It's Worth Everything
As he walked into MTAC, Anthony DiNozzo knew straight away that the heart pounding in his chest wasn't convincing him to stand down and forget his mission. No, it was reminding him why he needed to be so sure in what he was doing. And yes, he was sure. Completely sure. Sure enough that he was approaching possibly one of the worlds most dangerous men in a personal and private matter, anyway. He went down the ramp, taking his steps slowly as he watched a murmured conversation between the two directors take place. When Leon Vance noticed one of his agents lurking nearby, he quickly wrapped up the conversation, shaking Eli David's hand with a confident smile. Tony hated that smile. It usually meant that something bad was boding for one of the teams when their Director was that sure of himself. Still, he said nothing, and waited for the two men to acknowledge his presence before approaching any closer.
"Sir-" he stepped closer.
Eli turned to him, giving him a similarly smarmy smile. "It was a pleasure to meet you and your team mates, Agent DiNozzo," he said, holding out his hand.
Tony frowned, numbly shaking the offered hand. "Wait, you're leaving?" he realised.
He nodded. "The world does not stop for vacations."
His frown deepened. "Ziva thinks you're having dinner with her tonight," he realised.
Surprisingly, Eli smiled at this. "Ziva will understand my absence," he assured the agent.
Tony found that he couldn't frown any more, and settled for glaring at the man before him. Eli had no idea how much his daughter had been looking forward to this dinner with him. Hell, even Ziva was refusing to admit how much she was anticipating this dinner. She hadn't seen her father in person for two years now, other than in MTAC conferences that were always business related. To have her father arrive and announce that he was here with the only intention to see his daughter and catch up on her life, she was no doubt thrilled, and had already planned the meal they were going to have together. But now…
"Something we can do for you, Agent DiNozzo?" Leon asked, when his silent glaring became to obvious.
"Can I have a word with you, sir?"
"Not you, Director," Tony cut in, with Leon stepped forward. "I'd like to speak to Director David."
Eli eyed him curiously, almost sizing him up. "Is it important enough to delay my flight, Agent DiNozzo?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," he said firmly.
"Then I cannot refuse that," he allowed lightly. "Leon, is there somewhere Agent DiNozzo and I may speak in private?"
"Of course, this way," he said, leading them to the conference room.
As they left MTAC and walked along the gangway, Tony looked down into the bullpen. Ziva's peripheral vision picked them up as they moved along the top level and she caught his eye curiously, no doubt wondering why he was being shown to the conference room with her father. He averted his eyes from hers, however, but made sure that her confusion wasn't making her leave her desk and follow them as he closed the door behind them. When he turned, he found that Eli had already taken a seat at the head of the table, leaving Tony to seat himself to his side. There was something more friendly about this seating plan, much less daunting than the way Tony had grown up with his own father; the two of them seated at the opposite ends of the table with as few words spoken as possible. He wondered whether this had been the same with Ziva's childhood, she never really spoke about herself being very young, even when he begged for details of her innocence.
"What is it you wished to speak to me about?" Eli asked him.
"Your daughter," Tony answered.
"Ah, Ziva," he mused.
Tony nodded. "She was really looking forward to tonight."
"I am the Director of Mossad," he reminded. "Ziva understands the importance of this role. She understands that personal appointments must be sacrificed a times."
"Even personal appointments with your daughter?" he asked, a little too bluntly because Eli's eyes hardened, dangerously reminding him that there were lines he was already close to crossing.
"Agent DiNozzo, I should hope that you did not ask to speak with me about my personal relationship with my daughter," he half-warned, his tone calm even though his eyes were flashing.
"No, sir," he said.
"Then what is it you would like to speak to me about?"
"My personal relationship with your daughter," he said confidently.
Eli was silent for a moment, leaning back in the seat. He didn't seem all that surprised that Tony had a relationship with Ziva that was anything other than professional, and so the younger man was surprised when the impending beatings didn't start at this point. "Then my suspicions were correct," he said quietly.
"I am not an old man, Agent DiNozzo, but I have seen many things in my time. A blind man could see the attraction you have for one another," Eli informed him simply.
Tony smiled to himself, looking away for a moment. This wasn't the first time somebody else had told him how much he obviously cared for his partner, and no doubt it wouldn't be the last. Apparently their emotions were more visible to the people around them than they were to themselves. "This is a lot deeper than an attraction," he explained.
"You care for her?" he asked curiously.
"I love her, sir," he said simply.
Eli smirked. "I do not imagine your team leader is too pleased about this," he mused.
"Not at first," Tony admitted, remembering how the head slap had almost erased his memory with its force. "But he's come around to the idea."
"My daughter is stubborn," he agreed.
"So am I," Tony nodded. "We weren't going to abandon what we have just because our boss doesn't approve of relationships between co-workers."
"Then it would not surprise you that I have the same feelings about such relationships?" Eli tested.
"That would explain why my daughter has not told me of your relationship," he realised. "How long have you loved my daughter?"
"Three years, sir."
"And how long has she known of your feelings?"
"Two years," Tony admitted.
Eli's eyebrows raised. "You are not only stubborn, it seems, but also cowardly."
His frown returned, his self-confidence challenged as he realised he was going to have to fight for this conversation to pan out in his favour. "Excuse me, sir?"
The smile of satisfaction on Eli's face was almost sickening. "To withhold such strong emotions for a year and say nothing? There must have been tendencies of fear to prevent you from being honest with my daughter."
"Yes, sir, there were," he admitted openly. "I wouldn't describe that as cowardly, though."
"Then how do you see it?" he asked.
"I love your daughter very much," Tony assured him.
"But you were hesitant to tell her this," he pointed out.
"Because she was almost my best friend and my partner in the field," he defended quickly. "Both of those relationships with her could have been compromised, if not ruined, by telling her how I felt."
"Then what influenced you to change your mind?"
Tony sank back in the chair a little. That day was not a day that he liked to remember. Whenever he did find himself floating back to that memory, his body seemed to shut down on all functions. The first time he became engrossed in this memory was a week after the day itself, where McGee had walked into the squad room to find Tony sitting there, staring at Ziva's desk with glazed over eyes and a panicked expression. He'd not been able to get a response out of him, nor had Abby, but it was Gibbs that finally managed to tear his eyes away from the empty desk and remind Tony that breathing was essential to staying alive. "We were working a case in the national park, and it was all frozen over from the snowstorm we'd had," he remembered, his eyes glazed over as he knew they would. "She was chasing a suspect…ended up on the lake. Before she realised where she as, the ice broke underneath her and she fell in. I didn't even think twice about it, I just jumped in after her."
"You pulled her from the water?" Eli asked.
Had Tony not been so engrossed in the memory of that day, he'd have seen the hint of admiration in the elder man's eyes as he nodded slowly. "Yeah. She was shaking, choking on the water…we had to keep her warm until the EMT's arrived so I wouldn't let her go, kept holding her real tight. I tried to keep her talking, to keep her awake, but she just passed out. I tried everything, but she just wouldn't wake up and her breathing was getting real slow and I was so …scared," he remembered, recalling all too well that moment when her eyelids had closed and he had shaken her, calling her name only to hear no response. "Then the EMT's arrived and took her to the hospital. I followed them but when I got there, they wouldn't let me in to see her until she was stable. Something in me just snapped, because I couldn't make her okay, so I lied, told them I was her fiancé, and they let me in to see her. They let me help warm her up, and when she came around they let me stay with her. I heard the doctors telling Gibbs that if she'd got any colder she might not have come around at all…that she might never have woken up…and it was my arms that stopped that happening…so I just told her how I felt."
"And she returned the sentiments?" Eli asked.
"Yeah," Tony nodded, slowly coming back into the room from his memory. "Yeah, she did."
Eli leaned forwards once more, closer to Tony, eyeing him with a more scrutinising gaze. "What is it that you came here to ask me, Agent DiNozzo?"
Tony looked at him, and if eyes were the windows to a soul, he made sure that his was laid out bare for Ziva's father to examine as he spoke. "Your permission, sir."
"My permission?" he questioned.
"To continue your relationship with my daughter?"
"To pursue it to the next step," Tony corrected.
"The next step?" he frowned. "You mean marriage."
"Yes, sir," he confirmed, with no hesitation.
"You wish to marry my daughter."
"Nothing would make me happier."
He'd been expecting death threats, but instead, Eli laughed at him. "You are serious?" he asked Tony.
He frowned in return. "I wouldn't joke about something like this, sir."
"You wish to marry my daughter," he repeated.
Another chuckle. "Agent DiNozzo, I cannot imagine you are serious in your request."
"Sir, is there something wrong with me loving your daughter?" he asked rather defensively.
"Loving, no, but marrying? Oh yes, certainly," he continued to laugh.
"We're in love," Tony repeated. "We've living together already, we trust each other, we're honest with each other…I don't see any reason why we couldn't get married."
Eli stopped laughing, observing him with a sick amusement as he straightened his posture. "Agent DiNozzo, could you tell me the dates that Hanukkah will be celebrated on this year?" he asked him.
Stumped at the question, Tony frowned. "Uh…"
"Could you also tell me when Rosh Chodesh is celebrated?"
"Or what Rosh Chodesh is, for that matter?"
Tony stumbled. "I…"
"Could you tell me the meanings behind the Magein David she wears around her neck?" he asked.
"What about the seven blessings of a marriage ceremony?"
The mention of a marriage ceremony alerted Tony to what the sudden onslaught of questions was about. He cringed, and answered in a quiet tone. "No, sir."
"You know nothing about my daughter's religious faith," Eli pointed out. "One's faith is an important part of marriage, is it not?"
"But what?" Eli cut him off. "You are going to tell me now that you do not care who's faith is followed as long as I permit you to be with my daughter? Let me save you the effort, Agent DiNozzo, for that would be far too cliché, even for this conversation."
Tony looked at him, a little confused. "Then what is it you want me to say?"
"That you will forget this ridiculous fantasy you have of marrying my daughter," he answered harshly.
"I'm sorry?" Tony asked, stunned at this demand. He didn't seriously mean…
"I must be going," Eli said, standing from his chair and fixing his suit. "I have delayed my departure for long enough and I still need to bid my daughter farewell."
"I wish I could say it was nice speaking with you," Eli said regretfully, before he left the conference room.
Tony was even more stunned by the response now that he was alone in the silence of the conference room. However, it quickly dawned on him what had just occurred between him and Ziva's father, and he knew that it was something he didn't have much time left to fix. He ran from the room, catching up with Eli on the stairs. "Sir, I-"
"Goodbye, Agent DiNozzo," he said firmly.
"I wasn't finished-"
"I was. I have had my say."
"I haven't had mine."
"Oh, you have said quite enough," Eli told him darkly, before he approached where Ziva was standing, watching them curiously. "Ziva, tateleh, I am leaving now," he announced.
"Now?" she asked with a gentle frown, her eyes fluttering to Tony for a moment before she stepped into the embrace that her father offered her, for once. She still looked confused, however.
"Yes, I have urgent business to attend to back in Tel Aviv."
"Is it that urgent that you need to skip the dinner you arrived here to attend?" she asked, a little like a spoiled child finally being told 'no'. Ziva wasn't spoiled, however. She had been told 'no' too many times in her life.
"Unfortunately, yes," he said. Only somebody who knew how to read Ziva as well as Tony did could have recognised the disappointment she fought to hide as her father kissed her forehead. "There will be other occasions, Ziva," he assured her.
"Your daughter only turns thirty once," Tony pointed out to him snidely.
"I hardly feel the situation needs any more input from yourself, Agent DiNozzo."
Tony glared at the his words, stiffening in his place at Ziva's side. He was tempted to pull her into his arms and kiss her furiously just to annoy her father, but that was no way to win this battle. She noticed the change in him instantly and frowned at him, watching the turmoil in his mind. "Is something wrong?" she asked her father.
"I shall speak with you when I return, daughter," Eli told her with a smile, avoiding her question altogether.
But she was not to be deterred. "Aba-"
"Nothing is wrong, tateleh. Shalom," he told her, before he went over to the elevators.
Instantly, Ziva turned to face Tony. "Something is wrong," she realised.
Tony hadn't taken his eyes off of Eli's retreating back, hoping that his eyes were burning enough of a hole in his back to get him to turn around and see the anger he had. "You bet something's wrong. Stay here, okay?"
He looked down at her. "I don't want you to hear what I'm going to say. Stay here," he instructed. Without another word, he followed Eli, meeting him as he waited for the elevator to arrive. "Director David."
"Our conversation is over, Agent DiNozzo," he said firmly, without turning to see him. The two bodyguards on either side of him made to move towards Tony, but Eli raised a hand to them, indicating for them to step down.
"I'm not done yet," he insisted.
"You shall be, for I shall here no more of this nonsense," he said simply.
"You think you're hurting me with this, but Ziva's the one you're hurting," Tony attempted to persuade him.
"This is not about hurting you, Agent DiNozzo," he said.
"Then what is it about?" he demanded. "I love her, okay? I love Ziva. Why can't you accept that?"
"I have accepted it. I just wish it to go no further than this infatuation."
"Because I'm not Jewish," he assumed.
"One of many reasons, yes," he confirmed.
"So, you're saying-"
Eli cut him off as the elevator opened, looking him deeply in the eyes. "I am saying that it was useless to ask anything of me in this matter, for you will not be receiving either my permission, nor my blessing," he said, before he got into the elevator. Before the doors could close, however, Tony reached out a hand, jamming the doors so that he could hold them open with one arm, gesturing wildly with the other arm as he finally lost his tempter.
"You know what, I don't care!" he exclaimed. "I can't tell you about the Jewish holidays. I can't tell you how long they last or what you do for them. I can't tell the stories or sing the songs. I definitely can't speak Hebrew, so I guess that's another point against me. I can't tell you her favourite holiday as a child. I can't tell you her favourite day of Hanukkah. I was raised Catholic so I can't even pretend that I can celebrate those holidays. But I can tell you that I love your daughter. I can tell you that her favourite colour is blue, and that she hates the curls in her hair even though I think they're beautiful. I can tell you that she sings in the shower to songs she'd never admit that she loves. I can tell you that she sleeps with her head on my chest even on the nights when she's mad at me. I can tell you that she loves dancing because it's her escape from the world, and that her favourite movie is The Sound of Music. I can tell you that she cares about her friends so much that she'll risk everything, even her pride, to help them out. I can tell you that she likes to wear my sweaters when it's cold outside-"
He was so caught up in his rant that he hadn't noticed how much of a commotion he was causing. Eli was staring at him with a hard intent, matching Tony's angry gaze, but his eyes did flicker over his shoulder when Gibbs and Ziva came over to stand behind him. Tony didn't follow his line of sight, however, and remained oblivious to the fact that the woman he was defending his love for was right behind him when he'd asked her to stay out of earshot.
"-I can tell you about the fifty-eight different smiles she's got, and the twenty-nine different ways she can be angry with me. I can tell you that she's haunted by the some of the things she did in Mossad, and that you coming to dinner with her was more important to her than you realise, but that probably doesn't even matter to you. None of that matters to you. You don't care that I'm probably the only person who knows those things about her. It doesn't matter to you how I found those things out, either, all because I'm not Jewish. Well, what about my traditions?" he demanded. "You think my father cares that Ziva isn't catholic? He couldn't give a crap!"
"Tony-" Gibbs warned, stepping forward and placing a hand on his agents shoulder to calm him.
It didn't work, and Tony shrugged the hand away, paying no attention to the man it belonged to. "He was never there for me as a father but he can still manage to be happy for us!" he shot at Ziva's father. "He even gave my mother's ring to give to Ziva, and so I thought I'd go about this the right way and get her father's permission first, but that seems to be a waste of time because he can't even look over his own standards to see that his daughter is happy and loved. You're her father, and I get that you're trying to protect her and that you want the best for her, but I love her. I might not be the best guy in the world, but I'm the best guy for your daughter because no one will ever love her as much as I do. Isn't that enough?" His outburst came to a sudden halt as a look of realisation crossed over him. His anger seemed to disappear into indifference. "You know what? Forget it," he shrugged. "I don't need your permission for this. I just need hers."
Eli's eyes flashed dangerously. "Agent DiNozzo-"
"Your permission doesn't mean anything to me, because I'm clearly not going to get it. But I've got my mother's ring, and that's probably the second most precious thing in my life, so I'm going to give it to the most precious thing, which is your daughter, and hope that she doesn't care about the differences between us as much as you do. I love Ziva," he said firmly, "and if she wants to marry me, I will marry her, no matter what you say. If she doesn't want to get married, though, I'm still not going anywhere, but that'll be our choice not to get married, not yours."
Eli was silent for a moment, and then nodded. "Interesting."
"That you can deny your emotions for her for a year, yet the slightest obstacle at this moment in time causes you to forget the power of the man you are currently yelling at," he observed.
Tony laughed, but then turned serious. "What, you going to get some bodyguard assassins to shoot me? Go on then. Shoot me. I don't care anymore!"
"And we are back to the cowardice," he noticed.
"I am not a coward," Tony defended through clenched teeth.
"Then why do you need my permission in the first instance?" Eli challenged. "Did you believe you would need it to convince her?"
"I love her," he repeated, his voice never wavering on those three words. "That's all she needs to know."
"If love is enough, then why are you so desperate to marry her?" he asked.
"This isn't about marriage, is it?" Tony asked him. "You just don't want Ziva to be with me."
"I want my daughter to be with a man who can give her everything," Eli explained.
"And you don't think I can do that?" he half-laughed.
"No, Agent DiNozzo, I do not," he snapped, before he allowed the elevator doors to close, shutting him off from everyone.
Tony stared at the closed doors, the last part of their heated exchange repeating in his mind. "I can…" he whispered to himself.
But it didn't matter. Eli was gone now. He lost his chance to make this right, and if anything, he'd only made it worse. He took a stunned step back, finally acknowledging that Gibbs was standing nearby. He paid no attention to his boss, however, because there was another, more familiar, more comforting and alluring, presence that approached him. He closed his eyes, unable to meet hers as she placed a hand on his chest.
"Tony…" she whispered.
"I told you to stay over there," he replied, his eyes still closed as he placed his hand over hers, holding it in place on his torso.
"Tony, those things you said…"
"I didn't want you to hear that," he cut her off.
"Why not?" she asked. "They were nice things." He said nothing, so she stepped closer to him, sliding her hand up onto his cheek. "You asked my father's permission?" she asked.
"It doesn't matter," he shrugged, turning his face down.
"Of course it does."
"No, it doesn't," he insisted.
"It matters to me," she told him.
"Well, it shouldn't," he mumbled.
"It still does."
He looked up at her, snapping more than he intended to as he finally met her eyes. "He said 'no', Ziva!" he reminded her, before walking away to the stairwell, leaving her and Gibbs to stare after him.
A slide of the key in the door announced her arrival at home, but he had already been there for several hours, she knew. She had remained at work longer than usual, catching up on some paperwork until she knew that Tony would have had enough time alone to think through the day. He was in the kitchen when she found him, standing over a pot of boiling pasta. He didn't look up at her, keeping his eyes on the dinner as she came to stand beside him.
"I'll be ready soon," he told her. "I put the pasta on when I saw your car pull up outside."
"Tony," she said softly.
"Figured you wouldn't want to cook as you're home late, and as I was here…"
"Tony, we need to talk," she cut him off.
He shook his head lightly. "No, we don't."
"What happened earlier-"
"Went terribly wrong," he finished for her. "So we can just forget about it and pretend that it never happened."
"But it did happen," she urged.
"Not the way I wanted it to," he mumbled.
He raised his eyes from the pasta, looking at her with such desperation she could have easily mistaken him for a child. "Ziva, please, can we not talk about this right now?" he begged her.
She looked at him, and he took her silence for an answer. Turning back to the pasta, he placed his arms on either side of the stove, staring into the boiling water. He hung his head slightly, taking a deep breath. She closed the gap between them, putting her hand on his arm and rubbing it gently, leaning her head on his hunched shoulder. Just the mere contact caused his shoulders to relax, if only a little, under her touch.
"I would have said yes," she assured him after a moment.
He put his hand over hers. "I know," he mumbled.
"You did not have to ask his permission, Tony," she told him. "Those traditions are not important to me."
"They're important to me," he insisted.
"You will not ask me without his permission?"
Hearing the disappointment in her tone, he sighed. "I knew he wasn't going to approve of me because I wasn't Jewish, but I thought if he could see how much I care about you…how much I love you…"
She placed her lips to his temple. "My father cannot be easily convinced by love, Tony. I learned that long ago."
"He doesn't think I can give you everything," he said flatly.
"I do not care what my father thinks," she insisted. "He does not know you, Tony. He does not know the man you are to me."
"You have a much higher opinion of me than he does," he noted.
"Because it is not my father you are making happy, Tony, it is me," she said, combing her fingers through his hair. "You are the one who makes me happy, and I can assure you that you have made me happier in two years than my father has made me in my entire life."
At these words, he moved, so that he was facing her properly. Placing a hand on her cheek, he brought his lips down to hers, however the soft skin never met. Instead, he hovered over her lips, close enough for her to see how much the day had destroyed him through his eyes. "I do love you, Ziva," he told her.
"I know," she smiled, tilting her head slightly. "Will you really not ask me because of my father?" she asked again.
"When I asked my father for my mom's ring, he told me I was going to be in big trouble if I didn't ask you to marry me," he told her, realising that gentle threat was probably the most discipline his father had given him in his entire life. "Thing is, if I disobey my father, nothing will come of it. If I disobey your father, I'm likely to be shot before sunrise."
"You believe I would let him murder my fiancé so easily?" she asked him.
"I dunno," he shrugged. "I have made a mess of today."
She kissed him, her gentle touch causing him to sigh, relaxing further despite himself. "You have made no mess of anything. You have simply proved to me how right I was in allowing myself to love you."
He frowned. "So, you enjoyed watching me get my ego handed to me on a platter?"
"Is that so wrong of me?" she asked.
"You're a sick chick, David…that's what I love about you."
"Tony…" she looked at him, love flooding from her eyes. "I really would have said yes," she assured him again.
"Yes," she nodded. "So, if you would like to reconsider your decision to ask me, I would like to say yes," she informed him.
"You're asking me to ask you to marry me?"
"I suppose I am, yes," she nodded.
He looked around him, frowning even more. "Seriously? The most important question of your life, and you want me to ask you in the middle of the kitchen?"
"Would you prefer to do this in the bathroom?" she offered instead.
He laughed, then took her hand, kneeling down and taking out his mother's ring. "Ziva Elisheva David…"
"How did you learn my middle name?" she asked suspiciously.
He gave her a warning look. "If you interrupt me, I'm liable to change my mind back," he threatened, but the lightness in his tone had appeared again, and she knew that now this moment had been reached it was nothing but an empty threat.
"Right. Ziva Elisheva David…will you do me the honour of annoying your father and becoming my wife?"
She grinned. "I would love nothing more."