Grabbing the small, brown paper bag from the passenger seat beside him, Tony got out of the car. Everything about his meeting with Vance and the new SecNav had left him uneasy, and the best solution he could come up with for tonight was a new fifth of Scotch. As he approached the door of his building, he spotted a familiar Mini Cooper parked in one of the best spots on the street. Earlier he'd contemplated going over there. He'd talked himself out of it, because he didn't know what he was going to tell her. He still didn't, really. He was just going to have to wing it.

He trudged heavily up the stairs to the second floor. The door was locked when he tried the knob. He fished the key from his pocket and opened it. Something smelled really good inside. He hadn't thought he was even hungry, but now, presented with food, he was.

Only the kitchen light was on, and sitting on the counter was a box of pizza. A scan of the dim living room revealed Ziva lying on the couch. She was sound asleep. The noise of the door hadn't woken her up, which was strange. Usually the ninja jumped at every little sound. Tony's stomach lurched as he remembered that she'd had a head injury recently. He tossed the brown bag at his armchair and knelt beside the sofa, watching her shoulders rise and fall for several minutes until he was certain that she really was just sleeping. He wasn't going to wake her. Not yet. Though she didn't like to talk about it, he knew she didn't sleep well when something was bothering her, so he was pretty damn sure she hadn't sleep well recently.

His knees protested angrily as he pushed himself back up to standing, absently dropping a kiss on her forehead before picking up the Scotch and retreating to the kitchen. He poured a generous three fingers and plopped in an ice cube. She'd gotten pepperoni pizza—his favorite. He took a slice, flicked off the light, and returned to the living room. He was exhausted.

He leaned back in the armchair, and took a long sip of his Scotch, closing his eyes.

"How long have you been back?" he heard from beside him an indeterminate amount of time later.

"Don't know." He opened his eyes to look at the clock on the cable box. 10:45pm. "Uh…two hours."

His pizza sat cold on the table, and the ice had long since melted into his drink.

"Why did you not wake me?" she asked, pushing herself –with a groan—up to sitting.

"Are you all right?" he asked, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

"I am fine," she insisted, but after a beat added, Just sore."

"Head hurt?"

She nodded. "Just a little."

"Would you ever admit to more than just a little?"

"It was only a minor concussion. I have had many concussions—"

"I know that. But I'm asking about this one."

"I am not dizzy or nauseous. I am a little sore, and I am tired. But I am fine."

Tony studied her for a moment longer before nodding, and reaching for his Scotch. "I wanted you to rest." Off her quizzical look he added, "That's why I didn't wake you up."

Ziva reached out and swiped his glass, taking a long swallow of the amber liquid. Her face contorted into a grimace.

"You don't like Scotch."

"No, I do not," she sighed.

"Do you want a beer?"

She shook her head. "I only want a sip or two."

"From my glass."

"There was too much in your glass anyways."

"The ice cube melted."

Even in the darkness, he could see her roll her eyes.

"It was a long day, okay?"

"You had a meeting with the new SecNav."

He nodded, reaching out for the glass.

"Went that well?" she asked wryly, giving it back.

"He's picked me for…it's complicated," Tony sighed, knocking back half of what was still in the cup.

"I see."

Tony looked up. He hadn't missed the steely tone in her voice. He hadn't known what he was going to tell her, but that made up his mind. They had fixed their friendship—slowly, so slowly- by learning to trust each other again, and he wasn't about to jeopardize that for an assignment he didn't particularly want to do in the first place.

"I am working on a mission for them. A secret mission—top secret. Well, beyond that really."

"And you can't tell me?" Her voice was bitter as she asked, and he realized that she'd probably gotten that line from C-I-Ray many times.

"I'm not supposed to, b—"

"Of course," she scoffed, snatching the Scotch out of his hand, but he continued before she took a sip..

"It's a black op," he began. " Someone in the organization—not our team- is selling information. Very sensitive information. My assignment is to handle them—to find out more."

She looked up at him, eyes wide.

"Did I pass the test?"

"I do not understand—"

"You didn't think I would tell you."

"I…no, I did not."

"I don't like to lie to you."

She smiled softly. "I appreciate that. I truly do."

"We've been there, done that, it didn't go well, and I'm not going to do it again."

"I do not like being lied to."

"Ray?" Tony asked. He was certain that Ray was lying to her about any number of things, being CIA and all.


"He out of town again?"

"Yes...though where, I do not know," she sighed. "He gave me a box before he left."

Tony's eyebrows shot up. "A box?"

"A ring box."

Tony swallowed hard, and held out his hand for the now nearly-empty glass. It obviously hadn't gone well—she was here after all. But he still couldn't put aside that nagging doubt. She chuckled wryly as he handed it back to him.

"Did he-?" Tony couldn't even manage to choke out the words, they were so distasteful to him.

"There was not a ring in the box."

"He gave you an empty box!" Tony couldn't help but laugh at that.

"Indeed," Ziva sighed, with amusement. "Of course, I was not looking for a ring—"

"But an empty box!" He stood and paced the length of the coffee table.

"He called it a promise."

"I hope you called it bullshit." He turned to face her.

"I was not ready for that kind of promise—"

"A ring is a promise. What the fuck is an empty box?"

"I would not have said yes, even if there had been a ring," she assured him quickly. "I was willing to give him another chance. To perhaps date him again. But not that."

"Good," Tony growled, crossing to the window and looking out.

"Good?" she queried, standing to join him at the window. "It was you three weeks ago telling me to give him another chance. That he was a good guy."

"That was three week ago."

"What changed?" she asked.

He didn't answer, staring out into the darkness outside.

"Tony, what changed?" she asked again, more softly.

He continued to look out the window, reflection illuminated just slightly against the glass. "When you were missing…I would have expected him to be more upset, if he really cared as much as he claimed to."

"You were upset."

"Of course I was!" He started to pace away, but she caught his bicep and held on tight. "I was frantic. Is that what you want to hear—?"

"I was not looking to hear—"

"Zi, we'd seen what he was capable of…" he deflated, sinking to sit on the floor, and closing his eyes. "I can't keep losing you."

His breathing was ragged as she knelt beside him. She pressed a kiss to his forehead, and he pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her waist. She threw a knee over his lap, and cupped his face in her hand.

"As you said the other day in the elevator, it is a risk that comes with the job."

"It's just hard."

"I know," she let her head rest on his shoulder. "I know."

"To save all we must risk all." -Friedrich Schiller