The storyline strictly speaking doesn't follow canon. But if you close your eyes slightly…
One falls for others.
Incredible tumbling downward, sudden loss of gravity and sound. Pinwheeling through space.
He fell at the speed of sound.
Came out of nowhere, somewhere between Kate and Ari, wearing a scarf in her hair and vaguely concerned of his thoughts towards the dead.
She's frowning at him. "Naked?"
He stutters. That surprises him, in a distant part that's not squirming with embarrassment. "Look, I'm not the only man who does it."
She just looks at him with those dark eyes. "Oh, women do it to."
And there it was. Three movements up his body to meet his eyes.
That was all it was.
The first year with Ziva was almost a game.
Unspoken, almost subconscious, they fall into it with barely a stumble. For them both it's just an evolution on what they do normally. Adaptation and sensation.
Step up, higher stakes.
Under the eye of Gibbs and his warnings.
A game, he thinks.
He cannot fit her into place. Kate was easy, she was the girl who was don't look and don't even think about touching. She knew Tony, and he knew her. They were safe in each other's presence.
Different levels of perception.
She leans forward; their lips could touch, if only he moved his head. Her hands rest on the rail on either side.
"Is that what you want, Tony?"
Look, touch. Ziva operates in all perceptions. He's smiling and throwing the lines right back, even if inside he's questions.
Does she want him to?
Whatever the answer, he's too proud (scared) to bow his head.
She smiles, turns away. The doors open and she's just Officer David again. Officer David and Agent Dinozzo in a lift.
Master she is, at the change. Leaves him broken-jawed.
Too good. That's why he's lying on his stomach in bed, torn between two types of frustration.
He doesn't get her.
She's going to eat you alive, Tony.
His conscience sounds like Kate. Amused Kate.
"We'll see." Mutters it into his pillow.
Kate-Conscience laughs softly in his head.
This is not a movie.
He does not throw her down on the floor in a quaking passion, she does not draw him away into a back room. He's as surprised as anyone when he finds himself in a hotel room with her, watching black silk slide off her skin.
They're undercover. This is as real as anything else they have, but when her lips meet his all thoughts go clean out his head. Too bad Gibbs's watching.
He learns she smells of honeysuckle and sharp spice, and gets his lips split twice over by Tarzan's Germanic cousin. But he lives, and so does she.
She comes in, after McGee drops him off.
She doesn't knock. A soft patter, like a cat scratches.
A watcher would see violation and invasion in their actions, but for them they know where the line is, and they will not cross it. He doesn't get up, but he doesn't have to.
He left the door unlocked. She twists the knob gently, and it swings open.
He doesn't look up. Her fingers take the ice from his hand, hold it against his fat lip.
"You should not have done it."
"What?" His voice is mushy.
"Left yourself alone like that."
"I didn't know that it was going to be part of the plan." His eyes twitch down. "Shouldn't you be wearing a hot nurses outfit?"
She laughs. A chuckle that slides warm across him. While he has known her it has always been that sound.
"For that fantasy you need to be less bruised, Tony." Gently teasing, kind.
She takes the ice away, and her thumb brushes his lip.
"Thank you," she says quietly.
She moves back, and he catches her cheek in one hand.
Her breath falters. The emotion she must see in his eyes makes her eyes flick down. There is a sudden uncertainty to her.
His voice is steady, a mask to what's going on inside. "I'd do it again."
And he would.
She looks up.
In her eyes there is a void; it's like falling through space.
Her lips touch his.
She kisses him, so light so light, yet he still has that sharp intake of breath.
It's the gentleness that gets him, how careful she is.
Sets a funny ache to his chest.
For this to be real, what could he give?
I'll give you everything. Sigh it into the curl of her ear as he kisses her hair.
She turns, blinks that dark laughing eye.
He is lost.
It's nothing, he tells himself. Means nothing, an accident of gravity that caused them to collide.
Desire. An excitation of the neuron storm.
Minimalism robs everything of its beauty; focus and focus till there's nothing there at all.
She brushes past him, arching her shoulder to stroke his chest.
It changes nothing and all. The game is the same, but now they have more tricks. He knows just where to brush so her back arches and her eyes loose their focus.
But once again she wins. One of her belts is to him what bells were to Pavlov's dogs.
When he remembers back, these were days of fire.
He regards her. Her eyes are lined with red and shadows lurk in the corners.
He nods, steps back and away to his desk. Unspoken rule; both must agree to the game. He has snapped her away more times than he can remember, and he knows its time he returns the favour.
He waits. Suspended.
Time goes by, and it goes to the back of his mind. She acts as though she's forgotten, and he dates a couple of times. Whatever this is was always the periphery.
Then she's there. Slides past him, leaves his nerves buzzing and running in circles.
Funny how that's all it takes.
One day he breaks the rules.
He's not sure whether he just wanted to make her squirm. Wants to get on top, so to speak.
Not sure why he did it, but he did.
It was out in the open, and he gets her from behind at the photocopier.
He brushes her hair from her neck. Within the rules, but he loves the way her skin flashes goose pimples.
The movement is quick, and it looks like he's reaching over her for the stapler. Only from the side would a watcher have seen his lips brush the nape of her neck, one hand caress her stomach.
She intakes, sharply. He moves away from her, and she turns at his absence.
Gibbs walks by. They nod at each other, and Ziva manages a hello. Tony looks at her sidelong, sees the imprint of her teeth on her bottom lip.
She looks at him, appalled.
Victory for him, and what a sweet punishment she'll return.
She doesn't knock.
Must have picked the lock. First thing he knows about it is the feel of breath on his neck.
He goes very still. Something is brushing the back of his neck. "You're going to kill me with a safety pin, aren't you?"
"Oh, I should." She pulls his collar tight. Her touch is doing all sorts of things.
Her lips brush his ear gently. "You've been a cheeky boy, Anthony DiNozzo," she says.
He's never been so happy.
When Gibbs leaves, the game has to end.
Without Gibbs there's no knowing where this will lead, and destruction is enough of a possibility that they are warned away. For all their barbs, their desires to make the other ache, they will not hurt each other like that.
So the games stop.
The other parts, however, do not.
For the briefest of times, they do not.
He loves her in the early summer twilight, with half closed lashes and sleep soft skin. With bed hair and gunk in her eye, smelling of spice.
Loves her when he kisses the moon on her shoulder, at how she smiles.
But that is the twilight.
The second year was not the same.
Everything comes to its finite conclusion, like the browning brush of autumn leaves. Gibbs was theirs.
He is more hurt than he should be to find Gibbs back, not as grateful as he might be and definitely more resentful.
He is the good little dog. He smiles and slinks back to his rightful place.
But that's not it.
Gibbs saved her, where he could not.
He took her home from the hospital, and as they sit across from each other he watches her bruises rise.
Anyone else would be trying to make him talk. She just watches as he empties the glass and refills with liquor the deep colour of honey.
Same glasses as before. She likes to compartmentalise things, and that includes them. They are outside of the parenthesis, with Gibbs back. He runs his finger around the rim of his. Funny, misshaped.
It's falling away, faster than he can bear.
"You cannot always be the hero." She tells him, finally tired of the silence.
"That's not the point." It both is and isn't, but he can't work out the crossover.
"Hmph." She sits back, eyes half closed.
He aches, to see her swollen face.
"It is nothing." Her eyes open, and they are troubled.
Nothing worries him. Always has.
She rises to take a shower.
He must have far more self-control than he imagined, to stay seated.
That was the last moment, for a long time.
He doesn't tell her.
To be fair he doesn't tell anyone, but in particular he makes a point to keep it away from her.
He should have been smarter than that.
"I don't think your new girlfriend would like that." She blindsides him with it. There's a bomb crevassed between her knees, a knife in one hand.
This is about as dangerous as a conversation with her is going to get.
Did he deny it? For sure he did. "I don't know what you're talking about."
There's the tiniest crease between her eyes. "I'm talking about you, and the fact that you no longer stare at every woman when they pass you by." Her eyes never stray once from the cables.
"Well, I'm lookin' down your shirt right now?" Uneasy attempt to throw her off, and he is relieved when she lets him lead her away from the conversation.
It's nearly the same, but not quite. Jagged edges in their words.
Not worth dying over.
"What if I said it was?"
Zips up her shirt, turns away. "Now you will never know."
"Will this be a problem?"
Later, in the bullpen. He says it low, so no-one overhears.
How formal. Cold. He wouldn't have been surprised if she rabbit punched him. What an unbelievable jerk he sounds.
For a second he thinks she wavers. That expression he could never read across her face.
Then she smiles, the one with laughter and light. "Tony DiNozzo with a steady girlfriend. Hell must be freaking over."
He's too puzzled to correct her. As she passes, she pats him on the cheek.
"Keep smart, Tony."
A mistake, the first time she said it to him. Later she said it was appropriate, considering his ability to have such appalling lapses of judgment.
Keep smart, and he will keep safe.
When she said it her voice was almost fervent. Like a prayer.
His name was Roy Sanders, and he knows she loved him.
She is precarious, in love. Falls into it with barely a stumble, and he realises the walls around her are there for a good reason. She knows she can't trust herself.
Tony thinks he'll see it in her, when he succumbs to the radiation and ashes away. But he doesn't, he hears it from Abby, who got it from McGee.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"It was none of your business."
They're beside the photocopier. To think he made her gasp here.
"You're my partner. I need to know—"
"When I am not my best?" she snaps. "When I need protecting?"
"When you need comforting." He drops his voice low for the final word; people are turning to stare.
She looks at him with contempt. "I don't want your comfort." Last word hissed to sting him as she turns and walks away.
His hands are balled into too tight fists. He considers the bite of his nails into the skin of his palm, then unclenches.
For all his appearances, Tony has learnt the art of patience.
It's when they are leaving. The windows are dark, they are one of the few left. She's getting ready to leave.
There it is. He must have missed it, when she came in this morning.
The beanie. His beanie.
A bright orange flag of grieving. She is the master of misdirection, to use something so obvious.
She is unaware, that he is watching. Looking small and weighed down, even before she swings her bag onto her shoulder.
Her eyes flick to him, hold as he comes around his desk.
He straightens the beanie over her hair. She shuts her eyes, and he hears her deep intake. Not a drop slinks under the razor wire of her eyelashes.
Partners. The willingness to stand close enough for her to hit him.
"I'm sorry," he says.
It is not a lie.
Her eyes open. Empty space.
"I know." She steps gently out of his hands. "Me too."
He wants to tell her she's sorry for the wrong thing, but she is already gone.
He is precarious.
Her name is Jeanne. She is beautiful, smart; common things.
He loves her. For once he is unsure, uncertain, not wanting to be here in such a dangerous but so desperate not to leave, can't bear not to be near her.
He hurts her terribly. Unthinkably, unwillingly, yet he so perfectly crushes her it takes his breath away.
If this what we do, in love? Grind each other to dust?
She leaves, and Tony finds himself aching.
Ziva saw, understood. She tried to help him.
What did he give her, for all that she tried to help him?
He ground that orange beanie into her chest to burn her. He was that angry at the world.
Two women, two eyes the wide-eyed mirror of shock and aortic agony.
You hurt mine, I'll hurt yours.
They are supposed to guard each other's secrets and hurts.
She does not hit him, though he would have welcomed it if she had. She should have. She would have, once.
But instead she walks away. Somehow, that hurts more.
The third year was cold.
It takes them a long while to recover.
Takes him a long time.
Gibbs and Jenny go silent and sink to their own private language, McGee quietly becomes successful away from the tangled vines of work, and they resort back to the games of long before.
She learns that while she can make him gag for it, he can dance around her in circles in practical jokes. She isn't used to losing.
It'll be good for her, he remembers thinking distantly. Good for her to lose something for once.
Even in his head that feels unkind.
Before they were lovers (lovers? Too strong a term), they were friends first.
Friends, tormentors, lovers. That's the way it goes. Gone, because for some reason they have decided it would be much more fun to slash each other to pieces. With two and a half years ammunition, how can they miss?
"I wish they would just sleep together already."
He freezes. Abby and McGee talking over evidence.
"Abby, I don't think—"
"It's getting to be you can't be in the same room as them. Unbelievable."
"…how do you know they haven't already?"
"I would know."
Tony should have smiled at he confident she sounded. But he didn't.
Because that's not their problem.
It never was.
She dies, so nearly. He isn't there, he doesn't see, but he sees the fury in Gibbs and knows.
She was very, very close.
He is angry. Angry she could have been so stupid as to let her guard down. That is until he sees her face, how sick she suddenly looks.
His hand reaches out before he knows it, but she's much quicker.
Pain shoots up his shoulder. He is suddenly without breath.
Her eyes are wide, blind. Dead vacuum.
Her fingers are crushing his arm.
"I was just gonna tussel your hair. Sometimes it makes you smile," he tells her quietly.
She blinks, focuses slowly on him. Her fingers release.
She's fragmenting at the edges. Her fist curls, and he thinks of catching it with his hand.
He should have.
But he didn't.
Later, he goes to her.
There's a glass waiting for him, warped around the edges. It's a sign of her suspicion but not certainty that she did not fill it.
"You look like crap," he says after a while.
"Toda." She inverts her glass, drinks it dry.
He watches her. She won't meet his eyes.
"Why did you sleep with him?"
Not even a twitch. "Because he was there."
I was there.
She knows what he is thinking. "It…" her teeth sink into her bottom lip for just a second. "It would not have been a good idea."
She looks lost. A slackness to her, rigidity along the jaw line. Emptied eyes.
He takes the glass from her hand, puts it down beside his. She looks at her empty hands, puzzled, then fists them.
He watches the chiseled gash in her skull. Must be killing her, yet by the alcohol she drinks she hasn't had any pills. Pain is secondary, something she understands and therefore ignores.
She can't ignore this.
He touches her face, feather light. Her eyes rise, blink at him.
"You were never weak," he says quietly.
"They never got that close before." Her voice is soft, and there is a distant frown on her face. Her skin is warm and slightly damp from the shower and her perspiration.
He brushes her hair behind her ear. "There are always mistakes."
Her eyes go dull, then close. "No, there aren't."
There is a prickling along his skin, like electricity. He removes his hand, places it on his knee. He rises, gets his coat. "You need to get some sleep."
The prickling is spreading fast, and he knows he can't stay.
In the reflection in the mirror beside her door, he sees her mouth open, then shut.
He should have turned back.
But he didn't.
He avoided the question of soul mates. He gets it better than she does.
They are inevitable, and not. As long as they stay together they must collide. Now they've realised, the fear they have makes them fight each other. May as well fight gravity, magnetism.
Both have the desire for their own destruction. They will not bring it down upon the other.
Perhaps they are too late.
It glows from within the cracks, with heavy air and dark skies.
Beside a pool, he leans over and puts his hand on her hip. She looks as though she didn't even notice, but he feels the roughness sweep across her in a wave.
While they stand, suspended, in the dark a woman dying not from bullets quivers and is still.
And so it ends.
He knows with every fiber this is it. They can go no further.
Tony knows he will not be able to bear it.
Total darkness. Sliding warmth, and a dampness on her cheeks. The pad of his thumb brushes it away, and her breath catches.
It'll be alright.
No, it won't.
Her kisses bruise, there is torment in her touch. But for today he will let it be, take it without retribution.
It is so familiar. He would know her in the dark, always. It shouldn't hurt, but it does.
His lips touch the hollow at the base of her neck, and feels her skittering pulse. Fear in her veins. Up along her neck, one on each eyelid. She shivers under him.
Her eyes had gone to Gibbs, just for a second. Seen that hope, that plea.
Gibbs eyes had gone dull, and Tony had known before Vance had even spoken.
She will go back home to her father of shadows, and he will board a ship for months on end.
And she's dead.
Jenny is dead.
In the dark, in the silence, there's a feeling of vertigo.
Her arms wraps around his torso, and she buries her face in his shoulder.
This is all she will allow. Silent grief in the darkness, with only him to know. Perhaps he should feel special, that she shows her weakness to him. But as he holds her, there is nothing.
We are not inevitable.
No. Not anymore.
His chin rests upon her head.
Grief. The empty spaces that can never be filled.
He wishes he could do more than just this.
"I wonder why they don't let people out on the tarmac anymore."
She looks over at him. The corner of her mouth twitches.
He's sprawled in a chair beside the gate, flicking through a magazine. She's perched on her suitcase, watching him
"They always walk on the tarmac. In old movies."
She's left her curls in. She looks like when they first met.
And not. Her eyes are different.
McGee cannot come. Gibbs he's fairly sure isn't even aware. He's got Jenny in his eyes. Abby won't, believing in a way he's not sure is naïvity or wisdom that if she accepts it they will be gone for good.
Just the two of them.
So this is how it ends.
She's bending the ticket between her palms, watching it oscillate.
"When did you know?"
He blinks. "What?"
She doesn't answer, for a time. Turns the shining paper over in her hands. "It took me a long time. I didn't want to, at first." She frowns. "It was when your car exploded. Just like that."
She looks critically and the ticket, then flattens it under her palm.
He thinks about it. "From when we first met, I think."
Yes. He's been falling for years.
Idiot to think that this could end any other way.
When he looks over again, her head is bowed.
He's standing before he knows it, arms wrapping around her slight shoulders. He feels her hand grip his jacket gently.
For their first Sin of affection in public, it is surprisingly chaste.
Love. A blinding of the mind by the very cells to everything.
In the end, it is nothing.
First Boarding Call for Israir flight 226 to Tel Aviv.
They break apart. Fall apart.
She looks up, and her wet eyes reflect the light. Grips his hand.
"Good luck, Tony. I hope…" She swallows. "I hope you will be happy."
Don't. It radiates from him, and she falls quiet.
She moves, to kiss his cheek perhaps. He catches her face in his hands.
"You're coming back."
Her eyes are sad. "I know." It's funny, she never could lie openly.
Final Boarding Call for Israir flight 226 to Tel Aviv.
He kisses her on the bridge of her nose. "Gibbs will fix it."
The road to Tel Aviv is paved with his broken promises. She smiles a little, pats his cheek. Stay smart, Tony.
For a second they are suspended, then she steps away.
"Goodbye." She slips out of his hands like water, floats away.
Then he is alone.
He hands clench.
This is not the end. He will not let her walk away from him into forever. He will not let that son of a bitch do this.
He wants to watch her leave. Wait until her plane rises and vanishes into the sky. He turns to find her.
She is already gone.