You say I haven't offered enough Tony first-person POV's? Quite right! Consider this my apology for the oversight...

Origine Di Uvetta

The truth, because I have such a great relationship with that concept, is that she scares me.

Of course, give a man enough threats of castration via paper shredder and he'll give the respect that eminent eunuch-hood deserves. When the small woman opens a fresh box of staples, the widened eyes of several men watch her refilling effort with metaphoric hands covering shriveling parts.

Office supplies, in her capable hands, make raisins of maleness.

Over the years the promises of limb and organ redistribution have tapered off, mostly because I strive less to earn them. Marginally, anyway. Too much water flooding the planks right off that particular bridge. Were life a video game, we'd have inflicted enough damage points to kill and reincarnate our avatars a dozen times.

Mind you, they'd be good-looking cyber-counterparts, but no less dented. Damn, McGeek moment there. Must rewind to the point because I assure you, there is one.

She scares me. Because there are, I've learned, no 'extra lives' to collect on the screens we play on.

And I am, despite accumulated evidence, mature enough to recognize the important bits. It's no longer her fantasies of coworker mutilation that top off my coffee with a dollop of dread. It's her protection.

It is now a proven fact that Ziva David will step in front of a bullet for me. Well, maybe not just me. Even my ego's not big enough to make that claim. Aloud. Often. That the perp was a shaky shot who couldn't hit the cumulative backsides of Pittsburgh's entire offensive line shouldn't count. It missed her. It would have missed me.

It would have missed the sprawling ground had gravity not played shortstop with it.

She scares me. Because she's willing and I don't have an adequate response for that. The half of me that wants to brag until my face melts can't compete with the half that wants to shake her into realizing how unworthy I am to donate that much blood for. She's willing and I'm a wreck. I don't want her to earn heaven over my living body.

I'm tired of eulogies.

After the casing falls and the bullet pings a mound of fertilizer (God bless those resourceful Amish), my first thought is: what the hell is she thinking? Her first thought, naturally, spins around how to make this my fault. There must be a brewery somewhere that bottles my flaws to uncork when our excuses run dry. Pour a glass of DiNozzo Defects and let the savory vintage flow over everyone else's mistakes.

She scares me. Because she chose wrong.

And I'm rooted to my desk, trying not to get upset about that because yelling never ends well. Someone usually gets accosted. Physical pain I can take (though notably not the medicine for it) but the emotional tangle is another matter. We avoid the black hole of feelings like the plague, which, in my case, is harder than it sounds.

We can manage the warm and fuzzy in increments of seconds. It's the aftermath that gets screwy.

The after party for the daily tussle is where we forget to be separate entities and start blending into one mass of contradiction. Too close. Too divided. I'm told our glances can pierce armor. I'm more concerned with hers spearing my spleen.

What exactly is a spleen, anyway?

I would ask McCyclopedia but he's busy fawning over Ziva's bravery. I've been relegated to 'hapless victim rescued by superhero.' In approximately three minutes (rounding up for the sake of optimism) my fragile esteem will force a mocking retort about how instinct told her that life without me wasn't worth the cost of admission.

But I can't let her be the one who pays the price.

Let me just say, because it bears repeating, she scares me.

So I tell her that my best funeral suit isn't made for coffin-diving and she laughs. It's rich, alive and as free as her scarred soul can achieve on a Tuesday night. I can see the desire to brag about my professed devotion hovering on lips that later, in private, she might chew to pieces. Because she nibbles on open-ended signs like I do. Too much.

And God knows neither of us has a filter to censor the truth before we dangle it on a stick we haven't learned to retract ('I'm tired of pretending?' What the hell was I thinking?) Which is why we should be hunting for adjacent caves of solitude.

With an adjoining door. Left open. Perpetually.

We could sit in opposing, darkened rooms and gnaw silently on what we think the other means during any given exchange (which is usually no blood relation to what's actually spoken. Except when it is). There should be a fresh set of breakable rules on conduct, contact and confluence. There should also be a law forbidding meat grinders, since she bestows too loving a look on those.

Yeah, I've got problems.

She scares me. Because she'll leave me in a fit of sacrificial impulse. And I'm petrified of the raisin she'll make of my heart when she's gone. They'll say it was for my benefit that the heroic woman gave up her life. I sense a posthumous parade coming. Sometimes I think it's just her natural response to cowardice. Death is one hell of an argument ender. She'll have the last word on that day when the perp doesn't miss.

And then, even gravity won't be able to catch me.