Just Add Fuel

6

This occupation sees the snooze button as a crime against the punctuality of victims, though not many bodies give up their prone position if they're kept waiting too long. Corpses also tend to be devoid of impatience. The same cannot be said for bosses. Thus Tony has trained his hand to strike out against blaring technology a single time, ensuring that only one segment of nine minutes is allowed to float into blissfully wasteful territory. The opening of leaden lids is profoundly difficult on mornings like this; the orange strands of pre-dawn creeping across an otherwise empty bed.

Unrepentant factions of the body may insist on rising, but it's not as enjoyable to tame alone.

Her pillow, a connotation suggesting he's transferred ownership of half of the set, has retained a shadow of a cavern. It's practically erotic, this evidence that her head had been cradled there. That, along with the remnant of sweet lotion hitchhiking on the breeze, adds mass to this early pleasantness. She leaves little but an indent and will likely begrudge giving him that much. Giving is an activity usually confined to the diameter of the mattress. And the occasional table. And preferred carpet sections. And once on the counter but that was neither planned nor painless. Still, something remains, minuscule reminders that they've not only stepped over the line in sack-race unison, but have gained some sort of victory.

Casual, this is the word they keep volleying back and forth like a battered badminton birdie. It warbles through the static air, edges frayed and sullied from hard use, landing in unpredictable places. Uncertainty may lurk in the crevices of this non-entity but on the whole, Tony is prepared to anoint his current emotional sphere as splendid. A McGee word, surely. As if the odd sensation of contentment can be revisited by maintaining the muddle, Tony departs the bed at the conclusion of his nine minute allotment but is careful not to disturb the sheets on the far side. There, an outline where her leg might have been tangled. There, a crease that may have crossed over her hip. The physical evidence will rest in the folds a while longer.

In the midst of a purposely cool shower, he realizes that one) it isn't he who put that travel-sized cucumber vanilla gel in the caddy and two) it isn't discovery by peers that had him so fearful yesterday. Well, not entirely anyway. There's something extremely unpleasant about the red-handed state. Maybe he shouldn't try so hard? But Ziva had set concern over coworker reactions to rest with a Mossad-etched 'who cares' that scoffs at the opinions of others, including Gibbs and the cosmic blankey of governmental policies which, and she mentioned this more than once last night, are as hazy as Tony's movie references.

Although, as much as she'd sought to bolster his confidence in their right to be... whatever they were, there was that odd note hitting the backstroke of Ziva's voice. It said that, if faced with inquisition, she doesn't truly believe he can stand up to Gibbs. He'd like to think she's wrong. He hopes they won't have to find out. Still, somewhere between the faintly undercooked meal and her fairly over-eager hands, he'd been sold on the notion that they're doing nothing wrong. Well, not entirely anyway. There's something delightfully uncivilized about the red-assed state. Maybe he shouldn't have spanked so hard?

Damn... shower's not cold enough.

The suit is removed from the closet, the hanger digging into his palm as the garment is considered. Something best described as internal fizziness plays fashion critic and rejects the somber cloth. He will wear jeans with a pale Henley; a relaxed wardrobe to compliment his Ziva-inspired mood. A few carbs and a lot of creative exertion were the means by which his crafty partner had hijacked his worry and chucked it overboard, saving him from crow's feet and premature gray in a single fit of lust. Well, less single and more... ongoing. Which makes her less ninja and more goddess. On the drive to the yard, Tony dodges skillfully through the gridlock while tasting several new names for Ziva.

He test drives the word 'girlfriend' and nearly careens off the freeway.

That's not supposed to be the destination, which implies that they even have one beyond the after-case romps and midday lavatory encounters. Stress-relieving. No questions. No guilt. No 'thing.' A totally thing-less physical expression of a soul impacting attraction.

If such a thing, an amalgamation of easy years and hazardous minutes, can qualify as passionate detachment.

Casual, as a standard English word, is easy enough to pronounce. Not too many letters scrambling away the meaning. But they've yet to lay out the composite grid of definition. As a practiced informal dater, Tony knows what form the word took in the teens-through-mid-life era, the latter half currently in progress and tipping toward crisis. The decidedly male recipe has been boiled down and simmered into a basic formula of impersonal interludes, invoking little emotion and involving few names. Meet at bar, give the eye, rip off clothes, forget by dawn. Which was considered a good night by his estimation. But holding Ziva up to the flickering wattage of that standard, her unique signature casts a glow that chases away the merits of moral negligence.

Casual is the medium with which he paints his existence. The resulting art is a bit sloppy but personal taste is everything. Except the tones don't fit her, the colors appearing too false, dull, trite. In these nights, she has smeared the paint to the point that he's willing to give her more than an impartial splash and dash. And yet... and yet...

What else is there?

And that, rather than bosses or politics, is the problem. Tony is an impressionist's canvas of romantic nonchalance. Anything harder falls under the 'consider only in final spiral of drunken loneliness' tab on his bachelor To Do list. Certain skills are lacking. No, certain skills are omitted entirely from his genetic code.

As the car is squeezed into a narrow space, someone's Escalade infringing on his line, Tony witnesses the careless feelings generated by a frisky night drain from his pours. The root of true worry begins a slow crawl down into the soil, burrowing past the stubbornly protective crust and nesting in the fertile core of his overactive brain.

It hasn't just taken root. It's taken over.

When did this enter the hall of relationship potential on its way to a roomful of serious? Casual's not supposed to step foot in that chamber, let alone try to redecorate his priorities. If she doesn't fit the mold of one-night-stand rinse/repeat, and if marketing her as his current flame is too unsettling, what's left? The stream of curses at his own indulgence begins soundly with Profanities Starting With A and curls alphabetically through a multitude of cop-tested entries, ending when the elevator doors open to the relative normalcy of the bullpen.

Holy Mother of Mustang, why is everyone staring at him?