Disclaimer: As you wish.
Spoilers: One Last Score.
Summary: A place may be a dive, but that doesn't matter as long as it's your dive.
Tony held open the door of Sully's Tavern, wondering if that would be the act of chivalry that made this a date, in which case, Sully's? What was he thinking? The fact that it had started with a kiss while EJ was wrapped in a towel had certainly taken some of the pressure off, but he couldn't be sure that he'd be getting anything more once she got to know him a little – especially once she got to know him in the murky depths of seedy bar, the only redeeming quality of which was that it was close to the Navy Yard and served amazing wings. God, this whole situation had the potential to screw up his life big time. If it didn't work out and he had to stare at her over the partition from his desk, because Ziva wouldn't switch with him… Even if it did work out and they had to be in the same office every day… He took a deep breath and waved EJ gallantly through the door.
"Nice," she said after a glance around. "Do we go to a freeway underpass on the second date?"
So it was a date! Damn it. "I thought we were just colleagues going out for a drink after work."
"So you always chase your colleagues into the shower and make out with them before you leave for the night?"
"What? I…" He had to stop himself from immediately describing how the NCIS men's room was far less of an inviolable sanctum, but that was probably a worse decision than Sully's, so he concluded with a weak, "No." He debated for a moment before deciding that a table without a light over it would be the better choice here for the uninitiated. "So you're telling me you guys didn't have a dive in Rota you went to a lot after work?"
"Bars in Spain aren't quite as…they're not like this, anyway. But yes, we did have a local watering hole where we'd enjoy some of the local tintilla and tapas. I'm sure your friend over there would be happy to correct my pronunciation."
"At the bar? Isn't that David?"
He corrected automatically, "Da-veed," before turning to confirm that it was, in fact, Ziva. Other than Gibbs, she was probably the only person he knew who would think coming to Sully's alone was anything but a terrible idea. And she must have been here long enough to demonstrate that she hadn't come in looking for company, because the crowd of tough guys at the other end of the bar was giving her space. They winced as a group when she raised her hand, not relaxing until the bartender acknowledged that she was merely requesting another drink. Hard stuff, too. What was she doing here, by herself, drinking on a weeknight…?
A kick under the table broke his train of thought. "Huh?" He turned his attention back to his own table to see that both EJ and Sully's single, surly waitress were looking at him expectantly. "Oh, right. Uh, Sam Adams and the honey barbeque wings."
"Ten or twenny?"
He blinked at the waitress. "Oh, twenty." She spun on her heel and walked away. He looked sheepishly at EJ. "You're gonna eat some, right?"
Before the waitress was entirely out of earshot, "I guess, if you say the food in here is safe."
Tony's attention was pulled back to the bar. "Never had a problem with the food."
"So the draught beer is what'll do me in?"
"No more than it will anywhere else."
"Did you want me to go?"
"Huh?" He snapped his head back. "What?"
"It's pretty obvious you'd rather be sitting with her."
"I didn't even know she was here!" He wanted to add, I'm worried because she's not normally the type to drink alone, but he didn't know EJ well enough yet to start sharing information about Ziva. "Just gimme a sec to say hey."
"Why don't you just invite her over? We're all colleagues, and we're just having some drinks after work."
As momentarily alarmed as he was that his date had just been officially downgraded, he jumped off his chair. This was dumb. This was a bad idea. "Be right back." He was sitting next to Ziva at the bar a moment later, drawing a gasp from some of the guys at the other end of the bar. Great, now he had an audience on two sides. "Hi."
She swallowed the rest of the drink the bartender had brought her a minute or two before. "I will leave as soon as I have paid my tab."
"You don't have to…"
"I am making things uncomfortable for you and Agent Barrett." She finally turned to him with a sad smile. "I will be the one to go."
He pinched the sleeve of her coat between two fingers as she started to pull away. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, how are you this evening, Agent David?" EJ pressed against his right side uncomfortably. "Thought you'd want your beer, Tony."
Sirens went off in his head when Ziva didn't correct EJ on her name, merely saying, "I am fine. And yourself, Agent Barrett? Are you settling in here?"
"I'm getting there. Tony decided to show me this delightful night spot. I don't suppose you can recommend any good Spanish restaurants? It's funny, when I was in Rota all I wanted was a cheeseburger."
Ziva tucked some bills under her empty glass as a tip. "They did not have them on the Naval Station?"
"Yeah, but it's not the same."
An ornery voice suddenly called through the bar, "Hey! You wannum onna table or onna bar?"
Ziva took the opportunity afforded by the waitress waving around Tony and EJ's plate of wings to make her escape. "Have a good night."
"See you tomorrow, Agent David."
Tony was starting to get very suspicious but allowed himself to be pulled back toward their table in the corner. In the back of his mind, he wasn't sure he was headed in the right direction, but he hadn't eaten since lunch and the wings were so, so good. Maybe this could even be a date again. A pile of bones later, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. EJ didn't notice. "Well, you were right. Those were some damn good wings."
"Yeah, I know my beer and chicken."
She fiddled with the last wing. "Did I do something wrong? Because you've barely said a word since Agent David left."
He pointed to his pile of chicken bones. "I didn't have time to say much."
"She doesn't like me, does she?"
"Probably because you keep saying her name wrong."
"She didn't correct me."
"I think I could use another beer. Have you seen our waitress?"
"Don't change the subject. Did you two used to date or something?"
"No." He reached across the table and grabbed EJ's hand, waiting until she returned his eye contact to continue, "But she is my friend and I need to call her. Something was off and…"
"I'm sorry, Tony, I read the situation wrong and…it's been a while since I've dated and…do you maybe want to have dinner this weekend? At a restaurant?" She looked around the dingy barroom. "A nice restaurant?"
"Yeah. That sounds…maybe taking it a little slower is a good idea. Let me just get the check…" Reconsidering, he just left what he was sure was enough on the table. He held the door for her again as they exited. It had gotten noticeably colder since they'd arrived. "I'll walk you back to your car."
"I'm a big girl. I can handle walking by myself. Besides, I have a gun." She stood on her toes as pecked his cheek. "Call your friend."
He used the time it took him to fish around for his phone in his pocket to appreciate her walking away. His breath made a puff of steam in front of his face as he exhaled. He dialed as he started walking to his own car. Ziva answered on the third ring. "Tony, do we have a case?"
"Then I will see you tomorrow."
"No! At least tell me you're at home."
"Where else would I be?"
"Well, I wouldn't have guessed Sully's earlier so…"
"Do you have a point? Ray is on the other line."
"I just wanted to…" A plan suddenly formed in Tony's head. "Sorry. Have a good night."
Thirty-five minutes later, he was at her door, doing his best impression of a pizza delivery guy. Ziva was looking at him warily through the gap the chain still pulled across would allow. "What are you doing?"
"Bringing you pizza. It didn't look like you were eating anything at Sully's, so…"
"Seriously, Tony, what are you doing?"
He tried his best dumb grin. "Pizza took me more than thirty minutes, so it's free!" He managed to jam his foot in the door just before she closed it. "Hey, I was worried. You were drinking alone and you're not Gibbs, so you can see where I might be a little concerned."
"Get your foot out of the door so I can undo the chain and let you in."
"Oh, right." He stepped back and raised his voice as the door closed. "I got green peppers, onions and mushrooms, so it's kinda like health food."
Just as he was starting to feel nervous, the door swung all the way open. "Pizza is never a health food, but I can run an extra mile in the morning."
"So I shouldn't have been worried that you'd be hungover?"
"Why are you really here?"
"I was worried, like I said."
She didn't meet his eyes as she reached for the pizza box. "Worried enough to come here instead of spending the night with Agent Barrett?"
He didn't let go of the box until she looked at him. "I don't suppose I get to pull the jealousy card you're so fond of."
"There is a very real possibility that I am going to lose my job."
If she hadn't had a firm grasp on the pizza at that moment, it would have hit the floor as his hands dropped to his sides. He had no idea how they had gotten to this point, but… He regained his composure as she turned away and walked toward the kitchen. "What…what are you talking about?"
"Tony, I am not stupid. The agency is downsizing. A new investigative team has been moved into our area. I am the most junior member of the team. And you have proven that you can do your jobs very well without me."
"And this is why you were drowning your sorrows?" He wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the situation, but she was too sad and sincere for him to fall back on humor. Still, he stumbled. "Hey, no one is gonna lay you off. Considering how much the Somalia op cost, you represent a pretty big investment."
She was now glaring daggers at him. "Shut up and have a piece of pizza."
"Sorry. You know how I am when it comes to saying the right thing." He took her hand when she tried to hand him a plate. "You can't believe they'd get rid of you, not after everything you've done to join the agency."
"I am still a probationary agent with less than a year experience." She looked almost defeated as she sank into the sofa. "It would not be fair to let agents with more seniority go."
The math didn't work for Tony as he sat beside her. "So…why don't the years you've spent with us before this one count? There have gotta be a ton of people you outrank if you throw those in."
"I was still technically Moussad at the time."
"Your pizza is getting cold."
He began picking vegetables off his slice and depositing them on her equally untouched one. "They should still count. You've been on this team almost as long as McGee, and no one upstairs would dream of letting him go."
"McGee is too valuable. As are you."
"Y'know, you don't have to try and trick me into telling you you're just as good an agent as me or McGee." He crammed the partially naked pizza in his mouth and spoke around a large bite, "Well, maybe not me, but you're at least as good as McGee."
She smiled for the first time since he had shown up at her door. They ate quietly for a few minutes, with Tony retrieving the pizza box from the kitchen and placing it on the coffee table for easy access. Ziva finally said, "Ray may be able to get me a job if NCIS lets me go."
Tony swallowed without chewing very thoroughly. "In Miami?"
"More likely here."
"Oh." Maybe Ray wasn't so bad. "So we can still have awkward pizza nights like this?"
"Only if your intention is to make Agent Barrett jealous."
"Nah, she's cool. I explained how we're just friends."
Ziva was quiet again for a moment, then sighed. Tony was worried he'd said the wrong thing again until she reached across him to pick up the TV remote. "What ridiculous sport will we be watching, then?"