A/N: My official prediction for Pyramid (or at least the gist of it). Much love and peace and all that good stuff, Kit!

DISCLAIMER: SPPLLLLLLEEEEEEEEEE!

"A GRAIN OF SAND"

"Director, Agent DiNozzo and Dr. Mallard are requesting entrance to MTAC."

He doesn't break his stare down with Gibbs when he barks his reply of, "Let 'em in."

Ducky enters, closely followed by Tony, and the older man's eyes are bright with eagerness behind his glasses –the latter, however, takes up a place in the shadows, staring warily with guarded eyes into the theater.

"Jethro," and Ducky wastes no time in getting straight to the point, the dire circumstances not allowing the good doctor to deviate from the topic at hand, "Anthony and I have made an important realization."

Gibbs' quirks a silver eyebrow when several heartbeats pass and Ducky makes no attempt to continue. "You pausing for dramatic effect?" he prods impatiently.

Ducky seems slightly taken aback, but is nonetheless spurred back into upholding his half of the conversation, "What? Er, no. We've figured out Cobb's connection with Ziva. They're similar, Jethro. Cobb was trained to be an assassin; Ziva, too, was trained to be an assassin –don't you see? Cobb feels a connection to her."

"That's good right?" McGee asks, rationalizations flickering in his eyes. "I mean, he won't hurt her will he? Not if they're so alike." And there's a very insecure Right? lurking at the end of that sentence, but there's no sugarcoating the truth.

Ducky takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Well, not exactly, Timothy. You see, Cobb is most likely suffering from Post Traumatic Stress induced psychosis, which would lend to the explanation as to why he has become so outgoing suddenly; his need for self-preservation is faltering. He's lashing out directly, heedless of the consequences, because he's most likely suicidal. But that isn't the other crucial key Anthony and I discovered. Ziva is-"

"Was," Tony interrupts from the shadows, taking a step forward, repeating, "Ziva was."

Ducky nods his concession, correcting himself, "Was an assassin, but that is where the similarities stop. Cobb returned from that very first mission a damaged man, both emotionally and mentally, as was Ziva after Somalia. Whereas Cobb, though, was dismissed by the people he trusted the most, we accepted Ziva despite her brokenness. We promoted her to agent status, welcomed her in as a U.S. citizen; we didn't abandon her like the Navy abandoned Cobb."

Gibbs' eyes flash as the words sink in. "So he's gonna kill her is what your telling me, Duck?"

"Not necessarily," Ducky placates, "I think he may wait a while. He's curious, Jethro, this has all been a game to him just as much as it's been a retaliation. I think he wants to see just how far we will go to get her back. I think he's trying to experience what he never had: Loyalty and an unwavering sense love."

"How did Cobb even find all this out? I mean, it's not like this information is public or anything," and McGee sounds overwhelmed, the inability to make sense of Cobb's twisted thought process elevating his anxiety in a situation that's already so far out of his control.

It's Tony who replies, his words clipped and bitter and Heaven help the man responsible for the information leak. "Cobb knows because Ray Cruz told him. The man's dirty, Tim, remember? He has top level security clearance, he could access Ziva's records easily and that's what he did."

"We need a plan," Vance interjects before Gibbs can speak again. "We can't act until we have a plan."

"A plan?" Tony chokes out. "A plan? You want to come up with a whole damn plan? We don't have time for a plan! Didn't you listen –Cobb is going to kill her!"

"That's enough, Special Agent DiNozzo-"

"No! That's the problem, Director: It's nowhere near enough!"

"Tony-" Gibbs growls softly in warning, but DiNozzo's long past the point of listening.

Tony holds up a silencing palm, "No, Boss. Just . . . . no." And then he's gone, leaving a group of stunned coworkers in his wake.

...

He's leaning against the railing of mezzanine, taking huge gulps of air because his chest is tight and his lungs are burning. The bullpen below is devoid of life and the darkness pouring in through the windows seems to overcome the glow from the lone lamp on Gibbs' desk. The small radius of light illuminates the edge of Ziva's desk and thought of that chair being empty again makes Tony's knuckles turn white against the banister.

He hears the heavy metal doors thunk shut before McGee starts in.

"Tony! Hey, I know it's tough, alright, but you need to calm down before you go do something stupid." And DiNozzo makes a mental note to never let McGee talk him down from anything.

"Something stupid, McGee?" he echoes hollowly, turning to face the younger man angrily. "Something stupid? Like what, would you say? Like killing a foreign agent and facing the wrath of Mossad? Or travelling half way around the world to some godforsaken desert to kill the man who indirectly was responsible for her perceived death? Which of those would you say was stupid? Both, neither? That's alright, I have more," and, yes, he is so very angry, with bared teeth dripping in sarcasm and bloodlust and someone will die.

"Don't do something you're gonna regret, Tony," McGee says, crossing his arms and drawing himself to full height. He's got that no-nonsense, refusing-to-back-down look about him and, somewhere in the part of Tony's mind that isn't fraught with grief, the older man is proud.

"McGee, I've done a lot of things in my life I wish I hadn't. I've made a lot of mistakes and missed a lot of chances that I wish I'd taken. Bad decisions are second nature to me. But never, not even once, have I regretted Ziva, McGee. Yeah, there are things I shouldn't have said and there are stupid things I shouldn't have done, but the big things Tim, I've never regretted those. And I'll be damned if I start now."