******Spoilers through 9.03******

A/N I honestly don't see how we are supposed to digest Ziva's needy devotion to an absent Ray when last season they had her pining for 'something permanent.' I decided to vent through McGee and Tony and this is the result. I have 5 chapters finished and will upload them as they are polished, likely one each day or two. It turns into TIVA, with McGee reluctantly caught in the middle.

Emotional Lepers

"But aren't you concerned? It's just not like Ziva to seem so . . . " McGee's face contorted in an attempt to come up with the right word, well, at least a kinder word that conveyed the same meaning as pathetic. ". . . hopeful?" He started up the steps to the witness' apartment after the senior field agent.

"Hopeful, huh? At least someone is clinging to some shred of hope for a happily ever after." Tony casually tossed a grim smile back and lightly continued, "She's a big girl McWorry Wart, and she deserves some pleasant distractions. The guy's not a terrorist or dying of radiation so I guess that alone is a reason for her to be giddy. If it doesn't work out then at least she'll have the memories, if it does, well, then I guess we'll be the ones with the memories." He said this all with the nonchalance of one ruing the decision to have the chicken instead of the steak, but the internal thud Tony felt after voicing their (and by 'their' he really meant 'his') risk of exposure to more personal loss had him feeling anything but philosophically unattached.

Tim's expression did not ease at Tony's response. Tony had suffered trials, Gibbs had suffered loss and Ziva had suffered . . . well, what hadn't Ziva suffered? All those team demons were on a gargantuan scale, the combined damage suffered by those three should render each as emotional lepers, and Tim was unclean by association. McGee certainly had his own issues, but they tended to be more conventional. He had an impossible to please father, had been bullied and had lost friends to death, but nothing out of the common purview of suck-it-up level woes. Yet he was surrounded by teammates who redefined the word anguish. So, to see one who is normally angst ridden suddenly trying to fit an undependable CIA agent into this role as ideal boyfriend, well, it just did not sit right and he knew enough to stock up on umbrellas when he saw a storm brewing.

While DiNozzo's vision of Ziva's potential fulfillment of the American Dream did seem to be magnanimous, Tim was well aware of the toll it had taken on the man just to utter the words exalting Ray to fill the role of prince charming. He was a movie buff, after all, fully aware that the outcome of nearly all chick flicks could be reduced to one of two story lines (1) the heroic rescue of a seemingly independent damsel in distress followed by the trite happily ever after or (2) the realization that the best friend has been "The One" all along followed by the trite happily ever after. Either way this movie played out it seemed that Tony couldn't lose and love would prevail. Except this was Tony . . . and this was Ziva . . . and when has anything worked the way it should?

The one comfort that made McGee smile was that no matter what, he would be that one friend in the film that saw what was going on. He honestly couldn't help but find Ziva attractive, what guy with a pulse wouldn't? But it was never been like that for him. He loved her, no doubt about it, but it was more like he wanting to keep her demons away, like he did with Sarah when she had nightmares rather than wanting to know how it would feel to have her lips on his. He cringed at the derailment of his train of thought. That was SO not where his mind needed to go.


All the time spent in Abby's lab had taught steady Agent McGee that a vision of fuzzy animals could supplant a disturbing image from one's mind like nothing else. Admittedly, "disturbing" normally came in the form of decomposing corpses rather than compromising situations with coworkers, but it was still proving to be a useful coping mechanism. Puppies, puppies, puppies! Fuzzy puppies frolicking in a field lead to thoughts of a tattooed, milky skinned forensic scientists and suddenly his mind was much more pleasantly engaged and he found that the idea of romantic entanglements with the right coworker were delightfully more than palatable. His own film (well the novels he had lived vicariously through) would have him staring in the "The One" all along scenario, Abby just needed to realize that she had a role to play and that there are even better things to think about than puppies.