Tony DiNozzo had made a lot of mistakes in his life.
Jeanne had been one. He had never meant to fall for her, but it was easy to do. She was beautiful. She was caring. She was so easy to love. Though Tony had learned to commit because of Jeanne, he never thought about how it would end. Not really, anyway.
The thought would cross his mind every day, blessing him with a pang of guilt and frustration, which he would wipe away in a split-second. He hated lying to her. He hated lying to the team. To Ziva.
Ziva didn't make the ordeal any easier. She was an exotic beauty, but one of great determination and strength. He had only met her a year and a half before, but it hadn't taken him long to fall for her either. She was defiant and sarcastic. Ziva saw right through him. She… she was not as easy to love.
But there was something about her that made his heart pound. She was different from any other woman he had ever met. She listened. She talked. She fought. She ate Philly cheesesteaks and drank Berry Mango Madness instead of rice cakes and designer mineral water. Her trademark was cargo pants, not Prada. She had secrets. But when Jeanne came along, he set aside all hopes of being with Ziva. He had to grow up. He had to be a one-woman man this time, and it had to last. He never said anything, but Ziva understood somehow. She always did.
When things ended with Jeanne, Tony wasn't sure he'd ever love again. He was afraid of hurting anyone, and he was afraid of hurting himself. He couldn't go through that again.
All this changed when Jenny died. It was like a shot to the heart; the wake-up call he needed. There was no way he would end up dying alone like her. There was no way he would let himself let his second chance go by.
The summer away at sea had given him a lot of time to think. He thought about his regrets and his mistakes. He thought about the team. He thought about Kate and Jeanne and Jenny. And then, he thought about Ziva.
She had taught him how to love. He learned that love wasn't simple. It was being patient when all you wanted to do is punch a hole in the wall. It was remembering her birthday when she wanted to forget it. It was tousling her hair when she was hurting. It was forgiving her when she didn't ask. It was being on her six when she didn't ask for it. He learned that loving was a tough thing. Tony learned that it didn't always come naturally, but it was worth it anyway.
He learned a lot about himself too, while learning how to love. Time and time again he was reminded of how prideful he was. What an idiot he could be. What a jerk he'd been. And how he couldn't mess this one up.
Ziva made him want to be a better man. Whenever he had heard that in movies, he'd always thought it was a cliché. Something put in to make the girls cry. But after Ziva… he got it. It finally made sense.
No… There was no way he'd let her go again.