Ziva awoke slowly through a tired haze and reached out for Tony. A surge of panic and confusion ran through her body as she realized the space beside her was empty. Slowly she climbed out of bed, making her way across the bedroom floor. Turning the corner into the darkened living room, she saw him. Tony sat silently, his back against the wall and a glass of bourbon in his hand.
The moonlight cast the room into a dance of pale light and shadows. It wasn't until she was near to him that she could see the tears glistening on his cheeks.
"Tony?" He refused to answer, to afraid that his voice would betray him.
"Tony, what is wrong?" she asked insistently.
"I'm fine, Ziva. Go back to bed," he answered in voice hushed and hoarse, whether from emotion or the alcohol, she couldn't tell.
"You are obviously not fine," Ziva eased her tired body onto the floor beside him. "You are sitting alone on the floor drinking in the dark and you are obviously crying. Talk to me."
Inhaling deeply, Tony abruptly stood, reaching out to gently take her arm, "Come on, let's get you back to bed."
Despite her aching body Ziva recoiled sharply from his touch, knocking Tony easily off balance. His nonchalance and condensation sent waves of anger through her.
"You expect me to discuss many of the most difficult and challenging events of my life with you, yet you will not speak openly with me as to what is troubling you," the anger in her voice was palpable.
Tony turned from her, as much to avoid her accusing eyes as to regain his crumbling composure. His fingers clutched the glass of amber liquid.
"Look at me," she demanded.
In fury, Tony spun, slamming the glass into the opposite wall little more than six inches from Ziva's body. His body froze the moment it left his hand. The moment his mind registered what he had just done. The moment he saw the flash of fear in Ziva's eyes and realized that he was the cause. A wave of grief flowed through him as the weight of that knowledge set into his bones. His shoulders slumped and his large hands covered his face.
"My Dad was right," Tony whispered. "My entire life has been a failure."
"How can you say that?"
"How can I not?"
"The only serious relationship I have ever had was while I was undercover. And still I managed to break her heart and make her hate me enough to accuse me for murder. I was standing six inches from Kate and I couldn't save her. I was only feet from Paula and couldn't save her. I was assigned to protect Jenny and I let her die. All that I wanted to do was protect you, and instead I managed to destroy whatever trust you had in me. I pushed you away to the point that you would rather stay in Israel than come back with us. All I wanted to do was protect you and instead I drove you to the same people I wanted to protect you from, I drove you to Somalia."
He slid down the paneled wall, raising his knees and burying his head into his folded arms, too ashamed to allow his eyes to meet hers.
"Tony, please look at me." Ziva knelt before him and placed her hands gently on his arms, coaxing his face from hiding. The warmth of her body sent trimmers across his cold skin. "You have seen me at my worst and most vulnerable, Tony. You have seen me in moments when I am repulsed at my own weakness, yet you have not judged me. Why are you to ashamed to reveal that same vulnerability to me? Why do you think so little of me, that you fear you would not find the same depth of understanding in me that I have found in you?"
When his eyes reluctantly met hers, she saw the shimmering tracks of silent tears streaming down his chiseled features. A mixture of pain, guilt, shame, and desperation fought for dominance in his hazel eyes.
"Tony, the path to this moment did not begin with Michael. It began the moment that I came to NCIS. My entire life, I was taught to believe and feel and behave a certain way. I did not know that there was any other possibility. And then, by chance or fate, I came here. I found a family, not of blood, but of love; a family that loved me and accepted me without condition. For years I have walked with one foot in NCIS and one foot in Mossad. I knew the day would come when those worlds would collide," Ziva took a deep breath. "When Michael died I knew that day had come."
"Because of me," Tony said in trembling voice.
"I did not stay in Israel because I had lost trust in you. I did not wish to trust you," she swallowed the growing lump in her throat, searching for the words that he needed to hear. "I trusted Michael and he was dead. I trusted Ari he is dead. Tali trusted that I would always be there for her and yet she died in my arms. I trusted my father and…." Her voice faltered as she blinked back hot tears. "Everyone I have ever trusted in my entire life has either betrayed me or ended up dead. I have always known in my heart that you would not betray me. But I do not believe that I would survive loosing you."
His strong hand cupped her cheek, gently wiping away a single tear.
"What are you so afraid of that you cannot be open, even with me?" The words came as more of a plea than a question.
"I am not afraid, I am terrified," his voice of thick with shameful tears.
"That you will wake up one morning and see the man that I truly am and walk away. That you will finally realize what everyone else has always known."
"I see you clearly Tony, I always have. What I see is a strong, kind, understanding, funny, amazing man trying his best to hide a frightened boy from the light of day," her eyes pleaded with him to believe the truth of her words. "I love you Tony. I have am in love with you, all of you. Please don't hide from me."
A sob escaped his lips and his body began to tremble under her touch. She felt his muscles relax, allowing her to pull him into her arms, cradling him against her. She rocked him as a mother would comfort a frightened child, as she had comforted Tali on so many nights. Wave after wave of long held grieve flowed through his body as she held him tighter, the sounds of a Hebrew lullaby drowning his ragged sobs.