Show Me What I'm Looking For
Or at least Tony thinks they're fighting. Between the lack of communication, the not so subtle scowls and angry glances, he's almost certain Ziva's the definition of pissed. He even makes sure to double check his desk for any booby traps or potential office supplies that may induce bodily harm of the deadly variety- just in case. He's still not sure why she's mad exactly - mad, for lack of a more impressive vocabulary word befitting of an ex Mossad assassin - but he has a theory. It's one that has to do with late night discussions about personal safety on the job and refraining from kamikaze actions like, oh, maybe jumping in front of an ex-marine with PTSD induced psychosis and a loaded gun?
Ziva thinks he's over protective. Tony thinks he'd like for her not to die. Again. And last time he checked ninjas don't have nine lives.
He might have agreed with her if it hadn't been for the fact that she now sports a fashionable arm sling, product of the crazy corporal's stray bullet that embedded itself in her right clavicle. Despite whatever deluded ideas of heroism, or in this case heroine, Ziva might have been led to believe as a child, she wasn't indestructible. Isn't. And he told her so when Ducky was stitching her up in autopsy, because she refused to go to a hospital.
What he really wants is to tell her to get over herself. But he did that once before in a different lifetime, in a prison cell that was the equivalent of a cement box, half way across the world. All she gave him then was a death wish in the form of resignation and a sorry excuse about justification. Tony's afraid of what she might give him now, now that she's back, here, alive
Or what she won't.
He'd hoped Gibbs would say something, because the boss always knew just the right thing to say to put Ziva back in her place. The place where she belongs, not the place she's currently in, where risk taking a cynicism seem to override common sense. Gibbs didn't though. In fact the former gunnery sergeant, ex sniper, infamously intimidating very special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs let Ziva off with a slap on the wrist, a 'don't do it again.' Tony's not sure whether he should be angry or befuddled by the blatant out of character gesture.
One thing he knows for sure is that there has been a severe lack of head slaps. Maybe Gibbs is drinking McGoo's motivational kool aid.
"I would have kicked your ass." The words are out before he even thinks about trying to stop them. Tony leans back in his chair, away from his desk, twirling his aviator sunglasses around his index finger while he waits for her to look up. And she does, her eyes suspicious and her lips set in a thin line of contemptuous confusion.
Tony forgets she can't read his mind, although there are times he'd beg to differ.
If it weren't for the seriousness of the situation Tony might have found the suave formality of the question funny, but it is, so he doesn't.
"If I were Gibbs I would have kicked your ass for that stunt at Quantico." He replies, words laden with a dryness that isn't quite humor. "I thought you were done with the whole self penance thing after that little incident this summer, but maybe you forgot. Although I do have to say that sling is kind of hot, in a badass kind of way. Looks good with that shirt too, is it polyester or neoprene?"
"Your sarcasm is noted."
Her voice is curt, clipped, but her eyes are storming against a backdrop of molten chocolate fire and they burn into him as he stares back, unwavering. He notes the way her jaw seems to tighten under his scrutiny, the hand that isn't incapacitated lays splayed across her desk, finger tips resting lightly against surface. The look on her face could be classified as blank by someone who didn't know better, but he does know, and a lot more than he should.
She's not just angry anymore.
"You should have waited for back up." Tony knows he should stop, but he's never been one to think before speaking and his mouth has a running start. His irritation with her blatant indifference toward her own safety is all the encouragement he needs to blow the personal and professional filter he usually inhibits in coworker conversation straight to hell. "Gibbs should have waited for the all clear before storming that warehouse and you should have listened when I told you to hold position."
"If I waited we would have lost Corporal Larson." She snaps, turning in her seat while she gathers her things before shutting down her computer. He can't help but notice her injured arm curl into her side a little tighter. "We had been tracking him for days Tony, three people had already died, I was not willing to risk letting him get away again."
"Maybe so." Tony is equally terse, his eyes following her every move as she stands, shoulders her bag, pushes in her chair. "But going after him blind could have gotten you- You could have been hurt a lot worse. I'm not going to be held accountable if you get in trouble because of your fucked up ninja stunts. Gibbs should have-"
"You're not Gibbs."
Ziva's voice cuts through Tony's words like a knife. The gaze she levels him with sends a chill down his spine that makes him feel sick with regret, but it's too late to take back anything he's said.
"And I can take care of myself."
Silence envelops the bullpen and for a moment she is poised in front of his desk, still watching him, maybe waiting, but for what he cannot say. They stare at one another, a contest with no distinct outcome or promised prize, merely a rare chance to catch a glimpse of what hides beneath their respective superficial surfaces. Her words sting more than he thought they would, but he doesn't let it show. And because he doesn't know what to do next, because she's right, he's not Gibbs, Anthony DiNozzo does what he knows how to do best instead.
"Good night, Ziva."
He dons his glasses even though the sun set two hours ago, drawing himself back up to his desk and developing a sudden interest in his computer screen. She seems to hesitate, opening her mouth to say one thing, but then she changes her mind.
And when Ziva turns toward the elevator Tony can't help but notice the fire in her eyes fades to embers. His sunglasses make it look like he's watching her through a veil of suffocating smoke.
Tony spends his entire weekend in a state of perpetual despondency.
McGee is out of town visiting family, so without a proper wingman and sidekick extraordinaire to accompany him, bar hopping is out of the question. He contemplates going to Gibbs house, but he decides that drinking bourbon in his boss' basement on a regular basis will most likely turn him into an alcoholic. He's doing fine on his own in that department, thank you very much. Not to mention Gibbs' uncanny ability to read minds. Tony has a distinct feeling that an attempt at conversation will lead to a totally irrelevant, inconclusive and unrelated discussion about rule number twelve.
Irrelevant, inconclusive, unrelated; Tony repeats these words in his head, a prayer for mercy. But he cannot help the sacrilegious thing called doubt that wavers ever present in the shadows of his thoughts.
He wonders if he should start learning how to build boats to make of for his lack of a social life.
There is something he could do. He eyes his phone idly were it rests neglected on the coffee table. The images dancing across the screen of his T.V. are mirrored in the shiny plastic. It's nothing short of taunting, because there is something much more important that could be flashing across the screen of the phone. Just thinking about scrolling through the contacts list makes Tony's fingers itch until they curl into fists. He can envision the familiar number of torment in his mind's eye, one he's dialed far too many times.
But that's never stopped him before.
The phone stays where it is though, the same place it's been the past two nights. It's a bitter reminder that he hasn't spoken to Ziva since she left him sitting in the office on Friday. Tony replays their conversation in his head while he sits on the couch and nurses his beer. It's an attempt to rationalize Ziva's tendency to be irrational, which is something he's never been good at to begin with. It bothers him that she disregarded everything he tried to say to her, that he was worried about her, to tell him what he was - or wasn't - instead. It bothers him that she felt compelled to patronize him, to compare him to Gibbs, because it's not about Gibbs.
It's always been about her.
Tony knows he's not Gibbs, he never will be. Gibbs is like a father to Ziva, because God knows Eli David isn't, not after what he did. And Ziva is like Gibbs estranged daughter, someone who could not replace Kelly, but fill the void. There is an unspoken understanding between the silver haired marine and the resident ninja that cannot be explained or defined. Gibbs trusts Ziva and Ziva trusts Gibbs. That's how it's always been, no questions asked, no answers needed. Tony wishes that same trust could be extended to him, but daughters of arms dealers, deaths of directors and murdered boyfriends have burnt the bridge between them so many times that it's become near impossible to
There's not a day that goes by he doesn't regret it.
Yet after all the trials and tribulations they've been through together they were still here, still breathing in the highs and lows of living. It's the aftermath of everything that's happened between them that lingers, the remnants of Somalia and before, each one a constant reminder that things are not the same as they used to be. Picking up the pieces of their already fragile situation was daunting at best, without a good foundation rebuilding is a tedious task. They were unstable from the start.
But maybe it's time to try.
The credits are rolling when he leans over to pick up the phone, flipping it open and settling back into the couch. He scrolls through the list of names with ease, his thumb hovering hesitantly over call button when he finds the name he's looking for. Tony can think of a million different reasons he shouldn't do this. It's ten o'clock on a Sunday night and they have to be at the Navy Yard by seven the next morning. He tells himself she's probably already asleep and he should be. He knows she won't want to have this conversation and he doesn't want to start it. He stares at the phone cradled in his hands, his stubborn pride warring with his need to hear her voice.
That's when Tony realizes there are a million more reasons that he should, and he knows that if he lets this go now there's a chance he might never get it back.
What ever this is.
So he hits dial, one more time too many, and he waits. The phone rings three times before he starts to feel that tell tale sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and he finds himself hoping, a lot more than he should, that she'll answer.
And when she does he's pretty sure his heart almost stops.
"Ziva. I'm guessing you're not asleep."
He stands up too quickly, tripping over his own feet as he heads for the kitchen and his keys, barely hearing her snark filled reply through the pounding that's in his ears.
"Listen, can I come over? We need to talk."
Tony's not afraid of 'accidentally ignoring' traffic signals to get where he needs to go.
So needless to say on his way to Ziva's he 'accidentally ignores' several red lights, two stop signs and a left hand turn yield. There was also an eighteen wheeler somewhere between here and his place that almost succeeded in creating a DiNozzo pancake, but that and numerous other obstacles on his crash course were successfully avoided. He's starting to think that Ziva's less than spectacular driving finesse is rubbing off on him. Self preservation only kicks in once he's reached his destination; a significant decrease in velocity accompanies the realization that he never thought he'd make it this far. It is in this state of unexpected panic that Tony finds himself on Ziva's doorstep.
The irony of the situation is not lost on him. It's not eighty thousand pounds of steel on wheels or death by high speed, but the mere thought of knocking on her door that makes his life flash before his eyes. So he stands there, hands in his pockets and heart on his sleeve, trying desperately to gather up what little courage he has left before he can talk himself into turning around.
Didn't he promise her he'd always have her back?
Insecurity is trying to convince him otherwise. The more he tries to think of what to say, the less traction his already racing mind seems to have. The ever looming threat of saying the wrong thing, of messing up, hangs over his head like a bad omen. He's never been the best when it comes to facing emotional fears, skeletons of the closet variety or personal demons. And the idea of facing them with Ziva, the deadly ninja who doubles as an emotional mute, seems one step shy of impossible.
Tony stares at the door, as if by the force of sheer will power he might be able to summon Ziva to open it, to save him from himself before he decides to do something stupid. Thirty seconds prove unfruitful when applying this theory though, and Tony knows that even if Ziva were to be standing on the other side her own stubborn pride would keep her from giving him the satisfaction of having her make the first move.
So he knocks.
There is the sound of feet traipsing softly across a hardwood floor, the rustle of a lock, a deep breath and a click-swoosh as the threshold opens up before him, revealing the dimly lit apartment within. And there is Ziva, standing in the shadows, leaning against one wall with her good arm across her waist, her eyes hooded, tired. She's in sweats and a tank top, her hair's a mess and she looks like she hasn't been sleeping.
Tony's pretty sure he's never seen anything more beautiful.
But he doesn't say that, instead he stands awkwardly in front of her, giving himself a mental head slap and resisting the urge to wring his hands together while he tries to match her gaze for gaze. A staring contest with a ninja is much easier said than done.
"Hi." He says.
"Hello." She replies.
And with the awkward introductory out of the way, Ziva steps aside, sauntering back into the depths of her apartment, giving him neither an affirmation allowing his entrance or a call to follow. He does follow though, trailing behind her as they make their way towards her living room. Ziva stops in front of her couch and Tony mirrors her, feeling something like a man stranded in the middle of a war zone waiting to happen. He waits for the angry words she must have saved for him, but with each passing second the only thing he hears is silence and the only thing he sees is Ziva watching, thinking, her dark eyes screaming at him through the quiet.
He feels like they're suspended in place by the tension that threatens to suck the oxygen out of the entire room. Tony takes a moment to look around at the bare walls, the empty book shelves, and he realizes this is the first time he's ever seen the inside of her place since...
"Tony?" He jumps when Ziva says his name, pulled out of his memories – his nightmares - by the sound of her voice. And at the same time that same voice makes him remember everything. "Why are you here?"
Just when he thinks the ghosts are buried safely beneath the floorboards, they come back again, because of four simple words.
"Honestly?" He asks, his voice quiet, uncertain. "I don't really know."
"You don't know." Ziva repeats the words slowly, considering them with a degree of incredulity that makes Tony cringe.
"You told me I wasn't Gibbs." Just as the situation at hand came to be it continues in the same manner, started by his mind being directly connected to his mouth. "And I wanted to tell you I never said I was. But that's not my point."
Ziva shifts then, her irritation with him unsettled by a realization that seems to light up her stormy eyes. It's what he's said; what she had said months ago when she finally came home, a bathroom encounter that washed it's hands of betrayal in exchange for a chance at redemption too long denied.
"Then what is?"
And Tony believes that things like second chances exist.
"My point is that I'm not going to stand by and watch you fall back into the same lifeless, robotic routine you're used to." Somehow the distance between them has decreased significantly, but Tony doesn't even remember moving "You don't just follow orders anymore Ziva, you make choices. You make choices and you choose what's best for you."
"And what is best for me Tony?"
She's close enough that if he reached out he could touch her, push the stray strands of her hair that have escaped her pony tail behind her ear with his finger tips. She's got her eyes narrowed, her face tilted upward while he looks down, and it takes all his self restraint not to do what he wants to.
"That's not for me to decide." It's a breathless statement as he struggles for composure.
"When I said you were not Gibbs I meant it." The brief lull between them is broken by her words and Tony isn't sure whether to feel insulted or flattered.
"But that is my point. You are not Gibbs, you are Tony, and it is Tony-" She prevents him from speaking, placing her finger against his lips and silencing any hope of sound simply with one touch. "That quotes movies and annoys me, most times, with incessant babble about nothing regarding anything. That instigates paper airplane contests and rubber band wars when Gibbs isn't watching."
"It is Tony that has always had my six. That saved me from Somalia. And sometimes even from myself."
Tony can't breathe, she's too close and her words are too loud, but he's almost to the point of wondering if everything he just heard, saw, is some sort of dream.
"So you're not mad?" No threats of death by paperclip, no condescending insults as to why he acts half his shoe size?
"I was." The hand that's not entrapped by the sling finds his wrist and her fingers rest gently just above his pulse. "But now I'm not."
Tony considers telling her that a simple 'I'm sorry' would have sufficed, but he finds that he likes that they can apologize without actually having to say it. Confidence gives him the courage to test the newly calmed waters between them, so he steps a little closer, leaning forward to whisper in her ear.
"I know why I'm here now."
"Oh?" Ziva's grip on his wrist tightens and her nails graze his skin. "Why's that?"
Tony draws back just enough so that he can see her face, her eyes.
"Let me show you."
And he does.
A/N: Just a little season seven tag, not really set anywhere specific. Use your imagination. ;D
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