A/N: An bit of an old piece written right after 7.02 premiered. More angst, of course, because right now that's all I can appear to right. I hope you enjoy it, and please, please, please, review. :)


Still a little bit of your taste in my mouth
Still a little bit of you laced with my doubt...
Still a little bit of your ghost, your witness
Still a little bit of your face I haven't kissed
~"Cannonball" Damien Rice


He goes through a period when everyday he misses Kate.

These days are particularly wearing because he has no one to go to: because she was Abby's best friend and McGee's mentor; because Ducky's wisdom will always be lost on him, and Gibbs…

Well, Gibbs never talks about Kate. And Tony, for everyone's benefit, thinks that's probably the way it should stay.

And then, there's Ziva.

"Tony, are you feeling well?"

Ziva, who never misses anything.

"Of course. Why, worried about me?"

"No. You just look, how you say, down in the garbage?"

Ziva, who he suspects messes up her metaphors mostly for his sake.

"'Down in the dumps' Zee-vah. If I was down in the garbage, I would smell."

"You mean more than you already do?"

Ziva, who is really the source of the whole problem, anyway.

He's never fully understood the woman—he doubts he ever will—and when he thinks about it, he thinks she might be the only other person besides Gibbs who truly frightens him.

Not that he'd ever tell her that.

She is wild and unpredictable. She has perfected the art of threatening and soothing him simultaneously, and, quite frankly, if he ever gets whiplash he's pretty sure it'll be her fault (whether this is because she sneaks up on him or she has another one of her exceptionally great hair days is yet to be determined).

With Kate, this was never an issue. With Kate, things were simple. So he misses Kate.

He misses the way she moved and the way she laughed. The way she never let him get away with anything and the way she didn't ever understand suggestive subtext.

Mostly, though, he misses the way he always knew where he stood with her.

He loved Kate. As a partner and as a friend. And yes, he was always suggesting that he help her out of her clothing, but at the end of the day, that was all they were. Kate and Tony. Tony and Kate. Partners. Friends. Nothing more.

With Ziva, things are different. Sometimes, he thinks she might be bipolar when it comes to him. He can never quite figure out what he means to her. Or, for that matter, what she means to him.

Because some days, she is nothing more than a co-worker: busy, indifferent, and overly polite. They talk about the weather and the case and nothing more, and Tony, who probably likes conflict more than he should, is bored.

Other days, she lashes out and ignores him, and he eats it up because he can feel the air on fire, sparks flying around them. It's just the end of the day that's hard; some nights he tosses and turns in bed, unable to sleep with her and her disdain on his mind.

The next day, she's seducing him. She's perfected that art, as well, and he thinks he might hate her for it because she stands too close and sizes him up with those stupid bedroom eyes, and all he can think is God, please, even though it can't (won't) ever happen.

Later on, she's his best friend. She bounces up to him in the morning looking like a little girl, and together they mock McGee's new tie and giggle as Gibbs reprimands them. They joke about what was on TV, and he buys her lunch, knowing full well that she won't ever pay him back. Those are the days the sun shines the brightest.

But the last kind of day is his favorite. These are the days he thinks he might be in love with her because she stands close like she needs some sort of comfort. She'll touch his arm, and her eyes light up with some secret he thinks he'll never quite figure out.

It's this cycle that makes Tony miss the ease that Kate brought with her.

When Michael comes, the desire to have Kate back gets stronger. Because his least favorite kind of day—when Ziva is his partner and only his partner and barely even his partner—abounds, and he doesn't quite know what to do with all the left over feelings that he quickly realizes she may never reciprocate.

She's moved on and he hasn't, and he wants Kate because he never had to move on. Not like this.

Because when Kate was around he didn't think of himself as an overly jealous person, but then goes and he finds himself practically stalking Ziva and her stupididioticselfcenteredarrogant ass of a boyfriend, and he is. He just is. Over her.

So much for moving on.

And no, he never means to kill Michael, because jealous though he is, he wouldn't hurt someone Ziva cared about if he didn't have to. But even after he tries to explain (her anger scares him most at this moment), she leaves them.

Or perhaps they leave her. He's never really sure. Nor does it really matter.

Either way, he still hates her, that first month back in the States.

He spends most of his time not thinking directly about her, but about how much better life would have been if Kate hadn't died and Ziva had just stayed out of his life.

(The second month, he can feel the metallic taste of a lie in his mouth when he thinks this way.)

June and July go and when Gibbs drops that stupid mother-effing bomb, all he can think is, Kat.e. It's Kate all over again. Except this time there's no body and no real evidence of her destruction; she does not die laughing but probably feeling like complete crap, and Tony blames himself and Gibbs and Vance and Eli David and anyone else he can find to hate.

And still, still, he longs for Kate's presence.

August comes, and suddenly all the thoughts through his brain are Ziva Ziva Ziva Kate Ziva Ziva Ziva Jeanne Ziva Paula Kate Ziva Ziva, and he wonders what the hell happened to him that caused him to completely fuck up all the relationships he ever had with any woman he remotely cared about.

He defies Gibbs and gets a purpose—vengeance—and suddenly he's Old DiNozzo again. He's not sure what drives him but he thinks it might be all the things never said—all the inevitables and soul mates and tired of pretendings; all the knowing glances and almost-kisses interrupted. He thinks it might be the ache in his chest that makes him want to break down and cry when he thinks of her body broken and no longer for this world.

Then again, it might just be the fact that he refuses to let Ziva become another Kate. If he avenges her, he cannot miss her because she is there with him, guiding him.

(No one ever told him that's not how the world works.)

He's ready to die in Somalia in that stupid terrorist camp. He's ready to let Saleem shoot him up then and there because at least the missing and aching and longing would end, not just for Ziva but for Kate, beautiful Kate, who died too young and had no choice in the matter.

But then the sack comes up and there she is, there she is, broken and dying slowly, but beautiful and still alive, and he can feel the tears in his eyes that he won't ever cry because he can't let her see them.

Suddenly, the missing and aching and longing go away, and he couldn't be more thankful.

They bring her back to NCIS—bring her back home, he thinks—and everything returns relatively normal. Nothing will ever be quite the same, of course, because now he knows what life is like without her (what it's like to need her) and he doesn't take that for granted so much anymore.

So now, when he teases her, it is not driven by fear or hatred or desire but by something that he thinks might be akin to love.

Now, when she catches him staring, he doesn't look away but simply smiles. (She follows suit and he thinks he's never seen anyone more fascinating).

Now, he has little reserve when it comes to her personal space. His hands are more and more often in her hair or on her shoulders, as though he has to remind himself that she's real. (And he knows all she can think is that it won't be long before rumors start up.)

Now, Gibbs doesn't remind them so often about Rule #12 because all that was ever said about soul mates and inevitability was right, and he thinks that Gibbs must see that (because doesn't Gibbs see everything?).

Now, they spend hours a day just being Ziva and Tony. Not partners. Just friends. And the closer they grow, the more Tony realizes he should have insisted on it all along.

And now, the tension is gone. There are no what if's or could have been's. They simply exist together in a world of their own, where time and work and boundaries are no longer a problem. Freely, they make their way slowly as they will toward a relationship that she has never been open to and he has never taken seriously.

"Tony, are you even listening to me?" Ziva says, waving a bunch of papers in his face. Tony blinks, shaking his head.

"Huh? Sorry, Ziva, what were you saying?"

She rolls her eyes, her hands on her hips. "Ugh. You are so annoying sometimes. Do you not listen to a word of what I say?"

"Huh. Annoying. McGee, isn't that why that one girl, uh, Filmore resigned? Cause I was too 'annoying'?"

"Anthony DiNozzo, I think you are forgetting that I can kill you with a paperclip," Ziva threatens, and all Tony can do is smile at the reference.

Leaning up toward her, he places a light kiss on her cheek. (She blushes, but Tony is determined not to laugh.) If McGee notices, he has the sense to keep silent.

There are still days that he misses Kate.

"It's good to have you back, Zee."

But when he looks into Ziva's eyes, he finds he's thankful he doesn't have to miss her.