together. And Ziva," she said, scooting forward, "Tony won't survive if you die."

This just made her cry again, wiping her eyes, "I don't know if I can. I want… I just want to die."

"You can survive, Ziva," Kate said, softly, like a mother, "you will survive. I was asked to come and protect you, and that's what I'm good at. I used to work for the Secret Service, you know." Again, she smiled victoriously.


Kate looked confused, "What do you mean, 'Who?'"

"Who asked you to come protect me?" Ziva clarified.

"Tony," Kate said, "Today is the anniversary of my death. Every year, he goes a little someplace all by himself. One year it was his car, one year it was his apartment, once he even hid in a closet at NCIS… every year he prays to me, and says he hopes that I'm happy in heaven and that my Secret Service skills are thriving as a guardian angel," she paused, as if giving the other woman time to accept that Tony, an essentially non-religious man, issued a prayer on at least an annual basis, "This year, he walked into his apartment, and he cried," her grin turned remorseful and sad, "so he said a prayer. He said that he hopes I'm happy in heaven and that my Secret Service skills are thriving as a guardian angel… but this time he added that if I had the time, he would appreciate it if I could watch over you, and bring you back safe."

"So here you are," Ziva mumbled.

"So here I am," Kate agreed.

Ziva curled back up on the floor in a ball, allowing herself to cry again. Kate sat on, watching over her, not saying a word. All her life, she had believed in mythical things like ghosts and soul mates. That day, she started to believe in angels, too.

* * * * * * * * *

On the fifth year, she was with him, forever and ever.

She ran down the hallway in his building, dressed to the nines in a black dress, her hair down and make up all over her face. In preparation for a night out, she'd been stopped by Gibbs, who told her the depths of Tony's heart. The blob of a man he had been when he'd believed her to be dead, and the reality that he had been completely invested in simply seeking revenge on Saleem for taking her, and had been willing to die to make sure he was dead, too.

She skidded to a halt before his door, pounding on it with all of her strength. She could feel a tightness beginning in her chest as she waited for him to answer her knock, "I know you are there, Tony! I know it!"

She waited as she heard movement on the other side of the door, and within moments he opened it. "I know what today is," she breathed. She grabbed a hold of the doorframe, wanting to touch him but knowing now wasn't the time, "I know what today is," she repeated.

"What is today, Zee-vah?" he asked, his eyes downcast and his posture sagging.

"Six years ago, it was the day that Caitlin Todd died, right in front of you. My brother, Ari, put a sniper bullet in her head and her blood went everywhere… all over you, all over Gibbs," she said, moving forward, effortlessly causing him to step back and allow her into his apartment a little more, "You were never the same."

"Don't, Zi," he breathed, still slowly moving away from her, "don't talk about it, please…"

"Five years ago today, you disappeared for a whole day," she continued, taking a step, "you spent it with McGee and Abby, and you mourned your friend."

Tony just shook his head, continuing to retreat from her. Every so often he would let her get close enough that she could almost touch him, but just as quickly he would step away, as if any physical contact with her would cause him to break. She shut the door behind her, and turned back to him, "Four years ago, you were heartbroken. For the first time, you fell in love with a woman, and it did not end well. And I know that Kate was proud of you, Tony, because I was proud of you. Even though it ripped your heart out of your chest, you still learned how to love someone else. That is an amazing accomplishment."

"Not the first time," he whispered, wrapping his arms around himself. "Not the first time," he repeated.

She pretended she didn't hear him, moving even closer into his personal space, as he hit the wall and ran out of places to hide, "Three years ago, you lost another friend. You took that so… personally. But she was going to die, whether we had been there or not. I was right, but that does not make it your fault."

His expression turned hopeless as she came up to him, almost pressing herself against him, "Last year… last year, I was in a dark place," she smiled sadly, "but I was not alone. You were looking for me, Tony. You and McGee and Abby were like my saviors, but it was you who sent an angel to save me. It was all you, you saved me."

He shook his head, and she grabbed onto the sides of his face to hold him steady as his breath turned short, and ragged, "And this year I am standing here to tell you that you are a good man, Tony. One of the few I have ever been able to believe in," now she did press herself up against him, "I am so ashamed that I never saw it before. But you are such a good man."

He wordlessly wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her in tight to himself, in a grip that if it were anyone but Ziva, it may have hurt. She let go of his face and curled her arms around his neck, holding him just as tightly back. "You saved me," she whispered into his ear, as though it were a fact that he could easily forget, "now let me save you."

He pulled back from her, looking her in the eye and thoughtlessly brushing a chunk of her hair that had fallen free out of her face. He smiled a little bit weakly for her, a sign of not only how worn out he was, but also the simple trickle of relief that had begun to overcome him, as his grip on her loosened a little, "I have your back, Ziva," he said, his voice gruff and low.

She smiled back, "And I have yours," she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, close to where she'd kissed him less than a year before in the men's room at work. She felt him relax a little more, so she rested her chin on his shoulder before she added, "forever."

He turned his face to her, and she pulled back again to look at him. He looked quizzical for a beat, before his eyes dropped to her lips, and she knew what was going to happen even before it did. Suddenly, his grip on her became tight again, and he pushed his mouth down on hers, gentle, but certainly not soft.

She smiled against his lips, parting them slightly to allow him access. He angled himself back a little, allowing her to pop up and wrap her legs around his waist and he maneuvered them both away from the wall. He parted from her, taking a breath as he started going towards the back of his apartment, carrying her along, "Forever?" he asked.

"Forever," she said, her thumb running across his cheek, "I promise you, Tony."

He laughed a little deep in his throat, as he turned the corner to the hallway that lead to his bedroom, "I think I can handle that."

They laughed together, and for a moment… just a moment, it was almost like they could hear Kate laughing, too.


I'm not going to lie, sometimes I find it hard to see them declaring their undying love for each other… this way, they do, but not really. :)