I shouldn't be here.
That's the only thought running through my head as I gaze up at her apartment window, gathering the nerve to do what I came here to do: make sure that my partner is alright.
At least, that's what I want to believe I'm here for. I can't help thinking, though, that if my motives were completely selfless, I would have been here months, or, at the very least, weeks, ago. I kept putting it off, too afraid to see what pain my rash decisions had caused her.
If not for my actions, she would never have stayed in Israel. Hell, she wouldn't have been there in the first place. If she had not been in Israel, her father could not have sent her on a suicide mission to take out the infamous leader of a terrorist cell in the deserts of Somalia. And, if not for the mission, she never would have been held prisoner by the same man she was sent to kill. If not for me, she would never have been captured. So, in a way, I am partly responsible for whatever might have happened in that camp.
I put off this visit for far too long. When she seemed to return so easily to her old self, I convinced myself that she was fine. I would have kept on lying to myself if it hadn't have been for the Burrows case.
Petty Officer Kaylen Burrows, through no fault of her own, brought horrors of the past to the surface. She had been a victim of rape. While such cases are always particularly draining, emotionally as well as physically, it was different this time. Every now and then, I had caught a glimpse of my partner's expression, and what I saw there frightened me. It was an expression I had seen only one other time, tied to a chair across from her, prisoners of a madman in a terrorist cell, waiting for the planned rescue.
Now another thought is bouncing around my skull, tearing away at my resolve: I should have come sooner. If I had truly selfless motives, perhaps I would have. I have no right to dredge up such painful memories. If I had cared, I should have been here. Now, this feels too much like damage control.
I send one last glace towards her apartment window. I can see that the light still shines through her curtains, despite the fact that every other window is dark, the occupants now sleeps.
I've fully made up my mind to leave without disturbing her, and I am reaching for the keys when a face appears quite suddenly at my window, startling me. All at once, the decision has been made for me. Ziva David, face a curious mixture of confusion and annoyance, is tapping at the glass. I roll down the window and plaster on my cheeriest smile.
"Tony," Ziva growls, clearly in no mood for my usual childish antics, "what are you doing here?"
"Well," I chuckle, "I just happened to be in the neighborhood-"
"Your care has been here for nearly two hours," she interrupts, eyebrows raised incredulously.
"Yeah... I was just..." but my sentence remains unfinished. I search my mind for some excuse but my mind comes up blank. After a pause, a void of awkward silence, she sighs and asks me in. She doesn't wait for an answer, but I hurry after her nonetheless.
Once inside, she directs me to a table and heads straight for the coffee maker, coming back a few silent minutes later with two steaming mugs. She sits across from me and waits.
Honestly, I haven't planned this far, and my typical humorous banter is stifled by the nature of my visit, and the guilt that plagues my heart. She, however, wastes no time, and gives me no time to think.
"Tony, why are you here?"
"What?" I flash a charming smile, "Am I not allowed to visit my partner and enjoy a little coffee every now and then?"
"Tony, why are you here?" she repeats, enunciating each word slowly, as though I am having trouble understanding.
"I just... the case, I had a question about the case."
"You could not have called, or even waited until morning?" she gestures expressively with her hands, a sure sign that she is growing frusturated.
"No. No, Ziva, this couldn't wait," I finally catch her eyes, and hold her gaze. I see that she is nervous, almost defensive. I also see recognition. She knows why I have come.
"What is your question, Tony?"
"This case, it seemed to really affect you," I begin.
"Yes, of course. We lost one of our own, Tony. That is bound to hit a little close to home," she snaps in response, growing even more irritated.
"I'm not talking about Laura Macey. I think you know that," I leave the interpretation of such a statement entirely up to her, effectively giving her control of the conversation. But she rises quite suddenly, nearly spilling her untouched mug of coffee in the process. She wants nothing of this conversation.
"You should not have come," she states quietly, her eyes full of ice, the same quiet words spoken all those months ago. I can't help agreeing with her. What right have I to be here? I caused this pain, and then I left her to suffer the aftermath alone.
"Ziva?" I plead.
"No, Tony," she picks up my drink, along with her own, and heads towards the kitchen sink.
"Ziva, please, I just came to make sure you are alright," I stand up to follow her, my voice strained with desperation.
She turns to me for a moment, catching my eyes with her own, and speaks slowly and deliberately, "I am fine, Tony. You should go." Her entire demeanor implies distance and cool composure. I can see through her charade; the tension in her muscles remains.
"Ziva, stop," she falters for a second, "I think you need to talk about this."
She spins around so quickly that I stumble backwards a step, surprised. I can almost feel waves of anger rolling off her skin. I know that she would force me out the door if it weren't for the full mugs of coffee in her hands.
"You come into my house," her voice is so full of venom that I cringe when she first speaks, "and you have the nerve to tell me what it is that I need?"
"No, Tony," she snaps, "it is my turn to be heard." She takes a deep breath to steady herself before she begins, "When we returned for Somalia, after you rescued me, that is when I needed to talk." Her eyes water a bit, a subtle mist that appears whenever she is particularly upset. Her voice, however, is still full of anger.
"If you had come then, I might have entertained your questions. I might have even appreciated them. But you did not come; no one came. I accepted that, perhaps even preferred it. When I needed to talk, I did not. I dealt with it alone, as I have every other circumstance that I have come across. I conquered it, alone," the mist has faded from her eyes and she speaks with a new, stubborn sort of determination.
"I am okay, now, Tony. I do not need to talk about it anymore."
I say nothing in response. She looks for a moment as though she is finished, and I resolve to leave as soon as she moves away. But then, she continues. "I think you already knew that. It is why you were out in your car for so long, and why you were about to leave when I came down." She speaks it as a fact, not an inquiry. I offer no confirmation or protestation.
"I think you knew, and you came anyways, because you are the one who needs to talk about this." She waits, this time, for some sort of acknowledgement, but I offer her none. "I am sorry, Tony, but I cannot. I cannot relive this, not for you, not for anyone," her voice has a ring of hopeless finality to it, and she heads again for the kitchen sink.
Without thinking, I react.
Perhaps it's an honest gesture, just an attempt to hold her attention. Perhaps it's a reflex. Perhaps it's a desperate, sub-conscience need to control the situation. Whatever it is, I know before my hand closes atop her shoulder that it is a mistake. There is only that glimpse of realization before I am slammed into the ground, coffee flying every which way, scalding us both. The mugs shatter on the hard wooden floor.
She has one hand around my arm, bending it up into an unnatural, and painful, position, and one knee planted firmly on my spine. "Ziva?" I coax. I knew it was a reflex as soon as my face contacted the floor. All she has to do is hear my voice and realize I am not a threat. As soon I speak her name, I felt the weight of her body leave my back.
I stand, absolutely drenched in still steaming coffee, with shards of ceramic digging into my hands. I realize in that moment what a mess I've made, both figuratively and literally. How could I have been so careless, grabbing the shoulder of an exhausted, emotional Ziva?
I look up, and see that she is backed far into the tiny kitchen, eyes wide as she surveys the damage.
"Ziva, don't. This was my fault, not yours," I interrupt. I'll be damned if she apologizes for my foolish choices.
Without another word, she slips past me and returns with several towels, handing me one before mopping up the mess. I ignore the urge to dry myself off first, and kneel down to help. Nothing is said as we wipe up pools of coffee and discard shards of ceramic mug. Not until we stand, after the ground, the walls, and our clothes are reasonably dry, do I finally say what I should have said all those months ago.
"I am sorry, Ziva," I hold up a hand as she starts to interrupt me, no doubt with Gibb's sixth rule, "No Ziva. I owe you this. I am sorry, truly sorry for what pain my actions have caused you. And I'm not just talking about the coffee, though I'm sorry for that, too." I flash my typical smile to try to lighten the mood, but she remains silent.
"I'll go," I offer somberly, "If that's what you want."
I receive no response, and, after a few moments of tense silence, I turn to leave.
"Wait." Her voice is tentative, as though she is unsure whether she really means it. I turn around regardless.
"Perhaps," she reasons, "we could both use the company tonight."
I nod, but she holds up her hand, "This does not mean I wish to talk." Without a word of explanation, she makes her way the fridge, reaching for the cabinet just above it. She returns with a bottle of expensive liquor, and two plastics cups. "Just in case," she smiles.
We sit, not at the table, but sprawled out on her couch. She pours generously, and for that I am thankful. We raise our two plastic cups in a toast, and we drink.