Summary: "Then tell me later. When you are ready and not because you think you are going to die. Because you are not dying." Tiva. General season 7 spoilers, nothing major. Angst with a fluff chaser.
Disclaimer: Really, really not mine. Sadly.
AN: This is a belated birthday present to my dear friend, Ana! I hope you like it. Clearly, it would've been a lot better with a little more guidance but hope the surprise is worth it!
To everyone else, please enjoy this random offering that sprung from my brain in true plot bunny fashion. (What if…bam! 18 page fic!) It's like one of those delicious, chocolate Easter bunnies with a hard, chocolate-y outside (the angst!) and an inexplicable marshmallow-y, gooey pretty much vacant center (the fluff!). This may not be the most realistic, logical, in-character piece I've ever written but it was fun and I liked it so deal with it. Ahem.
Well, anyway, enjoy.
Till Death Do Us Part
It was a case like any other. A love triangle turned rectangle, turned…some other polygon they were having a hard time keeping straight. But that didn't matter because they found their smoking gun and were going to arrest the crazy ex-boyfriend and the case was almost over. Done. They were going to arrest the ex, Gibbs would work his magic on him, and they'd wrap it all up with a round of late-night paperwork and take-out.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. This wasn't supposed to happen.
This was never supposed to happen.
Louder than she's ever heard. It echoes in the basement where they are searching for their murderer.
Over the sudden ringing in her ears, she hears Tony's cry of surprise.
While her body acts purely on instinct, her mind takes a sudden detour. She turns, raises her weapon. But her thoughts journey far beyond the sudden crime scene, ending up in places of bargaining, pleading, and regret. She doesn't see him go down, doesn't even know what happened, but nothing supplied by her imagination is good.
Another gunshot rattles her back to the present. Hers, this time, and then another, and another…
With each pull of the trigger, she wills it to unhappen. She wills herself to take back the sarcastic remark she'd tossed off to make him smile just before the first gunshot. Maybe then she would've heard their attacker approach. Maybe then she could've saved her partner.
She knows her aim is perfect. She knows her first hit was a killshot. But still she shoots, three shots to be safe, because she can. Because three shots no one will question; four might be considered excessive force. Death three times over and somehow that has to be good enough.
She doesn't bother to wait until the gunman hits the floor before she whirls around to find her partner.
She expects to see a lifeless corpse. A gruesome image of Tony straight out of her nightmares with his life a red river of missed chances beneath cooling skin. She blinks and finds the situation somewhat better. He has managed to push himself up from the concrete floor, gasping and panting as he clutches at his abdomen. His gun hangs limply at his side.
"Tony, oh, Tony," she murmurs, or maybe pleads, as she drops to the floor beside him. That he is moving and breathing despite the blood escaping his body gives her hope. But that hope comes with a disclaimer: a dark clock counting down every second that could be a second too late. She recognizes that each breath could be his last and nothing has ever been so terrifying to her.
She shakes her head clear of those paralyzing thoughts, knowing she has to keep moving forward. She pushes his hand out of the way and applies a fierce pressure to the wound. The warmth of his blood on her skin makes her choke.
"Hey, ouch, not so hard!" Tony protests, clasping his hand over hers. His breathing is already labored, but she thinks, hopes, it's more panic than anything.
Ziva gives him the most incredulous look she can muster. Meeting his eyes, she experiences a new wave of fear—his own. His eyes are bright, the color of a summer sky, and wide with worry. In them she reads the thought that inevitably follows situations like these: this cannot be happening. He fumbles for his wound again and finds her hand there. He gives it a weak squeeze, resting his fingers between hers as they work to keep pressure applied.
Feet trample down the stairs. McGee takes one look at the tableau they make before he whips out his phone and charges back up the stairs. Gibbs sprints over to his agents, barely sparing a glance at the corpse on the floor.
"Dammit, DiNozzo," he grumbles as he crouches next to his fallen agent. "Why'd you have to go and get shot?"
Gibbs' eyes linger on their hands, woven together now, a strange gauze of olive and honey and crimson. She isn't sure which one of them is gripping harder; this touch is everything to them right now, their whole futures. Ziva knows that as sure as she knows Ducky will find three of her slugs lodged in the heart of the crazy ex-boyfriend. She feels a sudden wetness on her cheeks.
"Hey. No fair. Ninjas don't cry," Tony says, his breaths shallow. He winces as the talking jostles him but still, somehow, manages to grin.
"Stop talking," she scolds. She swipes at her face, knowing she just smeared his blood across her cheeks. "Save your energy. The ambulance is coming. Right, Gibbs?"
But Gibbs is shouting directions up the stairs at McGee. She thinks she hears sirens in the distance, or maybe it's just wishful thinking.
"That's better," Tony teases. "Blood, not tears."
Ziva's body starts to shake and she doesn't know why. "Shut up, Tony."
Her eyes dart between her partner and the stairs. With each glance, she hopes help will arrive. She hopes this unbearable limbo will be over. With every pump of his heart he is coming closer to dying and she doesn't quite know how to handle that.
"Don't tell me to shut up, Ziva," Tony bickers back, the words coming in gasps now. He wavers a bit and it's then Ziva realizes he's supporting most of his own weight on one of his arms still. Letting out a foreign curse, she hurries to support him.
He's cradled against her now, their hands still entwined over his wound. She urges him to release all his weight onto her. He does and she sighs in relief. His skin is getting colder and she feels his pulse getting weaker under her fingers. She pulls him tighter to her, rests her cheek against his soft hair. Her lips murmur soundless prayers.
"I have some things to say before I die," Tony continues, coughing now, and for that remark Ziva squeezes him too hard.
"You. Are. Not. Dying."
"Kinda feels like I am," Tony laughs sharply. This time she's certain she hears sirens approaching. She closes her eyes tightly for a moment. Breathes. Then opens them again because she doesn't want to not see him. His eyes have taken on a stormy grey color, duller now, but open and so, so beautiful. And alive. She tries to memorize the feel of his weight against her, the flutter of his long eyelashes against his too-pale cheek.
And then she tries to force the images from her mind because when this is over she never wants to think of these moments again.
"Do not die on me. You are not allowed. Not yet." She gives him a shake, tries to jostle him into living.
"At least I get a good death scene," he smirks, and Ziva can't help but laugh. There's little humor in the sound, but the line is so perfectly him that it shatters her heart. He coughs, the pressure of his hand on hers releasing. "Can I confess something?"
And that's it. She recognizes the look on his face, suddenly soft and serious. His eyes are glassy now, too wide, and she knows what words are about to tumble from his lips.
She's not ready to lose him. Not now. Not yet.
"No. Hush." She kisses his head and hopes that will be a sufficient consolation. Because this is not the time for deathbed confessions. As far as she's concerned, there will never be a time for those. Where is the damn ambulance?
"Ziva…" He pauses and struggles for air. "I've been trying to tell you this for a long, long time."
"Then tell me later. When you are ready and not because you think you are going to die. Because you are not dying."
"Yes, I definitely am," he mutters, voice barely audible. His skin is so pale now and glistening with sweat.
"Gibbs did not give you permission to die. I did not give you permission to die."
Tony chuckles and coughs at the same time. He tries to tilt his head to look up at her. "Would you really…deny me a death speech? C'mon… How else will you… remember me?" She knows what expression is supposed to be on his face now, even if he can't quite manage it.
She swallows hard. "Do not say anything you will regret."
"I won't. Promise."
"Do not make it cliché, either," she warns.
He narrows his eyes at her, even as they fight to stay open, but keeps a touch of a smile on his lips. "Always so bossy."
"Fine, then, if you must," she exhales, ignoring the tears that she's dripping on his face now. He doesn't seem to notice. The thought crosses her mind that if he really does die, she's going to regret not letting him speak. But he won't die. He can't.
The sirens are impossibly loud now. She sighs in relief. She hears a rush of footfalls upstairs. Gibbs and McGee yelling.
His lips are colorless; they open and close around unspoken words. Finally, he manages out, "you are so beautiful. I never told you that." He looks up at her with smug, delirious wonder.
"Thank you," she replies, resisting the urge to shake him silly. He opens his mouth to say more, manages out a syllable and a wheeze, but the paramedics are upon them then. They shift him out of her arms and onto a stretcher, Tony moaning and groaning all the while. He tries to talk above their orders but is silenced by an oxygen mask.
He's trying to tell her something as he's being taken from her, but Ziva can't move. Her body is rooted to the spot. His blood is all over her hands and clothes and skin and she can't stop the tremors that threaten to rip apart her body.
She watches him disappear behind busy hands and equipment.
His eyes flutter closed and the paramedics hurry their movements.
"Tony," she calls, and her voice sounds suddenly pathetic. Weak. What is she doing sitting on the floor still? She tries to stand but it doesn't feel like her legs will support her. "Tony!"
The paramedics don't respond to her and Tony's eyes don't open. She doesn't understand a word they say as they start to ease her partner up the stairs.
Then she feels Gibbs' arms around her, pulling her up. Hands, blood covered hands, wipe at her cheeks and the feeling of it, so sticky and strange, makes her double over and retch right there on the basement floor.
"Okay. Okay," Gibbs says and rubs a slow circle on her back as she empties her stomach. Ziva stays bent for a moment, trying to pull herself together. She focuses on taking slow and even breaths. She fights the urge to gulp in oxygen. She knows that will only make her panic more. Her stomach finally settles. Her muscles calm their trembling.
The steady stream of tears down her face doesn't stop, though.
All the horrors she's seen and experienced and it's this one that finally threatens to break her.
But she might lose Tony. For real. Forever.
And she's just not ready for that to happen.
"C'mon, Ziver," Gibbs murmurs, keeping his arm around her. "Tim will take you to the hospital now."
Ziva doesn't really remember how she came to be sitting in the corner of a hospital waiting room. There was silence in the car with McGee. Chaos at the hospital with the ambulance and Gibbs and the doctors. Ducky in there somewhere, and Abby, and everything else in one big blur.
Tony is in surgery. The doctors say he has lost a lot of blood, but expect all the damage can be repaired.
They won't know until they finish the surgery what the outcome will be though.
So, Ziva waits.
She's sitting in the sterile hospital waiting room but feels like she's in dusty Somalia again, abandoned and alone. She shivers in the desert night. She prays in the only way she can remember—bits of scripture and scraps of childhood prayers, poems and hymns that are half-forgotten. She can only hope these remnants will be good enough; she lifts them to the sky with all the strength she can muster in her soul. She has to believe they will work.
They worked in Somalia, after all. Why can't they work here? Or has she used up all her miracles?
She'd go back there in an instant, relive any of those tortures, if it means that Tony will live to quote another movie. That such a thought even crosses her mind makes her question everything.
She stares into the distance and focuses on memories until they are solid and real around her, grounding her when she threatens to float away.
She startles. McGee sits next to her. He wraps a heavy wool coat around her shoulders. It's then Ziva realizes she's still trembling slightly, though she can't remark if she's chilled or not because she doesn't know. She gives him a small smile of gratitude and pulls the garment closer to her body. She inhales, and then looks up at him in alarm.
He left it in the car, claiming the early spring day was too warm to wear it.
Tim shrugs. "When they loaded him in the ambulance, he came around for a few seconds. He told me to make sure you got it. Something he always wanted to give you?"
Ziva gives McGee a strange look. That doesn't make sense at all. Why would she want Tony's coat? McGee shrugs again, absolving himself of understanding Tony's crazy ramblings.
"Thank you, Tim," she says softly. She bundles the coat around her. It smells so much like Tony and is embedded with a warmth that seems much too great for just a wool coat.
"Can I get you anything?" He asks. Ziva shakes her head and watches as he goes to intercept Abby, who is pacing a few feet away.
Shoving her hands deep into the pockets of Tony's coat, Ziva leans back with a sigh.
He has to be okay.
There is simply no other option.
Ziva frowns as her hands feel all the crap Tony has stored in his pockets. She makes out a pen, receipts, some spare change, and what she hopes is melted candy. Then, deep in Tony's right pocket, she feels something plastic and hard. A cube-shaped item.
Curious, Ziva frees the object.
Her breath catches in her throat.
A ring box. An old one. An ornate little box made of white Bakelite with gold flowers etched across the top.
Ziva's fingers trace the design, her mind racing as to why Tony has a vintage ring box in his jacket pocket.
Something he always wanted to give her.
She squeezes the box hard in her hand.
No. She won't open it. It could be anything, really. Earrings, a necklace, a pin…
He's just going to have to get his ass out of that hospital bed and give it to her himself. If, in fact, this is what he wanted to give her.
He very well could've meant the pen she's sure was stolen from her own supply.
"What's that?" Abby's curious voice asks as she sinks into the chair next to Ziva. Ziva looks up at her friend, eyes wide.
"Nothing," Ziva stammers, something she was sure she had forgotten how to do.
"C'mon, Ziva, I need a little something happy," Abby says, smiling through watery eyes. Her make-up has been scrubbed from her face and her voice lacks its familiar melody.
Ziva uncurls her fingers from her treasure and offers it up to the scientist.
"Pretty box," Abby says and reaches out for it.
"Tell me it is not a ring," Ziva demands as she hands it off, then looks away.
Giving her a strange look, Abby slowly opens the box. Her eyes get big and she snaps it closed. "Not a ring," she confirms, nodding her head yes at the same time.
Ziva groans and covers her eyes.
"Where…where did you get this?"
Refusing to meet Abby's probing gaze, Ziva just lifts her hands, showing off Tony's oversized wool coat. Abby is quick to put all the evidence together and lets out a little squeak.
"Tony is carrying around an engagement ring in his coat pocket?"
"It seems so."
Abby jiggles her foot, buckles clanging and singing with the movement. "But why?"
"I do not know," Ziva answers honestly.
I've been trying to tell you this for a long, long time.
His words haunt her, maker her shiver. Could he really have meant…? And why, why on earth would he be carrying around an engagement ring? In his coat pocket? Just carrying it around. All day. While investigating crimes.
The man is insane.
"Is he seeing anyone?" Abby's voice reaches a hysterical pitch. Her fingers slowly release the ring box as if it contains a volatile substance.
The thought slams into Ziva hard.
Well, of course. Didn't he mention a date that canceled? She didn't really believe him at the time; her own excuse was completely fabricated, after all. But maybe he wasn't lying. A date. A girlfriend. Of course. It would explain his improved behavior as of late.
Because if Tony is acting mature, and kind, and considerate even if only sometimes…well, that could only mean one thing. He is in love.
In love. With someone. Someone else. Not her.
A vision of him swims in front of her eyes: his soft but still dazzling smile framed by the city lights as they stroll the avenues of Paris. It had felt like he only had eyes for her.
Her stomach lurches and threatens to revolt again.
She leans over and inhales ragged breaths.
"Oh…whoa! Ziva!" Abby scrambles to sit up, hand coming up to rub her back. "Don't freak out. I was just asking. Truthfully, I thought you guys were finally boinking and now you'd be forced to admit it."
Ziva rights herself. She blinks hard, fighting back the fresh waves of panic rolling through her.
She is going to kick his ass all the way to Canada for doing this to her-- for making her into a total wreck, for messing with her head and heart so completely. The bastard.
"We are not boinking," Ziva assures. An image of him wrapped around some leggy, busty blonde fills her mind and she scowls.
He can boink whoever he damn well pleases.
Abby has turned back to the evidence in her hands. She taps the box. "Do you mind?" She asks Ziva.
Ziva shrugs. "Why should I care?"
Abby gives her a sympathetic pat on the arm. She opens the box. Ziva can't help but see the ring. Her heart skips a beat.
"Oh," Abby says as she lifts it out of its resting place on a bed of red velvet. The cushion cut diamond is about a carat in size, a high quality specimen to Ziva's trained eye as it twinkles in the light. It is set low in an ornate platinum band. A simple ring, yet unique and utterly beautiful.
Ziva averts her eyes and suddenly feels guilty for invading Tony's privacy like this. He needs to wake up, get off that operating table, and come ream them out. He needs to explain it is just a ring he found, or is holding onto for someone, or…any explanation, really.
Abby slides the ring onto her finger and it gets stuck well above her knuckle. She examines the box with a practiced care. She removes the nest of velvet and finds a receipt folded inside.
"The box is originally from a jewelers in Brooklyn," she narrates her discoveries. She turns the ring about in her hands. "It's hard to tell without my magnifying glasses, but it looks like the signature on the ring matches the insignia on the box. Probably where the ring was originally bought, years ago. From the design, I'd say the art deco period, the mid-twenties to late-thirties."
Abby carefully unfolds the receipt. "From a jewelry store down the street from Navy Yard. Looks like he had the ring cleaned and resized about a month ago."
Ziva feels faint. "But why…"
"It's for you, Ziva," Abby says hurriedly. She reassembles the box, places the ring back inside, and shoves it into Ziva's hand. "I'm sure of it. Tim said Tony was blathering on about making sure you got his coat. And, seriously, who else would he even think about proposing to? He's totally crazy in love with you."
Ziva opens her mouth and closes it quickly. "You do not know that."
Abby nods her head. "Yes. I do. I'm a forensic scientist, remember? It's my job to investigate everything. Also, the man went to Africa to avenge your death!"
"So did McGee and Gibbs," Ziva argues.
"Yeah, because they had Tony's back. But it was Tony who orchestrated the whole thing…" Abby tangles her fingers together as she starts to get agitated. "He was lost without you, Ziva," she murmurs, tears springing to her eyes. "If he hadn't found you there…I really don't think he was planning on coming back."
"You do not know that," Ziva admonishes. She sits up straight and stares ahead. This is ridiculous. This is not a conversation she needs to be having right now. Not with Abby, at least.
Abby shrugs. "Believe what you want. But I think the ring is meant for you."
"But...but why? And how?" Ziva realizes her voice is too loud, so she starts over. "We are not even dating. How could he possibly have a ring? This is Tony we are talking about! The man who will not commit to a lunch menu!"
"This is a lot more important than lunch," Abby grins.
Ziva huffs in frustration. "Exactly!"
Abby leans back in the chair and closes her eyes. "I think it's romantic."
"It is absurd."
"Oh, c'mon, don't you see the pure Hollywood beauty in the playboy falling hard for his complete opposite, the femme fatale that is perfect for him in every way? And he's so smitten that he can't help but to dive headfirst into till-death-do-us-part?" Abby sighs. "If it isn't already a movie, it needs to be! It doesn't matter that you've never dated; he loves you, Ziva."
Ziva gives the generic painting on the wall a death stare. "Life is not one of his movies. He cannot just propose to me when he cannot even admit to me that…that…"
And then, like in one of the movies she's railing against, she's hit with a collection of moments over the last few months, all the times she's caught Tony gazing at her, the hurt look on his face whenever she has teased him about Damon or whomever, the way he always seems to be hovering near her. The times when it really had seemed like he might say something but she had cut him off with a flirty look or teasing remark.
She rubs her temple. "I am going to kill him myself," she says in defeat.
Abby grabs her hand. "That's the spirit!"
She holds vigil at his bedside, concentrating on the steady whir-beep of the machines attached to him instead of the mess of emotions in her head.
He will live.
Her heart flutters in relief, as it has every time the realization has struck her. By some miracle, the bullet managed to miss all vital organs. All its damage was completely repairable.
She is clutching his wrist, feeling his pulse strong and sure under her fingers because she doesn't trust the machines beside her. She watches his chest rise and fall, watches the flutter of his eyelids. She wills him to wake up.
Then, with a disgruntled moan, he finally does.
"Ziva?" His voice cracks as he blinks awake.
She sits up straight, keeps him calm and in bed with the pressure of her touch.
"Yes, Tony, I am here," she affirms, pressing the call button for the nurse.
He drifts off again.
It's hours later when he wakes again. Nurses and doctors and Gibbs and Abby and McGee have come and gone. Ducky urged her to finally change out of her bloody clothes and into borrowed surgical scrubs. She realizes that it's been nearly twelve hours since the shooting and she hasn't even made it to the bathroom. She doesn't even want to think about what she looks like now. She feels the blood caked dry on her face.
"I can sit with him for a few minutes if you'd like to freshen up," a nurse offers with a smile.
Ziva looks between the woman and Tony with hesitation.
"It's just that, with the blood on your face… You look a bit intense…"
Ziva smiles. Intense. Right.
She excuses herself.
The image that confronts her in the bathroom mirror is scary to say the least. She takes her time washing her face, fixing her hair. She wonders, not for the first time, what exactly he sees when he looks at her. What she could possibly have ever done to earn that look of reverence he sometimes gives her.
"Good. You are awake," she yawns when he starts rasping her name again. He seems more alert this time. Some color has returned to his face.
"What's the verdict?" He's even smiling.
"You are alive."
"Good to know."
She helps him raise his bed so he's nearly sitting up. Her fingers flutter over him, adjusting blankets and tubes, being sure to brush across his warm skin. She helps him take a sip of water and, as she holds the straw to his lips, he grabs her hand and keeps it. Suddenly flustered, she looks away, but sneaks peeks at the expression on his face. He's giving her that look of awe again, something too intense to acknowledge with anything but a nonverbal what are you doing, crazy person? She busies herself tidying up his already neat tray table.
"You have lost a lot of blood and part of your spleen," she informs him, preparing him for the inevitable monologue by the doctor. "You will survive. McGee is heartbroken."
Tony waves his free hand and winces at the effort. "My spleen? Eh. Could be worse. And of course McGee is heartbroken; he stood to inherit a stunning entertainment system."
Ziva can't help the brilliant smile that spreads across her face. It amazes her how much she missed him in the brief time he was taken from her; but, maybe, it was just the possibility of never getting him back. She rubs her thumb across his knuckles, enjoying the pleased look on his face in response.
A heavy silence falls over the room.
"I don't regret anything I said, Ziva." His voice is firm and strong, addressing the very issue Ziva had been too afraid to broach. Ziva tries to avoid his gaze, alarmed by the sudden levity, but she's drawn in despite herself.
"You told me I was beautiful," she murmurs, falling into the ocean of his eyes. "That is all."
"Oh, well," he says dramatically, a glint in his eyes, "that I regret."
She pinches his arm, and then soothes it with touch. He snatches her hand back in his and it makes her breath hitch.
His eyes drift down to the coat on her chair back. "I thought I told McGee to give you something."
"Your coat?" She raises her eyebrow. "It is right here."
"Well, yeah, but…" he looks suddenly uncomfortable. His heart rate picks up. He rubs a hand across his brow and sighs.
Ziva takes pity on him. She places the box on his chest. "You wanted me to have this?"
Tony glances down at the box from his semi-reclined position. He frowns. A dark look crosses over his face. Rejection.
"If you wanted it," he says bitterly. He doesn't move.
"Did you think it would be that easy?" She asks, and regrets the harshness of her tone.
"I don't know. When I was bleeding out on the floor, it didn't really seem that hard."
She laughs, a dry and brittle sound. "But you were just carrying that around!"
Tony scowls. "Yeah. In case something like this happened. Or the moment was right."
"But…but…" Ziva splutters for words. "You have never even asked me out!"
"Not exactly, no," Tony hedges and squirms and she can see he realizes the error of his ways. "But that hardly matters…"
He avoids her gaze, picking at the blanket with his free hand. "Well, no, I mean…taking you out on a date, that's just a detail…"
Ziva isn't sure if she should laugh or cry. "Tony…"
He looks up at her with pitiful eyes. She melts. Damn him.
"You really thought I would just find a ring in your pocket and assume that it means…that it means…" She can't even say the words out loud. That is how completely absurd this situation is.
"It means I want to marry you," he says softly. He does his best to keep his gaze locked on hers, even though she can feel a blush moving across her cheeks. "It means I don't see the point in asking you out on just a date when I want so much more. It means that I want to promise to spend the rest of our lives, our hopefully long lives, figuring out everything else."
Ziva feels her eyes start to water. She blinks. She turns away from his imploring gaze because what is she even supposed to say when he's looking at her like that? All his charm and passion and intensity focused completely on her?
"Oh, Tony…" She sighs. She tries to combat the rapidly forming image of a happily-ever-after life unfolding in her mind with what is sure to be reality, a lifetime of misunderstanding and regret and another man she shouldn't have trusted. "But how do you know? For sure? We have never been on a date—
"Movie nights. Lunch. Dinner. Paris! We spend twelve hours a day together, every day!"
She scrunches up her nose. "You cannot just count those—
"Of course I can. If it will win this argument."
"This is not an argument!"
"Oh. Huh," he smirks.
She refuses to be sidetracked. "We have never had sex," she gives him a firm look, knowing he can't refute that claim. "What if we are completely incompatible? You could be signing up for a lifetime of bad sex."
"Like that's even possible," he leers, and her body warms in response, knowing he's right.
"It is just not the way things work," she finally protests.
"Since when have we ever done anything by the book?" He grins. He knows he has her with that. It's true. When have they ever been conventional about anything? Her brain is spinning right now. Her whole world is spinning.
He senses her utter unbalance and starts to caress her hand. "Look, I'm not saying we run off and get married and start popping out little DiNozzos tomorrow."
"Thank god," she mutters, and shares a teasing look with him.
He fiddles with the box on his chest. "But, other than that, why mess around? I love you, Ziva. For me, you're it. I know it without a doubt. Either we spend the next fifty years figuring this out, or I die alone. Tell me you don't feel the same way."
His eyes are shaded with a sudden uncertainty that squeezes her heart. She takes a deep breath. "I do," she manages out between the lump in her throat. She shakes her head and fights back a grin at the unintentional language. "I mean, yes, I feel the same."
How is this happening right now? She expects to wake up and find this has all been one really horrible yet impossibly wonderful dream.
"Okay, then." Tony says smugly. "So why wait?"
She closes her eyes and tries to make sense of everything. Arguments spring forward on her lips, all the reasons they shouldn't rush into making any big commitments. Except…
Except, why not?
Because, he's completely right. Why wait? It's totally rash and ridiculous and she will probably regret it later but…
"Yes," she blurts out.
His entire face lights up. "Really?"
She just nods, overcome with a wave of happiness. Laughter bubbles out of him; he looks completely stunned.
Tony fumbles to open the box with one hand. When he finally does, he looks up at her in alarm.
Trying not to give him a heart attack, she sheepishly raises her left hand from where it rests on her lap. The ring sparkles on her finger, a perfect fit.
"Ziva David, if I wasn't trapped in this bed I would kick your butt all the way back to your mother country."
She laughs. "I would like to see you try."
He leans back in the bed with a sigh of relief. "We had to do the whole song and dance?"
Ziva shrugs. "I was not completely decided…" They both admire the way the ring looks on her finger, flashing and glinting in the light.
He traces his thumb over her palm. "Forever and ever, huh? Till death do us part?"
She looks down at him, overwhelmed. She leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his lips. Pulling away, she stares into bright eyes. "Are you sure you want to do this? That you will not change your mind when the painkillers wear off?"
"Painkillers?" Tony's eyebrows rise in surprise and, for a moment, Ziva thinks she might have to do something to earn him another surgery. The expression fades after a moment, though. He winks at her. "Kiss me again so I can be sure."
She rolls her eyes, but obliges. This time, she lets her lips linger a moment longer. When she pulls back, she gives him a questioning look.
He feigns deep thought. Just when she's about to toss his ring back in his face out of sheer frustration, he breaks into a smile. "That ring belonged to my Nana DiNozzo, you know. I inherited it when she passed away, back when I was in college. It had been in a safe deposit box until this fall. When we got you back…" He pauses. Ziva squeezes his hand. "Well, I knew then who it really belonged to. I've been carrying that damn thing around for weeks, just trying to get up the courage to tell you how I feel."
"If I only knew it would take you bleeding in my arms," Ziva says wryly and enjoys Tony's chuckle in response.
"Nana would've really liked you," he smiles. "She refused to ever give the ring to my father. Said he would pawn it off on the first girl to tickle his fancy." Tony winks at her as he kisses her palm.
"And all the girls that tickled your fancy?" Ziva keeps her chin high and her voice haughty.
Tony shrugs and leans back on his bed. "Ziva, you don't just tickle my fancy. You pummel it into submission with your superhero moves."
She has to laugh at that. Then, making a face at him, she glances up at the clock. "You need to get your rest, DiNozzo. I have big plans for you."
"Promise?" He smirks.
"Yes, I promise. The first plan requires you to explain to our boss how you proposed to me while unconscious." Grinning at the look of horror on his face, she sits back in her chair.
"Evil woman," he mumbles as his eyes start to close. "You're lucky you're hot."
Ziva just snorts. She watches him slide back into sleep. She draws lazy circles on the palm of his hand, watching her new accessory sparkle in the light.
What was she thinking, agreeing to give him forever?
With a smile, she leans forward so that she's resting on the bed. She traces the golden hair on his arm, following it as it parallels the web of blue veins under his skin.
The rest of their lives? That won't be nearly enough.
AN2: I know. FLUFF. Sorry, I couldn't help it. I had too much fun torturing poor Ziva in the first part, I had to give her a major happy ending. My romantical side needed some exercise. Do I think they should just run off and get married? Not really. But in my happyland, I think it could work. :-) Also, wouldn't Tony be doofy enough to walk around with a ring in his pocket forever? And think he could somehow escape the whole wooing part?