Disclaimer: Have you heard? NCIS has started filming the new season! Any chance they'll want to hire me as a producer? ... No? :(
Setting: Future-Tiva, established—more than half a year into their relationship.
Dedication: To my lovely Kiera—I wanted to give this to you before you went on holiday. An eaaaaarly birthday present :P (and no, this isn't the angst I was talking about).
Thanks: To Anne, whom ... I apologize to, because I'm not very good at taking advice XD but thank you for your opinions and reassurances!
I don't know if this is OOC, but I like it. I think it could happen, at any rate. Enjoy, everyone!
The first morning she came in looking a little tense and upset, he hadn't asked her what was wrong. He had wanted to know, of course, but he also knew that at times, perhaps after a phone call from her father or a grocery-shopping attempt gone awry (even after all these years, it still irked her tremendously when she was unable to find foods common to Israel in American supermarkets), she would be frustrated in a way that he couldn't do much about. This subtle frustration usually abated by itself during the course of the day.
The second morning, though, saw her twitchier than on the first morning. She was extraordinarily quiet, keeping to herself and shooting looks at him out of the corner of her eye when she thought he wasn't paying attention. One couldn't blame him, then, when he finally stopped the elevator, while they were alone and on their way up to the bullpen, and turned questioningly to her.
"I have something to confess," were the words that popped out of her mouth before he could even say anything. She looked quite surprised herself, as if she hadn't expected to tell him that.
He nodded in acknowledgement, stepping closer to her with an encouraging smile on his face.
She rubbed at the middle finger of her left hand self-consciously. "I lost the ring you gave me," she blurted out, abruptly enough that it made him pause. He couldn't remember ever having given her a ring.
"What ring?" he asked cautiously, worriedly, expecting her to get angry or incredulous.
But she became neither. Instead, a steady blush crept up her cheeks and she lowered her head, embarrassed. "The promise ring."
It took him a while to figure out which ring she was talking about—a ring that, four months ago, he had bought for her on a childish whim at the one (and probably only) amusement park she had ever gone to. It wasn't really a promise ring. It was a cheap, tacky affair made of fishing line and painted metal forming the word 'CLOWN,' and he had bought it for her as a joke, telling her that it was proof she had his heart. She had laughed and smacked his arm, accusing him of being cheesy. He had then swooped in to press a kiss to her lips and snickered knowingly when she turned pink. She'd stubbornly stowed the ring away in her purse, and he hadn't seen it since.
It was a sweet, overly sappy moment, the kind they rarely had; and because it hadn't really been them, he had forgotten it within two weeks.
Clearly she hadn't, though, or she wouldn't have been looking so guilty.
He must've stood dumbfounded for too long, because before he could react, she reached out and lifted the brakes of the elevator. Her jaw was set, her face tense in a way that suggested she was hurting inside even if her eyes were dry. He reached out and slammed the brakes back into place, carefully shifting so that he could see her eyes as she chewed on her bottom lip.
"Hey," he said gently, taking hold of her arms. "I'll get you another one, if you like it that much."
She shook her head mutely.
"No? You don't want another one?"
"It's not that."
"Then what is it?"
She took a deep breath, seemingly trying to gather her courage—and then shook her head again. "It's nothing, Tony. Really." A half-hearted smile twitched at the corners of her lips as she backed out of his grasp.
"If it's nothing then you wouldn't be looking so upset."
"Have you ever noticed that that is the standard answer to such a comment?" she inquired casually, her back straightening and her voice returning to normal, and he could almost literally see her retreating into her shell of tough, jaded ex-assassin as she met his eyes.
He refused to let her, though. "Yeah, but only because it's the only way people find out what 'nothing' really is."
"Some things should be kept 'nothing.'"
"Let me decide that," he answered, and her smirk faded with an almost-unnoticed sigh.
"You are not supposed to encourage me to act like a teenage girl with her first crush."
"Why is that relevant, and when do you ever act like that?"
"I am feeling like that right now," she confessed, dropping her eyes again.
"Because I place too much importance on a promise ring that isn't a promise ring."
He stepped closer. "What do you mean? Of course it's a promise ring."
She shot him a look half-laced with amusement and half-laced with incredulity. "You would not have forgotten that you had given me one if it had been a promise ring. At least, I would hope."
He shrugged sheepishly. "Well, I mean, it was three bucks…" he stopped at her harsh intake of breath, certain that she had absolutely no intention to be looking as mortified as she did now. "It's not about the ring, is it? Is it us?"
She opened and shut her mouth, blinking furiously as she looked away. "No," she replied in defeat. "It's me."
He pulled her into his arms, pressing a kiss to her hair as he rubbed her back. "Tell me what's going on, Zi."
"It may have been only three bucks to you," she finally mumbled, her voice steady, "but it was … it meant … nobody has ever done that for me before."
"No one's ever given you a promise ring?"
She nodded. "And I'm sure that's not a big surprise. But maybe it was just the moment … it was childish and impulsive and probably not a big deal to you, but…"
"It was a big deal to you," he concluded, suddenly realizing just how much the simple gesture had meant to her.
She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let go, so she continued in a shaky whisper, her shoulders slumped. "I do not know how to take a joke as it is."
"It wasn't a joke."
"It was what you call an impulse buy, yes? See a pretty lady, buy her a ring. And everyone forgets about it the next day, but I just…" She ran her hand through her hair, breathing out in exasperation at herself. "I am acting like a sixteen-year-old girl. Forgive me, Tony."
"Zi, there's nothing to forgive."
"You cannot seriously be saying that this overreaction is acceptable."
"You're not overreacting," he said firmly. "Look, I get what you mean. I-… honestly, it was just three bucks for me, but only because I hadn't gotten around to getting you an actual promise ring. I didn't know you wanted one. And the ring from the fair was … okay, so it was a prank on my part, but I wasn't lying about what I said. You do … have my heart. You have my commitment."
She sniffled. "I know," she responded, leaving him possibly more confused than he'd started out being.
"If you know, then…"
"I do not doubt your commitment, Tony. I know you love me. But … i-it was just the moment. I know I called it 'cheesy,' but…" she hesitated, leaving him to have to guess the end of the sentence.
"But it wasn't cheesy?"
"It was. I have simply never experienced 'cheesy.'"
Ohhh. He stood motionless for a while, and then softly rubbed her cheek with the back of his hand, even though she steadfastly refused to meet his eyes. "Y'know, there's nothing wrong with liking 'cheesy.'"
The look she gave him was sharp and disbelieving. "Yes, Tony, it is okay for an ex-Mossad operative to get butterflies in her stomach because her boyfriend gave her a three-dollar ring. I'm so easy," she muttered, sounding almost disgusted with herself.
"Ziva," he groaned. "It has nothing to do with whether you're easy; and trust me,you're really not."
She shrugged miserably, staring at the ground. "I just don't know how I should feel."
"How you're feeling now is fine."
"Except now I do not have the ring, and I … I feel like I've lost a memory. I looked for two days…. This is stupid; it should not hurt this much. It was just a cheap ring."
He watched as she drew her lip in between her teeth again, and he pressed another kiss to her head, pulling her tight against him. "I'm sorry, Zi."
When her arms came up around his body and she buried her face into the crook of his neck, he took that to mean that she, too, was sorry.
It took three weeks for his promise to be realized.
But one morning, just as he was yelling at his crookedly knotted tie to behave, the delivery boy dropped off a little package at his door. He had barely signed for it before he was already ripping the package open, a grin splitting his face.
And there it was, all sterling silver with the word 'CLOWN' carved deeply into it. He didn't even know whether the rush of excitement he felt was for himself or for her. He slipped the ring into his coat pocket and patted his tie, appeased now that his day was looking up.
She was seated at her desk, hard at work on her computer, when he stepped into the bullpen. Seeing that neither Gibbs nor McGee was there yet, he sneaked up behind her and pressed a kiss to her cheek. She'd known all along that he was there, of course, so his success came as rather a great surprise to him—she was strict about public displays of affection.
But then she just laughed and turned to straighten his tie, patting his cheek. "Come to work in a rush, Tony?"
"I couldn't get you outta my mind," he whispered with mock seduction into her ear. She snorted derisively and was lifting her hand to push him back when he grabbed it and, with a fluid motion, slid the ring onto her middle finger. "Huh. It fits." His smirk turned into a beam. "I just needed to do that."
She didn't bother to answer him. She wasn't even paying attention to him. She just stared at her hand, her eyes starting to blink rapidly, her lips parting slightly in shock. "What…" She cleared her throat. "What…"
"Promise ring, Ziva." He tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "I know this one lacks the element of spontaneity, but it has the element of surprise…" He shrugged, suddenly feeling nervous. "I figured maybe you need a new memory."
He heard her breath hitch in her throat. "Thank you."
"You like it, then?"
Her laugh came out as a choked sob. "Oh my god, I think I might love you."
That made him chortle. Tension rolled off his shoulders; the morning's excitement turned nervousness turned relief left him winded, but overjoyed. So he leant forward and enveloped her in his arms, and was taken aback by the forcefulness—and, admittedly, the riskiness—of her kiss. He chuckled against her lips and lightly kissed her again. "I know."