The normally calm hospital was a rush of colours as the NCIS team burst through the doors, careless of whoever was watching or whatever law suit they would be slapped with later. Gibbs was in front of course, and Tony and McGee were right behind him, following his every move in a haze of panic and worry. At the back of the pack were Abby and Ducky, the Goth teetering in her ridiculously high platform boots and the old ME hobbling along behind, wishing of days his body would have been up for a situation such as this one.
Gibbs approached the desk so quickly he made a slamming noise as his body hit it, and the waiting patients looked up nosily from their worn hospital magazines, the strange pack of people an exciting even compared to the usual peace and quiet of the white building.
"Can I help you, sir?" asked the bookish-looking receptionist who, quite frankly, looked a little terrified at this point.
"NCIS Special Agent Ziva David," Gibbs demanded. "Where is she?"
"Are you her family?"
Gibbs looked behind him at the group of people behind him. Ducky's wrinkled face bore a look of pure concern, and Abby was wiping tears from her soaked cheeks. McGee held her close, but he chewed his lip as he did so; his mind was somewhere else. The last person was Tony, and he looked Gibbs square in the eyes, and the older man read his mind. He knew inside it was a prayer. He knew, they all knew what would happen to Tony if they lost Ziva. They had all watched him crumble last time they thought they lost her, and when they lost Jenny. And Paula. And Kate. Gibbs knew the young man carried each of their deaths on his shoulders, their weight pushing him down and down and down. If he head to bear Ziva's ghost taunting him for the rest of his life, he wouldn't be able to stand it anymore.
Gibbs turned to the receptionist. "We're the closest she has," he finally answered.
Meek and young the girl at the desk was, she seemed to understand. "She's, uh, still in emergency. No reports yet on her condition."
Gibbs huffed and stormed off, beckoning for the rest of the team to follow. Tony slowly approached the desk. "Please tell us when you know anything," he requested politely.
"Of course," they girl said with a sympathetic smile. "You her husband?"
"Partner," Tony answered.
"She was very beautiful," the girl told him.
His eyes widened in alarm. "Was?"
"I saw her when they brought her in. The bomb gave her burns to her face."
He swallowed, before very carefully choosing his next words: "She'll always be beautiful."
The girl nodded and Tony joined his team, sitting down next to McGee, rubbing his eyes.
"You OK?" the computer geek asked.
"What do you think, McGee?" he snapped. "My partner's just been blown up."
"Just…" the man searched for words. Tony was more sensitive that he let on. He wasn't a computer, and there was no algorithm, no code he could type in, to be sure what might set him off. "It isn't your fault."
"What, so it was Ziva's?" Tony demanded, his anger rising. "She didn't deserve it; it could have been any of us. It could have been me." He held his head in his hands. "It should have been me."
Abby looked up at that moment. "Tony, no," she scorned. "This is not your fault. Ziva is strong. She's gonna make it." Abby took his hands in her own. "And more than anything, you have to believe that."
Time passed like the grass grew: excruciatingly slowly. Tony spoke not a word, trapped within his own mind, and slowly going insane with every minute that slithered passed.
The sun set outside the window, and the only lights were the fluorescents humming above them. There weren't even any stars tonight. The D.C. sky was blanketed by a thick black cloud, and the night was darker than dark.
Just when they were about to snap, a balding man in a white coat holding a clipboard entered the waiting room.
"Ziva David's family," he said, correct name pronunciation and all, and the team, who only minutes ago had been barely moving and about to fall asleep, jumped up and stood to attention. "She's awake, but barely."
"Can we see her?" Abby asked, her hands in prayer position. The man nodded, and extended his arm for her to follow.
"I'll go with you," McGee volunteered, while Ducky and Gibbs sat back in their chairs, awaiting their turns.
Tony approached the doctor before he could leave again.
"Can I help you, sir?" he asked in a serious but kind tone.
"I'm Tony DiNozzo, Ziva's…" he turned, looking over his shoulder at Gibbs, "partner."
The doctor gave a sophisticated nod and shook hands with Tony. "I'm Dr Parker."
"Tell me straight, Doc: is she gonna be OK?"
Dr Parker put on a solemn face. "The blast gave her very severe injuries, despite the fact she was able to slightly shield herself before the blast. I'm sorry to say that it's unlikely she'll make it through the night."
Tony wanted to scream. Wasn't it unjust enough that she be blown up in his place? Now she had to die because of it? The words of Dr Parker dropped on him like, well a bomb. He tried to speak, but he found himself unable to make a noise at all, let alone make his mouth form coherent words.
In the end, he chose a nod, and walked away, his limbs stiff and his body aching with guilt.
McGee and Abby came out soon afterwards, and Tony didn't dare say a word. Ducky and Gibbs took their turn next, and Tony waited behind. At one point, Abby lifted her hand to Tony's shoulder, let it hover there for a moment, and dropped it to her side, deciding not to say anything. At times like these, Tony's heart was more hidden, guarded and sensitive than ever. Best not to pull at its strings.
When Tony finally did feel a hand on his shoulder he looked up and was surprised to find it was Gibbs'.
"How is she?" he asked, his voice barely containing its deep qualities.
"Go see for yourself," Gibbs replied solemnly. "She wants to see you."
With weary footsteps, he paced slowly towards Ziva's room, looking at the floor with every step. In the doorway, he felt a force stop him from going any closer. He couldn't watch her suffer; he didn't want to.
"Tony," the word came from her lips softly. He had heard it a million times but this time she sounded so very tired, and so very broken. He looked up, and there she lay, in amongst the crisp white sheets. The sight of her brought the sting of tears to his eyes. Her smooth skin now dotted with gashes and scars and burns, and her soft, gorgeous hair matted and singed off in places. Every other part of skin other than her face was covered in bandages and tubes were sticking into her everywhere. But still in all this, she still managed to be so very beautiful. Her hazel eyes, red from tears still glowed when he looked into them.
She watched his pain, and wished it could go away. She felt weak, not being able to make him feel better. It was always so important to her. She worried about him so often, that not being able to fix things made her feel powerless, and a bad partner. She just wanted him to sit down next to her, and he knew that enough that he did.
"Look at you," he whispered, almost too quiet to be heard. Almost.
She looked at him, and with the little energy she had left she took his hand. "I never thought it would end this way."
"Please don't say that," he begged. It was bad enough as things were. He couldn't bear to have her talk about it. "You are going to make it," he told her, squeezing the hand he had a hold of. "You have to make it."
"Tony," she said again, her voice choked and husky. There wasn't much of it left. "Listen to me. I need you to tell the others for me. Tell Abby and McGee and Ducky and Jimmy that they are the most amazing people I know and I couldn't have asked for better best friends," she managed to get out before launching into a small coughing fit that ripped his heart out to watch. "Tell Director Vance thanks for keeping me at NCIS despite my father's harsh words, and that I appreciate it. Tell….tell…" she was fading, and fast. It was like he was watching her deteriorate before his eyes, and it was killing him. "Tell Gibbs he was the best father I could have ever asked for."
"Why didn't you tell them?" he managed to ask.
"I couldn't watch their hearts break when they knew I was giving up," she confessed, leaning back a little into the pillow. He shook her, just the tiniest bit.
"You could watch mine?"
"I needed you to hear this from me," she explained. "Anthony DiNozzo, you are the bravest, kindest, most dedicated man I have ever known. I know I teased you and that we fought, but you…" she closed her eyes tight as she lifted her hand to his cheek. "You are the best partner anyone could ask for, and I love you for that, OK?"
"God, I love you so much Ziva," he whispered into her hand, placing a gentle kiss to her palm. She smiled at him, but her eyelids began to flutter shut. "Ziva, no. Please don't fall asleep. You can't, you have to stay awake."
"I am so tired, Tony," she said, her voice barely audible.
"Please, don't fall asleep, please stay awake," he repeated over and over, his head leant against her torso, tears flowing from his eyes. It was very slowly he realised, while her hand was in his, she wasn't holding on anymore.
At the funeral there was not an empty seat in the house. Agents, friends, and many others filled the space. Eli David sat in the very front row, and he and Gibbs exchanged kind words, this time more than any, sincere ones. Abby cried so much she barely heard the service, and Tony uttered not a word for the entire day. It was then the team realised he had barely said anything since that night in the hospital. Malachi attended too, much to the disapproval of the other agents. But he was very respectful, and shed a tear or two. Ray was silent as a lamb the entire time, and kept to himself. Although none of Team Gibbs were particularly fond of him, they understood. Everybody grieves differently. Ziva's Aunt Nettie made an appearance, and she and McGee talked for hours about Ziva after the service. She was a wonderful woman, and loved her niece very much.
It was not a surprise later that night that Gibbs had mysteriously disappeared. There was a boat to be built. What did surprise people was that Tony had disappeared with him. And as Tony would find out in the coming months, a dark basement and strong alcohol mixed with the scent of sawdust was a suitable cure for a broken heart. Tony even became quite an accomplished craftsmen over the months, and each time he felt the grain of the woods under his hands he felt just a little bit better.
"Did you ever tell her the truth?" Gibbs asked him one night during one of their usually silent sessions of woodwork.
Tony stopped sanding and his content expression faded. "Who knew she'd be the one to say it first."
"You seemed more grounded this time around."
"That's because, despite everything, I knew what was going to happen, and I got a chance to say goodbye. It wasn't like Kate." And of course, Rachel Cranston had visited the funeral too, and each member of the team personally, paying special attention to DiNozzo.
Things eventually started to improve. Day by day by day, things got a little bit better. Life went on. Seasons changed, murders occurred, cases were solved. Tony and Gibbs watched the ashes of the Ziva fall to the ground in a haze of flames that spring.
Years somehow pass them by, and things change. Someday Tony finds himself much like Gibbs: alone, but not lonely. He still visited Ziva's grave when he could, a few times a year. Her birthday, all the Jewish holidays, or whenever he felt lonely. She was a wonderful listener, but then again, she always had been. Over decades, there were other graves to visit. Jackson Gibbs was first, then Anthony DiNozzo Sr. Even Gibbs' turn finally came, but by then Tony had learnt to accept the inevitable. You can run from destiny, but it always catches up with you. Nothing is written in stone, but everyone is born, they live, and they die. Hearts are broken, and people grieve, but life goes on. And no amount of death in someone's heart can truly damage their capacity to love, if it is big enough. Ziva taught him that.
A/N: Well that was rather depressing. I hope you enjoyed it anyways :)