Ziva and Tony threw each other the occasional smile across the office, but for the most part, the next few days were inconveniently placed in their relationship. Soon, Tony and Danny had a new case. Some mob leader somewhere in the underground of Baltimore that supposedly existed had been assassinated. Unfortunately, so had four innocent and seemingly random civilians who were witnesses, and there were no leads as to the assassin, other than a few stray shell casings. That was all Ziva had been told from him, not that it had particularly interested her, but she would listen to him talk about basically anything.

Wives had come in and cried and the men had asked them guilty questions, like did they have any enemies or did you know of anything that may have put your husband in danger or the dreaded where were you on this day at this time and each woman would give a more offended and tear-filled shriek at the mere suggestion that they would hurt their husbands because they loved them. Few wives, Tony had found from working in homicide for as long as he had, came in with the openly bitter attitude they may have had in regards to their marriage while their husbands were still alive because a) they did not want to seem suspect and b) because they were under the impression that death could resurrect even the deadest of relationships. The false impression, that is.

And Tony felt the same general discomfort as he did in all the opening days of a new homicide case, especially one as nasty as this one. It was not the sights (or smells) of the corpses that bothered him, or the sight of blood, like so many others, but just the general idea of death. Though death surrounds people, many seem to forget it even exists until it overtakes their lives, like the one who had been lost had been completely invincible until the moment their mortality took over. He remembered his mother, and the eternal feeling she had had while she had still been living. Maybe that was because he had been a kid at the time, or maybe it was how death always felt. He didn't know. There hadn't been a death like that for him in years. While thinking about this, he looked over at Ziva. She'd lost her entire family; she would understand this better than anyone.

There were strange feelings to overcome when death defeated the invincible. Every further death brought to the forefront of his mind the bitter futility of human existence, and in such a poor state he wondered why live when someone or something would eventually kill you. Even if that someone was you and that something was a gun or a rope hanging from the rafters or a handful of small, multicoloured pills with biohazard warning stickers on the bottles.

From the minute you are born, you begin to die. Every moment was a moment closer towards your untimely death. And of course, death could never be timely. There was no correct time to die. Death was one of the things that was unfortunately influenced by the randomness of the universe.

Amongst the cinematic tragedy of it all, it was hard to focus on anything besides that which was glaringly obvious in. But in the lapses in the constant depressing stages of his day, from the mourners and the fights that broke out among suspects (he made a mental note not to keep them together in future, especially when the mob was involved), Tony began to notice something else.

It was curious the way people could be in your life one day and not in it the next. But there was a difference between knowing someone was still reachable to you and knowing you could never speak to them again. Kind of like when you thought your neighbour moved away but he actually died.

In this kind of situation, where nothing happened besides the asking of questions, Tony fancied himself an observer of all angles rather than an investigator.

And so he wondered, was part of the reason people mourned so much just simple human nature?

It was not so much a gaping hole in a person's life, but the human instinct to want and to claim and to possess that which was not even their own.

For example, a small child surrounded by toys. Perhaps a doll, a toy car and a ball. The doll and the car are being played with, and the ball is left neglected. The child shows no sign of caring for the ball until somebody takes it from him. Then all of a sudden he wants the ball back, because it was his. Even though possession was pointless since the ball didn't interest him. It was the same when a waiter asks if you are finished with your meal and all of a sudden you have that extra bit of room for another bite, and then another. Tony saw this process of wanting presently in all the people he interviewed and met over those few days, and while he tried to stay as fair as possible to all those involved, he could not help wonder which of them were affected by this and which of them were genuinely in mourning.

When somebody leaves a person's life, they always have the means or the option to contact them should they so desire. But because there is always a seemingly infinite future in which this can occur, it seldom happens. And then, one day, it is too late and all of a sudden the person left living is the person wishing they had called. Not because they wished they had seen the person or heard their voice one last time, but because they had been robbed of something. Cheated of something. People, in general, do not like to be cheated.

So maybe the glaring void was not because of loss, but because of want. Then again, the actual glare was probably due to pain more than anything else. Tony tried to take this into consideration while he spoke to everyone, and wondered silently if Danny did the same.

These kind of days always got him thinking about his mom, and some days it got to a point where he was so deep in thought that even a stranger could tell something was up. And then, there was Ziva, of course. But she waited, kindly, until they had left for the night and were walking home. The night was cold.

"Tony, are you alright?" she asked, her accent more obvious than normal. She'd been singing some kind of Hebrew rap song for most of the morning and had even accidentally said a few phrases without switching languages first. She was tired – it was sometimes easier to slip back into old habits.

"Fine," he said. "Just tired." She looked at him with thin, suspicious eyes. He sighed. "You ever think about your mom?"

Her face fell a little, though she tried to conceal it. "Sometimes," she answered, her voice barely there at all. "Do you think about yours?"

"Sometimes," he repeated, then smiled a little. "Today," he clarified. Her mouth made an 'oh' shape but no sound escaped. She understood.

"All those mourning wives – did it remind you of your father or your family?"

"Yeah, I guess. It's not like my mother was some kind of angel and that her death is responsible for all my issues but sometimes I wish she coulda been around a little longer, you know?"

"I know," she nodded.

"What was your mom like, after you lost your dad?"

She thought about it for a moment. "I do not believe my parents were on speaking terms when my father died," she said, almost laughing at it.


"Yes," she said. "I am not sure how they stayed together long enough to have two children when they could barely be in the same room as each other."

"Well, I don't know. Try to stay together for them?"

"Maybe," she answered, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her coat. It was cold out. "What was your mother like?"

Tony chewed the inside of his cheek in thought. "To tell you the truth," he began. "I don't really remember. I remember that she was blonde, tall, liked movies. I think that's why I like 'em so much. She fought with my dad a lot. She was a little crazy, to tell you the truth. Maybe it was better this way."

"Maybe she died for a reason."

"What, like the Universe took her away because it was 'her time'?" he asked, unsure what to think.

"Yes," was Ziva's answer.

"You really believe in all that stuff? Like 'everything happens for a reason' kinda thing?"

She shrugged and stopped walking. "I don't think I have a choice."

And as she said that he stared at her and realised that thinking that was a perfectly logical thing and he felt terrible for questioning her even a little bit.

"And anyway," Ziva continued, taking a step. "Even if you don't believe in that, you can at least say that it was a good thing that you were too young to recognise her real flaws, assuming that she had them. That way, she's immortalised."

"Immortalised, huh?"

"Just like those movies you love."

And they stopped walking because they were out the front of Ziva's building. In the winter the sun set early, and even though it was only just before six, it was well and truly past twilight. He stood a few inches from her and held her hands.

"How do you always know what to say?" he asked, not really demanding an answer, but she gave one anyway.

"People spent far too long giving me the wrong ones." There was silence for a moment, like neither was sure what to do next. "Do you want to come upstairs?"

"I think your sister needs you tonight. It's been a tough week. And I gotta work tomorrow."

"A goodnight kiss, then?" she asked, sick of tiptoeing around him.

He smiled lopsidedly and pressed a kiss to her forehead. She gave him a look, with one eyebrow raised, looking dissatisfied. Then she gave him a youthful and mischievous smile, not dissimilar to the ones she flashed at him through the smoky room on the night that they had first met.

"On the lips," she told him firmly, kissing him herself in the end.