Thank you so, so much. You are an amazing audience. I am privileged to write for you.

Thanks: Amilyn, girleffect

Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit. Nor prophet.

. . . .

Tony waits. He waits and waits and sits, like he has been told so many times. He doesn't fight it, doesn't pace, doesn't huff about how long it takes for the doc to piece Ziva's ruined shoulder back together. He is a Padawan to Gibbs' Jedi Master, sensitive to The Force.

They sit side-by-side in matching waiting room chairs. Tony breaks the silence at the start of Hour Four. "Think she's ok?"

That earns him a look. "She's not feeling a thing, DiNozzo."

It will be a while before he has the chance to assemble his own light saber. "Thanks for the extraction, Boss."

"Wasn't gonna leave you there."

"How did you find us?"

"Didn't. Got a phone call. Vance put me on the next flight out of Norfolk."

Tony's back throbs. Young Skywalker is in pain. Terrible pain. "Eight hours sitting on a cracker box. Was it Schmiel?"

"Didn't ask." Do not assume anything, Obi-Wan.



The doctor comes out. His scrubs are alien-green. "Family for Ziva David?"

Tony jumps to his feet. "Yeah."

"They just moved her to recovery. It was a full-thickness tear and fractures of the glenoid articular surface. She'll need—"

He doesn't give a shit. "Can I see her?"

"DiNozzo," Gibbs cautions. Patience you must have, my young Padawan.

But the doctor gets it. "You can have five minutes. I'll have someone take you down to PACU."

He is grateful and offers a hand. "Thanks."

They shake. An aide leads him through the double doors to a room like a pod, with wires all over and a curtain door. He tiptoes in. Ziva is on the gurney. There is an oxygen mask over her face and she is swaddled like a baby. He touches her brow and she jolts once. He jumps back, horrified. "Is she ok?"

"She's fine. Coming around nicely."

Nicely. She looks like a corpse. "Get her another blanket."

"She's not cold," a nurse says. "It's a trick of the anesthesia."

Young Padawan wants to stomp his foot. "Get the goddamned blanket."

Nurse doesn't even bat an eye. She opens a microwave and pulls one out, shoves it at him. He tucks it right over the others. "Fresh out of the oven, Sweet Cheeks." Her paper-thin eyelids twitch. "You're welcome."

Nurse nudges him. "Time's up, Romeo. Go get a coffee. We'll call you when she's in a room."

He doesn't want coffee, but they don't want him. Gibbs meets him back in the waiting room. "How is she?"


He nods, gets up. "I'm going back to work. Call me when you're cleared." He hands Tony Ziva's switchblade. "You'll wanna hang on to this."

He takes it, nods. "Thanks, Boss."

Your weapons. You will not need them.

. . . .

Tony is allowed in as two nurses are trussing her up in some sling-thing that has a million straps and a pillow under her elbow. Ziva sits silent and white-lipped until they finish, and then exhales shakily. Her eyes are ringed with shadows. "That," she rasps. "May have been worse than the actual surgery."

He glares at the nurses. "You couldn't do that while she was still out?"

"No," one snaps, and they disappear.

He pours her a glass of water. "How ya doing?"

"Bored," she sighs, and sips.

Bored. She has been conscious for less than two hours. "Gonna be a long coupla weeks."

She rolls her druggy eyes and looks sad. "I know."

"I can bring some movies by."

"Will you stay and watch them with me?"

Heat creeps down his collar. "Sure."

She nods, frowning. "You must let me choose the films."


They fall silent. Ziva blinks owlishly, drifting. "You will take me home tomorrow," she commands.

"Absolutely," he says again. He holds out his little finger. "Pinky promise." She takes it and twists. He squeals; that hurts. "Hey!"

She smirks, but it fades. "I am sorry about all of this, Tony."

Sorry. She is sorry. "It's ok."

Ziva shakes her head, looking rueful. "No, it is not. You were nearly killed." She swallows roughly. He holds out more water, but she declines. "I was angry."

He is shuddery inside. "I know."

"I thought I was finished with Israel." She bobs her head dreamily. "My life is here."

Tony exhales slowly. "And I am so glad for that."

Ziva sags against the pillows. "You are?"

He half-rises and kisses her brow. "I am."

She smiles. "You will take me home tomorrow."

He wags his pinky. "I promised."

"You have my knife."

He shrugs. Gibbs' smirk flashes behind his eyes. Away put your weapon. I mean you no harm. "Got to get up pretty early in the morning to get anything by you, huh?"

She frowns. "I take my run at five-thirty."

He has to laugh. "Tell me it's the drugs."

She gives him a very serious look. "It is the drugs."

A nurse comes in and adjusts something on the IV stand. "You will take me home tomorrow."

"I promised."

"You have my back."

Her hand is cool in his. He chafes it gently. "Always."

Her eyes slide closed. "You will—"

"Take you home tomorrow," he finishes.

She sleeps and it's peaceful. Tony waits for a while, still holding her hand, and sweeps beneath the pillow just once. There is nothing. He sighs.

Away put your weapon. I mean you no harm.

. . . .

Ziva looks almost normal when he arrives to take her home. Almost. There are still bruises on her face and deep, dark circles beneath her eyes, but she sits straight and proud on the edge of the hard hospital mattress. "I had surgery on my shoulder," she bursts. She sounds almost normal, too. "I am perfectly capable of walking out of this hospital on my own."

A nurse's aide cowers behind a wheelchair. She has, quite literally, backed him into a corner. "It's hospital policy," he simpers.

Tony feels for the skinny, buck-toothed, quasi-adolescent, but he doesn't want this wrath turned on him. "Got a form we can sign?"

"She's not even twenty-four hours post-op," he wheedles. He's a living Young Boba Fett. "There is no way—"

"Just bring them," he orders, and lets his badge do the rest.

Baby Boba Fett droops away. Ziva sighs. "Thank you. I do not have my credentials. Or my knife."

"Thank God, or I'd be retrieving you from county lock-up instead." She harrumphs and picks at the sling padding around the back of her neck. Her sunburn is peeling. His, too. "We look like lizards," he jokes.

"I have never had sunburn," she sulks. "It is uncomfortable."

Whiny Ziva is better than Lethal Ziva. "I'll put some aloe on it for you when we get home."

She narrows her red-rimmed eyes. "When we get home?"

"You ordered it. And you asked me to bring movies so we could watch them together." She harrumphs again. "And besides, I'm not allowed back in the bullpen until I stop peeing blood."

Those eyes widen, for once. "What? Tony! You did not tell me that."

"They're just bruised, but I'm a liability."

Ziva snorts. Baby Boba Fett comes in with the paperwork. He jabs it at her, afraid to get to close, but she looks at Tony, eyebrows knitted. "I cannot—"

He signs as her proxy and gathers her single bag. "Ready?"

She takes his free hand with hers. "Yes."

They shuffle to the elevator. Her steps are slower than his, more purposeful, more measured. He wraps his arm around her waist once they're inside. "I'm parked close to the exit."

"I am fine."

She droops. He rolls his eyes. Fine his ass. "Coulda had a free ride," he teases.

Ziva jabs him with her elbow. "I am fine."

She leans harder with every step. He's ready to take her right back upstairs when they reach the car, but she points at his messy back seat and frowns. "So many sneakers, Tony?"

There are fifteen orange shoe boxes. He feels like he's been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "They're uh, not for me."

She shakes her head, but sits without help. "Who, then?"

He puts her bag at her feet, goes around, gets in. "Remember our friend Ya'ir?"


He catches her eye as he turns to back out of the space. She's lying. He ignores it. "His basketball team got new uniforms, but they couldn't afford a team shoe. Thought I'd help them out."

He leaves his hand on the shifter. She puts hers over it. "Tony, that is generous and very sweet. I'm sure they will be thrilled."

He pulls out of the garage and into the sunshine. It's a warm day for so early in the season. "Kid saved our lives."

It's a short drive to her apartment. They are quiet, pensive, until she unlocks the front door and sits gingerly on the sofa in her living room. "Home sweet home?" he teases.

She pats the cushion. "Yes. Come and sit, Tony."

He's afraid to get too comfortable. "Bet you're pretty beat. I should go, let you rest up."

Ziva looks down. "I feel terribly for how things went."

They're not going there again. "Schmiel sent a gift for you. No one had to blow it up."

The corner of her mouth turns up. "You had Palmer x-ray it."

"It was that or shoot it."

She is obviously exhausted. "I owe him a phone call."

Makes two of us. "Might wanna open that first."

She pulls off the lid and smiles, shakes her head. "Of course."

He slides closer and sits, careful not to jostle her. "What's in there?"

She stink-eyes him. "You did have Palmer x-ray it."

"For explosives."

Ziva lifts out gold bangles, a watch, several pendant necklaces, polished stones in a black velvet bag. She laughs and looks a little embarrassed. "I did not think I would see these things again."

"This was your mom's."

"Yes, her favorites. She would wear the bracelets to Sephardic weddings so they would jingle when she danced."

"She was a belly dancer?" He pictures Ziva in a coin bra and scarves and has to move away from her. She scoots closer. He grits his teeth. For the love, Zee-vah.

"She had some training, yes. Sephardic weddings can be enthusiastic affairs."

He can't shake a creepy, ripple-flesh feeling. "Is Sephardic like ultra-hairy?"

"Not at all. Sephardic Jews come from places like Spain and Morocco. The culture is completely different that what you experienced in Jerusalem. My mother was Turkish. Her family came from Tekirdag. They threw wild parties for lifecycle events like weddings and bar mitzvahs."

He can't reconcile Rivka-My Big Fat Greek Wedding-David with those people in Me'a She'arim. "You said your family was religious."

Ziva gives him that same irritated look she wore all through Israel. "We kept kosher and observed the Sabbath. That doesn't require a uniform, Tony."

Now he's really confused. "So you didn't grow up like those ultra-hairies?"

So is she, apparently. Her brow furrows. "I grew up wearing blue jeans and riding my bicycle. Where did you get the idea I grew up Chareidi?"

"You said so. When we were in Jerusalem—you said you grew up religious. You went to one of those crazy-ultra-hairy schools."

"There are all kinds of different schools that are religious. Some are for the ultra-Orthodox, some more centrist. I went to one of the more centrist ones."

He might get it now. "And you got kicked out."

Her face darkens. "I am not proud of that."

"You were like, seven. I think you can take a hall pass on that."


"Even worse. No one should kick a first grader out of school."

"I was fine, Tony." She paws through the box again. Out comes a five-by-seven photograph of a woman holding a baby in front of that cement box in Be'er Sheva. "My mother," she mumbles. "And me."

Rivka David was beautiful, with hair as dark as Ziva's and the same deep widow's peak. He runs one finger down the edge of the paper. "Stunning. Like mother, like daughter."

"Thank you," she says wryly. "And I am sure, with my hospital smell and peeling skin."

"The fresh-out-of-the-desert look becomes you. I owe you a seder."

She shakes her head. Does she look alarmed? "No, you do not. You have given so much already, Tony."

He has Googled it. "We can do an abridged version and watch Marjorie Morningstar after. Natalie Wood was amazing."

Ziva looks uncertain. "I do not have a seder plate or any haggadot. We do not have food for such a festive meal." She shakes her head. "No, we cannot do it. We can watch your film, though. That would be nice."

She blinks hard. He takes her elbow and pulls her gently to stand. "Why don't you try to rest? I'll see what I can do about a meal."

She allows him to guide her to the bedroom, but shakes her head again. "Please Tony, do not go out of your way."

He pulls down the covers. "Too late for that." She eases down. He tucks her in, smooths her hair. He'll have to wash it for her. "Why were you so pissed at me?"

"I am sorry I treated you badly," she says softly. Rule Six is history. He kinda wants to rub Gibbs' face in it. Young Padawan doesn't take every lesson to heart. "That was wrong."

He sits in the crook of her hips. "It's ok. Still didn't answer the question."

She sighs, watches the clock roll from thirteen-fifteen to thirteen-sixteen. "I do not like to feel vulnerable, Tony."

Oh damn. "I know."

"And when we were in Mea Shearim with all those Chareidim watching, gossiping—there was so little I could have done, had something gone wrong."

"You let that woman whale you for touching my arm."

"My mother hated those old yentas."

Well there's a surprise. "What happened with Yosef?"

Ziva goes crimson. "Nothing, Tony."

"Nothing. We found him with his pants around his ankles."

"It was not important."

"And I'm arguing that it is."

She falls silent. Her red cheek is hot when he touches it. "Men with a cause can be . . . remarkably similar."

He hates Yarmulke Yosef the same way he hates Saleem Ullman. "I'm sorry, Zee-vah."

She swallows and closes her eyes. The bruises are green at the edges. "It is better to be sorry than to be like them."

He rubs her back over the blankets. "Warm enough?"

"Are you sure you are not a Jewish mother?"

"Not really."

"I miss mine, even still."

Damn, Israel, he chides silently. Just gouge open all the old wounds, why don'tcha? "I know."

And then Ziva chuckles. "She was nuts, but often in the best way."

Tony's mood lifts. "Like mother, like daughter."

She pinches him. "I am falling asleep."

He runs his fingers over hers. "I know."

It takes only a minute for her to conk out. Tony rises, runs his palms over the legs of his jeans, and ambles out to the living room. He organizes her pill bottles and wound care instructions on the kitchen counter and scoops his keys off the entry table. He will find that festive meal, dammit.

A cardboard box on two legs greets him in the building lobby. It has Schmiel-Man-of-Steel's voice. "Here, Tony. I will get the other one."

Eh? He lingers, suddenly nervous. "Uh, what?"

Schmiel wags a finger. "Take it upstairs. I will follow."

He turns, a little numb, and traipses back to Ziva's apartment. It's still silent. He puts the box down. Inside are tinfoil trays of prepared food. He fumbles around the kitchen, feeling as foreign has he had in Israel. What the hell is he supposed to do now?

Schmiel brings the second box, also full of trays. "I heard she was released this morning and I knew she would not be up to cooking."

"Is this for the festive meal?"

He looks insulted. "Of course. I cannot have my Ziva eating chametz tonight."

"What's chametz?"

"Not matzo."

Tony swallows his rage; if one more person makes him feel like an idiot he is going to flip his shit. He pats Ziva's knife in his pocket and takes a breath. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Schmiel takes his arm. "I am only teasing. Please heat the oven to two hundred. The chicken will take a while to reheat."

She has a commercial range, of course. It takes Tony three tries to find the right setting. He pokes for a fingerful of sauce before sliding the pan onto the rack. He tastes and groans—delicious.

Schmiel is reading Ziva's medicine bottles when he turns back around. "Powerful antibiotics."

His tongue shrivels thinking of the green gash in her scalp. "Infected head wound."

Schmiel nods. "She is not careful."

"Someone brained her. I think."

"She still is not careful. You need to teach her, Tony."

Teach Ziva David to be careful? He scoffs. "That's rich."

"She is tremendously capable. Do not sell her short." Schmiel washes lettuce and dries it on a towel. "You love her."

He burns hot, embarrassed and angry. "She's my partner."

"I am old, Tony, but I am not blind." He opens his mouth to protest, but Schmiel holds up his hand. He has rolled his sleeves. The number on his arm is 65988. "Fear and arrogance will get you nowhere. You must go headlong into your own feelings or you will die with regrets. Take it from an old man, Tony; it is terrible to die with regrets."

He crosses his arms. "I was waiting for an opportunity. It pulled a no-show."

Schmiel nods, but a stifled shout has Tony running to the bedroom. Ziva is panting, blankets pushed aside. She scowls at him. "Medication gives me nightmares."

He clucks like a hen. "Are you ok?"

"Fine," she grumps. "I am done with the painkillers."

"We'll see."

She cradles her bad arm. "Did I hear Schmiel?"

He grins, feeling like he's giving her a present. "Yeah. He brought our festive meal."

Ziva's face lights up beneath the bruises. "Really?"

"Pinky Promise."

She kicks off the remaining blankets and pads out to the kitchen. Schmiel hums a melody like Hava Negilah and mixes something with wine in a glass bowl. He turns and brushes a kiss on her cheek. "How are you feeling?"

She kisses him, too. "Fine. Thank you for the gifts."

"A gift is something someone does not already own; I was returning stolen property. Wear them in good health, my Ziva."

She blushes. Tony thinks it's damn cute. "I will."

Schmiel squeezes her good arm. Tony watches a wince flash across her face, but she smiles anyway. "I am going to the market," he says. "We need grape juice for the four cups. Goodbye. I will return shortly."

The door swings shut. Ziva peeks in all the foil trays, smiling, and cracks the shell on a hardboiled egg. "Peel this for me?"

He takes it with clumsy fingers. "Should I salt it?"

She picks at a half an apple left on the cutting board. "Yes, please."

He salts the egg liberally, drops it into a small glass bowl, and hands it to her. She smiles her thanks, and he presses a kiss to her lips. And. And. She kisses back.

He wants more and more, but pulls back, rationing himself. Ziva's smile deepens. "For how long did you wait to do that?"

"Too long," he admits.

Her smile fades. "They told me you were dead."

Mossad are a bunch of rotten rat bastards. "Been there. Done that."

She won't look at him. "I know."

He touches her neck. It is warm, the skin rough and flaky. "I don't want to feel like that again."

Ziva raises one eyebrow. "Me, either."

Tony kisses her again, but deeper. Again, she returns it, good hand falling to his arm. He is giddy, and grins when they pull apart. "Now that makes it all worth it."

She cocks her head. "Even the concussion? Dovber said you were unwell."

"Over you. I told you once before—I can't live without you." She inhales sharply, and he thinks this is all a mistake. Can he un-say that? Afraid to lose her I think, hm?

"These things," she says softly. "They come up when . . . things have gone poorly. That cannot be right, Tony."

"Perspective," he argues. "I mean what I said."

She hesitates, mouth open, left hand cupped over her right elbow. "I . . . know." He thinks she is going to create excuses, back out, turn and run from him, but they are in her home. "I," she starts. "I think the possibility is . . . good, as long as we are . . ."

"Careful?" he supplies hopefully. "Smart?"

"Smart," she agrees, and gives that little nod that means business. "Yes."

He nudges her little dish. "Gonna eat your egg?"

Ziva pushes it away. "I thought I was hungry, but I am not."

Tony's heart has been thrumming along so nicely, but now it grinds to a halt. His chest tightens. "Haven't seen you eat since we left for Israel."

"I have not been hungry."

"All that grilled meat and salad, but I didn't see you take one bite." She gives him a steady look. He has not seen that since they left, either. "What happened in Me'a She'arim, Zee-vah?"

Her eyes remain locked with his. "I do not know what you mean."

"You shut down."

"I did not."

He touches her neck again. "Yes, you did. Remember that night I came home and started blabbing about Rav Kahn? You sat there in your long skirt and your headscarf and just stared at me like I'd grown a second head. I've seen you do some seriously creepy stuff, but that was the scariest thing I've ever witnessed."

Silence. Somewhere a clock ticks. Ziva lifts one finger and draws a circle on the tabletop. "I have worked very hard, Tony. I have sacrificed many, many things." She gazes at him. "I walked up to that woman at the kuppah and the first thing she offered me was that brochure for the IVF clinic. It was stupid, really, but I felt like everything I'd worked for was nothing. And then to lie to her and tell her that we were married and religious and . . . " She waves her hand. "And then to hear from you all about the laws of modesty." She breaks off and looks around at her furniture, her framed photos, her kitchen full of catered food. "I became an American citizen. I purchased a home. It may not be everything, but you cannot tell me that it is worth nothing."

"It's everything," he promises, scrambling. Her eyes are too dark, too hurt. "It is everything."

She shakes her head. "But to hear that woman—"

"She doesn't matter," he says quickly, but Ziva stiffens and he knows that woman absolutely does. "Not here."

She blinks. "I do not want much, Tony. I never have."

But you want me, right? he almost blurts. He sits instead. His back thanks him. "What do you want, Zee-vah?"

She looks at him, opens her mouth, closes it again. She hugs her bad arm. It's probably time for more drugs.

"Tell me," he implores. "I'll make it happen."

"I want," she says slowly. "Something permanent. Something that cannot be taken away."

Tony almost falls out of his chair. That's it? "Permanence," he repeats.


More silence. He feels her eyes on him. Is she afraid he's going to walk? "Is that why you told Yarmulke and Baby Face you had a cat?"

Ziva deflates, giggling. Giggling is good. "Tony!"

He flicks a curl away from her face. "Didn't know you had a pest problem."

"I have a Tony problem."

"Is that such a bad thing?"

"No," she sighs, looking and looking at him. Her eyes are soft. "No, it is not."

"Permanence," he says.

She shifts. "I did not mean—"

He pries her good hand, holds it. "I know. We're going to be smart about this."

Ziva yawns, nods. "Yes."

"Schmiel should be back soon. Why don't you take a break while we get the festive meal together?"

"I am fine."

"You are, but it was a hell of a trip and four hours on the operating table. Bet that bed's looking really good right now."

She rises, scowling. "I can help with the seder."

He has to try one more time. "You can direct. Sit on the couch and tell us what to do."

She moves to the sofa. Small victories. "Wipe down the counters, sweep the floor, and take a white tablecloth out of the hall closet. You'll have to put the leaf in the table. There will be a lot of dishes."

Tony shakes antibiotics and painkillers out of their bottles and gets a glass of water from the sink. He pours the pills into her hand and ignores the look she gives him. "Go ahead."

She flicks the opiates back at him. "Not these."

It's Honest Tony time. "I don't like the idea of you in pain."

Ziva narrows her eyes. "There is ibuprofen in the cabinet above the stove."

He gives her four. She takes two.

"Mom, huh?" he asks.

She looks at the remaining ibuprofen in his hand. "Yes. Please use the good china. It is in the fourth cabinet from the left. I will get the silver in a moment."

He busies himself with the chores, wiping invisible smudges from the granite, sweeping a few crumbs into the dustpan. The tablecloth is folded so that it has no creases when he snaps it over the extended dining table. The china is a modern pattern, silver and white. And expensive. "Nice," he muses.

"My mother would have approved," she tells him quietly, and puts silverware for three on a tea towel. She rests her head on his shoulder for a moment and gives a tiny smile.

He draws her near, hand easily finding her hip, and smiles back. "I know."