Title: Cross Your Heart

Summary: You always knew it would end this way.

Reflection between seasons 6 and 7. Because Ziva deserves some cheesy second-person angst too. This is the companion to Practice Imperfect. (It's so late! I'm sorry!)

Warnings: Unabashed angst. Second-person voice. (Other voices too.)

Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just play. No infringement intended.

If you're going to be honest with yourself, you always knew things would end this way.

Maybe you've entertained some variations as to the final faces you would see, or the last voices you heard. Certainly you never expected the questioning to concern an obscure American law enforcement agency rather than Mossad.

But yes, these are the parts of it: a chair in an empty room, a man's large hand groping at your neck for a sharp-pointed little star, one side of your face tight and throbbing, all bridges burned behind you and no chance of rescue—

It is as you expected.

None of Eli David's children were ever going to live long enough to give him grandchildren. Just because you were 'the last one standing,' as Tony might crassly put it, didn't make you more likely to beat the odds.

You wonder what Tony will say when he hears about all this. It's more than likely that he'll blame himself. Tony wears his frat boy persona on his sleeve, but you've glimpsed the martyr streak he plays close to the chest.

You hope he does blame himself, because you're still angry with him. You are. Anger has kept you warm at nights when you feel the loss of Michael's warmth. Anger made you buoyant in ocean. Anger is the oil that keeps you on track and smoothly heading toward an end you saw coming from far away.

And it is always easier to leave behind people you're still angry with.

You haven't been paying attention to the man with his hand on your throat, so he leans in uncomfortably close, an old trick, and a particularly unwelcome one given his odor. He's demanding attention, acknowledgement, a show of fear, all things you don't feel particular inclined to grant at the moment. He tugs on your hair when you're gaze slides past him, but even then you only glance back for a moment, your eyes heavy-lidded with bruising and boredom.

Really, with an ending this predictable you can't be expected to pay close attention.

Tony would back you up on this point. He, after all, likes to put his feet up while completing final paperwork and critique the plot of a just-closed case. It would have played a lot better if the babysitter had done it, he'll note regretfully. Or, money as a motivation is so hackneyed.

The man with a handful of your hair keeps talking, on and on, so you cue up Tony's director commentary to block him out.

I like this selfless sacrifice arc you have going here, Ziva, his voice muses in your head. But a shipwreck, well, that's kinda deus ex machina, don'tcha think?

Your interrogator leans close again, and something cuts through the rank smell. His breath smells sharply sweet and familiar, and his jabbering lips are brightly pink on the inside, in a way that makes you think of Gibbs after Abby's pecked his cheek.

Well there's a plot twist Tony would approve of. Your captor drinks Caf-Pow, and his breath smells like Abby's caffeinated kisses.

Your heart hurts for a moment when you think of Abby. Abby who named a mop for you, the last time you disappeared. Abby who snuck you candy from her stash to brighten a long day. Abby who taught you about secret handshakes and pinky swears and why crossing your heart and hoping to die wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

But Abby didn't take to you at first. She had already had her dark-haired agent friend, highly trained but with no applicable skills for investigation. Just because you fit Kate's description didn't mean you could fill her flowered scrub cap.

You hope that Abby harbored some lingering uncertainties about you, a smidge of resentment, a shadow of doubt, anything that will make her miss you less.

It is always easier to leave behind those you're angry with.

The man in front of you is edging toward incensed. You think back to your briefing and try to recall his name. Saleem.

Saleem slams his hand across your mouth so your lip opens again. It's not much more than a love tap, but it's enough to wipe out the smell of sweet caffeine and the memories it brings, replace it instead with the tang blood and the reality of your situation.

The questions start up again, but you still can't be bothered to listen. Not until he comes up with some original material.

Tony would back you up on this.

Saleem adds the percussive punctuation of his fists to the questioning, but that's hardly original either.

Just don't keep this up too long, Tony advises, and his voice is cheerfully jarring, because that's how you remember it best. Suspense is good and all, but no one likes an ending that drags.

You don't have the heart to tell an auditory hallucination that there is no suspense, at least not on your end.

You always knew how this ending would play out.

* * *

Days later, weeks later, you're forced to reconsider.

It's a different room, a different chair, and different injuries. Same face though, and same voice, even if the two don't necessarily match.

I think we got a decent villain this time around, Tony says approvingly, as Saleem sits across from you and abuses your nerves with another of his mouthy tirades. This guy knows his way around a monologue.

That might be true, but sometimes you think Saleem just likes to practice his English. He doesn't seem to mind at all that you rarely respond.

At least someone's giving the scene their all, Tony grumbles, when you don't answer either Saleem or him. I've told you again and again Gibbs. You gotta give the other person something to work with if you want the dialogue to really zing.

It's a remembered conversation, and not one of your creation, something he said while standing in observation, watching through the window as your boss stared down a babbling suspect.

You ran out of things for Tony to say to you weeks ago.

"Ziva," Saleem purrs in your ear. "Your little games weary me."

Points off for speaking in clichés, Tony says, and in your mind's eye he drags a finger down an invisible tally mark on the glass.

You wonder if he still watches and comments at the window, now that you're no longer there to stand next to him. Does he miss having an audience?

Does he miss you?

Saleem hits you and your memory of a small dim room is suddenly lit by stars flashing in front of your eyes.

Tony repeats his familiar warning, but his voice is thinner, and far away. No one likes an ending that drags.

Well at least there's something unexpected, you think, as your ears ring and your mouth bleeds and you hope to die in all the ways that Abby never taught you.

You thought, when the end came, it would be quick.

((As you can see I'm basically incapable of writing Tony without the cinema-trope. Again, I apologize for the lateness of this follow-up, especially after I assured several kind reviewers it would be up posthaste. Speaking of Tony and timeliness, I wrote a little follow-up to Practice Imperfect that I'll post as a second chapter to that story fairly soon, but my updating will be more sporadic now. Thanks for reading!))