Now I'm just playing. Also, this hasn't really much to do with the first chapter besides the fact that it's speculative for the same episode. Thought I might as well keep them together. First part was about Tony and Ziva and mostly from Tony's viewpoint; this is about Vance and Ziva and it's from Vance's viewpoint.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
The morning after Jackie's funeral service was sunny, and the light in Leon's office hurt his eyes.
He sat down heavily at his desk.
His leave of absence—the length of which was currently undetermined, but at least a month—had officially started. He was supposed to be coming to grips with the idea of living without his wife, grieving, and taking care of his children. None of which seemed very plausible as Leon looked blankly around his office.
Jerome Craig, NCIS's deputy director, had been in town since Saturday. At this very moment, he was standing with Gibbs in MTAC, conferencing with Mossad's freshly sworn-in director, a hotshot Leon couldn't remember ever meeting.
He didn't like it.
But that didn't matter, he reminded himself. He was supposed to be packing up some things, getting some final paperwork together, and locking away anything he'd prefer Craig not see.
Except that he had been sitting in this chair for five minutes, and during that time, paralysis seemed to have set in. He tried, but couldn't manage to put himself back on the autopilot that had been running him since he left the emergency room late Friday night. He stuck to the chair, and his eyes stuck to the photographic smiles of his wife and children in the portrait gracing his desk. Jackie had been bugging him about getting a new one taken this spring ("with you in it, too, baby; don't think you're getting out of it") to do their rapidly growing children justice. He thought he should probably see about getting one done of the kids at least. She'd like that.
It struck him suddenly that he had no idea how to make that happen without her. Who did the Vance family photos? Who took care of the framing? Who did they call to fix the plumbing or repaint a bullet-spattered wall? He worked long weeks and she did all that. He wasn't sure where she even kept those numbers, or how they were organized.
He wasn't sure if he would be emotionally able to go through her things and find that sort of information anytime soon, either.
His intercom buzzed.
"Special Agent David to see you, sir."
Before he could tell his secretary that he'd really rather be left alone, the door opened and Ziva stepped in, closing the door quietly behind her.
A surprised look flashed across her face—Leon was usually more formal with his agents—but it was almost immediately replaced by a look of apology. She stopped some six feet from his desk, an awkward distance. "I'm sorry to barge in on you," she began. "I'm sure I'm the last person you want to speak to at the moment."
She stopped and bowed her head, as though waiting for him to have something to say about that.
He didn't think there was anything to say. Last time he'd seen Ziva, she had thrown down her napkin and stormed out of his dining room—Gibbs had since explained the reason for that to him, but it had still made for an uncomfortable moment before the horrible, horrible one, and he didn't want to replay it in his mind consciously when the entire scene had been running on repeat, unbidden, behind his eyelids since Friday.
"Do you need something?" he asked tiredly.
"I wanted to express my condolences." She raised her head and caught his eyes—on accident, perhaps, but the way she held them was purposeful. "Jackie was a wonderful woman."
He knew he should probably offer her his condolences, as well, but his tongue was thick and heavy in his mouth and he didn't care quite enough anymore about his old friend Eli to try and unstick it.
After an uncomfortable moment of syrupy silence, though, he tried after all.
"Didn't see you at the funeral." It was absolutely the last thing he meant to say, and he barely recognized the tone of his own voice saying it.
Because his eyes were still on her face, he caught the way her composure slipped for a fraction of a second. He noted detachedly the speed with which she recovered, and the agent in him was impressed with the clarity and evenness of her voice when she spoke.
"I did not think my presence would be appropriate." Her eyes fell to one of the family pictures behind him. "My father has been the cause of much pain here recently. I did not wish to cause you more."
Eli kept family pictures behind his desk in his office, too. Leon remembered seeing them only a few century-like years ago.
"I don't think Jackie would've minded," he heard himself say.
The woman in front of him smiled faintly.
"But funeral services are not for the dead. They are meant to bring solace to the living."
He actually cracked a tiny smile of his own. "Sounds like something Dr. Mallard would say."
"Ducky is a very wise man."
Ducky had pressed his director's hand the morning before with so much compassion that Leon had been forced to turn away to keep his already-tenuous grip on his composure. It had been nearly as painful as repeatedly catching Gibbs's stricken, empathetic eyes following him before and after the service.
Silence fell again, less thick this time, but still uncomfortable.
Ziva glanced briefly at the door and pressed her lips together.
Jackie would be disappointed at the lack of grace he was showing this hurt young woman. She wasn't a big fan of Eli's ("that man can't blow his nose without causing you trouble," she had said once), but she liked Ziva. Had liked Ziva, that is. When she was alive to pass that sort of judgment.
"Thank you," he tried.
Again, she looked very slightly surprised. And she still didn't leave.
"Was there anything else?" he asked after a moment, feeling distinctly unequipped to speak to her any longer.
"Yes." She clasped her right hand tightly around her left wrist and took a step forward. "I, ah—" she cleared her throat, then raised her chin and once again met his eyes. "I wish for you to know that…I will understand if you would like me to tender my resignation."
He stared at her. She tightened her mouth and stood very straight.
"Are you crazy?"
"I have not yet had my psych evaluation."
He had to have one of those, too. Bureaucracy was a bitch, even when you were part of it.
"It's an expression." He shook his head and found his tongue suddenly looser than it had been since Friday. "You listen to me. The one thing I don't need right now is any of my best agents copping out. I don't wanna hear about your guilt. I don't want hear about your issues with Eli. And I certainly don't want to lose whatever connection this agency is able to salvage with Mossad by getting rid of an agent with valuable ties to Israel!"
Her face was stone.
He had raised himself half out of his chair as his voice had escalated to a shout, and now he sank back slowly and dragged a hand over his face. He rested his chin on clasped fists. His daughter grinned at him from the photograph. At least she still has a father, he thought; he knew from experience how it felt to have no family at all. Thank god he still had Kayla and Jared. Thank god they hadn't been there.
Ziva still looked at him. She'd been there. And now she was the one with no family at all.
"I'm sorry," he told her. "I'm sorry. Please, don't offer me your resignation."
Her stony expression remained.
"We need you here," he added. "Your team needs you."
The stone cracked. Ziva breathed in sharply and closed her eyes, and a dimple quivered in her chin. He realized just how much it must've cost her to offer up her job as a sacrifice to his pain.
He closed his own eyes, and the scene from Friday night began to play, starting with Ziva tossing down that damn napkin.
"Thank you." Her whisper drew him back to his office.
He forbade himself from letting the tears filling his eyes spill over, nodding sharply.
The door slammed open and Gibbs rushed inside, an expression Leon had never seen before on his face.
Ziva started. "Gibbs—"
He grabbed her arm hard and pulled her with him as he approached the desk.
"I don't know what's going on here, but one thing I do know? You are both emotionally compromised right now. That means that now is not the time to make rash decisions. And that goes for both of you."
Gibbs wasn't loud, but his face was intense as he loomed, frowning, over Leon and then focused a glare at Ziva.
"Do you understand me? Nobody is quitting, and nobody is getting fired." The statement hung in the air with a note of finality.
Sometimes Leon had the urge to screw with Gibbs, just to assert his authority over an organization that people often seemed to see as Gibbs's property.
Now was not one of those times. He felt downright grateful for Gibbs's fierce control over this situation. Somebody had to keep things, including the deputy director—actually, especially the deputy director—on their toes and running properly around here, and Gibbs was more than capable.
"After all the strings I pulled to convert David from a Mossad liaison officer to an American Special Agent," Leon said mildly, "do you really think I'd let her leave the agency?"
Gibbs narrowed his eyes and gave him a penetrating look.
"How did you know I was up here?" Ziva asked him.
Leon could picture the scene: Gibbs realizing that Ziva was in the building but not in the bullpen, McGee providing information he hadn't yet put into context, Gibbs making the connections and bolting up the stairs, McGee realizing what was going on and staring after Gibbs in horror. DiNozzo couldn't've been there, or he'd have charged in on Gibbs's heels.
They cared about each other, this team. And he'd be damned if he hadn't come to care about them, too.
He shouldn't think such thoughts. They made the tears threaten to greet his cheeks again, and he couldn't have that.
"I have things to attend to," he said abruptly.
"Okay," Gibbs said, "just so we're clear." His hand finally dropped from Ziva's arm to her hand, which he squeezed tightly before heading for the exit.
Leon watched her follow him. That hand squeeze meant Gibbs wasn't done having this conversation with Ziva; he was sure of it. But it would have to wait just a moment.
"Ziva," he called as Gibbs slipped through the door, stopping her before she left the room. She turned back.
"Get lost for a while."
An expression close to panic fluttered over her face, and he hastened to explain. "I mean you should take some time. Take a vacation. Get away. Hell, take DiNozzo, if that helps."
Her eyebrows snapped together. "For…protection? Do you really think that's necessary?"
He shocked himself by actually smiling. "It's a joke, David."
It wasn't a joke she got, apparently, if her confused expression was any indication.
"It's just…Jackie used to enjoy speculating about the two of you once in a while."
Her face cleared and she gave a weak approximation of a chuckle. "Oh. Yes. I mean, no, but…I believe my father had similar speculations."
He refrained from telling her that the entire building had such speculations.
"I'm sorry about your father," he told her as she reached for the door handle.
She looked back and thanked him, and they shared a wry look—neither of them were the type of person to appreciate condolences, but they both understood the need to keep up appearances.
Ziva shut the door quietly behind herself again, and Leon put his palms flat on his desk and took a moment to breathe.
Somehow he felt much less paralyzed than he had before.
I unabashedly love Vance. Thanks for reading!