WARNING! Based on some very vague spoilers for episode 10x15, Hereafter, so stop now if you don't wanna know. That said, this is only my best guess of what may be coming (a.k.a. what I desperately want to see). A sprinkling of the Vances but Tiva through-and-through.


"Admit it boss," Tony laughed as he exited the rear-office elevator a few steps behind Gibbs. "You knew all along that the petty officer was faking. I just can't believe -"

His voice trailed off as they rounded the corner into the dark bullpen only to see Vance sitting at the bottom of his stairs. Tony stopped so abruptly that Ziva bumped into him with a little oomph. Vance gave no sign that he heard them, sitting with forearms propped on his knees as he stared down at the gold band that he twisted around his left ring finger.

"Director?" Gibbs said quietly, studying him with careful concern.

"She was gonna leave me Gibbs," Vance mumbled, looking up at them through slightly unfocused eyes. "She drew up divorce papers last year. Found 'em in her nightstand."

Gibbs looked over his shoulder at the rest of the team and nodded his head towards the bullpen. The three made to leave quickly, but Vance stumbled to his feet as they passed, and Tony and McGee each had to grab an elbow before he could go down again. The scent of expensive scotch hung in a thick cloud around the grieving man.

"But you know what's worse?" Vance continued, as if he didn't even register his movement or the two agents who now supported the brunt of his weight. "I talked to the lawyer. She decided not to file 'em. To try again. For the kids. For us." Vance scrubbed a hand over his eyes, the movement causing him to tilt dangerously to the side. "I was too busy to even notice there was a problem. She gave me a second chance before I even knew I had blown the first one. Now she's gone."

Gibbs moved forward then, taking McGee's spot and looping an arm around Vance's back. "Ok, Leon. Let's go up to your office."

"Got him boss?" Tony whispered and the other man just nodded as he steered Vance back towards the elevators.

"Yeah, get outta here."

They watched the two disappear around the corner, each processing what they had just seen. "The Vances were the happy ones," McGee mumbled after a few long moments, and Tony and Ziva's heads snapped up to look at him, the younger man's expression turning abashed. "Sorry, you know what I mean," he said quietly with a hopeless little shrug. "See you tomorrow."

He walked away from them then, Ziva turning to leave as well, but a hand shot out and closed around her wrist. She looked down at the white fingers clasped too tightly around her skin and then back up at her partner. She could see the desperation, almost borderline panic simmering behind his focused stare. She gave him a sad smile, reaching her free hand up to squeeze his arm. "It's okay. Gibbs will take care of him."

"He didn't see," Tony said in an incredulous and slightly baffled voice, releasing her wrist and leaning back against the staircase wall. She followed suit. "Tim's right; they were the benchmark. We all thought they had found a way to make it work, and it was falling apart all around Vance and he was too busy to even notice." He turned his head to gaze at her, his face despairing. "Jesus, isn't there hope for anyone? Palmer should escape now before this place ruins his life too."

She shifted closer to him but crossed her arms and corrected him in a determined voice. "Tony, you cannot blame NCIS for leading Jackie to question her marriage with Vance, or for ruining Gibbs's. With very few exceptions, it's not the job itself that leads to problems; it's the people in them and their inability or unwillingness to put the work into a relationship that it requires. Love is messy. And hard," she added quietly, her eyes flickering across his face. "But it's not unattainable, even for us."

He sighed, turning towards her so his shoulder now rested on the wall. She mirrored the position, her brow creasing slightly and her mouth turned down in a little frown as she tried to decipher his worried expression. "I wanna believe you're right, I really do. It just...sucks, you know? She was willing to try again. To give him a chance to fix it. And now it's too late, and Vance has to live with that the rest of his life."

"It's a sad reminder that life is fragile and too short," she nodded and Tony couldn't help the small scoff.

"That's the crux though, isn't it, Ziva? Jackie was a lobbyist. She worked all day in an office and a suit. She didn't dodge bullets and bombs and bad guys. And yet she still died thinking she'd get the time to fix it." Ziva tried to cut in, but the edge of panic was creeping into his voice again. "And even if she hadn't been caught in the crosshairs because of our world, she could have gotten sick, or been in a car accident, or stepped off the goddamned curb wrong and hit her head and died. Life is short - for the lucky. It's the damned like Vance, and Gibbs, and me that are left alone after all the good ones have died."

She laced her fingers through his then and squeezed tightly. "You're not damned, Tony. None of you are. You're just...human." She patted his chest then with her free hand and turned her soft eyes to his. "And you are not alone," she whispered. Words, offered in her native tongue just weeks ago, were now returned to him tenfold in his own. "I'm here, always will be."

He took a couple of deep and calming breaths, covering the hand at his chest with his own. "That a promise?" he asked after a few long moments, leaning towards her, tilting his head to the side as he considered her words.

She did not answer him, at least not verbally. Instead, he saw his own small smile mirrored on her face for a split second before she closed the distance and her lips found his.


Just know, if anything like this remotely happens...I wouldn't expect any FF for awhile, as I will have to wait for the loony bin to deem me sane enough to use things like keyboards and shoelaces again! :)