Picking Up the Pieces - Chapter 4

He told everybody he was fine. That everything was just peachy. He told everybody he didn’t need to see a shrink, either one working for NCIS or one he had to pay for himself.

Tony chuckled in the darkness, laying on his bed, an arm curved under his head.

If they could see him right now, they’d probably strap him into a straight-jacket and lock him up into a white, padded room.

“You know,” he murmured, waiting for the sun to rise, “I actually finished that ‘I will’ list.”

Ziva smiled at him from the foot of his bed. “You did?”

“Hmmm.”

“What did you write in it?”

He shook his head. “Oh, no. I’m not telling. You didn’t show me yours, I won’t show you mine.”

“Mine is buried in Israel, yours is here somewhere.” She smirked. “I know I’ll find it eventually. Or convince you to show it to me.”

“You think me easy?”

“No, not easy, Tony,” she said softly. “Never easy. You are...”

“Handsome? Funny?” He swallowed loudly as he realized he was echoing their conversation on that tarmac in Israel so long ago. Closed his eyes. “What?”

Silence. Then a whispered, “Loved.”

He opened his eyes and found himself alone. The first sun rays crept into his bedroom and she was gone. As always, when daylight came, she went away. Leaving him alone. Alone to face yet another day without her.

He slowly sat up in bed and scratched his chest. As always, his fingers brushed against the golden chain he kept around his neck, close to his heart. The necklace with a golden Star of David she’d slipped into his pocket as they kissed.

Had she known back then, it would’ve turned into his only connection to her?

True, he still had the pictures...The ones taken at different birthday parties throughout the years, those of her in a bikini that had helped him remain sane those four months he’d spent at sea. But the necklace had been hers.

He glanced at his bedside table and smiled wistfully. There, in a silver frame, was his absolute favorite photograph of her. The one from Paris.

She was so beautiful his heart ached. Every time he looked at that picture, his heart broke, yet he refused to put it away. This way he felt she watched over him as he slept. As he dreamed of her. As she visited him when the sun started to rise.

He missed her so much it hurt.

And every time he thought about spending the rest of his life without her, of all those empty, sad years ahead of him, he almost...

He shook his head, silently berating himself for even contemplating it.

He remembered a quote from a book she’d recommended one night when they'd all gone out for drinks together. She'd raved about that book, actually. He’d never before seen her so excited about a book, so he’d decided to see what all the fuss was about. It had turned out to be a series, and he'd ended up devouring it in a couple of days. And he’d actually liked it. He’d never told her that.

‘The man that dies escapes. Plain and simple. Game over. End of pain...Try living for someone. Through it all—good, bad, thick, thin, joy, suffering. That’s the hard thing.’*

So every time he thought about eating a bullet, he thought of that book, of that quote. He owed it to her to be strong, to do the hard thing.

“Okay, DiNozzo,” he said to himself, looking at his reflection in the mirror. “Enough with the melodrama. She’d go all ninja on your ass if she could see you now. If she could hear you.”

He slapped himself for good measure. “Get your head out of your ass and go to work!”

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* Quote from Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning.

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