Disclaimer: Out of this story, all I own is the plot. The rest is borrowed from Bellisario et al with no offence intended and no (well, very little!) harm done.
No beta readers were harmed in the production of this story - but thanks to V for the help and advice.
This is my shot at resolving the end of season 7, set about a day after the end of Rule 51, and it both is and isn't AU to Spider and the Fly. You can safely assume spoilers for everything up to and including Spider and the Fly (which is sort of an interesting concept, seeing as I haven't actually seen the latter yet!).
Coming Back To Life
Ziva paced the Bethesda hallways like a caged lioness, unsure of where her anger should be focussed. On the Reynosa Cartel? Without them, none of this could have happened, except that, just as saliently, without them none of this could have happened. If Shannon and Kelly Gibbs hadn't died at the hands of Pedro Hernandez, Gibbs wouldn't have joined NCIS - he'd have had no reason to. If Gibbs hadn't joined NCIS, nor would Tony and, most importantly of all, nor would she. She shuddered at that thought and forced it away. So if not the Reynosa Cartel, who? Vance for sending Tony on a mission with no backup? Mike Franks for interfering in that mission and putting Tony's safety at risk? Or Tony for not telling Vance to go to hell, he had a promise to keep?
Ziva snorted and shook her head. As hurt by Tony's absence at her ceremony as she had been, she knew Tony couldn't have told Vance to go to hell and much as she was frustrated by Vance sending him out solo, she could at least see the logic. After all, surveillance missions worked best when there weren't hordes of agents and operatives swarming the place. So that really just left Mike Franks and she couldn't really blame him, either; he wanted a piece of the Reynosas for what they'd done to him and his family.
Maybe, then, her anger should be aimed at the cartel. After all, they were the ones who'd stirred this all back up now after nearly twenty years. Ziva frowned. Or maybe it was Bell who'd stirred it up in an attempt to get back at Gibbs. In which case she'd never be able to successfully vent her anger because he was already dead.
"Special Agent David?"
The unfamiliar voice made her pause and pivot back to face the speaker. A doctor - to judge by the white coat - though not one she recognised. Clearly not one of the emergency team, and yet he'd pronounced her surname correctly at first try which only a small handful of Americans had ever achieved. That was enough to make her wary. "Yes?"
He offered a small smile. "I'm Dr Brad Pitt - no relation-"
"I know who you are," Ziva interrupted, still wary but with one mystery solved. "Tony has spoken of you."
Pitt nodded. "That saves time, then. Because of Tony's..." the doctor paused before shrugging, "unique medical circumstances, they've called me down to consult."
Ziva swallowed back a sudden surge in fear. "Is he-?"
That got another small smile out of Pitt. "He's going to be fine. On sick leave for a week or so and on desk duty for another week beyond that, but he's going to be fine."
At that news, Ziva felt the tension in her body begin to melt away. "They said that he was shot?"
Pitt nodded. "Through and through to the shoulder. That wasn't the problem. It was the four broken ribs and the partially collapsed lung he hadn't bothered to mention."
Ziva found a laugh bubbling up in her throat, though there was nothing remotely amusing about the situation. It was, however, pure DiNozzo. He'd probably have tried to downplay the gunshot wound, too - if he'd thought he'd get away with it.
"He's been very lucky, though. No serious damage and as long as he follows doctor's advice-"
"There is a first time for everything," Ziva murmured, garnering a bark of laughter from the doctor.
"Oh, he'll follow this," said Pitt with a grin. "He knows what the consequences are if he doesn't."
"Death By Gibbs?"
"Extended stay in this place," Pitt answered. "With the added bonus of a lecture from Ducky and whatever Gibbs needs to add when Ducky's finished." He paused. "Then there's Abby."
At that Ziva actually found herself giggling, though it still wasn't funny. "I see."
"I'm actually a little surprised she isn't here already," Pitt added.
"It is...complicated," Ziva answered.
Pitt nodded. "Considering where Tony was med-evac'd from, I'd think complicated was the least it was." He waved a hand in the direction of Tony's room. "You can go in and see him now - though he is pretty doped up."
That made Ziva grimace. A doped up Tony was always an interesting proposition. "He does not have access to a telephone?"
That earned another laugh as Pitt started to head away. "No. I know Tony's reaction to anything stronger than a Tylenol - just make sure he doesn't abuse the call button."
Ziva slowly shook her head and reminded herself that she really ought to be grateful that Tony was whole enough to need babysitting. Even if he was a bigger pain in the rear when drugged to the eyeballs than he was when sober."I'll stop by later," Pitt called over his shoulder.
"Thank you, Doctor-" But Pitt was already out of sight. Ziva sighed and headed into Tony's room.
Her first impression was that her partner was a mess. In addition to the injuries she knew about, his face was marked with livid bruises and one eye was almost completely swollen shut while two of his fingers were splinted and, from the way his left leg was propped up, he'd probably also re-injured the knee he'd blown in college.
"Should see the other guy."
Ziva realised that while she'd been cataloguing his injuries, Tony's good eye had opened and he was now squinting at her. "I have," she answered. "He is on a slab in autopsy."
"And I'm on a slab in hospital."
Ziva rolled her eyes and decided to put the melodramatics down to the pain medication.
"Y'can start yelling any time you want," he added, good eye sliding shut. "Reckon I deserve it."
"Yelling?" Ziva enquired, folding herself gracefully onto a convenient seat. "Why should I be yelling?"
"I screwed up."
"Made you a promise. Didn't keep it."
"Could not keep it," Ziva corrected, shaking her head. "After the ceremony, Vance explained where you were. What you were doing."
"And that made it hurt so much less?" The sarcasm was surprisingly fierce, considering the drugs.
Quietly, she said, "It told me that you had a good reason for not being there."
"Still let you down like-"
"You are nothing like him," Ziva cut in. "You did not forget; you did not choose to be absent; you did not arrange for an important meeting to take place just so that you could not attend. I know that if you had not been given those orders, you would have been there."
"Do you?" The good eye popped open again. "Even after all the crap I've said? What I've done?"
Ziva sighed. "Tony, you are my partner. You can be childish and insensitive, but where it really counts, I know that you will have my back."
"Wanted to be there." The voice was soft now, suggesting that the drugs were beginning to drag him down into a pain-free sleep.
"I know you did."
His eye was closed again and after several long moments of silence, Ziva judged he was actually asleep. Consequently, she was startled when he suddenly murmured, "Wanted to get back to being in the same book."
She frowned. "What do you mean?"
But this time he was asleep - which was, Ziva reflected, absolutely typical of him. She sighed. She ought to be used to his drug-addled ramblings. She'd certainly spent enough time around him to know that he usually didn't make a lot of sense while on morphine or whatever it was the doctors had pumped him full of, but even by Tony-on-painkiller standards, the book remark made no sense. And yet, since it seemed connected to his absence from her ceremony, it seemed important.
"American idioms drive me up the hall," she muttered softly, deliberately making the mistake, just to check he truly was asleep.
Tony didn't so much as twitch.
Ziva sighed again and settled back against her chair. It wasn't as if she wasn't going to have time to consider the question, she supposed. Until Gibbs called to confirm that all the Reynosa operatives in the area had been picked up, she wasn't going anywhere.
To Be Continued...