A/N: Hey everyone.

I know it's the holidays and few are in the mood for an angsty story, but I had to get this idea out. It's sad, but I think, if I do say so myself, it is kind of beautiful.

No worries, this isn't what I expect to ever see on the show. But if for some reason, they absolutely had to kill Ziva off the show, this is how she should go out. If she absolutely had to.

So, anyway, I can't say "enjoy", but I hope you do find this piece to be appropriately terrible and somehow beautiful in its own way. The end, though sad, is kind of, well, I don't know.

So, here you go.

It had happened so quickly. The warehouse was so quiet, the lot so empty. He should have known, he should have seen it coming. She only opened the door. He was covering her, his gun aimed properly. He was on her six. But then, it came. The warehouse exploded into flames. They were thrown back several yards, and though he landed on soft grass not far from the loading dock by the river, Ziva fell upon the asphalt just as the rain began to fall, softly and slowly.

It only took him a moment to realize that she wasn't beside him. He got up, dizzy for a mere second before he saw her. He turned to see their suspect from earlier that day, a wicked expression on his face. Without thinking, Tony grabbed his gun which had fallen only feet from him, almost in an act of fate, and shot the man until he fell to the ground. He glanced back at Ziva before realizing she still hadn't gotten up, hadn't moved, even at the sound of gunshots.

"Ziva!" he cried, running to her.

She lay on the ground, her curls spread about. Her face was dirty, a cut on her forehead bleeding, joining the growing pool of blood beneath her. She had been in front of him. She took all of the shrapnel. She saved his life.

He knelt down beside her and cradled her head in his hands, terror in his eyes. "Ziva,"

She lifted her hand to his face, touching it gently. "Tony," she whispered, her eyes calm and accepting. "I am so sorry,"

"No, no there's nothing to be sorry about. It's a sign of weakness. You're gonna be fine, we're gonna get you out of here," he assured her, his own hand caressing her cheek.

"None of this is your fault," she told him, ignoring him. "Do you understand, Tony? This is not your fault,"

"But it is. I should have--"

"There is nothing that you could have done," she took in a breath. "Don't be afraid," she told him quietly.

"Afraid? I'm not afraid of anything but you dying. You won't, you can't,"

"You are afraid. Don't argue with me, Tony. I'm dying. You can't lie to a dying woman," she held his face in her own as she looked up at him. "Don't be afraid to live. I spent all of my life not living, not feeling. Not loving," a tear slipped down her cheek, cleaning a thin streak from the soot. "Until I met you," she brushed away a spot of dust from his face. "Don't be afraid. We both knew," Ziva shivered. "We both knew this day would come. It was always a risk we took,"

Tony shook his head. "It's not supposed to happen like this," he insisted.

"How is death supposed to happen, Tony? I would rather die with honor, serving my country,"


"No," she moved her hand to the back of his head, touching his hair gently. "Our country, Tony. Ours,"

He felt proud, but other things concerned him. "But not like this. Not, not murdered,"

Ziva laughed quietly despite the pain and lessening strength. "I am not dead yet, Tony. It is okay. I would rather die here, with you, than in a terrorist training camp in Somalia,"

"Ziva," he tried.

"You thought I was dead, but you believed in me anyway," she smiled a little. "I do not think I ever thanked you,"

"You didn't need to, Ziva," he assured her.

Ziva closed her eyes tightly, just for a moment. "It won't be long," she whispered.

"No, Ziva, don't leave, don't leave me," he pleaded, though trying to be strong, not caring any longer about holding back emotion.

"I will never leave you, Tony," she promised. "I am always here with you,"

"It's not supposed to end like this, Ziva,"

"Everything has an end, Tony. It is inevitable," she shrugged, the movement hardly noticeable as she remembered her words from years ago.

"You told me nothing was inevitable," he said, smiling through his tears.

"I have learned so much since then," she said quietly. "Some things are inevitable, Tony. Some things cannot be helped, cannot be changed. So many things," Tony smiled at her, his fingers nestled through her hair. "Like falling in love with you,"


"I should have told you long ago, Tony. I am sorry I did not,"

"I love you too, Sweetcheeks," he laughed quietly. "If there's anyone to blame for that, it's me. You were always there, and I didn't see it. I was an idiot, Ziva. Every time you called me that, I always knew you were right. But…"

"You were afraid, Tony," she shook her head. "I would have waited for you, every day until you weren't,"

"We'll still have our chance," he assured her, though inside he was terrified they wouldn't.

"No, Tony, we won't," Ziva said.

"Are you scared?" he asked her after a moment.

"No," she said quietly. "But I wish I could stay here, with you," she bit her lip for a moment. "I want to be here, with you,"

Tony smiled sadly. "I guess it's like you said—you always will be," he didn't wipe at the tear streaming down his face. "Whether I like it or not, you'll always be here, Sweetcheeks. I'll think of you whenever I go running, or when I hear a piano play. I'll think of you whenever I'm in a fight, because your ninja skills were always better than mine," Ziva laughed with him quietly, but Tony could tell she was slipping. He leaned down further and kissed her gently, so gently, like the brush of a freed bird's wings. It lasted several moments as they held in their hands the one moment they had waited their entire lives for. "I'm pretty sure I won't be able to ever get you out of my mind," he said after they pulled apart, his forehead still touching hers.

"Tony DiNozzo, you will. You will. You will move on and you will be happy and you will live. You won't be afraid to love, do you understand me?" she commanded him with more strength than she had left.


"Promise me, Tony," she told him, eyes so teary now.

"I promise," his words were much more than that. They were a vow, one that was as faithful as the sunrise over the city and the ocean and the Israeli desert and American plains.

Ziva's eyes began to close softly, and Tony didn't notice the vast amounts of blood on him, on the ground beneath him. "I love you," she whispered.

"I love you, Crazy Ninja Chick," he replied, oh so softly.

And then, she was gone. He pulled her closer to him as he held her tightly, her body still in his arms. And he cried, and he was unafraid. He knew no joke, no movie reference, no piece of witty banter could disguise the grief that encompassed him.

The rain fell hard around them, its drops washing away the blood and the soot and the tears and the dust.

It slowly extinguished the fire behind them, carrying the smoke with it.

The rain fell like stars, glistening in her hair as a crown.

A soft rush of wind fell upon him, lasting only a moment in time.

I am always here with you.

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