This little piece is set in season 3, not long after Ziva became a member of the team, when Abby was still in deep dislike mode and everyone still missing Kate and being unable to stop making comparisons between Kate and Ziva.

Just a story about how Tony and Ziva might have begun to build their up and down friendship and maybe if you look at it hinky-eyed, the beginning of TIVA.

BEGINNINGS

Ziva sat down heavily at her desk, dropping her backpack to the floor. She was so tired she could barely hold up her head. The case had hit everyone hard. Two young teenagers raped and murdered; twin daughters of a marine Colonel stationed in Afghanistan. She knew it had been hard for Gibbs especially, bringing back the memories of his wife and daughter dying while he was overseas. Hard for Tony and Tim to see the two beautiful girls lying crumpled in death, their loveliness blighted by the blood on their bodies and the terror still evident on their faces.

But for Ziva the shock of seeing them lying with their long dark hair half covering their faces, their bloodied nude bodies exposed to uncaring eyes had taken her back to Tel Aviv and the explosion that took her sister Tali from her. She had been unable to approach the bodies and Tony had touched her back, asking her if she was okay. He'd had to ask her the second time before she could answer him.

She had nodded yes and then, with a deep breath, moved closer. So young; they'd been 16 as Tali had been 16. She saw Gibbs looking at her, his blue eyes watery and she knew he thought of his murdered loved ones too.

Then Gibbs started issuing orders and Ziva and her teammates got busy. Ducky finally came and took the girls away and it got a little easier. Since then, over the last 4 days, they had followed lead after lead and now, today, had finally found out the awful truth. The colonel had been involved in the opium trade in Afghanistan. His daughters had been raped and killed in reprisal after he had threatened to shut down his Afghan partner's operation when local and naval authorities got too close for comfort. Two NCIS agents in Afghanistan had died too. The drug lord was now dead, his stateside henchmen either dead or in jail and the colonel under close arrest and suicide watch. The colonel's wife was in a catatonic state, lying in a cot in a padded room, staring without blinking into the hell her life had become.

Ziva had slept badly all week. She kept dreaming of the girls' bodies, seeing them morph into Tali and then hearing the explosion. She woke up every time, a scream in her throat and couldn't go back to sleep. Maybe now it would get better. She rubbed her tired eyes. Today Tony had come to sit on the edge of her desk several times asking her inane, irritating questions but she knew he was just concerned about her state of mind. After all, she was his partner and he needed her sharp when they were in the field.

Now all four team members typed away on their respective keyboards in the quiet of the bullpen. They were among the last in the building. Finally, Gibbs stood up and said, "Enough. Go home. Get some rest."

He stopped at Ziva's desk on his way out and looked at her. She nodded, yes, she would be okay. He nodded back then left. She knew he was going home to his boat and his booze. She, on the other hand, had nothing to go home to except maybe the hope that tonight she could sleep.

McGee left next. His backpack slung over his shoulder. "Night," he mumbled as he hurried past. She wondered what McGee went home to? He seemed so innocent sometimes, McGee. Maybe that very innocence helped him get through a week like this one? Gave him some sort of protective shell?

She could hear Tony still typing away with his two-finger method. She knew he'd be leaving soon; probably for a weekend-long date of pizza, movies and sex. He would be full of stories on Monday about how exciting it had all been. Sometimes she envied him his lifestyle and seeming lack of cares. Although as she had come to know him a little better she knew there were depths to Tony he didn't show on casual acquaintance. He still annoyed her almost continuously but all things taken into consideration she was glad he was her partner.

Suddenly Tony was in front of her desk, saying something.

"What?" Ziva said. She hadn't heard him.

"Pay attention, Ziva, to your senior field agent. How about something to eat? I'm hungry and I don't want to eat alone."

"What about your date, Tony?"

"Ziva, it's past midnight. Too late for a date."

He grinned at her and she smiled back. She often found herself smiling back at him even when she didn't want to. It was that "DiNozzo magic" he was always talking about, she guessed.

"Thanks, Tony, but no. I'm tired and think I'll just go home."

He squatted down now and looked her in the eyes.

"It's been a tough week for all of us but I think for you maybe a little tougher. C'mon, tell me you've been sleeping at night."

She looked in his eyes. There were shadows in them making her realize his dreams might not have been so pleasant this week either.

He put his hand on hers where it lay on the desk and gently squeezed.

"You'll be doing me a favor, Ziva. I hate eating alone. We'll get a pizza and a pitcher of beer and I'll tell you about my favorite movies and you will learn the basics of American cinema from a veritable master. C'mon, consider it a gift to your new partner."

He tugged on her hand, pulling her unresisting body up out of the chair. He smiled and she smiled back.

He let go of her hand and went back to his desk to turn off his computer and grab his backpack. Ziva did the same. They met in the middle of the room and headed toward the elevator side by side.

"You like anchovies on your pizza? It's probably the only thing I don't ever want on mine. Those little eyes on them creep me out."

Tony rambled on as they got into the elevator and the doors closed. She smiled at him. She knew who had given whom a gift this night; the gift of friendship and acceptance. A gift she would treasure.