Authors Note: Took a mini unexpected break from Start Healing and wrote this.
The event commemorating the retired agents of the agency had gone smoothly. They were all off duty for the night, expected to attend. To look nice. They boys had worn suits, the two girls, dresses.
He didn't say anything about how beautiful he thought she looked, how he had needed to swallow and then re-swallow several times when he had first seen her in her black dress. That he thought she looked happy.
So neither did she.
They had avoided each other the entire night, laughing, talking with the rest of the team at the table but each other, save the loaded looks that would pass between them, when given the chance, that said everything. The looks that were far too long, that seemed to make the entire room seem empty, that made it seem like it was them against everything else.
But when she had excused herself at nearly quarter to 12, leaving her purse behind and flowing out the door, he couldn't help but get up and follow her. She led him down one of the dimly lit corridors of the hotel to an empty ballroom.
There was a wide balcony, overlooking the lights of the night and it seemed to engulf her as she walked to the window and leant against the door, leaning down to peel her shoes off. He watched from the doorway, mesmerized, as he always was, by her.
She drifted from the view to stand beneath the rooms' chandelier, keeping her eyes out towards the window. He slid off his jacket and then his own shoes, keeping as quiet as he could.
They're relationship consisted of nothing more than the push and pull of wanting so much more but not really knowing how to get it. And he was starting to realize that playing that game wasn't going to work anymore, that it was going to happen, that he wanted her, he wanted her. They were moving in a direction together that was becoming indefinable; it was no longer the question of if but when. It made his heart skip a beat in his chest. When.
"What are you doing?" He asked. And she slowly swung her arms around her waist, letting her hair float around her head like she was a little girl, "I'm dancing."
He smiled, she had known, of course that he had been there. She always did. He walked to meet her in the middle, his hand trailing down her arm, over her elbow to her hand, like they were lovers and it was what he had been doing for years.
Gathering her close, his hand against her lower back he ducked his head by her ear, "Dance with me?" He asked in a voice that made her shiver. She wrapped an arm around him in a yes, gripping to his shirt as she held her breath and they began to move, slowly, steadily
She let herself relax and leaned into his chest, squeezing his hand tighter, her cheeks blushing. They were both a little tipsy and maybe a little high but she knew that apart of this wasn't an act pushed by alcohol.
"The dance lessons are paying off then?" She asked after they had moved, bumping into one another, around the floor. It was pitch black all but the lights of the city that pushed through the gaps of the tall white curtains. Almost as if they were protected and it was their hide away.
She could feel his grin spread into her cheek, "You could say that."
He re-adjusted his hand against her waist, tucking stray fingers beneath her shirt.
They continued, swaying back and forth to nothing but the sound of their feet and their words. He felt almost dizzy and ready for sleep; they were closer than they had ever been before and her smell was warming and familiar, like he had forgotten completely what she had smelled like and how much that mattered.
"I never said congratulations."
She lifted her head up from his shoulder and looked into his face, the lines around his mouth from laughing too much, the crease between his eyebrows from frowning too deep and his eyes that she had always wanted to just climb right into.
"McGee told me about you passing your test, about becoming a citizen."
He slowed and they barely parted though he kept his hands around her waist, "Why didn't you tell me? He asked softly, his eyes not holding hers, his voice thick with hurt and rejection. The idea of her purposefully leaving him out of her life was still, after a year, sensitive to him.
She swallowed and reached for his arms, pulling them away from her body, "You know why, Tony."
He frowned as she took a step back and moved away from him, "What is that supposed to mean?"
He watched as she took a deep breath in and then out, shutting her eyes and lowering her head to the floor, "You have made your opinion about my wanting to become a American citizen pretty…pretty clear."
He was against her before she had finished, his hands upon her shoulders, his face way too close to her neck, "I didn't mean it, any of it. You know that. I want you here, I've always wanted you…right here."
"Really?" She asked and he could hear the teasing tone masking her doubtfulness.
He didn't say anything. But taking her hand again, he pressed his face against the spot right below her ear, kissing her skin softly, "Really." He mumbled as he leant back, his forehead against her head.
She smiled and shut her eyes as their fingers intertwined and they shifted together, moving to stand shoulder to shoulder, facing the glow of the city.
"We cannot keep doing this." She whispered after a long moment had passed by.
He nodded lightly and sighed, "I know."
She pulled her gaze away from the window and turned to him, letting her fingers trail against his check and down to the stray hairs down by his neck, finding herself leaning into his arm as she leant up to kiss him, just catching the corner of his mouth.
"Tony." She whispered lowly and he wanted to groan, let his eyes roll to the back of his head. She was kissing his chin, her lips barely against his skin when he took hold of her face, his nose wedged against her own and kissed her. It was blinding and intoxicating, it was his heart shoved against his throat, it was her. She tugged at the back of his head, pulling him closer and his hands fit beneath her ears as it became desperate and needy, their bodies shoved up against one another so close that he could no longer tell whether it was her heartbeat or his. His lower lip tugged on the bottom of hers as he barely broke away, panting for air. She was breathing heavily and her hair was a mess from his hands but she looked beautiful and full of life. He kissed each cheek, her chin, her nose until he came to rest against her forehead.
"Tony, " She started after a moment, her voice uneven, "This…we cannot keeping doing this, …I can't….we can't." She held on tightly to his elbows as he nodded, knowing what she meant. With her scent all over him and his lips bruised by hers, he stepped back, letting their fingers be the last to leave.
"Congratulations, Ziva." He whispered and turned.
She stood still; watching as he bundled his things in his arms and walked out the door. She brought a hand up to her chest and pushed it against the place where her heart was buried beneath, "Thank you." She whispered.
Not if but when.