Disclaimer- I don't own any of the wonderful characters of NCIS, they belong to CBS and the wonderous DPB...
The Green Dragon was almost empty, hardly surprising given the late hour at which the young woman had entered. It was past midnight and although most of the regulars had returned home to their loved ones, a singular figure could still be seen sitting alone at the bar. It was to this form, which the woman now felt herself drawn.
"Hey" said Ziva as she approached her NCIS partner Tony DiNozzo and slid onto the empty bar stool adjacent to him.
Tony did not acknowledge her presence. Instead, he continued to stare stoically ahead and took another swig of the almost empty beer bottle he held in his hands. Ziva frowned at her friend's silence. Tony had been sullen all day and although she would have normally given anything for a brief reprieve from his constant trivia quips, Ziva knew that something was bothering her partner. They sat in silence for a while, Ziva, carefully calculating her next move and Tony, seemingly absorbed in his own thoughts.
Eventually Ziva spoke again. Tony had begun to pick at the almost empty bowl of peanuts that lay in front of them and she took the sudden flourish of activity as an opportunity to make her move.
"So," she ventured cautiously, carefully studying Tony's face to see if he was listening to her, "are you going to tell me what is up or are you just going to let me squirm?" Tony turned towards her and Ziva found herself taken aback at how unlike the man she knew he now seemed. She noticed how piercing his stare was, how his blue eyes seemed to bore right through her so that for the first time she felt as though he understood her completely. But the moment passed and just as quickly as the intensity had come, so too did it disappear from his eyes. Yet he continued to stare unblinkingly and Ziva met his gaze, determined for an answer.
"Why are you pushing this?" he asked, his voice laced with a subtlety that warned her against pursuing the matter.
Ziva shrugged, for the first time becoming uncomfortable with the way she had approached and cornered Tony. She felt embarrassed and thought back to when Ducky had accused her of monitoring her friend. He had of course been right, although she was only now becoming aware of his accuracy.
She looked down at her drink, acutely aware that Tony's gaze had not wavered from her.
"You don't tell me anything anymore" she said, "I didn't even know Jeanne existed... Why didn't you tell me?" She paused and waited for Tony's reaction but none came. Unsure, she continued onwards, "You always act like you don't care, you're always making jokes until it comes to something real... then you shut down."
"That's a bit rich coming from you," he countered, breaking his vow of silence before taking a deep swig of his current beer and ordering another. Ziva considered Tony's comment, it was a fair analysis but one she didn't readily accept.
"Don't turn this back on me Tony"
Tony laughed bitterly, "Well maybe I don't want this turned on me either". His words stung Ziva but she knew that he, like Ducky was right. It wasn't her business and no matter how hard she tried to deny it, Tony and she were not as close as she had once assumed. His clandestine approach to his relationship with Jeanne had all but confirmed it in her eyes. "You're not going to tell me…" Her voice trailed away. It wasn't a question, but more of a statement, a realisation. Ziva stood up from her stool and began to put on her coat once more.
"I'm sorry Tony" Ziva said curtly, trying to hide her hurt at Tony's rejection as she began to turn away.
"Kate died today…" he whispered quickly and quietly, the words barely escaping his lips.
Ziva stopped and looked down at her partner. His confession was not what she had been expecting and she found herself caught her off guard by it. "Tony... I don't know... what can I say?"
"You don't have to say anything..." He paused for a moment as though lost in thought, "What is there to say?... It was a long time ago... it doesn't matter anymore..."
Ziva remained silent. She found reaching out difficult at the best of times and Tony seemed almost broken as he sat lost in memories she had no hope of understanding.
"I wish I could have met her..." she said, wondering if she was once again overstepping her boundaries. Yet Tony seemed to have let his guard down somewhat, for when he spoke again any hint of his prior annoyance had dissipated.
"Yeah... me too," he replied, an air of regret apparent in his voice.
"Tell me about her..."
A small smile flickered across Tony's face, "Well, she would've hated to see me wallowing in self pity..."
Ziva smiled appreciatively though she had a feeling she was now intruding into something very private.
"Kate…" began Tony, "Kate… she was special… I guess I took her for granted though. I always teased her… she was like a sister... " his voice broke and he fell silent.
Ziva sat down again, closer this time, so that she could feel Tony's body brushing lightly against hers. She reached over and taking the empty bottle out of his hand, looked directly at him, willing him to meet her gaze as he had earlier. Slowly he obliged, turning his head so that their faces lay no more than eight inches from one another.
Ziva noticed how a singular tear had fallen down Tony's face, the way it clung to his skin, waiting patiently to fall downwards. She longed to be the one to reach out and wipe it away, to tell him everything was going to be ok. Instead, she let her eyes fall towards his mouth. Ziva could feel Tony watching her and though she willed herself to look up once more, she found herself unable to. Slowly, ever so slowly, she saw him lean forward and, taking her head in his right hand he brought it closer to his, weaving his fingers through her dark thick hair as though it would ensure she would not go away as suddenly as Kate and Jeanne had. He kissed her, gently at first, and then, when she didn't protest, a little harder. The taste of alcohol lingered on in his breath and Ziva found herself wondering if it was possible to feel intoxicated from simply kissing another person.
After what seemed like an eternity, Tony broke away. Puzzled, Ziva studied his face but found that perhaps for the first time she was unable to.
"Ziva… this, whatever it is… what are we doing?" he asked gently, keeping her face close to his. This was a Tony she was unfamiliar with, one she had only witnessed in relation to Jeanne and even then only through a telephone line.
Although she had longed to be in her current position for months now, Tony's apparent sincerity seemed so foreign to Ziva that she now found herself reluctantly questioning his advances. Perhaps she was setting herself up to be hurt. It was a survival mechanism, one she had developed many years ago. Don't get too close and you can't get hurt, don't get your hopes up and you can't be disappointed.
Ziva considered Tony's question once more, unable to settle upon an answer that was both honest and cautious. She didn't speak and a now familiar silence stretched between them, so much so that Ziva found herself wondering whether she had blown her opportunity. But then, as though he seemed to sense her unease, Tony leaned into her again and kissed her once more, this time with an urgency she had not felt for a long time. Actions speak louder than words, Ziva reasoned and felt the warmth she had so long wished for rush through her as he pressed himself against her body once more.