Set in early season 8. (Yes I decided to take a trip down memory lane.)
Disclaimer : I own nothing... yet (hehe I wish...)
"Oh. You're early." Ziva said as she opened the door to her apartment to find a grinning Tony behind it, waiting for her.
"Yeah, I know. Wanted to avoid traffic." Tony explained as she moved aside to let him in.
Ziva hummed in agreement and closed the door behind him.
"I am not totally ready yet, give me a few minutes?" she said, hurriedly making her way to her bedroom and disappearing there.
"Yeah yeah, go ahead. We have to be at the airport in an hour so there's no rush." Tony said waving one of his hands in her direction, plopping down on the couch, letting the comfy cushions absorb the weight of the fall. He bent his head backwards and let it rest on the back of the couch and closing his eyes, he sighed heavily. He had certainly not planned to spend his week end on a plane, looking after the director. Oh well, at least he was with Ziva in this. He tried not to think too much about the last time they had been in charge of a director together, the memory still left a strongly bitter taste in his mouth…
Opening his eyes again, Tony clicked his tongue and tried to keep his tired mind away from depressing thoughts by looking at his surroundings.
He had not come over to Ziva's place very often since she had moved in, maybe 3 or 4 times, not more than 5, mostly to pick her up for their assignments, or when she had needed a hand with setting a new piece of furniture. He had never stayed long enough to take a good look around, not that there had been much to see there anyway. He remembered being there a couple of months after she had first moved in and noticing how the walls were still empty of any form of decoration whatsoever. There were no frames, no pictures, not even a poster. Plain white walls. In fact, the place had been so neat that a hotel room would have looked more welcoming and… homey. He knew she had lost all of her personal effects when her previous apartment had gone up in flames and that she probably didn't have much to put on her new, empty shelves but the lack of personal touches or objects and the total absence of Ziva-ness in her apartment had been quite a shock for him. It was as if she had no interest whatsoever in making this house her home, as if it was just another place she would be living in for a while, until the next time she would be forced to move. He would now admit that this was the reason why he had started lending her some of his DVDs and providing her with pictures of the team he had gathered over the years, trying to bring some human warmth in the otherwise cold and bland apartment.
As he took a few steps around the living room, he couldn't help but smile as he noticed the changes the room had undergone since the last time he was there. There were colorful pillows on the couch and a matching carpet covering the wooden floor, there were framed paintings on the walls representing beautiful landscapes, one of which he assumed was the Israeli coast of Haifa, green plants were soaking up the late afternoon sun near the windowpane and a vase full of beautiful flowers (whose sender's identity he tried not to think about) stood on the coffee table by the couch. He also didn't miss the scented candles she had randomly put here and there. Tony rolled his eyes at the ridiculous amount of books that were now covering the shelves; her collection had grown considerably bigger and literary pieces from various countries and written in different languages could be found on almost every single shelf in the room. He smiled in pride as he noticed the small, yet existing, range of DVDs sitting by the TV set. They were all his, of course, but for some reason, it made him incredibly happy to see she still had them.
On the wenge-colored sideboard next to the TV screen stood several frames. There was a picture of their last Thanksgiving at Ducky's and another one of Ziva choosing a postcard in Paris – his favorite of their trip, he remembered telling her. But it was the frame on the left side of the chest that got his attention. It was a picture he had never seen before. Yet, he recognized the event it had been taken at, it was the only event he had missed: Ziva's citizenship ceremony. Taking the frame in his hands, he took a closer look at it. Ziva looked beautiful in her white outfit, her loose chocolate hair falling down on her shoulders. She was surrounded by Abby and McGee on one side and Ducky, Jimmy and Vance on the other side. Vance. Tony gritted his teeth and his grip on the white wooden frame tightened upon seeing the man's relaxed, happy face on the picture. He had never really forgiven him for sending him to Mexico that day and seeing him standing next to Ziva in that picture only made the anger come back at full force.
Tony had never been more honest in his whole life than when he had promised Ziva that he would be there to see her take oath. He was so proud of her, of what she had accomplished over the past few months, of how quickly she had managed to get over the terrible things that had happened to her during that fateful summer of 2009. Behind all the teasing and all the jokes, he was truly amazed at her determination and her courage. He knew she was strong, he just had never realized how strong she really was until then. He knew it had been a tough decision to make, he knew it had cost her a lot and how anxious she had been about her choice. But he had never doubted the fact that she would succeed, and frankly, he couldn't think of anyone else who deserved it as much as she did.
Missing that moment of her life had broken his heart. He felt like he had failed her, like he had betrayed her trust once again and his guilt had earned him a few sleepless nights at the time. They had never really talked about it, they had let it slide, pretending it had never happened or that it didn't matter that much and like many other occurences before that, it just became another one of the things that were left hanging in the air, waiting for some sort of closure that may never come.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't hear Ziva coming back in the living room. She approached him in silence and went to stand beside him. He threw a side glance in her direction and saw the nostalgic smile playing on her lips as she looked at the picture that was still firmly trapped in his hands.
"It's a pretty picture." he said softly, feeling as if he had just been caught doing something he had no right to do.
"Yes, it is." She offered, her voice holding the slightest hint of melancholy.
There it is, he thought. If there ever was a moment to say something, now had to be it. It might be the only chance he'll ever get to tell her what he had been wanting to say for months.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there, Ziva." He whispered, finally looking at her.
She gave him a smile and nodded.
"I know." she paused " But you did not have a choice Tony. You had orders. There was nothing you could do." She shrugged and took the frame from Tony's hands to put it back on the sideboard. "We should get going now."
It was Tony's turn to nod. He didn't really want to push her, he didn't want to risk making things awkward just before they were supposed to spend the weekend together, but he felt like it wasn't enough. He knew her well enough to know when she was trying to avoid a topic because it brought back unwelcomed feelings and that was exactly what she was doing right now. So he tried again. He put a hand on her arm, effectively stopping her from putting her coat on and making her look back at him in confusion.
Suddenly at a loss for words, he dropped his eyes to the ground and sighed. And she got it. She always did.
She put her coat back on the couch where she had just picked it from and turned around to face him. Softly untangling her arm from Tony's grasp, she took his face between her hands and made him look at her in the eye.
"Tony. It's okay. I am not mad at you." She spoke in a voice filled with such tenderness that it made Tony's eyes water suspiciously. "I know you think you broke your promise to me but I know what it is to have to follow orders even when it's the last thing you want to do. Of course I would have loved to have you here, and I would be lying if I said that I was not sad or disappointed, but I never blamed you." She dropped her hands to her side and took a step back. "Besides, you would have found it boring."
He let out a chuckle that was more like something between a suppressed sob and a breath of relief and shook his head.
"I doubt that." He said raising his eyebrows, " But thanks for trying."
When he looked up again, she was staring at him with shining eyes and she gave him his favorite Ziva smile, the one he knew held nothing but the silent promise that everything really was okay.
"I still wish I could have been there, you know?" he couldn't help but add.
"Me too." She simply answered before grabbing her bag and making her way towards the door. She cast a glance at Tony over her shoulder. "Are you coming or should I tell Vance that you decided you'd be better off spending the week end analyzing the contents of my apartment?"
"Oh don't tempt me. The guy owes me." He answered, using his thumb to point at the picture of Ziva's ceremony. "And for the record, I'm sure I'd be much better off analyzing some of those contents, especially in that pretty bedroom of yours." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, earning himself a much-expected eye roll from Ziva who grabbed his sleeve and dragged him out of the room.
As he followed his partner outside the apartment and to his car, Tony realized that his heart suddenly felt light, as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he could breathe again. He started to think that maybe things didn't have to be so complicated between Ziva and him, maybe they had been unnecessarily careful and unnecessarily scared to really try and understand whatever existed between them, and for the first time in over a year, Tony realized that maybe, just maybe, things could get even better than they both had dared to hope.