Ziva had half-expected Tony's first day back at work to be dramatic, with the team getting called out for something big. Since the Petrov case, there had been a dry spell for the MCRT. Ziva knew she should be grateful, but it had gone on long enough that she was starting to get paranoid. But it had been another day of perfectly average case reviews and reports, which had at least provided them with the time to give Tony a proper welcome back.
Ducky had wandered up from autopsy – apparently, things were slow there, too – and had given Tony a look-over of his own. The trach had been removed, the healing insertion point covered with gauze to keep it clean and dry, and Tony's voice sounded perfectly normal again. Eventually, Ducky's assessment of Tony wandered off into reminiscing about a patient he had encountered once who used shoelaces to make the ties keeping her trach in place match her outfits, and the normalcy of it all was comforting. Also, a little unnerving, but probably only to Ziva, who had been taught long ago that there was no such thing as "status normal." There were only waiting periods between each crisis. She was working to overcome her unease and learning to accept and enjoy the times when there were no fires to put out, but it was a process.
The good thing about a slow day was that they had time for it to culminate at Tony's apartment for Team Movie Night. They had invited Gibbs, as they always did, but he opted to spend the night with his woodworking in his basement, so Ziva, Tony, and McGee crowded together on Tony's couch. After the first feature of the evening – The Wrath of Khan, which Tony emphatically insisted was the absolute best of the Star Trek movies, providing a rare moment for McGee to agree with him – they debated their next film. Tony thought they should go with a classic; McGee thought a light comedy would provide balance after Khan's drama. Ziva was in the mood for a musical. And, so, from all of that, they ended up watching a DVD of Laurel and Hardy shorts, which satisfied "classic" and "comedy," and according to Tony, it meant, "At least Ziva won't sing."
Even though they all had to work the next morning, time got away from them, and the hour grew late. Tony had a spare bedroom, and so after some discussion, they agreed it would be better for everyone to stay the night. This wasn't the first time it had happened, and so McGee said he would sleep on the couch, leaving Tony his bed and Ziva the guest bedroom. Previous movie nights had been on the weekends and usually involved alcohol, so Ziva hadn't noticed all the little details about Tony's guest room. He hadn't so much decorated as left things that had no other designated place in there, and one of those items in particular caught Ziva's eye. It was a cute, fuzzy teddy bear, sitting on a shelf next to some of Tony's old sports trophies. It wasn't very manly, but sitting next to the trophies, it seemed like it had its own place of honor, and Ziva had to know its origins. She headed back into the living room. "Tony, why do you have a cute and cuddly bear?" She couldn't resist adding, "Do you sleep with it when we are not here?"
"Bear?" Tony frowned, then realization dawned on his face. "Oh, that's just Katie-Bear. Ignore her."
"So the bear has a name." Ziva grinned.
"Abby named it," Tony said, waving a hand dismissively.
"You called it 'her' before," Ziva pointed out.
Tony shrugged. "It has a girl's name." He stood up, waved at Ziva, and headed into his bedroom. A moment later, he poked his head out the doorway. "And I don't sleep with her."
McGee leaned in to tell Ziva in a low tone, "Only once that we know of. I'll have to show you the picture someday."
That, Ziva had to see. "I am surprised any photographic evidence survived."
McGee smiled. "Always have backups."
Ziva chuckled. Of course McGee would have kept a backup copy. "So, did Abby give him the bear?" Since she had named it, that would have made sense.
"No, actually..." McGee trailed off briefly, as if lost in a memory, then continued. "Kate did. She got it as a joke, when Tony was recovering from the plague. Abby thought it needed a name, and when Tony fell asleep with it one time, Kate took the picture with her phone."
"Oh." Ziva understood why Tony had evaded the subject now. Not for the first time, she wished she'd had the chance to meet Kate.
McGee patted Ziva's arm, as if he'd read her thoughts. "I think you two would have gotten along great."
"She sounds like something special," Ziva said.
McGee nodded. "She was, but so are you." He glanced in the direction of Tony's bedroom. "And Tony's said the same thing; he's just not going to admit it to your face. At least not yet."
Ziva briefly wondered what McGee meant by "not yet," but in the end, she supposed she knew. It was the same reason she danced around the matter, too. Maybe in time, they could discuss it like rational adults, but for now, their unspoken bond worked well for them both.
And, so, when Ziva found a stuffed cat dressed like a ninja online the next day, she immediately bought it and had it mailed to Tony. When the website asked if she had a message to attach to the gift, she thought for a moment, then typed, Katie-Bear looked lonely.
Tony didn't say anything when it arrived, but the next time Ziva was at Tony's apartment, she peeked into the spare room and saw it, nestled next to the bear on the shelf, wearing a NCIS cap. Feigning innocence, Ziva glanced at Tony and said, "Oh, I see you have a new friend."
Tony played along. "Yeah, I guess the bear got bored and got herself a cat. Last time I leave my Internet browser open when I leave home, let me tell you."
"Yes," Ziva murmured, willing herself not to smile, "I hear that is dangerous."
And so they both pretended not to know where the ninja kitty had come from, or anything about it, other than it had come with the name Amelia – a strange name for a ninja, Ziva had observed.
"No stranger than 'Ziva,'" Tony pointed out.
Ziva crossed her arms. "My name means 'splendor.'"
Tony smiled. "Yeah, if only you could find a guy who'd treat you that way, huh?" He let that hang between them for a full three seconds before hastily adding, "Not that you should ask me for advice. I seem to keep attracting the crazies."
Ziva laughed. "Well, then. Perhaps if neither of us has a functional relationship, we can commiserate in our dysfunction together."
"That sounds like an excellent idea," Tony agreed. "Have you checked out the new Italian place that opened in Alexandria?"
Ziva shook her head. "No, not yet."
"We should go," Tony said. "I hear it's great. And you know how picky I am about my Italian."
They went, and it was great, even though they had to get the food boxed up to go, because Gibbs called with the major case Ziva had been waiting on. Even though they had taken Ziva's car, Tony refused to let her drive to the crime scene, claiming he valued his life too much. Slowly but surely, things were returning to the pattern Ziva was accustomed to. There were things left unsaid, true, but the door had been opened.
As far as Ziva was concerned, it was about damned time.
Author's note - Well, that's it for this one, folks - it's been a fun ride. Thank you so much for all the reviews, favorites, and alerts! I'm glad you've enjoyed this story as much as I have!