I posted this over on tumblr, but then decided I would post it on here, too. It's not very lengthy, but I'm very proud of how this turned out, especaily considering it's the product of my boredom and access to a laptop.
Tony DiNozzo doesn't think the resigned life will be that terrible.
He assumes it will be a life of ease. There won't be cases or long nights and weekends. He thinks that everything will work out fine without any added stress. No rules, no cases, no problems.
He doesn't think he'll wind up missing it.
For the first week, he spends a lot of time with just himself. He casually drinks beer sitting in his living room, watching old movies that he hasn't indulged in for ages. He stays to himself and relaxes. He thinks that this will work out.
Then, after that first week, he calls McGee up one day and offers to buy them both lunch. The next day, they invite Ziva along and then somehow they all wind up back at Tony's apartment afterwards, sitting in close proximity to eac other and trying not to let their minds get away from them. The television plays an old sitcom, and they're all staring at it absentmindedly. The quiet isn't uncomfortable, but it isn't a silence of leisure, either.
"Does anyone know anything about Gibbs?" McGee asks, breaking their silence.
"No," Ziva and Tony both say, their voices seeming to echo in the room.
"I can't believe I actually miss my job," Tony comments with a sigh, hating this empty feeling. Ziva meets his eyes from where she sits beside him. Her eyes are sympathetic. She understands what he means and he's grateful for it. He knows she feels the same way as he does. A beat passes between them, and then he speaks, not sure which of them he's asking. "Why did we do this again?"
Ziva doesn't miss a beat in answering him. "For Gibbs."
Tony invites them over again the next day after, and they basically do the same thing, except this time, they're more relaxed. It's almost as if, even if they can't work, this is the next best thing, being with each other. They are accustomed to this, the company of each other. "Do you think we should try to find other jobs?" McGee questions from where he stands at Tony's microwave, waiting on some popcorn to finish popping.
Tony and Ziva both purse their lips, looking back at McGee. "Maybe we should wait," Ziva suggests, sitting down beside Tony, a little closer than she had the previous day. He accepts easily, however. He needs to be close to her just as bad she needs to be close to him. It's something they've always done in time of stress or trouble. Just their closeness is enough to relieve some of the ache weighing down their hearts. They've always been like that. It's one of the things that used to make them good partners.
Tony isn't sure exactly what they are now. Friends, he supposes. Best friends, even.
This time, when it gets dark, Ziva and McGee don't stand to go home. They don't really want to go home. Everything feels emptier there.
So Tony pulls out the foot prop in front of him and gets comfortable, hands McGee a pillow from where he sits in the recliner, and Ziva winds up putting her head in Tony's lap, a blanket spread over her body. That's how they are when they wake up the next morning.
The process repeats for a few weeks, a couple nights each week, because none of them are ready to move on with their lives. None of them are ready to let their team go. They don't think they'll ever be.
One day, McGee goes to lunch with Delilah, and after that, he starts spending more time with her. He's picking himself back up in the only way he knows how. Tony and Ziva don't really question him when he stops coming around as much.
"It feels weird," Tony says one day. Ziva is sitting on his counter and he's leaning against it beside her. They're both staring at Tony's oven, which holds a cooking pizza. He doesn't know what to add to his statement, so he changes the subject. "How do you think Gibbs is?"
Ziva's eyes get watery, and he regrets asking the question. "I do not know. I'm sure he is fine."
He turns to face her, and her knee brushes against his stomach. He puts a hand on her back and watches as she relaxes into him. Her eyes are wide, pleading with him to make it better. He's the only one who can. He's all she has at the moment. "He is, Ziva. He's Gibbs."
She nods, her chin trembling, and he reaches for her out of instinct, pulls her down off of the counter and into his arms. She breaks then, and his heart breaks with her. "It is my fault," she sobs brokenly, and he rubs her back, pressing his lips to the side of her head. He hasn't seen her cry like this since her father died, and the flashback that accompanies her strangled cries isn't pleasant.
"No, Ziva, it's not," he says into her hair, and she clings to him even tighter. He lets her, holding her close to him and wishing he could take away all the hurt she's ever felt. He knows he would take all of it if he could. He loves her that much.
That night, she doesn't sleep on his couch. That night, she falls asleep next to him on his bed, her head nestled into his shoulder and her hand clinging to his as if it would kill her to let go. But she sleeps until nearly nine the next morning, and he knows she really needed it.
A week later, she's still there, sleeping in his bed every night, keeping close to him in attempts to find the comfort that she so desperately needs. He never says anything- he just lets her stay. He knows that if he says anything about it, she'll run, and she's done enough running in her life. He doesn't want her to run from him.
One night, she's lying beside him in the dead quiet when she suddenly sighs heavily, and he looks at her dark silhouette in the light coming from the street lamp outside his window. "I am sorry." Her voice is soft, open, and a little vulnerable.
He's confused. "For what, Ziva?"
"For... everything. You should not put up with me, and I do not know why you do."
He rolls over on his side, reaches over and picks up her hand. They've become comfortable with each other like this and he can't help but appreciate the progress. "Ziva..." he hesitates, fighting between playing it safe or taking a risk. In the end, he picks his safest bet. "That's what friends are for."
She scoffs and snatches her hand away from him, getting up and walking over to his window. He sits up and watches her closely as she crosses her arms over her chest. She takes a deep breath, turns back to him with tears in her eyes. "You and I both know that no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, this... this friendship could very easily be something more than that. It basically already is, Tony."
"You were the one who-" he begins, but she stops him.
"I know I was the one who said it," she tells him, throwing her hands up in frustration. "But at the time... At that time all I needed was friendship. I was not ready to try... anything more than that, because I needed... time."
He swallows and gets up, going to stand in front of her. "What about now?"
She looks up at him, her expression almost lost. He sees her confusion, wonders how much of it he could actually be blamed for. "I am... not sure."
He nods, understanding. "That's okay, you don't have to be. Come on. Come back to bed." He holds out his hand, and she takes it after a moment of hesitation.
When they're lying back down, she moves closer to him and throws an arm around his waist. He puts his hand on the one resting on his side and she twines their fingers together.
It doesn't take her long to fall asleep.
She starts doing that every night and he just lets her, afraid if he ever were to reach out and pull her closer or push any further, she'll retract. He doesn't want to move forward with anything until she's ready. So, when her lips find his on a mid-July night, it is completely by her initiation.
She's lying beside him as always when she reaches up and starts playing with the stubble on his cheek, running her hand down the side of his face. He turns to lie on his side and her hand doesn't fall. She's smiling- he can see her face through the dark- and her fingers are grazing his cheek in a way that he can only describe as affectionate. The feeling is nice.
When she kisses him, he doesn't really see it coming. But when his mind catches up a split second later, he doesn't push her away. It's only then that he finally lets himself pull her closer to him.
Gibbs comes through, as they all knew he would, and without any questions asked, they're all offered their jobs back.
None of them say a word other than to accept.
Their first day back, Ziva meets Tony's eyes from across the room. He wonders what's going to happen, if things will be different now. But then she smiles at him and he knows that they'll be okay, no matter what.
He knows it won't be easy, but at least now, whatever comes their way, he knows they're both ready.