Warning: Contains wild speculation for the upcoming Shabbat Shalom/Shiva episodes. Most likely, this story will be rendered AU in a few hours! Also, note that the rating isn't quite M (I don't think?) but there's definitely some adult themes and a generous amount of f-bombs because my Tony likes his swears.
A.N.: Major attack of the plot bunny for this one! I think I've been writing/editing nonstop since Saturday. This is yet another spec fic for the upcoming Eli arc. I haven't read the other ones out there yet, so hopefully this isn't redundant. If it is, please don't tell me because I've been writing like an insane, crazy person! Kidding. This started as what I'd hoped be a quick one-shot, but somehow I kept going and it spawned into a 13k monster. So tonight you get part one, which gives me more time to tinker with part two. As always, love and hugs to Ana for the support!
Disclaimer: I do not own most of these characters, but I do own a few. I'll let you sort out who belongs to whom. Also, lyrics taken from the gorgeous song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen. Through the wonders of Google, I've learned there are many versions of the different verses of the song and I decided I liked this one best. However, it was Jeff Buckley's insanely beautiful cover of the song that played on a loop while writing this. Also, I stole a bit of a Psalm for this bit I think quoting the Bible is fair game.
Maybe there's a God above
but all I ever learned from love
was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It's no complaint you hear tonight
It's not some pilgrim who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"
Eli David is dead.
He thinks he should be sad, maybe feel some regret. Instead, he stares at the pale, lifeless face of the Director of Mossad surrounded by a halo of crimson and all he can think is you bastard.
Over and over and over again, the words echo in his head. Anger pulses his temples, clenches his jaw. His blood pressure must be through the roof because he can't shake the light-headed, dizzy sensation that he feels.
You bastard, he thinks but does not say out loud, you just had to do this here, you just had to involve your daughter, the one whose life you've made a living hell.
And because Ziva isn't the emotionless automaton she sometimes pretends to be, she takes one look at the murdered body of her father and crumbles to the ground in tears. Each sob stokes the fiery rage Tony has burning for the man. But rather than rushing to his grieving partner's side, he remains motionless, inert, trapped in his own furious internal monologue. While Ziva falls apart, he can only continue to stare down the man who was once so tall in his power but, like all others, is so small in death.
Gibbs is there, of course, gathering Ziva into his arms and shielding her crying face from the horrors of the scene. And when she begins to struggle against him, pounding his chest with her fist, his only reaction is to hold her tighter.
Tony looks on with shame, jealously even, because deep down he wants to be the one she clings to, the one who strokes her hair. They've become so close lately. They've learned to trust one another without reservation. Or so he thought. He should be the one she turns to for comfort. But, as usual, he falls just short of being her hero. That's Gibbs' role and he can't replace a legend like that.
Fucking bastard, he thinks, snapping a photo of Eli's body. He pretends that with every click of the camera's shutter he is emptying another bullet into the man's chest.
Ziva deserves so much better.
Crime scene processed, Eli's body is prepared for the journey back to Israel.
Tony watches Ziva closely as the arrangements are made. Her eyes are still tinged with red, her skin colorless, but she shows no signs of a further breakdown. No signs of shock, either. She catches him staring and gives him an intense look, something along the lines of leave me the hell alone. Silently, he responds with a fat chance of that.
He wants to go to her. But Ziva has put up her usual walls and reinforced them barbed wire for good measure. Typically, Tony would ignore her threats and push his way past her defenses. All he wants to do now is gather her in his arms and feel her warm and breathing against him, but he suspects that he would get a shattered kneecap for giving in to that particular urge. Instead, he'd settle for a quick conversation in the men's room, something short and private, but a chance for her to lay down her armor for just a few minutes. With her, he can usually manage that much.
But Gibbs is ordering him around and Vance, who is perhaps most in shock over the deadly turn Eli's mission took, is on their ass, wanting the investigation wrapped yesterday. There is no time.
And though Ziva is rarely cold and unfeeling, she can sure pull off the Ice Queen act when she wants to. This is one of those times. The more they all watch her, the more they offer their support, the steelier she becomes.
Tony is terrified that no one will be there when she finally falls apart.
The funeral is to be held in Israel.
Vance denies the bereavement leave requests the team submits in order to accompany Ziva back to her native country. "Take it up with HR," he grumbles, "You are well aware of the policy. Immediate family only. I need my team here, solving cases."
Tony knows the man has been suffering these past few days, but sympathy does nothing to quell the urge he has to jam his fist into his Director's face.
"Ziva doesn't have any immediate family left," Abby pleads, lips trembling. "We are her family."
Vance's eye twitches as he takes in the united front they present, Gibbs, McGee, Abby, Ducky, and Tony all lined up and ready to fight to be at their friend's side. Ziva has already left for the airport and none of them like the idea of her returning to Israel alone. "Fine," he concedes brusquely. "I'll allow one. And whoever goes is taking vacation days."
Vance gives them one last stern look before leaving.
Quick glances are exchanged, silent choices made, and then, all eyes are on Gibbs and Tony because who else would come before them—the replacement father or the partner who cares far too much? Then, Gibbs swivels his gaze to his senior agent and the choice has been made. Tony hesitates. Him? Over Gibbs?
Gibbs ignores their on-lookers and simply orders Tony to grab his gear. Tony is frozen in confusion.
"You not hear me, DiNozzo?" Gibbs barks and with a wave of his hand sends the rest of the team scurrying from the bullpen.
"Yes, boss," he manages through his shock. And only because he's had so much practice, he's able to gather up his belongings in record time.
"Get your ass to the airport. Tim will have your ticket booked by the time you get there." Gibbs takes a seat at his desk and starts flipping through his files, like there is nothing else to talk about.
Tony falters as he grabs his coat. "I think I'm the last person Eli would want at his funeral." Really, isn't Gibbs the more obvious choice here? The man who has picked up the generous amount of slack Eli left behind?
"It doesn't matter what Eli would want, DiNozzo," Gibbs grumbles. "It's what Ziva wants."
"And you think she wants me there?" Tony can't help but be skeptical. He's barely spoken to his partner since Eli died. Every time he tries, she finds some way to shut the conversation down or avoid him completely.
"Ziver needs a friend right now, DiNozzo. More than that, she needs her partner. Think you can manage that?" And Gibbs' icy glare leaves little room for argument. Not that Tony would challenge the point. He wants to be that person for her. If she'd let him.
Tony grimaces. "Of course, boss."
"Then get the hell out of here!" Gibbs jerks his head toward the elevator and Tony could swear there was a slight glimmer of affection in his eye. Maybe.
"On it!" Tony gives the Marine a quick salute and hauls out of there.
"I know you probably weren't expecting me. And if you'd rather it wasn't me…"
Tony fumbles with the backpack still slung over his shoulder. The airport terminal bustles around them, but he can hardly focus on the flight announcements because Ziva is staring up at him like he's just sprouted wings and letting him ramble on like a fool. Which would be fine if there weren't like five people within hearing distance, listening to him stammer on. And, for the record, he's pretty sure the lady sitting two seats away from Ziva isn't reading that People magazine at all.
"Gibbs. I could call Gibbs if you would prefer that he go with you." Tony mumbles, searching for any sort of reaction beyond bewilderment from his partner. This was obviously a horrible idea.
Finally, her brow unfurls and she glances back down at her book.
"No," she shrugs and flips the page. She says no more than that so he takes it as a sign he's allowed to stay. He begins to settle himself in, fiddling with his ticket and his cell phone, making sure his iPad is charged up and his headphones are untangled.
A few minutes later, Ziva looks up from her book, closing it over her hand to hold her place. She studies at him, as if she's just truly registered his presence. Eventually, she lets out a resigned little sigh and goes back to reading. "I am glad it was not Gibbs," she states as she turns a page.
Tony isn't sure what to expect when they arrive in Tel Aviv. He hopes there isn't a Mossad firing squad waiting to greet him, but he isn't entirely confident there won't be.
But, in the end, it's just them, juggling their luggage and languishing in the taxi line. Ziva lets it slip that Mossad had offered an escort from the airport and even first class accommodations on her flight in, but she'd turned them down. And though Tony entertains a brief fantasy of extra legroom and free drinks, he understands Ziva's need to distance herself from her past.
"I am not Mossad any longer," she reminds him firmly. As if he could forget.
But she can't deny the guards that still watch over her father's house. The officers remain thankfully unobtrusive and respectful as they let Tony and Ziva into Eli's home. Tony stands in awe of the gorgeous house. On the outside, his only thought was that it was very white and very square. Inside, though, is a different story. It's all still very geometric, true, but the floor to ceiling windows on the back of the house are not only pretty ballsy of Eli, but reveal a patio lush with greenery and, beyond that, a stunning sea view. The décor is very contemporary, lots of white and metal, but with touches of warmth throughout.
Tony cackles, giddy at the thought of unhindered access to such a luxurious space. "My personal thoughts about your father aside," Tony grins, "the man had excellent taste."
"Excellent designers, more like," Ziva huffs. "I would rather stay at a hotel."
This isn't the home that Ziva grew up in, he is well aware of that. This is Eli's bachelor pad, his display of status and wealth. It doesn't exactly invite you to put your feet up and stay awhile.
"Okay, whatever you would be most comfortable with," Tony acquiesces even when he spies what might be a pool in the yard. It's probably too cold for that anyway. But, wait, did Ziva even see the kitchen?
As Ziva ventures into the space, Tony remains in the foyer. Partly out of a strange sense of respect, but mostly because he can't imagine wanting to leave for a stuffy hotel room after a full tour of this place.
Deep in the living room, Ziva picks up a red frame that holds the single personal photo on display. Even from his distance, Tony can pick out Ziva and Tali, covered in sand and playing in the ocean surf, toothy grins on their faces. Ziva's shoulders tighten and that dimple in her forehead appears. "I suppose we might as well just stay."
Having slept poorly on the flight, Tony wants nothing more than to climb into bed and sleep the rest of the day away. Especially once he sees the fine linens that adorn his bed.
"It's only four o'clock here," Ziva scolds when he emerges from his room in his sweats, struggling to stay awake despite the sunlight still streaming through the windows.
He makes sure she can read in his face how he feels—like he's been hit by a truck. "Yeah, here. But it's basically like I was up all night in D.C.!"
Ziva rolls her eyes. "Your body needs to adapt to this new cycle."
"But I'm tired," Tony whines. Also, Eli apparently doesn't have a TV anywhere but in his private office so what the hell else are they supposed to do to kill the evening?
Ziva looks him up and down and the annoyance in her brow soon morphs into affection. "Well, I will just have to keep you up then, hmm?"
Tony's eyes go wide at that.
Ziva laughs. And it is a glorious sound, the first time she's laughed in days. "Let's go for a run. The sunshine will help your brain stay awake and the exercise will tire you out before bed."
Tony groans. The thought of trying to do more than shuffle himself to the nearest flat surface is overwhelming. "But I'm already tired."
"Think of it as a sight-seeing tour." Ziva wears an air of arrogance, which he supposes she's earned as a frequent world travel. It doesn't make it any less annoying, though.
It's the wistful way she looks out the window, eyes lingering on the olive trees, that changes his mind. With a put-upon sigh, Tony drags his body up the stairs in search of his running shoes.
She's unfortunately correct, not that he would ever admit it, and the sunshine, fresh air, and exercise give him a much-needed boost of energy. The fresh sea breeze is downright invigorating.
He showers quickly and returns to the kitchen, riffling through Eli's bare cabinets in search of dinner.
"We should go to the store," Tony observes when Ziva pads into the kitchen, barefoot and hair wrapped in a towel on top of her head. He smiles at the domestic picture, which earns him a cutely self-conscious look from his partner.
"No need," she replies as she peeks into the pot of tomato sauce he's managed to cobble together. Tasting it, she gives it a little hum of approval. "The funeral service is tomorrow and then we sit Shiva for three days. The fridge will be bursting with food."
And at that, Ziva lowers the wooden spoon back to the stove like it weighs a hundred pounds. The reality of the situation has found her again, a gut shot that takes the wind right out of her sails. Leaning on the granite counter, she takes a few slow, deep breaths and then opens her eyes. Tony lets the plates he'd been about to set out clatter to the table as he hurries to her side. But before he can respond, Ziva seems to gather herself together again. She waves away his attention, stands up, and starts searching the cabinets for a colander.
He watches as she prepares the pasta, jumping in to help her plate their spaghetti and carry their food to the table.
"My aunts will be here early tomorrow," she announces before digging into her dinner. "They will help prepare the house."
Tony pauses, his fork hovering mid-air. "Aunts? Does this include the infamous Aunt Nettie?"
Ziva gives him a look. "I wouldn't say Aunt Nettie is infamous so much as your behavior towards her was infamous."
"Do you think she still…?" Tony can't even consider the horrible possibility that Aunt Nettie is still angry about that. Already he's dealing with his broken partner and will have to sit nicely through her bastard father's funeral tomorrow and now this? He puts his fork down. He's no longer hungry.
Ziva gives him a sympathetic smile and pats his hand. "Relax, Tony, she no longer thinks we are married." Then, pausing for effect, she studies her nails. "Though I am sure she will still have plenty of questions about your possessive need to tell off my boyfriends."
Tony gulps, now presented with the dark possibility that Nettie knows about another boyfriend of Ziva's and his fate. "Does she know about, you know, Rivkin?"
Ziva coughs. Tony tenses, wondering if he's made a misstep bringing that up. After a silence that seems to stretch into minutes, Ziva shakes her head. "I do not know," she answers. "But if she did…. well, she has never really approved of my father or his colleagues, so."
"Oh, okay," is all Tony says in reply, going back to his food.
Ziva surprises him, though, grabbing his hand before it can reach his fork and bringing it to her mouth, placing a light kiss on his palm.
Tony is stunned, and more than a little flustered. He can't take his eye off Ziva as she returns his hand to the table and goes back to her spaghetti like that was no big deal.
"Eat, Tony," she orders, the harshness of her tone contradicted by a faint blush on her cheeks. He even catches a little grin playing on her lips. "And stop worrying about Aunt Nettie."
He sneaks little looks at her while he eats his dinner. Every so often, he catches her doing the same thing.
He wakes up early the next morning to shower and dress and hopefully have time to make Ziva breakfast to prepare her for the day ahead. He needn't have bothered. At seven sharp, the house is overrun by The Aunts.
There is no other way to refer to them, three women of striking beauty and formidable personality. They are Eli's sisters, all three of them, and they descend upon the house with confidence and direction. After kissing Ziva and fussing over Tony, they send the pair to finish getting ready and take over the kitchen.
Dressed in his nicest suit, Tony goes to check on Ziva. Because he is worried about her, true, but also because he is terrified of going back into the belly of the beast without his partner's back-up. Aunt Dina, he is quite sure, is harboring some not so secret ninja skills. His back still aches from the hug she gave him.
Knocking on Ziva's bedroom door, he gets no response. He puts his ear to the door next but hears no signs of life.
"Ziva?" he warns before slowly opening the door.
When he enters the room, he finds her sitting on the bed wearing only a black bra and matching slip. Her hair is done, straightened and pulled half up, with just a touch of make-up on her face. She glances up at him as he approaches. Her eyes shine bright with unshed tears, her lower lip trembles. He's struck by how beautiful she really is.
"Hey," he starts, sitting down next to her slowly, giving her the chance to kick him out. She never does. "Hey, it's okay."
"It is not okay, Tony," she manages out. He can tell that it's taking all her effort not to cry. "I am burying the last of my family today. And even though Eli…even though he was a bastard…he is…was…still my father."
She breaks out into a sob then, keeling forward on the bed. Tony rushes to catch her before she can slide to the ground and gathers her in his arms. She goes willingly, burying her face into his chest and letting him pull her into his lap.
"I know, Zi, I know," he comforts. He runs his hand over her back, feeling the tight muscles there, stroking her soft, cool skin. He kisses her temple. He is really not sure of what he's doing, if this is even helping. But he pushes past his insecurity and goes with what feels right. Because he wants nothing more than for her to feel whole again.
"I hated him, Tony," she admits, her face emerging to rest on his shoulder. He rests his hands on her waist so she knows he's listening. "He did so many awful things. Not only to me, but also to my mother and Ari and who knows who else. And yet. And yet he wasn't a terrible father all of the time. And in the end… he seemed to be really trying. But I shut him out."
"True," Tony allows. "He came to you to make amends. But he also came to you running away from a problem he had created. A problem that almost got others killed." He feels like kind of a jerk for pointing that out, but it's hard to keep his anger towards Eli from bubbling over when it runs so close to the surface.
"You are right," Ziva sighs. She sits up straighter and tries to compose herself. "But today I have to pray for him, and for the next three days I have to hear from others how sorry they are that he died. How am I supposed to do that?"
Tony purses his lips. He doesn't really know. "You nod and smile and thank them for their condolences. You focus on the good times. And then go back to hating Eli when it's all over."
"I do not really hate him, Tony," Ziva whispers, taking a long, watery breath. She entwines her hand with his, watching their fingers mesh together with intensity. "I wish I could."
"Yeah," he agrees, squeezing her hand. "It can never be that easy, can it?"
She gives up a little sardonic laugh, trying to wipe away the last of her tears. "No." She takes another deep breath and then stands up. Touching her hair and face, she scowls. "I am a mess."
Tony gives her a moment of consideration even though he already has an answer. "You're beautiful."
With a snort, she smoothes down her slip and heads toward the closet. "You're just saying that because I'm half-naked."
Gasping, he pretends to notice that fact for the first time. He stifles the urge to correct her, to make her understand that she is always breathtaking to him—all done up, of course, but also staring down a dead body with her hair pulled back and her NCIS cap on. Even now, even wearing little more than her grief, she is stunning to him.
But he suspects that humor is the best course of action now and so he lets it go. He doesn't deny her accusation and makes sure she catches him ogling her as she slips on her dress, enjoying the play of exasperation on her face. Anything other than sadness.
"Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging... Be still, and know that I am God..."
Sometime during the second Psalm, she reaches over and grabs his hand. He squeezes hers back and the ceremony continues on.
She keeps touching the torn ribbon pinned to her chest. She doesn't cry.
After the funeral, mourners descend upon Eli's house.
At first, conversation is subdued. Family, friends, and old Mossad colleagues skirt around Ziva, their voices hushed, offering overly sincere words of condolences. A few company men share what Tony assumes are vetted anecdotes of Eli's tenure at Mossad. Tony keeps to himself in the corner of the room, one eye always on his partner.
He marvels at the grace with which she handles the condolences from the mourners. It has to be uncomfortable, rubbing elbows with those who treated her like a disposable pawn at Mossad or questioned her loyalty to her native country when she moved to America.
As it is, he can read the tension in her shoulders whenever one of her former colleagues approaches. She keeps her face solemn, a gentle grin curving her mouth at all the right times. Occasionally there is a flutter of her eyelashes as if she were holding back tears. An Oscar-worthy performance if ever he saw one.
Tony nods and smiles whenever someone pats his arm as they walk by, though few ask who he is or even directly talk to him. He supposes the rumor has spread that he is Ziva's NCIS partner and that he is either representing the agency that failed to save Eli, the very same agency their Director had illicit dealings with, or that he is there as Ziva's lover because what other reason would a man have to travel halfway across the world to attend a funeral? He really hopes that no one remembers him as the man who killed Rivkin and bested Eli in interrogation. But from the nasty looks often sent his way, he determines that Mossad men have long memories.
"Can I get you anything, Tony?" Aunt Nettie is suddenly at his side, her smile a warm facsimile of Ziva's.
"Oh no," he refuses, holding up his plate of uneaten appetizers. "I'm okay. Thank you."
Nettie squeezes his arm with surprising force. "You are a good man. You take care of my Ziva."
Unexpectedly flattered, Tony fights back a smile. "Well, I try. She isn't the easiest woman to wrangle."
"David women are a challenge," she winks. "But well worth the effort."
He laughs. "So, Nettie, about that phone call—
"Psh!" The older woman stops him with a swat to the chest. "Water under the table! That conversation gave me and my sisters something to talk about for months."
Tony grimaces, not wanting to imagine how those went. "Glad I could be of service."
She sidles up closer to him. "But are you sure you are not married? Engaged? Dating even? Because Ziva is not getting any younger, and neither are you. And I've seen the way you two interact. It would be a shame to waste such compatibility, such chemistry! Aren't you worried another man will come in and snatch her up? You should be!"
Forcing an uncomfortable laugh, Tony tries to formulate a response to her tangled web of questions. Do all Davids possess super spy skills? Because clearly, there's something in the genes. Something about Nettie makes his palms sweat and he's forgotten the questions already. "No, well, I mean, yes."
Okay, well, that was something at least. Let her deal with that. He's not even positive which question he was attempting to answer. Nettie's eyes light up about something, though. And he can see her mind turning with even more questions that threaten to spew from her mouth.
"Uh, Nettie, how long do these things normally last? Ziva looks awfully tired and—
"Do not worry! I will take care of it!" She interjects, holding her hand up. Then, searching the room, she snaps in the direction of her sister, Tovah, and stage whispers something in Hebrew. A moment later, The Aunts have mobilized and within five minutes, guests begin taking their leave.
The final mourners have left, The Aunts swept out behind them, and the house has taken on a strange quiet.
Tony finds Ziva in her father's office. The room had been off limits to visitors and for this reason, and all that the space signifies, it feels much colder than the rest of the place.
Ziva is running her finger along a shelf, tapping the spines of the books she finds there. Tony watches her as he pours them each a good two fingers of scotch from the decanter on a side table.
"Anything good?" He asks; very few of the books are in English.
Pausing, Ziva raises her eyebrows at him and pulls a book from the shelf. "Raising Your Child in Your Image: How to Create the Perfect Weapon."
Tony's mouth drops open. "Seriously?"
Ziva laughs. "No. Of course not. It's a guide to the economic structures of Western Europe."
"Oh," Tony sniffs, and though he acts bruised he is glad she took the opportunity to make light of the situation. With him, black humor usually means the worst but Ziva isn't one to make a joke unless her mood has been lifted.
He walks over to her and hands off a drink. Ziva meets his eyes and, not looking away, takes a sip of the alcohol. Her eyes water a bit but she doesn't otherwise betray the harsh taste.
"How are you?" He asks, his voice low.
Ziva blinks up at him a few times and shrugs. She takes another sip of her scotch, licking her lips afterwards this time. She has to know how focused he is on her, on how he is trying to read her every cue, and how, therefore, that one gesture is nearly his undoing. His mouth goes dry and his pulse picks up speed. Things go blurry for a brief second. The scotch can't have hit him yet. It is her. All her. Well, her and the fucking long day they just had. But now isn't the time to be intoxicated by his partner, by the darkness swirling in her eyes and the languid way she turns away from him, like she knows he can't tear his gaze away from her.
"I am fine," she says, as if he should've anticipated any other answer. Her voice is throaty, choked with some dangerous emotion, and that is yet another trigger for his body to respond. He watches her. She turns away from him to contemplate Eli's private view of the Mediterranean. After a moment, she slips off her bracelet and then her earrings, placing them delicately on a side table. Her heels are toed off next and kicked to the side. Her toes are painted some shiny purple color. She wriggles them into the plush rug. He swallows hard. Lets his eyes travel up her body, slowly, starting with her toes and finally meeting her stare in the reflection of the window. Even through the second hand image on the glass, he can feel her smoldering gaze.
She tips the rest of the scotch into her mouth, swallowing the rest in one go. Then, she looks back at him over her shoulder. "I am ready for bed now. Would you mind?" And in a slow, deliberate movement, she shifts the curtain of her hair aside, baring the back of her dress to him.
He inhales sharply. Is she…?
No, that is ridiculous. She mostly certainly is not. This is Ziva, his partner, and they are standing in her dead father's office in Israel and it is just that the neck of her dress is cut awfully high and of course it would be difficult to reach that particular spot on her own.
Forcing himself to breathe normally, Tony steps closer to her. He realizes that the pattern of her breath isn't exactly normal, either. His hand hovers over the tiny clasp and zipper for a long moment, afraid to touch, afraid he will show her in this intimate yet ordinary gesture how much he really cares for her. She is studying him in the glass, he knows.
"Tony…" she mutters and it spurs him into action. His fingers fumble for a moment but he manages to release the clasp and ease down the zipper without embarrassing himself too much.
Job done, he knows he should remove his hand but her skin is on fire beneath the fabric of her dress and she is making no move to leave.
"Ziva," he hums, and his hand moves down from the zipper and traces the outline of her hip against the fabric of her dress. He rests his hand on her waist, giving her a gentle squeeze. "You did a nice job today." His voice is just above a whisper, scratchy and unused sounding.
It's a strange sentiment to share, that much is evident in the raised eyebrows he catches in the reflection, but he believes it. She did do an amazing job, managing not to give these bastards anything of herself, to be the proper grieving daughter and not cursing and screaming when she had every reason to.
He doesn't expect an answer from her and doesn't get one. Instead, he watches her in the glass as his hand slides up the skin of her back left exposed by the undone zipper. Her eyes slip closed and when his thumb rubs the top of her spine, she bites her lip. He probably should stop, but he doesn't. He moves aside the fabric of her dress just a bit so be can press a ghost of a kiss to the nape of her neck. She lets out a shuddering breath. That spurs him on. He slowly, delicately kisses his way down the exposed patch of skin.
She remains still, says nothing. But he can hear her breath as it catches and releases, so he continues. He doesn't move any lower than her shoulder blades, but he does open the dress further, giving himself more skin to work with. Eventually, his hands find their way inside of the garment and slide down her body to grasp her hips. His fingers clutch the silk of her slip and she stumbles a bit, falling back against him.
He's crossed a line now, that much is true. But he can't stop. He can't stop touching her and caressing her. Can't stop showing her how much he cares because for the first time since this all started he finally feels like he's getting the message across. Besides, any words he can think to say are too much right now.
Ziva gasps when he brushes his lips against the curve of her neck. Her head falls to the side; her neck open to him, her body relaxed, and the movements send her dress cascading to the floor.
And here she is again, in nothing but her bra and slip, and he knows he's holding her at her most emotional, most fragile, and the fact that she trusts him like this…
"Tony, please," she urges, finding his hand. Her voice sounds so small and desperate that he hesitates. But then she's rocking her hips back against his, and he loses the will to protest. She guides his hand to her breast. Sighs happily when it slips inside her bra. He closes his eyes, buries his nose in her hair, and tries to memorize the weight of her in his hand.
She bucks against him suddenly and it startles him to attention. It's then he catches sight of her in the glass again and sees the silent tears streaming down her face.
"Oh, hey. Oh, Ziva," he whispers, panicked, and pulls back from her.
Ziva fights it. She grabs his wrist hard and tries to keep him close. "Tony. I am fine."
But she's not, clearly. And he's torn.
When he doesn't make any further moves, Ziva turns in his arms. He gets a good look at her face then, at the watery lines marring her olive skin, and he knows his responding look is one of concern, of sympathy.
Ziva doesn't like it, that much is clear. Her face shutters for a second, then goes much darker. Her only concession to the fact that she was crying is two quick swipes of her cheek.
"Ziva, it's okay," he reassures because he doesn't know what else to say. He palms her face and is reminded of another time when he held her in the same way. He runs a thumb across her cheek and she closes her eyes.
"Please," she begs, gripping at his arms. "I just need to feel something else."
It isn't right. He knows that. But he also understands the depth of her pain right now, the conflict between grief and guilt she must feel. He's been there before and, fuck, if he can do something, anything, to give her a moment of relief… Well.
He'd do anything for her.
So he frames her face with his hands and waits for her to open her eyes. When she does, he knows she can tell she got him. Her eyes become clearer, suddenly, and more alive. They dart across his face, taking him in, making sure. He nods. She sighs in relief before pressing her lips against his.
He breathes her in, tries to take it slow, but Ziva isn't at all interested in slow. She presses forward, urging his mouth to move against hers. The kiss escalates quickly, not unlike the last one they shared all those years ago in the hotel. She is devouring him and he responds in kind. He can't help it. She's an expert at stirring lust in his body, at making him lose his mind just a little bit. He tastes the salt on her skin, in her mouth, and it only drives him harder, making him more determined to help her lose her mind just a little bit, too.
Her hands are quick in their removal of his jacket and between kisses he manages to get free of his tie. She has him down to his undershirt, her fingers working on his belt, when she begins to back him up to the couch.
With a thud, he tumbles back upon the leather upholstery and she settles herself in his lap. It gives him a moment to take in his surroundings, to remember where they are.
"Are you sure you want to do this in your dad's office?" As soon as the words leave his mouth, he realizes how dumb they are.
Ziva stops cold. Her hands drop from his body. He makes a face. Yeah, not his best move ever. In fact, arguably one of his all-time worst. Dragging out the Daddy Issue while Ziva's hands are in his pants? Not smooth. But his eye had caught on a photo of Eli with the Prime Minister of Israel and he is now more than a little weirded out.
Ziva directs an exasperated sigh towards the ceiling. It affords him a wonderful view of her breasts about to spill out of her black satin bra. That, and the fact that she's still straddling him, her shapely thighs tensing against his and, wait, why does he have a problem with this?
The mood is shattered, probably, and though he wasn't exactly one-hundred percent on board with this being a good idea to begin with, now that he's gotten a taste of Ziva, well, he's never really excelled at being an honorable man.
He runs his hands up Ziva's rib cage. He nuzzles his nose into her neck, inhaling her scent. She automatically wraps an arm around his head, threading her fingers into his hair and kissing the top of his head. So all is not lost, it seems.
"He hated me," Tony reminds her, tracing a path down her neck with his tongue. "Fucking me in his office would be a really good way to piss him off."
She laughs. A strange mix between a sob and a laugh, yes, but there's mirth in there somewhere.
Kissing his temple, she pulls his head up by his hair so he can look at her. Her eyes are clear, focused, the most Ziva-like he's seen them in days. Her lips curl up in amusement. He hadn't realized how much he's missed this look on her. So he pulls her in for a deep kiss. Because, well, you can't put the cat back into the bag or whatever.
But he doesn't let Ziva escalate the kiss into the frenzied passion of before. Instead, he holds her cheeks carefully in his hands and urges her to let him lead. She does. He goes slowly, tracing her lips lightly with his tongue before pressing his mouth to hers. When he pulls back she looks at him, dazed. But in a good way.
"He never loved me, did he?" she asks. And then the darkness is back, another storm cloud passing through. Her hand falls to his chest, coming to rest over his heart.
"You were his daughter," he answers, because that should be enough of a response. His fingers draw nonsense on her ribs. He bites his lip, searching for an answer he couldn't possibly know. "He loved you in his way."
She shakes her head, her eyes getting wetter, darker. "No. He cared about me. Sometimes. When it suited his needs." Ziva's voice takes on a hysterical, urgent tone. She's blinking back tears now. Her hands grip his forearms painfully. "And perhaps now he was trying to learn to love me. But he never loved me. Not like he was supposed to."
"No," Tony concedes, his own eyes suddenly damp. "Not like he was supposed to."
She's on the verge of breaking. He can feel it in the gentle tremors that run through her body, in the way her skin has rapidly cooled.
She nods, biting her lip. "But you…you love me…" Her voice sounds so lost, so vulnerable, and her eyes search his face desperately for a truth he hopes is laid plain there. Her fingers curl into his skin. "Right?"
She's asking so much of him. Too much, maybe, but he's proven before that with her there's really no such thing. And it isn't right of her, not now, not when she's feeling like this, to ask this of him.
His hesitation makes her regret. She looks down, drops her hand from his arms. "I am sorry, Tony. I should not have…."
But his heart is broken just like hers, he realizes, so what is the point of inflicting more damage to either one of them? Why shouldn't she know how he feels? For the first time, it doesn't seem to matter if the sentiment is returned. Because right now she feels like she has no one when that's anything but the truth. And if it will make her feel whole again? Like she matters? Perhaps repair some of the damage Eli inflicted on her? Well, it would be worth it.
He tilts her chin up with his knuckle. She's crying those silent tears again.
"More than anything, Ziva," he admits.
And that's it. She collapses into his arms. Deep, gut wrenching sobs soak his skin. He holds her close, tries to keep her trembling body from falling apart, and whispers kind words into her hair. He strokes her back until her breath evens out, until she falls asleep tucked safely against him.