A/N: This is a oneshot written in December 2008. It was written as a back-up for the NFA Secret Santa Exchange and ended up not being needed. It's a McGiva set during and after the season 6 episode Nine Lives. Keep in mind that it was written well before the end of season 6. It's marked as a romance, but the romance really doesn't come up until the end. I feel that real love begins as friendship and that the friendship part doesn't go away just because people get together romantically.
Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS and I don't make money off my stories. Any recognizable dialogue belongs to the NCIS franchise.
That's What Friends Do
by Enthusiastic Fish
Tim hadn't said anything, but he had heard Ziva's complaint about the airlines losing her reservation. She was excited to go home. There were things that needed to be done there, but she was still excited. As much as she liked DC, it still had been hard to leave Israel. Now, due to a computer glitch, she might not be able to go. That was unfair.
Computers. If there's one thing I know, it's computers and how they work. Tim immediately began to delve into the airline's website, thinking that he might be able to figure out what had happened. While Tony tried to grill her about why she was leaving, Tim tried not to smile, tried not to shake his head. Sometimes...
"Dead Marine. Grab your gear."
Ziva's flight had to be put on hold, but Tim had managed to get into the airline's servers. That would make it a walk in the park to find where and when Ziva's tickets had disappeared. Even while they were investigating the gruesome murders, it was percolating at the back of his mind, and Tim had to wonder why it was that he was doing this. Sure, Ziva was a good friend, but it was silly to think that they airline wouldn't come through eventually.
This is what friends do...they help each other out.
The sniping between Tony and Ziva continued throughout the day and Tim just took the time he had to get Ziva's seats back...maybe slightly better ones...maybe...
"What are you McDoing, Probie?" Tony asked.
Immediately, Tim shifted to another window and explained that he was searching for Kale's cell phone records in an effort to keep Gibbs at bay. He had been doing that, but he could work on more than one thing at once.
Later on, Tim found Tony searching through Ziva's desk.
"You lose something there, Tony?" he asked, knowing full well that he hadn't.
"Only my ability to snoop around Ziva's desk without anybody noticing." Tim could practically see the wheels turning as Tony suddenly looked at him. "Did she say anything specific to you about taking a trip to Tel Aviv?"
It was all Tim could do not to laugh out loud. He knew, more or less, why she was going, but if she had chosen not to tell Tony...
"She did? So, what did she say?"
Tim leaned a little closer. "That she's taking a trip to Tel Aviv."
It was a couple more hours before he had the time to devote to solving Ziva's flight problem...but when he did, it was easy and took next to no time at all. One click of the mouse and Ziva's flight was back...with a slight upgrade to first class. Tim leaned back in his chair for a moment of self-congratulations because he knew he wouldn't tell anyone what he'd done. He just wanted to help Ziva out and this was a good way to do it. No Tony butting in, trying to ask annoying questions, no suspicions, nothing but the good feeling of having helped out a friend.
The case with Kale was bad, and Gibbs didn't seem particularly happy...nor was anyone else, truth be told. Tim just had that one little thing to help him out...particularly when, again, Tony and Ziva were talking about her trip, albeit in a nicer tone. Tony even offered her his neck rest.
"I am flying first class," Ziva said, nonchalantly.
"Oh, never mind," Tony said.
Tim smiled to himself. It was like he wasn't even there, but that was okay...at least, that's what he told himself as he watched Ziva get on the elevator and leave. Part of him wished that she would say something about how there had been a strange thing in upgrading her flight, that it had just appeared out of nowhere...but she hadn't said a word, nor even said good-bye to him. That was slightly disappointing.
Tony left a few minutes later and Tim was alone in the dimly-lit bullpen. Ziva would be on her plane in only an hour or two and heading to Israel. It didn't seem fair that there was all this crackling tension between those two. It was like being hit over the head with an anvil. There were times when he just thought they should sleep together and get it over with...and then...then, he thought that that would be the worst thing in the world.
Why did I think that? Tim wondered. He and Ziva had always been friends...from her first day, which is more than he could have said for pretty much everyone else. He liked being friends with Ziva. She was a good friend to have, and that had always been enough.
No, it's not. Again, it was like part of his brain was on a totally different track from his usual thought processes. It was odd that he was suddenly... It's not sudden. Now, Tim was wondering at his own sanity. Part of his brain was trying to tell him that this shift in thoughts was not sudden.
Now thoroughly confused at himself, he stared at the flight tracker he had pulled up. Ziva's plane was on time, a small miracle in today's world of cancelled and delayed flights.
Why am I doing this? Tim asked himself. He had never considered himself to be the kind of person who would be attracted to a coworker. Abby didn't really count because they had been together before they officially began working together. He had been slightly enamored of Ziva when she had come onto the team...perhaps because she didn't belittle him like Tony did so often. She was also totally fascinating. She had so many talents; her life was so different from his own; she was intimidating...and beautiful...and not Tony.
Oh, no. It figured that he couldn't just think of her as a friend. It would have made things so much easier, not the least of which because she was a coworker and because Tony was so obviously trying to...well, who really knew what was in Tony's mind. Tim sure didn't and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. This was a problem.
What problem? that growing part of his mind asked. Ask her out. What's the worst that can happen?
Tim was now thoroughly alarmed by what his mind was telling him. Ask Ziva out? ...and then who would pick up the pieces that were left when she tore him to shreds?
Who did Ziva keep in contact with while the team was split up? It wasn't Tony. Who did Ziva ask for help on driving in DC when she first moved to Silver Spring? Not Tony. Who has she kissed without being undercover with him? Not Tony. She likes you. She won't kill you. You're not asking her to marry you.
Tim blushed just thinking that word. It was true that they were good friends...but to make the shift over to something else? That was risky.
Risky? You're not invading China. You're asking a very nice person on a date. Risky was when you decided to join NCIS in the face of everyone telling you that you were crazy. Risky was you thinking that you could ask out the most popular senior girl when she didn't even know you existed as anything but a homework machine. Asking Ziva out is not risky.
"McGee, what in the world are you still doing here?"
Tim looked up in surprise, jolted out of his alarming thoughts.
"Boss! Uh...what do you mean?"
"It's nearly midnight, McGee," Gibbs said, raising an eyebrow. "Were you planning on moving in?"
Tim shook his head and jumped up. "No! No, Boss. I was...well, I...never mind. I wasn't doing anything. I'm leaving."
Gibbs was staring at him in that way he had, that expression that said he knew much more than he was being told.
"Is...Did everything work out for...for Agent Fornell?"
"As well as could be expected," Gibbs growled.
Tim nodded, not sure what to say. Quickly, he logged off his computer, gathered his stuff, and with a rushed farewell, he ran to the elevator and escaped before his face told Gibbs everything that was happening in his head.
All through the week that Ziva was in Israel, Tim wondered what he would say to her when she got back, if he'd have the guts to ask her out, if he'd just back off completely and let the annoying back and forth between her and Tony continue. He just wanted...
...to be a part...a bigger part...
Tim furrowed his brow. It really was like his brain was ignoring logic and reason...which was a problem because he was all about logic and reason. He wasn't really sure what was going on. He had promised himself after the psycho who maxed out his credit card that he was done with dating for a while. Women didn't seem to work out for him. They either dropped him like rancid meat or else they were crazy. If Ziva decided on the former she would probably pulverize him. If the latter, he'd still be dead. Why was he even considering this?
I'm a glutton for punishment. That's what it is.
The part of his mind that was becoming louder and more insistent disagreed. No, you want a chance, a real chance. You want to find out if the attraction is mutual, once and for all.
The more logical part that was becoming steadily weaker protested, But if it's not...that just means that I've lost out to Tony...again. They're always staring at each other and I'd swear that she was attracted to him before.
That was then. This is now. Things have changed. You've all changed. People are often attracted to their friends...their good friends.
I don't want to ruin the friendship with...other stuff.
"Probie? You've been staring into space for nearly an hour. That's got to be a record for you. What's up there? A new satellite?" Tony asked.
Tim focused on the real world.
Tim blushed. He couldn't help it. Tony had no idea and yet, somehow, he'd managed to hit on the problem.
"It is women trouble!" Tony sounded gleeful. "Do tell, Probie. Who's the girl?"
"There's no girl," Tim said, truthfully enough. No one would ever get away with calling Ziva a girl.
"Oh, so it's man trouble?" Tony asked.
"No!" Tim said immediately. The last thing he needed was another rumor that he was gay. "It's nothing, Tony, and we have work to do."
The sound of Gibbs' hand connecting with the back of Tony's head made Tim smile.
"McGee is right. Get to work, DiNozzo. You have enough to do without interrogating McGee on his love life."
"...or lack thereof," Tony said...very softly.
Tim tried to focus on work instead of his personal life. It was easier.
"I was hoping you would be able to pick me up and save me the cost of a taxi. Do you have the time, McGee?"
The noisy part of his brain started doing handstands. He answered much more calmly...more or less.
"Yes, of course. I can do that...yeah. Yes."
Ziva sounded amused. "Thank you. It will take some time to go through customs but as soon as you can get here."
"Yes, of course." Tim jumped up and almost hung up on her in his haste to get out of his apartment, the noisy part in full control. The problem was that it tended to withdraw when push came to shove, leaving the logical and rational part to try and muddle through.
Tim stood nervously, thinking madly to himself.
This was stupid. She's not going to be interested at all. She wants someone like Tony, not me. If she wanted me like that...she would have done something, said something. She didn't.
He began to pace as he saw that the flight had landed and waited for the people from Tel Aviv to make it out of customs and to their luggage and out of the secure areas.
I'm not going to say anything. We can just be friends. That's enough. It has to be enough. I don't want to ruin it by saying something we'll regret.
Ziva walked out and smiled when she saw him. Tim felt as though the smile had penetrated his entire body with all the heat that she had enjoyed in Israel. He smiled back and knew that he was blushing...just a little. She hugged him and kissed his cheek.
"Thank you for coming to pick me up, McGee," she said. "It is good to see you."
"No problem, Ziva. That's what friends do, right?" Tim said...and then, the noisy part scoffed at the statement.
"Right. I appreciate it in any case."
"Do you have anymore luggage?"
"No. Just this." She held up a small case.
"Okay. I'm just out here." Tim led the way to his car and they started back through the traffic toward Silver Spring. Tim felt awkward.
"So...did you have a nice flight?" he asked. Oh, yeah. Really original, Tim.
"Yes. I had forgotten how nice it is to fly in first class. I have not done it often. I may just have to pay the extra for it."
"I could not help wondering why I was upgraded," she continued.
"I guess they thought you deserved it...you know, since they lost your reservation."
"The last time I had a problem with the airline, they gave me a $25-voucher...for my next flight."
Tim focused on the road. "Hm...interesting."
"Yes. Very interesting." Ziva's voice was amused. "It seems interesting to me that it would have happened in such a way. The fact that there is someone who has boasted of his hacking skills at work, who has hacked into much more secure computers than the airlines possess seems to be an interesting coincidence."
Tim found that he didn't want to confirm what Ziva probably already knew and he wanted to distract her from actually asking the question...so he said the first thing that came into his mind.
"Ziva, will you go out with me?"
The universe stopped, not just the world. The entire universe held its metaphorical breath to see what the answer would be.
"What?" Ziva asked.
It had come out so easily the first time that Tim wondered why it was so difficult the second time.
He swallowed. "Would...would you go out with me...on a date...maybe dinner?" Although he knew it probably wasn't incredibly safe for him to be so distracted while driving, he was glad he couldn't see her face.
She was quiet a long time...long enough that he began to worry that he really had crossed the line and that she would not only say no but that she would also back away from the friendship he so enjoyed.
"Um...was that clear enough?" he asked.
"Yes. Very clear. I am just surprised."
"Bad surprised or good surprised?"
"Would you mind pulling over somewhere, McGee?"
"I do not like having a conversation with you when you are so tense...and when you cannot look at me."
"Oh...okay." Tim saw an exit for the Clara Barton Parkway and decided that was as good as anyplace. He pulled off and drove for a short distance until he saw a parking lot leading to a park area. He stopped the car and looked out the windshield for a moment.
"Should we get out?" Ziva asked and opened her door.
"Sure." Tim got out and they walked together across a footbridge.
Ziva stopped in the middle of the path and stared at him.
"Now, I believe you just asked me to go on a date with you."
Having said the words, there was no taking them back and Tim nodded in agreement.
"Yes. Why? You have never shown any interest before. Why now?"
Tim smiled ruefully. "To be honest, it just kind of slipped out."
"You do not want to go on a date with me then?"
"No...I mean...yes, I do want to go on a date with you, but I would have...waited had I been thinking clearly."
"You were not?"
"Because I've..." Tim sighed and figured he might as well confess it all at once. It couldn't get much worse. "...I've been thinking about you all this week while you've been gone and I...realized that I don't...just want to be friends. I want to be more."
"More?" Ziva was staring at him much as she would some perplexing piece of evidence at a crime scene...as if he did not belong in this space.
"I love being friends, Ziva. I really do. It's great and...I wouldn't trade that for the world, but...I was...hoping for more."
"And you thought that you would ask me out now?"
"Is now a bad time?"
"No. Now is not a bad time...but I am curious at the timing."
"So am I," Tim said and smiled a little more widely. "I didn't expect it. It kind of took me by surprise."
"Like my first class seat?" she asked and finally he saw the sparkle in her eyes.
"Were you going to tell me?"
"That's not why I did it."
"Then why did you?"
"Because that's what friends do."
She stepped a little closer to him. "Is that so? What about...lovers?"
"They do that...and more," Tim said, wanting to pull her closer but afraid that it would end with him missing an arm...or worse.
"And is that what you want?"
"Yes," Tim said simply. "But I don't want this to be a problem if you still are attracted to Tony or if..."
"Tony? You think I am attracted to Tony?" Ziva stepped back, looking almost offended.
"Weren't you? You sure acted like it."
"That is what has held you back?"
Tim shrugged. "The last thing we need on the team is a love triangle. If you and Tony were so attracted to each other then it would be better if I just stayed out of it."
"McGee..." Ziva laughed. "...you are so...logical that it is enough to drive me crazy!"
"I was. A year ago I was."
"Not particularly. Tony is...he is good-looking."
They lapsed into silence again and then, Tim looked into Ziva's eyes.
"Do you want to go out with me?" he asked once more.
"Yes, Tim. I do."
Tim smiled. "Well...I'm...glad we cleared that up."
"As am I. Now, the question is when and where."
"Tonight? Or are you busy?"
Ziva smiled. "I am not busy. In fact, I will cook. I do not feel like going out. I would rather stay in...but you may stay in with me." Her smile became mischievous.
Tim blushed a little but he smiled back. "Okay. I would like that."
Together, they turned and walked back toward his car. As they got in, Ziva looked at Tim once more.
"Thank you for your help...with my plane tickets."
Tim looked at her and smiled as he started the car. "Hey...that's what friends do."