Summary: Sequel to 'Lack'. After Tony gets Ziva's permission to send her flowers, they make attempts to work on their relationship/non-relationship.
Disclaimer: *Plucking petals* I own it, I own it not. I own it, I own it not. I own it...I own it not. :(
Spoilers: General NCIS and Tiva. This chapter contains Jeanne, especially pertaining to issues touched on in the prequel.
Okay...so for once, I'm writing a fic that has me totally confused. Haha! By that, I mean that I've no idea where the Tony and Ziva in my head intend to take this. I don't know how long this story will be or where it is going, so consider yourself warned!
Also: I split this into another fic because it's decidedly different from 'Lack'. While it has its fair share of angst, it involves a lot more touching and kissing and er, teenage-like insecurities. I don't know how to explain it; it just squicks me when I have to write, "Do you love me? Do you really love me?" Not that I wrote that, but you see my point.
If this A/N doesn't scare you, feel free to read ahead!
Enjoy; please review!
There is a Chinese saying; rivers and mountains change easily, but one's nature does not. Ziva thought about that as she prepared dinner – alone. A bitter smile touched her lips at the irony that for once she got an idiom (that wasn't even in a language she spoke) right, and Tony wasn't there to hear her. He wasn't there, because the idiom rang true. At the end of the day, they'd always found it easier to stick to their nature and be friends and work partners rather than anything else; and so they had spent yesterday being just that. Friends.
Not that she would ever complain. But sometimes she just wished.
She sighed into the depths of the pot on her stove. She didn't know what she was pinning such high hopes on. Him, coming up behind her to put his hands around her waist? Kissing her neck and whispering sweet nothings into her ear as she made dinner for them both? Not going to happen. He had gone home yesterday before night had fallen, and they hadn't spoken since.
And she had always been a glass-half-empty kind of person, so she prepared herself now for the indifferent look in his eyes that she would see tomorrow, which would tell her that in the span of a weekend he'd decided she wasn't the one he was looking for after all. She, in turn, would pretend that it didn't hurt, didn't kill her from the inside, didn't break her heart that he could be so cruel as to get her hopes up and then simply let them be washed away with the tide. She would be good at it. Pretending, that is. They were both good at it; they thrived on it. It defined them and their relationship.
The stove turned off, she reached into an overhead cabinet to grab a plate. The sudden ring of the doorbell almost caused her to drop the ceramic ware, and she plunked the plate ungraciously down onto the countertop and whirled towards the door before remembering that she wasn't supposed to have high hopes. It took the entire trip to the door to calm her emotions again.
A look through the peephole told her that it wasn't him, but the same look told her that she would be glad to open the door to the bouquet of flowers waiting for her. This she did, accepting the bouquet from the delivery boy with a gracious 'thanks' and waiting for him to leave before shutting the door and checking for a card.
She found one:
Kinda nervous. But yeah, here's the first of many.
She didn't know whether she wanted to laugh over the message or smile over the fact that Tony had put an 'x' behind his name. Rereading the card, she went back into the kitchen to pick up her phone. She laid the flowers gently onto the counter beside her.
He answered on the second ring, and she thanked him without preamble. There was a pause before he said, his voice careful, "Do you like it?"
"I love it." She ran a finger over a delicate petal, and part of her wanted to laugh because she knew he would kill just to see her being so ridiculously sentimental.
He breathed out slowly and gave a barely heard chuckle. "Thought you were gonna tell me you'd trashed it."
She blinked. "Why would I do that?"
"'Cause you'd trashed it."
"No; I mean 'Why would I trash it?'"
"Oh. Well a chick I once dated did that. Trashed the flowers I gave her and then called to tell me she didn't like roses."
She felt a flash of anger run through her. "She is an idiot."
"Maybe I was, for giving her roses."
"No, Tony. She was the idiot, and I would never throw away any flowers you gave me."
There was another pause on the line, and he sounded like he was smiling when he answered. "I'm glad."
She smiled back, even though he couldn't see her. "I love the card too."
He chuckled. "Gladder."
"I thought you'd be."
"Y'know, this one's just because."
"What do you mean?"
"The flowers. I mean…well, I want to make up for stuff, so there'll be more flowers with…letters."
"Letters? I didn't realize you have anything to make up for."
"I do. Lots." Pause. "I gotta go, Zi. You'll get a delivery tomorrow morning. But…if you're gonna trash those don't tell me at work, okay? Tell me over the phone instead. Please."
"Tony, I am not going to trash them."
"Just please promise you'll tell me over the phone."
Something in her moved at his plea. "Of course," she relented, even as she made a promise to herself not to trash the flowers.
He gave a sigh of relief. "Thanks." Pause. "Bye, Zi."
"Goodnight, Tony." It occurred to her, as she hung up, that what she really wanted to hear was love you, Zi. But that didn't matter. She ran a finger over another one of the petals.
She was already feeling a little less lonely.
The doorbell rang again the next morning as she stepped out of her shower, and she spared a brief moment to wonder how much he was paying the florist to deliver at such odd times.
She accepted the flowers and hunted for a card again, but found instead a letter. She opened it. It read:
I don't know how to do this. So I'm going to cut to the chase.
This one is for how I treated you when I was with Jeanne. I said I never really meant to hurt her, but I never really meant to hurt you either. You were so good to me. I've never thanked you for that. Thank you.
You are my best friend, Ziva. Even if I've never told you that. It's the edge you have over Jeanne. As for everything else, you have those. They are what make me scared of saying what I need to say. But just so you know, you are my best friend and everything more.
I'm really sorry for the way I treated you. If I could turn back the clock, I would. You deserve way better. I hope this bouquet makes up for it, but you can trash it if you want to. It's yours now.
P.S. Yes. I'm a little drunk, in case you're wondering. I mean every word though.
She smiled sadly as she folded the letter back up. He was right; the word 'Jeanne' did make her want to throw away the flowers a little bit. It was really the phrase 'best friend and everything more' that stuck in her mind, though. And for that alone she would've kept the flowers forever if she could, even if she hadn't made that promise to herself.
She placed the bouquet next to its companion in the kitchen and pocketed the letter, continuing to prepare for work.
There were some things that they were going to need to talk about.
It was amusing, for a while, to see how he kept shooting her nervous looks while trying not to look at her at all. If Gibbs noticed, he didn't say anything; but McGee spent the morning frowning between Tony and herself. When she finally found that she and Tony were alone in the bullpen, she hissed his name and jerked her head towards the men's room; he blanched visibly as he got up to follow her.
She checked to make sure that the men's room was empty and then locked the door before turning to face him. He looked trapped halfway between running away and joking around to make everything better, so she absolved him of the burden of having to choose by going up on her toes to kiss him. He almost melted with relief against her as he drew her in and deepened the kiss.
"Sorry," he breathed out as they broke apart, "got carried away."
She laughed. "I don't regret it."
"No." She studied him. "But I'm wondering how drunk you were when you wrote the letter."
He grimaced. "Why, did I write anything embarrassing?"
"Depends on what you mean by 'embarrassing'. But mainly I'm just wondering whether you realize how your words sound."
He tensed. "Did I say the wrong thing?" he asked in a tone that was two notes higher than it previously was.
She ran a soothing hand across his Italian-suited chest. "No. They were the right words. But only if you mean them, Tony."
"Never meant anything more in my life," he answered, his heart racing against her palm.
She quirked a corner of her lips. "So I am your best friend."
"And more. Please tell me I put 'and more' in there, Ziva. It's the most important part."
She looked away, because for some reason she felt oddly moved to tears. Closing her eyes, she leant up again to press another kiss to his lips. "'And everything more', actually."
"I mean that. I promise, Zi."
"I believe you." She smiled teasingly. "I guess that means I'm keeping the flowers."
He looked at her for a while, his expression unfathomable. And then he suddenly broke into a radiant smile and kissed her. He pulled back before she could go any further, though, and leant his forehead against hers. "Oh my god. I'm getting too used to this."
She smiled and patted his cheek softly. "So am I."
A/N: The Chinese saying referred to in this chapter is 江山易改，本性难移 jiāngshānyìgǎi běnxìngnányí. Literally translated, it says, "Rivers and mountains change easily (as in their course and geographical landscape), but one's nature is hard to change". It means, basically, that it's extremely hard to change who we are.