Disclaimer: We all know I don't own NCIS. I did just get the Season 9 DVDs in the mail, though.
I thought I'd release this little paper ship to join the Elevator Fic armada, since, you know, you can never have too many versions of the same few hours. This is set shortly before the premiere will begin-the premiere begins two hours after the finale ended, and this is one hour after.
There is very little Tony DiNozzo knows for sure as he slouches on the elevator floor after NCIS's biggest upheaval yet. He knows the time, knows it has been about an hour since the bomb jarred him and his partner off their feet in the metal box. He knows he has a massive headache—happens sometimes when you bang your head into a wall. Besides that, though, it's a confusing time. He does not know how many people are dead, or injured. He does not know the extent of the bomb damage. He does not know if Gibbs, McGee, and Abby are safe. He has no idea what Dearing was trying to accomplish by blowing up NCIS headquarters, and he definitely doesn't know if they're going to be able to catch this particular bad guy. He doesn't know how long it will take them to get out of here, and he doesn't know if Ziva is ever going to stop pacing. He suggested to her earlier that pacing is a fruitless activity in a space less than three paces wide, and the look she gave him made his tongue want to crawl inside his throat to hide, lest she yank it out of his mouth.
Oh, yes. There is one more thing he knows with absolute certainty. His partner is angry. Furious, even.
He's seen her mad before, of course, many times. Mad at suspects, mad at her boyfriend (he'd kind of—okay, really—liked those times), mad at herself. She's been angry with him before, and those were definitely some very memorable moments on the Life of Anthony DiNozzo Timeline. However, reflecting on all those times, Tony is still not sure he's ever seen her so totally and completely pissed off at the world.
It's very hot, and that doesn't really help his own mood, either. He wants to peel off his jacket but somehow can't bring himself to—maybe it's that he doesn't want to acknowledge the situation any more than strictly necessary. Or maybe it's just because he has himself partially convinced that they're going to be rescued any minute, and that he'd just have to put it back on. Ziva's the more practical one; her jacket is already huddled in the corner, looking wilted. The emergency lights aren't kind to that shade of green.
He tiredly watches her pace, noting the way her shirt sticks to her back from shoulder to hip. Thirty minutes ago the dampness was just starting to trail down between her shoulder blades. He clears his throat to try her again. Maybe if he makes his voice really casual, she'll react better than she did earlier.
"You're making it hotter in here, you know." His voice comes out more teasing than casual—dammit, this is what happens when he has to keep quiet for long periods of time. His voice refuses to do his bidding. Well. Maybe she won't mind.
"Now is not an appropriate time for your innuendo, DiNozzo," she responds without looking at him.
Or maybe she will.
"I was speaking literally," Tony says, achieving casual this time. "It's gotta be ninety degrees in here. Your pacing generates body heat."
"Well, I'm sorry," she bites out, sounding anything but. "Is there something else you'd rather have me do?"
"Look, I'm just—"
A deep, metallic groan sounds then, and he shuts up fast. Nothing's moving—not even Ziva, who's frozen mid-stride as though she's been caught in a game of Statues—but the slightest vibration runs through the metal floor and into his body.
"Hello?" calls Tony.
Ziva steps forward and Tony hears a very tiny creak. From the way she breathes in sharply, he's pretty sure she hears it, too.
"Yeah, that's enough pacing for you. C'mere."
He holds out his hands to pull her down next to him, and is subsequently confused by the way she leans away. He definitely remembers that the last time he held his arms out for her in this elevator, she cuddled into his chest and rested her head on his shoulder. And although this is a very different day and he isn't exactly expecting a hug, he can't help but think a warmer reaction would've been nice.
"Are you mad at me?" he asks finally, and she looks at him, surprised.
"Okay, then what's the problem?"
She stares at him for a minute, mouth open. Her voice is acerbic when she finds her tongue.
"You mean besides being trapped in an unstable elevator after a bomb has caused unknown amounts of damage to NCIS headquarters and potentially killed all our friends? No problem at all!"
"Excellent!" He smiles broadly up at her, and it's only about sixty percent fake. "Then you can come sit down with me and chill the fuck out."
"Look, we don't know what's going on outside, but freaking out's not going to help anything."
She just glares at him, and he decides that if she's not going to sit down, then he'll stand up. Which makes his head throb and sends another very small shiver echoing through the floor, but whatever. He's taller than she is now, at least. She keeps her eyes focused hard on his face.
"Then what do you propose we do?"
"Well," he says, moving close to her, "we can wait to be rescued. This is a government building and it's not huge; they're probably throwing a shitload of resources at it. Or we can try to get out ourselves. Elevators are usually built with hatch or something, right? There's always something at the top in the movies."
"This isn't a movie."
"Nah. But you have to admit it'd be an exciting one."
"How can you say that? Tony, we don't know if the rest of our team is alive!"
"We also don't know that they aren't, Ziva."
She doesn't buy it for a second, that's obvious; she's still wrapped in a cloud of tension and anger. He's not sure he really buys it either, but he can't think about that right now or he might do something reckless. Like jumping up and down until whatever's been trembling and creaking beneath them gives. And he doubts Gibbs—alive or dead—would approve of suicide via elevator.
"I'm not denying this is a bad situation," he says. "But we don't—"
"It is the worst situation!" she says tightly, cutting him off with a frustrated gesture. "Trapped and not…knowing? I think I might prefer the alternative."
Okay, so apparently Ziva doesn't share Gibbs' disapproval of the elevator suicide idea. Awesome. Fucking spectacular.
"Stop," he tries to tell her, but she talks over him.
"My sister died in a bombing. So did my mother—did you know that?" He shakes his head. "Yes. It would have been…poetic justice for me to have died today. Don't you think?" Her voice, for all its control, is tinged with hysteria, and he notices with alarm that every muscle in her body has been tensed long enough now that she is actually shaking a little. Ziva doesn't shake. Ziva usually moves with instinct and intention, and when she's still—because she has a sort of smooth stillness mastered better than most of the pre-pounce predators he sees on the Discovery Channel—it's a controlled kind of stillness. Involuntary shakes are not her style. Not on any average day.
But today is not an average day, and she is shaking a little, and her eyes bore into him with an abnormal intensity. She is expecting an actual answer, he realizes. Shit.
"Yeah, maybe," he manages finally. "But life isn't poetry, sweetheart."
She laughs, and it's a bitter sound, nothing like the sexy, throaty chuckle that he can almost feel rolling down his neck sometimes. Nothing like the ringing laugh he does not hear often enough, the one that makes his heart lift no matter what kind of day it's been. He dislikes this new laugh. It makes his headache worse.
"Yes," she says, "I've noticed."
"I mean, there's obviously still a good chance we could die today, but I have always hoped for something quicker."
He does something new then, because he feels tired and a little desperate and talking isn't working: He raises his hand and smacks her, right beneath where her ponytail is gathered.
And it works, kinda. She drops the thought she's been stewing over and turns to him with an incredulous look on her face.
"I did," he tells her. "And I'll do it again if you don't start listening to me."
She raises a hand to touch the back of her head, not because it hurts, but because Gibbs is the only dispenser of headslaps to Ziva, and she hasn't had one from him in years, and so the contact now is unexpected. And he knows that's the only reason why, but somehow his heart still melts at the edges a little, and he has to fight the urge to raise his hand to her head again, this time to caress.
Instead, Tony bends his head very close to hers and tries to catch her eyes. She refuses to play along, and instead her glance darts over his features—eyes lips chin cheek eyes lips.
"Ziva. I know this is bad. I get that you're pissed and worried. But right now we're stuck in here, and you're stuck with me, and this isn't helping anything. We need to focus on us right now, before freaking out about everything else." Some part of his brain dimly suggests that this is sounding more like a relationship talk than a pep talk, and so he tries to sound more authoritative. In control.
"So, as senior field agent and as your friend, I'm asking you to get out of your head. Okay?"
Her chin quivers almost imperceptibly. He gives in then and raises a hand to cup the back of her head after all. He wants to tell her that she can vent on him all she wants later, and he won't mind, will be glad to hear it, will listen to everything she's saying now, even the hard parts, but he can't think of how to phrase that. Her hair's soft under his hand.
"Please. 'Cause I need you in here," he adds quietly. It's the best he can do.
And that is when her eyes do meet his, all brown and troubled and uncertain, and for a split second he's petrified she'll somehow bail on him. He's not sure what the worst part of that would be—being stuck in a terrible situation without his partner mentally present, or knowing that she is stuck in a terrible situation from which he probably can't rescue her. He doesn't think he can get out without her. Wouldn't really want to anyway.
Whatever destruction is waiting outside is something he can't face alone.
His brain is full of chittering monkeys talking over each other and his head hurts and her eyes are terrifying but he can't look away. Then she closes her eyes. Her jaw tightens, relaxes. She breathes out. "Okay," she says, and when she opens her eyes again, she looks more normal. Tense and sweaty and disheveled, sure, but her eyes aren't reminding him anymore of every bad thing that has ever happened in the entire world. She has a hold on herself.
And Tony will be the first to admit that sweaty and disheveled is not a bad look for her.
"Okay," he echoes, hands falling back to his sides.
"So what's next?"
"We know our options. What would Gibbs do?" he muses, and as he examines the ceiling he feels her step forward until one of her feet is parked between his. She taps his chest, and it feels oddly like an apology, or a vote of confidence, or some other small affirmation that they're on the same team.
"No, Tony. What do you think we should do?"
He looks down at her beautiful, sweaty face and yeah, he knows damn well that he doesn't know what he's doing and that she doesn't know what she's doing and that whatever they do next, they're both going to pretend it'll work and silently doubt it. He knows she knows this, too. Which is probably why she gives him a very faint smile (whether it's the good kind or a sad one, he can't tell) and asks again what he thinks their next step should be. The next step that might save them. Or not. Or might succeed in getting them out of the elevator only to dump them into a far worse hell.
But it's not a time for indecision, so he gives her a little smile back.
"Baby, we're bustin' out of here tonight."
And she actually releases a breathless little laugh. "Movie?"
"South Sea Woman, 1953. It's terrible, don't ever watch it."
"Your movies are right about one thing, though," she says thoughtfully, and he can tell she's finally switched off the part of her brain that's been freaking out and turned on the part that makes her a good investigator. "I think the ceiling's our best bet."
"And I'm guessing there's no ladder in here."
"Bend over, Tony."
And he has to laugh a little himself as he does, because, well, it's kinda funny, but also because this is something they can do—the lifting and teamwork and flirting—and he's just so relieved that she's with him, even if everything else is wrong. She settles on his shoulders (he tries not to wince as her thighs bookend his aching head) and he grabs her legs and counts to three before standing up.
And here we go.
Note: I don't actually think Ziva's going to be in this frame of mind when she's trapped in the elevator, but the idea interested me because I read a fic where Tony was really pissed and guilt-stricken about the whole thing, and I wondered how Ziva would be if the tables were flipped and she was the angrier one.
Also, the bit about Ziva's mom dying in a bombing is complete fiction (okay, yeah, these are fictional characters and so technically everything is complete fiction, but that part is made up by me and not by NCIS). We don't actually know how she died and this way was convenient for the story.
I'd love your feedback; hope you enjoyed!