A/N: Surprise, my loves!
I just thought I'd add a little romance to your day with some established Tiva fluff. Well, it's not fluffy-fluff, like vanilla-frosting-sweet fluff. It's actually a little bit serious. But I suppose you could call it fluff anyway since it's based firmly in intimacy and romance and all those other good things.
I fear writing stuff like this because I have zero relationship experience, nor have I ever been through anything traumatic. So I don't know, it feels kind of weird for a deeply average, boyfriend-less person like me to be doing something like this. But this was the idea my brain liked, so I hope it came out all right anyway. Basically, these are the types of things that happen when I feel lonely and have free time on my hands.
i want you, entire
I want to know how many scars you have
and memorize the shape of your tongue.
I want to climb the curve of your lower back
and count your vertebrae
I want to chart the topography of your anatomy
and be fluent in your body language.
I want you, entire.
Twilight is Tony's favorite time of day. He knows that's kind of cliché – and it's not a particularly manly thing to admit – but he has just always loved the way the oncoming night swirls into the fading daylight and creates a mess of purple and orange and pink. Like finger-paints for gods. And then the navy squashes the last remnants of sun and the whole world feels different.
Twilight is their backdrop, as Tony opens the door to his apartment, and Ziva irritably breaks their kiss to turn off the phones, discard their things, close the blinds, shut the door, so that the room is a tiny insulated box, all theirs.
His shirt, her pants, his pants, her shirt, her bra, her panties, his boxers. They all come off in order, swiftly, efficiently, littered around the room like fallen autumn leaves. He feels her hips against his, and her skin is so overheated, and it's making him overheated. It's an avalanche on his senses, with her hands like claws in his hair, and her open-mouthed kisses, and the way she won't let him get any air. He can hear those intimate little sounds from deep within her throat, and she's so warm and heavy on top of him, and he wants her more than anything he's ever wanted in his life.
The whole vibrant universe shrinks itself down to this, to their kisses and their need and the softness of the covers, the fingernail moon peeping through the blinds. It's like they're the only two alive in the world, faraway from life as they know it.
This is so good. Too good. There must be some cosmic law they're violating here, some limit to how much happiness a human being is allowed to have in a single moment. The euphoria builds and builds and crashes over their heads like tsunami waves. And he rides it gratefully, lets it pull them both under.
He gratefully loses himself in her as twilight becomes night and night becomes dawn. And come morning, he lets her find him, bring him back to this place called Earth, disheveled and exhilarated, so happy he doesn't know what to do with himself.
That's enough for many nights. The excitement, the build-up, the exquisite release. The sleepovers and sneaky looks at work, like they're teenagers in love for the first time. Even just holding her hand sends a thrill down his spine, like someone dropped an ice cube beneath his skin. It's like his senses have sharpened themselves so that he can appreciate even more of her – his eyes catch all the shades of brown in her irises, he can smell her on his sheets when she isn't around, he feels her presence so acutely that it's harder for her to surprise him at work.
He is the puppy that finally caught his tail and found that, contrary to popular belief, it's everything he wanted and more. He just don't know what to do. So they keep playing apartment tag and they make love and it's all he wants. He could live the rest of his life on the happiness that blooms inside of him just when he sees her.
If somewhere there is indeed a limit to how much happiness you're allowed, he has definitely exceeded it. He can't stop smiling. He's giddy, drunk on this thing they have. He understands those clichés now – walking on air, head in the clouds, transported to cloud nine. Because these days, when he walks outside, in transit to work, he looks up at the sky and those untouchable clouds are suddenly touchable. He wants to fly up to the stars and whisper this feeling to them, this feeling he has with Ziva, like everything is possible.
It's like for once, he is in the right place at the right time. It's comfortable like old blue jeans and homemade apple pie and childhood lullabies, and all the things that make you feel like you're home.
He's an idiot, of course.
He gets so swallowed up in the honeymoon-y part of things that he forgets the universe has a way of making you pay back all the happiness you so carelessly and luxuriously devoured. What goes up must come down, and after about a month of endless joy, the fissures hidden beneath their rainbow clouds begin to show themselves.
Ziva is a complicated woman. Forthcoming and needy, and distant and nervous. And the more often they do this, tangled up together on their beds or their couches (or occasionally their showers), the more time they have before and after the sex. The more time he has to see the rest of her, the parts that don't get off on having him around.
She still sometimes has nightmares. This he learned the fourth time they slept together, and a few more times afterward. Sometimes, they're talking about their lives, the people they've known, the places they've been, and she'll be in the middle of a story, but then out of the blue she'll stop. There's this glint in her eye that means she's in a faraway place and he shouldn't bother her.
The moment does pass. She changes the subject. Conversation resumes. But it's like a snag in the rhythm of their relationship, an insistent one that he isn't sure how to deal with.
And that's the thing – Tony doesn't know how to deal with Ziva. Not really. They've always had an acute understanding of the other, and they go to each other for comfort when necessary, and yes, they trust each other in ways they had previously assumed unimaginable – yet it becomes clearer and clearer with each passing day that when they are finally together, finally alone, this isn't quite as easy as they thought.
Now that he has more time to think about it, Tony realizes how high up they are, and how far they have to fall. And he starts getting nervous, unsure if this constant companionship is something she wants, or he wants. He isn't sure anymore, if he should ask her out to dinner so often, if he should be the one making all their plans. He isn't sure if she wants to have sex or if she just wants to go home and fall asleep to the evening news. He imagines her distancing herself from him and it terrifies him.
And as much as Ziva does love Tony, she sometimes doesn't know if he's what she needs. She doesn't even know what it is that she needs. He's funny, and he's giving her a proper film education, beginning in the 1950's and going until the present, and he wants to be there for her, he does, but something still doesn't feel right. She knows that look he gives her when she has a nightmare and wakes him up. The cautious, probing stare. Trying to figure her out but without getting too close.
He doesn't know how to handle her tragedies, and she doesn't know how to tell him. So he doesn't know her. Not enough. Not the way she's beginning to know him.
They continue the routine over the coming weeks. Turn off the lights, discard their things, close the blinds, shut the door. Do it hard and hot and slow and fast and tender. And then the inevitable silence, as they breathe and stare at the ceiling, try to decide what to do next.
They do talk. They do go out. Sometimes they go dancing. But after a while, it dawns on Tony too, that the thing they're missing is their old emotional intimacy. Telling stories. Sharing memories, feelings. Gently plucking apart the palatial forts they have each built up around their hearts.
They started the process when they started their relationship, but they tapered off somewhere along the way. And now Tony finds that he kind of wants to start again. Take the entire thing down this time. He just doesn't know how.
One night, as she impatiently rips his clothes off, and he kisses her stomach, his hands clutching her waist, he gazes at her hip and suddenly notices a line of three deliberately spaced circles, just about where her left leg meets her torso.
They're faded, and a bit difficult to see in the dark, but they look a little sinister in the limited light. He sees these marks and now he can't un-see them. He can't believe, after all the nights they have been together, that he hasn't seen them before. Her face is buried in his neck, and he can feel her impatience radiating off of her like heat, but he gently shakes her off and puts his thumb to the little mark.
"What are those?" he asks her.
"What?" She looks down.
Her eyes are befuddled, but she shrugs it off. "Nothing. Scars."
"When did you get them?"
The confusion is more apparent this time. "Why do you want to know?"
Her eyes bore into his, dark and fierce in the moonlight. She considers him, but then she says, "I don't want to do this, Tony."
"Look, I get why you wouldn't want to…revisit those memories." He takes a deep breath, trying to figure out how to say this right. "But…shouldn't we talk about…things?"
"What things?" Those fierce eyes of hers are guarded, hesitant.
"Like…like, I don't know, anything. Everything."
She disentangles herself from his side, moving away towards the edge of the bed, the blanket covering the breasts he had spent a good portion of the previous half-hour nuzzling his face into. Her walls are up, with armed sentries every few feet, machine guns cocked.
"Don't do this."
"I'm just asking a question. That's what people do when they're in relationships. They ask questions."
"These…are not questions you want the answers to."
"But that's the thing." His hands find hers under the covers, squeeze them tight. "I do want to know."
She exhales slowly, not meeting his eyes. Her hair is wild and curly tonight, falling down past her shoulders. For a second he catches a glimpse of the person she used to be, the loose cannonball of a Mossad agent, her secrets clutched stubbornly to her chest. For years now, she has begun to let that woman slip away a little – she's begun to trust him, want him near her – but this is where she falters. When it's her turn to do the talking.
She runs a hand through that curly, curly hair of hers. As she struggles to figure out what to do, she looks more like herself again, the woman he's been seeing of late – the one who wants to try to let him in. But she's silent, paralyzed by doubt. Her mouth is resolutely closed.
Tony is caught now, unsure of what to do. He doesn't know whether he should attempt to draw something out of her, or whether he should let it go. The silence is awkward; the mood is gone. They can either lie here, staring at the ceiling, or he can persist, at the risk of scaring her away completely.
Eventually, he chooses not to persist. He lies on his back, staring at the ceiling, and she rolls over, so that her back is facing him, and her eyes are on the floor.
For three nights, they sleep apart. And on the third night, he realizes this is the longest he's gone without her for several months.
He's gotten so used to her warmth beside him. His bed is vast, cold and empty without her. And he figures, well, that's it. He's done it. He's chased her away.
For three nights, he barely sleeps at all.
For three nights, she barely sleeps either.
And it's her fault, she knows it's her fault. She figures, well, that's it. She's done it. She's chased him away. And she hates herself for it.
Something has to change.
So on the fourth night, she walks right up to him and asks him if he wants to come over tonight. And he doesn't even have to think about it, he just blurts out yes, like the word was crouching in wait in his throat and leaped out at the first opportunity.
She grins, and he grins back, and they go back to her place.
She does the usual – turns off the phones, discards their things, closes the windows, shuts the door – and she kisses him, hard and sweet with an edge of desperate.
The clothes come off, flutter to the floor, and they're in bed, and they can feel the other's arousal – but as it builds, she suddenly stops them. She puts his hand to her hip, to those three little circles, and she goes silent, like she's plucking up the courage to say something. He doesn't dare breathe, waiting for her.
She says quickly, so, so quietly, "A mission went wrong in Rome once. Twelve years ago. I got caught. They wanted information."
He just stares at her, mouth slightly open. His heart beats faster; the room is so still, she can just barely make it out.
"Oh," is all he can think to say. She smiles wryly.
Then he says, so sincerely that it almost breaks her heart, "I'm sorry."
He leans in and kisses her, just lips on lips, firm but sweet. And she settles into his kiss, lets it go on and on and on, almost like a surrender. And when they stop kissing, she rests her forehead against his forehead and they hold each other there, their breath intermingling, their togetherness almost overwhelming.
She tells him, "Now it's your turn."
"To do what?"
"Tell me something."
He grins, his teeth almost glowing in the darkness. "Like what?"
"Hmmm." She considers. "What did you dream about last night?"
"I don't know. I don't remember my dreams."
"Then the night before that."
"I'm telling you, I don't know!"
She leans in, playfully bites at his nose. "Liar."
"Okay, okay." He can't help but laugh, even though his stomach knots. He considers pressing the point longer, but she was honest with him, so he decides to be honest with her. He admits, "Well, I have this recurring nightmare."
"How long have you had it?"
"Since I was in college. I have this recurring nightmare that…well, that I'm flying. And it's amazing. I'm the only one who can do it. And in this dream, for some reason, I don't have a job or any responsibilities, so I spend my time flying places. All these cities and deserts and jungles. And it's beautiful, you know? I get to see everything. Go everywhere. But then, when I'm over this one ocean, I can't fly anymore. And I fall into the water. And no one knows where I am." He takes a long breath. "And then I wake up."
Her eyes are glittery and intense, like gemstones on fire. It's hard to look at her too long. There is concern and warmth and empathy in her. Like she just gets it.
They're quiet for a while. Maybe minutes, maybe hours. Standard measurements of time don't seem to apply with them tonight. They're quiet, facing each other, foreheads touching, enjoying the other's company. And it's feels more intimate than the sex they have been having for so many weeks, because this is the first night that they got into each other's heads, under each other's skin.
One more layer has been peeled back, and it's wondrous, to look at this other person and see in them something more, another shade, another dimension, another star in the constellation of who they are.
There is fire in his stomach as he leans in to kiss her. Their kisses are smooth and clean and light, but their muscles are tight and there is a new intensity in the way this escalates.
When it's over, he whispers in her ear for the first time, "I love you."
Maybe it's the night, the way everything is fuzzy and means more when the sun is down, but when he says those words, and she says them back, it's like they're different people. People who really are in love. People whose damage doesn't prevent them from being together.
A supernova bursts in his chest, sending sparks through his whole body. He is alive like he's never been. Like the dream, flying, taking everything in – except without the falling. Like the dream goes on forever, no crash.
They start this kind of game after that night. He becomes the explorer and she is the warm, caramel brown terrain he covers, glowing slightly in the velvet darkness. He kisses every inch of her, and he asks her questions. Sometimes about scars he unearths, sometimes about other things. She answers them as honestly as she can, even if it takes her time, even if her voice shakes.
And other nights, she is the explorer, and she gets to ask the questions. They talk about everything, everything they can think of. The darkness, the insulated nature of their sealed bedrooms, the inability to hide behind work or clothes or life – it draws them out, bit by bit. Brings the bricks and mortar of their carefully built protection down, to a place where they can peer into those sad, scared, ruined parts of themselves. They hold hands and hike through the worst of it together.
Their pasts, their dreams, their fears – the story threads all weave together into a thin, colorful wool. And as they keep talking, keep sharing, soon enough it becomes a quilt, a context and a history they get to share, cuddle beneath when it gets cold.
Sometimes, the stitches break. Sometimes, he says the wrong thing and she shuts down, or he gets quiet and she doesn't try hard enough to pull him out of that place. But every time, unfailingly, they find their way back. The patterns continue. They hang on tight to each other, because in the pie-chart of their relationship, the love part is the largest. It always wins out. He is irrevocably drawn to her, and she to him.
Whatever this is, whatever they are – it's working.
So one Friday night at three in the morning, when she's making a cup of coffee wearing only his old t-shirt, and he wanders into the kitchen in his boxers, holding a movie box in his hand, she asks him quite seriously, "Why me?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you could be with anyone. You could be with a woman who has less…baggage. Why me?" Her voice breaks, raw and tentative, on the last word.
This is a rare mood. The coffee maker is done and it's making noise. He feels caught, unsure.
He pours them both coffee and hands her the mug. Then he looks her in the eye and tells her, "I don't care about the baggage. I guess I just…I feel most like myself with you. I feel…comfortable. Like we're doing something right. I want you. All of you."
She sips her coffee. He remembers how much younger she is than him when she looks like this, her face so open and vulnerable under the fluorescent kitchen light.
"Your turn. Why me?" he asks.
She knew he would ask – and to her surprise, the answer bubbles up easily on her lips. "Because with you, I am happy."
His eyes go soft. She leaves both of their coffee cups (and the movie box) on the counter and leaps on top of him romantic-comedy-style, her legs around his waist. He stumbles a little with her sudden weight, but holds his ground, and kisses her to oblivion.
A/N: So this was, like, ridiculously fluffy. Especially the end there. I'm a little embarrassed. I mean, I normally don't write this cutesy, not for a couple like Tony and Ziva, who are more complicated than adorable, in my opinion.
But guess what? This felt right. I made an exception to my rule. I hope you guys don't hate me for it.
Review box is right down there for comments, concerns and grievances.