I'm procrastinating. It's finals week. Don't judge me.

jae


They never lost control.

For them to lose it now is unprecedented. But that is what happens in the aftermath of yet another near-fatal incident. They're not unaccustomed to cases like this; too-close calls that leave them shaking and scrambling to reclaim their grasp on gravity. It's a casualty of the job, one they know well and are intimately familiar with. And every time a variable outside of their control threatens the fragility of what ties them to this earth, they are able to recover; whether it be for the sheer relief of being granted another day that isn't ever promised, or because they make it out, together.

Whatever the situation, their fate has always been sealed prior to the fight, the explosion, any source that bombards them. They've gone in knowing their chances of coming out on the other side unscathed. Never do they go in without their eyes fused to the other's shadow; vigil of every movement, every shift the other makes.

What they never accounted for was how all this could in no way prepare to keep them grounded when it was not their lives, but the extension of their very beings at the mercy of fate, outside the realm of their jurisdiction.

They have never experienced fear so pure and all-consuming. They are unprepared, struck cold and hard by reality.

It's a day they will always remember, and one they never want to relive.


Nothing prepares them that day for what awaits at the latest scene of devastation. An innocent call interrupts the appreciative laughter in the bullpen; Tony steps to the side as she turns her back on the group, her shoulders still shaking with laughter as she tries to control herself, bringing her phone to her ear.

He stiffens with surprise as Ziva's arm shoots out to latch onto his; a vice-like grip that effectively brings her to the center of attention and all eyes to her hunched frame. Her fingers dig into his skin like a life-line, as if his presence is the only thing that keeps her from falling through air and space and time from this earth.

Their bosses rare smile fades at the tremor rolls through Ziva's body, and when her head whips around to them, her laughter has long since died; her face now flashes with pure, unadulterated terror.

And just like that, all at once hell breaks loose. Tears burn her eyes, falling before even the phone leaves her ear, and Tony is suddenly very aware of the chaos that amplifies the floor of the squad room.

Ziva's arm is shaking on his now, but with a glance he realizes that it's Gibbs that jostles her shoulders, trying to focus her attention as he barks, not unkindly, at her to speak.

Their names are called over Gibbs demands, and suddenly Mira is before them, a translator from the Middle East desk Ziva carpools with when they drop the kids off at…

"Gavington, we have to go. We have to go." She's yelling at them, and Ziva's fumbling toward her desk, dragging him by his sleeve.

The others huddle frozen in the middle of the bullpen as the scene unfolds around them. Gibbs flies to the bottom of the staircase to meet the cold, controlled face of their Director. More phones are buzzing around the floor, and he and Ziva's choked voices are drowned out by other similar cries around them.

There is nothing that reaches his partner now; no words nor touch that drowns the hysteria in her eyes. She drags him from the bullpen, throwing the staircase door open with a resounding smack against the wall to take the steps two at a time.

Just as their bodies disappear inside the stairwell, Vance and Gibbs quickly follow.

It's McGee who at lasts runs breathlessly from the elevator, bearing the dire news to those that stand remaining.


In all five whole years of her life, she's never once seen either of them cry.

Ziva's tears are silent, but her body jerk violently with every sob as she holds the little girl tightly to her chest.

He catches broken pieces of english and hebrew, mumbled incoherently into their daughter's ear. He's watching them when she peeks out from behind her mother's curls, and while they're red and tearful, much like he knows his own are, the relief to see them staring back at him, seeing and clear and beautifully aware, is enough to leave him breathless.

His face breaks with the feeling as he smiles back at her, giving her a tiny wave that she half returns with the hand that rests on Ziva's arm. His eyes fall to the devastation that lies yards away from them, the structure that is left of the Navy Yard's private elementary school for agency children.

The gates that once stood so high to defend the precious lives left entrusted beyond it's walls, to protect against the kinds of attacks it suffered this day, lay in a crumbling mass of concrete stone and twisted metal.

Nothing but wreckage remains where the left wing of the school once stood; the explosion effectively wiping it from existence.

He looks back at the life that was also almost wiped from their existence, too. Still engulfed by Ziva, she clutches her just as fiercely back, patient as she is quiet as her mother finds comfort in the warmth of their embrace, and he sees how her eyes don't carry the same light and innocence as this morning when he kissed her goodbye.

She's never been exposed to the kind of tragedy that's plagued both their lives, something they strive to protect her from each and every day.

He hears Ziva more clearly now, stepping closer, needing the comfort of their touch. She leans into him unconsciously as he crouches down, and her soft voice repeats a steady mantra.

"You are okay. You are okay. We are here. You are safe."

Their daughter leans back when his hand runs down her rumpled dress, rubbing over her back, and Ziva's hands follow her movement, cradling her head. Ziva's face is revealed, and fresh tears still flow from her eyes. He knows they won't seize for long after they leave here, nor for the long night to come.

"It's okay, momma. I'm okay." The little girl pats her hand on Ziva's arm, and it's the precious utterance that begins to ground him once more.


Control doesn't return to them in the aftermath, unlike every time before.

The circumstances are different now that a part of each of their souls walks unprotected in this life and its war.