Title: When It All Comes Down
Summary: Things are not always as they seem. But when an apparent reality destroys a person, whether or not it is "real" doesn't really matter —Tiva—
Beginning Notes: So I started this story about two months ago and it's pretty much been my baby. I have another account here, and my stories over there were neglected because I got so into this. I really, really like it, and I really, really hope you do too. So read on, if you please!
The broken clock is a comfort, it helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow from stealing all my time
I am here still waiting though i still have my doubts
I am damaged at best, like you've already figured out
I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain, there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on, I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you…
Scene One — Broken
Ziva sighed as she rolled over, the annoying tick-tick of the old alarm clock on the bedside table ushering her back from the semi-conscious state she'd spent the last four hours in. She turned off the alarm, despite the fact she still had two hours before she technically had to wake up, and she climbed out of bed, no longer interested in this half-hearted attempt at sleep.
"Clear," Ziva called as she made her way upstairs to help Tony finish checking the second floor. He was standing at the end of the hall, just opening a door.
"How many freakin' rooms does one guy need?" He was complaining. Ziva laughed as she proceeded to help him search.
Ziva managed to dig up her running clothes, pulling them out of the mess of a duffel bag. Packing certainly wasn't Gibbs forte; at least he'd remembered to throw these in, though. She dressed without giving the action any attention, barely remembering to tie her hair back before she slipped out of the room, moving in her silent way towards the stairs. It was quiet in the small house, of course; Abby wouldn't wake up until she absolutely had to. Gibbs was probably already down in the basement, working on his boat. Ziva would happily avoid them until she absolutely had to face them.
"Waste of time," Tony grumbled unhappily as he walked towards another door. Ziva gave him a small, tolerant smile as she started to open a door as well; the last door on the floor.
"You will get over it—"
Her words were cut off as she'd been starting to open abruptly flew open, the edge catching her in the head and knocking her down. Tony turned at the sound of wood connecting with skin.
The man on the other side of the door ran past the momentarily dazed woman, shooting down the stairs. Ziva shook her head, ignoring the pain that originated from the spot where she had been hit. "Damn it," she hissed, drawing her gun and running after him, Tony hot on her heels.
Cold, early morning air whipped past Ziva as she ran, cooling the sweat that made its way down her face. This was the first time she'd been running since she'd been forcefully relocated to Gibbs' house. The route she was taking was new, unfamiliar. But somehow comforting. A change from the ordinary.
Maybe she needed the change. She drew in as deep of a breath as her aching lungs would allow; they burned with the effort. Her legs screamed in protest. She wasn't sure how long she had been running for, or even how to get back to Gibbs'; that was how little attention she'd paid her route. It was almost tempting to not go back, to just keep running, to only stop when her legs absolutely refused to work and gave out from beneath her, causing her to crumple to the sidewalk. Of course, what she would do when that happened she didn't know.
Nor did she care.
"Federal agents!" Ziva and Tony shouted in one voice as they pulled their guns, preparing to shoot their target. The man seemed to be thinking along the same lines; he looked over his shoulder, firing off a couple of rounds and forcing the agents to duck, momentarily impeding them. Ziva was the first to straighten and prepare to shoot, only to hear another gun blast as the man beat her to it.
And suddenly she was tackled from behind, pushed down out of harm's way. She was already preparing her gun before she'd fully hit the ground, and fired a shot of her own; the bullet hit true, burying itself in the man's leg and causing him to go down with a shout of pain. Ziva smiled triumphantly as she rolled onto her back and sat up, her eyes searching Tony out.
She cut herself off abruptly when she realized he was the ground as well. On his back. A blood stain forming on his jacket.
Gibbs was just coming up from the basement when Ziva finally returned, nearly three hours after she had left. They stopped for a moment, looking at one another, each with unreadable expressions. Gibbs swept his eyes over his agent, taking in her tired expression, the pallor of her skin (which was downright odd considering she'd clearly been running), and the vacancy in her eyes where a spark of life use to reside.
A spark that had died along with his senior field agent.
Ziva was in action before she'd fully registered the blood; she got on her knees, crawling over the short distance separating her from Tony. The jagged bullet hole glared up at her dead center in Tony's chest, accented by the muddy stain of blood painted across his formerly gray jacket. No, no, no, Ziva panicked silently as she pressed one hand as tightly as she could over the wound (causing Tony to wince) and grabbing her cell phone out of her pocket, dialing nine-one-one and rattling off the situation and location before the dispatcher could say even half a word. The phone was quickly abandoned when Tony raised a hand, resting it over the one Ziva had against his chest.
Panicked mahogany eyes bet quickly fading green, and Tony smirked a bit. "Come on, don't gimme that look. You think this is going to kill me?"
"Oh be quiet," Ziva hissed as she rested her remaining hand over Tony's. "I know you are not going to die, you are far too stubborn."
"You can't get rid of me that easily anyways," Tony promised, chuckling. Ziva winced when the laugh turned into a harsh, painful-sounding cough.
"I am sure I cannot," Ziva mumbled, ducking her head, as if that would somehow make the terrible sound lessen.
"Besides, if I died Gibbs would bring me back to life just to kill me again. Who wants to deal with that kind of hassle?" Ziva raised her head again to look at Tony; his teasing smirk was more pronounce now. He was trying to make her feel better. Ziva kicked herself as the fact hit her hard. He shouldn't have been worrying about her. He should be worrying about himself.
"Shut up," she ordered firmly, hoping her voice was stronger than she was feeling. She felt Tony's fingers wrap themselves lightly around hers.
Ziva felt as if she was running on automatic as she dragged herself up the stairs, stopping in her designated room long enough to get a change of clothes before disappearing into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She turned the water on as hot as it would go, ignoring the obvious pain of it hitting her cold skin as she climbed in.
After only two hours of sleep Ziva was up and awake, moving around and getting ready to leave before Abby — who had slept on Ziva's couch after half-dragging the woman out of the hospital — was even aware that the sun was starting to rise.
"Ziva, it's only six a.m.," the Goth mumbled as she watched Ziva bustle around the kitchen. "Visiting hours aren't until eight, not to mention you didn't fall asleep until, what, four? Go back to bed."
"I am not tired," Ziva replied flatly. "If you want to sleep some more, you can take my bed, I will be quiet."
"No, no, I'm up." Abby sighed as she stumbled off the couch, tripping over the overly large sweatpants Ziva had given her to sleep in. "I don't suppose there's a convenience store located near here that sells Caf-Pow?"
"Sorry. Will you settle for some coffee?"
"It should tie me over until we leave for the hospital," Abby ceded as she made her way into the kitchen, taking the offered coffee mug. "You don't mind if we make a pit-stop, right?"
Ziva sighed, trying not to sound annoyed. She wouldn't deny Abby her Caf-Pow. And there was really no reason to rush to the hospital, Tony was fine, the doctor had promised he would be fine, the surgery had gone perfectly, the bullet was out of him, he was going to be okay. There was no need to rush.
"Of course, Abby. We will stop anywhere you want to stop."
Abby smiled weakly. "He's going to be okay, Ziva."
Ziva quickly busied herself with pouring another cup of coffee. "I am aware, Abby. I do not need reassurance."
"Do you need a hug?" Ziva looked over her shoulder at Abby, who was setting her cup of coffee aside, holding her arms out. An offer. Ziva smiled sadly as she stepped forward, letting Abby envelope her in a warm hug.
The sound of knuckles against Ziva's front door broke the two apart. Ziva looked between Abby and the door, the bewilderment she was feeling clear in Abby's eyes. "Maybe my neighbor locked himself out again…" Ziva mumbled as she started towards the door.
Her stomach dropped when she looked through the peephole and saw Gibbs standing on the other side.
Abby was standing against the wall across from the bathroom door when Ziva finally walked back out into the hall. They looked at each other for a long time, Abby expression barely controlled, her eyes overflowing with emotion; a complete contrast of the apathy Ziva knew was expressed on her face.
Suddenly Abby moved, closing the space between them in two steps and throwing her arms around Ziva's neck, as she had felt the need to do every five minutes since that day. Ziva barely managed to raise her arms enough to return the hug; it was a weak attempt. It was very likely Abby didn't notice.
"You should get ready," Ziva finally muttered, pulling away from Abby, who nodded as she rubbed her eyes.
"Right. Right. I'm going. Ziva, are you—"
Ziva escaped into her room, closing the door behind her before Abby could ask if she was okay.
"There was a complication…the doctors did everything they could, but they…couldn't save him. He died earlier this morning."
The words rang unforgivingly in her head as she found a hair tie, pulling her still damp hair back into its usual ponytail. Somehow she found herself looking into the mirror attached to the bureau. Empty, unemotional eyes stared back at her from glass. Ziva watched the mirror for a long time, taking in her reflection. The vacant eyes, the pale skin, the dark circles that were the only sign that anything was amiss in her life.
"I'm not leaving you here alone," Gibbs said firmly, dropping a duffel bag on Ziva's lap. Ziva stared at the bag while Abby looked up at Gibbs through red-rimmed eyes. "You either Abby, we'll stop at your apartment to get clothes."
"Gibbs I do not need a babysitter," Ziva said, setting the bag aside.
"I'm not giving you a choice here, David. Move it."
Ziva sighed, realizing how not in the mood for an argument she was. Instead she detached herself from Abby, standing up, running a hand through her hair. She didn't see why Gibbs didn't want to leave her alone. She wasn't the one that had spent the last four hours sobbing hysterically. In fact, all things considered, she thought she was handling this fairly well. So why was she being forced to relocate?
Abby and Gibbs both jumped as the sound of breaking glass echoed through the house. A moment later Ziva came down the stairs, looking composed as always.
"What was that noise?" Gibbs asked flatly, looking over the woman with a critical eye. Ziva looked between the two of them before dropping her eyes to the floor.
"Nothing much. I owe you a mirror, Gibbs."
Gibbs was tempted to ask exactly what had happened. He decided he was better off not knowing.
"Time to go."
The ride to the cemetery was unsurprisingly quiet. Abby climbed into the back seat with Ziva, resting her head on her friend's shoulder and sniffing occasionally, trying hard not to cry. Ziva automatically took Abby's hand in her own, squeezing her fingers lightly. Gibbs watched the two of them in the rearview mirror, wishing there was something — anything — he could do to make what they were about to do easier.
As if such a thing was possible.
McGee and Ducky were standing at the edge of the cemetery when Gibbs, Ziva, and Abby arrived. Abby instantly threw her arms around McGee's neck, hugging him tightly. McGee returned the hug, burying his face in her hair. Ducky rested a hand Ziva's shoulder, giving her a sympathetic glance that she hurriedly and pointedly ignored.
They walked through the cemetery, Abby still clinging to McGee, who kept an arm around her shoulder the entire time. Ziva walked a little behind the group, making it impossible for them to continue shooting her the concerned glances she was so sick of receiving. In the middle of the cemetery, a small group had already gathered around a simple, light brown casket. Despite the fact that they were clearly the last to arrive, there was still room up front for them to sit.
Ziva barely noticed when the priest stood up and began speaking. She stared past him, past the casket containing Tony's body, past the headstones of those already passed. Random clips of what the priest was saying — loyal, strong, an exemplary man — drifted into Ziva's ears. They sounded wrong. Not wrong as in Tony wasn't all of those things. But wrong because they were coming from the mouth of a stranger, of a man who had probably met Tony before in his life. A stranger would not know how passionate Tony was about everything he did. A stranger would not know that behind Tony's ever-present humor was a solemn, serious man who would have gone to any end to help someone he cared about. A stranger would not know that Tony, for all his useless bluster, had been the damn strongest person Ziva had ever met.
No. A stranger wouldn't know any of this. How could a stranger talk about Tony as if he'd known him?
Gibbs shifted his eyes to look Ziva, who was standing on his left. She didn't seem completely aware of the fact that she was even at a funeral; she was staring past everything, her eyes distant, echoes of pain reflected in her mahogany orbs. It worried Gibbs, how distant Ziva had become since Tony's death. He knew at this point she would go one of two ways: either she snapped and broke down, unable to handle the strain of having to work so hard not to care. Or she continued to distance herself from her emotions until she was completely lost to all of them.
Neither option was good. Gibbs almost preferred the first one to the second, though.
Damn it, when was this priest going to stop pretending he knew the first damn thing about what Tony was? Ziva was tired of listening to it. She was tired of this whole god damned charade. She wanted to go home, to her own apartment, away from the prying eyes of Gibbs, the sympathetic, tearful eyes of Abby. She wanted to just lock herself away in her apartment with a glass of wine and forget about this whole thing.
"Whatcha doin', Zee-vah?"
Ziva looked up from her computer, smiling at Tony, who was leaning over the bullpen wall, trying to see Ziva's screen. "I miss the part where that was your business," she replied teasingly, closing the email screen she'd been typing in.
"Writin' to Mr. Miami again?"
"Still not your business."
"Whatcha sayin' to him?" Ziva rolled her eyes, picking up a paperclip and throwing it at Tony's head. He could have easily dodged, but let hit instead so he could pretend to be wounded.
"Ooow Zee-vah, that really hurt."
"Do you want me to actually hurt you?" Ziva threatened with a tolerant smile. Tony laughed.
Ziva swallowed hard as the unwarranted memory presented itself at the forefront of her mind. Tony's laughter, his voice saying Zee-vah in its teasing way echoed in her ears, blocking out the voice of the priest. This was all she had now. The thought slammed into her like an eighteen wheeler. All she had were her memories of his laugh, his voice. His pretend threats, his flirting, his teasing…she would only ever hear it in her memories now. She would never see his smile, his all-knowing smirk, the way his bright green eyes sparkled when he teased her or pulled a particularly good prank on McGee. She would never feel the warm brush of his fingers against her skin, would never feel his arm against hers as they stood side-by-side (closer than what was strictly necessary) in observation.
She would never see him again. Tony was dead. Her Tony…was dead.
Abby and Gibbs, who were standing on Ziva's left right respectively, both looked quickly at the woman as the strangled word forced its way past her tightly pressed lips. She was still staring off into the distance, completely, painfully oblivious to the tears working their way slowly down her cheeks.
"No," she whispered again, trembling visibly now. "No, no, no…"
Abby moved hesitantly to wrap her arms around Ziva; she jerked away, shaking her head slowly, her eyes wide and utterly horrified.
No. This wasn't happening. Tony was not dead. He wasn't allowed to die, damn it!
"I know, Ziva," Gibbs murmured, taking Ziva's hand in his and squeezing lightly. "I know."
"No. No, no, no…" The faultless whisper morphed into a whimper as Ziva repeated it over and over.
Tony was dead. He was dead.
And, in front of her friends, colleagues, and assorted strangers, Ziva David broke, her knees giving out from beneath her and burying into the grass as she collapsed, doubling over as painful sobs wracked her body.
Dead. Tony DiNozzo…was dead.
Author's Note:So…what do you think, what do you think? I know Ziva goes pretty out of character, but that's just part of the story, unfortunately. I did my best, though, and I'd really like to keep going with this, so hopefully it generates enough interest. If the not-so-subtle-hint wasn't enough, review please! — Sam