summary: How it should have been.
word count: 27,000 in total, 6,250 for this chapter
notes & warnings: AU, obviously. Meet Sammy's new reality, in which the show ends with the last episode of season ten and this is where they'll go from there. Funny enough, this one started out as a flippant remark and then turned into something I wasn't quite prepared for: the base for a whole universe I will happily play in from now on -- a universe in which Ziva doesn't run away and they figure out their shit and how things work. (Yes, there are already at least three other stories planned in it.)
Nothing explicit happens in this story... or rather, it happens, but it isn't explicitly written about. Oh, wait -- two bad words towards the end, but those are courtesy of a movie quote. ;)
Massive thanks to Maya, my hyper-active muse and willing test subject. I'm two weeks late, but consider this a happy birthday gift, my dear. The rest of you -- consider it an early Christmas gift? ;)
comments & feedback: Very much appreciated.
When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk, which it uses to fasten its body to a leaf or a twig. Then the caterpillar's skin comes off for the final time.
"No," was the first raw, unfiltered reaction they got from Abby, and it was something they all had expected ever since they'd come to terms with the situation. Her hands waved angry circles into the air, and her lipsticky mouth twisted in an ugly way while she bared her teeth at what she had just been told. "You can't do this. You can't leave."
"It's already done," Tony replied quietly. He leaned against the autopsy table, arms crossed and head lowered while Abby's whipped around like a scorpion's tail and she glared at him. Ziva couldn't help the thought that there was a certain symbolism to his pose. She felt similarly right now, and she guessed the others weren't far from the emotions Tony radiated as well -- ready to lie down and let others cut up their remains. What she had told them earlier, that she'd never depended on happy endings... in a way, it had been true. It was disconcerting to realize, though, that some part of her may have expected one after all. It would have been... nice.
"I refuse to accept that!"
"Abby." It was Ducky who gently spoke her name this time, with his hand on her shoulder and his voice infuriatingly calm while she got more and more agitated.
"No! This isn't happening, plain and simple. You guys are my family, and family doesn't walk out on each other!"
Ziva breathed in deeply and looked to the side, and Abby blinked and stared at her, hand raised halfway as if she wanted to reach out for her because she suddenly understood a thing or two. She never completed the gesture, though, and so she ended up looking like a still out of a gory comedy.
Jimmy glanced at each of them. His gaze was unsteady, restless, especially when he looked at Tony, and Ziva knew that was the way he always looked when he didn't know what to say. It was rare with Palmer and his too-fast, unfiltered brain-to-mouth way of talking, but she had seen it before. Any minute now, he would take off his glasses and--
She fought the involuntary smile when he rubbed the left lens furiously, because there was nothing amusing about this situation and now was not the time for smiles. The brief amusement trickled away as fast as it had come anyway when she realized that from now on she would miss a lot of his awkward little habits. She wouldn't get to see them anymore on a regular basis. And she wouldn't get to see photos of his baby, once he and Breena had beaten all the formalities. She blinked hard, and for a heartbeat she was tempted to join Abby in her stark refusal of facts. She had fought so hard for this. Sacrificed so much. Her eyes met Tony's, and that was when her heart skipped a beat. Too many sacrifices, maybe.
"We're not walking out on you," he pressed out through his teeth just then. He tried to appear calm, but Ziva could still hear how it ripped him apart just as much as it affected Abby. She'd always been able to tell. "We'll still be around."
"But that's not the same!" Abby hissed and stomped her foot. It was a ridiculous gesture, more suited for a teenager than a grown woman. And yet, Tony flinched and his posture grew a little more stiff because yes, she was right. It would not be the same, not by a long shot.
Deafening silence followed her outburst, and for a while none of them knew what to say. Because she was right: it would not be the same. They all knew that.
McGee cleared his throat eventually, and then he said a word they hadn't heard in a long time. "Campfire," he murmured, and Tony raised his head in surprise and stared at his partner. No, former partner.
It was a word McGee had only used willingly once, and it echoed the gravity of their situation loudly. In the end, Tony nodded, Ziva breathed out, and Abby closed her mouth. This wasn't quite over yet, they all knew that. But they all seemed to agree that whatever else needed to happen now could no longer happen here.
It turned out soon that they couldn't come up with anything that made sense out of this mess, and so campfire turned into a never-ending stream of drinks at the nearest bar, mixed with many sobs from Abby and a few stray ones from Palmer. The unburied a lot of sorrow and many half-forgotten memories during that night, and with each one that got dragged back to the surface and mulled over in great detail, the mood turned a bit more somber and depressed. Part of Ziva wanted to suggest they should only remember the good times, really, but she was aware they weren't quite ready for that yet, and so she kept her mouth shut. Because it all came down to one thing: there had been so much more of the bad stuff to forge them together, and not enough good by a long shot.
She couldn't really remember the last time she had been this drunk. Certainly not since she'd become an NCIS agent. Her skin itched, and she felt raw and vulnerable and not entirely sure if it that was based on the alcohol or too many emotions. It was difficult to tell.
Difficult to disentangle herself from the heavy presence at her side, too. Tony's warmth and his smell, almost overwhelming. It got to her how his hand strayed at one point and rested against the small of her back and he didn't even notice it. Her own hands skittered across the table when she realized that this was the part she would miss painfully. She'd miss being this close to him on a daily basis. Touching him accidentally and maybe leaning into him while he laughed at something Palmer stuttered and was too distracted to notice how close she really was. And suddenly she wasn't sure how she could keep doing this without these little things in her life. Without him.
"I will miss you all so much."
The confession stumbled from her lips before she could help it, and Tony stiffened beside her as if she'd slapped him. She hated the fact that her speech was slurred now and she was way too drunk to keep the words inside that spilled out of her traitor mouth, but still...
And that was when Abby suddenly burst into big, fat tears, just like that, and McGee and Palmer almost fell over themselves in their attempts to mother her from both sides. It took a long while until they got her back to mostly calm, and while Ziva pointedly stared at her own twitching fingers and not her friend's face, she felt Tony grow really quiet beside her.
"We could do this, at least," he said eventually, and she turned her head and looked at him curiously. Much like her a second ago, he suddenly ducked his head and stared down at the table and the drink in his hands. Ziva, in turn, watched his strong fingers twist the glass slowly while she waited for him to elaborate. "Get drunk together, I mean. Once a week or whatever." He grimaced. "Provided we want to see that much of each other drunk on a regular basis."
Abby stared at him with suddenly wide eyes. Her makeup was a teary mess now, and her lower lip quivered, but for some reason there had always been a certain understanding between her and Tony, and so his words sank in a lot faster than the feeble comfort had. Her sobs dried up, just like that, and then she nodded once, sharply, her mouth set in a certain determined way.
"Of course we want that. We want to see each other any way we can, right, guys?" Her eyebrows narrowed when there wasn't an immediate group cheer to answer her question, and she glared at each of them furiously. "Right, guys?"
They looked at each other quietly, a hint of uncertainty in their expressions. Then, weirdly, it was McGee's shrug that somehow settled things and called it a vote. Palmer broke into a slightly stupid grin in response, and Abby bounced excitedly, but Tony... Tony still stared into his drink and tried not to show a reaction, and Ziva wasn't entirely sure why he suddenly looked so hesitant. Maybe because he, like her, was deep down pretty sure this wouldn't become a new tradition after all. They'd do it once, twice, and then the first of them would have other plans. Maybe McGee would have a date with pretty Delilah, and Abby would go bowl with her nuns, and Palmer would rather be home with his wife than drinking with his almost-friends. And each of them would figure it wouldn't matter all that much if they missed a week or two because all of the others would still be there, after all. And that was how things would really come to an end: neglect, not circumstance.
But right now Abby didn't want to hear this kind of thing, so Ziva didn't voice her doubts out loud. Weirdly, though, she didn't even have to. Just this once Abby seemed to realize they were not all in yet, and so she squared her jaw and stretched out her arm in a challenging gesture. For a second they all stared at the pale, bony hand hovering above the table, asking for a pact. Then, one by one, they reached out slowly and put their own hand on top of the others.
Tony was the last, and it was weird because he'd been the one to suggest it in the first place, but now he suddenly seemed oddly tentative. His hand felt heavy on Ziva's, and she stared at the pile of their limbs, stared at his fingers because they trembled slightly and she wasn't quite sure what to make of that. That was, until their makeshift pact broke up and for a heartbeat she couldn't help but wonder if the way his hand tightened on hers meant that he'd keep his hold on her now. She wouldn't have minded that. Maybe he would weave his fingers into hers, like he'd done once before, and--
He didn't, of course. He let go of her just when she was about to turn her own palm up and meet him halfway, and she glanced at him sideways with snarling frustration curling in her belly. God, this man. She would never understand him. Not in a million years.
Drinks came and went in fast succession after that, as if the dam of grief had finally broken and now they all needed to wash it down. Even McGee let himself off the leash far more than he usually would have, and by midnight he was almost completely unraveled. Around that time Tony's mood picked up and he started to weigh new career options. They were silly and completely over the top, granted, like standup comedian or professional back rubber... but still, the topic was suddenly out in the open. And that was about the time Ziva started to watch him with concern and a good deal of sorrow, because he was the one who shouldn't even be thinking this. He never did anything wrong. He...
She blinked and knocked back her tequila hard. Maybe it was just the alcohol, but on first try she couldn't remember a case where Tony had actually bent the rules. Never in the same way she or Gibbs had, at least. No, Tony, for all his emotional inadequacies -- he had always gone into his cases as straight-laced as they come.
It was a confusing thing to realize: that her partner had a much better moral compass than the ones she used to look at for guidance.
There was a weird taste in her mouth, and she grimaced -- not just because of that new perception of the man beside here, but because here it was again. The P word. The one she could no longer use.
"Hey," Tony murmured when she waved over the waitress to order another shot. He leaned into her so the others wouldn't hear, and for the briefest moment she was tempted to lean back. To just close her eyes and fall against him and wonder later if he'd catch her. "Go easy on the booze, Ziva."
There was Scotch on his breath, and he smelled so good and delicious that the corner of her mouth quirked up in a lazy response. "You're a fine one to talk," she mumbled back. Her eyes strayed, strayed, strayed, to his luscious lip and the way they twitched in response. For a heartbeat she felt herself drown in the need to know what he tasted like underneath the Scotch.
You cannot be a butterfly, my Ziva. But oh, how she wanted to...
His smile slipped from tense concern to amusement and back, but not all the way, and suddenly a weird sensation coiled up in her belly and left her all weak and warm and glad she didn't have to stand up right now. She had seen his protectiveness towards her before. At times, she had brushed it off because she had thought of it as intrusive and unnerving. Other times, she had attributed it to him just doing his job and caring for his partner. For some reason, though -- and maybe it was just the liquor again, on his end as well as hers -- for some reason she had never quite put the pieces together before. Never enough to realize that he looked at her a certain way whenever he mothered her. That there were emotions laced into his protectiveness and the way his palm pressed into her back and his warmth at her side. That these were gestures far from generic touches. They were not the same kind of physical attention McGee would get from him, or Abby. They were... heavier. Like he put a piece of himself into these touches as well.
"Yeah, well," he shrugged with a crooked smile, and Ziva blinked while she fought the urge to touch that mouth. He was so warm and heavy. And god, he really smelled good tonight. Maybe--
He rolled his eyes at her when her cell phone went off, and she laughed while she answered because yes, this was sort of becoming their thing.
No caller ID, but she knew the voice greeting her. It was a reflex to switch to Hebrew, much like the throaty laugh that rolled off her tongue was, because she had known him for so long and because for a brief moment, she forgot. But then Tony stiffened beside her and downed the rest of his scotch in a harsh, aggressive gesture, and that was when she recalled that things were no longer as clear-cut as they used to be.
"It's a long story," she said, in English now, but her attention drifted away from Adam's gentle voice when Tony got to his feet abruptly. She reached out for him instinctively, her fingers tightening around his wrist, and he stared pointedly at the intrusive hand that copied what he usually did to her. "And I'm not entirely sure I'm allowed to tell you."
She cut the talk short. Told Adam "later" and knew it meant never, and it didn't really matter because all that was important right now was the way Tony clenched his jaw while she ended the call. She said his name then, and he blinked, tense and angry and ready to snap any second.
"I need some air," he pressed out and stepped back, and her hand fell off his wrist, hung in the air for a heartbeat because she didn't want to let go of him, and she didn't want him to run away now. She had no idea how to keep him, though.
And then he was out of their booth, and Ziva blinked and stared at his back and watched him retreat. He slammed the door, and her swirling thoughts came to a grinding halt, trapped in confusion's quicksand. She probably knew more than the others about what was going on, and yet she was at a loss for words when Abby asked what the hell just happened.
He hadn't gone far, and she caught him leaning against a wall just a few feet from the entrance; he had his eyes closed and his head tilted back, and his jaw muscles clenched in the way that always showed he was a little too close to losing his temper. If she hadn't known better, she'd have said he was in desperate need of a cigarette.
He noticed her, of course, but didn't move, and she wasn't sure if that meant he was willing to talk or if it was merely a continuation of shutting her out. So she leaned against the wall as well, right beside him, but careful not to touch him. She didn't want to provoke him, after all.
His profile was sharp and angled in the glare of the tacky neon sign above his head, and his jaw muscles twitched harder when he felt her gaze on him. She knew he was aware of her. She could see it in his stance. But he kept his eyes shut and pointedly didn't talk, and so she was the one to speak eventually.
"We need to figure this out."
For a heartbeat his eyelids fluttered restlessly. Then he breathed out slowly.
"You figure it out, I'm tired of trying."
"You said things wouldn't be awkward. You said we were still friends."
"Yeah, well, that was before I had to listen to--" He took a deep breath and bit off the rest of the angry words. For a second he struggled for control, hard, because he'd had a little too much Scotch and a few emotions too many, and that had loosened his tongue in a way he probably didn't appreciate. She tensed because she wasn't sure what to expect from him now. He was... rippling beside her, with tension and frustration and thinly veiled anger.
She jumped when he pushed himself off the wall and leaned into her. All of a sudden he was crowding her, and she was still up against the wall and vulnerable. It should have unnerved her -- and in all honesty that was probably what he intended -- but it didn't. As much as he confused her at times, she had never run from him, and she certainly wouldn't start now. She'd never been afraid of this particular kind of scary, and so she just raised her chin and met his stare dead on to turn it into a challenge.
Strangely, he accepted and leaned closer, and then his breath was on her mouth and his hands were against the wall, to both sides of her head, trapping her in place. He was huge. Funny how she almost never noticed how massive he was because he'd become so familiar. He was close enough to kiss her now, really, and she realized with a start that she wouldn't mind that. And then he leaned the tiniest bit closer, and her throat dried up, just like that.
"To be honest, my feelings aren't very friend-like at the moment." His words were just a rough whisper brushing her face, and her eyes widened at the intense tone that matched his expression perfectly. She saw too many emotions swirling in his eyes -- anger, impatience, and yes, a hint of desire as well. The last one scared her the most, though. It left her all weak and too vulnerable, and she had to press her palms against the wall because for a heartbeat she thought her knees might buckle.
And he knew. She could see it in his eyes. His gaze danced across her mouth now while he looked at her hungrily, pondering what to do; there was something in his eyes that made him look like he was about to eat her. Like he would just have to reach for her now and--
In the end it wasn't him who moved, though. Her own hand rose involuntarily, and she found herself horrified by her own audacity. She still reached out for him, though, slowly, like she had days ago, pressing her hand to his chest while his heartbeat quickened. And yes, his pulse stumbled in great big leaps suddenly; she could feel it against her palm. His eyes darkened, and for the fraction of a second she thought, this would be it. This would be the moment things changed. And even though she had no idea where that change would lead them, she was suddenly excited for it. She didn't even have a choice. It was the simple need to feel him that came bubbling to the surface. And it was such a narrow gap to breach, really. Just a minute tilt of her head and she could--
He breathed in deeply, just when her lips were about to brush his. Shook his head and stepped back hard and left her ready to scream in frustration.
He was already a few steps away when she found her voice around the bitter taste of anger rising in her throat. "I swear to God, Tony, if you run away now--"
He turned on his heel sharply, back towards her, and she could see him struggle with a plethora of conflicting emotions. His sharp, seething anger won out over the others soon, though: he bared his teeth and almost growled at her. "Oh, I'm the one running away?"
"Right now, you are." She watched him grind his teeth, and there was confusion all over her own face now because she couldn't deal with this too well. She wanted to ask so many questions. She wanted to do things, too -- things she had never allowed herself to even think about before -- but this time it wasn't her own well-practiced restraint that kept him at arm's length. This time he was the one who wouldn't allow her to touch all the issues between them, and so she stared at him with a frown that spoke loudly of her conflict. When she eventually found words that didn't feel completely wrong, she went for the plain, unsettling truth, for the one question that kept running through her head. It was blunt, but it was as good a question as any to start with.
"I do not understand, Tony. You don't approve of me sleeping with someone else, but you don't want me to sleep with you, either?"
He laughed. It was the stuttery kind of laugh, the kind that said she'd gotten him right where it hurt with that question, and she was suddenly pretty sure he hadn't expected that from her. Not willingly. And certainly not tonight.
"I'm not gonna go there," he muttered eventually and shook his head, but before he could step back even further, Ziva moved and caught up with him. She was so very tempted to touch him again, to put her hand to his chest once more, but his gaze burned her, and in the end her hand remained just short of actual touch and hovered right above his heart instead.
"Please," she forced out, and he stiffened. His jaw clenched again, and for a heartbeat his expression darkened even more. Then he breathed out slowly, and his mouth twisted into a grim smile. He shook his head once more, and this time it was Ziva who flinched when he put his own hand over hers and raised it so he could press his lips to her palm. The gesture startled her, and she wasn't entirely sure if it was just the unexpected intimacy of it that unsettled her... or her own heated reaction to it.
"That's the crux, my dear," he murmured, and his mouth moved against her palm and sent hot shivers down her spine. "I'm in too deep to just have sex with you."
His words ran out, but he didn't let go just yet. His mouth stayed agile, kept ghosting across her skin, and suddenly Ziva had trouble sorting through the intoxicating sensations he evoked. He was drunk, clearly. She knew him well, and she'd seen what he already had tonight, and yes, his control over his loud mouth was slipping rapidly. Maybe that was the reason he'd given her the blunt truth in that moment, naked and ugly and disconcerting, until she couldn't do anything but stare at him with wide eyes. Because despite knowing, on some level, she... hadn't. Not really. And it confused her greatly that suddenly there were so many emotions openly at play between them when they had wasted years and years with pretending there weren't.
Before she could gather her wits and find good words to reply, though, he let go of her hand, nodded and left her for good this time. As if he hadn't just pulled her world out from under her feet like an old rug.
She couldn't leave it at that, of course. She never could, not with him, because he was the same when it came to her. Tony, when he wasn't playing the clown, had never had any trouble sniffing out the easiest way to get under her skin. It almost felt like it was her duty to repay that special kind of alertness, especially now, with this whole... mess, surrounding them. Suffocating them. She wasn't sure if there had ever been something between them that mattered quite as much as seeing this through.
"Jesus, Ziva." He sounded as tired as he looked, and she wasn't entirely sure if that was the reason he barely reacted to her barging into the men's room or if he was simply used to it by now. The guy next to him, though, got more than nervous and suddenly had trouble finishing his business.
"You ran off. I wasn't done yet."
"Right. And this couldn't wait another minute."
"Clearly not." She continued to stare pointedly at the other man, and when he didn't get the hint to pack up, she frowned at him, just this side of a snarl. "You, out." It worked, unsurprisingly -- the stranger flinched and obeyed hastily.
She knew Tony was probably rolling his eyes while she stared angry holes into his back, and she also knew he would make her wait just that little bit longer tonight, simply because he was angry as well. Eventually he zipped up, though, and washed his hands. Her fingers twitched nervously while she waited for him to look at her, but for once he didn't budge and didn't meet her eyes, not even in the mirror. Not too long ago he had done that for the first time in eight years -- avoiding her, actively. And now she found once more that she simply didn't know how to deal with that kind of rejection from him.
"This isn't NCIS," he scolded her eventually, and she glared a little harder because she didn't know what else to do. She could hardly just sit on him until he gave in, could she?
"You dump this on me and then you refuse to talk about it?"
He sighed and flung the paper towel into the bin without even looking. "Right now? You're right, I don't want to talk about it. Because I'm on the verge of getting really drunk, and I just lost a job I really liked, and I need to get a whole lot drunker before I can even begin to figure out what all of this means."
He tried to leave, but didn't get very far because she stepped into his way to block his exit. She even leaned back against the door so he couldn't open it, and the way she did that and then raised her chin at him turned out so passive-aggressive that he stared at her with an involuntary mixture of exasperation and amusement. But in truth there was nothing funny about this, and so he squared his shoulders and stared her down with narrowed eyes, waiting for her to act.
It was a tactic that paid off, eventually, and she was the one to cave: her anger warred with puzzlement, and in the end pure, unfiltered confusion won out. And for some reason, that hesitant vulnerability affected him in turn, so much that he suddenly sighed and softened up around the edges. His lips twitched with words not spoken, and there was a spark of emotion in his eyes that got right under her skin when he finally asked her, quietly, "What do you want from me, Ziva?"
Her lips parted in reflex, and she really wanted to answer him -- needed to, even. And yet, she suddenly found herself at a loss for words, and so she hesitated once more and watched him with wide eyes while her own thoughts stumbled about haphazardly.
"I think it's rather a question of what you want from me, isn't it?" she replied eventually. She hated the fact that her voice sounded as unsure as her phrasing. She couldn't help it though.
"What I want has never been the issue, sweetheart."
"But it has become one now!" For a second she felt like stomping her feet angrily so he would listen to her, but just as suddenly she deflated again because barging in full force had left her on treacherous ground, and now she suddenly found herself in need of tiptoeing her way around the unsteady emotional terrain. "Does it really have to be this difficult, Tony? Shouldn't we at least try to figure out if our... needs are... compatible...?"
She stumbled over the last few words, like she always did when they talked about the important things between them, and the corner of his mouth quirked up in the parody of a smile. She hadn't planned on speaking about needs here, that much was sure, and he seemed very aware of that. At least she suspected that because his expression suddenly mirrored the turmoil inside her.
For a second she wondered if she should just leave now and blame it all on the alcohol tomorrow. It would be a valid reasoning, after all. She'd clearly had more than him tonight, and these days she didn't drink as much as she had back when she had still been Mossad, so she was no longer used to hard liquor in these quantities.
And yet, it would have meant resorting to an excuse which felt cheap, and she wasn't fond of that. Yes, part of her wanted to keep it all bottled up inside and never touch the issue again, like they had always acted about this. But then there was that other part of her. The part that was so very tired of... things. Of how they were around each other and how they could be, maybe. All the dead ends they'd hit over the years and all the misunderstandings they could have cleared up long ago if they had been just a little more honest with each other.
He watched her with a sad twist to his mouth while her eyes pleaded with him. Her own words had needed a few moments to sink in with her, and now that they were out there for him to grasp, Ziva found herself scared out of her wits by what she had just said. His gaze went right under her skin, right to the place she had opened up for him, and for a few endless moments her pulse throbbed in her temples because this had to be the moment where he realized how much he truly affected her, yes?
And maybe her instincts weren't that far off, really. Maybe he had seen something in her eyes after all. Because he tilted his head now and pursed his lips thoughtfully, and then he suddenly came towards her, rippling with tension like a cat on the prowl.
"Listen," he said, so quietly that her eyes widened a little more with each of his steps, "what I want is not that complicated."
She swallowed hard and concentrated on meeting his gaze, and it turned into much more of an effort than she had expected when he leaned into her. She tried her best to ignore how close he suddenly was, with one hand braced against the wall beside her head again and the other reaching out to grasp a strand of her hair and twist it around his finger.
Acknowledging that proximity would have meant she'd have to justify her own reaction to it -- her heated response to the roughness in his voice, suddenly coiling up deep in her belly and threatening to overwhelm her.
"The cliché, if you will. The whole nine yards. Going to bed with you, and waking up with you, and knowing what you smell like every hour of the day." He paused, pondered that thought for a moment before he leaned into her a little more. His lips almost brushed her cheek now, and she was so, so tempted to just turn her head to get closer to that mouth. "No, scratch that, I know that already. But I want to feel you and touch you all night, every night, and I want your scent to be the first thing I notice each morning, even before I open my eyes, because that's how I'll know you were there with me the whole time."
She blinked slowly; a tiny, involuntary shudder ran through her, and he smiled against her cheek because he'd noticed.
"And I want your moods, Ziva. All of them, all the time. Doesn't matter if they're good or bad. I want to rub your shoulders after a long day, and I want you to yell at me when I burn dinner and complain about my choice of movie, and I want you to say I drink too much, but you'll still join me for another glass because you know I can make you come so much harder when I'm drunk."
Her cheeks turned a darker shade, just like that, and he chuckled and moved his mouth to the curve of her jaw. He didn't even touch her, just drank in her closeness... and yet, she suddenly felt like she was burning up. Her eyelids fluttered a little more nervously with each of his words, with each breath against her skin.
"I want to know what you taste like, right here. Right where your neck flows into your shoulder. I want to know where you are the softest and how you sound when you're stuck in a nightmare and how long you need in the bathroom on a regular morning, because the times we were on a case, they don't count." He fell silent, just breathed in her scent for a moment. Concentrated on her presence and the way he could feel her tremble from afar. And then he suddenly couldn't seem to help it, and more words fell against her cheek in a heated whisper. "And God, yes, I do want to know how you sound when I make you come."
She took a deep, shuddering breath and closed her eyes while the roughness of his voice and the images it provoked washed over her. He tugged at her curls, still wrapped around his finger, and his thumb brushed her cheek so briefly that it could have just as easily been a gust of wind tickling her skin. She trembled at the minute sensation anyway, and her skin tightened and rose to meet his touch. And that tiny, shuddering reaction, that one single instant of too easy, too fast, too tempting -- that suddenly left him sobering up and drawing back.
She forced her eyes open and watched him warily, quietly; she wasn't sure how her voice would have behaved if she'd tried to speak now, so she didn't, and in response a strangely disappointed expression skittered across his face. And yes, she even understood where that particular frustration came from. Getting to her, getting under each other's skin -- that had always been the easy part between them, they both knew that. But these days, it was no longer enough, and that was the thing that suddenly made it all so difficult.
He sighed and raised a hand to rub his tired eyes. She was almost burning up with the need to touch him by now, but he had refused her before, and so she couldn't bring herself to try again.
"What I need is you, Ziva. All of you. But I'm not sure if that is compatible with your... needs. You'll have to figure that one out on your own."
He gave her a small nod and nudged her aside gently until she moved and he could open the door. The lump in her stomach sagged hard while she watched him walk away from her for the third time in one night.
on to chapter two