Gibbs was the first one to meet him outside of Emergency. He didn't ask a question, nor in any way demand an answer, but Tony gave him one anyway. The Senior Field Agent walked out of the green doors with slow, heavy footsteps, staring at the polished white floor.
The younger man ran a hand through his hair, and brought it back around to wipe over his mouth and jaw, which now was sporting a five o'clock shadow, and took a deep breath. His eyes were red and had dark circles hanging beneath them. His clothes were ruffled and his shirt, for failure of having another to change into, had a large bloodstain around his right hip. Not his blood.
"She's in a coma now," Tony said, not looking into Gibbs' eyes, but at the floor, then up at the ceiling, then all around him. Anywhere but his boss's face. "She's stable but they…they don't know if she's gonna wake up."
Tony turned away before he said the last few words, partly to prevent seeing Gibbs' face and because, well, he was trying to hide the fact that tears were beginning to sting his tired eyes. He felt a strong hand grip his shoulder and couldn't hold it in anymore.
"It's my fault," he said, tears falling down his face.
"It's not your fault," Gibbs told him. "This, it's not your fault, Tony."
Tony snapped, whipping around and punching a metal cupboard, making a large clatter, and drawing the eyes of everyone in the hospital lobby.
"It's my goddamn fault, Boss! She wouldn't even be in there, maybe dead, if I had just…"
"Just what? Jumped in front of her and had yourself blown up too? It's OK that you didn't think to stop her. She can look after herself."
"Not this time, boss. I'm her partner. I should have been there." He glanced over Gibbs' shoulder at the doors to Emergency. "I just…I don't know what to say, what to do now. I just…don't know."
"What do you know, DiNozzo?"
Tony smoothed down his suit, braced himself, pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and approached the front of the room.
He looked over his small audience. Of course, they weren't his, but Ziva's.
"Uh, hi, everyone. Thank you all for coming," he said, stuttering a little, fumbling with the sheet of paper. "I'm not normally much of a public speaker but…" he looked sadly behind him, at the wooden casket that lay there, surrounded by flowers, Abby's black roses in the middle. "I knew Ziva would kill me if I didn't say something." He smiled and, looking into the crowd, Abby wiped her tears and smiled back.
"Ziva David was…she was unlike anyone else I had ever met. She taught me a lot of things. She taught me the pain of loss, and how to deal with it. She taught me that the English language doesn't really make that much sense, and she taught me that the heart should never want what it wants. Most of all, she taught me how to be a better man, more than almost anyone else in this world."
There were so many things I loved about her, so many things…" he looked over at her again, "that I never got to tell her. I loved the way she used to mess up American expressions, and the way she'd tease me. I loved…" he looked down at his paper for his next words, and chuckled softly at what he had written. "I loved when she used to wear her hair down to work. I loved the little dimples at the bottom of her back, and the way she used to tease me.
He breathed deeply, if a little shakily. "Ziva David was an incredible woman. She knew how to put someone in their place. She was brave; in the six and a half years I knew her I only ever saw her shed a tear a few times. Ziva was a fighter. She had a big heart, though. She cared about everyone, even if she had a funny way of showing it sometimes. She put up walls to the rest of the world, but on the inside she…she cared."
He took out of his jacket a single white rose, and walked over to her open casket. Her beautiful brown eyes were closed, and her olive skin was paler than before. He placed the flower on her chest.
"In Hebrew, 'Ziva' means brilliance, which I think was the perfect name for such a brilliant woman."
In the audience, Eli gave a nod.
"I've always thought Ziva was like a rose: beautiful, but if you're not careful, dangerous."
The crowd gave a small laugh.
"I'll miss you, Ziva. I hope that now, wherever you are, you can finally stop fighting." He cleared his throat, hoping to pronounce the next phrase correctly. "Ani ohevet otcha, Ziva. I'm sorry I never told you that."
A solemn applause came from the people in the crowd as Tony took his seat again.
"I'm proud of you, Tony," Gibbs whispered, and on his other side, Abby took his hand. Without Ziva, there would always be a void within their group. Ziva David was irreplaceable, in their hearts. But together, Tony felt, somehow, they would move on. They could take a page out of Ziva's book. Be brave, be strong, be courageous, and get through.