A/N: Another Post-Ep to "Faith" that involves no gift-giving other than that of Tony to Dolores. It's just some thoughts about Ziva, Tony, and the evolution that we've all seen between the two of them.
Disclaimer: I own nothing—otherwise, there would have been more kissing and eye!sex at the end of "Faith." Also, I couldn't write an ending so beautiful, so you're stuck with this instead…
Something about Dolores struck her the very first time she had met her earlier that year. Something Ziva couldn't quite put her finger on.
She was not altogether unattractive--in fact, there was something intriguingly downplayed about her looks. She masked her emotions with foundation and a swipe of blush, with harshly lined eyelids and thin, nude lips. She looked quite a bit like a skinnier version of Eli's mother--a woman who personified the saying 'don't judge a book by its cover': severe, but maternal; strict, but loving.
Ziva felt that it may have been the same with Dolores; maybe she was simply waiting for someone willing to break through her unhappy outward demeanor; perhaps, if one looked deeply enough, they would uncover that there was something more to this woman.
So, Ziva pushed the issue with Tony--pushed him to take seriously what might have been at stake. Sure, he could buy her something silly and not particularly thoughtful--something out of a Sky Mall magazine, perhaps--but it would sit in a box, untouched, while the recipient felt another year go by without alteration. Without anyone to connect with, share joy with, or love. Or, he could pick out something meaningful and make some connection with this woman who was screaming for a lifeline. Screaming for someone to delve deeper.
As she looked across the bullpen to Tony's dimly lit desk, she knew that there was a time when she must have been a lot like Dolores--cold, over-professional, impersonal. She had been so broken by the events of her past when she began her work at Mossad that she had distanced herself from everyone she met. Ari's death and her subsequent reassignment left her without family, without acceptance, without love. She was all alone in a country not her own and she knew that the way she had been living had perpetuated the heartache out of which it was bourn. She had made the change her father would come to despise in her and had created something other than walls around her heart. It was a lesson that she hoped others would never have to learn; to lose so much only for it to be replaced with sentiment was heartwrenching.
That night, she confiscated the catalogues from his desk drawer and replaced them with a single file. A file about a woman who, deep down, was not that different from herself. She watched as Tony opened the drawer and frowned up at her in frustration. She pretended to ignore him, scribbling information on the paper in front of her. He sighed in exasperation and flipped open the mysterious file. In it, there was more information than he felt comfortable reading. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and skimmed through it: Mother died of cancer when she was five, father lost his job for a year and a half when she was seven, older brother left home when she was thirteen, little sister was killed in a car accident on her way home from ballet practice when she was eighteen, put herself through college working two part-time jobs, got a job with NCIS a few years after college, and so forth.
As he read the file, suddenly engrossed with the very personal details of this woman's life, it dawned on him that there was something strikingly familiar about it. He looked up to see Ziva typing away at her computer, obviously pretending not to be interested, even though he knew she was the one who left the file there for him. He considered her for a moment and nodded his head softly, picking up the phone. There was a reason that Dolores was important to her; this gift, even if it mattered nothing to the Grinch in Human Resources, meant more than words to Ziva and that was enough for him.
Twenty-six phone calls later, he finally got ahold of Dolores' brother, Walter. He, like Dolores, spoke in a curt, impatient voice as though he couldn't get off the phone quick enough. When Tony inquired about Dolores, though, his voice went tender and quiet. Tony briefly wondered whether Ari's voice had ever reflected the same change when questioned about Ziva. He was not so sure it had.
By the time Walter had given him the relevant information, Ziva had packed up and started to put on her coat. He fumbled with the phone, made a quick excuse, and hung up just in time to catch her arm as she turned to leave.
"You aren't off the hook that easy, my ninja." He smirked at her gently, pulling her toward his desk as she lowered her head with a slightly embarrassed smile playing across her lips. "I know you stole my catalogues, so now you have to help me find something called a 'knee-high cherry pie' doll."
Resigned, she nodded and sat down in his desk chair to begin searching the internet on his computer as he leaned over her shoulder. "Tony...I...I am glad you are taking this seriously. It will mean a lot...to her."
She looked up into his eyes and he smiled down at her, their eyes locking momentarily. She opened her mouth to speak when he let out an excited "oh" and pointed to the screen. He covered her hand with his own, moving the mouse around quickly to click on the third item on the screen. He let his hand rest atop hers as the page loaded. She turned her attention to the screen before them without bothering to move her hand. His fingers skimmed across her skin as he pulled away to begin typing in delivery and payment information, wrapping his arms around her as he did so.
After he submitted the order, he lingered over her and turned his head slightly to look into her eyes. She stared into his eyes for a moment until biting down on her lip gently. "Well, I should go," she blurted out.
"Oh, right," he bit out in surprise. He let go of her and backed away from her. She whirled around in time to see him bump into the filing cabinet behind his desk. She took a tentative step toward him, a slight mischievous glint in her eyes, and reached up on her tip-toes, pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek.
"Tony, what you did tonight--calling her family, getting to know her--it was...sweet." She paused, gathering her confidence and spoke more firmly, "I think she will appreciate the effort you have put into this gift."
He smiled sheepishly, moving his mouth to make a witty remark. Just as he was about to speak, he stopped, shut his mouth, cleared his throat. "Will you, uhh, will you go with me? I mean, as backup? I'm still pretty sure that she's going to rip off her human mask to reveal the Grinch and--"
"Yes, Tony. I will go with you." With that, she smiled sweetly, grabbed her things, and left.
A few days later, he carried the meticulously wrapped box down to Dolores' office with Ziva trailing behind him quietly, a source of strength when all he wanted to do was leave the package and run. She was there to keep him from chickening out and, as she had threatened earlier, she would keep him there by force if she had to.
He hesitated, looking as though he were cornered, and made a run for it. As promised, Ziva was there to block his path. As they shuffled about, he hadn't noticed that Dolores had heard his short, wimpy knock and had joined them, looking rather disappointed. He turned around, stunned momentarily by her presence. He looked to Ziva, hoping that, as always, she would give him the strength he needed. As if on cue, she nodded in Dolores' direction and gave him the slightest of smiles.
Tentatively, he began his explanation of the gift and pushed it into Dolores' uncertain arms. He spoke in earnest, in a tender, gravelly--and particularly sexy--voice. He chanced a look at Ziva as Dolores stood speechless, her eyes welling up with tears and gratitude, and he saw something in her eyes that he had not seen since his grandfather passed away. Pride.
Ziva felt her heart swell. All she wanted to do in that moment was wrap her arms around him and never let him go. In all their years together, Tony had always surprised her--always kept her guessing. Until now, the shallowness of his maturity never ceased to amaze her. Just when she thought he had grown, had changed, a spitball would lodge itself into her hair or his eyes would lock onto a pretty, scantily clothed blonde. Until now, he was the same Tony she had met four years ago--the same jokes, the same pickup lines, the same man.
Now, as she stood there opposite him, settling in the background of the precious moment she witnessed before her, she realized something that she should have noticed months ago. He wasn't the same man she had always known--he was better. Now, he cared about others more than he cared about himself. He sat with her without a word or joke as she fell apart. He never gave up on her when she wanted so much to give up on herself. The headslaps he had become so accustomed to had lessened and he had forged a bond with McGee that went beyond senior agent and probie. Now, he wasn't afraid to look at her as though nothing else in the world mattered. As though he would do anything to make her smile--to make her proud.
Before her stood the man she had been dreaming of--the man she always knew he was, but never showed. The man who stayed late one evening to make twenty six phone calls in search of the perfect gift for a woman most had written off as unpleasant at best and wretched at worst. She had never in her life been so proud of anyone.
She never knew the reason why exactly he'd spent so much time on this woman's gift, even with her prodding--she never would have guessed that he had done it to see her smile. That he had done it so that she would be proud of him. She only knew that the woman before her had probably not been so happy since she was little. She only knew that when she saw that woman's eyes tear up in wonder that there was some hope for her after all. There was at least on thing standing between her and Dolores, and that one thing was Tony. As long as he was there to surprise her, to make her smile when there was nothing worth smiling for, to love her--well, then she was blessed beyond compare. She was speechless as he gazed at her from across the corridor, smiling as though she was the only one in the room.
He never expected that the greatest gift he would ever receive would come out of his dreaded Secret Santa pick. To see her overcome with pride--to see her speechless--was by far the best thing the holiday season had to offer. He wanted nothing more than to make her this proud every day. So, when Dolores had given him a brief, stiff hug as a solitary tear ran down her cheek, he hugged her back, never lifting his eyes from Ziva's.
Dolores retreated into her office quickly thereafter and he crossed the distance between them. He walked with a purpose, stopping just enough to tangle his hand in her hair. His other hand settled onto her hip, caressing her side as he swooped down to press his lips against hers firmly. She responded in kind, threading her fingers through the hair at his temple and pressing her body into his. He broke away, breathing hard, to rest his forehead on hers.
"Happy Hanukkah, Ziva."
She smiled at him, running her hand down the side of his face and down his neck to settle onto his chest, stroking the spot where she knew his heart was beating.
"Merry Christmas, Tony," she said breathlessly. He pressed his lips to hers once more in a chaste kiss before he pulled her hand from his chest and twined their fingers together while moving toward the elevator. She followed him closely, squeezing his hand as he pulled her into the elevator.
"Spend the long weekend with me," she said, half-stating and half-questioning. "Please?"
"For you, anything."
They shared a contented look as Tony hit the button for the ground floor, their radiant smiles mirroring each other as the elevator doors closed.
A/N: Please, please, please review! I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this and I was wrestling with it for days and days and days before ultimately posting it. I'd love to know what you think!
(I wanted to get across the notion that in his look to her at the end, we can see that Tony would do anything to make Ziva happy and see her smile. And similarly, I don't know as though I've ever seen Ziva so overcome with pride and love for anyone or anything as we saw in her little gasp at the end. It was just so beautiful that I wanted to add a little context and kissing to it!) Thoughts?