A/N: First TIVA. This is actually the first NCIS fanfic I wrote, I just never tweaked it and finalized it. Decided to post it since the season finale was...unsatisfactory at best. Set after Season5Ep3 'Family'


She didn't use much light when she was alone. A simple bulb on over the stove, a candle sitting on the kitchen counter, and the lamp in the sitting area; that was all she really needed. It soothed the atmosphere and calmed her nerves.

She watched the pans on the stove lazily, swaying absently to the calm beat of the music she played from a stereo on the counter. Ziva David enjoyed the safety of her apartment, the security that was ever-present in America. She was grateful that she could come home and relax after a rough day at work and not have to worry about a suicide bombing.

Her head cocked slightly at the sound of a light tap on her door. She waited a moment, and the tap came again; louder. Setting the glass of red wine in her hand down carefully away from the edge of the counter, she padded through the living room to her front door.

She opened the door and he was there. Slumped, sort of, in the hall, having stepped back from her door to the wall opposite after he knocked, waiting. She pursed her lips, raised her eyebrows mildly; she was caught off guard, but she didn't show it. She rarely did.

"Tony?"

"I'm…hurtin', Ziva," he said by way of answer, quirking up his lips in a little half-smirk that barely reached his eyes. His facial expression said he couldn't believe he was here, couldn't believe the words were coming out of his mouth, and his eyes said he couldn't bring himself to act in his usual childish, amusing manner.

"I am cooking," Ziva replied simply, letting her eyes connect with Tony's as she stepped out of the way, showing him he was invited in.

Tony didn't say a word as entered, but he did smile a little more warmly—and considerately slipped off his shoes on the mat.

Ziva made her way back into the kitchen, to where it was warm and her dinner was simmering drowsily and her Israeli music was playing softly. She swiftly turned that off as she walked past and checked some of the numbers on the oven, turning a few dials expertly, poking something with a spatula here and there.

"You didn't have to turn off your music," came Tony's voice.

Ziva lifted one of her shoulders in an indifferent shrug and turned, spreading her arms out behind her on the counter, facing him. She cocked her head to the side, studying the man before her. He looked at her for a minute and smiled toothily, another grin that did not touch his eyes.

"I hope you enjoy Greek," she said.

"You don't have to feed me, Ziva," he informed her, shrugging.

She parted her lips and looked at him curiously. She knew why he was here, and yet she did not. She'd pushed him all day to talk about Jeanne, did not blame him for stoically refusing; she would have no doubt done the same thing. Yet she had always wished she had had someone who cared enough to push her into facing the pain.

"I am going to eat dinner," she said slowly, turning around and reaching up into a cabinet for two plates, "and I will not eat in front of you. It is rude."

She turned off one of the burners on her oven and put an even amount of the Greek cuisine on each plate, turning easily with them in her hand and setting one on the counter in front of Tony, one next to her forgotten glass of wine.

She looked up at him from her glass and, as she pulled a drawer to her, opening it, asked him lightly:

"Do you want a drink?"

"Got anything stronger than wine?" he responded wryly.

She smiled a little at him, dropping a fork on his plate and turning to her refrigerator. She pushed a carton of milk and a jug of orange juice out of the way, searching for the bottle she kept in the back for the hardest moments.

As she turned, she kicked the door shut with her foot and swiped a tumbler off of the counter behind the sink, placing it gently in front of Tony and swishing her bottle's clear liquid into it.

Tony lifted it up and looked at her over the rim.

"Vodka," he said drily, "You surprise me, Miss David."

She did not say a word as she returned to her place in front of her food and wine, watching him drink and cringe at the taste. His tan skin glowed oddly in the light of the candle she had on the counter.

"Good stuff," Tony said hoarsely, swallowing a mouthful.

Ziva smiled fondly at the look on his face.

"You are not used to hard liquor," she stated, twisting her fork into the noodles on her plate and eating silently.

He snorted and picked up his own fork.

She watched him without watching him, using her minimal psychology training to pick apart his movements and tones, curious as to why he was here and what he was thinking. He looked up from his plate once to smile at her through a mouthful of food, and she saw the old Tony shining through—the messy, immature, skirt-chasing Tony.

"You ever fallen in love on assignment, Ziva?" he asked, looking down at his food and picking at the chicken on his plate.

Ziva studied him silently, picking up her wine glass. She glanced down at the crimson liquid inside and took a steadying drink.

"No," she said quietly, "I have not."

Did NCIS count as an assignment?

"Yeah, you wouldn't," he muttered quietly, tapping his fork against the tumbler of Vodka. "You're smarter than that."

"It is not a question of intelligence, Tony," she said a little sharply, "It is a matter of feelings. And we cannot control those."

He paused and looked up at her, his fork pressed against the tumbler.

"Ever been in love?" he asked.

Ziva held her glass delicately, setting it back down. She ran her nail around the rim, creating a small whistling noise. She did not take her eyes off of his as she tilted her head, choosing her words carefully.

"Once," she admitted finally, honestly.

"Yeah?" Tony asked, raising his eyebrows. "How did it end?"

"I lost him," Ziva answered vaguely, reluctant to go into details. It was an affair in her past, something painful she didn't want to speak of anymore than he wanted to split open and analyze his feelings for Jeanne.

"Did it ever stop hurting?" Tony asked softly, his fork falling lightly in his fingers to the plate.

Ziva hesitated. She could very easily say yes, and move on. Send him home to his movies and television shows with some hope that he would wake up one morning with all the pain and guilt suddenly gone, but she was not that person. Lies only soothed momentarily, and cut deeper, burned hotter, in the long run.

"Ziva," he prompted, even softer.

She looked up at him, unaware that she had zoned off. Her vision felt glassy, unfocused.

"It did not," she answered genuinely. "It does not."

Tony nodded briefly, and picked the Vodka back up. He drained the rest of it, silently, and turned the glass in his hand, watching the remaining drops of clear liquid dance over each other, distorted through the texture of the tumbler.

"But," she went on, drawing his attention back to her, "it was worth it."

He squinted at her slightly and she rubbed her lips together to wet them, took a drink of wine. She hesitated again, exploring the new territory carefully. She felt like they were talking about more than she and her past, he and Jeanne. Or perhaps that was just her.

"My father—my father used to say 'if it hurts, it is healing'. He was talking about injuries; gunshot wounds, knife wounds, even scrapes. When you repair them, it often hurts like hell."

She had Tony's close attention, and she tried to ignore it. She did not like being focused on this closely, not when she was talking so freely about her father, a man she had severely lost faith in recently.

"It is the same thing, Tony. Because if it hurts, there was something there. If you do not feel anything at all, it was not worth it in the first place, I do not think. We cut ourselves, we heal, and the skin gets tougher, and we are tougher," she paused, struggling with the words, keeping her voice neutral and calm, "But it is skin. It still breaks, we are still human."

He set down the tumbler and leaned forward a little on crossed arms, parting his lips. After a moment of looking at her intently, he leaned back again, still looking at her, maybe not as deeply. She felt her cheeks tint slightly; she knew she was blushing.

"You're saying it was worth it to lose the guy, that guy you loved?" he asked, confusion creeping into his voice.

Ziva shook her head slowly, raising her eyes to him intently.

"It will never be worth it to lose him," she said softly, cringing at the thought. "It was worth it to love him."

She paused and crossed her arms, focusing first on the wine glass and then looking back up at him.

"Tony," she said shortly, trying to come up with the words to make him understand, "When skin heals, scars—it becomes harder to break. And it helps you understand that you can heal. But then there is maybe someone who can break through the skin a second time; someone who you will appreciate and understand. And it never hurts as much as the first time, because you understand and you can cope."

Tony nodded briefly, studying her face. She half-smiled at him, not even sure what she was saying anymore, or rather: was she saying it to help him, or her? Her skin was tough as nails, steel walls, even—and ridiculous, pig-headed DiNozzo has found a damn crack.

He got off the stool he was sitting on and brought his plate around to her in the kitchen, setting it near the sink. His food was barely touched, but so was hers. She no longer felt like eating, and he had never wanted to. He stretched out his arms on the counter and slouched a little, bowing his head.

Surprising her, he let out a snort that was a laugh of derision, and turned his head to glance at her sideways.

"What would you think if I told you I was running away from something?" he asked sarcastically.

She furrowed her dark eyebrows at him and pursed her lips, watching him intently, curiously. At the look on her face, he shook his head and looked forward into nothingness, into the clock across her dining room on the other side of the counter.

"I mean, damn, Ziva—you just said all this philosophical stuff that should make me feel loads better, and I just feel like crap. Everything you said makes sense, but it," he broke off in frustration, turning his head back to look at her.

"Look, with Jeanne," he stopped again, twitching his head slightly, "It was a freakin' time bomb and I knew it. Jenny knew it. It was easy to pretend, you know? I cared about her, I never wanted her to get hurt, but in the end—"

"You put yourself into the relationship easily," Ziva interrupted, relaxing her brow a little as she started to piece together his fragmented thoughts, "because you knew you would not be committed in the end, no matter what. The only complication was how messy it would end."

His mouth went up in a sour smirk at her words.

"I sound like a bastard?" he asked quietly.

"Did you love Jeanne?" Ziva asked softly, her heart catching slightly. It felt like it caught on a rough patch on her ribs, beating erratically. She was hardly conscious of holding her breath slightly, barely moving a muscle.

"I don't know," he murmured, turning his face away, looking down to the empty sink below him. "In a way."

Ziva parted her lips in question and mulled over their conversation in her head, from the point it had switched from a therapy session about his loss of Jeanne to something else she couldn't quite grasp.

"Tony…what are you 'running from'?" she asked, repeating his words.

"Other feelings," he muttered angrily.

She almost felt like throwing something at him.

"Why did you come to me?" she demanded, her calm slipping just a little.

"I don't know," he said, looking up at her through dark green and conflicted eyes. He pushed himself off of her counter and spun around, putting his hands to his head, covering his face, his back to her.

She watched him, and he just as swiftly turned back around, stepping up close to her, tilting his face down to hers slightly, the pain and conflict still battling in the eyes that messed with her usually cool head so much.

"What if I'm running from you, huh, Ziva?" he demanded hoarsely, searching her face with those eyes. "Crazy Ninja Chick," he muttered at her as half an afterthought.

Her eyes widened slightly and she compressed her lips, flicking her eyes from his and downwards. He reached out suddenly and put his hand against her neck, holding her face steady, his fingers creeping up under her ear, into her loose curls. He pulled her head forward gently, before she could stop him, touched his lips to hers in a moment that electrified her senses before she turned her face down gently, pulling away, her lips moving at his chin, speaking:

"Do not do this to me, Tony," she said in a quiet, authoritative order.

His finger twitched in her hair, sending shivers down her spine, chipping the proverbial toughened skin she prized above all else. His thumb stroked her neck at the collarbone, his own lips moving against her temple; he stood a head above her, taller.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said, almost soothingly. She almost believed him.

"Not physically," she confirmed coolly, "you could not if you tried."

She still looked at his shoulder, the slope of his tan neck. His body radiated warmth against hers without really touching her; even though his hand was holding her face so intimately, he remained at distance slightly, giving her a little space, at least.

"You just want a," she paused, smiling a little sadly as she fumbled for the idiom, "a spin in the straw."

"Roll in the hay," he corrected automatically.

She nodded slowly, looking up. He leaned back, moving his head side to side slowly.

"No," he said.

"You said you gave Jeanne everything because there were no complications," she hissed softly, "why would you walk straight into something so fraught with complications your head will be whirling?"

"Spinning," he muttered, subconsciously correcting her. She ignored him.

"You are just back-bouncing, and I will not let you use me."

He didn't bother to correct her this time and tell her the phrase she wanted was 'rebounding'.

"If I wanted to use you, Ziva, I wouldn't have put myself through this mess," he said dully, sliding his hand up her neck a little, trying to make her look at him. "If it's complicated, I don't give a damn anymore."

His mouth hesitated a fraction above hers, expecting her to push him back; when she didn't, he took her mouth in a slow kiss, feeling her out, pulling her in.

Ziva only let him have her a moment before she pulled back again, dipping her head.

"We cannot do this," she said candidly, "you think Jeanne was messy," she let the statement hang, and both of their minds flashed to Gibbs, McGee, Abby, Ducky—the workplace in general.

It did not matter how much she wanted him to keep touching her, or how unspeakable happy she was to hear him say what he was saying. It didn't matter that he had finally come to his stupid senses and stopped screwing around with meaningless relationships. It didn't matter that Jeanne had had to get hurt irreparably to wake him up.

She was telling him it couldn't work and he hated that she was fucking right.

"But you want it," he told her bitterly.

He heard her murmur something in Hebrew, her enticing Israeli cadence tickling his ears. She looked up at him, dark, liquid eyes softer than usual, the saucy assassin gone from them. She looked conflicted and she was never conflicted. It had taken him ages to come to terms with this, to be able to say what he was saying, grasp what he was feeling and yet he was only hurting her with the words that soothed him.

"Ziva," he said quietly, wrapping his other arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. He rested his chin on the crown of her head and held her smaller frame in his arms, determined to convey the gravitas of his feelings. Her arms remained at her sides; she tucked her head under his chin, allowing him the liberty.

She really could kill him in eighteen different ways with a paper clip for pulling this stunt. All this time she had been watching his struggle with letting Jeanne go, keeping her own self at arm's length just to prevent her thoughts from catching up to her, and he was saying he had embroiled himself in a relationship doomed to fail only to pre-occupy himself from what had started in that stupid hotel room when they were undercover?

She stood with him in her kitchen, thinking about the calm of her surroundings, of how much she had always loved the peaceful American nights, the safety she felt here—unlike the precarious state of her own country. She escaped from the sexual tension and struggle of the bullpen here, and then it all of a sudden comes knocking on her door.

Ziva lifted her arms slowly and slipped them around Tony's waist, turning her face into his neck, breathing in the smell of him. She closed her eyes, cursing angrily to herself for the stupid decision she was about to make.

She pulled her hand back a little to his side and squeezed his waist, her fingers falling against the muscles of his abdomen, running over the fabric of his shirt. She pulled back from his uncharacteristically sweet embrace and rested her hand against his stomach, keeping her wrist angled between them.

He reached down and took her hand, pushing it back to the counter behind her, holding her arm there, as he leaned forward and tilted his mouth down to hers, pressing her into the counter. Her lips parted under his, her eyes closed, she secured him close to her with her other arm around his waist, his own cushioning her against the counter.

She couldn't breathe but she didn't want to, didn't care. If she died right here she wouldn't give a damn because it meant she wouldn't have to face the consequences. But she didn't want to die, she wanted to wrap herself up in Tony—in his arms, in her bed, in his bed, everywhere, fuck the consequences.

NCIS was different than Mossad. America was different from Israel. She could relax here, let down her guard just an inch; she didn't have to face the constant threat of having all life and all love ripped out from under her. The only people who could really harm her here were people, and not the criminal people. American criminals were nothing.

There were still complications and messes and feelings she grudgingly had to deal with, but facing them here was not near as catastrophic as it would be in her homeland. As much as she loved it there; she discovered something new here.

Tony drew back slightly, his lips still touching hers as he breathed, gasping for air. He nudged her with his nose, pushing her mouth up to him again, kissing her again, drowning her in pent up emotion.

Surely he knew this would not work. It would not end well. Maybe he was not like her; not skeptical and hardened, and too grown up. Falling in love with an outside party was different than loving a co-worker. Tony had never heard Jenny talk about Gibbs, never seen the regret and pain in the Director's green eyes, and he never would.

She could argue, he could argue, they could both fight and insist they were different people than Jenny and Gibbs, with completely different choices to make and situations to live, but how else would it end? The euphoria of giving in could not hold them together forever.

But, she capitulated as his body curled warm against hers, his strong hand nestled into her hair, playing with curls at the base of her neck, they sure as hell weren't going to give up the chance to make the same mistake as their predecessors.

This felt too good to say no to. They weren't going to take anyone's advice, learn from anyone's mistakes. Optimistic as he was, pessimistic as she was, reality met in the middle and they both knew, somewhere in the back of passion-consumed minds, this was going to blow up in their face one day.

Gibbs could find out. She could go back to Israel. He might break her heart and she might kill him for it.

She moaned under the ministrations of his tongue, Jeanne forgotten, fears forgotten, protests quelled in the back of her mind. His forehead pressed against hers as he broke away again, his arm shook where he still pinned hers against the counter.

"One chance," she said civilly. "We are making a mistake."

He glared at her, almost in Gibbs-fashion.

"Do you give a damn?" he asked harshly. He knew she didn't. They both had a reckless streak in them a mile wide. They didn't have to talk about this. In this moment, they understood each other in a way they never had before.

"You back down now and you're a coward," he said. "And if we fuck up—we will—and it hurts like hell when it's over, so what. Means it was worth it," he shamelessly threw her words back in her face and she looked at him sharply.

"Do not fuck it up, DiNozzo," she said sharply, her way of throwing caution to the unpredictable winds and opening up the floodgates of chaos.

So much for learning from other's mistakes.


XOXO

Alexa