Rating: K – one bad word
Disclaimers: No own-y. Property of CBS, Bellisario, whoever.
Summary: Post-obsession, an explanation of Tonys behavior toward Ziva.
AN: So this came to me after watching Tony act like a complete tool. I HAD to try and explain his behavior away. I wonder if the writers forgot what happened the first two eps of the season and then what has been hinted at since then. That being these two people are about as close as you can get without being together.
AN2: Completely separate show but I have to get it out and you lovely readers are the only ones I have to vent to…damn you Fringe! So good and yet SO frustrating and THAT'S how you do it.
Despite being a one-shot, reviews are always appreciated and wanted. And unbetaed, so any mistakes are mine alone.
They were so similar, it was frightening. Independent, professional, focused…and missing. Well, technically Ziva had been found. That's what set him off, made this more than just a case to him. Dana Hutton was out there alone somewhere, by her own accord or by force. The state of her apartment would indicate it was force. The point was she was gone.
He couldn't talk to Ziva about it; he couldn't admit to his partner that the missing woman brought all those feelings back. The feelings of last summer when everything between them had changed even though they had been thousands of miles apart.
The month when they realized she was well and truly missing had been bad. Really bad. He was consumed with locating her. Doing everything in his - and NCIS' – power to just FIND her. Knowing she was out there somewhere and unable – not unwilling - to communicate with them had been the worst time of his life. Realizing that the most likely scenario was she had been captured by some group had almost sent him over the edge. He didn't care that the last words they had spoken to each other had been said in anger, with him lying on the ground, her gun pressed to his chest; their careful friendship as dead as Rivkin.
The three weeks he thought she was dead had been worse. He went through that time on auto-pilot, doing only the bare minimum to get through the days, but never feeling anything. The jokes stopped. The movie references non-existent. He couldn't even muster a laugh at the idiot who had smuggled the koala on a sub. Tony was sure that's when McGee figured it out.
It hadn't happened in an instant. There wasn't a sudden realization of feeling one day. No "ah-ha" moment. Not some scene in a movie where the leads suddenly fall into each others arms after either flirting or fighting the entire two hours.
Instead it was four years of being together, of having each others backs, of thinking something was there, but the other party wasn't ready. Four years of fights and flirting. Sometimes simultaneously.
The feeling had been there for longer than Tony had realized, he just didn't accept it until he thought she was dead. Then when he saw her face for the first time, dirty, bruised and defeated he let the rest of what held him back go. This woman was everything to him; Tony had to admit to himself that for no other woman would he travel halfway around the world and get intentionally captured for the singular purpose of revenge on a man he'd never met. What kind of man did that?
He suspected the crazy kind.
And yet they had come back and save for some particularly…meaningful moments, they had fallen back into habit. Flirting and fighting but never moving forward. Shit, most days he was just thankful she was standing in front of him breathing.
So when a woman so much like her had disappeared, he clung to Dana determined to save her since he had been unable to completely save Ziva. Oh, they had found her – unintentionally mind you, he was there for revenge after all – but the Ziva that came back wasn't the woman that left. Sure, she projected a good front, acting like her normal self, but he knew – as did Gibbs – that behind the show was a seriously damaged person. Tony could imagine what had happened to her, and he had a vivid imagination, but he knew the reality was ten-fold worse.
God, he had been such an asshole to her.
First making a point that he had left his latest conquests apartment that morning. Hey, he had…needs. And by having one night stands he wouldn't get attached. Tony knew he could not afford to get attached again. He had broken Rule 10 THREE times. For a guy who had been accused of being emotionally unavailable, he sure was…emotionally involved.
First it was Jeanne.
But Dana was dead, and Ziva was blissfully alive.
Tony wanted to punch something. Instead he looked around his empty apartment and sighed. Was this how he wanted to spend life? One night stands in an effort to protect himself? He had met Mrs. Right; he just couldn't bring himself to tell her that.
Why he couldn't figure out. She had supported him after Jeanne – the bathroom incident notwithstanding – understanding he needed space and a kick in the pants at the same time. He trusted her with his life…daily. She was with him after Jenny. He missed her while he was an Agent Afloat. The video of her after the club bombing had sent him into a tailspin. Rivkin.
Tony paused his thoughts. Rivkin. Ari. Eli.
He really WAS an ass. Every man she trusted and loved had betrayed her. And now he had to, at least that's how he perceived it.
Grumbling, he picked up his keys, wallet and phone, walking out the door. Enough was enough; he was tired of dancing around.
The knock on her door was unexpected at the least. A glance at the clock told her it was nearing midnight, so she was instantly on alert, picking up her sig as she moved toward the door silently.
After a glance through the peephole she swung the door open, the weapon hanging loosely by her side.
The man on the other side was a mess, dripping water in the hallway from his drenched clothes. A spring thunderstorm was just rolling it's was through the DC area. She had actually been enjoying the light show from her living room window before the knock.
"Hi" was all he was able to get out before a shiver overtook him.
The shiver broke through her confusion and she ushered the wet man into her apartment, indicating for him to stop just inside as she closed the door and set her gun on the sidetable.
She spoke a "hold on" as she turned toward the hallway and Tony realized how little his partner was wearing. Just shorts that barely covered her behind and a tight tank top, her hair loose and flowing around her shoulders. Obviously she had not been expecting company as the outfit showed quite a bit of skin and Tony felt a tightness in his stomach. God she is beautiful.
Returning with a large, fluffy towel she handed it to him and watched in silence as he toweled off, removing rain-drenched shoes and socks. Ziva couldn't imagine a non-case related reason for her partner to show up at her door so late. Their relationship lately had been…strained after the Hutton case.
She knew they needed to talk; it was starting to get ridiculous.
For a moment they just stared at each other in her entry, Tony with the towel wrapped around his shoulders. Both realizing this was it. Words that needed to be said would be spoken aloud and neither knew how it would end. Tony guessed it would either be really good or extraordinarily bad.
"I was an ass."
Not exactly what she was expecting as an opening. "Ohhhhkay."
"Dana Hutton. I was an ass."
A slight shrug preceded her response. "Perhaps."
"No need to be delicate, Ziva, it's not your strong suit. I acted like a world class prick." He saw the confusion flitter over her face and clarified. "Dick, jackass, tool, you chose the adjective."
He visibly winced, god how she knew him. "Maybe a little." At her arched eyebrow he restated. "Ok, a lot."
Satisfied she turned toward her kitchen. "I will make some hot chocolate, have a seat." She indicated with her head the stools at her breakfast bar. "You are too wet to sit on the couch."
It wasn't long before a warm cup was placed before him and she sat in the stool to his left, her feet on the bottom rung of his seat. A long, low rumble of thunder shook the apartment and a small smile graced her face.
"Oh, so you are one of those people who enjoy thunderstorms."
"I do. There is something about them I can't describe, but I find them calming."
"I don't particularly care for them. But that's probably because when then happened when I was a kid, Senior would just tell me to buck up, I was a man and it was just a storm."
She looked down. "My mother used to read Tali and I stories during bad ones. She used a flashlight on many occasions. We would get in the bed with her, one of us on either side and she would read as long as it took…" she sighed wistfully.
She cut him off. "But I am sure you did not come over to discuss the weather."
"No." He paused, unsure what to say exactly.
The silence dragged on, Tony staring into his cup. During the drive to her apartment he had an entire conversation planned out in his head, but now that he was sitting across from her, the words wouldn't come, none seemed sufficient. He shifted his gaze her to exposed leg and noticed the faint line of a scar that ran across her thigh. Curious, he looked at the other leg and found a match in the same spot, just south of her shorts. It had faded some, but not enough to be more than a year old, and he knew this was what he had not saved her from.
Without thinking, he reached out and touched the line – she flinched slightly at the touch, her skin warm in contrast to his still rain-chilled fingers.
Instead of apologizing for the intrusion, he left his fingers on her leg and continued to stare at the damning evidence of her captivity.
Tony could feel her tensing below him and finally spoke, though with his head down. "I couldn't live without you. I couldn't then and I still cant."
"Let me finish. I went to Africa for vengeance. Because in my clouded little brain all I could think was that you were dead and the man responsible would roam free and that was so…unfair. But you weren't dead, and it was so much worse. I couldn't save you. Hell, I didn't even TRY to save you…"
She cut him off. "Tony, you did not know…"
Now he looked at her, his eyes blazing in anger. "Because I didn't want to. I was still so angry that you chose to stay in Israel that I didn't care that no one had heard from you. When Dana came along…I wanted to do for her what I had failed to do for you. Spare her pain and agony."
"Oh, Tony…" she sighed and touched the side of his face with her fingers as another roll of thunder boomed overhead. "But you did save me."
The finger that was still on her leg moved across the white line, tracing its path across her skin. "Not soon enough."
Ziva wasn't sure what to do, obviously her time in Africa had affected him more than she realized. She placed a hand on his, stilling its motions and looked deep into his green eyes.
Her tone was emphatic. "You saved me." Then she paused contemplating how much to tell him. Licking her lips, she spoke. "What happened to me…what they didto me Tony, was not your fault. It was mine, for believing my father was the good guy. Which, clearly, he is not." Tears pricked at her eyes.
He shook his head. "If I hadn't killed Rivkin, we wouldn't have gone back…"
"And if I had put my trust in the proper place – with you and Gibbs, I would have gotten on the transport back with you. Instead I…went with my head instead of my heart." Now she shrugged. "And I paid the price."
"The price was too high."
She looked down at the scar and contemplated the others that marked her body and soul. "It could have been higher. It almost was."
She shook her head. "I do not think that would be wise, Tony. I am sure you have already surmised what happened." At his affirmative nod she continued sadly. "It was worse, that is all I will say."
He seemed to contemplate that as another rumble of thunder and bright flash of lightening filled her apartment. "I'm sorry…for Somalia, for Brenda and for Dana."
She nodded her acceptance. "Though you do not owe me an apology for Brenda."
Again she nodded, knowing he needed to apologize even if she didn't need one.
Silence took over again as the storm grew stronger, the rain pelted against her window. All the things he wanted to say were swirling in his head. Finally he decided to just tell the truth and let the cards fall where they may, too much time had already been wasted.
"Whatever this is between us Ziva, it scares me." She started to shake her head, clearly unwilling to hear the words said aloud. "I can't live without you, and if we act on…this, and it goes bad then I've lost my friend and my partner."
"Please, Tony. Do not do this."
He stared at her intently. "Don't do what? Say what I should have nine months ago when we found you?"
"This is not what we do. We…fight. We have each others backs and trust each other with our lives, but we do not speak of this."
He stood angrily, pushing her feet off the stool. "I'm tired of NOT talking about this, Ziva! I'm tired of pretending I don't have these feeling for you. I went halfway around the world to avenge you and I would do it again in a second."
She contemplated his words. "I am also tired of pretending. No one in my life has EVER done what you did for me. No one has cared about me that much…"
Tony closed the gap between them, bringing one hand up to cup her jaw. "I care about you."
"I know," she whispered.
He leaned in slowly, giving her ample time to stop him. When she didn't, he closed the gap and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. She responded in kind, careful to keep the kiss from escalating. Ziva knew it could easily but was not ready to take that step yet. Instead she took a step back and he wrapped her up in his arms.
They stood that way for several minutes, her enveloped into his larger frame, enjoying the warmth his body provided. She felt secure, loved even. Reluctantly she pulled away, but grasped his hand with hers, leading him to her bedroom.
"It is late and the storm is not letting up. You are welcome to stay."
Tony eyed her. "In your bed?"
"We have shared a bed many times, Tony. And it will be only sleeping."
"Sure you can keep your hands off me?"
She rolled her eyes. "I will do my best to resist your charms, Anthony DiNozzo."
As he drifted off to sleep with Ziva curled tightly against his chest, he knew what he was.
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