A/N: I have wrestled with this chapter off and on for months in between family issues. I have finally thrown in the towel and decided it, especially the balcony scene, will never be exactly what I hoped it would be and I need to just move on with the story. So, I am apologizing for another extremely long delay but I will attempt to make it up by posting two chapters (well, sort of two chapters).
You may have noticed that Hoping for Happiness's status has been changed to complete. There will be a sequel but it feels like Ziva has found the happiness she longed for as this story began and this portion of her journey has reached its natural conclusion. For those that want to continue following the happy couple in their married life, look for the next installment, Living For Love. The prologue will be posted shortly.
Thanks once again to reviewers who have provided clarification on Israeli culture, etc. (Alef isn't really a name in Israel, for example). Someday, when time is not such an issue, I hope to go back and fix all those little glitches.
Monday morning, July 12, 2010…
Tony slipped his arms around Ziva's waist from behind and watched her in the mirror as she put the finishing touches on her makeup.
"We're spending the first morning of our honeymoon hanging out with our family instead of spending it naked…what's wrong with this picture?" Tony joked shaking his head in mock frustration before nuzzling Ziva's neck.
"We do not need to wear clothing or leave the room for three days once we are in Hot Springs," Ziva promised.
"I like the sound of that," Tony agreed happily.
Tony watched Ziva's reflection as she gave him a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. His expression grew tender as he turned her to face him and pulled her close.
"This isn't goodbye forever. You'll see them again," Tony reassured Ziva knowing she was dreading the end of her family's visit.
"When?" Ziva replied bitterly refusing to hope.
"As soon as we have the money and the time off," Tony answered honestly.
Ziva looked up at him in surprise. She had assumed he was referring to her family making a return visit to Washington. Instead, it sounded as if he intended to take her to Tel Aviv.
"I promised I'd take you back to Israel someday and I meant it," Tony reminded her, his voice filled with compassion.
"You said when it was safe. I was not certain you could ever be convinced that it was," Ziva admitted.
"You're my wife and an American citizen. I don't think Eli has the balls to try to keep you in Israel now. And it's not like I could stop you anyway if you made up your mind to go," Tony pointed out.
"I promised I would allow you to protect me from Eli and I meant it," Ziva replied saucily mimicking his earlier words but using an entirely different tone.
Seeing Tony's mock look of exasperation, she added softly, "You are my husband now. I would not take such a risk without considering your feelings."
"You're already acting like a nice, obedient Stepford wife. I like it," Tony smirked arrogantly.
In a swift move, Ziva had her husband pinned face down against the bathroom vanity's granite counter top.
"You were saying, Tony?" she growled menacingly as her lips brushed his ear.
"I said it's really generous of you to let me run interference with Eli," Tony mumbled meekly his words muffled with half of his face pressed hard against the cold stone.
With a threatening glare, Ziva released him and noted with amusement that at least one part of him had found the exchange stimulating. Her eyes promised him a repeat later before her expression changed.
Ziva told Tony hopefully, "My uncle will offer us a place to stay when we visit. We need only have the money for air fare."
"And leave. We won't have enough for a long trip until next year," Tony reminded her as he willed his body to acknowledge that they had family obligations and certain activities had to wait.
"Next year? You truly believe that is possible? That is sooner than I had dared to hope. There is much I wish to share with you," Ziva told him her eyes beginning to fill with joy.
"Next year," Tony promised thrilled by the way her face lit up at the idea.
After a long and frustrating kiss, Tony left the room to take care of their hotel bill before the brunch began. Tony and Ziva had agreed that they could not knowingly allow Tony's father to con someone else into paying for his suite so they would be paying Senior's bill as well. Tony hurried to complete his task so that he could return to their room and arrive at the brunch with Ziva. Still focused on his conversation with his beautiful bride, the new husband spent the elevator ride to the lobby working out where he would find the money for airfare to Israel without dipping too far into their house fund.
Meanwhile, Ziva sat on the edge of the bathtub and tried to keep joyful tears from escaping her eyes and ruining her makeup. She was convinced that she and Tony could not afford a trip to Tel Aviv without using some of the money set aside for their house. Despite the financial hurdle, Tony had promised it to her and Ziva did not doubt that he would find a way even if it meant sacrificing something he wanted. She had never been more certain of anything than her choice for a husband. Much as it had the night she accepted Tony's marriage proposal, Ziva's heart ached with happiness.
"Shalom, Tony," Alef greeted his nephew-in-law as the younger man entered the hotel lobby.
Tony smiled upon seeing his new uncle but also noted that Alef appeared to have been intentionally waiting near the hotel's front desk. Unable to disregard his cop instincts, Tony immediately wondered at the reason. The older man rushed to speak again before Tony had the chance to voice a greeting or ask a question, however.
"You may consult with the hotel staff if you wish but you will find the bill for both your room and your father's room has already been paid," Alef told him in a voice filled with kindness and empathy.
"You knew I was going to cover Senior," Tony realized his question now resolved.
"I know what it is to have family you love dearly but whose character…well, it is not always exactly as you wish for it to be. Come now and allow me to buy a coffee for you, hmm? We will talk," Alef invited.
A few minutes later Alef and Tony sat in a corner of the lobby. Tony could see that the older man had something on his mind.
"You are a gifted man, Tony. You have a manner of engaging people. You could make much money in a different profession…," Alef began.
"Look, I know it probably seems like I can't give Ziva everything…" Tony interrupted defensively before Alef stopped him.
"You misunderstand the intent of my words. I have only admiration for you. It is the same for Ziva. She has sacrificed everything to fight the evil in this world. I see why she chose you for her husband. Your passion is the same," Alef told Tony with a proud smile.
"I don't know about my passion matching Ziva's. She's like the Babe Ruth of evil fighting passion…," Tony began only to be cut off by Alef's chuckle.
"You bring much needed laughter to my niece's life, Tony," Alef interrupted before growing more serious.
"I want to see that the two of you have a good beginning for your marriage. My brother does as well. Eli is not the father he should be but he is not entirely ignorant of what his daughter deserves. He tried to give you Tali's money but you chose to share it with others in need. An admirable gesture, yes, but it does not satisfy us. So, now we pay your bill and we give you this," Alef explained handing Tony an envelope.
Filled with curiosity, Tony looked inside to find two open ended plane tickets for EL-AL and a cashier's check for thirty thousand dollars.
"I will tell you only that a portion of this gift comes from me and a portion from Eli. You cannot refuse only the portion one of us contributed because you do not know the amounts. To refuse it all is to refuse me and you have no cause to do so, yes?" Alef asked hopefully.
"I'm an investigator, you know. I can access your bank records…well, okay, I can convince McGee to hack into your bank records but still…it's not me that's going to have a problem with keeping this. You want the honest truth, I think Eli ought to give Ziva every cent he has and then some for the hell he put her through. She doesn't see it that way, though. She only let him pay for the wedding to help out some friends," Tony revealed.
"And to irritate her father with her exorbitant spending," Alef added with a knowing smile.
"Yea, that too. We had a little fun with that," Tony agreed grinning in return.
"As I said, my brother is not entirely ignorant. Perhaps Ziva will accept this gift out of respect for her old uncle, hmm? I often wonder if there was not more I might have done to protect her. I will be more watchful in the future. You will tell her I am tortured with guilt and I wish to see the remainder of her life filled with joy. You will use this money to give her the home she deserves. And you will bring her to visit her family. You are a good man, Tony, and you will be a good husband to my niece. Your character is everything I wished for it to be," Alef said before rising.
With a gentle kiss to each of Tony's cheeks, the older gentleman departed.
"Thought you'd still be in bed with your wife, DiNozzo," Gibbs said with a smirk interrupting Tony's thoughts a few minutes later.
Taking the seat Alef had vacated, Gibbs gulped a coffee and waited for Tony to speak. Instead, Tony handed him an envelope. Gibbs inspected the contents and then returned it to Tony without saying a word.
"I came down early to pay for Senior's suite and Alef still managed to beat me to it. They did the tickets and money together, Alef and Eli, that is. I guess they think Ziva won't be able to refuse her uncle. I don't know what she'll do. Doesn't really matter. Eli's just going to keep trying, looking for an angle to win us over. Stubborn son of a bitch," Tony muttered with frustration.
"Ziva's his daughter," Gibbs replied as if that explained everything.
When Tony didn't respond, Gibbs asked in an almost kindly tone, "You worried?"
"Well, yea, Boss. Why aren't you? The man is evil incarnate and he…," Tony ranted until Gibbs interrupted.
"She might be his daughter but she's your wife. You set the boundaries. Does she trust him?" Gibbs queried despite knowing the answer.
"No. No chance. Not at all," Tony defended Ziva.
"She trust you?" Gibbs questioned pointedly.
"Yea, she does. I mean as much as she possibly can. She's still Ziva. She suspects everything and the past gets in the way sometimes but I think…," Tony began as the scene from the night before flashed in his mind.
"She knows I'll take good care of her," Tony concluded with a smug grin.
"Sounds like you've got the upper hand to me, DiNozzo. Might be time you let Eli know it."
Mossad Officer Ephraim Cohen sighed and tried to be patient with the woman stumbling along beside him. If it was possible, she looked even more disheveled than usual. Her dark brown shoulder length hair was a wild, tangled mess and her large framed, thick lens glasses were askew. On one shoulder she wore the heavy strap of a precariously balanced oversized leather briefcase that was threatening to spew papers to the ground each time it bumped against her leg.
In addition to the brief case, the young woman was also tightly gripping the handle of a small rolling suitcase with one hand and held a full cup of coffee in the other. The combination would have been a difficult feat for the more coordinated and it was sadly impossible for the clumsy young research scientist. Her coffee had overflowed its container and stained her pale blue oxford style shirt more than once already.
"Hadassah, we will lose the taxi," Ephraim urged but his tone was kind and patient.
The Mossad officer shook his head. What mission could have possibly necessitated dragging this poor woman to Washington? It was clear she was terrified and completely out of her comfort zone. She needs to be left alone in laboratory to work, Ephraim thought as their taxi departed the airport in route to the Willard.
"Try to calm yourself. The director said Ziva personally recommended you for this assignment. All will be fine," Ephraim encouraged in an attempt to comfort the woman.
"Why would Ziva do this? She knows I only wish for Director David to forget I exist," Hadassah Horowitz whined.
Ephraim remained silent. He had no answer to give. His only orders had been to escort Hadassah to the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. He was required to have her there for a brunch that began in less than an hour. Completing the assignment had forced them to take a last minute overnight flight. Fortunately, they were returning to Tel Aviv the next morning and had needed to pack very little. Not surprisingly, Hadassah had spent more time collecting her research than packing her suitcase.
"Ziva is your friend. She must have a good reason," Ephraim finally told the apprehensive woman.
"You wish to keep it," Ziva sighed wearily as she stared at the check and plane tickets in her hand.
"The money's great but that's not the point, Ziva. Alef is part of this too. The old man will be hurt. I can get McGee to try to figure out how much came from him if you want…," Tony began.
"You believe my uncle then? Careful, Tony. Alef is a very successful business man. The ability to deceive is often a necessity in that arena. If you are not a shrewd negotiator, you are not respected," Ziva explained stating facts without sounding critical or judgmental.
"I get that, Ziva, and yea, the old guy spread it on a little thick, but I still say part of this came from him. He's not just acting as a front man for Eli," Tony replied with confidence.
"Eli's portion will come with a price," Ziva argued accepting Tony's conclusion about Alef.
"That might be what daddy dearest thinks but he doesn't know what he's up against. It's two against one now," Tony asserted arrogantly.
Ziva stared at her husband with bewilderment wondering what had become of the uncertainty he had professed just a few hours earlier. His demeanor suggested nothing but confidence now. In a flash, she knew.
"You have spoken with Gibbs. He knows about this then, yes?" Ziva asked certain that she was correct in her assumption.
"Yea, Ziva, I talked to Gibbs," Tony sighed impatiently.
"I did not mean to imply that you need Gibbs's help, Tony. Last night you were worried and today you are not. I only wished to understand the change," Ziva explained gently.
Reassured of her belief in him, Tony explained excitedly, "So, I've got a plan for dealing with the old bastard. A certified DiNozzo containment plan."
"And what is that, Tony?" Ziva questioned sharply.
"We work him like partners, Special Agent 'not using DiNozzo at work' David. It's time for a little good cop, bad cop. Guess which one you are," Tony shared with smirk before outlining his idea.
Although Ziva's cynical subconscious worried that controlling Eli could not be so simple, Tony's confidence was contagious. For the first time in her life, Ziva was hopeful that hers and Tony's paired strength might outmatch Eli especially in his newly weakened state. Perhaps Tony was right about the gift. She deserved something in return for the hell she had faced in Somalia. Money could never compensate for her pain but it would help buy the house they wanted.
"Alright, you may deposit the check. We can think about how we wish to use it. I believe I will enjoy being the bad cop," Ziva told Tony with a conciliatory smile as she gave him the papers in her hand.
Tony smiled lovingly at Ziva as the elevator doors opened. She had reached for his hand as soon as they left their room. He was pleasantly surprised when she did not release it after they entered the small banquet room for their brunch a few moments later. Once inside Ziva gasped a soft Hebrew expletive and Tony followed her gaze.
"Wowsers…," Tony exclaimed as he grimaced and shuddered dramatically.
"How do you say geek in Hebrew?" he added in a whisper only Ziva could hear.
"You will be kind to her or you will regret it," Ziva told Tony with a glare and a painful squeeze of the hand she still held.
Tony whimpered in response and obediently followed as Ziva led him toward a woman he assumed must be Hadassah Horowitz. When the young woman spotted Ziva, she rushed wildly forward while still holding a full mimosa glass. Tony saw the inevitable disaster approaching but was not in a position to prevent it. Malachi Ben-Gidon, on the other hand, was able to act. He stepped in front of Hadassah before she could reach Ziva. The Mossad agent sighed with resignation as chilled liquid splashed down the front of his designer dress shirt.
"Way to take one for the team, Mal," Tony told him sincerely thankful.
"The director would not be pleased if it was his daughter's expensive blouse that was ruined," Malachi observed his voice filled with irony.
Malachi's found Ephraim Cohen's eyes and then nodded toward Director David. Ephraim acknowledged his commanding officer's unspoken order to oversee the Mossad director's security and Malachi departed to change his shirt.
No one acknowledged the mumbling, stuttering apologies of the mortified young woman with a death grip on the now empty glass.
"You gave her have alcohol?" Ziva questioned Ephraim softly with a hint of a smile.
"She is very nervous, Ziva. I thought perhaps it might calm her," Ephraim sighed with a rueful grin before warmly greeting Ziva and then offering the newlyweds his congratulations.
Although he wisely said nothing, Tony immediately recognized Ephraim as one of the Mossad operatives that had been imbedded with the Afghanistan Taliban when James Cooper was captured. The jagged scar on the back of Ephraim's hand gave him away.
After the two men began conversing, Ziva ignored them and gently pulled Hadassah aside. Prying the now empty glass from the young scientist's hand, Ziva began speaking quietly in Hebrew. Finally, Hadassah began to relax for the first time since receiving her summons to Washington.
"Tony," Ziva called softly a few moments later.
Slipping her arm around Tony's waist and urging him forward, Ziva turned to Hadassah and spoke, "Hadassah, this is my husband, Tony."
Ziva introduced her new husband proudly making Tony's heart soar. He got lost in his wife's eyes for a moment as they smiled at one another. When Tony finally turned his attention to the younger woman, he caught Hadassah staring at him. The poor girl's face flushed a dark red and she immediately looked down at the floor. Pretending not to notice her discomfort, Tony spoke to her kindly being careful not to overwhelm her with his charm.
Ziva watched Tony in awe. In mere moments, he was having what sounded like an intelligent conversation with Hadassah about her latest research project. He interjected just the right amount of interest and admiration to put the young scientist at ease.
Tony discretely studied Hadassah as she passionately described an experiment she had performed the previous week. He began to understand the protectiveness this woman won from the Mossad officers and Ziva. The young scientist had an ugly duckling quality that was very endearing.
All conversation was interrupted when Abby entered the room a few minutes later and garnered everyone's attention as she enthusiastically greeted the newlyweds. Director Vance, Sheldon Lewinsky, and an NSA security team followed in her wake. Tony couldn't resist cracking "men in black" jokes that were lost on the Israelis but won smiles from James and Tim.
The brunch progressed pleasantly with Tony and Ziva seated at a table with Izia, Nagid, James, and Ashlynn at one end and Abby, Tim, Hadassah and Sheldon at the other. Abby's vivaciousness was impossible to resist and her section of the table was soon engaged in a lively physics discussion.
"Oh, look," Tony teased Ziva softly gesturing toward Abby and the others, "It's love at first sight in the nerd section. Looks like Lewis Skolnick Junior down there likes Israeli pi."
Ziva assumed Tony was making a movie reference but she ignored it. She simply rolled her eyes and refused to encourage him with an answer. James overheard Tony's comment and took the bait, however.
"Who's Lewis Skolnick? I thought that guy's name was Sheldon," James asked puzzled.
"Oh, come on, really? Lambda, Lambda, Lambda? Gilbert and Lewis? Nerds having sex with sorority girls?" Tony provided clues but James remained confused.
"Revenge of the Nerds! How can you not know that movie? It's a classic. It set the standard for nerd humor," Tony asserted.
"Maybe it was before our time, babe," Ashlynn interjected with a wink at Ziva.
"Yea, what year did it come out? It's not one of those old black and whites you always quote, is it?" James wondered picking up on Ashlynn's hint.
"It came out in 1984," Tony informed them in a condescending tone.
After continuing to receive blank looks from others, Tony conceded, "Okay, so I guess not everyone got to watch R rated movies in middle school like I did."
"Middle school? Dude, I was in preschool in 1984. I was watching a purple dinosaur sing and dance. No nerd sex allowed," James teased his expression triumphant.
Ziva offered James a high five while Tony pouted. Nagid was the only one who offered Tony any sympathy.
Eli chose that moment to interrupt in order to say goodbye to his daughter before he rushed away to work. He was polite enough to apologize for disrupting the conversation but clearly expected Tony and Ziva to immediately focus on him. The couple reluctantly left their seats to follow Eli toward the door rather than cause a scene.
"I understand my brother spoke with you this morning, Tony. You will keep me informed when you schedule your visit to Tel Aviv," Eli ordered his son-in-law as he offered him a handshake.
"I trust you have observed the absence of photographers since Saturday evening. I will anticipate hearing from you soon, my dear," Eli told Ziva as he kissed her cheek.
"I do not know why you expect to hear from me. It is Tony who made that agreement with you. It is he who will be calling and emailing, not I. I should warn you that he forwards every ridiculous joke and chain letter that he receives. It would be wise to have your secretary create a filter for his emails. Your inbox will become cluttered very quickly if you do not," Ziva told her father disdainfully.
"Ah, so we are back to this, I see," Eli sighed not surprised.
Eli had suspected that Ziva's friendliness at the reception had been a ploy. She had used it to persuade him to assign Hadassah Horowitz as Sheldon Lewinsky's control officer. Eli had to admit it had been an excellent suggestion, though. The two were clearly engrossed in one another already. An Israeli love interest might make the young man amenable to assisting with other projects beyond Stuxnet.
With a shrewd look, Eli told his daughter, "Assignments can change, Ziva."
"True, but you have much to lose now that their friendship has begun. It will benefit you to keep Sheldon Lewinsky happy and cooperative," Ziva asserted confidently.
Eli shook his head with amusement and a hint of pride at being manipulated by his daughter before telling her, "Always a challenge, my dear. From the time you were small, you have always been a challenge. I wish you luck, Tony. You will need it."
"No need to worry about me, Eli. I got this. She's putty in my hands," Tony bragged as Ziva glared.
When Eli exited the room a few moments later, Tony's eyes met Ziva's and an unspoken message passed between them. Tony quickly moved to follow Eli and Malachi across the hotel lobby. The NCIS agent caught up with the two men as they entered an elevator. Tony stuck his arm into the car seconds before the doors completely closed. Holding the door open, Tony stared at Malachi for a moment.
"You can leave," Tony told the Mossad officer arrogantly.
Eli nodded his agreement to his security officer and Malachi obediently exited the car. The doors closed behind him and the elevator ascended a few floors before Tony hit the emergency stop button.
"Don't worry, it'll start…," Tony began.
"I am aware of Special Agent Gibbs's practice of stalling elevators in order to conduct private conversations. It does not surprise me that you mimic this behavior. You have something you wish to say," Eli interrupted impatiently.
"Not really a morning guy, huh, Eli?" Tony sympathized but his new father-in-law merely glowered irritably in response.
"You ever see Man From Snowy River? It's a horse movie. Set on a ranch in the Australian mountains. Incredible panoramic mountain scenery, by the way, but that's not really my point…,"
"State your point, Tony. This horse movie you are speaking of means nothing to me," Eli told him drily.
"Oh, really? Well, damn. It was a good reference, too. You gotta love the way the hero tells off his girl's bastard father in the final scene," Tony quipped nonchalantly.
Eli's eyes narrowed but he remained silent and waited for Tony to speak again.
Tony's expression grew resolute before he explained, "So my point is, Ziva is my wife now."
"Yes. I witnessed your wedding," Eli responded sarcastically his raised eyebrows giving him an irritated expression similar to one Tony often received from Ziva.
Growing slightly nervous, Tony took a deep breath and spoke in a quiet but very firm voice, "Nobody mistreats my wife."
Eli's eyes flashed and his voice rose as he growled angrily, "Are you accusing me of mistreating my daughter?"
"I wasn't talking about the past," Tony replied with an indifferent shrug, "That's between the two of you. We're talking about the future and I'm just letting you know how it's going to be from now on."
"Ah, I see," Eli replied with a condescending smirk that implied he did not take Tony seriously.
"Here's the thing. I love Ziva. Really love her and she knows it. She trusts me and she listens to me. I could tell I want her to cut you out of her life completely and she'd do it in a heartbeat. If it wasn't for the whole life in prison consequence, I could shoot you and she'd be okay with that too…," Tony asserted confidently.
"Are you threatening me?" Eli interrupted incredulously his booming voice echoing against the walls of the elevator car.
"Hell no, I'm not threatening you. Why would I threaten you? You're the freaking head of Mossad. Threatening you would be pointless and stupid, not to mention dangerous. No, I'm bargaining with you, Pops. Making you an offer you can't refuse," Tony replied with a condescending grin.
"And just what is it you think you can offer me?" Eli questioned sharply his expression growing shrewd.
"Play by my rules and I won't stand in your way. Maybe you'll have a chance for a relationship with Ziva if you can ever convince her you're worth it. Good luck with that, by the way. You've sucked at it so far," Tony responded his demeanor initially earnest and serious but then growing sarcastic and arrogant once again.
"It is against my better judgment to ask but my curiosity simply overwhelms me. Tell me, what are your rules?" Eli asked in a mildly sardonic tone having decided he would not to let Tony rattle him.
"Keep it personal. No Mossad business. You want something from NCIS, you go through Vance or Gibbs. Keep your intervention to yourself. We don't need your help solving cases. And keep your word about not having us followed or photographed. No forcing Ziva into any private conversations either. Basically, I set a boundary, you respect it. You hurt my wife in any way at all and we're done," Tony told him.
"I find this all quite amusing. So tell me, what benefit am I to receive in exchange for following your rules?" Eli wondered feigning a lack of serious interest.
"I'll call you. I'll email. Keep the connection going. Hell, I'll even encourage Ziva to talk to you occasionally. I'm not making any promises, though. It's her choice. You've got some work to do there," Tony explained in a tone that implied he was doing Eli a huge favor.
Eli's pride did not allow him to voice a response. Although he did not like it, he acknowledged the truth in Tony's assertion. If the prior summer had taught the Mossad director nothing else, he now knew that trying to drive a permanent wedge between Ziva and Tony was impossible. If Eli wished to restore his relationship with his daughter, he would need his son-in-law's influence and support to do it. Ziva had given her heart to Tony and her husband now held the only key to unlocking it.
Tony's clowning personality and blatant insecurity might cause a less astute man to think winning the NCIS agent over would be easy. Eli knew better. Tony was no fool. Earning Tony's trust and subsequently Ziva's was going to be difficult for the Mossad director. Eli's self-centered arrogance led him to be confident it could be done, however.
Tony decided Eli's silence equated to agreement and restarted the elevator. Unable to tolerate the lack of conversation, Tony finally spoke.
"So, Pops, you follow American baseball at all? Cooper swears the Texas Rangers are going all the way this year."
"I agree that their batting is strong but they have always struggled with their pitching. Even with their signing of Lee and Rowe, I am not sure they have the bullpen needed to clinch a playoff berth…Sonny," Eli observed and then gave a satisfied chuckle upon seeing his son-in-law's shocked expression.
Late afternoon, Monday, July 12 at NCIS headquarters…
Tim glanced up at Gibbs before deciding to risk browsing the internet in an effort to speed the passage of time. It had become a very boring afternoon for the young agent. James Cooper was being assigned to Gibbs's team for the time Tony and Ziva were away on their honeymoon. Once the couple returned, James would begin his permanent position in the Fairfax field office.
Currently, James was in human resources getting his paperwork in order leaving Tim alone with their non-talkative boss. Tim was caught up on his reports and the team didn't have a new case yet. Although the young agent hated to admit it, the silence was driving him crazy.
Within minutes of beginning to surf the internet, Tim was fully engrossed reading about the best way to jail break the newly released iPhone 4. He was so startled by a voice at his shoulder that he nearly fell out of his chair.
"Special Agent McGee, I require your expertise. I wish to be a part of social networking. I believe it is called Facebook," Eli David ordered.
Tim's shocked eyes met Gibbs's shrewd ones and the young agent recognized his boss's almost imperceptible nod of assent.
"Um, okay, yea, sure, I'll be glad to help. Um, uh, you might want to have a seat, sir. This could take a few minutes. I assume you want to lock it down pretty tight, um, make it really secure, you know, being the head of Mossad and all," Tim stammered as he scurried to find a chair for Eli.
"That is why I came to you for assistance. My only purpose is to communicate with my family. I understand from my niece that I will require a profile picture. You will use this," Eli agreed mildly amused at McGee's nervousness.
Tim took the old photograph from Eli. Unable to resist studying it, Tim smiled broadly.
"Hey, Boss, you gotta see this. It's baby Ziva," Tim said grinning excitedly until he realized grown up Ziva was probably going to kill him when she returned to Washington.
"Ziva! Ziva! What the hell is this? Come on. Get back out here," Tony called desperately.
When his wife did not answer nor return, Tony growled in frustration before assessing his situation. It was growing dark and he was handcuffed to an Adirondack chair on the balcony of their resort suite in Hot Springs, Virginia. One minute he had been enthusiastically kissing his wife and the next she had secured him to the chair and then disappeared without a word.
Tony had been hopeful Ziva was a playing a sexy game but after several minutes alone on the balcony, he grew anxious. He searched his mind for anything he possibly could have done to anger his wife but found nothing.
Tony had intentionally kept their drive to the resort leisurely so the two could talk. They had even stopped for a late lunch along the way. He knew they needed a slower pace and the time to just enjoy one another after the past few weeks. He had given her the full princess treatment and been deliberately attentive and charming all day. She had appeared to enjoy it.
Together, the newlyweds spent the long drive adding details to the dream they shared for their future. They had talked about the kind of house the additional money from Alef and Eli might help them buy. Tony had revealed how he planned to convince Lucy to share it with them. It was the first time Ziva had been able to broach the subject of moving without shutting down.
Tony had begun to wonder if Ziva intended to leave him alone on the balcony all night when she finally returned.
"Did you really think I would not find out, Tony?"
Ziva's hard, angry voice cut into Tony's thoughts. She appeared in his line of vision wearing one of the thick hotel robes with her arms tightly crossed over her chest and a very cold expression on her face.
"Find out what? Ziva, come on, what is this?" Tony protested angrily before changing tactics.
"Please, Princess, just un-cuff me and we can talk about whatever has you so upset," Tony begged sweetly giving her his best puppy dog eyes.
"Do not patronize me, Tony! Did you use that voice with your stripper?" Ziva growled.
"What strip…oh no, no, no, Ziva, you've got it all wrong. I didn't have anything to do with that. That was all Pete. I told him no strippers at my bachelor party, I swear. McGee was there. He heard me say it."
Despite Tony's passionate defense, Ziva's eyes remained cold and angry.
"I promise you I didn't cheat. I love you too much to do anything stupid. You're the best thing in thing in my life. I wouldn't screw it up for a cheap thrill. You have to believe me," Tony pleaded desperate to make her understand.
"You did not even look at her then? You simply…what…left the room?" Ziva questioned skeptically her expression beginning to soften only slightly.
Tony sighed. Knowing honesty was his only hope, he prayed Ziva wouldn't kill him.
"Okay, maybe I looked just a little but she was right in front of me before I knew what hit me. I didn't touch her, I swear. You can ask McGee…or Cooper. She tried to give me a lap dance and I refused…I'm sorry, okay, I tried not to look but she was wearing this…uh…uh, she was wearing that," Tony ended with a note of excited shock in his voice.
Tony visibly gulped as the robe fell away from Ziva's body. What little she wore underneath perfectly matched the stripper from his bachelor party. It was simultaneously the gaudiest and sexiest thing he had ever seen.
"You wear that a hell of lot better than…," Tony began babbling his voice filled with awe and appreciation.
"Oh, yes, my love," Ziva murmured seductively as she posed sexily on the edge of the chair and began teasing Tony's leg with the acrylic nails she had not yet removed.
"I heard what a very good boy you were during your party. I believe you have earned a reward," Ziva added before abruptly standing.
"Yea? What kind of reward?" Tony questioned eagerly still taking in the sight of his wife dressed like she belonged in a men's club.
"Oh, God," Tony moaned as Ziva began a well choreographed strip tease.
"Please tell me this ends with a lap dance," Tony demanded with another groan.
Ziva's only answer was a maniacal grin that elicited yet another moan of appreciation from her husband.
An hour later, the couple had decided the wooden Adirondack chair was no longer comfortable and they lay on the bed inside with limbs intertwined. Tony still wore a goofy smile.
"So you bought that outfit, right? It's ours to keep?" Tony suddenly wondered aloud the eagerness evident in his voice.
"Hoping for an encore, my love?" Ziva teased extremely pleased with how Tony had reacted to her surprise.
"Hell to the yes," Tony exclaimed emphatically causing Ziva to laugh before her look became more seductive.
"Hmm, and what will do this time to earn such a reward?" Ziva asked.
"I've got a few ideas," Tony promised as his hand brushed along Ziva's inner thigh.
Tony was in no hurry, however, and his mood grew more serious.
"That was pretty damn amazing, Ziva, but you know you don't need to reward me for loving you," Tony told her sweetly.
"I know this. I was teasing about the reward. I merely wished to bring you pleasure but…," Ziva trailed off unable to express how she was feeling.
"What?" Tony wondered his eyes filled with tender concern.
"You have given up much to share this dream with me. You will not regret it, Tony," Ziva promised.
Although Tony believed he had not given up anything of real value, he did not attempt to argue with Ziva. Instead, he reminded her she was worth it before making good on his promise to earn another reward.
"Oh my God! Is there no end to his intrusion into our lives?" Ziva exclaimed as she stared incredulously at her computer.
"What now?" Tony asked distracted by the television.
"I have a friend request from Eli," Ziva ranted.
"That's what you get for being on Facebook on the last night of our honeymoon," Tony joked unconcerned.
"Lauren texted me that she posted a preview of our wedding pictures," Ziva defended before adding, "This is completely your fault, Tony."
"What? How is it my fault? You're the one that told him that you're never going to call or email. Besides, I was kidding, Ziva. I didn't think he would actually do it. How did he do it anyway? Can the head of Mossad even be on Facebook?" Tony wondered.
"I am certain he had help. And Director Vance is on Facebook," Ziva pointed out.
"So have a little fun with it. Be Eli's friend and then send him thousands of Farmville requests. Or make rude remarks about him in your status updates," Tony commented nonchalantly as he turned back to the television.
"This does not concern you at all?" Ziva asked frustrated.
"If you wanted Facebook to be on my good cop 'you may not do this or I won't help you' list, you should've told me. It's your problem now, bad cop," Tony told her sarcastically.
Ziva sighed and rolled her eyes but Tony also sensed a hint of anxiety that prompted him to give her his full attention.
"Just let it go, okay? It's perfect if you think about it. Public and controllable. He can't pull anything. It's not like you ever believed your Facebook page was private before this anyway. It's exactly what we wanted, Ziva. A safe way to placate the demon," Tony reminded her.
Without speaking, Ziva reluctantly hit the accept button and became Facebook friends with her father. Curiosity overcame her as she explored his page. Not surprisingly, Izia and Nagid were Eli's only other friends so far. Tony watched over her shoulder and smiled when she clicked on Eli's profile picture.
"Hey, is that you? You were a cute kid. Look at that sweet little girl smile. Who knew you'd grow up to be a deadly assassin? You know, we're going to make really beautiful babies," Tony teased.
"I doubt that. It requires having sex and that may never happen again," Ziva grumbled irritably.
"You think so, huh? I bet I can change your mind about that," Tony asserted arrogantly as his hand slid up her shirt.
Ziva moaned involuntarily as Tony teased the sensitive bud of her breast. Her desire had been immediately kindled and she no longer wanted to refuse him. Damn him and his habit of touching my breasts while I climax, she thought. Tony had trained her body to respond to his stimulation instantly and he knew it.
"Putty in my hands," Tony teased softly his words arrogant but his tone loving.
"I hate you," Ziva muttered her expression conveying the opposing sentiment to her words.
Three hours later, Ziva lay awake watching her husband sleep peacefully. Tony had been more content the past few days than she had ever seen him. It was ironic that making the very commitment he had fought against for most of his adult life had brought him more happiness than he had ever known.
Ziva smiled as the moonlight streaming through the window glinted off Tony's wedding ring. He had not removed it since the moment she had placed it on his finger. Ziva sighed. She was dreading their return to Washington in the morning. More than that, she did not want to face that moment when Tony was forced to take off his wedding band and slip it into his desk drawer. She knew the absence or presence of jewelry changed nothing about his love for her. It thrilled her heart every time she saw the symbol on his hand, though.
Ziva's reluctance to return to reality was much more complicated than a wedding ring. She loved this resort and the freedom being here afforded her. Alone with Tony in this room, all of her barriers fell and she lived a fairy tale. She was a treasured princess. She allowed herself to be pampered and spoiled by Tony's love without reservation. Although their reality outside this room was good, it was not without its struggles at times.
"You are worth everything it required to get to this place, my love. My new life is more than I could have ever wished for it to be. My hopes for finding happiness have been completely fulfilled," Ziva whispered to her sleeping husband.
"Why are you staring?" Tony mumbled a few minutes later his eyes remaining closed.
"Because I love you," Ziva whispered tenderly kissing his cheek and smoothing his hair.
"Love you too," Tony yawned before succumbing to sleep once again.