The pacing seemed as if it would never end. Back. Forth. Back. Forth.
Pretty soon there was bound to be a smoothed down pathway in the middle of Abby's lab.
"Ziva, I think you need to take a seat now…" Abby offered her chair hesitantly. Ziva had walked in, thrown her hands up in frustration and started pacing, throwing out random foreign phrases when it suited her. That was about 45 minutes ago. "You're starting to weird me out a little."
"What am I supposed to do here, Abby?" Again with the throwing up of frustrated limbs. "You do realize this is ridiculous, right? I cannot believe we were actually instructed to go along with it!" She shook her head and swore, but finally allowed herself to sit. Abby slowly walked to her side and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "This doesn't feel fair. Not at all."
"Fair? What are you talking about?" A quizzical look was planted on the scientists face as she tried to read Ziva's emotions.
"To Tony. To me. To the team. Everyone! Sure, it's easy for the doctor to say 'yeah, go ahead and try this, see what happens!' when he is not around for the effects!"
"Well…" she started off slowly, "I'm not sure what to tell you, Ziva. But as unfair as it is to all of us, how do you think Tony feels? His mind is stuck in-between reality and make-believe and for us to tell him either way which is right or not could break him."
Though Ziva knew her words were truth she couldn't shake an apprehension she could hardly explain.
"Tell me, what are you afraid of exactly?"
"Afraid of?" Ziva scoffed at the question, "I am not afraid of this."
"Okay, worried about then. Something is holding you back and it doesn't seem all too difficult to understand."
It was Ziva's turn to cock her head in confusion. "Well if it is so clear, please tell me."
"Oh no," Abby had a smile playing across her lips, "this is something you need to realize for yourself."
She took her time walking up the steps to their apartment. With a deep breath she turned the doorknob and took her first step into this dream of Tony's. He dreams of being married to me… she shook the thought away, placing her keys on the table next to the door. She looked up just in time to see him sealing an envelope tenderly and slipping it in the desk drawer. He didn't seem to have heard her walk in.
"Tony," she got his attention softly. He turned, surprised, but as soon as he saw it was her he lit up.
"Hey!" He got up quickly and made his way to her. "I thought I heard you run a few stop lights a few seconds ago," he teased. She smiled softly, her body language screaming her discomfort. He walked up to her and opened his arms. She hesitated a minute before she stepped into him. He wrapped her arms around her tightly, her arms resting around his waist. "It's felt like forever since I've held you," he almost whispered. She said nothing as she felt him kiss her hair softly. She breathed him in, smelling a mix of light cologne and his natural scent.
"I'm sorry I am late, I got caught up talking to Abby." She waited for him to pull away, but his arms stayed around her. She stepped away from him and as soon as he released her she felt cold, like something was missing. "How are you feeling today?" She walked towards the living room, noting how clean everything was for a change. He must have gotten bored waiting.
"Good! Better, definitely better…" he watched her sit down on one end of the sofa and he sat on the other end, kicking his feet up on the coffee table. He immediately took them off, and looked at her as if he was caught. "Sorry, I know you're always yelling at me not to do that." She cocked her head with a slight smile, amused at how specific his fantasy is. "How was your day?"
She rolled her eyes sighed slightly, unable to express to him her frustration. "Barely tolerable. There is a lot of paperwork to finish up for this case…" she turned to look at him and saw him staring at her, as if he were just studying her. "What?" He grinned back at her, with that lop sided smile as if he were hiding his own little secret.
"You're beautiful." She blushed. He said it so matter-of-fact, as if he said it every day. Well, maybe he did, just not to her. "C'mere," he laid back, with his back on the armrest, arms open inviting her to lay with him.
She bit her lip slightly as she moved towards him. This isn't fair; she repeated to herself, I need to tell him… She mentally shook the thought; the doctor said this is what has to be done, even Ducky agreed with him. She lay with her back to his chest, and felt him move slightly to get comfortable. His arms wrapped around her and rested on each other on her stomach. She rested her hands on his. I hope we're okay after he remembers…
She rationalized that her fear isn't this current moment, but how Tony will feel when he remembers the truth and reflects on her, and the rest of the team, going along with his fantasy. This personal, secret dream of his. Somewhere in his mind he wants this, yes? She then realized he had spoken to her.
"I am sorry, Tony, my mind started to wander." He chuckled at her.
"I said McGee made me tell him about when I first bit the bullet and sweet-talked you into going on a date with me." She laughed a hearty laugh, mentally making a note to have McGee retell her, then regretted it and told herself to swear him to secrecy instead. "But its okay," he said with pride in his voice, "since I told him he said he'd give me a gold star."
"Oh, Tony," she shook her head, "you are such salami."
"Salami? I'm going to guess ham."
"Yes," she rolled eyes, thinking she was finally remembering all of these confusing idioms, "you are such a ham." He tightened his arms around him, breathing deeply.
"Yes, but I'm your ham, so it's worth it to see you smile."
She snuggled in closer to him, pushing away the guilt she felt for letting herself take advantage of his fantasy for her comfort. "What made you ask me out?" The words rushed out of her before she could stop them.
"After all this time, and now you're questioning me?" He shrugged, "well I'm glad it took so long." He chuckled and kissed her temple. "This seems like the second loaded question I've gotten today."
"If you do not want to answer-"
"No, it's fine. Question and answer time is good." He thought for a moment, trying to remember what actually broke the camel's back that night. He remembered the conversation, but in the end he always chalked it up to a now-or-never moment. "I guess I got scared."
"Scared?" He felt her head turn slightly towards him, a glance of confusion on her face.
"Scared to let you walk away one more time. I was afraid that one day you'd walk away and just not come back. And what was the worst that could happen? I was afraid of you not coming back, and if you told me no, you wouldn't come back… So logically the odds were in my favor."
"I'm not sure that is how probabilities work, Tony. Or logic for that matter…"
"Hush, it worked out in my mind. Anyway. That night you turned to walk away from me in the parking garage, telling me pretty much that I wasn't a man or a man that was your friend; I had this flash of you going out to meet some other guy. You going out to dinner and a movie with someone that wasn't me. And I realized I couldn't picture you with someone else. Literally, in my mind, the guy had no face," he laughed a little, pausing as he thought, "and I thought, What if it's me? I had already known at that point how I felt about you. I knew when I looked towards my future I couldn't see anyone else beside me. I thought what if it's you? And I knew that if I ever got to hold you, I'd never let go, but then… if I never got the chance to, I would never know. So I took a chance."
"So that night, the night I was cancelled on and you followed me to the parking garage, you had decided everything."
"Yeah, sort of," he rested his head, suddenly growing tired, dozing off with the comfort of her body warmth. "And between you and me, I'm glad whoever that 'he' was cancelled." Ziva's mind raced and she felt his breathing fall rhythmically into a pattern of sleep. She remembered that night.
It wasn't the first time they had the same conversation. She had told him before that he was not her friend, and though it hurt her to lie to him, she saw it as slight truth. She made herself try to keep him at arm's length in serious moments like that, hoping to protect herself.
"There are friends that are men and friends that are more than that… You are neither, Tony."
She had hoped he would drop it as they exited the elevator. She hoped he would drop it when he didn't say another word and they walked towards her car in silence. He put his hand on her shoulder and stopped her, turning her towards him. She looked into his eyes, which had confusion and a small showing of hope left in them. He searched her face for any hint of an expression. She did her best to show none.
"…I'm not your friend." He said it as matter-of-fact. It was deadpan. Worst of all, it was said with hurt. He put his hands in his pockets, suddenly looking smaller than he was. He shrugged slightly, as if to shrug off his own words. She raised her hand and gently cupped his cheek. She felt him turn his face slowly into her palm, welcoming the contact. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. She dropped her hand and started to pull her keys from her pocket awkwardly. He pursed his lips and nodded slightly. "Have a good night, Ziva." He turned on his heel and walked away.
She remembered regretting him walking away immediately. She regretted letting him walk away. She should have said something different. She should have done something different. The following days he forced a smile when they were together. He stopped the teasing and the banter, which worried her. But a few days after their conversation he slowly started to act normal towards her again. Back then she had assumed it was a typical reaction; he had needed time to regroup and recover. Now she could see that it was a turning point in her partner's feelings.
She got up carefully, trying not to wake him. She saw him shift, reaching for the warmth that was now missing. She grabbed a blanket on the loveseat nearby and draped it over him softly. She watched him sleep for a moment, wondering if he was living his dream when he was awake, what did he think of as he slept?
Is this how life would have gone, she mused as she walked to the kitchen, is this how it would have played out, had I not let him walk away…?