A/N: This is essentially a tag to 'Boxed In,' picking up after Ziva drives Tony home and makes him dinner. I'm not sure what I think of this one, but I figured I'd share it anyway and see what ya'll think.
Disclaimer: Don't own Ziva, don't own Tony, don't own nothing - except my beautiful, amazing horse who has nothing to do with this story.
Ziva tried to tell Tony that he didn't have to see her out, but he refused to remain on the couch as she gathered her coat, her purse and her keys and then headed for the door. Pausing just inside the door to shrug her coat on - pointedly ignoring Tony's offer to help - she kept her eyes away from his face. She didn't have to look to know that he was staring at her with the intensity she had been trying to deflect all evening. She could feel his curiosity in the tension between them; she knew he was trying to work out how best to ask her the one question she most wanted to avoid.
Eyes still averted, she reached for the doorknob and managed to get out half a "Good night," before his uninjured arm cut off her exit - his hand resting heavily against the closed door. She fought down her frustration - an irritated outburst at the end of this unusually harmonious evening would have given her away - and turned quickly to put her back against the door. Crossing her arms over her chest, she let her dark eyes find Tony's face. His expression was as she expected: thoughtful, curious, and unfortunately determined. So determined that there wasn't even the faintest trace of the usual flash in his eyes - the flash of sexual tension that neither one of them could deny. Reverting instinctively to one of her oldest and most reliable weapons, she decided to change that. The seductive smile that curled her lips, the way she pushed her hips towards him subtly - these were actions so familiar to her that they required no thought. She had learned long ago how to befuddle a man.
"Tell me something, Zee-vah," Tony said, leaning a touch closer. She could feel the heat of his breath across her face and neck; it was not an unpleasant feeling.
"Yes, Tony?" she murmured, letting her eyes wander noticeably down his chest as she drew out the two short words. She shifted slightly so that she was almost leaning her cheek against his out-stretched arm - her dark curls brushing the sensitive skin of his exposed forearm. Not wanting to take any chances, she let one arm fall to her side as she moved her opposite hand to rest on his shoulder, against the base of his neck. She let her hand rotate slightly, drawing her fingertips in a small arc on his skin. His expression clouded for a moment, and she thought she had him, but then he leaned away - just slightly - and his focus returned.
"Why'd you react the way you did...when we first got stuck in that box?" The question he blurted out was not the one she had seen lurking behind his eyes all evening. She was not the only one who was afraid of revealing too much.
"I mean, you weren't exactly the calm, cool, collected assassin I've come to know and love..." Tony added, trailing off as he processed her expression. He couldn't quite make sense of the turmoil that was stirring in her eyes, but he knew enough to realize that he was treading on thin ice.
She held his eyes as she considered her options. She could take her attempt to distract him further, but how far was she really willing to go? She could walk out, even if it meant literally twisting his arm to do so, but she couldn't help but feel as though she owed him something, something more than just dinner and a movie. Ziva was no fool; she had seen how much it hurt him that she had excluded him from her plans the night before. Or perhaps she was a fool, for letting herself care.
"Mossad does not mount rescue missions," she answered - her voice tight with the unresolved tension of both wanting and not wanting to answer him. "Where I come from, being captured is as good as being dead."
"That's not the way we do things here," Tony replied without thinking - immediately regretting his words when Ziva narrowed her eyes at him angrily.
"I noticed," she snapped. "Can I go now?" She made to duck under his arm, but, before he could quite consider the consequences of his actions, he caught her by the arm and turned her to face him again. The fury in her eyes when she looked up at him almost made him let her go.
"One more question," he murmured, holding her burning, brown eyes with his own soft, green ones. Ziva wasn't quite sure what stopped her from ripping herself free and slamming the door in his face on her way out, but the pause in her reaction was enough of an opening for Tony.
"Why didn't you invite me?" he asked at last. The words had been in his mouth all evening, but he had chosen to play by her rules. He had let her deflect personal questions, avoid revealing anything about herself, and brush off anything he said that wasn't a joke or a snipe. Now the evening was nearly over, though, and he just couldn't let that question go.
"Because I was tired of your relentless immaturity," Ziva hissed, beyond caring if she hurt him. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted to make him let her go. "And I wasn't the only one."
Tony's hand dropped from her arm like lead, and, in the moment before his face hardened, she saw the surprise and pain in his eyes. Good, she thought, he needs to learn that Ziva David bites - and before she could think otherwise, before she could regret what she had done, she walked out the door. Tony made no move or sound to stop her, and she did not look back. She did not stop, or even hesitate, until she was safe in the driver's seat of her red Mini Cooper.
Once she did stop, however, she couldn't keep her eyes from wandering back to the lighted window that she knew was Tony's. She couldn't hold back the wave of disgust and confusion and sadness and...longing...that flooded through her, and she rested her forehead against the steering wheel, every part of her body stiffening defensively in reaction to the pain.
"You had no choice," she whispered to herself, and she was thinking of the words she'd said to Tony, but she couldn't help but think of Ari, too. She couldn't help but think about her assignment here, and all the despair and uncertainty it caused her. She closed her eyes, but the view inside was far darker than the D.C. night and it provided not a single shred of peace. Her only peace was in forgetting, and the only one who ever helped her to forget was Tony. Tony with whom she could tease, argue and flirt with all day, and in the speed and ease of their banter she found the only part of her that seemed real - the only part that didn't require calculation and caution and strain.
She hadn't left him out of her plans the night before because she was tired of him; she couldn't get enough of the freedom he offered her - the all too temporary freedom from pain. She had left him out because she couldn't afford to feel free in the minefield that was Gibbs, Ducky and Abby - the three people most difficult to fool. She had to measure every word, consider each expression to demonstrate the perfect combination of latent grief, practiced coolness, growing confidence, but lingering uncertainty - the exact blend that would cause them to believe her, to trust her, to accept her as their own. She couldn't do that with DiNozzo around, making her forget that this was all an act.
"I had no choice," she repeated, a little louder this time as she straightened herself up and started the car. Perhaps it was not he who had something to learn, but herself, because how the hell had he become so damn important to her? If it hurt her to hurt and lie to him, then she deserved it - for forgetting that this was an assignment and nothing more, for letting him slip inside her cracks...for letting those cracks exist at all. No matter what her father told her, no matter what she told herself, she could not pretend away her grief and guilt, and for that frailty, perhaps she deserved to be punished.
She ignored the choked sob that tore its way unwelcome up her throat. Her hands found the wheel and her foot the gas pedal, and she turned her anguish into speed, tires squealing angrily as her car sped into the night.
From the window above, Tony watched her both stay and then flee. He remained by the window long after she'd gone, turning her words over in his mind again and again. In the end, he decided that she hadn't told the truth, and he wondered what it would take to find the real Ziva David under all that armor.
A/N: Soo, whatcha think? Please share your thoughts with me! This piece is consistent with what I've developed in the previous two, so the Ziva we see here is meant to build on the Ziva presented in the first chapter.
The way this one ends makes me want to keep writing it - I mean, I can't help but wonder how Tony and Ziva would work this out and go on as before. Who knows? Maybe I will write a second piece of this to answer just that.
Thanks for reading!