Spoilers: Truth or Consequences
Disclaimer: I don't own it, but I would think that would be fairly obvious.
A/N: Tag to "Truth or Consequences" – between the rescue and the return. I don't know what's gotten into me, but I cannot stop rewatching scenes from the beginning of the season. I just cannot help but get caught up in the emotion of it all and the fact that Tony and Ziva say so much without having to really say anything at all. 98% of me does not understand why any of the first four episodes did not garner someone in the cast an Emmy nomination. Seriously. Cote's eyes alone make me turn into a puddle of emotion. So, this fic is a snippet of what I imagine the flight back to D.C. was like for Tony and Ziva.
Also, I'm going to assume that flying in a cargo plane is both noisy and cold and that's why they need blankets. I have no idea what it's actually like, but I am going to refer you all to think back to (roughly) 20 minutes into "Rule 51" because that's what I'm using as my basis for what it's like. That was technically an international flight, so I'm just going to pretend like this is how they would return home from the rescue in ToC since Ziva never changes clothes between the rescue and the bullpen.
During the long flight back to Washington, she had been too stunned to sleep. She was exhausted, but her mind kept reeling. Part of her worried that falling asleep would put an end to the fantasy of rescue that she had surely hallucinated for herself over the course of the last ten hours. The other part of her did not wish to miss a moment of reality before her-she was planning on remembering these moments with deep gratitude for the remainder of her life. Each second slowly etched itself into her overworked mind as her eyes navigated the scenes before her.
Directly in front of her, Gibbs had his eyes shut and his head tilted back against the warm metal surrounding them. He had, of course, refused to unfold his blanket from its package-I'm not cold, he had offered plainly when McGee had asked-and it sat dejected on the bench next to him.
Next to it, McGee sat wrapped in his own blanket, shifting every so often in an attempt to get comfortable. Before the flight had taken off, he had attempted to engage the group in conversation only to be met with stony silence. When the plane roared to life, he had dropped the matter, instead concentrating on the roar of the engine to drown out the heaviness between them.
On the bench next to her, Tony stared a hole into the wall across from him. His face was expressionless, but strong. His jaw was tense, but his eyes were calm. His breathing was so even she thought that, under any other circumstances, she could have fallen asleep just listening to it. She turned to look at him after a few moments of studying his expression out of the corner of her eye.
She had not made direct eye contact with any of them since they had left the terrorist camp behind. When they reached the rendezvous point, she had let herself settle back into running on autopilot. It was a feeling that had become all too familiar during the last few months. When they arrived, it helped her cope with the poking, prodding, and bandaging that the doctors-and Tony-had insisted upon. It had shielded her from the surprised and horrified glances sent her way by the field agents surrounding her. It kept her safe from the questioning that she was sure would come her way if she had shown any signs of strength. So, she allowed herself to be led around with a hollow look in her eyes. She walked when they walked and stopped when they stopped. She used simple nods of her head to communicate and got lost inside herself all over again.
To her surprise, Tony had not pushed. He had not touched her or hovered over her or pressured her to talk. He gave her the space she needed to process the totality of the situation. When they had boarded the plane, the only contact he had made with her was to spread his blanket out across both of their laps.
And when she looked at him now, blanket still settled on top of their laps to bridge both the physical and emotional gaps between them, she turned her head to take in the full view of his silhouette. He had not turned to face her right away. Instead, she felt his fingers reach out underneath the blanket and entangle with her own. She looked down at their clasped hands, hidden from view, and looked back up at him with tears welling in her eyes.
She clenched her jaw and swallowed deeply to stifle the burst of emotions that had hit her like a tidal wave. All at once, months of repression had given way and her emotions caught up with her in the presence of one sweet gesture.
He turned to look at her, finally, and did not speak a word. He squeezed her hand gently and leant over to press a chaste kiss to her temple. He lingered there only to whisper in her ear, just loudly enough that she could make out his husky voice over the rattle of the engine, "I meant it, Zi. I couldn't live without you."
She swallowed hard and her tears streaked twin paths down her cheeks. She wiped them away shakily with her free hand, looked up into his eyes, and nodded.
He sat up straight, leaving the intimacy of their shared space, but did not drop her hand. He closed his eyes and sighed in contentment. Her body expressed the thoughts she did not yet have the strength to give voice to: I couldn't live without you either.
A/N 2: Please review! 3