The squad room was quiet. Tony, at work on time for once, was lounging at his desk idly. He'd began his morning routine with Tetris on his phone but now he had his feet up on the desk, diligently working on a paper plane from scrap paper. Running his finger along a sharp fold, he scanned the room for possible targets. Unfortunately for the man to his right, the only other two desks within throwing distance were empty, and so Tony launched the plane in McGee's direction. Much to Tony's disappointment, the plane fell short of its intended target, but still managed to earn him a look from just as dirty as it would have if it had hit him.
Tony sat up straight and opened up the neglected folder on his desk, figuring that any moment Gibbs would be making one of his 'spontaneous' entries.
"You're just lucky Ziva wasn't here to pick that plane out of mid-air for ya, Probie," Tony said, scribbling on the paper. "It was headed straight for your head."
"Yeah, right," McGee said, rolling his eyes. "Where is Ziva, anyway?"
Tony looked at her desk, and then his watch. "I don't know. She's usually here by now. Maybe I should call her."
"No time, DiNozzo, we got a body to get to," Gibbs said, striding through the squad room with coffee in hand as usual, swinging his pack over his left shoulder and grabbing his NCIS cap.
"Uh, Boss?" McGee said. "Don't you think we're missing somebody?"
Gibbs shrugged and headed for the elevator. Tony began to follow, with Tim trailing behind. "Ziver's fine. She can take care of herself."
Tony cringed. "See, I woulda said the same thing except last time I did she ended up wanted by the FBI and kinda got herself into a bit of trouble there."
"I know, DiNozzo, I was there," Gibbs replied, pushing the ground floor button. McGee scurried in just before the doors closed.
Tony sensed Gibbs wasn't going to do much about this. "I guess she can meet us there."
The crime scene was nothing special – that is, if you can call what looked like a homicide, 'nothing special'.
An alley in downtown D.C. had been home to a Petty Officer Jack Ferguson for what Ducky said had been at least six hours. His wallet was missing.
"Robbery gone wrong?" Tony suggested.
"I highly doubt it," Ducky replied, lifting the victim's arm. "He was stabbed. And there's no evident blood pooling."
"He was killed somewhere else then moved?" Palmer supplied. Again, not all that unusual.
"It seems so. And there's a lack of defensive wounds so it's logical to say that the killer and our victim were acquainted. I don't think there's much else we can gather here, Mr Palmer," Ducky said with a groan as he got to his feet.
"You OK, Duck?" Gibbs asked out of genuine concern for his friend. He hadn't been the same since his heart attack.
Ducky looked up. "I'm fine, Jethro. Jimmy, help me move the body into the van. By the way, where's Ziva?"
"Not here," Gibbs answered.
"Boss!" they heard McGee call from a nearby dumpster. "Boss, I found his wallet! His ID's still here." Gibbs and Tony began to walk over there as McGee struggled to get out of the dumpster, which Tony found extremely amusing.
"So is his cash," Gibbs said.
"Wasn't a robbery," Tony concluded.
"Ya think, DiNozzo?"
"I don't get it," Tony said, tapping his hands on the edge of his desk. "Why kill a guy, move the body, move the wallet but leave the cash?"
"Figure it out!" Gibbs ordered, walking away, probably headed for Autopsy or the lab.
"Hey, look," McGee said, looking at the stairs. "It's Ziva!"
"Hey!" Tony called to Ziva as she half-walked, half-jumped down the stairs. He leaned back casually in his chair with his arms behind his head. "Where you been all morning? We had to go to the crime scene without you."
"Director Vance called me up to his office. He had something he wanted to…talk about," she replied, once she had reached the bullpen.
"What was it?" McGee asked, looking up.
"Don't tell me!" Tony said, holding up a finger to shush her. "He wants you to model the new custom NCIS bathing suits with those girls from HR! You know, the hot ones – "
"I know the ones you mean, Tony, and no that's not what he wanted," Ziva said pointedly.
"I know," Tony smirked. "Those girls from HR hate you."
"So what did he want?" McGee asked, for the second time.
Ziva opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She was clearly hesitating.
"Secret ninja business, McGee," Tony jumped in. "Nothin' she can't handle." He looked to his partner. "Right, Zee-vah?"
She took a deep breath. "Right." She returned to her desk and gave him a grateful look, for covering for her as the phone rang. "Hello?" she answered. "Gibbs, I…yes. OK, I will have them bring me up to speed." She hung up. "It was Gibbs."
"How did he know you were back? He's downstairs," McGee said.
"Psychic powers, McGee," Tony said, looking dramatically into the distance. "I'm tellin' you."
McGee rolled his eyes for the second time that day.
It was silly of her to even go to the break room in the middle of the day. She had to know he'd follow her down there.
"Look, Tony – " she started, her back to him as she punched in numbers on the vending machine.
"What?" he cut her off. "I just wanted a candy bar."
"Uh…thank you, by the way. For, um…covering for me, before.
"What are partners for?" he replied, leaning against the machine and smiling. "You wanna talk about it?"
"Not really," she replied, her voice flat.
He shrugged. "OK."
She gave him a suspicious look, her brows close together.
"What?" he asked.
"That is just a little…out of character for you."
"Not being nosy."
"Well people change, Ziva."
She turned to face him front-on and squinted, almost smirking. "What's wrong with you? Are you dying?"
"If I said I was would you tell me what's going on?"
"Ha! Maybe you haven't changed."
"Maybe not, but will you tell me what's going on?"
She closed her eyes and sighed. "Director Vance called me into his office this morning. NCIS are constructing an International Affairs team and…he wants me to be a part of its setup process."
Tony's cheeky smile faded. "Oh," was all he said.
"I'm not done. It's in London."
Tony's eyebrows shot upward. "As in London, England?"
She almost cowered away from him. She didn't want to answer.
"Ziva, how long?" he repeated, preparing himself for the worst.
"A year," she answered. He clenched his jaw visibly, and turned away for a moment, collecting himself. "You…seem less upset than I thought you would be."
"Don't flatter yourself," he said, trying and failing to sound calm and casual. "Besides, why should I be upset? It's not like you're gonna take it, right?"
She bit her lip.
"Are you serious?"
"I just don't want to regret this," she justified.
"Last time you said that you nearly married a murderer," he argued.
Her eyes widened angrily. "Tony," she said sternly. He backed away. "You are not making this decision any easier."
"Well, you're not exactly acting like it's a big deal," he said, almost accusingly.
She slammed her palm against the vending machine and he jumped. "You think I don't know that this is a big deal? Of course I do! But I am not just going to take the easy road like…" she stopped herself.
"Come on, you can say it," he said in a sickly tone, stepping closer to her. "Like me. After all, I did give up that team in Rota five years ago. To be here."
"I…I am not you, Tony," she said, looking away from him and crossing her arms. "And, believe me, this is a hard enough decision without you pressuring me. So please, please don't."
"OK," he agreed softly. "How long do you have to decide?"
"A week," she said, before Tony's cell rang. He mumbled a few words into the speaker before hanging up. "Abby found something. Come on."
"Wait, Tony," Ziva said. "Apart from me, and Director Vance, you are the only one who knows about this. Can you keep it to yourself?"
He considered this, but nodded. "Sure. Let's go."
Two days passed, leads were followed and led them only to dead ends, and Tony and Ziva awkwardly tiptoed around each other. Everyone could see something was wrong, but so far no one had cared to mention it. It was them after all – they usually managed to straighten things out, one way or another. It was more of a waiting game for everyone else.
Ducky was thankfully alone when Tony arrived in Autopsy.
"Ah, Tony," Ducky said, pushing the body of their victim into his freezer drawer. "You just missed Gibbs. I haven't got anything new for you."
"That's not why I'm here," Tony replied, his voice low."
Ducky turned around. "Then to what do I owe the pleasure?"
Tony cleared his throat. "I need your advice.
Ducky gestured to the two empty seats by his desk. Tony took one of them, he took the other.
"First of all, I'm flattered, but why me?" the Scotsman asked. "I would've thought Gibbs would have been your first choice…"
Tony just looked down, adjusting his tie.
"Ah. You want to be free of judgement?"
"Yeah. And head slaps." Ducky nodded. "Duck, you have to keep this quiet, OK?"
Ducky crossed his heart.
"I have this friend," he started, realising how suspicious that would have sounded. "A woman."
"Is this woman any more than a friend?"
"Kinda. It's complicated. Anyway, she's thinking about moving away for a year, and I…kinda feel like I've only got two options. I can either let her go and be the supportive friend or I can…"
"You can tell her that you want to be more than friends," Ducky continued.
"And put a butt load of pressure on her. It's risky, Duck."
"But is it worth the potential gain?" he asked.
"Then you should listen to your heart, Tony," Ducky said with a smile.
Tony stood up to leave. "I knew you were gonna say that."
"Then you needn't have come all the way down here," he replied. "Good luck."
"Thanks, Duck!" Tony yelled as he reached the elevator. Though in truth, he didn't feel any surer about this.
He found her at the bar that night. He flagged down the barkeeper for a scotch on the rocks, his usual drink, and sidled up to her, finding her scribbling in a notebook.
Without being noticed, he tried to read it over her shoulder.
This offer has me very conflicted. And Tony thinks that I don't know he's reading this but I do.
He cursed inwardly.
"Go away," she snapped.
"Nice to see you, too," he said, taking a seat next to her.
"Tony," she groaned.
"Just…hear me out. I'm here to help."
"What could you possibly – "
"Here." He took her pen and paper, turning to a fresh page and drawing a line down the middle of it and writing Pros and Cons at the top on either side of the line. "Now," he continued, handing them back to her, "write the pros and cons of going to London."
She huffed but obliged. "Pro: I get to have a new experience. Pro: I get to work with languages. Pro: I get to travel."
"Kay, we get it, London's great, how 'bout some cons here?" he nagged.
"Con," she said. "I will have to move. Con: I will…miss my family. I won't be on Team Gibbs anymore. I will have to leave my home." She stopped, and swallowed.
"Well, that's four cons and three pros. Looks like the cons take the cake."
She smiled, but her eyes were sad. "You really think it is that easy?"
"Why can't it be?"
"You know, if this had happened six months I would have accepted much quicker."
"Then what's changed?"
"I don't know," she said. "Ever since that explosion, I just…have this fear that what I have is so fragile…like if I leave it won't be here when I come back."
"And what? Spend another year doing the same old job? The same people? The same lonely apartment night after night? Yeah, I love my job but…"
"It's not enough. I get it," he said. "Love and job, two different cups. If you can't fill 'em both, it's your problem."
She looked up at him. "Actually, that is exactly it."
"That's really what's getting to you, isn't it? You're lonely. You think you can go to London and find some James Bond and run away into the sunset together. You can't just run away from your problems, Ziva."
"That is rich, coming from you," she said, sipping her drink. "Besides, if 'Mr. Right' was ever out there, I doubt it would ever work out. The only people I love are the ones that I know aren't going to work out."
"And what if it did?"
"I don't know."
There was a long pause. They didn't look at each other.
"Ducky told me what you said to him," she confessed. "Well, he told Abby. Abby told me."
Tony kept a straight face. "About my friend? Yeah, it's a shame, isn't it? I'm losin' people all over the place."
"Well, can I ask you a question? If she stayed, what would you do?"
"I'd tell her how I feel."
"Which is how?" She was leaning close to him now.
He looked right into her eyes. "That I think that she's the most incredible woman on the face of the planet. That I'd give my life for her. That if she'd let me, I'd love her for the rest of my life. She's pretty awesome, Ziva. You'd like her."
Under the bar's low lights, her eyes were shining. "And…what if she told you she felt the same way? What would you do then?"
His voice was barely audible but their faces were close as he spoke: "I'd do this." He closed the gap between their lips in a soft, tender kiss that made her shudder when he touched her cheek.
As he pulled away just slightly, he smiled. "Do you think she'd stay, if I did that?"
Ziva just nodded.
"Agent David, have you reached a decision?" Director Vance asked, having called Ziva up to the balcony outside MTAC.
Ziva stood in front of his desk, her hands clasped in front of her. "Yes. I would like to stay. Here."
Vance raised his eyebrows in surprise. "May I ask why?"
She smiled. "Some things are too valuable to give up." She looked down on the cluster of desk belonging to the team. Her team. And she knew no other team would be her team.
Leon nodded. "Your dedication is admirable, Agent David."
"Dedication is important to me," she replied.
"I am officially not moving to London," she announced to the team when she got downstairs. Gibbs nodded and answered his ringing cell phone, and McGee just looked confused. Tony looked happiest of all, of course.
Ziva leaned against Tony's filing cabinet and he stood, leaning in close.
"So…" he said with a cocky smile. "Does this mean you and I are officially an item now?"
She grinned, not even trying to hide her happiness. "After last night, I think that is an offer I cannot possibly turn down."
"When you two are done breaking my rules, we got a hit on our BOLO," Gibbs called out, and the couple looked startled. McGee still looked confused. "Ziver, you're with me," he said, throwing her the car keys. She grinned even harder.
"Go get those bad guys, sweet cheeks," Tony said with a wink.
Just before she left, she kissed his cheek. It was quick, a mere peck, but it was there. And as she ran off to join Gibbs (and probably get interrogated which still couldn't dampen the mood today) he touched the place where her lips had been.
He looked off to the elevator as the doors closed. "I'm the luckiest man in the world, McGee."
McGee just kept typing. "I have got to get better sources on my office gossip."