A/N: Hello, hello! I know, I'm supposed to be working on McTony but I kind of needed a break from that after getting a not so nice review! Anyway, the idea for this fic popped into my head after listening to Kimberley Locke's song "I Could". It didn't really turn out the way I had initially planned, and I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it, but I never really like the things I write anyway, so there ya go. Also, just for your general information: This story is canon up until end of Hiatus. After that, I kind of reworked things to fit with my idea. Anyway, reviews are always appreciated, so if you read it and enjoyed it, please let me know!
**May 12, 2012**
The mid-morning light filtered in through the open window as the young woman sank down into the vanity chair, gazing thoughtfully at herself in the mirror. Even after years of training, she found herself unable to school her reflection into one of anything other than complete and total despair. How on Earth had she allowed things to get this far out of hand?
A single tear slid down her tanned cheek. Reaching up, she brushed it away with a quick flick of her hand at the sound of the door being pushed open.
"There you are," Abby scolded lightly, a bright smile on her dark lips as she slipped into the bedroom. "Tony said you were probably up here hiding."
"I am not hiding, Abby," was the terse response.
"Sure looks like you're hidin' to me. Gibbs and McGee already picked T up, so you can come downstairs and hang out with us now if you're interested."
"I would rather not."
"O…kay," Abby responded, dropping down unceremoniously onto the bed. "Today's not exactly the day to be anti-social, Zee."
The Israeli woman didn't respond as she continued to study herself in the mirror. She almost didn't recognize herself anymore. Gone was the woman who was comfortable enough in her own skin to not bother with the make-up and the hair products meant to tame her unruly curls.
When had she become this stranger?
A strangled laugh escaped her as she remembered the exact moment when she had allowed it to happen. Dropping her gaze to the vanity that was littered with various make-up products, she closed her eyes, releasing a deep breath before she spoke.
"I do not think I can go through with this, Abby."
The Goth's eyebrows furrowed as she pushed herself to her feet, making her way over to her friend. Bending down, she wrapped her arms around Ziva, resting her head on her shoulder. "Women get cold feet all the time. You just… need to take a moment. Take a deep breath. This has been a long time comin'."
"Longer than you think," the Israeli muttered, shrugging out of Abby's friendly embrace before she stood, turning to face her friend. "I have really nailed this one up."
"Screwed," Abby corrected automatically, her ruby red lips turning downward into a frown. "But I don't understand… what do you think you've screwed up?"
"Everything. I do not even know where to begin."
"Maybe you should start from the beginning."
**August 13, 2006**
The bullpen was quieter than usual, save for the gentle tapping as McGee's fingers moved quickly across his keyboard. The sound was normally soothing enough, as it was one thing that had not changed in the three months since Gibbs' departure from the agency, but tonight, it grated on her nerves. It was only her years of training that allowed her to keep her cool with the agent.
Brown eyes drifted toward the stairs as she waited to make her move. The information currently resting inside of her bag was important, but so was the need for discretion. She knew her teammates had a difficult enough time trusting her given her close relationship with the Director and any additional visits to her office would set them on edge.
Yes, discretion was a must.
Leaning back in her chair, she glanced over at Lee's empty desk before she turned her attention back to McGee. "What is it that you are working on over there?"
"Huh?" The agent asked, his fingers ceasing their movements as he glanced up at her.
Typical McGee, she thought with a smirk. "I asked what you were working on."
"Oh. It's a new program I'm working on that should help with analyzing hidden drives on computers. Simple enough stuff, really, but I'm having a hard time getting the code just right. I really wish Abby had stuck around tonight, because I could really use an extra set of eyes but…"
She allowed herself to zone out, ignoring his explanation. Though she genuinely liked McGee, she found it difficult to follow along with his 'Greek speak' as Tony called it. Of course, she was never really sure why, as it was not like he was actually *speaking* Greek, but then again, Tony did not always make sense to her either.
"…so I think I'm going to have to call it a night and just wait for her to help me in the morning," McGee finished, oblivious to the fact that she had missed the majority of what he'd just said.
"That," she said, smiling brightly, "is a good idea. You have been putting in longer hours than the rest of the team, yes?"
He shrugged slightly as he began the process for shutting down his computer. "I don't mind. As Senior Field Agent, it's my responsibility to…"
She swallowed back a groan as he rambled on. He was more like Tony than he realized.
"…so I really just view it as part of the job."
"You will make a fine team leader some day, McGee," the Israeli said, praying that the young man was through talking her ear off.
"Really?" He asked, beaming as he stood, grabbing his jacket from the back of his chair. "Thanks, Ziva."
She waved him off, dropping her head back in thanks when he rounded his desk, seemingly intent on leaving for the night. He paused momentarily in front of her desk.
"You should probably take off too. You've been putting in longer hours than I have."
"I am almost finished," she promised him, offering a smile. "I will see you in the morning. Have a good night, McGee."
She pressed a few buttons on her keyboard in an attempt to look busy as he made his way over to the elevator. The sound of the car dinging echoed throughout the nearly empty squad room and less than a minute later, she was alone.
She gave it another two and a half minutes before she shut her computer down and stood with her bag in hand, making her way to the stairs, taking them two at a time.
The reception area was empty, though she had expected no less. The Director understood her need for secrecy and for that, she was grateful.
Pausing outside the door, she lifted her hand a knocked seconds before the door was pulled open.
"Shalom Jen," she greeted, leaning over to peck the older woman on the cheek.
"Shalom Ziva. I trust you have that file I requested?"
"I do," the raven-haired woman responded. "It is very interesting, to say the least."
"Anything useful?" Director Shepard asked as she made her way back to her desk, motioning for Ziva to follow.
"That depends on what you consider 'useful', Madam Director. And on who you are willing to use."
Turning back to her, Jen cocked an eyebrow before she sank down regally into her chair. "Explain."
"He has a daughter."
"And how is this supposed to help me, Ziva? I'm not interested in his personal life, I'm interested in taking that bastard down."
"Perhaps Ms. Benoit would be able to provide some insight on how to do that."
"And you assume that she would willingly part with that information?"
"No, but I believe that she could be… persuaded."
The Director fell silent for a moment, studying the Mossad Officer carefully.
"And how, exactly, do you propose we do that?"
"We do not. Agent DiNozzo, on the other hand…"
"He has a way of extracting information easily. Especially if the subject is a female."
"You have a point," the red-head agreed, a slight smile on her face. "Do you think he could be convinced to do it?"
"Permission to speak freely?"
"When have you ever need permission for that, Ziva?"
The Israeli rolled her eyes, though she continued. "I believe that Tony is desperate to prove himself in the wake of Gibbs' retirement. I think that at this moment, he is vulnerable enough to agree without hesitation, though you must move quickly. He is really beginning to come into his own as a team leader."
"Your concern on the matter is noted."
Nodding, Ziva removed the file from her bag, dropping it onto the Director's desk. "There is everything you and Tony will need to know about Jeanne Benoit."
"I owe you for this, Ziva."
Waving her off, Ziva made her way to the door, though she paused, her hand on the handle before she turned back to the other woman. "I would, of course, prefer if my involvement in this could stay between the two of us. My team is still wary of me and if they had any clue that—"
"You have my word."
"Thank you, Director."
**May 12, 2012**
"You… are responsible for the whole Jeanne thing?"
"I did not expect him to fall in love with her, Abby. It was never my intention to hurt him."
"But you did, Zee! My God… do you have any idea what that whole cluster did to Tony? It broke him and now you're telling me… that you're the reason why?"
"I only gave the intel to Jenny. I did not—"
"You told her how to use Tony! He was your teammate, someone you're supposed to protect!" Turning her back on the woman, Abby could feel the tears stinging her eyes. "How could you do that to him?"
"I do not know. I do not… have an excuse for my actions. I regret giving her that file every single day. There is nothing in this world that I would not give to redo that day. Hurting Tony was the…" She trailed off, swallowing hard. "Hurting him was the last thing I ever wanted to do."
"Why are you telling me this? Why? And on today of all days? You couldn't have picked an earlier time to confess your wrongdoings?" Abby asked, her voice harsh as she turned back to the other woman.
"Because I cannot go through with this lie any longer. Tony… he will never understand, but I thought that perhaps… I thought that you would."
"Tony isn't going to be happy that you were deceitful about Jeanne but it's not going to be a deal breaker. Why are you so sure that he's not going to be able to deal with it?"
"Because that is only the tip of the iceberg."
Sinking down on the edge of the bed, Abby studied Ziva carefully, her own eyes watering at the sight of the tear that slid down the Israeli's cheek.
"God, Zee. What have you done?"
"I did not realize how much he loved her. I knew, of course, that their relationship was different than what he was used to, but I assumed that it was because he was playing somebody else when he was with her. It was not until much later that I realized he was more himself around her than he had ever been around us."
"He lost himself in her."
"And I, in turn, lost myself in him," Ziva responded, her voice cracking despite her best attempts at controlling her emotions. "At first, I suppose I was doing no more than acting. After I realized the damage that my intel had caused, I knew I had to rectify the situation. I thought if I could just be what he needed, that I could fix what I broke."
"It worked for awhile," she continued, closing her eyes as she drew in a shaky breath. "I became the woman who I knew he needed and for awhile, it was enough for me."
**January 21, 2008**
Pulling up in front of the old apartment building, Tony shifted the car into park and glanced over at his companion, a bright smile on his face. It had been awhile since she had seen him look so genuinely happy and despite the slight twinge in the pit of her stomach, she allowed herself to smile back.
"I had a very good time tonight, Tony."
"I did too, Zee," the Italian responded, leaning back slightly in his seat as he dropped his arm around the woman's shoulder. "Thanks for comin' out with me."
Leaning over, the Israeli pecked his cheek gently before she pulled away, offering him a shy smile. "Would you like to come up for awhile? Perhaps we could watch a movie?"
"Sure," he responded, offering her a smile as he unhooked his seatbelt and climbed from the car.
They made their way into the building quietly, their fingers threaded together. She knew that she should not be doing this, that she should not be here with him, but she could not bring herself to end their evening so early.
"Please, make yourself comfortable," Ziva said as she pushed the front door open, gesturing to her living room. "I am going to go change into something a bit more comfortable, if you do not mind."
"Nope, not at all," Tony grinned, leaning down to peck her cheek as he made his way into the living room.
Releasing the breath she did not realize she had been holding, Ziva headed down the hallway toward her bedroom. This was a very bad idea. She knew that. While it was true that she was attracted to Tony, that she had been since the first moment she had met him, she knew that what she was doing was wrong. Though her intention, initially, was to help fix the mess that she had created, she knew that should she continue to play this game with him, that it would not end well.
Changing quickly in a pair of comfortable shorts and a sweatshirt, she made her way back out to the living room to find him relaxing on her couch, flipping idly through the channels as he waited. He glanced up at the sound of her quiet footsteps, his eyes moving down her body slowly as he took in her toned legs.
Swallowing hard, she schooled her face into a smile as she made her way over to him, sinking down on the comfortable cushion beside him.
"Have you decided on something to watch?"
"Not so interested in the TV anymore, Zee," he said, his voice husky as he looked her over before he leaned down, tasting the sweet skin on her neck. Closing her eyes, she barely contained the quiet moan that threatened to escape her as she reached up, resting her hand against his chest.
"Tony… We should not."
"I know," he murmured against her. "God, I know. But I've never… been able to control myself around you."
It was true, though she had never been able to control herself around him either. Especially lately. She should have stopped him. Her mind was screaming for her to put an end to the whole thing right there, but her body had other ideas.
She could feel him lowering her back against the cushion, covering her body with his. He was heavy, but it was not an uncomfortable feeling. On the contrary, she enjoyed the feeling of his body pressed against hers.
"Tony…" she said again, her last feeble attempt to stop him. Removing his lips from her neck, he glanced down at her and she could see the desperation in his eyes mixing with the need and the fear of rejection. She was the reason he had been so utterly and completely broken, and gazing up at him now, she knew there was no way that she could do that again. Not now.
**May 12, 2012**
"You knew what you were doing was sneaky and you slept with him? Jesus, Ziva!" Abby cried, pushing herself to her feet as she began to pace back and forth in the room, running her fingers through her long black hair.
"I thought that I could fix him, Abby. I never intended for it to get this far out of hand," Ziva defended, her hands trembling. Clasping them together, she lowered them to her lap, trying desperately to maintain her composure.
"How the hell did you think pretending to like him was going to fix anything? That has to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"
"I want you to listen to me and I want you to understand this: I have never had to pretend to like Tony. Even loving him came as easily to me as breathing. A person could not help but fall in love with the big dummy."
"That still doesn't answer my question! What did you think you were going to accomplish?!"
"We… we ruined him, Abby. The Director and I ruined him. He was no longer the cocky, confident DiNozzo that I had grown rather fond of and I wanted to get him back. I thought… I thought if perhaps… I just wanted him back. That is all. I wanted Tony back."
"So you slept with him."
"I never intended to be anything other than his 'rebound' from Jeanne. I was willing to allow him to use me until he got back on track."
"How noble of you," Abby scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "Didn't exactly turn out the way you hoped though, did it, Zee? Jesus. Don't ever try to help me like you helped Tony, okay?"
"I did not want to hurt him, Abby!"
"I don't know how you figured you weren't going to do that, Ziva! You lied to him! All this time, you've been lying to him! Do you even love him?"
"Of course I do," she managed, a choked sob escaping her as she dropped her head into her hands. "I just do not think that it is enough."
**March 14, 2008**
Rolling over in the king-sized bed, Tony released a quiet sigh as he draped his arm over Ziva's bare body, pulling her close. Releasing a content sigh, he buried his nose against her neck, breathing in the scent he'd grown to love over the last few months.
"Zee? Baby, you still awake?"
He smiled against her skin, pressing feather light kisses against her neck. It had been a long week for the two of them, as Gibbs had them running all over Virginia and the better part of Maryland tracking down leads on a case. He'd run his team ragged and now that it was over, everyone had nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Tony had retreated to Ziva's apartment and had spent the weekend wrapped up in her embrace, losing himself in her much like he'd done with Jeanne.
Shifting herself in his arms, Ziva released a quiet yawn as she pulled the covers tighter around her body.
"Go back to sleep, Tony."
"I will," he said quietly, his arms tightening around her waist as he pulled her against his chest. He sighed again, closing his eyes. "I love you, Zee."
She stiffened in his arms, the sound of those words washing over her like cold water, awakening her completely. It was all she could do to keep from pulling away from him as the realization of what he said hit her like a ton of bricks. It was not supposed to happen this way. This was not what she had planned.
"You do not mean that."
"I do," he insisted, slightly hurt at the tone of her voice.
Pushing herself up, she pulled away from his embrace and lowered her head, her fingers fisting through her hair as she tried to remember when she let things get so out of control. He was never supposed to fall in love with her.
"Ziva…" He said, reaching for her. He flinched visibly when she jerked away from his touch. "I didn't… you don't have to—"
"You should go, Tony."
"Zee… Don't do this, baby. I'm sorry if it... if it's too soon, I just… please…"
"Please, just go."
For a moment, he didn't move. He couldn't. His chest ached in a way he hadn't experienced in months and for a brief second, he wondered how he was going to survive it a second time around. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply before he slipped that famous DiNozzo mask back in place and nodded.
"Okay. I'll see ya around then," he said, swallowing hard as he climbed from the bed, grabbing his discarded pants from the floor. He dressed quickly, unable to bring himself to look at her as he hurried from the bedroom.
She watched him go, tears blurring her vision as she thought about what she'd just done. For nearly three months, she had done everything she could to fix what she had broken and in less than two minutes, she had destroyed him again.
Her heart was thumping painfully in her chest as she heard her front door close quietly. Covering her face with her hands, she allowed a choked sob to escape her before she leapt from the bed, dressing quickly. Flying out of the bedroom, she cursed loudly when she smacked her toe on the door frame, though she kept going, desperate to reach him before he left.
Outside, the rain was pouring down, drenching her almost immediately. She spotted him making his way down the street, his shoulders slumped sadly as he made his way to the car.
"Tony!" She cried, running after him, her bare feet splashing through the puddles. "Tony, please!" He turned at the sound of her voice and seconds later, she crushed herself against him, her tears mixing with the rain. "I am sorry. Tony, I am so, so sorry," she cried, pressing her face against his shoulder as his arms wrapped around her waist.
"I do not deserve you," she managed, her fingers clawing at him as she pressed herself even closer to him.
They stood together for awhile, allowing the rain to soak them. After what seemed like an eternity, Tony pulled away, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to her lips. "I'm not askin' you to say it right away, Zee. I swear, I'm not. I just… the last time I fell in love, I almost made the mistake of not telling her and I don't wanna do that with you. I can wait though, until you're ready."
**May 12, 2012**
The Goth sat back, staring at her friend as she swiped the tears from her cheeks. She had been angry, initially, with Ziva's deception, knowing that the Israeli was at least partially responsible for the relationship that had nearly destroyed her best friend, but now, she felt sorry for the woman.
For nearly six years, she'd been punishing and judging herself more harshly than anyone else ever could. Though their relationship had started out as nothing more than an attempt to fix what she had broken, Abby wondered if Ziva even realized that she'd been in love with Tony before she'd heard of Jeanne Benoit.
She had been so intent on righting her wrong, that she refused to allow herself to believe that the feelings between her and Tony even existed.
Pushing herself to her feet, Abby crossed the room and wrapped Ziva in her embrace, hugging her tightly as she cried.
"I never wanted to hurt him, Abby, but I do not think I can do this any longer."
"I agree," Abby said quietly. "It's time to stop."
"He is going to be devastated."
"I'm not talking about with Tony, Zee. It's time to stop punishing yourself."
Pulling away, she swiped at the tears on her eyes, turning away from her friend. "I do not know what you are talking about."
"Anyone who's ever been in a room with you and Tony knows how much you love each other. It's not just a one way thing, Ziva. It never has been."
"I have been lying to him!"
"No, you've been lying to yourself. I've seen the way you look at him when you think nobody is watching, when you've let your guard down for just a minute. You're so intent on punishing yourself that you're refusing to let yourself believe that you actually deserve it, but you do. You've confessed your sins. You need to let this burden you've been carrying go and let yourself love Tony the way you so desperately want to."
"You do not know what you are talking about, Abby."
"I do, Zee. Because if this wasn't as real for you as it was for him, you would have let him walk away the first time he told you that he loved you."
Sinking back down in front of the mirror, Ziva couldn't bring herself to glance at her reflection. For years, she had convinced herself that the feelings she felt for Tony were more out of guilt than anything, but then why did the thought of losing him hurt so bad?
Behind her, Abby wrapped her arms around her, resting her head on her shoulder. "Tony loves you, Ziva. And I know that you love him. Don't punish yourself anymore."
"I do not know what to do," she whispered, her voice cracking.
"Do what feels right, really right. Not what you think you have to do." Squeezing her friend gently, Abby pulled away. "No matter what you decide, I'm going to support you. And regardless of what you might be thinking right now, Tony would too. Just… do what your heart is telling you."
The sound of retreating footsteps echoed in the room as Abby left the woman alone. Glancing up slowly at the mirror, Ziva swiped at the tears on her cheeks before she reached for the make-up on the vanity. For years, she had been telling herself that she could be exactly what Tony needed, but now… well, she wasn't so sure.
The hallway was dark as she paced slowly in front of the large wooden door. Her heart was thumping wildly in her chest and for one frightening moment, she felt as though she was going to be sick. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply, leaning against the wall.
She had promised herself, all those years ago, that she was doing what she thought was best for Tony. After allowing Jenny to hurt him so badly, she wanted nothing more than make things right and now that she had, could she really take that away from him?
And more importantly, did she want to?
For years, she had been telling herself that she could be exactly what Tony needed, and now, she knew.
"I could," she said quietly. "I can. I am."
Closing her eyes, she felt a heavy weight lift off her chest. She had confessed her sins to Abby, and it had helped, but she knew before she could finally free herself from the guilt for good, she'd have to have a long talk with Tony.
But it was going to have to wait.
"Hey," a quiet voice greeted, startling her from her thoughts. "You ready?"
Allowing her face to relax into a genuine smile, she took the arm offered to her and nodded at Gibbs. "I am."
Leaning over, the older man pressed a gentle kiss to the Israeli's tanned cheek. "You look beautiful, Ziva. Tony's a lucky guy."
The heavy wooden doors opened as the pair stepped into the crowded church, and her eyes immediately found his. She watched as he nudged McGee gently, his face breaking out into a wide grin as she made her way down the aisle to him.
"No, Gibbs. I think you are wrong. I am the lucky one."