I had so much fun writing this story, because I used to write stuff like this all the time in my other fandom- canon scenes from a different point of view than it was originally portrayed. (Are any of you Maximum Ride fans? I rewrote The Final Warning in Fang's POV and addressed all the plot holes and stuff, haha.)
Anyway, so… most of the dialogue belongs to CBS. You guys might not even find this that interesting, since that's the case…? But I'm posting it anyway, because maybe somebody will. Major spoilers ahead, of course. :)
(At lo levad, if you haven't heard, means "you are not alone".)
In the elevator, Gibbs pulls the emergency switch.
Tony would have expected it had his mind been clearer, but all he can think about right now is her. How she is. What he can do for her. And even before his boss speaks, he knows that this conversation will involve her, too.
"Sure you're up for this?" Gibbs asks.
He exhales. "Yeah."
"She probably won't want to talk."
And he does. He has made attempt after attempt to crack through her tough façade, but to no avail. Each time, he grows a little more desperate- it took them so long to start letting down their walls in front of each other, and he is terrified that this ordeal is going to rebuild all of hers. But he is not the most important person here; Ziva is, and whether she knows it or not, she needs her partner.
Gibbs studies him. Tony raises his chin, determined.
"She's not to leave your apartment until we give the okay."
The elevator is set back in motion, and they continue their descent. As they come to a stop, Gibbs sighs. "Here goes nothin'."
Tony stays just a step behind as they enter autopsy. The room is dark; it takes him a couple of seconds to locate Ziva and Ducky. They seem to have been talking, but they're quiet now. He keeps his eyes on her as Gibbs orders, "Ziva. Go."
"Go where, Gibbs?"
"My place," Tony says with much more confidence than he feels.
Her voice takes on a hard edge that almost makes him cringe. "I have my own place, thank you."
"And you can't be in it, or here, until we find out who did this," Gibbs says. Tony hangs back and listens to her objections, to Ducky's gentle, firm reasoning, but he looks only at her. He watches as her carefully constructed mask slips, revealing the pain underneath.
"Look at me," she insists, "I'm fine."
It's abundantly clear that she's not.
This is not the way he wanted her to see his apartment, but here they are, standing solemnly before the door as he unlocks it. He covertly nudges the mat with his foot and finds the spare key gone. Good. His surprise for her- the one person he thinks she might accept comfort from- is here.
She follows him inside as he offers to go pick up whatever she needs for the next few days. There is a long pause; she doesn't respond until he is plunking his gun down in its box. "I will not be here a few days."
The lid closes, and he raises his eyebrows- where, exactly, does she think she's going? "Well, it's not that bad," he says, beating around the bush, as is his specialty. He points at his DVD shelf. "Best movie collection in town. Killer takeout down the street." Ziva doesn't even seem to hear him. With her eyes downcast, she takes a couple additional steps and comes to stand in front of his flat screen. He drops the joker act. Leaves his comfort zone. "And you need to talk, Ziva. Open up a little bit."
Please trust me.
"Tony, I'm going to bury my father. In Israel. So I will not be here a few days," she tells him, and his heart sinks, because that's another reason he insisted on having her here: they don't know who has it out for Eli David. She could be a target. The last thing he wants is for her to go tromping around the Middle East by herself.
He decides not to worry about that yet. They'll cross that bridge when they come to it; first, they have to get through tonight. "Well. You can sleep in my bed, and…" He stutters something about an inflatable mattress and the lady across the hall and starts to mention her encounter with Senior, but stops. Nobody really wants to think about that.
Not looking at him, she asks, "What about the couch?"
"Ah. Someone else is sleeping there tonight," he says, and right on cue, Shmiel emerges from the other room.
Disbelief crosses her face. Tony watches as she hurries into the older man's arms, and as they hug, her features relax. His spirits lift the slightest bit. "He was in New York. I thought you might like to see him."
She lifts her head and beams. "Thank you, Tony."
There's really no need to thank him, though.
He'll do anything to draw out that pretty smile.
Ziva won't admit that she's exhausted, but when he suggests that she turn in, she doesn't object. Shmiel kisses her cheek before she goes into the bedroom. Tony trails behind her, feeling like he should say something but unsure what.
Right in front of him, she unbuttons her shirt so that she is left in a tank top and slacks. She picks up a pair of sweatpants he brought from her apartment. "What is it, Tony?" she asks.
"Um." He wracks his brain. "You need anything?"
"No. I am fine."
Yeah, I heard, he almost says. Ziva folds her shirt carefully, then crosses her arms over her chest and looks at him. He dares to take a couple steps closer. "If you need anything," he says softly, "I'll be in there."
She nods, and silence falls, and he wants nothing more than to close the remaining space between them. He wants to take her in his arms, whisper that phrase he taught himself twelve hours after her father died in hopes that she'd be ready to hear it soon.
But he can see that now is not the time.
"'Night, Ziva." Without waiting for an answer that isn't going to come, Tony leaves, pulling the door shut behind him. He sighs heavily as he enters the living room. Shmiel looks up from his spot on the couch with a small, understanding quirk of the lips. "DiNozzo."
"Huh?" he asks distractedly.
Shmiel doesn't elaborate until Tony meets his bespectacled gaze. "Trust me when I say that you are helping her."
Tony lets out a single bark of humorless laughter. "I don't think so."
"She was taught that she must be strong and self-reliant, and in extreme circumstances, that is all she knows to fall back on. Eli David raised his children to… well." Shmiel thinks for a couple seconds. "The man is gone now. It will do no good to condemn him. Just know that even if she does not show it, your efforts are not lost on her."
A flash of anger at Ziva's father shoots through him as it has so often in these past few days, but Shmiel is right. It doesn't matter now; what matters is Ziva, left behind and in pain.
Tony glances at her coat and boots, sitting by the door as if she'll be leaving any moment. "Hope you're right."
It's late- well past midnight, probably- when he lifts his wide-awake self off the air mattress, yet again, and wanders into the kitchen. He peers into the fridge as if something will have magically appeared there since last time he checked. While he's staring at the empty shelves, he hears something, and his head snaps around. The sound comes again- a grunt. Ziva's grunt.
Abandoning the fridge, he crosses to his room and pushes the door open. She shifts in her sleep and continues to make soft noises of distress. He walks hesitantly to the edge of the bed, stoops over, studies her face. As soon as he sees her wince, he places a hand on her shoulder and begins to shake gently. "Ziva," he whispers.
One second, two. It looks like she's going to peacefully come out of her nightmare… and then she screams, "Stop!" Before he knows what's happening, she is bolting upright, arms flying forward. He grabs one, catches her other wrist, holds both tightly while she makes the realization that he is friend, not foe.
She takes a deep breath, beads of sweat gather along her hairline, and he knows that whatever was going on in her head involved a fight. "It's okay," he assures her. "It's just a bad dream."
"No, it's not," she breathes. He's not sure if she means it's not okay or it's not a bad dream, but he figures she would be correct on both counts. Nothing is okay right now. And, well, her life is not something she can just wake up from and shrug off. It's reality.
Slowly, Ziva lowers herself back onto the pillow, lip quivering the slightest bit. She looks small and lost, like a child, and his heart breaks. "Hey," he says, grabbing her hand. Her fingers automatically curl around his palm. "Come on." He lifts his other hand and squeezes hers, urging her to talk. To cry. To allow him to bear some of her pain.
For a moment, as she grips his hand and takes deep, shuddering breaths, it seems like she's going to drop her guard. Then she lifts a hand and pats his shoulder. Disappointment fills him, because the action is almost apologetic. He isn't remotely surprised at what comes next.
"Leave me alone, Tony," she says, and rolls over, pulling away from him. He watches her curl up on her side, ponytail splayed behind her. "I'm fine. Really."
He remains on the edge of the bed, debating with himself. Should he leave her alone? Should he push? The muscles of her back and arms are still so tense. He can't leave her like this, can he?
But in the end, he does. Because that's what she wants. And, as much as he hates to admit it, that might be just what she needs.
Somehow, he ends up walking toward Ziva and Shmiel in the fifteen degree weather. This is a spontaneous little jaunt. He's spent days dreading her departure for Israel, but it wasn't until an hour ago, when he got home and noticed her scent lingering everywhere, that he realized he had to see her once more.
So he bought some magazines and spearmint gum from the dollar store to create an excuse for his appearance, and now here he is. Shmiel says something to Ziva and walks away. She turns around, raises her chin as Tony comes to a stop in front of her.
"You did not have to come," she says.
He wastes no time in delivering his prepared line. "Well, you always forget your gum and magazines when you fly, so."
She nods, glancing down at the bag in his hand… and then, as if sensing that this is not his real reason for showing up, looks at him expectantly.
Now- only now- does it become apparent to him why he's here. It's because he's worried that she'll do something rash, that she'll try to get her own revenge now that they know who is responsible for her father's death. It's because he so, so wishes she would stay here, under his protective eye.
It's because last time she got on a plane to Israel, she didn't come back.
"They'll find Bodner, Ziva," he tries to reassure her. "Mossad's looking. CIA. Navy Intel. Interpol. Us." After a pause, he adds, "Shmiel's got your back. Shmiel the man of steel." And he doesn't even know what he's talking about anymore, but she doesn't appear to be paying attention, anyway. Her eyes are trained on his face. The determined look on hers is scaring him. "Don't do this."
Her features soften. "I'm going to a funeral, Tony. I am delivering my father's eulogy." There is not bloodlust in her eyes. She has smoothed her hard edges. The woman in front of him is his Ziva, and she says she is merely going to mourn, and so he believes her.
"How's this for a… an opening line?" he asks. "'He did it his way.'"
"My father was a… not an easy man to understand, and yet-"
"Complicated runs in the family," he interrupts, and then regrets it, because he doesn't mean for her face to fall like that. He wishes he could take his words back, but that's impossible. He wants to apologize, but can no longer find his voice.
"Tony, I…" Ziva begins.
He waits. When she doesn't finish, he manages a, "What?"
His blood pressure rises as he watches her chin tremble and eyes fill with tears. And then she lurches forward and the next thing he knows, she is hugging him. Her head is on his shoulder; her hand rests on the back of his neck. Tony wraps his arms around her waist and holds her body against his.
This is all he wanted.
All he wanted was to be able to hold her and let her know that she'll be okay, and now she is allowing it, so he moves his mouth next to her ear. "At lo levad."
He can feel her smile against his cheek. When she pulls back, he misses her warmth, but loves the sight of her.
"I know," she says.
There is no doubt in his mind that he'll see her again.
And when he does, there will be nowhere for her, for him, for them to go but up.