Author: patronuses PM
An exploration of Tony and Ziva's relationship following the season 8 finale.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Tony D. & Ziva D. - Chapters: 10 - Words: 37,819 - Reviews: 116 - Favs: 112 - Follows: 142 - Updated: 07-09-11 - Published: 05-21-11 - id: 7010096
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Based off of: 8.24 Pyramid.
The finale left me very bitter, and Ray and EJ can go suck it. This makes me feel better, and in my head, it should have happened like this. We'll see about another chapter. Oh, September is so far away.
An unmistakable voice made him raise his face from his hands.
His hair was disheveled and lay in a shaggy heap on his forehead. He was dressed in a dark suit, his tie hanging loosely around his neck. The dim light threw a shadow over his face, and he looked absolutely dreadful. A ghost of a smile touched his lips at the sight of her, and his eyes were blood-shot from exhaustion and alcohol - Ziva wasn't sure which was the dominating factor.
"Ziva," he greeted her evenly, and he didn't seem drunk. He gestured at the empty booth he was sitting in, "Sit with me?"
Swaying in her spot hesitantly, her eyes narrowed at him. The bar around them was buzzing with quiet conversation and the faint crooning of a love song, but Ziva paid no attention. She asked him bluntly but quietly, "Are you here alone?"
She stood in front of him, bright eyes wide and shocked to see him. Her hair hung loosely over her shoulders in waves, and Tony's eyes immediately spotted the bruise forming on the side of her neck from the blow she took from Jonas earlier in the day. He shook his head at it, scoffing bitterly under his breath.
Tony nodded in reply and took a deep breath, swirling the contents of his drink. He observed the liquid with weary eyes before looking up at her as he spoke, "I am. Are you?"
Ziva slid into the seat across from him. She winced a little while she shifted, trying to get comfortable. His eyes narrowed at her in a familiar, uneasy way. Eventually, Ziva settled and peered at him through the dimness of the room. Tony, of course, had chosen a booth in a secluded corner of the bar, against a wall. It was a defensive habit that he had gotten into far before she knew him. "I am here alone. I did not think that anyone would be here tonight."
"I thought the same thing," Tony chuckled good-naturedly. "Apparently, the both of us were wrong." He didn't ask why she was in the bar, and she was thankful for that. He caught the eye of a waitress across the room. He waved her over. "Can I get another round? One for the lady as well, please."
The young woman sent him a winning smile, replying, "Sure thing, hun." She touched Tony's shoulder in a feeble attempt to catch his attention, but Tony didn't give her a second look.
Ziva smiled inwardly at the realization.
Tony was oblivious to all of this. "It has been one hell of a day," he said this with a sigh, running a hand through his messy hair. The lines on his face appeared more pronounced than ever before, but it was a result of the heightened stress. Ziva knew his youthful appearance would reemerge after things settled.
His face shadowed and echoed his concern as he asked her in a hushed voice, "Are you feeling okay?"
She paused, taken back by his sudden question. Squinting at his face suspiciously, she replied, "I have had worse, Tony."
"I know," he answered bluntly.
He gave her a long look, still concerned, that she couldn't decipher.
"I'm glad you're okay," Tony admitted, tapping on the empty glass in front of him. "For awhile, I thought that -" He broke off, not willing to finish his sentence, hoping that somehow she understood.
"I am okay, Tony."
"But - if you weren't, Ziva - I don't know what I'd -"
"But I am."
His voice was a whisper, "Okay."
Tony stared down at his hands, knuckles closed tight over the glass in front of him. She could tell that his jaw was snapped shut - He was holding himself back. Ziva noticed that he had been doing that a lot as of late.
Ziva was moved by his quiet concern, and she sent him a tender expression that he didn't see. "It was another close-call, but it is nothing, Tony. I have had worse from sparring. Poor Palmer, though. He was a little shaken up, but I'm sure that Breena patched him up just fine." She made a sour attempt at a joke that Tony didn't humor.
He ignored her comment about Palmer. Still speaking in a whisper, he mumbled to himself more than her, "You're okay. That's what matters."
Making a face, she realized that Jonas capturing her bothered him more than he let on. If it were at all possible, Tony may have been more concerned for her than Ray, and the idea of that was wrong in that Ray was supposed to care for her more because they had a thing, but it obviously wasn't the case.
Tony always seemed to be the one who cared for her the most.
An involuntary shiver went up her spine.
Tenderly, she said, "Thank you, Tony. Ray said that you practically manhandled both him and Kort to get information about my whereabouts, and while manhandling never gets you anywhere, thank you for having my back - again."
Tony didn't reply to her comment. At the sound of Ray's name, he temporarily forgot his worrying.
"You weren't at Mike's funeral."
Tony's voice had an undertone of accusation in it - If Ziva didn't know him as well as she did, she would not have caught it. He kept his tone casual and light because he never did like confrontation about sensitive topics. However, she heard his intention loud and clear, and a wave of guilt hit her like the cool Pacific. When she opened her mouth to speak, the waitress returned, cheerfully oblivious, to deliver their drinks.
"Thank you," Ziva murmured to the woman. She took a small sip of her drink to fill the silence.
Tony's eyes travelled up to look at her, eyes plainly red, and watched her over his glass intently, still patiently waiting for her answer.
"Ray had to catch a flight out of the country, and..."
Tony's eyebrows pulled together, mouth pressing together in a frown. He didn't like Ray, and the fact that he kept her away from Mike's funeral didn't help very much. If Tony still had not found a reason to rip Ray apart, he now had one.
To Ziva's surprise, his reply was not bitter. He was speaking quickly, "Sorry, I didn't know. I just thought that it was strange you weren't there, and -" Her hand raised, and Tony clamped his jaw shut with a click.
"Do not worry about it," Ziva shrugged it off easily. "I wish I could have been there, and I would have if things were different."
She fell silent, turning her focus to the drink in front of her. Chewing on her straw thoughtfully, Ziva's expression was in a far-off place. She thought of Ray's promise to her and wondered if it meant anything. From her experiences, they never really did hold much meaning.
Tony asked softly, though his eyebrows were still pulled together with tension, "How're things with you and CI-Ray?"
Ziva snapped back to reality with a slight jerk of her head. His question seemed innocent enough, a conversational thing between two friends, but with them, things were never what they seemed. It took her awhile to find the right words, but she was looking Tony in the eyes as she thought, searching for something - an answer - within them.
His eyes met hers with the same searching emotion.
"I am not sure. He is out of the country, and he does not know how long he will be gone."
Of course, he knew that there was a punchline. "But?"
"What do you mean 'what'?" Tony asked in return. His voice was even, but there was a slight trembling beneath the surface. Suddenly, she became aware that Tony knew more than she realized. "There's something else, isn't there? I can tell, and - Don't lie to me, Ziva."
The line hit a soft spot. She had to tell him.
"He had me open a ring box," Ziva explained slowly. She refused to look at his face, staring at her intertwined fingers in front of her. It was hard to explain to him because even she didn't know what she was feeling. "It was empty, but he said that it was a promise..." She took a deep breath, "about - I do not even know for sure - the future?"
Finally, her gaze floated back up to his, and he was still staring at her, a soft expression in his eyes. A part of her melted at the sight of him. She tried to shake off the feeling to no avail. His eyes were a dark grey under the dim lamp hanging above their heads, a mixture of sadness and hurt and something lingering in them, and for the life of her, Ziva couldn't figure out what he was thinking.
"I see," Tony said slowly. His voice sounded a little choked, but he dismissed it with a small, superficial grin. Grey eyes were churning with intensity, and Tony was careful to keep his voice even and friendly, but his expression betrayed him. "I think that's a little tactless."
He grinned a little in an attempt to break the tension.
"I think that - given if I were a woman and I was handed an empty box - I would have broken his nose. It's not good to get a woman's hopes up like that - Especially about something so big. I mean - What do you think when you see a ring box?"
She hoped his question was rhetorical because she didn't answer.
Tony studied her expression and asked lightly, "Well, do you think CI-Ray is the right one, then?" He didn't ask her the real question - the one he couldn't ask and the one that she didn't have an answer to. Are you in love with him?
"I am not really sure," she said. Ziva knew that this topic was treading on thin ice, but she didn't break her gaze as she continued, "I think that it is possible, but we will have to see. We left our relationship open-ended, and it feels like nothing is concrete as of right now. I do not know."
Tony leaned back in his seat, nodding fervently. His lips were pressed together and judging by the crease in his hands, he was digging his palms into the table. There was a flash of feeling in his eyes, one that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. He smiled kindly at her, but it was a lackluster and feeble attempt to hide his conflicting emotions.
Ziva didn't understand what was going on in his head, but then again, she never had. With Tony, she learned to take what she could get, but it didn't stop her from wondering what was happening within. Something about him kept her guessing, but at the same time, a part of her felt like she understood him better than anyone else in the world.
Tony continued to nod at her, not trusting himself enough to speak.
Ziva didn't know what to say, but since he asked about her, she figured that she might as well ask about him. "And you and EJ? Do you know where you stand?"
A very curious thing happened then. It was less than a split second, and it was so quick that if Ziva blinked, she would have missed it. Tony winced as if he was in physical pain, and there was another flash in his eyes that was similar to the last one. The expression was gone in a heartbeat and was replaced by a calm mask.
"You know," Tony shrugged, clearing his throat. His voice was steady, but his eyes were sullen and swirling. "I'm not sure. I think that I may be having second thoughts about it. I'm not - I don't like her as much as I thought I did..." He winked at her, smiling in a way that almost looked like a grimace.
She knew that she looked as confused as she felt. Tony was acting strangely, and it had nothing to do with the alcohol.
"Did something happen?" She was truly interested now.
Tony shook his head. He chewed at his lip, contemplating. "No, nothing happened. I just... I think that if it was right, it would have felt right. I don't even think that I really -" He stopped himself. "Well, do you know what I mean?"
Ziva nodded almost immediately, and Tony looked almost relieved. "I do." She felt the need to reassure him, "I think that it will work itself out, Tony, regardless of if you and EJ remain together. Things always work out for the better."
He looked slightly amused and mumbled under his breath, "We were never together." Draining the contents of his glass in a large gulp that made him recoil, he licked his lips thoughtfully. A part of him felt the need to elaborate, "I don't think I really ever liked her. Nice girl, yeah, but not my type."
Ziva laughed, and for whatever the reason, she felt pleased. "You have to be joking. You have been following around the girl like a lost puppy for weeks, and now you decide that she is not your type?"
Tony smiled slightly, shaking his head. He mumbled to the table, "Can't knock it until you try it."
"I do not think that quite applies to women, Tony," she chided him lightly.
His head snapped up at her, emotions churning in his eyes again, and something was at the tip of his tongue, but at the last moment he clenched his fists and turned away. Head shaking, his lips were moving silently, almost as if he was scolding himself.
The action was really starting to irritate Ziva, but she decided to let it slide one last time.
"It doesn't matter, anyway," Tony dismissed after awhile. He glanced around the bar and made a motion with his hand - Another round of drinks.
"It is not a good idea to get yourself drunk."
"Doesn't matter either."
"It does matter."
Tony frowned at her, and she frowned back.
Resisting the urge to touch him for the millionth time that day, she settled for a soft sigh. Ziva knew that there had to be something wrong, something that he wanted to let out - Why else would he be in a bar in the middle of the night after the hellish couple of days?
"What's wrong, Tony?"
"I don't even know."
She didn't respond and waited for him to continue talking. A fresh drink was placed in front of her, and she remembered Tony finding Kort's eye inside of his, once upon a time. Time seemed a little distorted, and it was strange to think that it happened weeks ago.
"What happens now? Jonas is dead and so is Mike. We got the bad guy in the end, and things are going to go back to normal and that's great but... I don't know. Maybe everything that has happened put some perspective over my life, the same way Jeanne did, the same way Jenny did, the same way Somalia did."
Ziva winced at the memory, and Tony noticed.
"It's put some perspective over your life too, hasn't it? I don't see how it wouldn't. The difference between you and I is that you're actually doing something, and I'm still standing here in the same place I've been in for the last eight years.
"And truthfully, that doesn't bother me too much. What we have here isn't something ordinary, and I would die a thousand times over for one of you, and I'm fairly positive that any of you would do the same for me."
"Of course," Ziva answered immediately. "Without hesitation."
Tony half-smiled. "But you know, I don't want to wake up one morning and suddenly realize that my life was only this."
"You are young, Tony, and nowhere near dead yet." She rolled her eyes, and a wider smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
"Maybe you're right, but I'm getting up there, Miss 'I'm-not-even-thirty'. Honestly, woman," Tony teased lightly, the familiar mischievous glint reaching his eyes.
Ziva took the mickey, throwing on a saucy smirk, "You know what they say about older men."
There was another one of those flashes in his eyes, and Tony rumbled in a low voice, leaning toward her across the table, "I'm sure you'd like to find out."
Their playful mood shifted abruptly, and the intense, sexually charged undertones made her tremble slightly.
She found herself leaning towards him instinctively, nudging his leg with hers under the cramped table. Breathing in return, "And what makes you so sure about that?"
Tony's fingers skated over the soft skin of her hand before traveling up to rub his lip thoughtfully. The connotation of his actions made her want to squirm. Ziva held back a shudder, and she hated that he could do that so easily, even after all these years. He grinned arrogantly, not answering her question, "Can CI-Ray do that?"
Tony realized his mistake, judging by the way he pulled away almost immediately after the words left his mouth. His jaw was clenched so tight that it looked as if it were about to shatter.
Her heart was pounding in her chest, nearly ready to jump out of her throat, and no, Tony couldn't have meant it that way, not after all the years of teasing and dancing around each other, not after she finally convinced herself that it simply wouldn't happen.
He cut her off, "I'm kidding, Ziva."
However, the look on his face said the opposite.
Across the table, her eyes narrowed at him, and he was shaking his head quickly, raising his palms in surrender.
"Honestly, Ziva. I didn't mean anything by it, and maybe I am drunk."
"Do not lie to me, Tony," she hissed this at him because she could tell when he was truly lying to her, and he was.
Just like how the line had worked on her earlier, his expression grew guilty, and the tension in his body deflated like a balloon. His eyes focused on the empty glass in front of him and drifted to her palms flat on the table. Tony was fidgeting under the table, and she noticed that their legs were still touching underneath it.
Neither moved away.
"It doesn't matter," Tony said finally, giving her a heart wrenching look.
"It does matter. It does to me."
Ziva didn't feel angry, but rather, frustrated. Whatever Tony had to say was important, but he did not trust himself enough to say it - Or rather, he was too afraid to say it.
She sounded more confident than she felt, "Do not feed me bullshit."
There was decision in his eyes when Tony eventually nodded once to himself. He exhaled slowly and his voice dropped to a whisper.
"Ziva, have you ever thought that - Maybe I'm tired of almost losing you. Maybe I can't lose you."
Her mouth grew very dry, and she couldn't speak. What did that possibly mean?
"Two summers ago - I almost lost it, okay? You don't really understand how much I - No one does. To think that my partner was dead and that it was my fault and that if I hadn't screwed up, she would be alive and with us and -" He closed his eyes and tried to block out the painful memories.
"What does that have to do with this?"
"Everything. It has everything to do with this."
He drew in a shuddering breath. "When Jonas got a hold of you today, I almost died. For it to happen again, for another psycho to have you at his clutches - God, I almost - Ray and Kort were lucky that I didn't shoot the both of them on the spot because the thought of it happening again, right under my nose..."
"It was by no means your fault!" Ziva growled passionately. "You need to stop blaming yourself because it is not doing either of us any good."
"I'll always blame myself when it comes to you, Ziva," Tony answered evenly, a small, sad and amused smile playing on his lips.
"Tony, what is this?"
"Do you love him?" He answered her with another question, one that had her blinking in confusion.
"Do you love him?"
"No, Ziva. The fucking snowman," Tony lightly bit back at her sarcastically. "Now, tell me, are you in love with him?"
"What does Ray have to do with this?"
Ziva couldn't form a coherent thought even though it felt like her mind was moving at the speed of light. She felt beads of sweat form on the back of her neck, but the bar was freezing goddammit. The mixture of confusion and alcohol and tension made her head throb. Her hands clenched into fists.
"If he asked you to marry him, right now, would you say yes?"
The word slipped from her mouth before she could stop it, and once it was gone, she realized that it was the complete truth. There were millions of reasons why, and at the moment, she couldn't pinpoint a single one.
Tony appeared shocked, but it slowly grew into triumph, and the arrogant grin touched his features again.
"That's all I needed to know."
"That is wonderful. I am glad you have all the information you need," Ziva snapped irritably.
His laugh was gleeful, and her frustration eased at the sound, just a little. Slowly, his laughter ceased, and he moved toward her, his expression straightening into a tender sort of seriousness.
"I've been trying to wait him out."
A breath caught in the middle of her throat, and she froze, not daring to move. He couldn't mean it like that - It was impossible that he could possibly -
"After... Somalia," it sounded almost painful for him to say, "it took me forever to understand why it affected me so much, and after I finally pieced it together, it took me so long to - Long story short," he said with a slight smile, "when I realized that someone else had gotten to you before I did, I figured that I would wait him out to avoid another fiasco. It didn't sound too hard - You were officially an agent, and I had no intentions leaving. I had time to spare."
His hand reached across the table to grasp hers, and Ziva nearly jumped out of her skin because she didn't notice his movement. She eased when she realized that it was him, and he played with her ring finger, never breaking his gaze.
"My plan didn't work out too well because he never went away, and you don't understand how difficult it was for me to sit here and watch you - After today, I realized that I'm sick of waiting around."
Ziva choked out with difficulty, "And EJ? Why did you -"
He shrugged guiltily, not releasing her finger, "A poor attempt at a distraction. A poor attempt to get your attention. I'm glad it didn't work. Obviously, I didn't think it out all the way."
She couldn't wrap her head around what was happening, and she murmured, "Where does this leave us?"
Tony looked at her, eyes still dark but filled with fondness, "I've spoken my piece. I don't know if you still feel anything for me - I know that at one point you did, but I don't know if it's still there - So really, it's your call."
"How did you know what to say?"
He smiled then, and a rush of déjà vu hit her at his words, "Guess I had a long time to think about... things."
Her voice was a whisper, "Okay."
Tony looked like he wanted to say more, but unexpectedly, he released her hand and stood from the booth, pulling out his wallet. Tony flipped through the bills while speaking, "Well, let me know, then?"
Ziva was stunned into silence by his sudden movement. A rush of loss hit her, and she missed the warmth of his hand. She quickly stood also, facing him.
Tony gave her a small smile, one that was uncertain, and said, "I think I'm going to take Gibbs' offer and not go into work tomorrow. It was nice of you to keep me company, eh?"
The knot in her throat made her unable to form words.
"Well, see you on Monday," Tony sent her one last smile and walked toward the exit, his fingers brushing casually across her arm as he passed her.
Ziva stared at the wall, stunned, at the place where Tony had been standing, and she didn't want it to end like that. Suddenly making her decision, she turned and followed him with large strides, rushing out into the brisk spring night and catching his wrist just as he was about to step off the sidewalk.
Tony glanced her, a question in his eyes, and damn him, he had planned for her to go after him all along. A devilish expression played on his face.
"I have a couple of steaks at home, and since you always gloat that you are the so-called 'grill king', would you care to come over tomorrow night?" Ziva hoped that he realized what she was really trying to tell him, and as soon as the warm smile lit up his face, she knew that he did.
Another one of those flashes filled his eyes, and this time, Ziva realized what it was all along. Quietly, he said, "I'd like that."
"I would too."
He was nodding, and he leaned close to her. Ziva half-expected him to kiss her, but he didn't. Rather, he pressed his lips to her forehead, lingering there for a long moment that made Ziva's heart flutter in an unhealthy way. Pulling away, he said, "Go get some rest."
Tony walked away from her without another word nor a second glance.
Ziva wasn't sure how long she stood on the sidewalk, gazing at the place where his car was parked. She should have known that it would happen eventually, but really, Ziva didn't want to get her hopes up only to be let down. He was right - She felt something for him, and she still did and that was the real reason why she wasn't in love with Ray. Tony was in the picture.
A part of her felt disappointed that Tony hadn't kissed her or taken her home, but she realized that, perhaps, he was perfectly content with taking his time.
And that realization confirmed everything that he told her tonight.
Moved and astonished in a good way, Ziva smiled slightly and started toward her car.