Disclaimer: Arrgh, the laws of physics be a harsh mistress.

Spoilers: Enemy on the Hill.

Summary: From the 'case closed, let's go to a bar' files. Tony finds a word to obsess over.

Tony was bothered. Not hot and bothered as he would have preferred to be – as that would likely have involved an attractive, younger woman and a cat and mouse game that ended with adult situations and strong sexual content – but bothered. Okay, so there was a younger, attractive woman involved, but it was definitely not the same, even if they sometimes did resort to endearments and…and… he succumbed to the lowered inhibitions of his vodka martini. "Sweetcheeks."

Ziva pushed off the bar and looked up from her own drink. "Yes?"


"For what?"

"For assuming I was talking to you and not McGriesling."

"It's Sauvignon blanc, not Riesling," McGee snorted from behind his wineglass on Ziva's other side.

Tony ignored him, as the wings he had ordered that Tony would want to share had not yet arrived. The prospect of sharing honey barbeque wings prevented him from criticizing the wine pairing with something along the lines of, 'Get a beer!' He sipped his own customary vodka martini, wishing it were more filling. Closing a case always left him starving; he'd long ago decided to blame the paperwork. He was bound to feel better in twenty minutes or so between his cheeseburger, McGee's wings and Ziva's…wait, she had ordered a cheeseburger, too. Well, he could eat some of her fries, anyway. In the meantime, he reached over to steal the orange and cherry speared on a plastic sword from her uncharacteristic fruity, girly, buff bartender-recommended cocktail. Tony waved for another round and got an immediate acknowledgement. At least the guy was attentive to parties containing hot female ninja assassin-types who only occasionally got themselves locked in stairwells; the group of four male wannabe politicians at the end of the bar had been trying to get refills on their scotches on the rocks for nearly five minutes.

Confident that he'd have another martini soon to help him forget this conversation, Tony tried to get back to the topic he'd tried to raise a few minutes before, "Sweetcheeks, not sweetheart."

Ziva stole her cherry back while he was distracted by the orange and popped it into her mouth. "What are you talking about?"

"You called me sweetheart."

"I did? When?"

"On the phone when I was filling you in about our bad guy, Commander Brett."

"Oh, yes. I remember now." The stem from her cherry suddenly reappeared between her lips in a tight knot, which she set on her napkin. "That was right after you mocked me for losing track of the commander, knowing that I could not defend myself. Though I have to agree that it was a bit stupid on my part to be fooled by false chivalry."

"Uh…that wasn't…" He glanced down the bar to where the bartender had been distracted from their second round by a party of coeds out on a Tuesday night. Damn it. "I didn't mean it like that."

"Of course not. Just like I will not mention…do you remember the time Mike Franks knocked you unconscious outside of Gibbs' house?" She smiled sadly and drained the last of her pink drink. "Perhaps you cannot."

He could, but didn't particularly want to admit it. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I'm just curious about why you went with sweetheart instead of sweetcheeks."

She rolled her eyes. "Believe it or not, Tony, I am not as enamored with your cheeks as you are with mine."

He was only momentarily thrown off his game. "Hey, you can never accuse me of not giving credit where credit is due." McGee gave a single harsh bark of laughter, but said nothing. "Talk to one of those college girls if you want a compliment on your ass, McBootylicious."

"Excuse me?"

Tony looked up to see the bartender had brought their next round. "Oh, sorry. Not you. I wasn't checking out your ass."

"Though it is very nice," Ziva added, accepting her drink with a smile. Tony debated resting a protective arm around her shoulders and tried to tell himself she was just saving them a few bucks on the tip. "What did you call this drink?"

"Orgy on the beach. It's basically a sex on the beach with a couple extra flavors. Packs a stronger punch, too. If you plan on having another one, your boyfriend should stop drinking so he can drive you home." The bartender shot Tony a disapproving look, which he returned over the rim of his martini glass.

She winked again. "I can hold my liquor. And we are just coworkers."

"Ah. Yeah, I guess I've seen you three here before. You probably don't remember me because I just got promoted from busboy to bartender when a couple of our people unexpectedly quit. So, you must work around here, huh?"

"Hey, is our food coming out soon?" Tony interrupted. "Long day at work, y'know."

He got another cold glare. "I'll check on that for you, right after I take care of those guys."

When the bartender finally left to attend to the needs of the suits at the other end of the bar, Tony huffed, "Douchebag."

He received a punch on the shoulder. "That was the most interesting conversation I have had since we got here."

"Hey, I…." he abruptly saw his error and took a different tack, "you shouldn't insult McGee like that."

"Tim will wake up once he gets some dinner." She reached over to rub the back of his neck briefly. "Isn't that right?"

McGee frowned into his wineglass. "They should have pretzels here. Or peanuts, at least."

"Drink your wine and think about your chicken. It will be here soon."

In Tony's estimation, Ziva's comforting of McGee was possibly the only thing more tedious than her flirting with the bartender. He said the stupidest thing he could think of, "When's CI-Ray coming back?"

She immediately wrapped both hands tightly around her pink glass. "I do not know."

He tried to make it better. "Sometime soon, right?"

"I said I do not know."

"Sorry," he mumbled before taking another long drink. For some reason, he couldn't forget their conversation from earlier. "So if I'm 'sweetheart,' what do you call him?"

"I call him Ray."

"Of course."

They drank quietly for a few moments until she said, "The bartender was the second person today to ask if you are my boyfriend."

Tony almost choked on his martini. "Who was the first?"

"The commander, when I called you sweetheart. Did it really bother you?"

"Bother me?"

"You keep bringing it up. And do not claim it is because you are drunk, because that is only your second martini."

"Uh…does it bother you?"

"Not particularly."

"Then it doesn't bother me either."

"Yet you cannot seem to forget it."

McGee suddenly piped up, "It's because you're office spouses."

Tony looked at Ziva and found they were in agreement. He shook his head and said condescendingly, "We really shouldn't let McGee drink on an empty stomach."

"It's true. I'm surprised you two don't get mistaken for married more often, the way you go at it. The nagging and the fighting and the sniping and…the…where are my wings?" he concluded in a plaintive whine.

"So I take it you're our spoiled child?" He got another punch in the shoulder. "What? I'm just following the analogy our esteemed literary coworker started."

"Just because McGee says something, it does not make it true."

Tony flashed back to a few choice scenes from Deep Six. "Good point. Hey, look! Food!"

After a few wings, McGee and Ziva, whose burger looked just a little larger and juicier than Tony's, had started a conversation about some author Tony only recognized from books that had been made into movies. He decided not to interject his opinions on Viggo Mortensen and Javier Bardem in favor of trying to change plates with Ziva. He had completed phase one of the operation when his cuff was pinned against the bar by a fork. "What are you doing?"

"Hm?" He tried to look as innocent as he could with two plates in front of him. "Oh, I was, uh, just…hey, funny story…"

"Eat your own food, sweetheart."

"Ouch. At least when I say sweetcheeks, I'm not being sarcastic."

"And when I steal your food I am stealthier."

He paused with a french fry that may have come from Ziva's plate halfway to his mouth. "You've been stealing my food?"

She smiled and reclaimed her burger, keeping his right sleeve firmly trapped under her fork.

"Fine. I promise for the rest of the night I'll only steal from McGee's plate."


"Wait, what?"

Tony found that he was happy when Ziva decided to deploy her ninja-face in the opposite direction. "You did say we could taste your wings, McGee."

"But…you've both had the wings here before."

"True, but you did say…"

Tony leaned over her shoulder to add, "Yeah, you said."

McGee frowned before pushing his plate toward them. "I like it better when you guys are arguing. Then you don't gang up on me."

"You can spare two wings, McGrumpy." Tony took a large bite. "I'll even buy you another glass of wine to wash the rest down."

Ziva suddenly shoved a napkin into his face. "Ridiculous."

In the ensuing battle to wipe sticky honey barbeque sauce from his face, Tony noted that McGee managed to get his plate back and order another round of drinks. "Do I look presentable yet, sweetcheeks?"

"Call me that again and you will not."

He realized that her fork was still in his cuff, but risked asking, "Is sweetheart still okay?"

She smiled and dabbed at a spot on his cheek with the napkin. "Only when we are working."