A/N: Written for the no-safety-pin challenge.
WARNING: This first chapter is a very strong T for both language and violence.
And We All Fall Down
"It's only half past the point of no return."
He counts to one hundred before he stands up, his chair cracking against the filing cabinet as he stalks from behind his desk. He feels McGee glance up, in terror is an exaggeration, but utter concern for the mental, emotional, and, possibly, physical well-being of his coworkers is not a descriptive stretch.
"I'm going home," he announces, voice controlled, and yes, this is going to be ugly. Gibbs, though, doesn't even bother looking up, instead grunts an acknowledgement while flipping through a file.
Tony forgoes the elevator, opting for the stairs out of subconscious need to alleviate some of the potential energy that's built up inside his chest. Because if he can wear himself down a bit with three flights of stairs, perhaps the pending explosion will not be quite as catastrophic . . . .
Damn her for being the first to walk away again.
She's leaning up against her car, slouching in the shadows, face half shrouded in darkness where the dim garage lighting can't find the trouble to reach. The jingle of metal supplies sound to the glimmer of silver as she juggles her car keys nonchalantly and it is this utterly indifferent and mundane action that makes his blood boil.
"I see we're just gonna skip the usual crap and go straight for passive-aggressive." His voice is that of carefully measured sarcasm, level in volume with the threat of crescendo.
Dark eyes flash up to meet a hard green gaze and her jaw is set obstinately as she snaps, "And what is that supposed to mean, Tony?" And it did not take much to get a rise from her.
"What the hell were you thinking earlier?" he demands without answering her question because she knows inherently what he means.
"What concern is it to you?" she replies coolly, lifting her chin defiantly and he thinks he really could slap her right now.
"You nearly got us killed!" and the accusation is roared at a volume that surprises them both, reverberating around the cement walls, sending silence scurrying for the corner. "You and your damn death wish! What the hell were you thinking?"
"What was I thinking?" she's no longer slouching, now standing with her back erect and her face blank, rage swirling in her voice "You're the one that followed me, Tony."
There's the grenade . . . .
"I have no idea why," he growls and there's a flicker of hurt that enters her eyes and she blinks and it's gone.
Now she's just livid.
"Because you cannot live with the guilt!" she screams at him, matching him blow for blow. "You only ever do these things because you cannot stand feeling guilty! Jenny and Caitlin and Paula! Me! You only came after me because you thought it was your fault –you just wanted to sleep at night!"
"Believe it or not, Ziva, but not everything is about you-"
"Who said it was?"
"It's all one big production isn't it? You have to be the one in the life or death situations, you just have to be the brave one, the fearless one. So what if it kills you? Hell, so what if it kills me? What's another partner to you!" The words leave his mouth and his heart leaves his body because he did not . . . . could not . . . .
Her eyes are wild, big and dark and wild as she hisses, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Come on," he says sarcastically, spit flying, "Everyone is an accessory to you. I'm just like all the others! Disposable and isn't that ironic? So. Are. You." He should have just slapped her.
And the safety pin clatters loudly to the floor . . . .
A low string of Hebrew escapes her lips, the curses upon his name evident despite his inability to translate her words.
He's ahead in this twisted game they play and he has an outstanding urge to defend this sudden advantage. "Oh, drop the pretense, David. Don't act all surprised at the news, you know your daddy is a bastard. Hell, Rivkin was too and you had to have known that. He screwed you, Ziva, in more ways than one. And then, when he's gone and you're all out of deadbeats to play off of, you go and get yourself captured."
"I was not out of 'deadbeats' –there was still you!" she snaps, a feeble blow. "And you didn't have to come for me, you could have left me."
"Don't say it."
"You didn't deserve it."
Don't even bother jamming the pin back in, it's futile anyway . . . . .
She takes a step toward him, a feat more intimidating than given credit, her fists balled at her sides and, yes, she could kill him right now and it would be so very easy. "You should have left me then."
"You gonna hit me, David? Go on, have at it." He's goading the asp and is too stupid to stop, too stupid or so desperate that he hopes she'll just go ahead and end it.
She halts in her advance, stares at him. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Me? Nothing. You? Ev-"
"Dammit, DiNozzo! The only thing wrong with me is you! You!"
"Of course," he agrees, emitting a mirthless bark of laughter, harsh and echoing.
"I love you!" A threatening admission that is neither acknowledged or ignored, but joins the swirling concoction of verbal bullets that ricochet around the parking garage dangerously.
And you're out of options anyway . . . . .
She opens her mouth, closes it. Then, "Damn you, Tony!" And she turns around, stalks toward her car, before spinning on heel, whirling around in a smear of black and gold.
He doesn't register the steely glint of the projectile that she lobs at him, the object arching through the air, expertly thrown with frightening precision. The car keys fall to the ground, skidding harmlessly a few feet away, and there is a sharp sting where his temple's been grazed. He shakes his head, trembling, starts to walk in the opposite direction.
And time has now run out . . . . .
Her voice stops him, the absolute measure in her words, the cold indifference, "That is right, Tony, walk away because that is always easiest, yes? Walk away from me, just like you walked away from Jeanne. Just like you walk away from everyone!"
"You know what, Ziva? Next time, don't worry about it. If you're so hell-bent on throwing yourself in harm's way, go right ahead. I promise I won't stop you."
There is no stopping what comes next . . . . .
He hears her behind him, knows she's there. And when he turns back once more to stare at her, he really is expecting it. There's a crack and her blow is dealt with the same terrible accuracy as the car keys, a mighty sucker punch to his left cheek, just below his eye, and, yes, it hurts.
"Bitch!" he roars, hand coming to cradle his face as he takes a staggering step backward.
She remains quiet, watching him nurse his injury with an unerring calm in her mahogany eyes. And the distant pang draws the recollection that the last time he saw her look like this, it was almost the last time. Dark, empty eyes that stared a hot tarmac, dark empty eyes in a dusty cell.
When she finally turns and walks back to her car, he doesn't say anything more. She doesn't look back and he doesn't call out because pride is a fickle thing. And when the engine revs and she peels out of her parking space, he remains still, debris settling all around him, filling the empty space she previously occupied.
And everything just seems to crumble.
And only nothing remains.