Matching the Flames

Tony swung the bottle of beer to his lips. He digested it slowly, grimacing at its taste. He looked at the packaging briefly.

Out of date.

Of course.

Just before he was stupid enough to drink a little more, a fist rapped gently upon his door. His watch read 10:30, which made him wonder who on earth would visit at this late hour, especially as a surprise.

He stood up and wrenched open the door, to find Ziva. Her hair was waving in a curly ponytail and her expression was solemn, but calm.

"Can I come in?" she asked with a quiet authority.

"Sure," Tony was bemused by her request, but moved out of the way anyway.

Ziva threw her shoes (black ballet flats) to the side without a second glance before floating (well, that's what Tony thought) over to the sofa, dropping down onto its cushiony depths.

"What's on your mind?" Tony sat beside her.

"I thought you needed someone to talk to," Ziva took a deep breath, "After what you, ahem, revealed."

"Okay."

"So where do you want to start?"

"I still hear the screams," Tony suddenly revealed, "It's like an echo. Always the same. Even after 20 years, still the same. I can't get them out of my mind. She was only 4- a whole life ahead of her. Amber, they said she was called. So young, so so young."

"That's heartbreaking," Ziva looked at the ground, "Such a young life wasted. Someone did that on purpose- it's just so…wrong."

Tony was surprised at how upset Ziva seemed to be becoming. Well, since the whole Rivkin incident, she had been so fragile.

"Believe me, if I could hunt the culprit down and kill them myself, I would. But I can't. I'll never know who did it. It's my fault she's dead."

"You shouldn't blame yourself," Ziva replied, "It's like you said- you can't save them all."

"I could have tried, but I didn't. I could have, but I didn't. I could have died trying to save someone- dying for something worth it."

"But you would have killed another in the attempt."

"Yes, there is that."

"There is always another monster," Ziva repeated her words from months ago, "This is a monster we cannot see or hear, but only imagine. We do not know where he, or indeed she is. At least you have the peace of mind that you helped at least one person that night."

"You do not understand what I have gone through," Tony retorted, wondering about the angle she was getting at, "By not helping Amber."

"No, you do not understand me!" Ziva banged her fist on the table in an act of defiance, "For 3 months in Somalia I heard the screams and agonizing cries of girls as young as ten or eleven. What they did…if it were a movie, it would probably be banned. I do not want to go into detail, those girls need to rest in peace with innocence still in them. Now this happened for three whole months! She was one girl and I am not denying that it was sad- it was! But worse stuff has happened to worse-off people compared to you. So just stop feeling sorry for yourself Tony and let Amber have a peace of mind in Heaven!"

Tony gaped as Ziva settled back into the sofa, taking a wine glass and drinking from it.

"I must go," she placed the drink back on the table and moved to leave.

"No," Tony replied huskily, grabbing Ziva's arm, "You're going to come here and we are going to talk about this."

"Fine," she sat back down, and was surprised when he put his arm around her shoulders, edging closer.

"I shouldn't feel sorry for myself. I should feel sorry for Amber. I should feel sorry for you too Ziva. I had no idea what you went through and I am so glad they we got you out there."

"I don't want your pity."

"Yes you do," Tony turned to her, "You're just trying to be strong- putting up walls. I'm sick of it Ziva- I want to be able to talk to you. I want to make you smile and laugh. I want to be the one who you come to first with a problem. Even before Abby and Gibbs. Even Ducky."

"I don't want pity," Ziva told him in a firm voice.

"Ziva. People care about you. I care about you more than you know and I just want to inform you that you are staying with me tonight. We will get somewhere."

"Okay," Ziva caved in, "We will get somewhere."

"If only it were further," Tony mumbled as he hugged her, "But in a different way."

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Peace be with you xxx