I don't know what it is, to tell you the truth. I wrote it when I was half-asleep, and I'm not sure if it makes any sense. I like it, but I guess I'm biased, huh? Let me know what you think. The italics are all flash-backs, which make up the greater portion of the story.

Disclaimer: All I've got is a sick mind

Sometimes it scares her a little, how happy she is. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem...fair.

It makes her wonder what she possibly could have done to deserve this, this happy ending that exists only in the world of worn storybook pages, where knights in shining armor ride off to defend their lady's honor.

Of course, he's no knight in shining armor. He is just a man, a mere man, whose armor is made, not of glistening precious metals, but of good looks and playboy attitude, movie references and an incapability to act his age. He's no knight, and she is far from being that fair lady.

And yet he saves her every day.


The rain is cold and hard and penetrating and she thinks that it tastes like salt. Like teardrops. She can only be thankful that the teardrop rain masks the real tears, the ones that are coursing down her face, unchecked. She can't bring herself to be strong right now.

She's awfully good at being strong. In some ways, it is her own armor. Not silver, not gold, but courage and a fear of being anything but fearless, an oxy-moron if she's ever seen one.

The car catches her attention at once, slowing down, then pulling over as it nears her in a way that means no good, but she isn't sure how she feels about it. Part of her is happy for the distraction, because it reminds her of her identity. She can't afford to be fragile in a world full of hard edges and harsh truths.

Fortunately - unfortunately? - the driver is no one particularly threatening. It's just Tony, looking bewildered and concerned and irritated all at once.

"Get in the car."

That's all he says, and it's all she needs. Under different circumstances, she would have turned up her nose, made a remark to the extent of, "Aren't you going to offer me a puppy first?"

But these aren't normal circumstances. She's tired and, even though she's run this route a million times before, she's feeling a bit lost. He seems to see it in her eyes, because his expression softens.

He gets out of the car and opens her door with a grand sweep, but all she can bring herself to do is shiver in clothes that suddenly seem terribly damp.

So he lets the car door slam and comes to stand by her, wrapping warm, solid arms around her and effectively putting an end to her tremors. She rests her forehead against his chest and just breathes - in, out, in, out - until sufficiently calmed.

He helps her into the car, keeping one hand on her waist - not intrusive, just a feather-light presence, grounding her, reminding her that she's here. Now.

He breaks contact only long enough to dart around to the driver's side door. He drives with one hand. The other never leaves her knee.

"You want to talk about it?"

She can summon the energy only to shake her head. No. She does not want to talk, does not need words, is not ready to think.

Right now all she wants, all she can needs, is contact. The reassurance that she could find nowhere else comes in the warmth of flesh on flesh.

Finally, she feels human enough to make an observation. "You passed my street."

If he is surprised by her sudden statement, he doesn't show it, merely looks at her sideways. "We're going to mine."

She isn't sure how to feel. The rational part of her, the side that resists aid, that evades the suggestion of weakness like it carries the plague, knows that she should attempt to salvage her dignity by demanding to be brought home. Tony would do it. He'd always been good about letting her moments of weakness slide.

But right now she feels so utterly exhausted and stunned and frozen with damp chill that she cannot seem to muster the strength to argue. So she nods and sits in numb silence.

He lets her shower and change into dry clothes, has a pizza waiting when she emerges, and doesn't voice a complaint when she selects The Sound of Music from his shelf of DVDs. He just stays close, making light comments about nothing in particular while his hand makes slow circles on her back.

He doesn't do much.

But, then, she didn't need very much. Just him


There is a lot of blood.

There is even more pain than there is blood.

But most of all there is an overwhelming sense of relief, because Tony is okay and, really, that thought is almost reassuring enough to numb the pain.


She ate a banana and drank a coffee for breakfast, and now there's something else inhabiting her stomach. Its small and round and metallic. She doesn't know how something so small could have done so much damage.

She thinks she hears sirens in the distance, but mostly she hears Tony as he alternates between pleading with her and cursing her.

"This is not how this works, Zi," he is saying. "I'm supposed to be the one who- who-"

He breaks off momentarily to swallow violently, then continues. "I had my whole death scene planned out, remember? Not that you're" - gulp - "dying."

Then he transitions back into angry mode.

"You don't have my permission to die."

Ziva tries to laugh, but it hurts too much, so she settles on saying, "You are not Gibbs, Tony."

He gets that look on his face, the one that warns her not to argue. With a pang, she realizes that this may be the last time she ever sees it.

The last time she ever sees him.

She's not scared of death. She has grown used to it as it trails her, like a stray dog, from Israel to America to Somalia...

The word jolts her back in time to images, feverishly bright, that she has suppressed so successfully for so long, of pain and betrayal and loneliness, of acceptance that death was only a matter of time, of fervent pleadings with God that death hurry up and rescue her from this place.

She remembers wondering if perhaps she has already died, and this is hell. After a time she almost began to believe it.

And then the sack was pulled from her head, and a pair of green eyes that she had thought she would never lose herself in again looked back.

He saved her then.

She doesn't think he can now.

He doesn't seem to think he can either, but he is Tony, who 'looks reality in the face and refuses to believe it,' so he tries.

"Hey. Hey. Zi, look at me." The words are urgent and they momentarily capture the attention of her feverish brain. "Hey. Zi. Ziva. Keep your eyes open."

She tries, for him, but she seems to be fighting a losing battle with herself as black fuzziness, like static on an old tv set, closes in.

"Ziva. Come on, Zi. Keep your eyes open, sweetcheeks."

Tony is grasping desperately for straws. She can feel his anxiety in the way his fingernails dig into her hand that she hadn't noticed he was holding. His other is putting pressure on the bloody shirt held to her abdomen.

She focuses on the feel of his hand in hers, memorizing every callus, every contour, to pore over during the hours of eternal damnation that she knows are but moments away.

If there is one thing she will miss, more than anything, it will be the warmth of him.

She remembers something, and it is suddenly urgent that she tell him.

"Tony-" Her voice is choked and raspy. She tries to clear her throat, and her mouth fills with something that tastes of copper.

"Shh, shh," he whispers. His hand leaves hers to brush hair from her face. "The ambulance is gonna be here soon, Zi. Just hold on."

But she knows she doesn't have time, so she ignores him - she's always been good at that - and tries again.

"Last week. In the rain."

"Don't talk."

She takes a deep breath, but it hitches in her throat. More thick, coppery liquid collects in her mouth.

"It was-"

"I know, Ziva. Citizenship." His fingers make slow revolutions on her cheekbone. "It was the one year anniversary, right?"

Something wet trickles out of the side of her mouth. Tony's eyes tighten painfully as he wipes the trickle. His hand comes away red.

More and more blood is collecting in her throat, and she thinks she might choke. She tries to talk, but more blood comes out instead of words.

"Ziva," he whispers shakily. She gasps as her throat clears momentarily. Already more liquid is collecting. She knows she only has seconds.

"It's been a year."

"Don't talk," he orders roughly, looking visibly shaken. The sirens are much louder now, but the rasp of her own breathing drowns it all out. Even her own voice sounds like a whisper when she speaks.

"And I realized that nothing had changed."

Tony says something, but she can't hear it over the sound of herself, gasping and gurgling as coppery liquid collects in her air passages.

The sirens are wailing and there are voices, shouting, but all she can hear is the rasp of her own lungs - in, out, in, out. She is very cold.

She wakes in a hospital bed, with tubes here and there and pain everywhere else. He is holding her hand with both of his own, clutching it so tightly that it hurts.

She doesn't mind the pain. In fact, she kind of likes it, because it is real. She's not dead, and he is here.

The doctors tell her that it was the paramedics who got to her in the knick of time, and that it was a touch-and-go surgical procedure that saved her life. No one mentions Tony.

He didn't do much.

But, then, she hadn't needed much. Just him.


She lays on the couch watching contrived soap operas, and muses on her own life's melodramatic plotline. When put into third-person, it sounds worse than the television program she is watching now.

And that's saying something.

But she's beginning to think her own personal soap opera may not end as happily because, while there is a bullet wound healing nicely on her lower abdomen, she is just as lonely as she's ever been.

No one's ever lonely in soap operas. There are fall-outs and make-outs, break-ups and make-ups, which all get tedious and predictable over times, but people are never alone. After all, it takes two to tango or argue or resolve things.

And she is all alone.

Thinking grimly that this is the epitome of poetic symbolism, she gets up to fix herself a crappy microwave dinner for one. Lonely in a can.

As she waits for her freezer-burned meal to warm, she leans against the counter and checks her cell phone, though she knows what she will see.

Four anxious texts from Abby, two from McGee. Even Gibbs called earlier to check in earlier.

She knows this knowledge should counteract the loneliness, but it doesn't. Because he hasn't called, hasn't spoken to her once since that day in the hospital.

At first she was confused, then she was hurt, now she is just . . . numb. She doesn't know whether or not this sudden lack of feeling is an improvement.

The microwave beeps twice, interrupting the silence of an empty house. She herself is feeling pretty empty right now.

The food is bad, and her stomach is worse. She ends up kneeling on the cool tile of the bathroom, retching up what little she'd managed to swallow. Afterwards she lays on the couch, shaking and cold, and contemplates hell.

She had thought once that hell was betrayal and hurt, pain and suffering, day after day, knowing that each day would hold the same horrors as the one after it.

But he'd been there to save her, and so she lived another day.

Then she had thought hell was standing still, frozen in time, while the world rushed by around you and the teardrop rain pounded down. She'd tried to run after it, but she couldn't keep up.

But he'd been there to save her, and so she lived another day.

She thinks she is beginning to see a bit of a pattern in the plotline of this soap opera.

Now she thinks that, maybe, just maybe, hell is the cold, empty silence that is filling her apartment. Maybe hell is the sudden realization that you are really, truly alone in the world.

And she's pretty sure there's no one there save her.

It is late when the doorbell rings, startling her out of a vivid dream where she had been floating in a sea of nothingness, a life preserver just out of reach. She'd struggled for a while before giving in. The water had just closed over her head when the plaintive peal of the doorbell breaks through.

She stumbles to the door, blinking sleep out of her eyes and wiping tears off her cheeks. She doesn't have the energy to wonder how they got there.

Tony is standing at the door when she opens it. Before she can do anything, say anything, throw anything at the man, he has her tear-stained face in his hands and his lips on hers.

He kisses her for a long moment, and she does not know what to do, so she does nothing, just lets him kiss her with remarkable intensity. His hands find their way into her tangled mane of curls.

When he pulls back, she tries to figure out how she feels, but she doesn't know. She feels so very cold.

And finally he puts his arms around her, like that day in the rain, and she lets her forehead rest against his chest as she breaths - in, out, in, out - until sufficiently calmed.

"I'm sorry," he whispers into her neck. "God, Ziva, I'm so sorry."

She does nothing, because she doesn't know what to do, just breathes heavily with her face pressed into his chest. His hands make slow circles on her back, sliding up and down her arms, tangling in her hair.

He doesn't do much.

But it feels like everything, and, as he presses his lips into her neck, she starts to feel warm.

Yikes. That is one monster of a one-shot. I've been writing it and rewriting it over the past two days, and I'm not entirely satisfied, but I thought I should put something up to prove that I haven't gone MIA. What do you think?