Summary: Ray shows up months after Ziva found out that he lied to her again, and Tony loses it.
Disclaimer: If I owned NCIS, I would have enough money to fix my broken laptop. :( Since I'm on a school computer right now, I obviously don't own NCIS.
Spoilers: Jeanne arc, Michael arc, Ray arc.
This piece can be read as a companion piece to "Promise", or as a one-shot in itself. And yes, I am aware of the irony in what Tony says later in this fic. But he's trying, and that's what counts. Read, enjoy, please review!
The voice makes her freeze, the hairs on the back of her neck rising. Her heart races. She stares straight ahead, not daring to turn around. Beside her, half sitting on her desk, Tony has gone silent; she feels fury radiating from him.
"How are you?"
Before she can react, Tony has slid off her desk, and she looks over her shoulder just in time to see him bunch up Ray's collar with his hand. "Get lost," he growls, his face an inch from Ray's and contorted with rage.
"Tony!" She and the NCIS escort try to pull him away, but of course Ray just stares calmly back at him.
"I'm sorry, but I can't do that."
"Too bad, cause now you'll be leaving with only one arm," he spits out.
"Agent DiNozzo!" Vance calls down sternly from the top of the staircase. "Agent Cruz is here upon my request, and I would appreciate it if you do not manhandle NCIS' visitors."
He snarls, and Vance's eyes narrow.
"My office, now. Agent Cruz, if you will please follow?"
She watches as they leave the bullpen. She has never seen Tony that angry before, and the thought of there being dire consequences for him scares her. She sits down and tries to concentrate on her work, but her mind keeps drifting off to the men upstairs. In the end she gives up and just props her head in her hands, elbows on her desk as she focuses worriedly on the silver door leading to the director's office.
She sees him exit it five minutes later, and almost knocks over her chair in her haste to get to him. She forces herself to wait for him to descend the stairs, and then drags him to the small space behind it.
"What happened with Director Vance?"
He shrugs and gives her a gentle smile. "Told me off. Tried to suspend me again."
Fear grips her. "Did he?"
"No." He looks sadly at her for a moment. "Ray's in a meeting with him now."
"Oh." She shifts uncomfortably on her feet. "Tony, what…"
"Lost my temper for a moment. No big deal."
"I have never seen you lose your temper that much."
"Well, maybe I just got out of the wrong side of the bed today. Trust Ray to show up on the exact same morning." He grimaces, and then gives her that expression again; the one that is one-fourth concern and three-fourths pure sadness. "Are you alright?"
"I could have done without seeing him, but I am fine. It has been almost a year; I have moved past it."
He looks like he wants to push the issue, but decides against it. "Come on," he simply says, and leads the way back to the bullpen.
Ray emerges an hour later, and repeats the process of approaching her. This time, Tony glances up from his desk but does not interfere; the only sign that he has registered Ray's presence at all is the dull thud which tells her he has kicked something under the table.
"Can we talk?" Ray almost pleads her.
Her steely eyed gaze hold his for a long time before she finally agrees.
Her gut, though not as good as Gibbs's, tells her that something is wrong. She feels it right down to her bones as she drives home, and so she deliberately misses the turning and goes to his apartment instead.
His countenance, when he opens the door, feels like a kick to the stomach because he has never looked more miserable. His shoulders slump in his well-pressed suit as he steps aside to let her in.
She takes the opened can of beer from him and wraps her hand around his, leading him to his living room. Putting the can on the coffee table, she pulls on his hand to get him to sit with her, but does not let go of him. "Tony, something is bothering you."
He sighs and rubs his face with his free hand. "How did the talk with Ray go?"
"It was okay. He explained to me why he did what he did."
His mouth hardens. "So why?"
"Orders from the agency. It does not matter, anyway. I was not interested in knowing."
"Are you still mad at him?"
"Then you're…back together…with him?"
She takes in how his eyes shine with feigned indifference; she wonders if he knows it's tainted with real misery. She can see it in the downward curves of his mouth; the way he keeps swallowing. She squeezes his hand. "No. I have broken up with him for good."
He breaks their gaze, and she is contemplating if she has said the wrong thing when he moves his hand and threads his fingers in between hers. "It's the right decision." Ever the loyal partner.
She snuggles into him and leans her head against his shoulder. "I did not know you were so good at threatening people."
"He hurt you."
"A lot of people do."
"I know, but this is different. You…loved him."
"Yeah, I know." He falls still and stares unseeingly at the wall for a while. "I don't know how to do this."
"Stop people from hurting you."
"Tony, you do not have to stop people from hurting me."
"I know. I'm not your keeper, you can take care of yourself, and your relationships are none of my business, right?" He shoots her a faint smile, and for a second she has to resist the urge to lean up and just kiss him.
She settles for nuzzling her head into his neck instead. "No, Tony. It is just that I know I can count on you to threaten them if they hurt me."
He scrunches up his forehead as he tries to figure out if she is being serious. She lifts her head and looks at him, and then laughs. "I mean I know that you will be there are the end of the day. And then things are better."
"Yes. And for the record, thank you for being there when Ray…you know. It helped me a lot."
"Just doing my job." It is her turn to scrunch up her forehead, and he sighs fondly. "Not my literal job. I mean my job as a partner and friend and-" he cuts off abruptly.
He shakes his head. "Nothing. I just ran out of things to say."
"Tony, I did not come here to listen to you not tell me anything. You look sad, and-"
"What if I told you that I love you?" he blurts out suddenly.
"What if I told you that I wanted to smash Ray's face in because-" he stops and gets up, pulling his hand away from hers. "Forget it. You should go, Ziva."
She gapes at him, paralyzed.
"Ziva." Behind the sharpness in his tone she can hear tears, and that is what sets her in motion. She gets up and puts her arms around his stiff figure, hugging him tightly until she can feel him start to tremble the slightest bit. "You're not making this easy for me."
"It does not have to be hard, Tony."
"Yeah it does. You think it was easy watching you being all giggly with Ray? Hearing him tell me that I'm like a brother to you? You wanna know what it felt like when I heard about that engagement ring box?" He backs away from her, looking wretched. "It wasn't easy. So don't act like you understand."
She watches as he walks to the door and opens it for her, avoiding her gaze. And then she follows and stops in front of him, covering the hand that rests on the doorknob with her own.
"You fell in love with Jeanne Benoit," she begins. "You shirked your duties to be with her. Lied to us, like I did with Michael. When she left, you missed her. But I missed you. Do you think it was easy for me, then?"
"No…I guess not."
"I am only trying to move on, Tony. Ray may have betrayed my trust, but he gave me happiness for a while. And I…cannot wait forever for you when I did not even know that…that you love me."
His hand clenches and unclenches at his side, as if he is holding back strong emotions. She steps forward and takes it up.
"Tony, look at me." His eyes meet hers, and she almost gasps at the raw pain in them. She rubs her thumb lightly over his skin and collects her thoughts. "I say it does not have to be hard because…you do not need to miss me. I am no longer in love with Ray. And…Tony…I have never been successful at moving on."
"So what does that mean?"
She hesitates, because voicing her feelings would mean a huge shift in their dynamic. But perhaps, in the end, things have always been this way. "It means…it means that I…love you too."
She smiles wearily up at him, and he looks back solemnly. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, he smiles back radiantly. He leans down and kisses her tentatively, only to break off it off and lean his forehead against hers. "It'll work out, right?" he asks desperately.
She carresses his face reassuringly. Sometimes she loves him so much it is hard to breathe. "Yes, it will."