The repetitive clicking of fingers on keyboards and phones ringing somewhere in the distance was interrupted by loud footsteps pounding down the hallway. Tanya looked up to see Ziva's last patient walk past the reception desk, giving her a wink and a smile that told her his week had just been made. She shot a suspicious glance to the back of his head. Nobody came out of a doctor's office looking that pleased with themselves. She would know. After all, she watched people walk out of doctor's offices for a living. At least, it felt like that sometimes.
When Ziva appeared in the doorway minutes later, Tanya was the first, and possibly only, one to notice her expression. The smile she was trying to keep from erupting on her face; the little flush in her cheeks. She didn't!
The raise of a brow from Tanya was all it took for Ziva's cheeks to turn an even brighter shade of pink than they already were.
"What are you doin', Ziva?" Tanya exclaimed, in a way that was supposed to make her sound like the voice of reason the Israeli had obviously ignored on this occasion, but in actuality she couldn't keep a straight enough face to sound even remotely serious. "You're not supposed to date patients, remember?"
"He was…charming," she swooned, staring at the staircase he had descended just minutes earlier. In a second, she snapped herself out of her dreamy state of mind and switched back to Professional Ziva. "He asked me out, alright?"
Tanya leaned across the receptionist desk, propping her elbows on it. Her expression said, 'tell me more'. "And you said yes?"
"Not exactly," she admitted, smiling at Tanya. "But he was sort of adamant. And I did not say no."
"You are always telling me I should be more impulsive. And maybe, you know, not go home to an entirely empty bed for once."
"Who are you and what have you done with Dr David?"
Ziva sneered and walked away, heading for her office, with a bounce in her hips that hadn't been there before.
To her surprise, Tony actually did show up at eight, despite knowing that she didn't finish for another hour, which she would evidently spend in her office filling out paperwork.
I know how that goes, he thought.
So there he sat in the waiting area, flipping through all the magazines on the table, including a TV Guide and the latest issue of Highlights.
The nurse on duty (Tanya had gone home for the night), a young male named Tim with an interest in medicine but not the money to put himself through medical school, had been eyeing him for quite some time when he finally asked if he needed help.
"I'm just waiting for someone," he replied.
"Detective," a voice said. His head snapped to his right and he saw Ziva standing before him, a small smile on her face.
"Doctor," Tony greeted in reply. The nurse automatically mumbled an excuse to leave the room, though he knew no one (especially not either of them) was listening. And he quickly scurried away down the hall, for the intensity of their eye contact at that moment was enough to make someone very, very uncomfortable. "Come on, let's get outta here."
She let him drive to the place he had booked for them to have dinner, and gave him an intrigued look as he fired up the engine of his '66 Mustang and turned up the dial to a Doors song. Inane conversation entertained the short drive from the hospital to Jacque's. They were seated almost immediately.
"Why did you come back?" she asked all of a sudden, and it wasn't as if she was questioning his actions, it was a genuine question. But the delicious hint of her accent that tinted her voice distracted him for a moment.
He looked puzzled. "Don't they usually?"
"The men I see tend to, uh, not always follow through on their promises," she replied, looking down and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Well I guess I'm breaking the pattern."
There was silence for a moment, and neither liked it. Tony tried to change the subject.
"So, did you always wanna be a doctor?"
She smiled. "No, actually. When I was a little girl I…I wanted to be a dancer. My mother approved, but my father not so much. I am lucky I ended up here at all. I am sure if he had it this way I am sure I would have become another one of his Mossad agents." She rolled her eyes and nibbled a breadstick.
Tony's eyebrows shot up, and he looked intimidated all of a sudden. "Your dad works for Mossad?"
She nodded. "For years, now. Ever since I can remember."
Just then, a tall, thin waiter with slicked black hair approached them and asked for their orders. Ziva relayed both their orders to him and then impressed Tony with perfect pronunciation of a very complex, fancy-sounding French wine.
"Good choice, ma'am," the waiter said, and Tony noticed her lips curl into a thin line. He smiled.
"I hate when people call me that," she whispered, before the young man returned with their wine of choice. She sipped it carefully and clicked her tongue in approval.
"So you speak French?" he asked, drumming his fingers on the table in an attempt to distract himself from his grumbling stomach.
"I speak ten languages, actually," Ziva said, looking sheepish. Tony almost spat out his wine. "English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Pashto and Italian."
"What's the tenth?" he asked sharply.
She grinned, glad that he'd picked up on that, and raised her wine glass, clinking it against his. "Love," she replied.
It was a cruel fate what happened later, but it seemed a hundred times crueller that it happened almost the moment their delectable dishes were served to them on polished China dishes.
Ziva watched Tony's eyes widen, and seconds later, a rather bossy-sounding brunette was in their midst. She and Tony seemed to know each other rather well.
"Are you serious, Tony?" the woman exclaimed, and Ziva frowned. "I try to fix things between us and you go have dinner with some other woman?"
"Wendy, I—I…" he stammered, trying to speak.
"Forget it, Tony. I was really going to try and fix this but you know what? I'm just gonna go back to the apartment and finish packing my stuff. I'll be outta there in the morning. Oh, and you can have this back." She shoved a golden ring with a diamond on it onto his chest. "Goodbye."
And with that, the girl stormed off.
Tony hesitated for a second, but soon found Ziva's eyes. She looked furious.
"Your fiancé?" she snapped, then scoffed. "Figures I would go to dinner with a taken man."
"Look, Ziva, it's a lot more complicated than that…" He trailed off, knowing his argument would be pointless.
"You know, my ex-husband lied and cheated," she said firmly. "And being deceived and taken for granted like that…there is nothing more insulting. Nothing more demoralizing. I am not going to put somebody else through that, no matter how unhappy you two are."
"Ziva, I just…I really like you. I didn't ask you out tonight with the specific purpose of cheating. I asked you because you seemed great and smart and beautiful and interesting and no one has intrigued me this much since Wendy," he defended.
The anger in her eyes melted a little. She reached across the table and touched his hand.
"I do not want to come between something like this, Tony. But regardless, something inside you convinced you to want to spend the rest of your life with that girl. You should go home and get it back before you lose her."
He didn't want to listen to her, but he supposed he should. Of course, the thing that convinced him just enough was the little devil on his shoulder telling him to ignore her and listen to his teenage brain. He'd learned long ago to ignore that part of his conscience.
Tony stood up, fully aware of the many curious eyes on him after Wendy's attention-catching tantrum just minutes earlier, placed some bills on the table, and left, without another word.
Ziva ignored the hint of a lump in her throat but still felt her heart sink. She was disappointed now for the same reason she'd been disappointed the last five years: ever since Ray, every guy had been wrong for her. Every one. She'd let Tony in, on an impulse, a chance, and she had been wrong. She felt guilty for it, too. Some people, she supposed, were meant to stay solitary.
He saw Wendy, of course.
And ended up crashing on his buddy's couch for the night, despite the fact he barely got a wink of sleep. He'd just lost the girl he thought he was going to marry, permanently, and it was his own fault, but that wasn't why his guilt was plaguing him. It was because, and only because, that girl wasn't the one he couldn't get out of his mind.
The rest of the night consisted of staying up late reading anything she could find and more cups of tea than she could count. And yet the next morning she came into the hospital with the same tired feeling she'd had since last night. She couldn't shake it; the feeling that she and Tony had really had a connection.
"Hey Ziva, how'd last night go?" she heard Tanya ask.
"There were um…complications," she answered professionally. She spoke in a way that seemed so disconnected from the world. Like she'd put back, brick by brick, the walls that she'd tried so hard to break free of.
Tanya gave her co-worker and friend a compassionate look. "Sorry, honey. You gotta patient in 203." She handed over the clipboard but Ziva didn't take a look at it.
She pushed open the door and it fell from her hand, the papers crashing and flying everywhere.
Because there, sitting on the bed, was Tony. Except now, there was no goofy smile on his face. Now, his bottom lip was swollen with a cut and his cheek was a faded shade of purple. Her eyes widened.
"Wendy obviously wasn't too happy with my attempt to redeem myself, huh?" he asked, swinging his legs like a little kid as he sat on the table.
She opened her mouth to speak, trying to sound as calm as possible. "Obviously not."
"Look, I know I shouldn't have put you in a position like that," he continued.
"But I wanted to make things right." And in one swift movement, he slid off the table, strode towards her and met her lips with his own. For just a moment, she was stiff and still beneath him, and then she pushed him away, with just enough force to put the tiniest gap between them.
"I do not think I can trust you," she said, and she didn't meet his eyes.
He gulps. His word is futile, no matter how true. Regardless, he speaks, ever so softly.
"Sometimes you gotta take that chance."
"Last time I took a chance I got myself in trouble," she admitted.
"That's the thing about chance," he said, running his fingers across her back and making her shudder under his touch. "You just never know how it's gonna turn out." He kissed her again, and this time she kissed him right back.