Summary: When a suspect insults Ziva during an interrogation, Tony tries to find out how she feels about it.
Disclaimer: Cote de Pablo has been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I don't even care to own NCIS anymore. (But really, I do. Care, that is. Don't own.)
Dedication: sunsetsonsundays. I wrote it out, I wrote it out! Haha. It's slightly different from the original thing. But I hope you like it!
Enjoy; please review!
Tony's jaw falls open. He frowns, puzzled by the rudeness of the man sitting across the table from Ziva in Interrogation. She could break all of the suspect's limbs in half a second; surely the man knows that by now?
He watches as Ziva stiffens and sits up a little straighter. Suddenly her voice has a razor-sharp edge to it, and the suspect must have noticed, because he starts to look progressively smaller and more terrified. Tony smirks as intimidation radiates off his one-and-only ninja – five minutes more, and the man will break.
It takes only two minutes, in reality; one for the suspect to beg for mercy and another for him to confess to everything. She pushes away from the table in satisfaction and leaves him to stew in the room for a bit. Tony leaves Observation and joins her in the hallway.
"That was…harsh," he ventures to say as they walk towards the bullpen.
"Was it?" she asks absent-mindedly, keener on finishing the mountain of paperwork she has waiting for her in the bullpen.
"Are you okay?" He touches her arm lightly to get her attention.
She stops walking and looks at him in confusion. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well he wasn't exactly the politest suspect in the world."
She stares at him for a few seconds before her expression softens the tiniest bit and a smile toys with the corners of her lips. "I am okay."
"You're not a bitch, for the record." He just feels the need to tell her that, to make sure she knows.
She laughs. "I know. And I am okay, really. I have been called worse."
"Really? Like what?" he asks as they start walking again.
"Well, there have been people who insulted my religion, my accent, and even my skin colour. There have been others who weren't so selective about which part of me they insulted." A smile twitches at the corners of her lips again. "One man asked me if you'd dumped me because of my demandingness."
His jaw falls open for the second time that day. "I'd dumped you?"
"Apparently you had."
"B-but we were never together."
She grins up at him. "I realize that. Tony, are you getting all bothered by a stranger's words?"
"Well, I never would've dumped you if we'd been together," he mutters.
"I am comforted by that thought," she answers wryly.
"Wait." He pauses mid-stride and makes her have to turn around to face him. "You said you've been called worse."
An irrational pang of hurt cuts through his heart. "Being called my girlfriend is worse?" he asks through suddenly numb lips.
She watches him carefully, as if perturbed by his abrupt change in emotion. But he can't help it, really. To think…
"If I remember correctly, I was being called your ex-girlfriend," she finally says. Her voice is quiet.
And as usual, he tries to make a lame joke to cover up his accidental over-expressiveness. "Ha. So being dumped by me is worse than being insulted?
"Well…" she shrugs and drifts off. She gazes over his shoulder for a few milliseconds, and then her eyes snap up to his. "Come on, we need to get back to the bullpen."
He gives a short nod and follows her back. Maybe it's better that she didn't answer his question, after all.
"Distracted, Tony?" a soft voice whispers into his ear, and he jumps. The voice chuckles.
"Ziva," he says, turning around to meet her eyes as he tries to calm his heartbeat. "If you're going to be giving me a heart attack, I'd rather you be naked or facing death when it happens."
"Then it would be you who would be facing death," she points out as she parks herself atop his desk.
"Well. Just naked, then. What can I do for you?" He injects false cheer into his voice.
She furrows her brows at him, and perhaps rightly so because he has asked an odd question. "It is late. Gibbs and McGee have gone home, if you haven't noticed. I was wondering if you were planning on sitting here for the whole night."
"This is a comfy chair. I'll be fine. You go on home, Ziva. Goodnight."
Her brows draw even closer together. "What is wrong with you, Tony?"
"I have a creaky knee and a bad back. On rainy days, I-"
"What makes you think anything's wrong with me?"
"You've been acting weird ever since our…conversation this afternoon."
"Yeah?" He barks a short laugh. "Well ya do hurt a man's ego a little when you say you consider it worse than an insult to be called his ex-girlfriend."
He can practically hear time pass them by as she blinks and stares at anything except him, apparently at a loss for words.
"You never asked me why," she tells him when she looks at him again.
"I don't think I'll want to know the answer."
He sighs tiredly. "Why?"
"Because I would rather not be dumped by you."
"Then what? You'd rather dump me? That bad, am I?"
"No." She keeps her tone even. "I would rather there was no dumping at all."
"Oh," she echoes, nodding.
"Huh." She gazes at him while he takes his turn at staring all over the place. His eyes come back to hers. "So if there were no dumping…would it still be worse?"
She breaks into a gentle smile that sends his rather-too-hopeful heart racing. "No. It would be better."
"Better, huh?" He quirks one side of his mouth. "Than an insult?"
"Better than a compliment, actually…"
"Really? What sort of compliment?"
"Any kind, as long as they do not involve praise over my ability to tolerate your narcissism."
"Hey!" He tries unsuccessfully to pout. Then he sobers up. "I just realized something."
"You think being called my girlfriend would be better than being complimented on other stuff…for the most part."
"Well." She gives that noncommittal shrug again and slips off the desk. "I think it would be an honour."
He swears he can hear his heart thudding.
She smiles again and shakes her head. "Come on, let's go home."
He grabs his backpack and stuffs the last of his things into it. Then he follows her out of the bullpen, remembering to stand a little too close to her just like he always does.