. . .

"Tony, I'm leaving NCIS."

The words echo in my ears but I cannot accept it. Will not accept it. Can this really be happening? Of course not. She cannot possibly leave. Or maybe after-no. Please no.

"Y-you're joking, right?" My voice catches in my throat. "Some weird Israeli relapse and all your idioms are off?" I try to laugh, but it sounds like I gave up on breathing instead.

Ziva gives me a small smile. Her brown hair, now sitting just above her shoulders since the accident, falls into her face. "Tell me what idiom I just killed, then."

I look up, my eyes wide. The irony of it all. "Butchered." I correct. "You can... butcher an idiom. Not kill it." But she does not care, I realize. Not when...not when she is leaving the only people who ever cared about her skewed speech pattern relapses.

Her dark eyes bear into mine and my jaw tightens as I await an answer. "Why are you leaving?" I whisper.

I prepare for the worst.

McGee did something. Palmer said something offensive. The last-the accident has left worse scars than Somalia.

Or the worst of all.

I did something.

The woman in front of me pauses and her hand reaches out to touch my arm. "It's just something I have to do."

My head spins. Her continuously vague words irritate me. Regardless of anything I do or say, Ziva will not stay. I have know her long enough to know that.

"I'll miss you."

Ziva's eyes soften. "I'll miss you too, if it helps." Her hand trails down to grasp my own. It does not help. "But I'll still be in the D.C. area, okay?"

I nod, feeling her warm fingers wrap around mine. But I quickly pull away. My head shoots up to meet her gaze full on. Not half-assed. "Ziva?" This is it. I'm going to do it.


I swallow. "I-I-I lo-" but I cannot speak. Now when I know exactly how this will end. Me hurt. And her nowhere near me. Instead, I turn away. "Nevermind."

As I begin to walk away, Ziva tries to grab my arm, but I am far too quick. My feet begin to jog.

And for the first time in a long while, the elevator is on my side. Ziva is right behind me but I do not allow her to follow me in. I stand in the doorway instead.

I salute her with two fingers. "I wish you well, Zee-Vah."

The doors start to close. But instead of shutting completely, Ziva's hand shoots forward. They open again.

She steps into the elevator, her body pressed against mine. "Can I stay with you tonight?"

What? My eyes widen but I hide a smile with pursed lips. "I thought you were leaving."

Ziva smile and reaches up to touch my cheek. "I said I was leaving NCIS-not you."

. . .

A/N: And the verdict is? Cote de Pablo is leaving NCIS sometime during season eleven! Best wishes to her and her career!