Ok, I give in! The original posting of this story has apparently gone to Neverneverland, and FFNet's suggestion was just to completely repost it and hope for the best. Awesome! *fumes*. For those who read the story before the crash, I apologize for the duplicate read/alert. For everyone who PM'd me their confusion/frustration, I hope you're finally able to access this blasted thing!
Consider this the fourth installment of my tagging jag for season 9 (well, there are more, but four stay true to the current canon). I had a harder time than usual with this one. It was clear in my head, but so damn much of their conversations take place with their eyes and expressions. It's tough to convey that in words sometimes, but I hope I did it justice.
Disclaimer: CBS owns NCIS. Props for the Peter Pan reference go to a recent MW interview. Even the words are Webster's...I just threw 'em in this order...
Ziva jumped when her doorbell rang, the book on her lap falling to the floor. She glanced at the clock. It was after ten; likely her neighbor Gladys had locked herself out again and needed her to pick the lock. She was beginning to suspect the old woman wasn't forgetful so much as entertained by Ziva's ninja-esque skills.
She was surprised therefore when she opened the door and saw not an eighty-year old grandmother but her partner, wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a sheepish expression. He held up a plastic bag, a familiar mix of spices wafting towards her.
"Up for a movie night?" He asked, and she studied him for several long seconds before nodding. Something akin to relief flitted across his face as she stepped aside and closed the door behind him.
"Comedy, action, or drama?" He called out while she went to the kitchen and grabbed two bottles of beer from the fridge.
He was on the couch, fumbling with the remote when she returned, and he accepted the beer with a quiet 'thanks.'
"I wasn't expecting you tonight," she said conversationally, settling beside him.
He smirked. "And just where did you think I'd be?"
Ziva's eyes narrowed and she shot him a playful scowl, grabbing the bag of food. She opened the first container, her nose wrinkling at the pungent odor of Seafood curry, and handed it quickly to Tony with a pair of chopsticks. She pulled her knees up to her chest and nestled back against the cushions with her own Pad Thai without another word.
Her determination to ignore the elephant in the room lasted exactly eight minutes into the movie before she hit pause and turned to him with a little huff. "What?"
He had been openly staring at her for several minutes, and rather than have the decency to appear contrite for being caught, he continued to regard her curiously. "No questions? No jokes? No clever insight following your little chat with Wendy?"
It was Ziva's turn to look unabashed. "Are you bothered that I spoke to her, Tony?" He gave a non-committal shrug and picked at his food. She studied him carefully, resting her chopsticks against her chin. "I wasn't trying to raccoon stories out of her, you know," she said finally.
He looked skeptical at her confusing proclamation, but a hint of humor remained in his eyes. First, it's ferret or weasel out information; you can't just interchange any furry mammal you please. But more importantly that's a big fat lie Ziva."
"Fine," she acquiesced with an eye roll. "I wasn't just trying to get stories about you." She chewed on her lip before continuing in a quiet, self-conscious voice. "I was also...curious...about her. She is THE Wendy. Wendy, who warranted a tux and a tear and a ring. Wendy, for whom Peter Pan was willing to grow up."
He visibly tensed, and she held his gaze as he processed her words. He looked like he was struggling with what to say, and his voice was controlled - too controlled - when he cleared his throat and spoke again. "So, did she meet your expectations?"
Ziva's admission came begrudgingly. "I liked her more than I wanted to; she is not at all what I pictured. I can see why you were...are...attracted to her. But you should be careful Tony. I am…" She paused, trying to find the right word.
"Jealous?" Tony offered, his mouth twitching with a poorly suppressed smirk. She glared at him, setting her food aside and crossing her arms tightly across her chest.
"Worried. I am worried about you. I don't want you to get hurt again or for her to open up old wounds."
Tony sighed, slinging his arm across the back of the couch. "We had a - moment - of weakness that probably wasn't smart," he admitted. He met her surprised expression and continued quickly. "A kiss. Nothing more. And it's not gonna become anything more. But seeing Wendy after all these years, it actually helped me deal with a lot of things I've been avoiding for a long time. Gave me a chance to finally put it all behind me."
Ziva raised an eyebrow. "Been speaking to Ducky?"
"How'd you guess?"
She chuckled softly but didn't say anything further. There was clearly something more on his mind and she was content to wait for him to work it out.
"So what did she say about me?" He finally asked, and she laughed outright at his poorly concealed curiosity.
"Well, there were a few good stories in her arsenal, and let's just say I will tease you mercilessly if you ever give McGee grief for his motion sickness again. Overall, many of the things she said about you still hold true today. The movie buff, the hero complex, the paradoxical class clown who struggles to be serious yet always puts the job first." She cocked her head to the side, her eyes flickering across his face. "But she also said you used to be quite the dreamer and a hopeless romantic." She glanced down at her hands in her lap and continued quietly. "It's...it's too bad we never got to know that man."
She felt the shadow of sadness on her own face, and it was no surprise really that he picked up on in instantly. He shifted a few inches closer to her. "Ziva, what's my most prized possession?"
She looked up, confused at the sudden change in conversation, but played along. "It's a tie between your Mighty Mouse stapler and your Magnum PI shirt signed by Tom Selleck, yes?"
"What's my favorite food?"
"Your Nona Sara's veal parmigiana."
"That is a trick question. You have an intricate and frankly baffling list of favorites divided by genre and decade."
He smiled and nodded. "Exactly. Those are all things that have been a part of who I am for years. All things both you and Wendy know about me." He brought his hand up from the back of the couch, resting his cheek against his knuckles. "Now, why didn't I take the assignment in Rota when Jenny offered?"
Ziva sighed. "You were not ready to be on your own, to leave our team."
"What was my darkest moment?" He asked quietly.
She remembered their conversation, five months after Somalia, which included too much liquor and too much honesty. "Losing me."
He nodded, once. "And my proudest?"
Her voice was barely above a whisper now. "Finding me."
A smile played on his lips as he asked his final question. "And what is my favorite way to unwind after a particularly shitty day?"
Ziva returned the surprisingly tender expression. "Showing up at my house with takeout and a stack of movies, then pretending to fall asleep on my couch so that I will fix you breakfast in the morning."
Tony chuckled softly and dropped his hand back down, brushing the tips of his fingers against hers. "Wendy only knows the person that I was. You know the man that I am, Ziva."
He met her gaze then and she didn't try to hide the gentle affection in her requited smile. She studied his relaxed features, the peace in his eyes, and inched her hand closer until her thumb was rubbing gently across the inside of his wrist. The gesture took them both by surprise, but it also felt right. "You no longer seem...pensive. You look peaceful Tony. And happy."
"I know. Ducky calls it closure."
"It suits you."
They sat in comfortable silence for several long seconds, and Ziva wasn't entirely sure what to do now with this new level of honesty, this unexpected shift that Wendy had brought to their partnership. Tony seemed to be equally hesitant, finally clearing his throat and reaching for the remote with a cheeky smile. "So, if I happen to fall asleep here tonight, can we have pancakes in the morning?"
Just like that, a sense of normalcy returned. She rolled her eyes but couldn't stop the bubble of laughter escaping from her lips. "Start the movie DiNozzo. We'll just have to see what tomorrow brings."
Her eyes focused on the screen, but he still held her attention as he held her hand, now settled on the cushions between them. She glanced sideways and saw a satisfied smile playing on his lips and knew without asking what had put it there.
Ziva really liked how that sounded too.
My little hormonal shipper self really wanted to hate Wendy, but she was kind of a spunky and fun character. That said, I think her primary purpose was to bring Tony some closure; I don't foresee them rekindling that romance. *nods firmly and returns to happy Tony/Ziva musings*
Please let me know your thoughts! I've copy/pasted the nine reviews from before the crash from my email alerts. I hope no one minds; I loved them all so much, I would have been sad to lose them!