Dark, it was so dark and there was blood everywhere. Ziva couldn't see it but she could smell it. Her nostrils flared and her eyes opened wide. Adrenaline heightened all of her senses. She heard gunshots in the distance. Tony, Tony was around here somewhere. She had to find him. They needed to stay together. Another volley of gunfire rang out. She felt herself tackled from behind and hit the ground. She struggled, fought for her life but the hands were too strong, she was at a disadvantage. Suddenly she heard Tony calling for her. She tried to respond but it felt like she was underwater. She couldn't form the words, couldn't get herself free.

"Ziva," Tony called. She was fighting him. Her screaming had brought him running in from the other room. He tried to wake her but she was fully entrenched in the dream. "Come on Ziva, wake up now." He gently stroked her face. She struggled against the touch. He didn't know what was going on in her mind but he knew what a nightmare looked like. "You're safe now Ziva, shh it's ok." Finally she stilled under his hands. Her eyes opened, they were glassy and feverish.

"Tony?" she reached up and touched his face. She looked around the room, disoriented. "What happened?"

"You had a nightmare, a bad one by the sound of it. You were screaming. Want to talk about it?"

"There's nothing to talk about. It was dark, someone was trying to kill me." She shrugged the dream off as no big deal but Tony looked at her with concern.

"Do you have a lot of nightmares like that or is it a flu thing?"

"Sometimes," she toyed with her comforter, not looking up at him. "I don't always sleep very well."

"Slept like a log when we went under cover," Tony muttered to himself. "Snored like a sailor, a drunken sailor with emphysema."

Ziva laughed and then groaned. "I could go five rounds with you and not hurt this bad."

"Where does it hurt?" Tony asked gently as he covered her back up.

"Everywhere," she closed her eyes. Tony leaned back on his elbow next to her and watched her. "What are you doing Tony?" She muttered with her eyes closed.

"Just watching you."

"Why?"

"Well, right now I know I could take you even if I piss you off. It makes watching you safer."

"And what do you see when you are watching me?" She still didn't open her eyes and Tony wondered if she would remember having this conversation later.

"I see a beautiful mysterious woman. And I wonder if you're ever going to trust me enough to let me in. Don't think that I haven't noticed that when something personal comes up your more violent side shows."

"Mmm, people always think they want to know my secrets, but they can't ever look at me the same way once they know," she murmured without opening her eyes. Tony wasn't sure she really knew what she was saying. He brushed her hair away from her face.

"Sleep now, but someday we are going to talk about the things that you hide. Nothing that you have to say will change the way I feel about you."

Ziva slept solidly for six hours and when she finally woke up she almost felt human again. She stretched and looked around the room. The whole day was mostly a blur. Tony was here, she remembered that part. He stayed even when she was puking her guts out.

She looked around and listened. She didn't hear the television and she didn't hear the telltale snoring that would indicate that Tony was still here. There was no light coming in through her bedroom window so it was certainly late. He must have finally left. Ziva found herself unexpectedly disappointed. She walked out to the living room and startled at the image of Tony lying sprawled out on her couch. He wasn't snoring, which surprised her but his hair had taken on that porcupine quality that she thought was so cute. She would never ever admit it to him but he reminded her of a tousled little boy with his hair like that and she couldn't deny him anything. That was exactly why she could never admit it, he would take advantage of her weakness.

She paused for a moment as her stomach decided if it was going to stay where it belonged, she swallowed reflexively and held onto the door jam. The feeling passed and she crossed the room and perched next to him on the couch. He could be such an insensitive jerk but then he would do something nice and her heart would beat uncontrollably. She wanted to be with him but there were so many things standing in the way. Gibbs wouldn't take kindly to two members of his team fraternizing and she wasn't even sure what Tony felt for her. There were also many things in her past that he didn't know about and she didn't know what he would think if he found out.

She gingerly curled up next to him. He stirred and she held her breath until she was sure he was sound asleep. He was warm and hard, yet soft in all the right places. She rubbed her cheek on his shirt and felt her eyes closed as the lids grew heavy. She would just stay here for a minute, she thought to herself. Then she would go back to bed.

The next thing Ziva was aware of was Tony calling her name and rubbing her arm softly.

"Hey," he said as he saw her big brown eyes blinking at him sleepily. "Sorry to wake you but I uh, need to call Gibbs and my phone is over there," he pointed to the kitchen. "Are you feeling any better?" He passed his hand over her forehead in a show of checking for fever, using the opportunity to brush her hair back.

"I don't think I'm awake enough to know yet," she croaked out, her throat dry. She rolled herself away from Tony and her feet touched the floor. She felt Tony's hands reach out to steady her.

"Back to bed. I'll come check on you in a minute."

"Tony," she tried to smile. "I told you I don't need to be looked after. You don't have any obligation to me."

"Ziva," Tony turned the phone in his hand uncomfortably. "I don't know where this is coming from. We're partners, we're friends. If this is just the flu talking tell me now, because if there is something else going on we need to talk about it."

"You are very eager to blame my words on the flu. I don't know what to think anymore. One minute we are joking, the next we are flirting, and then you say things that indicate that you do not like me very much. Then this," she gestured to the empty pharmacy bags still lying on the coffee table. "Who is the real Anthony DiNozzo?"

A smile lifted one corner of Tony's mouth and he shook his head. "Well, I have never hated you, and I don't know where you got that impression."

Ziva sat on the couch again with one foot under her body. She leaned back against the back of the couch. "It felt like everyone hated me for a while after Ari," she paused awkwardly for a moment. "When I first joined the team. Well, except for McGee," she amended with a shrug.

"We were still hurting over losing Kate, and I think that we were all a little confused about why you would want to join us after Gibbs killed your brother," Tony said quietly. He joined her on the couch but he didn't touch her. Tony realized that they were having a conversation that had been put off for too long and he approached it cautiously.

"He did not," she said so quietly that Tony had to strain to hear, and he didn't understand what she meant.

"Didn't what?"

"Gibbs," she studied her fingers, unable to meet his eyes. "He didn't shoot my brother, didn't shoot Ari." Ziva looked at him with dark vulnerable eyes. She was uncertain enough about Tony's reaction that she wasn't able to anticipate it.

Tony reached out and covered her hands with one of his own. He leaned down to meet her eyes. "Ziva, I have no idea what you are telling me, you're going to have to elaborate," he paused for a moment and spoke gently sensing that this was a painful topic for her. "Please."

Ziva took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "No one knows this but Gibbs and the Director Tony, no one. Gibbs was so convinced that Ari was after him. He was so convinced and I, well I was not. He was my brother and we had been working closely together for several years. I was his control officer." Ziva's words began to spill from her mouth rapidly.

"But I had done my homework on Gibbs too and I had no reason to believe that he was lying. Gibbs asked me to set Ari up and then to watch his back. If Ari did not show up there would be no harm done. But he did and I, I was the one who shot Ari." She inhaled deeply, her breath hitching as she processed the memory. "Gibbs trusted me, though he had no reason to and then he lied on the report to protect me. I couldn't stay in Israel with my father after that. I had worked with Jenny before and I trusted Gibbs. So here I am."

"Ziva," Tony reached across the couch and pulled her close to him. He rested his chin on her head. He stroked her hair gently and closed his eyes. He was having a difficult time imagining what she must have gone through, losing so much.

She pulled away from him slightly and looked into his eyes. "Please, please don't look at me like you feel sorry for me. I don't want you to think of me as a victim."

Tony chuckled softly and she could feel the rumble of it against her chest. "I could never think of you as a victim. You're too kick ass for that." He looked into her feverish eyes. "Now, will you please go climb back in bed." He smiled at her. "We'll talk more about this later I promise. I'm just going to call Gibbs and tell him that we won't be in today. Then I'm going to make you some tea and when you feel better we're going to talk some more."

Ziva made a token protest before she climbed off the couch and disappeared into her bedroom.

Tony stood at the kitchen counter and stirred Ziva's tea. He smiled briefly to himself. Barring an emergency Gibbs had ordered him to stay here with Ziva, something he had already intended to do. Gibbs had a soft spot for her and Tony suddenly felt like he understood it a little better. He walked back into her room and set the tea down on the dresser. She was asleep. He sat back in the overstuffed chair near her bed and sipped at her tea as he watched her.

Tony woke to find Ziva's eyes on him. She was watching him intently. "Hey," he said as he rubbed at his eyes. "I guess I fell asleep."

She nodded. "You are not getting sick as well are you?" She cocked her head and looked at him critically.

"Nah," he shrugged. "I got a flu shot last month. Watching you sleep was so stimulating though that I couldn't help myself." He teased gently. "You ready to finish that conversation we were having earlier?"

Ziva studied him quietly. "What conversation was that?" She asked softly.

"The one about you."

"Tony," she hesitated. "You are not usually so anxious to have conversations about feelings and, things that are deeper than movies. Is there a reason you are stuck on this?"

"I just, we're friends aren't we Ziva? I mean," she waited patiently while he collected his thoughts. "I make jokes and you threaten people with bodily harm but when it really comes down to it I would be there for you. What I said before is true. I know that I haven't had the best track record with you but it was part of the assignment. I know you feel like I deceived you."

"Tony," she interrupted his speech. "I know." The silence was deafening while she simply looked at him. "Thank you, for saying that. I know people think that I am heartless but I was worried about you and then I was embarrassed when I found out how wrong I had been about what was going on," she looked down at her blanket covered knees. "Yes, I think we are friends Tony," her heart twisted as she spoke the words knowing that Tony would never think of her as anything more than a friend. She could accept that, really she could. She let her eyes fall closed and her hair fell into a soft curtain over her face. She didn't see Tony shift from the chair to the edge of the bed but she felt him push her hair back behind her ear.

"Maybe we're more than friends Ziva." He lightly traced the outline of her lips with the tip of his index finger.

She looked up at him through her eyelashes, not sure how to take Tony's actions. She reached up and gently stilled his hand. "What are you saying Tony?"

"Well I," Tony stammered slightly as his fingers remained captured within Ziva's. "I think that there is something more than just friends and coworkers between us. But I," Ziva silenced him with a finger over his lips.

"Don't ruin this moment by taking it back." She stopped him as he leaned in to kiss her with a hand on his shoulder. "Don't take this the wrong way because I do want you to kiss me. But I think that we should take this slowly Tony. I feel what you are feeling and I don't want to nail it up the first time we kiss by giving you the flu."

"Screw," Tony corrected with a smile.

"What?" Ziva looked startled.

"The phrase is 'screw it up' not nail it up," he smiled at her shyly. Ziva just rolled her eyes and slapped him lightly on the shoulder. She tried but failed to smother her yawn. "Get back under the covers and go back to sleep. Gibbs isn't going to let us out of work forever."

"You want to lie here with me?" Ziva asked shyly. She held up one corner of the comforter and scooted closer to the center of the bed. Tony grinned and flung himself toward her, diving under the covers. He wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her neck. Ziva smiled at his enthusiasm. "I'm glad you're here Tony," she murmured to him before she succumbed to sleep once again.

fin

A/N: I always feel the need to explain myself after the story ends although I do hope that the story speaks for itself. This is just a little story but it had a mind of it's own and it deviated wildly from my first intention. I hope that people feel like my Tony and Ziva are at least mostly in character. My Tony is less chauvinistic, sex-crazed, and juvenile than the way some people see/write him but when I watch the show I get the impression that those things are really just a cover to keep the world from finding out all of Tony's secrets – namely that he's a genuinely nice guy, sometimes insecure and who may truly have some commitment fears. Ziva, what can I say about Ziva? I love the character – her eyes are so expressive. She is tough but she's not as tough as she wants everyone to believe. Inconsiderate words can hurt her. I think it makes her sad that the team can't see past that façade after all this time. She's given up a lot to become who she is. I think that's why she identified so strongly with (what's his name?) in the episode Corporal Punishment. I guess people probably look at it as another case where she was attracted to not only a guy who was completely wrong for her but who was also the bad guy but I think that she saw a lot of herself in who he was (before they found out that he did it to himself with steroids.) I also think that was why it hurt so much when Abby referred to him as a monster. She too gave up a "normal" life to fight for good. I could write a book of references to Ziva and her feelings and I'm pretty sure no one would be interested so I'll stop here and simply say – if you got this far I hope you enjoyed it.

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