Feel free to skip pre-fic ramblings and get right into the fic. I wouldn't blame you.
A couple of months ago, the extremely talented fractured-fairytale06 sent me a PM asking me if I did requests. A request from the author of my favourite fan fiction? How could I say no? So, I didn't. I said something along the lines of, "Sure, I should have it finished soon." Well that didn't happen. Life got busy. I got there though, and here is the final result.
The request asked for Tony and Ziva to have a real discussion about a possible relationship, with the benefits and risks considered, because really, they need it. Then, maybe if it's really truly worth it, work something out. I'll say honestly that the ending of this is not what I expected it to be. I was anticipating, planning, on writing the complete opposite. Didn't. Happen. I do believe it could have had a lot more discussion, but if I tried to change this anymore, I would delete it all so I hope everyone (particularly fractured-fairytale06) likes it for what it is.
Any errors are mine, so feel free to shoot me for them. And I don't own anything. Except DVDs, and not even season 6 because it's still not out here in Australia. The title, since I'm a music whore is inspired by lyrics from Snow Patrol's Grazed Knees.
Angst is hard to write when you've been writing smut and fluff for a while. What else is hard? Writing from Ziva's POV. My God, she is a pain in the ass to write sometimes. But, thank you to Lovelihead and fractured-fairytale06 for your encouragement and nice little words that motivated me to keep writing. I'll stop talking now. And go do what I'm really supposed to be doing. But not really - I already have ideas for more fluff and smut.
To Lie is to be Safe
Books in order on the shelf. Cushions fluffed and set neatly on the couch. I wonder what the point of those actions are. I have no expectations that he will notice, despite my memories of jokes from him about my haphazard shelf. I settle on the uncomfortable conclusion that I am just nervous, in a way that reminds me of ticking bombs and not having sufficient back up. I am scared, because I know the term make or break. I know this is what this is, even if we walk away with the facade of acceptance.
I believe both Tony and I acknowledged how odd it was to organise such a talk. He joked about how thankful he was that no one had said 'We need to talk', that then he would feel like I was breaking up with him. I think, though, his lungs froze and his heart clenched like mine did. I am used to adhering to rules, relationships or on the job, but my breathing becomes shallower because he is different and I feel as though we do not have to be in a relationship to end it. I stare at the shelf.
I try not to plan out what I am going to say in my head but words are formulating anyway. Why? Nothing with us ever goes to plan. More rules which we cannot wholly obey.
I scrutinise the pillows on the couch. The books on the shelf. There is nothing to fix. They could be left alone, but my hands are shaking slightly - an observation that is unnerving because I have notoriously steady hands. I fluff the pillows once more and adjust a book on the shelf before I can stop myself. This is ridiculous, but I need to keep my hands occupied. I need to know I can keep something in order, because I know I can't keep my thoughts neat.
I consider not answering when I hear a meek knock, but I cannot ignore the more (slightly) confident one that follows it. For a fleeting moment it seems like a good idea to avoid it but if there is any more tension, any more sneaked looks and shaky hands, if the weight of everything we have ever and never said increases, surely one of us will collapse. I fear it will be me because I am strong, but maybe not strong enough. Those last four words make my hands shake a little more.
As I stand in front of the door (13 steps from the shelf to the door; I have never considered myself obsessive compulsive until this point), it seems all the more possible that one of us will collapse tonight. Perhaps both, which is almost what I hope because we must be equal in this. This is a battle of wills who is the better liar and who could tell the truth and fuck it, the rules are meaningless. Both of us are on equal footing at this point. Unless his hands are not shaking. In that case, he will have one upped me and we have not yet seen each other.
Tony jumps as I opened the door. He looks as nervous as I feel, but with his hands stuffed into his pockets, I cannot see if they are shaking. I try to clearly invite him inside but my guess is he hears the catch in my throat that I attempt to brush off, because he seems to flinch slightly. This is not us. We are not nervous people. We are not awkward around each other (I hope I have nothing to hide on my next polygraph test).
Confidence is a trait we share, but what are we now? Two people who have had to make arrangements to speak, because the amount of times I have caught his mouth opening to say something but closing before anything but a choked noise is emitted is about equal to the amount of times I have done it myself. Where are the communication skills we both have at work?
He steps inside and into the middle of the room. I follow and the first words he says are, "Your bookshelf is ordered. I didn't expect it." I just state the affirmative and invite him to sit. I do.
I do not blame him as he decides to stand. Tony can also see the need for equality here and this dominant stance as I sit is understandable as I sit in my chair in my home that feels less than neutral.
He scrubs his hands over his face and then through his hair. His hands are shaking. From an outside perspective, I see two special agents. I see how laughable our reactions are. There is not even a chance of facing death here. This should not feel like a particularly dangerous case. There are no bombs to disarm.
With this, I force myself to speak, even though I am not sure what I am going to say. Planning this conversation may have actually done some good. He speaks the same time as I do and it is awkward again. I hate this. I hate feeling weak and also hate that Tony does, too. But at the same time, I hate that he has changed into a mature man who wants to sit (stand) and risk pain that isn't physical. He is changed and I am changed and before, he would have avoided this. My throat tightens because this isn't only a question of how he feels and how I feel, but of what will happen next, what will happen even tomorrow.
"You first," I tell him and he nods sits down opposite me. Maybe his knees are shaking like mine are.
"We have to be honest," he says. That was my plan, even though my mind has, and I assume will keep, screaming at me to lie. The truth does not equal happiness, but we are not happy now. I have no other choice.
"We do," I agree, "We owe each other honesty." It is the truth.
He nods and what he asks next surprises me because I thought he had figured out the answer before this. He is the only thing that really surprises me now.
"Do you love me?"
He is blunt and there is no accusatory tone, but it's not quite curious. Clarification, because if I said no, this would go somewhere else.
"Yes," I do not consider lying but for a fraction of a second, "and you love me."
Roles are reversed, because that is not a question but my voice still heightens in tone at the end.
These admissions, they are sadly dwarfed by the repercussions. I have thought about my feelings, and I am sure Tony has, too. And I do love him. That is why I cannot walk away from this, why I cannot brush this off and be able to stay as we were. No more is this merely sexual tension, who can I kid? Something has to stop my shaking hands because I cannot pull a trigger like that. I am not hopeful tonight, but I am trying to be ready to face what is next. Walking away is hard but I can (and do) imagine that a relationship is no easy feat.
Tony's eyes meet mine and it's the longest eye contact full of truth that we have had in a while. "Of course I do," he tells me and hearing him say it means so much more than assumptions. I wonder if he felt the same when I said it. "So what else is there to say?"
His question brings upon another bout of silence as I remember how to speak again. There is so much going on in my head, but my mouth stays shut. I wrench it open.
"Everything. When did this start?" I want to know when this started being something more than light flirting. It has been gradual, I assume, but I do remember when I first realised life without him was too painful to imagine.
Sitting straight-backed, he considers my question and then replies, "A while," he is vague but as he tells me when he became as certain as he allowed himself to, I am overwhelmed with emotion. It does not match up with my realisation, he notes, as I explain, but it does not matter because we are both here now. We are both open and vulnerable but thought comforts me infinitesimally. We have remained equal and we look at each other again. Regained hope does not last because these revelations have no set outcome. Here is what I have feared: the choice. Reality has never mirrored fantasy, because I am not completely sure what the correct choice is.
"Where do we go now?" The million dollar question.
"Hypothetically," he begins and these hypothetical situations are not new to me, "hypothetically, there are two ways to go about this." Hypothetical situations make it sound much easier. "We go back to the beginning or we move ahead."
There are not only two, but I like this simple idea more; there are two that I can manage to consider. He is waiting for me to answer, and I know I have to work my mouth again. We are on the same page, we are equals. While we are discussing these hypothetical situations, I am safe. They have not yet happened and may never happen. This thought should be comforting, but I know that safety is never guaranteed.
"Hypothetically," I follow his lead, "what happens when we go back to the start?" I have my theories. I have my ideas, but I want to hear his. I want to hear his thoughts.
"No," he replies and I am not sure with what he is disagreeing. "I want to know what you want, first. This has driven me crazy, Ziva," it is the first time he has said my name all night, "everything I do is affected by this. What do you want from this?"
I know what I want; I have considered it many times. I want to tell him it has driven me crazy, as well, but I also want to lay everything out on the table. I need to hear what I don't want, so I can make sure my choice is right. So I ignore his question and answer my own.
"If we go back to the start," I begin and his eyes narrow at my avoidance, "Then where do we go from there? Do we end up in the same place, five more years in the future? I cannot pretend I do not know so much about you, feelings won't go away, I cannot lie forever."
"You do not want to start again?" I wish he did. I wish I truly did.
"I love you." I want to scream that such an answer is irrelevant for us. This is not a question of love; it is what do we do about it?
He loves me. If this were any other life, that would be enough. If the prospect of being transferred to another team was not there, if my respect for Gibbs was any less, I would launch myself at him. If what might happen next did not make us painfully vulnerable, I would not let go. In this moment, I hate NCIS and I hate rules and the guilt clenches my insides because it should be I at whom I should be angry. Why would I let this happen? Why did I let this get so far? Why did he allow himself to aid in these complications? Now, now I am angry.
"I know. It is not enough." I am almost satisfied when he looks shocked. He needs to see how stupid we are for this. Tony needs to see why this will never work, why false hope is a pointless coping mechanism. There are very few people to whom I cannot lie. I am one of them.
His expression changes to match mine and it is confronting how on par we are with each other's emotions. He is vehement when he says, "Don't say that. It is everything." He always was a romantic, whether he believes it or not.
I grip the edge of the armchair as his words are processed. Hewantsme. He wants me. My emotions are changing every second and three words, it is everything, repeat in my head. I swallow the thickness in my throat because crying is not acceptable. I need to stop this. I told him I would not lie, but the truth is becoming too much. My fingers ache from the pressure on my seat.
"Is it worth it when I am no longer a part of Gibbs' team? Is it everything when one or both of us has no job, when Gibbs looks at us in a way he does killers? What we do, it does not only affect us. Rules are there for a reason." I don't want to end up like Jenny, I do not want Tony to experience Gibbs' pain. The rules are logical, even in this state of mind. Why, then, do I want to forget these rules?
Tony stands up, he starts to pace. I want to tell him to stay still. "What do you want?" He demands an answer. His pacing stops anyway as he asks me and his eyes focused on mine.
"You. I want you, but wants and needs are different. I need you in my life, I think that has been proved, but I do not know how I need you. I do not know if it's worth the pain. If it is worth my job, my life. Love is not enough in reality." There is a mixture of truth and lies there. He will always be worth my life. I know how I need him.
"I know how I need you. I am sure of what you're worth." He whispers it and I hear my breath catch.
He is the one who said honesty. It is he, though, who has deflected my questions. "Please, Tony, sit down and answer this: what happens if this doesn't work? When you cannot look at me the same way as before."
I expect him to sit in the seat across from me, if he follows my request at all. Instead, he kneels in front of me and if he has missed the tears in my eyes before, he surely would not now. It is so intimate, and oh God, this is what I want. The tenderness, the care. Why did it have to be him? The infuriating, cocky, loyal, genuine man in front of me, the one whose love comes with the most repercussions. I am sure someone thought it would be a fair trade.
"Then, I will avoid your eyes but smile. But, eventually, I will look up and since we are mature adults, we will be glad that we tried. Work is work and God knows we have enough respect for Gibbs, for justice, to keep it out of there."
I think he knows my next argument, because what he says next answers another questioned designed to keep him from being so convincing.
"And, do you think I will react any differently if something happens to you?" It is not much of a smile, but it soothes me a fraction. "I'll only be free to say what I'm thinking instead of drinking it out. I'll be free to show you how much your safety means to me, after. Do you honestly believe there will be a distinctive change? Trust me, I have considered what could go wrong, but if I didn't think it was worth it, I wouldn't push anything. This is worth it, even if it doesn't last."
I do not know whether he is doing it intentionally or not, but his words are manipulative. He is laying out the ideal situation, but it is true. If it ends mutually, we will grow from it. None of these outcomes, none of these options, are easy. That is the problem. My fear is justified, my apprehension, but so is my desire to take the path that includes the happiness, however fleeting it is. All of this honesty is not going to go away if we walk from this, the time for clearly quashing what we feel and taking turns with the teasing is over.
We have to be sure. I cannot stand see him hurt, I cannot stand to be hurt. We have almost lost each other too many times to jump right into this. The man in front of me is the man with whom I want to share my future, and I am positive that he has grown to know what he wants. His words, though, are still swirling in my mind and I do not know what I would do if I woke up one morning to find I was not so sure after all. So many times over these recent years I have been certain about my judgement to have it blown back at me, it is wearing me down. On the chance that something might change, this cannot start yet.
I place my hand on Tony's cheek, I lean forward. "Take some time," I tell him. His wet cheeks mirror mine, but we both ignore it. He wants to protest, I know him. "You are saying this now, but you have to be sure and so do I. Please. Please, sleep on this. If in a month, in a couple of months, nothing has changed, then I am yours. I promise you, I am, whatever it takes. I believe it is worth the risk. We could be worth it."
The awkwardness is gone from our gaze and without breaking it, he kisses my palm. My heart is heavy, but it is heavy with hope and fear and love, a bittersweet combination that adds to the rivulets on my cheeks.
Tony grasps my hand and nods. "For you, I'll sleep on it because I already am yours, but I need you to be mine." He stands and I follow the action. He doesn't let go of my hand. "You're telling me to take some time, but I've told you, I don't need to. I have taken time. So, the ball's in your court. When, if, you're ready, I'll be waiting. Sleep on it, because I know all of this wasn't for nothing."
I do not protest his optimism, this time. I just hope that he is correct.
"I'm going to leave, now," he tells me and I find that I do not want to let go of his hand. If he leaves, what proof will I have that this happened? I grasp his hand tighter. "Ziva, follow your instincts and believe that your choice is the right one. I believe it will be. I trust you. However this goes, you won't lose me." He brings his other hand up and strokes my cheek with his thumb. We stare and then we break contact and he is walking to the door.
I am exhausted. After all of this, I am just so tired. But I have motivation. When I go to him, we will work through it all together because that's what teams and partners do. I am afraid, but I have come to terms with this fear because I can hear Tony's voice, still fresh. I love you. This is worth it. I already am yours. This is everything. How can I deny myself this?
My judgement might be clouded. I should sleep on this. But in my dreams? I now replay the moment I saw him again in Somalia. He is everywhere and that used to be what made my hands shake. Now it soothes me because he is going to stay. My hands are not shaking and if I have learnt anything over these last years, it is that rules should be bent to achieve what is really needed. I need Tony and I believe him. This is worth it. This is everything.
MEGA CRINGE. I am a romantic. I can't help myself. Like I said though, I thought I would end up writing them as better off apart. The shipper in my mind and heart got to me.
My constant fear is characters being OOC. Please, if they were, don't be harsh about it. I am way too sensitive. Positive reinforcement is needed and all that! As was pointed out when I was first voicing these fears, Tony is more adept at facing his emotions than Ziva. He seems to be, anyway. What Ziva says is surely nothing compared to what she is thinking.
Concrit is fine as long as you aren't completely nitpicky. It'll break my little heart and just prove that my insecurities should have me banned from posting any of my work. Bah. As always, I lovewantneed to hear what you thought of this.
You know what's breaking my heart a little, too? Ziva's use of contractions. And her almost always straight hair. I find myself missing season 3 Ziva.