A/N: I've been MIA because I've been working on a little project that's taken up a lot of time. But the NCIS Guidebook is finally up and running! Hurrah! Check out Author's Notes at the end of the story.
But before you do that, I hope you read this! It ended up in a completely different place to what I had planned. I think I'm okay with it. At the moment. I'll probably change my mind tomorrow. It's not in canon, but Ziva is an American.
The last two weeks of Anthony DiNozzo's life had been a mess of monumental awfulness that had the potential to become legend. A short period of time that made John McClane look like a whiny little girl, that people would assume had been embellished when they inevitably heard about it around the water cooler, and couldn't decide whether to laugh or wince. It was the kind of horror that these same people would hold up in comparison to their own lives when things were bad and say, "Well, it could be worse. At least I'm not that guy."
Tony didn't have the luxury of that kind of perspective. He was living the insanity that had prompted Gibbs of all people to ask if he'd crossed any witch doctors lately. Even McGee had given him a lecture on karma that Tony could have sworn Kate had given him at one point or another. Tony wasn't sure if he believed in karma, but he did believe in suffering through the bad to appreciate the good.
And after the two weeks he'd had, the good he was owed would have to be life changing.
It started on a Monday, moments after McGee had cuffed a suspect and started marching him towards the agency-issue Charger. It was no surprise that the suspect didn't want to go, but it was a surprise when he somehow managed to wrench himself out of McGee's grasp and take off down the street.
Tony and McGee both yelled out to him, as if their combined frustration would make the suspect stop in his tracks and return to custody, head bowed with contrition. It didn't. Tony spared a second to roll his eyes, and then gave chase. He could hear McGee's footsteps close behind him, and if he hadn't been so close to busting a lung himself, Tony would have made a comment about McGee's fitness regime paying off. Six years ago, Tony could outrun his probie without even breaking a sweat. Now, the younger agent was holding his own.
They ran down their prey in a side alley as the suspect fought a lack of coordination brought on by running in handcuffs. A chain link fence cordoned off the far end of the alley, and logically Tony knew that a guy in handcuffs wouldn't be able to get over it. But he was pissed off and full of adrenaline, and tackling the guy to the ground seemed like the only thing to do.
They hit the concrete hard, but Tony rolled and sprang to his feet with a cat-like agility that quite frankly surprised the hell out of him. It was a complete fluke, he knew it, but that wouldn't stop him from holding it over McGee for the rest of the day (or wishing Ziva'd been there to see the ninja move). McGee arrived to help Tony wrestle their suspect to his feet and the two of them started dragging the guy back to the street.
Not even two seconds after Tony gave him a lecture about resisting arrest, the suspect made one final bid for freedom, fighting like a two year old who refused to go to bed. McGee managed to keep hold of him by digging his fingers painfully into the sensitive underside of his arm, but the fight put Tony off balance and he couldn't stay upright when he slid on one of the pieces of slick garbage that littered the alley.
The pain that shot through his already sports-destroyed right knee left Tony with absolutely no doubt that the joint had popped out of its socket. Tears of agony pricked the back of his eyes as he yelled at McGee to get the suspect into the goddamn car, and as soon as the two of them left the alley, Tony curled up on the ground and screamed into the concrete. With Ziva still at the Navy Yard and McGee escorting their suspect, it was down to Gibbs to make his way to his fallen charge and pop the wayward joint back into alignment. Neither man mentioned the tears on Tony's cheeks, Gibbs' God-like restraint at dolling out a head slap, or the limp Tony walked with for the next three days.
On Wednesday morning, Tony hobbled out to his car in a good mood. At his emergency physio appointment the day before, he'd learnt that the dislocation wasn't as bad as he'd feared, and he wouldn't have to worry about wearing a brace for more than a few days. But his good mood evaporated as soon as he saw the dent the size of New Zealand that had appeared on the fender of his Mustang during the night.
Tony grabbed the note that the evil bastard had left on the windshield, already pulling his cell phone out of his pocket in preparation to call the culprit and demand that his next pay check be deposited directly into Tony's bank account. But when he unfolded the paper, he didn't find a name, phone number or insurance details. Instead, in a scrawl that made his own chicken scratch look like calligraphy, the offender had only written, 'Sorry, can't afford it.'
The curse he let out would have made Quentin Tarrantino blush.
The Meth Addict
On Friday, Tony found himself fighting a losing battle as he tried to convince a petty officer high on meth to stop cutting up his arms and give up his knife. He didn't actually think that his negotiation skills would convince the guy that the bugs he saw burrowing under his skin were imaginary—he was simply trying to distract him from noticing that Gibbs, McGee and Ziva were coming up behind him and getting ready to tackle him to the ground.
In the melee that followed, Tony ended up with a two-inch stab wound to his left forearm and a black eye. Cut to a five-hour wait in the emergency room with an over-caffeinated Abby while the others processed the scene and interviewed the petty officer's colleagues. Abby confiscated his cell phone as soon as she caught sight of the nurse approaching with a shot of morphine that sent Tony flying, and made him forget all about his arm and his knee and his car. She did not take video evidence of a single minute of the rambling craziness that followed, confirming that she was a true friend and a far better human being than he. (It went without saying that if McGee were as high as Tony was, Tony would have had it on YouTube in the time it took for him to find someone who knew how to post videos on YouTube.) Once he'd been patched up for the evening, Abby had driven him home, put him to bed, and assured him that Ziva would be around in the morning to take him back to the hospital for further minor surgery.
That minor surgery took six hours in total, but Ziva sat with him through all the waiting around before and recovery after without sending a single annoyed look or irritated word his way. His past experience at hospitals with Ziva told him this behavior was very un-ninja-like, and he thought that if Ziva was feeling sorry for him, things must have really been bad.
The low-grade painkillers he took that night did not send him over the rainbow, and so Ziva gave him back the cell phone Abby confiscated the day before with only a mild look of warning. He crossed his heart and promised that he wouldn't call unless it was an emergency.
Later that night, when his chest started aching like it did almost every night when he longed for her company, he wished he hadn't made that promise.
When Tuesday rolled around, Tony found himself up to his (good) elbow in a drum of stagnant water, feeling around for body parts that were missing from the torso at their new crime scene. The less said about what he found in that drum, the better.
That night, he got a call from his landlord, who informed him in an over-apologetic tone that she was selling his apartment to her nephew who was moving over from Chicago. She promised a glowing reference if he wanted one—she'd even leave out all the noise complaints she'd gotten over the last 11 years—but he'd have to be out of there in about eight weeks.
The bombshell triggered unwanted thoughts about growing up, and buying real estate, and settling down, and if he did buy a place, should he get something big enough for two adults and a kid? Should he move out to the suburbs and get a house? Should he finally invest in good quality furniture? And was he the kind of person who'd enjoy renovating, or did he want a place he could just move into without agonizing over hardwood floors or woolen carpets? He forced himself to stop thinking about it as soon as the thought that Ziva would want a place with a bathtub crossed his mind, and instead wondered how long he could get away with living at the NCIS building.
That night, he somehow resisted the very strong urge to get blind drunk.
The Hostage Situation
At his Thursday afternoon follow-up appointment with the physio, Tony was just getting around to talking about whether they could do anything for his arm when a disgruntled client opened fire at the accountant's office next door. The sound flipped Tony's cop switch, and he dashed into the neighboring office to take control of the situation. The gunman was completely focused on revenge on the accountant he thought had stolen thousands from him, and so Tony found it pretty easy to convince him to let everyone but him and the accountant go.
For the next three hours, Tony ignored the gun pointed at his chest and instead concentrated on gaining the gunman's trust and keeping him and the accountant calm. He talked about the NBA playoffs, the James Bond marathon he'd watched over the weekend, and took advantage of the situation to ask the accountant whether it was a good idea to buy real estate right now. He talked the gunman through negotiations with the HRT when they called, urged the gunman to consider his wife, plus the three kids under ten the accountant had. He had almost convinced him to give himself up when the cavalry made their move.
A soon as the HRT smashed a window to create a diversion, the gunman panicked and squeezed off two wild shots, one of which winged Tony in his right shoulder. The injury brought on more cursing, several slaps for not paying attention from Gibbs before he was put in an ambulance, and Tony's third trip to the hospital in two weeks.
Ziva turned up to brave the emergency room with him this time, and silently bore witness to his epic tantrum about the turn his life had taken lately. She let him rant for 20 minutes, figuring that he deserved it, and then finally calmed him with a hand on his and a soft look that immediately took the fight out of him. They spent the next hour in complete silence while Ziva kept her hand over his and stared at the floor with an expression he couldn't read, and Tony tried and failed to work out what the hell he'd done to get such a spanking from karma.
The Voice Mail
When Tony was 16, he fell off the roof of the shed in his buddy's yard after bonging four beers, and cracked open his head on the concrete path. It hadn't hurt much at the time, but as he slowly sobered up in the hospital, the pain had become unbearable. The doctors gave him a shot after they were satisfied the injury wasn't serious, and sent him home with a prescription for painkillers that made him hallucinate circus music for three days, a talking fridge he couldn't make himself go near, and a long-winded conversation with a penguin about alternative energy resources.
There were a handful of stories just like that from his years as a college athlete, cop and federal agent. As he matured and got a little wiser (not older), Tony found his visits to emergency became less frequent and his threshold for pain got higher. Still, it was common knowledge among his colleagues that painkillers made him do the wacky. That was why Abby had confiscated his phone the other night, so that if he got the urge to call one of them and tell them what he really thought of them, he wouldn't have the means.
Ziva had either forgotten this fact, or had a lot more faith in his judgment under the influence of analgesics than Abby had. Either way, after dropping him home from the hospital and making sure he ate something, she'd walked out and left his cell phone not just in his apartment, but in his hand. Drug-dialing was inevitable.
Ziva had been in the shower when he called, but she was left with a two-minute voicemail full of declarations and promises that made her head spin, her heart ache, her eyes well and her mouth dry. She spent the rest of the night soul-searching and trying to come up with a reply, but in the end it didn't matter. By the time Tony arrived at work the next morning, he had absolutely no recollection of making the call.
Ziva couldn't work out if she was relieved or devastated.
Now it was Sunday, and things had somehow managed to get even worse. That morning, Team Gibbs had set up on the roof of an apartment block in Maryland to process the scene of an ensign's murder. As Gibbs wandered with his phone pressed to his ear, Ziva and McGee collected dozens of cigarette butts scattered across the makeshift communal courtyard, and Tony documented the scene with his camera. He had just taken a sneaky shot of Ziva's butt when the roof access door burst open, and suddenly another asshole was shooting at him as he stood in the line of fire. Tony dropped the camera and fumbled for his gun, but by the time he'd gotten a good hold on it, someone else (probably Gibbs) had taken a shot, the freshly wounded gunman had barreled into Tony, and both of them went over the edge of the building.
It happened so fast that Tony didn't even have time to register the fact that he was freefalling until he landed with a spine-jarring thud fifteen feet down. For a few, dazed moments, he lay on his back and stared at the sky as his brain finally caught up with what was going on. He'd fallen off a building and…hadn't died? Really? Maybe he was dead. Maybe this was death and that ringing in his ears was the bells of Heaven calling him—
Tony blinked up at the roof of the building, and his vision cleared enough to make out Gibbs, Ziva and McGee all leaning over the edge and staring at him with irritation, horror and incredulity, respectively. There was no way that Gibbs grumping at him was Heaven, and Ziva appeared to still be fully dressed, so Tony decided that he'd somehow managed to survive after all.
"Yeah," he wheezed, then coughed, and then gasped as his shaken lungs tried to draw in air. He gave them a thumbs up in place of saying more, and then slowly rolled into a crouch to encourage his diaphragm to relax.
"Gunman's on the street," Gibbs called down, making Tony wince with the mental picture of bad guy painted over sidewalk. "We'll come get you."
Tony gave another thumbs up, and while he waited for rescue, he decided that he was well past done with this. Maybe he needed a holiday. Maybe he needed a change of career. Maybe he needed to make a suit out of bubble wrap. Or maybe he needed to call up every woman he'd ever crossed to apologize, start volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating to the SPCA and helping old ladies across the street. Anything to get some points in his karma bank. Because if the universe kept making him her bitch like this, he was going to be a Popsicle on Ducky's slab by the end of the week.
"Hey, DiNozzo!" Gibbs called out again, and Tony shaded his eyes against the sun as he looked skywards again. "When McGee lets you out of there, you think you could get your ass down to the street and help with what's left of that guy you just danced with?"
Tony nodded, even as his stomach churned. "Got it, boss," he murmured. "Just as soon as I buy some life insurance."
Now it was ten hours later, and Tony was dragging himself out of the elevator and down the hall to his apartment. All he had to show from his trip to emergency today was a nice plastic bracelet to add to his growing collection, and a Band Aid over a graze on his right calf. He had no doubt that tomorrow morning his back was going to ache like hell, but he could at least be sure there wasn't any damage to his spine. X-rays and an MRI had all come back clear—and Tony had walked out of the hospital feeling a little like Jason Bourne.
He turned the corner, and his stomach did a little flip at the sight of Ziva sitting on the floor against his apartment door. Her legs were drawn up to her chest and her eyes were aimed but unfocused on the wall across from her, and although he could only see her in profile, Tony already had an idea of what her expression was going to be. Outwardly stoic, but inwardly fuming.
She hadn't spoken to him at the scene before the ambulance showed up to cart him off for a check up. She'd just checked out the broken body of the guy Gibbs shot when he opened fire—he was undoubtedly their ensign's murderer—and then headed back to the rooftop to process the scene on her own. Tony wondered if she'd held her tongue all that time because she knew she'd be able to yell at him now, with no witnesses, even though the situation hadn't been even the tiniest bit his fault. That didn't seem fair. He would have thought he'd earned at least a smile for managing to fall off a rooftop without dying.
"Hey," he said quietly, trying to avoid startling her out of her daze, although he was sure her ninja sense had probably started tingling as soon as his cab pulled up outside the building.
Ziva barely turned her head towards him, and her eyes didn't leave that spot on the wall. Tony pursed his lips, wondering a little more at her mood, and stepped past her to get at the lock on his door.
"I'd get down there on the floor with you for a chat, but my back's kind of sore."
With a suspicious sniffle, Ziva got to her feet and stood beside him as he turned his keys in the deadbolt and doorknob. He glanced at her, trying to get an accurate gauge on her mood, but with her hair in the way and the dim of the hall, he couldn't see much more than the firm line of her lips. He sighed quietly to himself, and prepared himself for a fight as he unlocked the door and swung it open for her.
Ziva went in first, and he shut and locked the door behind him. By the time he turned back to face her, he had a ninja attached to his torso, and she'd buried her face in his chest. Tony dropped his keys on the table beside the door before curling himself around her in silent reply. Okay, so she was upset. Not the screaming and yelling kind of upset, but this was perhaps a little scarier. Hugging was unchartered waters for them, and for it to happen now—for her to initiate it—she must have been shaken badly by the events of the morning.
She wasn't the only one. The touch had the effect of grounding him again, and assuring him that he really was still here. With her. As of 2017 tonight, everything was okay. He hadn't run out of luck just yet, and he was going to get another chance to…what?
You don't need to come up with a ten-year plan right this second, DiNozzo, he told himself. Just use it as a chance to enjoy more of her. That was probably some of the best advice he'd ever given himself.
They clung to each other for longer than friends or colleagues would, and Tony got a sense of how serious this hugging thing was for her when he felt her sob—just once—against him. Never, ever had Tony seen the badass ninja cry, and his usual reaction to a crying woman was to get as far away from her as possible. So what did it say about them now that he was hugging her tighter, and she was letting him?
Finally, Ziva's face moved from his chest up to his neck, and he felt her breath hot against his skin. "I know we have made a silent agreement to never talk about it," she started, her voice shaking. "But I need to make it clear, and you cannot make fun of me for it. You are not allowed to leave me, okay? You're not. Don't do that to me."
Tony turned his face into her hair, and the pain he suddenly felt in his chest may very well have been his heart breaking. It was a big step she'd just taken, and he thought that if it had all tumbled out like that, tinged with tears, she must have really been panicked. As a rule, Ziva David did not panic, and it added more weight to his suspicion that she must really be freaking out on the inside.
He took a deep breath, and as he exhaled, he drew her even closer to him, deeper into his embrace. His head spun with the possible implications of what she'd just said, and he was only mildly surprised to find that he was rubbing tears into her hair.
He swallowed hard. "I know. I won't," he promised, and cupped the back of her head to kiss her damp cheek. "I'm sorry."
"You fell off a building," Ziva said softly, as if still trying to process the fact. "I watched you fall off a building."
"Did it look very James Bond?" he asked before he could stop himself.
She shifted in his arms and drew back far enough to look at him. He caught the flash of anger that crossed her face, and wasn't at all surprised when she punched him (not very gently) in the shoulder. He knew he deserved that one. She was definitely not ready to laugh about it yet.
He shook his head in acknowledgement and apology. "Wasn't so great from my perspective, either. Scared the crap out of me when I finally worked out what was going on."
Ziva's chin quivered, but before she dissolved into tears again, she leant in to softly kiss his check, and then his mouth. With his hand still on the back of her head, Tony held her there for as long as he could. The touch felt utterly natural, almost expected, completely right, even if it still made his body tingle with excitement. She pulled back before he was fully done with it, and he rested his forehead against hers.
"Do not fall off any more buildings," she begged softly. "Or get shot. Or stabbed. Or get the plague or get kidnapped or held hostage or framed for murder or…any stupid thing that could only happen to you. I'm done with it." She pulled back enough to look him in the eye. "I need you to stay here."
Tony felt his entire body flood with awareness as he held her solemn gaze. She was actually going there, to the place they'd actively avoided for God only knew how long. And she was utterly serious. Although he probably should have seen it coming a mile away, and regularly played this conversation out in his head, the reality of its sudden arrival gave him more than a moment's pause.
"Ziva," he started, and had to swallow moisture back into his mouth. "The things that have happened lately…they've just been accidents. I know I've been complaining, but—"
"No," she cut in sharply with a punctuating stab to his chest. "It is the universe telling you that you are not paying attention. You need to look around more. And not just literally." She paused, and he willed her past her hesitation. "You need to promise me that all this is going to stop."
"Is this your way of telling me you care?" His tone was light, setting her up for a joke if she wanted to take it and save them from The Conversation that had been coming maybe since day one. But not so deep down, he really needed to know.
The look on Ziva's face gave him the distinct impression that he wasn't holding up his end of the discussion. She was after something more from him, something specific. He knew what it was and had a feeling that if he was ever going to be straight with her, now would be a really good time. But when he opened his mouth to say the words, his throat closed in.
Ziva dropped her eyes, and reached into her pocket for her cell phone. "You don't remember calling me the other night, do you?"
Tony winced. Crap, what had he said to her? "When, exactly?"
"After you got shot," Ziva said with an even voice that hid her raging nerves. "I forgot to confiscate your phone, and you left me a message."
Tony thought back to that night. He remembered being in her car, and her leaning over him as he got into bed. The next thing he remembered was waking up with a throbbing arm and a foul mood. He cleared his throat, getting the feeling that he'd done something very…unprofessional.
"Oh," he said cautiously. "Did I?"
Ziva pressed the keys to access her messages before handing him the phone. Against his better judgment, he took it from her and held it to his ear.
"Hey, sweetcheeks," he listened to himself slur. "I can't believe you're not answering. I mean, the one time I really need to talk to you…Okay, it doesn't matter. This way you can't use the Vulcan nerve grip on me to shut me up. But I just wanted to call and ask if you are aware of how awesome you are? I mean, there's literally no one else like you. No one as beautiful or interesting or scary or hot, and no one else who makes me shake like you, and…"
He trailed off to sigh, and Tony's eyes slowly closed with humiliation. What the hell had he done?
"Do you know how many times a day I have to literally stop myself from kissing you? You say something only you could, or you smile at me, or you just walk past me, and I actually feel myself leaning towards you. I literally have to tell myself you're not supposed to kiss her. And it's exhausting."
"Oh, Jesus," Tony sighed in disbelief as he listened to his drugged-out self spill secrets he'd spent years trying to hide. He prayed it would end quickly. No such luck.
"It's exhausting keeping my distance from you, because there's so much uncertainty. If you just told me that there was no chance, that it would never happen, I'd be able to start closing the door on it and that would be that. But I think there is a chance, and that it might happen, and so I'm constantly looking for these little signs from you that might tell me that it's okay. That I'm allowed to kiss you. That I'm allowed to touch you and tell you what I feel for you. And sometimes I think you're giving me that sign, but in the next moment you won't be, and I'm so confused, Ziva. Not doing anything, not knowing one way or the other, it's wearing me down. The effort of keeping all this inside…I'm starting to shake with it, you know? I can't keep doing it. I need to know. I need you to tell me which path to take. Because I've been standing in this one spot forever, and I can't stay on my feet anymore."
"Shut up," he begged himself.
"Just…tell me what to do. Please? I'm so tired. So tired of pretending. So tired of pretending I don't know I'm in love with you. I know that I probably don't seem like I'm worth the gamble, but…I promise I will be. Just give me a chance. I'm not worthless, Ziva. I'm not." There was a long pause, as if he was deciding whether to say more. To Tony's monumental relief, he didn't. "Okay. Good night."
Tony took longer than needed to hang up and hand the phone back to her. He could feel her eyes burning into his cheek, but for once in his life, he was at a complete loss for words. Not only that, but he didn't have a clue how to play this. Either he'd screwed everything up, and his next words would determine whether he would still have his partner and best friend in five minutes' time, or…he couldn't even think of an alternative.
"Um," he started uselessly, and then had to clear his throat. "We can just forget that ever happened, if you want." He glanced up to throw her a very forced, very terrified smile that would let her off the hook if she wanted it to.
But Ziva didn't immediately address his offer. "You don't remember leaving that message?"
Tony scratched his chin nervously, and took a step backwards to give him some space to breathe. Why was it suddenly so hot and stuffy in here? "Uh, vaguely. Now that I've heard it." He cleared his throat nervously again. "And, uh, let it forever stand as Exhibit A for reasons I should never be allowed to have painkillers."
He watched from self-preservation distance as Ziva's whole body momentarily seemed to fall in on itself. He didn't know what that meant, but the look that touched her eyes when she straightened again made him want to cry again.
"So…you want to forget it," she stated quietly.
He chuckled, probably because he was on the verge of hysteria. "Been trying to forget it for years, but obviously I'm not doing too good at that."
"I don't want to forget it." It was a definitive statement if ever he'd heard one, and it was clear her mind was made up. "You want to know if I care? I do. I care that you left me this message three nights ago, and today you fell off a building and could have died without us resolving this." She started to pace the floor in front of his as she let herself start to rant. "I care that I would have been left with this—" She broke off to draw in a sharp, painful breath. "This evidence of what was there, and not there. I care about everything that's under the surface that should be in the open. I care that you could have died…many times this week, thinking that I don't think you're worth the gamble or thinking I don't want you." She stopped pacing and looked him in the eye. "I care, Tony. I care so much, it is the only thing in my head right now."
Jesus. He was the luckiest bastard in the world.
Tony tried to form a response, to think of something prolific that would perfectly sum up his feelings and cue the soundtrack as he went in for the perfect, heart-stopping kiss. But, once again, words failed him.
He cleared his throat over a self-deprecating smirk and felt tears prick at the back of his eyes again. "I don't have a clue what to say to that."
Ziva stepped in to him with an open expression that made his heart stutter. "I want you to say that you're in this with me. And it's for the long haul."
He stepped towards her in kind, and the movement helped kick his brain into gear. "I am," he said, suddenly ready to deal with this and resolve it once and for all. "You know I'm not someone who plans for the future. I don't think about where I want to be and how I want to get there. But the thing I am really…" Man, that word 'committed' was really hard to say. "The only thing I'm sure of is that I want to stay around you for as long as possible. I'm not looking to leave you. Like, ever. Because I don't think I'd do too well at anything without you."
Ziva's face crumbled and her shoulders slumped, but this time, Tony knew it was a good sign. She took the final step towards him to wrap herself around him again, but unlike the comforting hug from before, this hug was confirming a pact between them.
"Good," she said against his neck.
Tony's heart hammered as he pushed out his next thought. He was not willing to be left hanging here. "You plan on staying with me?"
He felt her body jolt with a chuckle. "I'm an American now," she pointed out. "Staying here, with you, was the master plan. I am not going anywhere."
Tony smiled a full smile, and stroked his hand through her hair as the weight of doubt lifted from him. "Were you going to tell me about that voicemail before tonight?"
Ziva heaved a sigh. "I had not decided. You didn't say anything about it on Friday, and I didn't know if that was because you were high and didn't remember, or if you did remember but regretted it."
"If I was high?" he repeated. "You had doubts about that?"
"No," she allowed. "You were obviously drugged out of your mind. But sometimes you remember, and sometimes you don't."
"I didn't," he promised.
Ziva gave him a small smile. "Well I certainly didn't wake up this morning intending to tell you."
Tony smirked. "So all I had to do for us to have this conversation was fall off a building?" When he considered that and factored in that it was the two of them involved, it actually didn't sound so far-fetched.
Ziva closed her eyes against the memory and shook her head. "I swear, Tony. If you ever—"
He cut her off with a soft, lingering kiss, and he felt her push into it. Her fists gripped his shirt at his sides, and as his hand tunneled into her hair, she let out a moan that made his chest ache.
"I'm done with pretending," she murmured against his mouth when they broke.
He brushed his lips against hers. "So you're gonna gamble, huh?"
"You are not a gamble," she replied, and the conviction in her voice was utterly humbling.
He touched his mouth to hers again, and as the kiss deepened and heated up, Tony felt certain that good fortune was now swinging back his way. Maybe everything really did happen for a reason, and the bad was there to set up your appreciation for the good.
He chuckled against her as a thought from earlier in the week occurred to him, and he had to break the kiss for just a few seconds. "Hey, you like baths, right?"
Ziva's brows knitted at what she considered to be a completely irrelevant question right now. "Yes?" she told him, her tone clearly asking why the hell he'd chosen to find that out now.
Tony nodded, like everything in his head was now falling into place. A smile stretched his lips, and he knew he'd be house hunting next weekend. No doubt co-habitation was a long way away, but sometimes you had to plan for the future.
This ended up in a way, way, way fluffier place than I had intended. But, eh, it's okay. I'm not feeling very dark right now. Thanks for reading!
I mentioned my NCIS Guidebook project above. The guidebook is essentially a resource for fanfic writers, listing all the information we find out about the characters in each episode. Stuff like their families, relationships, injuries, jobs before NCIS, nicknames...it's pretty comprehensive. I've only got seasons one to three up at the moment, but the rest will follow over the next little while. You are more than welcome to go over there and use whatever you find for your fanfic, or just to reminisce—ah, memories! ncisguidebook[dot]weebly[dot]com.