Summary: Things aren't always that perfect even after they get together; sometimes there are questions that still need to be asked. Sequel to 'Goodbye' and 'Always'. Based on Westlife's 'When a Woman Loves a Man'.
Disclaimer: Hmm. Really, if I owned NCIS (or When a Woman Loves a Man), would I still be writing this?
Spoilers: Vague reference to Truth or Consequences; none specific.
Song lyrics from: metrolyrics, 2010.
Song suggestion from: ZandVsupporter. Thank you for it! You know, since I don't listen to Westlife.
This fic is dedicated to xteamgibbsx! Since you asked me to write it. I hope you don't think it's too weird, because I'd sorta ran out of ideas so I was just scrambling around trying to find what's left of my brain cells...anyway, to the rest of you, this can be read as an independent fic, but again it would make more sense if you read 'Goodbye' and then 'Always'. Thank you to all the lovely people who reviewed the other two! Please spend some time reviewing this!
A soothing breeze always blows
Somebody understands another soul
It's like the planets have aligned
Every sentence has a rhyme
When a woman loves a man
When a Woman Loves a Man, by Westlife
Tony is surprised that Ziva doesn't comment on the tears brimming in his eyes. He isn't exactly crying, but then Ziva isn't exactly one to fuss about technicalities, so it's still unusual for her. The old Ziva would have been teasing him by now. This Ziva simply holds his hand and gives it a squeeze, offering him a look of silent comfort. As he looks back at her he wants to ask her if time has changed her, but it isn't the right time to ask.
He waits until the funeral is over and they are walking away before he says anything. "Well, guess that's one side of me you don't see very often," he says in the wry joking tone of his even as he gets disgusted with himself. No matter what they have gone through, no matter how long they have been together, he is still Tony and he still needs to act macho in front of her and the rest of the world. And maybe because Ziva knows him so well, she expects him to say that.
"No, it is not," she answers him calmly. "That is not so bad. I am pleased to find out that you do have feelings other than lust." She deliberately keeps the tone light because she knows that he can't handle the seriousness; not right now.
Tony gives a soft chuckle, and then he suddenly stops walking and pulls on her hand to get her to face him. When she does she thinks that she doesn't know him all that well after all, because the question that falls from his lips is one that she wouldn't have expected in a million years given the circumstances.
"Why do you still love me, Ziva?"
"Why…do…I…still…love…you…" she says slowly and haltingly, wondering how on earth she is to answer the question, because it seems a very important one and she doesn't want to screw it up by giving him the wrong answer.
"I mean after everything that we've gone through, everything that I've done to you, you're still here."
"I have done some pretty bad things to you myself," Ziva replies him in confusion, because she isn't sure what he's trying to get at.
Tony scratches his head impatiently, as if there is something that he is itching to get out but can't quite find the words for. He shuffles about a bit on his feet and finally settles for, "I am not an easy man to live with, Ziva."
Ziva raised her eyebrows. "I know that, Tony. I am living with you."
"Well, why do you?"
Ziva opens and closes her mouth; she doesn't know what to say to him.
Tony continues as if he doesn't expect her to answer at all. "You know, I thought that my dad and I could have had a better relationship. I thought we'd be closer; maybe even visit each other once in a while, but I didn't even know he was dead until I got the letter from his lawyer. I didn't get to know him that well, Ziva, because I never took the effort to. And that's how all my relationships are."
"Is that what this is about, Tony? You feel that we do not know each other well enough?" Ziva asks him, still puzzled.
"No, you know me too well. Which is why I'm asking how you can still love me. When you know that I'm so…messed up."
"We are both messed up in our own ways," she says weakly, because reassuring others has never been one of her greatest skills. "Tony, is there a reason you are asking me this now?"
Tony gazes at her gravely. "Sixteen years, you waited for me. I can't figure it out. Don't get me wrong, I'm so glad you're here. But you're Ziva, and you must have had a hundred men falling in love with you in those years. Maybe even a thousand. But you chose to wait for me. I don't really know if I deserve that."
Ziva looks down at the ground, afraid of what she has to say. "There was a man who fell in love with me, a few years after you left."
Tony feels his heart stop and his blood run cold as if he had lost her to that man, even though she's standing right in front of him. "What did you tell him?"
Ziva shrugs. "I did not know what to tell him, so I just left. It is not an honourable action, I admit, but I do not know how you can tell a man who loves you that you are in love with another whom you might not see for the rest of your life."
"So why didn't you just fall in love with him?"
"And how would I do that? I cannot simply get over you. You ask me why I love you, Tony, and I cannot answer that. But I know that you would die for me…and I know that that man would not. And yes, I know that Gibbs and McGee would die for me too, but they are Gibbs and McGee, and you…you are Tony." She looks up at him. "I cannot quantify how I feel, Tony. I cannot analyse you into small elements and tell you which parts of you I love the most. Because collectively they form you, and that is just…it." She rakes a hand through her hair exasperatedly because she doesn't know how else to say it.
"A lot of those parts are flawed, Ziva," Tony tells her sombrely, willing her to understand why he needs to ask.
"I know. Believe me, I know. But without them you would not be you. I cannot even tell you whether you deserve a sixteen-year wait; just that I had to wait for you. I needed to. Can you understand that? If I had told you before you had gone to avenge my death that you should not go because I do not deserve it, would you have gone?"
"Yes. Always." There isn't even a moment's hesitation in his answer.
"Then you must understand how I feel. It is not something that can be broken down objectively, Tony, into whys and hows. It is just the way it is. As clichéd as it may sound, love is not about the absence of flaws; it is about the acceptance of them. And," Ziva places her hand over Tony's heart, her eyes shiny, "I love you because it just so happens that I love your flaws."
Tony is quiet now, staring down at her hand where his heart hurts; this time not because he is about to lose her but because he can't believe how he can be so lucky as to have someone who loves him so unconditionally. "Have I ever told you, Ziva, how beautiful you are?"
Ziva smiles through her tears. "Every single day."