Wow, It's been nearly two years since I posted a story. I hope I still have a reader or two after all of these years. I barely remember how to even upload stories to this site! This very short one shot popped into my brain after Chasing Ghosts. I needed to shake the dust off of my muses. Believe it or not, I'm actually working on a much longer and involved multi chapter fic, but it will be awhile before I post that.
This story is for both of the Ambers. :)
Takes place immediately following Chasing Ghosts.
It was a relief to know she still had some of the skills she once possessed from her days in Mossad.
Cocking her head, she barely breathed while she waited. It was a curious thing, in her own mind, at least, how some habits remained sharply honed while others had faded and softened until she no longer recognized the hardened soldier she once had been. She knew he'd come, just as he knew she was expecting his arrival.
She sensed him a split second before he pounded on her door. She barely had the dead bolt turned before he barged into her apartment, anger and resentment rolling off of him is palpable waves. Ziva braced herself.
"Tony-" she began in an effort to ward of the attack that was surely coming, but the look he fixed in her direction forced her mouth to snap shut.
"You trusted McGee? Over me?"
"No, it wasn't-"
"I mean, it's cute and all, you and McGeek all holed away working your cloak and dagger magic. Two little peas in a pod seeking vengeance for your father."
His eye glittered with an emotion bordering on contempt. He kept moving; pacing and stalking as if he couldn't will his body to keep still.
Ziva opened her mouth once more, but the words froze on her tongue with the acknowledgement that he was indeed right. She had betrayed him.
So she swallowed down the words that jumbled around in her brain. She couldn't put them into the proper context, yet, anyway, so she let him wander her living room, while she watched, helpless and wary.
"What, exactly, would it take, Ziva, to gain the trust you seem throw around so freely for Gibbs or McGee? Hell, you trust Vance more than me."
He was closing in on her like prey and even though she knew she was in no physical danger, it unnerved her, none the less. The air was charged and thick and nearly rippled as he moved through it. She took an unconscious step backward as if distance could lessen the imaginary danger in which she found herself.
"I have no doubt you'll spin me quite the story about protecting me or saving me, but I can't help but wonder why you might save me, yet risk McGee. That doesn't quite sit right, Ziva. So here we are. Again. You still don't trust me."
"I needed McGee," she whispered simply; brown eyes searching hazel and begging silently for the understanding that her mouth couldn't seem to verbalize. "I needed his help."
He paused, staring her down, as he echoed, "you needed McGee."
He closed in on her with each spiraling lap. She stood her ground, refusing to back away.
"Yes. I needed his help," she repeated, forcing a neutral tone that only served to enflame his anger. He remained silent while she fumbled for words that would appease his sense of betrayal only to find herself tongue tied. After a moment, she tried again.
"You're right, Tony, I should have told you. I'm sorry," she acquiesced, holding her hands out in a gesture of surrender. Her eyes were bright, he noticed, with unshed tears and her voice was thick with the emotion she refused to share with him. Damn her.
He couldn't seem to stop himself. They'd danced this dance so long and so hard that it would be so easy to let it go with her simple wave of the white flag. Ziva no longer fought the way she used to and that scraped at his nerves that were long since raw. He was so tired. So fucking tired of creeping to that fork in the road between them only to once again bypass the road less traveled in favor of the worn and familiar.
So he forged ahead, stepping into her space and crowding the protective aura she seemed to always erect every time he got too close. He was hurt and wanted to hurt her in return, if only to ease the festering sense of unworthiness she unintentionally conjured up every time she shut him out.
"So what would I have to do, Ziva, to gain your trust?"
She swallowed hard, but looked him straight in the eye when she answered, "It's not about trust."
She was softening, he could sense it like blood and the need to move in for the kill overwhelmed him.
"Really? Sorry, Ziva, but you're going to have to do better than that."
He was so close now that he could hear her quickening breath as he pressed her against the wall. His anger began to slip away as soon as he touched her only to be replaced by an aching hurt so deep that he couldn't stop the flow of words that came next.
"I've almost died, for you, Ziva. Do you understand that? I was willing to die. For you. I can't think of a more permanent way to prove my loyalty to you. Yet, here you are, seeking vengeance for the very man that left you to die. You're risking everything, and you shut me out?" He leaned forward so that his mouth pressed against her ear. "Why didn't you tell me?" he whispered over the sob that forced itself from her lungs.
Wrapping her arms around his back, her fingers twisted and clawed at the fabric of his shirt. Her chest heaved as if her lungs could not draw oxygen. He held her tighter, pressing his lips against the warmth of her neck.
She could give him an assortment of reasons and excuses but any words that she could think to utter seemed woefully lacking and much less than he deserved.
Her chest seized and clenched and she swallowed down the pain and sorrow corroding her soul. She hadn't meant to hurt him, despite knowing that she would. She had to fight, had to pursue, had to seek revenge. It was all she had. She barely knew herself anymore and so she had clung to the last remaining shred she recognized.
McGee was easier. He simply didn't did look as hard. But Tony would have seen and he would have known.
Tony could sense her hysteria rising and he held her tighter, the warmth of her body easing the chill in his.
"Why?" he whispered one last time, vulnerability and uncertainty forcing his voice to crack.
And because she couldn't hurt him one more time, she spoke the absolute truth in a tone so hushed, he nearly missed her confession.
"Because I love you."
Thank you for reading.