"To Love and to Cherish"
The debris of the aftermath floated in the air, as if snow flakes gently falling to earth.
The elevator was dark, an eerie "twilight" that was not quite pitch black. Tony lay on the floor, his partner Ziva on top of him. His arm was protectively around her, trying to shield her from the terrible wrath of the bomb.
With a sudden start, Tony came awake, disoriented, confused, his heart racing.
Taking slow, deep breaths, he calmed himself to assess the situation. It was then he realized that he was holding onto Ziva for dear life.
She lay limp on top of him, her face hidden in his chest, her hair in disarray.
"Ziva!" Tony gently touched her cheek. Getting no response, he tried to shift himself to sit upright.
"Ahhh!" Tony was rewarded for his efforts by a sharp, mind-numbing pain in his left leg and back. He lay still for a few minutes to catch his breath.
"Ziva, Ziva can you hear me?" Tony looked around, his eyes adjusting to the dim interior.
"Oh my God, the bomb!" The elevator car was slightly tilted, it's interior dented and ripped.
Tony knew from experience that the damage he was engulfed in was caused by an explosion of significant magnitude.
"Mmmmm….." Ziva made some soft sounds, indicating she was regaining consciousness.
"Right here, Ziva. I gotcha'. Just don't move, ok?"
Ziva slowly opened her eyes, shifting them to the right and left.
"Tony! I can't see!" Ziva sounded terrified.
"Shhh…give your eyes a chance to adjust. It'll be ok."
Ziva concentrated on Tony's voice, which was right in front of her. She then remembered.
They were in the elevator, trying to get out of the building before the bomb went off. Then the elevator jolted, and started to buckle; the lights went out and they were falling…
"Ziva…" Tony knew what was going through Ziva's brain right now.
"I want you to listen to me. Try to move your fingers and toes, ok?"
Ziva nodded numbly. "Ok, I can move them."
Tony breathed a huge sigh of relief. "Ok, are you in pain? Does it hurt anywhere?"
Ziva's eyes began to adjust. She looked into Tony's face. "I am sorry, Tony."
Tony looked confused. "What are you talking about?"
"I made you come with me, in the elevator. If you had stayed, like you wanted to…"
"I'd probably be dead. Don't Ziva. We're going to be ok. Ok." He placed both hands around her face so she was forced to look him in the eye.
"What about the others? Gibbs? Abby? McGee?" Ziva had tears in her eyes. "Gibbs went with Cole to diffuse the bomb. Clearly, they were not successful."
"Look at me. We can't think like that. What we need to focus on is keeping calm, and wait for someone to find us."
Ziva kept her eyes on Tony's face. She nodded slowly.
"You are right; we need to focus on getting out of here." She looked around, then hissed and winced.
"Ziva, are you ok? What is it?"
"It is nothing, Tony. I will be fine."
"Don't give me that bullshit, Ziva! We are in a life and death situation here, and I need you to quit being the badass Ninja Queen and tell me where it hurts!"
Ziva looked shocked, then smiled slightly. "I think I may have broken some ribs. It is…not too painful."
"Right." Tony answered. "Well, I'm just guessing, but I think I may have a broken leg. I've also done something to my back. So we are stuck here until someone gets us out."
Ziva laid her head back down on Tony's chest.
"All things considered; I guess if I had to be stuck in an elevator with anyone, you would be my first choice."
Tony raised his eyebrows at that. "I seem to remember being stuck in a box with you, and you weren't too happy then."
Ziva smiled. "That was a long time ago. A lot has changed. I have changed." She looked at Tony.
"You have changed."
"Well, as long as you mean 'changed for the better,' I'll accept that."
Ziva started to chuckle, but then quickly stopped, and squeezed her eyes closed.
'Ziva, are you ok?" Tony touched her face.
Ziva breathed through the pain. "It is painful, yes. But I can stand it."
Ziva looked worried. "What about you? Your leg?"
Tony grimaced. "I don't think it's too bad, but it hurts like a son of a bitch."
Ziva ran her fingers through Tony's hair, picking out pieces of debris.
"Hmm, maybe now on second thought, being at a wedding would not have been too bad, yes?"
Tony smiled. "Yeah, I hope everything went ok for Palmer. At least Ducky was there."
Tony closed his eyes. "So, what's this 'tuba' thing?"
"Ketubah." Ziva corrected him, surprised he remembered. "It is the marriage contract, similar to a prenuptial agreement."
"Oh….I was thinking it was some sort of dance or something. Not that I mind dancing, pretty good dancer if I do say so myself."
"Or that big tent thing…"
"The Chuppah." Ziva said.
"Yeah, ok…" Tony thought for a while.
"Do you really want all that? The whole traditional Jewish…stuff?" Tony asked softly.
Ziva thought carefully. "That 'stuff;' It is part of who I am, but I am not a strict practitioner. I am flexible. I would never force my husband to be to be part of this ceremony if it made him uncomfortable."
Tony was silent. "But is it what you want?"
Ziva smiled wistfully. "When I was a little girl, I would play dress-up, and pretend to get married. It was very elaborate, and authentic. Fortunately, it was not legally binding."
Tony looked interested. "So, who did you get 'married' to?"
Ziva shook her head. "Oh, my friends, my cousins; anyone who would play with me. It is a very happy childhood memory. I have so few…"
Tony held her hand. "So, child no longer; would something like that make you happy, as happy as you were then?"
Ziva looked carefully at Tony.
"Tony, I have learned, it is not the tradition, or the ceremony, or the party, or the gifts; it is the person you are and the person you will be with. That is all that matters."
Tony and Ziva looked at each other, understanding in that moment that their lives had been changed forever. For better, or for worse; in sickness and in health, till death do us part.
"To love and to cherish…"