Well, I have really no excuse for the delay except that my life has been crazy and in the absence of new episodes I haven't really felt motivated! But your death threats have been at least marginally effective -- here's a new chapter! My writing muscles have begun to atrophy, so I hope you still like it :)
The phone rang and Ziva turned to answer it.
"Hello?" her voice rang out through the apartment.
Tony drank in the curve of her neck as she tilted her head to listen. He saw the moment her entire body tensed.
Ziva spun, looking toward him with wide eyes. "Shalom," she whispered into the phone.
Tony watched her face as she listened. He couldn't make out the words of the speaker, but he knew that voice. Even muffled, even in agitated Hebrew. It was Eli David. Tony fought the urge to snatch the phone out of Ziva's hand, leaning forward unconsciously. She shook her head slightly. He took a deep breath, forcing himself calm, and reached out a hand. Ziva squeezed it, smiling tightly in gratitude. And then she began.
"Abba," Ziva cut in, her voice commanding. She held Tony's gaze as she spoke, saying words he didn't understand in a tone that couldn't be clearer. Firm, serious, demanding. Absolutely emotionless. The voice from the other end of the line tried to interrupt but Ziva continued, unyielding. When she finally stopped, there was no answer but silence.
Ziva squeezed her eyes shut. Tony could see the wavering in her face, the regret that her life had come to a point where she had to speak like this to her father. He could see her grief that that her father had no answer, no apology. "Shalom," she said again, still without affect.
At long last a murmur came over the line, and Ziva hung up.
Ziva forced herself to take a deep breath, and then another. Tony's hands settled on her shoulders, his eyes asking frantically what had just happened. Ziva looked up. She took another breath. "These past few weeks, while you and I..." She trailed off. "I have been meeting with Gibbs and Vance, trying to get my citizenship expedited, trying to discover my father's purpose."
"And that was him." It wasn't a question.
Ziva nodded. Her eyes dropped to his collarbone. "Harper and I have been talking, among other things, about what I would say to him if I could. And so I finally did." She looked up into Tony's eyes and he read the devastation that always filled her when she spoke of her father. "I suppose talking to Gibbs last night was good practice," she said, forcing levity.
Tony pulled her down onto the couch, wrapping his arms around her. "What did you say?"
Her lips quirked, and then she began. "He was yelling at me for taking secrets outside our family, demanding to know if the Americans were controlling me, if my citizenship application was my own doing of theirs." Ziva took a deep breath. "I told him that when I was a child, he chose who I would become and that is the duty of any parent. But I am no longer a child and if he would willingly send me to die, he is no longer my parent. His approval is not something I would ever want, nor is his love." She squeezed her eyes closed and Tony sighed deeply, remembering how even after all of his conflict with his father a few words of love and approval, true or not, had meant everything. Ziva opened her eyes. "I said that I have a new family here, and I have no desire to ever return to his."
Tony hugged her against him. Ziva clung in a way he could never remember her doing so before. He held her back just as tightly, nuzzling his nose into her hair when it tickled at him.
After several minutes, she began to draw away and Tony spoke. "Do you think he'll let it go now? Let you go?"
Ziva shrugged slowly. "I am not sure. I thought he would yell, would protest." She frowned, then shook her head at herself ruefully. "I still don't want to have hurt him too badly."
Tony leaned forward to kiss her forehead. "You're a much better person than he is."
She chuckled. "Thank you." Ziva tilted her head back to meet his lips in a long kiss. When they broke apart, she smiled slightly. "I have been wanting so badly to talk to you about this."
Tony winced. "I'm sorry you couldn't."
Ziva shrugged and curled against him. "We are here again now."
He stroked a finger lazily from her shoulder down to her fingertips, delighting in Ziva's shiver. Then he stopped abruptly. "My father is a hapless con-man, yours is a malicious hit-man, and Gibbs, who we thought could take their places turns out to be a lawless law-man."
She twisted to see his face, waiting for the rest.
"So what do we do?" Tony asked softly.
Ziva shrugged helplessly. "We become grown-ups and take care of ourselves, and each other." She leaned into kiss Tony slowly and then with increasing hunger, resting her weight on his chest until he eased down on his back on the couch so she could lay on top of him. Ziva released his lips, breathless, for one last word before the seriousness of the moment was lost. "That is what I want, Tony," she said firmly. "If you still want forever, too."
Tony reached up to weave his fingers through her hair as it fell down over him. He smiled, all the pain forgotten. She would be his new family. "I love you," he whispered, and pulled her down to him.