“You didn’t tell me.”
It wasn’t a question. It was the first thing Tony had said since he’d opened the door to Gibbs’s house and found Ziva David standing there on the front porch, whole, alive and four years older than the last time he’d laid eyes on her. He’d silently turned and walked back to the kitchen, where he’d been making spaghetti, but he left the door open for her to follow him in. It had taken him finishing the cooking before he spoke. She’d yet to say a word.
Her voice was rough, though whether it was from lack of use or emotion, Tony had a feeling he’d never know. He turned to look at her then. Her eyes hurriedly found the floor, and Tony sighed.
“I didn’t want to disrupt your life,” Ziva started and Tony laughed bitterly.
“That wasn’t your decision to make,” he shook his head.
“It was though, wasn’t it?” Ziva asked, tone sharp. “I did make the decision. To raise her on my own.”
“How did that work out for you?” Tony bit back. It was a low blow, and he knew it.
“I was wrong. I can admit that,” Ziva shrugged. The words took Tony by surprise. “I needed you. Do, need you. Need our family.”
Tony opened his mouth and then closed it again. Our family. They sure as hell didn’t feel like a family. Then again, his family growing up had been just as broken as this. Not that Tony wanted that for Tali. “Why now?” He asked finally. “It’s been two years. Four, since I saw you. Time has passed, Ziva, things have changed. Why now?”
“I had things I needed to do.” She shrugged. “And now they’ve been done.”
“Pasta or Pizza?” Ziva asked as Tony walked into the kitchen. He’d gone to check on their sleeping daughter. The last three weeks had been hard on them all, but the little girl was especially overwhelmed. She’d been clinging to Ziva, understandably, after two years apart. But Ziva had been dealing with a parade of visitors from Gibbs to Ellie. Tali was still getting used to be around lots of people. And Tony and Ziva had barely been alone in the last three weeks since she’d shown up out of the blue.
Tony hadn’t been surprised to find that Ziva had kept possession of her apartment. He had been surprised when she asked if he would move in with her. For Tali, she’d clarified. None of them had a long term plan right now, but considering that Tony had been staying with Gibbs, moving into Ziva’s apartment while they figured this out seemed like the best option. For Tali, of course.
“Pizza,” Tony decided, reaching into the fridge and grabbing a beer. “Need help?”
Ziva shook her head turning to grab the pizza out of the freezer and a pan. Tony hesitated. They hadn’t talked in the time since she’d reappeared. Not past can you give Tali a bath, and I have a lunch with so-and-so and I can’t take Tali with me or what do you want for dinner? It was frustrating. They’d been partners, or something more, for seven years. They had a daughter, but they couldn’t start a simple conversation.
“What?” Ziva snapped, jolting Tony out of his thoughts. He’d been standing at the island of her kitchen, staring at her as she popped the pizza in the oven. He stared at her blankly for a minute before shaking his head. He wasn’t even sure how to start.
He turned and walked to the living room, beer in hand. He looked over her DVD collection, not for the first time shaking his head at how sparse it was, and then selected one and popped it into her Blu-Ray player. She joined him with the pizza and a beer of her own about twenty minutes into the movie. He half expected her to turn and leave him alone in the living room. But instead she curled up into herself on the opposite end of the couch, a slice of pizza in one hand and her beer in the other. She studied the screen.
“Casablanca?” She asked, a hint of - amusement? exasperation?- something, in her voice. He shrugged.
“I was feeling a little nostalgic,” he said mildly. They watched in silence for a bit, eating their pizza and drinking their beer. Were it not for the toddler sleeping in the other room, it would’ve been reminiscent of their weekly dinner dates, years and years ago.
“You can tell me things, you know,” she said suddenly, interrupting the quiet that had settled on them. Tony stared at her blankly, and she sighed. Her eyes were staring at the movie, but they were unfocused and teary. “I am not the same person I used to be, perhaps, but I was your partner for seven years. The mother of your child.” She shrugged and turned her gaze to him. And, quietly: “Tell me your secrets, Tony. Ask me your questions. Can’t we talk like we used to? At the start?”
“Nobody said it was easy,” Tony muttered to himself as he woke up to an empty apartment. He never knew who would be in the apartment when he woke up. Sometimes Tali was there. Sometimes she wasn’t and he had a text from Ziva informing him that either she or Gibbs had her. Sometimes Ziva was there, making breakfast. It was a surprise each morning. Tony liked the mornings that everyone was home best, but he wasn’t going to be the first to say it.
They had never discussed sleeping arrangements, not really. Ziva put both of their things in the master of her two bedroom apartment, and Tali had gotten her own room. Most nights, however, Ziva slept on the couch in her living room. Tony took the bed. They didn’t talk about it. After three months of sleeping on the couch though, Tony imagined that her back wasn’t feeling great.
He checked his phone to discover a message from Ziva, informing him that Tali was with Gibbs and that it was raining outside, and if he was going out could he please pick up a pizza. With a sigh, Tony went to get dressed and did just that, heading to the gym, the McGee home, and stopping at the really good pizza place on the corner. Upon his return to the apartment, however, Tony found the apartment locked. He rarely locked it when he was just running down the street, so Ziva must’ve auto-locked it. And after glancing at his keychain, Tony was reminded that Ziva had stolen his copy of the apartment key for…something or another. He couldn’t remember what. Great.
With a sigh, he turned and sat on the stoop. The overhang of the apartment just sheltered the man and his pizza from the rain. It was pretty, at least. The sun had set a few minutes ago, and the last tendrils of twilight made the rain sparkle as it hit the street. Behind him, the door opened, and Ziva stepped out with two cups. He hadn’t even considered the fact that she might be home already. Normally on days that she was gone, she didn’t return home until late, but her car was parked just down the street, if Tony had bothered looking for it. Some detective I’ve become, Tony thought wryly.
“Espresso?” She asked, coming to sit beside him and holding out one of the cups. Somewhere in his mind, a memory stirred, and he offered her a smile. Now, just as he did then, he reached for the other cup. The movement triggered a smile on her lips too.
“Toda,” he said, recognizing the gesture for what it was. An attempt at a new beginning, perhaps. Or reconciliation. He was reaching for the pizza before she responded.
“Where were you?” Tony asked one night. It’s been six months since Ziva returned, and she’s started sleeping next to him now. It is a fragile peace. Neither of them touch each other for fear of breaking it, but they sleep side by side. It was a step. Though sometimes it seemed like every step forward lead to two steps back, especially because her body lying next to his tensed at the question.
He considered dropping it, but figured the damage was already done.
“While you were gone. Those two years. Where were you?”
She was silent for a moment, and he wondered if she’s just going to ignore him.
“All over,” she admitted finally. “My father had a list of names. Personal enemies that he needed to take care of, for the sake of his family’s safety. He was not finished with it when he died.”
“So you took it up?” Tony asked skeptically. An old vendetta didn’t seem worth giving up two years with his daughter to him. And if he knew anything about the kind of mother Ziva was, it was a devoted one.
“I wasn’t going to,” she sighed, turning to face him. They lay there, face to face for a moment as Ziva struggled with words. “I was willing to let sleeping dogs rest.”
“Lie. Sleeping dogs lie,” Tony couldn’t help but correct. She made a face at him, in the dim light, and it broke the tension some. “What changed?”
“They began to find us,” Ziva said quietly. “Orli took care of as many as she could, but some of them got past.”
“Like Kort,” she agreed. “And others would after him. I saw an opportunity to give my daughter the life my father wanted for her. The life I want for her. It was either that or take her on the run with me, and that was not the life I wanted for her. I wanted her to have a home. To have a family, and know love.” She was silent for a moment, then she spoke tentatively. “I thought, at first, that you would find me actually.”
“I tried, at first,” Tony said, trying to tamp down the irritation that rose at the memory. “You didn’t exactly give me a lot to go on, Zi. I followed you to Israel and then Paris, but everything after that was a mystery. Every possible clue felt like I was looking at it in another language, and I was never even certain that you were alive. I was just guessing. Trying to solve a puzzle that didn’t make sense.”
“I wasn’t really trying to leave clues,” Ziva said into the darkness. “But you always seemed to find me, before, so I figured you would, eventually.”
“I love you,” Tony said, one year after Ziva returned home. They were fighting over something dumb, the color of Tali’s overalls for the first day of school, or what to pack her for lunch, or what time they were going to Gibbs’s house. And Tony had seen the signs just seconds before she locked herself in the bedroom. Her shoulders had tensed, her jaw tight, and then the door had slammed and if Tony stood very still he could hear her sniffling. So he’d sat himself against the bedroom door and opened his mouth to apologize and…it just slipped out. The sounds of Ziva’s muffled frustration were suspiciously absent as he winced, and then the door flung open and he found himself sprawled on his back, looking up at her.
“I love you,” Tony said cautiously. She wasn’t holding a knife to his throat, and she was still in the apartment, so those both seemed like encouraging signs. She was standing as still as a statue, staring down at him. It was freaky, how still she could stand. “I’m not just here for Tali, Zi. I love you. I think you’ve known that since the start, though.”
“I…” Ziva opened her mouth, and then closed it again. She instead offered Tony her hand, and he took it, pulling himself up with a groan. They got everything ready for Gibbs’s Labor Day barbecue in relative silence, and it wasn’t until they were getting in the car that she called his name.
“Tony. I love you too.”
“You’re sure?” He asked, six months later. Ziva rolled her eyes and shot him a glare. Even Tali, at nearly six years old, knew better than to doubt her mother when she said something. “Oh my god.”
“It’s not going to be easy,” she warned him. He just looked at her, face unreadable.
“Nobody said it was easy,” he shot back immediately. “Oh my god. I get to- we get to- we’re gonna-?”
“Yes, Tony,” she laughed, running her fingers through his hair. “From the start. Together, this time.” She gave him a searching look, eyes roving his face. “Are you happy?”
“Happy?” He snorted. “Zi, I’m ecstatic. I want a whole army of children.”
She shook her head fondly. “Well, let’s start with these two, yes?”
“As long as we’re back at the start.”