She had been born to be a soldier and a fighter. All her life she had been trained to be what other people wanted her to be, to do what they wanted her to do. Never a hesitation, nor a question, nor a personal involvement. She had never even thought that life could be more than to just follow someone else's orders.
"Never ask why, Ziva," her father had told her when she was fifteen. "All you need to know is what and how. It's not up to you to judge whys."
And so she had done, until everything had turned upside down.
She had had to choose between the life of a stranger or her own brother's to realise she had a conscience – a will of her own – under all those years of blind obedience.
She had been taught how to be a perfect killer, a perfect leader, a perfect agent, but she had had to learn by herself how to be a woman. Nobody had taught her how to love.
She had never known what love was, what it felt like, how to recognise it, until she hadn't met him. And even then, she didn't know how to deal with such a big thing.
She looked up from her desk and shot a furtive glance at Tony, who was sprawled on his chair, dangling, hands enlaced behind his head and feet on the desk, eyeing her as though he could read her mind.
"You're consuming me, Tony." She told him, looking back down at the crosswords she was doing. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him smirk.
"You can't even imagine what I'm doing to you, Ziva."
She scoffed. Even after nearly two years, she still couldn't figure out how they had ended up so close, and so quickly.
Her arrival in the team had been rather awkward and unwelcome, she had felt outnumbered and out of place, among those people who treated her like she had been the direct responsible for Agent Todd's death. She had felt their coldness and distance, those looks they had given her, and for a moment she had thought to give in. But then her pride had won over her doubts, and day by day she had discovered how different things were becoming. Soon Agent David was gone, and Ziva had gained her place in the family, and albeit highs and lows, she was content with the situation.
"Let me guess," she said, not moving her attention from 7-Down, to make playfully romantic or sexual overtures. "You're trying to figure how long you'd take to undo every button of my shirt using only your left hand."
Tony's bold expression faded into sheer shock.
A smug grin bloomed on Ziva's face from cheek to cheek as her hand wrote flirting on 7-Down.
"Prevs are so predictable…"
Tony rose a brow and resumed his defiant chuckle.
"Pervs, Ziva, as in pervert." He corrected her. "And you know what they say: takes one to know one."
Ziva puckered her lips listlessly.
"I don't remember myself denying I am a perv."
She enjoyed his dazed look for a moment, then went back to her occupation. 13- Across: Italian playboy.
She bit her lower lip and counted the letters. Eleven, the second and third were O and N. For some reason, she had the sensation that the author of the puzzle didn't mean it as Tony DiNozzo.
"Are you struck?" he asked. "I gave a look at it, yesterday, and it's not so simple as it may seem."
Ziva took the pen to her lips, sucking at it thoughtfully, well aware of the effect it had on him. She was sure he knew she was doing it half-purposely, and she knew he didn't mind if she toyed a bit with his resistance.
"Eleven letters," she said, and leant forward on her elbows. "Italian playboy."
"Tony DiNozzo." He said at once, but she shook her head.
"I tried that already, but I doubt that 6-Down, man of gentle and refined manners, is gentlemon." She arched her brown in his direction. "I'm sorry, Tony, you don't make a gentleman."
Teased, Tony stood from his seat and went sitting on Ziva's desk, a sexy smile painted on his lips.
"Try with dongiovanni." He suggested.
She did as said and it was with a pleasingly surprised half smile that she turned back to him, who was staring down at her looking very self-satisfied.
"I impressed you, didn't I?"
"Oh, yeah." She said ironically. "You totally blew me off my feet."
Tony bent on her from above and stopped millimetres away from her nose.
"It's sweep, smartcheeks, not blow."
She returned the look, breathing his own breath and the enticing scent of his aftershave.
"Smartcheeks?" she asked in a hoarse whisper. Tony barely shrugged, his eyes firmly focused in hers.
"I have a different adjective than smart for your ass." He retorted, their faces getting dangerously closer.
Ziva felt something. Something other than the usual tingles she felt in her stomach when they were together. In the completely deserted office, the tension between them was different than usual, more palpable and less bearable, easier to sense and harder to fight. Maybe that was why they both looked like they really didn't want to fight it, this time.
"Gibbs may be back any moment…" she mumbled, using her last bit of self-control to inject some commonsense in her words, but it was a lame attempt and nearly went unnoticed – or unlistened.
Tony slowly slid the paper out of her hands, still not interrupting the hypnotizing eye contact, then took the pen.
"31-Down, strong wish or sexual appetite."
Ziva didn't even bother wondering how he could read the clues if his eyes and hers were locked together. She might have had photographic memory, but he had a good memory, too, and if he had really read it yesterday, then she wouldn't be surprised if he would recite the most – if not all – of the clues by heart..
She tilted her head lightly, glancing down at his lips for a second.
"In Israel we call it welenisch." she said under her breath. "Desire."
A faint smirk tugged at Tony's lips as his hand wrote it down letter by letter, filling the six white squares.
"Very good, Agent David."
She ignored the shiver running down her spine. The game, however pointless, was getting fun and somewhat arousing, and – according to the enthralled expression he was wearing – Tony was of the same opinion.
"32-Down," He continued, now propped onto his elbows right in front of her. "Its rules have become a movie directed by Roger Avary."
"I don't watch movies." Ziva remarked, stealing the pen from him. "But I can put together two and two." And filled with 'tract' the five-letter gap between 'at' and 'ion'.
She glanced at him teasingly and took the paper back, standing up to sit next to him on the desk.
"45-Across," she murmured, challenging him with her intense gaze. Her heart was drumming in her chest, her blood running faster in her veins, dousing every single inch of her body with adrenaline. "Collision of lips."
"Hard guess." He said, just one moment before his mouth tentatively met hers in a short, hesitant kiss. They departed lightly with each other's taste still on their lips, and she could barely resist the temptation to seize him by the shirt and pull it to herself with eager passion. However, she soon found out she didn't need to, because Tony's arms had already enveloped her in an hungry embrace.
A new shiver crossed her as his tongue started demanding for entrance. Digging her nails in his shoulders, she conceded him the asked access and let the overwhelming dizziness take over her, savouring the pleasure of one of her best fantasises coming true.
She thought of the times she had been with a man and had believed it was love. She thought of the lies she had bought, of the delusions she had faced, she though of all the years she had spent looking for herself under layers and layers of what other people had put on her, ripping off herself all the labels she had been tagged with.
Now, for the first time in her life, she wasn't a soldier, or a fighter, or an agent. As a matter of fact she didn't know if she was even being a woman, either. All that mattered was that she was being what she had always dreamed to be, all he wanted her to be.
Ziva. Just Ziva.
His hand lay on the side of her head, cupping her face as he pulled away, gently stroking her skin with his thumb.
"Did we really just-?"
Tony silenced her by placing a finger over her mouth and smiled.
"You bet we did." He confirmed mischievously, his tone vaguely throaty. "Probably the best 45-Across of my life."
Ziva basked in the warmth of his body all around her. She had often tried to imagined how being hugged by him would feel like, and the comparisons she had made with all her previous lovers now proved absolutely unjust. She already knew that being embraced by a man you loved felt completely different – after all, they had been very close to a hug a lot of times – but it even better to be embraced by a man you loved and who loved you back.
"DiNozzo! David!" Gibbs's voice startled them as their heads were hit by a slap. "No making outs on my desk!"
Despite the embarrassing situation, Ziva couldn't help a broad smile when Tony did not remove his arm from her shoulders.
"But this is not your desk, Boss!" he protested, rubbing the back of his head. Gibbs shot him a severe glare.
"It isn't," Gibbs agreed. "But one of you is longing to try it."
Tony looked down at Ziva with an innocent expression, then again at Gibbs.
"I swear, I've never even dared to think-"
"I know, Tony." Gibbs dryly cut in. "I was talking about Ziva."
Unable to keep herself from laughing at his astonished expression, Ziva dropped an amused kiss on his cheek and jumped off the desk, retrieving the crosswords.
"40-Down," she read cheekily. "Acts that come before sex."
Tony snorted, recomposing himself.
"Check if Gibbs is not around and, in case he is, take Ziva to my apartment."
"It's a little long," she observed jokingly, counting the squares, then looked at him with a sassy grin. "But I think it can fit."
So maybe she had never learned how to be a woman, but who was more expert than Tony on the subject?