Her fist collides with a satisfying thunk against the bag. She knows she won't feel the pain until later, and she doesn't care. She lifts her leg for a kick—thwack—and her momentum spins her around. Facing the bag again, she imagines his face and strikes with the type of accuracy the assassin is known for right where his neck would be. She imagines feeling his hyoid bone break beneath her palm and grins. Then she sobers up and begins to work the punching bag, grunting occasionally, her arms moving so quickly they almost become blurred. Faster and faster the punches come, delivering certain death to the one who would be on the receiving end. She begins to work in kicks, acknowledging the aches without really feeling them. Every bruise she inflicts upon herself is doubled in the all-out beating she inflicts on the surrogate source of all her problems.

Unbeknownst to her, he watches in the doorway, a little worry belying his features. He knows why she is hitting so hard; he knows at whom these hits are directed. When the endless volley against the punching bag ceases with one final, deadly kick, and she backs off, swollen hands reaching for a water bottle, he speaks.

"You ever going to tell him?"

She jumps; he had managed to sneak up on her. That's her fault for working out to music. Without turning around, she answers.

"I don't know what you're talking about." It's a lie; a huge, fat lie and she knows it. And what's worse, he knows it.

"Ziva, there's no use denying it. I've seen it every day for two years now, ever since you got back from Somalia. And he's seen it, too. And you see it." He speaks calmly, from several feet away. She tenses slightly.

She tries to clear her throat; it's blocked. She drinks from her water bottle, stalling for time. When she speaks, it's smooth and controlled, revealing none of the turmoil she's feeling.

"Rule number twelve…"

"Rule number twelve is a good idea," he interrupts, stepping into the room. He closes the distance in four steps. "Not all rules have to be followed. I'd recommend it, but for Christ's sake, Ziva. It's affecting both of your work and it's messing with the whole team. Do something about it." He turns to leave before delivering his final shot. "And that's an order."

She growls, throws one last punch against the bag. He's right. It is affecting their work. So she must do something.

XXXXX

"Tony." she calls his name sharply as she steps off the elevator half an hour later. Her hair has been neatly combed, falling over her shoulders rather than springing out at odd angles. He looks up from a game on his computer.

"What, Zee-vah?" he says, accenting her name oddly to upset her. She points a finger at him and crooks it, trying to hide what she is feeling. "Come here. I have a bomb to pick with you."

"Bone," Tony corrects automatically. "What is it?"

She goes around his desk, stops just short of him. "I'd rather not discuss it here," she says, no tremor or shake to her voice to belie her emotions. Somehow, she sends out the right vibe, and he stands.

"Where, then?" he asks, invading her space now. She doesn't back off, practically feeling the heat radiating off of him.

"Elevator," she says tersely, stepping back to allow him by. He nods once. She turns on her heel and follows him. He calls it, and it opens. They step in simultaneously. She almost hits the close button, but stops.

"No," she says, changing her mind. "Stairs." They step out in tandem, and Ziva pulls the stair door open.

"After you," she says. He looks at her oddly, but complies.

"All right," he says as the door closes behind him. "What do you—" he is cut off by lips suddenly against his. She pushes him against the wall, pinning his arms to his sides. He doesn't stop her, letting her take control. He doesn't fight it, either, because he wants her, too. The only thing that surprises him is the ferocity. There's a tenseness to her kisses he doesn't like, a desperation he doesn't want.

But he doesn't stop it. His arms tighten around her waist, holding her to him, her lips covering his, dying to taste her as she tastes him. A fierce battle ensues in his brain—would he dare take it to this next level with her, or should he stop it now, before they cross the line they have danced around for years? But the decision is made for him. With a gasp, she turns him loose and steps back, ending it as suddenly as it began. They stare at each other, breathing hard. She takes a few steps, distancing herself. That was not as easy as it should have been. She had felt something there, something that all of her training and instincts are telling her is a giant sign that she should cut and run, before she gets hurt.

Tony is watching her, something burning in his eyes that Ziva doesn't want to identify. But he clears his throat and blinks; it is gone in a moment.

"What was that for?" he asks, a thin bravado covering for his lack of nonchalance. It affected him, and badly—if she would look down, Ziva is sure she could see evidence of that. But Ziva is too busy looking anywhere but him to see the effects.

"We have something," she states to the railing. Tony doesn't bother to joke—he is too confounded.

"Yeah," he admits instead. "We do. But it was nothing—"

"It wasn't nothing!" Ziva hisses against her will, glaring now at the stairs as if they had done something to personally offend her.

"—nothing we couldn't control; until you just made it something," he finishes, as if she hadn't spoken. He doesn't bother to make eye contact, speaking instead to the opposite wall.

"It was not something we could control, Tony," she says quietly. "We have been dancing for awhile, it seems. Gibbs has noticed," she adds significantly. "He told me to do something about it."

Tony stares at her, a mixture of incredulity and what looks dangerously close to happiness on his face. "He told you—and you what, you decided to—you just…" he trails off, looking at her.

"Well, I did something," she says shortly. "And that's that." She moves to go into the bullpen, even getting the door open, but Tony stops her with a hand on her arm. Slowly, she turns to look at him, shutting the door slowly.

"That's that?" he says, the smoldering look back in his eyes. Somehow, it is different from all the other looks he's given her over the years. There is something serious, something that she's only seen once before. But she doesn't let him get to her. She nods jerkily.

"Yes, that is that," she says, silently cursing herself when her voice shakes. It would not be noticeable to anyone else, but she still hates herself for giving in to weakness. They are inches from each other. It is no big deal—they had been closer moments before, in the bull pen—but the inches suddenly feel too close for comfort. Using the hand he still has on her arm, he slowly rotates her so that she is the one with her back against the wall.

"No, Ziva," he says softly. "That's not that. You did something. Now it is my turn."

Oh, how many times that phrase has been uttered, by so many men in so many different languages! Now it is my turn. As if they were children, playing on a swing set. But Tony's words are different. Suddenly they are not taking turns. His body is pressed gently against hers, effectively trapping her—but not in a completely inescapable way. The tension in the little stairwell is mounting as they kiss again. But Tony is different than Ziva. He kisses her gently, gently, as if she were a fragile virgin and not a hardened, embittered killer who had used her body in countless ways to entice and excite countless men. Their kiss is something new, and it smolders identically to his eyes. The sensuality of the moment strips her, exposes her nerves to a new level of contact. The effect is similar to sunburn—overly sensitive and hot to the touch. With a sudden shock, she realizes that he's taking this to another level; not the next level, but a level with which she is not acquainted. He's not pushing for more. For once, he's dropped his guard and admitting his feelings. He is vulnerable, actually vulnerable in a way she's not seen him before. And in the next moment, she slowly lowers her defenses, trying to trust.