Nine months and all they had to show for it was a small white casket. Ziva wept for the emptiness she felt - both in her womb where for months there had been life, and in her arms, now bereft of the child she'd borne. Tony's arm was strong around her waist as they stood together in that dreary cemetery, protected under a stand of trees, while the rain fell all around.
Gibbs walked by and laid his hands heavily on their shoulders, but did not try to comfort their grief with words. He'd learned long ago that nothing could ever make that hurt better. Abby was next, pulling her fingers out of McGee's to throw her arms around Ziva, then Tony, her muffled sobs echoing in the stillness around them as she whispered, "I'm sorry", over and over. Today was a day when Rule #6 did not apply.
McGee opened his mouth to say something, but closed it and embraced Ziva gently. He locked eyes with Tony, his heart breaking for the wealth of sorrow there. It was a hard, dark day. Ducky and Jimmy filed by, Jimmy standing awkwardly with Breena, who tried hard not to draw attention to the five month bump announcing the baby she carried. Ducky squeezed Ziva's hand and patted Tony's arm.
Finally they were alone, just the two of them with their dead baby girl who lay cold in the fancy white box, far too small for the hole that had been dug. Ziva stepped forward and carefully traced the words carved into the lid. Zarah Elise DiNozzo Beloved Daughter, Our Little Angel August 7, 2012.
There was only one date, because their precious little girl had died shortly after taking her first breath. She'd uttered a single cry and then she was gone, leaving behind parents and a family broken and devastated, with a hole in their hearts much bigger than her tiny body.
Tony placed his hand over Ziva's and sighed. "Goodbye sweet girl. Mommy and I love you so much." Then he gently tugged his wife away from a piece of both of their hearts.
Once settled in the car, Ziva laid her hands over her still swollen stomach and spoke quietly. "I miss her Tony. I miss feeling her inside me. The way she moved and kicked. Even when she had the hiccups and I was trying to sleep. All I wanted was to hold her in my arms, to see her-"
She broke off and held out empty arms that had waited and yearned to be filled by her daughter. Tony blinked back tears and gathered his wife close. "I know Ziva," he choked out, "I know." He could still feel Zarah's sweet weight against his chest as he held her for both the first and last time.
She had been beautiful, their baby. Dark hair like Ziva's, the same blue eyes that all newborns had, tiny perfect fingers and toes, small lips set in an adorable pout. Tony closed his eyes and remembered his daughter's smell, the softness of her cheek when he ran his finger over it, how light her little body had been as he cradled her close to his heart.
He held Ziva tighter and let the tears come, his face buried in her thick hair, his arms keeping her against him. He could not lose Ziva too. She pulled away from him and used graceful fingers to wipe away the tears. Then Ziva kissed him, a slow kiss burdened with the grief of their loss, desperate for reassurance that their love would survive even this. After all that they'd been through together, they still had to walk another valley and she did not want to walk this one alone.
Tony accepted her touch and cradled her head in his hands. The second she broke the kiss he sought her lips again, kissing her longer and deeper, pouring out his heart into a single action. When they were all out of breath and the tears were streaming down their cheeks again, the husband and wife sat and held each other in their car, listening to the rain drops falling softly outside.
Pulling away, Tony rested his forehead against Ziva's and stared deep into her eyes, seeing her fear and the deep sadness she felt because of Zarah. "We're gonna make it Zi," he whispered. "You and me, together. We're going make it just like we always have. We're partners Ziva, I have your back."
She nodded slowly and laced her fingers between his, in a silent gesture that begged 'Do not let go'. "It is time to go home Tony."
He started the engine, put the car in drive, and took them back to the small, three bedroom house they'd purchased when they found out Ziva was pregnant. It had looked like their bright and happy future the day they stood out front after all the moving and unpacking was finished. Now it looked like a vault to hold all their broken dreams.
The couple moved quickly through the entry and down the hall, not stopping to glance in the pastel coloured room that kept a record of everything they had hoped for. Zarah's crib was ready, her dresser stocked with folded sleepers and tiny pink, purple, and yellow outfits. Toys were scattered around the room, the rocking chair had a pillow and receiving blanket already placed, and on a shelf, small pink blocks spelled out her name with white letters. There was too much in there to mourn, and neither parent had the strength to face all the plans they'd made that had now crumbled into dust.
In silence they changed out of the black suit and dress that had been their funeral wear. Ziva pulled on pyjama pants that had fit her when she was only five months along, and a red t-shirt that fell below her hips, disguising but not quite hiding the place where her daughter had grown. Tony paid no attention to his clothes, he just slid on the first pair of plaid pyjama pants that his hand found, and yanked an old ratty OSU t-shirt over his head.
Tony and Ziva got into bed, and Ziva moved right over to curl her body into her husband's, noting sadly that they had not been able to get this close in months. Running out of energy to be strong for his wife, Tony wrapped his arms around her, holding her tenderly as silent tears soaked his shirt. He ran his hand down her hair over and over again, until her breathing evened out and her body relaxed. He watched her for a long time, glad to see that the grief was not to harsh on her features when she wasn't awake, and finally Tony managed to fall into his own restless sleep.
Hours later, though he couldn't have said how many or even if any time at all had passed, Tony woke to an empty bed. The room was darker than it had been, the light of day fading into dusk, and a bright line was visible from underneath the bathroom door.
Tony got out of bed and entered the other room to find Ziva slumped against the sink, tear tracks dried on her face. He sat down beside her and took her hand in his, concern floating in his gaze. "Zi? What's wrong honey? Talk to me." The question seemed incredibly lame in light of the past few days' events, but he still wanted to know what had caused her tears at that moment.
Ziva raised anguished eyes to meet her husband's. "My milk came in," she whispered and Tony fought the anger that surged inside him. It was just another reminder of their little girl that was not at home in her nursery where she belonged. And Ziva could do nothing to control this part.
"I'm sorry sweetheart," he said, leaning over and kissing her cheek. "Are you okay?"
"I am sore," she said brokenly. "And I know if I could just nurse her it would not hurt so bad but I did not even get a chance. Why Tony?" Ziva's eyes closed and her face scrunched up as she tried to will the tears away. "Why did we lose her? Everything was fine and then she was just gone."
"I know babe," Tony sighed, wishing he could make it better but there were no words for this, just like there were no words for their daughter's funeral. "I don't know why we lost her Zi, I wish I had all the answers. But all I have is this hole in my heart that remembers the few seconds I had to be her daddy. And I don't know if that hurt will ever go away or if I even want it to. I don't want to forget what it was like to hold her."
Ziva's hand came up and lay flat against his cheek, swallowing her tears she managed a hesitant smile for her husband. "You will always be her daddy Tony. You talked to her every chance you got, rubbed my belly when she was getting too active, cut...the cord," she stumbled over that one, "when she was born. You held her, you dreamed for her, you loved her. I will never forget that. Zarah knew your voice, your touch, and she would have grown up feeling safe in your arms. You will not forget ahava, you will not forget our daughter."
Tony drew Ziva against his side and they sat there together for a long time, their breaths and heartbeats sounding as one. Finally Ziva got up and changed into the tight, post-partum sports bra the hospital had recommended to her, added breast pads to absorb the milk that leaked every time she thought of her baby girl, and got back into bed. It felt so good to lie down, to rest, and Ziva thought that maybe they could just lay there together and never get up. If all they did was sleep, perhaps it would not hurt so much to be without her.