Tony awoke to a stinging on his cheek - a small slap. His eyes snapped open and he launched into 'attack mode', realizing seconds later that any attempt to move was pretty much impossible. Even if not for the rubble that surrounded him - that was currently crushing one of his legs - he'd still have Ziva on top of him, and she was all muscle. A lot heavier than she looked. He saw her eyes widen, and she even smiled when she realized he was alright. But soon he started to notice the red in her eyes, and the bruise that was forming a purple-blue shadow on her forehead. Her hair, which was falling around her cheeks in a tangled mess. The sweat on her brow. Her heart was thumping against his chest; he could feel it. She was far from OK. But he couldn't let her know he knew that - not if she had already decided that for him she was going to be strong.
"Did you have to slap me awake?" he asked her. His voice was hoarse and pretty weak.
"It seems to be the only thing you respond to," she replied. She lifted her hand to his face, barely touching a cut on his scalp. He winced and she pulled away. "Sorry," she said.
"It's alright." He replied, realizing he was becoming slightly dizzy. He looked up at her and tried to smile a bit. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine." Ziva mumbled and touched her fingertips lightly across her forehead before a sharp pain made her jump. Ziva shifted around, but the fallen debris in the elevator made it hard to move. Tony moaned as she wiggled on top of him, trying to reposition herself comfortably.
Both of them remained silent, just listening to their heartbeats and the soothing sound of them breathing; in and out, in and out. Ziva's eyes started to flicker shut as Tony wrapped his arms around her back.
"I hope they find us soon." Ziva spoke quietly, almost inaudible.
"They have to, don't worry." Tony reassured her, but she did not believe him. For all they knew, everyone else in the building could be hurt and no one would think to search in the elevator. They might not be first priority. The thought scared Ziva, and she shivered a bit.
Tony rubbed his hands on her back, slowly and gently, trying to comfort her. He knew that she had been beyond traumatized once before, and the last thing he needed was for his best friend to be shaken up again.
He decided he had to distract her. Tell her something that would make her stop worrying, take her mind away from the impending danger around them. That was the best - or at least, the quickest - way to calm her down. His mind raced, trying to think of something. Maybe a crazy story from his college days? Something to make her laugh? He loved her laugh and her smile, but he knew a college story wouldn't be enough. She'd just tune out and start plotting escape plans.
Then, an idea hit him: Paris. Risky, yes, but it was sure to catch her attention. But he wasn't sure how to start. He had to make sure she stayed calm - she had very nearly panicked last time they were trapped together, in a warehouse; he didn't want it to happen this time. Not when the possibility of them being stuck together for quite a while was much higher.
But how exactly does one casually introduce a topic they had very clearly agreed not to talk about? Though he'd been pretty sure when she asked him if he "believed" that she had been trying to do the same thing. In thought, his grip on her back began to tighten, and she noticed.
"Everything okay?" Ziva questioned him and Tony shook himself out of it.
"Yeah, fine." Tony lied. He was far from fine, his mind was racing a mile a minute and he knew he needed to keep the ball rolling and distract her. "Hey, can I tell you a story?" Tony entertained the idea. "Maybe it will help pass time?" Ziva nodded, her head against his chest.
"So once, these two agents, they had been friends for years, went on a trip together." Ziva smiled when she realized he was talking about himself and her. "And it was to a place they had both been to before. Nothing new, nothing extraordinary about it, just a new mission. And these two agents were not so keen on the idea of staying in this faraway place together, just like they didn't like the idea of having to share a room." Ziva laughed and Tony continued to ramble on.
He actually felt her calm down the more he spoke. By now she had relaxed, and the tension had left her body more. His hands were still on her back, though she didn't seem to mind. Her breathing had lost its ragged edge, and she was content, for now, listening to the sound of his voice. So he kept talking.
"It was a seven hour flight. Not all that long in the scheme of things but the longest they'd been alone in...well, in a while," he continued. "Although after surviving that, they figured work would distract them for the rest of the trip. It was only one night. But when they got to their hotel - a fancy place, I might add - things got a little complicated. Seems like they'd only been booked that one room. There was some arguing in French with the concierge but nothing could be done so they went up to the room. The guy said, 'remember the last time we shared a hotel room?' and she replied..." Tony cleared his throat, preparing to put on his best Ziva impersonation. "'Of course I do, it was the best night of my life.'"
Ziva kicked his shin. It had been a pretty weak kick, but he still winced. "No I didn't!" she exclaimed but couldn't keep the smile off her face.
"Alright smarty pants, why don't you tell the story?"
Ziva scoffed and smirked at Tony.
"Okay... well it certainly didn't go that way," Ziva pointed out and recalled that one cold January night where she and Tony had entered the cramped hotel room on the eighth floor.
"The caged in elevator hummed as both the man and the woman exchanged glances of uncertainty." Tony listened attentively as he too remembered that night.
"What were they uncertain of?" Tony asked quietly.
"Uncertain of how the night would end. The man unlocked the room, and the first thing they saw was the king-sized bed. One bed, two people. The woman's throat went dry and her heart raced. She knew this meant trouble. She did not want to share the bed with her partner, but at the same time -"
"She did," Tony interjected. Ziva's heart raced and she laughed dryly.
"She may have wanted to sleep in the same bed as her partner, yes, but one would not be able to tell from the look on her face that evening."
"I never knew you wanted to," Tony interrupted, breaking the flow of the story.
"Exactly," she replied. She looked up at him.
"Why didn't you say something? I would have, you know. I would've given anything to get closer to you again."
"Tony…" she hesitated.
"No, seriously," he stressed.
"It just seemed…safer if it happened by accident. I…I do not want to talk about it, Tony."
"Why not? We're alone, aren't we?"
"I said I don't want to talk about it anymore," she repeated, a dangerous edge to her voice.
"You were fine telling the story!" he said, propping himself up a little more. Her back suddenly felt cold where his hands had been.
"Some things are meant to just stay stories," she said, letting her head flop forward. "We agreed, didn't we? To never talk about it?"
"Maybe that was a mistake," he suggested coolly.
She looked up again, and bit her lip.
"Look Ziva, I'm not gonna force you to but – "
"I'd missed you, OK? I hated that gap that was between us. Something was stopping us getting back into our usual flow, the relationship that I love. I had to stop it, but it had to be real. That is why I insisted neither of us take the couch, and that is why I never told you."
Tony's eyes widened and his throat went dry. There were a million thoughts racing in his head, a million different responses, but he still had no clue as to what to say.
"Oh, Ziva." Tony stammered. He was shocked at her reply.
"It was stupid, I know." Ziva confessed, her face turning slightly red.
"It's not stupid. I missed you too. After we found you in Somalia, I was that happiest guy alive, but I knew somehow things might not be the same between us. You know, you had been though a lot. Rivkin, the camp, and God knows what they put you through. I was just trying to make things easier on you by giving you some space." Tony admitted.
"I did not need space," Ziva whispered and felt Tony's hands slide down to her hips. "that was the exact opposite of what I wanted." Tony felt something ache inside him, the thought that all this time, things could have been different, situations could have been avoided.
His eyes were locked on hers, and her breath was tickling his face. He swore in the last minute she'd actually gotten closer to him. And then he noticed her heart was beating faster.
She swallowed and blinked a few times. "I just wanted to have what we always had," she said in a whisper. "Remember how it was, when we first met?" She laughed softly. "It was easy. It was fun."
"You really wanted that back?" he asked.
"It was the closest thing to 'functional' that we had, Tony."
He brought his hand up to tuck back a loose strand of hair. "That little minx you were back then...she's not the girl I...she's not the girl you are now."
"And if you had it your way," she started to ask, but hesitated. "What would have happened?"
"Nothing," he answered, his voice barely audible. She almost looked disappointed. "I wouldn't have this any other way." She smiled, and his heart was beating fast now, too. He could feel it.
Look at her, so close and so different from the girl he'd once known. He didn't know when, but somewhere along the way, she'd changed.
People do change. Some people. He'd never have guessed that Ziva would be 'some people', though. But she was. Sometimes, things and people fit together like puzzle pieces. Tony knew that he and Ziva would never be those people. But sometimes, that's a good thing. Sometimes, the people you care about change you for the better. You become a new person, one that fits the people closest to your heart. Maybe, after everything, that was why they lost their reservations so easily: because they were becoming new people. People who refused to be emotionally distant anymore.
It was as if a force was driving the two of them to change, definitely for the better, and both were certainly ready for it.
The one bed in the room, barely big enough for the two of them and the one couch off to the side beckoned to them both. Called them out on their options. Both Tony and Ziva knew that night what they had wanted. To sleep together. Nothing more than just laying down beside one another and comforting one another, gradually growing closer in their relationship with one another. Tony knew that Ziva needed it more than anything, and he was more than willing to be there for her, hold her in his strong arms during the night had she dreamed of the events that occurred in Somalia.
"You know, Tony," Ziva paused as she realized how fast her heart was racing inside "I do not think I would have this any other way either." She noticed his eyes were fixed on her lips as she hovered over him. "We have come a long way together, you and I. We have been through a lot. And truthfully, I am not sure what I would have done without you that night." Ziva's voice began to break as she recalled him holding her tight and whispering to her that it was just a bad dream and she was safe now. Her nightmares do not haunt her anymore, but recalling them was just a painful.
"Oh, Ziva..." Tony whispered, gaze still fixed on her lips, watching as they quivered while she tried to hold back tears. "You know I would do anything to see you happy. Anything."Tony assured her. "Look at me."
Ziva looked down at Tony and a tear fell from her eye. She mentally swore herself for crying in front of him. Tony leaned up a little and brushed his dry lips ever so softly against her tearstained cheek.
"Funny," he whispered, right in her ear.
"What is?" she asked in reply, feeling her cheeks flush.
"How time can change a person's circumstances." And it was true. Look at them.
She smiled. "Tony?"
And of course he did.
They lay in silence after, waiting. But they were content in their silence. They had crossed a line in this elevator, and only when they were finally pulled out did they start to realise what that really meant. Things were said in the depths of almost complete isolation. But neither took back a single word. The isolation simply meant that what they had said had been the truth.
When they walked off the Navy Yard that night, with hands intertwined, no one really questioned it.
"Good things take time," so the saying goes. After six years, they figured this would have to be one hell of a ride.