"And you!" she shouted, "You need to get some sort of filter on your brain that stops every single little thing you think from coming spilling out of your mouth uncensored. You don't consider how it is to have to listen to you day in, day out. You go on and on and on about everything and nothing and…
"At least I go on about something," he sneered. "You never let anyone know what you're thinking. Never tell us how you feel about anything that happened. You keep it all locked inside you like you keep your knives and guns locked in the safe under your..."
"How dare you! Who gave you the right to judge me? To sit there behind your desk with your donuts and decide what I should be telling you?" Ziva dropped her voice to a harsh whisper. "Just because you saved my life, you think that means you own me now and that I owe you some kind of lifelong servitude. Well, thank you," she spat and tuned on her heel, storming to the ladies room.
The bullpen was totally silent, frozen onlookers stunned by the confrontation they had just witnessed.
"What are you looking at?" Tony scowled at the nearest agent. "Get back to work." He sank into his seat, deflated and exhausted. He had no idea what the hell had just happened.
"DiNozzo?" Gibbs came around the base of the stairs.
Tony looked up but did not answer.
"Tony, where's Ziva?" Gibbs stopped by his agent's desk.
Tony mumbled his reply.
"Ladies room," Tony said through clenched teeth.
Gibbs sighed. He'd guessed as much when he saw her run from the squad room as he stepped out of MTAC. It looked like the shit had finally hit the fan. He'd expected it much sooner.
"What did you do?" Gibbs sighed. He hated playing counselor but this was for the betterment of the whole team.
"Why do you assume I did something?" Tony felt his anger begin to rise again.
Gibbs looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
"I don't know what the hell happened. We were doing our reports, minding our own business. I sighed. She asked what was wrong and I said that maybe she would have been better off if she had…. Oh. Fuck." Tony hit his head on the desk. Then again.
"Hey!" Gibbs snapped. "What did you say?"
"I said," Tony swallowed hard, "That after everything that she had been through, her husband slaughtered in front of her, the way we found her, the rape kit, the scars, missing three fingers, the way her arm will probably never quite heal the…."
Gibbs glared again.
"I said that maybe it would have been better for Petty Officer Willis if we hadn't found her. We were just in time… She'd been through the worst. She would have slipped peacefully away. Instead, now she has to face everything and try and make a life and… I think she thinks…" Tony's voice broke and he hit his head on the desk again.
"Tony," Gibbs said softly. "You didn't mean…"
"It doesn't matter what I meant, Gibbs." Tony swallowed again. "What do I do?"
Gibbs nodded towards the ladies room and gave his agent a wry smile. "You fix it, DiNozzo. She's had a minute to cool down. Go break a rule. Or two."
"Right. I apologise and explain." Tony stood and went towards the hallway.
Gibbs watched his agent leave. "Sure," he said to no one in particular. "But that wasn't the one I meant."
Tony knocked softly on the cubicle door. He'd already cleared the ladies room and locked the main door behind him.
"Go away, DiNozzo. I'm not talking to you," Ziva said, her voice deep with emotion.
"No," he said gently. "I need to explain. You need to let me explain." He couldn't keep the desperation from creeping into his voice. He heard shuffling and the click of the lock turning. He waited a few seconds then pushed the door open.
His breath caught in his throat. Ziva. Tough, ninja Ziva was huddled on the floor between the bowl and the wall. She looked so tiny and helpless to him he was unable to move for a few moments. Then instantly his brain flickered onto autopilot and his mouth opened.
"If you make a joke…" she threatened between sniffles.
"You'll what?" Tony smiled tentatively. She knew him too well. "You got paperclips in your pocket?"
"I could cut your throat with the empty toilet roll," she offered.
"That's my ninja," Tony whispered as he sat on the lid of the toilet.
"Tony, I…" "Ziva, I…" They started to speak at the same time.
They laughed in discomfort.
"Me first," Tony blurted.
"Ha. Chivalrous as always," she mumbled. He ignored that.
"You know I'm glad you're here, right? Glad. That doesn't even begin to describe… It is everything," he paused awkwardly. "That you made it. That you fought back and…"
"I know," Ziva whispered. "Back there, it was just this case. So hard to separate… I don't know what I…"
"I never for a second wished you were gone. Even after you threw me to the ground back in Israel. You've been that mad at me before. And God knows I deserved it…"
"Tony, I…" she began to protest.
"No, let me finish. I deserved it. I started it even. But I never wanted you to stay there. The plane home felt empty. And I never imagined what this place would be like without you."
"What was it like?" she voiced the question, unsure if she wanted to hear the answer.
"At first, boring. Nobody to prank McGee with," he admitted. "But when you didn't call, it got tense. Everyone was worried. We started digging. Found things but not enough. Then…" he stopped and took a deep breath.
"Then you were told I was dead," she finished for him.
"Yeah. Worst day ever."
"Worse than when…" Again, she knew she should not be asking that.
"Different. It didn't seem real. Before it was too real. It was all over my face real. But you, taken down by a measly hurricane? It didn't seem possible."
"I'm not WonderWoman, Tony," Ziva protested.
"You are to me."
Ziva pretended not to notice his hand stroking her hair comfortingly.
"I'm sorry for blowing up at you like that. This case has been harder than you can imagine," she felt his hand pause mid-stroke. "Or maybe you can. Just, from the other perspective. When you were talking to Willis' mother, those things you said…" she trailed off.
"Yeah," he admitted. "Like Temple of Doom heart-wrenching. The fear of not knowing if the person you… if they are alive or dead is like someone has reached into your chest and is squeezing the life out of you."
"You feel so deeply. That is to be admired," she looked at her lap and Tony saw her hands were white from clenching so tightly. "I'm sorry I said those things. About your brain needing a filter. I know you just try and lighten the mood for the rest of us."
"The funny thing is, Ziva, where you're concerned, I filter nearly everything I say," Tony stared at the cubicle wall, bracing for the ninja-response.
"Why?" she asked, looking up at him.
"You know why," he removed his hand from her hair and tried to avoid answering, but his voice betrayed his tension. She glared at him. Fine. If she wanted an answer, he'd give her an answer.
"Because fourteen months ago I told you that I couldn't live without you, Ziva. And since then, nothing."
"I was hardly in a position, or condition, to respond with any…" she protested.
"I know that, Ziva. I'm not the idiot you all think I am." Tony shook his head. "But it's been a year. You've recovered. It seems enough to flirt with Werth and McCadden and…"
"So you were jealous."
"Hell yes I was," he said with a little too much force. "That you would first never say anything back to me, even to turn me down," he pointed accusingly. "And then to flirt with other men, in front of me. It felt like… oh."
"It felt like what, Tony?" she frowned.
"You were right," he said, slightly amazed.
"It did feel kind of like you owed me. At least a 'Hey Tony, not going to happen. Sorry.' Or a 'Thanks for rescuing me but I'm not the damsel for you.' Until you turned me down, it did feel like I should own a little piece of you."
"I never turned you down, Tony."
"No. But you've clearly not accepted me," he reminded her.
"There are rules, Tony. I am on probation and you are my superior and…"
"Screw the rules, Ziva!" Frustrated, Tony stood and looked down at her. "The rules went out the damn window when you stayed behind. The rules were shot to fricking pieces when I thought you were dead and the rules were doused with gasoline and set on fire when that bastard threw you in the chair in front of me." He had begun to pace in the tiny cubicle and it would have almost been comical if it weren't so serious.
"Ok, you don't like the rules," Ziva bit her lip and considered what he was saying.
"But we… this… We just exploded at each other out there, Tony. In front of the entire department. What if Gibbs had seen? It was unprofessional and it can not happen again."
"Are you kidding me, Ziva? What just happened out there was the best damn argument I've had in my life," he grinned.
"It…what?" she shook her head.
"You opened up about something. Ok, it was being pissed off at me but still. You let that little grenade explode inside you and you let rip at me." He added emphasis with his hands. "Look how much we've just covered, because we were both honest. You were also painfully right but we can talk about that later."
"You like me yelling at you?" she was totally confused now.
"No. I mean. Not the yelling part. Not the public part. But the part where you didn't keep your feelings locked inside. It isn't healthy, Ziva."
"Oh." She stood and leaned herself against the cubicle wall. Tony mirrored her position on the wall opposite. "So…" she exhaled.
"I never turned you down, Tony," she repeated.
"And I am here. I am so thankful. I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for you."
"And I felt like I was dead when I thought you were." Tony took Ziva's hands, pulling her off the wall and to him. She rested her head on his chest and he felt her smile through his shirt.
"So," she said again.
"So," he repeated. "What do we do now?"
"Hmm." Ziva looked up at him and grinned. "Got any gasoline?"