Hey, guys! This is probably going to be a two-shot, but we'll see.

It takes place between season 10 and season 11, and plays on how I wanted Cote to leave.

It's told in flashback and present time, and you'll be able to tell which is which, of course.

Kate makes many cameo appearances to explore Tony's mind; because Team Gibbs sees her after she dies, it is safe to assume that they are still seeing her in their minds.

Enjoy, and please review!

"Toda." He smiles at her thanks. Playing the language game, are we?

"Prego," he replies, and though his voice is sincere, he is anything but. Kate died. Another woman is here. Does she really matter?

Her sister Tali died. She was the best of them. Them, he thinks. Mossad. Maybe it should intimidate me, Kate.

She became like Gibbs. Her eyes say everything to him. She is telling the truth. Why are you even thinking of trusting her, Tony?

I don't know, Kate. Maybe she's just like us. Human.

Yeah, an Israeli Mossad assassin is totally in your league of panties, spring break, and beer, DiNozzo. She's behind him with her dark hair and her Catholic school girl clothes, and he can picture her...and more.

What, you don't think I can charm her? The DiNozzo genetic line is all about charm and handsome faces, Kate!

"Laila tov."

"Buonanotte," he exits, and he can hear her laughing behind him, following him after the observation between him and the Israeli. Obviously, they didn't pass down to you.

Did too.

Did not.

Did too.

How different circumstances are the next time they exchange languages. They walk to her car from his apartment, where they've been sleeping these past few weeks. They've turned their badges in a month ago, and now, she decides to explore her roots, to think. He agrees without discussion to go with her-and for once, she has no problem with that.

It is astonishing how open they are to each other, how the first night they quit, she was the one to come to his door, and not him; unlike the summer when Gibbs went on a "Mexican retreat", so DiNozzo dubs. She had cried and confessed that she had not meant to kill him, but then again she does not know if she had meant to or not. The lines blur between revenge and justice, murder and penalty just as her vision does as the tears fall; and he understood. So he held her in his arms and told her, "At lo levad. Don't forget. Okay?"

She questioned him, as she always did, because she was so accustomed to pain, rejection, disappointment. Betrayal. "After Adam? I am… sorry, Tony."

He held a puzzled look on his face, and leaned into hers once again, nose to nose. "It's okay, Ziva." He had put her head under his chin, and rocked her gently.

"Tony…" she mumbled, confused at the sudden acceptance she never heard; and eventually fell asleep against his chest.

So came the first night.

The first week went like this: they talked to each other, slept with each other, but never crossed the boundaries that invisibly held them in place. Now, without work, their Movie Nights were unlimited. So many times she had patted his cheek, and he had tussled her curls; then sat on the couch, shoulder to shoulder, and watched a movie.

The second week began with a kiss. They awoke to find themselves next to each other, and they had become used to the thought. She looked beautiful to him, as she always did, with her curls that wrapped around his finger as he touched it, her olive skin against the rising sun, her thick eyebrows showing no emotion, as she also always did. To others, at least; but now, he was joyful in the release of their emotions, that now both of them would share and both of them could love. Post-elevator them.

She had stared at him as he played with her hair, as he traced her jawbone, as she touched his eyebrows and cheeks; and eventually, they both leaned into it with a sigh. It was sweet and tender, as a first kiss always is, and cautious, as they always are. But as he looked into her eyes, he could see everything, as he always could: fear, relief, worry, and love. And she could see the same. They kissed, but never crossed the other invisible line in the Monday morning of the second week.

The day was full of smiles and knowing glances that lasted for longer than ever, usually interrupted by a "Grab your gear," or a "Give me an update," or even a "Will you two stop staring at each other and help me get my hands unglued to the keyboard?" Now, it held for an eternity.

The Movie Nights continued the following week: followed by more lips and sleep. It was a small bed; somehow they fit. Somehow they fit together. Perhaps it was their overwhelming chemistry and their endless teasing and seduction. Or maybe it was the desperation that began as lust than evolved into love. He had tamed her; she had changed him. It was a never-ending seesaw of love and hate and lust and anger; or all of them at once. Often, they themselves could not tell, but then again, they could never tell whether they were in love or not.

Towards the end of the second week, their colleague showed up at their door, surprised to find them both there in a perfectly domestic setting: she was teaching him to cook pasta in his kitchen. After he left with a few teases about "DoDelilah" ("Not again, DiNozzo; enough with the interagency nicknames," the probie replied) and a serving of pasta, they laughed, relieved he had not asked them about their company. Perhaps he had not been surprised, they thought. Perhaps it was meant to be.

The third week, they said the three magic words. They travelled to the couch and smiled, but when she sat, her tears were immune to his coaxing. To her, the world was hell on earth, because her father had died and she was a murderer and her true father was halfway across the world and being investigated for the good he had done. It was infuriating; so as he rubbed the small of her back and whispered to her, he had an idea. He jumped up, muttering a small, "I'll be back." Popping the disk into the player, he settled down on the couch as she wore a puzzled face, tears in the corners of her eyes and wetting her cheeks-and yet, she was still beautiful to him. His arms were around her in a flash, and he pressed his lips to his forehead as he squeezed her shoulder, folding her and her tears into his chest. He had a confident smile etched onto his face, the wrinkles and the creases attracting her; and it was contagious. Her eyebrows furrowed as she asked, "What are you planning?" The opening notes sounded; and the character sang out, "The hills are alive…" and immediately she knew she loved him as her mouth grew into a sad grin, and eventually her eyes grew tired of being tired; and she was allowed to just be.

When it was over, she turned to him, but he was already staring at her. Eyes are the window of the soul, they thought, and the windows were clearer than day itself. Perhaps they said, "I love you," a thousand different times before that night, perhaps more so with their eyes; and yet that night it was both. Their lips clashed together like a lioness and her prey, and oh, was he a prey to her love, an attack stronger than any animal could harness. When they separated for air, they could not hold back any longer.

"Ziva," he breathed, wheezing from the kiss; and he was filled with the desperation to tell her. They could die anytime. They were targets before, yes; but then, they had weapons and authority. Now, they only had each other; and it was enough to satisfy, to keep alive, but not to defend themselves. "I love you."

Her eyes darted, cornered to face the truth and spit it out, and of course it was him to say it first, because that was always how it was. But is this not what it is, she thought? Movies and meals and kisses and sleep and comfort and anger and guilt and forgiveness-this is love. "I love you, too, Tony."

They grabbed each other, her fingers dextrously on his cheekbones, his ferociously meshed into her hair; and eight years of lust and betrayal and jealousy and vengeance and above all, love was satisfied. They sighed into each others' mouths and looked into each others' eyes without restraint for once, and now they could forever; for now, they no longer cared what rules held in place, or what obstacles planned to tackle them. Now, in a moment of desperation, they understood how temporary the world is, how temporary their lives are, but how permanent love could be.

They exit his apartment, their hands joined together. It's not the first time they have found comfort by touch, but the first time they've made their comfort a publicity. They laugh and smile, and he quotes another one of his movies, and she cannot help but think, This. This is what I have missed, what I have denied myself these years. Or perhaps it was meant to be this way-that love is a gradual, slow climb, and when one slips, the other pulls the one back up to climb the mountain together.

Her car is a few blocks down, and the warm July air is comforting around them. "So," he starts, smiling his trademark grin. "Tel Aviv, huh? What will we be doing in a hot, sweaty hotel room? Are there saunas there?"

She chuckles, and his smile brightens at the sight of hers. "We'll be staying at one of my father's safe houses, Tony. I don't want people to interrupt."

"By people, you mean Orli?" he asks, eyes searching. He always knows what goes on in her mind.

"Mossad has always been," she starts; then hesitates. "Difficult."



"And," he grins, "What exactly will we do in Tel Aviv?"

They both laugh, their eye contact a burning flame of desire. She raises her eyebrow, and teases him; and they're back in the game they play in the bullpen, in the field, in the car, undercover, in the elevator. "Well, Tony, we will be alone. It will be hot in Israel at this time of year, and perhaps we will be very warm."

They stop in front of her car, facing each other on the block. "What exactly do you have in mind?" she says.

He steps closer as their smiles turn hungry, their usual game fueled by their newfound love. He is nose to nose with her, and they are lost in each others' windows, their souls clear and beautiful to each other.

"Well, Zee-vah-"

He is interrupted. They did not see them coming, nor did they hear them. It sounds like thunder and lightning, a storm in the calm, joyful tone they live in. The hail is composed of lead speeding at them, the thunder of raining bullets, the lightning the screech of the black van.

Someone is after them. Someone found them. Someone took action.

They fall to the ground in a mist of pain, fury, and confusion; the peaceful air pierced by their screams. He yells as two enter his side, one his shoulder, one his ankle; the ground is a painful reminder of gravity. She grunts as three hit her back and stomach, two her shoulders, and one her thigh. She falls sooner than he does.

The last thing they see is the each other. Star-crossed lovers? Perhaps.

Their eyes are open, willing themselves not to lose consciousness. Eventually, it is her who succumbs first, and afterwards, he is happy to follow her into the darkness.

Pain. It is the first thing to registers in his mind. Ziva is the second.

He forces himself to venture through the pain, to gain consciousness, and his eyelids are bricks and his eyelashes are glue; but if she survived so much, then he can see to it that she survives again.

A groan escapes his lips before he can stop himself, and afterwards, his eyes open easily. A hospital. The ceiling is composed of gray and white tiles. Depressing.

"Don't move," a voice says, and gray hair and crystal blue eyes comes into his view. He coughs with his weak lungs, a remnant of revenge for an act that did not occur. He nods gratefully when Gibbs raises his lips to a cup of cool, refreshing water.

He opens his mouth, but Gibbs interrupts him. "Don't talk."

His hospital bed is raised to a ninety-degree angle, so when his boss and father figure sits in the chair facing him, Tony can see him now. "His name is Benham Parsa. McGee and Abby are at the Navy Yard; Ducky and Palmer too.

"You were hit badly. Ziva worse; she's still in critical.

He registers this, that she is suffering more than he is, as usual, and anger fuels his veins. He makes eye contact with Gibbs, but he knows his request. "You're not moving from this bed, DiNozzo. Not yet."

"Boss-" His voice comes out raspy and startles him to no end. How long has he been in here? "How long have I been out?"

He sighs, and his blue eyes are full of concern that he cannot hide from his agent that's become his son for the past 12 years. "It's been three days, Tony."

His green eyes move from left to right, panicking. Three days. What happened?

Her car-her red Mini, Tel Aviv…

"What happened, Gibbs?"

A man of few words. He places a file on his lap and opens it. Like an interrogation, Gibbs spreads the photos out so Tony can see.

Blood-a lot of it, next to her bullet-ridden Mini, the color of their blood; tire marks on the gravel of the street. Stills of the van sliding, opening, and firing-a black unmarked vehicle, difficult to track. Finally, a man with a beard in his late 20s, wearing sunglasses. Holding it, Tony looks up, and states, "Benham Parsa."

His boss nods, knowing it's more of a statement than a question.

They stare at each other; blue and hazel meeting, glaring, daring. "No," Gibbs orders.

"Boss, I want to catch this guy-"

"You're staying here. You took four bullets, Tony."

"I want to help!"

"And you're not an agent!" Gibbs yells back, smacking the folder aside. Rage is written in his every action, and but the senior agent knows him well enough to read the etched concern in his blue eyes. "You and Ziva will stay here."

The Gibbs stare pierces him, and he says solemnly, "She needs you, Tony."

It's then he realizes his boss has been saying his first name this whole time, and it's then he succumbs to his orders. Ziva needs him; but he needs her alive more, and Gibbs knows that better than anyone.

The piano keys sound beautifully tragic. Its rhythm beats to the pace of his life, of one lover lost to the next. One almost lover lost to a gunshot flying, an ex-lover lost to a revolving door and a self-sacrificial act to join her team, now, another almost lover lost to the depths of the sea, to the unknown sand and water and salt. Death does wonders to the people still alive. He holds his gun in his left hand, plays the melody with his right. No survivors.

It's his fault. He killed Rivkin. She loved him. She was betrayed. She is confused. She was trained and manipulated and given no choice. She should be happy, she shouldn't have to be a killer. She should be alive.

"I'm not just a killer anymore. I'm an investigator." He misses her. He misses her so terribly it hurts. And he can't take it any longer. Shards of glass line the wall, circle around the piano. If only he was as drunk as the bottles should have made him. Then, he could really do it.

DiNozzo. Snap out of it.


No, Ziva.

Not helping.

Not much I can do about this. She's dead. You're not.

Same old story.

He can hear the sarcastic laugh that brought him into fantasies of miniskirts and wet t-shirt contests but broke him into reality of the red splatter of blood, the copper taste of the wet substance of brain matter. Are you comparing me to Ziva, Tony?

Yeah. You're both pretty badass, like Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Wanted, you know?

I'm not ninja-assassin, DiNozzo.

Are too.

Am not.

Are too.

Will you just-

There's nothing you can do. My mind's set, Kate. I made her that way… I made her drown, made her fall, made her have to go back to her father and listen to him…

You're not her Jack Dawson, Tony. You saved her, she hated you. It's that simple.

No, it's not.

A pause. You love her.

A longer pause before he replies to imaginary-ghost-dead Kate. He can never tell which one he talks to when she decides to show up. At times, she's naked, or wearing that wet t-shirt, or in her Catholic school girl uniform. Other times, she's transparent. Most of the time, she has a bullet hole the size of a penny in her forehead, and he can taste it again, and he can feel it again, and he would shiver at the thought of the shock that struck him.

Yes, Kate. I do.

Silence fills his mind, and he decides then, when he has finally admitted it, confessed it, when it is far too late; to fulfill his wishes. His right hand stops playing, and his left hand lifts with an equal amount of heaviness and familiar lightness.

Don't do it, Tony.

He stops, because it's far too loud and gruff to be imaginary-ghost-dead Kate. He lifts his head from his bloody hands, broken by shards of glass; from the gun, from the black and white keys. It's Gibbs.

It's Gibbs.

He's never felt more ashamed before in his life; that Gibbs would see him at such a weak point. But when he looks into his blue eyes, he can see it's not disappointment nor surprise written in the depths of his soul, but pain and fear and concern.



"Gibbs." His lips quiver.

Gibbs walks to his partner, his apprentice, his son, his friend, and places his hand on his shoulder. "You're coming home with me, Tony."

He nods, unsure of everything as he sleeps on his boss's couch; but he knows one thing: Kate and Gibbs saved him tonight. He will not succumb to guilt; no, not yet. He will not succumb to the pain; no, not yet. He will instead succumb to the anger and the rage, and let it consume him into vengeance. Then, he will curl up into his dilemma of guilt, betrayal, pain, and love. And it is then, face-to-face with whatever son of a bitch got her killed, he will die. Then, Kate and Gibbs can't save him. He doesn't want them to.

So, hope you've enjoyed the first chapter. Thanks for reading!