The grocery store wasn't too crowded but Tony still found himself standing at the end of a line that didn't show any sign of moving in the near future. He sighed as he shifted his feet restlessly. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out, opening it before he took the time to realize that it was the wrong phone. It was his 'secret' phone.
"Hey," he smiled into the phone assuming it was Ziva.
"Tony?" the voice was hesitant but familiar and Tony blanched at the voice.
"Jeanne?" He looked down at his cell wondering how he could have been so stupid to continue carrying both phones around.
"I've been so worried Tony. I've been calling you for a week. I've left a million messages. You ran out of that restaurant like something was wrong and then you were just gone. What happened?"
"I um, I meant to call you," he looked at the other patrons in the grocery store nervously. He ducked his head and attempted to cover his mouth with his arm as he spoke. "There was an emergency."
"What kind of emergency could there have possibly been that prevented you from letting me know that something was going on?" Hurt permeated Jeanne's voice and Tony felt guilty. She had been an unwitting pawn in her father's investigation and it was unfair.
"We should get together and talk. Are you busy tomorrow?" Tony stalled, knowing that he had to tell Ziva what was gong on before he met up with Jeanne. There would be no more secrets from Ziva. It just wasn't worth it. He made arrangements to meet Jeanne at a bakery near Ziva's place in the morning.
He hastily paid for his purchases and drove back to Ziva's apartment. He let himself in, juggling the bags of groceries and feeling relieved at the sight of Ziva dozing lightly on the couch. Classical music was playing softly in the background. Tony put the groceries away in the kitchen and rummaged around one of the bags. He pulled out a bag of pasta. He quietly perused the kitchen until he found a pot and put the water on the stove to boil. He left the water and sat on the arm of the couch.
He watched her sleep for a moment before gently running his thumb down her cheek. Her eyes fluttered and she looked up at him. "Feel like pasta?" He smiled at her. She pushed herself up until she was leaning next to him.
"Pasta will be fine. You want to finish that conversation we started in the elevator?" She looked down at her hands nervously.
"Yes I do. But first let me check on the food." Tony made short work of cooking dinner and sat the plates down on the coffee table. He pulled out his second cell phone and laid it in front of her.
"I wanted to talk about this."
Ziva looked confused for a moment before she realized what she was looking at. "This is your other cell phone yes? The one that your girlfriend calls."
"Yes, well um sort of." He sat down on the floor with his back against the couch. He couldn't see Ziva behind him but he could feel her sitting there. "She was my girlfriend but she was also the assignment that I was working on for Jen. She's La Grenouille's daughter. I couldn't tell anyone what was going on."
Ziva could hear the anguish in his voice. "And as time went on," he continued. "I really thought that I felt something for her. I mean," he paused as he reached out and gently wrapped his hand around Ziva's calf, needing the contact with her. "She's a good person. But every time I looked at her I felt like I was betraying you." He felt her stiffen and waited for her to speak, totally uncertain of her response to his confession.
"Do you mean that Tony?" she finally spoke so quietly that if Tony hadn't been completely silent he would have missed it. He turned and half raised himself up on one knee. He took her hand and looked earnestly into her deep brown eyes.
"Every word. I want to know you, everything about you. Even the things that you hide."
She turned away from his probing gaze. "You don't need to know those things. You would look at me differently if you did. You'd feel sorry for me."
"I'd never feel sorry for you. I might feel bad for the things that you to go through but they made you who you are. You are beautiful and strong." He spoke with uncharacteristic seriousness. "And your devious mind can keep up with mine prank for prank when we are gluing Probie to his keyboard." He grinned at her and she smiled back. "I'm not saying that I know what the future holds. I'm just saying that I want to be with you, I want to," he paused as he struggled to find the right word. Ziva leaned forward and gently rested her fingers over his mouth.
"I want to try too." She smiled as she said it. She guided him from the floor to sit next to her on the couch. She nestled herself under his arm and rested her head on his shoulder. All the subterfuge was part of an assignment?"
"Yup, in the morning I have to talk to Jeanne though. I left her alone at a restaurant the night you were shot and I've been ducking her calls since. I talked to the director. It's over. No more secrets." Ziva nodded and shifted slightly. "Does your arm hurt?" He asked.
"Just a little." He nodded.
"Come on, let's get you into bed. This is the most activity you've seen in days." He helped her up and walked with her to the bedroom. He handed her two white pills to help with the pain. Then he tucked her in and turned down the lights. He started to walk out of the room.
"Are you leaving?" She looked surprised that he was walking away after his revelation.
He shook his head. "I was just going to go hang out on the couch."
"Stay with me until I fall asleep?" He smiled and walked back into the room. He toed off his shoes and slid under the covers with her.
The days flew by. Tony went back to work but had plenty of leeway to take Ziva to her appointments and he did without complaint. Her wound healed slowly but she didn't need a skin graft. She started going to physical therapy and amazed her therapists with the speed that she regained her strength and dexterity.
Tony went along, at first for encouragement and then later to try to keep her from pushing herself too hard. She started back half days at NCIS but to her disappointment she was only cleared for desk duty. She longed to get out in the field and do something.
Her personal life was shaping up very nicely, however. Tony had been staying over and while she had known for a while that she had feelings for him they continued to develop. He made her laugh all the time. There was no shortage of time spent watching movies but they also enjoyed spending time together cooking and quiet time just sitting on the couch too. Ziva found that his claims of expertise in the bedroom were not exaggerated either.
Ziva pulled herself out of her reverie as the elevator dinged. The boys entered the bullpen. Ziva rose from her desk as Gibbs stalked by her desk.
"Gibbs" she spoke assertively. He rounded on her and she couldn't meet the intensity of his gaze.
"Did you find that car?"
"I'm still working on it. McGee is really better at this sort of thing." She shuffled some papers on her desk as Gibbs watched her with one eyebrow raised.
"Well then?" He asked when she showed no sign of speaking.
"I want back out in the field. I am going crazy here." He studied her silently, testing her resolve. When she didn't back down he nodded.
"Requalify on the range and you're off desk duty." Ziva gave a single nod but didn't raise her gaze from the desk. Gibbs watched her for a moment before moving on to his desk, intuitively knowing that she was feeling insecure about her skills. He was worried about her but also supremely confident that she would be okay in the end.
Tony stood across the room behind his desk, watching the exchange with interest. He knew that Ziva hadn't handled a weapon since she'd been injured. She had shared her desire to get out of the office with him but when he had offered to go with her to the range she was strangely reluctant. He was concerned about how she would handle any limitations. He loved the way their relationship was developing but he knew that she needed her job, it was part of who she was.
He walked up behind her and put his hand on her shoulder. "I'll go with you tonight." He leered at her. "And then we can go for dinner." She gave him a half smile, no one at NCIS knew about her and Tony, although she had gotten some suspicious looks from the director.
She nodded. "You can buy me dinner after," she said coyly.
Gibbs didn't look up but he smiled at the conversation. Rule 12 may be on the way out but he could never manage to follow it himself. Hopefully these two would have more success with long-term romance than he had.
Ziva sat in the passenger seat, looking toward the range apprehensively. Tony sat beside her, patiently waiting for her to get out of the car. When it was apparent that she wasn't going to move he leaned toward her. "You're ready for this." He asserted.
"What if I'm not?" Ziva stretched her arm out straight in front of her. Tony noticed the slightest tremor in her hand. "That could be the difference between life and death, and it may not be my life in jeopardy. What if my aim is off and someone gets hurt because of me. It would be selfish for me to put all of you at risk," she trailed off and Tony could see the anguish in her eyes.
"Ziva, come on, let's just go in and try it. If it's bad we'll figure it out together."
She took a few more breaths before nodding resolutely. "You're right. We should go in."
Tony lightly rested his fingers on her back as they approached the door and then sat on a bench behind Ziva as she readied herself. She stood, looking out at the target for a moment before she turned to him.
"Tony," she asked hesitantly. "Do you mind, um, could you." She turned away from him and he had to strain to hear as she asked the question. "Will you not watch me? If it's bad it will be harder," she trailed off slowly and Tony could see the fear again.
He nodded sharply, for once not making a joke. He stood and moved two stalls down and put a target on the line and rolled it out to twenty-five yards. He put his protective glasses and hearing protection on and turned to the target in front of him. He heard the first shots beside him and he forced himself not to turn to watch her.
Ziva shooting her weapon was a sight that had always turned him on. She looked incredibly comfortable with a weapon in her hand. She was lithe and sexy and he could envision himself pinning her up against the wall and making mad passionate love. He turned back to his own target and squeezed off a few rounds. He looked at his target critically. He could use some more time on the range himself.
At least they weren't shooting at his hat this time. He thought to himself. He noticed that Ziva's gun was silent and Ziva was silent as well. He hesitantly glanced her direction. He was trying to respect her wish not to be watched but curiosity was killing him. He was surprised to meet dancing brown eyes as he stole a glance her way. She was facing him and holding her target in her hands.
He leaned over her shoulder and looked at the tight grouping and grinned as he held his target next to hers. She had scored higher than he had. He wrapped his arms around her and swung her into the air. He planted a kiss on her lips. "See, I knew you'd be fine." His voice was filled with relief. "Now you can come back to work for real."
He stopped and dropped his head until his forehead rested on hers. "I'm so sorry that you had to go through all of this Ziva." His voice cracked at the admission.
Ziva laid the palm of her hand against Tony's face and caressed his cheek gently. "You know that none of this was your fault."
"I should have been there when you called."
She shrugged. "Maybe, but you were on a mission and you couldn't have prevented it anyway. You have been there when I needed you since then. Tony," she paused and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them they were clear and bright. "Tony, I love you."
Tony opened his mouth like a fish. She placed two fingers across his lips. "I did not say it to hear you say it back. I just wanted you to know."
He crushed her to him and held her tightly. She felt more than heard him as he mumbled into her hair. "I do love you Ziva. More than you could possibly know."
Ziva was cleared for active duty and the team felt whole again. Tony soon officially moved in with Ziva and Gibbs rescinded rule 12, grudgingly giving them his blessing. Nothing changed at the office. Tony still leered at Ziva and they fought and played pranks on each other and McGee but they went home together and cared for one another. Ziva was able to let her guard down at last and share all her hopes and fears along with the parts of her past that she kept so carefully hidden for so long. Tony trusted her enough to stop joking and let her see his vulnerabilities. They took care of one another on and off the job – and all was right with the world.