For what is love itself, for the one we love best? - an enfolding of immeasurable cares which yet are better than any joys outside our love. -George Eliot

The ground doesn't feel completely stable under his feet, and there is a faint ringing in his ears. Too much noise today- the screech of the elevator, the wail of the sirens, the shouts of the rescue workers- and his headache isn't helping matters.

He stands in front of the coffee station, a cup in his hand. The act of filling it seems so hard; it's not something simple that he's done a million times before, because he is no longer in the world where that occurred. Today, he has been catapulted to another world, an upside down one.

And in an upside down world, he cannot possibly expect to caffeinate as if it's just another day.

A hand appears from nowhere and closes around the handle of the coffee pot, startling him. He feels the cup being taken from him and watches numbly as it is filled and held before his eyes. It hovers there.

"No lids here, apparently," Gibbs says gruffly.

Tony swallows hard and reaches up. His hand quivers, but he still manages to take the coffee from Gibbs without spilling any. "Thanks, Boss," he says, and is surprised at how hoarse his voice sounds. And then it occurs to him that he hasn't spoken in a good two hours, not since Ziva was whisked into surgery- up to that point, he had been chattering nervously, trying to distract her from the physical pain and himself from the mental. Once she was gone, he retreated into himself and did his best to block out all his surroundings.

Now he is wondering how she is doing, and he doesn't want to do that. He isn't sure he can handle the possibilities right now. His hand begins to shake a little harder, the coffee sloshing dangerously close to the edge of the cup; Gibbs snatches it from him. "Alright," he says, taking a gulp himself. "Maybe later."

The two men stand in silence. Tony rubs the back of his neck, which is sore from where he hit it on the elevator wall, and tries not to think about Ziva's weight on him, how she took the brunt of the falling debris even as he covered her head with his arms. It causes a little flame to ignite in his chest, and it isn't pleasant; he quickly extinguishes it, takes a breath. Speak. "Where's Abby?"

"Wouldn't leave the waiting room."

"McGee's still in surgery?"

"They both are," Gibbs says in an exhausted tone that catches Tony off guard. He has never heard his boss sounding so defeated and tired and just plain old before; in a way, hearing this is the worst thing that has happened today.

Experiencing this weakened version of Gibbs gives him just enough strength to snap out of his stupor and be the senior field agent. "Anything I should do, Boss?"

Gibbs surprises him by shoving the coffee into his hand; he barely manages to hang on to it. "Your team needs you. Stay with them."


Abby paces and sits down and stands up and grabs magazines and talks and cries. She moves from action to action with astonishing speed; Tony finds himself guzzling the coffee because watching her is making him even more exhausted. Despite the constant stimuli, it's kind of lonely with half of their group missing. It doesn't feel right.

"So what was wrong with Ziva?" she asks, ripping a dog food ad from a magazine and pocketing it. "Was she conscious?"

He is pretty sure they've gone over this before, but Abby has herself all wound up and she is probably trying not to think about McGee, who is in much worse shape. "Barely. She fell on top of me in the elevator, so she got the worst of the debris. A jagged piece of metal sliced through her shoulder and got stuck in there; that was the biggest problem, I think."

The proof of these injuries resides on him. The metal was too deep for him to get out, so he used his suit jacket to slow the bleeding while they were in the elevator. Now, he is left in slacks and his white shirt- somewhere along the way, the jacket disappeared- and both are spotted with Ziva's blood.

It's another reminder, besides the fact that he's currently sitting in a hospital waiting room, that he failed to protect his partner… again.

"She'll be okay," Abby says with forced cheerfulness. "She's better off than…"

Tony doesn't miss the way she winces as she trails off; he quickly makes an attempt to distract her from McGee. "Have you talked to Ducky and Palmer?"

Lifting her hands to her mouth, she gasps. "Tony! I completely forgot about them! What if they already found out from the news? Wouldn't that be awful? I gotta go find Gibbs!"

Before he can protest, she is dashing out of the waiting room, and suddenly there is nothing to keep his thoughts in check, nothing to keep him from remembering Ziva gasping in pain as blood pooled on the floor beneath her. He squeezes his eyes shut, presses the heels of his hands into them, but it doesn't block out the image of her own eyes. For the entire time he was trying to control the bleeding in her shoulder, she had looked up at him like a helpless, dependent child.

In reality, Ziva is far from helpless and dependent, but it doesn't change the fact that they are partners. They are supposed to have each other's backs.

He has to stop letting her down.


Despite drinking half a cup of black coffee, Tony falls asleep at some point. It is a restless slumber; his dreams are invaded by his teammates and the sounds around him, and even a loud nurse from earlier makes an appearance. Once, he pries his eyes open, convinced Gibbs is barking his name, but neither Gibbs nor Abby has returned, and his head lolls back onto the armrest of his chair.

The next time he hears his name, it is a much softer, "Agent DiNozzo?" Since nobody he works with speaks that nicely to him, he figures it's a random voice in the dream. But then a tap on his shoulder works its way into his consciousness, and he jerks awake.

"Huh?" he asks dumbly.

A nurse in blue and yellow polka-dotted scrubs stands over him. "Agent David is out of surgery."

Tony is up in a flash, running a hand through his rumpled hair. "How is she?"

"She lost a lot of blood while trapped, but we were able to repair her shoulder and restore her blood supply The operation went very well."

"What about McGee?"

The nurse sighs and glances away. "His operation is going to take a bit longer."

"Will he be okay?"

He is very glad Abby isn't here to witness the nurse saying, "Right now, we're unsure about the severity of his injuries."

Ziva's fine. McGee might be… will probably be fine, he reassures himself, and releases a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "Can I see Ziva?"

She says that Ziva's anesthesia won't wear off for a while, but gives him the room number anyway. Tony sets off, realizing halfway down the hallway that he forgot his coffee, but he doesn't turn back. It is surely cold by now, and he doesn't need it, anyway. What he needs is to see his partner.

Outside the door, he pauses, unsure of what to expect, then forces himself to enter the room. One shoulder of her hospital gown has been cut open to accommodate for the bandage there, and the lower part of her arm is in a sling. There is an IV in her other arm and a machine is beeping and pieces of hair are falling from her ponytail but, actually, she doesn't look bad.

Better than in the elevator, anyway.

Now that he's here, he doesn't know what to do. For several minutes he stands with his hands in his pockets, watching her sleep so deeply that she isn't even snoring. Eventually he drags a chair to her bedside and sinks into it. It is quiet. When was the last time a room occupied by him and Ziva was quiet?

"So," he says, feeling pressured to break the silence. "Weird day, huh?"

Even to him, it sounds stupid. He tries again. "You kinda scared me there. But what else is new? Scaring me is practically your hobby." There is no indication that she heard him or is awakening. Tony reaches for her hand, which is warm, and whispers, "Glad you're okay."

Well, I have finally strayed from oneshots and drabbles and entered the world of NCIS longfic. Probably looking at 15-20 chapters here. I hope to post it all before the premiere on September 25th, but we shall see!

Thanks for reading so far- review, please?