TITLE: Shouldn't I?
AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Anthony DiNozzo/Ziva David (Gibbs/Ducky, Abby/McGee, Palmer/OMC are mentioned in passing)
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: Tony and Ziva have been together for thirty years and Tony still loves her as much as ever. But should he?
WORD COUNT: 2,050
SPOILERS: Semper Fidelis & Aliyah
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The significance of Tony's gift and the flower are that they are both representative of a 30th anniversary.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Moving quietly Tony carried the carefully prepared breakfast tray into the bedroom. He paused in the doorway, telling himself he was checking that everything on the tray was perfect. He looked at it all; the bud vase with the single silk lily, the glass of orange juice, the coffee pot and the toast (she didn't really like breakfast in bed) and finally the dark blue box with discrete gold writing containing her wedding anniversary gift - a simple, elegant pearl necklace. But even as he looked, he knew he was only fooling himself; he wasn't really checking the tray, he was watching her. Watching Ziva. Watching Ziva, his wife of thirty years, sleep.
Even after all these decades, he swore that the only time she ever looked truly at peace, truly content was when she was asleep. She denied that and he allowed her to, because he loved her. He still loved her. After thirty years of marriage, at the age of sixty-seven, he still loved her. And at fifty-six, she was still beautiful. And she was still his. She could still make his heart miss a beat when he looked at her, when she looked at him.
Thirty years and they were still together. Who would have believed it? Not Tony. Why would he have done? Marriage didn't last; he saw that with his parents. Saw it when Gibbs mentioned his three ex-wives. Read and heard the statistics. Sure some marriages, some relationships, lasted. Take Abby and McTim, Gibbs and Ducky, Palmer and his partner, they'd both lasted. Abby and Tim were still happy, as were Palmer and Craig, Gibbs and Ducky had died within a month of one another, after having been together for more years than Tony had been alive. But they were the exceptions that proved the rule. They were the only three couples Tony had known who had lasted. At least those among whom he counted as friends.
And in his and Ziva's case there was an even stronger reason than 'statistics' that should have meant they could not have lasted.
They hadn't married for love.
They had married because Tony had felt guilty.
Against all his expectations, Ziva had returned to the US a few months after they'd left her in Tel Aviv. But she had been different, she had been very different. She hadn't volunteered any information about what had happened in the months since they'd left her and no one had asked. The only thing she had told them was that she no longer had a father and was no longer a member of Mossad. She had no right to be in the US. She had returned to say goodbye.
Tony had known that Gibbs had battled long and hard with Vance and the SecNav to make an exception and let Ziva join NCIS as an agent even though she wasn't a born American or a naturalized one. They could bury the paperwork, he'd said over and over again, until she gained citizenship. But all his efforts had been denied.
With days left before Ziva vanished from their lives almost certainly forever, Tony had made a decision. In the time she'd been gone, he had thought, he had thought often. He had thought more than he'd ever thought about anything in his entire life. He had thought about her 'you did not have to kill him'. His report, what he'd said to Gibbs, Vance, Director David all disagreed with Ziva, as he had done.
But during the weeks she had been away, during the weeks he'd had time to think, Tony had realized she had been right. He hadn't had to kill Rivkin. He'd been scared; for all his bravado he'd always known he should not have lived to walk out of Ziva's apartment. He should not have lived to spar verbally with Vance and Director David. He should not have lived. He'd panicked and in a split second he'd put four bullets into Rivkin's chest. He could have put them elsewhere. Rivkin need not have died. Rivkin should not have died.
He'd never told anyone what he'd realized. Not Vance. Not Gibbs. Not even Ducky when he'd returned to Autopsy to find Tony and an empty scotch bottle. Nor had he even told Ziva - at least not in so many words.
He owed her. He could marry her, give her American citizenship and after a year or two, they'd divorce. She could stay in America and they'd both move on. Hopefully they'd stay friends, but that was all. There was no love between them. He doubted there ever could be.
They'd marry, stay together for long enough for the marriage to be seen as 'real'; long enough for her to obtain citizenship in her own right and then they would part. He didn't want to be with someone for life anyway. He was Anthony DiNozzo, he played the field. There was always another girl to date, another relationship to enter into and walk away from. And even if, on the off chance, he did grow to love her during their time together, it wouldn't last. Love didn't. Love couldn't. Maybe some people were born to love someone for life, but Tony wasn't one of those people. He'd loved once, he thought he'd loved once, and look what had happened there.
But love or not. Real or not. A true marriage or not. He owed her. He owed her, even if she would never know why. So he'd offered to marry her, letting her know it was just so she could stay in the US.
He had been somewhat surprised when she'd accepted his offer. But accept it she had. And thirty years ago with Gibbs, Ducky, McGee, Abby and Palmer by their sides, he and Ziva had exchanged vows. He and Ziva had become Mr. and Mrs. Anthony DiNozzo.
At first it hadn't been easy; it had been harder than he'd anticipated. He wasn't used to living with someone, even though they were in effect more roommates than husband and wife. Oh, they'd shared a room, they'd shared a bed - their marriage had to be to all external eyes above board. Real. Even Gibbs had to be fooled. And he had been. Everyone had been.
Well, everyone except one person. The one member of the team who saw everything, who could read people, who knew people, who talked a lot, but listened more: Ducky. He had not been fooled. Tony had seen the look, a fleeting, speculative, hastily covered up look, but it had been there. Ducky had known the truth and had chosen to say nothing to anyone - not even to Gibbs.
In the early days of their marriage they had fought bitterly, brutally, futilely, because they knew they were bound together by more than a piece of paper. And most of those fights had been over Gibbs.
Gibbs, the man Ziva had once chosen over her friendship with, her love for, Jenny, was a man she now seemed to hate. Not wanting to be alone with Ziva for hour after hour, not knowing what to say to the woman who was his wife, the woman when it came down to it, he'd known nothing about, Tony had taken to inviting the team for dinner on a regular basis.
The first time they'd all turned up, Ziva had pointedly ignored Gibbs. She hasn't spoken to him, she hadn't looked at him; she hadn't acknowledged him.
Once the team had gone they'd fought over it. Well they'd fought if a fight where only one person was yelling could be called a fight. That night he'd spent sleeping on the couch, or rather not sleeping. A look at her face the following morning had told him Ziva too hadn't slept.
The second time the team had visited Ziva had said hello and goodbye to Gibbs. She hadn't met his eyes, but she had spoken. It had been a start. Not much of one, but a start. But foolishly Tony hadn't understood it then and once more they'd argued. Once more they'd spent a sleepless night apart.
The third time he'd invited them to dinner, Ziva had met Gibbs's eyes; had even spoken to him once or twice, beyond 'hello' and 'goodbye'. That night Tony and Ziva had not fought.
The fourth time she had initiated a stilted conversation with Gibbs.
The fifth she'd smiled at him.
The sixth Tony had gone into the kitchen to find her crying in Gibbs's arms.
That night they'd had their worst fight ever, because that was the time she had fought back. He'd asked what she'd been crying about. She'd refused to answer. He'd accused her of wanting to be with Gibbs rather than with him. She'd called him a fool. He'd said she didn't love him. She'd laughed and said their marriage wasn't about love. Rather than let it go, he'd gone on pushing and pushing, even telling her he'd drive her to Gibbs's house until she'd raised her hand to slap his face. He'd caught it and moments later they were naked on the floor engaged in the most brutal sex session Tony had ever experienced.
And that had been the moment when, in effect, everything had changed. As he'd lain next to her on the carpet, his heart still racing, his body aflame from the intensity of what they'd done, he had known: he loved her. He hadn't married her because he'd felt guilty, because he'd felt he'd owed her, well that was part of it, but in truth he'd married her because he loved her. He just hadn't realized it at the time. He hadn't realized it until that night.
Not that thing changed over-night. Not that they became love's young dream. Not that they became an instant couple. Not that it was like the movies. But gradually the fights lessened, the sex became love-making, the sleepless nights became due to love-making and not fighting. And then finally, on their first anniversary, when he was almost asleep he felt a gentle, chaste almost hesitant kiss on his cheek and she had whispered that she loved him.
And thirty years later, amazingly, they were still married and he still loved her. For thirty years he had been with the same person, the same woman. For thirty years he'd done what he'd never thought he'd be able to do: be faithful to the same person. Oh, he still looked, of course he did, what man didn't? Besides she did too. And at times the urge to maybe do more than just look had been there, but he'd always ignored it. Even when he'd woken up one day and realized Ziva was going to turn fifty the following month and although her figure was still good, and she was still a beauty, she wasn't young any longer. Nor was he, but that was okay, older men and younger women . . . But that thought vanished even before it had formed. He didn't need a younger woman, a sweet, innocent, girl who'd look wide-eyed at him, he had all he needed. He had Ziva.
If he had one regret, it was that they'd never had kids. She couldn't. She didn't tell him why. And he didn't ask. But in reality the lack of their own children hadn't mattered that much because with the McGee twin boys and their sister and Palmer and his life-partner's adopted son and daughter, they had a family anyway. And other people's kids were the best - you could give them back afterwards. Besides, he didn't need kids, he had Ziva.
He remembered the last Christmas they'd all shared at Ducky and Gibbs's Reston home. That had been a wonderful occasion; a special occasion. Maybe the best Christmas they'd ever shared. It had almost been as if - He stopped that thought; today was not the day for such maudlin thoughts.
For thirty years he'd loved her - surely now after all those years the love should have lessened? Shouldn't it?
Surely now after all those years he should love her less than he did? Shouldn't he?
As under his gaze he saw the first signs that she was waking, he answered his own question: No.
The experts say it does not last.
The experts say it's fleeting.
The experts bray love fades so fast
Then tell me why is my heart still beating?
Shouldn't I be less in love with you?
Shouldn't I address what time can do?
Shouldn't I be more inclined to flee?
Shouldn't I explore all I can be?
Shouldn't I confess a sordid fling?
Shouldn't I caress a cute young thing?
Shouldn't I asses what we've been through?
Shouldn't I be less in love with you?
After thirty years together
All those brutal fights
Those futile fights
Then the sleepless nights
Shouldn't I have quit 'cause marriage ends?
Shouldn't we have split like all our friends?
Shouldn't I profess it's time to go?
Shouldn't I be less in love with you?
A link to the actual song: