Hi all, sorry for the delay here! It's been a busy week and I've been a little burnt out on this story. Anyway, hope you like it – I'm really excited about the next chapter!
And, as I've started to do, anyone who replies (with some kind of feedback good or bad) gets a 24 hour advance on a large portion of the next chapter. I know I still owe a lot of you the advance on my newest short Love is…..I'm still working on it and hope to send out this weekend.
Previously…wanting to spend more time with Ziva, Tony shows up at her place with dinner. She's clearly been taking care of herself and doing much better. But to his surprise, he finds that Ziva is dazed, confused and throwing up, which he soon learns is from a likely concussion. Not surprisingly, Ziva refuses to go to the hospital, so Tony insists on staying with her. The two play board games and have a touching heart to heart, both sleeping in the same bed.
This chapter is set the next morning.
The three looked up as Gibbs entered the bullpen. "Ziva, DiNozo, go check out the last two marine support groups."
Ziva's heart leapt in her chest as she nearly choked on the last of her toast with peanut butter. It had worked.
As Ziva and Tony picked up their gear, grabbing their guns from top drawers, they suddenly stopped. Gibbs was holding up one finger – a silent command that they obeyed with the ease of a trained and well-schooled animal – as he answered his ringing phone.
"Change of plans," he barked, closing the flip device. "Victim number eight. McGee, DiNozo, you're with me."
She stopped as she read the look on her face. Do I really need to remind you what happened at the last crime scene, Ziva?
No, she did not need a reminder. And she did not need to give Tony and McGee another reason to think about it, either.
She leaned against her desk, arms crossed, indignant, watching the three men walk out. Tony gave her a solemn, 'I'm sorry' look and she raised her eyebrows.
Do not pity me.
Once the three men were gone, she sank into her desk chair, knowing she had a good two hours till Gibbs or McGee would text her information to research – the name of the dead marine from the fingerprint scanner, or the serial number for a weapon left behind, perhaps, if they were lucky.
Ziva sighed. If it weren't for last night, with him, and the fact that there was no shrink appointment this afternoon, she wasn't sure she'd be able to handle sitting her, idle, useless. She smiled a little as she remembered the feel of Tony's hand in hers.
And she let herself sit there for a minute, like a lovestruck teenager, before heading down to the gym for a workout.
Tony wasn't quite sure how he and McGee ended up riding together, but for some reason, he was driving the evidence van with McGee passenger, while Gibbs took the blue sedan to the scene.
The tension in the car was thick, suffocating, and Tony would've rather been in the back of Ducky's truck with the corpse.
McGee broke the silence first. "So Ziva, she's looking good."
"Yep," came Tony's short reply, not quite sure where the junior agent was going with the conversation. Another opportunity to blame Tony, perhaps?
McGee hesitated. "I'm glad, Tony. I was really worried about her."
He glanced at the junior agent. "We all were."
Tony continued to drive in silence, finally throwing the young agent and his trying attempts a bone. "I'm still worried."
McGee wasn't oblivious to the mixed emotions that crossed Tony's face. Guilt. Sorrow. Helplessness.
And all of a sudden he felt like a jerk. Tony clearly feels bad enough. Did I really need to be reminding him every five seconds that if it weren't for him, Ziva probably would have never been in Somalia?
"Tony," McGee started. "Look, I'm really…"
He was cut off as Tony stomped on the breaks, throwing the junior agent forward.
"We're here." Came Tony's curt reply, as he swung open the door and hopped out.
Ziva sighed as she sent the last of her research to McGee – background information on the dead marine. She'd have nothing to do until they came back with more evidence, and considering they were still on their way to the marine's house…Well, it would be quite awhile.
She could catch up on paperwork…..or, go down to see Abby, see if she had any intel on Tony and McGee. Maybe see if they could hatch a plan to get the two agents talking.
She smiled as the idea – a mission with purpose – entered her mind, lightly jumping up from her desk and trotting to the elevator bay.
"Abby," She said, as she entered the brightly lit lab.
"Ziva," Abby lightly scolded. "I just got the crime scene evidence like 15 minutes ago. I'm good, but not that good."
"Relax, Abby." Ziva walked closer to the table, examining the tubes of liquids and laid out clothes on Abby's workspace. "I just came down to…talk."
"Oh." Abby gave Ziva a questioning, yet pleased look. Ziva talk?
The forensic scientist pushed one of the tall, rolling stools toward her teammate.
"Caf-pow?" Abby offered, holding out the large, sweating drink toward Ziva.
Ziva smiled, shook her head, pushing the stool underneath the table. She opted to stand, instead, leaning her elbows on a free piece of the metal table.
"What do you think is going on with Tony and McGee?"
Abby grimaced. "That, Ziva, I don't know."
Ziva thought back to her conversation with Tony last night. Abby read her face.
"Has Tony said anything to you?" She prompted.
Ziva hesitated. He had said what he did in confidence, she knew that, but she also did not want to lie to Abby. "A little, but I can not…you know."
"McGee say anything to you?"
Ziva understood. Same sense of confidence.
Abby frowned, setting down the test tube and eye dropper she had been working with. "Ziva, what is happening to this team? You and Tony and McGee used to be the unstoppable trio lead by the fearless Gibbs, but now you…"
She stopped herself from bringing up everything Ziva had been dealing with lately, hesitating a moment before continuing.
"But now Tony and McGee, they can barely be in the same room." She lowered her voice. "I don't think Gibbs is going to take much more of this."
Ziva stared down at the table. Team Gibbs could be completely done. For good this time.
"We've got to get them talking," Abby continued.
"They have been talking, Abby. Or more like yelling and insulting one another."
"What if we lock them in an interrogation room?" Abby's voice began to rush with excitement. "And don't let them out until they make up and…"
"Abby, they will probably kill each other."
Abby wrinkled her face and turned back to the torn victim's clothes. "Right."
"What if we just sit them down?" Ziva suggested.
Abby looked up from the evidence, her curiosity sparked. "Go on."
Ziva moved her hands as she talked. "We ask them each to explain their feelings. I think they will see that this is largely a case of hurt ego, insecurity and miscommunication."
"Agent David," Abby's voice once again filled with excitement. "I like this plan."
With a big smile, she held out her slick, sweaty caf-pow as a reward offering.
Tony was fuming as he moved about the large living room, sorting through files and drawers and bookcases. He knew McGee was in the same room, likely puttering around as usual, but Tony tried his best not to look.
He didn't know why McGee's attempt at an apology – yes, Tony knew exactly what the agent was trying to do – bothered him, but it did.
Tony wasn't exactly innocent – he had been extra harsh on the junior agent lately, upping the name calling – McMoody, McGoo, McPMS – and making some pretty out of line jokes. But McGee, he was the one who took every chance to blame Tony for Somalia.
He didn't know why McGee had turned on him however many months ago. But he did.
And all of a sudden, McGee was at it again.
"Tony, about earlier, listen, I wanted to say…"
"Save it, McTeardrop." Bit back Tony.
Confusion crossed McGee's face. "Tony, would you let me finish?"
"I don't really want to hear it. Blame me all you want for killing Rivken, driving away Ziva, breaking up the team. Go ahead, do it. But save it for someone who cares, because I'm pretty sick of your pathetic voice."
McGee stood there, clenching his fists. Anger heating his veins. Tony could sometimes be…so stubborn. Unforgiving.
"And you know what? Why don't you take a good hard look at yourself. At least I was trying to help Ziva. At least I cared enough to look into Rivken; I had the smarts to sense that something was wrong."
McGee had enough. His chest heaved and the worry that had lined his gut, his heart these past few months, suddenly snapped.
He rushed at Tony, knocking them both to the ground. "WHY DIDN'T YOU CONFIDE IN ME?"
He threw a punch that Tony blocked. "WHY DIDN'T YOU TRUST ME? I COULD HAVE HELPED, TONY."
The men wrestled, rolled, blocked punches. Each trying to pin the other.
Walking into the living room, Gibbs only had to hear a few words - Rivkin and 'drove her away,' – and see his two agents going at it, to gather what was going on.
"What the hell are you doing," boomed Gibbs, doing little to stop the fight. "HEY!"
"This is a crime scene," He growled, grabbing DiNozo by the shirt and yanking him off McGee.
Back in Abby's Lab
For the past hour, Ziva had kept Abby company as she ran various pieces of evidence – blood samples, tire tracks, bullet fragments – through databases.
The forensic scientist twirled in her seat as she waited for AFIS to find a match to an unknown blood sample. It hadn't matched the victim and Abby was crossing her fingers that it would finally give them a lead on the killer.
She looked over at Ziva. The agent was deep in thought about…well, Abby was pretty sure she knew what her troubled friend was thinking about.
"Hey Ziva," Abby started, causing the other woman to look up. "How are you, you know, doing?" The tone in her voice clearly indicated she was talking about something much deeper than a standard, friendly inquiry.
Ziva's back straightened and stiffened. "I am fine, Abby."
Abby pursed her lips and gave a dry smile. Right.
"You know, if you ever want to talk, you can come to me."
Ziva bowed her head. "Thank you, Abby."
And then she opened her mouth to speak, hesitating. There was so much she wanted to say, thought maybe she could really confide in Abby. But the words stopped just before they reached her voicebox.
Will I ever get back on the team? Tony. What am I even doing with him? Flashbacks…
And just then her cell phone rang.
McGee. Breathless. "Ziva, I need you to run…"
It started again that night.
One minute she was counting down the minutes till she fell asleep, and the next she was again victim to Saleem's hands and torture techniques.
Her heart raced. Sweat broke out on her face, rolled down her back. And when it was over, she rolled out of bed, gripped walls and tables and furniture to help guide her shaking legs to the kitchen for a glass of water.
And then it hit her again. Suddenly. Fierce.
Her legs gave way and she sunk to a floor that was suddenly dirty, dark dingy.
She was no longer present in DC.
Ziva rocked for what seemed like hours. She heard movement outside the door and tensed each time. Knowing that at any minute Saleem or one of his men would come.
Trapped in that cell in Somalia.
Until the beating came.
The next day….
Ziva felt physically sick, sitting at her desk.
I thought the flashbacks were getting easier….
After she came out of the second flashback, she had queued up Tony's number three times, closing the phone before she could hit the send button.
She thought about calling Abby, too.
But again, couldn't.
And speaking of Tony, Ziva looked up as he entered the bullpen, fresh out of the shower from this morning's workout.
He had a bruise on his cheek. Neither of the agents would say anything, but Ziva gathered from what she did see between the three men that Tony and McGee had gone at it.
She remembered clearly her conversation with Tony the other night, where he confided in her about McGee. It made her sick. She was clearly driving this whole team apart.
Tony stopped in front of her desk, backpack over one shoulder. It was beginning to feel like a roller coaster with Ziva, he thought. One afternoon she seemed fine, one night she was starting to open up to him, physically and emotionally, and then the next time you turned around she was a complete wreck.
He made a mental note to talk to Dr. Nicholas. He wanted to know why Ziva had so many ups and downs. He wanted to know what he could do to pull her out of this.
And he wanted more alone time with her.
Ziva jumped to her feet as Gibbs strode into the room, following him to his desk. "Gibbs, I thought I'd go check out the last two support groups this morning. Take McGee."
Tony felt like someone had slapped him. While they hadn't spent a lot of time together yesterday, who was he kidding? What was he hoping would happen, that the previous night would change? This is Ziva we're talking about…
Gibbs raised his head from his seated position, looking up into Ziva's face. She looked like…hell. Dark circles framed her eyes, shadows haunted her pale face, and her lips were pursed.
He trusted his gut. "Not today, Ziva."
She wanted to scream at him. She flexed her fingers in and out of tight fists, trying to relieve the tension, anger that coursed through her body. What more can I do?
She kept his gaze as the thoughts flooded over her, McGee and Tony exchanging nervous, wondering glances, for once not finding anything to bicker about.
I. Give. Up.
"I am of no use on desk duty. But I understand, if you do not want me, in the field." And with that she unclipped her badge, and placed it with a thud on Agent Gibbs' desk.
Gibbs had enough. Of everything. He picked up the badge and pressed it into Ziva's hands. "You had better be damn sure about that, Agent David."
"And you," he turned toward Tony and McGee. He had scolded his agents yesterday – both verbally and through his signature head slap. But he was still pissed. "You two had better get your acts straight. Otherwise I will take your badges, and ya won't get them back."
He looked around the room, sizing up his team. McGee gulped.
"Gym. Three minutes." And with that he left the bullpen, leaving a stunned Ziva, McGee and DiNozzo in his wake.
And with one swift move Tony had Ziva on her back. Laying over her, he looked into her eyes. Today, they'd be dead save for the flash of fear he saw.
"Get off me, Tony," she whispered, placing a small, cold hand on his muscled upper arm. She averted his gaze, ashamed at how easily she had let him take her. If he was able to beat her, he was usually sweating and grunting and completely spent. He hadn't even broken a sweat.
She didn't know what Gibbs was trying to prove. That he should have accepted her badge?
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