Disclaimer: He's not really going to die on the show, right? Right?

Spoilers: Well ... nothing. It's just a theory. Based on the promotional videos to 10x11 "Shabbat Shalom." And it's a theory I hope doesn't come to fruition.

So ... this contains Eli. And I don't bash Eli. 'Nuff said :P

Have a good time, everyone! (I got tired of saying "Enjoy, everyone!")

-Soph


Lost and Found

He breaks into her house one night, the day she flies home after Eli's funeral.

He finds her sitting at her dinner table, alone and poking at the sole plate of spaghetti before her with the fork she's holding backside up. He clears his throat and she jumps theatrically (too theatrically to be believable), her eyes darting up to his for a millisecond before steadfastly avoiding his gaze—but not before he sees the red rimming them.

"Tony," she says, and her voice doesn't sound quite steady. "What are you doing here?"

"Come to check on you," he answers.

"You should have knocked," she chides him, ostensibly to avoid the real topic.

"I did."

"If I did not answer, that means I do not want to speak with you."

He shrugs shamelessly and moves to the dining table, pulling out a chair and sitting down opposite her. "Are you 'not wanting to speak with me' forever?" Because you have refused to talk to me—or anyone else, for that matter—since you found out your father was dead.

Even from his vantage point, he can see her nostrils flare. "I am not in the mood to cater to your acute neediness."

It does cut him a bit, her response. Probably as much as it annoys her that he'd broken into her apartment, though, so he doesn't take it too much to heart. "That's not what I'm here for, though I won't deny that I am … needy."

And even though he hadn't intended to chastise her, her cheeks redden and her eyes tear up. She drops her fork and covers her face with both hands and breathes in deeply, face hidden for a long minute.

When she looks up again, she looks almost normal. Almost as if she hadn't just started to crumble a little in front of him.

Almost.

"I am sorry, Tony." She says it all in a low, self-deprecating voice, and it sounds so unlike her that it wrenches terribly at him. He wants to get up and move over to her, but he doesn't, because he doubts she'd appreciate that just yet.

"For what?" he asks quietly instead.

"I should not have snapped at you. It is not your fault that my father has … passed away.

"Yeah, I know." He leans forward a bit, his voice gentle when he adds, "But it's not your fault either, Ziva."

She laughs bitterly. "It does not matter whether it is or is not my fault."

"What matters?"

She lifts a hand weakly and drops it. "For all the years that I have spent hating him, he is still my father. I … do … love him for a reason. He was not always the man you met—when I was younger, he would spend time teaching me and Ari and Tali what it meant to be proud of our country and want to serve it; live for it … die for it. I am not going to say that he was a man without his failings. But he—he was the one who taught me to be fierce and strong and to … survive despite all odds."

Her jaw starts to tremble, and the furrow between her brows deepens. "Now, he is dead. And I am no longer Israeli. So, I have nothing from my past. My abba is dead, and I … have nothing."

She is staring hard at her plate, and he bites down on his lip to keep from reaching across the table for her hand. He desperately wants to comfort her, but he is Tony and she is Ziva and, even after all these years, heart-to-hearts take a lot of effort for them.

So, he offers awkwardly, "You'll always have Eli in your heart," and she sniffles.

"In my heart," she repeats, and he knows what she means to say. In my heart, but no longer in my life. Like my country.

And he grieves for her, because he can't imagine what it'd possibly be like to lose such a big part of his identity.

This time, he pushes his chair back and goes around the table to her side; wraps his arms carefully around her shoulders and pulls her to him. She shudders but falls hard against him without warning, her arms tight around his waist as she buries her face into the spot just above his stomach. Her breathing is jagged, but he knows she won't truly cry—these days, she's struggling to trust him with the secrets of her life much more than he is to trust her with his. While a part of his heart aches to know that, he realizes that this isn't the time to be finicky, so he just holds her and lets her cling to him like he's her lifebuoy. And it is an eternity before her grip loosens. She doesn't let him go yet, though, so he doesn't her; just slips his fingers under her hair and onto her nape, stroking gently, until he can feel the tension roll off her.

Bit by bit, second by second.

Eventually, she straightens. His shirt is the tiniest bit wet, but he ignores that in favour of cupping her now damp cheek. He bends and kisses her on the forehead and says, "They'll always be with you, Zi, 'cause you carry your love for your homeland and your respect for the … acceptable side of your father's teachings on you, like a badge of honour."

She blinks incomprehensively up at him. "Do you really think so?"

"I really know so, 'cause I see this brave little Israeli-American fighting beside me every day."

The smile his words draw is slight, but noticeable. "Thank you," she says.

He rubs her cheekbone in answer, and she finally drops her arms from his sides. Turning back to her plain—and undoubtedly cold—spaghetti, she grimaces.

"I guess it is time to get on with my life," she murmurs, her tone back to being business-like, and in that instant he becomes absolutely certain of two things: that she hadn't been eating much while she was in Israel, and that she already thinks she needs to pack up her emotions into a neat little box and move on from her new loss.

Loathe as he might the idea of Ziva in pain, he know she isn't quite ready to stop grieving yet, so he stops her with two fingers on her arm.

She looks at him questioningly, and he tells her, "Cold spaghetti—bad. Comfort food—good. How 'bout some falafels from that Arabic place two blocks down? I'll get them to deliver, and we can sit and talk … or not, whatever. I just…" he hesitates, "I just think, when I lost my mother, it would've been nice if I had someone to talk about her with."

Her eyes slide away carefully. "I am not sure whether or not I actually want to remember Eli."

"Then we won't talk about him. We can talk about Israel. You can tell me how it'd make minced meat out of soft lil' me—how 'bout that?"

She actually laughs at that, even if it is short and the least enthusiastic he has ever heard her laugh. "I think you'd survive—to an extent. But I would … I would like you to stay here, if it is not too terribly inconveniencing."

She returns to staring at the spaghetti, her lips pursed, and he understands that she is afraid of what he might actually say. So, he runs his hand down her arm and reassures her, "Just gonna go get the number; I'll be right back," and turns to where she has the number stuck under a magnet against the refrigerator door.

"Tony?" he hears her soft voice behind him.

"Yeah, Zi?" he asks, facing her again.

"Thank you for being here," she says once more with a nod, finally holding his gaze, and her eyes are calmer than he has seen them since Eli David's passing.

So, he tells her, "Always, Zi," and goes to do what she needs him to.