Author's Notes: Yeah. I felt like Tony's opinion on everything was sort of underrepresented in Reap the Whirlwind, so . . . here you go! A little companion. I went back and forth on whether or not to post this as a stand-alone or a second chapter, and ultimately decided that it was less of a continuation than a companion, so it gets its own post. Yay!
I hope you enjoy!
if so be it, yield
The first night he goes over, she opens her door and looks at him for a long time without saying anything. He opens his mouth, tries for some flippant retort or any half-sane reason why he'd show up on her stoop, hair mussed and eyes ringed with tires black circles, but nothing comes out except, "Can I come in?"
She leans her weight onto her hip and pushes the door all the way open, giving him room to move past. He does so with a slow hesitance, stepping into her living room with a kind of reluctance. Ziva gently closes the door and they stand that way for a minute, not speaking, not even looking at each other, until she asks, "Do you want something to drink?"
He follows her into the kitchen and slumps into a chair, watching her tip onto her toes as she reaches for the wine. She's in nothing but a t-shirt and boxers and he can see everything—every curve of her body, every muscle and a hundred tiny scars, and suddenly he's on his feet and walking towards her and she stops reaching for the wine because somehow, she knows.
She knows what he came for and she turns to meet him, always a step ahead, and this was never how he imagined it to go down with her but he'll take what she gives him.
Her mouth is hot and tastes like whatever she had for dinner and she's tearing off his clothes like she's the one in his kitchen and not the other way around, but it doesn't matter, she's always been the one in control and she always will be.
Dimly, in back of his mind, he thinks that he's now liable for sexual harassment charges, and Gibbs's voice says rule number twelve, you idiot, and he pulls away.
Ziva cocks her head to the side and asks, "Isn't this what you came for?"
And it is, so he lets her lead him to the bedroom.
In the morning, she rolls out of bed without looking at him; he stays with his eyes screwed closed, head reeling, wondering if this could possibly be a really really vivid dream. Surely he didn't—surely he wasn't so stupid as to—
"Do you like cream in your coffee?"
He opens one eye and she's looking at him with her head cocked, one hand strung loosely across her chest, and he mutely shakes his head. "Just extra sugar."
She nods, disappearing into the kitchen, and he stays in bed, looking around for the first time. It's efficiently decorated. Sparse. Frugal. Nothing like his bedroom, which is littered with posters and photographs and a hundred decorations that he doesn't need or even really want.
When she emerges, she's holding two cups of coffee and sits on the edge of the bed, her leg just brushing his. He sighs. "I'm—"
"Do not apologize. I am not some flimsy you picked up at a bar—I used you as much as you used me."
He looks at her, her hair pulled back neatly and sweater completely unwrinkled and somehow looking like she always does, despite the fact that it's 6:30 AM and she couldn't have gotten more than a few hours sleep last night. Tony chuckles. "It's 'floozy'," he corrects, half-suspecting that she knew that and was just trying to make him smile.
In a somehow tender gesture, she reaches across and ruffles his hair. "Let's go, boss," she orders, standing. "It's your first day, and you smell."
Then she leaves him, a towel already folded on the end of the bed, and he wonders how he possibly could have made it to the office without her.
The next time, he's prepared. He brings microwavable popcorn and Snakes on a Plane and holds them in front of his face when she opens the door. "First, don't sue me for sexual harassment, and second, if you watch this movie with me I'll let you quote it for the rest of the week."
He hears her laugh and lowers the DVD case enough so that he can look at her. She has her arms folded over her chest. "I do not like snakes," she says matter-of-factly. Her phone rings and she glances at the caller ID before deciding not to answer.
"Neither does the great Samuel L. Jackson," he tells her as he steps inside.
Hours later, when the credits are rolling and she is laughing so hard that there are tears in her eyes, Tony realizes that he has a problem far more dangerous than losing Gibbs.
The first girl he ever kissed was named Sarah Luften. He was twelve; she was fifteen. She had long, blonde hair and wide eyes and when he told her that he thought she was beautiful she laughed at him. He still remembers the moment with that magical sort of nostalgic glow, glossy and perfect in memory as it undoubtedly wasn't in practice.
He tells Ziva, once, that she is beautiful, and she gets a guarded, cagey look in her eyes, like he's setting her up to be some sort of punch line. Sometimes he wonders what the first boy she ever kissed was like, how it happened, if he cupped her cheek or held her hand and then he thinks, sadly, that judging from the few clues she gives him it was probably none of the above.
By the fourth night, he's gotten so used to the layout of her house that he can get up and go to the bathroom in the morning without turning on a single light. This is both comforting and terrifying, because he's gotten to like the way his toothbrush looks, balanced on the bathroom counter next to hers.
A week after he shows up that first time, she's stabbed in the hand by a Marine with PTSD and his whole body goes rigid like he's been dipped in formaldehyde and laid out on Ducky's operating table. Ziva swears, fires off a few rounds, and takes the Gunny down, and Tony's got his fist in the guy's face before he can even think enough to be coherently angry.
He takes her to Ducky to get bandaged up and then drives her home. She whines about being treated like a baby but he makes her dinner anyway, and catches her smiling when she thinks he isn't looking. They watch a movie he doesn't pay any attention to and she does everything in her power not to show that she's favoring her hand and by the end of the night she's fallen asleep with her head in his lap and he doesn't want to move her so instead he leans his temple against his hand and they spend the night that way, him shivering and Ziva wrapped in a cocoon of a blanket.
It's the first time in a long time that he's spent the night with someone without having sex, and when he wakes to the sound of her snores he finds himself smiling.
She grunts in her sleep, her dreams startled by the pain in her hand, and he gently strokes her hair until he realizes he's doing it.
At work, she treats him exactly the same as she always has, except that this time when he tells her to do things she usually does. Ziva does nothing better than take orders, so although she makes faces and bites back sarcastic retorts, he knows that she'll always follow through because it's been ingrained in her to do so.
If McGee senses that there is something going on, he doesn't mention it; they're careful never to leave at the same time and he makes a conscious effort not to call her Zee-vah any more then necessary.
It only happens once at work; she's wearing her favorite green sweater and the air conditioning isn't working so the back of her neck glistens when she leans over her paperwork and when he accidentally runs into her outside the men's room neither one of them bother to resist—it's all crashing mouths and roaming hands and loosened buttons and Ziva laughing because his tie gets caught in his zipper on the way back up.
"I will give you two some privacy," she tells him seriously and cackles on her way out.
The first time she shows up at his house, she's a mess; he doesn't ask what's wrong and she doesn't tell him—she simply holds out an offering of Chinese food and he wordlessly lets her in. They watch Monty Python in Search of the Holy Grail and she doesn't laugh, but sometimes she smiles, and he takes that as a good sign.
Around midnight she tries to leave, but as soon as her hand touches the handle she pulls away and throws herself onto him, pressing her mouth hotly onto his and begging him without a single word to just give her this comfort, the way she has done for him a hundred times, and he obliges.
It's slower than usual, somehow more tender, and it's this more than anything that clues Tony into the fact that he is completely and totally fucked. Afterwards, she lets him hold her against his chest and she keeps her eyes closed, not sleeping but not quite conscious either, simply breathing and sorting through whatever had pushed her to his door.
"Ari was my brother," she says after a minute, and then laughs, bitterly. "He didn't deserve . . . he was just trying to—he was my brother."
Unthinkingly, Tony brings a hand to her hair and gently strokes it; the gesture makes her flinch and smile at the same time, so he doesn't stop. "I'm sorry," he says softly. There doesn't seem to be much else to say.
She nods. "Me too," she whispers, and her voice breaks, but she doesn't cry.
Sometimes it's rough and desperate and purely physical; sometimes it's slow and gentle and the most emotionally charged experience he's ever had. Tony's never sure exactly what he's in for when her first button comes undone, and it's the finding out that keeps things exciting.
He never knows what she's thinking but always what she needs, and it's an easy balance. He isn't sure he's ever had a relationship so easy—one that doesn't require flowers and chocolate and dinner dates, just popcorn and movies and a couch and one another.
It's a friendship with sex on the side, or sex with a friendship on the side, or perhaps friendship and sex with comfort on the side, but in the end it doesn't matter because nothing changes, not even the things that do. He asks himself What Would Gibbs Do and then usually just does what he thinks is right, anyway, and even when he's wrong Ziva and McGiggle pretend like he is right.
Jessica from the geek club in the basement says that he's no Gibbs and Ziva lays her out with just one blow. "Oh, sorry," the ninja says, standing over the cowering girl as she tries to plug her bleeding nose. "My hand gets spasms sometimes. I can't control it. It is probably a result of the years I spent as a trained assassin."
McGee stretches out a hand and helps Jessica to her feet. "Or it could be from that time that you killed a man using only your pinky." He leans in. "As a matter of interest, how any ways can you kill someone using just … I don't know … this?"
Probie pulls a paperclip off of the folder in his hand and hands it to Ziva; she looks at it speculatively. "Eighteen," she decides after a moment of silence, "But I have a nineteenth that I'm interested in learning.
"Gibbs, Palmer, Abby. Marry, boff, kill."
"Boff? I do not know what this word means."
Tony grins, running a hand up her leg. "We did it before work this morning."
Ziva laughs, lightly kicking at him. He catches her foot on the recoil and drops it into her lap, and in one fluid motion she brings the other up to cross at the ankles. They are lying on her couch, Ziva at one end and he at the other, a bowl of popcorn and the DVD cover of Superman II between them.
"You have to answer," he tells her solemnly, holding the popcorn bowl just out of her reach. "Or you'll be eating your own terrible cooking for the next week."
She glares, but her mouth is twitching at the corners. "This is a stupid game," she informs him, shaking her head in exasperation. "But . . . if I have no choice—"
"—then I would say marry Palmer, have sex with Abby, kill Gibbs."
He almost drops the popcorn. "What?"
She shrugs, ticking off on her fingers. "Palmer is in the position to inherit Ducky's job, when he dies, therefore making him a provider. Gibbs has an unsuccessful marriage history and, while I'm sure he's extremely satisfying in bed, I couldn't bear to kill Abby and same-sex marriage is still widely unrecognized." He stares at her and she frowns. "What? Did I get it wrong?"
Tony shakes his head, unable to explain the sudden fear that shoots through him, the shudder of knowledge that Ziva will always be this logical, decisive person and he is in no way the smart move, in no way her best option, in no way able to have her for as long as he wants to (forever). And right then, right in that moment, he wants to say I love you but what he does instead is flick a piece of popcorn at her and choke out, "There's no wrong answer, sweet cheeks."
But there is a wrong answer, there is, and Tony's it.
Two weeks into July she gets into a gunfight while delivering a witness to the safe house. Of course she's fine, because she is Ziva and she's always fine, but the sight of her whipping out two concealed weapons and firing them, not flinching even as a bullet whizzes so close to her face that it makes her hair smell like smoke, makes Tony's blood run absolutely cold.
Afterwards, he gives her a reprimand and makes her do all the paperwork; she knows what he's doing and it pisses her off but he just. doesn't. care. If she's going to run around throwing herself in front of bullets all the time then he's going to damn well keep her away from the action.
Two days of this and she shows up at his front door, living. "I can take care of myself, Tony," she snaps, hands balled into fists. "You are not obligated to treat me like I am your girlfriend just because we've had sex!"
He stares at her, flabbergasted. "You think—I don't feel obligated to do anything but keep you alive!"
"That is not your job," she says, pushing past him into his entry way. "Your job is to be my boss, not my bodyguard!"
"Someone has to be," he hisses, and folds his arms over his chest, "since you don't seem to give a shit about what happens to yourself! Jesus, Ziva—do you even think about how the rest of us would feel if you . . . if you . . .?"
He closes the door and her eyes soften. Before he knows what's happening, she's in his arms, her hand pressed against his cheek, and she murmurs very softly, "No one has ever tried to protect me before."
He looks down at her, at her tiny, compact little frame, and presses his mouth to hers. He feels suddenly as if he wants to wrap her up and never let her out of his sight again, like she is made of glass and the world is just one big stone. And he hates everyone that has led up to this moment, her father and her brothers and her boyfriends that have led her to believe that she has to do everything on her own.
He's not an idiot. Tony knows better than anyone that this whole situation is dangerous, stupid, careless, but for the first time in his life Tony isn't answering to anyone but himself. And being with Ziva is . . . easy. She doesn't make demands of him, doesn't need him to be romantic or attentive all the time, treats him as much like a friend as a lover.
A 'relationship' isn't quite what they have, but not quite what they don't have, either, and maybe he likes that it's not easy to define.
He figures that just means that it's not going to be easy to end, either.
But of course it is.
He almost loses an eye to a suspect in early August, and Ziva makes him wear the eye patch for the full twelve days following. She silences any taunts around the office with a cutting glare and threatening twitch of her fingers, pretty much shutting up anyone who would have made fun of the pirate look.
To make her laugh, he wears it to what he terms—only in his head, obviously—their 'anniversary dinner'. It is two months exactly after he showed up at her door that first night (June 3rd), and he takes her out to 100 King Restaurant in Old Town. She orders gnocchi and eats it slowly, savoringly, and afterwards they walk around the dock and listen to a man playing Make You Feel My Love on wineglasses. He buys her a balloon hat and makes her wear it, and in turn she fails to mention that he has a piece of spinach in his teeth for the duration.
It's nice. Comfortable. Lived-in, somehow, and permanent instead of just borrowed; Ziva takes a photo of him with a parrot on his shoulder on the walk back to King Street Metro, and he saves her from certain death-by-DASH-bus. They sit together in the train and she indulges him by letting him hold her hand, and to outsiders they must look so . . . simple.
But they have two separate cars waiting for them at the Capital South stop, and as soon as they step out of the train and onto the platform she drops his hand and they walk a half-an-inch further apart, no longer touching or bumping shoulders or even really talking beyond the occasional barb.
He steals a kiss before she gets into her car and she pushes him away, laughing.
And it all just seems so damn . . . strong.
And then, just like that, it all comes crashing down.
Ziva goes missing and Gibbs turns up and suddenly there's explosions and Mossad and murky ninja-Ziva history and the next time he sees her, she drags him into a separate room and kisses him so hard that his mouth hurts.
She pulls back and he asks, "What--?"
She inhales once, sharply, and then shakes her head and walks away and when he knocks on her door the next night she doesn't answer.
Jeanne comes at exactly the right time and exactly the wrong time, filling the Ziva-sized hole in his chest that he isn't even aware is there until there is someone else ill-fit inside it.
Sometimes when he looks at her he sees a different face than the one that's looking back, and sometimes when he speaks it's not Jeanne that he wants to be listening.
And sometimes, sometimes, when Ziva looks at him across the office with that hurt, desperately brave expression on her face, when she opens her mouth like she wants to speak to him but doesn't remember how, when she asks him about his nurse girlfriend and her voice is just a little too cutting, he wants to tell her every single, cruel detail and then add: and if you're jealous it's your own damn fault.
He tells himself that she never owed him loyalty, that they weren't ever anything but partners who occasionally had sex, but then she looks at him and he remembers of all the times she fell asleep with her feet on his lap or her hand in the popcorn and knows that's all self-preservationist bullshit.
He wakes up one night to the sound of someone knocking on his door and he's opening it before he's even fully awake. His whole body is alert and his heart is quicker than usual and he's thinking ZivaZivaZiva and running through movies he can make her watch—but it's Jeanne, smiling, pressing her mouth to his.
And even as they stumble into his bedroom, he closes his eyes and just tries to pretend that when he opens them, an entirely different pair of brown eyes will be staring back.
For something that never existed, it was all so easy to lose. Tony is never quite sure what he's missing—if it's the sex or the secret or the way Ziva would look at him, sometimes, puzzled and half-calculating and fond. He doesn't catch her with that expression anymore; every once in a while he'll turn his head, quickly, just to see if maybe he'll meet her eyes and she'll have to lie or laugh or lamely excuse herself, blame the tiredness or the lack of coffee.
But he never does. She's always got her head down, focused, eyes on her paper and not moving, despite the fact that he knows she can feel him looking at her.
She had given him everything, and he's left with nothing, so he falls in love with Jeanne. And God, it's so easy. As easy to win Jeanne as it was to lose Ziva, and if there's a connection there he doesn't care to look for it.
Jenny asks, "Are you in love with her, Tony?"
There's a picture of Jeanne on the computer screen, and his heart softens as he looks at it. "Yes," he admits, his voice low, shaking just a little. Yes. It's so easy to say it—yes, yes, I am in love with Jeanne Benoit. Yes.
And in a far more detached tone, "And Ziva?"
He chokes on his own words. Instead of answering, he says, "No, Director. Ziva's not in love with Jeanne. Although—do you think I might be able to convince them to do a little . . . experimenting?"
Jenny rolls her eyes, and wisely doesn't ask again.
On the third, he gets a call. It's from 100 King. The man on the other end of the line says that he wants to confirm the reservation for two and make sure that the delivery of the balloon hats is paid for.
"Reservation for two?" Tony repeats, frowning. "What reservation?"
The man falters. "Oh—I—is this not the DiNozzo party?"
"Well, I'm DiNozzo, anyway," Tony says slowly, "But I wasn't aware I was having a party."
"I'm sorry. Maybe it was supposed to be a surprise. A woman called about a month ago and reserved a table for two. There . . . it was a very specific order; she asked that, ah, that balloon hats be waiting for you when you got here, and that your waiter wear an . . . um . . . an eye patch?"
He cancels the reservation. But he call leaves him feeling antsy and restless, so he drives to Old Town and just walks around, liking the fall air. It's some new artist at the Marina, playing the guitar and tapping his shiny dress shoes against the pavement, and on his way back to his car Tony impulsively pops into a children's toy shop and buys a pirate eye patch.
Without thinking about what he's doing, he drives to Ziva's apartment complex and hangs it on her door. It will probably blow away in the wind before she finds it, but it's an incomplete gesture that somehow reminds him of everything they ever had—or didn't have—together: a wistful child's costume, strung uselessly from a door handle and getting swept off by even the pathetic DC wind.
When he gets to work the next morning Ziva is already there. She barely glances up at him, gives him no greeting other than, "You're late," and before he's settled in his chair she's gotten up and gone to find Gibbs or McGee or Abby or anyone-other-than-him.
He opens his desk drawer for the extra sugar he always keeps there for the office's bitter coffee, but when he puts his hand inside it's not paper that meets his skin.
It's a battered, felt little eye patch, skull and crossbones grinning sightlessly up at him. He stares at it for a long time, a strange burning sensation in his nose, and when he looks up she is somehow standing in front of him, meeting his eyes with her usual lack of fear.
"I found that at my apartment last night," she tells him in a soft voice, and he can see a hint of a smile curling on her lips. "I thought maybe you might know who it belonged to."
"Maybe I do," he answers, rolling his fingers over the fabric. "It depends. How many pirates do you know? One of them could have left it."
She laughs, a little. "I do not know. But if you . . . if you see whoever that belongs to, I want him to know that I am sorry he had to leave so abruptly that he forgot his eye patch, but that it was . . . necessary, and the surrounding circumstances were out of my control."
He makes himself keep looking at her. "I'll let him know," he says quietly. She nods once and then turns on her heel and walks back to her desk without looking back.
But he keeps his eyes trained on her until she looks up, and when she does he grins and says, "Just so you know, he's sorry he had to leave so abruptly, too. But he's . . . glad that he got to be there at all. 'Cause he got some great booty."
Her eyes go wide as she stares at him, and then she throws her head back and laughs, idly chucking a paperclip at him. He catches it and then raises an eyebrow.
"Eighteen ways," she says, but she's smiling.