Disclaimer: If I owned NCIS, I would let something bad happen to either Tony or Ziva and then laugh maniacally ... what do you mean, "TPTB is already doing that"?
Spoilers: Ziva's citizenship status and Ray, but nothing specific ... they're just mentions, really.
So, this takes place maybe two years past where we are :P Tony and Ziva have been dating for a little over a year, and been engaged for a month. This fic was inspired by Mikey, who asked me when I thought Ziva started to wish for Tony to be the guy who asked for her hand in marriage. I came up with this really long explanation, which I have now shortened into fic form: Basically, I think that Tony and Ziva approach marriage differently, and that if this topic were to come up between them, then it would influence how they approached marrying each other. It's probably not an interpretation everyone would agree with, but I hope you give it a shot.
"When did you decide it was me whom you wanted to marry?"
The question, asked as they lay in bed on an ordinary Saturday night during a run-of-the-mill cuddling session, seemed to confuse Ziva; she raised her head to look at the man beneath her.
"When did you decide it was me whom you wanted to marry?" Tony repeated, averting his eyes, and then explained, "I mean, you've always wanted to marry, right?"
"Yes…" she replied, sounding puzzled.
"So, when did you decide I could fit into the role of your husband? Like—somewhere between you becoming an American citizen and meeting C-I-Ray, I started to think about … marrying you."
"Huh." The air was silent for a while before Ziva whispered breathily, "That is a really long time."
"It was all some vague … image … that I didn't do much about, but I'm curious. If it hasn't always been me that you wanted to marry, then who did you want?"
"I have always wanted you, more or less, Tony."
Tony frowned. Something about her tone told him that her sentence wasn't quite finished, so he prompted her with a, "But?"
She sighed. "I used to tell myself that if I lived past twenty-six, I would just try to find a nice man to … live out my dreams with."
"Oh," he said. And it hurt, even though he already knew that. "Oh."
He could tell she wanted to say more, but he shook his head to stop her. It still pained him, even after more than a year of being with her, to recall that while he had formed the idea of marriage around falling in love with her, she had looked in places that went beyond and in opposite directions of him for a marital partner. He tried not to let it bother him, but somehow, the knowledge always made the engagement band which rested heavy on his ring finger feel a little less significant.
"I've only ever wanted to marry twice in my life, y'know," he confessed quietly, and she nodded. "Once with Wendy, and once … with you. The thought of being married to you has pretty much been there all these recent years, even when we weren't together and I wasn't sure I wanted to be committed to anyone at all. It's just, when I pictured my wife, I pictured you."
"Yes." It wasn't agreement; it was understanding.
"It hurts to know that if you had found a better catch in the ocean—"
"Just because I had the general notion of marriage before you asked me out on a date does not mean I do not choose to marry you willingly now, Tony," Ziva interrupted.
Tony shook his head. "If you had a preconception of marriage before this, then you must've had a preconception of whom you wanted to be married to, right? Tall, dark, and handsome, or something. Maybe good with languages. Maybe good with a knife or paperclips. Just … not me."
"Why not you?"
"I'm the bumbling buffoon, Ziva. People don't choose me; they settle for me."
"I choose you, for being good with me."
"What if you'd found someone who was better with you than me? What if you'd found someone with the same skills and interests, and who was more of your equal than I am?"
"Then I might have married that person…" she answered slowly, and his heart thumped so very painfully before she continued, "but that's the thing, DiNozzo: Love is separate from the idea of marriage. I loved you. I always will. I think … I could search far and wide, and I wouldn't find another man whom I loved as much as you. It was only in the context of realizing that you might not want me that I entertained marrying someone else. I may have formed the idea of marriage independently of you, Tony, but I did-… I did fervently hope that it was you."
"So, you didn't…" he paused. He hadn't a clue as to how to phrase his next sentence. So, you didn't reluctantly agree to marry me just because no one else asked you? didn't sound nearly right.
But Ziva merely gave him a tiniest hint of a smile and said, "No, I did not settle for you. My idea of a marriage simply grew to become you."
"Huh." He breathed out. "That's … well, humbling."
Her fingertips gently caressed his jaw line, and the expression on her face was enough to get her message across—she didn't know, again, why he was devaluing himself.
It had come to a surprise to them both, he thought, to discover that he was the one who needed more reassurance in their relationship; overshadowed amongst the personas of Class Clown and former Frat Boy and Player was a lost little boy whose confidence in himself and others was so utterly shattered that it had taken her patient hand far too many a time to guide him back into the light.
And even though he loathed admitting it, he desperately needed her now still, sometimes, to tell him that he wasn't all as undesirable as he believed himself.
Today was one of those times, and she seemed to sense it. She shifted on top of him to wrap herself more tightly around him and bury her face into his neck before murmuring, "You have no idea, Tony, how much you make my dreams come true."
And suddenly, he found even through the blur of his tears that the band on his finger gleamed so much more brightly.