Title: da capo al Fine (from the beginning to the end)

Author: Icarus (icarus_abides)

Rating: T - a few swear words, some adult themes

Spoilers: Nothing in particular, but I'm going to say that it probably would best be put into around Season Seven's timeline. I think there are a few minor discrepancies, but nothing huge as far as I know.

Disclaimers: NCIS does not belong to me (which is probably a good thing since, tbh, I'd have a whole hour of Ziva naked). Any movie references in here also do not belong to me. Don't sue. My dogs have huge veterinary bills.

Author's Note: This is the first fic that I've written in a LONG time. Also my first NCIS fic. I've been trying to catch up on past episodes but am still kind of behind so I very much apologize if there are some hiccups between my fic and show cannon. This is a Tony-centric piece, which I find strange because Ziva is by FAR my favorite character. Guess I can relate better to DiNozzo? (Terrifying.) Many, many thanks to my fabulously patient beta, anr (aka the most talented writer I know).


Coda

He's seen this movie before and he's pretty sure there are supposed to be zombies involved.

Or power-hungry aliens.

Or some sort of freaky mutated virus.

He wishes it were that easy. If it were, Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo could probably single-handedly save the world (...disrupt brain function, burn bodies; upload computer virus, blow up mothership; find Immune People, inoculate remaining population with cure...).

But it's not that simple. Of course it's not.

Instead he runs, just another person part of this people-herd of thousands. Terror breeds chaos which spirals into despair as the questions multiply with no answers in sight.

Its difficult to ignore the plight of others as he focuses on his goal but as the days tick by, he finds himself stopping less and less often and feeling less and less guilty about doing so.

(... DC, placing bandages on a store clerk mobbed for his non-perishable groceries... outside Richmond, holding the sticky hand of a bloody 9-year-old girl wandering down the side of the road... somewhere between Louisville and Lexington, watching the execution of someone in the wrong place at the wrong time and doing nothing except turning the opposite direction...)

They say that war changes people. He's been there before, he already knows that.

This is far worse than war. This is desperation around every turn. This is the extinction of any hope of salvation.

Apocalypses tend to do that.

Inside, he is already dying. Not literally (not yet) but he can feel this darkness spreading, his own personal moral cancer. Each person that he ignores (the old man limping slowly and bloodily down the highway, the gang of teenagers setting fire to a house in the suburbs) pulls him a little farther away from who he used to be.

It's easier to ignore whatever this soul erosion is if he just keeps going, if he just keeps placing one foot in front of the other.

For now he keeps running because he still has hope; she may not be dead, there is still a chance to find her.

For her to save him.


da capo (from the beginning)

On the first day of the end of the world, Tony is all but tethered to his desk in DC ("Dinozzo, I swear to God, if you wander off one more time to avoid your paperwork, I will literally chain you to your chair." Never take threats lightly when they are issued from a coffee deprived former Marine).

McGee is off playing with some Really Awesome Geek Toys down in Norfolk. He had rather animatedly chattered about the specifics earlier, but all Tony could seem to remember was "new system hardware " before he had spaced out entirely and started considering creating another online personality to tempt Agent Elflord. ("Just don't make a mess during your various Geekgasms, okay McNerd?").

Clearly, the younger agent had not been impressed with his sarcastic lack of enthusiasm since twenty minutes later (after an ill advised trip to the vending machines), Tony found his hand superglued to his phone. Timmy was learning.

Gibbs pointedly ignored the resulting whining as he pulled the (somewhat often-used) acetone from his desk drawer and tossed it to his agent. If Tony could believe that his boss had the ability to smile, he could have sworn there had been the trace of one in that moment.

Even now that he has been freed and has use of both hands, he tries his best to ignore the ominous stack of papers sitting on the end of his desk.

Paperwork. He hates paperwork. Paperwork is for Probies, not Very Special Agents. Paperwork is for the McGees and the Zivas of the agency. But with McGee geeking off, and Ziva out in the middle of Podunk Nowhere, Oklahoma tying up some loose ends in their latest case ("The town is called Stilwell, Tony. Where is this Podunk Nowhere?") he's stuck solo on this one. Grounded from active duty and left behind by himself to take on DESKWORK.

A stab wound will do that to a person.

("Oh my God, Tony, it is just a scratch! It barely took a few stitches to close up."

"That blade was a good eight inches, Ziva. At least! Could've taken my arm off if I hadn't been so quick to react."

"If you are classifying that little interior knife as 'eight inches', that explains a lot of things..."

"It's 'INFERIOR', David. And my measuring skills are perfectly adequate, thankyouverymuch.")

When the beginning of the end hits, he's putting the finishing flourishes on an interrogation transcript. And when the electricity goes out before he can save his work it incites an impressive barrage of obscenities towards the now-blackened screen of his monitor.

Days later, Tony will look back at this moment and wish more than anything that he could have it back. He would wish that Gibbs would wander off to go grab another cup of coffee, that Abby and Ducky would come up from their respective lairs to shoot the breeze, that he would make a few crank calls to Ziva from a unsuspecting co-worker's cell phone as they all waited for the power to come back on.

It is July, after all. A brutal one at that. Air conditioning has become the new religion, with praise given on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, so rolling blackouts have been a pretty standard occurrence.

But the power doesn't come back on. Abby and Ducky do wander up eventually, but it takes too long for Tony's A.D.D. to handle and by then he's just surly and frustrated.

Plus, his cell phone calls won't go through. Not to Ziva, or McGee. He's always thought that the "all circuits are busy" thing was a bullshit excuse. Now is no exception.

It starts with a siren. "It" being that feeling that something ominous is approaching; that bit of something-or-other that makes the hairs stand up on the back of his neck even though he has no idea why. "It" claws its way up his spine, makes him involuntarily shudder, makes his reach towards his desk drawer to reassuringly grab his sidearm even though logically he knows both that it's there and that he won't have to use it (shouldn't have to use it).

It's an air raid siren without the air raid, in the middle of the day with clear blue skies. Instinct pulls the NCIS team downstairs, down to the comfort of Abby's lab and the morgue, neon cross-sections of human cells and stainless steel corpse-filled catacombs.

The rest of the building goes outside (maybe it's a fire drill, maybe they're supposed to evacuate).

They all die.

Panic starts quickly. Abby's lab is eerily silent. There is no screaming heavy metal from creepily-named bands, no reassuring regularity of her loyal forensic machine army beeping and humming away on DNA and bullet fragments. They can hear the screams from outside, the sounds of running footsteps, the thump of bodies as they fall deadweight to the scorching concrete.

Tony's not sure why, but he's glad that he has his gun.


fretta (with haste)

It seems to be a requirement for mobs to take over in times of panic. There are few storefronts left untouched by this point and "Eddie's Electronics" seems to be the latest victim in this town just outside of DC as looters take advantage of the chaos that is seeping through everywhere.

Tony cannot understand why people still think that big screen TVs and shiny new laptops are going to save them from This. It makes him pause though.

There's still electricity here, a rare commodity that he hasn't seen for at least 24 hours.

He takes a chance, the thought that it may work making his stomach twist painfully, the hope of hearing her voice making it difficult for him to breathe.

Jagged pieces of glass dangle around the edges of the frame where the front glass store window used to be, like a demented smiley face. One slices his forearm as he passes (about 2 inches south of the stitched slice from an 8ish-inch blade), but adrenaline has numbed him. He drips through the store until he reaches the stockroom, like leaving a morbid trail of breadcrumbs in case he can't find his way out.

The phone has seen much better days, old and cracked from one too many employees dropping it to the floor. But at least it hasn't been stolen with the rest of the store.

And it has a dial tone.

He digs through his pockets desperately, looking for the strip of paper that he scribbled on two days ago as he was grabbing his backpack and running as fast as he could from Washington. Please be here, please be here, no, no, no, oh God... and there it is, crinkling in his fingers as he clings to it (clings to the hope of her) and smoothes it out enough to read the ten digits printed on it.

He ignores the trace of blood smeared across the upper right corner.

His fingers shake so badly as he dials that he has to hang up and start again one, two, three times before he finally shouts, "Goddammit, DiNozzo," and gives himself a mental headslap. The numbers finally work and monotonous dial tone is replaced by one quick ring before its snatched up on the other end and he hears her breathlessly say his name on the other end of the phone.

Somewhere in Oklahoma, she is still alive. In a gasp, tinged with disbelief and elation, he whispers her name back to her and almost chokes from the sob that comes from somewhere deep inside.

"Tony," she says again, her voice trembling in just the slightest (anyone else probably wouldn't even have noticed), and this time it's less of a statement and more of a question.

Logic kicks in.

"Stay put, Ziva. I'm com-" And a click. There is no more dial tone, no more connection. Only the sounds of pillaging filtering in from outside. And screaming. Screaming starting again, from one throat and then more and more and more. He has to leave. It's time to run again.

The blood still drips down his forearm, down off his fingertips. He adds to it, punching out the driver side window of a rusty pick-up truck parked out behind the store (can't believe his luck, finding one of the few remaining working vehicles). If Abby were here, she would be in DNA heaven with all the forensic evidence he's leaving everywhere.

But Abby's not here and there are no more crimes to investigate.

The truck has only a quarter of a tank of gas. It's not a lot, but its something. He hotwires it easily and guns the engine.

On the way out of town, he picks up a man hauling two young kids as fast as they can walk. It may be small, but he has to do some good, somehow.

Oklahoma is a long way from here. She is a long way from here.

He doesn't even realize that he is crying until the girl in the seat next to him asks him if he is okay.

Fuck. He should've stolen a sports car.


patetico (with deep feeling)

He hasn't heard from any of them in two weeks (has it only been that long?). Well, he thinks it's been about two weeks.

Calendars have lost meaning at this point.

Gibbs and Abby are at least together. He will never leave her behind, Tony knows. Either they'll both be safe or they'll both be dead, Tony knows that too.

Ducky had been forever faithful to his profession. Staying behind in DC in an attempt to heal the wounded before they became another tenant in his morgue, he and the Autopsy Gremlin (No. Palmer, his name was Jimmy Palmer.) had been the first of their group to leave the Naval Yard as they found the nearest hospital to lend a hand.

Ducky and Palmer are dead. Since DC no longer exists, Tony's pretty certain of that one.

He cries for him. Once. The fourth night that he is on his own (run, run, run), exhausted from trying not to think and thinking too much. He breaks in the front door of an empty house in what was once the ritzy part of some Virginia suburb, and cocoons himself in an overly-expensive black down comforter in the master bedroom that smells like home and normalcy.

If he closes his eyes tight enough, he can almost unsee the half-eaten meal sitting on the kitchen table (two bowls of Lucky Charms with the milk just beginning to sour; two kids that he doesn't want to dwell on). These people will never get this life back just as he will never get his.

He cries for Ducky, for McGee (who he hasn't heard from since The Incident), for Gibbs and Abby (wherever they are now), for Ziva (please, God, just listen to him, for once...), for his father (for whom he feels like he should cry more but can't), for too many others to count until they all blur together into one bleak feeling of loss.

When there's nothing left, he finally sleeps.

Not because he wants to, but because his body won't let him do anything else.


dolente (mournful)

Deep in the ass-backwards foothills of southern Appalachia, he is slowly starving to death.

Homes are few and far between here, grocery stores even scarcer. He hasn't eaten in more than a day when he wearily stumbles onto the front porch of a hunting cabin. Tony ignores the neglected landscaping and cobweb-laden doorways as he swings open the unlocked front door and hopes against hope that there is something edible inside.

The cupboards are bare. The non-functioning fridge holds the moldy, black remains of something that may have once been edible but is now a shapeless, hairy mess. Even if he were actually desperate enough to eat it, he's pretty sure it would end up killing him anyway.

There's nothing else and Tony almost cries in frustration until a mewing causes him to look quickly to the open window as a calico cat jumps down from the sill. It looks so lost, as if wondering where its caretakers went. Jumping down to the floor it rubs itself around Tony's ankles as it purrs with happiness at its new company.

Tony is amazed (and appalled) at how easy it is to snap a cat's neck.

Guilt makes the meal turn into chalk as he tries to choke it down, but he forces himself to eat it anyway. After all, Tony DiNozzo is no hunter extraordinaire. There is no guarantee when the next meal will come.

He can't help but notice that it tastes exactly like chicken.


volante (flying, fast)

Highways are a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, they're far more easy to traverse than the alternative routes. On the other hand, they leave you much more out in the open.

By the time he hits the Arkansas border, he's willing to take the chance. The roads here tend to be more straight and flat than the ones he's left behind in the Appalachian boondocks. He keeps a good eye on the surroundings anyway.

It has been more than a month since This started (almost as long since he talked to her) and he is growing tired. Not so much fatigued, because he has plenty of options to stop and rest (although he still doesn't take as many as he should).

More just... tired. He's tired of walking, of constantly looking over his shoulder, of wandering (always wandering) and wondering (always, ALWAYS wondering). He's tired of everything.

But he is not yet in Oklahoma.

So he keeps walking, keeps putting one foot in front of another and, just because there's no one around to tell him to shut up, rambles for hours with movie quotes.

He is pretty sure that he may have recited the entirety of The Godfather on his way through Tennessee the other day (Part One only, he got distracted by gunshots in the distance before he could get to Part Two; had to lay in a ditch on the side of the road for about 14 hours).

Abandoned cars occasionally litter the roadway as he continues his walk down the middle of Route 55, a large cheery sign welcoming him to, "Arkansas! The Natural State!".

Fantastic.

He hasn't seen anyone in several days. He's not sure if that's because people have stopped moving as much (most people do not feel the need to walk and hitchhike halfway across the country in the event of an Apocalypse) or if there are just less people in general now.

He prefers not to dwell for too long on that second option.

Tony is well into his recitation of the Bill Murray scene from Zombieland when he spies a beauty sitting in all her prime in the middle of the highway. He saunters up quickly, Old School Anthony DiNozzo Jr taking over as if he is picking up a red-head at the bar, whispering sweet nothings at her as he tells her about all the beautiful magic that they can make together.

Its a long shot, he knows, but he still reaches out and caresses her lightly.

Cherry Red. Jaguar XKSS.

Dead battery.

Tony groans. The two of them had had so much promise. He was on the verge of being Steve McQueen reincarnate, flying down the open road with the wind in his hair to rescue his damsel in distress.

(She would kill him if he ever actually referred to her as a damsel in distress.)

... Steve McQueen is paused in the midst of "The Great Escape" while Tony grabs a freshly popped bag of buttered popcorn from the microwave, babbling on about the timeless amazingness of McQueen and how it's such a shame that Ziva's tiny 'girly' bladder was responsible for such a horrifying crime as pausing this glorious cinematic event.

Ziva throws a pillow at his head as she returns from the bathroom, sitting down with a smirk as she takes a long drink from the bottle that she obtained from his fridge (without permission) on her way back. He scoffs at her assumption that she can help herself to the contents of his fridge, mostly because his own bottle is now empty and he is feeling too lazy to get a new one. Before he can say anything though, she hands him a cold, unopened bottle from her other hand and his smile is almost ecstatic at this motion.

"Baby, you're too good to me."

"You are welcome," she chuckles, then pokes him firmly in the ribs, "and don't call me 'baby'."

He exhales sharply, but doesn't really mind, relaxing back against the couch and pressing 'play'. She sits close enough for their thighs to touch and reaches over him for a handful of popcorn. Both of them pretend not to notice when she doesn't settle all the way back into her seat afterwards, preferring to lean slightly into his side as she shifts and tucks her legs up underneath her. He swings his arm up along the back of the couch, letting her rest her head against his shoulder, her arm between them along the length of the top of his thigh.

It is hard to keep pretending though when the hand along the back of the couch slowly begins to play with the strands of her hair, when her breath begins to get just a bit quicker, when his heartbeat increases dramatically as realization begins to creep in.

And all the while, McQueen drives on...

God, he misses that. Misses her.

He leaves the car quickly behind him. Too many memories, too many missed opportunities. He reverts back to Zombieland quotations to lighten the mood as he continues down the highway, past the burned shell of what was once a rest stop, gradually swinging in a more westward direction.

He wishes that it had had been zombies. Zombies he could have dealt with. In fact, zombies probably would have been a pretty sweet deal. He is a fairly decent shot if they wanted to do more of a long-distance elimination. And his batting does need some practice, if it was required to take them out in a more hands-on fashion.

Right now, he honestly wouldn't mind taking a tire iron to a few hypothetical zombies. Displaced rage at something like an unexpected (and, in his opinion, unwarranted) apocalypse will do that to a person.

But Zombieland and its plethora of predecessors had been all wrong. Who could have foreseen that it would have been-

A gunshot to his left makes him instinctively drop to the ground. Somebody's spotted him; seems that highways in Arkansas are just as risky as everywhere else.

A quick push up and he is running yet again, crashing through the bushes on the side of the road, not bothering to see who may be giving chase behind him. He has seen enough of this New World to know that there is entirely too much of a Kill or Be Killed attitude.

Especially when guns are involved.

So maybe Zombieland wasn't completely wrong after all, he muses as he sprints through the underbrush.

Rule Number One: Cardio.


decrescendo (gradually softer)

He finds a group of people crouched next to a dumpster behind a Wal-mart in far eastern Arkansas.

It is a pregnant pause, a moment of wary eyes and tense footsteps as the group (one man, two women, a young boy, and a Tony) try to figure one another out. Tony plays peacemaker as well as he can, rolling an apple to the kid. The boy smiles at him, doing his best to wipe it clean with his grimy shirt and trying to take a bite even though he is missing both of his top two front teeth.

It seems to be enough, as they motion him closer and offer him a seat on one of the plastic lawn chairs that they have swiped from the almost-empty superstore.

The apple and a handful of other fruits had come from a dead guy with a backpack that had been shot on the side of the road. There had probably been a time when Tony would have been morally opposed to stealing from the dead. But there is no more black-and-white, just a steady spectrum of grey in this life.

They have beans cooking over a fire (true hobo fashion, he thinks amusedly) and offer him a good portion in return for the rest of the fruit. He hands it over, thankful that they do not ask him how he came across it.

Hot food never tasted so good.

He hasn't had anything substantial in about three weeks (if he had to take a guess), his belt seems to need tightening on an almost daily basis now. Arkansas has been one helluva ride and by this point he just wants to pull over and get out. Weeks of creeping along, hiding from bands of back-country thieves, stopping for a quick bite of whatever he could scrape up but never tempting fate by starting a fire or staying somewhere for too long.

Arkansas fucking sucks.

He is antsy, ready to continue on now that he has a full belly and a view of the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. After all of this, after two months and hundreds of miles, he is only eight miles away from... from what exactly? The end? The final destination? Whatever THAT means.

He isn't sure anymore and he definitely does not want to consider what exactly may not be there waiting for him.

Vaguely, he becomes aware that the people in the group are talking to him and he mentally returns just in time to hear that Florida is gone.

Not just difficult to get to or anything, but literally gone. His subconscious is screaming at him, reminding him that last time that he talked to his dad, Senior had been galavanting around the panhandle.

Tony does not need to wonder why he didn't hesitate for a second to go to Oklahoma, but never thought twice about Florida.

Rule Number Five: You don't waste good.


troppo (too much)

I waited. They're coming. Go West.

I'm sorry.

- Zi

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuck godfuckingdammit.

He breaks everything; leaving her former residence as shattered as he feels. Blood pours down his hands from knuckles that he punched against drywall time and time again.

And he screams; screams until his throat is raw, cries out until he chokes on his own snot.

Anger and sadness and anger and fear and anger. Because it is all so fucking unfair and he has survived an Apocalypse only to be left completely and utterly alone.

There is no endgame. Or technically, there is, but this seems to be it. (This is IT?)

The depression at this realization is both terrifying and suffocating. Like someone has cut his only lifeline and wave after wave of shitty reality is pushing him down into a chilly abyss.

This is supposed to be the climax, he knows. This is the point where she walks in through the open doorway behind him (the door now swings drunkenly from broken hinges). This is when, in all the movies, the audience waits with bated breath because everyone knows that the protagonist has to get his happy ending.

She is supposed to return to her hotel room just one last time because she forgot something - her purse or her gun (like she would EVER forget that) or That Scarf that he bought her once as a gift because it matches her eyes and every time she looks at it she remembers his voice calling her "beautiful". She is supposed to walk up behind him, whisper his name in disbelief, reach out tentatively with one hand to check that he is real. Then he is supposed to be rewarded with an ecstatic smile because they both realize that he has traveled all this way to reunite with her and now they've found one another so everything will be okay.

And they live happily ever after. Cue audience applause.

(He wants to believe it so badly that he actually turns and stares at the empty doorway apprehensively, crushed when it doesn't happen even though he already knew what the outcome was going to be.)

But no, instead there is only "I waited". A yellowed note in her script, the paper stirring slightly as the draft from the open door catches it.

There is a date written on the bottom but he has no idea what today is. From the weather, he assumes that its been a couple months. He guesses that it feels like September. But he's never been in Oklahoma in September. For all he knows, what feels like Washington Septembers are actually Oklahoma Novembers.

His hands hurt. He's glad.

Tony picks up the note, folds it gently, slides it into his pocket, and leaves.

He walks dejectedly to a small river nearby to wash his hands (or drown himself; he's not too set on the outcome yet) when the ominous-looking sky finally decides to unleash, quickly soaking him with warm pelting raindrops.

Fucking figures.


a piacere (at pleasure)

He wasn't planning on staying in this disappointing town but he just can't seem to bring himself to leave it yet.

It's not as if he has anything pressing on his agenda at the moment.

To be honest, he feels much better after he spends the first couple days destroying a good amount of Main Street with a tire iron.

Tony has yet to see a single person here. 'Stilwell, Oklahoma - Pop. 1,284' is a bit of an exaggeration as far as he can tell. Of course there are bodies. There have been bodies almost every place that he's been, and at this point they're in varying degrees of decay. He steers clear of the corpses, the threat of infection and smell of rotting meat dampening any desire to help them find a final resting place.

He knows that if he was one of them, he would want to be buried. But he isn't them (yet) and would like to remain that way for the foreseeable future. His steps are heavy (I'm sorry, I can't, I'm sorry) as he walks away from the dead.

He breaks into the library. Since there is no electricity to allow him to use his Google-survival skills, he is forced to actually read a book or two on the important subjects (Camping for Dummies, Edible Wild Plants, A Compilation of Vintage Playboy Spreads... what kind of library IS this?)

Even now, the thought of reading makes him start mentally whining but he does it anyway and is surprised by how comforted he is to be there. It's the one place where silence is supposed to be found and, for a few hours of his day, the world is almost normal again.

Just for kicks, he tries to start "War and Peace". He falls asleep within the first twenty pages. Twice. Apparently not even an apocalypse can make a DiNozzo successfully read the classics of literature. He'll wait for the movie.

On the fifth night, the air is cool and breezy. With no light pollution, the constellations are staggering in the blackness of the sky. Laying in a lounge chair that he has pulled up onto the roof of the local hardware store, Tony takes a deep breath. He breathes out night air and the remnants of her that he's clung to for so long.

In the morning, he starts his walk through and out of town.

He passes the zoo and detours under its arched entrance, the slight squeak of hinges welcoming him as he pushes the wrought iron front gate open. Someone has been here before him. Most of the enclosures are empty, the gates unlatched or fencing split apart. A crocodile floats bloated and lifeless in a grimy pool of algae, a dirt-encrusted rhinoceros lay on its side in an enclosure of desert sand.

There is nothing to help here (yet again, he's too late; the helplessness is crushing) and he turns to walk quickly back to the exit, stepping gingerly over the shredded remains of some sort of gazelle in the middle of the concrete walkway before heading back to the entrance.

He doesn't bother to close the gate behind him.

A convenience store has its door propped open invitingly, like the former occupants had been in the middle of business on a beautiful summer day when they had to depart without warning. He restocks for the next leg of his journey to... where ever.

He scuffs his boots lazily on the pavement, kicking pebbles as he meanders down the middle of a street that probably didn't see much action in its heyday and is even more desolate-looking now.

To say that the gunshot is unexpected is an understatement. He slams himself to the ground so fast that his jaw actually smacks against the concrete and he can immediately taste the tell-tale metallic tinge of blood in his mouth. He is a sitting duck out in the middle of the deserted road and although he has two firearms on his person and another in his bag (he has found that small town ammo shops tend to be surprisingly well-stocked), he hesitates to use them.

He thinks that a traitorous piece of his subconscious is sick of this game, is maybe kind of hoping that someone will finally put him out of his misery.

But the rest of his brain catches up and he quickly snatches the nine-millimeter from his belt and swings both arms forward, propping himself up on his elbows even as his sprawled form leaves him completely vulnerable.

A second shot never comes.

There is a groaning coming from behind him and he glances back in surprise to see what looks suspiciously like a jaguar laying of blood not twenty feet behind him. It it quickly dying, mouth opening and closely soundlessly now as its legs swim uselessly against the heated pavement. The detective part of his brain gives him a mental headslap for the obviousness of what he had overlooked half an hour previously (What had killed the gazelle?).

Tony shoots it once, cleanly, through the head and drops his firearm. He rolls onto his back, the hot scratch of the concrete burning through his shirt as he closes his eyes and lays spread-eagle in the middle of a highway under the Oklahoma sun, barely registering the sound of cautious footsteps slowly approaching him.

Almost taken out by a jaguar. A fucking JAGUAR. That had probably been stalking him since he had stumbled out of its zoo playground and sloppily left the door wide open.

Tony DiNozzo is tired. He doesn't want to play anymore. He is officially done. He wants off of this ride.

Tony?

He wonders if he's dead. Or maybe she is. Maybe her spirit has come back to guide him now that he has reached the end (he doesn't know whether to be impressed or touched at this idea).

The voice is bending down over him now, his eyes are still closed but he can feel the shadow of the figure. And then they are touching him and he gets the strangest sense of deja vu because he is familiar with this hand that is now resting on his cheek.

Except last time that touch ghosted across his face, they were standing in front of a sink in DC, resurrecting a relationship that had been beaten and battered and blown to bits.

Her touch has no less effect now as his eyes snap open to meet her questioning gaze.

There are a million things that would take a thousand years to tell her, to show her. For a second it's like all of them are strung up together in some fantastically intricate spiderweb of thoughts and he doesn't know which strand to start with first. Suddenly, the tension is too much and they all come snapping back together.

He reaches for her, mirroring her hand on his face, as he cups her cheek. She is soft and warm and breathing and suddenly so incredibly REAL that he almost can't remember to breathe.

You waited, is all he can manage, with a disbelieving, ecstatic, smile.


a capella (unaccompanied)

She had actually left this place. But she does not tell him that.

Does not tell him that she came back after a couple weeks of traveling because she just had this... feeling. Not the Mossad Ninja feeling for things you could not see. Or that 'hinky' feeling that something was amiss.

Just a feeling that she had to get back. That she had missed something important.

Turns out, she had been correct.

So now she sits in the middle of this godforsaken street, his head on her lap looking up at her in wonder as his fingers reach out to cradle her face. Her one hand reaches up to cover his, feeling the warmth of him press reassuringly against her fingers as she turns her head slightly and brushes her lips over his palm.

You waited, he whispers.

She does not hesitate.

Of course I did.

Her heart skips a beat as she leans into the strength of his palm, closes her eyes, and lets the tears that she has held back for so long finally fall.