Rating: FR7

Genre: Humor

Characters: The Team

Pairing: Tony/Ziva?

Summary: What does 'I love you' mean? A NFA White Elephant Exchange Story for iheartgibbs.

Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS or any of its characters.

The Prompt: A note or email is misinterpreted, making one member of the team think he/she has a secret admirer. Can be gen if you want to make it humor and focus on the misunderstanding. Primary characters are up to you; any het pairing.

Part 1: The Set Up

"Did you find the guy, McGee?" Abby turned around to greet Tim as he brought a box of evidence into her lab.

"Yes, can you believe that he was hiding in his mother's basement?" Tim set the box down and handed the chain of evidence documents to her. "He's in an interrogation room right now refusing to talk. Ziva's with him; I bet he'll crack any moment. Her glare is so menacing, a priest would confess to murder just to escape sitting in the same room with her."

"Ooh, that sounds like a Chuck Norris joke." Seeing incomprehension on Tim's face, Abby elaborated. "You know, like 'Chuck Norris doesn't bowl strikes, he just knocks down one pin and the other nine faint.' Sister Rosita told me that one. We should make up Ziva David jokes. Like: 'When monsters go to sleep, they have their mommies check under the bed for Ziva David.'"

"That's a good one. Let me think." Tim pondered. "Ziva David is not just faster than a speeding bullet, she can run circles around Superman while he tries to outrun the bullet."

"It was a nice try, but kind of awkward. What about 'Ziva David never has to shovel snow; it melts under her glare.'"

"It's okay, but I already described her glare." Tim was warming to the challenge. "What do you think of this; 'Ziva David can divide by zero.'"

"Your innate geekiness is showing." Abby smiled. "Ziva David helps boy scouts cross the street."

"Nice. How about this one; 'Ziva David doesn't wear weapons for protection, the weapons wear Ziva.'"

"I like it. Ooh, listen to this one; 'Ziva David is so scary, she can make 'I love you' sound like a threat.'"

"That's not…"

"Not very nice, Abby." They spun to see Ziva lurking in the doorway. Tim's face turned a shade of green resembling canned asparagus while Abby continued to smile unabashedly. "I came down to tell you Westbrook confessed. My 'menacing stare' must have broken him."

"What did you… I didn't mean… We were just…" McGee stammered.

"Relax, McGee. I will not kill you." Ziva smirked.

Abby was grinning. "Do you think you could do it?"

"Do what?"

"Make 'I love you' sound like a threat."

"I have never tried; I suppose it is possible." Ziva mused.

"Would you try?"

"Abby!" Tim was shocked.

"It's a scientific study, Tim. What I want to know is if Ziva, with the right intonation, intensity and setting, is able use any words convey an intent, in this case a threat."

"You must have been thinking about this for some time." Ziva's eyebrows rose.

"I've been wondering just how threatening you can be, Ziva. Remember that case of theft at the hospital in Norfolk? You didn't even have to play with your knife to get the guy nervous enough to trip up and implicate himself."

"Abby!" Tim couldn't seem to put his objections into words.

Abby ignored Tim. "You were a spy. You know how to say things but mean something else entirely. Isn't that taught in Espionage 101?"

"Still, making I love you sound like a threat…" Ziva was unconvinced.

"It can be done. My Aunt Mozelle, you know, the one with all of the cats? She can use 'Bless your heart' to mean anything from 'you're so sweet' to 'you're an idiot.' But those words are a little ambiguous; you have to hear the context to understand the meaning. One time she said that to Cousin Lynn and Aunt Bert was walking through the hallway and didn't hear the beginning of the conversation and she thought that Aunt Mozelle actually approved of Cousin Lynn's purchase of the sterling silver punchbowl ladle when she'd just been…"

"Abby!" This time it was Ziva. "It is true that there are times I have said one thing but conveyed a different meaning. However, most of the time the other person understood my position. It might not work if…"

"Are you actually considering this?" Shocked, Tim finally found words.

"I am curious and bored. Unless some one dies in the next few hours, we will be stuck reviewing cold cases and attending required training seminars. A little experiment could alleviate some of the tedium."

"But who…"

"I know, Tony!" Abby exclaimed.

A slow smile graced Ziva's face. "An excellent subject."

"Why him?" Tim sounded somewhat disgruntled.

"He's not here to hear this conversation, he's familiar enough with Ziva that he won't faint when she approaches him, and I still owe him one for the time he hid Bert in the cold room." Abby's eyes narrowed as she remembered Tony's last prank.

"Couldn't this make it awkward for Tony later on?"

"You're just jealous he'll be hearing 'I love you' from Ziva." Abby teased.

"It's not that!" He protested.

"We would use you as the test subject, but you know about the experiment and the results would be tainted." Ziva smiled.

"No, just, I … I mean Tony … what about…" Tim stammered.

"Oh, once we explain it to him, he'll get a good laugh out of it." Abby waved away his concern.

"How will this work?" Ziva returned to planning.

"I have an idea…" Abby smiled.

End note: Thanks to Pam and Barbara for the Ziva David jokes.

"I'm hiding."

"From Jethro? I fear this is not the best place to avoid him."

"No, I'm hiding from Ziva."

"What have you done to Ziva to make you hide from her during the work day and risk incurring Gibbs' displeasure by your absence?"

"It's like this." Tony began. "A prank that I played to get her back for a prank she hadn't played yet went horribly wrong. How was I to know that plant would get tangled in with the office supplies that were swept off her desk?"

"I'm afraid I wasn't able to follow all of your explanation, but would it be correct to say that you attacked Ziva without provocation and now she is angry with you?

"Kind of."

"I understand your concern, but I don't think hiding from her will solve anything."

"It will give her time to cool down. I'm worried about my life and limbs."

"I'm sure she wouldn't do anything…permanent to you." Ducky said with a slight smile.

"I don't know; you didn't hear her."

"What did she say?"

"She said…" the rest of Tony's comment was incoherent.

"I couldn't hear you."

"She said 'I love you.'"

"And this concerns you because?"

"You didn't hear her, Duck. It was the way she said it. Does Israeli tradition require an endearment to be made before killing an enemy?"

"No, but American custom dictates that you never shoot a guy in the back." A new voice entered the conversation.

"Boss." Tony reddened.

"That's why I'm going to let you turn around before I say anything else." Gibbs' face was stern.

"I can explain."


"Well, it's kind of complicated." Tony started.

"Does this have anything to do with Atteberry grumbling about the extra work cleaning the carpet?"

"Oh, man."

"I would suggest that you speak with him at the earliest opportunity. Ziva might be the deadlier of the two, but you do not want Thurman Atteberry angry with you, either." Ducky advised.

"DiNozzo, only you could create a mess on this large of a scale."

"I once had a coach who told me never to do anything half-way." Tony made an attempt at humor before Gibbs' hand connected with the back of his head. "Ow!"

"Now, it's quitting time for the rest of the team, but according to my estimate, you've been playing hooky for an hour and a half. I want to see you upstairs in your desk and working for at least that long before you pack up."

"Right, boss."

"What are you waiting for?" Gibbs asked when Tony showed no signs of leaving.

"Can't I wait until the rest of the team has left to begin? I promise I'll do two more hours if…"

"Now, DiNozzo!"

Upstairs, Tim and Ziva were shutting down their computers and preparing to leave for the evening. Abby was leaning against Tim's desk talking with the two agents. The conversation stilled as they all turned to watch Tony walk into the room.

Tony had the bearing of a man walking to his own execution. His footsteps faltered as he neared their desks as if he weren't sure of his destination, but Gibbs presence behind him spurred him on to stand in front of Ziva.

"Ziva, I want to," he looked back at his boss who nodded to him to continue, "to apologize to you for messing up your desk, damaging your plant, and dirtying your clothes. Can you forgive me?"

Ziva smiled. "Of course, Tony. You know I love you."

As Tony's face turned red, Gibbs began to laugh. In the background, Abby held out her hand to Tim who handed over her winnings with an aggrieved face.