I'm not over Cote leaving, but I'm trying to deal with it somehow.
Slowly easing myself back into writing...
The first time she says it, she's looming over him and leaning all her weight on the hole in his chest.
He remembers his blackening vision abstaining briefly as she was yelling down at him.
Her lips kept moving, but all he could manage was a lazy smile at the four letter word he never thought he'd hear from her but would never cease chasing.
Before it all went dark, he remembers several linear moments. They stand out vividly against the storm of sirens and shots and the blur of everyone moving around him all at once.
The sickening crunch of head meeting gravel, and the pain that shocks every nerve ending of his body.
An anguished cry ripping through the sound barrier of which the mere memory of sends chills down his spine.
Seven shots in rapid succession, roaring in his ears.
And before reality began to slip away, their eyes finding one another, and his grip tightening around her hand.
Ziva's above him, and he can scarcely feel the wisps of her hair that tickle his face. She whips her head from where her attention is on the pool of blood blooming across his dress shirt, and she meets his eyes as her hands deftly undo the buttons with rapid precision and with a familiarity she shouldn't have.
"Be still, DiNozzo." Her voice is thick, betraying the calm exterior she's trying to uphold. Her control slips further as she battles with her jacket, shaking her limbs angrily before finally freeing it from her arm. She wastes little time pressing it against his now bared chest urgently.
He watches as she yells angrily around at the swarm of people that are beginning to appear on the scene. He frowns as he notices her shoulders are shaking, and her panic is clear now as silent sobs rack her body.
She only stills when his hand cover her own on his chest.
He doesn't notice how her heart drops at how weak his grip is.
"Promise you'll be there if I wake up."
Her eyes widen at his words, and it's clear that regardless of the blood drenching her hands or the intensity of which this situation has taken, she had refused to even consider the alternative of them not walking away from this together.
It's only when his grip slips from her hand and his face slackens that her resolve crumbles.
"Tony?" She says panicked, and one blood soaked hand chases his as it slides out of reach.
He merely looks at her, but his eyes are still swimming with the same intensity he reserves only for her.
"Tony? I promise. Do you hear me?"
She feels his hand tighten briefly in hers, and his lazy smile spreads across his face once more.
The more he slips away, the more pressure she puts on his chest.
She doesn't realize she's all but laying across him until she feels Gibbs hand pulling at her shoulders.
Paramedics began swarming them then, and he barely registers her screams of resistance through the flurry of activity.
"Gibbs, I promised him. I promised I'd be there."
He doesn't hear the grumbled order, nor feel when her hand is pried from his own.
What he does hear is her last declaration, that allusive four letter word, and what he will always swear what kept the darkness from swallowing him whole.
She had no intention on reminding him of the exchange that followed the game changing hour.
He had no intention of forgetting.
"You promised me something, didn't you?"
She jerks from where she rests against his bed, the metal of her fold-out chair scraping loudly underneath her.
She looks about as awful as he feels, and he says as much. Her face breaks out into a grin that's more relieved than it is humored, and she reaches for the tepid water that sits waiting beside his bed, bringing it to his lips.
He sips weakly, draining the cup easily and she pulls it away to refill it. Her hands shake as she tries to pour more, and he reaches his hand out to hold her grip steady.
She ceases pouring, the gesture echoed from earlier stopping her cold. Slowly she lowers the pitcher and cup back onto the table.
Her tone is low, and she doesn't glance at him as she mumbles the utterance. The exhaustion on her face has been replaced with trepadation, and so he proceeds carefully.
"What happened to our suspect?"
He watches as her eyes darken, and she doesn't meet his gaze.
"Laying on a slab in the morgue with six souvenirs. "
"You shot him six times?" He says aghast, but she dismisses his surprise.
"Seven," she shrugs, taking a sip from his cup calmly, though she still won't meet his eyes. "He got lucky."
He continues to look at her, and she shifts nervously under his stare.
"What?" She demands harshly, finally meeting his gaze, and a small smile pulls at his mouth as he sees the emotions he feared he'd imagined before swimming in her eyes.
Taking his cup from her grasp, he smirks before raising the cup to his lips.
"Love you too, sweetcheeks." He says softly over the rim.
He closes his eyes while he sips, repeating a hundred silent thanks to the force that kept him here.