Because many things have happened in the men's bathroom and the stairwell was feeling a little lonely.
It had only been days since she'd been reinstated as part of the MCRT. She was still regaining her bearings, re-familiarising herself with protocols and procedures of being back as part of a team. Her desk was as she left it, only with several notes and papers one Rebecca Hastings had left behind after her sudden resignation from the team.
The events in Somalia lurked beneath the dark recesses of her mind, the place she locked up all her horrible memories never to be relieved again unless they resurfaced in her nightmares. Her scars were healing; the physical ones faster than the emotional ones and Ziva knew it would take time for her to get back to where she was before the whole Michael Rivkin fiasco, if she could get back at all.
She was still bound to desk duty, not cleared to be on the field until she retook her fitness and weapons proficiency tests, and thus stuck with the months of paperwork Team Gibbs had failed to complete in their search for vengeance in Somalia.
It was well after dark before she clicked her desk lamp off and shouldered her backpack in preparation to head home. The bullpen was quiet and a welcome calmness spread through Ziva as she glanced at the place she had once called home.
Out of the corner of her eye as she walked towards the elevator, she spied a glint of light through the glass pane of door to the stairwell. Her suspicions rose as a closer, more concentrated look told her it was the glint of light off the face of a watch on the wrist of someone sitting on the stairs. Ziva narrowed her eyes as she realised she knew that watch and the man who wore it.
Mere seconds later, the door was opened and a flustered Tony looked up at her in surprise.
"Tony, how long have you been here?" She asked as she dropped her backpack next to his.
Tony shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. He was sitting on the lower steps, his back against the wall as his feet stretched towards the railing. His head had been slumped in his hands, propped up on his knees before she had startled him. His tie had been loosened and his coat hung on the railing beside him. His sleeves were rolled up and the creases on his pants told her he'd been sitting there for a good while.
"Are – are you okay?" She ventured softly before taking a seat herself beside him on a lower step. "I mean, you are not okay obviously, but is there anything I can do to help?"
Tony peered at her with fatigued eyes and Ziva was transported back to her cell in Somalia, his scarred face, battered, bruised and bloody, rasping out truths he would have never spoken if not for Saleem's truth serum.
Couldn't live without you, I guess.
She reached for his fingers, ready to let go at the first sign of discomfort but he did nothing and she squeezed tighter on her partner's hands. They sat silently for what Ziva thought could have been hours before Tony opened his mouth to speak.
"I, uh, got an email today." He said as he averted his eyes. Ziva braced herself to hear the worst, Tony being shipped off onto another boat in the middle of nowhere, Tony being transferred to San Diego, Tony being formally reprimanded for going rogue in Somalia.
"It was from Jeanne."
And yet the truth that came from his lips hurt her so much more that she could have imagined. Almost immediately her instincts told her to let go of Tony's hand and storm off, or to yell at him for making her sit there while he drowned himself in his lovesick self pity.
But his eyes finally connected to her own fiery orbs and pleaded with her the way his words never could. It was her turn to try to save him now. He had gone to Somalia for her, risking his life to avenge her death and Ziva knew she could never top that as much as she would like to try. He had been there for her through the darkest time of her existence and Ziva knew as much as she hated the woman, it was her turn to be here for Tony.
"What did it say?" She asked, and Tony let out a rueful laugh.
"That I'd missed my last chance to be with her and I've run out of second chances."
Ziva's eyebrows quirked in surprise, it was definitely not what she'd expected to hear. Tony moved away and shifted higher, no longer leaning against the wall but facing her straight on as she looked up at him.
She was about to ask for a clarification before she was silenced by Tony clearing his throat as though he was preparing for one of his actor imitations.
"She asked me once after she accused me of murder, you know? Asked me if I wanted to start over, she said we would be able to deal with the complications. I said I wasn't ready. She asked again just after we got back from LA."
Tony's voice faltered as he recalled the outcome of that particular trip. He risked a glance at Ziva then, and found her with her eyes shut, most likely trying to push back the horrible memories that were trying to resurface within her mind as well.
"But then I was Agent Afloat and you were with Mossad – I couldn't ... I couldn't even pick up the phone to call you to tell you how bad I felt, so I just sent her an email and told her it wasn't going to work."
Ziva heard him take a deep intake of breath and she started to get up. She didn't know where this was going, and honestly if it ended up with him professing his never ending love for Jeanne, she didn't want to stick around.
"Tony, I don't –"
"No, Ziva, it's not like that, sit down. It's just, listen, the next time she called, it had been over a year and by then you were gone, Gibbs said there were no survivors and - and I wanted to. God Ziva, I wanted to pick up that phone and call her back and say that DiNardo wanted back in and that everything would be alright and we'd be okay,"
If Tony didn't look so pathetic and depressed, Ziva would have flicked the knife out from under her belt and gauged his eyes out.
"Tony, I think I'm not the right person to hear this. Not now." She managed as she suppressed her anger.
"I think you're the right person to hear this." Tony said quietly as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"DiNardo wanted Jeanne. DiNardo wanted the good life with the doctor and the fence and the dog. Because DiNardo was DiNozzo's way of not thinking of the ... reality of it all. Ziva, I lost you. You didn't come back with us and Abby said Gibbs said you made him choose and it tore me up inside knowing you made the decision and I couldn't get mad at Gibbs or Vance for it. And then you were on that boat which sunk, and there were no survivors..."
He stood up now, his back leaning against the railing as his voice echoed down the stair well. Clearly, his brain was doing more talking than thinking as he ploughed on.
"And then she called, but you were dead. And I couldn't think of anyone else but you and how I was never going to see you again and if I was the reason ... Look Ziva, Agent Blackadder died. Kate died. Paula, and then Jenny and then you, but really you didn't, I didn't know that yet though..."
Tony was shaking, his watch clattering against the cool metal railing, his knuckles turning white as he gripped them.
And suddenly the words he had thrown at her in that cell were given a whole new meaning.
Couldn't live without you, I guess.
Couldn't live with the guilt of killing you. Losing you. Loving you.
Ziva rose slowly form her position, for once at a loss of words and before she knew it her arms were around his waist, her body tight against his torso and her head tucked under his.
"I didn't want to hurt Jeanne. Every time she called, and every time I said no it was like I was doing it over and over again. One more to the long list of lives the great DiNozzo has destroyed." He ended in a near whisper and sighed. He let go of the railing and hesitantly placed an arm around Ziva.
Hugging. Tony realised post-Somalia Ziva had a thing for hugging.
"So today she emailed me and said she was done with me, and I honestly don't think I've been this happy in a long time." He finally breathed out. It was clear he had been thinking about it for a while, Ziva could sense that a burden had been lifted from her partner's chest as he spoke.
"Because it was her saying no this time, instead of you, and you weren't hurting her." Ziva said, and surprised even herself with the revelation. Usually, Tony's roundabout way of getting to the point confused her for a good amount of time before she understood it, but this time it all clicked into place.
Gently, she pulled away from their embrace. All at once, she realised the Tony she had encountered in the stairwell was not a depressed man, but a relieved one. Relieved, and possibly even at a loss as to what to do next.
"Yeah, I guess that's it. It's like that song, where she's heading for the cliff and as she's falling she realises it gets better at the bottom."
And then she was back to trying to figure out his obscure allusions. Ziva narrowed her eyes in confusion before deciding to let it go. Tony could fill encyclopaedias with pop culture references she would never understand, and yet in the semi-darkness of the stairwell with his blue eyes gazing intently at her, she realised she didn't care. Tony annoyed her and made her laugh. He pissed her off, and knew the right words to soothe her. Angered and cared, hated and loved.
He was willing to die for her. And upon further perusal of her own rekindling feelings, she knew she would do the same for him in a heartbeat. She took his hand in hers, this time not afraid of him pulling away because they both knew he wouldn't.
"I assume this bottom you speak of has no dangerous rocks or sharp edges," She said as she watched him pick up his discarded coat from the railing. "Because that would be a great tragedy."
He slung his backpack over his shoulder and cocked his head in reply.
"I dunno. What do you think is waiting for me at the bottom of my cliff, Ziva?"
The first answer that came to her mind hardly surprised her, and she knew that on some level, in the four years they had been partners, it had always been the same one.
Kay, so the timeline of Season 5 is a little fuzzy for me 'cause I did not like that particular season, or Season 4 for that matter. So I apologise for any boo boos regarding Jeanne and her appearances and things like that 'cause I can't bring myself to re-watch those eppies again.
Right, so it's a little messy and long winded, but way I figure, DiNozzo's got a habit of saying things that hardly matter before he gets to the crux of his point. Dont' we all just love DiNozzo?