Picking Up the Pieces - Chapter 6

Eight months before

He could’ve sworn every single bone in his body hurt. Every single muscle. Every single nerve ending was screaming in protest as his battered body slowly, oh-so slowly, started repairing from the inside. He knew Tobias would smirk and tell him he was getting too old for this. For getting beat up by a punk half-his age, thrown around like a rag-doll...

Though he was really glad the idiot who’d attacked him had thrown him into the bed of his pick-up. Where he kept his crowbar just for emergencies like that. Well, maybe not for emergencies of that kind, but one never knew when a crowbar might come in handy.

Still, prior to the crowbar-meet-head move, the punk had administered quite a beating. He had bruises, scratches, and aches to prove it. God only knew when he’d be able to look into a mirror and see his normal face, without bruises, without the purple left eye, staring back at him.

It would be a while yet.

He shuffled into his kitchen to get a beer. If Ducky were there he’d probably give him a long speech about mixing pain-killers with alcohol and as usual he wouldn’t listen. It was beer for Pete’s sake, not the bourbon he kept stashed in his basement. Well, if everything didn’t hurt so much, he’d probably go down there and drink that, but he wasn’t convinced he was ready to deal with the stairs in his current condition. He’d just sleep on the couch tonight. And drink the beer. But first he could avail himself of the other great characteristic of fresh-out-of-the-fridge beer.

He pressed the cold bottle to his aching left cheek, but was barely able to enjoy it when his phone rang.

He slowly walked to the table where he left the damn thing, contemplating who might be calling him at this hour. He hoped they didn’t have another murder, because he knew he needed at least one night to recuperate enough to not strangle anyone at work that spoke to him. If it was Fornell calling from the hospital to complain about being shot in the ass, he might not even pick up. And if it was DiNozzo asking for more time, when it had been clear from that last conversation in MTAC that the man has already located Ziva, he might just tell him to fuck off.

He wasn’t in a mood to be magnanimous toward his agent.

When he opened his cell, expecting to see a familiar caller ID, he saw just numbers. And when he saw those particular initial three numbers, the country code that told him the caller wasn’t anywhere near him, every seething remark died on his lips and he could feel his heart sinking.

He knew who was calling him and he also knew, not suspected, knew what they might say, that he contemplated not answering. But he knew he had to. He owed it to both of them.

So he took a swig of his beer, pressed the accept button, and brought the phone to his ear.

He sighed when she said his name. Then replied, “Hey, Ziver.”

He was braced for what she might say next, but he didn’t expect what she did say next.

“What?” he barked, unable to comprehend just what she was asking him. “Why?”

The explanation made sense. Too much sense. She was saying all the right things, but not everything, not the things she should be saying.

“Ziva,” he tried to interrupt her, but she wouldn’t be deterred. She had a plan, a good one, she just needed someone’s help to finish it on his side of the ocean.

“Ziva,” he said again. “Why are you doing this?”

She was silent for so long he thought he lost her. Then she finally told him what he needed to hear, what he expected to hear. And he smiled. It was about time.

“We’ll need to be able to communicate freely,” he said.

She didn’t want anyone to know, especially no one from the immediate family that was their team, but he knew just the right person to go to. Someone who wanted her back as much as everybody else, bar DiNozzo, that is. And that person had all the means necessary to make their plan work.

“I’ll make it happen, Ziva,” he said, feeling energized despite the aches in his body. “I’ll let you know when. What about—”

She interrupted him, telling him what he already knew. The less people knew about it, the better. For the next few months, they’d all be under intense scrutiny, those closest to her even more than the rest, and the less they knew, the easier her plan would work. It needed to be convincing. And if McGee, Ducky, Abby, Palmer, and especially Tony really thought she was dead, whoever was watching them, gouging their reaction, would believe it, too.

The more believable the reaction, the more convinced the watchers would be. And what reaction to the death of someone dear to them was more believable than true grief?

“Are you sure about this?” he asked once more.

She didn’t hesitate in replying, telling him she’d be waiting to hear from him.

When he heard the dial tone, he remained there, sitting at the table, his phone in one hand, the beer in the other, a smile playing on his lips.

He might be losing a good agent, but he won’t lose a member of his family. She was doing this for all of them, her friends, her family. And she was doing it for herself. Wiping the slate clean, a new start, a fresh start. She might be doing it alone, physically, but she’d have all the support she needed. And after it was done, she’d never be alone again. He’d make sure of it. They all would.

But what made him smile, was what she said when he’d repeated the question of why she was doing it.

She was doing it for him. Stopping this—the pain, the sadness, the ugliness her current reality held—for him. He didn’t have to ask who the ‘him’ was.

He leaned back and looked out his window. “I hope you don’t blow it this time, DiNozzo.”

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