Note: Set two years in the future.

Thirty-six straight hours has passed since he left for work the sebelumnya morning, and Tony’s body aches. He misses his couch, he misses his bed, and he envies those agents who can claim truthfully that they see their homes almost every single night.

He fumbles clumsily for his keys, finding his wallet, a crumpled five dollar note and a gum wrapper first. He has no patience for this, as he had rather hoped to oleh raiding the contents of his refrigerator oleh now, which in all likelihood was probably empty, but he can’t remember. His stomach is complaining somewhat and he remarks inwardly that he ought to try to ease up on the pizza during all-nighters. His body doesn’t take the strain of a shift that long like it used to.

The key is halfway in the lock when his phone beeps, and he slides his finger across the screen to find a message from Bishop.

Everything OK? anda seemed pretty out of it earlier. Better catch some Zs.

It’s nice that she cares, but Tony cannot not help but be pahit that the forty menit of sleep at her meja tulis, meja and four really strong cappuccinos were enough to leave her practically perky for the majority of the working day. Still, that had been a deep forty minutes. When he’d thrown pencils at her, she’d hardly stirred.

He replies: Working on it. He is practically through the door whenhe hears footsteps to his left. His shoulders drop and he shuts his eyes as he remembers the promise he’d made, albeit reluctantly, to the old woman down the hall.

“Josie, I’ll get around to changing that bulb for you,” he says, not looking up from the lock. “But it’s just that I’ve had a long hari and I’m tired.”

“Clearly,” the voice behind him says, and he freezes, because that is not Josie’s voice. “You thought I was a seventy-five tahun old woman from Massechuesetts.”

He knows that voice. He would know it anywhere, and he had known it almost everywhere. He had known it across the continents of the world, through gunfire and through piercing silence, and he had known it from the meja tulis, meja opposite his own for eight whole years.

For a moment, he doesn’t want to turn around. He wants to keep walking and close the door behind because there is no way that that voice belongs to anything but an apparition; a hallucination. But this battle is plenty two-sided, and the part of him that he has tried so hard to shut out, the part that clings onto that voice and its owner despite distance and time, wins out in him. In a way, it always has. It had pulled him around the world and back, and had him running towards death’s open arms lebih times than he could count. Right now, though, it leaves him standing right in front of the woman who owns that voice; the woman whose absence had fuelled countless sleepless nights and hours in the Navy Yard’s favourite bar.

“Ziva,” he says, a muddle of relief and ecstasy and the feeling of hurtling backwards towards the person that one once was.

“Hello, Tony,” she replies, and her lips spread into a smile that she can’t fight.

Two years. Two years of sparse messages and crumpled postcards and the occasional crackled phone call, usually when he’d had a few too many drinks and had clumsily tapped at his phone’s screen.

“I…you…I mean…I thought anda were…” He can’t seem to finish the sentence. Truth be told he doesn’t know what atau where atau anything when it comes to her departure. Or, lebih accurately, his own departure.

She nods, and she understands. He thinks that maybe she doesn’t know either. “I was,” she tells him. “And now I am not.”

He frowns, unsure of where to go next. Because surely, surely there is more. There has to be. The pain he went through can’t have been for nothing.

“I can see that. Care to elaborate?”

She sighs and looks at the ground, all of a sudden afraid to meet his eyes. Her hands twist the fabric of her coat. “Can I come inside?”

And of course she can.

He stands beside his open door, as she passes through, and God help him, part of him is telling him to grab her and hold her and ciuman her senseless but he just can’t bring himself to.

She takes a kursi on his leather couch, right on the edge with a straight-backed posture and her hands clasped firmly in her lap. It hurts him just to see the tension in her that has come with being around him, and he wishes that it was not there.

It eases when he sits beside her, but she stares straight ahead, knowing she just has to get the words out and hopefully everything will be okay.

“I thought oleh going back to Israel I would be going back to the beginning,” she says. “I went there to get awayfrom all the pain I had caused. The bullets I had fired. All the lives I had changed for the worse. I thought I could run away from it all and start over.” She leans back, the dinding behind her becoming her support. “And it worked for a while, but then I started remembering the childhood I had there. My father raised me to be a soldier and that’s what I became. I was no lebih a child than a strategy, just like my brother Ari. All that pain had spawned from wounds that had just never healed the right way. Nothing was right when I was there. I just kept moving from place to place, hoping to find something to fill this void that I had. I thought whatever I was looking for would just find me.”

He is silent, because he knows that there is more. And he does not want to silence her, not yet.

“My very first hari at NCIS, Gibbs had me in the elevator, anda know,” she mimes the way Gibbs flicks the stop switch, and he smiles minutely. “I told him I’d taken the job because I needed to get away from Israel, because it reminded me of pain and hurting, all the time. But that didn’t come from NCIS, it followed me there. I thought that maybe I could retrace my steps in a path that would lead me away from it. But anda cannot outrun pain.”

“No, anda can’t,” he says, and his confidence fails him just this once. His head hangs, and he is reminded of just how the past two years have taught him that lesson. “You gotta face it.”

She looks at him now, her eyes genuine, begging for trust. “I missed something two years ago. I missed the most obvious thing, the thing that was staring me in the face that whole time. anda cannot change the past, and I think I forgot that somewhere along the line. And in doing so, I was running from lebih important things.” Slowly, her hand slides across his thigh to find his hand and squeezes hard. “The people who have watched my back as I run away and opened their arms every time I run back. My real family. The people I love.” Her voice fails her on that last word. She lifts her chin to look at him, and her eyes glistened with tears threatening to fall. And it hurts. It hurts for him to shut his eyes, to look away from the face that’s haunted his dreams for two whole years. It hurts to free his hand from hers, because it feels empty without something to hold onto. And it hurts lebih than anything else to feel the splash of her tears on his thigh.

It takes all his effort, and all his courage, but he chokes out one little word: “No.”

Her mouth falls open. “No?”

After that first word, the words begin to come lebih easily. He remembers how to form sentences from fragments.

“Two years, Ziva. Two years I waited. Every night I wasn’t working, I hoped you’d come through that door saying all this stuff about how anda should have followed me onto that plane, how anda were sorry. And when I was working I hoped that every ding of the elevator at some ridiculous jam of the morning would be you, because anda had hopped the first plane anda could when anda realised that anda had to come back. And you’d say that you’d stay, and that things could just go back to normal. And I didn’t get a good night sleep for weeks, anda know that?

“Two years and it was never once anda at the door. Because anda were God-knows-where reconciling yourself.”

The muscles in his neck twitch, and when she speaks, she speaks only to break the ear-piercing silence. “You … anda could have called.”

Tony rises to his feet. “What, you’re gonna blame me? anda knew how I felt. Getting on that plane knowing I might never see anda again was the hardest goddamned thing I have ever done. It hurt me. And it hurt me even lebih having to tell the people who cinta anda why anda weren’t coming back, not ever. Not even to say goodbye. But of course, there’s always another day, another case. It was back to business as usual. I had to just get used to that. And now, I am. Business as usual just doesn’t include you, and I don’t know how to feel about that.”

Ziva gets to her feet too, hating having him standing over her. His statements are true, but that doesn’t numb their sting. “I’m here to fix things, Tony, I’m here to make it better.” Her hands come up to his chest, just over his heart.

“How do I know anda won’t run again?”

“Don’t anda trust me?” she asks, the sound of betrayal echoing in every word.

“With my life,” he jawaban truthfully.

She sniffs and nods, and her hands fall to her sides again. “But not your heart.”

He lets out a sigh. “There was no getting over you. None. I had to learn to be a different person. And now you’re knocking down my door asking for that guy again? The guy who was totally, completely in cinta with you?”

And it’s as soon as he says the words that he realises it’s the first time he has really berkata them, at least without sugar-coating.

“Tony …”

“Maybe there’s a version of us in some alternate universe that worked it out. Maybe in that universe there was no Rule Number Twelve, no Jeanne Benoit atau Michael Rivkin. No Ray, no EJ, no Wendy. Maybe those two have something special. The something that I used to imagine us having.” He pauses. “They’re lucky.”

“No, Tony, do not do this. I understand you’re upset but I came here to make it up to you. I was scared and hurt and wrong when I stayed in Israel but I know that this is my home.”

“My apartment?”

“Anywhere that anda are,” she says, softly, touching his cheek.

“I worked so hard to stitch myself up after anda were gone. Turns out gaping holes in a person’s jantung aren’t all that easy to mend.”

“I know,” she says.

“No, anda don’t.”

“Then tampil me,” she begs, bringing her other hand up to his other cheek. He is crying now, too, and she places her lips to his cheekbones, catching the tears as they fall. Slowly, tentatively, his hands find her waist and rest there. She kisses his wet cheek again, and feels his fingers dig into the flesh of her hips.

“I can’t,” he whispers. “I can’t do it. anda need to go.”

She sucks in the smallest of breaths, and then her expression hardens like stone. The way it does when she sees something she knows she can’t let hurt her. The way it does when she starts to shut the world out.

“Okay,” she says after forever. Her hands fall to her side and he watches their movement. He feels his cheeks flush where her hands had been, and prays the semi-darkness is enough to cover it. “Okay,” she says again, and she paces backward and backward.

“Ziva –”

“Okay.” And she is out the door.

She waits until the door is shut and silence fills her to let her face crumple. Of all the possibilities she has considered, this is not one of them. The Tony in her memory would never turn her away. Not after anything. Then again, he berkata it was her leaving that made him like this. The Tony in her memory is only in her memory, and that is her fault.

She runs. She runs knowing her feet against the floorboards will wake the neighbours and she doesn’t care. She takes the stairs because she doesn’t want to stop. The cold wind outside stings her eyes and blurs her vision. Her instincts pull her every which way but she tries to listen to her head and not the adrenaline in her veins, and her head tells her nothing. She simply does not know where to go.

Tony lets his weight fall limply against the door and runs his hands over his face. He is so tired. How can that have happened? How can she have been here? After all this time, after all this heartache, how can she tampil up on a whim? Ziva David is not a spontaneous person.

He thinks back to those times when there had been other men in her life. The way she had acted with them. She went on lunch dates without telling people. She turned the break room into a candlelight dinner. She ski and on road trips and let her jantung act for once in her life.

Ziva David is not a spontaneous person.

Except when she is in love.

And he wants to just about die, knowing what he has turned away. His jantung hurts at the thought of her but that only validates his feelings.

Two years he wasted and waited. He waited for this exact moment, and now that it is here, he let it pass him by?

He knows that heartbreak follows Ziva like a shadow, but he’ll be damned if that is going to stop him.

Tony thinks of all the films he watched and re-watched in the endless hours that at the time he wished he was spending with her. If it was a good film, the guy got the girl in the end. But he realises that he is not in one of those movies, because his happy ending has always been for her to come and get him.

She is heartbreaking and sad, she is angry and hurt. She is scarred and damaged and broken, irreparably so. She is clever, she is fast; she is api without any boundaries. She is brilliant in every way that a person can be. And she is his.

Except not now.

He knows that heartbreak follows Ziva like a shadow, but he’ll be damned if that is going to stop him.

It doesn’t take him long to find her. He chases the shape walking east towards a bus stop, one whose wild curls are contained beneath a woollen beanie and who is wearing her coat. She’s barely a block away oleh the time she gets to the entrance of his building, but she moves fast. He moves faster.

“Ziva!” he calls as he picks up pace. “Ziva, wait!”

He’s on her heels oleh the third time her name leaves his lips. She turns around so quickly that the ends of her hair brush his cheek as they whip past.

“You think I wanted to leave anda at that airport?” she snaps. “You think it was easy watching anda walk away? It was the hardest 180 of my life, too.”

“Then why didn’t anda come with me?” he says, his voice barely there.

She takes only a moment to consider, but hesitates. “I was … scared.”

“Of me?”

“Never. I was scared of,” she pauses, “myself, I suppose.”

“And now?”

“Now,” she takes in a shuddery breath. “I know that I can never be who I want to without my family. But especially not without you. You, Tony, anda make me feel like I have worth, and that I deserve happiness, and that I am more.”

“You are more, Ziva. I had nothing to do with it.”

She smiles at him through her tears.

“Is that why you’re here?” he asks. “To tell me that?” She nods and he swallows. “I just … can’t watch anda walk away again, Ziva.”

She takes his hand. “I am not going anywhere. I can bag groceries for all I care.” She says the words with their foreheads touching, her lips right against his.

He actually laughs then, and she laughs with him, revelling in the feeling. His eyes shine too, now.

“I’ve waited way too long to hear anda say that,” he says, and kisses her right there. Too long apart, never long enough together till now. He’s determined never to let her go.