So this took me ages... It's also very long for me, so i hope whoever reads it actually likes it. This is for Hayley (OutCold) it's her homecoming present. I hate it when you go away. Thanks muchly to Hannah (YouGottaSingAlong) for betaing/co writingish it. :P Your help is much appreciated. And thank you to Izzy (dizzy-in-the-izzy) for her telepathic help - it worked! :P

Disclaimer: I own none of them. I wish. . .

Pretending

He broke perhaps half a dozen traffic laws on his way to Bethesda, it was ironic really, but he didn't give a damn. Normally, when one or the other was in trouble, they were together. It didn't matter how bad it was, because he had her back, and she had his. That's what partners do. So to think that this had happened while she was alone... that maybe if he had been there, even though it wasn't work related at all... maybe he could have stopped it. Or at least been there when she got hurt.... or... the point was she was alone. Just like she had been in the summer, he hadn't been able to protect her then either. People shouldn't be alone when bad things happen – they should be surrounded by people who care about them. If they're not, something's not right. Which is why he needed to get there... make sure she was ok. She needed to be ok, because, the alternative wasn't worth thinking about.

The car tires screeched on the ground as he took a sharp turn into the hospital car park, he found the closest parking spot possible, and jumped out the car, taking a second to look up at the vast building in front of him. Hospitals. He hated the places... that hospital smell, the all too familiar seemingly endless corridors and the doctors in white coats that swamped the place, carrying charts and needles... there were always needles in a hospital. He hated needles. They almost always meant bad news... But whether he liked or disliked hospitals was really not the issue here. Nothing mattered except her.

Trying to ignore the dread building up in the pit of his stomach, he burst through the hospital doors - perhaps with a little too much influence from the movies - and headed toward the front desk, "Ziva… Ziva David," he said to the woman on the reception. She looked up at him, sympathy crossing her face; she had seen hundreds of men burst through in a similar fashion, with identical panic clear on their faces.

"One second," she said, smiling reassuringly at the man in front of her, who was running his fingers through his hair, distress signals clear on his face. "She's a trauma patient. Third floor, room forty seven."

"Thanks," Tony said, and he was gone in a second.

The closer he was to her room, the more the dread built up inside of him, trying to ignore the worst case scenarios that were flashing through his mind's eye; he kept on going towards her room. Room forty-two, room forty-three, room forty-four, room forty-five, room forty-six...

Then he saw her. Immediately relief flooded him. She was sitting upright, awake, and apart from a couple of cuts and a nasty bruise on her forehead. She seemed alright. Well, better than any of the images that he had been envisaging...

"Tony," her voice came across surprised as she saw him lingering outside her door. The young doctor in there looked thankful for the distraction. Poor guy, Tony shook his head laughing gratefully inside.

"You're threatening your doctors now?" He asked, grinning, trying to mask the worry that was so plain to the nurse as he stepped forward and got a better view of how bad the bruising on her forehead was.

"He will not let me go; he says I have to stay the night! But I am fine… Why are you here?"

"The hospital called me; they said you'd been in an accident. You had me a tiny bit worried there for a second," he joked. She locked eyes with him. Why was it she saw through his act every time?

"Well I am fine, Tony," she said, "Why did the hospital call him?" she turned her attention back to the terrified doctor, "I did not want to worry anyone."

"You mentioned him, I thought…" the doctor trailed off, gathering confidence before she opened her mouth to protest, however the doctor held his hand up to stop her, "You did, you mentioned him in the ambulance, the paramedics let us know. We had your NCIS ID which is why you're here, we found that your work partner was Agent DiNozzo, and called him."

She frowned slightly, "I do not remember mentioning him."

"You were barely awake," the doctor explained, "You asked for him, asked where he was."

Tony's eyes raked over her, but she did not lift her own to meet his.

They had a moment of silence, before her voice broke the awkward tension that was settling in the air, "Fine, but you can go now, I am fine."

"I'm not going anywhere; you still haven't told me what the hell happened?"

She looked away from him again, "I was in a car accident… it was not my fault!" she added swiftly.

He would have teased her mercilessly if he hadn't been so worried about her, but he couldn't resist it... just a little, "I did keep telling you..."

"Shut up, Dinozzo, it was not my fault."

"Sure, sure Ziva," he said, "So, Doc, how is she?"

"I told you I'm fine." Ziva beat the doctor this time to an answer.

"And you expect me to believe you?"

"She took a pretty nasty knock to the head, as you can see, we've given her six stitches for a cut on her hairline, and we want to keep her in overnight for observation. But otherwise, she was very lucky."

"I do not need to be kept in overnight! I am fine, Tony-"

"And as I have just been explaining, it is standard procedure for a head injury,"

"She'll stay, Doctor," Tony said quickly. Ziva glared at him, but shut up, till the doctor left the room.

"I do not want to stay overnight! This is not a big pact…"

"Deal, big deal," Tony muttered automatically.

"… just a bump on the head, I am fine."

"Ziva, a bruise that size and six stitches is not okay, you're not going anywhere."

"They should not have called you," she said, still glaring at him.

"I'm glad they did," he said quietly.

"I am not," she said looking at him, "I did not mean for you to worry, or anyone else for that matter."

"I don't mind worrying," he said, the intensity of his gaze causing her to look away, "And I hope you don't mind Gibbs, McGee, Ducky and Abby worrying, because I called Gibbs on my way here, they'll be here soon."

"Tony!"

"Ziva!"

"I am fine, there was no need-"

"Okay," he said, cutting her off, "I must point out that at the time I didn't know you were 'fine' and secondly, oh, wait! You're not fine."

"Tony," she said heavily, with the fight gone from her voice, "Call them and tell them I am okay, and there is no need for them to come."

"You have people that care about you, Ziva, and do you honestly think a phone call is going to stop Abby?"

"I am not in the mood for visitors," she said quietly,

"Yeah, I can see that." He replied,

She looked away from him, instead choosing the view out the window in her room, the sky was clear now, but it had been raining earlier. Probably one of the reasons the bastard in the other car had hit her.

Tony walked closer to her bed, and sat down on the edge, he didn't care if she didn't like it – this bed was big anyway, so much so that she looked very small in it... if he didn't know Ziva David better, he would have said fragile, but fragile was not a word that fitted her, at least not in most situations – if any at all...

She watched his actions, but surprisingly didn't stop him, she even moved over a little to give him more room.

He turned to take a proper look at the damage that had been done, and winced a little as he inspected the bruising; he lifted a hand to gently brush her hair away so he could get a better look at the cut, again surprised that she let him touch her at all. "How did you get that?" he murmured gently,

"They said that the windscreen was smashed, so probably glass, but I don't remember,"

"You don't remember the accident at all?" he asked, concerned.

"I do not remember the ambulance, and little of the crash," she admitted curtly, he turned her face towards him, and let his hand linger on her cheek a tiny bit longer than necessary, before returning it to his side.

He searched her eyes and tried to find out what was making her so... un-Ziva like. He was worried, she may be alright, if a little knocked around physically, but she was not ok. "What's got you so rattled?" He asked quietly, reverting to gentle, concerned Tony, who was worried about his partner, the closest thing he had to a best friend.

"Rattled... I do not understa-"

"Yes you do, I explained it to you a couple of weeks ago,"

She sighed, "I am not rattled Tony, just a little tired,"

"Just because everyone else buys it when your lying doesn't mean I do – come on, I know you better than that,"

Her eyes narrowed, "I can tell when you're lying,"

"Yeah, so we're even for once," he joked, but he caught sight of the look on her face, and turned serious "what's wrong? You're you, and I'm fairly certain a car accident wouldn't shake you this much,"

"I am not shaken, Tony,"

"Really? 'Coz, Zee, I could bet on that not being entirely truthful."

"It is nothing; this is exactly why they should not have called you!"

"I'm only worrying because you're giving me cause to," he said softly.

"It is nothing,"

"It's something."

"It is not important."

"Humour me," he said, looking at her.

"You will think I am..." she sighed, "I do not want to tell you Tony."

""Ziva..."

"Fine," she replied, narrowing her eyes, "I just had a nightmare, when I blacked out. See, it is nothing," she waved a hand.

She refused to meet his eyes and, becoming increasingly agitated, he turned her head towards him again, "Somalia?" he asked, while she, resigned, nodded ever so slightly. They had had a few conversations about this before... and he knew she had been having nightmares, but she had told him they were gone, before clamming up completely over the whole topic. He wasn't even sure what their relationship was classified as, the emotions that had been coursing through him as he frantically drove here, surely they meant... they couldn't be just friends, but then again... no. He needed to stop thinking about himself.

"I thought you'd stopped having them,"

She shook her head, and spoke, "I do not wish to talk about it,"

"Stop shutting me out," he said,

"I am not shutting you out."

"Then talk, it might help, did you ever think about that?"

"You never talked to me about Jenny, when she died; you never talked to me about Jeanne. You shut me out then," the truth in her tone stung, and the words sliced through him, "So why should I talk to you now?" He'd pissed her off, what the hell was he doing pushing her like this?

But he couldn't back out now, he had already dug himself a hole it didn't particularly matter if he hit China now, "I should have," he said softly, his eyes now away from hers, filled with hurt at the fact she had those brought things up. At the fact she was right. "I should have talked to you and I suffered for not, that's why I wish you'd talk to me – that way you don't have to go through what I did. I'm trying to make it easier for you."

What was he doing? Why does he have the ability to make her feel like this? Here, and now. She wished she had kept her mouth shut in the ambulance. She wished he wasn't here, making her feel this way. She couldn't let him in. She couldn't let him see... She had no choice but to push him away, but it didn't make her decision hurt her any less.

"Why do you care anyway?" she said, suddenly returning to the offensive.

"Because you're my partner." he said, lying, she was so much more than that... she was one of the few people... he twitched off the thought before it could complete in his mind.

He detected a hint of disappointment in her eyes, which was quickly covered by anger.

The sudden urge he had to tell her the truth was overwhelming, he had to struggle to fight it back down. He would just embarrass himself, hurting her more.

"Partners do not force each other to tell them something that they do not want to tell."

"Yeah, because you've never done that to me." He said bitterly, "And friends, friends do that."

"Friends are not as annoying as you are, DiNozzo," she said, but he could hear from her tone she was lightening up a little.

"Friends exist to be annoying."

"Not as annoying as you are," she said, smiling for the first time since he had been here. He smiled back at her; nobody spoke, not wanting to ruin the moment.

A few seconds later, she took a breath in and began to speak, "It was about my time in the desert, but it was different from normal, that is all. It was simply different."

Tony looked at her, and felt a surge of emotion pass through him. "Thank you for telling me, look, I'm sorry I pushed earlier, and you're right I didn't-"

She held a hand up to stop him, "It is fine, apology accepted."

"I'm just really glad you're okay," he said, and she smiled, sadly. "Hug?" He asked,

She smiled a little, "I do not think - " she started to protest, but he cut in... again.

"It's a hug, it'll make you feel better, well, maybe it won't, because you're you, but you should try everything once... plus, I want in before Abby," he grinned cheekily, "then we'll know if you can take her."

"Fine."

"Do I have permission to hug?"

"Yes," she rolled her eyes,

"So I won't be killed very suddenly, with a paperclip, or staple-"

"I may change my mind," She warned.

Before she could think about doing that, he wrapped his arms around her, breathing her in, making sure she was definitely still there. A small noise escaped her throat, and, she let herself rest her head on his shoulder, relaxing her body, inch by inch. She had never really done this, well, she had very rarely done this; let herself believe that someone really did care. But this felt different. Being in his arms felt dissimilar, good but it was confusing - everything about the two of them was so confusing. She really should let go, and push him away, so why couldn't she?

She remembered a conversation they had had a long time ago 'The heart wants what it wants', the words echoed in her head.

It did. But she was too much of a coward to do anything about it, so she just stayed, feeling him so close to her. Careful to not let any tears that were building up in her eyes fall, making sure there was no obvious sign of how much he was affecting her, on display to anyone, least of all Tony.

Neither one of them wanted to let go, she wanted to stay there, in his arms, till all the pain and the hurt and the memories went away, disappeared... that would never happen, but this wasn't the worst way to spend eternity.

Why could she not let him? Why was it so hard? He surely wouldn't hurt her, he was Tony. He had always had her back. He had always been there. So why couldn't she just open up? To someone. Why was she always so cold, always so closed off?

Her emotions were running high, and she couldn't prevent the tears that escaped, tears of desperation, and self-hatred. She didn't want him to see her breaking down like this, this whole thing, it was too intimate. Not a good way to enforce her 'I'm fine' statements. But it was too late, her tears had been soaking through his shirt, and his face was contorted with concern. It just made her cry more. Why did he have to be so caring? Why did he have to act so supportive? If she was so incapable of letting him in, why couldn't it be easy to push him away?

"I'm sorry," he said, his heart felt like it was being crushed with every word, he had never seen her like this, he was surprised at how much it was hurting him. "I didn't mean to do this, I'm sorry," the words sounded useless even in his own head, so he cringed at imagining how bad they must sound to her.

She managed to summon up the courage to look at him properly, the striking blue eyes that saw straight through her like they always had, that took her breath away that little bit every time he looked at her. Maybe this was what love felt like. "I want to let you in," she whispered so softly he had to strain to hear her, "I wish to be able to," she wiped her tears away, disregarding the fact that they were still falling and more would soon take their place, "I'm sorry, Tony" she whispered again. Then, wrapping her arms around his neck, she kissed him like she was drowning and he was her air. She poured all the emotion she could manage into the kiss, so much so, that he was blown away by the passion. He kissed her back, and snaked his arms around her waist, subconsciously pulling her closer to him, so every possible inch of her was pressed against him. He had dreamed about this, for a while, who wouldn't with a partner like her?(get a room, the doctor outside thought, rolling his eyes) But this was much better than any of his dreams, it was impossibly better. Their lips moved against each others like they had been doing this for years, it was like they fitted together, it felt so right; he hadn't even come close to feeling like this with a woman, ever, and the last time he had had strong feelings for anyone other than her felt like centuries ago.She had never felt more emotion in one go than she had at that moment, tears were rolling down her cheeks as she kissed him, but neither of them seemed to care.

When they eventually broke apart, they stayed close, but were able to look at each other. Tony wiped the tears away from her cheeks with his thumb, stunned by what had just happened, when he spoke his tone was serious, "Well we really can't screw this up," his voice was quiet, but sincere. She couldn't really speak, but she looked at him expectantly, "I meant what I said in Somalia," he paused, "I really can't live without you."

She smiled a little, "Why did you apologize?" he asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

"Because this cannot be easy, Tony," she said, looking down.

"It doesn't matter," he said, "All that matters is that you're alright."

"It is not fair on you," she said, looking worried.

"Well you're not backing out after that," he said, "And I don't care how difficult it is, or how unfair it is on me." He paused, trying to get it together, "I was so scared earlier; I thought I might have lost you, again."

"Well you did not."

"The point is I could've."

"You didn't,"

"We need to do something about your driving," Tony said, teasing her,

"My driving is fine! It was not my fault!"

"And you definitely passed your driving tests... I know," he smiled down at her.

Her mouth widened in surprise, and he just grinned down at her. He quickly kissed her on the cheek, and untangled himself from her embrace, sitting what he knew would be deemed a respectable amount of distance away from her, she frowned at him, and he said, just as they heard a high voice in the distance, "You really want Abby to know about us?"

Understanding dawned on her face and she laughed, a few seconds later, Abby was stood in the doorway, "Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod, we've been so worried Ziva!"

She looked at Tony, who grinned as she was engulfed in an Abby-hug. "Abby," she choked, "I am fine,"

Woah... this really is v. long. Hope you liked it! Please review... they might make the school week more bearable :P

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