A/N: This is a cut-out for a piece that I'm writing, which will briefly reference events below. I was having a blockage with the other so I wrote this to clear it. It's another Paris piece and didn't turn out exactly as planned, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Unbeta'd. No warnings. Spoilers through Jet Lag.
I Love the Way You Lie
"Just when I think that there is nothing you could ever do to astonish me, you do this."
Tony rolled his eyes at her dramatic tone. "It's just a hotel, Ziva. In Paris!"
"It's not the correct hotel, Tony," she stressed and threw her arms out wide to indicate their surroundings. "This is not the room I was supposed to have. The room reserved for me by NCIS."
"This one's a suite. What's the big deal?"
"What is the big deal?" She stomped over to him, stopping only six inches from his face. "The big deal is that you decided that we had to rent a Vespa. You are the one who got us lost between the airport and our assigned lodgings for the night. Therefore it is your fault," she poked her finger into his chest hard, "that said lodgings were closed by the time we arrived and we had to seek an alternative."
Her tone was dripping with discomfort and indignation, yet he made the decision to goad her further."Meaning..?"
"Do I really have to say it, Tony?" She took a step back, her voice a little less certain. "Do I really have to point out that our former room contained two beds and this one only has one?"
It wasn't much fun, watching her lose her fury-fueled strength, but this was the only way he was going to get something out of her. It wasn't right, the way she kept everything so bottled up. Her injuries from her bout of captivity were simmering so near to the surface all the time, yet still kept buried where he couldn't touch them. Where no one could. If she could just erupt, maybe he'd stop catching her with that gloomy look in her eyes when she thought no one was watching.
Which is why he poked at the issue again.
"I still don't see what the problem is. It's not like we haven't survived a night in the same bed." He shrugged exaggeratedly. "At least it's a King."
Ziva walked over to the couch and started to rip the cushions off in her annoyance, throwing them to the floor. Each block of filled fabric landed on the floor with a thud, demonstrating her ire in a different way than he'd thought.
Truthfully, he thought she'd hit him and he'd be the one causing the thud. She'd done it before.
"What are you doing?"
She kept her eyes on the wall behind him. "I am sleeping on the floor."
Okay, this wasn't supposed to happen. "Don't be stupid, David." He started to pick up one of the cushions. "You'll do no such thing."
She grabbed it from him and threw it back down, her eyes flashing. "I have slept in more difficult places. This is not a challenge for me." She pointed at the large four poster that dominated the room. "That will be a challenge."
Tony was dumbfounded for a moment as situations he'd only imagined crossed his mind. Mostly of her, naked beneath him. Or vice versa.
It was distracting.
His mouth responded automatically while it waited for his brain to catch up. "Why?"
She narrowed her eyes at him and growled. "Because it's easier to kill someone if you don't have to get up."
He stood by and watched as she grabbed a pillow from the bed, then lined the cushions up on the floor behind the couch. She seemed to be serious about sleeping on the floor instead of with him on the bed. A bed so large that they could probably roll over and still not find each other in.
It was starting to feel personal. Like she didn't trust him or something. Not even enough to come clean with him about whatever the hell was going on in her head.
Sure, there had a been a time in their past where she questioned his motives, where she didn't trust him when he told the truth as he saw it, but this was not that time. They were different now. Somalia had changed all of that.
Hadn't it? How did a fight over sleeping arrangements bring him here?
She'd stormed off into the bathroom with her overnight bag, presumably to change into whatever currently passed for pajamas in Ziva's world. The door was closed behind her and he knew he had to think fast. He couldn't allow the night to end with the Great Wall of Silence still standing strong. Right now it was no closer to being demolished than before this ruse to crack her open had begun.
It only took him a split second to decide before he was pulling the rest of the cushions off of the couch.
When the bathroom door opened he was lying on his cushions with his eyes closed in his white tank and boxers, covered with one of the sheets from the bed that could have passed for a Circus tent. One of the smaller ones.
His fabricated bed was only a foot from hers.
The silence in the room was unsettling. Shouldn't she have seen him by now?
His eyes popped open and she was there with her hands were on her hips as she crouched, her satin tank and short set shimmering. He found that he was now staring directly into hers eyes... And they weren't the least bit amused.
She took a deep breath. "What are you doing down there?"
Sitting up, he tried not to smirk too proudly when he answered, "Sleeping. You mind?"
"I do, actually." She stood back up and paced the length of his 'bed.' It was a struggle not to chance a peek up her shorts as her hips swayed. "This defeats the purpose, you sleeping down here. I'm starting to think you have a death wish."
When she stopped to stare daggers at him, he stood slowly, taking a deep breath to steady himself before plunging into the rapids.
Holding her gaze he stated seriously, "I'm starting to think you bring it out in me."
If it hadn't been against whatever Mossad did to train her to hide surprise, her jaw would have dropped. Instead she was staring at him, her eyes so wide he briefly imagined they'd fall out. And then she was blinking quickly. If she was anyone else, he'd think she was holding back tears. But not Ziva.
She was too strong for that.
Her gaze was defiant when she asked, "What does that mean, Agent DiNozzo?"
He sighed at her formal way of addressing him. "It means that I seem to put my life on the line for you more than most." He studied her reaction closely and felt his resolve softening. There was something in the way her eyes tilted downward that made him re-think the tear theory.
Then again, he was always one to test theories. "I'm not complaining, Probationary Agent David, but you ignoring it is starting to get old." He closed some of the distance between them, leaving a foot or so of the separation remaining. "Give me something."
She broke their eye contact to study the palm of her hand. "I do not know what else you wish me to do, Tony."
Grabbing her shoulders, he gave them a gentle squeeze. She flinched and then she took a step back so he released her. "Stop tip-toeing around me. Stop acting like we're different than before. The old Ziva would have taken the room change in stride, she would have put me in my place again with a smirk. It wouldn't have phased her. Times like these, I can't help thinking she might be gone for good."
Watching her fish for the words, it stung. She was still holding back. After everything that four years of fighting next to each other had made of them, she wouldn't confide in him so that she could move on.
"I cannot play a part." She sighed and met his gaze steadily. "This is me now."
He spread his hands out in front of him, helpless. "How can I fix that?"
She swallowed hard. "You can't fix me, Tony."
He scrambled for a grip on the turn his quiet intervention had taken. "Just tell me one thing: did I do this?" He tore his right hand through his hair. "Am I the reason you don't trust me?"
She regarded him coolly, causing goosebumps to cover his skin as she studied him. Like she was sizing him up or trying to figure out how to defeat him. Then it seemed she gave up.
"It is not you that I do not trust," she admitted finally.
There was a rush of relief until he realized she'd never answered the big question. "Then why is that" he gestured to the bed, "so big a deal?"
She cast her eyes to the floor and spoke quietly, "I do not share my bed."
The air fell still around them.
The organs in his chest seemed to melt, puddling heavily inside his stomach. "I see," he choked out. She was trying to hide the fact that Somalia was more horrifying than any of them thought. All along, she was still protecting herself from admitting the most awful thing he could imagine.
And there was nothing Tony wouldn't have done to take the past hour back. Forcing her to even allude to something like that was causing the bile to rise in his throat.
As usual he'd made everything about him when it should have been about her. What she'd gone through, not how he'd felt with the way she'd been acting. Her hell was so much more damaging his trivial discomfort.
She was wrong before: now he had to fix it.
He stepped toward her slowly and lifted her chin with his forefinger, bringing her to look him in the eye. "That changes tonight, Ziva."
She opened her mouth to protest, but didn't. Instead she asked tiredly, "Why is that?"
It was hard not to growl the words, but he failed to hid the instinct entirely. "Because we can't let them win." Leaning down, he collected the two pillows and the sheet, then threw them on the bed. She swept her eyes around the room uncertainly, as if looking for a way out, then met his again.
He walked away from her, backwards, never taking his eyes from hers. Then he held out his hand.
She took it.
Sometime during the night Tony woke up to the sound of a giant lumberjack sawing enough wood to build a bridge from China to Alaska.
Opening his eyes, he realized the sound was coming from right next to him. From the mouth set in the face belonging to a head of dark hair, which was currently located directly beneath his chin. From the chest currently pressed against his.
He was tangled up in her like a damp piece of bubblegum in a thick head of hair.
And even though he should have extracted himself as gentlemanly as possible, she was sleeping so peacefully he couldn't wake her. One move would pull her from that serenity he now knew came so seldom for her. Her trapped hand was clinging to his shirt as if she was afraid he'd escape.
No chance in hell that he would attempt it.
The way the night had ended, with them as far away from each other as the mile-wide bed would allow, it was hard to imagine how they ended up like this. Getting to the middle of the bed required some pretty excessive maneuvering and even though Ziva had gotten in the bed, she'd been dead set on staying on her side of it.
Somehow they had gravitated toward each other.
Ziva's face was buried in his neck. Her free arm wrapped around him possessively. Her breath tickling across his skin as she made those unholy noises, the ones that had woken him from his own comfortable sleep. They were completely wrapped up in each other.
Comfortable. There was really no other word for it. There was no denying the way they fit together and it wasn't untoward that he took comfort in it. Apparently she did too, when she fought through her very personal struggle and allowed herself to seek solace in him.
He wanted to be her protector.
Just because waking up with her like this fed another hungry animal that lived inside of him, the one that craved more from her than just her trust, didn't mean he couldn't be her shield for now. He would deny himself and shelter her.
And he wasn't being dishonest with her by kissing her hair as she slept, or by pulling her that slightest bit closer. He was only allowing himself a moment to taste what he'd been craving. To give in to the way it felt for her to depend on him. To know she needed him like he'd come to need her.
There was something amazing about waking up with Ziva, the way she lay next to him and clung to him. She set his house on fire in the best way.
And that something was going to change everything someday.
A/N: Thanks for letting me share. :)