A/N—The third and final chapter to "Metamorphoses".
She couldn't stop fidgeting, couldn't sit still. Ziva sat next to Abby in the waiting room, staring in the same direction as the rest of the team, resolutely focused on the doors leading to the OR. No one spoke, no one even moved. Except for her.
Ziva stood up, paced, sat down again. Waiting. She hated waiting. Ziva rested her elbows on her knees, tapped her leg, and watched the double doors. She looked down at her hands and saw dried blood underneath her fingernails. I thought I had washed all of it off, she thought vaguely.
Ziva closed her eyes and covered her face with her hands, recalling the images from just a few hours previous.
The people running from the area, parents snatching up their children as they tried to get as far from the standoff as possible. The suspect's back was still to them, but she could see his right hand twitching slightly as Gibbs barked at him to place his hands on his head and get down on the ground. She gripped her pistol tighter and focused her aim.
Everything else just happened in a blur. She saw him spin wildly as he grabbed for a gun at his waist. He let off a shot before two of their own bullets took him down, one in his left thigh, the other in his upper-right arm. He fell to the ground, dropping his weapon from the reflex of his injury.
They kept their guns leveled on him as they all moved forward. McGee pulled out his handcuffs as he reached the suspect and flipped him onto his stomach. He restrained the man, removed his gun. The adrenaline was subsiding. But someone was missing. She looked back, confused. What she saw stopped her cold, sending fear coursing through her.
Tony lay in the grass, blood seeping through his white shirt.
"Tony!" she yelled, rushing to his side. She pressed her hands firmly to his wound as Gibbs pulled out his phone and dialed an ambulance.
"Tony? Stay with us, Tony!" she said with no response from him. His eyes remained closed as the blood flowed beneath her fingers. A chill went down her spine as she recalled a similar instance from years past when she was in the same position with Michael Rivkin.
He'd died that day. What was preventing Tony from reaching the same fate?
Her thoughts raced. Faster, faster, faster. Scenarios of what could happen. Probabilities of what would likely happen. These did nothing but force her to press harder to his wound.
She didn't remove her hands until four minutes later when the paramedics arrived and ordered her aside. She obliged and melted into the background, all-the-while focusing intently on his unmoving features.
"He's not breathing!" one of them yelled. As they administered CPR, she reached for her necklace, absently feeling for the silver Star of David pendant. When the CPR failed and the defibrillator paddles came out, she closed her eyes tightly, uttering a silent prayer. Please do not let him die. Please. Not him too.
She continued this mantra for some time, trying to ignore the thumps of the machine that she hoped would save him. Until—
Her eyes flew open, relief washing over her. However, the tension in her body refused to dissipate; the paramedics obscured her view of Tony's face, giving her fear footholds to cling to. So she folded her arms and waited with patience that she didn't even know she possessed. In that moment, she was only vaguely aware of the other ambulance behind her, the protests and strugglings of the suspect.
Finally, one of the men yelled, "Alright, let's get him outta here!" She saw them lift her partner from the ground and carry him toward the ambulance nearby. As one of the paramedics shifted, she saw Tony's head off the board, looking around, a frightened look across his face.
Then he saw her. She wasn't even aware she was holding her breath until the balloon deflated in her chest. She relaxed just a bit as her fears briefly abated. When he sent her a small wave, she felt hope surge through her.
As she waved back, Tony laid his head back and stopped moving again. The ambulance swallowed him, and the dread returned for its feast.
The creek of a door brought her back to the present and away from her recollections, her hands quickly falling from her face; a doctor exited the OR, grasping a clipboard. Everyone jumped up at once, waiting for the news they hoped to hear.
He raised his hands and said, "Agent DiNozzo is going to be fine." Sighs of relief and nervous laughter escaped from the team at the news. "He suffered major bleeding, but he'll make it," he announced with a smile.
Abby threw her arms around Ziva, hugging her tightly as she released a slow, shaky breath. She weakly returned the hug, the words from the doctor strangely muted as he continued speaking.
After he returned to the double doors, Ziva extricated herself from Abby's embrace, saying quietly, "I will be back in a few minutes." She turned away, walking briskly down the nearest hallway, searching for some place private.
She stepped into the first one she saw, a Men's room, and locked the door behind her. Ziva slowly slid to the floor, alleviation easing through her as she closed her eyes.
"Todah La'el! Todah La'el!"* she whispered over and over.
She sat on a park bench, quietly observing the people playing and running about. There were markedly fewer families than there were over a week ago, a fact Ziva attributed to the stigma of so recently being the location of a shooting.
She looked across the park, taking in the trees and the area where Tony was shot. A couple days ago, the police tape was finally removed, and everything looked exactly as a park should look like. But no one went near the trees. In fact, by her observation, the vast majority of the people limited themselves to her side of the park.
This thought continued to occupy her until she heard someone come up behind her and say, "After checking at NCIS, Gibbs' place, and your apartment, I figured I might find you here." Ziva whipped to the side as Tony walked around the bench.
"I suppose my haunts are somewhat limited," she replied as he slowly lowered himself next to her on the bench. She couldn't help but notice his wince as he settled in. "You are out earlier," she stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
"After they found out I was planning a prison break, they said I was recovering faster than they expected, and released me before I could cause any more dissension among the other inmates," he said in an equally straight voice. He flashed a grin as he said wistfully, "And I didn't even get to finish my tunnel." Ziva smiled as she heard the comment at the same moment she was observing a boy fervently digging a hole in the dirt not too far from them.
They sat in silence for a few moments, taking in the park's inhabitants as they went about their activities. Finally, Tony said quietly, "The sky's different."
Knowing what he was referring to, Ziva turned her gaze upward, the streaks of clouds glowing a soft orange as the sun neared its decent below the horizon. The view above them was a watercolor of pinks, oranges, and reds with the occasional blue and purple tones.
"Everything looks a little different now," he continued. Ziva dropped her eyes back to Earth, looking at him once more. He, however, had his gaze on the families as they collected their belongings, beginning their trips home.
She focused her attention on the people as well, saying just as quietly, "That is very true."
"Who knew perspectives and priorities could...change so quickly?" Tony mused distantly. Ziva turned back, waiting for him to elaborate. "Or maybe the transitions were already in the works and...I just didn't notice them...I don't know," he ruminated, his eyes far away.
After a brief pause, Ziva said, "Sometimes we must...step back. Reevaluate. And...we see things we maybe already knew, but...refused to acknowledge."
Tony glanced over at Ziva as her gaze returned skyward. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then, struggling with himself, sighed and said nothing. His eyes roved upward again to the painting above them.
They sat without speaking until the last of the stragglers below hopped into cars or departed on foot.
"Well," Tony said, gasping slightly as he moved to his feet, "how about a movie? Those small TV screens in the hospital rooms are no way to watch a film." He held out his hand for her and continued with a soft grin, "My treat."
Ziva glanced at his hand for the briefest of moments before accepting his gesture. "Sounds like a date," she replied with a warm smile. As they walked to the parking lot, leaving the bench behind, two butterflies floated by in tandem, circling each other as they fluttered their way through the park.
*"Todah La'el"—Thank God
A/N—Thank you so much for taking the time to read my first three-parter :) . Feel free to comment, criticize, or review. I hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time, happy reading!