Title: Belief

Author: rekkidbraka

Rating: T

Pairings: Tony D. and Ziva D.

Category: Romance; Angst

Disclaimer: No infringement intended.

Spoilers: None

Summary: "Belief is a beautiful armor / But makes for the heaviest sword / Like punching underwater / You never can hit who you're trying for" - John Mayer

-------------------- Belief ---------------------

For the first couple of years, she only saw him during their working hours together and it had been enough to satisfy her. The hours were long, often 10-12 per day, and spent in exceptionally close contact -- either in the field solving cases or bantering with one another from facing desks just feet apart -- and she cherished them.

What he did during his time away from her wasn't her business, she told herself. Their personal lives were just that -- personal.

Until the day she stopped believing her own justifications for why, when their time together was ended after their workdays had wrapped up, she still wanted to be with him.

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Sitting alone at a small streetside café in downtown Washington, Ziva sipped her strong tea and feigned interest in the latest book her father had sent from Tel Aviv, this one a collection of essays by geopolitical scholars on the status of Israel's power position in the Middle East. Truthfully, she was tired of reading these types of tomes but doing so pleased her father and so she dutifully studied them.

"And then there's McQueen saying 'You can keep the car.' That's it. The End."

The voice was unmistakable, so close that Ziva quickly hid her face behind the book. She scanned the café crowd, seeking him out. At a small table right by the street, she saw him. With just the dim light from the nearby street lamp and the small illumination provided by the lighting strung around the café's outside dining area, he nevertheless was as attractive as ever and Ziva found herself staring at him.

Catching herself, she quickly made sure that he could not see her far back in a dimly-lit corner of the patio. From her relatively secure spot, she watched his evening unfold. He ordered an expensive bottle of wine, a small appetizer-type plate, some dessert and coffee as the night grew longer. There was plenty of laughing, leaning in closely to offer private comments or to catch whispered replies, some tender caressing of hands on the table, here and there a brief kiss -- never anything too showy or intimate, but suggestive nevertheless.

When at last he left, she felt like a voyeur, as if she had witnessed something that wasn't for her to see. Much of it she really hadn't wanted to watch. And yet she couldn't turn away. She had to see it for herself, to know the truth of what happened during the hours they weren't together.

Tony had been there at the café. With another woman. On a date.

And now he'd left. With her. Maybe he was only taking her back to her apartment and the night would end with a kiss at the door.

But more likely, the rest of Tony's night was only beginning.

And hers would end soon as it did every night -- in bed, with one of her father's books, alone and feeling hopelessly lonely and invisible.

Particularly so this evening.

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Monday morning brought heavy rain, thunderstorms, fierce lightning, high winds and a sky so dark that it was hard to believe the day had just started.

"Rise and shine, Crime Stoppers!" Tony said, cheerily greeting Ziva and McGee with a smile as he strutted into their NCIS work area. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" He stopped by McGee's desk, shook the rain water off his umbrella, snapped it closed and deposited it, along with his gear bag and raincoat, at his own desk. McGee flicked the water from the top of his desk, frowning at Tony.

"Sure, if you're particularly fond of monsoons," Tim remarked, wiping his desk off with a paper towel. Tony straightened his tie, smoothed back his hair and strolled over to McGee's desk once more.

"Ah, Probie... Young, sweet, innocent Probie... When you've had a weekend as amazing as mine was, it's all Glass Half Full. Just because I woke up on the right side of the bed this morning -- heh... well, Saturday and Sunday mornings, too -- and you woke up ALONE again, McKilljoy, doesn't mean that I should have to ruin MY good mood because YOU'RE such a lame loser that you can't..."

"ENOUGH!" Ziva shouted, so loud that all the NCIS agents in the main room -- not just Tim and Tony -- quieted down, stunned by her sudden outburst. "Perhaps we do not want to HEAR about which SIDE OF THE BED YOU WOKE UP ON, TONY, or any more about your AMAZING WEEKEND!" Slamming both her hands down on her desk, Ziva stood, shot Tony a fierce look and hurriedly exited the room. Tim and Tony watched her go, both shocked. Tony crossed his arms, knitting his eyebrows as he stared into the distance.

"Wow..." Tim said, his eyes widening. "THAT was brutal."

"Speaking of sides of the bed, looks like Ziva DEFINITELY woke up on the wrong one today," Tony said, clenching his jaw. "What the hell's HER problem?"

With that, he briskly straightened his suit jacket, sat down at his desk and began working.

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"Where's Ziva?" Gibbs asked gruffly, quickly walking past Tony and Tim, taking a seat at his own desk.

Tim looked to Tony for help answering but Tony continued staring at his computer, acting as if he were absorbed in whatever work he was doing.

"Ummm... She called in sick today, Boss," Tim offered, his face reddening at having lied to Gibbs. Again, he glanced in Tony's direction. Tony ignored him. Gibbs took a sip of coffee, staring intently at Tim.

"Sick, huh? Never heard from her myself. Doesn't sound like Ziva to me."

"Well, uh, she called me, Boss, and, um, asked me to let you know. She was really sorry. Said she'll be back tomorrow for sure. Just a... um... a 24-hour thing."

"A 24-hour thing," Gibbs repeated. "Lotta that goin' around, usually on Mondays, McGee." Tim smiled.

"Sure, Boss, I guess it can, um, happen to anyone."

"Guess so. But not Ziva." Tim looked flummoxed.

"Uhhh... How's that, Boss?"

"Cause I just ran into her at the coffee shop. Looked fine to me."

"Gee... That's, um, that's great news, then. Guess she's coming into work after all, huh?"

"Yep. Ziva, you sick?" Tim did a double-take, then turned to see Ziva behind him, moving towards her desk.

"Of some things, yes." She shot Tony a snide glance, which he returned with a confused, questioning look, and sat down, pursing her lips as she started tapping at her keyboard.

From his desk, while pretending to read the contents of a folder, Tony snuck a peek across at Ziva. She was purposely making sure not to look his way and he didn't understand why she was giving him the cold shoulder -- or what had prompted her outburst towards him earlier. Friday afternoon, they'd been teasing each other about who would get top billing if they were ever to star together in an open casting call James Bond film. Ziva said of course she'd be named first because she could kill Tony so, really, wasn't it a moot point? Tony had to agree.

"24-hour thing, eh, McGee?" Gibbs' blue eyes fixed on McGee as the young agent grimaced, started to say something by way of explanation, thought better of it and turned back to his computer, hurriedly getting back to his work. Gibbs chuckled softly, smiling, and checked his phone messages.

And the rest of the day was spent in total silence.

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That evening, having taken a long, hot shower after forcing herself to endure a six-mile run in the pouring rain after work, Ziva finished her small supper and headed to bed early. She had no other plans, as usual, so why not catch up on some much-needed sleep? Having pored over a chapter in the book from her father, Ziva began to nod off, the rumble of thunder and flashes of lightning helping relax her. She was nearly asleep when there was a knock at her door. Turning over, she snuggled deeper under her covers, wanting to not answer. But as the knocking persisted, she felt compelled and arose from her warm bed.

Padding softly down through her living room, she reached the door, slowly opening it. Tony stood outside in the hallway.

For what seemed like an eternity, neither spoke -- the pair only stared at one another, Tony's green eyes meeting Ziva's brown gaze with a steady, steely glare. Ziva swallowed hard, searching for whatever words would come.

"Tony..." she managed. "I did not know you were coming by. You should have called."

Tony's eyes searched the hard expression on Ziva's face.

"I want to talk to you, Ziva," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"This is not a good time," she replied sharply. "I am ... busy with something at the moment. For work. Perhaps we can talk tomorrow or..."

"Why are you doing this?" Tony asked huskily. "Why are you mad at me all of a sudden? What did I do? Just tell me."

Ziva straightened her shoulders and back defensively.

"You have done nothing, Tony," she snapped. "I am simply tired and have work to finish, that is all."

"No," Tony said quietly. "You're avoiding me. Why, Ziva?"

"Listen, Tony..."

Tony, having heard enough, now stepped forward into the doorframe. Ziva was momentarily taken by surprise as Tony grabbed her arm, firmly but not harshly, and pulled her close to him.

"DAMMIT, Ziva, TALK to me!"

Nothing was said and Tony was left staring, blankly, at the door that was slammed in his face after Ziva pushed him away.

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Lying stretched out in his bed, Tony absentmindedly scratched at his chest hair. He couldn't stop thinking of Ziva and everything that had happened.

He wasn't sure what was going on with Ziva, why she was so upset or why she'd been so angry with him earlier that day. All he knew was that his best friend was hurting, suffering through something intensely personal, and it was killing him to see her like this.

Maybe something had happened back home in Tel Aviv. Or she'd argued with her father; their relationship, as he understood it, was difficult even in the best of times. Tony's body tensed as the thought he secretly dreaded -- that Ziva was trying to get over some sort of failed romance with a man there in D.C. or that she was involved with that man, that they'd maybe just had a big blowout over the past weekend -- entered his mind. He tried to force the idea out of his head, telling himself that wasn't it, but he couldn't let it go.

Tony thought about his own weekend the and how he'd spent it -- alone, watching his favorite movies in his apartment, wanting to call Ziva and invite her over for whatever reason he could find: pizza, some movie she hadn't seen that he could tease her about - saying she needed to check it out in order to get more in touch with American culture, "Tapout," anything to see her. But he put the phone down as soon as he'd pick it up, afraid to make the call. He wanted more from their relationship -- he had for a long time. The question was, did she feel the same way?

He thought, briefly, about the woman he'd gone to the café with Friday evening. He'd felt compelled to put on the usual DiNozzo act for her, getting the usual response -- she'd wanted him to spend the night, tried to get him to come inside her place for a drink (at least). He'd begged off, saying it had been a really long day at work and he was just absolutely wiped out. Maybe he'd take a raincheck - wink, wink. She seemed okay with that but he knew he'd never see or call her again. There was nothing there for him, no feelings at all, despite how he'd tried to force himself into being attracted to her with all the kissing and touching at the restaurant.

The act was getting old and he was ready for something real, something that would last. Tony had never thought he'd want a family -- a wife, children, a house, a lawn to mow, Little League games to coach, Saturday errands to run, church services -- maybe Temple or Sunday Mass, whichever they'd decide on -- to help dress the kids for, birthday parties and sleepovers to plan...

The only woman he'd been thinking of that Friday night -- and all weekend long, not to mention every minute of every day -- was Ziva. And she hadn't been there Friday. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. He'd prayed for Monday to come so he could see her again.

Now this was the result.

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Unless it was about work, Tony and Ziva didn't speak for the remainder of the week and when they had to talk, their exchanges were uncharacteristically brief, clipped and impersonal -- as if they were almost total strangers. Tim noticed their mutual coldness towards one another and simply kept quiet, tapping away at his computer or finding reasons to visit Abby's lab. Gibbs went on about his days as usual, barking out orders to everyone; his main interest was in solving cases, not helping his team sort out their personal issues.

Occasionally, Tony made it a point to act as if he were working intently on something while Ziva spoke, in Hebrew, on the phone to someone in hushed tones. He had no idea what she was saying, aside from the "Shalom" greeting, but if she was talking to someone who had somehow come between them and ruined their friendship, at least for the time being, he was interested.

And jealous.

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That Friday night, Ziva didn't make the short walk to the café. Instead, she holed up in her apartment, finishing the book sent by her father. Sighing as she snapped the cover closed, she knew another would soon arrive. It was a dull, predictable cycle. But she tried to remember that her father meant it as a show of love.

Lying back on her couch, she stared at the ceiling, thinking of Tony. She wondered why she bothered; certainly, he was out again with another woman -- most likely not the girl from the week before -- and she wasn't on his mind. He was focused on the woman he'd be with tonight, how he'd entice her into bed, then how he'd end things before she pressed him for any sort of commitment.

The knock at the door broke the silence. Gathering herself, she took a deep breath before answering.

Tony stood, leaning against the doorframe, He'd changed out of the expensive suit he'd worn that day at work, opting for a form-fitting, apple green button-down shirt that was open at the chest, a thick chocolate brown belt with a silver buckle and a pair of well-worn, perfectly broken-in Levi's that hugged his hips and strong thighs in just the right places -- snug, but not too tight. A pair of expensive Italian leather boots finished the haute casual look.

Ziva didn't realize she was staring until Tony said "You ready to go?"

Her dark eyes searched his as she tried to understand what was happening.

"Go? Go where? Tony... what...?"

"Out," he said, reaching out a hand to push back her long black hair. He caressed her cheek. "With me. Tonight. Ziva...," Tony breathed, his words a whisper, "... please. Please... Be with me."

Without a word, she took his hand and led him into her apartment, over to the couch. Tony reclined, stretching out his legs before him as he scratched his chest, while Ziva silently left the room to change into a dress for the evening. As she reached the hallway, just before she would be out of sight, she turned to glance over her shoulder at Tony. His green eyes were fixed on her, his handsome form completely relaxed as he lay back against the sofa cushions, continuing to gently scratch at his chest hair out of mindless habit. Ziva noticed, however, that he quickly shifted his hips and stretched his legs some more, working through some sort of sudden discomfort, as she faded from his view and made her way to her bedroom.

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She'd thought the café was their destination but found herself proven wrong when Tony ushered her into his vintage Mustang and started up the engine. Everything was happening so fast. Just an hour and a half ago, she'd made sure to leave before he did so that she wouldn't have to look at him or speak to him in the NCIS main room. And now they were headed off on a date... somewhere.

Ziva started to ask Tony where they were going but stopped herself. For once, she decided to allow herself the thrill of a surprise.

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It was early Saturday morning -- almost two o'clock -- when they arrived back at Ziva's apartment. The night had been perfect, spent at an intimate French restaurant just outside of D.C. It was a charming place, dressy without a forced attitude, and Tony had spared no expense to make the evening memorable. Anyplace would have been fine with her -- she enjoyed keeping things simple -- but she was deeply touched by Tony's attention to detail and attempt at impressing her with a more elegant night out than she'd have imagined from him.

At the door, they stood nervously. Neither knew what to expect next.

"I had a wonderful time tonight, Tony," Ziva said softly, taking in every detail of his handsome face with her brown eyes. "I was not expecting... all of this. Thank you."

Tony's gaze met hers. Ziva's olive skin and dark features had captivated him since he first saw her but tonight he hadn't been able to take his eyes off her; it had been a struggle to even drive to the restaurant without touching her. He wanted to know the feel of her skin on his and being so close now, he couldn't stop himself from making intimate physical contact.

Slowly, Tony's hand reached out. Ziva caught her breath as he took her by the arm, pulling her to him. As Tony fitted her body against his, he drew her into a kiss. It started tentatively but soon turned passionate and deep. He gripped her waist firmly, pressing Ziva's body tightly into his. She gasped as they broke the kiss, sensing Tony's desire for her.

Overwhelmed by a mix of attraction and frank confusion at Tony's sudden actions, Ziva tried, but couldn't keep, the tears from welling up in her eyes. She was ashamed for crying in front of Tony, embarrassed by her emotions. Tony relaxed his hold on Ziva's waist, wrapping her in a warm hug. Ziva broke down, weeping into his chest, as he held her against him, tenderly rocking her as he whispered in her ear that it was okay, everything was okay...

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When she was finally asleep, Tony lifted Ziva into his arms, carried her to her bedroom and gently tucked her into bed. He'd held her as she sobbed for nearly an hour, crying herself into a fitful slumber, and he was worried. Everything had seemed so perfect all night. What had suddenly gone so wrong?

Once he was sure Ziva was comfortable, he went back into the living room and lay down on the couch, closing his eyes.

It took every ounce of Tony's willpower not to return to Ziva's bedroom. He longed to simply hold her, breathe in the scent of her skin until dawn came.

He wondered when it would happen. Or if it ever would.