Ringing In the New Year

This was not the way Tony had imagined his New Year's Eve playing out.

Yes, he was at the Sky Terrace Restaurant at the Hotel Washington, one of the best (and most expensive) restaurants in the city. Yes, there was a beautiful woman sitting across from him. Yes, he had a diamond ring in his pocket.

But in truth … the only reason he'd kept the dinner reservations was because in DC, it was usually more expensive to cancel a reservation than it was to keep one. Particularly since he'd made this one five and a half months ago and had to call in two very big favors to get onto the Terrace on New Year's Eve. So it was better in the long run to just suck it up and have dinner.

And … well … the beautiful woman sitting across the table from him was Ziva. Ziva, who had actually been home at 10am on New Year's Eve day when Tony called and, miraculously, had nothing planned for New Year's Eve. Or if she did, she cancelled it without making him feel badly about it, since Ziva and her super-Ninja hearing would have discerned the small touch of desperation in his voice when he asked if she wanted to be his non-involved, no-relationship-implied, totally platonic date for New Year's Eve.

And the ring? The ring was moot, actually. It would never be given; never be used. No one on the team knew that he'd bought it, although Ziva probably suspected. In fact, she probably knew. No … he was certain that she knew. Ziva being Ziva, she probably not only knew that he'd bought it five months ago, but she knew where, how much it cost, the country of origin of each gemstone, and the names of the miners who pulled the diamonds out of the ground.

Tony sighed. Here he was – Anthony DiNozzo – sitting in a coveted table atop the Hotel Washington and eating a fairly exquisite boneless braised beef short rib while Ziva was making her way through a seared rare tuna nicoise. They were drinking champagne and looking out over one of the best views in DC. The conversation was light and only a little bit artificial. They talked about the last couple of cases at work, about how they'd celebrated the holidays, about how Ziva used to celebrate New Year's Eve in Israel, and about how Tony used to celebrate New Year's Eve in boarding school. And it would have all been really kind of nice, if it weren't for that little black velvet box that felt like a lead weight in his pocket.

It was nearly midnight by the time they finished the flambéed-at-tableside bananas foster dessert and made their way out onto the balcony to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks break behind the Washington Monument. They walked out into the crisp, clear and freezing Washington night and looked out at a spectacular city laid out below them. There was, from somewhere, a muffled countdown. "… 5 …4 …3 …2 …1 … HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Ziva and Tony looked at each other and smiled. There was no traditional New Year's kiss. And at midnight exactly, the fireworks began – a 22-minute salute of sparkles and explosions and massive colorful waves of light that mesmerized not just Tony and Ziva, but the entire assembled crowd.

By 12:30 a.m. on January 1, 2008, Tony and Ziva were the only two people left on the balcony – everyone else had moved inside for dancing and coffee and cordials. There was muted music leaking out the doors onto the terrace. The two stood there, silent, and Tony had to admire Ziva's loyalty. She never once complained about the cold. Finally, Tony reached into his pocked and took out the black velvet box. He opened it without fanfare and showed it to Ziva.

"It's beautiful, Tony," she said, without even a hint of either surprise or sadness.

The ring was, indeed, beautiful. A flawless teardrop diamond in a simple platinum setting, with two small sapphires on either side. Pristine and perfect.

"It must have cost you a month's salary," Ziva continued.

"A month and a half," Tony said with a small smile, as he took the ring and twirled it on the tip of his index finger before putting it carefully back in the box and the box back in his pocket.

"You were going to propose tonight," Ziva said. It wasn't a question.

"I was," Tony said, in a voice that was not nearly as disappointed as Ziva would have expected.

And the two gazed once again out at the view.

A minute or so later, as Ziva pretended to continue looking at the monuments glistening in the night, she saw Tony – out of the corner of her eye – take the ring box out of his pocket again and open it. She suddenly felt like she was intruding, and shifted her focus off of Tony to allow him his moment of reverie.

A second later, Ziva sensed a change, and turned to see Tony tossing the ring box up in the air and catching it, like he was getting ready to play a game of fetch. Silently, she watched as he turned to her and grinned, lobbing the ring box out over the balcony. The noise of the still-going-on celebrations around them muffled the sound of the ring box hitting the top of a taxi and bouncing off the side of a mailbox and falling into the alley below. The bright moon gave them a remarkably good view of the box, sitting forlornly on the cobblestones, just as a very large delivery truck ran directly over it – as if it had all been staged.

Tony laughed out loud. Ziva gasped.

"T – Tony!" she exclaimed, looking at him and then down at the alley, where any trace of the ring box had been eradicated. It was probably stuck in the treads of the truck's tires. Ziva's brain instantly started trying to figure out who to call on New Year's Eve to find the truck and how long it would take them to chase it down to get the ring back.

Tony grinned his patented DiNozzo grin at her. "Damn, that felt good!" he said, raising his arms in a victorious "Rocky"-style gesture, taking a deep breath of the cold night air. Ziva continued to look at him, her mouth open in shock.

Tony finally turned and opened his fist, revealing the ring, safe and sound. "So," he said, a sparkle in his eyes and a grin on his face, "what do you think … take it back to the jeweler's, or sell it on eBay?"

Ziva released a breath that she hadn't realized she was holding. Tony laughed heartily – a real laugh … the kind of laugh Ziva hadn't heard in a while.

"You didn't really think I tossed the RING, did you?" he said, teasing. Ziva narrowed her eyes in mock-anger, but had to smile too.

"Come on," Tony said. "I may have my moments of drama, but I'm not an idiot." She raised her eyebrows. "All college scores to the contrary," he amended.

Tony held up the ring and let it sparkle in the moonlight.

"One thing I learned from my father," Tony said, his face getting just a touch darker, "is that diamonds ALWAYS have a resale value."

"It is a beautiful ring, Tony," Ziva said, with a gentle smile.

"Yeah …" Tony replied, as he carefully put the ring into the inside pocket of his suit. There was a beat of silence and then he chuckled to himself one more time. He looked up and pointed to Ziva. "I got you, didn't I?"

Ziva started to protest, but then she let him have the moment. "Yes, Tony," she said with a chuckle of her own, "you got me." She bowed in appreciation and said, "I have been skunked."

"Punked," Tony corrected.

The two looked at each other and smiled. And then they realized that they'd been outside nearly an hour. It was freezing!

"Coffee?" Tony said, as they turned to head back into the warmth and celebration of the restaurant.

"Yes … coffee," Ziva replied.

As Tony reached out and opened the door for her, Ziva turned to look over her shoulder at him. "Happy New Year, Tony," she said as she stepped into the dining room.

Tony glanced back at view once more, looking up at the bright stars filling the sky. He smiled. "Happy New Year," he said.