Flaws Laid Out One By One By Mooncombo

Rated M language and sexual content

No specific spoilers, but vague references.

Title borrowed from the song, Flaws by Bastille.

A/N: It's really hard to work with a 3 month old kitten in the house that loves to swan dive onto my computer. If you spot a random letter or typo, I swear I tried to catch them all, but I'm, blaming the kitten. ;)


It's a command, he knows, issued from his colleague. A command McGee has no business making and Tony has no intention of following. It's too much, too hard, too anything and everything and nothing all wrapped up in a tight suffocating coil around his lungs.

His ribs are so tight he thinks one could possibly crack if he were to fully inhale. So he does nothing, says nothing, but continues to let the whir of his hard drive grate against his nerves in the barely lit bull pen.

"Whatever you are thinking right now, Tony, don't," McGee states flatly and quietly. There's no judgment, no disapproval. It's a simple statement.

His head is pounding around bruised temples and deep rooted self-doubt. He's lived one more day, but it never ends. His knuckles are raw, his jaw is set and his nerves are slowly fraying one strand at a time like a rotting rope bearing too much weight.

He stares at the empty desk in front of him, his mind conjuring ghosts and slaying monsters all at once. He can feel McGee studying him, calculating and precise, and he knows in his own mind that a man is only so strong. One day, his desk will be empty, too, and life will go on.

He's afraid to die but he's afraid to live and he's not sure where that leaves him. He couldn't save them all, and he tried, nearly died trying, but the cards were in his favor. She nearly died, too, and that would surely have killed him. He knows he can't survive her death twice.

"Tony," McGee pleads one last time. "Don't take something from her you can't give back."

Tony laughs between cracked lips. It's a dry and brittle sound, filled with mockery and defeat. He's on a sinking ship and she's his life boat. If she can't save him, no one can and that's the worst of it all. Deep down he knows Ziva's in worse shape than he is but his mind is playing tricks on him, all the while projecting the image of who she once was, rather than who she is now.

He locks his jaw and lifts his chin. He's waited for years and he's not sure he has all that many years left, anymore. A river of violent anger bubbles through his veins. He's bitter and angry and fucking scared, but there's so much bloodshed that he can't stand the feeling of being trapped in his own skin. She won't refuse him, won't turn him away, he'd bet on that. But that's the thing about Ziva. She doesn't always act in her own best interest. He's betting on that, too.

His voice is chilling and steady when he asks, "Do you really think I can take something from Ziva she doesn't want to give, McGee?" He's not looking for a response, of course. But apparently McGee has assumed the role of Ziva's white knight, which is truly laughable considering how many times she has threatened to maim, wound and kill him over the years.

"I think much has been taken from Ziva without-"

McGee breaks off as he considers how to finish that statement very carefully, "her consent."

"Jesus, McGee, what do you think I'm going to do to her?"

McGee looks down at his desk before replying, "Just…be careful with her. She's hurting, too."

Tony grabs his bag, slinging it over one shoulder, and heads to the elevator without another word.

Somehow the hours have all rolled into one long wave of bullshit and devastation, crashing over him as he sits for a moment in his still idling car. Glancing up at her window, he knows - he just knows because he knows her – that she's still awake.

There's a chill in the air that only really appears in the hours closest to dawn and it finally occurs to him that it's so late that it's actually early. He turns the key, killing the engine. His eyes water for a second and that feeling settles over him and through him. He's nearly died before, but that certainly doesn't make it easier this time around. After all is said and done, when the reports are filed and the bullpen is empty, there's always that feeling of utter fear riding the coattails of the fading adrenaline. It's horrifying, consuming and tragic; knocking the breath from his lungs. It's not like in the movies, he always thinks. It's fucking scary.

Every so often, he lets his mind wander to the place that's usually held under lock and key. That place where he can feel the horror Ziva knows, because he's felt it, too. There's facing death and then there's the aftermath of facing death and those are two entirely different things.

He considers crying and laughing all at the same time and that makes him feel crazy. He wants her, no, needs her. He wants to take and take, piece by piece. He needs to get inside and rearrange. Rewrite the story because he knows that she's going to leave and he just can't bear it.

It shouldn't surprise him when the tapping on his window finally comes. Of course, she'd know he was there. She doesn't wait for him to open the door, but opens it for him. Reaching across his chest, her breath dances across his cheek as she works to release the seat belt. He makes no move to assist her, but palms her face, scraping his thumb along the ridge of cheek bone. He's waited so, so long to touch her. He doesn't really care anymore about rules, boundaries or lines. He'll cross them all; set them on fire if he has to. He's not sure if he should feel concerned or relieved that she doesn't seem to be constrained by boundaries right now, either.

She curls her fingers around his and tugs until he slides out of car, standing on legs that are still somewhat shaky. Pulling him behind her, she guides them upstairs.

His jaw aches from clenching his teeth.

"Tony," she whispers when she gets him under the lights of her apartment. He looks frightening, he knows, but then again, so does she. She's showered, of course, but no amount of soap can erase the bluish cloud pooling beneath her left eye or the ugly scrape marring her chin.

Cupping her jaw with strong fingers, he tilts her face from side to side, taking inventory of every mark before he finally pins her with his eyes. "Let me see it, Ziva."

Strangely, she doesn't argue. His tone is more of a command, and if there's one thing Ziva responds to, it's a direct order, regardless of whether he has the right to make it. He needs to see her, touch her, and absorb her.

A shift has occurred between them, as if all of the forces pushing them apart for so many years have evaporated. He reaches for the top button of her shirt, releasing it and then each one in succession until her shirt is entirely open to his gaze.

She shrugs the fabric from her shoulders and shifts to the side so he can see the darkening patches soon to be a rainbow of bruised flesh climbing up her ribs and underneath the lace of her bra. He doesn't ask permission, but she grants it, anyway, when he reaches for the clasp between her shoulder blades. It's been many, many years since he's seen her naked, and she's no less breathtaking than he remembered.

Tracing his fingers across her body, he watches as she holds her breath and closes her eyes. It's going to hurt much more tomorrow than it does tonight. A reminder that she was willing to put her life up in trade for his when she barreled into his chest knocking him just outside the bullet's trajectory. A nasty fall down the stairs behind him was her reward, but black and blue ribs hardly seems worth mentioning considering he was whole and in one piece in her living room.

When he brushes the underside of her breast, she shudders visibly and it's then that he knows there's no stopping. She knows it, too, and although wary, Ziva allows him the exploration. Her breath catches and stills, quickens and slows, but she doesn't move a single muscle. Dark eyes follow his strong hands as they take liberty with her body.

It doesn't matter if she should stop him; she not going to. Maybe it's not important, anyway.

He makes short work of ridding her of the rest her clothes. He touches every inch of her skin, possessing her. She leans into his strength, finally moving to wrap her arm around his shoulders and press her face along the smooth, warm skin of his neck. It feels like home.

Holding her steady with one arm as her legs wobble, his free hand slips and slides and forces her breath into short, sharp pants. He needs to touch her; every single parcel of her skin. Right now, she's the only buoy he has, and he's sinking, sinking, sinking into something dark and fathomless. It's lapping at his throat and pretty soon he knows it's going to wash over his head and surely he'll drown.

He waits as long as he can before sliding his fingers between her legs. She finally cries out, a tiny sob of a sound. She never was a screamer, he remembers from so long ago. Her nails bite into his shoulder as he strokes her, and he waits for that moment when her knees will shake and she'll hold her breath in anticipation of the release that is to come.

She's close, so close, and he keeps stoking and sparking the fire, but she doesn't let go. Slipping his fingers inside, he groans as she tightens around him, wet and so ready. She clenches and grits her teeth and fights it. She's not ready to fall.

His eyes are dark and intense and when she finally catches his gaze, she can't stop her own from watering. His hand has slowed and so has her breath, but the intensity of what is happening is so real and so thick that she whispers, "wait."

He pauses, but doesn't remove his fingers from deep within her body. Surely the palm she presses against his cheek is searing him and her eyes are cutting him through, but he waits, just as requested. He can feel the words that want out; the reassurances and questions alike, but she can't force them from her lungs. He can see it all plainly in her eyes and his gut clenches.

He nods, she sighs. It's always been that way, he thinks.

Her mouth finds his, finally, finally, and his fingers resume the rhythm that finally pushes her to the edge. She lets go and he catches her.

When the tears come later, he holds her tightly. There's a lump in his throat, and he could cry, too, but he keeps himself in check. Skin on skin against the freshly laundered sheets on her bed, he whispers soothing words he hardly feels into her ear. She clings tightly and rolls on top of him. Even with tears still wet on her cheeks, she sinks down on him. He fills her up and she thinks it's not possible that she could let him go.

She can't stay but she can't leave and it's ripping her in half. She's turned in her gun and her badge, along with the blood staining her hands.

So she takes from him as he had done earlier. Her body's on fire, but the hole in her chest is ice cold. Squeezing her eyes shut tightly, she lets her head fall back as Tony brushes her center with his thumb.

It's not long before she comes again. He flips their positions and makes quick work of falling after her. He moves to pull out of her body, but she wraps her legs and arms tightly around him and whispers, "not yet."

The sky is glowing pink when she finally begins to drift off. She's just on the cusp of sleep, when she murmurs against his cheek, "How can I stay, Tony?"

He holds her tighter. That's the thing about loving someone, he realizes. It makes you do crazy things. His mind sifts through the images of the last few days, then months, then years. It wasn't so long ago that he found himself tied to a chair in a hot desert room. It wasn't so long ago that he'd have given anything, anything, to see her just one more time.

"Tony," she whispers once more and swallows. She's trying, but she can't summon up the right words. She just can't stay. She can't live this life. And he gets it; gets her. He's not so sure he can stay, either.

The solution is so simple, really. He just had to wait for his mind to catch up with his heart.

"If you can't stay, Ziva, then I will go with you."

Sleep finally finds them and for the first time in so many months, he feels peace.

A/N: I guess if Cote is going to leave the show, I can pretend that Tony will follow Ziva when she goes, right?

Thank you for reading.