"Lieutenant Combs, Officers Bergman and Thompson, Mr. McKenzie." Jen greeted them in her office, Gibbs scowling beside her like a junkyard mutt.

"Director Shepard, Agent Gibbs." The Lieutenant nodded. "Any word on Officer David?"

"She was awake last night. It will take time for her to heal, but she's alive. That's very good news for you boys." She looked toward the officers.

The younger cop was so visibly relieved, she could almost see the color returning to his face. "Per my discussion with Tel Aviv, we won't be pursuing criminal charges against either officer—" All four seemed to sigh with relief. "Provided they give up their badges."

"You gotta be kidding me," Thompson growled.

"No Officer, I assure you I am not. I don't want, and I think you'll agree with me Lieutenant, two cops loose on the streets of D.C. who pull the trigger without identifying themselves or asking their suspect to stop first."

"She was already firing her weapon! You people called us for back-up, you could have warned us one of your people looked like one of them!" Thompson hit the table, fury flashing in his eyes like flames.

"One of them?" Gibbs asked, voice calm, but icy.

Thompson realized his mistake, but only shrugged.

"There's nothing else we can do to make this right?" McKenzie asked.

Jen opened her mouth, but Gibbs beat her to it.

"How long have you been on the job, Officer Thompson?" He stared across the table at the other man.

"Twenty years, since the day I got out of the army."

"You've worn two uniforms then, and you know that every time you put a uniform on, whether it's combat camouflage or DCPD blues, you are holding yourself to a higher standard. Every single time. You don't get to have prejudices, you don't get to be tired, and you don't get to make stupid mistakes. Stupid mistakes cost lives. You knew that when you were dodging bullets as a young soldier, and you damn well better know that now." Gibbs held out a hand then, calm, patient, but there was a dangerous current running underneath all that.

Thompson pulled his badge off his belt, and held it up. "Twenty years I've carried this beside my weapon, and I've served it with honor. You're telling me that that twenty years means shit now?"

"You haven't shown an ounce of remorse. You've burned out, Officer. I think you know that."

He snorted. "Maybe, but it's not like it will matter either way." He tossed his badge at Gibbs, and stomped out of the room.

Gibbs slid the badge to the Lieutenant, and looked at the younger officer. "Officer Bergman?"

"I'm not burned out," the young man said.

"No, you've showed remorse, but you've also been as twitchy as a rabbit. This is not your calling."

"Then what is?"

Gibbs shrugged. "Don't know."

Bergman looked down at the table, and up at Gibbs. His voice was very soft. "All I've ever wanted to be was a cop…since I was a kid."

"Time to grow up, Officer. The job's not a movie. There are no do-overs if you mess up."

Tony watched her sleep, wondering what he'd say to her when she finally opened her eyes. Two nurses had come through, one admonishing him for being there in the middle of the night. Now it was early morning, and he found himself wanting desperately to run from the room. It was too real. He wanted to go back to in time, to when he could still see Ziva as superhuman and invulnerable. To when she was just a crazy Israeli chick that tied his tongue and made him sweat all at once.

Not now, when she'd almost died, and was so much more than that.

Something caught his eye, and Tony turned to see her shifting, eyes fluttering open. She looked pale, but still beautiful, and almost breathtaking with her eyes open and focused on him. "Tony?"

"Who's that?"

She frowned, and he grinned, then she groaned. "Tony, do not do that. It is too early, and I am on a lot of drugs."

"See, that's why it's funny."

She shook her head. "You are impossible, Tony. You just want to see me low."

Tony chuckled. "No, but I'd love to see you high."

The great ninja-assassin rolled her eyes, then smiled sweetly. "Can you pass me that water, my little hairy butt?"

"Sure thing, sweetcheeks." He handed her the plastic cup with the funky twisted straw.

Ziva took a long sip, and then looked at him seriously. "Why were you not here with everyone last night?"

"Aw, did you miss me Zi?"

"Do not dodge the question, Tony."

He sighed and shifted in his seat, delaying the inevitable. "I guess I just needed to work myself up to it a little."

Her brow deepened, and her lips pressed together in a look of utter confusion. "Why would you want to be worked up? Have I misunderstood what that means?"

"Naw, you just mixed-up phrases. This is different, I had to mentally prep myself to get my feet in the door," he tried to explain.

"Why? What made you so nervous?"

He offered a short, bitter laugh. "Seeing you hooked up to life support."

"But, I am fine."

"Yes, you are. So, it's all fine now. Crisis averted." But, he could never go back to seeing her as invulnerable, as safe to love.

"Are you sure? You seem…" Ziva studied him, searching his face or his eyes, or whatever her brand of human lie detector relied on. "I do not know, different somehow."

"When you get released, I'll make you dinner. Authentic Italian, straight from great grandmother DiNozzo's cookbook." And, maybe she'd understand the change in him. Maybe he'd understand it himself.

"You're great grandmother taught you to cook?"

"Actually, she taught her daughter-in-law, my grandmother, who taught me. It's not like my mother was going to learn. Measuring things is hard when half your blood volume is vodka."

"I bet, though I prefer tequila."

"I'm a beer man, but Italian dishes require a good bottle of red wine."

She sighed tiredly. "It sounds wonderful, Tony."

"Good. How about we crank up your morphine a little, so you can sleep a bit more." He reached for the little dispenser button.

"No," she sighed, already getting tired. "I need to go for my run."

Tony chuckled. "Not this morning, sweetcheeks. You get to sleep in."

"Tony? Did I ever tell you I fell out of a tree when I was a child, and broke my arm, and very nearly my neck?"

"No, but I bet your father was pissed."

"Oh yes, very much. Ari taught me how to climb, and I taught Tali, and Papa thought it all very foolish and pointless. Do you know why I liked it so much?" Her eyes were practically closed, and he had the feeling that she wouldn't remember this when she woke up again.

"No, why did you like it so much?"

"It was the only place in the world not touched by the fighting, by Mossad, by my father, by any of it. It was freedom and peace…I did not realize I had found what I sought at the top of that tree." Her voice was getting lower as she spoke, her breathing slowing down.

"That must have been some tree, Ziva."


"NCIS what?" Now, he was totally confused.

"NCIS is the top of the tree." She said it like it was the most factual statement ever, and then passed out into oblivion.

Tony stared at her for a good ten minutes before it clicked, before her drug-addled statement made sense. NCIS is what she found, the peace and freedom from the top of the tree.

"Yeah, Zi. You're at the top of the tree," he said softly, taking her hand.

"Finished what you needed to, DiNozzo?"

Tony turned to see Gibbs in the doorway. "Hey Boss. All taken care of."

Gibbs nodded, and sat in the second chair, his blue eyes intently focused on Ziva.

"She was tired, I cranked her morphine up a little to put her out."

He nodded. "She could use the rest."


Gibbs suddenly turned to him. "Where the hell were you last night, Tony?"

He winced a little. "Talking to Kate."

The older man's expression softened, and he nodded. They settled into a silence then, both staring at Ziva, but focused more on their thoughts than her sleeping form. Tony rubbed his fingers gently over the back of her palm, the lump in his throat shrunken, but not completely gone. Not until she was threatening to kill him with paperclips again.

Gibbs voice startled him. "Don't wait too long, DiNozzo. You only get so many chances."

He turned, mouth open, to stare at his surrogate father, wondering if he'd just interpreted that statement correctly. Gibbs didn't look at him, eyes still on Ziva, the surrogate daughter he'd almost lost. Tony closed his mouth, and turned back to Ziva.

"Yes, Boss."

So, it didn't exactly have a romantic ending, but it would have to be extraordinarily long if I did that, and it's just not in me. But, thank you everyone who reviewed, I greatly appreciate it, and thank you also everyone who read as well.