A/N: Slightly holiday-ish, slightly a post-ep for 8X10 (False Witness), and the first Tiva fic I've written in a very long time.
It was still snowing in DC when she arrived at his apartment that night, and as she left the warmth of her car and walked in the refreshingly frigid air to the door, she idly wondered if leaving her car parked on the street was the best idea. The roads were getting slippery and the snow was piling up, but she doubted that they'd be plowing already and she wasn't planning on being here long anyway.
She rang the doorbell next to his apartment number and was buzzed up without question or greeting. The interior of the building provided some warmth, granted not much, but as she walked the few flights up to his apartment she could feel herself warming up already. When she finally knocked on his door, foregoing the doorbell that hadn't worked for a while and instead made a tortured wrenching sound when asked to perform, she found herself wondering what kind of mood Tony would be in tonight. After his Christmas prank, he seemed to have become more of his old self, perhaps a bit more somber, but recognizable.
"And here I thought you wouldn't have to have another talk with me," he greeted playfully, stepping out of the way so she could come in.
But Ziva didn't move.
Instead, she cocked her head to the side, studying him for a few long moments and Tony felt his heart tighten like she had wrapped her fingers around it to give him a reassuring squeeze. He thought she looked like she was going to say something related to the conversation that they had in the observation room, picking it up as if there hadn't been a pause, expecting him to do the same. But suddenly she pressed her lips together in a small, downward, concentrated smile, and brushed by him on her way into the living room.
He shut the door behind her and watched as she blended into the space like a chameleon, like she belonged there.
"Do you always just let people into your building without checking to see who they are?" She asked while Tony's eyes followed the lines of her body as she took off her coat and placed it on the hook next to his.
"Ziva, Ziva, Ziva," he grinned, "I saw your car on the street."
"So what are you doing here? Revenge for my holiday send-off?"
Ziva chuckled, a low sound in her throat, as she busied herself with something inside the bag he hadn't realized she had with her. "Tempting," she mused, "but not tonight. I brought you your present…" She pulled something out of the bag and turning around with a brighter smile than the one she wore just a few moments ago, said, "Merry Christmas, Tony."
Tony paused as he tried to decide how to go about this… because as excited as he was about tearing the glittering gold paper from whatever was hiding under there, he was confused.
"I know you don't celebrate Christmas, but you have to know that today's not it."
"I know when Christmas is, Tony," she chuckled. "But after… everything lately, and since I won't be in DC-"
Ziva looked up at him, wide-eyed and frozen, before frowning, "I thought you would have heard by now. I did tell McGee… and Gibbs-"
"Told them what, Ziva?"
"I'm not going to be in DC for Christmas. Since we have some time off, I'll be skiing. With my friend-"
Tony's face was thoughtful for a heartbeat before it fell, "From Miami," he finished on the exhale of a breath he hadn't meant to hold.
"Yes," she looked down, only to see the gold package still in her hands. "He is just a friend, Tony."
"Yeah, yeah, that you're going on a cozy vacation with," his laugh was tinged with unbelieving bitterness.
"It's just a ski trip."
"Right," he responded tightly, not knowing where to look, but doing his best to avoid looking at her.
"He's helping me to… find balance as well," she offered quietly and Tony nodded like he understood, because maybe he did, but more like he didn't quite know what to say to her.
Tony wanted to ask her if he knew everything she'd gone through lately, in the last year, in the last five years, in her life – but even he didn't know everything and there was something to be said for escapism, even if that did mean she was escaping with someone that wasn't him. Not that he had been that reliable lately…
You need to be who you are, echoed in his mind. Maybe, as much as she cared about him – hadn't she meant that she loved him? – as much as she was there for him, she had also, in this way, given up on him.
"I guess I couldn't ask you to keep that," he motioned at the package in her hands, "and ask you not to go, could I?"
Ziva considered him for a moment with sad, thoughtful eyes. "No," she finally decided. "That would not be fair."
Because if you did, I'd have to stay.
They locked eyes briefly, the space between them was an aching chasm that neither could seem to bridge without the other suddenly jerking away. They always seemed to be clearing the rubble and starting over again. But there was something to be said for getting closer and closer each time, wasn't there?
"Will you open it?" She asked softly, and he wouldn't put it past her to know that she was interrupting his thoughts.
"Sure," he nodded. "Just, um, wait for a sec. Sit?"
Ziva took the direction and sat on the couch while Tony went over to the small, half-decorated Christmas tree in the corner and picked up one of the few packages arranged beneath it.
"Here, it's for you," he held it to out to her and accepted the golden gift she had for him.
They were quiet for a few heartbeats, neatly wrapped gifts on their laps.
"You first," she instructed, and he did his best to find balance, to be the Tony that loves Christmas and tears the wrapping paper off like it's the most important thing in the world.
It was a good attempt, but they both silently acknowledged that the act lacked his usual holiday sparkle.
Beneath the paper was a Magnum P.I. tin that made him half-smile, but when he opened it, he broke into a full-on grin. Inside, filled to capacity, were all of his favorite Christmas cookies – homemade by Ziva.
"I know it's not much but –"
"Thank you, this is great," he told her sincerely. "I just hope McGee doesn't expect me to share."
"He doesn't know about them, they're just for you."
"What'd you get Tiny Tim, anyway?" Tony wondered, glancing at the package he had for McGee beneath the tree.
"A leather notebook-"
"So he can continue writing about Tommy and Lisa?"
"A lot has happened since we last read about them," she pointed out, sitting up straighter. "He might need to scribble out some new ideas. My turn?"
"Oh, yeah, go ahead."
Ziva stuck her hand into the snow-flake designed bag and pulled out a brightly colored, cartoon illustrated DVD case. She looked up at him for clarification before glancing back down at the title.
"Tony, Chanukah is over," she told him carefully.
"I know, but I figured if you had to put up with all of the Christmas specials on TV, you might as well have one of your own to watch."
"It's a kids' show. My buddy from college has a few kids and they love it. It's the best Chanukah special out there."
He didn't tell her how much time it took him to find a decent Chanukah special. He didn't tell her that he had already watched it, that he already anticipated the questions she would have (why are the babies talking, why are the historical figures all children), or the comments she would make (I know for a fact that is not a word; they seem to know about as much about the holiday as you do) and he was ready to field them all. He didn't tell her how much he was looking forward to it.
"There's something else in there," he told her and Ziva smiled knowingly.
"So there is," she pulled out a bottle of wine. Instantly her eyes fell onto the label, the one she knew so well, the same kind they shared on a regular basis that one summer that Gibbs was gone.
"Maybe you can have it with your friend..." She glanced up to see that Tony's eyes were locked hard on her.
"I think that I'd rather have it with you," she murmured.
"I'd rather you do that too."
A bottle of wine, four and a half holiday specials (one Chanukah, three and a half Christmas), nine cookies (four for Ziva, five for Tony), and eight and a half inches of snow later, Ziva found herself still on Tony's couch, resting comfortably under Tony's arm, a pleasant warmth inside her chest that she wouldn't credit the wine with entirely.
"I'm sorry I won't be here for Christmas."
Ziva twisted her neck to look at his stoic face and touched his cheek, guiding him to look at her. "No, it's not."
"No," he admitted. "But, um… promise me something?"
She looked at him expectantly.
"New Year's is mine."
Ziva lightly tapped his cheek and turned back to face the TV screen where poorly planned, badly constructed toys were singing about being misfits, and she did her best to bite back a grin.