Sunday, January 26, 2014

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 281

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 281: The Price

Make up sex is brilliant. There’s all the intensity of the emotions of the fight. Then there’s the even more intense ‘I’m so sorry; I hate you being angry at me; I hate being angry at you; I love you so much.’

It’s really, really nice.

The problem is, you can’t get to hot, happy, make up sex when the last time you had the exact same argument you pretended to make up, and then did exactly what you were going to do in the first place.

Because you can only get to the make-up sex when there’s trust that you have, indeed, made up.

So, while there had been yelling, and talking, and crying, and more talking, and more yelling between the DiNozzos, there hadn’t been any make-up sex.

There hadn’t been any cuddles.

Or hugs.

Because they aren’t made up.

Right now, Tony’s pretending to be asleep on the sofa (wasn’t allowed in their bedroom last night) while his ninja stealths around their home.

Someone once said, that if you’re getting along, even the smallest home has plenty of room, and when you aren’t, you can have acres of space and it’s not enough.

So, while it’s true they don’t have a huge apartment, until Ziva came home last night, furious, it had never seemed too small. It’s way too damn small, now. Technically, the entire eastern seaboard may be too small right now.

“I know you are not asleep.” She doesn’t look at him as she says it. She’s very intently making coffee, back toward him, facing the counter.

He sighs, opening his eyes, staring at the ceiling. “I know I’m not asleep, too.”

“Then why are you pretending?”

“I’m tired.” And he is, bone deep, every cell in his body begging for rest, tired. “Just want to rest.”

“Then rest!” Ziva says, slamming down the coffee mugs.

He sits up slowly, rubbing his head. He’s had a headache for two days, because of the fighting, not the concussion. “Not going to rest until this is done.” He hasn’t really slept since the bomb, and today isn’t likely to change that. (Also part of why his head hurts. He always gets headaches when he gets too low on sleep.)

This isn’t going to be done anytime soon, so you might as well sleep. Maybe if you got some sleep you’d be sane enough to realize you are being completely unreasonable.”

“It is not unreasonable to ask you to value your life!”

“No, it’s not. But you didn’t ask.” She whips around to face him as the sk on ask slides off her tongue.

He just shrugs. “It’s not unreasonable to expect you to value your life.”

“I do value my life!”

“Not enough. If you’re going to…” He shakes his head, not willing to finish that sentence.

“You are not asking me to value my life! You are trying to make me your pet!”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes you are. You wouldn’t have done that to McGee or Gibbs. You respect them enough to actually tell them the truth.”

“It’s not about respect.”

“Of course, it is! You say you love me, but you don’t respect me, not if you’re willing to do that. Making decisions for me, not telling me about it, lying to me about it. That is not respect.”

“I knew you wouldn’t like it.” And he did. He wouldn’t have lied about it if he thought she’d have been okay with what he was going to do.

“Exactly! You don’t pull this sort of crap on Gibbs or McGee. If you want to do something they don’t like, you own up to it and tell them about it. It’s completely about respect. You respect them enough not to lie to them.”

“It’s not respect! I don’t love either of them enough…” Tony shakes his head. “The world doesn’t stop turning if something bad happens to them. I knew you wouldn’t like it. I knew you’d be angry. And I didn’t care because you angry and alive is better than you dead and happy.”

Ziva’s furious again, and the coffee cup in her hand is in serious danger of being squeezed so hard it shatters. “That’s not how you treat people! That’s how you treat a child or a pet. You do not get to make that decision. You do not get to just… ignore how I feel about it. You are my husband, not my father, and no one, no one has any right to treat me like that, not anymore. Not you, not Gibbs. I am not a child, let alone your child, and I get to make my own decisions.”

He stands up, walks across the living room and kitchen to her. He stares her in the eyes, tired, angry, hurting, all of it in his face and voice. “You made the wrong one! You stop getting to make that decision when you make the wrong one.”

Something very intense, very hot, and very not English spills from her lips as Ziva glares at him. Then she turns, pushes past him, out of the kitchen, and says, “This is useless! I’m going out. You sleep. I’ll calm down. We’ll try again in a few hours.”


Easier said than done. But at least right now, he can lay in their bed (more comfy than the sofa), stretch out, cuddle into pillows that smell like her, and not sleep.

Because sleeping requires a quiet mind.

And right now his mind is anything but quiet.

Lying about it wasn’t a good plan. But he knew she wouldn’t go for it, knew if he said, I want you on a different team, I can't take this anymore, it’d piss her off, but, if she could find out about it as something accomplished, done and unchangeable, then she’d be pissed, but, eventually, she’d like having her own team, and then they’d go on.

Then McGee butts his big ass into this and fucks the whole thing sideways. 

It’s his team. Not McGee’s. Three days of running things doesn’t make it McGee’s team. He’s in charge of who’s on it, not McGee. It’s his job to make sure it’s running right, not McGee’s, and he gets to define what running right is. And if that’s just the three of them, slowly adding in new people, then that’s what it is.

Except that’s crap, and he knows it’s crap, the problem isn’t that McGee counteracted the shift. The problem was trying to move her in the first place.


Part of being a friend is smacking you upside the head when you’re being an idiot, and McGee’s being his friend.

Part of being an adult is seeing the problems that are there and taking responsibility for your part in them.

And all of being the leader is seeing the problems, facing them head on, and tackling them.

He sees it in his head again. Ziva standing next to them. Hears her say it, ‘You go. I go.’ Gibbs has his knife out, ready to cut, and he knocks it away, yanks out the detonator and tosses it. The most Hail Mary pass of the history of Hail Mary passes.

He stares at the ceiling. Feeling her body under his, hearing the almost slithering rush of the fire, how there was that second where he could hear it before the heat poured over them, then that month-long second between the fire and the blast.

Conversion aside, he’s not much of a praying man. He and God have a deal, and swapping out from not overly Catholic to not overly Jewish didn’t change that. But as the fire rushed over them, he was certainly begging God to get her through this, and even with as loud as the fire was, and his heart beating so hard as to drown out almost everything else, he could still hear her say the Shema, and…

And he panicked. He knows that. Or he took a calculated risk, but did the math wrong. Either way, letting Gibbs cut the wire was probably the better answer.

And he’s not sure which scares him worse, that her being at risk made him make the bad decision, or her running in to join them.

Her running in. He can (he hopes) control the panic. He can (still hoping) control himself.

He can’t control her.

And he knows that.

And trying was stupid.

But you do stupid things when the person you love above all others puts herself at risk. When fear reaches up, colors your world sickly green, chokes off your breath, makes your joints go week and your stomach clench, you do whatever you can to make it stop.

Ziva’s wildness, the fact that he couldn’t control her, that had always interested him. That, as much as her body, got his attention at first.

Like with Kate, the fact that she would be a challenge, that she wouldn’t just go along for the ride, that made him want to make her want to go along.

Be careful what you wish for.

He did it. He got her signed on for the long haul. He won her love and respect (at least, he’d had it up until he hit send on that email) and then came face to face (again) with why it’s easier to keep the walls in place.

After all, how many times can you volunteer to let your heart have the shit beaten out of it?

Of course, if he’s being honest with himself, he knows he’s doing it back to her. She scared him so bad, and that fear hurt so much, that he’s doing it to her, making her hurt the way he hurt.

And it’s not cool, or good, or responsible, or anything he wants to be, but… it’s true. Maybe, beyond acknowledging the fear, it’s the first true thing he’s thought about this.

Because you don’t just do crap like that, and all the justifications on Earth don’t make it all right.

And by hurting her, he’s hurting himself, and on some level, he feels like he deserves that, too.

The sound of her opening the door didn’t wake him up. Have to be asleep to wake up.

It did stop him staring at the ceiling. He gets up slowly, heads to the door of their bedroom, opens it, and leans against the door jam. She’s in the living area, just standing there, looking in his direction.

“I’m sorry I lied to you.”

“Not enough.” Calming down time does not appear to have done much to help with Ziva being pissed off.

“Right now, I’m sorry about this whole thing.”

“Yes, I know, you made that abundantly clear last night. That you are sorry about this whole thing starting with falling in love and ending with lying to me. You’d rather have just stayed a gigolo.”

Yeah, so apparently mentioning that particular bit of doubt, which he’d done as an ‘I’m so scared and in love with you and I don’t know what to do with myself because this was so much easier before’ thing hadn’t been the right tact.

He rubs his forehead. “I love you. I am so terrified that something will happen to you. I hate feeling like this. I hate that I don’t know what to do with this.”

“Just stop it!” Ziva bites out. “You are not alone. You are not the only one feeling fear. You aren’t the only one who’s lost someone. You’re the only one who decided to cut one of us out of the picture and act alone. You’re the one who spent hours talking with me about our future, about getting everything in order, about making sure we’d go on… You’re the one who lied to me! You’re the one who cut me out!”

“I’m sorry!” he shouts that, then gets under better control. “It was stupid, and I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care if you’re sorry! You hurt me, and all the sorry on Earth doesn’t take it away. You cannot just make it better by being sorry. It’s not like this was some sort of thing where you just did not know I’d be upset. It’s not like you stepped on my toe or forgot my birthday or this is some sort of misunderstanding. You lied to me!”

“I know. You scared the shit out of me, scared me so bad, made me so angry… I wanted you to feel it, too!”

Ziva looks like she had been getting ready to say something, but that stops her dead. She spends a minute thinking, then says, “So this is… what… revenge?”

“I don’t know. It was stupid it what it is. It was panic and pain and my balls doing the thinking and not my head. And I shouldn’t have lied, and I may not be sorry I hurt you, because, honestly I’m still too fucking pissed at you to be sorry about that, but I still know it was stupid.” He steps closer to her, stopping before he can touch her, wanting to see if she’d meet him halfway, and she does, stepping to him, staring up into his eyes, not touching, though. “And if you want to be angry about me lying to you, fine, I get that, I understand it, and yeah, it was stupid. But I don’t care if you’re angry about me trying to keep you alive. I don’t care if you don’t like my tactics.” His hands close over her shoulders, gentle, and she can feel the slight tremors in his fingers. “I DON’T CARE if I have to lie, cheat, or steal to do it, but you are going to outlive me, and not by minutes or seconds, but by years, decades if I have any say in it. You say you love me, then prove it, don’t ever run into a bomb for me again, don’t throw yourself in front of the bullet.”

“That’s not fair.”

“I don’t care. I know which one of us is the better person, and it’s not me.”


“No! That’s the line in the sand for our relationship. That’s the one boundary that cannot be crossed. Anything else we can talk out, work through, forgive, but you will not throw your life away for mine. That’s it. Love, honor, cherish, bullshit! I don’t care. LIVE! That’s your vow to me. That’s the only one I want, and the only one that matters.

“Not once have you said you were sorry for running into the bomb. It’s all about it’s your choice, and I don’t get a say in it, and I don’t get to be mad about it, and I don’t get to try and stop that, and it’s fucking bullshit! I save lives. That’s my  job. That’s all I’ve ever cared about doing for my entire adult life. That’s it. And I will be damned to fucking hell for the entire rest of eternity if I can’t save YOU!”

Ziva just stares at him, eyes wide, visually tracing the path of the tears running down his cheeks. “I… just…”

He shakes his head, breathing hard, and then says quietly, “That’s your promise to me. You want me, that’s the cost.”

She closes her eyes and sighs, then takes his hands in hers, and pulls him along to sit next to her on the sofa. “How can we be a team if I don’t have your back?”

He’s looking at her hands, her wedding band, then looks up to her eyes and says, “You go home at the end of the day, and that’s all the having my back I’ll ever need.”

She’s looking like she’s trying to find some wiggle room. “Our job is dangerous…”

“I’m not saying avoid danger. I know the job is dangerous. I’m not saying take a desk job. I’m not saying don’t ever go out again. But if you run into danger when you can’t help, when there’s nothing you can do but die… If I survive it… That’s it. You don’t think it’s fair? I don’t care. You cannot ask me to watch you die for nothing.”

“You aren’t nothing.”

“You weren’t going to die for me. Not then. You didn’t even reach for the bomb. You were going to die with me, and that’s… No! That’s my line that can’t be crossed.”

Ziva says sadly, “You have said nothing about living yourself. I don’t get to ask that of you, do I?”

Tony shakes his head again. “You don’t. And it’s not fair, and it’s not even, and I know it. But it’s who I am. I run into the fire to die with you, you don’t run in for me.”

“And you get to just dictate this?”

He shrugs. He knows he can make the promise, but he won’t keep it. “I could lie about it again.”

She glares at him.

“This is it. All honesty, I get to die for or with you, you don’t get to die with me, and if you think that’s me treating you like a child, if you think it’s disrespectful, I’m comfortable with that. This is who I am. I’m going out for a few hours. You think about it. And, I hope…”

He didn’t finish that sentence. He stands up pushes his feet into a pair of sneakers, and heads out of their home.

His wedding ring is a plain gold band. He’d inscribed hers with אתם לא לבד/you are not alone because he liked the promise of it, liked what he meant by it, how that was the day when he saw them having a future in a concrete sort of way.

His, though, is just blank gold.

There’s a jeweler only a few streets down from their apartment, so he heads in that direction. He’s not sure how long what he wants done will take, but he hopes it’ll be fast.

No one else is there. Not a lot of business at two on a Tuesday.

The jeweler hears him and jumps to attention. “Can I help you?”

“I hope so.” He took off his wedding ring and handed it over. “How long would it take to get it engraved?”

“Depends on what you want.”

“Got a piece of paper?”

“Sure.” The clerk lays his ring on the counter, then pokes around for a moment before coming up with a pad and a pen and handing them both over.

אני אחיה.  “That’s what I want.”

“Never tried Hebrew before, but…” He picks up Tony’s ring again, checking how wide it is, looking back at the Hebrew letters. “Yeah, I can do that. Probably about two hours. Give me some time to practice before I do it to your ring.”

Tony nods, turns, and was half way out the door when the jeweler asks, “What’s it mean?”

“I will live.”

He left, seeing the jeweler’s eyebrows still high.  

Three hours later, he’s in the elevator heading back up to their apartment.

He’s not wearing his ring. It’s in his pocket. The Hebrew looks good. All the characters are right. It’s nicely centered.

And hopefully this isn’t the stupidest thing he’s ever done.

She’s at the dining room table, cleaning both of their guns. He knows that she hears when he walks in, but she doesn’t say anything.

He stands behind her, staring at the back of her head, and then places the ring on the table next to her left hand.

“When you can make this promise, you can put it back on me. I want to wear it, but I can’t, not if this isn’t part of it.” Then he steps back, heading for the door again.

She’s staring at it, hasn’t turned to look at him. “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.” He’s still facing the door. “McGee says his door is always open, but I’m not sure I can take McWedded-Bliss right now. I’ve got my phone. Call, and I’ll come.” And then he steps out, into the hall, heading toward the elevator.

He’d pressed the button for the ground floor, but doors hadn’t even shut when his phone rang.

She was standing outside their door, looking down the hall at him, ring in her hand.

She crooks her finger at him, and he came to her, she’s not smiling, or looking particularly happy with him.

He stands in front of her, watching, waiting to see what happens next.

“You will never lie to me again.”

He nods.

She gathers her hand in his, and slips the ring back over his finger. “Come home with me.”

He steps in.

And they weren’t done. There was still a lot of talking, and some crying, but no more yelling. And in the end they had agreed to go see a marriage counselor, because she’s not thrilled with the you will live ultimatum, but she understands that’s his price, and she’s willing to pay it.

And the make-up sex, (which, granted, happened on Wednesday, because they were both exhausted and needed the sleep after that fight) was excellent.

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