Disclaimer: Why do I always have to do one of these? D: I don't own NCIS, but we all already know that!
Spoilers: 10x08 "Gone," minor 7x01 "Truth or Consequences."
Okay, I know that [spoiler to episode] Ziva said Shmeil's flight landed an hour ago, but while I have only ever been on two international flights, I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't disembark quite fast enough for him to get off, collect his luggage, get through customs, and get to the Navy Yard all within an hour, so in my head, she meant he'd gotten out of the airport an hour ago. Just thought I should mention this :D
On with the fic! Enjoy; please review!
It was nearing noon when the front door to Ziva David's apartment finally opened, laughter spilling out into the tiny hallway as an arm forcefully ejected Tony DiNozzo from the inside of the apartment.
He chuckled as the owner of the arm emerged, her eyes twinkling and teeth flashing. "Enough," Ziva warned, her palm not yet lifted from his chest. "Do not make fun of me anymore."
"I'm not making fun of you!" Tony protested. "I'm, uh, applauding your resourcefulness. I mean, you made off with your diapers and hid them just because you didn't want your mum to make you wear them for long car trips."
"I was three! I had already been potty-trained, and I cannot imagine that I would have been very happy to be made to wear them just because there were no rest stops along the way."
"A toddling ninja. Stuffing them behind bookshelves, really? That's pretty brilliant," he teased her, and there was a lull in the conversation as she simply shook her head at him, her smile never leaving her face. "So, that was fun."
"It was," she agreed. "Are you sure you want to leave? You could just stay and share the guest room with Shmeil; I'm sure he wouldn't mind."
"Oh, no. I'm not getting in bed with a man, even in your wildest fantasies."
"My wildest fantasies, hmm?" Ziva grinned, patting his cheek. "And I thought you were over your jealousy."
Tony spluttered. "What are you talking about? I wasn't jealous."
She smirked. "Then why were you so worried about getting between me and my Shmeil?"
"I…" he started, but then stopped, frowning. He didn't really have an excuse, and the reasons he usually gave didn't seem to fit right in this case. So, he just shrugged, and Ziva chuckled.
"'Baring our souls,'" she said suddenly, repeating his phrase from their conversation the previous day. He groaned.
"Oh, c'mon. You're gonna use that against me to get me to admit that I was jealous?"
"I already know you were jealous." Her smile widened when he sniffed indignantly. "I am merely saying that Shmeil … knows a lot about me. Even parts of me that you have never seen before. And today, you got to meet him."
"Ohhh." Understanding hit him, and his heart fluttered. Deciding that showing her his gratitude would be too unseemly at the moment, he queried excitedly instead, "Hey, does that mean I get to prime him for things you wouldn't dream of telling me?"
She tapped him hard on the chest. "No. But it does mean that I did not renege on our 'open book' pact."
"It's a pact, huh?" He lowered his voice a little, sensing that things were suddenly taking a turn for the serious.
"Not … exactly." Ziva took a slow, deep breath. "But it matters to you. And it matters to me. And for that reason … I would never deny you the things you needed to know."
"Huh." He studied her features before hesitantly raising a hand to tuck her hair behind her ear. His thumb brushed her cheekbone and her face leant into his palm the slightest bit; he decided not to ruin the moment by calling too much attention to it.
So, he bent forward to whisper into her ear, "You know you invited me along for the party just because I made fun of your Shmeil," and she burst into giggles.
"It was mostly for that reason," she admitted through her laughter. "But it also a little bit because … well, I simply wanted to."
"I appreciate that." The kind, trusting expression on her face made his heart suddenly ache, and he couldn't help but to pull her to him as he pressed his face into her hair. "Wish I had a Shmeil to introduce to you," he mumbled, knowing she hadn't heard him at the same time that he really hoped she would.
Surprise was painted on her face when he pulled back, and guilt coiled about in his stomach over the uncharacteristic hug. He opened his mouth to simply wish her a good day and walk away, but her expression morphed into something so soft that he felt unbidden tears spring into his eyes.
"It is okay," she answered, a hand coming up to his cheek. "I hear the things I need to know about you from yourself."
He swallowed hard and laughed nervously. "I don't even know if I have the courage for that."
"You will," she told him with a fierceness that caught him off-guard.
"How do you know?"
"Because you are a better, stronger man than you think, Tony," she replied firmly. "And while I may have a Shmeil to introduce to you, it does not mean that I expect you to introduce to me someone who has been influential in your life. Honesty is not quid pro quo, Tony. It is not … something that either of us can offer the other in exchange for a bit of information that we hope the other can give. Do you understand that?"
He nodded mutely, unsure of how to respond because the conversation seemed to be going where he had always been terrified that it eventually would.
"And you are also very, very brave," she continued, "for … stepping out of your shell and … trying to share with me the things that matter in your life. But it does not mean you should expect me to tell you every single thing that is going on in my life because of that."
He looked away, his mood taking a sudden dip. He had just spent hours with someone who knew Ziva better than he himself could ever hope to, and had enjoyed every moment of it; yet, it seemed like she had not appreciated his efforts to be closer to her. So, he confessed, "I went over the line … y'know, with Shmeil."
"You did not," she answered quietly, reaching out to entwine her hand with his. "For someone usually so … invested in my life, you were surprisingly respectful of the boundaries."
"Hey!" He frowned. "I can be a gentleman."
"Yes, you can. However, you can also be scared."
"I was not—" His protest was cut short by a stern finger to his lips.
"Yes, you were." She dropped her hand. "I do not know what has overcome you lately, but you are hovering over me, terrified of what I'm not telling you."
He flinched, his pulse racing over hearing one of his worst fears put so bluntly. "I suppose this is your way of telling me to back off, huh?"
"No. This is my way of telling you to stop being scared." Her gaze, now frustrated, burnt into his eyes. "Tony, honesty may not be quid pro quo, but it is a shared commitment. The Dulles International Airport is less than an hour away from the Navy Yard under normal traffic conditions for regular people. If I had driven in light traffic, it would have been ten minutes."
"What's your point?" he asked tiredly, confused by the leaping change in topic.
"My point is that Shmeil came to the Navy Yard when there was no real need to. And," she looked away, chewing on her lip, "that I was waiting for you, even after he had arrived."
He paused. "Why?"
Her eyes, soft and gentle again, met his. "Because … I wanted him to meet you. Or, more to the point … you to meet him."
"Oh," he answered quietly.
"And that had been the plan all along, even before you waltzed into the bullpen, miserable because I looked 'chipper.'"
He chuckled sheepishly, feeling oddly like he'd been made even though it was his own fault for not hiding how he felt about her keeping secrets from him. "I think I said 'so chipper,'" he corrected for correction's sake, "and—"
"Tony," she interrupted again, exasperated. "What I am trying to say is that … this 'new us.' If you have never been trapped in an elevator after a bombing with another person—and I expect you have not—then this 'new us' is referring only to you and I, yes?"
He nodded silently again.
"Well, I have never been trapped in an elevator after a bombing with anyone else, either. Even in Israel," she added with a laugh. "And that means that whatever you hold sacred, I do, too."
She sighed and continued, "Look, something changed in there for you which I am not privy to, and I expect it is one of those things which you haven't found the courage to tell me yet." She squeezed his hand gently. "But I want you to know that … you are no more replaceable to me than I assume I am to you."
His breath caught as the unexpected memory of what he had said seemingly centuries ago, while drugged half out of his mind, assaulted him.
"Ziva's not replaceable."
And she wasn't. She really wasn't; she would never be. But he hadn't known before that instant how badly he had been yearning for her to reciprocate the sentiment.
So, he breathed out deeply and leant back against the wall behind him, not quite ready to look into her eyes and show her just how much that meant to him. "Thanks," he murmured faintly, and it surprised him when she stepped right into his personal space to wrap her arms around his torso. The hug was quick and definitely not as cuddly as she had been even while squeezing his hand, but it served its purpose of making him relax into the wall.
"Remember—You. Are. Not. Replaceable." Her voice was crisp and business-like now, as if summarizing facts, and he thought that she had probably exceeded her quota of soft and warm for the day. "And we are no longer just … whom we used to be. So, stop worrying, Tony. I promise you that your efforts are not in vain—that I am not stringing you along or lying to you about things you should know or leaving you to flounder after your having told me your secrets. It is just that, sometimes, I will not have the courage to tell you everything that you need to know. But I promise you that I will try, bit by bit, until I have … bared my soul, like you. Okay?"
"Okay," he croaked, almost unable to find his voice.
"Good." She patted his cheek again, pointedly ignoring the moisture in his eyes, and he knew that it meant they had finished their conversation for now. Serious was put aside and Light-Hearted was brought back, and her voice was once again teasing as she leant in to whisper, "Now, go home and shower. You smell like week-old socks. And take a nap, because you look exhausted and we have a Movie Night tonight, after I come back from dropping Shmeil off at the airport. I do not want you to be—what is the phrase?—looking 'dead on your feet,' yes? When you return here."
"We don't have—" he started to say, but he caught on when she eyed him meaningfully. "Oh. On second thought, we do have a Movie Night. Okay, I'm off now. Chinese or Italian tonight?"
"Chinese. And bring some wine."
"Done." He pushed off the wall, smiling at her once again and watching as her face lit up in return. "See you later, Ziva."
"I will be here," she answered as he walked away.
And his footsteps felt breezier than they had been all week.