I wrote this in celebration of two friends' birthdays over at my home on tumblr. Thought I'd share it here with you as well.
Everyone still alive out there?
Note: Thank you for all the lovely reviews on the last tag. You guys are some of the best there is.
There are three things she becomes acutely aware of upon regaining brief consciousness:
The blaring car horn.
A fiery pain.
And how very cold she feels.
She faintly wonders if it was the blaring that roused her.
It's only when she begins to slip away again that she hears the ragged breathing; the sound coming from the one person she's more attuned to on this earth than herself.
The labored breathing is not her own.
There are many phone calls he wishes he'd never receive.
This one is at the top of his list.
"There's been an accident."
His gut churns painfully; his stomach drops to the floor.
He's shoving away from his desk, grabbing his gun and slamming his drawer with enough force to wake the dead. He doesn't even throw McGee a backward glance. Instead eyes his two agents' empty desks.
Their absence hasn't been more pronounced as it is in this moment.
The answer makes his vision blur and the the earth unhinge from it's axis. Temporarily.
"We need you down here. You are the secondary in both their files."
Both. . . .
He punches the elevator button, and he barely hears McGee calling out to him.
His remaining agent stumbles into the elevator just as the doors are closing.
"Boss, will they let us in? Who are their primaries?"
Gibbs heart does something abnormal then; it sinks with crushing empathy for his agents.
He's gotten the call because their primaries aren't available.
Of course they'd put each other.
His boss lets out a sharp intake of breath at the sight of him.
McGee is not as restrained.
"Oh my God."
He feels his mouth gaping, and tries to regain control of himself as he catalogs the Senior Agent's multitude of injuries.
"But I thought they said it was Ziva's side they impaled? Tony must have..." And he doesn't finish the sentence. Gibbs walks toward the agent lying still in the bed, bending down to take in the black and blue covering his face.
One of his eyes is swollen beyond recognition.
Yeah, Tony must have.
They don't need to search too far for why he's come out so injured. It's quite literally all over the Agent's face.
He had acted as her human shield.
He'd been lucky enough to be awake. Otherwise, they may have been the culprits of his second heart-attack.
He's not quite sure if he'd make it through another.
Walking out of the private room, he faces the awaiting team, tucking her file under his arm and wiping his glasses on his wrinkled button flannel.
"What's the verdict, Duck?"
He takes a deep breath.
"She's sustained significant bruising, and I'm sure some level of fracturing to her ribcage on the right side. Concussed. But she's fared far better than our Agent Dinozzo." Sighing, he surveys them all with a significant look.
"If he hadn't acted as he did, I'm quite certain dear Ziva would not have made it out of that vehicle in one piece."
The silence that follows needs no clarification.
"I'm not leaving him."
Abby levels her tone with enough acidity to make Tim take a step back. She immediately feels a twinge of guilt, but she's on edge and McGee is. Not. Helping.
He tries again, and she turns her attention back to Tony's side, reaching out to re-grasp his swollen and battered hand.
"Abby, I know you don't want him to wake up alone, but Ziva's awake, and -"
She feels tears burning in her eyes, and frustration and rage and just a little bit of sleep deprivation bubble to the surface.
"But he's not. He's not awake. He's like this because he tried to protect her, McGee." She wipes at her eyes with her free hand, and the other clenches tighter around Tony's. "What next?" She's vaguely aware of how she sounds right now but she's too emotional to care to keep it together in front of him. Besides, he gets her best of all. "He's going to kill himself one of these times, Timmy. And it's going to be because of her. Do you realize that?" She watches as McGee's abashed face softens, and she's thankful he understands then.
She's not blaming Ziva. She's not. She's just terrified of the lengths he'll go.
Because that's just it. There are no lengths.
Wherever she goes, he will follow blindly.
McGee approaches her slowly; wraps her in a too tight hug with double the emotion she radiates on a normal day. She thaws after several seconds, and she clings to him just as tight.
"Aren't you afraid, Timmy?" She whispers tearfully into his neck. "The lengths he'll go for her?"
She doesn't expect an answer, though it's there on his face that's hidden from her view.
Does it scare him? Yes. In a way.
In another, he's never been more envious of two people than he is of his partners.
She tries again.
"Take me to him."
Gibbs blinks up blearily from the seat beside her, rubbing his eyes with the hand that's not clenched around his omnipresent coffee cup.
Two nights in a hospital and he's yet to find anything remotely constituting as coffee, and it's showing, especially in the recent hours. She's been insistent to no avail the entire day. After finally snapping at her two hours ago, she'd given up trying to be taken to her partner's room.
She watches as he ignores her just as she has him all night. He stares down at the tepid liquid in hands for several moments, then leans over to the table to place it atop it, abandoning his last effort to swallow the swill.
It's the first time since she's woken that her voice finally cracks. And she figures that's what finally makes his attention refocus on her.
She wonders briefly how she managed to get his face to soften so much, until he's leaning over, all concern and warmth radiating off him, irritation completely gone, and a rough, calloused hand swipes at the wetness on her cheeks.
Are those her tears?
"Ziva," He murmurs roughly, and she feels his thumb tenderly trace the gash she knows is on the side of her cheek. "You need to stay in bed. I promise you, he's okay."
She shakes her head, ignoring the pain that ignites at the movement, and more tears are falling now.
"I need to see him for myself, Gibbs. Please."
He stills her shaking head by cupping the side of her face, and he stares at her with an unreadable expression for several moments. She knows when he finally caves, though, because his eyes soften and the pressure of his hand increases.
There are three things he becomes acutely aware of upon regaining brief consciousness:
The steady beep, beep, beep of the humming heart monitor.
The pain that's been present since waking.
And the warm, soft, oh so familiar hand entangled with his.
His last thought before he slips away again is wondering when they had started holding hands so often?
It's becoming a habit he only wants to encourage.
He opens his good eye, and chocolate brown orbs gaze back.
He blinks owlishly, and once he's resurfaced from the unconscious realm, treading in this awake state, he realizes her eyes run freely with tears.
He had thought it was perhaps her caressing hand that had woken him, or the high pitch tone of the monitor.
But then he realizes her proximity; how she's somehow managed to come to be curled beside him in his bed. And the quaking sobs that rack her body are reverberating against him.
"Boker Tov," She breathes tearfully. He tries to smile, but the effort makes him grunt as every facet, every nerve ending that covers his face radiates pain.
The hand entwined with his tightens, and he breathes deeply until the agony dissipates. Once he feels sure he can open his good eye again, he searches her eyes with his, unhappy with the guilt and guarded look he finds. He wants to say something.
He blames his next words on the painkillers that are no doubt pumping their way through his system.
"You know, this isn't quite how I pictured us waking up together after we got home."
Her eyes widen at the blatant innuendo, and he wonders if maybe he underestimated how much honestly he'd be able to get away with under the circumstances.
But to his relief, she surprises him. She cracks a teary smile, and her hand tightens over his.
"It was very Bond, though, yes?" She murmurs softly, her head moving closer to his on the pillow.
He attempts to grin, and closes the distance, resting his forehead against hers.
"What I had in mind was very Bond, too. I feel like hell."
Ziva's gaze drifts up and down his body.
"That is an accurate description." She says softly, bringing her eyes back to his. "We have been through it."
He sighs and breathes deeply, inhaling her scent.
"I'm so sorry, Ziva."
He feels her head jerk back in surprise, and the missing warmth of her forehead makes him ache in ways that have nothing to do with the accident.
She levels him with a fierce look, and her tone is thick with emotion.
"I am not." He blinks, and she continues, bringing their entertwined hands up.
"Tony, if you had not... If you..." She falters, and he tightens his hand over hers, encouraging her.
"You are the reason I am laying here right now. And not in a drawer at the morgue."
He tries to shake his head, but she makes him focus on her.
"That does not go for just this time, Tony." Her voice is very small now, and he has to strain to hear her. "You are many of the reasons for why I am still here. Do you realize that?"
A deep breath escapes him, and he touches his forehead to hers again.
"I'm your partner, Ziva. It's my job to protect you."
She's shaking her head for no before he's even finished speaking, and wisps of untidy curls tickle the otherwise painful skin of his face.
"I never asked you to do this for me. Or any of it. I have never asked you to put yourself in harms way or me."
He's quite tired of this argument, the self berration and unworthiness she continues to battle each and every day. Why won't she just. Understand. For. Once? He thought he'd made it clear this time. That they were finally on the same page.
Though it takes an excruciating amount of effort, he closes any and all distance that's left between them, pressing the lightest of kisses to her cheek.
"You never had to Ziva. You never had to ask."
He pulls back, and hopes that finally, finally, she will understand what he intends to be for her. Letting his eyes find hers again, he lets them do the rest of the talking.
It is, after all, their best way of communicating.
Their entertwined hands warm and tighten. His heart swells with hope at what he finds.
This is the moment, he thinks, he'll remember years from now.
The moment he feels utterly worthy of her.
He'll never stop wondering what he did to deserve her love.