NEVER TO FORGET
Tony knows he'll never forget Ziva.
An established relationship story.
Warning: Major character death.
Written: May 2013. Word count: 2,225.
"I'm so sorry, Tony."
"I know, Abbs." He looks at her and sees the tears streaming down her face, destroying her make-up.
"I - Oh, Tony," and suddenly she throws her arms around him and holds him tightly as she sobs. For a moment he just stands there, not certain he can cope with her grief. And then it's as if someone is speaking to him and not just anyone. It's as if Ziva is speaking to him, telling him to put his arms around Abby, to comfort her; telling him he is not alone. That he will never be alone.
"Oh, Ziva," he whispers softly, so very, very softly, he's sure Abby won't have heard him. He puts his arms around Abby and pulls her nearer to him, resting his cheek on her head as she goes on sobbing. He lets tears slip from his eyes for a moment, before he again hears her telling him not to cry; telling him not to grieve for her; telling him he is not alone. That he will never be alone.
Suddenly the doors to Abby's lab swish open and he looks up. There in the doorway are Tim and Jimmy just staring at him. "I've just heard," Tim says. "Jimmy's just told me. Oh, Tony. I'm so sorry, so very sorry."
Tony swallows as he looks into the pale face of the man who five years ago became the youngest director a Federal Agency had ever had. "I know, Tim," he says, letting go of Abby with one hand to reach out to Tim.
Tim takes his hand and Jimmy puts his arm around Tony's shoulders and suddenly the four of them are in a huddle, embracing one another, holding onto one another, comforting one another, taking comfort from one another.
It reminds Tony of another time when four of them had held one another, given comfort to one another - but the fourth person that time hadn't been Jimmy, it had been Ziva. Ziva. A sob escapes him and he grips Abby so tightly he hears her gasp. His other hand is still in Tim's and he is holding onto Tim as if he was a life-line.
And then he hears her again, telling him not to cry, telling him not to grieve; telling him he is not alone. That he will never be alone. He bites his lip and forces himself to stop crying; he loosens the grip he has on Abby and Tim and straightens up. "I'll be all right," he says, as he looks at his three closest friends. "Ziva'd want me to be all right." And he hears her telling him that finally he's right about something. He even manages to smile a little.
"Tony, would you like me to drive you home?" Jimmy asks, as he pulls his glasses off and polishes them.
And the smile fades. Home. Home to where he and Ziva lived. Home to where the kids will be waiting. What does he say to them? How does he tell them their mommy is - How can he? They're so young, so very young, they are so little, so innocent, how can he tell them? How can he tell them in a way they'll understand? How can he, when he can't understand himself?
And once more she's there, talking to him, telling him he isn't alone; telling him to tell the kids she loves them - after all that's all they really need to know. Mommy loves them.
And that's what he'll tell them and he'll hold them and comfort them and take comfort from them, from the two perfect little people he and Ziva made, made from their love for one another. And he knows she's smiling as he thinks this; he knows it's what she would want him to do, what she would want him to remember.
"Thanks, Jimmy," he says, and puts his hand on Jimmy's shoulder and squeezes it. Then he turns and is about to leave when something occurs to him. He stops and looks back in time to see Tim put his arm around Abby and hand her a handkerchief. "Tim?" he says.
Both Abby and Tim look at him. "Yes, Tony?" Tim's voice is low and heavy with pain and regret and sorrow. And it's not just pain and regret and sorrow for Tony, it's for Tim too, because Ziva was Tim's friend and Abby's and Jimmy's. She wasn't just Tony's wife and Eli and Tali's mommy; she was a friend as well; a good friend; the best friend anyone could have. And they were more than just friends; they were family - they still are family.
He swallows as once more he hears her telling him not to be sad, not to grieve; telling him he isn't alone. That he'll never be alone. And he isn't, he knows that, he has the kids, he has Tim, Abby, Jimmy and - "Gibbs and Ducky," he says suddenly. "Has anyone . . ." He trails off.
"I called Dr. Mallard," Jimmy says quickly. "They were playing golf, well, Ducky was playing golf, Gibbs was -" He shakes his head and stops speaking. "They're on their way."
Tony nods. Two more people who will grieve for Ziva; who love Ziva; who will miss Ziva; who will never forget Ziva. Two more members of the family.
"Is that what you wanted to ask, Tony?" Tim says gently.
For a moment Tony frowns and then remembers. "No," he says. He swallows again and says, making sure his voice is low and free from any hint of tears, "Ned," he says. "Tell him, tell him, Tim, promise me you'll tell him, tell him, make sure he realizes, make sure he understands, make sure he accepts, that it wasn't his fault."
Tim puts his hand on Tony's shoulder and squeezes it. "I will, Tony," he says.
"Because it wasn't," Tony says. "It wasn't his fault. It wasn't, Tim. It wasn't anyone's fault," he adds softly. "Just make sure he knows that."
Tim nods. "I will."
"Thanks." He knows she's smiling; he knows his words have made her happy; have reassured her. And he hopes she knows they aren't just words; he hopes she knows that he means them.
"It wasn't anyone's fault," he repeats, before he once more turns and with Jimmy at his side leaves Abby's lab.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
"Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Uncle Jimmy! Uncle Jimmy!" Eli and Tali cry in unison, as they both run towards Tony and Jimmy and throw themselves against them.
Tony swings Tali up into his arms and Jimmy picks Eli up and both of them begin to babble away, finishing one another's sentences as twins tend to do, telling Tony and Jimmy about what they've done that morning and how good they've been.
And as he holds Tali, as he smells her fresh, innocent scent and sees her smile, the smile that is so like Ziva's, and hears her and Eli laugh and giggle he doesn't know how he's going to tell them. What he's going to tell them? How can he tell them? How can he take the innocence, the happiness, the smiles away? How can he tell them their mommy won't be coming home?
And then once more she's there, he can hear her, and again she's telling him to simply tell them that Mommy loves them. And so he does.
He puts Tali down and Jimmy puts Eli down and then he squats down on the floor in front of them, puts his arms around them, and with Jimmy resting his hands on Eli and Tali's shoulders he tells them. He tells them their Mommy has died and that she won't be coming home again and that she loves them; she loves them so much and always will. And he promises them he won't let a day go by without showing them the love their mommy and daddy had for each other and for them.
They just stand and stare at him, eyes huge in their faces, eyes that are just like Ziva's. They're holding hands and just staring at him. "You won't go away will you, Daddy?" Tali asks.
Tony shakes his head. "No, honey," he says softly, stroking her head. "Daddy won't go away." And he won't. He'll talk to Tim tomorrow or even later today and tell him he wants to move to a different team. Tim will understand, Tony knows he will. He doesn't want to leave NCIS; he doesn't want to leave his family, but he can no longer go on risking his life every day - not now.
He turns to look at Eli "Yes, Eli?"
"Shall I draw Mommy a picture?"
Tony swallows hard. "Yes, Eli. You draw Mommy a picture."
Tali puts her head on one side. "But how will Mommy see it?"
Tony swallows hard again. He really isn't sure he can answer that question. Maybe he shouldn't have said 'yes'. And then she's there, once more, talking to him; telling him she loves him, loves Eli; loves Tali. And he knows how to answer.
"Because she loves you," he says.
For a moment he is not certain it will be enough of an answer. But then Tali nods solemnly, "I'll draw Mommy a picture too," she says, and then before Tony can answer she turns to Eli, "Come on, Eli," she says and hand-in-hand they walk off.
Tony runs his hand over his face as he stands up and looks at Jimmy. "Was that the right thing to say?" he asks. "Do you think they understand?"
Jimmy is silent for a moment and then says, "I think they do, Tony, well as much as they can understand."
"Do you want me to stay for a while?"
Tony does. He really does. But he knows the longer he goes on not being alone, they harder it will be. So he gives Jimmy's arm a squeeze and shakes his head, "Thanks, Jimmy, but I think I'd like to be alone for a while."
Jimmy looks at him. "If you're quite sure."
Tony nodes. "Yeah, Jimmy, I am. I really am. Thanks for driving me home."
"Anytime. And Tony?"
"If you need anything, anything at all, you must call me, okay? Any time, Tony, even the middle of the night. Call me - do you promise?"
Tony squeezes Jimmy's arm again and nods. "I promise, Jimmy," he says
"Good." Jimmy puts his hand on Tony's shoulder and squeezes it, while just looking silently at Tony. Then he turns and leave Tony alone.
He can hear the sounds of Tali and Eli chattering away, giggling even as they drew pictures and the sounds make him swallow a sob, while at the same time make him smile. They'll get through this; they will get through this; him, the kids, the rest of the family, they will survive - because they have one another.
"I'll never forget you, Ziva," he says. "Never."
And he sees her smile and hears her telling him that in one way they won't be apart, because she knows she'll always have a place in his heart. He hears her telling him not to grieve too much, not to cry, not to cling to the past. He hears her telling him again never to let the kids forget how much she loves them. And he hears her telling him how much she loves him, how she'll watch over him, how she'll always be a part of his life. And he hears her telling him that his life can't end; that he has to live, not just exist; that he has to go on, not just for the kids and their friends and family, but for him.
"I miss you, Ziva. And I'll never stop loving you. And I will love Eli and Tali for both of us. I'll never let them forget you and I'll show them every day, Ziva, how much they are loved. How our love made them."
And he hears her sigh with approval.
"Oh, Ziva," he whispers as the tears begin to fill his eyes. "I wish -"
"Daddy! Daddy! We've finished. We've finished the pictures for Mommy."
He wipes his eyes quickly and turns around as still holding hands Eli and Tali run up, each holding a picture. As he takes them and looks at them, it's all he can do to stop the tears from falling from his eyes. As he stares at the pictures he realizes that the twins may only be four, but they do understand - at least as much as they can.
"They're lovely," he says, putting his arms around his children.
"And Mommy can really see them, can't she?" Eli asks slowly.
Before Tony can speak, Tali turns to her brother and says, "Of course she can, Eli. Mommy can see them because Mommy loves us."
Tony pulls them a little nearer to him and holds them before they both begin to wriggle a little. He lets them go and watches them run off together.
"I love you, Ziva," he says. "I'll never forget."
And after wiping his eyes swiftly, he puts his hands in his pockets and strides off after his children - after all baths don't just happen by themselves.
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