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about time

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When his doorbell rings late on a Wednesday night, Tony gives serious thought to not answering it. It’s been one of those days, tomorrow isn’t looking any better and the last thing he wants to do is deal with actual people. He could pretend he’s not home, he thinks, hopes they’ll go away but when the doorbell chimes again, he knows that’s a vain hope

Standing up slowly, he takes a fortifying sip of bourbon and heads to the door. What he sees there takes his breath away, in more ways than one.

“Ziva.”

Ziva gives him a tiny smile, not unlike the one she’d given him four months ago as he boarded a plane in Tel Aviv. There are no tears in her eyes this time though, so he takes that as a good thing. “Hello, Tony,” she says and her voice sends goosebumps up and down his arms.

There is a moment of silence which, characteristically, he’s the one to break. “You’re here.”

It’s not the smoothest thing he could have said, not anywhere close but when her smile flashes wider, he decides he can live with it. “May I come in?” she says and he nods, steps back to let her in, lets her walk past him and takes his time closing the door just so he has a chance to collect himself.

“When did you get back?” She stops looking around his living room, turns to look at him and bestows one of those Mona Lisa smiles of hers on him.

“This morning,” she says simply, holding his gaze.

“And you’re staying...”

“I have a hotel room.” Which answers the question of whether anyone else knows she’s here.

“You could have stayed with me.” He takes a step closer to her, tilts his head without ever breaking eye contact.

“I did not wish to presume.” She shrugs and her long dark coat slips a little off one shoulder. She pulls it back up again, like she’s cold, like she’s uncomfortable. “For all I knew...”

He knows what she means. He doesn’t like it. “You knew,” he tells her but there’s no recrimination in the words. He couldn’t get over her in so short a space of time and they both know it. She inclines her head, wordlessly conceding the point. It’s something that Ziva rarely did back in the day and he decides he’s going to take that as another good sign. “Can I at least take your coat?”

Ziva presses her lips together, looks off to the side. He recognises that as the look she gets when she’s considering something. It strikes him as odd because it’s not that hard of a question. Then again, he’s not so sure that this entire visit isn’t a dream, the product of him working too hard, sleeping too little.

Then she nods.

Taking a deep breath, she slides her coat off her shoulders and he approaches her, ever the gentleman, ready to take it, hang it up beside his and let it live there forever.

Then he looks at her. Really looks at her.

And stops.

He’s worked with Ziva day in, day out for the better part of a decade. He’s seen her dressed up and dressed down and everything in between. He knows her body, knew her body intimately even before his hands and lips got the chance to map its curves. So he knows that the curve to her stomach, that’s new.

His breath catches audibly as he realises what it means, why she’s come back to him.

For the first time since she walked into his apartment, she looks uncertain but her head is still held high as she drops the coat onto the couch beside her. Then she stands her ground, stares into his eyes and waits.

She doesn’t have to wait long. Mere seconds pass before he finds himself standing in front of her, one hand outstretched. He stops just short of touching her belly, suddenly unsure of himself. A flash of amusement lights her eyes, curls her lips and then her fingers are around his wrist, bringing his palm to her body.

For once in his life, Tony is speechless.

Maybe Ziva sees that - after all, she knows him pretty well too. “I know,” she whispers, her voice thick with tears, “that I could do this alone. But... I do not wish to.”

There’s a strange roaring in Tony’s ears and his heart threatens to pound right out of his chest. Partly because of what she’s just revealed to him, partly because of the words she just said.

“Is that the only reason you’re here now? Because of...” The words die in his throat and he knows he’s potentially looking a gift horse in the mouth but he needs to know.

Ziva sucks in a shuddering breath. “Tony,” she begins and his name on her lips almost does Tony in altogether, so sudden is the sweep of desire that results. “I do not know if I would have returned so quickly without this... or if I would have returned at all.” She’s being honest and he knows that but it still stings a little. “But when I learned... you deserve to know your child. And our child deserves to know her father.”

That one small word knocks the breath out of him all over again. “Her?”

Ziva shrugs and she actually blushes. He’s not sure he’s ever seen that before. “A feeling,” is all she says. His thumb sweeps over the curve of her stomach and she looks down, smiling. “So, yes... I came back for her. But also for me.”

That sounds promising and Tony lifts one eyebrow. “For you?”

This time, when Ziva nods, it’s more certain. “Because I love you.”

Those are the words he’d never dreamed he’d hear, the words he’s wanted to hear for longer than he’d even realised. And he knows he should come out with something sincere and romantic, something they’ll be able to tell all their friends about, tell their kids about one day.

But that’s not him.

And it’s certainly not them.

“Well, it’s about time,” he tells her and she stares at him for a fraction of a second before she makes a little noise that’s somewhere between laughter and tears. Her free hand reaches up to cover her lips, like she’s trying to keep it back, but he’s not having that. He catches her hand with his, brings it to his lips, like he had that day in the orange grove. “By the way,” he says softly, “I love you too.”

Ziva’s smile is as wide as he’s ever seen it, warmer too, but he doesn’t see it for long. “Welcome home, Ziva,” he whispers before he kisses her - he’d rather feel her smile than see it and, for once, she doesn’t disagree with him.

It’s a whole new start for them and he likes the sound of that.