Ziva sat at her desk, typing up her notes from the Phelps case. She had not needed to come back in, but she had little to do at home that seemed appealing. Ray was overseas—she did not know where—so there would be no lengthy phone call this. She would have really liked to talk to him tonight. He was a good listener, and there had been several things in the last few days that had riled her up. Some were case related, and those were easier to rationalize.
The other thing, well, it was more personal. She did not know why EJ bothered her so much. It was more than just that Tony had taken a keen interest in her—though that certainly did not help. Not at all. Particularly since there was something about EJ that just did not seem right to her. It was probably better that she could not talk to Ray tonight. Getting into what irked her about EJ would inevitably lead to Tony, and did not want to have that conversation with Ray.
While she still considered him a good friend, and only a friend, she suspected he would prefer to advance their relationship. She was not ready for that now, and was not sure if she would ever be. Intimacy was difficult for her these days, and she did not want to have to explain why. Somalia was still something she did not like to talk about. Not with Ray. Not even with Tony. She didn't even like to think about it.
"I didn't realize you were still here," Tony said, coming into the bullpen. He sounded surprised and looked a little guilty.
She had known he was still in the building. His coat hung beside desk. She had also noticed that EJ was still in the building as well. "I am finishing up some paperwork."
"I was—uh—just downstairs," he explained.
"What were you doing downstairs?" she asked.
She had never heard him falter this much in a conversation. There was something she did not wish to tell her. She looked him up and down slowly. "Your shirt is wet." It looked like a handprint.
He had that lost, almost dreamy look that had shown up intermittently throughout the last two days. It made her stomach clench.
"Would you like to get dinner?" she asked, snapping him out of his trance. She wanted to know more about what he had been up to.
"I—uh—I have plans."
"With who?" Ziva asked, even though she knew the answer. She began to pack up her bag, holding his gaze.
He hesitated for a moment before answering, "EJ."
He sat on the edge of her desk. "It's just dinner, to get to know her—"
"Dinner in which you get to know someone is a date."
"We have been out to dinner a number of times—you just asked me out to dinner—and we always get to know each other better. Just dinner."
"No, it's not," he argued.
She was not really being fair, and she knew it. Had those dinners been with anyone else, she probably would have called them dates. It was a matter of semantics.
"Why does she bother you so much? You just met her." He was studying her intently.
She really did not want to get into this. "I do not know. She is irritating. Why does it matter?" She stood and put on her green coat.
"Is it because I took an interest—"
"Yes, it is," he pushed.
It was, of course, but there was more to it.
"You want that to be why?," she scoffed, as she threw her bag over her shoulder. She needed to get out of there. He caught her hand as she passed by the front of her desk where he sat. She resisted the urge to yank it away.
"Why is it you can call me jealous—which I haven't denied by the way—" he held tight her hand as he gestured broadly with his other, "—but I even suggest that you are, and you snap at me!"
Ziva took a deep breath. It was her instinct—her training—not to show weakness. Jealousy was as sign of weakness. He was too good at breaking down her walls. "I—" she faltered, looking to the ground. She was unsure of how to answer him.
He spoke more calmly now, but his voice was laced with bitterness. "You are happy. Why can't I be?"
"I want you to be happy,: She looked up now, looking around quickly before turning to face him. She lay her free hand on his chest. "There is just something about her—I cannot place it—something seems off."
He nodded, asking, "What are your ninja senses telling you?"
"I am not sure yet," she admitted.
"She's working on something for Vance," Tony added. His tone indicated that he found this suspicious. "I want to know more."
"Just…be careful. You are a good agent. A very good agent. Do not allow yourself to be blinded by her…charms."
"I am sick of being alone."
If she had not been standing so close to him, she would not have heard it. Looking down, she blinked furiously to fight away the moisture forming in her eyes. Why was it so hard for them to get their acts together? They had too much to lose if they messed it up.
"Hey," he said softly. prying her fingers free from his shirt. She had not realized that she was squeezing a fistful of fabric.
"Sorry," she murmured, trying to pull away. He held tight to her hands.
"You want me to back out on my dinner?" he asked. It sounded like a genuine offer.
"That is not fair of me to ask," she told him, meeting his eye again.
"We need to talk."
They stood in silence for a while.
"I'm ready!" EJ announced, as she walked to desk. "Oh, hey, Ziva."
Tony released her hands. How long had she been standing there? Long enough, Ziva guessed, as EJ was studying them closely.
"Hello, Agent Barrett," she said, forcing a smile.
Tony leaned in and whispered, "I will be careful," before crossing to his desk to grab his coat.
"Ready?" EJ asked, walking toward the elevator.
Tony joined her in the hallway. "See you tomorrow," he told Ziva as he passed by her desk.
Ziva watched the elevator doors close behind them, and sighed. Even though he was still going to dinner with EJ, he had offered her an out. She had very nearly taken him up on it. She knew they needed to talk. They had needed to talk for some time. She was hedging. That he was ready to do it surprised her. He had taken a step. Now it was her turn.