Author's Note: I've been reading it pretty regularly, but it's been a few years since I've actually written and posted any fanfiction. Hopefully my writing skills have improved since then…? This one is based on a spoiler reported by Ausiello recently that…stop reading now if you don't want to know… Tony's father will get involved in a case that requires him to go on a date with Ziva. I cannot wait for the ensuing hilarity, and thus will avoid writing it myself. But I have a feeling Tony won't be too pleased, and this is a scene I can see happening afterwards.
Disclaimer: No es mio.
She is washing her hands at the sink when he sidles into the ladies bathroom. He gives her reflection in the mirror a glare that is only slightly exaggerated.
"Have a nice night?" he asks, hoisting himself up to sit on the counter, legs dangling on the edge, back leaning against the mirror, with his arms crossed. He knows he must look defensive and pouty, but he couldn't care less at the moment.
As she crosses the small space to get a paper towel he hears her familiar throaty chuckle, the one she seems to save just for teasing him. "As a matter of fact I did…junior."
The added jibe and accompanying smirk in her voice stings more than it should. He knows she's only teasing, that everyone has only been teasing him all day, but his tolerance has been slowly waning and it seems to have finally reached its limit.
"Yeah, well, just a word of advice; you might not want to sign the pre-nup."
It's meant to be a joke, but the tone comes out a little too biting. He hopes she doesn't notice, or at least just ignores it and continues walking out the door, but alas, no. She knows him too well. He strategically avoids looking at her as he hears the door lock, but cannot help looking up at the sound of her gently saying his name.
She is standing in front of him, stomach brushing against his knees with a hand placed on either side of his legs, effectively trapping him.
"You do not usually need me to tell you when I am only pulling your arm. Why is today different?"
"Leg. Pulling your leg."
The small smile she gives him seems to indicate she made the mistake on purpose, something he's suspected her of doing for quite some time now. It's an opportunity to make fun of her, to level the playing field. It also gives him a possible escape route, and the realization that she's given him that suddenly removes his desire to take it.
He sighs, uncrossing his arms and leaning his head back. "I don't know. Daddy issues, I guess. You of all people should understand that."
The changes of expression on her face are so fast he almost doesn't catch the progression from gentle understanding, to hurt, to quiet determination. There's a split second in the middle when her eyes revert back to the hollowness from a year ago, and he wants to kick himself.
"I of all people should understand that your father is not a horrible person."
There is no anger in her voice, or her eyes. Yet neither is there pain. And for that he is grateful. He opens his mouth to say something, apologize perhaps, but she cuts him off…
"No Tony, he is not. He may have been a horrible father, and he is not exactly admirable, but that does not make him a terrible person entirely. There are good parts of him, parts that you have inherited, and you should not be ashamed of that."
"What, like my track record for women?" he blurts out bitterly before he can help himself. Of all the comments and comparisons he's heard since his father's arrival, those have been the most irritating.
"No," she says gently, "but your skills at charming them, perhaps."
Always a sucker for ego-gratifying compliments, he can't help the small grin that appears on his face.
"And your smile," she adds, giving one of her own.
He holds her gaze for a moment, wondering if he's just an easy person to read, or if there's something uniquely special about her ability to brighten his mood so effortlessly. Probably the latter, being the ninja that she is.
"That is not all though," she continues, her voice soft, eyes not leaving his. "You may not see it, but there is a sense of loyalty in him. It is subtle, and I suspect he tries to hide it, but it is there. With you, it is so magnified that it is nearly impossible to miss. It is what makes you a good agent… a good man."
He sits up, places a gentle palm on her cheek, and leans in to brush his lips against her hairline. He whispers a simple, "thank you."
As he pulls back to give her an earnest smile there is a soft thud, someone attempting to open the door, and the moment is over. She grins and goes to leave.
As he walks past the confused young woman he gives her a wink. Because after all, they don't call him Anthony DiNozzo for nothing.