Apologies to Shakespeare for butchering his line for the sake of a fanfic title.


The Liquor of Our Discontent

"M'not drunk."

If there's a graveyard where defenses go to die, this one owns the biggest mausoleum on the lot. That the speaker tries to enunciate the protest around an alcohol-thickened tongue only makes it more indistinguishable. The edge of a sleeve is stuck to the table, melded to the surface by the sticky rings of glasses drained in haste and merriment. Their friends watch in hazy fascination as the fabric is delicately pried from the congealed pool. Colored spotlights wander about the room, pinpointing those embarking on the crime of not dancing or slamming shots. The pulse of electronic music adds another layer of annoyance for the reluctant rescuer.

No, Ziva is not drunk. She is, in fact, several shades past such a meager adjective. And Tony should know. Fables are penned about his proclivity. It's one thing he'd rather they never share.

"Take me home?" The question is garbled but her intention is not. Her hand makes miscommunication difficult. Tony's pretty sure that Abby's reaching for her camera phone to document the entanglement over his piece of real estate.

"Home, yes," Tony spits out while trying to disengage her fingers from the fragile juncture she's latched onto. "But that's not for you."

"Issh too."

On the pavement outside, Ziva attempts to halt their departure with distraction. It's a terribly complex operation, extracting his keys while fending off her not-remotely-unwanted advances. She's going for blatant, reaching again for things that aren't complaining about the nearly hostile attention. His mind says no but his body must look up the definition.

"Mine," she insists and is nearly toppled by a crack in the curb.

Valid, he thinks as he gently shoves her into the passenger seat. "Not if you're gonna maul it in public."

The car door is slammed on his proclamation and he gives only a passing thought to the safety of his interior. Inebriates aren't known for exceptional aim.

As he opens the driver's door, he hears prude under her breath and groans. Apparently liquor has an unstudied power to lower the drawbridge on her inhibitions while simultaneously raising the bar on her conceit. She's mad that she's been collected like a rampant teenager out past curfew. In the liquid sloppiness that is her brain, she's in the right, even when he's protecting her virtue. Abby's text had warned him of Ziva's amusing tendency to grope the patrons, including a few who don't fall under the category of 'opposite gender.' Which made her instantly popular as the night's entertainment. God help her if anything turns up on YouTube.

McGee's subsequent text had informed him that she was making comprehensive and excessively vocal plans for later. There might have been a mention of rope. And Tony. The drive to the club had featured a stellar mix of irrational fury and fairly visible excitement. He'd had to picture decapitated bunnies before leaving the car.

It's possible that he won't exactly save her tonight.

The drive to her place is punctuated by more physical debates over boundaries. The result is erratic steering that earns him a lengthy lecture by the nice patrolman. A flash of Tony's badge and Ziva's amorous state only gives the bored officer extra material for his sermon. No ticket and for that Tony's abundantly grateful. And mildly concerned about the laxness of this generation's law enforcement. He pulls back into traffic only after re-zipping what she uncovers.

It doesn't last.

And neither does he with her mouth just there. In a barely parked vehicle with her body bent around the gear shift. They're twenty feet from her building's door, the proverbial stone's throw, but the car doors haven't opened before she takes his undirected anger and other things in hand. He doesn't mean to encourage this – aside from his fingers fisting her hair and the grunted support – but once she nimbly starts, he solidly finishes.

Making it up the stairs is a credit to her booze-enhanced flexibility and his intense dislike of public displays.

Unlocking her door requires strategy; keeping her from sucking a bruise onto his neck and battling his own significant interest in the taste of whiskey and him on her lips. The key maneuvers the lock into submission and she has the same process in mind. Ziva's begun chanting 'mine,' though what she's claiming to possess he's afraid to clarify. And while it should stoke his ego, it only fuels his irritation.

Because it occurs to him that she could be faking.

Tony loses track of the newly over-the-top woman as he cleans off the evidence of his momentary weakness. The bathroom mirror's reflection is hardly condemning. In fact, he's just wired enough to wonder if his other self just winked at him. Approval of wickedness from one's subconscious is a frightening thing. Of course, it's not like him to be a reluctant object of lust. But this urge to shake her, to dive back into the night before she robs him of any more fantasies, is suddenly overwhelming. Hands scrubbed spotless, Tony resolves to put her to bed and not join her there.

Holy Grey Goose, is she pouring a drink?

The lowball glass is slid across the kitchen island, away from her. "You need this," she tells him, possibly the first human to actually demand he get liquored.

He wants to. Dear unfair God, he really does. Tony pulls out a stool and contemplates the liquid, set to a shimmer by the light of streetlamps. He knows how the La Poire will taste; notes of honeysuckle and hazelnut. He knows how it will feel; warmly embracing like crisp sheets on a Sunday. But he also knows why he drinks; guilt, hatred, everything he can't control and all he's lost. Truthfully, there's a pull to forego the glass and nurse straight from the bottle. Because she wants him and still he feels like something's been taken from him.

Pushing the glass away, his slightly moist eyes find an increasingly coherent woman waiting, fingers wrapped around the bottleneck.

"Why are you upset with me?" Ziva's slur remains, sounding like a head cold.

"I'm not." Mostly because he doesn't know why he is.

"M'not allowed to have fun?"

His coworkers will face charges come morning. "Not sure that's your kind of fun."

"How would you know?"

It's petulance on ice and Tony rises, eager to avoid this kind of discussion. They don't navigate the personal well even when they're both sober. The bottle is pulled from her grasp and she is steered into the bedroom. The buttons on her shirt are released from their confinement and he lets the material slip from her frame with hands that won't shake until later. Much later when memory berates him for missed opportunities. Which doesn't mean he won't push his luck. Just a little.

He dips his head, pressing a kiss to her bare shoulder. An apology of sorts. An amends for the times she's had to drag him home in a far worse state. She drinks to enjoy. He drinks to forget. And the difference is a scale of sins.

However unfulfilled, Ziva has become a better addiction and it's hard to argue with that kind of progression.

Clearing eyes throw away the darkness. "Mine?" At least this time she's asking.

"Yours." And he's damned in a breath.

Her arms extend, encompassing the universe, which consists of only her. "Yours?"

"Mine," he confirms as she backs into the mattress. Sitting, she manages to remove her jeans without breaking bones. And as he watches the uncovering, he understands. What Abby had mentioned in jest had become the accelerant to his fury. Jealousy for her casual contact with others, granting touch to strangers that he's slaved years to obtain in tiny batches.

They aren't worthy. He can relate.

"Love -," she mumbles into the pillow.

Emotion born of inebriation cannot be counted. No matter how long he's waited to hear it, a half-hearted sentiment is given no credence. He wants to wake her, to fetch the rest of the sentence from her snoring mouth. Instead he hovers over her slumber, rooted to the edge of the bed and feeling like an intruder. Prayers are lobbed at the ceiling that she won't recall her deed in the car. Won't remember his eagerness to receive it. Won't throw the rock of disgust through the stained glass of sheer divinity.

An hour later the abandoned vodka is finally drained. Because he drinks to forget.


...

Not sure how this momentary naughtiness sunk so deep into melancholy, but hopefully it was enjoyed all the same.