AN I don't own NCIS or any of its characters. Tiva fluff, no lemons. One-shot.


After everything the man had done, why was Tony even surprised? Senior had always known just how far he could push before he had to make some grand gesture-it was why everyone loved him and why no one understood the tension between them. It was always complicated with Senior. Even Abby was against him on this one because it's Christmas.

But after all the shit Senior had put him through, he was just waiting for one of the team to come crying to him and beg him to give his dad another chance. When someone did knock on the door, though, it wasn't Abby or Gibbs. Ziva? Maybe they sent her because they knew he wouldn't immediately brush her off. But he opened the door with a glare, nevertheless.

"What do you want?" His anger didn't actually seem to hit her, though, because she didn't tense or flinch. She just gave him a little sympathetic smile.

"I said I would give this to you." She held out her hand, revealing the little velvet box and inside it, that fucking ring. Of course. Why hadn't he seen that coming? The bigger the screw up, the bigger the gesture Senior made. And, the better everyone else thought of him for it. But Ziva's face suddenly darkened as she looked at him, even more so when he took it from her. If anyone knew emotional abuse from a father figure, it was her.

"Tony, you are allowed to cut him out of your life." Tony scoffed, leaning against the doorframe.

"Yeah, right." Like how Abby berated him and how Ducky quoted philosophy about family at him and how Gibbs slapped him upside the head. He could totally just drop his father from his life, he could definitely just walk away and not suffer disgrace and disappointment from the people he actually did love. Ziva sighed.

"They don't understand and they do not have to. Family doesn't give him a blank check of excuses." For the first time that night, Tony looked at her.

"You think I should?" Was she serious?

"I did not say that but… you seem very upset." He grit his teeth. Of course he was upset! Senior fucking… no, he wasn't going to go off again.

"I am upset! He slept with her in my bed!" Ziva just nodded, though. She had a calm way of existing and, the longer she stood there, the more he began to realize he liked it. It calmed him. She was quiet, but it was different. Usually, when people were quiet, they were bursting with things they weren't saying but Ziva was quiet on the outside and the inside and he realized that he'd never met anyone like that. Not even Gibbs.

"You think you know my father and I?" Ziva instantly shook her head, though.

"No, not in the slightest. But I know you, Tony." They were still standing in the hallway, Tony in the doorway and her in the hall. She hadn't tried to come in, he realized. It was such a blatant contrast to finding his father in his apartment fucking his neighbor when he'd never even said he was coming. She was a contrast.

"You aren't going to try to come in?" But she shrugged.

"Your apartment is your space. If I ever come in, it will be because you have asked me to." That thudded into him like a bullet, but he wasn't sure it was a bad bullet. He liked it, actually. But she was still standing in front of him so he just nodded a silent sort of acceptance at that statement. With a small smile, Ziva mumbled goodbye and turned to leave.

"Hey Ziva?" She paused in the hall. "When Abby brings my dad, will you give this to him?" She took the little velvet box without a word and nodded. She didn't say anything about how he was refusing a gesture or shutting his dad down or how he was making it worse. She just nodded. Somehow, that was so much better.


The next day at work, no one asked why he wasn't at the Christmas screening. No one talked about his father or badgered him about the ring, even though he knew Ziva had given it back to him. He didn't know why they weren't prying, but it was nice. It was relaxing-the kind of relaxed he hadn't been since his dad was in his apartment-and he was unbelievably grateful.

He asked Ziva over for drinks that night.

She smiled but declined, saying she had some work to catch up on and a bar wasn't really her scene anyways. He smiled his signature little smirk.

"I wasn't thinking a bar." She raised her eyebrow at him.

"A restaurant then?" He laughed, but he was kind of thrown. He was used to playing women but he couldn't really do it for some reason… probably because he knew Ziva more than an acquaintance and had to work with her. That was all, right?

"I meant my place, Ziva" Those dark eyes shot up with surprise, but then she morphed it into a smile.

"I'd love to, Tony."

She met his goldfish. She saw his piano, though she didn't ask, and he told her that he played. He even told her he'd played since he was a kid, that his mother started teaching him and, after she died, he kept playing to remember her. She didn't ask any questions, though, she just listened. They had a few drinks each-enough to loosen the lips-and he bucked up the courage to ask her about when she was tortured.

"What was it like?" She was clearly surprised, and kind of offended judging by her expression.

"What was it like?" She repeated in a disbelieving tone. "It was torture." But he shook his head, refilling their glasses again.

"No, no I know. I mean… what was it like in between?" She gave him that confused little eyebrow furrow that, the longer he looked at it, he realized was kind of adorable.

"In between?"

"You aren't the only one who's been tortured, Zee. What was it like in between rounds? After all that time, how did you not go insane?" He hoped she wouldn't but she did-she locked onto it.

"You have been tortured before, Tony?" He shrugged it off the way he did whenever he didn't want to talk about something.

"That's a story for another day. You avoided the question." She pursed her lips at him.

"I will make you a deal. I will answer your question, if you answer mine." He clicked his jaw in and out of place. He'd broken it as a kid and it clicked ever since and he did it, now, whenever he was nervous. He didn't want to tell her, not really, but he did want to know.

"Deal. When I was a Baltimore cop still, I was working a drug bust with a couple other guys and I drew the short stick and was put in undercover. I was blown. Before I could get out, they drugged me. I woke up in a shipping container, tied to a chair. I was interrogated and tortured for five days before they found me and got me out." He couldn't decide if he liked the way that Ziva's face softened at that confession or the way she reached out to lay a hand on his arm.

"Your turn." He took a long drink to distract himself from the memory. She hesitated but let him drop it, and nodded.

"A deal is a deal. In between, I was mostly unconscious or wished I was. The entire time, I never once saw a guard or another prisoner aside from the one who tortured me-I was alone. It was almost worse, sometimes, than the pain. I became numb, at least partially, to the physical pain and the yelling and the screaming. But I never got used to my own mind." Tony swallowed down another swig, knowing this was a lot from Ziva given that she hadn't talked about that time with anyone as far as he knew, but still wanting more.

"How did you keep yourself from going insane?" She gave him a sad little sympathetic smile.

"I did go insane, Tony." But before the words were even out of her mouth, he was shaking his head at her.

"How did you hold on to hope, then? And don't tell me you didn't because you would have killed yourself if you were completely hopeless." She gave him a sad little smile, but didn't answer. So, after a moment, he pushed her again. Gently, and carefully, and not realizing how low he'd made his voice in the silent apartment.

"Why didn't you give up, Ziva?" She looked away and took a long, stalling drink, seemingly thinking on the question. He knew her better than that, though, and knew she was just trying to word her answer, not create it.

"You want the truth, Tony? Even if you don't like it?" He nodded without thinking, not realizing how instinctive it was. He always wanted the truth from her, he wanted anything she would give him. She sighed, heavy in his bones.

"I didn't give up because of our team. Because of my new family. Gibbs, Abby, Ducky, Palmer, McGee…. And you. I knew you wouldn't let me die." He wasn't sure why but he felt the need to challenge her answer. It didn't feel right.

"You never doubted us? Never thought Gibbs would be too stubborn to look for you? Abby, too well-adjusted to worry about you? Ducky and Palmer too trusting of our instincts? McGee, too hurt to go looking for more?" She gave him a sad little smile.

"Yes, I doubted all of that. The bad side of myself reasoned it all-why none of you were going to come, why none of you cared. Gibbs and McGee, especially, because I know I hurt them. I even doubted you, for the same reason." His silence seemed to be message enough that she hadn't answered his question all the way. "I didn't give up because of you." He felt his stomach drop. Because… of him? When he couldn't even rescue her, let alone save her?

"Because you've always had my back, even when I hurt you. Because we are partners. Because I know you, Tony, perhaps to an unhealthy degree, and I had faith-I have faith. In you." Her eyes were like coals, burning him when he dared to meet them, but he couldn't look away.

"In me?" She swirled the liquid in her glass but gave him another little smile, even if it was a little sadder than he would have liked.

"Yes, in you." She didn't like touch, he knew that. She hadn't even let Abby or Gibbs touch her since she got back from Israel. Not that he could blame her, really, but it made it a thousand times harder to sit there next to her and not hug her. He wanted to. He wanted to reach out and pull her into his arms and smooth her hair and reassure her. But she didn't like touch, so he just gave her a matching little smile.

"Thank you, Zi." Her smile didn't falter, didn't shake or tremble with tears. She just looked at him like she was searching for something hidden between the lines on his face, like she was hoping to find it. For a moment, he was afraid she wouldn't find it. But, whatever it was, she seemed to find it because she stood from the barstool and walked over to him. Her hand touched his knee.

"You can touch me, Tony. I'll tell you if it's too much." He wasn't going to-he wasn't-but she sounded so sincere. So, when she placed her other hand on his cheek, he closed his eyes into the touch and broke. He reached out and pulled her into his body. She gasped but let him, relaxing into him as she hugged him back and buried her face in his chest. Something about that little breath of air… It was so small and subtle but it sounded almost broken and it only made him hold her tighter, tangling a hand in her hair and letting the other slip to her waist. Tears hit his skin. He couldn't tell if they were his, falling from his cheeks, or hers, smearing into his shirt. He didn't really care.

"I won't let him get to you again." She didn't react, but he knew that she'd heard it. He didn't care if it didn't make her cry harder or hug him tighter-this was more than enough, more than he'd ever expected-but he did care that she heard it. Because he had every intention of keeping that promise. Even if she was a strong, deadly badass outside the walls of his apartment, she was different now. It wasn't that crying made him see her as weak or that clinging to him made her seem less deadly, it was that holding her like this made him starkly aware that she was human. That she had emotions, that she could get hurt, that people could, and did, hurt her. And she was strong, yes, nothing could have changed that because it was too ingrained in who she was, but she was human. She was breakable. And he wasn't going to let anyone break her again.


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