They all stood around, in a circle. All in disbelief that where they were was their reality. They looked at the casket and refused to believe he was gone. She wore sunglasses to cover her swollen eyes, to mask the tears that refused to stop falling. They gathered to honor the legacy of Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, a life taken too soon.
She could picture the conversation with him in her head. They had somehow, under the moonlight of her apartment balcony the summer after Gibbs had retired, found themselves talking about how they would want to ‘go’. She had told him she would want to go peacefully, at an old age because that would mean that she had truly survived all life had thrown at her. It was a moment of true vulnerability for her, reminiscent of their talk outside her hotel when he was following her after just having met her, where she told him about her sister Tali. She trusted him then, and she trusted him now. “What about you?”
“Me? I don’t want to go gracefully, I mean it just won’t happen for me, not in this line of work. I would say I’d want it to be dramatic, maybe an explosion or a gunfight? Something cool like in the movies.” She had laughed at his response back then. He had gotten what he wanted, all these years later. But she wondered if he had thought about what he would be leaving behind by going in such a graceless way.
He didn’t expect to get a text from E.J. asking to meet. Yes, they had been in contact, but he didn’t think she would get Cade to come to DC so quickly. He was in the office, chatting with Ziva- a rarity over these past few months given her questions on his new secret assignment- when the text came in and while he didn’t want to cut their conversation short, but he had to go.
“I’ve got to go, sorry Ziva, rain check on the drinks tonight?”
“Is this about your mysterious assignment? Can you not just tell me who your target is? I am worried.”
“You know I can’t. I’ve got to go.”
“Tony,” her tone of voice caused him to stop and look at her, “remember what I told you.”
“I always take care of myself Ziva. Rain check, promise. See you tomorrow.” Little did he know, he wouldn’t be seeing her tomorrow.
It was late. Later than he anticipated. If he had known it would take this long for them to show, he would have geared up more than he did. But he trusted EJ and trusted that Cade would surrender. That was his first mistake. It all happened so quickly. There was a flash, he saw EJ take a hit. Then another flash and Cade went down. He drew his weapon towards the assailant, then another flash. But instead of it coming from his gun, it was from his and he took a hit. It hurt, it went straight into his chest. He was met with immediate pain as he fell to the ground. He didn’t see much after that, he held his hand to his chest, it was covered in blood. He did his best to apply pressure to his wound, but he was weak. He used all his strength to reach into his pocket to grab his phone. Struggling to breathe, he tried to make a call. Before he could, he saw darkness. Ziva’s name was listed on his screen.
She had just gotten home when Gibbs’ called her. His voice was heavy, his words were sparse. “Gibbs, what is it?” For a man of few words, he was speaking even less tonight. She stood in her kitchen for what felt like an eternity waiting to hear from him. She kept prompting him, with every passing second, her worries worsened.
“It’s Tony, Ziver. He’s been shot.”
Her heart dropped. The last thing she ever expected to happen had. She lost all words, she lost all thoughts. All she felt was pain.
“He’s at George Washington Hospital. I’m heading there now. I’ll call you and the team with an update when I can. Stay put.”
“Gibbs you cannot be serious. I am coming with you. I will not be sidelined.”
“Agent David, I need you to stay put. That is an order.” He was serious, he never called ‘Agent David’. But could he really expect her to stay put and just wait? If a shooter was out there trying to shoot Tony, she would do anything to stop him.
“Fine, I will stay. But not for long Gibbs. I am just warning you.” She could almost detect a chuckle as he hung up the phone. But she was serious. She would stay for now, but the longer he waited to call her, the more likely she would be to meet him at the hospital.
Hours passed, well it had really only been one hour, but it felt like so many more. She could not just sit in the office idly as she waited. She had called McGee and Abby and Ducky and Jimmy, they were all worried as well and waiting to hear from Gibbs. After an hour and a half of pacing and calling Gibbs- to only be sent to voicemail- she decided enough was enough. She got in her car and drove. All she could think about was him, all the moments they had shared- the laughs, the cases and the rare personal moments. She could not help but to think that there were many things he had left unsaid that he wished to say, she could only assume because she had many things she wished to tell him. She made a note to tell him when she was with him again. She would not let things go, she would confront what she had known for years head on- it was time. She pulled up to the hospital, she usually would have ran into and demanded answers, but she needed to do one thing before she headed in. She pulled out her phone and opened her email.
This is not working. We have both known for a while that it is not. We both deserve more, we both deserve to be truly happy. Thank you for the wonderful memories.
I wish you the best.
She pressed send before she could convince herself not to. It was the right thing to do, even if Tony did not reciprocate what she intended to talk about, she still should not string Ray along. She tried Gibbs again, to be safe. With no answer, she composed herself. She had not realized that while driving and thinking about Tony, she had started to cry. He is fine, keep it together she told herself. She wiped her tears and got out of her car.
Inside, she fought with numerous nurses to find information on Tony. No one would tell her anything. She was being shut out and she could still not get a hold of Gibbs. “I should have pretended to be his wife, that would have gotten me something.” she whispered to herself.
She wandered aimlessly, hanging around the ER, hoping to catch a glimpse of something. It ended up paying off, she found McGee and Abby waiting too.
“You two could not just sit around and wait either, huh?”
“It was too hard. I’m surprised you weren’t the first one here.” McGee said as he looked at the state she was in. “You okay?”
“I am fine. I have just been walking around, trying to get information out of someone, but no one will tell me anything. This is ridiculous.”
“Did you pretend to be his wife?” She could tell Abby had been crying but could also tell that her joke made her smile.
“I should have but did not. When they change staff, if we have not heard anything, I will say that.”
They talked back and forth for a few minutes before deciding that the best choice for them would be to go upstairs to the surgical floor, it was the most likely place he would be since he was shot. When they got off the elevator, they were met with familiar faces- Ducky and Jimmy. They all sat in silence, just waiting for anything. Even just the smell of Tony. A few hours passed by before they saw Gibbs come through a door with a doctor in hand. His face was serious, but seeing his whole team there waiting made him smile- he knew that no matter what he said, they were all going to be there, waiting for an update.
“Hey guys. Give me a minute.”
She couldn’t take it any longer. She had seen the door he came out of and decided to make a quick escape, hoping to go down the hallway and catch a glimpse of Tony. A split second went by and she ran, pushing the doors open and running down the hall. Everyone followed, Gibbs yelling at her to stop, the doctors urging the same. She made it all the way down to the end of the hall and came face to face with him. Laying there in a hospital bed. She felt a wave of relief sweep through her body because she knew he was alive. She had assumed the worst and she was wrong.
“Ziva. Get back in the waiting room. You can’t be here. He’s too unstable”
“No Gibbs, if there is anywhere I am sure I am supposed to be, it is next to him.” She started to walk towards his room and heard the monitors going off. A crash cart was brought in and they tried to resuscitate him, Gibbs kept pushing everyone back, urging Ziva to leave- this must have happened already- but they all refused. Then they heard silence. Time slowed down. It was eerie, a pin could have dropped on a busy hospital floor and everyone would have been able to hear it. It was the sound of the monitor emitting the same sound, the sound of no rhythm. She heard them yell ‘CLEAR!’ again and then a snap and they were met with nothing again. Again and again they shocked him, and silence followed. After a few minutes, the doctor called it. Time of death.
Time. Of. Death.
She felt as if she was going to die. The silence was killing her. She felt McGee and Jimmy come up behind her. A comforting hand on her shoulder. Then all of a sudden, she felt like she was running in slow motion, with hands holding her back. “NOOOOO!” All she could yell was no as violent tears fell down her face. He couldn’t be gone, it was just not possible. She felt hands holding her, holding her back as she fought them off to be near him. When she managed to get away, she ran into his room- Gibbs didn’t even try to stop her- and threw her hands over his body. She felt nothing, no heartbeat, no breathing. He was gone.
“No no noooo. No no, Tony, no. This can’t be happening.” She cried and cried as she clutched his body. Begging him to come back, begging for this to all be a dream. She had never felt so weak, she fell off him and onto the floor, gripping her knees as she saw them raise the sheet over his head. The whole team entered the room, Jimmy taking a seat beside her on the floor, tears streaming down his face too. He held her, rubbing her shoulder and whispering comforting words in her ear, telling her it would all be alright. But she knew she wouldn’t. Hours passed and she never moved. His body was eventually taken away, to be moved to NCIS for an autopsy to be performed. Jimmy tried to get her to stand but she refused. She hadn’t spoken since everyone came into the room. Gibbs waved Jimmy away and he got down to her level. He tried to get her to look at him but she resisted. He rubbed her fingers delicately as he had done many times before.
“Ziver, you need to leave. Let’s get you home.”
“I can’t Gibbs, I can’t leave. I just can’t go home now.”
Before she could speak again, he put his arms under her and picked her up. She clutched to him as he took her out of the hospital, the whole team following with red eyes and more emotions than anyone could imagine. Gibbs took her back to his house, McGee and Abby followed. She sat on his couch, clutching something Gibbs had given her in the car- Tony’s badge. She was urged to sleep, to lay her head down and rest. She tried but she couldn’t. She couldn’t sleep because she would hope that it was all a dream and when she woke up she would have to face reality all over again.
She could hear the distinct chatter coming from the dining room. Vance had come to Gibbs’ house and was talking to him and McGee. Abby cradled Ziva, not wanting to let her go. It was then that she drifted off to sleep. When she awoke, she could see that it was daylight. Gibbs was at his kitchen table, McGee was asleep on the floor and Abby was next to her on the couch. She quietly got up and joined Gibbs at the table. She knew that what happened last night was not a dream, that it really happened and while she was still in disbelief, she knew it was her reality.
“Morning.” Gibbs gruffly greeted her.
“Is it?” She sat next to him and he placed a hand over hers. Before she could stop them, tears fell from her eyes. She put her other hand over her eyes, trying to control the emotions that would not stop spilling out.
“Ziva, it’s okay. We’re all feeling it.” He stopped for a brief moment before continuing. “But, some of us aren’t feeling them in nearly the same way as you.” He gave her a probing glace.
This was it, the moment. She had planned on having it with Tony last night but that was never going to happen. This was the next alternative, this would make it all the more real. She kept quiet for a few more moments, while she composed herself. “I loved him, Gibbs. I denied it for years, pushed it to the side, out of my mind. But I intended to tell him last night and never got to. So I am telling you now. I loved him and I have a feeling he loved me too. I will never know for sure though now.”
There was silence between them again as Gibbs sipped on his coffee, his other hand never leaving hers. Finally, he looked her directly in the eyes and spoke. “I know you loved him. And I know he loved you.”
“You cannot be sure. He and I never even talked about it.”
“He told me. Last night. It was one of the last things he said to me. I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to be the one to tell you, but well here we are.”
They sat in silence as she cried even more.
A few days later, after catching his killer, Tony was laid to rest. The funeral was beautiful, full of love and light and laughter. Something he would have liked. A debrief was held a few days after that at NCIS. No one had been in since the funeral. Vance was brief, expressing how much they were all feeling, giving them as much time as they needed to cope and process this loss. She felt like he was staring deep into her eyes as he suggested taking some time off for all of them.
She took two weeks off. Helping Senior get through it and sort things out with his apartment. Senior said it was cathartic but also unbelievable that he was doing this for his son. “Never imagined I would be the one to do this for Junior, I always thought he would do it for me years down the road.” And he was right, this shouldn’t be something they had to do.
She stayed at his apartment as long as she could, sleeping in his bed, watching his favorite movies. She found a stash of old pictures that brought her comfort. It was in his bedside table that she found something that made her smile- the picture he had taken of her in Paris. She turned over the photo and saw a tiny note he had written.
Paris, 2010. A picture of the love of my life. One day, she’ll know. TD.
Before she could stop, she started to cry. How could they have gone so many years and never talked about this. How could she have let him die without telling him how she felt? How could they have let so much time pass them by? She was about to get up when she saw something else in his drawer, it was an old crime scene photo from her liaison days. She didn’t remember taking the photo, but it was of them on their undercover assignment. They had had very little to go off of when prepping for the assignment, but Gibbs had had them pose for some ‘family’ photos to have as backup and there was one of the two of them, looking into each others’ eyes. He had kept it close to him all these years, along with their other picture from Paris that a fellow tourist took of them. How had she not seen the signs, he gave her so many signs. How did she miss them? The way he would stare at her when he was around any other men, the way he would question their motives. It wasn’t jealousy, it was because he cared more than he could say. “Why would you never tell me.” She whispered to him as she looked at the pictures.
“He loved you so much Ziva, he just didn’t know how to express that to you.” She had not heard Senior come into the room.
“I never knew. Well I thought maybe, but I never had the guts to question him on it. I guess I did not want to know the answer. It is easier to deny if you do not truly know the truth.” She shrugged, if only she hadn’t been such a coward. “I was going to tell him, at the hospital. I was going to do it.”
“I know you were.” He had walked in and sat on the bed beside her. “He knew, even if you didn’t get a chance to tell him. He knew.”
“But did he really? I pushed him away every time.” Her voice began to raise. “I mean he rescued me from the desert when he thought I was dead and I still said NOTHING. What is wrong with me? He told me he could not live without me. And I just went back to life as normal?” She stopped, she had gone from sad to angry at herself all in one breath. “The crazy thing is, I felt the same way back then. I knew when I saw him in the chair across from me in Somalia that I never wanted to live without him. But here we are, he died not knowing I always felt the same way. I regret that.”
“He knew Ziva.” Senior tried to get her to look at him, but she refused. He urged her again, finally giving in. “I need you to know that he knew. He just never knew the right time, or the right way to do it. He knew, I know it.” She collapsed into his arms and he patted her back as she cried out to him. He had never seen her so emotional.
They sat there for a few minutes while she calmed down. “Do you mind if I take these?” She showed him the pictures.
“Of course, you take whatever you want.” He left her alone again to look through more things. She found his Ohio State sweatshirt and the shirt he was wearing the first day they met and took them both with her, along with a few movies and the pictures from his bedside table. She said her goodbyes, intending to sneak back in once he had left to stay the night again.
She returned to work after two weeks but nothing was the same. She tried to push through, for him, but she couldn’t. Every time she looked up and his eyes did not meet hers, she felt tears well up in her eyes. Gibbs noticed, as did McGee. They were all barely hanging on and they could all tell. Gibbs sent them both home, telling them to take more time.
She dodged McGee’s calls for days, not wanting to do anything but sit in silence. But then she remembered how much Tony liked to have a good drink. She texted McGee and they met for drinks a few hours later.
“To Tony.” They toasted him and took a sip of their drinks. “So how are you really Ziva? And don’t say fine, because I know you’re not.”
He was right, she was not fine. She just did not know if she had the strength to truly tell him how she was feeling. But she knew McGee, she knew he would get it. “You are right, I am not fine. I do not think I ever will be honestly.” She paused, not sure how honest to be as she continued. “It is like a piece of me is missing. I look up and see his empty desk and know that he will never sit there again. I see his name in my phone and know that if I call, he will never answer. I smell his cologne and know that it is just a reflex to assume it is him, but when I open my eyes, it never is. It is like my brain knows he is gone, but my heart is holding onto a small piece of hope that he is not.”
She started to break down and he put his arm around her shoulder. “I know what you mean. I keep expecting him to just waltz into the squad room one day and throw his bag down like he used to and make a joke about me being a geek or use one of his ‘Mc-’ nicknames. But he never does.” She stopped crying to chuckle a little. As much as she remembered the emotional memories of him, there were also so many funny ones too. He continued, shifting the conversation a little. “Sometimes I just want to drive and keep driving until I find a spot to stop and then just yell. Scream out to him for leaving us. But I know I can’t. So I remember the good times.”
“I get that. I do. I would love to just have him back, even if it meant he would torment us every day.” The mood had lightened a little after his screaming comment and they began talking about their favorite moments with him- most involving a movie line or a joke. Tony was many things, but no one would ever argue that he was not always there to lighten up their moods or make them laugh at just the right moment. They stayed at the bar for a few hours, talking about the good times they shared. Remembering the good man that he was.
McGee returned to work the next day, but she stayed home for another week. No one pushed her to come back, they all knew this had not been easy for her and pushing might make her run away.
She returned to Tony’s, just to be close to him. Senior had found someone who was interested in buying his place, so she knew these moments would be fleeting very soon. She was surprised to hear a knock at the door. When she opened it, she was greeted by Jimmy. “How did you know I was here?”
“Just a gut feeling I guess. Plus Senior stopped by today to say hi before saying he returned to New York for a few days before coming back for the sale of this place. He mentioned you had been here every day. And, well, it’s where I would go too.”
She made them some tea and they talked back and forth for a while. Jimmy updated her on the team and how everyone was doing. “They are definitely missing you. Missing him. It’s so different now.” She could tell there was something he came there to ask her, but was afraid to. “Jimmy, if there is something you want to ask me, you can. Do not be afraid.”
“Well I don’t want to push, but I have to wonder. Ziva, are you ever going to come back? We all know you’re grieving, but are you planning on coming back?”
It was something she had thought about a lot, whether she could realistically go to work there every day and not see him. And she knew eventually they would replace him and she did not know how she would react. But she had never thought she would never return. “I do not know. I want to, but it is just so difficult. To not see him.” He nodded, fully understanding where she was coming from. They talked for another hour before he left to go home to his fiancee. She stayed the night there again, sleeping in one of his old shirts.
When she finally returned to work, she felt better- she was in a better head space, like she might actually be able to work. It had been almost a month since he died and she felt like she could do it, she could function in the office without him there. She was not fine yet, but she was working on it. She was working on accepting her new reality. A few weeks passed, and the team was working hard to cope and to be okay, and it seemed that they were finally healing. That was until they were confronted with a case similar to their reality, a trusted and loved friend killed in cold blood. It had been eight weeks since he died and she found herself hyperventilating in the bathroom, barely able to compose herself. Gibbs found her curled up in the women’s bathroom, in the same way she sat on the hospital floor. He sent her into the field to search for evidence, taking the kid gloves off this time around.
She was wandering around the woods, searching for anything when she found herself thinking about the numerous times she and Tony had been sent to the woods to search for clues. It brought her comfort as she walked. But then she heard something, a whisper that sounded just like him. She followed the sound, ducking under branches and bushes. Her boots pounding the mud as she moved through the forest. She stopped when she found a clearing and realized she had let the thoughts in her head get the best of her. She was about to turn around when she remembered what McGee said about wanting to just scream out to him. Before she could stop herself, she was yelling at the top of her lungs. “TONY.” Tears running down her face, she yelled and screamed and kicked rocks. She cursed his name for leaving her. She yelled at him for being the first to go, to go without then telling each other how they felt. She screamed at him for not taking care of himself. She screamed till her voice was hoarse and she had no tears left in her eyes. It was cathartic, yes, but all her yelling and screaming and crying was never going to bring him back.
She quickly found her way back to the car, no evidence in hand, but a new look on life. She could not let this make her mad, she would not let this experience drive her insane. He would not have wanted that for her. But she had to do something. She couldn’t go home and she couldn’t go to his home- they both felt empty. So she went to Gibbs’ home. He was waiting for her, she had expected that. He always knew when she needed him the most and she had avoided having this talk with him since that day in the hospital.
“Hey Ziver. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Yeah, I sent you to those woods hours ago.”
“Well I did not find anything substantial there, I am sorry.”
“Didn’t think you would.” He had a smirk on his face.
“Then why did you send me?”
“You needed to clear your head. I need you to clear your head. I need to know if you’re really in this. Are you in this still?”
It was a question she had asked herself many times, but could never answer. “I do not know.” The honesty slipped out of her mouth before she had a chance to stop it. It was met with a surprised look from Gibbs.
“Wow, I didn’t think I would get a straight answer from you.” She didn’t either, if she had had a chance, she would have withheld it, but she did not and now he knew.
“I am sorry, Gibbs. I am trying. I really am. This is me me trying, truly I am. I just-” she could barely put her thoughts into words, “I can barely function. I cannot focus on anything but him.”
Her honesty surprised him. He had thought he would have to wrangle a response out of her, it was refreshing to see her this way. “It’s okay. It’s been hard for all of us.” He wasn’t lying, everyone was still reeling from his sudden death. But she had been different, it wasn’t pushing her forward, instead it was holding her back. “I’m worried about you Ziva. I’m worried you’ll never fully come back from this.”
He was right to worry. She was worried about it too. They sat on his couch, just allowing the silence to consume the conversation. She finally spoke up, after several long moments of thought. “I just keep losing pieces of me. I lost the innocence of childhood, losing my mother and sister. Then I killed my brother, something I still do not regret, but it is something I think about often. Then I lost faith in myself and this team and I accepted an suicide mission, a part of me will have always died in the desert of Somalia, to losing Israel as the country I love so much. And now, I am still feeling the loss of Mike Franks, a man we all saw as invincible. To this, to losing someone who so delicately held my heart for years without knowing how I truly felt. I just do not know how much longer I can do this, put myself out there to be continuously hurt.” She paused- soft tears welling in her eyes, unsure if she should tell Gibbs about the moments after Franks died, in the elevator with Tony. “We actually talked about it, after Franks died. I told him I did not know how much longer I could do it. And do you know what he told me? ‘Better us than someone who didn’t sign up for it’.” She laughed, thinking about the moment. He really was meant for this job. “I never thought that his words would ever come true, let alone a few months later.”
“It sounds like you have a lot to think about.”
“I do.” She avoided his gaze, because she knew the next thing he said might not be welcomed. She took a deep breath, giving herself the confidence to continue with her honesty. “Are you going to be mad at me if I do not come back from all this?” The look he gave her could break her heart and repair it all in one moment.
“Ziva, I could never be mad. I just want you to be happy, kid. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you all.”
“I know. And you know, if we are being honest, that is all we want for you too.” With that, he gave her a kiss on the cheek and went down to his basement. She hung around for a few minutes, getting her bearings, before leaving. She headed to Tony’s apartment with her computer in hand. She watched Casablanca- a true classic Tony always quelled about- while she searched online for the answer she was looking for.
A few days later, Senior returned to town. Ziva met him at the train station and gave him a ride to Tony’s place. She had practiced this conversation over and over again in her head, but actually doing it was difficult. Senior could sense that something was on her mind, that must have been where Tony got it from.
“What’s on your mind Ziva?”
“Oh nothing. Well a lot actually, but it can wait.”
“Is this about Junior’s apartment? Did you want to buy it? If so, tell me before we move forward, you would of course have first pick at it.”
“No. It is not about that. I am glad you have found someone for it.” She paused, no better time than now to confront the situation. “I actually wanted to talk to you about something else. Are you planning on staying in New York?”
“Well I hadn’t ever considered leaving. Maybe one day I would move closer to Junior, but now that he’s gone, I think New York is where I’m meant to stay. Why do you ask?”
“I will not lie. These past almost three months have been very difficult. I have questioned whether I am meant to stay here anymore, with Tony gone. A piece of me is missing. And I was thinking, New York has many opportunities.”
“Ziva, my dear, what are you saying?”
“I thought it might be nice to be close to each other. I think Tony would have liked for us to be close, to take care of each other.”
Senior smiled at her. “I couldn’t agree more. What did you have in mind?” She went on to tell him about different jobs she had seen online that she felt qualified for. And how she wanted to spend the rest of her life helping others, the way Tony had a way of doing.
“I just feel like if I am going to leave NCIS and DC, that it should be for something good. Something Tony would push me to do if he were still around. He would not want me to sit in a place and mope. He would want me to live. But I just cannot imagine doing that at NCIS anymore, not without him as my partner.”
“Ziva, I love this. You tell me what you need and I will help you.” They arrived at Tony’s place to walk through it one more time before selling it to a wonderful couple. Senior stayed in town for another day, he came to NCIS with Ziva to see everyone and tell them the news. While they were all captivated by Senior, Ziva snuck off to Vance’s office. They had many things to talk about.
“Ziva, come in. I can’t lie to you, I’ve been expecting this meeting for a while now.”
“You do not even know what I am going to say.”
“Let’s just say I have a feeling I know because if I was in your shoes, I would probably do the same thing.” He knew her all too well.
“I am here because I need to resign. I have loved my time here and it has shaped me into the woman I am. I have so much gratitude for this place, but I cannot lie when I say that it is too difficult for me now. To come in and see his empty desk, knowing it will eventually be filled. To not work with him every day, and not because he left, but because he is no longer here. I thought I could do it, but it turns out, I cannot.”
“I get it. I’m surprised it took you so long to realize it. So what’s next for you Miss David?”
“I am going to move to New York, live next door to Senior and carry on the legacy of Tony.”
“That sounds like a great idea, I’m excited to see you grow there.”
“Thank you Director. I owe you so much. You have stuck your neck out for me many times, helped me get to where I am. I cannot thank you enough.”
“It’s been a pleasure Ziva.” They shook hands and walked down to the squadroom together. They joined the rest of the team. Together, Senior and Ziva told them of their plan to move to New York. Abby cried and refused to accept it, but also gave them the biggest hug.
“I’m going to come visit you so often!”
McGee had a look of happiness on his face for the first time in months. He was truly happy for them. To be starting over and to honor the legacy of someone they loved so much.
“It’s gonna be weird not having you here. But you can expect a visit from me too.”
Jimmy and Ducky were so excited to see a smile back on their friend’s face. They had missed seeing joy in her eyes. Gibbs couldn’t help but smile too.
Nine months later Ziva and Senior were on the train to DC for the one year anniversary of Tony’s death. They had not been back to DC since they left and were both equally excited to see everyone. They were also excited to see the two new team members who had joined the team. They arrived at the Navy Yard and were immediately greeted by Abby.
“YOU’RE HERE! YAY!” She enveloped them in her signature hug.
“Yes we are, I am excited to be back. And the Navy Yard looks great! You can barely tell there was a bombing.” They were still in disbelief that someone bombed NCIS, but of course the team had caught the man responsible.
“Abby, can you please escort us inside. We are so excited to meet the new team.”
She led them inside and up the elevator to the squad room. McGee stood waiting next to Ziva’s old desk, next to a perky blonde. “Ziva, Senior, hi!” He gave them both hugs before introducing them to the blond. “Meet our newest NCIS agent- officially as of last week she finished her FLETC and training requirements- Eleanor Bishop.”
She popped up from her spot, eating a burrito and extending a hand to them both. “It’s so nice to meet you both! Ziva, I’ve heard amazing things, I’m so honored to meet you.”
“It is nice to meet you. The desk fits you well.”
“And this guy over here is Nick Torres, he used to work undercover but came to work with us after the bombing. He’s been here since June.” He shook their hands and said hi but was a man of few words.
“I’m still adjusting to life at a desk instead of traveling around from assignment to assignment.”
“I remember that all too well. Welcome.”
They made their way around the building, saying hi to old friends and seeing the newly renovated building. Eventually, they left to get settled before meeting everyone the next day at the cemetery.
It was a solemn day. Ziva had been preparing for this for weeks, working through unresolved emotions that would pop up every so often. She still held a lot of regret for things left unsaid between her and Tony, but was working through it. Her job kept her busy. She had become a translator at a charity in the city that helped immigrants get a fresh start, she worked specifically with the women and children who fled the Middle East. It was not easy, but she felt good about what she was doing. She could still hear Tony’s voice, brief memories of their time at NCIS, funny things he would say, she could picture the looks they used to give each other. It was difficult but she felt solace thinking about the good times with him. And while she wished she had more time with him, she clung to the memories.
They spent the hour at the cemetery talking about Tony- the good and the bad. Laughs were had and tears were shed. He was so loved and he was missed, even a year later his death was still felt so boldly. They left and went to Gibbs’ home for dinner- steaks cooked by him, just the way he liked them. “You ready Ziva?” Senior had snapped her out of her thoughts as she watched her friends leave the cemetery for their cars.
“Yes, I just need one moment alone with him.” Senior nodded and went to the car. She stood and talked to him as if he was in front of her. She let the tears fall, there was no use trying to stop them. She told him about her job and how she and Senior lived next door to each other. She enjoyed the extra time she had with him.
“I still wish every day you were here with me. I wish you had been able to stay. I love you still.”
She placed a kiss on his tombstone and walked to the car. They stayed at Gibbs’ for a few hours. Talked with Jimmy and his new bride Breena. Met Delilah, McGee’s new girlfriend. It was a wonderful day, Tony would have loved it. Senior and Ziva left a few days later, promising to make this a yearly event. All of them coming together to celebrate Tony.
Another year passed, Ziva and Senior made the trip back to DC for the celebration of Tony. But this time was different, there was much to celebrate. McGee and Delilah had moved in together, Jimmy and Breena were trying to start a family, and Ziva had her own secret.
A few months before, she had called a certain bank to inquire about something. With the approval of Senior, she started the process of IVF to have a baby. She found out that while Tony’s specimen was still in the bank in Ohio, he also had another specimen at a DC location- one that was almost 10 years old, she talked to a few doctors and before she knew it, she was getting treatments to have a baby. She had a positive pregnancy test in her bag to share with the team. She couldn’t believe that this was really happening, that after all this time, she was still going to have a constant, beautiful reminder of Tony in child form. She also couldn’t believe that the sperm bank still had his specimen.
The gatherings at the cemetery had gotten shorter over time, they sought comfort seeing his tombstone, but enjoyed the part after where they all sat down and talked about their lives and their favorite memories of Tony. One thing never changed, Ziva would always stay back at the cemetery and have a private conversation with Tony. This year was special.
“I know it might sound weird, but it is really happening. I am really having a baby- your baby. I know you might be gasping or eye rolling at me, but I am happy. I will have a little you to annoy me for the rest of my days. I still wish you were here, every day. I wish you would have stayed. I love you.”
Talia ‘Tali’ David-DiNozzo was born eight months later on Tony’s birthday, like it was all meant to be. She was beautiful and reminded Ziva every day of Tony. She had his smile, his energy and his love of movies. She sat with her for hours, watching the classics Tony had quoted for years. And the whole time, Tali sat in her arms, enamored by the movies on the screen. She truly was her father's daughter. She made the trip with them a few months later to DC to see her family. What used to be a time of sadness had become a yearly trip where family met again and again to discuss how they lived through the loss of their loved one.
As the years passed, their family expanded. One child turned into three and they slowly started welcoming new members. They had all grown up. And they had lost too. Lost a fiance, lost a father and lost two team members- one to death and the other to a new journey in London. One thing never changed, they would meet each year in September to remember and celebrate.
On the ten year anniversary of his death, they gathered again. This time mourning the loss of a father and friend, a Poppop. Senior had gone to be with his son after fighting the good fight with cancer.
“He was a good man. The best. Always charming with his words. And so caring. And while he had his flaws, one thing was true, he made up for all the lost time by being here and present. He loved us all so much. He was there for each one of us, at different points in our lives. He was there for me at the hardest time of my life, when I thought I could not go on, he picked me up and offered me a shoulder to cry on, someone to rely on. He offered me a fresh start. He helped me raise Tali and showed a glimpse of who her father was. He was a wonderful man and he will be missed. But he is with Tony again, and that brings me comfort.”
Her words rang true to everyone. They were together again. As everyone left, Tali stood next to Ziva as she stayed back at Tony’s tombstone.
“Ten years is a long time. Even to this day, I cannot believe you aren’t with us. We love you. We miss you. I miss you always, in my bones, in my thoughts, in my heart. I still wish you were here every day. I wish you could see the life we have built. I wish you had stayed. I love you.”
Even after ten years, she still got emotional talking to him. The love of her life. She held Tali’s hand as they walked to their car to head to Gibbs’ house. She felt a few small tears ricochet down her cheek.