Disclaimer: I do not own any NCIS characters. I didn't even really come up with the plot - not that I would make money off of it even if I did.
A/N: ...I'm sorry! You guys can shoot me if you want. So, I'll get my four stories updated as soon as possible. Remember to review the one you like the best (even if it hasn't been updated recently).
Always Be there
** * ** * ** * **
"Tony! What's the matter with you?" McGee hissed from the safety of his own desk.
Tony rolled his eyes in annoyance – as if it wasn't perfectly obvious what he was doing. He sneered a little for good measure and went right back to rooting through Ziva's desk.
"Tony! I really, really think this is a bad idea. Ziva will kill you when she finds out!"
"You mean if she finds out," Tony corrected immediately. He had no intention of getting caught. Well, he wasn't suicidal! "She won't be back for a while."
"Like that matters. Ziva always knows," came the predictable sullen response. Tony ignored him – McGee was just upset because he knew Ziva would blame him as much as Tony if she found out. Which she wouldn't… maybe.
So, it was a little risky, but Ziva was hiding something from him. For the past two Wednesdays Ziva had taken an extended lunch break. That wouldn't be too strange in and of itself, but for the fact that she was being so very secretive about it. What's more, every time she came back from one of her long lunches she seemed tired and slightly sore. Usually her makeup was light and tasteful – just enough to flatter her natural beauty without making her look "painted". Wednesdays, though, she returned to work with traces of heavy makeup on her face and glitter clinging to her clothes.
Glitter was so not Ziva.
Sure enough, today, Wednesday, she had taken another extended lunch. Again, she left him with no clue where she was going. Tony smirked to himself. Ziva should know better than that – leaving him in the dark was tantamount to telling him all her secrets, only without actually saying anything. Whatever she didn't want him to know, he was determined to uncover.
"To-nee!" McGee was whining. Rummaging through the top drawer, Tony scowled. There was nothing personal in it. Well, nothing personal unless one counted the dulled letter opener and stacks of enthusiastically "doctored" erasers. Still ignoring McGee, he abandoned the top drawer and savagely yanked the next one open.
Aha! That's more like it. Behind some very tidy manila files, Ziva had a small hoard of energy bars and even a fun sized bag of cheese puffs. Who would have thought Ziva liked cheese puffs? A few bits of paper were buried underneath the foodstuffs. He fished them out and quickly sorted through them. Most were lunch receipts, probably kept for the sole purpose of keeping track of what the team – okay, mostly Tony – owed her for lunches when it was her turn to go out.
One battered slip of paper stood out. It was a yellow school flyer announcing a talent show. Tony frowned as he read through some of the promised acts: flame swallower, stunning rendition of Moonlight Sonata, ventriloquists, belly dancing, and more.
Not really knowing why, Tony memorized the date, time, and place of the talent show. Why would Ziva have a school flyer in her drawer? He frowned. He was absolutely no closer to an answer than he had been before going through her stuff.
A gruff cough startled him out of his thoughts, and Tony looked up to see McGee frantically motioning towards the elevator. He glowered when the motions kept coming – sheesh he could take a hint.
Hastily, he shoved everything back into the drawer and moved from Ziva's desk just as a certain ex-assassin walked carefully (as opposed to strolling easily or stalking suspiciously) into the bullpen.
Tony plastered on his cheesiest grin and pretended to be pretending not to be fiddling with Ziva's stapler. She hated it when he borrowed her stuff without asking. Sure enough, the Israeli narrowed her painted eyes angrily.
"Tony, how many times must I tell you that I will kill you with the stapler if you take it from my desk?" she threatened.
"Um" DiNozzo gulped, making a big show of nervous guilt. If he could keep her focused on the stapler, she would never notice his earlier "investigating".
Glaring, the Mossad officer snatched her property from Tony's fidgeting hands. Across the room, Agent McGee gaped in shock until Tony sent a sharp look his way.
** * * ** * * ** * * **
The rest of the day passed as usual. McGee teased Tony about his 'obsession' with Ziva's Mysterious Wednesday Lunches, Tony pestered Ziva for details about said lunches, and Ziva threatened them both with office supplies. Gibbs just glared at everybody.
At the end of the day, Tony was, as usual, the last one to leave. Ostentatiously, he stayed later because it took him longer to finish his reports. Truthfully, however, he preferred to work alone, after everyone had left. Then it was easy for him to lose himself in the mindless repetition that was paperwork. Also, he took care of all the 'special duties' that came with being Gibbs' second in command.
Tony doubted that either Ziva or McGee realized that he had the extra work – or that he got paid more than they did. Of course, Gibbs knew, but Tony was confident he would never tell anybody. Sometimes, more than others, that made him a little sad.
He'd grown up, all his life, having to pretend to be somebody he wasn't. His part had been the cold, proper DiNozzo son, while he was still living at home. After he'd been disowned and sent to military school, he had pretended to be the perfect little soldier – part of him hoping that if he followed the ridged rules well enough, his dad would take him back. In college he had found the persona that came easiest to him.
Maybe it was because it was closest to the truth. He was a movie fanatic, he did enjoy the dating game, he liked having lots of friends, and he really did have a big mouth and irreverent sense of humor. But there were times when it almost wasn't enough. He didn't know why he still pretended – maybe it was because he didn't know how to be himself.
It really got to him, though, when his friends misjudged him because of the mask. When they mistook him for shallow or juvenile or unintelligent, he felt like screaming, but then could do nothing more than hate himself. It was his own fault that nobody could really see who he was.
And it was his own fault that his friends wouldn't trust him with their secrets.
With a sigh, he glanced over at Ziva's desk. He knew he shouldn't be 'upset' that Ziva wouldn't tell him what was going on, but he was. Tony was positive that the only reason she hadn't told McGee or Abby or Ducky was because she was afraid he would find out.
After all, there is very little someone might do – or say – just to get rid of the annoyance that is Tony.
Tony jerked. A glance at his computer screen told him that he'd been brooding for a lot longer than he thought. He turned a sheepish expression up at his boss.
"Hey, Boss, I thought you left by now."
"Gymn." Gibbs huffed gruffly. Tony squinted. Was something bothering the boss? He was being a little brusque, even for himself. "You going?"
"Huh?" It would surprise anyone else, even Ducky, to realize just how well Tony and Gibbs understood each other. Usually they communicated more with pointed looks and body language than actual words. Sometimes it was easier to say what you meant when you didn't actually have to say it.
Gibbs answered his question by tilting his head in the direction of Ziva's desk. What? Oh, right.
Tony didn't even ask how Gibbs knew about the talent show. Or how he knew that Tony knew. Tony wondered if Ziva knew that Gibbs knew. Did Gibbs know whether Ziva knew he knew or not?
Apparently, Gibbs saw some sign that DiNozzo was over thinking things. Rubbing his head, Tony grinned wryly.
"Thanks, Boss." He frowned. Why would Gibbs ask if he was going to attend the talent show? "You think I should go, Boss?"
Gibbs' brow wrinkled slightly – it was a look that Tony had only seen a few times. It was Gibbs' way of expressing sorrow or regret. Without responding, his Boss turned and left.
Tony sighed to himself. The talent show wasn't till Friday – he had a while to decide whether or not he wanted to go. In the meantime, he had plenty of paperwork to finish.
** * * ** * * ** * * **
Ziva scanned the gathering crowd with slowly building angst. She was not nervous about the performance – she had done this on stage a dozen of times. In fact she was not nervous at all. Her girls were excellently trained, and all of them very excited about tonight.
No, she was concerned about the audience – one person in particular. A person who should be standing near the front, waving and hooting like an imbecile. All was silent on the front, however.
That was a good thing, right?
She had gone to extraordinary heights to make sure that Tony never knew about the talent show. She did not want him here.
He would tease her for months if he knew.
She realized she was scowling. Forcing herself to smile confidently, she looked back at the five girls she had been coaching. Susan was her neighbors' niece – she had moved in with them a few weeks ago after her parents were killed in a car accident. Ziva had empathized with the grieving teen and started spending time with her.
When Susan had asked her to help her and her friends prepare for their talent show, she had agreed without hesitation.
The hesitation had come later, after they had decided on their act. She would shoot herself if Tony ever found out. No, she would shoot Tony if Tony ever found out.
And he had not.
Ziva peered out at the audience again – again seeing no sign of Tony. If this is what she wanted, why did she feel disappointed? It was not like it would mean anything if he saw her. It would just make her life more difficult (and Tony's mere presence more unbearable) than usual.
The announcer called out her group's name. Straightening up, she tossed an encouraging look at the five teenage girls clustered behind her as she led the way on stage.
** * ** * ** * **
Tony slouched against a gloomy corner in the large high school auditorium. So far there had been only a few entertaining acts. One student had actually done a very good Frank Sinatra impression. Tony was only mildly creeped out by the fact that that 'student' had been a fifteen year-old girl.
He had yet to spot Ziva in the crowd, but then, for some reason, he hadn't really expected to see her in the crowd. Tony almost wished he'd brought a friend with him; at least making fun of the various acts would keep him from being gloomy and depressed.
The strange, warbling notes of a Middle Eastern tune floated out from the poorly placed speakers. Glancing back up at the stage, Tony noticed six elaborately costumed girls – er, women? – belly dancing.
Well, the flyer had promised a belly dancing act.
What the fly had not said, however, was that the belly dancing act just so happened to be Officer Ziva David's act. He smirked to himself.
Now he supposed he understood why Ziva would want to hide her Wednesday lunches from him, especially since she had been using those for rehearsals. He knew she had by the way the heavy makeup she wore on stage matched the traces and glitter she always bore after a Wednesday Lunch.
He grinned. Ziva was actually very, very good at this. She was also a good teacher, it seemed. Tony watched as the six dancers did a belly roll in unison.
That would explain the 'soreness' she had tried (with marginal success) to disguise after every practice. Tony could only imagine how taxing the maneuver would be for someone who didn't do it every day.
Honestly, he was glad that Ziva's secret was so harmless. It was partly that relief that made him decide not to tease Ziva about her – er, special skill. Still unable to stop grinning, he leaned back to enjoy the rest of the act.
Ziva twirled around with the other five girls, moving in perfect time with the exotic music. Spangles and glitter sparkled under the bright stage lights. Tony recognized the costumes as traditional Turkish style – although he would never admit to anyone that he knew the difference. The flowing filmy skirts swished as the dancers sashayed their hips. Transparent layers of silky cloth artfully balanced sinuous suggestion and appropriate (for high school girls) modesty. Ziva had really out done herself.
As the act ended, Tony carefully made his way to the nearest exit. He was going exercise discretion, but Ziva didn't need to know that.
Hell, if she knew she wouldn't believe him – or worse, she wouldn't give him the chance to do the right thing.
He hung his head slightly as he made his way through the parking lot. Sometimes he wished he was brave enough to be himself while other people were watching – not like this, not behind their backs.
** * ** * ** * **
After the talent show – naturally her group won – Ziva and her crew celebrated. Since she was the only member over twenty-one, they had gone to DairyQueen for ice cream. Also, being the responsible adult, she had promised to make sure everyone got home safely. Although, if any of the parents had ever seen her drive, they might elected a different chauffer. So far, she had dropped everyone off but Susan.
"Everything okay, Ziva?"
Susan – who was far too perceptive for her own good. Hmpft.
"I am fine, Suz. Why do you ask?" Ziva was able to glance over at her passenger while they waited for a light to turn green.
The teenager tilted her blonde head to one side. Ziva smiled slightly – even though she was annoyed that Susan did not believe her, she was proud that she could not fool her.
"You just seem a little down in the dumps. Did that guy from work show up?" The Mossad officer had mentioned her concerns that Tony would find out, and asked Susan to help her be discrete. The girl had been extremely helpful, always bringing Ziva's costume and makeup to rehersals, reminding her to switch earrings and fix her hair bad the way it had been before practice. Together, they took great care that Tony would never know.
"No, Tony was not there." To her surprise, the words sounded – disappointed? Angry? Upset? Well, they were not what they were supposed to be, such as triumphant, satisfied, or even remotely pleased. Susan caught it, too. The light turned green at just that second, giving Ziva an excuse to avoid her young friend's curious/accusing/suspicious gaze.
"You don't seem very – ah, car! – pleased about that, Ziva. I thought him not knowing was the – hey, stay on the, ah! He wasn't supposed to find out."
Ziva was driving like she was angry. Was she angry? Why would she be angry?
"Tony always finds out." She grumbled to herself, I do not know how, but he always finds out. Why did he not find out?
Tony was supposed to find out – just like he always did. And then she, Ziva, would get very angry at him for finding out. He would tease her and she would yell at him. That is the way it worked.
"Yes, he always finds out. I do not know how he finds out, but Tony always does. It is like he does not have anything better to do than elbow about in his co-workers' business!"
"Ah." Susan seemed slightly surprised by Ziva's outburst, but quickly recovered. Now she was looking at the Israeli with a knowing expression. Ziva felt apprehensive. "First of all, it's not elbow, it's nose. But I get it now. You like him – Ziva, car! Lamp!"
The car swerved wildly and Susan grabbed for what Tony always called the "Oh, shit" handle.
"I do not like Tony. He is annoying and childish. He does not ever mind his own business. I do not even know why Gibbs puts up with him."
"Ok…" Susan smirked the way only a very mischievous teenage girl could. Ziva briefly wondered if she had ever smirked like that. "So, what do you think the annoying, childish, and nosy Special Agent was doing tonight instead of elbowing around in your business?"
Images of fine wine, white table cloths, candlelight, and young beautiful women flashed through Ziva's mind.
Then she saw red.
Susan was right – Tony blew her out tonight. Out? Stupid English. He deserted her for some other tramp! Partners did not do that to one another.
Tony should have been there, at the talent show. He had not been there.
Ziva was very mad at Tony.
** * ** * ** * **
A/N: First off, this was written in response to a request by QuothTheRaven666 who asked for a "story about Tony finding out Ziva can belly-dance". The story is nearly complete, and I hope to have the other two chapters up soon.
Secondly, I've had a few people comment on the number of mistakes I make (sorry, ya'll) in my stories. I don't have the extra time to go over every single chapter with a fine-toothed comb, nor to go back and fix all of my mistakes. If anyone is interested in beta-ing my stories (as I write them) for me, please send me a private message. I will continue to post my stories in the mean time (even laden as they are with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes).
Also, thank you for reading and reviewing so far! I hope you enjoy my first stab at TIVA. Please read and review!