Tony Dinozzo hated first dates. It was a dirty little secret that he wanted to keep that way. People assumed that he loved the new, the fresh, the untapped mystery of a woman he was out with for the first time.
Despite years of honing his skills, he still spent the first date with his mind racing and his heart thumping. How much should he say about his job? The danger was sexy but too much scared them off. He learned early on that the less he said about his insane family the better it was all around.
Tonight his mind was racing faster and his heart thumping harder than usual. He had spent too long on the sidelines. He hoped he had not lost touch with the game entirely.
His internal panic was interrupted when he saw his date arrive and give his name to the hostess. He couldn't help but stare at her as she was shown to the table, her simple black cocktail dress effortlessly showing her body at its best. His mouth was dry and he felt like a teenager on his first date ever.
Get a grip, DiNozzo! he told himself and for good measure he added a mental head-slap.
"Good evening, Tony" she smiled at him. She thanked the waiter as he pushed in her chair and handed them menus. "You have chosen a lovely restaurant."
"Thankyou" he croaked. He wanted to tell her that she looked great but it seemed too much of a cliché. He was afraid that if he said nothing she would think he had not noticed. He settled on a middle ground. Middle ground and humour. That should be safe.
"Something you just had lying around?" he indicated the dress.
"No, I bought it specially." She replied candidly, the carefully crafted humour lost somewhere between them.
Crap he thought. Quick, recover! Don't stare at her… Mental head-slap again.
"It is lovely. You look lovely." He went for the cliché, not because he knew it would work but because it was true.
"Thankyou, Tony" she said softly. "You look…Actually you look exactly as I expected." Perfect she added mentally. She had not expected this to be so hard! It felt forced and unnatural. Awkward. She hated it. She had to lighten the mood. "Your hair is very spiky tonight." She reached out to touch it but he swatted her hand away. He was too slow for and she gently grabbed his wrist and leaned across the table towards him.
"This is no good" she admitted.
His mind went blank. Because of this, he is not sure but he thinks his heart stopped beating. How could four words stop him cold like that? It was over before it even began. He had been so sure that this woman would be the end of his dry spell. Maybe even forever. And now…
Worst first date ever.
"You want to leave?" he asked. He wanted to slide under the table and hide.
"Yes. I am sorry this place is very nice but it is not…right." she did not want to insult him. He had put a lot of thought into it.
He remembered a mission he had been on, long ago. A fancy dining room. A beautiful woman with a beautiful dress. That had been awkward too but for an entirely different reason. His every move was being monitored by his boss then.
But now he was alone. With a beautiful woman. And she wanted to leave.
Tony sighed and stood up. Walking around the table, he pulled out her chair for her and helped her put her coat on. He had failed miserably but there was no reason not end this as a gentleman. He left a tip for the waiter and they wound their way through the tables and out the door.
He stood by her car, shuffling his feet in a very un-Tony like way. For the first time in his life, he was completely lost for words and just wanted to go home and hide.
"Well, thanks anyway" he croaked. "Thanks for trying." He turned and walked away.
He sat in his car and watched her drive off. Twenty minutes passed and he was still sitting there, not thinking, not feeling. How could this have failed?
His phone rang. He hoped for a really gruesome murder to take his mind off his miserable night. He answered it without looking. "DiNozzo"
"Ziva" he said. "Why are you calling me?" He did not need this right now.
"I had a date tonight. It did not go well." She said.
"So did I. Massive failure." He admitted.
"What happened?" Ziva asked.
"She left. Before we even ordered drinks." His voice caught.
"Where are you now?"
"In my car. In the parking lot of the restaurant." He wanted to hang up but knew he would pay tomorrow if he did.
"Go home, Tony." Ziva suggested. "Go home, watch a movie and forget about it. Bad dates are not the end of the world."
Despite himself he smiled. "Hey, you got it right."
"Go home, Tony." She said again.
"Goodnight, Ziva." He sighed.
She hung up and he started the car. He drove almost on autopilot and reached his apartment without incident. He climbed the stairs slowly, and got his key out of his pocket. He didn't bother hanging up his coat. He dropped it on the floor with his suit jacket and kicked off his shoes. Halfway down the hallway to his room he stopped.
He backed himself up the hall to the lounge room and stared at the tv. It was turned on, the familiar FBI warning paused on screen. Weird he thought. He had been nervous, before his date and he had watched the end fight sequence of A New Hope to calm himself. He must have left it on.
He continued to his room, unbuttoning his shirt and dropping it on the floor on the way. He opened his door and threw his pants on the floor. He did not care if they creased. He dug his cozy long pajama pants out of a drawer and pulled them on. He was about to flop himself on the bed when he saw a dark shape in his way. He walked over and picked up the smooth black garment, letting it slide through his fingers and back onto the quilt. OK he thought. This is getting really weird.
He turned and walked back to the lounge room, this time seeing what he had missed before with his back turned. One of his OSU t-shirts was on the couch. With a woman in it. Her legs were folded up under her and a warm blanket spread over her lap.
"Hi" she said, remote control held loosely in her hand and a large bowl of popcorn by her feet.
"Um, hi." He said as he sat down beside her and took a handful of popcorn. "So, what are we watching?"
She smiled as she pressed play. The FBI warning faded and the familiar theme music started.
"You like this one, yes?" she asked, a teasing glint in her eye.
"So do I." she agreed. "I like the monkey. He reminds me of someone from work. Very cute. And hairy."
"Oh?" he asked innocently. "Who might that be?"
"Just a guy." She answered with equal innocence. "We tried to go on a date once but it was a disaster."
"I bet he is sorry about that," Tony answered ruefully.
"He won't be" she assured him. "The restaurant he chose was lovely and I appreciated it very much but I could see he was not comfortable. Besides, I am American now. I really am more the popcorn and movie kind of girl. Five years as his partner taught me that."
She leant towards him and rested her head on his shoulder. "And I am certain that he would prefer that as well. "
"Oh yeah. Although he might prefer his lock was not picked next time." He teased as he put his arm around her shoulder and covered them both with the blanket.
"Next time?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Yeah, next time. And the time after that and the time after that…" he smiled and thought to himself that his was perhaps the best first date he had ever been on.