Five Times He Called (and One Time She Did)
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine, I've just borrowed them.
A/N Thanks to my absolutely wonderful beta, Kandon Kuuson, for his wonderful beta work.
Warnings: SPOILERS for Judgment Day Part 1 & 2
Summary: It was a relationship that spanned a lifetime. (Tiva)
"Ziva?" he breathed the name down the phone, not daring to believe that it was really her. "Ziva David?"
"Yes, who may I ask is calling?" she replied stiffly on the other end of the phone.
He faltered. Has she forgotten him already? It had been three months since he'd last heard her voice. Three long, agonising months on that blasted ship. He hated it, honestly hated it. He hated it a lot more than he thought he would. Partly because it bored him, but mostly because she was not there.
"Ziva . . ." he said again, his voice catching in his throat. Could she have really forgotten him, just after a mere three months? But to him, it had felt like eternity.
There was a pause and then a quiet, "Tony . . ." Her voice hitched on the other end. So she hadn't forgotten him. He smiled and she cleared her throat. "Is there something I can help you with?" There it was again. After the emotional 'Tony', the calm and professional voice.
He forced a smile on his face and said pseudo-cheerfully, "Can't a guy just ring this old partner?" But it was more than that; it was always more than that.
"I . . . I thought you were at sea," she replied, voice calm and even. It held no emotion, nothing.
"Shore leave," he answered brightly, forcing the cheer into his words. This was not what he'd been expecting, but then again, he wasn't quite sure what he expected. Just not this . . . this professional and Mossad-like Ziva.
"Oh," she spoke and fell silent.
"So . . ." He hesitated. He didn't want to appear like he was checking up on her. He wasn't, honestly. He just, as silly as it sounded, just wanted to hear her voice. He wanted to remember the days before Jenny's death, before Vance, before everything.
"Is there something you want?" There she went again and he sighed. He'd do anything to keep her on the line, so reluctantly he spoke, "Yeah, I need some Intel on a suspect . . ."
And he continued, the awkward silence shattered by a common goal . . . protecting the world . . . and protecting their hearts.
It became a habit, after that first call. He tried to stop, knowing it did neither one of them any good. He couldn't. It was like a drug . . . highly addictive and always joyous.
She picked up on the second ring and he could hear the smile in her voice as she said, "Shalom, Tony."
"Shalom, to you too." And she laughed, ridiculing his pronunciation of her language. But he didn't mind. It was nice to hear her laugh.
"How have you been?" she asked cheerfully, once she had stopped laughing.
He smiled. "Great," he replied. "As great as you can get on an oversized bath toy . . ." She laughed again.
"Still not liking being Agent Afloat, my little hairy butt," she teased.
He groaned. "I am never going to like it. Seriously, who cares if someone has their stash of chocolate stolen? That's hardly a job for a trained NCIS agent."
She smirked. "Oh, poor you." She didn't sound sorry at all. "Rather you than me."
"Yeah, that's what I wish too," he replied cheekily. "So, Zee-vah, whatcha being doing?"
She sighed on the other end. "You know I cannot talk about my work."
Tony laughed. "So more super secret spy stuff, sweetcheeks?"
"Something like that."
"Well, if you like secret ninja spy stuff, have you seen the latest movie . . ." he started telling her.
And he continued to talk to her about the movie that she had no desire to watch. But that was okay, they were just enjoying each other's company.
"Tony, what's wrong?" was the first thing she said after she picked up the phone. He had greeted her not in their customary way, but with a flat, English 'hello'.
He sighed and tried not to let his voice break. "I . . . I just had a bad day, a really bad day . . ." He had transferred from being an Agent Afloat to heading his own team three years ago.
"Do you want to talk?" she suggested softly. She knew not to push, he would come to her eventually, he always did.
There was silence on the other end so she added, "There must be a reason you called me. Why not talk to Gibbs or Abby or McGee." She knew she was taking a slight risk, acting as though she didn't want to talk, but it worked.
Sighing, Tony mumbled, "I lost one of my team today . . ."
Her voice caught in her throat as she heard how painful those words were to him. "Oh, Tony . . ." She honestly did not know what to say. She had lost many people under her command, but still, she didn't know how to react when someone important was taken away so suddenly.
"Her . . . her name was Noelle Harris . . . Elle. We called her Elle . . ." His voice broke as he mentioned his dead agent's name.
She waited patiently for him to continue, there was no reason to push. He finally said softly, "She was my Probie, you know. Young and green, she-she didn't deserve that . . ." She could hear the sob that he tried to hide on the other end.
"No one deserves that," she responded firmly. "No one."
There was another sniffle and then, "That's . . . that's not the worst part, Ziva . . ." he trailed off as he collected himself. "Elle reminded me so much of-of Kate." He sniffed and than laughed humourlessly, "I used to call her Kate sometimes, when I wasn't thinking."
"Oh, Tony," she repeated sadly. "I know it is not much now, but what they say is true, it does get better with time . . ."
"I find that hard to believe."
"You will see," she said strongly. "I know. I have been there many times myself. I know what you are going through, Tony. I know." And she did know, she always knew.
When he didn't say anything she asked, almost casually, "Tell me about her. What was she like? Tell me a funny story . . ."
There a sob, then silence, and then, "I remember the time when Elle and I were . . ."
And he continued telling her stories about his young agent, knowing that she understood, and would just let him . . . talk.
"Hey, is something up?" he asked as she had been unusually quiet during their conversation.
"No." She forced a smile. "Everything is funky-dory."
He laughed at her mistake. "It's hunky-dory, Zee-vah. Geez, you still manage to get 'em wrong, even after all these years."
"For which I have spent most in the Middle East," she retorted, glaring at him from the other end of the phone. "Do you not think it might be a little suspicious talking with English idioms when you are not supposed to know English?"
"Touché, Zee-vah," he grinned, but then turned serious. "Seriously, Ziva, what's up? You've been quiet this entire conversation, and you are not telling me something, I can tell."
She sighed. "It is complicated, Tony."
"What's complicated?" he queried.
"I . . ." She stopped.
"What?" he pressed gently. "You can tell me anything, you know that." He was met with silence. "C'mon, Zee-vah, don't make me force it out of you," he huffed, trying to keep his voice light.
"I have met someone," she blurted out suddenly.
"You've what?" he stuttered, not daring to believe what he had just heard.
"I have met someone," she repeated and then paused. "We are getting married in July . . ."
"What?!" he yelped, his exclamation coming out high pitched. "You're getting married?!"
"Yes," she confirmed softly.
"Oh." He thought about what he could reply with. "Oh, uh, congratulations, then."
"Yes, thank you," she replied stiffly, the awkwardness that hadn't been felt for years making a comeback.
"So," he tried to say conversationally after an uncomfortable pause, "who's the lucky guy?"
"Arik, his name is Arik Harel," she replied, glad that she didn't have to be the one making the first move.
"That . . . that's a nice name," he said lamely. "How long have you been together?"
"Six months?" he repeated dumbly. "How can you marry someone after six months?"
"He loves me," she replied plainly, a hint of something else within her voice, "and he is not afraid to admit it. He proposed and I accepted. It is nice to feel wanted."
"What about me?" he asked in a small voice. For the longest time, he had been the only man in her life.
"Nothing will change," she said, determined. But they both know it would. "I will . . . I will send you an invite so you know the date."
"Cool, great, fine," he replied quickly. "I'll have to schedule it into my book." But they both know he wouldn't. He would conveniently have a large on-going case, and she would accept that. He would apologise and she would accept. They both knew it would never have worked . . . it would have been too hard to let go.
And he continued, asking her pointless questions about Arik and the wedding, both of them trying to hide the sadness in their voices.
"Caught you at a bad time, did I?" he smiled when she picked up the phone.
"I admit your timing could have been better," she replied, distracted. He heard her turn away from the mouthpiece and yell up the stairs in a foreign language, "TALI! We are going in two minutes!"
"Sorry," she apologised, turning back to the phone. "Arik is getting promoted and we are running late for the ceremony. The twins are ready, but Tali is taking forever." She smiled and he nodded in understanding. His own teenage daughter, Sienna, sounded exactly like Tali.
"I know what you mean," he commiserated.
And as if to demonstrate his point, his youngest son, Logan whined, "Dad . . . you have to take me to soccer training. Mum's got called to work again."
He sighed as she said, "Busy?"
"Yeah, Sophie's just been called back into work, and now I have to take Logan to soccer," he outlined, disappointed that they would be unable to continue their phone call, a common occurrence these days.
On the other end of the phone, she made a noise of agreement before shouting, obviously not to him, "Tali! We have to go!"
She switched smoothly back into English and apologised again. "Sorry, Tali is being a pain in the behind." And at that same time, Logan whined that he would be late unless they left now.
"Look, I have to go," he sighed dejectedly. "Logan will be late if we don't leave now."
"As will we," she nodded. "Well, later than we will already be." He laughed.
"I guess we'll catch up another time," he said finally.
"Yes, definitely," she replied, although they both knew it would be a chore to find a time when they were both free.
"Da-ad," Logan whined again and he sighed.
She chuckled; his Hebrew had still not improved. "It was an attempt, at least." He huffed as she finished, "Shalom, Tony."
He heard her disconnect so he placed the phone gently into the receiver. He stared at it for a moment, thinking about how different, yet similar, their lives had become.
And he continued thinking about how their lives had changed since that fateful day in Vance's office all those years ago, and sighed.
This time, it was her that called him.
As he answered the phone, he heard nothing but soft breathing on the other end. "Hello?" he said into the phone. He got no reply so he repeated, "Hello, DiNozzo residence, how may I help you." There was silence, and then, the next sound floored him.
"Tony . . ." The voice was soft and weak, but he knew in an instant who it was.
"Ziva?" he gasped down the phone. Never in his years of knowing her had she ever sounded that . . . weak. "What . . . what's wrong?"
There was another moment of silence, then, "I need you." It came out so softly that he almost missed it.
"Where are you?" was the first thing that came out of his mouth. Not 'what's wrong' or 'why do you need me', just 'where are you'.
"Tel Aviv," she croaked and he could hear the tiredness in her voice. "Tel Aviv General Hospital . . ." She trailed off as he tried to digest what she had just said.
Snapping back to reality, he said without a second thought, "I'll be on the next available flight." And he meant it.
As he dashed up the hallway after a twenty-four hour flight, he spotted a young woman standing in the doorway to a room. Instantly, he knew who she was. Same hair, same eyes, same air of confidence, she was the splitting image of her mother.
She stepped out to him as he neared. "Anthony?" she asked softly, her English accented.
"Yes," he panted, skidding to a halt in front of her. He looked up at her and gasped, he was not as young as he used to be.
She smiled gently and stuck out her hand. "I am Tali Harel."
"Nice to meet you," he panted and shook the young woman's hand. He was silent for a moment, catching his breath, and then he asked softly, "What's wrong with her?"
She smiled faltered and she looked at him with sad eyes. "Cancer, end stage." She paused. "Her doctors do not think she will survive much longer." A tear trickled down her face, but she brushed it away quickly. "She keeps asking for you. Not for father, but for you."
She looked at the aging man in front of her. The name her beloved mother kept repeating, even in her sleep. She believed that there was only one reason why her mother was holding on so long, and he was standing in front of her.
"Would you like to see her?" she suggested, smiling again. "I know she would love to see you." He nodded, not trusting himself to say anything.
She smiled again and pushed on the door. It swung open as she said softly, "Mother, there is some here to see you." As she stepped into the room, she gestured to him and nodded. He nodded back and followed.
It was a relationship that spanned a lifetime. And for the first time in thirty years, they locked eyes, and smiled.