Title: On The Wire
Rating: T (one naughty word, adult themes)
Disclaimer: Oh, if wishing made it so…
Spoilers: Everything through Aliyah is fair game. General S7 speculation, no spoilers for that…just more wishful thinking.
Summary: The team gets their groove back. TIVA in a major way.
AN: I don't know what this is, honestly. Um, enjoy?? More Tangled Up this weekend, but this was clogging my brain first… Really, I have no explanation for how this came to be or what it is even supposed to be but...oh well. Plot bunnies happen.
ON THE WIRE
Me, I say my prayers
then I just light myself on fire
and walk out on the wire once again.
– Counting Crows
not matching; complementary
"How did you get this one?"
Curious hands catalogue his skin. She dusts aside some of the hair on his forearm to get a better look at the faded scar there.
He frowns, hardly remembering the reason for the slight mark.
"I was eight," he begins. He weaves the silky strands of her hair between his fingers, drawing her body closer to his with the hypnotic gesture. She nudges his shoulder into a more comfortable pillow and settles so that they overlap. Arms and legs and bodies are entwined, her caramel skin contrasting sharply with the pale honey of his limbs. His green sheets drape over them, under them, and bind them together.
He likes being in a tangled mess with her.
"I was eight," he repeats so that his voice can be heard over the din of the rain outside. "There was this tree in our yard that I was forbidden to climb. I spent most of 3rd grade plotting how to scale it. I had measurements, diagrams, the whole bit. One day, when my dad was out of town and my mom had passed out on the couch, I went for it. I made it all the way to the top."
She grins into his chest. She imagines that Tony, young but not so innocent, with unruly sun-kissed hair and an easy smile. She can picture the look of defiant jubilation on his face as he sits in the uppermost branch of his Everest-- all alone in his triumph, but at the top of the world nevertheless.
"Thing was…" Now he has to chuckle at himself. "I never really thought about how to get down."
Her laughter reverberates in the predawn silence of his bedroom and he wonders if there's anyone else in the world who finds the sound as beautiful as he does. She rubs a foot against his shin, her warm body arching into his as she shakes with delight. He bites her earlobe playfully.
"I spent that entire summer grounded for breaking my arm. My dad hired a Dominican nanny specifically to punish me; she was only allowed to speak Spanish. Her name was Griselda. We watched telenovelas and she introduced me to the wonder of the American musical. She spoke pretty good English, as it turned out."
She imagines a plump, older woman whispering English translations of melodramatic phrases into young Tony's ear, his eyes rapt in attention at the soap opera unfolding before him.
Lifting her elbow, she directs Tony's gaze to a thin white line there.
"Tali dared me to climb a tree so we could watch the neighbor boys skinny dip in their swimming pool." She smirks at the approving leer in her lover's eyes. "Before she could follow me up, a branch broke and down I went. Of course, I landed on their side of the fence."
"Naughty girl," he smirks and nips at her neck, further complicating the puzzle of their bodies. She finds herself half over him and half under him, but as long as she can taste the strong beat of his pulse under her lips she doesn't much care.
She smiles at the memory. "A twag—
"A twig had embedded into my skin. When I lifted my arm, it was sticking out like a branch. There was so much blood when I pulled it out that the boys ran away."
He loves that she doesn't flinch at the memory, and probably didn't flinch at the injury either. He loves the dance of her fingers down his spine to illustrate her story. He loves her.
"Tali never climbed a tree again after that," Ziva says matter-of-factly and Tony knows she means because the sight of her bigger, braver sister tumbling out of their secret spy nest and into forbidden territory was traumatizing and not for…other reasons.
"But you did," he smiles into the heat of her skin. He licks his lips and tastes her there. The air smells like rain and autumn and them and he feels practically drunk from the sensation.
"The very next day," she affirms. She gives him that look and flips them over in their makeshift cocoon. The twisted sheet pulls at her waist painfully but the glint in Tony's eyes and the rumble of his amusement rolling through his body, and consequently hers, makes a little discomfort worth it.
"We have matching scars," he whispers when their eyes meet. She is sure her heart pounds loudly enough for him to hear it.
"Not matching, Tony," she shakes her head, kissing the palm of his hand as he cradles her face. "Complementary."
He tugs at the sheet, loosening its hold on her hip, and giving his leg the freedom to hitch around hers. He kisses her deeply.
The phone rings.
the discordant rhythm of this universe
"Bag and tag, David," Gibbs orders as they move through the scene. The rain hasn't stopped falling and even though it's late morning, the sky remains dark.
She would rather be in bed. She would rather be whispering trivial secrets to Tony in the safe haven of his room. She wants a few more hours of time that flows like jazz, smooth and sultry, instead of the discordant rhythm of this universe.
She hates cases that involve a child. Inevitably, they are all affected. The children always leave a mark.
Tony catches her eye from across the room. He winks. It's an oddly reassuring gesture as he stands over a dead mother's body and sketches.
It's strange sometimes, reconciling the Tony who takes the time to kiss her feather-light behind her knees with the Tony who grimaces his way through a crime scene sketch because it requires precision in gruesome detail. But she supposes that this paradox even exists is one of the reasons she loves him. She teases his lingering gaze by snapping on her latex gloves in a suggestive manner. He scowls and goes back to documenting how a life was lost.
McGee breaches the little girl's room first. It is a paradise of pink and purple, lace and chiffon, princess themed in every way. Ziva finds herself breathing shallowly as she searches the sanctuary for evidence.
There are small red handprints on some of the clothes in the closet.
Ziva stands before the frilly garments and imagines the child, Jocelyn Suarez.
Jocelyn watched her parents get brutally, fatally attacked. She tried to save them, but she could not. She kissed them goodbye and then, not knowing what else to do went through her closet and picked out her favorite dress. She ate breakfast and brushed her teeth. She headed out the door in time to meet the bus and go to school like she's told to do every single day.
"Damn," Tony whispers when he sees the yellow sundress stained with blood. McGee looks pale as he photographs it into evidence. As Ziva carefully folds the dress into a plastic bag, she feels Tony's touch on her arm. It's a gentle, soothing pressure right where her tiny childhood scar remains under layers of cotton and nylon.
They should've never answered the phone this morning.
a world with protective bubbles
"He's telling her to be brave," Ziva whispers, not to them but to herself. Fingers clench and unclench and search for something to hold that is not there.
The team stands silent, voyeurs to a conversation between their leader and a broken girl. Gibbs and Jocelyn stand in the corner of the bullpen, sky weeping in the window behind them, and conspire. Ziva watches the strength settle into Jocelyn's bones, sees her stand taller and prouder as the Marine's words help her push the sadness deep inside.
Tony studies his partner, entranced by the fierce concentration in her face. It is what any onlooker would see. But he sees past that mask, looks past the striking beauty that's meant to discourage closer examination, and notices the cracks in the corner of her eyes. He sees her body begin to sway under the weight of it all.
On delicate wings, the thought flutters to the front of his mind once again: What would she do if he just swept her up and carried her away? But before he can contemplate a world with protective bubbles and sunshine days and no one else but them, the thought dances away again. It dives and darts into the dark recesses of his mind where it is quickly forgotten-- just another shiny thing he needs to learn to ignore.
Tony still doesn't look away from Ziva. He hates to disagree with her assessment, but: "He's promising her that he will keep her safe and catch the monster who murdered her mother." His words are soft and he watches them wind their way around Ziva's body. She stands a little straighter.
He turns his gaze back to Gibbs. He admires the way his boss elicits a reluctant smile from the young girl with what seems to be only a word and a look. Jocelyn nods at something he says, tucks his business card into the pocket of her pretty white dress, and takes a deep breath. Gibbs tugs at the end of one of her braids, drawing a watery giggle from the girl.
"Wow," McGee says in awe.
"Yeah," both Tony and Ziva answer.
They get back to work.
pieces are lost along the way
In a brightly lit hospital room, they interview Jocelyn's father, a Navy lieutenant and the one parent left alive. Barely. Unintentionally.
It's a break they rarely get, but will gladly take.
Ziva tries to concentrate on the man's words, but finds it difficult. The story he is spinning of love and heroics and jealous rages too easily seeps through the cracks in her too newly rebuilt defenses. She tries to filter his words through logic and reason. His story is not her story. It's not even close. And yet…
Each tear that streams down the man's battered, broken face stings like it has found its way into one of her wounds. She knows what it's like to be left lying in a pool of your own blood, arms open to receive death. She knows what it's like to fight with everything in your soul and how it's inevitable that pieces are lost along the way.
Her own bruises have faded from the surface of her skin; time and loving touches have seen to that. But looking at the beaten man before her makes her very aware that she's not done healing yet. Not by a long shot.
She forces herself to think of Jocelyn—of the innocent girl with the white dress. She remembers Jocelyn's messy braids, the ones she had to fix herself because her mother was dead on the floor.
They are all survivors.
Ziva wonders how long it will be before she stops seeing herself as a victim.
"C'mon, we've got a name," Tony mutters into her ear as he pushes her gently from the room. "Jose Avelar."
She ignores Gibbs' questioning look as she stumbles. "I know," she jabs at her partner.
But she didn't.
As they walk to their car, Tony finds himself unable to let go of the image of the lieutenant fighting for his family. He imagines the man cooking breakfast for them before heading off to work. He imagines him turning around to serve pancakes to his girlfriend and daughter only to find his worst enemy there, hands around his lover's neck. Lieutenant Suarez's injuries indicate one hell of a battle.
He blinks and sees Ziva walking ahead of him, waves of brown hair swaying as she moves. He tries to gauge her mood from the motion of her body, the swing of her hips, but comes up empty. Ziva is not easily read. Or easily distracted, which is why he was worried in the first place.
In the silent car ride back to Navy Yard, he can't help himself from drawing uncomfortable parallels between this case and the past couple of months.
Not that it's the most logical thing to do.
Suarez fell in love with a girl and took her away from her abusive, gang-banger boyfriend. They tried to live happily ever after with their beautiful daughter and picturesque house, but bangers have long memories and immigration laws are a bitch.
Tony fell in love with his partner. He tried, but failed, to save her from her traitorous boyfriend and the clutches of her history. She decided she hated him, didn't trust him, and chose to stay behind in a hostile land. Then she was betrayed again by those who were supposed to hide her from all that she had left behind.
Tony didn't get to save her, just like Suarez couldn't save his love.
But Tony did get to change Ziva's bandages and whisper into her good ear all the ways in which he was sorry. He got to earn back her trust. He got to watch her slowly come back to herself, to reemerge as a new and improved, if slightly battle-worn Ziva David. He hopes the movie nights and sex and the early morning talks and all the heavy looks and lingering, possessive, healing touches are on their own road to happily ever after. But Mossad has a long memory, and Ziva even longer, and he has this uncomfortable feeling that the past will bite them in the ass sooner or later.
Things can't be this good forever, right?
Suarez didn't get a second chance, why should he be so lucky?
For once, Tony is glad that he got relegated to the backseat of the Charger. Gibbs' eyes are fixed on the road ahead as he navigates the car in ways that seem to defy the logic of rush hour congestion. Tony places his hand casually on the seat in front of him. His fingers casually work their way around the headrest and under the cascade of Ziva-curls it supports.
Ziva twists away from the brush of his fingers to look at him. Her molten eyes are heavy with a weight Tony can't measure; it catches him off guard. He wonders what she's thinking about.
"We're gonna catch this bastard, right, boss?" Tony asks what is probably his most redundant question ever. His eyes don't leave Ziva's, though he can feel the heat of Gibbs' steely glare bouncing like a laser off the rearview mirror.
Sometimes cases just mean more. There's really no predicting it.
"Ya think, DiNozzo?" is all that is said as Gibbs shifts the car into gear and dodges a slow-moving truck.
When they return to headquarters, they find Jocelyn happily enthroned in the lab, making sculptures of specimen jars and cotton swabs. Ziva smiles when she sees that Abby has given Jocelyn pigtail braids identical to her own, right down to the black ribbons that dangle from the ends.
swing with the mood
He splashes cold water on his face in an attempt to clear his mind. They have a long night ahead of them, digging up dirt and tracking down leads. Suarez gave them a lot of information to build from, a prime suspect even, but they still have a ways to go. And with a murderer on the lose, Gibbs isn't about to suggest a coffee break.
He's got to clear all this other junk from his head if he's going to get anywhere on this case tonight.
Glancing up in the mirror, he startles. "Jesus!"
Ziva is standing against the wall, watching him, a predatory gleam in her eye.
She grins and glides over to him. Not for the first time, he marvels at her feline grace.
"Did I startle you, Tony?" She purrs as she circles her arms around his neck. He doesn't bother to check if they are alone, knowing Ziva would have already taken care of that precaution. She kisses her way up his neck, applying a painfully delicate amount of pressure with her lips and swiping his skin every so often with her tongue; he can't swallow the groan that erupts from his mouth.
"Please don't let my mild heart attack stop you," he chuckles as she tastes her way across his jaw. She rubs her body greedily against his. Unable to remain passive, he thrusts his hands into her hair and urges her closer, inhaling her scent.
For a moment, they are lost in each other. Kisses bruise. Fingers tangle. Bodies clash. He picks her up and plops her on the ledge of the sink. She rewards him by wrapping her legs around his hips, grinding into him in the most delicious way.
"Fuck, Ziva," he moans before she plunders his mouth again.
He thinks he should ask her what brought about this sudden wanton behavior, but he knows better. The Ziva who weasels her hands under his clothing and gasps his name (and damn but those deep, breathy syllables are going to be his undoing) doesn't want to talk. He's learned that the hard way. But he'll let her use his body for whatever escape she needs; he's generous like that.
Besides, on days like today, when kids are nearly orphaned and the clouds can't be chased away, sometimes you just have to swing with the mood.
the whole rebuilding thing
"If I'd known this was going to be an all-nighter, I would've gotten more sleep last night." Tony yawns and stretches, his lanky limbs slicing through the air in his workspace.
McGee doesn't miss the smug, heated look that passes between Ziva and Tony at the senior agent's remark. He frowns. It would take someone deaf, dumb, and blind to miss the heavy looks exchanged between the partners—all things he's tried to play over the past few months as Ziva healed and Tony doted.
At times, he even resorted to using precious sick days, at the risk of his own personal health, in order to get a reprieve from their schizophrenic relationship.
For every snipe and barb they traded, there were guilty silences. For every passive aggressive, and many times overtly aggressive, battle they engaged in, there were conversations held entirely in longing gazes. Some days their banter reached such a level of thinly veiled sexual advance that even mundane tasks like tracking down cell phone records or going on a coffee run became Olympic-level flirtation. McGee would have to scramble for an excuse to visit the subbasement just to get clear of the lust-laden air.
But even worse than the constant threat of entering the squad room to find Tony and Ziva going at it on the floor was the prospect of entering the squad room in the middle of one of those other conversations they had. Conversations he had no way to classify except to say that when he found himself stumbling into one of them (always accidentally, always awkwardly) he would feel ashamed and uncomfortable.
Their delicate rebuilding of trust and friendship, done with such concentrated effort by both parties, was too painful to watch.
If only because their once rock-solid relationship needed rebuilding in the first place. If only because both partners were so afraid they couldn't make it work that fear and desperation clung to their every word.
But they did make it work.
And so now here they are, making sex-eyes at each other in front of him. Sometimes he wishes his teammates weren't quite so successful at the whole rebuilding thing.
"Tony, I would appreciate you leaving your sex life with Ziva outside of the office." McGee recites the well-worn sentence with little thought, concentrating instead on the task before him.
Tony and Ziva share an amused look. McGee mentally slaps himself for giving them precious ammo.
"Whatever, McGutterBrain. Who says the reason I didn't get much sleep last night was because I spent it making sweet, sweet love with Ziva?" McGee winces at the mental image Tony's words conjure up. He is saved by the pencil that whizzes past Tony's head and embeds itself into the cubical wall behind him.
"Hey! That could've killed me!" Tony pouts, but the appreciative look on his face as he inspects the writing utensil of death belies any true ire. How things have changed.
"If I truly wanted it to, Tony," Ziva says, not looking up from her monitor.
"Point being, Probie, I could've been up all night watching reruns of Magnum or having nightmares about the continuing adventures of L.J. Tibbs." Tony leans back in his chair, folding his arms behind his neck. Ziva's eyes flick back and forth between the two men with amusement. McGee scowls. He should've delayed his latest novel's release indefinitely. He is quite sure Tony and Ziva have him to thank for giving them something to bond over—using his book as an instrument of torture.
"Whatever," McGee throws back because he's too tired to think of something witty and really wants this conversation to be over. He thinks he preferred the Tony and Ziva who bathed each other in icy glares all day.
"For someone who seems to have a very vivid imagination when it comes to writing about the sex lives of Agent Tommy and Officer Lisa, you are very prudish about hearing the details first hand, McGee." Ziva's words are delivered with a cutting look. McGee gulps, eyes darting between his friends and finding neither all that friendly looking at the moment.
"She's right, McGrisham," Tony shares a proud look with Ziva before turning on him with a sage expression. "But I'd be happy to fact check for you. For example, Agent Tommy would never turn down sex at a crime scene—
"—and Officer Lisa would never offer sex at a crime scene," Ziva interjects, threatening to launch another pencil. McGee backs away from his desk when he can't determine her intended target. As if putting another foot of distance between himself and a trained assassin would matter.
"True," Tony chuckles. "Also, she is much more flexible than you give her credit for. That encounter in the locker room? She would've much preferred the angle where her leg—
"Stop!" McGee can feel the blush warming his cheeks. He should've never caved to his editor's demands for a steamier plot. "For the last time, the characters are—
"Fictionalized," Ziva says breezily. "We know. Because the real Agent Tommy is much more, how shall I say, considerate in the bedroom than you depict." McGee is quite sure his cheeks will be red for days when he glimpses the expression on Ziva's face. His mouth goes dry.
Tony sits up straighter, the picture of arrogance. "Thank you, sugar lips. It truly is my pleasure."
"I think I'm going to puke," McGee mutters before making a break for the safety of Abby's lab. As the elevator doors close behind him, he can hear a duet of laughter from the bullpen.
essential amounts of care
"Are you okay"?
Tony's voice pulls Ziva away from the exciting world of police records and gang databases. Her fingers hover over the keyboard. Tony is suddenly leaning on her desk, in her space. She wonders at what point digging through old files became so engrossing that she didn't notice his looming presence.
She opens her mouth to speak.
"And don't just say you're fine, because I know you're not. You're not fine when you jump me in the men's bathroom in the middle of a case."
Narrowing her eyes at him, she elbows him off her desk. She pretends she needs the case file he's propped against. "Your complaint is noted."
"That's not…" Tony takes a deep breath and pinches his nose. She flips through a stack of papers without seeing them. "I'm not complaining, Ziva." His doesn't look at her as he speaks. His tone is measured, though, with the essential amounts of care and concern.
"Then what is the problem?" Her tone is sharp.
"The problem is not with the…making out in the bathroom..." Her lips curl up when she can tell his undoubtedly carefully planned words have gotten away from him. Good. She likes Tony on edge, feathers ruffled, improvising. "The problem is that something is wrong with you and you're not telling me what it is! You didn't even notice me standing next to you for three full minutes!"
It's a testament to how far they've come that he remains in her personal space, that he hasn't leapt up and started pacing the bullpen yet. Even his voice, though layered in exasperation and worry, remains hushed.
She sighs and throws him a line. Looking up at him, she traces her eyes over the angles of his face so perfectly highlighted by the dim after-hours light. Resisting him is futile; she's tried. "Nothing is wrong, Tony…it's just this case…"
"Sucks?" he finishes with a quirked eyebrow. She nods, patting his thigh. He's wearing jeans today. She loves him in jeans.
"You haven't been back in the field that long, Ziva," he murmurs as he leans down to her. He threads his fingers through hers. "Maybe this case is too much, too soon…"
"I am not dropping this case," she says firmly. He won't let her draw her hand away. She sighs.
"Okay, then," he shrugs. She looks at him in alarm. Will he let her off the hook so easily? "These cases, the ones with the kids, are never easy. I think…I think it's hard for all of us."
She nods her agreement. Her eyes connect with his and her heart breaks just a little at the maelstrom of emotions she sees in them. She rolls her chair closer to his body, leans into him.
A familiar sensation of free falling strikes her; this is what it was like that summer when Gibbs left them. She remembers the giddy-haze with which she tumbled into love with Tony. She remembers that burning tenacity with which he cared for his team. She wonders if he knows how proud he made her. How proud he still makes her when he shows this protective streak. Tony is nothing if not loyal to his makeshift family.
"Just talk to me, okay?" He adds, toying with her fingers. His studies the carpet. "If you need to."
She lifts his hand and kisses his palm. "I always do, Tony." He meets her eyes. With a heavy gaze, she implores him to trust her. The lines of his face soften in response.
A gentle clearing of a throat interrupts their moment.
Ziva glances up to note that Gibbs has returned to the squad room. Tony gives her a muted smile before pushing away from her desk. She knows he worries just as much as she does that they will find some way to mess this all up again. That whatever they have so carefully forged will be swept away at the first sign of a storm.
She would like to think they are stronger than that now.
Going back to her paperwork, she looks over at Gibbs. He meets her gaze and winks. She shakes her head, wondering how she and Tony must've have looked, bent together in conversation in the golden light of the squad room. The fact that Gibbs didn't round on them with matching head slaps surprises her.
She and Tony aren't the only ones who have changed.