Title: Finding Balance (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.

Strictly speaking, Ziva had not needed to go into the building. She had left her car at the Navy Yard for the duration of her ski trip, reasoning that it was safer there than parked on the street in front of her apartment if it happened to snow, which it was supposed to, but did not. The Metro went right from to the airport and the walk from the building to the Navy Yard stop was about half a mile.

She threw her bag in the car. She could have just gotten into her car and driven home. Should have even. It was 5:30pm already, and she was not due in the office until the next day. Yet she found herself in the elevator ascending to the bullpen.

As she expected, he was sitting at his desk. He had not looked up when the elevator dinged it arrival. Ziva hung back and watched him for a moment. The file he was reading had his full attention. She wondered how much he had worked in the last few days while everyone else was away. Had he actually come in on the holiday?

He was casually dressed, she noted, which was rare these days. A grey sweater and jeans. Tony looked good in jeans. He looked handsome in a suit, but in jeans—

"I thought you weren't back until tomorrow."

His voice snapped her out of her reverie and she could feel her cheeks flush slightly. He was smiling over at her.

"I had to retrieve my car," she told him, crossing to his desk.

"You didn't have to come up to the bullpen."

"I wanted to see who was here."

Tony held her gaze for a minute. "Just me."

"I see that."

"You knew that."

Of course, he was correct. She had known that if she found anyone upstairs it would be only Tony. It was unusual for them to call each other out on things like that.

He continued, "Gibbs is on his way back from Stillwater. McGee is somewhere with his family."

"Oh, right," she feigned surprise. The look on his face said that he saw right through it.

He let it sit for a moment before asking, "How was skiing?"

"I expected to be better at it," she sighed.

He chuckled . "I told you that skiing was hard."

"I just—"

"And you don't like snow."

"I do not hate it."

"But you don't like it enough to get that friendly with it," he smirked.

Before her trip, he had told her that his own experiences with skiing had involved a good deal of sliding down the mountain on his ass. He had been one hundred percent correct about that. There was a lot more contact with the snow involved in learning to ski than she had originally envisioned.

"How many times did you bite it?"

Her brow furrowed. It was a slang term. She knew that it was a slang term, but she could not remember what it meant, and was forced to ask, "Bite it?"

"Fall."

"Many, many times." She shook her head, wincing at the memory. "I only skied the first day."

"So it wasn't a good trip?" She was surprised that he sounded genuinely unhappy with the idea that she had not had a good time.

She answered him honestly. "It was a great trip. My friend skied his black diamond trails. I sat by the fireplace in the lodge and read five books."

"In four days?" He was grinning. It seemed he was pleased to hear that she had enjoyed herself by herself.

"Three," Ziva smiled. "I skied the first day."

"You brought five books on your ski vacation?" he asked. "You weren't planning on liking it."

"I brought two. I bought three there."

"Reading in English now?"

"Sometimes. More now than in the past."

They fell into a comfortable silence. Ziva crossed around his desk and leaned against it, facing him.

"How was your Christmas?"

He shrugged, looking down at the folder on his desk again.

"Did you spend it here?"

He glared up at her. "Why do you care? You were in Vermont."

"I care because I am your friend."

"Yes, I came in," he snapped. "I had nothing else to do." His voice had that bitter tone she hated. He leaned back against his chair, eyes shut, arms crossed. It took so little to set him off these days.

She slid over to sit on the desk directly in front of him, one foot on either side of his legs on the chair. "I was not saying that it was not right to—"

"Yes, you were!" His eyes snapped open. "You want me to find balance? Well, it's really fucking hard all alone!"

Ziva took a deep breath. There it was. Alone. She had still gone on her trip even though she was worried about him. He had seemed to be in a better place right before Christmas.

He continued, "You know what? It is balance! I chose to come into work instead of stay home and get drunk watching movies. Would I rather have had something to do? Yes. I didn't, so I close the lesser of two evils. That's balance."

Unable to argue with that, she bowed her head and closed her eyes. A moment passed. He laid his hands on her knees and rested his forehead against hers. She fought the urge to run. This was too intimate for them, too intimate for the bullpen, even if it was empty. Yet her hands came to rest on his. At this he tensed. She slide her fingers through his, and held on tight. As terrifying as this was, she knew that if either of them broke away at this point, it would be a step in the wrong direction. It seemed that he realized this too, as he squeezed her fingers back.

Ziva's mind raced, but no words reached her lips. For a long time they sat in silence, hands linked, foreheads pressed together. It was such a nice moment that she feared any words would ruin it. They had always related better on a physical level than they did when they actually spoke.

His thumbs grazed the sides of her hands and she inhaled sharply.

"Sorry," he murmured, pulling his head back to look at her.

She was sad to lose the contact, but it could not last forever. "Do not be."

He was looking at her in a way that made her melt a little every time he did it. That intense, smoldering look that usually meant he was deep in thought, and that she was the topic of those thoughts.

She wanted to continue this, and not let go of this progress. She took the chance and asked, "What are you doing tonight?"

The corners of his mouth curled up. "Whatever you want."

She smiled. "Did you watch 'It's a Wonderful Life' this year?"

He shook his head sadly. "I wasn't in the mood."

"We will watch it tonight then," she told him. She stood, pulling him up out of the chair. "I think this year it is particularly appropriate."

He nodded ruefully. "Balance."

She nodded, and tugged him toward the elevator.