This is it. Last part. More after!
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. The Pink Floyd lyrics quoted at the end belong to David Gilmore and Pink Floyd.
No beta readers were harmed in the production of this story - but thanks to V for the help and advice
Coming Back To Life
Sixteen - Part 2
It took Gibbs perhaps five minutes to reach the apartment and significantly less than that to arrange proper collection for Paloma, who was already beginning to come round. Tony couldn't say he was sorry to see the woman taken away. When everything was strung together, she'd been causing trouble for more than a month and it was definitely past time for that to be done. He didn't know who would be trying her, under which jurisdiction or for what crimes, and he wasn't sure he cared all that much; just knowing that she was caught and that the last of her men were either already caught or would be swept up very shortly was good enough for him.
Unfortunately, once she'd been taken care of, the next event was a rather tedious debrief over the debacle in Mexico, which was done from the comfort of Ziva's couch, which did at least allow him the dignity of being more or less upright, though it didn't allow him the chance to escape Gibbs' all-knowing glare. The fact that Gibbs was doing it there and then suggested to Tony that his suspicions about Vance being pissed at him were dead on, which didn't bode well for his eventual return to active duty. The last time Vance had been this pissed at him, he'd found himself Agent Afloat - although being tasked with babysitting the guys from the Japan office did run a pretty close second. Come to think of it, being thrown to the wolves in Israel wasn't exactly a distant third place, either. Yep; Vance had some interesting ways of getting even.
Through it all, Ziva sat on the couch beside him, her expression betraying little of what she was thinking, although Tony would almost swear that she cringed a couple of times, when he reached the parts that had involved him getting hurt. It was only as he wound down - when his story meshed with the story that Franks had long since told - that Ziva finally spoke: "You realise that I am not permitting this to happen again?"
"Didn't you once tell me that orders are orders?"
"I will convince Vance that you should not work alone," said Ziva with a firmness that heavily implied a threat. "Much better a two-person team because then you have eyes behind you as well as in front."
"I don't think Vance likes me enough to be that bothered."
"He will be convinced." That tone left no room for argument.
It was also more than enough to send Gibbs' eyebrows racing for his hairline.
"Do I need to remind you two about rule twelve?" he asked.
Ziva snorted and shook her head, saying nothing.
Tony hitched his good shoulder in a shrug. At the back of his mind, he thought he ought to be terrified at facing off with Gibbs over the subject of rule twelve, but he wasn't, because this wasn't some casual fling. "Haven't broken it, Boss. Rule twelve says dating. We're not. This is... This is long haul." And though they hadn't actually talked about it, there was something emphatically right in that statement. A sidelong glance at Ziva told him she wasn't disagreeing.
Gibbs scowled. "You auditioning for JAG?"
"Comparing me to a lawyer, Boss? Now that hurts."
All at once, the tension left Gibbs' shoulders and he suddenly looked years older as he scrubbed a hand down over his face. "Hell, DiNozzo, I've been expecting this from the first time you corrected her English. Either this, or I was gonna find you in little pieces."
"You still might," said Ziva, with a smirk.
Tony made a half-hearted effort to look offended by her comments.
Gibbs shook his head. "No special favours, no grabass on company time, no using the rest of the team as marriage guidance."
Tony blinked. This was unexpected. "You're not gonna split us up?"
"Why not?" Ziva asked and she sounded about as surprised as Tony felt.
"Because I've seen what happens when you get split up by other people." Gibbs shrugged, as if that was explanation enough, and started for the door. "Just don't make me regret it. Oh, and DiNozzo?" He paused in the doorway. "Brad's told me exactly how long you're supposed to be away from work, so don't even think about setting foot inside NCIS before that time is up."
"That will not be a problem this time, Gibbs," Ziva answered. "I will make certain of it."
At that, Gibbs cracked a faint smile. "I don't doubt that." And then he was gone, leaving them alone again.
There was a brief moment of silence, then Tony offered, "That went well."
"You wondering if we're just having a collective hallucination?"
"Wondering if we should have checked for a little red x." Ziva paused. "That is the right reference, yes?"
"One of 'em." Tony grinned. "Have you even seen that movie?"
"No - but you have talked about it many times."
"Guess I have." He blew out a gentle sigh and turned to face Ziva. "Guess the real question is: what now?"
Lost in thought and lost in time
While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted
Outside the rain fell dark and slow
While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime
I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life
Pink Floyd - Coming Back To Life
Author's End Notes
Firstly, let me say a massive thank you to everyone who has reviewed, favourited, alerted or just read and enjoyed. I've had a blast writing this and I'm extremely pleased that other folks have enjoyed it along the way.
As you might imagine, this is not the end of the story. Far from it! This is going to continue in the next story, Learning to Live, which will be landing in probably a month or so's time and will feature a lot more romance and action and, heck, even a case, so I hope that it'll be worth the wait. Between now and then, I will be posting a couple of short stories in this particular universe, working on finishing of A Kind of Magic AND (hopefully!) completing a degree (which is personally very exciting, but also not a little bit terrifying), so it's not exactly going to be a quiet month!
Until then, here's a little snippet from Learning to Live - from the opening chapter. Happy reading!
"You should know better than to bet against Abby," said Ziva severely. "She is like Ducky: only backs certainties."
"And this particular certainty would be?" Tony enquired as McGee pulled out a twenty.
"He said you wouldn't admit anything still hurt and you wouldn't be wearing your sling - which, just by the way, Brad told Ducky and Gibbs about, which means we all know about it, so no trying to pull the wool over our eyes, buster."
"I remember my mother being shorter and with fewer tattoos," Tony muttered, rolling his eyes heavenwards. "Should I ask who won the pool on when I'd be back in the office?"
"Ducky." Abby tucked McGee's twenty into her pocket. "Which I think's cheating, but- Wait, you knew there was a pool?"
Tony just looked at her. "This is NCIS, There are some folks here who'd bet on raindrops rolling down a window."
"Speaking from personal experience, DiNozzo?" Gibbs enquired as he breezed into the bull pen.
"I won that ten fair and square," Tony answered with as much dignity as he could muster as he finally sat down behind his desk.
Gibbs just smirked and dropped the armful of files he'd been carrying on Tony's desk before carrying on towards his own desk.
With a sinking sensation, Tony took a look at the file on the top of the stack. The name Lieutenant James Korby confirmed his worst fears. "SWOT analysis? Boss, couldn't you at least have let me have five minutes to pretend this week isn't going to suck?" At Gibbs' look, Tony grimaced and grabbed Korby's file. "Right. Of course not."
It was going to be a very long week.