This is the sequel to "Tony's Epiphany." Several people asked for it. Its set the night after the team is broken apart in Judgment Day when, in a moment of anger, Ziva lets slip to Tony how she really feels about him. You might want to read "Tony's Epiphany" first before reading this story.
He couldn't hear a sound. He knocked softly on her bedroom door.
"Ziva, please open the door. I think we have something else to talk about."
He rattled the doorknob. Locked.
"C'mon Ziva. What's it gonna hurt to talk?"
He knocked again and waited. She didn't say anything. He knew she was in there though he could feel her presence pushing at him.
"Ziva, I don't have much time. Please come out and talk to me. You can't say what you said and then run away. C'mon."
He waited. Not a sound. He was beginning to get mad. He hadn't been in the best of moods before he got here and now this was suddenly totally pissing him off. She's the one who said she loved him, right? The least she could do was talk to him about it.
"Dammit, Ziva! Get your ass out here before I kick the fucking door in."
When the words left his mouth he was already sorry. Threats never worked on Ziva and he hadn't meant to sound so angry. He just wanted to talk to her and now she was more than likely going to stick a knife in him. He leaned his head against the door and sighed. He was supposed to leave in a few hours for the West Coast and he didn't know if he'd ever see her again. He had to talk to her and he wasn't going to do it through any door. He backed up, clenched his jaw and prepared to kick the door open.
As he set his left foot preparatory to kicking with his right, the door swung open. Ziva came out of the room. She'd removed her running shoes but was still dressed in the bicycle pants, red jogging shorts over them and a black sports bra. She kept her distance from him and walked toward the far wall of the room, past her couch. She didn't look at him.
"Thank you," he said.
She said in a low voice, "Please leave, Tony."
He shook his head and then said, "No. Not until we talk about what you said."
"What do we have to talk about, Tony? You are leaving. I am leaving. End of story."
He took a step toward her and she moved away. He stopped and then took another step toward her.
"Can't we just sit down for a few minutes, Ziva? What's wrong? You told me you; well, you told me you loved me. Don't you think I want to talk about that?"
Suddenly her head went up and her eyes were fierce.
"Why now, Tony? Why now? I get angry and I blurt out a secret I have kept hidden for years and all of a sudden you want to talk about it? I do not think so. No. I have humiliated myself enough and it stops tonight. Will you just leave, Tony?"
He didn't know what to say. For years? What did she mean years? He'd only known her three years. She turned away and walked to the window by her bookshelf, looking out and clutching her upper arms as if to hold herself together.
"Please just go," she whispered.
He didn't know what to do but he knew he wasn't leaving. He crossed the distance between them and put his hands on her shoulders. The skin left uncovered by her sports bra felt cool to his touch. Suddenly, she turned toward him and began hitting him anywhere she could, his face, his chest. He wasn't surprised she was hitting him but the fact that she was hitting like a girl did surprise him: so much so for a moment he didn't try to stop her. As she hit him tears streamed down her cheeks and she began to cry in deep, rasping gulps. He knew she could really hurt him if she wanted to so as gently as he could he took her wrists in both his hands and pulled her close to him, making sure to position his legs so she couldn't knee him in the groin.
"Ziva, Ziva…don't do this. Talk to me. I only want to talk. Tell me what's wrong."
She had stopped trying to hit him and now simply cried; cried like her heart was broken. Cried like a little girl lost. It hurt to see his partner like this. She was so strong, so capable. She was usually the one who wound up taking care of him and the others too. If anyone besides Gibbs was his hero, it was Ziva. He put one arm around her shoulders and guided her to the couch, sitting down with her face still pressed to his chest, her tears drenching his shirt. Her hands clutched him in a desperate grasp and he could only hold her close and hope she knew he was here for her.
After a few minutes the cries began to slowly ease off and soon she was quiet in his arms. He didn't relax his hold on her; in fact, he tightened it. She rubbed her face on his shirt one more time and then pushed herself away from him, breaking the circle of his arms.
"I am sorry about your shirt," she said, sniffing. Then she made to stand up.
"Whoa, where do you think you're going?"
"I would very much like to wash my face," she said in an almost normal tone of voice, only slightly hoarse.
"Tell you what," he said. "You sit right here and I'll get you something to wipe your face with, okay?"
Tony stood up and made his way to the kitchen, taking a clean dish towel he found there and wetting it with warm water then wringing it out until it was mostly dry. He came back to where Ziva sat with her head down, arms hanging limply between her legs.
He sat back down beside her, reached his hand under her chin and tilted her head up. Then he carefully wiped her face with the wet, warm towel, tilting this way and that to get all the places he wanted to reach. She said nothing and kept her eyes closed.
"There, all better," he said, putting the towel over the back of the couch placing an arm once more around her shoulders.
"Ziva, tell me. What did you mean when you said you loved me?
She pulled sharply away from him.
"What part do you not understand, Tony? I said I loved you. Nothing more."
"How can you say there's no more? There has to be more." He wanted to scream at her. "When did you decide to be in love with me?"
She stood up and began to walk slowly around the room, kicking bits and pieces of the debris on the floor, crunching shards of glass as she moved.
"When did I decide to be in love with you? I NEVER decided to be in love with you. If I had had a choice I would never have loved you except as a partner and friend, like I do McGee. I would not choose to love a man who could never love me back. Who time after time turned down any overture I made beyond friendship and often turned down the friendship too. I would not choose to let myself be humiliated and hurt. Oh, no, Tony, never think I chose to love you."
She turned and faced him.
"Is that enough talking for you? Will you just go to San Diego now and leave me alone?"
Tony didn't say anything but he did get up and move toward her. He held out his hand.
She turned away from him once more and said, "Please do not touch me again, Tony. I do not think I can stand it," and her voice broke.
"Okay," he said. "I'll sit back down."
He suited his actions to his words and sat down again. He leaned toward her from his place on the couch, placing his hands deliberately on his thighs. He had to control himself. He just wanted to get up and shake her until what she said made sense. Or maybe he really wanted to get up and kiss her until all the pain and sorrow in both their lives was forgotten. He wasn't sure anymore.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Ziva. I just came to say goodbye and to let you know you'd been right about me and my commitment issues and fear of relationships since almost the first day we met. I mean I don't remember ever admitting you were right once in the time we've known each other even when you were, a lot of the time. I thought it might, I don't know, make things a little better after today. I didn't know, I didn't mean to…I'm sorry, Ziva."
Then she stood up straight and looked him in the eye; it was what he liked to call her brave Ziva look. The look she wore when she was doing something she didn't want to do but was determined to do anyway.
"Tony, I do love you. You do not love me. That is all there is. It happens all the time between men and women. Do not let my…actions tonight upset you. I meant it when I told you that you were a good person. You are a good man, and a kind man, and a brave man and will do anything for those you care about."
She stopped and looked away from him for a moment but then brave Ziva was back.
"You just do not love me. I had learned to live with that idea but today, these last few days, have torn at my heart. I am sorry. I lost control. I was weak. You make me weak."
She looked on the brink of crying again. Her dark eyes glittered with tears. He wanted to hold her. Hell, his shirt was already ruined. She could cry on him all night if she wanted to, if it helped her pain. In fact, he felt like he might join her at any moment. He made her weak? What did that mean? The thought of Ziva, Ziva David, being in love with him and then never telling him until they were being forced apart kept - he just couldn't get it through his head. Was he supposed to be a mind reader?
"I wish you the best in San Diego and hope that Gibbs finds some way to get you back to your home and, and your family at NCIS very soon."
She walked to the door and opened it.
He got up and walked toward the door. Once he got there he reached out and slammed it shut. Then he pointed to the couch and said "Sit your ass down on that couch, shut up and let me talk for a minute. That's all I ask."
Without a word she turned away and went to the couch and sat down. Tony stood looking at Ziva, trying to find the right words to say. He knew he had to be careful. They were both under so much stress and had such short tempers. An added problem was he had been unable to say one single thing right since he'd pulled into Ziva's parking lot.
"If you are not going to say anything, Tony, I will not continue sitting here," she said, sounding like she was getting mad again.
He knelt down in front of her in a relatively clear area of floor so they'd be on eye level, balancing himself with his hands flat on the couch on either side of her legs.
"Okay," he said again.
"First, let me say, I know the whole Jeanne thing was hard for you. Actually, it was hard for everyone. I didn't want to lie…"
"Oh, but you did it so often and so easily, Tony."
He looked at her in surprise. Her voice had a bitterness to it he had never heard before.
"Oh, and you've never lied to me, Ziva?"
She looked him straight in the eyes this time and said slowly, "Only rarely and never easily, Tony. I do not lie to my partner with any ease at all."
Tony had to break away from her intense gaze. She had him there. He had lied; not only to her but to Gibbs. Oh yeah, and everyone else too except the Director but the two that counted most were Ziva and Gibbs. He had broken Gibbs' trust in him and apparently Ziva's and as collateral damage perhaps her heart as well. Damn. He had not the faintest idea of how to fix any of what he had broken including himself.
"I do not want to talk about that time, Tony. I want to forget it."
"But you haven't forgotten it, Ziva," he said.
"I am trying," she whispered.
God, she was making him feel guilty. Wasn't the best defense a good offense?
"You haven't exactly done without during this time, Ziva, you know? You've had dates and then there was the whole Roy Sanders thing."
He knew he had stepped in it again when he saw her eyes widen when he mentioned Sanders' name. He saw her hands clench into fists where they lay in her lap. He only hoped she wouldn't kill him.
"You are right, Tony. I had three days with a dying man. We connected. I felt something for him. Was it love? I do not know. I do know he did not deserve to die that way. I never lied to anyone about him."
"I was undercover, Ziva. Surely you understand that, you a Mossad operative? I was in a deep undercover operation at my Director's order. I had to lie. I was ordered to lie."
"Not to your partner, Tony. Even in Mossad I never lied to my partner."
He knew she was right about the lying. He had let her and the team down. He should have taken her into his confidence and Gibbs too. Screw Gibbs' rule about secrets the Director had quoted at him. It had almost gotten him killed. He tried something else.
"Well, let's forget Sanders and Jeanne for a minute then. What about Locke? You say you love me and yet I offer the hand of friendship when you have a bad day with that Hoffman guy and then you go out and fall in the rack with Locke, basically right in front of my eyes. A fine way to show a guy you love him!"
She drew in a deep breath but Tony wasn't worried about his safety now. He felt the anger building inside of him. He'd been mad since the whole Locke incident but until now he hadn't quite realized how mad. He'd done it all wrong on the undercover op, he'd admit it. But he'd thought they were getting back to normal, friendly, working together as partners again, trusting one another. Then she'd had the close call; Hoffman almost killed her. She had scorned Tony's offer of a drink and a friendly ear and gone out and had sex with Locke. He'd been forced to watch in the bar when she let him touch her hair and face after she'd practically dislocated his wrist when he'd tried to do the same thing in the office. It had hurt more than he'd ever thought it would. More than seeing Sanders and Ziva together had. Maybe because he knew Sanders was dying and no threat to him? What kind of sense did that make?
"I did not want Michael that night, Tony. You want to know what I wanted? I wanted you! I wanted you to hold me and tell me everything would be fine. To make me forget. But like always you were unavailable to me. You hit on the bartender. You ignore me unless you need something from me or I get in your way. Yes, I had sex with Michael. I wanted, no, I needed someone to hold me. You are never that someone."
His brain seemed to slow down with this outburst. What?
"Oh, so it's my fault you went out and had a one-night stand? How many other casual fucks are you going to blame on me, Ziva? How many times did you want me to hold you and I didn't so you found someone else to do it? You wind up with HIV or some other STD you gonna blame that on me too?"
He heard himself saying the words but couldn't believe they were coming out of his mouth. They were so hateful and so untrue. He knew Ziva. She rarely had dates and he could probably count on one hand the number of times he thought she'd had sex since he'd met her. Tony opened his mouth to apologize but Ziva slapped him across the face for the second time that night. She drew back her hand to do it again and this time he caught her wrist, pulling her up close to him.
"No," he said. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that. I know it's untrue and unfair. I am truly sorry."
He didn't know what to do with the hand he still held so he touched it for a moment to his cheek, looking in her beautiful dark eyes. Suddenly he felt a wave of heat rush through his body and he realized when Ziva gasped she must have felt it too. He put his other hand behind her head and pulled her face toward him; she resisted, pulling back. He used a little more pressure, watching her face all the while and then she gave in and touched her lips to his.
Suddenly their shared heat ignited an explosion and both of them were touching the other hungrily. Tony ran his hands up under her top, pushing it up and over her head. She ripped his shirt open, buttons flying in the air. Then they were kissing again, her breasts pressed into his chest, her taut nipples burning his skin. He pushed her back on the couch, still kissing her. Then his hands were pushing down her shorts, shoving them out of the way. Her hands were undoing his belt, unzipping his pants, reaching for him. She pushed his pants down past his knees and he kicked them off along with his shoes. Without breaking the kiss he climbed on the couch between her legs and with one fast, hard movement entered her. She moaned low in her throat and then wrapped her legs around him, moving with him.
It was over quickly, a fierce fire burning itself out. He felt Ziva tense under him, her nails digging into his back. Then she buried her face in his shoulder stifling her scream. He felt his own release from the top of his head to his toes. It felt like he had emptied his entire being into Ziva's warm and willing body. He collapsed on top of her and her arms hugged him to her. When he got his breath back he pushed up on his arms taking his weight off her. Then he leaned down toward her meaning to kiss her again but she turned her head away.
"Is this where I say 'thank you for the pity screw,' Tony?"
"Dammit, Ziva," he said between gritted teeth. "DAMMIT!"
She stared defiantly up at him. Even in his anger he had to admire her. She never gave up, never stopped pushing.
"That's pity 'fuck,' Ziva," he said leaning down until their faces were barely an inch apart.
"And that's not what it was. It was something we've both wanted since the first day we met."
She nodded her head.
"Get off me," she said quietly and pushed at his chest. He sat back letting her up. She sat up, pulled her knees to her chest and put her arms around them.
"You are right, Tony. I have wanted you since we first met. My mistake was in wanting more than casual sex from you and it was a big mistake."
Tony opened his mouth to speak and she shook her head.
"You wanted me to talk. Now you must listen. I know I never learned to deal with emotions. Abby was right about me when I first came to NCIS. I was cold and unfeeling, at least on the outside. It was the only way I knew how to be. But in my time here I have found the emotions deal with me whether I want them to or not. I have come to know love. I have come to care for people. Gibbs, Ducky, Abby, and McGee. Jenny."
After saying Jenny's name she paused and took a breath.
"With the caring comes the pain. Because I care for you more than any of the others the pain with you has been more too. I never knew how to tell you. I am sorry."
He reached out to her and took her left hand in his and held it, rubbing her knuckles with his thumb.
"Everything I say is wrong tonight. So let me just get this one thing out of my system," he said.
He slapped the back of his own head, hard. She started to speak. He held up a finger, silencing her.
"I do love you, Ziva. I do. I just don't know if I'm IN love with you."
She turned her head from him.
"Don't look away," he said. "Please."
He pulled her by the hand he was holding and took her in his arms. "Now, you listen to me."
He kissed the top of her head where it lay on his shoulder.
"I don't know if I've ever been in love with anyone. Not even Jeanne. I think maybe with her it was being in love with the idea of being in love. A totally new concept for me, you know? I enjoyed exploring it, I admit it"
She tried to pull away from him but he just held her tighter.
"But with you, something has always been there. Since day one. Some feeling I couldn't ignore but didn't recognize. Even when we're fighting, even if one of us is with someone else or we're far apart, the feeling is there. You're my friend and my partner and I trust you with my life. But you're something else, too, Ziva. Something much more. I don't know if this is love. I don't know how I'm supposed to know."
She quit trying to pull away and relaxed a little in his arms and put her hand on his chest. Tony hoped to God it was a sign of affection and not the first move in a killing blow. He inhaled her unique and intoxicating scent now mixed with his own smell. He picked up a lock of dark, curly hair and gently rubbed it between his fingers.
"I don't think I can let you go. I don't give a damn what Vance says. I have to find out what this feeling is and you're the only one who can help me do that."
She buried her face in his chest and put her arms around him.
"It is too late, Tony. Tomorrow, or today rather, you go to San Diego. And soon I will return to Israel. I do not want to go back. I am not an assassin anymore. I am not that person anymore."
He thought she might be crying again. His chest felt wet.
"Don't cry, Ziva. I think I got an idea."
She looked up at him then and he could see her cheeks were damp. He never knew crazy ninja chicks could cry so much. Then he remembered who had made her cry like this and he wanted to Gibbs' slap himself again.
"What is your idea, Tony?"
"You still got any pull at the Israeli Embassy?"
"Maybe. I do not know."
He rubbed his hand up and down the velvet skin of her back.
"Well, I was thinking you could get a 90-day U.S. Visa for traveling around the country, you know like a tourist, and you could maybe travel out toward San Diego? The Reagan is in dry dock right now, not due to deploy for several months. We could get a place near the base and maybe, just maybe you could help me and I could help you and we could figure out this love thing together. Cause I sure as hell don't know what I'm doing and I need all the help I can get. Remember, I'm the screw up?"
She didn't say anything. She kept looking down toward where his feet were. He began to get worried. He thought it was a workable if temporary solution. Maybe in 3 months he'd come up with something else, or maybe Gibbs would figure out some way to get the team back together. It would be 3 months more than they had now at any rate. Three months to try and make her laugh everyday to make up for a few of the tears he'd caused. Three months to figure out if maybe love was a possibility, a probability, a dream coming true.
Ziva sat quietly for a few more minutes. He couldn't figure out what was going on with her. Then suddenly she sat up straighter and said, "Did you know you have mismatched socks on?"
"What?" he said.
"Your socks, they do not match."
And she started giggling. She pointed towards his feet and then gestured at her body and his. Tony thought she had lost her mind but then he saw her point. They were both sitting on Ziva's sofa, naked as the day they were born except he had on a black sock and a blue sock. He started laughing too. It was ridiculous.
After a minute or two of full out belly laughs Tony stopped. Ziva had stopped before him. Now she looked at him. He couldn't read her expression. He leaned over and kissed her. She put her hands to his face, holding him gently. She kissed him back. It was everything their kiss earlier hadn't been; gentle, caring, filled with tenderness.
"I like your plan, Tony. I think it might work. I need help, too. I do not know how to live being in love. I want it not to hurt so much. I am sure we can work together and figure out what to do about our mutual problem. That is what partners do, yes? Work together."
"Yes, Ziva, that's what partners do."
He kissed her again as Ziva swung her body onto his lap and they sought to please each other as true partners do, taking their time; a time of exploration and discovery.
Ten days later Tony met Ziva at the San Diego airport. He kissed her and held her close. She kissed him back and then took his hand and did not let go. When they got to luggage claim Tony took a moment to show her his special little surprise.
"Hey, Ziva, look," he said, and pulled up the legs of his jeans showing his socks above his shoes; one was black and one was blue. Ziva started laughing and Tony smiled probably the biggest smile of his life.
He wore the mismatched socks to bed every night for a month; until Ziva forcibly took them off of him and threw them in the garbage. She told him he did not need a good luck talisman anymore. And besides, they smelled.