Title: Small Steps (1/1)
Author: Aerial312
Rating: T
Category: Hurt/Comfort
Spoilers/Timeline: post "False Witness" with very, very minor references to that episode.
Word Count: ~1200
Disclaimer: I own nothing…I just borrow.
Feedback: Greatly appreciated.

Tony yawned as the movie ended. Next to him on the couch, Ziva had nodded off. She was leaning back against his arm, which was slung across the cushion behind her. It had been a nice evening. The kind of home-cooked meal and a DVD night that used to be commonplace for them, but was now exceedingly rare. He couldn't remember the last time they had just hung out, in a planned way that is.

He had invited her over, and was surprised when she actually agreed to come. He suspected she was still worried about him. She made him soup, a delicious minestrone. He, in turn, opened wine and selected a DVD. A nice, simple evening. Balance.

The credits finished, and the DVD had kicked back to its menu screen, but Tony couldn't bring himself to move just yet. The same 30 second clip of music played over and over in the background as he just sat there watching her. She looked peaceful, curled up there beside him.

"How long are you going to let the credits roll?" Ziva asked sleepily, eyes still closed.

Tony smiled. Of course she wasn't really asleep. Aware of the situation as always. "Credits are over."

Ziva opened her eyes, and sat up, yawning.

"Liked it that much?" he laughed.

"I was awake." she rolled her neck in a circle with a grimace. "For most of it."

"Fell asleep in a funny position?"

She nodded, wincing at the movement.

Tony reached out toward her, and she eyed him warily. He paused, asking, "May I?"

Ziva hesitated, and he was instantly glad he'd paused to ask first. Finally she told him, "Go ahead."

She still tensed when his hand first landed on the bare skin of her neck.

"Relax," Tony chuckled.

"Instinct," she replied, breathing in and out deeply as she turned her back to him.

That was a good sign, Tony thought. She was giving him more access. Both hands now kneaded her shoulders. The muscles he encountered were very tight. He pushed hard onto a particularly tough knot, and Ziva hissed.

He pulled his hands away. "Am I hurting you?"

"You were getting the knot out," she told him, grabbing his hand, and putting it back on her shoulder. "Continue."

"Lay down," he instructed. "Then maybe I could get the whole mass of them."

"Next you will be telling me to take off my shirt for better access," Ziva snorted, as she crawled onto her stomach.

"Well…" Tony grinned.


"Didn't think so." Tony's hands slid up her back, just grazing the soft fabric. It was a rare opportunity to touch her.

"That tickles," Ziva growled. "Do not bother if you are not going to do it properly."

"Properly, huh?" Tony asked, kneeling up beside her on the couch. "I can do it right."

His hands began a methodical journey down her back, pressing firmly as instructed. He worked for a few minutes in silence, trying to loosen up the right muscles, but he didn't seem to be making much progress. The harder he pushed, the more she tensed. She hadn't said a word, but it didn't seem like she was enjoying it at all.

He slowed his ministrations and really studied her. Her heart was beating hard beneath his hands. He couldn't see her face, but it seemed like she was trying really hard to breathe steadily. Suddenly, she pushed herself up and scurried to the far edge of the couch- away from him- as quickly as she could.

Tony looked up startled. He should have stopped sooner. He had seen that something wasn't right.

"I should go." Ziva turned and practically ran for the door.

"Ziva." She slowed, but continued toward the door and reached for the handle. "Ziva."

She stopped this time, staring intently at the floor as he crossed over to her. "If you're going to run away, at least take your coat. It's cold out." She glared up at him as he held it out.

"I'm not running away," she snapped. She wrenched the coat out of his hands and began to put it on.

"Sure looks like you are."

"The movie is over. I am going home."

"Which would be fine as an answer if that—" he gestured towards the couch, "hadn't just happened."

She turned away from him angrily, and reached for the doorknob. He held his hand against the closed door to keep it that way.

He took a deep breath before he began softly, "I'm sorry. That that didn't work out. I wanted to make your back feel better."

It was a long time before she sighed. "It is not your fault," adding after a beat, "I really should go."

She made no further move for the door. Tony leaned back against it, standing close to her, but not touching.

"I do not like to be held down," she told him quietly, after a long silence.

"Why did you let me?"

"I wanted to like it," she mumbled, pacing away from the door, and him. She paused by the couch, and sat on the arm.

Tony took a deep breath. He raked his hand through his hair as he crossed over to the sofa, sitting on the cushion beside her. They were approaching issues that they didn't talk about. Ever. "Is this…?" he hesitated for a moment before blurting out his question. "Is this a thing that started because of what happened in Somalia?"

He didn't actually know what had happened in Somalia, but he had his suspicions. Ziva stiffened beside him and was quiet for so long that Tony was convinced she was ignoring the question.

"No," she answered finally, pausing before adding, "It is something that I have always…had trouble with."

Tony thought about that for a moment, and realized that he already knew that bit of information. She had never out and told him that, but indirectly, he knew.

"Is that why you like to be on top?"

Ziva looked at him finally, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips. "Probably. I do like to be in control of the situation."

"You? No…" he teased.

She rolled her eyes in response.

"Maybe I could figure out how to rub your neck without holding you down?" he offered.

For a moment she didn't say anything. He was frantically searching his brain for something witty to defuse the tension when she answered, "That would be nice. Just not tonight."

"Fair enough."

"Next time."

"When will next time be?" he queried, grinning. She was already planning on doing movie night again.


"Good." Tony stood, and offered her his hand. She took it, rising to stand beside him. Impulsively, he kissed her forehead. She quirked an eyebrow at him, but said nothing. A small smile graced her lips.

Small steps towards being more open with each other. Small steps at being closer. The pace didn't bother him, as long as the steps were in the right direction.