There were a lot of obvious tags to this could have had Ziva reaching her relationship breaking point and crying into the arms of a supportive Tony/Gibbs/Tim/Ducky/Abby and it would have worked beautifully. Especially with the emotionally open tone of the last few weeks. But it wasn't working for me, and I somehow ended up here instead. And I am quite happy that I did! :)

They hadn't wanted her to go home alone. Gibbs' concerned gaze conveyed the promise of a rare steak, a sanding block, and a night of comfortable and unobtrusively silent company. Abby argued the merits on the other end of the spectrum - bottomless mojitos, strobing lights, and blaring music; guaranteed to drown one's sorrows or at least one's thoughts. Tony's compromise between the two extremes had actually come closest to swaying her: homemade pasta puttanesca and her pick from his prolific movie collection. But she remained adamant, and they eventually relented. Because tonight - well tonight she just needed to be alone.

A long run. A hot shower. A cup of strong tea warming her hands as she burrowed back against the couch cushions. And then - nothing.

She stared at the wall for a solid ten minutes, steam tickling her face as she waited for the tears to come. Apologies may be Gibbs' proclaimed sign of weakness, but tears had always been hers. Before this year, she could have counted on one hand the number of times she cried. And yet for some reason, the past twelve months alone had heralded in an era of wet eyes that would have horrified a younger Ziva David. Ducky, in one of his many crime-scene soliloquies, had rambled at length about the medical advantages of crying and how it related to the balancing of one's biochemical hormonal something-or-others. In any case, he compared its results to that of a good workout or vigorous sex, to which she and Tony exchanged a litany of flirtatious jabs before receiving a double head slap and barked orders to return to work.

So Ziva had eventually reached a begrudging peace with her tear ducts and forcibly relabeled the show of emotion from 'weakness' to 'growth' and 'progress.' Which is why their absence now was utterly baffling. Her boyfriend, fiance for all of sixteen hours, had killed an innocent woman. He had been meticulously cleaning up blood and broken glass while she sat at a fancy restaurant, sipping at her second glass of champagne. He'd been wrenching jewelry off a cooling corpse while she sent him text messages of worry and concern. And then he'd lied about it, about everything, and she couldn't even work up a tear. She'd been more weepy on the rooftop with Tony bemoaning over a ruined dinner.

Her brow furrowed in consternation as she took a sip of the lukewarm tea and tried to unravel the mystery. She was angry, of that she was absolutely certain. Furious, sick, horrified, heartbroken for Detective Burris. And she felt hatred. After today, she could not deny the truth in the word. Her conversation with Ray at the airport was really no different than many of its predecessors: accusations, excuses, promises. It was a formula that they had perfected over the past year and a half, familiar and unchanged until he took his justifications too far. With just six words, he delivered a blow that put her own well-aimed punch to shame.

You of all people should understand.

In that moment, she truly despised Ray Cruz. Not because he was wrong. Of all the deceitful lies that had left his mouth over the past few days, this held the most truth. Because she did understand. The obsessive desire to pursue the enemy, to complete a mission no matter the cost. The crushing guilt of making a mistake, of watching innocent blood stain your hands. That feeling was painfully familiar.

No, she hated him because it was the most mean and spiteful thing he could have said, and he knew it. He knew some of her darkest moments, shared between naked bodies and naked souls. And so in the face of his crimes, he chose to remind her what she would never forget: that she had left her share of Detective Burrises in her own wake.

Her future with Ray ended the moment she saw the phone numbers align on Abby's screen. His pitiful excuses and stinging remarks drove the final nails into its coffin. She hadn't been lying; the man she loved was gone. And he would never come back. Certainly that should warrant a tear?

But as she set down the empty mug and pulled a soft blanket into her lap, she felt only tired emptiness. It's how she should have felt after a fit of heart-wrenching sobs, but her body and mind seemed content to skip the theatrics and move on. And in that instant, Ziva had a rare moment of clarity.

Ray Cruz wasn't worth the tears.

The realization probably should have come with a degree of sadness or surprise, but she still felt nothing. She recognized then that perhaps she would have gone through with the wedding had the circumstances been different, but it would have been with the wrong man and for the wrong reasons. And as she held onto the tendrils of her lucid moment, she realized that a wedding band would never have joined the ostentatious ring on her finger.

With a resigned sigh and far less effort than she would have anticipated, she rose from the couch, shut off the light, and walked to her bedroom, leaving all memories and musings of Ray behind her. She accepted that it may all hit her another time or another day, and perhaps then the tears would come, but somehow she doubted it.

She crawled into her cool bed, the darkness settling comfortingly around her, and she whispered a short prayer for Nick Burris. As she waited for sleep to claim her, she turned her increasingly disjointed thoughts to the silver lining of this hellish week. Through it shone her family. She found it ironic that the only blood that bound them was that of their countless cases and victims, but still these people were closer to her than any that shared her DNA.

McGee had blocked Ray's number on her phone, returning it was a small smile and a gentle squeeze of her hand; his own quiet show of empathy and support. Abby - the same person who had hated Ziva's very existence for a solid six months when she started at NCIS - had been thrilled to help plan her wedding. Gibbs hadn't flinched at the idea of walking her down the aisle, even in the first split second when he didn't look entirely sure which man would be waiting to meet them at the alter.

And Tony. Lately Tony had been everything that Ray was not (and perhaps had never been). Tony was supportive and kind and listened as she revealed her insecurities and tears. But unlike Ray and the long line of men before him, Tony would never see those admissions as weakness or use them as leverage.

Her last thoughts as she drifted into a welcome sleep was of her conversation with Tony tonight. He had asked if she was happy. No. No, too much had happened of late to allow her such an optimistic proclamation. Besides, in her past experience words like happiness and love were thrown around with cavalier indifference or mocking derision. Real happiness would take time, effort and probably a few more tears than she wanted to allow. But she was okay with that. For now - for now she really was okay with content.

Thoughts? :)