Title: Coping With Reality
Rating: T
Summary: Truth be told, he wasn't sure why he went to her. Of all the doorsteps he could have turned up on, hers was the most surprising…and yet the most predictable —Tiva, post-9x01—

Beginning Notes: So…I'm just going to wait until the end to rant about the first episode. Read on. Just know that there are SPOILERS. Heavy, heavy spoilers. Don't read if you haven't seen the episode yet.

Disclaimer: NCIS=not mine

"I killed Abby's boyfriend."

Not exactly what Ziva had been expecting to hear when she opened her front door at four in the morning to find Tony standing on her doorstep. His clothes were wrinkled and there was something that looked suspiciously like a bullet hole in his jacket. His expression pulled tight, a large red mark making itself more than noticeable on his forehead. And maybe it was just because she was half asleep, but those words could not have made any less sense in Ziva's mind.


And suddenly Tony was talking and Ziva had to quickly shake the last bits of fog from her head to try and keep up. "It was Cade, it was always Cade, it was Cade's photo, why the hell did it have to be Cade? I'm so sick of all this, why can't you women learn to date someone who isn't a traitor?"

Ziva decided to attribute that little comment to the fact that Tony clearly had a head injury. She wouldn't hold it against him. After a moment she reached out, taking his hand in hers and pulling him into her apartment and closing the door. "Stay," she ordered before going back to her room. She knelt down in front of her bureau and opened the bottommost drawer, finding the OSU sweats she had buried back there so long ago. She brought the clothes out to Tony, shoving them into his arms. "Change. You look like crap."

Tony blinked a couple of times, then smiled weakly. "Always generous with the compliments, huh Special Agent David?"

"Go. Change."

Another weak smile and Tony made his way towards the bathroom. Ziva sighed as she set to work heating up water for the tea. Probably not something Tony would be too interested in, but it was late and she didn't feel like putting any caffeine into her body. Besides Tony was injured; coffee would be bad for him.

It took Tony longer than it should have to change; by the time he'd finished the water for the tea was done and being poured into separate cups with tea bags already in place. "Ooo, tea. My favorite."

Ziva shoved the cup into his hands, once again choosing not to answer except to say, "It was Cade in the picture?"

And just like that Tony's smile fell. He looked down at the mug in his hands, then started towards the living room. Ziva waited for a moment before following. "Yeah," he mumbled as he sat down on the couch, his fingers wrapped tightly around his cup. Ziva sat down next to him. "It was Cade. I was supposed to kill Cade and I used EJ to get to him. And now they're both dead."

Ziva managed to keep the shock out of her expression. Barely. It took her a moment to give voice to the thought that instantly sprang to life in her mind. "Did…did you…?"

But Tony shook his head. "I didn't kill them."

Of course, that brought them back to what Tony had said when Ziva had opened the door. "Then…what did you mean when you said you killed Abby's boyfriend…?"

Her voice drifted off as Tony shook his head, running a hand through his hair. "EJ brought him back here. And EJ brought him back here because I asked her to. If I had never tracked EJ down, if I had never asked her to contact him both of them would still be alive. You know no one even knows where EJ's body is—"

"You haven't seen her body?" Ziva interrupted, and Tony shook his head. "You should not assume death unless you have seen the body."

Tony thought about this for a moment before conceding. "Yeah…you're living proof of that." Ziva struggled not to flinch at the indirect reminder of Somalia. This was about Tony's pain. Not hers. "Cade's definitely dead though. And if she is too…then it's my fault. Both of them are on me."

Ziva set her tea mug down on the table and stood up, moving slowly towards the center of the room. "You are right." She didn't have to be looking at Tony to know his head had snapped up to face her, surprise alight in his eyes.

"Wow. Remind me again why I keep coming to you for pep talks?"

"Well what do you want me to say Tony?" She was careful to stay turned away from him now. "Obviously it is all your fault; you may as well have pulled the trigger that ended Cade's life. And speaking as someone whose boyfriend you have killed before I can say that Abby will most likely blame you too."

"Are you serious?" Tony demanded, jumping up. His steps were long and hurried as he made his way quickly to where Ziva was standing. "You're bringing that up? You know I didn't have any other choice, I told you—"

Now Ziva turned, and Tony stopped mid-sentence. There was no anger in her expression, no blame. "Exactly," she said quietly, and Tony knew he had been played. "You had no choice then and you had no choice now. You were following orders, yes?"

Tony stared at her for a long time, his mouth hanging open slightly. "Yeah," he said finally. "I was following orders."

Ziva's lips pulled into a soft, sad smile as she reached a hand out, brushing it over the angry red bruise on Tony's forehead. He winced a bit under her admittedly gentle touch. He couldn't help it; it hurt.

"What happened?"

Tony took in a deep breath as he turned away, ducking his head and kicking at the rug as he made his way slowly around the room. "We were set up. Cade got a text from EJ telling her to meet him at an alley, EJ got a text from me telling her to meet me at the same alley, and I got a text from her, but none of us actually texted one another. We were set up. Someone gathered us all there to kill us."

It took every bit of self-control Ziva had not to wince at that. "They did not succeed," she pointed out quietly. "Not completely."

"But barely. Cade's dead. EJ very well could be…probably is…the only reason I'm not is because I was wearing a vest…but I should be. I really probably should be."

"Well a lot of people who should be dead are not. We will just add your name to the list."

Luckily, Ziva's admitted weak joke went over pretty well; Tony actually laughed. "Should I be proud that I made the list?"

I am not proud that I am on the list. Ziva bit her tongue quickly on the words and moved on. "Why did you come here, Tony?"

And there it was. The million dollar question. Truth be told, he wasn't sure why he went to her. Of all the doorsteps he could have turned up on, hers was the most surprising…and yet the most predictable.

"Do you ever hate me?"

The words slipped out before Tony had really thought about them; they were as surprising to him as they were to Ziva. "What…?"

"I need to know that three years from now Abby isn't still going to hold it against me for being the reason her boyfriend is dead. That she's going to be able to look back on this day and not hate my guts for ruining one of the only good things in her life. If you can get over it, then she can too, right? She's not going to hate me forever? Right?"

"She will not hate you for even a day," Ziva promised firmly. "Abby is not capable of hating you. She will be upset, understandably, but she will never blame you. She will understand that you were simply following orders. You had no choice. She will just be happy that you are not dead as well."

God Tony hoped that was true. He couldn't help but notice, though, that Ziva hadn't answered his original question. "Do you hate me, Ziva?"

Ziva took a step closer to Tony, reaching a hand out and resting it over his cheek. His skin tingled under her touch, but he didn't pull away; it felt nice.

"If you have to ask, then you will never know."

The whole moment suddenly felt too surreal. They were standing in the middle of Ziva's living room, Tony in a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt he'd lost so long ago he'd forgotten about them (and when he'd asked Ziva she'd claimed not to have them), Ziva wearing a pair of pajama pants and an NCIS sweatshirt, her hand on his cheek, and Tony knew this was the point in the movie where they were supposed to kiss.

But she was dating someone. And if he tried to kiss her and she didn't resist, he knew it would go somewhere neither of them could afford for it to go.

So he reached up. He rested his hand over hers then gently pulled it away, and she let her arm fall back to her side.

"Thank you Ziva."

And he started to turn away.

"You can stay."

No three words had ever surprised Tony more. He turned back, shock visible in every inch of his expression. "I…don't think that's such a great idea," he said after a moment. He hoped she didn't ask him why; he really didn't have an answer.

"And going back to your empty apartment is?" Well she had him there. "You should not be alone tonight, Tony."

And she held out her hand again; an offering. Tony looked between her face and her hand for a long time before finally giving in and resting his palm against hers. "Are you sure?" He dared to ask as she turned the living room light off and led him towards the bedroom.

"I would not have offered if I was not sure," Ziva pointed out reasonably. That was probably true; she had never been the type of person to act out of pity. There wasn't much Tony could say as he sat down on the undisturbed side of the bed, watching as Ziva walked around to the other side. And finally he had to ask.

"What about Ray?"

He looked over his shoulder as the other side of the bed dipped; Ziva was sitting with her back to him, her head bowed slightly as if she was staring at the floor. "We are just sharing a bed, Tony. Nothing more."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"I do not want to talk about Ray." But that did. After a moment Ziva lied down, keeping her back to Tony, and curled up under the covers. It took Tony a moment to lie down as well; he hesitated as he reached a hand out, resting it against the small of Ziva's back. She didn't pull away. They lied in silence for a few moments.

"I don't know what to do."

The whispered words sounded so…so broken. So un-Tony like. And damn it all if it didn't scare Ziva more than anything she'd seen or heard before in her life.

"You close your eyes. And you go to sleep. And you worry about what the morning will bring in the morning."

"Is that how you deal with everything?"

Ziva didn't answer.

Gibbs sighed as he turned away from the window that had darkened nearly five minutes earlier. The idea of leaving Tony alone hadn't exactly appealed to him, but the man had insisted, so Gibbs had let it go. Mostly. He'd been sitting outside of Tony's apartment when the man had come down, climbed into his car, and driven away.

It had been absolutely no surprise when, half an hour, they had both arrived at Ziva's building.

It had been even less of surprise when Tony still hadn't emerged long after the woman's apartment had gone dark.

What am I going to do with them? Gibbs wondered tiredly as he started his car and pulled away from the curb. He didn't need to keep an eye on Tony anymore, after all; he was obviously in good hands.

Author's Note: Ugh…just ugh. Sorry if this kind of sucks, but they gave me a train wreck of an episode to work with. I'm sorry if you liked the season premiere but I mean…I went in with zero expectations and they still managed to let me down. The only highlight is that as far as I know this is the only episode EJ is going to be in. So silver-lining. But really? Ziva e-mailing Ray knowing he wouldn't them? Practically zero McGee, Abby, or Ducky? And that new SecNav pisses me off more than the old one did, and that's saying something. I liked Cranston's comment about the "complexity" of Tony's and Ziva's relationship though, that was good. And that scene with Ziva sitting on Tony's desk and talking to him, and the pencil to the lips was kind of cute. And kudos to Ziva for finally getting to the end of the probationary period. But three good things in an hour long show isn't much to brag about in my opinion. Le sigh…well, review please? — Sam