Jewish tradition had taken Ziva's body to Tel Aviv mere days after her death. This fact was both a horrible torture and possibly a great blessing to the team. While there was no ability to have said goodbye, most of them had a living picture of her in their mind to leave with. Ziva would've wanted it that way, at least; that was their only comfort.
While SecNav had gratefully paid for all of Ziva's arrangements, they couldn't justify budgeting for the team to visit her grave in Israel. They'd have to do it on their own time and their own dime. This, unfortunately, left the lot of them with no sense of closure, and a huge sense of confusion as to how to deal with it.
It had been three days since McGee was released from the hospital. His left arm was in a cast and sling and his chest was still wrapped. Gibbs and DiNozzo had made regular visits; Abby spending some nights there to keep him company, or maybe as a comfort to her, as well.
Today, however, he'd been cleared for desk duty. To everyone's dismay, there was no distracting case that passed their desks. Cold cases kept them all at their desks and the day had dragged along in practical silence.
In an unexpected and surprising manner very unlike him, Gibbs had invited the agents to come over after work for a drink. The fact was, Ducky had suggested the idea to him. Even if they didn't get around to talking about their loss, they needed some time together outside of work without reasons for not speaking.
Tony had taken on the role as Tim's personal chauffeur, driving him to and from work. So the two of them rode together to Gibbs' house, a six-pack of beer in tote for McGee, seeing as he was still on painkillers and wouldn't be able to indulge in the bourbon they'd be offered. Gibbs had told them to let themselves in when they got there, and they did so; taking up residence at the kitchen table as they waited for their boss to come up from the basement upon hearing their arrival.
"Either of you hungry?" Gibbs asked as he entered the kitchen. "I ordered pizza a little bit ago. Shouldn't be long before it gets here."
"Guess I could go for a slice," Tony said as he placed the beer in the fridge and grabbed three of the bottles, handing them out to his comrades.
"Thanks, Boss," Tim said as he haphazardly attempted to open his beer.
Gibbs watched as Tony grabbed it and twisted the cap off before handing it back. "How's the arm feelin'?" he asked as he took a seat at the table. "Didn't get the chance to ask at work, but you seemed to be doin' okay."
"It's not too bad," he said. "As long as I remember not to try and move it," he smirked. "The painkillers work pretty well. I just don't like taking many of them at work; even though I'm not going out into the field just yet."
"Aw, c'mon, Probie," Tony grinned as he took a seat as well. "Painkillers make desk-duty a helluva lot more fun."
"I seem to recall it being a helluva lot more fun for everyone else when you were hopped up on them," he retorted with a smirk. "Remember when you got your nose broken by-"
"Yeah, yeah, I remember," Tony cut him off with a glare. His gaze fell nonchalantly to the one empty chair at the table; the one Ziva usually preferred. Slowly, his face sobered, and the others had ended up looking at the same thing.
Their silent moment was interrupted by a knocking at the door. Gibbs got up and went to retrieve the pizza and they all ended up moving their party to the living room. They ate and had light conversation, revolving mainly around memories of Ziva. Mostly, it had made them smile and laugh; only short moments of somber silence when remembering they wouldn't see them again.
During one of those moments, Gibbs decided to go to the basement and retrieve his good bottle of bourbon; bringing it back with him to the living room after fetching a couple of mugs from the kitchen. "You want another beer, McGee?" he asked before sitting.
"I'll get it, Boss," Tony insisted as he shot up from the couch and fetched it for him. Gibbs sat down in the armchair across from the couch, leaning forward to pour the bourbon into the mugs on the coffee table.
"Ya know," McGee began as he sank back a little more comfortably on the couch. "If you let Tony get drunk, you're gonna have to call us a cab to get home."
Gibbs smirked at that, "Wasn't plannin' on lettin' him get drunk. But if that happens, I'm sure we'll figure somethin' out."
"The night's still young, McGoo," Tony said as he came back into the living room and handed him the pre-opened beer. "And we just ate. I'm sure I'll be fine." He sat down beside him on the couch and scooped up one of the mugs. Then he held it out in the air in the middle of the coffee table, "To Ziva." They all glanced at him for a moment, slowly leaning in with their own drinks. "You'll never be forgotten." A distant look fell over him as they lingered there for a moment.
"To Ziva," Gibbs said and they each tapped glasses before drinking. It went without saying, though, that she wouldn't be forgotten. Ziva had been with them much longer than Kate had. They wouldn't forget her, either. Ziva, though, was different; she'd changed each of them in some way. She'd made them a better team without ever having realized it. Hell, they hadn't even realized it; not until it was too late to say anything about it.
Tony was pouring himself another mug of bourbon before Gibbs could protest, and Tim had settled back into the couch again. Tony sank back as well, absentmindedly glancing over at the television in the corner of the room. His eyes became distant again. "We were supposed to watch TV," he said quietly. Tim and Gibbs looked at him in question. "My house, that night," he explained without looking away from that corner. "We were gonna have pizza and beer; watch TV all night. Remember?" he met Tim's eyes then.
"Yeah," McGee replied with a small nod.
"Boss," Tony looked over at him and Gibbs could see the agent was a bit red-eyed. "You're the only one who didn't answer whether or not you'd come. Remember? We were gonna do this..."
"I remember, Tony," Gibbs replied quietly. Tony looked down at the mug in his hands and took another long drink. "Take it easy with that. You're supposed to sip it."
"I know," he gave a small grin. "Sorry, Boss. Not tryin' to waste your bourbon on my non-sipping mood." Gibbs glanced briefly at McGee, who seemed to be closely observing the friend beside him. Gibbs knew Tony had seen Ziva in those first few moments of her death, but was very aware that he hadn't shared that information with anyone else. Not even in his report. In fact, Gibbs had read Tony's very vague report that seemed to completely avoid much of anything that he knew had to have happened. But he wasn't going to badger him with questions about it; Gibbs knew he'd be pissed if anyone had done that to him.
"You okay?" Tim asked, and Gibbs' attention was pulled back to Tony.
"Yeah," he replied, glancing at McGee for a moment before letting out a small laugh. "Damn I've turned into a lightweight," he said as he leaned forward to set the empty cup back down on the table. "Can't take me anywhere."
"Good thing we didn't go anywhere, then," Gibbs retorted with a smirk. "I'll go start some coffee," he pushed up from the chair, grabbing the bottle of bourbon as he went.
"You don't gotta do that, Boss," Tony protested.
"Who said it was for you?" he replied with a grin as he disappeared into the kitchen. It was for him, but Gibbs would play it off, for now.
Tony sighed and sank back into the couch again. "Think I just ruined the party," he murmured.
"It wasn't really supposed to be a party, I don't think," McGee said, shifting a bit to face him.
"Whatever it was supposed to be, I ruined it," he looked at his friend with narrowed eyes.
"You didn't ruin anything, Tony," he returned the glare. He waited for a retort, but Tony's eyes grew distant again. His head rolled back to face forward again, not really focusing on anything in particular.
Gibbs appeared in the doorway of the kitchen as the coffee brewed, leaning his back against the jam as he watched over his agents. Tim seemed a bit worried about Tony, who seemed to be lost in thought in that moment.
"She was behind me," Tony said quietly, then went silent again.
"What?" McGee asked.
"Ziva was right behind me when the building blew up," he explained; his eyes still focused somewhere on the surface of the table in front of him. "She landed on me and I didn't know it was her till I rolled over." His eyes began to dart back and forth as the images began to flash into his mind again. "I called out to her, but..." he swallowed. "She wasn't breathing. Had no pulse. She was just lying there with her eyes open," his voice cracked. Gibbs chose this moment to push up from the frame and sit down at Tony's other side. "I saw you both, then," he continued. "You weren't moving either. I thought you were all dead, too..." It was McGee's turn to swallow a lump in his throat. "I wanted to help her...wanted to help all of you. But they took me then; I didn't even fight back..."
"You couldn't have," Gibbs reminded him. "You were injured. You could barely get up off the ground. They might've taken out all the street cams before takin' the building, but Fornell's team had surveillance set up all around the building before we went. Took a while for Abby to clean it up after the explosion, but I saw what happened." Tony blinked a few times, then looked down and his wrists; still red and raw from the rope, and rubbed one of them absentmindedly. "What happened after that, Tony?" Gibbs asked calmly.
Tony's eyes flickered back and forth again for a few long moments. "I dunno how long I was hangin' there before I woke up," he said, then took a long, deep breath through his nose and seemed to become mildly distracted. "Coffee smells good, Boss," he glanced over at Gibbs.
Gibbs cocked his head then pushed himself up to stand. "Coffee, McGee?" he asked.
"I'm good, Boss, thanks," Tim replied. Tony stood to follow Gibbs.
"I've got it, DiNozzo," he protested.
"Wanna stretch my legs," he insisted, continuing his pursuit. "Besides, you took the bourbon to the kitchen," he smirked. Gibbs shook his head as he made his way to the counter, being sure to slide the bottle of bourbon out of Tony's reach before grabbing two mugs from the cabinet. "He wanted to know where I got my belt knife," he said with a smirk. Gibbs glanced at him in between pouring coffee.
"John," he replied nonchalantly as Gibbs grabbed both mugs, pausing for a moment before heading back toward the living room with Tony in tow.
"What'd you tell him?" he asked as he set the mugs down and turned to face the agent.
"I laughed at him," he grinned, then it faded quickly. "He didn't like that very much," he hands went up to the top buttons of his shirt, almost of their own accord, and released the top few, then revealed the long gash on his chest.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes, a flash of anger flickering through them as he looked at it. He'd seen the wound when they were in the hospital in Memphis, but he'd thought it was another wound from the explosion. "He do that to you?"
"With my knife," he clarified. "Then he decided he'd keep it. Guess he was testing it out, eh?" the smirk returned for just a moment. "I got it back though," he met his eyes again. "Then I shot him," his eyes went a bit distant again. Gibbs led him back to the couch and sat him down, sitting beside him once more and glancing briefly at McGee. "Louis took one of Fornell's bullets," Tony continued. "He was still alive when I detonated that bomb..."
"Your life was in danger," Gibbs reminded him. "And you didn't have a way to contact anyone."
Tony let out a small laugh and hung his head as he leaned forward. "I dunno how long I drove before pulling over at a rest stop, but there was this guy who walked into the mens room as I was washing blood off of me. Freaked him out a little, I'm sure. He offered to call for help. I told him not to." McGee furrowed his brow as he continued to listen. "I didn't care about help... I didn't want it. All I cared about was takin' these sonsofbitches down," he grabbed the coffee mug and took a small sip, wincing before setting it back down. Decidedly, he sank back down into the couch, letting his head drop back. "I don't even remember most of the drive to Memphis."
"Not surprising, after what you went through," McGee said.
Tony's eyes darted around at the ceiling for a few long moments. "Mike begged me not to kill him," he whispered.
Gibbs' eyes flinched at Tony's admission. McGee sat stock still; his eyes shifting back and forth between Tony and Gibbs. "You had no choice," Gibbs told him. "Even if you'd planned on waiting for help, you would've lost consciousness before they got there. He would've killed you without a second thought."
"But that's not why I did it," Tony picked his head up and met his eyes. "No way I could've predicted I'd pass out."
"He attacked you-"
"I murdered him," Tony retorted, clenching his jaw.
"You took him out!" Gibbs glared. "There's a damn difference! He was gonna kill that kid you saved, and he was gonna kill you. You took him out, same as any one of us would've done."
"I did it out of vengeance, Boss. I shouldn't even...have my job anymore. I didn't think I would. I thought you were dead; I didn't care."
"You did it for Ziva, then," Tim said. Tony turned his head to look at him. The agent's face showed no sign of being appalled or ashamed of Tony's actions. It surprised Tony a bit. "I would've done the same thing. I...probably wouldn't have done it as well," he shrugged. "I just wish we could've been there to help you. If that was possible, things could've been done differently. But those aren't the facts."
"Facts are," Gibbs interjected, "You were alone. And if you hadn't been taken, we wouldn't have had that inside intel. A lot of people would've died. What happened, was destined to happen, Tony. But, like McGee said, I'm sorry you had to do it alone."
Tony went silent for several long minutes, going over the words his team had given him. He knew that they would've called him out had he done something horribly wrong; they wouldn't put him into a false sense of security. Of all people, they would tell him how it was; he could trust them with that much. In that moment, he realized something and it made him smile. The smile slowly turned into laughter. It confused his teammates; making them think maybe he'd suddenly lost his mind.
"Uh...Tony?" McGee's voice sounded nervous. "You uh...doin' okay?"
Tony glanced at Tim, noting the worry in his face. "I was uh..." he turned to see the less obvious worry in his boss's face. "I was just thinkin'," he smirked. "Ziva would've done the same thing."
Gibbs smirked at that, "Nah." Tony's smirk faded as he looked seriously at him. "She would've left less of a trail." The corners of Tony's mouth turned up slowly; his eyelids began to droop a bit and he swayed a bit to the side. "Think it's time for you to crash," Gibbs told him as he stood.
"We're staying here?" Tim asked.
"One of you can take the guest room," Gibbs replied as he took his mug and headed toward the kitchen.
Tony turned his head to look at Tim, "I'll take the couch."
"Yeah, you will. Your fault we can't go home," he replied before taking the last sip of his beer.
Tony snorted a laugh, "I dunno what you're so worried about, Probie. Not like you can do much writing or anything back at your place." McGee rolled his eyes. "Hey...uh..." Tony swallowed before his face became serious once more. Tim appraised him as the agent seemed conflicted momentarily. Then, without warning, Tony pulled his friend into a hug, patting his back gently. "Glad you're not dead, McGee." Then he pulled away.
"Yeah..." Tim furrowed his brow for a moment, then stood from the couch. "Definitely time for you to crash, Tony. See you in the morning," he headed toward the kitchen to throw his empty bottle into the trash. Gibbs had already retreated to the basement, so Tim flicked off the kitchen light before heading back through the living room toward the stairs. Tony was already curled up on his side on the couch; eyes closed as he shimmied his head into the throw pillow.
Tim smirked as he started up the stairs, letting his friend's words replay in his head. It was few and far between that Tony ever said anything that bore kind sincerity...well to Tim, anyway. Usually, that would be worrisome. But somehow he knew they would be alright. They'd lost one of their own, but Ziva, of all people, would want them to be uplifted by her memory; not pulled down. And though they all missed her terribly, they would go on strong...for her.
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A/N: Geez...for an angry 'blow crap up' fic, that ended pretty sappily. Hope you enjoyed it anyway! Haha~
Yeah, do a girl a favor and gimme your opinions. K thx bi!