I still hold out naive hope that we will see something like this at the beginning of next week's episode, but I highly doubt we're going to get that lucky…alas, that's what fanfic is for, right?
Disclaimer: I know the transport is leaving at 5AM but that just wasn't working...so pretend it's 5PM? OH, and I don't own any of the characters either.
"Agent DAHveed," Gibbs thundered down the stairs, "be packed and back here in an hour."
"For?" Ziva raised a perplexed eyebrow but had already grabbed her bag and was fishing for her keys.
"We're hitching a ride on a C-130 to Afghanistan in two hours."
"Me and McGee staying here, boss?" Tony questioned, his gaze following his partner's back as she hurried to the elevator.
"Unless you've learned Pashto in the last twenty minutes, you are of no use to me there DiNozzo," Gibbs said gruffly. "You run the investigation from here. I gotta go break the news to Abby."
"She's not gonna like that," McGee muttered as Gibbs left. When no response came, he turned to glance at Tony. The Senior Field Agent's eyes were focused on the empty desk in front of him and simultaneously thousands of miles away.
"Abby isn't the only one."
It was exactly fifty-two minutes later when the elevator doors slid open on the garage floor, Ziva stepping aside to allow Agent Bates and Jensen to exit the car. They both threw looks over their shoulders and she followed their gaze to see Tony leaning against the railings, showing no signs of moving.
"Aren't you getting in?" He questioned, meeting her stare. There was a hard edge to his voice, and she wasn't sure what she'd done to deserve it. She raised a hand to stop the doors from closing and returned his slightly agitated expression with one of mild concern and confusion.
"Aren't you getting out?"
Tony's mouth twisted but he answered her honestly. "I've been waiting for you."
"Oh," she shrugged it off and stepped in, allowing the doors to finally slide close behind her. "Delivering a message from Gibbs?"
"No, he's not back yet; he got held up by an Abby breakdown after he told her where you two are going."
Ziva rolled her eyes. "Abby is being overdramatic, we will be fi-."
He took a sudden step forward, flipping the emergency switch as the elevator shuddered to a stop. She frowned at him; it had been weeks - months really - since a member of Team Gibbs had commandeered the elevator. Rumor had it that the maintenance crew was considering sending them a basket of mini-muffins in appreciation. He was studying her face intently now, but searching for what, she wasn't sure. When a few more seconds passed in silence and without explanation, she sighed.
"Tony, why are you here?" His mouth twisted at her words and it took another moment before the painful familiarity of that question sunk in.
It seemed to be the right query to unfreeze his lips though. He took a step towards her, his voice rough and low as he finally spoke. "Ziva are you sure about this?
She folded her arms tightly across her chest and suppressed the urge to roll her eyes again. "I have been to Afghanistan more times than I can remember. It's old cat for me by now..." She smirked, waiting for him to grin and correct her idiomatic mistake.
"Last time you got on a plane bound for the Middle East, you didn't come home again."
The words came so softly and suddenly in the darkened space that she had to wonder if she imagined them. Her arms unfurled and fell limply to her sides. "Tony…" she said placatingly, her eyes darting around the small metal box, trying to find a safe place to settle other than his penetrating gaze.
"You're going into another Godforsaken desert to find terrorists..."
"And rescue a captive soldier," she offered.
"In a Godforsaken desert…" He repeated emphatically, his voice rising.
"Just trying to one-up you." The joke was weak, and she regretted it instantly.
"Don't," he whispered, just a little bit brokenly.
She chewed on her bottom lip. "I'm sorry Tony," her tone matched the gravity and sincerity in his now. "Please don't worry."
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Don't make me come and get you again…Promise me you will stay safe."
She studied his face for a long moment and saw how much this was affecting him. "Gibbs and I will take care of each other, I promise. Besides, you're wrong. I did come home again. I will always come home. Okay?" He took another slightly shuddering breath and nodded, which she took as a sign to reach past him for the elevator switch, but his fingers closed around her wrist. He dropped his arm to his side but kept hold of her, rubbing his thumb gently against the soft skin on the inside of her wrist. He was quiet for several seconds before the corners of his mouth twitched with the promise of a familiar smile. He reached his free hand into a pocket and handed her a folded piece of paper.
"I added one more thing to my bucket list."
Her brow furrowed, confused again, as she glanced down at the printed sheet. Just below the last line (#30: eat gelato on the Spanish Steps) he had written "Number 31" in pen. She read the words that followed - twice - and allowed them to sink in before giving him a radiant and slightly playful smile. She twisted the wrist that he still held tightly until she could lace her fingers with his.
"I think we can manage that..."
Create your own ending and your own meaning to what's written under number 31! :)
Update: Ohhh CBS, how I love and loathe you! They actually released the whole of Tony's bucket list and it's only 26 items long...but numbers 10 19 and 26 were enough to make up for it! Sooo you're just gonna have to imagine Tony added a few more items to the original list, that sounds like him right? :) Check it out over on the official NCIS page on cbs(dot)com under the insiders blog. That sucker is going to give us all kinds of FF fodder!
Thanks for reading and please drop a note if you liked it/hated it or anything in between.