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Note: This is a tag to Recoil, so spoilers for that episode and others that came before it.
Summary: Tony's good at being broken.
***The lights are all half power and the dark circles around Ziva's eyes grow in the shadows, making her look fragile, something Tony is sure she's never been before now. He knows he's been going about this all the wrong way. The jokes are only funny when she sends them back, and his wrist still aches a little where she nearly twisted it off. She could have broken it easily, he knows. It's all about pressure and she's always known just where to press.
He almost wishes she had done it. Tony's good at being broken, and honestly, he'd rather it were him. Trying to put his friends back together has never been as easy as fixing himself.
It almost worked that one time with McGee, but that was McGee, and a little went a long way. Kate never listened to a word he said, but then she never had to. Somehow she always knew what he meant.
He lets his fingers dance along the edge of her desk, sense memory of one of those songs he'd been forced to learn on his mother's baby grand. It's funny, the things you don't forget.
She's watching him with the corner of one eye, waiting for him to go away. She's got three files open and her gun is sitting in her open drawer beside her badge. She's been just about to leave for the last two hours now and Tony's getting tired of waiting her out.
"You can talk to me," he tells her. "You know that right?"
It's as honest as he's been since this began, and Tony knows that's partly due to the fact that the audience is gone. Put him in a room with more than one person and he performs. It's a bad habit he picked up as a kid on those rare occasions his parents were in the same room.
Ziva lets out a breath and closes her eyes, murmuring something that sounds like a curse. At least, Tony thinks so. It's not English, so he's not sure. "Tony," she says, and it's a tone she seldom uses with him, bone tired and dismissive. "You just do not--"
"What? I don't know what it's like?" Tony asks. "Because I've never underestimated how well I was fooling a mark and almost had my throat slit? I know exactly what you're going through, and you go out for a drink with some guy that could never understand instead of with me."
Ziva finally looks up. She's not wearing any makeup and her hair is loose, the way it's been the last few days. It makes her look younger, vulnerable in ways he knows she's not. Tony's so used to the carefully arranged ponytails that he doesn't know what to make of her when she's like this. "That is exactly why I went out with him instead of you," Ziva says. "Because he would not understand."
Ziva slams the drawer with her gun shut and then rises gracefully, spinning towards the exit as she pulls her jacket from the back of her chair. "I will see you tomorrow," she says.
She doesn't even say his name at the end with one of her wry grins, the way she always does. She just leaves.
He doesn't realize until after she's gone that he's still tapping absently along the surface of her desk. Sonata No. 14, Beethoven. It was always the only one he liked.
Tony knows he should have been expecting to find Gibbs sitting on his couch when he got home, legs crossed and in the dark, like a father waiting for a kid that's a few hours gone past curfew. Still, he's surprised to find him there anyway, doesn't like the way it catches him off guard. For a minute, he second-guesses having given him the key, but it's not like Gibbs couldn't pick the lock.
"I told you to go home and get some sleep hours ago," Gibbs says. "Where have you been?"
"Well, gee, Dad, see, there was this party--" he says it with a grin, upbeat and sarcastic at once. Sometimes, Tony will even perform for an audience of one.
"I'm not in the mood, DiNozzo," Gibbs snaps.
Tony walks into his kitchen without turning on the lights. He knows where everything is. He's stumbled around his living room half-asleep more than once, so dream-addled he was almost blind, shaking off the images from the last crime scene he'd seen. It still happened more than he liked.
"Shouldn't you be doing the concerned boss routine with Ziva right about now instead of me?" Tony asks.
"Yeah, well, I'm not sleeping with Ziva," Gibbs says.
Tony opens the fridge. He'd like a beer but he doesn't have any and it's probably for the best. He hasn't been to a grocery store in a month, and all he has is bottled water. He grabs one and then kicks the fridge shut with his foot. "I thought you said you weren't going to give me special treatment," Tony says wryly. "The unplanned late night therapy sessions really aren't necessary."
Tony turns around, and sees Gibbs has moved right in front of him. Gibbs grabs the edge of his jacket and tugs him a step closer. It's a subtle move. Anyone watching wouldn't even notice Tony hadn't taken that step on purpose. He flashes a grin. "Yes?"
"What the hell's going on with you and David, DiNozzo," Gibbs asks, in what is almost a sultry tone, and Tony rightly recognizes as his most dangerous one.
"Are you using our last names to try and make this professional?" Tony asks. "Because that would work a lot better if you'd started this conversation back in the office and skipped the manhandling."
Gibbs lets him go, and turns away. "Things aren't complicated enough between us, you're going to pull her into it?" Gibbs asks. "We had an agreement. We said we weren't going to let our relationship interfere with our work."
"And I'm not. This has absolutely nothing to do with our relationship. Ziva's my friend," Tony says. "I am allowed to have friends, right? Or did I miss the fine print on that agreement?"
"What the hell's the matter with you?" Gibbs snaps.
"You, you're what's the matter," Tony says. "I'm sick of these power games, Gibbs. You may have noticed that I don't ask you how high I should jump anymore. You need to get used to that."
"I'm still your boss," Gibbs snaps.
Tony laughs. "Yeah, you are, that's true. I'm the one that's changed. I know it's hard for you to understand. Your old boss still calls you probie and you still act like his good little soldier whenever he's in town, but contrary to the popular consensus, I don't actually want to be you."
Gibbs stares at him, not quite glaring. He was too controlled for that. "You should have taken that job in Rota."
Tony gives a sly grin and points at Gibbs with one narrowed eye. "You're not supposed to know about that."
"You've outgrown us, Tony," Gibbs says. "That's what you think, isn't it?"
"That's not it at all," Tony says. "And if that's what you think of me, then we've got more problems than I thought."
"Well, it's something. I thought we decided you weren't going to keep secrets from me anymore," Gibbs says. "Not after that thing with La Grenouille."
Tony twists the cap off his water bottle. "I remember that conversation. I think what I said was that I'd do my best, and we all know how good that is."
Gibbs reaches out, placing his hands on either side of Tony's neck to force him to face him, even though with the lights out he could only make out the reflections of the streetlights in his eyes.
Tony's neck is still sunburned from that trip to Baghdad, and it tingles just a little to have Gibbs fingers pressing in, not quite hard enough to hurt. Tony remembers being so goddamned grateful when they choose Jardine to go with him and not Ziva, or Gibbs, or McGee. Someone who didn't know him. Someone he had the upper hand with.
He'd have gone anywhere just to get away, just for those few days. He doesn't know what it means that he found it easier to breathe in all that sun and gun smoke than the air-conditioned office at home.
"I can't have this team falling apart," Gibbs says.
"Is that all you care about?" he asks.
Tony forces himself to meet Gibbs' eyes and he remembers the day he hit that second year landmark. He stayed for Gibbs, then. He was staying for him now, too.
Still, it wasn't the same. They both knew that. Gibbs is softer now and Tony is harder now and it's throwing them off. They don't fit the same. Sometimes it's better that way, and sometimes it's like this.
"I'm not going to let you fall apart, either," Gibbs whispers harshly.
Tony opens his mouth to snap something back, but he doesn't have the heart to do it. He wants to believe him so he gives in. Some part of him still thinks that Jethro Leroy Gibbs walks on water, and if he says he's going to keep him together, then he's damn well going to stay in one piece.
"There's nothing going on between me and Ziva," he says, instead. "Nothing more than the usual, anyway, and it won't affect us."
"It has already," Gibbs says. "Just tell me what the hell's going on, and why you're acting like a jealous boyfriend just because she's finally found a nice guy?"
"That nice guy was a murder suspect," Tony says. "And she wasn't herself."
He wants to explain that this was never about that, but he's not sure how, he's not sure how it's not. It was jealousy maybe, but not that kind. Tony didn't want Ziva in quite that way. Up until this last week her attention had always made him just slightly uncomfortable, but he missed it now that it was gone. He missed her. She wasn't Ziva right now, because they had asked her to be someone else.
He was starting to worry that maybe the problem is that he can't manage to be just friends with a woman. He'd done it with Kate, and Abby was a whole different thing, could write a book on that relationship and Tony didn't have the time, but Kate. Kate had been his best friend even if he never would have admitted it to her and when she died he'd just stopped.
He supposes he can blame everything that's happened since on Kate. She probably wouldn't even mind. She was used to being his scapegoat and it was almost like old times.
"Just talk to me, Tony," Gibbs says, quiet and considerate and not Gibbs-like at all. It reminds him of that first night after, and he doesn't know why he's dragging this all up now.
Tony reaches out, holds onto Gibbs the same way. "Since when do we talk?" he asks.
Gibbs has never been as good at conversation as Tony, but he knows when he's being played. It's a testament to how tired the both of them really are that he lets him get away with it anyway, and kisses back when Tony makes the first move.
Then they're heading back through the dark hall to the bedroom, retracing the steps of the hundred times they've done this before, trading words for comfort without looking back.
Tony jerks awake at the sound of gunfire.
It takes a minute to realize it's only the phone that woke him. It sounds nothing like a gunshot the second time it rings. He pushes himself off and away from the bed. He hears Gibbs stir behind him, always awake at the slightest move, but Tony's out the door before Gibbs can call him back.
The remnants of his dream flash white like an afterimage every time he closes his eyes, so he keeps them open as he grasps for the phone. "DiNozzo," he says.
It used to be he had to answer with hello. Never knew who might be on the other end of the line, and not everyone knew his real name. He's back out of the habit. He's back to being as close to the real thing as he's ever been and it's both comforting and frightening to live as just himself.
"Tony." His name is said almost breathlessly from the other end of the line, faint and distant but unmistakable.
"Ziva, what's wrong?" he asks quickly, coming wide-awake. She sounds strange. Her voice is a little lazy with laughter and slurring near the end. Ziva doesn't always get the right words in the right order but her diction's never less than perfect.
"Things do not always need to be wrong," she says, each word said a little slower than usual.
"You're drunk," Tony says, and reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose. He can hear Gibbs moving in the bedroom, and he turns to lean against the counter in the kitchen. "Do you need me to come pick you up?"
"I'm at home," she says. "I bought the whiskey and brought it home. It is much more convenient. Bars are not so very great."
That's when he knows. He knows he's talking to Gina. That separate personality Ziva created with a little too much skill, then stored away without giving her the closure she needs.
"You should get some sleep," he tells her.
"I'm sorry," Ziva says, something Ziva would never say. "Tony, I--"
"I know," he says. "I've been there."
"I do not think clearly around you. I never thought--" He can hear her take a deep breath, glass clicking in the background. "I need you to stop asking if I am okay."
"Just for the record, I didn't," Tony says. "I already know you're not."
"And that is why I need you not to ask," she says, speaking clearly now. "Only for awhile. You know it only takes awhile for people like us and then we are fine again. Please, Tony, just--please do not ask until then."
"I won't," he says. He sees Gibbs lean in the doorway of the bedroom out of the corner of his eye. His arms are crossed and his expression is questioning. Tony smiles to try and let him know it's okay even though it's not.
"I never had this problem until I came here," she says.
Tony thinks about Peoria and Philadelphia, those two long years in Baltimore. "I never did either," he says, and he doesn't know why. "I wish I could say it gets easier again but it doesn't."
"What would be the point, if it did?" she asks, and then the dial tone starts up, without so much as goodbye. Tony won't call her back. He won't ask if she's alright, not for a good long while, not if he wants to keep his promise.
Gibbs wraps his arms around him and pulls him back, places his lips just near Tony's ear. "Who was on the phone?"
"Gina," Tony says.
"Ziva," Gibbs says, without even hesitating. "Tony--"
"I meant Ziva," Tony says. "That's what I meant."
"I don't think it is," Gibbs says.
Tony lets himself fall back against him. The dream is still there when he closes his eyes. He wonders if Ziva had been smiling right before, too. "You know what it's like to go undercover," Tony says. "It took me weeks after La Grenouille before I felt myself again."
"Okay," Gibbs says. He doesn't believe him. "But come back to bed."
Gibbs pulls Tony back against him once they get under the covers, his arm resting over his hips, and Tony keeps his eyes open for awhile so he can stay where he is.
He sees it over and over again during the nights. That warehouse. The psycho. If Ziva had moved just slightly slower, that bullet would have hit her between the eyes.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Gibbs asks. Tony knows he'd never get Gibbs to promise to stop asking him that, so it's just as well he's better at answering than Ziva is.
"I'm fine," he says, and smiles almost sincerely. He's half-way there anyway, sleeping here with Gibbs, this is always where he wants to be. He's just not always who he wants to be. The Anthony DiNozzo that sleeps with his boss is not the same Anthony DiNozzo that heads off to work in the morning.
Tony knows that Ziva would understand that, even if Gibbs never quite does.
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