TITLE: Tangled Up
AUTHOR: brightblue
RATING: T
CATEGORY: Tony/Ziva, Romance/Drama/Action, AU
SPOILERS: AU from Judgment Day (general references to rest of series)
DISCLAIMER: Yeah right! Not mine.
SUMMARY: In the wake of Judgment Day, the team has been split up. Tony and Ziva finally admit their feelings for one another, but as oceans and miles come between them, will they ever find their way back together again? (AU from Judgment Day)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Looong note at the bottom. You should know that this fic falls in the same universe as my other JD-fic, "Tether." I would recommend that you read that to get the Tony and Ziva vibe that sets up this story. No worries, it's quite short! Also, the lyrics below are taken from Sarah McLachlan's song "Fear." That song is definitely the mood-setter for this story, if you're so inclined. Actually that whole album ("Fumbling Towards Ecstasy") is amazing and should be listened to while reading this if possible.

ENJOY!

Tangled Up

But I fear
I have nothing to give
I have so much to lose
Here in this lonely place
Tangled up in our embrace
There's nothing I'd like
Better than to fall

(1)
Rome – D.C. – Barcelona

Rome – One week ago

Stealing into the dark café, Ziva makes her way to the back corner. A lone patron lifts his head from his espresso to acknowledge her. She averts her eyes, trying to look more coy than panicked. Sunlight streams in through the open windows, catching dust particles in the air. She steps around the rays of light. She tries to stay in the shadows.

Her heart is racing. She can feel her pulse in her ears.

The scuffle of feet on the cobblestone street kicks another burst of adrenaline into her veins. She ducks her head to hide her face under the rim of her baseball cap. She sighs in relief when a pack of children scurry down the alley.

A few short steps and she's at the phone. One last glance around ensures her that the only ones eavesdropping on her call are the old man drinking espresso and the teen-aged barista. It's worth the risk.

Her fingers shake as she tries to maneuver the rotary dial. She swears at herself under her breath, the abrupt Hebrew tones slicing the lazy silence of the café. Calm down, Ziva! But this is not just any other mission; her frazzled nerves are a clear indication of that.

Just make the call! Make the call!

One last deep breath and her fingers are steering the dial in a practiced ease. The United States switchboard picks up.

"Yes," she whispers in English. "I would like to make a collect call."

A few more exchanges with the operator and the line is ringing. When he finally picks up, relief floods her body.

"Ziva?! Thank God! What the hell is going on?"

Before she can answer, a man walks into the café, eyes searching. She hugs the wall. Locates her best escape.

"Ziva?"

A few quick glances around, a wave to the barista, and the man leaves. She exhales.

"Gibbs." The hysteria is evident in her voice. "I need your help."


D.C. – 10 weeks ago

She walks him out. His pace is slow, like a child being sent to school. Somewhere between the hallway and living room, their hands tangle up. She trips on his heels as she tries to slow her stride to match his. These are stolen touches and feel forbidden in the early morning light.

They come to an abrupt stop at the door. For a moment, neither speaks. Where to go from here? She tries to read his thoughts through the back of his head. Normally, she's good at this. But today she can hardly decipher the thoughts in her own mind, let alone deal with his uncertainty.

Finally, he turns to face her. His eyes blaze with emotion. "I'm not going."

"Tony…" she sighs, squeezing his hand tight. "We have no choice."

"We do, Ziva," he says with more confidence than she's heard from him in days. "I could resign."

"Don't be ridiculous." She's surprised by the catch in her voice, at how much she wants to encourage this bout of rebellion. Reason prevails, however, coupled with the wishful thinking she has been so adept at lately. "You cannot resign. Gibbs will have you back soon enough."

He snorts. "Right."

She furrows her eyebrows, feeling both impatient that he still blames himself for Jenny and angry that she can no longer be by his side to help him through those feelings. More empty reassurances spill from her mouth, "You are a good agent, Tony. Gibbs does not blame you. He will bring you back to NCIS as soon as he can."

She can only hope that she speaks the truth.

He studies her for a long moment. Eventually, he seems to find what he seeks and is momentarily appeased. She sighs in relief. He tugs her hand, pulling her closer to him. His next words are whispered, a smile dancing across his face, "And you. Gibbs will bring you back, too."

She knows he is picturing things the way they used to be-- how long ago a few days seem. If only they could go back to that time. Things will never be the same again. They are on the brink of change; she feels that with every fiber of her being. It scares her like nothing has before.

The lightness of his tone, the casual way he traces her knuckles, only increases her sense of foreboding. Too much. This is too much for him right now. I should not have let this happen. She hesitates. But she cannot lie to him. "I don't know, Tony."

He frowns, confused. "Ziva…"

"They will test me," she whispers, not bothering to elaborate. He will understand. She cannot look at him. This was all a horrible mistake. They should've never crossed the line. Only hurt can come from this now. She anticipated this outcome and yet did nothing to stop it.

"Then maybe you should resign," he snaps, dropping her hand.

"One does not just resign from Mossad," she snaps back. If only it were that easy. She knows, and he knows, their anger is not directed at one another. They are just lashing out at easy, safe targets. Another reason we should not have opened up this can of fish.

A charged silence reigns over them. Tony is the first to break it, taking a deep breath and shoving his hands through his already mussed-up hair.

"Then you have to promise me you will stay safe until Gibbs can get you back," he pleads. She studies the rug under her feet. "Look at me, Ziva! Promise me!"

She closes her eyes. Breathes. "I cannot, Tony. You know that."

He grabs her face in his hands and forces her to look at him. The desperation in his eyes overwhelms her. "I can't lose you too, Ziva. Not you. Not when I just found you."

A ghost of a grin traces her lips at his words; she tries to swallow the tears that threaten to choke her. "But I have been here all along, Tony," she says.

He chuckles softly and runs his thumbs across her cheeks. "Yeah, you have. I've just been too stupid to see it."

She kisses his hand. "Not stupid. Just a slow learner."

That earns her a real laugh. "Yeah."

"You have to go," she reminds him but makes no move to push him out the door. All this forward momentum is making her dizzy. She wants nothing more than a moment to stop and think. She rests her forehead against his. If only they had more time…

"I'm not done with you yet, Officer David," he leers, only half joking. Humor has always been so easy for them. She ignores the pain etched on his features and finds the strength to smile at his words.

Then, he kisses her. Please not for the last time, she prays as she tries to memorize everything about this kiss—the softness of his lips, the gentle friction of his hands on her skin, the response she gets when she traces his lips with her tongue. When they break apart, they just stare at one another. This is still too new to not be surprising. Ziva says nothing rather than risk saying too much. They can't make promises; they can't say goodbye.

Tony places a final kiss on her forehead. She nudges him playfully toward the door. If she doesn't make him go now, she might fight to keep him here forever.

He turns to her one more time with a dark look she knows will haunt her for years to come. "Kick ass, Ziva," he urges then, more gently, he adds, "and come back to me."

"I want nothing more," she affirms, letting the truth shine from her eyes. With a final nod, he leaves. The sound of the closing door hits her like a kick to the gut.

Through the window, she watches him walk away. Then, she closes the curtains and begins to pack.


Somewhere outside Barcelona – Present day

The truck bounces over the dirt roads. Gibbs looks sideways at his former agent, waiting for a smart remark. Any remark.

"You're awfully quiet."

"Not a lot to say, Boss." Tony's voice is quiet, tight. His grip on the grab handle is evident from a few feet away.

"We're almost there, DiNozzo," Gibbs finds himself reassuring. Normally, he's comfortable with uncomfortable silences. But not this time. Not when he can feel the fear rolling in waves off the man next to him. Not when what he knows and cannot say could make that fear multiply exponentially.

"Drive faster," Tony commands, eyes searching the landscape.

Gibbs can't argue with that. He steps on the gas.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

So, what can I say? A few scenes from this fic implanted themselves in my brain and refused to let go. I was originally going to attempt a long case-file type story, but this grew so quickly in my mind that I had to write it. It's been brewing for about 3 weeks and only last night the last section underwent a radical change, which I think is for the better. I toyed around with the idea of structure and how to present the flashbacks—I think it should work as I have it, but if you are ever confused about the timeline, please let me know so I can tweak things!

Normally, I never post fic that is unfinished but as this fic is 2/3 of the way completed, I feel okay about it. Mostly because I have the plot all fleshed out and think the first draft should be completed soon. The first few parts might come out slowly as I re-write and edit, so please be patient. (All in all, this should be about 15-20 parts, depending on how I edit it.) This is my first action/adventure type plot, a real departure for me since I typically write shorter, emotionally driven pieces. (This is my way of saying please forgive me for errors related to action and adventure as I'm totally guessing!) So y'all get to be my guinea pigs! I appreciate feedback and try to send a quick thanks to whomever takes the time to write it—if I skip you, it's not personal, it's just that I forgot who I've already responded to! I love to discuss, so feel free to let me know what you think!

Also, I know there is a dearth of post-JD fic out there already. I hope this isn't too similar to other fics already out there; I haven't read too many, so I'm not sure. But, like I said, I've been writing this like a fiend and couldn't not share it with you all.

Get ready for a wild, TIVA ride!