Okay, so, a note or two. This story is mostly Tony and Ziva, but since it's set in Cartagena in The Missionary Position, it does also briefly feature Chaplain Castro, and I thought there was some serious lesbian subtext between her and Chaplain Wade in this episode, and so I've written that in. Just so you know. Also, part of this story involves the Colombian slang for the word "arepa." An arepa is (according to Wikipedia) a little round dish made of ground corn dough or cooked flour and topped with all sorts of stuff that is common in Latin America, but (according to Tumblr and Google), in Colombia it can also be slang for vagina. If you happen to be Colombian and know this is incorrect, let me know. (Sadly, I don't speak Spanish in any form.)
Disclaimer: If I owned NCIS, the characters would hug at the end of every episode. You may have noticed that they don't. So yeah.
He had almost expected Monique to invite Ziva to spend the night at her place before melting out of the suite while Tony wasn't looking. She hadn't, though, and so the last hour before bed Ziva kept passing in and out of his field of vision as he sat on the balcony with his chair angled so he could see a half-slice of dark Cartagena and a much less attractive half-slice of the shabby hotel room. Ziva, going into the bathroom and coming out with her hair all the way down. Ziva, stooping to plug in her cell phone. Ziva, disappearing into the other room to dig in her bag and striding back to the bathroom with a pair of yoga pants over her arm. Ziva, tossing him a bottled water, a "you are very quiet tonight, Tony," and a brief smile which assured him she wasn't still mad at him for distrusting her sketchy friend. Ziva's chuckle bubbling up in response to something Chaplain Castro called in Spanish from the next room.
He was trying, really, honestly, to ponder deep subjects. The alone thing and the guilt thing and what caused both things, and, hey, was the chaplain right about all of them not having to be alone, and also was he right in condemning the guilt they all carried around, and maybe would some sort of closure alleviate that a bit so his thoughts and feelings and memories wouldn't be quite so heavy all the time?
But as he cycled around in his thoughts, rolling the edge of his beer around the table, Ziva kept interrupting. Her silhouette—dark hair down her back, black tank, black yoga pants—cut into his line of sight again, and she was checking a gun, wiping an already-clean knife down with a cloth, breaking pieces off a granola bar and popping them into her mouth. It was simultaneously so domestic and so, well, Ziva that he couldn't help loosening his grasp on the weighty thoughts and grinning a little.
"Hey," she called, looking toward the door to find him watching her. "What are you laughing at, DiNozzo?"
"You," he said cheekily. And as she brushed her hair over her shoulder and pegged him in the chest with her last piece of granola bar, something deep in his belly did a funny little dance and it struck him that the chaplain was probably right—a woman as incredible as Ziva certainly didn't have to be alone, no matter what she thought.
Later, lying on the uncomfortable couch bed with the support bar jammed into his spine and his eyes fixed discontentedly on the ceiling, he was not expecting to feel a sudden draft on his right side as the covers lifted and Ziva slipped in, the couch squeaking almightily. He started, and then, finding her extremely close, hastily scooted to the left side of the bed. He wasn't completely sure whether he wanted to put an appropriate amount of space between them or just wanted to make sure she didn't think he was hogging the bed. He wondered if that mattered.
"Thank you," she said, messing with the pillows. Although the room was dark, a dim orange glow filtered in the windows and seeing each other was surprisingly easy. Tony suddenly realized that his face was still arranged in a shocked expression and tried to rearrange it into a semi-suggestive, hey-I'm-in-bed-with-a-pretty-lady look as quickly as he'd changed positions on the bed. It must not have worked particularly well, because as her eyes flicked across his face, she huffed and raised her eyebrows.
"What is it, Tony?"
"I wasn't expecting you to choose this side of the apartment tonight, that's all."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"I don't know; maybe because usually in situations like this you ladies would sleep together and I would be enjoying this lovely pull-out bed experience by myself."
"And why is that?"
He looked at her blankly as she settled in with her back to him and pulled the sheet up around her shoulders.
"Because it's a basic rule of co-ed co-worker sleeping arrangements?" He paused, flashes of similar (though much more comfortable) sleeping accommodations a couple years previously suddenly running through his mind, and revised. "Er, when there are multiple people of the same sex involved, that is."
"Frankly, I don't see how that makes any difference in this case."
"One female special agent, one female navy chaplain," he counted off, holding two fingers in front of his face. "Makes two women. One very manly, very special agent." He held up one finger from the other hand. "Makes one man. So far as I can tell, my expectations should be holding steady."
He heard a tiny rustle and glanced to his right. Ziva was looking over her shoulder at his outstretched fingers with a small, affectionate smile on her face, not unlike the ones he sometimes caught her throwing his way in the bullpen when he said something clever. He caught her eye and tossed off a tiny, muted version of his charmer's grin in return, and her smile grew the smallest bit. She shook her head at him.
"Tony. Surely you noticed that you and the chaplain have something in common?"
He let his hands fall back to his sides; her head turned back away from him. "Well, we had a very nice moment talking about mental dysfunction on the balcony earlier, and on the flight I noticed that we must use the same laundry detergent." He was pretty sure he saw her head make the faint motion that often accompanied her eyerolls, and the corner of his mouth quirked upward a bit. "But besides that, wanna throw me a hint?"
Ziva rolled from her side to her back, which brought the full length of her arm in contact with Tony's. His skin simultaneously seemed to shiver and grow warm where it met hers, and he hoped she wouldn't notice too much.
Nope, apparently not. She gave him the answer instead.
"You both prefer arepas, cariño."
Tony DiNozzo was somewhat familiar with slang referring to female genitalia in a few languages, and he had heard once that arepa in Colombia sometimes referred to something entirely out of the realm of little corn cakes. So he froze, wondering if he had the slang right. Did Ziva really mean that or was his mind as filthy as his coworkers thought it was? Was there a precedent for her saying such a thing? He vaguely remembered her once asking if he was afraid of pussy, but she had then clarified that she meant cats. Did that imply that she was talking about the food this time? Because that had seemed to be true, yeah, he and the chaplain had had definitely enjoyed those arepas earlier. But something in Ziva's tone seemed slightly suggestive, and frankly, liking the same kinds of food didn't really trump buying the same kind of laundry detergent on the similarities scale.
Tony glanced over at Ziva again. She was watching his mental struggle with her lips pursed in amusement. He realized his mouth was slightly open, but before he could shake himself out of confusion and close it, her hand was on his chin gently pressing up till his teeth clicked together. Her fingertips lingered on his stubble for just a second while she murmured "I do mean the slang, not the food."
Aha. He cleared his throat. "So, just to clarify—"
"You and the chaplain both prefer women, sexually speaking."
"Mhm." She patted the back of his hand where it laid on the covers. "So it really doesn't make such a difference which of you I sleep with, if the usual reason for bedding together is that same-sex people aren't interested in each other sexually."
A highly inappropriate vision of the chaplain and Ziva moving in the other bed amidst white covers and discarded black clothing floated into Tony's mind unbidden, and he blinked hard, willing his body not to respond. The smirk at the corner of her mouth suggested she knew what he was thinking, anyway. His voice was suspiciously low and gruff when he spoke again. "So…you have a problem sleeping in the same bed as a lesbian?"
"No, of course not," she said, no-nonsense. Then her voice changed, not much, but just a little lower, a little smoother, a little more like a tangible thing against his skin, and she said, "but I figured I may as well sleep with the person I know better."
Now a highly inappropriate vision of Ziva moving over him in this bed. He bit the inside of his cheek and looked determinedly at the line where the wall met the ceiling. Think of Gibbs. Think of Ducky cutting into a fresh corpse with that sharp, cold scalpel. Think of being forced to wear a green-and-pink ruffled suit like Jimmy's.
When he determined it was safe to look at her again he found her eyes grazing up and down his body, and that really didn't help. She was enjoying playing with him, he realized. She'd been going to bed alone for a long time—not just since the Ray fiasco, but during the Ray fiasco because she'd been pissed at him nearly the entire time, and of course for months and months before that while Ray had a claim on her but wasn't around. She probably hadn't had joked around with anybody else at bedtime since her trip to Costa Rica last fall with Monique. The thought made him a little sad. "Um," he said, and her face turned toward his, still smiling a little.
He forced an awkward chuckle and waved it off.
For a minute, all was silent.
"Plus," Ziva said very quietly, sultry tone abandoned, "I think the chaplain is much more upset than she is letting on about Chaplain Wade. I didn't want to intrude if she…needed a few minutes."
"Are you saying the chaplain…and the chaplain?"
From the corner of his eye he saw her nod. Oh, god. That explained a lot…and he suddenly felt as though the conversation earlier about loneliness might've been a little harder for Chaplain Castro than he had assumed, and guilt stabbed him in the gut for making it about himself. And Monique and Ziva. But mostly him. And Ziva. And now…guilt, weighing heavy and thick on his gut. He sighed.
"Take it on yourself if things don't work out with Wade. It is not your fault."
She snorted softly. "Sure you do."
"Let it go, Ziva," he said, suddenly feeling very tired.
She pondered his face for a long second. "Okay. But keep it in mind."
She turned back on her side, and after a second he followed her, facing her pretty back and moving his head forward until he could just feel the ends of her hair tickling his cheek. It smelled faintly of vanilla, and he breathed in deeply. Too deeply.
And got a hair inside his nose.
And fought the tickle valiantly for about three seconds before sneezing explosively into her neck.
Ziva jumped and made a startled noise, her elbows suddenly everywhere and her hands coming up to wipe at the back of her head.
He honestly meant to apologize. Honestly. But somewhere on the way to his mouth the words got lost and suddenly things seemed absolutely ridiculous, and instead of the expected apology he released a loud chortle and then tamped his fist over his grin. Ziva looked back at him incredulously as he shook with repressed laughter. He could see her eyebrows arching high on her forehead and yeah, sure, she was probably irritated, but it was so damn funny for some reason…and then, of all unexpected things, her eyebrows dropped back into place and her lips twitched and then she was laughing, too, a hushed, breathless, happy sound, all for the stupidest reason. Laughing even though she'd been angry with him that very afternoon-how did they ever even get to this point? They laughed and laughed, until they were both slightly winded and giddy. As they wound down, she stretched one arm behind her and swatted his rump. "That's for sneezing all over me," she whispered. He tugged lightly at her hair in retaliation, and rather than hitting him again, she grinned, dropped her head to the pillow, and wriggled a little closer.
He fell asleep to the sound of her soft chuckle in his ear.
Tony awoke to weak threads of sunlight spilling in the windows, a warmer-than-usual bed, and dark hair splayed over his right arm and chest. The owner of the hair was snoring into his shoulder, and he craned his neck and eyed the crown of her head with sleepy interest. "Huh," he said to himself, leaning his head back and closing his eyes once more. The bed wasn't so uncomfortable anymore, and the sun was warm, and Ziva was warm and soft. Altogether it was very nice, and thinking any deeper than that was something he really wasn't willing to do in the next five minutes.
Except that then Ziva abruptly twisted and jerked straight into a sitting position, and his own eyes flew back open and directly onto Monique Lisson, who was standing at the foot of the bed with exactly no expression on her face. He yelped.
"Monique," Ziva sighed. "Is it oh-seven-hundred?"
"Six forty-five," the other woman said. "Late, by your standards." Ziva nodded ruefully and began untangling herself from the sheets.
"How did you get in here?" Tony asked Monique, irritated.
"Door." Her eyes were steady on him, and he felt uncomfortable. Way to go, Madam Sketchy. Ruined a lovely moment and nearly gave me a heart attack.
"Was there a reason?"
"I thought I'd be your wake-up call."
"Because the alarm clock wouldn't've—"
He was cut off by a white tee flapping into his chest.
"Come on, Tony, get ready," called Ziva's voice from the tee-shirt firing zone over near his bag. For half a second he looked at her back and considered being royally irritated with her, too (even though she was bent over wearing yoga pants and usually that precluded any possible irritation). Then she flashed him a half smile on her way to the shower and that melted away the annoyance faster than Monique had apparently picked their lock. He fought to keep a dopey answering smile from plastering itself all over his face.
Chaplain Castro entered the room fully dressed in uniform only seconds after Ziva had disappeared into the bathroom, and drew to the side of the bed. Tony clutched his shirt and looked from Monique to Castro warily. Monique was still giving him that steady, expressionless stare.
Castro's smile was more than a little wicked, considering she was a clergywoman and possibly bereaved and all. "So," she began conversationally, "what were you two doing out here last night?"
Monique's eyes suddenly narrowed, which was alarming, but then Tony thought it looked almost as if she was holding back a smirk so it wouldn't ruin her perfect mask. Castro's eyes were crinkled in open merriment, though, and she suddenly grinned widely and thumped the arm of the couch.
"C'mon. You can tell me all about your little tickle fight or whatever over breakfast."
And with that, both women turned away, leaving Tony to pull his shirt over his head and wonder exactly how he was going to explain a spontaneous gigglefest (of all things) in bed (of all places) with his partner (of all people) in the middle of the night (of all times) to a chaplain.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to let me know how you feel about it :)