Mercurial will get updated eventually I promise. I had to write this first.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this, Tony thinks to himself, sitting on a bench right outside the main door to the NCIS building. Everything was supposed to work out. They were supposed to get Bodnar, get home, and the whole thing was just supposed to die down. The world was supposed to keep rotating on its axis as usual without any complications. He was supposed to be able to enjoy the fact that, for now, he wouldn't have to worry about Ziva as much. For once, things were supposed to be just fine. They should have known it wouldn't be that easy.
It was never that easy.
"Are you serious?" he remembers asking, standing in front of the director and Gibbs, Ziva and McGee by his side. His mind had still been racing to process what he'd been told.
"Yes, Agent DiNozzo," the director had said through tight lips, his expression somber. "This is very serious. They've got a federal prosecutor already lined up for the case."
There had been a long pause as they had all let this information sink into to their brains, and then Tony had cleared his throat and asked the question that the others seemed too stunned to ask. "What does that mean?"
McGee had looked terrified, but Ziva's face was carefully controlled, like always. When Tony had caught her eye, she'd looked away quickly, hiding. He had wanted nothing more than to reach out and take her hand, reassuring her that he was there. He had kept trying to catch her eye after that, but she had been staring intently ahead.
"It means that unless fate decides to be extremely kind to us," the director had said, hands crossed behind his back professionally. "Our best case scenario is that some of us could lose our jobs."
"And worst?" McGee had been the one to ask the next question.
The director doesn't have to answer- they all know.
The room had fallen deadly quiet, and finally, tugging at his collar, the director had dismissed himself and left. They had all went their separate ways accordingly and now, about ten minutes later, Tony was trying to figure out why their luck always seemed to run dry.
He hears footsteps behind him, but he doesn't need to look to know that it's Ziva. He casts a glance back at her so that she knows he's acknowledged her presence, and then she comes to sit beside him on the bench. Sighing, she twines her fingers together and puts her elbows on her knees. They sit there in silence for a moment, taking some comfort in the other simply being there. After a few minutes, though, Tony turns to her and asks, "Are you worried?"
She nods, sighing. "Yes."
"Maybe they'll go easy on you," he tells her, shrugging. "It was for your father, you know?"
She shakes her head, and for a moment, he's confused. He goes to speak, but she's just a little faster. "I am not worried about me." Her voice is soft, and he looks at her only to see she is already looking at him, her eyes filled with a guilt he doesn't understand.
"What?" he asks, and she swallows.
"I am worried about... McGee, Gibbs... and you," she explains slowly, and her shoulders are sagging a bit now, her exhaustion finally too much to hide. They had a long trip and neither of them had gotten a lot of sleep. He wants to reach out to her, let her find comfort in him, but he isn't sure if he should. After a moment of deliberation, he finally decides on putting his hand on the small of her back. When she doesn't protest his actions, he lets his fingers run up and down her back lightly. He can't help the small feeling of accomplishment when she relaxes noticeably.
"You're worried about us?" he questions, his fingers catching the ends of her hair and playing with them. She smiles, and he can tell that the action takes her back to that crowded bar just a week earlier, when they'd danced to the rhythm of a song neither of them had ever heard before, but it hadn't mattered. He had played with her hair then, too, and that same smile had lit up her face.
"Yes," she replies, rubbing a hand over her forehead. "I should not have gotten any of you involved."
"I'm sure they'll be fine." He purposefully leaves himself out. He thinks that the motives behind his involvement go without saying, the consequences minimal in comparison. "They didn't do much. Not much to incriminate them on."
She's silent for a long moment, and then she stands, and his hand falls awkwardly to the bench. She paces for a moment, and then she stops in front of him, her eyes wide and pleading for reasons he can't decipher. "But not you. You were involved. You went with me. You helped me. You are in just as deeply as I am because Bodnar's blood is on your hands as well as mine."
He shrugs off this information, as he assumed it was obvious, but she furrows her brows in what seems to be frustration. She goes to speak, but he stops her. "Ziva." Her name rolls off of his lips. "You didn't make me do anything, remember? I volunteered for this. I found you."
Her face pinches up just the slightest, and for a moment, he's afraid she's going to crumble right there, but she swallows, closes her eyes, composes herself enough to keep a straight face. "I should have... I should have made you stay out of it. I knew the risks that were involved."
"What about McGee, Gibbs, and the director? Should you have made them stay out of it, too?" he asks her, and she crosses her arms over her chest, shaking her head at the ground.
"I only used McGee's help because I had no idea how to do some of the more technical things. I never planned on him getting in the midst of... everything else, and so he never did. The director... He had some information that was of some use to me, but... I kept him safe, too. I barely let on to what I was doing to him. And then you... you came in and said you would help and... I never considered telling you no." She runs a hand through her hair, which is already slowly becoming a mess.
He purses his lips, and his curiosity is screaming at him to ask the question burning on his tongue. He isn't sure why, but he just wants to know what she'll say. "Why not?" When she gives him a confused expression, he explains. "Why didn't you ever consider telling me no?"
She blanks for a moment, staring at him almost as if he's lost his mind. "I... Because I needed you. Because I needed you to be with me more than... more than I needed to protect you."
He accepts this, but he can't help but continue to question her. "Why?"
She blinks, like she's never considered these questions before and has no clue how to answer them. Her eyes find his strongly, and the emotion he sees there floorboards him. When she finally speaks, her voice is soft. "Because... because it's you. It... It is always you."
For a moment, he's taken back, shocked by her words. He wonders if she'll retract them and try to forget she ever uttered them, because her statement was raw, intimate, a little bit further across the line of things they'd ever admit to each other. Even after what happened in Berlin, the events are still fresh, still burning their imprints in their minds, still taking them on a whirlwind that they aren't sure how to handle. His mind goes back to that moment when she'd pressed her lips gently to his. It hadn't mattered then- they'd been miles upon miles away from home. There was nobody to cast judgment, nobody that would run and tell the whole office building, not a single soul present to ruin the moment prematurely.
Her face seems conflicted for only a moment, but then she nods once firmly. He feels a quick rush of affection and when she sees him looking at her, her cheeks turn a little pink and a small smile turns up the corners of her mouth.
She sighs then, the moment gone. "I am so sorry, Tony."
He stands, and she looks up at him, her eyes full of guilt that he wishes he could simply will away. "It isn't your fault. I would have come no matter what. I would be in this situation with you whether you had wanted me to be or not."
"You should not-"
"Stop, Ziva," he says softly, cutting her off. "Don't. I knew you needed this, okay? I know what it's like to need revenge." She looks down at the truth behind his words, knowing exactly what he was referring to. "It blinds you, consumes you, but sometimes, you need it. And there wasn't any way on this earth I was letting you do this alone, Ziva. My... my revenge mission was different then. I didn't care what happened to me. I... I knew the possibilities of me making it out were little to none, but I didn't care. I didn't have much to come back to."
"Tony..." She swallows, closing her eyes tightly, but he keeps speaking. He needs to say this.
"But I needed you to come back, Ziva. I knew you were going to do this no matter what, but I'd be damned if I let you get yourself killed in the process. So, don't stand here and blame yourself for getting me involved, because I was in no matter what. Because... because it's you."
She has tears forming in her eyes now, and he wants nothing more than to pull her to him and never let go, but he should he? Would she even let him? He isn't sure.
"I feel... I feel as if I do not deserve that," she tells him, looking down.
Damning the consequences, he gives in then, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and bringing her close. It amazes him how easily she relaxes into his embrace, and he can't help but hold her a little tighter. "You do," he whispers into her hair, praying with everything inside him that she'll believe his words. Her arms have wrapped around his waist now, and she's resting her head on his shoulder. He presses close, holding her as tightly as he can.
"You will never understand how much that means to me," she says, and he thinks he hears a sniffle. "To have someone willing to risk... everything for me." He pulls away, and a few tears have slipped down her cheeks. He wants to reach up and wipe them away, but she beats him to it. "I just wish it had not worked out like this," she tells him after a moment, sitting back down on the bench. "You do not deserve to lose your job... or wind up in prison."
He sits down beside her, trying to think of how to phrase his next words. "Did killing Bodnar give you what you needed?"
She thinks for a moment, then nods. "Yes. I feel... more... like everything is back in balance. Or, I did."
"Then it was worth it." She still doesn't look convinced, so he takes her hands in his. "Do you regret it?"
She breaks their eye contact then. Somehow she knows they aren't talking about getting Bodnar anymore. She stays silent for a long moment, and his heart rate picks up. He's almost to the point of saying "never mind" and hoping the question gets dropped when she speaks. "No. I do not regret any of it."
He puts his finger under her chin, effectively lifting her face to him. Without even considering his surroundings, he kisses her, his lips gently coaxing hers apart. She melts into him, her hands finding his hips as she kisses him back. When they separate, he lets his forehead rest against hers. "Neither do I, and I want you to know that no matter what happens or how things turn out, I've got your back."
She nods, still seeming unsure. "I know that, but what if-"
He silences her by putting his finger over her lips. "We'll figure it out, Ziva. I promise you that. No matter what happens, we'll figure it out. And whether you like it or not, we're in this boat together."
Her mind is working overtime, and her voice is shaky when she speaks. "Promise?"
He can see the fear in her eyes, and he kisses her forehead. "Promise, sweetheart." The term of endearment slips out, and it shocks him that the word doesn't sound as strange as he'd thought it would. He hesitates only briefly before continuing. "I love you, okay? We're going to be alright. We always are."
She kisses him again, holding his face in her hands firmly. "I love you, too," she whispers against his lips when they part. "And... I know."
He pulls her back to him, and over her shoulder he sees McGee talking to Abby down in her lab. The two embrace, and Tony sends up a silent prayer that his words will be true, that they will all be alright. Part of him really believes that they will be, but one can only hope that fate isn't that cruel to them.