She used to laugh.
It wasn't a lot, and sometimes it hurt when the pitch was high and sharp, but she did laugh. Her lips didn't just utter words of smooth seduction – sliding over each other like silk and butter – or words of death – that were sharp and silver and shattered over everything. She smiled too, that wasn't much either, and the smile was either too forced or too fake. It wasn't all her. It wasn't even remotely her.
When they find her body – thick and red and runny and grotesque in its brokenness – there is nothing said, nothing is done at all. Just sharp words and accusing eyes staring back at a picture frame that holds only ghosts. Eli David stares at the boy, murdered by his sister who never questioned orders, his perfect little soldier, stares at the girl, rosy cheeked and happy, whose body lies in a white dress and stares back up with empty eyes.
She stares for eternity, frozen in a quiet defiance that NCIS taught her. The mortician wants to close her eyes, to give respect to the never-coming-back, but Eli says no. Let her stare. Let her watch what her failure has done.
He does not love her. There is no more room for love.
Gibbs gets the call three days and fourteen minutes later.
It is in the middle of giving an order, in the middle of getting ready to get their asses out there and bring her back. When all is said and the man on the other line – who sounds too robotic, too cold – has hung up, Gibbs hurls his phone away. Tony looks up with eyes that look brighter than ever and all the Father-Failure can think of is a pair of brown ones that will never see again.
McGee hikes his bag over his shoulder tighter and asks if Boss is coming. Boss won't move. Boss? Boss?
Boss is gone, because his agent is dead. His daughter is dead and gone and somewhere in the desert rotting away and they don't get to see her. So Boss runs away and hides in the corner to snarl and snap and bite and stop seeing her ghost there with him and telling him to stop mourning. Stop crying for a woman that failed them.
The mourning hasn't even begun.
He calls up his woman with black lips and his friend with stories and a scalpel. They gather in the bullpen and there's an overwhelming urge to shake something.
He doesn't sugarcoat it, doesn't tell them to remember her, just says those four words that echo and cut all at once as light dapples in and covers a desk that will never be filled. Because it was filled once, full of light and warmth and danger and stone and perfection, and now it's too late.
" Ziva David is dead."
Silence consumes the room. It is only broken when Abby, little Abby, falls to her knees and stares up at him like he's the monster that killed Ziva. And he is. He let her go, he watched her walk away, and now he's making the Hell on Earth real and tangible and ugly.
They move to comfort her but she pushes them away and wants to feel alone like she was when she died. Alone and broken. Alone and dying. Alone and wishing that someone was there. But no one was.
Tony hurls something at the wall, and another something and another and god it's not helping; so he turns and storms from the building – to go to her apartment and cry on her bed, where she should be, asleep and warm and in his arms. Before he leaves he turns to her desk and whispers, " I could have loved you. If you had let me."
He vows that the desk will never be filled.
McGee grieves like nothing. Like everything. Because he is a normal man crying normal tears and he wants to cry like the others but he won't and Ziva would understand. She didn't understand much, but she would understand this.
Ducky goes back to Autopsy and stares at the metal slab that will (at NCIS' request) hold Ziva's body. He cleans it until it sparkles and his hands bleed and then he places a cloth on top. Ziva should not be cold when she is sliced open like a worthless piece of trash.
Palmer follows dutifully and wonders when it all went to Hell.
Something breaks in the bullpen.
Ziva never comes home.