Disclaimer: What was it that I was supposed to be writing here, again? Oh, yeah—I don't own NCIS :(
Spoilers: 10x23 "Double-Blind" and the entire Bodnar arc, really.
Notes: Okay, this fic probably warrants a bunch of notes, and they are as follows (you don't strictly need to read them, but if you do, they might help you understand the fic better):-
1) Despite the beginning, this fic actually has nothing to do with Gibbs. This is not to say the team ignored Gibbs (though it looks that way in my fic); he simply isn't the focus of this story, lol.
2) This was written based on what Tony said to Ziva after she told him about Adam, but it actually has little to do with Adam. I don't believe Tony was furious that she slept with Adam, honestly. I think he was mad that she explained it that way, and even then, he was madder because of her behaviour that preceded that explanation. So, this fic is about that.
3) This fic is ... I suppose, it could be debate-inducing in terms of the way I interpret Tony's and Ziva's behaviour :P in Psychology terms, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a thought that leads to behaviour that confirms the thought (or something like that ... it's obvious I didn't bother to remember what I learnt, huh? LOL). Take a teacher who expects a student not to do well, for example. For all she knows, the student might actually have a great passion for a certain subject, but because the student knows what the teacher thinks, and has incorporated it into his self-belief, he ends up losing interest in learning and studying for that subject and thus does as badly in his exams as the teacher had expected. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I generalized this concept to Tony and Ziva, and this fic is the explanation of that.
4) I'm not implying self-fulfilling prophecies are the only reason Ziva did what she did; just that it's the focus of this fic. And that note, too, you should probably be informed that just because Tony and Ziva say something doesn't mean I agree with it. I write what I think they think; not simply what I think. Sooo ... that's the end of my essay!
Unfulfilling the Prophecy
The figurative candle burns low by the time Team Gibbs (minus Gibbs) disperses from the bullpen.
Their campfire had carried on for hours as they bounced ideas upon ideas off one another, trying to find a way to help Gibbs. Eventually, they had come to a grim consensus: Aside from telling Vance and then possibly Fornell, there was nothing they could do.
Abby's handkerchief surpasses 'damp' and goes right on to 'soggy.'
Ducky, with a tired limp that hadn't been present earlier that day, escorts her to her hearse.
McGee gathers his laptops and utters a, "Goodnight," not even bothering to come up with a valid reason for going home.
When dim light in the bullpen reveals only two federal agents left, the Italian-American kicks back from his desk with a scoff and drops all pretences of camaraderie with the Israeli-American.
"Well, I'm off," Tony says unceremoniously, and Ziva gives a nod. He is already a step away from exiting the bullpen before she speaks.
His eyes turn to trace the curves of her cheekbones. Ziva raises an illustrative hand and says, "I called you a child in joke."
"It wasn't funny." They don't need to ask how, or when, or where. They already know she'd been aware he'd be in the Observation Room the entire time.
"It was meant to throw Parsons off," she admits.
"Bullshit," he snarls. "Parsons isn't the type of person to be easily thrown off; you know that and I know that. Oh, no, it was a joke alright, but it was aimed at me and not him. And it wasn't a funny ha-ha joke; it was one meant to cut. You know it hit the mark, Ziva. So, don't even try to explain yourself right now, because you know what? You wanted Alone—I'm giving you Alone."
He whirls and she feels the force of the wind, she swears, but before she is even done defending herself against its magnitude, he is gone.
The clanging shut of the elevator doors is only as loud as another chip off her heart.
We are all alone.
It is the tenet she lives by.
It injects itself into every aspect of her life; it thrives within her apartment walls and turns dark the bright orange of the bullpen at work.
When she shows up the next morning and finds Gibbs' empty desk mocking her, all she sees is black.
She throws herself into work after that.
Tony throws himself into forgetting she ever existed.
It works out well, really, because most days, she can't recognize herself when she looks into the mirror.
We are all alone.
It would be considered irony if this were proven by a bullet through either of their thick skulls or shrapnel through armours that turn out not to be invincible, after all.
As it is, though, she only has to overhear him doing to her what she'd done to him to learn what being alone truly feels like.
A callous remark to McGee in the break room, meant with all the serious vindictiveness of a person betrayed.
"She's just a killer, anyway."
She slams a hand onto Tony's desk when he returns to the bullpen and he barely blinks at her. "You said you believed me when I told you Bodnar slipped," she spits into his face.
"That was when I didn't know you thought me childish enough not to understand the implications of the full story," he retorts, and in that moment she realizes he'd known she was lingering outside the break room.
"That's what this is all about?" she asks incredulously. "Me, calling you a child?"
"Oh, sweet pea, you couldn't be more wrong." He bares his teeth. "If you don't know what's broken between us, then it clearly can't be fixed."
"Fuck you," she tells him in her native tongue, and the slip of the mask in his eyes might be the only indication that his knowledge of Hebrew really is better than she thinks.
"Fine, I'll tell you. You really wanna know what this is about?" he barks the instant he steps through her front door that night. "Well, I dropped you off at the airport. I said, 'You're not alone,' and you said, 'I know,' right? You said you knew. So, there I was, naïvely thinking you knew I'd be there for you, when you went behind my back and started the hunt on your own. Then, you recruited McGee. I'm not one to say anything—hey, McGeek's the one you really want when you're in a pickle. His tech skills would save the world. Never mind that, though. I go to Berlin with you and I try to convince you again that I'm not that bad—y'know, despite not being McGee—but well, we all know what happened when we came back.
"I don't blame you for being shaken up after the crash. 'Shaken up,' though, does not begin to cover what I felt upon discovering you'd gone after Bodnar on your own. 'Shaken up' doesn't begin to cover anything I felt when a body came sailing through the air and you were right there, looking at it. 'Shaken up' doesn't begin to cover how I felt when Parsons started interrogating you and I was impotent to defend you. 'Shaken up' doesn't begin to cover how I feel knowing you take for granted that I'll always be there for you.
"Because yeah, Ziva, I'd love it if you came to me for anything, but you just think you want whatever I've been trying to give you while you keep me at arm's length. Well, newsflash: You can't have both. So, make up your damn mind, because I'm tired of making it up for you."
She raises her chin. "I never asked you to be there for me."
"Is that your final decision, then?"
"You listen to me." She takes two strides and stabs a finger into his chest. "If you or anyone else on the team had been murdered by a demented, self-deluding terroristic figure, I would not hesitate to seek revenge and none of you would even think about stopping me. So, don't you dare tell me this time should have been different. It is just the same, because I loved my father as much as I love any of you. You said it yourself: I'm just a killer. If you already knew this, it should be no surprise to you that I did what I did."
"And that makes everything you've done okay?"
"No," she says calmly. "It means you never believed I was completely innocent to begin with. Let's face it, Tony: You expected that I would draw back after my father's death. I did, and I will admit that I really got caught up in hunting Bodnar down for months. But when you found me, it did not surprise you that McGee was with me—it shocked you, yes, but you did not think what I did could never have happened. It did not surprise you that I would go to Rome or Berlin or wherever just to seek Bodnar. It did not surprise you when I focused my all on that sole objective upon coming back, and it certainly did not surprise you to find Bodnar dead—even if you worry about me. Do you even believe me when I say Bodnar tripped, Tony? Would you believe me if I said I didn't sleep with Adam for information? Or have you been expecting that I would screw up somewhere all along?"
She gets her answer in the form of a mute stare.
"So, let me ask you a question," she continues. "When you say you'd be there for me, did you mean you'd help me find new meaning in the empty life I now have, or did you mean you'd have my back when I finally had my revenge and would land in trouble as a result of it?"
"You did have your revenge," he replies grimly.
"I know I did," she answers quietly. "But you cannot know me that well and still penalize me for pulling away and being … as I am now. You do not get to be angry for something you knew would happen all along."
"So, what, I'm not allowed to have expectations now? I'm not allowed to fervently hope that you'll do the opposite of what I'm thinking?"
And she blinks. Swallows. "All I'm saying, Tony, is that you are being pointlessly angry. You—you cannot expect me to not be this pure-hearted woman with no circumspect motives and yet not like it when I prove your expectations right."
"I only hoped you would prove my expectations wrong."
"You get me either the way I am or not at all, Tony." She gives a single nod. "I am not about to pretend to be someone else for you."
"The question is, Ziva," he says, "how much are you not pretending to be someone else right now?"
"What do you mean?"
"You knew I was expecting you to do what you did." His eyes burn with a raging fire. "Which means—and I'm going out on a limb here—you know me that well. You knew I was going to be angry at you. So, why'd you still do it?"
This time, she is the one with the mute glare.
"See, Ziva, this sort of thing works two ways. You blame me all you want for thinking the worst of you, but you're the one to blame for doing as I feared you would. I know you. I know there's no way you didn't take my response into account when you decided to freeze me out. So, until you're ready to tell me why you really wanted this gap between us, you're in this alone."
"I have never had a reason to contradict someone's beliefs about me."
"That's not true."
"It is." The phone line fizzes with invisible, inaudible static. "When have you ever known me to do the opposite of what I was expected to?"
"Plenty of times. I can list the number of times you defied your father alone."
She closes her eyes. "He expects—expected—me to defy him. Just like you want to, apparently."
"So? Have you figured out why you didn't defy me?"
"Yes," she whispers into the receiver. "It—it was just easier to go with what you knew of me; to let you say, 'Ziva's like that, anyway.' It'd hurt less to know that I did what you thought I would than…"
"Than have to deal with the outcome if I … ever went too far."
"Oh, Zi," he breathes.
She clamps a hand to her mouth and cries and hopes he won't notice.
"There is no going too far." Pause. "I know I expect certain things from you. I'm only human—I can't flip the 'Off' switch for having preconceptions of things, even if I try. But that doesn't mean you can only do as I expect. I would never blame you for showing me how wrong I am. I'd only be very proud of you."
"Are you ashamed of me now, then?"
"Never." He ignores the waver in her voice. "There's only caring about you and then pretending not to care about you, Ziva."
"Yeah." His voice soothes the sobs threatening to erupt. "So, we good?"
If you say we are, she starts out saying, but changes her mind halfway through. "That's what I want, yes," she says definitively instead.
She's going to try and show him that she'll be even better a person than the one he hopes she could be.