A/N: Okay, here you go, last chapter! Yay! Anywho, apologies in advance – this turned out a little more sappy and semi-depressing than it should have. Still, please read, enjoy, and review! ;)
** * ** * ** * **
Ziva was puffy eyed and grumpy when she walked into work Monday morning.
She'd spent most of her weekend either with Susan or in the local gym, working out her frustrations on several punching bags (no one had volunteered to spar with her). After hours, she had jogged around her neighborhood, knowing that she would never get to sleep if she was not exhausted.
Without really paying attention to her surroundings, she plunked down at her desk. Pulling open her top drawer, she hunted around for her letter opener and a few erasers to maul.
Only she could not find the letter opener.
Instead she pulled out a cheap gold miniature scimitar. Actually, it was a curved Turkish blade – like the ceremonial ones she had used in the belly dancing act.
She stared at it for a long moment.
"What 'cha got there, Ziva?"
Ziva suppressed a start – Tony had actually successfully snuck up on her. She must be worse than she thought. Grumbling, she looked up at his –leer? She blinked in confusion until she remembered that she was angry at him.
Scowling, she brandished the mini sword at him, threatening with her eyes.
"Hey, watch it!" He held his hands up in surrender, slowly backing away. "I'm going, I'm going."
Looking back down at the mysterious mock weapon, she missed his smug grin.
** * ** * ** * **
Ziva was furious with someone and even more furious because she did not know who that someone was.
All day it had been the same, starting with that stupid Turkish sword. Little reminders, little hints had followed her around every where she went. No matter where she went.
Besides the sword, there had been several of the familiar green flyers tucked into her manila folders. One blue construction paper first place ribbon had cheerfully stared back at her when she had looked for the original flyer.
McGee had arrived later and attracted her attention with a yelp. Quickly, knowing what she would find, she rushed over to his desk. Sure enough, the background on his monitor was of her in her belly dancing costume. Growling, she stared at McGee as he feverishly removed the picture and swore his innocence.
After a few strange looks from the other men working in the bullpen, Ziva had gone down to the men's locker room to find several enlarged photo's of her in her dance costume hanging on the door and over the sinks. She had torn them down only to find that whatever idiot had posted them had triple layered them. She suspected that there were more carefully hidden, but she was too angry to search them all out.
In an effort to escape the madness, she went to Abby's lab to find her listening to the exact same sound track she and Susan had picked out for the dance. Abby had insisted that someone had just left it in her lab, without a note or anything else. There were not even any fingerprints.
Ducky's lab was strung with green, gold, and orange Turkish décor – matching the colors from her outfit perfectly. She believed Ducky when he said he hadn't anything to do with it. In fact, he had seemed rather angry about it himself – nobody messed with his sterile lab and got away with it.
The problem was she did not know who to blame. The whole thing smelt like Tony, but she was positive that he had not gone to the talent show. She had not seen him in the audience, and she had even checked the parking lot for his car. She knew he had not been there.
There was no way he could have gotten those pictures of her –she could tell they had been taken at the talent show, and not during a rehearsal – nor would he have been able to get his hands on that soundtrack.
Besides, no one could pretend to be clueless that convincingly. Tony had seemed genuinely surprised when he showed up at work, but quickly adjusted. He certainly got in his fair share of lewd jokes. A couple of times, while threatening him with paperclips, she almost forgot that she was angry with him, not just irritated because he was being a jerk. She saved her real fury for whoever had the gumption to tease her like this.
Then she would remember that it should have been him, Tony – the only person that could actually get away with all this - that she was furious at, and not some nameless somebody.
As far as pranks go, this one was pretty impressive. But there was just no way Tony could have waited a week to pull it off, even if he had somehow managed to get hold of the necessary 'items'.
Huffing in frustration, she climbed out of her Mini Cooper and marched up the driveway.
Folded neatly on her doormat was her dancing costume, obviously recently dry cleaned, with an extra scarf and a white envelope.
Ignoring the rest, Ziva tore into the envelope, revealing a frustrating cryptic message. Her frustration mounted when she realized that the letters had been clipped from some newspaper.
Someone was trying to be clever.
With an evil grin she leaned forward and sniffed the paper.
She stared at the message a little longer.
"Be careful what you wish for."
Tony. Had. Tricked. Her.
He had pranked her.
He had teased her.
And now he was mocking her.
Without conscious thought, she turned around stalked angrily to her car. Tony was a corpse.
Eight near wrecks later, Ziva pulled up to his apartment building. Glaring angrily at the front doors, she tried to decide her plan of action. She either needed a code, or someone had to buzz her in. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a young lady struggling with a few bags of groceries. Smiling predatorily, she went over to help.
And then she was in.
** * ** * ** * **
Tony was pacing.
Okay, fine. He was pacing nervously.
Things had gone well at work today. Ziva let herself fall into their old pattern of banter more than once. She never even suspected him, and Abby and Jimmy had played their parts superbly. Susan had even called him a few minutes ago to warn him that Ziva was on her way, as planned.
That's when he got nervous. Susan had used the word "seething" and the bottom had dropped out of his stomach. The phrase "If you play with fire…" was running around in his head.
What the hell was he supposed to do when Ziva got there?
He glanced at the door – he didn't expect her to buzz in – in anticipation. He hoped she'd try the handle before kicking the door in; he'd left it unlocked just for her.
Breathing deeply to calm himself, he ran through The Plan again. Impress Ziva with elaborate plot, demonstrating extreme noisiness, obsession, and a juvenile sense of humor. Leave subtle clue (along with semi-expensive gift that she would appreciate later) that would lead her here.
Here he faltered, but forced himself to continue.
Confront "seething" ninja-chick, proving that he hadn't changed and didn't plan to, and that he did care, and always would – all without letting his 'cheery idiot' façade slip.
Much easier said than done.
A loud thump came from the hallway and he broke out in a cold sweat.
I'm so screwed!
** * ** * ** * **
Ziva kicked the wall next to Tony's door, trying to decide if she felt like picking the lock, or if she just wanted to kick it down.
She had just decided on the latter action when the door opened on its own.
"Hey, Ziva!" So, not on its own. Tony even had the audacity to smile. "What a surprise!"
The Israeli wasted no time on pleasantries. Jabbing her finger into his chest, she forced him backwards, into his apartment.
"You – you PIG!" Anger caused her to stumble over her words. She was spluttering in indignation – and, curse him, Tony was smiling like she had complemented his tie. "You tricked me!"
"Now, Ziva" Tony casually batted away her offending digit and rubbed at his chest. "Did you really expect any less from me?"
She stuttered to a stop.
Well she had actually expected less from him. She had thought that he had decided she was not worth the effort.
He raised an eyebrow and tutted at her.
"How long have you known me?" He laughed at her expression. "I mean, come on. Belly dancing! You didn't honestly think I'd leave that alone." Privately, Tony thought to himself that he'd been about to, but then this whole stupid mess happened and it was all Ziva's fault. He was still shaking in his boots, but he didn't think Ziva noticed. "Ziva, I always find out. All of your secrets." He leered at her.
Ziva's rage slowly melted away when he echoed the thought she had repeated over and over to herself since last Friday. He always finds out. Always.
And she had doubted him. Now she felt like the bad guy. Did he ever doubt her?
Or did he always trust that, threaten though she did, she would never hurt him like she would have her Mossad partners? Did he trust that she would never deliberately cause him harm or set him up like she sometimes had done to others in Israel?
Looking at him, she knew. She knew that he trusted her – if he had known her in Israel, he would probably be pointing his gun at her.
He trusted her to always have his back. He trusted her to never hurt him. He trusted her tease McGee with him. To pick out gifts for Abby together. To disobey Gibbs when necessary. To laugh at his stupid jokes.
He was smiling softly. She felt confusion again.
Ziva had never seen that smile before. This one was not crass or cheerful or mocking or charming. It was gentle. She did not even bother to hide her surprise.
Since when is Tony gentle?
"Ziva" He sighed and, with sudden seriousness, continued, "You should know I'll always be there." He paused, running his fingers through his hair in a gesture she had come to associate with nervousness. "Gibbs. Abby. McGee. Ducky. Hell, even Palmer. We'll always be there, doing what we do best."
She just stood there, nodding dumbly. Where the hell was her Tony, the class joker?
Suddenly he was normal again, complete with a bright (fake?) smile and boyish exuberance.
"You really should have called first you know. I have a date in –" he paused to glance at his watch "exactly seven minutes."
He looked at her pointedly when she did not move.
"It would be really awkward if you were still here."
"Tony – " suddenly, she found herself being propelled towards the door.
"You should go bug McGeek. Not like he'd have a date. You might even be lucky enough to interrupt one of his 'writing' sessions. If you do, make sure he doesn't do anything stupid to Agent Tommy."
With one final shove she was out into the hallway, the door clicking shut behind her.
He had known all along.
By the end of the week, even though she had kept telling herself that he knew, she had decided that he did not care anymore.
He had found out, but instead of going to the talent show he had gone out with some twenty year old blonde hussy.
But she was wrong.
He had gone.
He did care.
But he had tricked her.
Ziva's anger came surging back. Tony had posted pictures of her in the men's locker room! He had somehow gotten into her home, gone through her stuff, and found her costume and the soundtrack.
She turned back to his door and grinned evilly.
Tomorrow, Tony was a corpse.
But, that was exactly how it was supposed to be.
** * ** * ** * **
Tony shut the door firmly before slumping against it.
That had gone much, much better than he'd ever dreamed it might. The Mossad officer had been shocked silly when he'd let his mask drop for that one instance – a mistake?
No. He saw it, just then, when Ziva stared at him with her mouth open in astonishment. Ziva knew that he was being genuine with her, that he meant what he said, that he – they, the whole team – wouldn't ever let her down. And maybe, just maybe, she realized that Tony isn't exactly as stupid as he acts.
Of course, Ziva was still going to kill him.
Nervous again, Tony crossed over to the pantry, checking his stock of 'Ziva Pacifiers'. He still had a few bars of that special dark chocolate that she likes and a few coupons to the expensive Sushi bar that she only treated herself to once a month.
He was out of knick knacks, though. Hmm. Flowers and a new, pointy letter opener.
Yeah, it might take Ziva a little longer than usual to get over being mad at him, but after a full week of being on her double-shit-black list, 'mad' was going to be like heaven. Wincing, he recalled how 'tape-happy' he'd gotten with a few of the posters in the locker room. And three layers each.
Maybe a bottle of perfume, too.
Well, at least things were normal-ish again.
Closing the pantry door, he walked over to the coat closet and pulled out a light jacket. He'd just go over to the store and pick up the rest of the necessary 'pacifiers' for operation 'Get back on Ziva's Good Side'. He chuckled when he realized it had been exactly seven minutes since he'd shoved Ziva out the door.
Time for his date.
He sighed gustily. The next 'date' he planned would be with the girl of his dreams.
Just as soon as Ziva was ready.
** * ** * ** * **
A/N: Okay, so this really didn't turn out like I had planned. I'm not altogether pleased with it – maybe TIVA just isn't my thing. Still, I would welcome any advice, constructive criticism, or other feedback. Thanks to those of you that have been reading – and for the really great reviews!