Summary: "What can I do to make you understand, Ziva, that the thought of you risking your life for anything less than an innocent victim held at gunpoint makes my blood boil?" Tony loses it when Ziva risks her life unnecessarily at work.
Spoilers: None specific, although there are hints to Aliyah and Truth or Consequences.
Setting: Sometime late Season 7, but before Obsession. I guess you can't really consider this canon post that episode.
Disclaimer: So ... I really wanted to see some argument like this on the show ... but since I don't own NCIS (or even write for NCIS), it will never happen :((( me iz sad. My five seconds of fame. Gone. *Sigh*
I just wanted some Tiva angst :D that wasn't in a multi-chapter, I mean. Speaking of multi-chapters, I will be updating "Glimpse" tonight. Yes, I know, two updates and one publish in one day is too much! But to be fair, I'd written the other two waaay beforehand.
Oh, and I've no idea if the circumstances leading to this argument could happen in a million years, but let's just say the bomb squad couldn't get there on time.
Sorry for my rambling, please enjoy, and please leave a review on your way out!
She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck rise at the anger she felt radiating off him, and even though she had willingly allowed him to follow her into the elevator, she stiffened defensively as she turned to face him. The last thing she needed was a lecture about how she should not have done what she did.
He slammed on the emergency brakes the moment the doors slid close, trapping them in the tiny box with eerie blue lighting. "Stupid," he muttered, not meeting her eyes. "Stupid, stupid, stupid! Idiot!"
His wild eyes glared into hers then, and she felt bile rush into her throat. "Thank you, Tony," she said coolly, resisting the urge to slap him. "If you are done insulting me, I shall go back to the bullpen."
A loud clang reverberated around the space as his fist met the elevator wall. She tried hard not to flinch. "Done?" he asked, sounding slightly hysterical. "Oh no, I'm not done. I'm not done, because I have yet to comprehend how you could've done something so stupid, Ziva."
"It was not stupid," she insisted forcefully. "I did what I had to—"
"What you had to? You had to rush back into an empty building to disarm a bomb that could go off any second? You had to?"
"Yes, Tony. It was this building. Our building. Our home. I could not let it—"
"It's just a building!" he yelled into her face, finally letting his rage get the better of him. "It's just a building, and that was your life, and you put it on the line! Again!"
"Like we don't do that every day," she snarled back. "Or have you forgotten what we are, Tony? How we—"
"We risk our lives for people! Not a freakin' building." Another clang resounded around the space. "God, Ziva, couldn't you just have let the stupid orange walls and damn skylight burn down already?"
"I could not, Tony, and you are telling me that you could? There are important papers in this—"
"Yeah, I could!" he snapped before she could finish her sentence, and she felt temper start to rise. She kneaded her temples with her knuckles. "See, unlike you, I don't have a death wish."
She could've sworn the temperature dropped several degrees as dead silence permeated the air. She shot him the coldest look she could muster. "Do not talk to me about death wishes," she spit out calmly. "Don't you dare. I assure you that of all the many times I have almost died, wanting to was not one of my reasons. I do what I have to for my home and my people, no matter which home and which people. Get that through your thick skull. Now let me out of here."
She waited for him to flip the emergency brakes and let the doors open again, but he didn't. And even though she knew that she could simply incapacitate him and get to the brakes herself, she didn't. Bodily harm to Tony had never been high on her list of Things to Do, despite the fact that she had done it before; and certainly, not while he was looking like he wanted to bury himself alive in the hole he had dug for himself.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his anger completely gone. The sound he made against the elevator wall this time was just a spiritless thunk. "I'm sorry, Ziva."
"Don't apologize," she answered crisply. "It's a sign of weakness."
He didn't even rise to take the bait. "That's what I am."
"Cut it out." His eyes jerked up to meet hers. "You are not weak. Perhaps hot-tempered, but not weak."
He opened his mouth as if to retort, but a squeak had barely passed his lips before he shut it again and turned away from her. A few moments later, his hoarse voice floated back to her. "What can I do to make you understand, Ziva, that the thought of you risking your life for anything less than an innocent victim held at gunpoint makes my blood boil?"
She sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "It should not make your blood boil. I do not know why it makes your blood boil that I am saving our home."
The curious flicker of his eyes to hers lasted less than a second. "NCIS … the Navy Yard … these are just buildings, Ziva. Workplaces. And they're awesome, sure, but they're not our home. Our apartments are our homes."
"Not to me. I have been at NCIS for almost five years. I have had my new apartment for a few months. Maybe you are free to form all the attachment you want to your apartment, but I have nothing there for me to form any sort of attachment to." She worked to keep her jaw from clenching. "There is nothing familiar there for me. This is my home. The place with pictures and potted plants and my own desk. A little pathetic in your eyes, I'm sure, but—"
"No," he interrupted again, but the expression in his eyes lost her the urge to punch him. He reached out tentatively, slowly, until he could thread his fingers with hers. "I get it."
"Good." Her jaw clenched in the end. "If you now understand why I felt the need to save the Headquarters, I will excuse myself."
She reached out towards the emergency brakes, but he swung their linked hands a little, gaining back her attention. "Still doesn't change the fact that your person is more important than your possessions," he said softly.
She laughed bitterly and pulled her hand from his. "Don't be stupid, Tony. Do you think I saved it only because I felt attached to it? I am not the only person in this building. We are not the only team. Hundreds of people come here to work each day. If you do not understand how I could choose to potentially sacrifice my life so that people can keep this routine and this security, you don't know me at all."
"You couldn't have helped anyone if you'd blown up."
She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, willing herself to be patient. "At least I would have tried. That is what I do, Tony. I am the Mossad-trained operative. I am the one skilled at disarming bombs. And as well-prepared as Gibbs is, I go in when his training has failed, because I am the last hope. Let me be the one to be blown to bits and pieces. At least it is not someone less qualified to die in such a scenario."
"Do you know how disturbing you sound right now?"
She bristled at that. "I'm sorry the truth disturbs you."
He sank down onto his haunches and buried his face into his hands, and her heart gave a strange thump at seeing him this way. It wasn't enough to stop her from being angry at him, but it was enough to make her squat down next to him. Two fingers on the back of his forearm triggered an intense bout of shuddering in him, and she thought she heard a strangled gasp escape him before he spoke again.
"Ever heard the other side of the story, Ziva?"
"No." She removed her fingers and sat down on the floor. "What story?"
"This story. That story. I don't know what story," he mumbled incoherently. "Maybe they're all just one and the same."
"You're not making any sense."
"It's just the story where I almost lose you, again and again."
"Dramatic," she scoffed, and scrambled to get up again. "I am meant to be sacrificed, you know that."
"Not by me." She stopped with one hand on the emergency brakes. "I don't care what the hell you were meant for by your father and Mossad, but you're not meant to be sacrificed here, by … us. By me."
"The sacrifice is my own choosing, Tony. I did not ask you to kill me and lay me out as a food offering."
His not-quite-dry eyes looked up at her just then. "Doesn't matter whether you choose it, either. That doesn't stop me from hurting."
She sighed and squatted down again, this time in front of him, grasping his hands in one of hers and lightly brushing away a tear from his eyelashes with the other. "You must accept," she told him firmly, "that I have to risk my life sometimes. That is my job. That is who I am."
"I can't," he whimpered, suddenly close to breaking point. "I can't. It's not even been a year, Ziva; I'm not done mourning yet … please, don't do this."
"Shush." She frowned angrily, but when he shuddered again she couldn't help shifting closer to wrap her arms around his shoulders. "I am not dead yet. But I have to do things as the situation arises, a year or not. I cannot be selective in choosing who I want to risk my life for."
"But that's the thing. It wasn't even a person you were risking your life for; it was a building. And I know it's home and it's routine, but … b-but … w-who's to keep me sane when you're gone? You're my … every bit of attachment you have toward this building, I have toward you, and I…"
He didn't finish his sentence, but she thought that perhaps he didn't need to. His grief was clear in the sporadic shuddering and his lost eyes, and it was probably what gave her the courage to press her lips to his cheek.
"Okay," she murmured against his skin, and it surprised her that her voice wavered.
"'Okay,' what?" he asked shakily.
"Okay, I won't do it again."
She shook her head. "Not for a building. I can't make the same promises for a person. But not for this building or any other. I … owe you that much."
She heard the tiniest sniffle before his shudders stopped and he fell still and tired in her arms, as if completely worn out by his emotions. She rubbed his shoulder in what she hoped was a reassuring manner and then slipped her hands under his arms to help him up; he complied passively, another almost-inaudible sniffle escaping him as he straightened.
"We need to get back to the bullpen," she said, and his gaze met hers for the split second it took to give her the slightest nod. His hand searched for, and found, hers; and she could see his joker's mask literally fall back into place a moment later.
Calm. Collected. Professional. The epitome of an excellent investigator. And then there was the humour and the unwavering smile that followed him in particular wherever he went.
The expression he was wearing now didn't matter, though, for what she had seen in that split-second look where he hadn't held himself back shook her to the core.
And she knew that from this moment forth, it wasn't just the fate of her own life that she held in her hands.