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NCIS Fanfiction: As I'm Leaving

July 20th, 2009 (09:38 pm)

Title: As I’m Leaving
Author: Ygrawn
Fandom: NCIS
Pairing/Characters: Tony/Ziva
Rating: NC-17
Timeline/Spoilers: Jumps off from the last scene in 5.22, and fills the gap between Vance breaking up the team and Tony and Ziva actually leaving D.C.
Summary: Tony knows exactly what Ziva is asking, and it’s got nothing to do with driving her back to her apartment.
Author's Note: So, maybe by the time the S7 finale airs, I'll have written my response to the end of S6. This idea has been kicking around in my brain for a while, so I decided to pin it to the matress and have my way with it. Ahem. I mean, I decided to write it.



As I’m leaving
A change comes on my eyes
These streets persuading me
With mumbled strange goodbyes
As I’m Leaving, David Gray


********

The bar is half-empty and their corner is deserted, and that matches their mood just fine. They were supposed to gather to toast their fallen leader, and they still are, but it’s also become a wake for their team, in turmoil after Vance’s orders.

Abby is drunk, McGee and Palmer are tipsy and Ducky is flushed but still steady. Gibbs looks like he could drink another three bourbons – neat, of course – take out a target from long range in a blizzard, then come back and drink them all under the table. Tony isn’t sure about Ziva. She carries her alcohol well, but she’s knocked back three vodka tonics in a short period of time, and she hasn’t had anything to eat since they split a blueberry muffin at two o’clock this afternoon. She seems sober, but Ziva is rarely what she seems.

He’s been nursing his second whiskey for over an hour now, afraid that if he lets himself, he’ll drink until he’s drooling, or worse, crying.

But Abby is two and a half drinks worse for wear, and she was distraught to begin with. Gibbs had gone down to Abby’s lab to tell her about Vance’s orders before joining them at the bar, and her eyes were red-rimmed when she arrived. Almost every five minutes, tears spill out of her eyes again and she reaches out to hug the people on either side; McGee is one, Ziva the other. Tony can see how much it costs Ziva to hold still when Abby hugs her. He admires her all the more when every second or third hug she squeezes back, just a little, because Abby needs the comfort.

McGee keeps trying to reassure her, his attempts clumsy but so well-meant that nobody has told him to stop. Not even Gibbs.

“Israel is so dangerous, Ziva,” Abby cries, slurring the last syllable of dangerous into Ziva’s name.

“I know,” Ziva replies. “I did grow up there.”

“You could die! Like…die, and be dead!”

Gibbs reaches across McGee and slides Abby’s half-finished drink towards the other side of the table.

“I will be fine,” Ziva says in a placatory tone.

“You have to promise to call everyday. No – every morning and afternoon, so that I know you’re alive.”

“I’m glad to know you’re worried about me too, Abby,” Tony remarks, trying to bring some levity to the proceedings.

Abby dives across Ziva and wraps her arms around Tony in a death-grip. “Oh, Tony,” she sighs.

Ziva is crushed between them, but manages to pat Abby on the shoulder and force her to sit back. It must be a Mossad thing, Tony decides. When Ziva has righted Abby, she slides closer to Tony, obviously seeking respite from Abby’s embraces. Tony lifts his arm and rests it along the top of the booth, giving Ziva another half-inch of space. She uses it, pressing closer to him, until their thighs are aligned beneath the scarred table. She’s warm against him, and she always feels softer than she looks. Not that Tony notices these things.

“Well, Dr. Mallard and I aren’t going anywhere,” Palmer tells Abby, trying for cheerful, but failing miserably. “And McGee, he’ll still be here.”

“But it won’t be the same!” Abby wails, pressing her face into McGee’s neck. “Tony and Ziva will be miles away, and we won’t be able to see them, and they won’t be able to see us and…” her words are muffled in McGee’s suit jacket, but it’s the third time she’s made the ‘it won’t be the same’ speech, so they know the salient points.

“One does wonder what aim Vance has in mind,” Ducky comments. “It seems an unusual step to take on his first day in charge.”

“He’s the boss,” Gibbs says, sanguine.

“No, you’re the boss, Boss,” McGee disputes. “Vance can’t make me change teams. I’ll just show up for work at my desk tomorrow. He can’t stop me.”

“Tim.” Gibbs tries for reproving, but he’s smiling.

“You’re the only boss that matters,” McGee continues stubbornly.

“Have you looked at the files yet?” Palmer asks. His eyes are on his drink as he speaks. Sitting at the same booth as Gibbs is enough to terrify Palmer without looking him in the eyes. “Of your new team?”

“There isn’t going to be a new team!” Abby half-yells, lifting her head from McGee’s shoulder. “Don’t even say it, Palmer!”

“I just wondered who Vance has chosen to replace…to…I just wondered who Vance has chosen,” Palmer finally gets out. Replace was a bad choice – Abby’s glare jumped three grades in intensity when he said it. “There aren’t any better investigators at NCIS than you three.”

Tony salutes Palmer with his tumbler and even Ziva smiles at his loyal and heartfelt comment.

“Thank you, Palmer,” McGee says.

“It’s true,” he flushes. “Oh – plus you, Agent Gibbs. I didn’t mean…obviously you’re a better investigator than everybody at NCIS.”

“I haven’t looked,” Gibbs speaks up, answering Palmer’s original question. But he’s looking at Tony as he says it.

When they were dismissed from Vance’s office, Ziva, Tony and McGee stood in a stunned cluster just outside his door. Gibbs headed for the stairs. “Boss?” McGee asked with consternation. “Boss, where are you…”

“I want to tell Abby before she hears from someone else,” Gibbs replied. Giving that much of an explanation was unlike him; clearly, he was rattled.

“But aren’t you going to…” McGee broke off and flushed bright red.

Gibbs retracted his steps. “McGee, you’ll be fine. You’re moving three floors down in the same building. And Ziva...you can go back to shooting first and asking questions later.”

For Gibbs, it was tantamount to reassurance. When he made for the stairs again, McGee said, “Boss, what about Tony?”

Gibbs had paused on the third step down and looked at Tony for a long, silent moment. Then he’d carried on down the stairs. McGee looked upset for him, and even Ziva had reached out to touch his elbow. But Tony knew what Gibbs was doing. There was no point telling Tony he’d be okay, because they both knew he wouldn’t be. His whole working career in law enforcement Tony had only ever had one boss who’d put up with him, one man he’d respected enough to obey.

Now, Ducky asks, “Did Vance say anything unusual when he told you? Anything at all?” Ducky is aggrieved he can’t pinpoint Vance’s motives. “He doesn’t have some sort of vendetta against you, does he, Jethro?”

“You say it as though everybody has a vendetta against me.” The group stare at him. “Not that I know of.”

“Director Shepherd was a powerful woman, but she had a personal relationship with you, and she allowed you a lot of…layway,” Ziva says, as neutrally as she can.

“Leeway,” Tony corrects. “Vance has to assert his authority over you. This is the best way to do it.”

Gibbs doesn’t say anything, but swallows down the last of his bourbon. He’s obviously read Vance’s play the same way, too.

“I don’t care who he thinks he is. I’m not going to do any lab work for him, ever. Not even if he brings me a Caf-Pow. And if he comes down to my lab, Gibbs, I’m going to poison him with something.”

“Abs, threatening to kill a federal officer is a criminal offence,” McGee says. He obviously isn’t as drunk as he looks if he’s concerned about breaking the law.

“He’s not a federal officer. He’s just some guy with…with a stupid toothpick, and…and bad breath!”

“Director Vance has halitosis?” Palmer asked, surprised.

Abby nods with big, jerky movements. “Of course he does. All evil people do.”

She frowns, looks around for a moment, then smiles when she sees her drink over the other side of the table. When she reaches for it, Gibbs pushes the glass in the opposite direction, towards Tony, then presses Abby’s hand flat to the table.

“Time to go home, Abby.”

“No, Gibbs…” Abby turns her tearful gaze to Tony and Ziva.

“It’s not goodbye,” Tony quickly intervenes. “We have to come by tomorrow to finalise our transfers.”

On the word transfers, Abby’s face begins to crumble. Ziva quickly adds, “So we’ll see you then, Abs.” She nudges Tony with her hip, sliding him towards the end of the booth. When he moves, she goes with him. “You should go home with Gibbs now.”

“What about McGee?” Abby asks forlornly.

McGee untangles himself from Abby’s arms and pushes her along the leather seat around the curve in the booth. “I’m going home too,” he offers.

“I’ll take you, Timothy.” Ducky retrieves his hat from the banister at the end of the booth. “Mr Palmer, I don’t think you should be driving either. Come along now.”

Abby stumbles out of the booth into Tony’s arms. “You can’t go, Tony.”

Tony wants to tell her he’ll be home soon, that she’ll hardly notice his absence, but lying to Abby ties his stomach in knots and he has no idea when he’ll be home. If he’ll come home. “I’m sorry, Abby,” he finally says, because it’s all he can think to say.

“Gibbs.” Abby’s inhale is shaky and she begins to cry properly, with heavy, awful sobs that wrack her body. “You have to fix this, Gibbs, you have to.”

Gibbs wraps an arm around Abby and leads her towards the door. He doesn’t look back, completely focused on Abby. Palmer, Ducky and McGee say their subdued goodbyes. Ducky extracts a promise from both Tony and Ziva that they’ll visit pathology in the morning.

And suddenly, it’s just he and Ziva, alone again, although there are no dead bodies this time.

********

They watch the others go, then slide back into the booth. There are acres of space for them now, and they end up sitting opposite each other. Seated next to Tony, Ziva couldn’t see his drawn and closed expression, although she could feel the tension in his body.

She decides to order another drink, but Tony passes. He still has a quarter-inch of whiskey left in the tumbler. He rolls the glass between his palms and the liquid circles gracefully and refracts in amber shards. Tony follows the play of the light on the alcohol. The silence between them is not unpleasant, although she can tell Tony has something to say to her.

“Israel is dangerous,” he eventually says. His tone is weary and unhappy, and she realises how much of act they were both putting on for Abby’s benefit.

“Everywhere is dangerous,” Ziva replies.

“That’s not true. I hear Wisconsin is pretty safe.” His attitude is patented Tony: pretend, deny, obfuscate, make merry.

“I doubt there is much need for military-trained assassins in Wisconsin.”

“Couldn’t you give up the killing, and…I don’t know…open a bakery?”

“I see.” Amusement twists in her tone. “The truth comes out. You are only going to miss my cooking.”

“No.” He shakes his head emphatically. “Well, yes. But that’s not what I’m really going to miss.”

“It is okay, Tony. I can send you insults via text message.”

“That’s not it either.”

He looks up from his tumbler wearing a strange expression, as though he’s waiting for her to press him, to extract what he is holding close. And Ziva would but the waitress arrives with her drink, and the moment is gone.

“Abby is taking it badly,” she observes, when the waitress has minced away on her spike heels. “At least Gibbs is not going away again. And she will have McGee, too.”

“True.” Tony finishes the last of his whisky in one full swallow. “And McGeek will be in seventh heaven with all those computers.”

“You know McGee enjoys working with Gibbs. He sees his reassignment to Cyber Crimes as a kind of punishment.”

His tone is bitter when he replies, “Isn’t it? The Seahawk isn’t exactly a promotion for me, Ziva.”

“Neither is being sent back to Israel with my tail between my legs,” she fires back. “We cannot do anything about it, Tony. Complaining will not help.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Zee-vah. Complaining makes me feel much better.”

“It only makes me feel worse.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, the heat gone out of his voice. “I just...”

“I know what you are doing. You are upset that you have no control over the situation. Instead of showing how upset you are, you are getting angry. Anger is easier.”

“You’ve been spending too much time with Ducky.”

“And now you are reflecting with humour.”

“Deflecting,” Tony says. “You deflect with humour.”

“Can you not also reflect?”

“That’s way too philosophical at…” he glances at his watch. “Ten o’clock at night.”

Ziva hadn’t realised the time, and it occurs to her that they’re alone at a bar and she’s probably had one too many drinks, and Tony's leaving tomorrow, and everything between them feels stronger and more tenuous at the same time, and she suspects they’re both about to make reckless choices, because tomorrow will see their partnership dissolved.

She retreats to safety and says, “I thought being an agent afloat was a sign that your superiors have confidence in your ability. After all, you are the only agent out there, in charge of your own schedule, solving your own crimes.”

“It’s not the Major Crimes Response Team. Everything after that is a demotion.”

“But you will be with fighter pilots…like Top Gun, no? You like that movie.”

He manages a half-smile. “Because I want to be Maverick. I don’t want to be the schmuck investigating crimes onboard an aircraft carrier.”

“The schmuck investigating crimes is an important role,” Ziva argues. “And you will dock at exotic locations. You can tell the women you’re a fighter pilot – they will not know.”

“I know what you’re doing,” Tony says mildly. “You're trying to make me feel better by accentuating the positives. Forget it. This secondment is definitely a Mr. Negative.”

Ziva reaches across the table and skims her forefinger across his knuckles. Tony looks so forlorn. Gibbs is probably the only superior officer Tony’s ever respected, the only boss he’s actually liked. He’s been with Gibbs the longest too, and leaving him will be difficult for Tony. “There is this much at least, Tony: it will not last forever.”

“So? Even when I come back I’ll be nowhere near Israel…”

“You mean D.C.”

His stare is flat and hooded, the way it was yesterday in autopsy. It's the face he makes when he's trying to disguise his feelings. “No. I mean Israel.” He reaches across the table and steals her drink. “I imagine it’ll be difficult to keep you safe when we’re in different continents.”

“You do not have to keep me safe.”

“Of course I do.” He takes a lazy swallow of her cocktail, tilting his head back but keeping his eyes glued on her. When he wants to, Tony has a thousand yard stare to equal Gibbs’. “I’m your partner, Ziva. And apart from Gibbs, I don’t trust anybody else to keep you safe.”

Tony licks a bead of liquor from the rim of her glass, his tongue bright pink and shining. Ziva half-rises from her seat to retrieve her drink. Their fingers tangle around the tumbler and Tony’s eyes dart down to the gaping neckline of her dress. Tony often checks her out – it’s practically a routine for them now – but this is not a reflex. He’s assessing her with his eyes, imagining her body beneath the dress, imagining what it will be like to touch her, to have her.

Because he knows – and she knows – that he’s going to.

If his look is predatory, it’s no different to the look she gives him in return as she slides out of the booth and finishes her drink. She’s not drunk – she knows what she’s doing. She knows it now, and she’ll know it in the morning, and she doesn’t care. Being reckless isn’t something she does often, and ever since they left Vance’s office, she knew what she was going to do. If they have once chance to do this, she’s not going to be the one who runs away.

“Take me home?”

********

Tony knows exactly what Ziva is asking, and it’s got nothing to do with driving her back to her apartment.

They’ve been playing chicken since yesterday, since LA, hell, since she appeared in the bullpen in fatigues and that damn headband. He thought she was hot the second he laid eyes on her, but it was her hair that clinched his fascination. He couldn’t look away from the heavy raven fall of it, from the thick length of it as it uncoiled and loosened. His brain had gone straight to the burning, pornographic image of Ziva on her knees with his cock in her mouth and his hands in her hair, pulling it back from her narrow face, to better see her bobbing up and down his hard length.

It’s a fantasy he’s returned to more than once. Sex is never far from his mind, but it’s overwhelming with Ziva, a constant flame that threatens to conflagrate at any moment. It’s not just about wanting her; it’s about feeling consumed by her. He thought for a long time it was part of her Mossad training. Ziva’s has been a world of men, and the Jezebel character, the seductress, gives her control over the men around her. If it’s a betrayal of her gender, she appears not to care: power is power. And she’s used it against him in one hundred different ways, from the flick of her hair, to the press of her body against his back, to the low, languorous tone she uses to mess with him.

But time has revealed a different Ziva to him. No less sensual, but definitely more female, and it’s that Ziva he’s attracted to. It took him a long time to realise that few people are allowed to see that side of her.

If it’s been a game of chicken, she’s flinched first by propositioning him. Yet Tony can’t help but think that she’s won the game by finally voicing the hungry, helpless desire they’ve both been struggling against for years.

He holds her unwavering gaze for a long moment before he gives her the only possible answer. “Yes.”

“Then let’s go.”

He stays two steps behind her as they leave the bar, watching the exaggerated sway of her hips, knowing she’s doing it just for him. She’s a shadow against the dark night in her black dress, the only light coming from the sheen of her leather heels. Tony circles around the rear of his car to open the passenger door for her. Ziva reaches for his hand, balancing her weight on it as she slides into the passenger seat. She doesn’t need to, but it’s another tactic in the game they’re playing. When she swings her legs into the car her dress creeps up her thigh and she lets him look before she tugs at the hem.

They don’t talk the whole ride home, at least not with words.

But every time Tony changes gear his knuckles graze Ziva’s thigh. She could move her leg or he could change his grip, but they don’t. When they take the corners, she leans into him, not quite touching but close enough that he imagines the touch, yearns for it. It’s clever, and wicked, and entirely Ziva. At a red light, she releases the clip in her hair, letting it tumble free with the rest of her tresses. Tony stares unabashedly until Ziva grins and points to the intersection. The light is green.

It’s not a long drive, and Tony flirts with the speed limits, getting them to Ziva’s apartment in less than fifteen minutes. He doesn’t hesitate, twisting the key sharply in the ignition and getting out of the car. Ziva is waiting for him, half-turned in the seat when he opens the passenger door. This time, she doesn’t let go of his hand, leading him up the stoop to her apartment. She twists their fingers together and brushes her thumb across the inside of his wrist with the lightest of touches.

Tony has no idea why, but that one touch sets everything on fire.

“Ziva…” he pushes her hurriedly through the front door as soon as her key clears the lock.

“I’m not drunk,” she tells him earnestly. “I am…”

“Ziva? Shut up.”

Before she can reply he kisses her, hard and little too fast, too eager. He eases away from her mouth for a half-beat, then tilts her head back and tries again. It’s not a romantic kiss, or a sweet kiss. It’s not particularly kind or careful. It’s a kiss that marks territory; it’s a kiss filled with every ounce of unrighteous intention he feels towards her.

Ziva shivers, and Tony tears his mouth from hers. “I’m not drunk either.”

“I know.”

Tony walks them backwards into her hallway with his mouth hovering above hers. Their lips slide together and he laves her cupid’s bow with his tongue, but he doesn’t let their mouths connect, drawing shallow huffs of frustration from Ziva.

She kicks her front door shut and Tony turns and presses her to it without warning. He grins at her gasp and kisses her again. He doesn’t want her to think about their undercover operation, the planned and co-ordinated movements they made, the strange dance of their bodies as they pretended to love each other. Tony wants her dizzy and crazy, and not thinking straight, because she’s best when she’s crooked and undone and wild-eyed.

But Ziva wraps her arms around his neck and moans into his mouth. She tilts her hips up, pressing their lower bodies together. When their mouths part again she nips at his lower lip – harder than he likes – and Tony remembers that there's nothing passive about Ziva. If he wants her wild-eyed, he’ll have to let her participate.

When Tony pauses, Ziva presses her mouth to his and coils her arms tighter around his neck. “More kissing,” she murmurs.

He laughs. “I can do that.”

This time he eases her mouth open with his tongue, and finally – finally – gets his hands in her loose hair. It’s as soft and silken as he remembers, but it’s better now because he’s not faking, because they’re not acting. Because it’s real. They trade kisses, taking control from each other, pressing their bodies tighter together with every kiss, until Tony thinks his skin will burst. Ziva’s hands slide from his neck, down his spine to his ass. There’s no hesitation, only possession when she clutches and grinds him against her. He’s hard, and her dress is thin, and they rub together instinctively.

“There,” Ziva breathes. She nudges his head back with her nose and bites at the soft skin beneath his jaw - quick, darting bites that are more lips than teeth. She’s raising hickeys, Tony realises after a moment.

“Stop that,” he says, going for irritated, but mostly telegraphing amused. “People will think I’ve been necking.”

“Aren’t you?” Ziva’s hips keep rising up to meet him, and her mouth drops open with pleasure as she changes the angle between them.

“I intend to do a hell of a lot more,” Tony growls.

She presses an open mouthed kiss to his throat and licks at his carotid artery under his jaw, now beating fast and thready. “You talk a lot.”

Tony pins her hips to the door, holding her there and pulling his body away from hers. Ziva whimpers but waits, obviously willing to let him take the next lead. He kisses her without any part of their bodies touching, just his hands to her hips. When she thinks she’ll stay still, he runs his hands around to the small of her back, pressing against the material of the dress, looking for the zipper.

“The side,” Ziva murmurs.

She lifts her arms and Tony fumbles at the side of her breast. When her dress gapes open she wriggles her arms out, the move both graceful and almost childlike. With her arms free, the dress slides smoothly down her body, puddling at her feet, revealing that there is nothing childlike about Ziva’s underwear. She’s wearing a black lacy demi-bra with matching panties, the material filmy and transparent and scattered with embroidered fleurs-de-lis. Even better, she’s wearing a garter belt and honest-to-God stockings.

Tony stares, open mouthed. “Are you even allowed to wear that kind of thing to a funeral?”

She is smiling. “There are no rules, Tony.”

“I…if I had known…” he trails off. “Do you wear this every day?”

“No. Obviously I have other underwear.”

“Other…” he presses his forehead against the door for a moment. Ziva laughs and plants a wet kiss beneath his ear. He pulls back to look at her again. “Good God, woman.”

“Are you just going to look?”

Tony runs his thumb lacy ridge of the bra, the tip of his finger brushing the swell of her left breast. “You talk a lot.”

“So…”

But Tony cups her breast in his hand and Ziva’s sentence dies. Her nipple swells almost instantly against his palm, but he doesn’t touch it. He cups her other breast, kissing her neck as he kneads the soft flesh beneath the lacy material. As much as he likes the bra, he wants her out of it. This time he doesn’t need directions – he learnt to undo a woman’s bra before he learnt how to drive. Ziva presses her hands flat to the door, arches her back to give him access to the hooks between her shoulder blades, and then shakes the straps free of her shoulders with one, perfectly erotic, shimmy.

Tony can’t quite think for a moment, because the shake spills her breasts out into his hands, and he does just wants to look. Their time as undercover assassins gave Tony a better working knowledge of Ziva’s body than most of his former partners. He’d felt enough to know her breasts were slightly smaller than a handful, but perfectly round. He’d been denied the pleasure of looking though, and now he can look as much as he likes. Under his gaze Ziva’s nipples harden again, pink and knotted. Tony rubs her crinkled aureole with his thumbnail, just edging her nipple.

“Just…” she begins, her voice strained. “Just touch me.”

Tony flicks her nipple with his thumb. “Like that?”

Ziva leans into his hands. “Any way, just stop teasing.”

He runs his forefinger around the rim of her aureole. “Teasing is what I do best.”

Ziva lifts her right hand from the door and presses the heel of it to his cock. “Two can play at that game.”

Tony pushes her hand back against the door, kissing her as he does. When she opens her mouth beneath his, Tony squeezes her nipple tight. He doesn’t let up, rolling and pinching the buds between his fingers. Ziva makes wanton noises of encouragement that tell him he’s doing it right. He replaces his fingers with his mouth, pulling as much of breast into his mouth as he can before moving to the other one. Ziva grips his head, hard, when he bites softly, but she doesn’t protest. Tony’s wondered about that, about how much pain Ziva would take, or give. But it’s not what he wants from her now, and he keeps the teeth play to a minimum.

Tony stays at her breasts until she’s beginning to arch up from the door involuntarily. He skims his lips down her ribcage as he settles on his knees in front of her. Her stockings are silk; they sing against his cotton shirt. He dots kisses all over her stomach as he eases her underwear down her hips. Ziva helps, hooking her fingers with his and skimming her panties down her thighs. When they pool at her feet she slips out of her shoes. Tony is on the verge of telling her to keep them on, but she’ll cut up his shirt and scratch up his back, and not every part of this has to be a Playboy fantasy.

The loss of height puts Ziva’s navel at Tony’s nose, and he scratches the soft swell of her belly with his bristly chin. Ziva giggles, making everything quiver. She palms his head, lacing her fingers through his short hair, getting a good grip, as though she thinks she’ll need it. Tony sweeps his hand down her left hip to the back of her thigh then lifts it. She’s quick to catch on; she hooks her knee over his shoulder, opening herself to him.

That’s when Tony sees the tattoo on her left inner thigh. He sort of knew it was there – he saw the imprint of something when she was tanning on the sunlounge a few days ago – but now he can see what it is. It’s a tiger in profile with its head turned, looking out. It’s clearly hunting, but it doesn’t exactly look fierce. Instead it looks focused on its prey, intent on its purpose, strong, steady and regal. It’s an almost perfect symbol for Ziva. The tiger’s back runs parallel with the crease at the top of her thigh, and the tail curves down to the place he should be looking at, but for the distraction. It’s an elegant drawing, etched in black, with Ziva’s skin standing for the lighter stripes of the tiger’s pelt.

Tony traces the animal’s arched spine with his forefinger. “It’s a tiger? A tigress?” he corrects, after a moment’s thought. Ziva would never have a male tiger on her body.

“Yes.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she finally says, huskily.

Tony looks up Ziva’s body to find her eyes. He notes the race of her breath, and admires the waterfall of her hair against the alabaster skin of her breasts, but he’s magnetised by her gaze. Her eyes are full of something he’s never seen before, something open, something fragile. He might be leaving tomorrow – leaving everything he knows – but it’s given him the opportunity to see Ziva this way, to be with Ziva this way.

He presses a kiss to the tiger’s face, then tracks its body into the centre of Ziva’s, using his tongue down the curving tail. He opens her with his forefinger, gently sliding and stroking past the wet folds to her clitoris. When he presses his tongue to it, Ziva releases her breath. He’s soft at first, not wanting to overload her, but when he feels her muscles tense with pleasure rather than awkwardness he increases his pressure. Tony circles a finger at her opening, adding a second before he slides them into her. She’s wet – which pleases him – and warm. He crooks his fingers, trying to find the right spot, but he obviously doesn’t get it, because she squirms with discomfort.

“Wait,” Ziva says. She lifts the leg draped over his shoulder, bracing her foot there instead. It opens her wider and when she angles her hips away from the door, Tony hits her g-spot and she says, a little high-pitched, “There.”

“Bossy,” Tony murmurs, flicking his gaze to the tiger, but he’s smiling.

Ziva yanks at his hair. “Yes.”

He has to begin again, using his mouth and fingers in an alternating pattern to get her off. He knows he’s got it right when she begins to shift and slide, and then writhe, against the door. She starts making the kind of noises he’s always imagined she might, and she’s as loud as she once told him she was. His cock pulses and jerks, demanding its own release. Tony tries to ignore it, but his hips begin to thrust forward of their own accord. A quick glance up gives him a more erotic view than anything he’s ever seen in Playboy: Ziva with her head back, eyes squeezed shut, mouth open, griping her breast and panting hard.

Tony changes from an alternating rhythm to move his mouth and fingers in concert. Less than a minute later she collapses against the door and convulses around his fingers. She fills the hall with noise, completely unashamed.

Tony’s not sure he’s ever been more pleased.

********

When Ziva catches her breath and opens her eyes, Tony is grinning up at her. She recognises the expression: proud, satisfied, and a little arrogant. She’s seen that expression on his face one hundred times.

“You are…” she searches for the word he sometimes uses to describe McGee. “A dork.”

Tony presses his mouth to the crease at the top of her thigh and blows a wet, noisy raspberry against her skin. Her laugh skitters out of her in an entirely feminine shriek – something that doesn’t happen to her often, but she should have known Tony would make sex both hot and funny.

“Come here,” she says, pulling at his hair. Tony slides up her body in a long, sinuous move, his mouth hitting all her sweet spots on the way. “You are wearing too many clothes.”

“So are you,” Tony says. He hooks her leg over his hip, unsnaps her suspender with relish and slides her stocking down her leg. He scratches his fingernails against her skin as he goes and she shivers at the light touch. He removes the other stocking with the same manoeuvre. “I think it’s time we stop our sexual assault of the door.”

“I am rather fond of this door now,” Ziva says.

“You’ll never look at it the same?” Tony teases. He realises what he’s said – Ziva won’t be looking at the door for some time. “I…”

“Bed,” she says lightly, pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth. His skin is damp and fragrant from her, and she kisses him again, noting his responsiveness. She’s always suspected there’s something truly dirty at the heart of Tony. She begins to unbutton his shirt, which is practically unwrinkled after twelve hours of wear, proving its designer origin. She’s quick with the buttons, but gets distracted when he reaches between them and touches the tiger again.

“I really like your tattoo.”

“I can tell.”

Tony rakes the tips of his fingers through her damp curls, sending pricks of sensation through her. His other hand skims up her torso, his knuckles scraping her ribs, up to the sensitised skin at the underside of her breast. They’re small, quiet touches – intimate in a way that’s as much about affection as sex – and not the sort of thing Ziva expected from Tony. But maybe not: under the brash persona he’s actually a details man.

“Bed,” she repeats, pushing away from the door, before they get sidetracked.

As Ziva walks them backwards through her darkened apartment she works Tony’s belt loose, then his pants. He steps out of them neatly as they hit the bedroom, but the graceful effect is ruined by the bouncing gait he uses to toe off his shoes and peel off his socks. But by the time he reaches for her again, she’s untangled her garter belt and when he wraps his arms around her, there’s nothing between them but skin and desire.

They’re upright long enough for Tony to twist his fingers into her hair, but then he puts her on her back. He does it confidently, without stopping to ask – he tumbles them onto the mattress with a wrestling sweep he’s used in their workout sessions. Ziva found the move sexy then; even more so now that he’s kissing her when he does it.

They’re both naked, and she’s laid out beneath him, and it’s difficult to ignore his cock, hot against her thigh. She imagines it’s difficult for Tony to ignore too, and his kisses feel fierier, hotter, and more urgent. But he’s still taking the time to kiss her, to trace her cheekbones with his thumb, to press his mouth to her hair and her jaw, to the sensitive skin below her ears, and she likes that he’s not racing to the finish line just yet.

Ziva isn’t idle: the muscles of Tony’s shoulders and back ripple under her palms as she slides them down his skin. She trails her hands down to his ass, where she dances a meandering, circling pattern against his fleshy haunches with her fingers. She can do subtle too, those small, delicate things that make the journey worthwhile.

“Always knew you had a thing for my ass,” Tony murmurs against her neck.

“Tony, you have a thing for your ass,” she laughs.

He presses his cheek to her breast. “Laugh some more. It feels good.”

Ziva dips her finger into the crevice of his ass, pleased when she hears his breath catch. “Laughing with you is easy.”

“You mean at me.”

“No.” Ziva nudges his cheek up so that he’s looking at her. “I meant with you.” She dips her finger again. “Although laughing at you is easy too.”

He’s distracted, thinking of a response, so she shifts her hips and opens her thighs enough to run her hands around his pelvis to his cock. Tony lifts up involuntarily, resting on his elbow, and the two of them look down to the sight of Ziva’s pale, delicate hands swallowing Tony’s length. The eroticism of it is a shock, a revelation, and both of them start to breathe heavy.

“Ziva…” Tony begins, but she twists her hands and squeezes him then, just the other side of firm. Tony closes his eyes and grunts. She slides her hands up from his base in a constant rhythm, twisting and jerking him as she does. Her fingers scoop to catch his testes, to rub his peritoneum. Tony’s skin dampens, his grunts increase in volume and frequency, and his back begins to bow.

She swipes her thumb under the fold of his foreskin. “Roll over.”

Tony rolls without a word; Ziva figures he’ll do anything she tells him while she’s got his cock in her hands. The power of it spears through her, as much an aphrodisiac as their physical connection. She settles on her knees, near Tony’s hip and bends to replace her hands with her mouth.

“No,” Tony says, his voice strained. He’s up on his elbows again, the long line of his torso tensed and stretched tight as he looks at her.

She’s confused. “No?”

“I don’t want…well, I always…” He sits up further to capture her hair at the nape at her neck. “I don’t want it that way.” He looks vulnerable, as though he’s afraid she’ll laugh at him.

Ziva straightens and says, “What do you want?”

“You. On top.” It was the answer she expected, but Tony’s tone is rough when he says it, and Ziva wonders just how often he’s fantasised about it. “My wallet…” Tony begins.

Ziva kneels up and leans over Tony’s thighs to open her bedside drawer. The condoms are at the back – indicative of their not so recent use, she supposes. Tony lets her deal with the packaging, but holds himself still while Ziva suits him up. When he’s ready, she reaches out for his hands, twining their fingers together as she settles over his hips. Tony helps, shifting across the sheets until their bodies are aligned.

Ziva has to release one hand to reach down between them for his cock. When she circles her thumb and forefinger at his base and then guides him into her, she hums involuntarily at the feel of him filling her. She slides down slowly until he’s flush against her. Tony’s no longer than average, but he’s wide, and she feels stretched just on the edge of discomfort. It’s a good feeling, setting off small sparks in her belly that promise stronger pleasure.

Tony’s eyes are dark and blown. “You feel…” he can’t finish the thought, but she knows what he means.

“You do too.” Ziva bends forward to kiss him. “Can I move now?”

“God, yes.”

Their time together feels fleeting, but they have enough of it not to rush, so Ziva plants a hand on Tony’s chest and begins to move with a sliding, rocking rhythm. It builds slowly, the minutes passing with soft sighs, small movements, and what feels like hours of eye contact. Tony’s gaze flickers over her body, settling for long moments on the rock of her hips and the sway of her breasts, but his eyes always come back to hers, as though the answer he seeks is there, rather than anywhere else.

Ziva’s sweating and yearning for release long before she increases the pace, changing up a gear and leaning her weight back against Tony’s thighs. Her thrusts are shallower and the angle isn’t so good for him, but the head of his cock hits Ziva where she wants it, and soon enough she’s beginning to keen. Her thighs start to ache, but she can feel another orgasm swelling and she wants it before Tony has his.

“Tony…” she begins, trying to tell him what she wants, but her brain won’t co-operate, and all she can manage is the Hebrew expression for touch me.

Maybe Tony knows Hebrew, because his fingers are suddenly between her legs. He taps her clitoris with a musical beat, producing shocks of pleasure, and then he drives up into her for the first time. Her back arches into a comma and her abdomen begin to tremble with the effort of the position. She has to fight the urge to close her thighs as everything in her seems to rush inward, like a tide about to come crashing out. She begins to ramble in Hebrew and French, with a few English words in there. She says fuck in three different languages and then she’s there, and Tony is there with her.

And she grips his hands and says Tony, as though his name is name is her universal language.

********

Tony was already convinced Ziva was hottest thing ever, but she just came like some kind of Amazonian Goddess, and he doubts he’ll ever see anything sexier in his life. She’s perfectly still and her eyes are closed, and it takes every ounce of willpower Tony possesses to keep his hips still while she quivers and clenches around him. His body has never been so desperate for relief, but if he moved now, she might actually kill him.

Ziva swallows noisily and releases a shuddery breath. Then she opens her eyes. “I think I swore at you in Russian.”

Tony smiles. “Can you move?”

“I…” Ziva shifts tentatively and her eyes go wide. “Ah…yes.”

“Good.”

Tony pulls her down so he can kiss her. Her skin is burning hot, but maybe that’s his skin lighting hers. He clamps his hands around her ribcage, grips her hips with his knees and rolls them, keeping their mouths and their bodies connected the whole time. When he has to breathe, he pulls away from her mouth, and says, “I’m going to make you swear in Swahili.”

“I do not know Swahili,” Ziva counters.

He kisses her again. “I know that.”

“Oh, I see.” Ziva flexes around his cock and smiles angelically.

“Stop that.”

“You talk a lot.”

Tony braces his weight on his arms, pulls back and thrusts into Ziva with a quick snap of his hips. It makes her cry out and it makes him cross-eyed, and he does again, eliciting the same response. They’ve been slow and careful with each other, but it’s not what Tony wants now. He uses all the power in his body to drive into her, bottoming out each time before he thrusts again, taking her body without apology.

Ziva begins to speak in tongues again, her noisy half-words combining with the sound of their flesh colliding, filling the room with the sounds of sex. She moves beneath him constantly, shifting to meet his body, sliding her skin across his, both of them slick and straining with sweat. She grips his forearms above the wrists, and lifts her knees up to her ribcage.

Tony says “Jesus,” and means it. It’s the last sensible thing he says.

He has a moment to realise he has Ziva exactly the way he wanted her: crooked, undone and wild-eyed, and then she’s coming again, and Tony isn’t even sure how, or that he’s had anything to do with it, but she is – with the noises to prove it – and he takes a moment to be surprised, until his orgasm overtakes him with a different kind of amazement, and he doesn’t think anything at all.

********

They sleep and they wake and it’s still dark and they reach for each other again. It’s different this time: harder, fiercer, and desperate too, their time finite. They mark each other with bites and scratches, obviously trying to leave reminders of their coupling.

When they have taken all they can from each other, they return to sleep in a tangle of limbs, with Ziva’s long hair wrapped around them both.

********

When Ziva wakes again it is light enough to hurt her eyes, but she can tell without opening them that Tony is gone. His side of the bed is cool but not cold, which tells her left recently, staying as long as he thought he could. She didn’t expect him to stay, and probably would’ve been uncomfortable if he had, but when she rolls onto her back and stares at the ceiling she wonders what Tony is doing, whether he’s thinking of her as the morning begins.

She waits for the feeling to go away, but as she drinks her coffee, as she showers, as she fingers the scratches and bruises and marks he's left behind, as she dries her hair, she thinks of Tony.

After her shower, Ziva calls her father. He already knows about the liaison positioning being terminated, which is one advantage to having a spymaster for a father. Their conversation takes less than two minutes. She spends the next two hours arranging flights for the end of the week and organising to shut up her apartment for a few weeks, until she can decide what to do about it.

She at least has more time to arrange her affairs than Tony does. He flies out this afternoon, but when she arrives at the Navy Yard, he’s beaten her there. The young redhead in Personnel tells her that Tony’s already signed the forms she has to autograph in triplicate. At the far edge of the girl’s desk she can see Tony’s security pass. Ziva hands hers over to make a matching pair, then takes the elevator up to her desk.

That’s where she finds Tony.

He’s slinging his belongings into boxes with little regard for their future. It’s not anger at having to pack his desk up – it’s just the way he packs. It’s strange to see him at work in a pair of jeans and a shirt, but she’s also casually dressed. If she took a little more care this morning with her appearance – straight hair, fitted jeans, a pretty yellow sweater Tony once admired – then it’s just coincidence.

“Good morning,” Ziva says, greeting him and McGee. “Aren’t you supposed to be down in Cyber Crimes?”

“I had to…” McGee gestures at the empty space in the middle of the bullpen. “I needed to get…I told my new boss I needed a bathroom break. Forty minutes ago.”

Tony beams at McGee. “Lying to your boss? Slacking off on your first day? I’ve taught you well, Little Probie.”

“Where’s Gibbs?”

“Haven’t seen him,” McGee tells her. “I got some boxes for you too.”

“Thank you.” Ziva picks up one of the packing boxes. “Is there a reason you have put my Mont Blanc pen into your box, Tony?”

“I was hoping you’d give it to me, as a memento of you? And your beautiful handwriting?” Tony asks hopefully.

He turns to look at her, and Ziva holds her breath as their eyes meet, and she can tell he does too. The moment is charged, but they manage to cover it well enough that McGee doesn’t notice anything.

Ziva extends her hand, palm up, in Tony’s direction. “You once described my handwriting as a cross between Sanskrit and scribble. Sanscribble, I believe you called it.”

“People have gone blind trying to read your handwriting,” Tony says, dropping her pen into her hand. “That pen is wasted on you.”

“At least I don’t write like a girl,” she retorts as she heads for her desk. “Remember that handwriting expert we used on the Dawson case? One look at your handwriting and he said, ‘This writer has serious self-esteem issues that stem from her childhood.’”

“Yes, yes, we all remember. Graphology is not a proven science,” Tony grouses.

McGee doesn’t stop laughing even when Tony glares at him.

Ziva packs quietly, while Tony delivers a running monologue about the origin and history of each of his belongings. Neither she nor McGee tells him to shut up; they know that filling the silence is Tony’s way of pretending that everything is okay.

Eventually, though, McGee cracks. “This sucks.”

“I see none of us have found a more eloquent term for our situation than ‘this sucks’,” Tony says. He tosses his Mighty Mouse stapler into the last of his boxes. “Done.”

“Well, it does suck,” McGee counters. “I can’t believe I won’t be working with you guys every day.”

Tony leans against his stripped desk and looks over at Ziva. “I think our little boy’s going to miss us, mother.” He slaps McGee on the back. “Buck up, Probie. It could be worse.”

“How?”

“I’m not sure, but it could be.”

“We should go say our goodbyes,” Ziva sighs. “What are you going to do with your things?” she asks, gesturing to Tony’s boxes.

“I thought I’d ask Abby to store them.”

McGee takes one of Tony’s boxes, and Tony balances the other two, while Ziva carries hers. They take up the whole of elevator, the three of them silent as they head for pathology. Ducky wishes them well without dragging it out, and Ziva is grateful – not for the first time – for Ducky’s ease and grace. Palmer stammers and stutters his way through a little speech about missing them both. He and Tony do the guy back-slap thing, and Ziva turns him the colour of a tomato by giving him a kiss on the cheek. She gives Ducky a proper hug; so does Tony.

They trudge back to the elevator and press the button for the basement. The tension on Tony and McGee’s faces no doubt mirrors her own. “Would it be worse for her if we left without saying goodbye?” Ziva asks quietly.

“Yes,” Tony and McGee intone in unison.

Abby has her back to them when they enter the lab. Her machines are off, she’s dressed in black from head-to-toe, and she’s using digital imaging software to manipulate Vance’s face into terrifying contortions.

“Oh…Abs, I wouldn’t…” McGee winces. “You know the Director can track what you do on your computer.”

“Not if I’ve created a dummy record,” Abby says. “If you’re here to say goodbye you’re not allowed.”

“We’re not saying goodbye,” Tony says cheerfully. “I’m here to ask if you could store my things. Temporarily. Until I get back.”

Abby abandons Vance’s face, and turns around. She’s wan-faced and her eyes are swollen. “Of course I’ll store your things. And yours, too, Ziva.”

“Actually, Abby…”

“I. Will. Store. Your. Things,” Abby grinds out. “Because you will be back. I will make Gibbs get you both back here, where you belong.”

“Uh…” Ziva looks to Tony.

Tony drops his boxes on the bench against the wall, then relieves Ziva of hers. “Of course you will. We’re counting on it.”

“No goodbyes, then. No au revoir, or ciao, or…or…”

“Shalom?” Ziva offers.

“I’m going to miss you so much, Ziva,” Abby wails, throwing herself at Ziva.

It goes downhill from there, but eventually Abby stops crying. Ziva and Tony promise to write, they promise to be safe, they promise not to get blown-up, shot at, kidnapped, stalked, strangled, beat-up, rendered unconscious, infected with the plague, and in Ziva’s case, sent on dangerous undercover missions. Ziva’s certain she’ll do most of those things once she returns to Tel Aviv – expect for the plague – but she lies because she knows it’s what Abby needs.

They give Abby one last hug each, then wave at her from the other side of the lab door rather than say goodbye, or any of the other words Abby has forbidden. She waves back, clearly struggling to keep her expression steady, and they leave her that way, knowing that behind them, Abby is crying again. It’s a horrible way to leave, and Ziva knows McGee and Tony feel it too.

They maintain their silence as they ride back up to the ground floor and walk out to the main gate. It’s nearly lunchtime and it’s turned into a beautiful day.

“So, uh…” McGee squints, although the sun is behind him.

Ziva reaches out and hugs McGee tight. He squeaks, but leans into the hug. “Look after yourself, McGee. Tony and I would be very upset if something happened to you after all these years of keeping you safe.”

“That’s overstating…” Tony begins, but she glares at him over her shoulder. “Of course we would, Probie.”

“I’ll miss you, Ziva.”

“I will miss you too,” she replies. It almost makes her cross to discover that
McGee has wormed his way under her defences and into her affection. “I will…you know you can always come to me for help.”

Ziva lets go, and Tony and McGee do a repeat of the male back-slap earlier executed by Tony and Palmer. Ziva restrains the urge to roll her eyes.

“Look after Abby,” Tony tells McGee. “And don’t be fooled by Vance. He might be charming but he’s cunning. Also, I know you’re not working for Gibbs, but I doubt the new kids will have a clue, so, remember to submit his paperwork for reaccreditation at the end of June. Oh, and if he asks about the Melin file, it’s in the bottom drawer of his desk under the incident report forms. Don’t read it, or he’ll kill you. We’re running low on evidence bags in the truck, and…”

“Tony,” McGee interrupts. “I got it.”

“And Tim? Don’t let those idiots in Cyber Crime kick your ass. Only I’m allowed to do that.”

McGee’s smile is sweet, but hard-fought, and the two men exchange a long, fulsome look, and Ziva restrains the urge to cry.

“Both of you be safe, too,” McGee says earnestly. “I’ll email you, and I’m sure Abby will too. And Gibbs…well…”

“Where is Gibbs?” Ziva asks again, surprised how hurt she feels by his absence.

“Gibbs doesn’t do goodbyes,” Tony says jocularly. “I think it’s Rule 47.”

“You know what Rule 47 is, DiNozzo,” Gibbs observes from the other side of the gate. He carrying a coffee, of course, and their meeting could be an accident, but Ziva doubts it.

“Shoot like you’ve only got one bullet, Boss,” Tony answers.

“You know all the rules, Tony.” Gibbs nods at the guard and joins them. “People know I trained you. Try not to disgrace my name out there.”

“Yes, Boss.”

Gibbs glances at Ziva. “You know where I am if you need me.”

“Yes.”

“Get going, both of you.”

“Boss, Abby…” Tony begins.

“We’ll take care of Abby. And it’s not McGee’s job to restock the truck anymore. Or organise my reaccreditation.”

“You heard all that?” Gibbs just stares at him. “Of course you did. You know I’m just…”

“Worrying about the little things, so you can ignore the big thing?” Gibbs jerks his head at the gate. “It won’t get any easier, Tony.”

Ziva wants to say thank you or I’ll miss you, but it would sound trite and Gibbs would hate it, and that’s not the note she wants to leave on. She nods at him instead, hoping it will convey everything she’s feeling. He nods in return, and holds out his hand to Tony.

“I’ll see you soon, Boss.” Tony grins, shaking Gibbs’ hand. “You know you can’t get rid of me this easily.”

And Gibbs smiles.

********

Ziva follows him through the main gate and out onto M Street. Neither of them glances behind, concentrating on the traffic instead. They cross the street, both obviously wanting some distance from the Navy Yard. Tony feels a little unsteady; holding it together with Gibbs was harder than he thought it would be.

“Do me a favour?” Tony begins.

“What?”

“All those things Abby made us promise not to do? Could you try to stay safe while doing them?”

“I can try,” Ziva eventually says. “Can you promise not to do anything stupid?”

“I can try,” Tony repeats. “Why did you say nothing is inevitable?”

Everything in him tells him not to ask the question, but he wants to know the answer badly enough that he doesn’t care if he gets hurt by it.

“Why did you say that romantic relationships between co-workers are inevitable?” Ziva fires back.

“That’s not what I said.”

“It is. You said that a romantic attraction between co-workers is just a matter of time, not choice.”

“No, I was talking about the inevitability of giving in to desire.”

Ziva stares at him with surprise. “Oh.”

“I’m not attracted to you because I’m with you all the time, Ziva. Last night didn’t happen because I couldn’t think of a reason not to,” Tony tells her.

“No, it happened because we may not ever work together again.”

“We’ll work together again,” he says, with certainty.

“How can you be so sure of that?”

“Gibbs.”

“Your faith in him is…”

“Misplaced?” he asks, caustically.

“Remarkable,” Ziva says softly. “I am not…” she stops, obviously trying to find the right words. “You are not necessarily wrong about some things being inevitable. I am not sure being attracted to you is a choice, Tony. I just know that I am.” She keeps her eyes on his and doesn’t flinch, her gaze brave, like her words.

“You remember Breakfast at Tiffany’s? We watched it once?”

“I remember.”

“This is sort of like the scene at the end with the cat, in the rain…”

Ziva’s frowning at him. “I do not own a cat.”

“I’m trying to have a moment here, Ziva.”

She tilts her head back to look at the endless blue sky. “Also, it is not raining. And it is not likely to.”

“There isn’t a romantic bone in your body, is there?”

“What is romantic about chasing a cat in the rain?” she asks.

He grins. “You’re going to miss this, aren’t you? Our back and forth?”

“I will not miss you making fun of me,” Ziva says imperiously. “But I will miss making fun of you.”

“In most cultures that’s called flirting,” Tony teases.

“I do not flirt with you.”

“You flirt with me every damn time you look at me. Admit it, you’ll miss this.”

She sighs theatrically. “Fine. If it will make you happy…”

He nods. “It would make me happy.”

“I will miss this,” Ziva says quietly, with conviction.

“I’ll miss you too.”

“Oh.” Realisation washes across her face. “That’s what you were going to say last night. At the bar.”

“Yes.” He wants to kiss her, but they’re in front of the Navy Yard and if he kisses her he’s not sure he’ll leave. “Well, I’ll call you.”

Ziva shakes her head. “No, you will not. And I will not call you.” Tony wishes she was wrong, but she’s right. “I will think about you,” she says. Her tone is intimate enough to erase the foot of space between them. “And you will think about me.”

Tony can only think of one thing to say – the one thing he hasn’t said to any of the others. “Goodbye, Ziva.”

“Goodbye, Tony.” Ziva smiles and walks away. Tony watches her go, following her with his eyes until she’s gone from view, hoping she’ll turn back. But she doesn’t.

He drives home, collects the bags he packed earlier, calls a cab, and locks up his apartment. Closing down his life, shutting it up, feels too easy, too quick, and Tony hates Vance some more for making him feel how little he has in his life beyond his job.

The drive to Norfolk isn’t short, but the cab driver thankfully goes against type, and doesn’t say anything aside from a rudimentary greeting. Tony has a stack of information about being an agent afloat that he should be reading, but instead he watches the city as he leaves it behind.

Tony doesn’t want to go, but he’s going, gone. He’s lost Jenny, his job, his team, Gibbs, the possibility of being with Ziva. To lose his faith as well seems almost too much to bear. But Tony can’t help the creeping, cold fear that maybe Gibbs can’t bring him and Ziva home this time.

********

Ziva takes the longest possible route back to her apartment, driving in loops and circles, taking major roads and seeking out streets under construction. It gives her an hour in the car to listen to music and compact her feelings until she can seal them off and ignore them.

The handful of neighbours she passes on the way up to her apartment stare at her askance – she isn’t usually home during the day.

Although she has much to do, Ziva wanders through her apartment to her bedroom. She leans against the doorjamb and stares at her bed, golden and alive in the afternoon sun. She didn’t make the bed this morning, and the sheets are still a knotted, rumpled tangle that tells a universal story. There is no imprint of Tony in the sheets, but the room smells of him – of them – and she realises she left the room this way on purpose, so that she could come back to it.

When Ziva has looked her fill, she makes the bed, stepping in and out of the shafts of sunlight as she smoothes the sheets and straightens the covers, until all proof of the hours they spent together in the dark is gone.

********

Fin

Comments

Posted by: The Rogue Bitch. (roguebitch)
Posted at: July 20th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
fountain pen


Wow.

My knowledge of NCIS is chronologically skewed (I've been watching it in reruns, so I know what happened at the end of S5) but it doesn't really matter. Your characterization of the team is spot-on, and the way that Ziva and Tony come together is very much them and believable. I like how Ziva is capable of being pragmatic even about the might-have-beens.

Your writing is aces. ;->

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)

Your writing is aces.

Well so is your feedback! I just got S5 on DVD and have been watching it the last few weeks. I think that's what sparked this story. It's kind of crazy how much I love writing the group scenes for this fandom - the characters lend themselves to some seriously fun dialogue!

Am glad you enjoyed this - as always, THANKS!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: July 20th, 2009 12:50 pm (UTC)

(for some reason I can't log in)

this must be the best tiva story I've ever read! So in character and well written!

arsenicdork

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)

What, LJ won't let you log in? LJ is being difficult? That doesn't sound like the LJ I know!

Thanks for the kind feedback - am glad you enjoyed this!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: July 20th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)

yeah, as said above, basically the msot perfect tiva story i've read in ages. and not just them but every character, every line down so perfectly. WOW. A+! hope you'll write more, it's a long way 'till september.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much!

September seems aaaages away. I'm working on a post-S6 thing, but it's slow going at the moment. They packed so much into the last few episodes that dealing with all seems overwhelming!

Posted by: Stephanie (slybrunette)
Posted at: July 20th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
NCIS. T/Z; we'll never match but we do

I think my heart broke a little with this. Because even if I know that they all come together again, this still stings. Perhaps it's because you have everyone so perfectly characterized. Perhaps it's because these are the scenes that I wish we had gotten. And perhaps because you wrote this so that everything is so vivid and beautifully detailed. This is truly, in my honest opinion, a masterpiece. Please never stop writing these two.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)

Wow. THANK YOU! This is such a lovely, gorgeous piece of feedback.

I was saying upthread that I've been re-watching S5 on DVD, and although I understand why they ended on the big cliffhanger in Vance's office, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that they would have left the office and someone would have gone to tell Abby, and they'd have had at least one evening/night before Tony and Ziva left and the team officially broke up, and I couldn't stop wondering about those "missing" scenes.

Thanks again - I'm glad this worked for you!

Posted by: Stephanie (slybrunette)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
NCIS. T/Z; we'll never match but we do

Yeah, I always wanted a continuation of that last ep. It felt unfinished, and there were far too many possibilities. And I've seen people try and do similiar things to what you did here, but personally I found too many of them had OOC issues, and that's just a dealbreaker for me. So to say this hit the spot is an absolute understatement ;)

(P.S., the day after I read this, USA was airing Judgment Day Pt. 1+2; go figure).

Posted by: moonvoice (moonvoice)
Posted at: July 21st, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
quirky - ncis - ziva killed houdini

This probably could have used some beta-ing for some jarring grammatical stuff; BUT, that aside, this was a very masterfully written piece and beautifully crafted. You absolutely have their voices down, which is wonderful, and kept them true to character while making something hot and seriously seriously awesome. Thank you so much for this. :D :D :D There was so so so so much to love.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)

Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed this. I've picked up a couple of grammatical errors since posting it, but if you want to, you can always drop me a message about them. I didn't have a beta this time time around!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: July 21st, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)

Beautifully written with terrific dialogue and great characterization. You've captured everyone perfectly.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:30 pm (UTC)

I'm glad you enjoyed this - thanks so much for the feedback!

Posted by: yahalomay (yahalomay)
Posted at: July 21st, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)

How beautiful. How sad.

Wonderful dialogue! I really am jealous of that.

Thank you.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:25 pm (UTC)

Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed this. And thank *you* for reading!

The dialogue for these characters kind of writes itself...I put them in a scene together and off they go. I think it's because they all have such distinctive voices on the show!

Posted by: not chestnuts unless you are mexican/honduran (thedevilsheart)
Posted at: July 21st, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
ziva/tony

yeah, anything relevant has been said already so here: this is, was, perfect in every way conceivable. tony and ziva were just so spot on and so was everyone else (hello, abby; mops and all)

plus this gave me the somewhat pleasant mental image of michael weatherly going down on cote de pablo.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)

Aww, thank you! You're too sweet. Am glad you enjoyed this, and I swear I'm still working on that post-S6 drabble for you, except that it's turned into this...thing, that's long and stuff. But it's coming, promise!

The last part of your feedback made me grin like a lunatic. BECAUSE IT'S TRUE! They really are impossibly beautiful people. And so ridiculously flirty with each other!

Posted by: lifesend (lifesend)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
tony/ziva by lifesend

Oh. My. God. This has got to be one of the best tiva story I've read. The sex you've described between them is amazing, but also very, very in-character and I can visualize how it happens with them. You have capatured all of the characters reaction to Vance's orders really, really well. I can see how it can go like you've described on screen. Please write more tiva stories! We need more wonderful tiva stories like this!

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 3rd, 2009 01:47 am (UTC)

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed this story and that it was in-character for you. I worried about whether it would feel believeable.

I can't promise I'll write more Tiva, but I really like writing NCIS, so it's pretty likely!

Posted by: like Penelope, weaving and unweaving (tosca1390)
Posted at: July 23rd, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
ncis: love in an elevator

This was really wonderful, especially the group interactions. And the sex was very well done, and I just loved all of it. You're a great writer, to be able to have all these characters show up in one story as well as they did, and as much as it was about Tony and Ziva, it was about all of them, too, and I love that.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 3rd, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)

Thanks so much! I love writing the group interactions - the characters are all so individual and interesting that I put them in a scene together and dialogue practically writes itself! The show is such an ensemble and it feels natural to write it that way.

I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Posted by: dasku (dasku)
Posted at: August 4th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
NCIS


I love this fic so much it's ridiculous. Ridiculous. It's such a fantastic coda for the fifth season and the characterizations...there's not a single detail that doesn't fit just right (including Ziva's tattoo which made me go GUH).

And the sex. It's so them, with the hotness and the teasing and...*runs out of adjectives*

I hope you keep writing in this fandom (in fact there will be much squealing and flailing if you do) cause September 22th is too far away and Aliyah one hell of a cliffhanger.

Thanks for sharing :)

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 10th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)

Wow, thanks for the gorgeous, shiny feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I wrote that tattoo scene to satisfy my own curosity...and because the idea of it is totally hot! I'm glad it worked for you too!

And I agree - September is aaaages away and they totally left us in the lurch. Bad show!

Posted by: Soledad (inspiredsoledad)
Posted at: August 5th, 2009 06:17 am (UTC)

Simply Amazing. That's all. Like really. Everything is like so perfect! In all serious-ness to, like right down to the core of everything. It was like I was seeing an episode, except an extended version. So yeah, twas brilliant. Thanks for sharing it! :)

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 10th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)

Thanks so much! That it seems episodic is quite a compliment. Thank *you* for reading and feedbacking - makes the sharing worthwhile!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: August 5th, 2009 07:06 am (UTC)
fanoftiva

If only! Maybe then when they got back things would've been different and season six wouldn't have ended in the horrible way it did.

You are a great writer. Captured the characters and scenes so well. I can't wait to read your next fic.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 10th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
Re: fanoftiva

Thank you! Am glad you enjoyed this - this is definitely an "if only" fic!

Posted by: JosieFB (josiefb)
Posted at: August 8th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)

I got an NCIS google alert this morning linking to this story. I've been devouring them on fanfiction.net for several months, but this is the first Tony-Ziva fanfic I've read on livejournal. Wow! You are an amazing writer. You capture the characters' conversations as if they had stepped out of an episode and into your story. I appreciate your high quality writing skills including your use of excellent grammar, sentence structure and college-level vocabulary. After I finished I'm Leaving, I scrolled down and read Perspective 1 & 2 too. I think I like it even better. Keep writing the NCIS stuff. I know I'll keep reading!

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 10th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)

Thanks so much for this feedback - it's very kind. I love writing dialogue, and these characters lends themselves to dialogue so well. The group scenes often unfold on their on...sometimes it feels like they write themselves! I'm glad you enjoyed this - both the plot and the grammar. I know for me it makes a real difference to being able to immerse myself in a fic...spelling mistakes and grammatical errors really irritate me!

Posted by: anatolealice (anatolealice)
Posted at: August 25th, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)
Ziva

Re-reading this, comments and all I realise I didn't leave feedback before. Probably because it's the kind of fic that leaves me reeling at the utter awesomeness and I can't drag my addled thoughts together or ages afterwards(besides which I'm still screaming "kiss her!" in my head to Tony about the last scene. Wah!)

Your characterisation is perfect and I can picture everything - as mind blowingas that is! - and it's just such a lovely combination of team and affection and hotness and that indefineable Tony & Ziva-ness I love so much.

I printed Perspective and Damage to read on the bus - and I've been reading them over and over ever since :-) A friend and I have decided that we want quite a few things you wrote to be canon (well, we'd actually like all of it to be canon but we're trying to be realistic in the face up upcoming season 7 angst).

Really hope you've something else in the works :-)

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 26th, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)

Thanks so much for this feedback - it made me laugh! I really loved writing this story, so I'm glad you enjoyed it too. I can't believe you read my fic on the bus, though - I'm all a bit flustered at the thought.

I, too, am worried abou the S7 angst...

If I could pick one thing of mine to be canon, it would be the kiss and the exchange in the elevator at the end of Damage. It's a really strong image in my head, both the kiss, and Ziva telling Tony that a mouth is a perfectly sensible place to kiss a woman...

Posted by: anatolealice (anatolealice)
Posted at: August 27th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC)

Yes, I agree. I could hear Ziva's voice saying that!

Don't worry, I'm very sneaky if I read fic on the bus. Super careful - I can't imagine trying to explain it to someone! The only "real life" person who knows I read fic is my sister, she told me about it in the first place.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: August 28th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)

This was amazing. Hot, heartbreaking and amazing.



Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: August 31st, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)

Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it.

Posted by: tinkerbell008 (tinkerbell008)
Posted at: September 18th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)

wow, i love it. it's so HOTT but it's also so in character, so them. :) awesome work. def one of the best NCIS fics i've ever read.

i hope you post that post-s6 one you said you're writing over the next few days. i'd love to read it before seeing what the show gives us.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: September 24th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)

Thanks so much for the feedback - I'm glad you enjoyed this. I actually did post that s6 story...just in time for the premiere!

Posted by: anr (anr)
Posted at: September 23rd, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)

This too. The characterisations are pitch perfect and gorgeous.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: September 24th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)

Thanks so much! This fic was supposed to PWP, but then Tony and Ziva messed it up by having thoughts/feelings and wanting a plot!

Posted by: i already forgot your names (tidbit2008)
Posted at: October 26th, 2009 12:11 am (UTC)
ncis; tony + ziva dancing

I just.. wow oh wow oh wow. I love this. So very much in character and well written and just superb. Thanks so much for sharing!

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: October 27th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)

Well, thank *you* for reading - it makes the sharing worthwhile! I'm glad you enjoyed this. I really enjoyed writing it, although it ended up being more melancholy than I intended.

Posted by: i already forgot your names (tidbit2008)
Posted at: November 5th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
ncis; tony + ziva cheek kiss

Sorry it's taken me so long to reply back. Life, what can you do, eh? lol.

It is melancholy, but for this point in their relationship and the scenario, it fits. It doesn't feel forced or over the top. Their emotions have a much truer ring than a lot of the fics I've read *shakes head* :)

Posted by: oracle42 (oracle42)
Posted at: November 13th, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)

I was doing really well with the insomnia until I came across your NCIS fics. I keep promising myself I'll go to sleep after "just one more" but I can't stop myself because you and your fic are awesome. And there's more of them - I am so screwed.

Posted by: ygrawn (ygrawn)
Posted at: November 16th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)

Well, firstly, I hope you went to bed! And secondly, thank you. You did have a busy evening reading my fic. Am glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for leaving feedback - I definitely appreciate it.

Posted by: kew121 (kew121)
Posted at: June 1st, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)

I feel bad that I've never reviewed this story before *is shamed* because I didn't I have a livejournal when I first read it. But I've read it time and time again since then (after a lengthy period when I was desperately trying to remember where I'd read "that fic where Ziva has the tiger tattoo") and I can honestly say: This is my favorite NCIS fic.

Posted by: by way of memory (vialethe)
Posted at: August 10th, 2011 05:22 am (UTC)
Winter pairing

Your characterization and dialogue are impeccable - it's so easy to hear the individual voices in the bar scene, especially. Drunk weepy Abby, awkward Palmer saying all the wrong things - just right.

I also liked how, even after the totally hot sex, it's still believable that Tony and Ziva wouldn't have kept in contact over those months, the way you wrote it. Definitely one of the best NCIS fics I've read.

Posted by: lukesmomma (lukesmomma)
Posted at: April 6th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
The Smirk!

At last. At long bloody last. You would not believe how long I have been looking for a great Tony / Ziva fic and there is some serious crap out there. This is brilliant. You've captured the essence of the team perfectly, even their 'voices' were spot on. The sign of a truly good fic, in my humble opinion, is one that wrings out the very last drop of emotion, both from the characters and from the reader and I'm not ashamed to admit I needed my tissues at the end there.

Awesome job!

Posted by: hellishrose (hellishrose)
Posted at: May 25th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)

That story was so beautifully written. You pinned the intensity of their relationship so very well and the story was full of emotion. Absolutely incredible.

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