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The Spaces In Between

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Tony lay on the ground, facing the sky. The concrete was hot, almost uncomfortably so, but he kept staring upwards. Ziva had knocked him down. She had stuck a gun to his chest for the second time in barely twenty-four hours. It was amazing how having the woman you secretly loved do that to you could keep you down.

It was strange being here. After all this time, after all these years, only the faces inside had changed. He supposed he was lucky in that way. The last thing he needed was someone to recognize him.

"You look like shit," a blunt voice came from over him, a pointed toe nudging at his fractured arm. He winced, but tried not to let how much she was affecting him show. Speak of the devil...

"And you're blocking my sun," he replied, trying for casual, but he was sure he missed the mark. Inside, he was cursing himself for even thinking that it was luck no one recognized him. It had been a jinx. The woman didn't move and he sighed, rolling his head slightly to face her. "What do you want, Lauren?"

"For the moment, I'd settle to know why you're on the ground."

He was silent, unsure of where to start that explanation. When he didn't speak, Eliana Shalit sighed, offering her hand to help him up. Once on his feet, he took her in. In her suit skirt and pumps, she almost resembled Special Agent Lauren Cruz of the FBI and less like the Mossad case officer that she was. He was sure that Agent Rossabi would probably kill him if he found out just why Tony had blackmailed the Agent into making a FBI ID for a supposed civilian or who that civilian actually was.

"You're a mess," the woman said again.

"Yeah, well, I got my ass handed to me."

"As I understand it, you won. Though I have heard rumors of Rivkin's blood alcohol levels being 0.16." Eliana shrugged. "I do not understand why anyone thinks you should not be able to take him. I have seen you fight before. You're scrappy."

He snorted. That was her nice way of saying he mixed combat styles too much.

Everyone was so ready to believe Ducky's tox screening that Rivkin's blood alcohol was twice the legal limit. And why shouldn't they? Tony DiNozzo, class clown and goof off, wouldn't be able to take a Mossad operative, let alone one in Kidon, in a fair fight. He had to have cheated, just something that would make them feel a little better about themselves. It wasn't their agent that had failed, it was the fault of the American cowboy who had gone off the reservation and shot the drunk guy.

Tony should have known it wouldn't have fooled Eliana though. You had to get up pretty early to handle his troublemaker of a cousin.

"Rivkin was a good fighter though," she said as they walked, "I am most impressed you walked away with only a few bruises and scratches. I suppose such a thing was to be expected, seeing as you were Tamir Lavin's protégé."

He went still hearing his uncle's name again. For years, he had tried to avoid any mention of him. A decade after his aunt and uncle's deaths, he was still trying to avoid talking about it.

"They don't know," he said softly. "The ones that matter know better than to believe it."

She smiled. "Then I suppose I am honored that you count me among those that matter to you."

He smiled back, though it felt like a grimace. "You took care of Navon. You were his support when he needed it the most. That makes you family, Eliana, mishpacha."

The young officer gave him a very pleased look. She reached a hand out and squeezed the arm that wasn't in a sling.

"Tishmor al azmeha," she said, repeating his words to Navon the last time he had seen his cousin before the younger man had been arrested. "Shalom, Anthony."

She leaned in and peaked at his cheek before she disappeared back into the building, while he stood out there alone.