A/N: So, I think Ziva's mother is actually Russian, but I'm making her Argentinean because…well, there's no good reason, actually. I'm just feeling more South American than European right now.
This is set two weeks before Christmas 2009, but out of cannon. So there was no, uh, ugliness between the Dynamic Duo. Look, it doesn't really matter. It's just a piece of fluff that's supposed to get me writing again.
Two weeks before Christmas, Tony DiNozzo fought his way through the overcrowded arrivals hall at Dulles International. Everyone around him was stuffed into thick winter coats in defence to the snow outside, and the jostling and shoving of other patrons was beginning to get out of hand as everyone fought to maintain their hold on their own square foot of real estate.
Fleetingly, Tony thought about leaving. He hadn't told Ziva that he was going to pick her up from her flight from Argentina. In fact, he'd only decided to be her cab driver about three hours ago, after Gibbs sent the team home early before the predicted blizzard hit tonight. If he left now and freed himself from the Christmas hostage situation that was developing, Ziva would never know that she should be angry with him for bailing on her.
The only problem with that was that he'd know, and he knew he'd feel crappy about it all weekend. Not to mention that if he left now, he wouldn't earn brownie points for the surprise pick-up. He wouldn't get her to smile at him and maybe kiss his cheek in thanks. And he would have to wait until at least tomorrow to see her again. She'd already been gone for two weeks, visiting her mother in Buenos Aries, and somehow, waiting another 12 hours before he was blessed with her company again seemed like an impossible task.
So, he waited. The arrivals screen told him that her flight had landed an hour ago, so he didn't have to worry about delays due to the weather. Right now she was probably in the process of clearing Customs (having to explain her assorted weaponry, no doubt), and Tony predicted she'd be coming through the doors into the arrivals hall sometime in the next half hour.
Half an hour, DiNozzo, he told himself. You can put up with half an hour of near suffocation to get a smile from Ziva at the end of it.
Or maybe not, he thought when the young, red-haired woman in front of him leaned back to let another traveller with a trolley heaving with suitcases past. Perhaps not realising Tony was there, the woman brought her stiletto heel down on Tony's foot, only to lift it quickly again when she felt something fleshy underneath it. Tony sucked in a painful breath and yanked his foot back as the woman turned with a look of sincere apology that turned into a coy, flirty smile.
"Sorry. Getting a little tight in here," she said.
Her full pink lips curved up at the corner, just enough to tell him that the double entendre had been on purpose and that if he hit on her, she wouldn't mind. A year ago (okay, maybe two), Tony would have done just that. She was cute as hell with the kind of sparkle in her eye that used to make Tony want to beg. But now, he just gave her a politely charming smile, and ignored the unspoken invitation.
She looked at him a second longer, weighing up whether or not to be a bit more blatant in her flirting. But Tony averted his eyes pointedly, and she turned away from him.
The only downside to shutting her down was that now Tony had nothing to occupy his time, except watch the never-ending swarm of people and try not to look too eager and desperate to see his best friend and…whatever again.
His interest piqued when a line of returned travellers started streaming in through the arrivals doors, and the people around him started craning their necks for a glimpse of a familiar face. A kid next to him, he wouldn't have been older than 18, let out a loud, "Yo, Matty!" and pushed his way through the crowd to grab a guy, not much older but definitely from the same gene pool in a tight man hug. Then a woman of about 25 was lifted off her feet by an excited boyfriend and burst into tears of joy. Two kids shorter than Tony's hips shoved their way between peoples' legs to latch onto a silver-haired couple in bright sweaters. A businesswoman nodded at a black-suited driver bearing a card with her name. A mother burst into relieved tears at the arrival of her 20-something son, and moaned about how skinny he'd gotten.
And just like that, Tony felt like he was in the opening scene from Love, Actually, where Hugh Grant was talking about heading to the arrivals hall at London Heathrow whenever he felt gloomy about the state of the world. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, its not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but its always there—fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
But standing there, amongst all those smiling people and happy tears, it was another line in the movie that really got him thinking: Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love. Suddenly, his stomach was tied up in knots. Because that, Tony realised, was exactly what he was doing there. He'd driven over an hour through a snowstorm to hang out at an airport on one of the busiest travel days of the year, and then pick up his partner without being asked to because, actually, he wanted to make her love him. Because he desperately wanted her to know that he cared, more than cared, even if after everything they'd been through, he still couldn't make himself say it.
"Damn it," he muttered to himself. Why did he have to work that out now? Couldn't he have worked that out three hours ago, before he'd decided to come? Maybe his lack of awareness had been on purpose, though. If he'd realised what he was doing before now, he may not have come. Obviously, his sub-conscious didn't have the patience that his consciousness did anymore.
With his chest growing tight with realisation, Tony once again thought about leaving. Loving her silently was all well and good. But the chances of her loving him back, without restraint, without apology, without pointing out the consequences, were miniscule.
But there is a chance, came a little voice from inside him. And anyway, you don't have to say anything to her about it when she gets off the plane. You just have to pick her up. It's a nice gesture. A friendly gesture. You'd do it for Abby without starting to freak out like a 12-year-old girl.
"Man up, DiNozzo," he muttered to himself. Just because he'd stumbled upon the real reason he was doing this didn't mean that Ziva would. It was a goddamn lift home from the airport, not a proposal on top of the Eiffel Tower.
By the time he was able to talk sense into himself and calm down, it had become clear that Ziva was not on the flight that was letting out. He decided to wander down the other end of the hall to encourage the blood to return to his limbs, and then made a beeline for the chain coffee outlet that Tony could have sworn had a Star of Bethlehem blinking above it.
He ordered himself a cappuccino (extra sugar), and then made himself ask for a low-fat latte with a shot of hazelnut and cinnamon. The barista looked him up and down with a smirk that clearly said 'pussy whipped', and Tony gave a tight smile and raised eyebrow of acknowledgement in reply. He'd gotten the look before, from waiters, baristas and bar staff across the tri-state area when it was his turn to get the coffee/lunch/drinks for the team. After four years, it hardly bothered him.
By the time he returned to the arrivals hall, another flight was letting out and his stomach got tighter. If she wasn't on this one, he was going to start worrying that she'd missed her flight. Or worse, decided not to come back for another couple of weeks.
He jumped out of the way before a hyperactive 18-year-old girl flung herself into her boyfriend's arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. Tony rolled his eyes to himself at the display and their blatant disregard for polite social customs, but mostly, he was jealous. If they lived another 40 years, there was no way that Ziva would ever fling herself at him like that. Ziva was composed. Ziva was private. Ziva was the kind of woman who showed how much she cared by moving the muscles around her eyes and mouth in the most subtle way imaginable. But then again, that was kind of one of the things he liked about her. She didn't want or need the grand gesture. She didn't care about showing off for whoever was watching. She was just…cool about things.
He pulled his eyes off the young couple who were now in the early stages of foreplay and craned his neck to see past the family of giants that had appeared in front of him. And there was Ziva, slipping past three frat boys in a blue coat she'd bought last winter (how did he know that?) and her hair spilling out under a soft white beanie. She didn't see him as she slung her pack over her shoulder (the queen of travelling light) and headed for the exit.
Tony slipped around the giants and went after her. She got caught trying to get past a large family pushing three luggage trolleys, but Tony saw an opening to the left and overtook her. By the time she freed herself from the traffic jam, Tony was leaning nonchalantly against a foreign exchange booth, sipping his coffee and looking at her like he knew he'd already scored a couple of points.
Ziva looked up at him from three feet away, and her neutral expression that was probably hiding I could kill you all with my pinky thoughts dropped into one of priceless surprise.
"Hey," he said casually.
"Tony," she said, her voice higher with surprise.
He held out the coffee to her. "Thought you might need this."
Her look of surprise finally gave way to a smile—a full smile that Tony was not expecting, and which made his chest ache in the best possible way. Oh yes, he'd scored many points for this pick-up. And that smile made the angst of staying worthwhile.
She took the coffee from him and lifted the lid to sniff it, then looked up at him with a smile even bigger than the last. "Toda."
Her eyes flicked over him, pausing at his mouth, and for just a second he thought she might turn into one of those girls that flung themselves at you.
"I wasn't expecting anyone to pick me up," she said.
He gave her a typical DiNozzo grin. "Oh, I'm not here for you. I'm picking up some other girl."
With her free hand, Ziva punched him in the chest. Tony took the blow with a staggered step and a smile, and then reached for her bag. "Here, let me do the guy thing."
"Why start now?" she asked, even as she unhooked it from her shoulder and let him throw it over his.
"It's a new thing I'm trying," he said, taking a chance by putting his arm around her shoulders and drawing her in to him before leading her towards the exit. "Kind of an early new year's resolution. Be more caveman."
Ziva didn't protest the arm, and in fact leaned into his side just enough to tell him she appreciated it. "Well, that won't be annoying at all," she said sarcastically.
"Be nice to me, or I'll throw you over my shoulder."
Ziva snorted. "I'd like to see you try."
Tony dropped his hand to her waist and stooped as if to do just that, and Ziva half-heartedly tried to wrench herself out of his grip with a laugh. "Don't do it, DiNozzo!" she warned. "I have three knives, a gun and a cup of hot coffee on me."
"Jesus, how did you get all those through security?"
"With a smile," she deadpanned.
The threat brought a smile to his face, as he realised that in its own way, this was much better than Ziva flinging herself at him. He gave her shoulder a squeeze as he impulsively kissed the side of her head.
"It's good to have you back, Zi."
Next chapter will go up tomorrow, if you're all good.