A/N: Post Somalia, because the most recent seasons have kind of bummed me out.
Not sure about this one, but I'll let you be the judge.
In the middle of exams right now and wanting to die so this is kind of apt. Please enjoy and review :)
Her last words to him are: "You wish."
Then a light brighter than either of them had ever seen before shines out, followed by a thunderous sound that she's heard too many times. She'll feel his crushing weight against her body, a rush of air, and then the screams. She loses consciousness to a cacophonous melody of pain and suffering and his hand in hers.
"That has to be the stupidest thing you have ever done!" He is so angry that his hands are clenched into balls, literally trembling as he grinds the words out. She swears she can see veins popping out of his neck, struggling against the skin as his blood boils beneath it. "The stupidest thing anyone has ever done!" His words are unsteady, alternating tone and measure, and she can't even think of another time he's been this angry.
And yet, she leans against the wall of the men's toilets casually, watching as he explodes. "Will you freeze out, Tony? I was doing my job."
He's pacing now, looking over at her every now and again with a glare that could break glass. "Nowhere in your job description does it say that you should throw yourself into the line of fire without any regard for yourself!" he shouts. "And it's 'CHILL'!"
"Well that distinction is just silly. 'Freeze' and 'chill' mean essentially the same thing," she points out mildly, and begins inspecting her nails. "And in reference to my job description," she says, mocking his tone, "it actually does say somewhere that as a law enforcement professional at all times 'my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against-'"
"Do not quote the law enforcement code to me, David," he cuts her off roughly, his words jagged and sharp against hers, "you know damn well what you did was absolutely reckless."
Ziva puts her hands over her ears in a touch of drama and disregards his words. "Can you stop yelling, please? You know it doesn't intimidate me."
He almost growls out the next words, "Ziva, will. you. take. this. SERIOUSLY?"
She looks him up and down, and it is in that moment that she realises she too must be angry. Why else would she wind him up like this? She knows she should stop; comfort him, and tell him she is sorry. Instead: "You're still yelling."
He stops pacing then, turns to face her, and becomes absolutely still. "Can't you just admit that maybe what you did was wrong?"
She raised her eyebrows in amusement. "But I don't believe that what I did was wrong."
His face contorts into something between pain and absolute fury and he moves towards her, stopping only when they are toe-to-toe and she is backed up hard against the tiles behind her. He opens his mouth to say something and his breath is hot on her cheek, but seems to reconsider and instead shakes his head, a little disgusted.
"Whatever, David. Next time you pull another idiotic stunt like that, don't expect me to stick around at the hospital as they dig around inside you for the bullet." And with that, he's gone.
Ziva wears her indifferent facade for a moment longer before it breaks, and she breathes out harshly, her hands finding the bandage on her abdomen. She's in pain, and not just because she was almost blown away with a semi-automatic weapon.
Rescue crews. An occasional siren. Drops of water and mud dripping through the cracks and onto her cheek.
"Zi..." It isn't an abbreviation of her name he utters; he just hasn't got the strength to say the full word. Instead, he settles for tracing letters in her open palm.
The crushing weight on his chest makes it hard to concentrate and eventually he drifts off.
The next time they meet, it's in a darkened elevator. Ziva's hand is still on the emergency switch when she speaks.
"You're being overprotective," she points out.
"You're being suicidal," he counters.
There's a long silence. It's Tony that breaks it.
"We have a problem, don't we?" It's phrased like a question, but it's more of a statement.
Ziva doesn't really answer. She just leans forward and flicks the emergency switch once again, silent as the elevator whirrs to life.
Tony just shakes his head as the doors open with a Ding! "Yeah, we have a problem." He watches her retreating form for a moment before following, schooling his features into a look of indifference that his boss will buy, or at least pretend to.
The day NCIS was bombed by a vengeful terrorist had started of as most do. Office chit-chat, the tapping of keys, a phone call. There were no open cases so Gibbs had no objections when Tony and Ziva stood to get the team lunch.
"The elevator's out of order," McGee had shouted to them as they started toward it.
Tony sighed. "Guess it finally crapped out after years of Gibbs mistreatment."
Ziva just rolled her eyes. "Lighten up, Tony," she laughed, patting his stomach. "A little exercise might do you good."
It was interesting to both of them that they could be so cavalier, so false; that they could keep up the act that they were fine even though they were in the midst of one of their biggest fights ever. It was how they operated. They ignored it until one of them cracked.
Tony donned an appropriately offended expression. "You know that comments like that really just convey your sexual frustration towards me."
This eye-roll was even more spectacular than the previous. "You wish."
They'd been in the stairwell when the bomb went off.
They're in the morgue alone, having finally decided to confront the 'big' issue. It all feels very two years ago, like some torturous flashback of their famed 'nothing is inevitable' talk. The room holds that same eery blue glow as Tony once again pulls out a bottle from Ducky's draw and pours two glasses. Ziva takes hers without a word and takes a small sip, relishing in the burn she feels as it slides down her throat.
"Why are you so angry, Tony?" she says finally, breaking the silence. "Why is this such a big deal to you?"
He hasn't really stopped to think about it until that moment. And when he does, he doesn't like what he finds. His eyes flash with something and Ziva is taken aback momentarily.
"Tell me why," she says, but her tone tells him she already knows.
He just shakes his head slightly. "No, Ziva. No."
She pushes off the desk they're both perched on and steps toward him. "Come on."
Then, something within him snaps. And since he's never really had that emotionally healthy childhood thing, he finds that once again all his complicated thoughts and feelings are expressed as rage. Except this time it's different somehow. It's not pure anger; it's tainted with something deeper, something that neither can really identify.
"Let's do a body count, shall we?" he says after a moment, and instead of yelling like she had expected, his voice is soft, and there's a barely perceptible edge to it; a strange vibration in his tone that warns her that he is over the edge.
She just stares at him, her brow furrowed, worried at where he's going with this.
"Killed in the line of fire. Frozen to death in and icy lake retrieving a weapon. Stabbed by a drug-addict. Thrown into a wall on what should have been a routine arrest. Oh, and my favourite: offering yourself as collateral in a hostage situation." He stops to take a breath and wathces her carefully for any signs that she's affected by his speech. He sees none. "That's five dead Zivas in the last month. Five times I've seen you throw yourself towards the light as if it's the only thing in the world you want-"
"Shut up." Her voice is so cold that it actually does make him stop.
"Then admit it," he spits. "Admit that you have no regard for your own life, and by proxy, mine." He takes a shuddering breath. "Because damnit, Ziva, this is the last straw."
She is still and silent, and Tony wonders vaguely if she just died right then, before him, and he missed it. But after a moment she moves. She looks up at him and all he sees is an absolute hopelessness.
"I don't want to die, Tony," she says.
"But..." he prompts, sensing she's not done yet.
She breathes out harshly and the hopelessness changes to something more firey. "But," she says, and then pauses as she collects her thoughts, "I'm not particularly concerned with living."
And that's it. That's all it takes. His stomach drops as she says the words that he kind of always knew in the back of his mind, but hoped were wrong.
"Ziva..." he says, and reaches out to her.
She steps back. "Don't-"
His phone rings, and he jumps, and she closes her mouth. It rings. And it rings. And because Tony just keeps staring at her, she reaches across the space and pulls it out of his pocket.
"Ziva? Why are you answering Tony's phone?" It's McGee.
"He's... in the bathroom. What do you need?"
"Why do you have his phone if-"
"Oh, right, yeah. Uh, we've got a body. Gibbs wants you to meet us out there. I'll send the address to your phone."
"Okay, McGee. See you soon."
Dial tone. Silence.
It's a moment before Ziva speaks. "Body."
Tony nods. "Okay. But Ziva?"
"Not now, Tony." And there's a woosh of air as the automatic doors to the morgue open, and then close behind her.
"How many are unaccounted for?" Vance.
The head of the rescue team rubs a hand over his charcoal smeared face. "Two missing, eight dead. The rest have been evacuated and are being assessed for injuries."
Vance closes his eyes briefly. "The missing?"
The man consults the list in his gloved hand. "Ziva David and Anthony DiNozzo."
Vance nods as his stomach drops. "Call me when you have an update."
Gibbs spots him before Vance can even turn around.
"Where are they, Leon?" He doesn't have to specify who 'they' are.
"Missing," Vance says, and then watches as Gibbs' face crumbles ever so slightly, before returning to his usual stoicism.
"Well why the hell haven't they been found yet? How far could they have gotten?"
Vance just shrugs, but the gesture is not uncaring. "I don't know, Gibbs. But you'll be the first to know when they're found."
Gibbs looks over his shoulder to Abby, who is wrapped up in McGee's arms. A paramedic fights for space to clean and dress the wound on her forehead, but she refuses to leave the security of McGee.
"Okay," Gibbs says finally. "But I'm going to help."
"Agent Gibbs, I can't allow you to-" The attempt to dissuade Gibbs is half hearted and they both know it.
"I'm going to help," Gibbs speaks over him.
Vance just nods. "Fine, let's get you geared up."
It doesn't help that the body bears a striking resemblance to a certain NCIS Special Agent David. It's Palmer that has the poor taste to mention it, and Tony that subsequently delivers a sharp slap that the Autopsy Gremlin will still feel the next day. Tony's mood sits somewhere between anxious and supremely pissed off for the rest of the day, as he alternates between staring at the dead petty officer, and his partner.
That night, Gibbs gets a visitor. But it is not Tony that speaks first.
"What the hell was all that today, DiNozzo?" Gibbs says, putting down his sander and looking at his senior field agent through a sawdust haze.
And Tony wouldn't be Tony if he didn't feign ignorance. "All what?"
Gibbs just glares.
Tony sighs. "Is there any chance you'd put her on desk duty if I asked you to?" He doesn't have to specify who 'she' is.
"What?" Gibbs says, raising his eyebrows slightly.
Tony shuffles uncomfortably under Gibbs' gaze. "You can't tell me you haven't noticed."
Gibbs says nothing.
"She's been in the hospital four times in the last two months," Tony elaborates, a tinge of desperation in his tone. "She just doesn't care anymore. I think she needs some time out."
"I can't do that, DiNozzo," Gibbs says, but Tony thinks he catches a slight edge of remorse. "You can't always protect her."
"It's my job to protect her, and I can't do that if she's throwing herself into the line of fire every chance she gets!" he's yelling now, Gibbs closes his eyes for a moment.
"I can't do anything, Tony," he repeats.
Tony pushes off the railing he'd been leaning against and rubs his forehead in exasperation. "Fine then. She's a liability. That can be your reason."
"She's not though," Gibbs points out. "Everything she's done has been for the benefit of the team. She's done nothing to jeopardise any mission, or any civillians, or the agency, or any of us."
Tony just shakes his head. "Well thanks then. I'm gonna go. You've been a buttload of help." Sarcasm laces his tone.
He's halfway up the stairs when Gibbs speaks: "I'll talk to her."
"Don't bother. I got this."
Gibbs stares at his agent's retreating form and sighs, wondering when the hell he got so attached.
The next time he wakes up she's staring at him blankly and for a brief, heart crushing moment, he thinks the worst.
"Ziva!" he shouts, and she closes her eyes at the sound as if it causes her pain. "Oh, thank god, Ziva, you're alright." Relief floods his voice as he looks her over. He can't move his head all that much, but he can see the cement blocks all around him, the fine dust that coats her hair, the twisted metal railings that have snapped like twigs. They're trapped where they've fallen- under the remnants of a staircase that's been blown to pieces.
It's a moment before she speaks. "I wouldn't say 'alright'."
His eyes widen as he reaches out for her hand, but just can't reach it anymore. "What does that mean? Ziva, what does that mean?"
But she's out again, and he just can't see any sense in holding on to consciousness anymore, so he too slips away.
"Ziva, we need to talk."
She mocks his serious tone. "Tony, no we don't."
He glares at her. "Don't make this into a joke. You can't tell me that and then just-"
"What is it, Tony? It's not like I've rigged up my car with a special gas pipe or planned a getaway to Duke Ellington Bridge." She presses a hand to his cheek and he stiffens, jaw clenched. "I'm not suicidal. Happy?"
He shakes his head and her hand falls away. "I'm really not," he says, and holds her by the shoulders. "If you can't look after yourself in the field, then you're not fit to be there."
She raises her eyebrows. "I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself, and we both know that the only person who has the authority here to put me on desk duty is Gibbs." She considers this. "Maybe Vance, but Gibbs may overrule him." It's a poor attempt at a joke and he doesn't laugh.
He just stares at her, refusing to let go. Then, he speaks softly. "Just tell me how I can help. That's all I need to know."
And, for the first time, her face registers some kind of emotion; it's somewhere between relief and gratitude, and it gives him hope.
But then she steels her emotions into that goddamn mask once again and gives him a hard stare. "You can leave me the hell alone."
He closes his eyes. "Damnit, Ziva..."
And when he opens them, she's gone.
One day later they'll find themselves buried under several feet of rubble.
"I don't want to die, Tony."
He doesn't know how long he's been unconscious for, but those six words jolt him into awareness.
"I don't want to die. I have so much left to do, and to see and to be. I can't just be Ziva, the assassin or Ziva, the murderer or Ziva, the cold, heartless Mossad transfer who never really understood Americans or their stupid language-"
"Ziva, you're not-"
Her voice grates against his words as she continues as if he had not spoken at all. He notices the elongated pauses between her words, the careful hesitation as she translates to English in her addled mind, the long, raspy breaths she draws in.
"I can't be reduced to that, Tony. I can't look back on my life and just see blood. And that's all I see. All these flashes? They're all red."
He watches her fall apart.
"Flashes? Ziva, what-"
"I can't feel anything, Tony."
And her voice is so void of emotion, so blank and dark and empty that he almost feels himself sucked in.
He tries so hard to put her back together, but he misunderstands. "Ziva, you're not cold and emotionless. You feel; I know you do."
She turns her gaze to his then, and her eyes are watery and full of terror. "No, Tony. I'm completely numb. I can't feel anything."
His brow furrows. "Ziva, I just told you-"
"I physically can't feel anything."
His face falls in understanding. Her mind's not the only thing falling apart; her body is also. He can't fix that. That's what doctor's are for. Where are the doctors?
As if on cue, there's a shudder, and then light pours in as a piece of stone is lifted from above them. Tony closes his eyes instinctively and hears his boss' voice: "They're here!"
"Help her," is all Tony can manage. "Help her!"
And then everything is suddenly a rush as rubble is removed and paramedics replace rescue men and everyone seems to be everywhere. It's too overwhelming, so when the paramedic gives him a sedative he just goes along for the ride.
An hour until go time. The clock on her desk ticks over. He stares at her over his paperwork. She gives a smile that is utterly false and they both know it, but right now their fight is on pause so he returns the gesture. He clears his throat.
"So Ziva, have you finished the Carver report?"
She nods and gives a wry smile. "Of course, Tony. I completed it somewhere between the time you were spitballing McGee and the time you suggested we all play 'beer pong' in the office."
"Ha ha," he says sarcastically, and narrows his eyes. "Just trying to create a fun work environment. A little entertainment, you know. So-o-rr-y."
She rolls her eyes. "Apology accepted," she says sweetly, and returns her gaze to the paper in front of her.
Their coworkers witness a daily occurrence; Tony and Ziva's signature banter that has spawned several office bets on when they'll hook up. And the two in question pat themselves on the back for being such good actors, and keeping their fight out of the office.
They have fifty-five minutes until the beginning of the end.
The reason Ziva is still breathing turns out to be a topic of much contention.
The doctors call it a miracle. Ziva attributes it to her ridiculously high tolerance for injury. Tony knows it's something else.
He tells her one night as he sits at her bedside in a wheelchair. His chest is heavily bandaged, on account of the five broken ribs he has, and an IV snakes from his arm to a bag on his chair.
"You wanted to live." That's what he tells her.
She looks down at him from her bed and heaves a breath.
"You sound surprised."
He narrows his eyes. "Oh, well unless our colossal fight over the last few weeks was about something other than your will to live, I'm pretty sure I have a right to be."
She kind of flinches at his words, and immediately he regrets being so harsh. He doesn't know what it is about hospitals, but within those walls, everything is juggled periodically and then amplified. Tony doesn't know how to handle frail, hurt Ziva any better than she knows how to handle herself.
"I'm sorry, Tony," she says finally.
He doesn't know exactly what she's apologising for. Before he can ask, she's talking again.
"When I was in Somalia, I lost any will to go on after about two months. I couldn't ever tell them what they wanted to know, because most of the time my brain was so full of drugs and agony that I couldn't remember what the question was." She thinks for a moment. "They were not very skilled interrogators."
Tony doesn't know whether to laugh or cry or punch something at her evaluating the interrogation skills of the men who tortured her for months on end. What did Mossad do to you? he wonders.
She goes on. "I then had months upon which to just think about how much I was ready to die. How the effort of staying alive was never worth the pain it brought. But they never let me die. And then..."
"We rescued you," Tony supplies, and he feels sick inside at her words, at the mere suggestion that Ziva would cease to breath, to be alive, to exist.
"You rescued me," she echoes. "I guess I never really adjusted. I never really lost that mentality."
He nods, because he doesn't know quite what else to do.
Neither of them say anything for a moment. He eventually reaches up to grab her hand in his, just so he can solidify her presence.
"It's so much effort to be alive, Tony. And somewhere along the way I realised I've spent so much of my life just concentrating on staying alive that I don't think I ever really stopped to just live." She shrugs slightly. "I guess I decided to let go, live, and see what it was like on the other side."
At that, Tony gets out of his chair. He takes a few painstaking steps toward her and, despite the pain that spreads in his chest, presses a kiss to her forehead.
She closes her eyes and reaches her hands up to grasp his cheeks, pulling his forehead to meet hers.
"I don't know how to live, Tony." And then, she leans forward ever so slightly and presses a soft kiss to his lips. "But I swear I'm going to try."
The smile Tony wears is the most genuine he's had for months. She mirrors it, as he leans down to kiss her again.
A/N: So I know that was possibly really confusing, but thoughts? Too weird for you? What did you think of the style?
Not entirely sure what you'll make of this, but please let me know. I'm in the middle of final exams (woo, procrastination/f VCE), and I'd love some feedback to make me smile.
So drop me a line and let me know :) How the weather? Write me a poem? Critique or praise, whatever.
And, as always, favourite lines? (Because I love when you do that!)
Thanks for reading :)