Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS.
A/N: I loved some parts of 10x10, but its ending left me feeling oddly frustrated. Tony's dad acts like a jerk, but Tony is the one who has to forgive him? So this is my attempt at rectifying that situation a little bit.
"You'd better watch out/ You'd better not cry/ You'd better not pout/ I'm telling you why..." –Santa Claus is Coming to Town
At Senior's invitation, Ziva goes with Tony to drop him off at the airport.
On the way back, she finally gets up her courage.
"Tony," she says, "What did you and your father fight about?"
His jaw tightens.
"You do not have to answer," she rushes to reassure him, "Only… it was… worrisome… seeing you so unhappy. Simply know that if you ever wish to talk about it, I am here. Because we are, uh, telling each other the things that matter now, yes?"
His eyes soften slightly as she rambles.
"Yeah," he says quietly, voice a bit hoarse. "Yeah, we are. Thanks, Ziva. I – not yet, OK? I'm not ready yet. But, uh… soon."
After a few moments of silence, she says, "So, how are the Buckeyes doing this season?"
He grins and begins to speak.
-–- -–- -–- -–- -–-
She does not bring up the subject again and neither does he. At least, he does not bring it up until two weeks later.
They've just closed another case, and the two of them are the only ones left in the bullpen, Tim already having finished his paperwork, and Gibbs putting it off for another day.
"Done!" Ziva says at last, closing her file with a triumphant snap.
She looks up to see Tony staring at her with a pensive look on his face.
Upon seeing her meet his eyes, he doesn't look away. Instead, he says, "Me too. Wanna grab a drink?"
They go to their usual bar, a place that is noisy and crowded enough that they can talk privately, but quiet enough that they can actually hear each other.
After ordering their drinks, Tony turns to her and says pointblank, "My dad… he's never going to change. He admitted as much to me himself."
Ziva does her best not to let her surprise at his sudden re-introduction of the topic show.
"He's… trying," Tony continues. "Sort of. I mean, he's trying to reconnect with me. He flew out here to spend Christmas with me and he gave me the family ring. That's gotta mean something, right? But…"
He trails off.
Ziva looks at him in silent encouragement.
"He doesn't respect me," Tony says at last. Upon seeing her frown, he says, "No really, he doesn't. I'm not just talking about him moving stuff around in my apartment or decorating after I'd asked him not to. I was getting over that. But – he slept with my neighbor, Ziva. In my bed."
Ziva's eyes widen and her brain immediately starts searching for an explanation.
Tony laughs bitterly. "I begged him not to so much as talk to her, Ziva. She's kinda crazy, you know? And what does he do? He goes and has sex with her. My apartment is – it's my place, you know? My place. A place to get away from it all. And now my dad's ruined it. When he doesn't call my neighbor – and trust me, he isn't going to – she'll start hounding me. And when she figures out that he's never going to call, she's going to blame me. And in the meantime, I have to deal with – with –" He breaks off and winces. "My bed."
"He violated your trust," Ziva says quietly. "You let him into your – your sanctuary – and he desecrated it."
"You know what he said when I caught him?" Tony adds. "'Aww, c'mon Junior, don't make a big deal outta this.'" He lets out another forced chuckle, eyes over-bright. "And you know what the real kicker is? I was actually starting to believe that we could make it work again. That we could get back what we had when my mom was alive."
Ziva watches him, her heart aching.
"He's never going to change," Tony repeats. "…But I love him. I mean, he's my dad."
"So you forgave him. Yet again," Ziva says.
"Not really," Tony says. "But – he's getting on in years. I don't – I don't want to waste the time that we have left together. I don't want to look back with regrets."
Ziva nods. This, she understands.
"For what it is worth," she tells him, "I think that he genuinely wants a better relationship with you."
"Yeah," Tony says. "You'd think he'd try a little harder not to screw up then, huh?"
Ziva scowls, remembering her conversation in the bullpen with Senior weeks before. He may have meant what he'd said, but he'd still played her like a fiddle.
"Fathers," Ziva says with a sigh, raising her glass.
"Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em," Tony agrees, clinking his glass against hers.
Absently swirling his drink around in his glass, Tony adds, "I felt like I was ten years old all over again, just having walked in on my dad cheating on his current wife with his soon-to-be next one. 'Now don't make a big deal outta this, Junior.'"
He mimics his father's voice for these last few words.
Ziva winces in sympathy.
Under his breath, Tony mutters, "Yeah, he's definitely one to talk about intimacy and commitment."
Taking a deep breath, Ziva reaches out her hand and grasps his.
"He may be your father, Tony, but he does not know you. He does not know the man that I know, the man that your friends know." She catches his eyes with her own and says firmly, "I want you to be happy, Tony. If that means making amends with your father, I will support you. If that means cutting him out of your life, I will support you. Just… make your choice based on yourself."
"What if I want to join the circus as a fire-breather?" Tony asks.
Eyes dancing, Ziva says, "Then I will smack you across the head like Gibbs; it would be a waste of your talent." More seriously, she adds, "But if that is truly your dream, I will support you every step of the way."
A small but genuine smile breaks across his face.
"Thanks, Ziva," he says quietly.
She gives his hand one last squeeze before releasing it.
"To your new fire-breathing career?" she asks, raising her glass again.
"To friends," he corrects.
"To family," she agrees.
"To – us," he finishes, raising his own glass.
"To us," she agrees, tapping his glass with her own.
The words wash over them like a solemn benediction. Like an oath.
And they drink.