A/N: OK, let me explain this, it's a bit confusing. It occurs after 'Swan Song', but either before or maybe at the beginning of 'Pyramid'. I've seen the promo (and I'm scared!) and this has nothing to do with its suggested plot, but is more AU because EJ is dead, although it might not be AU because EJ might die when the episode airs.
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this story, etc.
Spoilers: Baltimore, Swan Song and possibly Pyramid.
The bullpen was quieter than ever today.
Gibbs' and McGee's desks were empty; they were busy following a lead on Lt Jonas Cobb, AKA the Port-to-Port killer.
Over the hedge, Cade and Levin were absent, still in hospital.
And EJ's desk was just empty.
The rest of the MCRT had been tiptoeing circles around Tony, his hard exterior proving to be a substantial shadow to his feelings about the situation. But they knew him well, and when he appeared one thing, he often turned out to be the opposite. They were afraid one wrong move might push him over the edge, which he happened to be teetering over at this point.
Ziva, though focused on catching Cobb, could not resist looking up from her fingers, busy typing, to look at Tony. He felt her eyes on him, but ignored her.
Slowly, she rose from her desk and stepped gracefully toward him, her steps quiet but still audible.
He still remained unresponsive until the hand that rested on his computer mouse was covered by hers, and he finally looked up.
"Talk to me," she pleaded.
He shook his head. "There is nothing to talk about," he replied, looking back to his computer screen.
Ziva brought two fingers under his chin and lifted his face to meet her eyes once more. This time, she said no words just hoped her eyes would speak for her.
"You don't understand," he said, shrinking away from her touch.
"You think I have never lost a lover, Tony?" she asked him, sad memories resurfacing before her eyes. But she pushed them away. Now was certainly not the time to throw herself a pity party.
"I guess you do understand," he realised. "But it doesn't matter."
"Tony," she repeated, walking around his desk, and sitting on it. "Mike Franks' death reminded me that dying takes only a second but you leave a mark that lasts forever. Death is no stranger to me, and through it all I have learnt that keeping it all inside only works for so long before it catches up with you. I may not have cared very much for EJ but I care about you. Talk to me."
He sighed, releasing his now white-knuckled grip on his computer mouse. "I wasn't always like this, you know. This egotistical, juvenile womaniser who lives in a world of fantasy movies. I used to be different. Remember that story I told you about me dating my high school music teacher?"
Ziva nodded, wisely deciding that this was not a moment for talking.
"We were engaged, ten years ago."
Ziva's eyes flooded with sympathy. "What happened?" she asked gently.
"After everything with Price, I just wanted a fresh start. I got that, with NCIS, in DC. Wendy didn't want to be part of that, I guess. Those first few weeks were among the hardest in my life. I thought I'd never find another woman like her."
"And EJ reminded you of Wendy?" Ziva guessed.
"She was easy to be with, like Wendy, and at the end of the day, that was what it was all about for me. I didn't have to try, I could just be. I just wanted someone to come home to every night, the smell of a home-cooked meal or freshly ordered pizza hitting me when I walk in the door. Then we'd sit and eat together and talk about our day. We'd have date nights, fancy restaurant, dancing; the whole thing. Then one day we'd get married and stand at the altar, waiting for her to walk down the aisle, and I'd fall in love with her all over again."
Tony's voice was low, not wishing for his deepest secrets to be revealed to the entire office. Ziva's eyes were a little red at the poetic beauty of his words. She had known him going on six years and had barely had a glimpse of this side of him. This Tony DiNozzo was committed and mature and romantic and traditional: all the words she would never have used to describe him.
"Do you believe in soul mates, Ziva?"
She caught his eye, trying to analyse the subtext of his question. "Do you?" she replied.
"I did," he answered slowly. "But that was before I realised you can love someone without being in love with them."
She was silent for a moment, before finally asking what had waited on her lips for a long time now. "Did you love her?"
"EJ?" he asked thoughtfully, then shook his head. "I was in love with Wendy, ten years ago, and EJ reminded me of her easy-going personality, and sweet smile. But I didn't love her. I guess I thought it was the closest thing I'd ever have to having Wendy again, and I didn't wanna be alone. We should have stopped, we were going to, but I don't know…we liked being with each other."
"Would you take Wendy back, if you saw her now? Available? Single?"
"She was killed a year after I joined NCIS, in a car crash," he answered sadly.
"Sorry," she muttered guiltily.
He sighed again. "That's OK. Maybe I'm lookin' too hard."
"Sometimes it takes the most effort to see something that's right in front of you."
He smiled, and she had never been so happy to see the DiNozzo grin grace his face. Of course, that happiness faded when his eyes shifted lower, to the dip of the V-neck shirt she was wearing. Teasingly, she undid the closest fastened button to the top, expanding his view. Then, she tapped his cheek, and slid off his desk, walking away, trying to hide her smile.
"Thank you, Ziva, for helping me to see what was"—he made air quotes—"right in front of me."
His reply was a simple roll of the eyes.
"Thank you, Ziva," he repeated, this time his sincerity shining through.
"It was no problem," she replied. "And Tony, you may be an egotistical, juvenile womaniser, but that's why we love you."
"'We' being…" he thought, as the doors of the elevator opened with a promising ding. Gibbs and McGee entered the squad room, Gibbs greeting him with a blank stare and McGee simply scurrying to his desk, not acknowledging anyone.
He watched Ziva, who tried once again to focus on her work, eventually feeling him watching and looking up to meet his eyes. He noticed the button she had unfastened in good fun remained unfastened, probably not the appropriate standard of dress when the others were around. He kept trying to convey this message with his eyes but had to resolve to a hand gesture, which was countered by a glare from Gibbs, the iciness of it fading immediately upon remembering his recent loss. Ziva was quick to refasten the button, hopefully before someone noticed.
"Thank you," she mouthed to him, her cheeks flushing.
"Right," he thought to himself. "We."
A/N: Yeah…just felt like writing a 'Romantic Tony' thing. He can be romantic, just wanted to explore it with a bit of Tiva, of course.