That old black magic has me in its spell
That old black magic that you weave so well
Icy fingers up and down my spine
The same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine
Arlen & Mercer
"I was not over-confident…." Ziva's indignant voice floated from the direction of the elevator.
Oh. My. God. McGee groaned into his computer. Four weeks; Tony was away for four weeks, almost another had passed since his return. And they were still arguing that issue. He knew of radioactive isotopes with a shorter half-life than a Tony and Ziva conflict.
"Oh yeah, you were." Tony was unyielding.
"The fight was not over." The stubborn note indicated Ziva was equally firm.
"Oh yeah, it was." He was baiting her. "Face it, you lost." They arrived at their respective desks.
"Tony, I did not lose." Her voice registered her disagreement.
"Oh yeah, you did." Attempting, and failing, to keep the smug amusement out of his voice. "Five seconds, Zee-vah, the bet was five seconds."
Ziva had been giving new recruits a demonstration of her alternative methods of hand-to-hand combat. She had enlisted Tony to be her 'assailant' and he challenged he could take her down. The loser would buy dinner. He had cheated slightly. Since it was a demonstration he was privileged to a little advanced notice on the choreography of her moves. However, Tony wasn't about to let such a minor detail detract from his gloating. And once Ziva realized he wasn't playing fair, she had upped her game.
"Yes, Tony, and in the sixth, I could have broken your neck." Ziva's sense of justice was offended – and her pride.
"Doesn't count." He triumphantly held up his hand with the fingers splayed. "Five not six."
McGee was grateful his first worry was incorrect. This was not a continuation of the fight before Tony left. And he was even more grateful it was their playful sparring mode. The current had returned to normal operating levels. Moreover, Tony's mood had improved immeasurably and even Ziva seemed more settled. It was true; they had spent yesterday disputing who should get the credit for breaking the Faulkner case. It turned out to be nothing more sinister than a mid-life crazy. The Captain had abandoned his post, and his family, after becoming involved with a woman more than twenty five years his junior. Ziva claimed first prize for correctly proclaiming the Captain was having an affair. Tony refused to concede on the grounds he discovered the twenty five year old graduate student in Hawaii - whose existence prompted the melt-down. McGee was strangely comforted by the nature of the quarrel. It had been of the type fuelled by ego and competing wills - with neither admitting defeat. Light-hearted, though that by no means lessening the intensity of their participation. Tony and Ziva traded one-upmanship insults and were in each other's personal space. Standing so close together it seemed their bodies had to make contact but didn't. McGee's protestations that his fiendishly clever tracking and triangulation had, in fact, uncovered the most vital information – the whereabouts of the errant Captain – were totally ignored. McGee felt life had returned to usual and was content – until the next time.
"Observe the Neutralized Ninja, the Defeated David, the Z….can't think of one for 'Z'" Tony paused. "Give me a minute and I'll try."
"If you value your fingers, do not succeed." Ziva threatened as she gathered her belongings for the evening.
"We're all going to check out that new bar, the one Palmer's girlfriend recommended." McGee decided to change the subject, just in case Tony pushed it too far. "Are you guys coming?"
McGee should have, but never did, think it odd he sometimes asked Tony and Ziva if they were attending after-work plans as if they were a couple – inviting them together.
"Not tonight, McCocktail." Tony leaned back in his chair, with a wickedly self-satisfied grin. "I'm going to be enjoying the spoils of victory." Briefly his eyes locked with Ziva's.
Ziva muttered something about him being insufferable, followed by an oath in Hebrew as she left. Calling over her shoulder; "Are you coming McGee?"
Gibbs was sat at his desk. He had astutely observed what McGee had not. Over the past week a subtle change in Tony and Ziva's interaction had become apparent. They were no less professional, no less competent. The magnetic charge in their atmosphere was no less fixed on each other; certainly no less potent. However, the searching insecurity and continual testing for confirmation was absent. And the final tell was this latest round of bickering. Dinner was obviously just a cover and the fleeting look they exchanged fairly screamed their relationship had advanced. Finally, Tony and Ziva had figured out how to progress the personal to a 'second' date. He hoped for everyone's sake, it didn't take them another five years to reach the third one.
Gibbs reflected it might mean eventual upheaval for his team. He was not concerned about their dedication to the job nor any problems associated with that aspect. The working relationship had already survived more drama than most marriages. The only trouble would be if one of them was in peril and that would be a problem whether they were sleeping together or not. He was powerless to prevent it, anyway. It had been obvious to Gibbs; from the day Tony and Ziva met this was inevitable. So obvious that Ducky now owed him a bottle of Bourbon.
Tony was conscientiously finishing up some of the paperwork which had accumulated whilst he was away; some of it courtesy of McGee and Ziva.
"Go on DiNozzo, go home." And just so they knew he knew, Gibbs added - with what would be considered an impish smile on anyone else - "Keep it out of the office."
A ridiculous statement, really, for the past five years Tony and Ziva had never, ever kept it out of the office. The whole courtship had played out in front of the entire agency. Gibbs' parting remark, as he headed for Autopsy, left Tony with the uncomfortable sense he'd just been caught doing something he shouldn't.