Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to the characters of NCIS, I just like playing around with them.
A/N: It's been a really long time since I've written a NCIS story, but after seeing 'False Witness' a plot bunny hopped into my brain and the next thing I know, I had this little story. Just as a warning, I don't have a beta so there are bound to be some mistakes in this but, I hope you enjoy it despite that and let me know if you liked it or not. I also hope that you have a very merry Christmas and the best of times in the new year! Cheers! :D
"So..." Dr. Marta Fisher began as she flipped through several pages in the chart, skimming through them for a few moments in order to familiarize and refresh her memory regarding her patient's condition. "How are you feeling today, Brenda?" She asked almost in a sigh.
While outwardly Dr. Fisher schooled her face and softened her voice to project an air of sincerity and caring as she had learned to do over the years in her work as a clinical Psychiatrist, she secretly hoped that this session would be rather straightforward and quick without any meltdowns from this patient. After all, who could blame her, she had a lot on her plate for that day; she had a lunch date downtown and then an appointment for an interview with the Dean of Georgetown University for a professorship. When it really came down to it, the real truth was that Marta was burned out...50 years old, recently divorced and just plain tired of working in this clinic and of the constant barrage of emotions that came at her form the patients; she was ready for a change, but until she had secured a teaching position at the University, she would just have to suck it up and do her best to just make it through each day.
Brenda shifted nervously before answering. "Pretty good."
Dr. Fisher looked up from the chart and made eye contact with the woman sitting across from her. Brenda was a small lady, petite and pretty, but with a large scar that ran vertically from her left temple down her cheek and all the way to her jaw. She had recently been in a serious car accident, the result of driving while in the throes of a psychotic break over some man she had been obsessing over and the wound was still red and angry. She covered it mostly with her hair, brushing it over to the side so that it hid most of her face, but the scar itself was too large to be missed.
"That's good..." Dr. Fisher nodded then sifted through her file some more, reading the report from Brenda's nurses. "and I see you've been faithful to taking you medication. How are those working out for you?"
"Uh...really well. I think I'm starting to feel a difference."
"Excellent. Now...we talked last time about your obsessive thoughts, especially towards this man named...uh, " She skimmed over the notes again. "Tony... and according to the nurses, you haven't mentioned him in a while...how are you feeling about him now?"
"Oh...I know now that it was wrong of me to think of him as my exclusive boyfriend when he only wanted a casual relationship." She started. " I know I need to forget about him and move on...find someone who will care for me back...and I think I will." Brenda grinned a little, her eyes darting about in a gesture that made it clear that she was lying, but Dr. Fisher didn't notice as she continued to flip through the documents and made a mental note to call her manicurist after she caught sight of her cuticles.
"Hmmm." Dr. Fisher tried to sound interested, but she needed to move this session along if she was to make it to her date on time. "So, tell me...how do you feel about being discharged and going home again? Do you feel you are ready for it?"
Brenda's grin grew and she nodded quickly. "Yes...I think that I'm ready for that."
Dr. Fisher flipped the chart closed and reached for a new document. "Good, because I think you have made great progress in the three weeks since you first arrived here, Brenda. That's why I'm going to write up your discharge instructions and some prescriptions to tide you over through the new year. Of course, I'll still need to see you about once a week." Unless I get that job at the University, in which case it's sayonara, Honey. The doctor thought to herself.
"Sure, no problem." Brenda agreed with another quick nod.
Later that afternoon, while Dr. Fisher was pulling into the parking lot at Georgetown University ready to begin her new year with a new future, so was Brenda. Stepping outside of the walls of the mental institution for the first time in nearly a month, she breathed in the cool, December air. It had just begun to snow and she smiled. The new year was a only day away and she had much to do if she was to accomplish what she had been planning on for so long.
"So, what's your New Year's resolution and don't tell me it's to lose weight, because if you get any thinner, McSkinny, you'll disappear." Tony asked as he downed the last of his beer and looked over at a scowling Tim.
"Leave him alone, Tony." Ziva interrupted as she stepped in between the two at the bar. "You are just jealous because he is getting fit while you are..." Ziva looked him up and down appraisingly. "Not."
Ziva and Tim exchanged a glance, both with smirks on their faces.
"Oh, shut up you two."
Tim shook his head with a grin. "If you must know, Tony. I do have some resolutions this year. Number one is to not rise to the bait when you make fun of me and number two, I am working with my personal trainer to run a half-marathon this spring."
"A half-marathon? That is wonderful, McGee." Ziva praised with a grin that lit up her face and that had Tony's hackles rising.
"Sounds rather suicidal to me." Tony pointed out. "How long is a half-marathon anyway?"
"Thirteen miles." McGee replied. "You know, you should train with us. The race isn't until April and that should be plenty of time to get you shape."
"Right..." Tony started, ready to turn him down until something occured to him. "Wait, this trainer of yours, is she hot?"
"Oh yeah...smokin'" Tim suddenly grew a mischievous smile.
"Really?" Tony took on a ponderous face. "Hmmm. Thirteen miles you say? I can do that."
"She's also married with two kids." Tim added and chuckled when he saw Tony's face fall.
"Still up for it?" Tim asked while Tony scowled.
"I am." Ziva cut in, making direct eye contact with Tony. "I would love to train with you, McGee. Tony may not have the fortitude for such a challenge, but think it would be fun."
"Hey, that's great, Ziva." McGee was all smiles. "I'll call my trainer and let her know you're joining us. We start on Monday and..."
"You don't think I can do it?" Tony asked Ziva, cutting off McGee.
"I think that this is something that requires commitment and stamina..." Ziva eyed him coolly but with a glint of play in her eyes. Tony knew he was being baited, but he let himself be reeled in.
"Oh I'll show you stamina." He shot back confidently
"Really?" She asked suspiciously. "You seriously think you can keep up with McGee and I?"
"Of course I can. I can run circles around you two chuckle-heads."
"Then prove it...join us." She challenged him, her face leaning into his and eyes narrowing.
"Fine." He jutted in closer to her until they were nose to nose. "I'm in." Their eyes locked and they held them there for a heartbeat until a pig-tailed head invaded.
"Hey you three, you're not wearing your party hats." Abby complained, her giant, oversized 2011 shaped glasses bobbing up and down as she bounced on her heels. "It's New Year's eve and we've only got a few hours left of 2010 and you guys look like you're going to a funeral."
"Actually, you're the one that looks like she's going to a funeral." Tim pointed out, gesturing towards her black garb.
"Please?" She begged, ignoring McGee's protest and picking up the hats she had given them when the first walked in the door from the bar top, handing them to each of them. "C'mon, I made them myself and they took me forever."
Three groans issued simultaneously from Tim, Tony and Ziva. They knew there wasn't going to be anyway they could say 'no' to Abby when she had her heart set on something and no one wanted to hurt her feelings by rejecting her gifts.
"Well, I wouldn't want anyone to think that I can't commit to anything..." Tony started as he placed his black, 2011 bedazzled top hat on his head, and gave Ziva a pointed glare. "So, I hereby commit to this hat and promise to honor and cherish it, never to let it leave my head...at least not until the end of this party."
"That's the spirit, Tony!" Abby beamed then turned to the other two.
"Fine." Tim grumbled then placed his own sparkly, cone-shaped party hat with the streamers erupting from the top on while Ziva swallowed her pride as well and placed her 'Happy New Year' tiara over her hair.
Abby clapped her hands and smiled brightly. "Yes! Now we've got ourselves a party."
Walking up to her destination with grocery bags in hand, Brenda frowned a bit seeing the darkened window on the second story. She couldn't count the number of times she had passed by this building and looked up towards that window, hoping to catch just a glimpse of the man that lived within. Whenever she did see him, he heart would leap in her chest and she often fantasized herself in there with him, making him dinner or making love with him. So, seeing that he wasn't home was disappointing.
However, it was New Year's eve after all and he was most likely out at a party and he didn't know she was coming. She frowned then and turned her head away thinking of that; all those drunk women looking to be kissed at the stroke of midnight had her on edge. What if he took one of those women home? What would she do then? Should she back out of her plan?
No. She told herself, she had too much invested in this, too much of her heart was devoted to him to worry about that. She'd deal with any rivals if she had to and prove to him that she was the only one that he should be with.
She set her sights once again on the window, her mind made up and her determination set. With a new found confidence, Brenda walked straight up to the building's entrance, but was unable to enter without being buzzed in. The wind whipped around her and she pulled her coat in tighter against the cold, but she was dead set on staying put until someone allowed her in. Thankfully, it was only a few minutes of waiting in the frigid air before an elderly lady came walking up to the door and noticed her.
"Can I help you, Dear?" she asked, not recognizing her as one of the residents, but seeing that she was shivering and obviously wanting to go inside.
"Yes." She replied. "My boyfriend is expecting me but he hasn't come home yet to buzz me in. I'd call him to ask for the code, but he forgot his cell phone." She reached into her pocket and pulled out her own phone to show the lady. "Could you let me in, please?"
"Sure. What's your boyfriend's name?"
"Tony DiNozzo." She answered sweetly and the older woman grinned back happily at her.
"Oh...You're Tony's new girl? That's so nice...I'm Gladys, his across-the-hall neighbor, ya know. He's a very good man, that Tony and I keep telling my husband how it's just not right for a man his age and with his good looks to still be single..." The lady kept on talking non-stop as she keyed in the code for the door and let her in, following her to the elevator and never letting up on the constant dialog, telling her about the time Tony fixed her TV and how happy she was that Tony was finally dating again since she hadn't seen him bring any women home with him in quite a while.
Hearing the old woman say that Tony hadn't been seen with any other dates in a long time sent Brenda's hopes soaring. She told Gladys about her plans to surprise Tony with a home-made dinner for New Years and that had the older woman gushing about how that was such a sweet gesture and how much she believed Tony would like that.
"I always say that the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Tony's very lucky to have you." Gladys smiled as they exited the elevator and walked down the hallway.
"Thank-you." Brenda came back, anxious now for the old lady to leave so she could get started with her plans, but not wanting to seem rude by asking her to go home. Thankfully, she didn't have to as the door across the hall opened and a bald-headed, elderly man poked his head out.
"Gladys, will you quit gabbing already. It's about time you got back, I'm starving." The old man griped.
Gladys turned and nearly shouted at the man."I'm coming Herbert, just keep you britches on." She faced back to Brenda apologetically. "I'm Sorry. That's my husband and he's a little hard of hearing these days. Well, I suppose I should let you go, Dear. Now you take good care of our Tony, ya hear?"
"I sure will." Brenda replied honestly and smiled back, watching until the older woman was finally inside of her apartment. Looking up and down the hall and seeing that the coast was clear, she made her move towards Tony's door.
She set down her bags of groceries and pulled the spare key from her pocket. She had swiped it from Tony nearly a year ago when he brought her here after their first date and that glorious night of sex was enough for her to know that he was the only man she would ever love. She had hoped that this key would be something that she would be using many times after that and she couldn't count the number of times she had been tempted to use this key since she took it and do what she planned to do this evening, but she had always been too scared. However, now that the new year was upon them and she had what she called her 'wake-up' call with her accident, she felt she had a second chance with life and she wasn't about to let Tony slip through her fingers.
And even after he started to seem like he wasn't interested in seeing her again, she knew she could win him back. After God knows how many times she tried to call him and she never heard back from him, she had nearly given up and the depression that followed had been horrific, but it wasn't until she hit that tree with her car that she finally realized that life was short and if she wanted the man of her dreams, she had to take drastic measures for him to come around.
Sure, she had had to deal with being sent to the loony bin after the accident, but she had learned to tell the nurses and the doctors what they wanted to hear; that she wasn't constantly thinking about Tony or fantasizing about how wonderful life would be if he would only see how much she loved him. Even though it was difficult to keep it all inside, she had succeeded and now she was out of the hospital and ready to take what should be hers.
She had spent most of her time in the institution planning things out, running scenarios in her head about this evening. Her favorite one was where Tony would come home and he would be so surprised and pleased to find her in his kitchen cooking him a meal and wearing only a skimpy outfit that he would realize what a mistake it had been let her go. He would then swoop in and kiss her, before making mad passionate love to her over and over. At the end he would pledge his undying love for her and she for him.
Smiling as she ran through the fantasy one more time through her mind, she opened the door and walked in.
"Five. Four. Three. Two. One! Happy New Year!"
The crowd in the bar went wild. Cheers, whoops and confetti went up along with a chorus of Auld Lang Syne. Abby grinned from ear to ear as she tossed some streamers into the air and sang along, making sure they landed on her colleagues heads.
After the amount of alcohol that had been ingested by most of them, no one seemed to mind or even notice except for Ziva, who was perhaps the only person left in the bar who was sober. After agreeing to be a designated driver, she was starting to regret agreeing to that. She tried in vain to brush out the confetti with her fingers, but couldn't help but laugh along with everyone else and enjoy the moment, even singing along with the last few bars of the song.
As soon as the singing was over, Abby bounced up and down, her face flushed with happiness. On Impulse, she grabbed Tim by the shoulders and pulled him close. "It's 2011, McGee and I can't start the new year off without a kiss."
McGee's face turned a deep shade of crimson. "I uh..."
Abby didn't give Tim a chance to respond and pursed her lips, smooching Tim on the cheek, leaving him flustered, but grinning.
"Uh...happy new year to you too, Abby." He sputtered with an amused face.
Abby then proceeded to grab Tony and do the same to him. Tony raised his eyebrows at Tim, who's face had sunk a little seeing that he wasn't the only man she had grabbed and kissed. When she was done with the chaste peck, she turned to the both of them who just stood there bemused as her face began to clearly show her disappointment.
"Man, I wish Gibbs was here." Abby pouted. "He'd at least kiss me back. And look at poor Ziva there...she hasn't had anyone kiss her either."
Ziva put up her guard at that, giving Tony a sidelong glance, not daring to look him in the eyes. "I am fine, Abby. I think I will live without a new year's kiss." She protested.
Abby shrugged at Ziva. "Fine, suit yourself..but I'm gonna go dance..who's with me?" Abby turned pointedly towards McGee. He never got to answer whether he wanted to or not as Abby pulled him away towards the dancing mob of revelers.
"You know, she's right...shouldn't start the new year off without a kiss..." Tony started in on Ziva with a grin, slightly slurring his words thanks to the endless array of shots he had consumed thus far.
"Don't even think about it." Ziva stopped his less than subtle leaning towards her, putting a restraining hand on his chest and backing away. "You smell like a liquor store that just got destroyed by a heard of stampeding elephants."
"Wow...very descriptive." Tony came back, breathing deliberately into her face. "Fine then...how 'bout another drink?"
"I think you have had enough and I should take you home."
"You're gonna take me home, Ziva? Sounds, kinda kinky... Will you tuck me in too?" Tony's eyes were beginning to droop and Ziva knew that if she let him drink any more she'd either kill him when he became impossibly annoying or he'd kill her for the hangover he'd have in the morning.
"Definitely not. Go on and get your coat...I will tell McGee and Abby that we are leaving. I think they had planned on sharing a cab home anyway."
"We're leaving?" Tony asked, his liquor dampened brain failing to keep up with the conversation she just had with him. "But it's only midnight."
Ziva sighed. It was going to be a fun ride taking Tony home.
The smell of the lasagna she had baked was starting to wane. Poking unhappily at the now cold pan of pasta, she sighed heavily in disappointment. It was already past midnight and Tony still wasn't home. She knew she shouldn't have expected him to be home this early when it was new year's eve, but it still hurt to think about what he might be doing that night.
What if he didn't come back?
What if he went home with another woman to her place?
In answer to these questions, she knew that no matter what, she would stay put and wait for him -all night and morning if she had to, but either way she was going to see him. She had to. He had to know how much she loved him.
Anxiously, she got up from the table that she had so nicely set and started to wander around the apartment once again, going back to his shelves filled with DVD's. Tracing her finger along the titles, she wondered which one was his favorite.
Continuing her exploration, she went back to the bedroom. She had neatly made his bed when she first came into the apartment and picked up some of the clothes he had left on the floor as another demonstration of her domestic capabilities, but now she wondered if she should just skip the dinner part since it was already so late and the food was cold. She could instead just wait for him in here, surprising him with her skimpy lingerie.
Sitting on the bed, she lovingly caressed the pillow where Tony's head lay every night before picking it up and bringing it to her face. She breathed in deep and took in the light smell that lingered there. Smiling in delight, she decided right then and there that waiting for him in bed would be much better than waiting for him at the table.
Stripping down to her underwear, Brenda stretched out on the bed and luxuriated in the slick feel of the satin bedspread. If Tony wasn't so turned on by this gesture that he took her right away, then nothing would.
Ziva pulled Tony's car into the parking lot adjacent to his building and was very pleased that she had decided to take his car and not hers as he was starting look a little green around the gills. Cleaning vomit out of her upholstery was not the way she wanted to spend New Year's day.
"Ugggghhhh." He groaned as she stopped the car none too gently. "Easy on the brakes, Ziva...and my stomach."
"Still wishing you had grabbed that last shot on the way out, Tony?" She asked ruefully.
He only moaned again in response and closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the seat rest.
She opened her door and walked around to the passenger side, opening the door for her inebriated partner.
"Alright, Tony. Come on out."
Tony mumbled something unintelligible, but remained where he was. Ziva slapped his knee to rouse him.
"You can sleep inside, not here." She stated firmly.
"Fine." he said as he finally opened his eyes then rolled out of the car to stand on wobbly legs. He swayed a little on his heels, but Ziva grabbed him by the shoulders to steady him.
"Will you be alright to walk to your apartment alone or will you need an escort?" She asked.
"M'fine... Don' need a bodyguard." He slurred.
"Alright then. Go to bed Tony. I will be back in the morning with your car so you can take me to mine."
Tony started to walk off towards his building with a sloppy wave when he suddenly stopped. "Whoa...wait. You're taking m'car?" He asked, confused.
Ziva rolled her eyes. "Of course, Tony. How else am I supposed to get home? I left my car at the bar, remember?"
"Oh yeah..." He made a face like it suddenly dawned on him. "Well...why d'ya need to drive all the way back to your place? You could just come up and sleep on the couch."
Ziva shook her head. "That would be way, way, way inappropriate." She argued.
Tony shrugged. "Your loss...my couch is made out of real Italian leather- I promise it's comfy."
Ziva started to walk back to the driver's side, leaving him standing there. Opening the door, she paused for a moment and sent a "Good night, Tony." his way before climbing in, shutting the door and starting the engine.
"Hey...take it easy with my car, Ziva!" He called back to her loud enough for his voice to be heard through the closed windows. "I don't have insane, ninja chick insurance on it, ya know."
Through the window, Ziva gave him a one-finger wave goodbye with a big grin on her face then revved the engine and peeled off.
He watched her take off through bleary eyes and winced when he saw her hit the curb. "Watch it!" He hissed, grabbing his hair and wishing she could hear him.
Tony made it to the elevator without throwing up, which in his opinion was quite an accomplishment. By the time it reached his floor and opened up, he was really regretting all of those weird, pink shots that Abby kept passing him all night and he was wishing he had just stayed home for the holiday like he had planned when his date fell through.
But, dammit if Abby wasn't so hard to say 'no' to when she suggested, nay, demanded that the four of them meet up at the bar.
Internally cursing her youthful energy and earnest desire to party, he somehow managed to make his feet propel him forward and out of the elevator despite the fact that the whole world was spinning like a gyroscope. He held a hand out against the hallway wall and used it to steady himself as he walked towards the end where his apartment door beckoned.
Inside that door was his salvation; a toilet to puke in and his bed to pass out on. That's all he wanted right then.
Once at the door, he reached into his pocket for the key, but then realized that they weren't on him. Ziva had them on his key chain, dangling from his car's ignition right at that moment.
"Shit." His head fell forward and hit the door with a thump.
That's when the weird stuff really started to happen.
Brenda's heart nearly stopped in her chest when she heard the thump. She had actually fallen asleep on Tony's bed waiting for him and she woke in a panic. She had to be a mess. Hurriedly, she went to the dresser mirror and straightened up her hair, carefully covering the ugly scar on her face and then fixed the smeared mascara under her eyes. Staring at her reflection for a moment, she hoped that she was looking a little more on the sexy side and less on the disgusting before she went back to the bed to wait for Tony.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there, but after several moments without anyone walking through the door, she decided to investigate. Getting off the bed, she headed down the hall and back to the living room where she heard the thump again and a rattling noise. Scared now and knowing that Tony would be using his key to get in, her heart started to race thinking that someone was trying to break in.
At first she was unsure of what to do, but when she saw the edge of a credit card slip down the crack of the door, she knew she had to do something.
Racing to the kitchen, she rummaged through the drawers until she found a large kitchen knife and grasped it tightly in her hands. She shook with fear and her breathing picked up as the knob on the door wiggled.
That's when it occurred to her that she should hide.
Scrambling, she ran to the nearest closet and shut the door. She listened closely and tried to control her breath while the rattling continued. Suddenly, it all went quiet and the next thing she knew, she could hear the light creak of the door as it began to open. Not daring to open the door to the dark closet and look, she held her breath while her heart fluttered wildly. She brought the knife up to her chest and gripped tight, knowing that if the intruder found her she would need to use it and she had to be ready in case he opened the closet door.
This all would have been so much easier if he had been sober, he thought as he finally unlocked the door after picking it with his credit card. Walking into his apartment however, he knew immediately that something was off.
For one thing, it smelled like baked spaghetti sauce and for another, his kitchen light was on and he was certain he had turned it off before he left for the bar that evening.
Though his brain was still addled by the liquor, his gut knew that he should use caution on entering. Slowly, he crept into his home a little further, wishing that he had his weapon on him and cursing that it was locked away in his nightstand, far out of his reach.
Upon entering into the kitchen, he gulped back a wave of nausea at seeing his kitchen table. On it were two of his candlesticks, two sets of plates, a pan of lasagna and a bowl full of salad.
Now this was just weird, he thought in confusion. Someone had been in his apartment but they left a full dinner sitting on his table?
Instantly sobering up, he looked around to investigate and approached the table. The food was long since cold and the salad was limp, but that didn't rule out the possibility that someone was still in his apartment.
Cautiously he left the kitchen, moving as stealthily and quietly as he could through the living room. Nothing seemed amiss there as he cleared it, but as he approached his bedroom and entered it, he could feel his heartbeat quicken. His bed was neatly made, but more disturbing than the fact that he had left it a mess that morning was the small stack of womens clothes sitting next to it.
"What the hell..." He muttered, picking up the skirt and examining it as if it might yield some kind of clue of his home invader.
Warily he put it down and headed straight for his nightstand, opening the top drawer where he kept his gun. Quietly, he pulled it out and removed it from his holster, checking the clip and taking it off of the safety. Feeling a little more confident with his weapon in hand, Tony set about checking the rest of his place for signs of anyone about. First, he checked his bedroom closet, but found nothing there but his dirty clothes. Next, he checked the bathroom, discovering that it was empty as well before crossing the hall to the spare room that he used as an office. It too was devoid of anything.
He had only one place left where someone could hide and that was the coat closet in the living room. Just as he was approaching the door to it, he heard a scuffling sound from inside of it. His adrenaline now pumping furiously through his body, he lifted his gun up.
Slowly, his hand went to the door knob and in one swift jerk he flung the door open.
The next few moments would forever be frozen in Tony's mind.
In a frenzy of hysterics, a screaming, half-naked figure jumped out of the closet at him and lunged. There was a flash of silver, and a strange stinging sensation as he fell backward. He wasn't even aware that his instincts to fight had taken over and the trigger of his weapon was pulled until he saw the muzzle discharge followed by an ear-splitting explosion.
Landing hard on his back, the person from the closet fell on top of him, practically straddling his hips. It was then that he recognized his attacker.
"Brenda?" He gasped in shock and confusion.
Above him, her face a mixture of shock, pain and regret, she looked down at her chest. "Tony?" She whispered as she looked back up at him. "Oh God! What did I do?"
He watched in horror as a bright red patch began to spread and grow, soaking her white, lacy bra with blood. She looked like she wanted to say more, but when she opened her mouth only blood poured out. A deep gurgling sound issued from her lips as she fell sideways to the floor until her body finally came to a stop, her eyes wide and staring at him until the light of life in them faded away.
Paralyzed with shock, Tony could only stare dumbly at her and at her lifeless eyes. He knew she was dead as soon as she hit the floor but, snapping out of his trance, he reached over to check her pulse anyway.
That's when he realized that she wasn't the only one that might die there that night.
Staring down at his own chest, he caught sight of the knife hilt buried deep within. He looked at it in detached disbelief. He hadn't even felt it go in, but now that he knew it was there, pain began to spread throughout his torso and a stark panic set in, making breathing a nearly impossible and painful task.
His first instinct was pull the knife out but, even in his shocky state he knew enough from his first aid training to know that it would only make things worse and he would bleed out. Besides, his fingers were now too numb to move and darkness was closing in.
Laying his head down on the floor, he willed his senses to stay alert, to fight the impending loss of consciousness that was coming. He knew he should call for help, to reach for his phone that lay under him in his back pocket, but he wasn't sure he could get his arm underneath of him. It just hurt too much to move.
Absently, as he stared up at the ceiling and blackness curled at the edges of his vision, he felt a strange giddiness take over. So this was how he was going to die? Killed by a naked woman in his own home? It was almost funny, but Tony wasn't laughing. Instead, his last conscious thought before he was completely swallowed up by the darkness closing in was of how much karma was a bitch.
Ziva was nearly half-way back to her apartment when she suddenly realized something: she had Tony's keys and he would be locked out of his apartment. However, Tony was resourceful, she told herself and he could probably pick his own lock, but given how drunk he was, would he have the presence to mind to do that?
She was half-tempted to just keep going home and let him solve his own problem as he was the one to get himself in such a state, but then she had a vision of him curled up next to his door and passed out for his neighbors to find in the morning.
Should she save him the embarrassment?
Sighing in resignation, she knew what she had to do. She reached for her phone and pressed the speed dial for Tony's number and waited for him to answer. At least she could call and see if he got in before she completely turned around and went back.
Hearing Tony's voicemail pick-up, she swore in Hebrew. Whether he was passed out inside or outside of his apartment, she felt bad now for leaving him to his own devices and realized that she should have made sure that he made it safely inside. He had been too drunk to be left alone. Feeling guilty, she slammed on the brakes, ignoring the protesting horn of the car behind her as she pulled a U-turn and reversed her direction.
It wasn't long before she was back at Tony's building where she quickly parked the car and headed for the door. She keyed in the building's code into the security system having seen Tony do it several times and let herself in.
Once up to Tony's floor, she stepped out of the elevator and peered down the hall. Thankfully, Tony wasn't sitting outside of his door like she feared. He must have found a way to make it inside and she was relieved to see that she wouldn't have to haul his drunk butt in.
She was tempted to go to the door and knock, just to make sure he was okay, but she figured that by now he had to be either asleep or retching and she didn't need to disturb him or let on to him that she had been concerned. Besides, she'd be back in the morning anyway to pick him up and she could tease him about his hangover then.
Turning back around, she was almost back to the elevator when she heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire coming from Tony's door. Instantly, her instincts kicked in and her training took over. She pulled up the hem of her pants, pulling out the small-caliber back-up weapon strapped to her ankle that she never went anywhere without.
Racing to Tony's apartment, she didn't waste any time with trying the door, opting instead to place an expertly placed kick to the weakest spot. Even with her training and considerable strangth it took nearly three tries to bust down the solid door but when it finally did, it nearly ripped off its hinges as it broke down.
"Tony?" She cried out as she entered with her weapon at the ready before stopping cold in her tracks, her mind trying to process the confusing and disturbing scene before her.
A woman, clad only in her underwear lay on her side, a bright red pool of blood spread out underneath of her while Tony lay on his back, ashen faced and unconscious, but most worrying of all was the protruding knife hilt bobbing up and down as he breathed. Even from her spot across the room she could hear his labored and wheezing breath. She thanked God that he was still alive, but who could say for how long with that kind of injury.
In a burst of adrenaline, Ziva covered the distance between them and fell to her knees beside him. Bright red blood seeped through his white shirt, sending a wave a distress coursing through her. She gave the woman a quick glance, but one look at the lifeless eyes staring out into space and she knew she was beyond help, so she turned her attention back to Tony, ripping open his shirt to expose the wound. The knife was buried in too deep for her to determine how long it was, but judging by its width, the situation was dire and she wasn't certain how much longer he could hold out.
"Tony?...Tony..." She patted his face lightly, hoping to rouse him. Hearing a low groan issue from his throat and his eyelids open up to mere slits, she let go of the breath she had been holding.
"Zi-?" He whispered, his voice barely audible past his paling lips as he looked up into her eyes wearily.
"I'm here, Tony. Hold on. I am going to get you some help."
It was just then that Ziva heard a noise from the broken door to the apartment. She quickly turned to see an elderly woman in her bathrobe and curlers standing from the hallway looking in.
"Tony, what's going on? I thought I heard...oh my God." The woman exclaimed, her hand flying to her mouth in shock. Ziva didn't have time to address the old woman's distress, but she did need her help.
"Go call 911!" Ziva demanded. The old lady snapped out of it and nodded, hurrying inside and grabbing the phone.
Ziva turned back to Tony, who was fading fast. "Stay awake, Tony." she ordered, grabbing his hand and squeezing tight as though she might be able to pass on some of her own life into him and keep him with her.
"Tired..." He wheezed out, lightly squeezing her hand back. "Jus lemme sleep."
"No, Tony. Do not sleep. You will stay with me, do you hear?" Despite her demands, his eyelids drooped as though they were too heavy to keep open any longer and she felt the hand she was holding go limp. In the distance she could just make out the wails of ambulance sirens heading their way and she prayed that they would hurry up- time was running out.
The next seven hours went by at a snail's pace. Watching the clock as it ticked by the hours had been agonizing, but what was worse was being so out of control and not knowing what was happening to her partner.
Getting up from her seat for what had to be the hundredth time, she started wearing a groove in the thin hospital carpeting as she paced back and forth.
"How long has it been already?" Abby asked McGee yet again as she chewed her nails.
"I don't know." McGee replied, looking down at his folded hands as he sat next to her. Ziva knew how long it had been as she looked up at the clock again. 6 hours, 35 minutes and fifteen seconds since the doctor's told them that Tony was in surgery to take out the knife in his chest and still there was not a word.
"I'm going to call Gibbs again and see when we should expect him." Tim stated, getting up from his chair and obviously just as anxious to keep moving as Ziva was during this interminable wait. Though it would be a relief to have the senior agent back from his New Year's vacation to his father's, Ziva dreaded having to repeat the events she had witnessed that night back to him as she already had to the doctors, the police and to Ducky, Abby and McGee. She was sick of recounting it over and over again and she didn't see how explaining it one more time would help Tony.
She glanced up and saw McGee snap closed his phone then look over at her for a moment before something caught his attention behind her. She turned and saw the door to the waiting room swing open revealing Ducky, his features schooled tightly along with a grim faced doctor dressed in surgical attire.
Ziva held her breath as she took in the news.
Soft puffing noises, the sounds of paper being crinkled, and an annoying beep, beep, beep filled the empty air. Absently he wondered what the noises threatening to drag him unwillingly from the fluffy, cottony bliss of his drug-induced slumber were and after an uncertain amount of time of hanging suspended in the twilight zone between dreaming and wakefulness, he started to feel the first pricks of pain in his chest. His exhausted body wanted and needed to rest, but his mind couldn't put the growing aches aside and allow it any further.
He heard paper rustling again and this time his curiosity won out over his exhaustion and the dull ache he had been feeling before in his chest was now a sharpening pain, making it almost impossible to stay in that comfortable realm of oblivion. Almost without his consent, his heavy eyelids opened and peered out into a dimly lit room.
He struggled to recall what had happened to make him end up in here, but it didn't take long for those memories to resurface and slam back into him. There was the new year's party, then Ziva taking him home, Brenda...shit- she stabbed him. He ran a hand along his chest where he had the chilling memory of the knife sticking out of him and felt a thick bandage that covered him from his collar bone to the bottom of his ribcage.
From across the room, the paper sound was back and Tony fixed his attention on the direction it came from. All he could see from his vantage point were two hands holding a newspaper up, covering the face of their owner.
Straining for a moment to sit up a little and get a better view of who it was, he immediately regretted trying to make any sort of movement and with a groan he shut his eyes against the flare of fire that streaked across every nerve in his torso.
"Tony?" He heard the paper being folded as the familiar voice echoed about the room. "Here, take this." The voice commanded.
Tony felt his hand being opened and something being placed in it. Opening his eyes, he looked at the small button in his hand then up at the one that had given it to him. "Boss?"
"Go on, use it. No need to be in pain."
Not wanting to argue with that logic, Tony did as he was told, feeling a warm trickling of fluid move through the vein in his hand and up his arm. It didn't take long for him to start to feel some relief and he sighed, resting back into his pillow.
"How long?" He started to ask before his parched throat began to protest the sudden use. As if reading his mind, Gibbs calmly poured a glass of water and stuck a straw in it, handing it off to the younger man.
Tony sucked down the water as Gibbs began to speak. "You were out for almost a week. It was touch and go for a while, but doctors think you should make a full recovery."
He finished swallowing his water and looked up at Gibbs, the drug in his system making it hard to focus on him clearly. "A week? Gee...is that all?" he asked sarcastically, thinking it was pretty funny, but was met with only a deep scowl.
"You almost died, DiNozzo." Gibbs deadpanned his response, sending a chill down Tony's spine.
Gibbs continued to loom over him, but Tony saw his features soften into a slight grin. "But you didn't, which is good because if you had, I would have had to bring you back to life just so I could kill you myself."
"Good to know you care, Boss." Tony came back with a yawn, the pull of sleep was starting to become irresistible, but there were still many questions running through his head that he had to ask before he could fight it no longer.
"Brenda Bitner?" Gibbs finished for him and Tony nodded. "She's dead. The metro PD investigated and ruled it a justifiable homicide. A neighbor across the hall from you reported that she met the woman and let her into the building after she told her that she was your girlfriend and was going to surprise you with dinner. The police figure that she either thought you were breaking in or that she had been lying in wait for you."
"Boss...I swear, I barely knew the woman. We went out once...that's it."
"We know. Turns out Ms. Bitner was just released from a mental institution that same day. Clearly, she wasn't as cured as they thought she was especially since the police found some personal journals in her home that showed an obsession with you that went way beyond anything normal and had been going on for a long time."
"What I don't get is how she got in. I always lock my door."
"There was a key found in her purse in your apartment that fit the lock on your door. She must have gotten a hold of it somehow."
"Damn..." Tony mumbled, his vision becoming blurry as the ability to stay awake was fading "So that's where that key went." He yawned once again. "I lost it not long after...well, after I met Brenda...didn't think much of it..."
"Don't worry about it, DiNozzo. Just get some sleep."
"Sure, Boss. On it." Tony thought he said out loud, but couldn't be certain as he closed his eyes just to rest them for just a moment. However, when he opened them again, the room was bright and sunlight streamed through open curtains. Gibbs was nowhere to be seen but, standing next to the window he made out a silhouetted figure.
She turned and he saw a smile curl around the corners of her mouth as she approached his bed and sat down in the chair next to his head. "Hey, Tony. How are you feeling?"
Honestly, he was doing much better and in much less pain than he had when he first woke up, so he put on a wan smile to ease some of the stress he could see in her eyes.
"I'm fine." He told her and that seemed to make her relax a fraction. "Really."
Ziva looked down at her lap and to most people, she would have appeared outwardly collected and untroubled but, Tony knew her better and saw the subtle signs that she was upset about something.
"What's wrong?" He asked.
Ziva exhaled heavily and looked up at the ceiling. "Tony..." She paused then brought her eyes down level with him. "We are friends, yes?"
"Yeah, last time I checked."
"I have a confession to make...about that night you were hurt. I was not the friend to you that I should have been."
"What d'ya mean? You drove my drunk ass home that night. Most of it's kinda fuzzy, but I do remember that."
"Yes..but... I should have stayed with you...you were drunk...far too drunk for me to have left you alone. You offered for me to sleep on your couch and if I had only said yes, you might not have been hurt. I would have had your back."
"Ziva..." Tony sighed. "It's not your fault. You had no idea anything like this would happen and who knows if things would have been any different if you had been there. But I do know one thing and that is I'm glad you weren't there...if you had been hurt by her because of me...then I'm not sure I could handle that."
There was an silence after he spoke that stretched on for a few moments. "You know it was not your fault either, Tony." Ziva spoke up.
"She's dead because of me." He replied, feeling sick and not in any physical way.
"No. She's dead because she was mentally disturbed and obsessed, not because you did anything to make her believe that you had the same feelings for her."
"But that's just it, Ziva." Tony protested. "I started all of this-I asked her out when I knew from the get-go that I didn't want a serious relationship and afterward it didn't help that I brushed her off. If I wasn't such an ass, maybe she'd still be alive. "
"Perhaps, perhaps not...or she just might be obsessing over someone else right now. Either way she is gone what matters most is that you move on from this."
"Maybe." He half-hardheartedly agreed. "At least all of this has got me thinking and I know now what my new year's resolution should be."
"You mean it is not to run thirteen miles?" Ziva grinned and Tony was grateful for the gentle tease that pulled him out of his darkening thoughts.
"Yeah...I think I'm going to be disappointing McGee on that one." Tony snorted then wished he hadn't as it pulled at the stitches in his chest. Yep, he definitely wasn't going to be running anytime soon.
"So what is it then?" Ziva prodded him.
"Just to be a better person." He locked eyes on Ziva and she smiled warmly in return while taking his hand and giving it a supportive squeeze.
"Tony, " she replied. "I think we all need to make that resolution."