Title: Belle Ville
Summary: Twelve moments from a trip to Paris. Including an inevitable one.
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, that episode would have been…different.
Warnings: Schmoop. Lack of resolution. Fluff.
I had lots of thoughts during that episode and I threw a lot of them together. The result is like when the cafeteria has stale cereal to use up so they make knock-off rice crispies and include rainbow M&Ms in the hopes you won't notice you had the same thing for breakfast last week. In summation: I hope ya'll like rainbow M&Ms.
"I trust you two can behave yourselves?" Vance asks them, eyebrow raised, lip twitching over an invisible toothpick. The question is to remind them that David is still on probationary status and DiNozzo flirted with rogue-ness over the summer on her behalf.
They nod and say yes, absolutely.
Gibbs just gives them a long hard look, which reminds them that he knows exactly what Paris can do to a person.
"Don't screw up," he says.
There's a moment of awkwardness at check-in. Tony passes over his American passport at the same moment that Ziva puts down her Israeli one. They look at the contrasting covers and think about the last time they were on a plane together, about how much has changed since then, and about how maybe the next time they travel it will all be different again.
Ziva's French is excellent, while Tony's is non-existent, so he leaves the communication in her capable hands.
She's charms the flight attendant with her fluency in their meal selections. He tries to concentrate on the tribulations of Bella and Edward once the stewardess moves on, but then she's exchanging pleasantries with her neighbor across the aisle, and he's not entirely sure it's still in French.
Tony wonders if maybe she misses the high-thrills world of actual spying. This is her scene after all, being an international woman of mystery, crisscrossing the globe to guard against evil of the scary terrorist variety, and not the boring corporate sort they're after today.
Maybe she misses using her languages for more than cutting gang members down to size and soothing embassy staff.
"We need to get Abby a souvenir," she says, interrupting his train of thought with a hand on his arm. Her aisle-mate has returned to his paper. She flips open her book to a page marked with the ticket stub from their last team movie night. "Keep an eye out for something she might like. And McGee too, because you know he's a little jealous he couldn't come." She takes note of something she's scribbled on the ticket stub. "Also Ducky has given me the name of this special jam, which he says if I bring back several jars of, he will bake his mother's scones for."
"We're going to be in Paris for fourteen hours," Tony points out. "That preposition usage was atrocious. And condiment smuggling doesn't look that great on applications for citizenship."
But he hides a smile when he says it and thinks maybe she's happy where she is.
Ziva's French is excellent, but it doesn't seem to be getting them anywhere.
He said they shouldn't trust McGee to make the arrangements.
She turns away from the counter and he watches her jaw clench like she'd holding back a heartfelt merde.
They have only the one room with a double bed," she says. "We can make do for a single night, yes?"
There are twenty kinds of warning in her eyes against him suggesting 'making' of any other sort.
He'll take the high road on this one.
"Yeah, fine, we'll figure it out later," he says, and makes a show of hoisting his bag higher on his shoulder. "Can we please just find dinner already? My last packet of peanuts was way too long ago."
"D'accord," she says, and takes the room key.
"Your side," Ziva says firmly, pointing to the far pillow. "My side." She indicates the stretch of bed she stands beside. "Are we clear?"
"Well let's just hang a sheet across the room, or saw the headboard in half," Tony suggests, barely looking up from the couch and the rapid flip of foreign channels. "Something that'll really add authenticity to this cute Lucy and Ricky act we have going."
"Lucy? I don't…oh!" Ziva snaps her fingers. "An I Love Lucy reference. Specifically concerning the show's use of twin beds for a married couple." She looks inordinately pleased with herself.
"I'm impressed in spite of myself," Tony says, laying down the remote and studying her in faint surprise. "Either your studying of America has at last paid off or you finally discovered Nick-at-Nite."
She frowns. "This is not a matter of 1950's sensibilities, Tony. I want to be well rested for tomorrow."
"And what, you think I'm incapable of platonically sharing a bed with a woman?"
She gives him a hard look that screams yes, actually, but she restrains herself to merely picking up her toiletry bag and informing him she'll take the bathroom first.
Tank top and pajama pants for her. T-shirt and pajama bottoms for him. They read side by side for a short while, A People's History of the United States and Breaking Dawn respectively. He complains about the scented lotion she rubs on her hands and she reminds him of how Abby would cry if she saw what he was reading.
He's the first to mumble goodnight and roll over onto his side. She closes her book and turns off the lamp a few minutes later.
The bed is wide, the room is warm, the sheets are plentiful, and they sleep with their backs to each other.
The inevitable happens sometime after three in the morning. Someone turns or the sheets twist, and they roll towards the center of the bed and collide into wakefulness.
"Mmph," Ziva complains, her eyes blinking open more slowly than they usually do. It's kind of sexy in a sharing-the-bed-platonically sort of way.
"Hi," Tony says softly. His heart thumps in a way that is three-fourths due to being suddenly awoken in a strange country for unknown reasons, and one-quarter because of the way her eyelashes flutter in the light from the street outside.
His mind ticks through a hundred things in an instant:
One strap of her tank top has fallen off her shoulder.
Her hair is still a little damp from her shower, and it falls across the pillow in dark and shining citrus-scented curls.
It's clear that both of them are much too used to having a whole bed to themselves. No big surprise on her end, a possibly embarrassing tell on his part.
He finds himself looking down into her face because it's roughly even with his chest. Her knees are drawn up as well.
The last time they shared a bed (okay the only other time they shared a bed) she slept easily and soundly beneath the covers. Between then and now though she became someone who sleeps like she's hibernating and the bedclothes are protective cave walls between her and the world.
Her eyes are much too dark as she looks at him, and his are much too bright.
He breaks the spell by leaning closer, tucking his chin into the curve of her neck, putting his lips to the sweet-smelling curve of her ear, giving her ample time to pull away. She holds still beneath his jaw, and waits.
"I think you're on my side," Tony whispers.
Because this part, here, is inevitable, but the part that comes after it is not. If there is a part that comes after all this then it will happen deliberately, purposefully, and not because they've rolled together in the middle of the night in the city where the rule-maker himself broke number twelve.
He draws back and Ziva regards him steadily, her gaze clear, and maybe a little calculating. She could so easily roll forward, press her face to his collarbone, her hands to his chest. His fingers would find the band of bared skin at the small of her back and pull her close—
If she made the first move, he would follow through.
Her gaze drops for a moment as if she is considering the same thing he is, but then she looks him in the eye, tugs a handspan of sheet from his grasp as if to say this at least is hers, and rolls back over. He admires, for a moment, the shadows the streetlights cast on the back of her neck, and then he turns his own back and wads his pillow back into shape.
They sleep. But their backs are closer together this time.
He wakes before her, rolls carefully out of bed, collects socks, shoes, sweatshirt, and cellphone. There's no way he could go back to sleep now, even with their wake-up call another thirty minutes out. Out in the hall he puts on his shoes, tugs on his sweatshirt, and tries not to feel like he's sneaking out on a one night stand. McGee is staticky on the other end of their call, and Tony feels something terrible crowding his throat, something that sounds like something almost happened between us. He swallows firmly and kicks it into high gear, tormenting his Probie with queries and quips until McGee is thoroughly annoyed and Tony feels settled again.
He thought he was quiet when slipping out, but the soft squeak of the mattress and the tiny click of the door were probably as good as an alarm with Ziva's Mossad training, because when he reenters their room the bed is empty and the shower's running.
Her Mossad training somehow always enables her to reach the bathroom first.
He answers their wake-up call on the first ring, gets directions to the gym and the showers there. An unknown impulse makes him ask about auto rentals too, before hanging up. He thinks he hears a voice singing above the shower, as he packs his bag and lets himself out.
Ziva makes sure her towel is very securely wrapped before she exits the bathroom. The room is empty though, so she slides on a robe and checks under the coffee pot. The note he left is written on the back of an airplane napkin.
Flight's delayed. Call McG for the details. Meet you downstairs at 0900.
He's signed it Ricky.
Tony has no doubt that, like speaking French, riding a Vespa is something Ziva could also do much better than him.
But he manages.
This is a morning straight out of a "Your Career at NCIS" brochure. Sight-seeing in a foreign city on the government's dime, doing protective detail with his hot partner, blowing his breakfast euros on a chocolate croissant and a cobwebby scarf from a street vendor that he thinks Abby might like.
Every picture he takes makes the night recede, and every minute that passes makes him gladder of the choices he did and didn't make.
He turns the final corner, and he didn't expect it to, but he's not surprised, when his heart lifts a little at the sight of her.
She's straightened her hair to a glossy sheen, none of last night's wild curls in sight. She's wearing red, which is his second favorite color on her after green. She's smiling, and there's a smear of jam on her finger, and he thinks they should make a brochure that just features her, because she's the best advertisement ever for this job that they do.
They talk circles around each other, but it's not dangerous loose-lips talk, just more verbal gymnastics, like they're warming up for the long plane ride back, getting back into the groove of the Ziva and Tony show, because they'll pick up a new audience soon.
There's a curious lack of tension between them, less than their usual going rate, less certainly than there has been since her return. He always maintained that they just needed to sleep together to clear the air. He never dreamed that it might be just that simple.
He looks again at the jam on her finger and thinks automatically of how he could lick it off. There's something familiar in her expression when she catches him contemplating it and with a start he realizes that they are making last night's choice again, here and now at the breakfast table, and they've done it before too. They are always making the same choice, over and over. They may not be sharing a long red-light look over Parisian sheets, but there are a hundred instances a day, two hundred if he's bored or Gibbs has kept them late, where they could take that step that comes after the inevitable one and they don't.
"It is a beautiful day," he says, and he looks anywhere but the scenery.
She really could drive this ridiculous vehicle better than he is currently, but she's hesitant to disturb this new and fragile thing between them that feels like a truce. Plus, she's never one to complain about having to hang on to her handsome partner's waist as they zip through the streets on their way to the embassy. It's a scene straight out of the brochure Jenny slipped into her bag before she agreed to the liaison post.
How different things would have been if she hadn't.
They're stopped at a light when Tony looks over his shoulder.
"Tell me the truth," he says, and her heart skips, even though his tone is light and his eyes are laughing.
"Non," she says, to be ornery and because she can. A man on the sidewalk looks at her shining hair and blows her a kiss. She might love Paris.
"Did Mossad train you to always beat your partner to the bathroom?"
"Yes," she says. "Actually." He turns back around and laughs as the light turns green, and she tightens her arms over his stomach for a moment in a warning, but it winds up feeling like an embrace.
They next time they travel, things might be different.
Et un moment plus…
Pollyanna almost wrecks their post-Paris mojo with her questions. Almost. It's not like he can just ask Ziva about this unspoken understanding he's pretty sure they have now. It's unspoken for a reason and even inquiring indirectly might break the spell.
But he tallies up evidence like her half-smile over breakfast, and her quizzical brow and the way she referred to rule twelve as suggestion rather than law.
He's pretty sure the part that comes after is inevitable as well.
He knows it for sure when she hands the picture back and their fingers touch, and her eyes are much too bright and his too dark. The moment hangs between them and he recognizes it for what it is now, their same familiar instant of opportunity.
They make the choice with the grace and ease born of long practice and go back to their work. They'll do the same thing twenty times tomorrow.
What makes him stop and catch his breath though is the realization that every time they make that choice, they're choosing to believe in a time when they won't have to.
He tapes the picture of Ziva on the side of his filing cabinet, between a photo of Abby and the dog she named Gibbs and a polaroid of McGee in a chicken suit.
He knows thirteen is unlucky, but he has a feeling number twelve may hold a world of possibility.
((So…I was not the biggest fan of Up In the Air. A little too much wink-wink-nudge-nudge. Count me firmly in the camp of Nothing Happened. Of course, nothing happening doesn't preclude a meaningful moment or two…Anyway, review and tell me where you stand on the issue!))