This follows on from the other post-obsession Fic I wrote (post obsession monologue). This in my mind helps bridge the rather large Tiva gap between Obsession and Borderland. Based on Ziva telling Tony that he was obsessed with the 10 second thing. I thought it was either a rather careless or a very deliberate choice of words. I hope it was deliberate…
At 0330 he gave up on sleep. His internal monologue had slowed to its usual babble. He sat in his darkened living room, watching the black and white images flash on the screen. Even with the sound turned down he knew the dialogue. He had lived the dialogue. He knew it was cliche of him to be watching it, but it did fit perfectly. But it was not the same anymore. The film which had been a release and a catharsis to him for all those months left him feeling empty now. His last chapter did not reflect the rest of the film and it was unsatisfying.
At 0335 he heard the familiar scratching at his front door. The lock gave in easily to her nimble manipulation. It was probably used to it by now. She surveyed the scene in front of her. Tony, in pajama pants and shirtless, sitting on the floor between the couch and the coffee table. She deduced that he had at least tried sleeping. The muted tv cast eyrie shadows across the room and created a black and white illusion. Her eyes moved to the coffee table, searching for what she hoped she would not find. She released a breath she did not realise had been holding. There was no bottle. No glass. No sign that he had tried to dull the day with alcohol.
He turned his body towards her as she shut the door.
"I wondered if you'd come." he said softly. "It's late. Even for you."
"I did not know if I should." she admitted. "Today has not been a...good...day."
"No. No it hasn't." he sighed. He patted the floor beside him but she walked by and into the kitchen. Confused as he was, he did not move from his place on the floor. Moments later she returned with two spoons. He had not seen the bag in her hand when she arrived. He had been too distracted. She sat beside him and opened the cardboard container.
"I brought something for you to drown your sorrows." she offered him a spoon as she took a scoop of the cold relief in her mouth.
"You thought I would be drinking." he realised. "You thought I would be drowning my sorrows with Jack or Johnny you brought..." he sucked on the spoon, "Jamoca Almond Fudge?"
"There is cotton candy in the bottom half!" she defended, taking another spoonful for herself. "But yes. You must admit that drinking is usually your chosen way on days like this."
"Was." he corrected her. "It was my chosen way. Until a year ago you would have been right. I had to stop because....Well because I would have been so drunk all the time and I probably would have lost my job." There was no accusation in his voice. It was just fact.
She knew he was talking about her leaving. She suspected that it had played at least some part in his actions over the last two days. He had forgiven her and she had forgiven him. That was not the problem. She knew what was.
"You are not to blame, Tony." she said softly. "You are not to blame for any of it. I have forgiven you for interfering in my personal life. I know now that you had no choice when you shot Michael. I forgive you, Tony." She placed her hand on his cheek and gently turned his face towards her. "It is time that you forgive yourself."
He looked at the woman in front of him. Her dark hair and features made darker still by the flickering tv. Her eyes, sparkling again but clouded by her concern for him. She studied his face and he did not look away as a single tear escaped his eye. She only wondered why the case had moved him so deeply. He turned his face to the tv screen and looked at it, not really seeing what was there but something else.
"I used to watch her, you know. Every night I stayed back, long after even Gibbs left. Working cold cases, triple proofing reports. Any excuse to stay. Eventually though I would have to leave and I came home to the late news. She would be on, reporting from somewhere dangerous, showing some horror of war or tragedy."
He looked back to his partner.
"I would wonder about you. While I watched her report from a tank or by the side of a road, I would wonder if you were there too, secretly working on a mission for Mossad. Saving the world. I watched for you on the news reports. After Morocco, after I missed Morocco, I wanted to make sure I did not miss you again. But you were never there. Just her. Every night. That's why it felt like I knew her." he explained.
"You feel deeply." She said, beginning to understand. "I know your playboy image is, for the most part, an act. But you really feel very deeply." This time, it was she who turned away. "And I try not to feel anything at all."
"Hey." he took hold of her arm. "You know that is not true. You're not like that anymore. I know that you have changed so don't you even try and pretend that you are still the cold-hearted assassin. You are so much more than that."
"Rule number 10 has only been a problem for me once." She remembered the case which had drawn her in further than it should have. "But you, you are always becoming involved."
"Too involved." he insisted. "And look what happens. I go loco, snap at everyone and the witness dies anyway."
"You found her, Tony." She insisted.
"Actually, she found me."
"Nevertheless, your 'dogged pursuit' of her made her trust you and come forward."
Despite everything, he smiled at her use of the old time movie phrase. "I guess. But she died anyway. I could not save her."
"Nobody could have. She was dead before you even met her."
They sat silently for several minutes, each considering the days before. Finally, she broke the silence.
"The way you went after this case, the focus, the obsession. Was that how you were when I was... gone?"
"When I thought you were dead?" he asked.
"No. Nothing compared to that. I was much more insane then. I was so obsessed with finding you that I actually had Abby hack into Vance's computer!" he admitted. "No, today was bad, today I fell in really fast but it was totally different with finding you."
"But you did find me." she said. "You did not give up and you traced him and you found him and you saved me. Even though you did not expect to find me there you went anyway. Sometimes, Tony, your obsessions serve a good purpose."
He laughed. "Yeah, they serve to get me sent to the shrink."
"No." she insisted. "Your gut is good. Your heart is in the right place. Your emotions get too strong. You get carried away. You focus too much sometimes. Like today. It became personal. It became your job to find her. Your case, your witness. You thought of nothing else. You need to control yourself better."
"I need to be more like you." he suggested. "Able to keep myself apart."
"That is not something that I am proud of." she reminded him. "It is hard for me to be involved when I have spent my whole life keeping the world separate from me. I need to be more like you!"
"That crazy woman was actually right." Tony mused. "Nora said we complement each other. I guess she was right about something. I will make sure you do not shut out the emotion of a case."
"And I," she offered, "Will tell you when you begin to obsess about something."
"Sounds like a plan" he yawned. "It is late, you can stay if you want. But I am going back to bed." He stood and stretched, as he considered the woman on the floor beside him. There really was no other woman like her. He was lucky to have such an understanding partner. She could read him like no one else could and she usually knew the right thing to say to snap his mind out of its crazy. She also knew how to make him smile when he wanted to punch holes in things.
"I will stay." She lifted herself onto the couch and unfolded the blanket he had begun keeping there. "Goodnight, Tony."
It was 0645 when his alarm went off. He yawned as he sat up in bed and hit the offending appliance. He did not bother walking quietly as he moved to the living room. She would be long gone, he knew from past experience. She had folded her blanket up neatly and placed it back on the arm of the couch. The sticky spoons were in the sink and he knew the half eaten ice cream would be in the freezer.
He got a clean spoon from the drawer and opened the freezer for his cotton-candy breakfast. He smiled when he saw her note. "CEREAL FIRST. I WILL KNOW." He laughed. Somehow, she would know. She always knew. He put the ice-cream on the benck and went to the cupboard for a bowl. He would compromise. Cheerios and ice-cream. Opening the pantry, he found another note on the cereal box. "GOOD BOY. SEE YOU AT WORK". He laughed out loud at this. Was he really that predictable? She was not even here and had found a way to start his day off well. Not, it was definitely not a bad way to start a brand new day.