Disclaimer: I do not own N-Kiss. Seriously, buy the season 3 DVDs and watch the MW/PP commentary, which makes it worth the price.
Spoilers: Um, season 4 and a random spoiler that I read somewhere last summer that was (sort of) confirmed in 'In the Dark.' Also, 'Shalom,' which consumes me. Explain the pictures, Bellisario!!! Also, there are no actual spoilers for Wuthering Heights, but it makes an appearance and you should read it. Many times, if possible.
Summary: It came to me in a dream, and I forgot it in another dream. Gold star (in your mind) to anyone who knows the quote. Anyway, I think this fic popped into my head at some point while I was sleeping or falling asleep or about to wake up. Tony and Jeanne bump into Ziva for some rousing awkwardness. And Tiva, which Jeanne may or may not notice. No, she totally does, because if McGee knows, everyone must know.
I've been fighting this fic for some time, promising myself I'd wait until the end of the season, but I just can't fight it anymore. I need an explanation, damn it! And now I've had to write it for myself! I hope you're proud of yourself, Bellisario!
Tony froze as he stepped into the restaurant's bar behind Jeanne and saw Ziva walking toward them. He tried to hide his face in a futile attempt to control his terrified deer-in-headlights expression, but she had already seen them. She looked like a lioness who knew her birthday had come early. Lioness? Did lions even have any concept of anything beyond tasty dead gazelles? He didn't have time to think about it as she called to him from a few steps away, "Tony!"
He emerged from behind Jeanne's hair and waved shyly. "Ziva. Hi."
Jeanne immediately tensed as Ziva leaned toward him and kissed him on both cheeks. That was certainly different. He'd seen her do it before and it was always happening with European types in the movies, but she'd never kissed him like that before. Other ways, but not like that. The strain in Jeanne's tone called him back to reality. "Aren't you going to introduce us?"
"Oh, right. Jeanne, this is Ziva David. We're both on the faculty at Georgetown." He gave Ziva a hard stare as he overemphasized the name of the school. "And Ziva, this is Dr. Jeanne Benoit, my girlfriend."
Ziva smiled broadly. "Nice to finally meet you. Tony has been very…vague about you, so I guess that means it's serious."
Jeanne shook her hand with the same grip she would employ when handling a dead fish, Tony assumed. "Really? That's funny because you're the first co-worker of his that I've met. Are you in the film department?"
Ziva's smile got even bigger. "No, English."
Tony was glad he was standing behind Jeanne, because his panicked expression would have been very difficult to explain. She was nodding slowly. "Hmmm. And how do a film professor and an English professor get acquainted?"
"He told you he's a film professor?" Ziva's bout of laughter nearly threw Tony into hysterics. Months of work and sacrifice and…he stopped himself just short of 'feelings' and Ziva continued, "Oh, no, no, no. He's just an associate professor."
She winked almost imperceptibly and he covered his sigh of relief with a loud laugh of his own. She had figured out that there were reasons for the lie and she was playing ball. He tried to match her teasing manner and replied, "Just because you're a genius who's already tenured in Tel Aviv doesn't mean…"
Jeanne interrupted, "Tel Aviv? In Israel?"
"Yes, I'm from Israel," Ziva replied, touching her necklace in a gesture Tony was almost sure meant 'Um, duh,' when coupled with her accent. "I'm in my second year of a three-year pawn from Tel Aviv University."
"Loan, Ziva," he corrected. Why in the hell had she said 'English professor'? What was wrong with calculus? Or Judaic studies? Or honorary lecturer on stealth ninja moves? He groped blindly, "Our students are always laughing at those little slips."
Jeanne raised an eyebrow as she turned to him. "You two teach the same students?"
"Well, we teach a joint class each semester," Ziva provided without a delay. "My specialty is British literature, so we do 'Shakespeare on Film' in the fall and '19th Century Novels on Film' in the spring. There's a surprising amount of material, although I'm not sure that our students liked Wuthering Heights."
"I stand by the Olivier version," Tony said, hoping that Jeanne wasn't familiar with the film. He wasn't even sure that Olivier was in a film version of Wuthering Heights – it was just that Olivier was always a good name to drop. "Maybe if you'd expand your curriculum, we could have…"
"I was referring to their papers on the novel." Ziva shook her head. "Dismal."
Jeanne nodded knowingly. From the selection of supermarket romance novels in her apartment, Tony doubted she had ever read Wuthering Heights outside of high school. Not that he had. He fumbled, saying, "Yes, well…you know what I think about that."
"If it isn't on cellulite it isn't worth paying attention to?"
He grinned at Ziva's error and shook his finger at her. "I've explained to you on several occasions that they no longer use celluloid film due to…"
Jeanne laughed. "It must be a lot of fun working with you two. So, Ziva…I've always wanted to visit Israel…there's so much history and everything…but it just seems so unsafe. Is there a time of year when you'd say it's better to visit?"
Tony wasn't sure that Jeanne could see that Ziva's smile was no longer reaching her eyes. "Well, the news media is highly selective. You should talk to one of my grad students who was at NYU on September 11th if you're curious about the best time to visit New York. If you'd really like to visit Israel, I'd say go during the winter to escape the cold here. You know, I should really get back to my table before Jack starts to wonder if the ladies' room is located down the block."
"Oh, you're on a date?" Tony asked before he could stop himself.
"Yes. We just saw Cyrano de Bergerac at the Warner. It's quite good, even if it isn't a movie. The nose is," she tweaked Tony's nose, "quite conspicuous. Try the prime rib. It was nice meeting you." She had given twin cheek kisses to both Jeanne and himself and disappeared before Tony had been able to formulate a response.
He spoke to the maître d' and joined Jeanne at the bar a few minutes later. Sipping his dry vodka martini, he said, "Ziva tends to just say whatever she's thinking. The students all think she's great, but she can be a bit much…"
"Did you sleep with her?" Jeanne interrupted, avoiding eye contact as she sipped her own drink.
Tony froze for the second time since entering the bar. It was possible a little honesty would make up for all the lies from…earlier. "Yes. We had a little fling last summer."
"We, uh, were both just looking for a little fun," he winced as the lies started again, "and we…look, it was just sex and it ended a while ago. We've just been colleagues since then and it hasn't been a problem."
He contracted his brows, wondering if he should go with kidding or reassurance. He swallowed his drink and caught the bartender's attention, asking for another. His empty glass was cleared and a full one replaced it. The extended silence left him with only one option. "I'm not interested in her anymore. And she's not interested in me."
He made his point by waving as Ziva exited the restaurant with a tall Adonis who Tony was confident he could take in a fight. Probably. "Jeanne, please don't be like this."
"And how should I be?"
"Well, far be it from me to suggest that you stop judging me on things that happened before I even met you."
She sniffed and went back to her drink. Dinner was hardly less enjoyable, unless he counted the excellent prime rib. They skipped dessert, in spite of the cheesecake special. He found a space right outside her building and ran around the back of his Mustang to open the door for her. At the front entrance of her building, he kissed her goodnight. She seemed miffed. "Don't you want to come up?"
"Based on how you've been acting all night? Not really."
"Tony, I'm sorry. I just…I have to admit I'm a little jealous after meeting that woman. But I'm over it. I promise."
He kissed her again. "No, it's okay. Even if tonight had been perfect, I'd be heading home early. 7 AM department meeting tomorrow."
Jeanne pouted. "Okay, Professor DiNardo. Go home and work on your lesson plans."
He waited on the steps while she caught the elevator before running back to his car. Rather than driving straight home, he made a slight detour. Ziva answered the buzzer almost immediately. "Yes?"
"Hey. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"Are you calling me a tramp?"
He stepped back from the intercom as if she'd slapped him. "Where are you getting that?"
"From the way you said 'interrupting.'"
"Can I come up or not?" He got his answer as the front door buzzed, admitting him into the building. He jogged up the stairs, wondering briefly why Jeanne bothered taking the elevator. She lived on the second floor, just like Ziva. Ziva as an English professor…heh.
She opened the door before his knuckles made contact with it. "Film professor?"
"Yeah, about that…" He pulled the door shut behind him and followed her into the living room. "Can you…okay, I know you can keep a secret, but…will you? Please?" He sank heavily onto the couch beside her.
"About why your so-called girlfriend thinks you're a film professor at Georgetown?"
"Uh-huh. Thanks for playing along, by the way."
"Don't make me regret it by telling me it's a lie you stumbled into and can't talk yourself out of."
"If you say complicated…"
He smiled. "Okay. How about classified?"
She blinked and looked him over carefully. "Your girlfriend is classified?"
"Kind of." He picked at his fingernails, appreciating that she was allowing him some silence in which to think. Time to formulate a response was always appreciated. It wasn't a trust issue. He knew he could tell her anything and she'd take it to the grave. But telling her that he'd taken on the mission to compete with her, and to a lesser extent Gibbs, as a super secret agent? He decided that he could fill her in without going into the details of his motivation. "Okay, remember Le Grenouille?"
She frowned. "How could I forget?"
"Right. Well, Jeanne Benoit is his daughter…"
Thirty minutes later, when he'd finished his account, Ziva was looking at him with a mix of apprehension and chagrin. "Don't take this the wrong way, but how could you be so stupid? Falling in love with your target? Don't you understand that this is the kind of thing that could get you killed?"
"I'm not in love with her," he protested, unsure if he were telling the truth or not. "I'm just the perfect boyfriend that she can't resist introducing to daddy."
She stood and stared pacing. "And if she doesn't? How far will you go? An engagement? A wedding? Children?"
"Whoa. Let's not go nuts."
"Oh, you are so far beyond…how could Jen do this to you?" Ziva disappeared into the kitchen, emerging with two bottles of beer a moment later. She pried the lids off without the aid of a bottle opener by securing the ridges of the caps against the counter and hitting them forcefully. She handed him one and took a long swallow from her own. "Did you have any idea what you were getting into?"
He tried to downplay the drama. "Uh, arms dealer, terrorists, contact…what's the big deal?"
"You aren't trained for this."
"You think Moussad is the only source of…"
"This isn't about Moussad!" she shouted, cutting him off. "You were a police officer. You've been with Gibbs for years, analyzing crime scenes. Your job has always been arresting the guilty while protecting and defending the innocent. You don't understand what it's like to be one of the guilty." She slammed her half-empty beer on the coffee table, causing it to foam over and spill. "Jen should have known better than to put you in this position."
"Hey, I agreed to it."
Her eyes were earnest as she sat next to him, taking his hand. "You didn't know what you were agreeing to."
He yanked his hand from her grasp. "I knew. I prepared. Don't tell me I'm in too deep because I understand my job and I'm doing it. I've already met her mom and it's only a matter of time before I'm at a nice restaurant having an expensive dinner with Le Grenouille himself."
She shook her head sadly. "Tony, being an operative…a spy…means you have to maintain all your identities at once. You have to make sacrifices, yes, but you have to be sure they're worth it."
He stared at everything but her face, taking his time as he finished his beer. When the bottle was empty, he muttered, "I didn't mean to screw things up."
"Can I have another beer?"
"How many drinks have you had tonight?"
"I don't know."
"I'll give you another beer if you agree not to drive anywhere."
"Can I sleep on your couch?"
"Then bottoms up."
He awoke in her bed the next morning, fully clothed and with a considerable headache. He staggered to the kitchen just as she was walking through the front door, sweaty and winded. "Feeling okay?"
"No," he answered, sitting on one of the stools lined up against her kitchen counter.
"I'll put on some coffee."
"Ungh." He nodded and allowed his head to sink onto his folded arms.
"I'll make breakfast after I get out of the shower."
"Mmm. Uh-ungh." As her footsteps receded down the hall, he raised his head and called her back. "Ziva? Did we…?"
She shook her head in a manner he could only describe as sad. "I took the couch."
"Relax. You'll have huevos rancheros, toast and coffee in twenty minutes, professor."
He buried his head in his arms again as she went into the bathroom.