(A/N: I'm writing a new story, a full length case-fic, and this is my favorite scene from it so far. If this gets a positive reception, I'll be taking this down and publishing the whole story. If not, I'll leave this to stand alone. The idea so far is that Ziva's been poisoned, and is waiting in Autopsy while the team searches for an antidote.)

"I really do not think tea will help, Ducky," said Ziva, taking a long sip from her steaming cup nevertheless.

"My dear, there is no situation that cannot be improved by tea," said Ducky firmly, pouring himself a cup, settling into his seat, and guiding Ziva into hers. "Now that we're comfortable, do you want to talk?"

She laughed shakily. "What is there to talk about?" she asked. "I am likely going to die before sundown. I have found there very little to say in these situations."

"Very well," said Ducky noncommittally, taking a sip of tea. There was a long silence, and he was not the one who broke it.

"Always—always wanted to die with my gun in hand. Facing an enemy. A partner at my back, a dozen bullets taking me down. Never thought—never thought it would be like this," she blurted out eventually, studying her drink.

"Funny. I always wanted to die in my sleep," said Ducky calmly. She laughed.

"Yes. I guess that says a lot about me, hmm?" she asked the psychologist.

"Nothing that surprises me. You are such a brave, brave person, Ziva," said Ducky gently. "It stands to reason that you'd want to face a danger you could fight."

"You could always put things so clearly, Ducky," mumbled Ziva, staring at her drink. "No matter confusing something was, you could frame it just right. I did not—I should have—did I never tell you that?"

"It was understood, my dear. I remember a time—" he began.

"That is another thing," interrupted Ziva. "Your stories. Sometimes I act annoyed, but they are actually kind of soothing. Constant. Like—like a calming hum." She hiccuped. "Did you put something in this tea?"

"The doctor said a little scotch might slow down your heartbeat. Slow the spread of the poison," admitted Ducky. Ziva shook her head wearily.

"I suppose this conversation will make a great story someday," said Ziva, swirling her drink idly.

"This is a personal exchange. I would never reveal our private conversation with others," promised Ducky.

"But you will, won't you?" she said, and looked up suddenly. "They will replace me, won't they?"

Ducky blinked, thrown by her abrupt change in topic. The poison, or the scotch, or both, were beginning to mess with her mind. "We will never replace you, Ziva," he managed. She waved this aside with an unsteady hand

"But you will hire a new agent, right? A warm body to fill the chair," she insisted. He nodded slowly.

"And you will tell her stories, right?" Ziva went on, circling back to the old topic that, in her mind, she had never left. She took a gulp of tea and scotch, and held out her cup for more. Ducky gave her a straight shot of scotch, and though she slurped it eagerly, her eyes seemed to clear as she went on. "You'll her a story about me. Once, there was once a killer from Mossad . . ."

Her voice was oddly steady, though her eyes shone overly bright.

"I will never turn you into an interesting anecdote, my dear," promised Ducky, placing his hand over hers.

"No, go ahead, Ducky," said Ziva eagerly. Ducky noticed that her tea was sloshing slightly, her hand shaking for the first time he could remember. "It—it would be—an—an—honor—"

She gave a great gasp. Abruptly, she dropped her cup to her saucer with a clatter.

"I—I need to use the bathroom," she blurted out, fleeing the room.

The doors swished open and shut behind her. Ducky stared after her for a long time. Gently, he swept a cloth across the desk, mopping up the few golden drops of her drink that spilled. At length, he spoke to the corpse lying sheeted on his steel table.

"I hope you know who you've taken from the world," he said quietly, and realized, quite likely, he didn't. To Davens, Ziva had been a faceless bodyguard, a mere obstacle in his suicidal lunge at the Secretary of the Navy. The poison he had drawn into his syringe was meant for somebody else; her death was a mere inconvenience, a frustrating blip in his plans. She had meant nothing to him.

And perhaps, thought Ducky, it was time to change that.

He took a bracing sip of tea and scotch.

"Once, there was a young woman from NCIS, whose family taught her she was a killer, and whose friends taught her otherwise . . ." he began, the story flowing easily from his tongue.