Hola! New to NCIS/NCIS fic, and realized something as I was trying to cram many, many seasons in over break from school that, if you're following canon, Ziva is twenty-two when she drops into NCIS the first time (in season 8, her personnel file puts her birthday in November, 1982. Seems young, but I'll go with it). Which is ridiculous since that's younger I am and I have trouble dressing myself some mornings. But I decided to run with it, and this is what happened. This takes place shortly after "Under Covers," as Ziva is adjusting to the country, and might be a little too forward (and therefore OOC) at the end, but decided to write it anyways. I'm still not entirely caught up with the series, so it might contradict what comes later.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Ziva turns at her partner's incredulous tone. No, it is beyond incredulous. It is … shocked. "Yes?" she questions, feigning innocence. She does not want to play this game. She is aware that in America, twenty-three is a much younger age than it is in Israel.

"Twen-ty-three?" he repeats. Now he just sounds downright flabber … flabber-gasped? Is that the word? His mouth is open in astonishment.

"Twenty-three … balloons? Twenty-three pens? Women? Sandwiches? Times that Gibbs has slapped you on the head today?" She makes exaggerated, mocking faces with each suggestion.

"You! You're turning twenty-three today!"

She has not exactly advertised, but nor has she made a secret, of the fact that it is her birthday today. She came in late (previously cleared with Gibbs, naturally), received several light-hearted phone calls from contacts in foreign countries, and grinned broadly when she saw the enormous bouquet of flowers from Jenny Shepherd, who left a card that simply said Yom Huledot Same'ach. Tony had been extremely interested — by that, she means extremely persistent and annoying —in figuring out what all those things meant. "Ahh," she drawls, outwardly unimpressed. She does not care what he has to say about her age — she's sure it's just going to be some kid-spy jokes, or maybe something absolutely inspired like how old were you when Daddy gave you your first Uzi — and knows that she should in fact be proud of how much she has accomplished by 23. She is aware that most 23-year-olds in the United States who are trying to become spies or assassins or interrogation "experts" or investigators are still going through the rigors of whatever training program the CIA or the police or the military has started them on. She realizes that her prodigious start in this field could be viewed suspiciously, or perhaps with some jealousy, by some Americans who might think her too young and irresponsible for the enormous responsibilities she has held. Currently to her it is just frustrating, as it means there are few people in Washington that are relatively close to her age that she can befriend, and now that her impulsive decision to exile herself voluntarily from Israel has set in, life has become somewhat … boring. And lonely.

But she is not about to tell Tony that. "You hacked into my basic personnel file, which is on the main server of NCIS and accessible to any agent with the security clearance to charge something in the cafeteria. Good job. It is like … how do you say? It is like you do this for a living, or something, yes?"

He is still open-mouthed, and she smirks. "So then how old were you when Daddy gave you your first Uzi? Six?" he finally retorts.

"Original. And no, six was just a Sig. And I got my first terrorist to interrogate as a bat mitzvah present. Fifteen was the Uzi. That is the traditional age for an Uzi, you know. Fifteen." Actually, her father started teaching her how to shoot when she was five, but there was no reason for Tony to know that.

"You would still be in college if you had grown up in the United States?"

"Maybe on the phys-ed-major, basketball-player track," McGee finally chimes in, and the remark is surprisingly cutting and arrogant for McGee. However, she knows he finished college two years ahead of time, so maybe that is part of the reason he is being so bold with Tony. "But the traditional age for completing college in the United States is twenty-two."

"And the traditional age for McGeeks to complete college is …" Tony retorts, annoyed.

"Twenty, Tony, which you knew."

"Uh-uh. Yeah, I was too busy getting into cheerleaders' pants when I was twenty to graduate. You?"

"Classy," she says, her tone flat and harsh, because he is being mean to McGee, who cannot take much of that. It is clear, having worked at NCIS for all of six weeks, that Tim idolizes Tony.

"Twenty-three," he repeats. Now he is trying to be ridiculous and mocking, but he still has that underlying tone of also being flabber-gisted. No. That is not the right word. Ben elef.

"Yes, Tony, while you were trying to sleep with Rockettes, I was in kindergarten. While you were getting drunk with your frat brothers, I was learning how to ride a bike. Big, uh, oopsie." She smiles, and pretends to go back to work.

"Whoop," he says. "Big whoop."

"Since that makes more sense," she deadpans.

"You don't act the way that a twenty-three-year-old should act," he attempts, by way of explanation.

"How should a 23-year-old act? Like a bimbo?" Ducky taught her that word yesterday. "A ditz?" Palmer had added that one.

"Yes," he says emphatically.

"So, to be a twenty-three-year-old in America, I should … wear lower-cut shirts?" she adjusts the scoop-neck tee under her vest a little. It can hardly be described as provocative, but it does make Tony gulp, and she laughs because he is so easy. "And swing my hips a little more as I walk? Maybe giggle more? Cheer at the beer ping-pong?" He had explained that cultural phenomenon to her last weekend when they were at a bar in Arlington. Arlington, he had explained, was where you moved if you used to be in a frat, were under twenty-five, and relied on Mommy and Daddy for money. Given the fact that she had flawless aim to 500 meters and had learned to drink with her father's Russian great-uncles, it had not been hard to brush the floor against those boys. Tony had been discussing taking her to a league in Adams Morgan on Thursday nights.

"Know fewer ways to kill someone," he finally says, after a beat. "But the lower-cut tops would be a good start."

She shoots a look at him, determined to turn this around to her advantage. "I do not think this is about me being young. I think this is about you feeling old. You are what, thirty-four now? Last week when we were pretending to have sex, what age of a woman did you think you were with? Twenty-six? Twenty-nine? I am curious, Tony."

"What?" he blusters, pretending that that has nothing to do with his current teasing, and she realizes that it is, in fact, exactly what is sending him for a hoop right now.

"Ah, that is it," she shifts in her seat, stares at him, gets comfortable. She links her hands straight out in front her and puts weight on her forearm and elbows. It also allows her to use her biceps to surreptitiously push her breasts higher, which Tony notices. Of course. She's just getting started. "It makes you feel a little … messy, that I am so young? No, dirty. That is the idiom," she smirks, taking her left forefinger and arcing it delicately against her temple in a thinking position, rests her thumb against the joint in her jaw. "I wonder, what is the average age of a woman you are with? I probably look like I am about the same age as them, which must make you a little worried that you are stealing from the crib —"

"Robbing the cradle," he corrects automatically.

"Or do you even ask ages anymore? Do you want to know? Worried that there are girls sleeping with you are going to think of you like their father, use you to combat some … daddy issues? Or maybe … they won't get your movie references anymore?" She drops her jaw and mimics an oh my god face.

"I spend my days with you two, explaining the obvious doesn't faze me anymore," he shoots back. He's polite, so he won't bring up her obvious daddy issues. Nothing from Mossad's dear deputy director has arrived today, he's noticed, with a pang.

"Ziva," Jenny Shepherd sweeps generously down the staircase, her voice ringing out across the bullpen. "Happy birthday my darling." Ziva stands to receive an embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you, Director Shepherd," she smiles.

"Now, get your jacket," she orders. "We're doing lunch at Café Tu O Tu, and then pedicures. My car is waiting."

"My birthday was in August," Tony cuts in. "We still need to make a rain date for my pedicure, Director," he smiles.

"Two years ago on my birthday Ziva captured two Russian arms dealers for me. And their store of high-end vodka." She puts her arm around Ziva, who has slipped her jacket on. She's still not sure how she has earned Jenny Shepherd's lioness-style loyalty, but she has never been more grateful for anything in her life. She has been a mix between gossipy big sister, overprotective mother, fun aunt and savior since Ari died. "A pedicure is the least I can do, really."

"Were you even legal when that happened?" Tony asks.

"In Poland? Yes. Here … almost," she calculates, with a smirk. "Your system of laws and age limits makes no sense. And is quite puritanical."

"Tell Gibbs I'll have his Mossad liaison back in three hours."

"Make that two, and bring me back a sandwich," Gibbs said, striding in from behind.

"See you later, Jethro," Jenny says, smiling brightly and looping her arm into Ziva's.

Four hours later — no sandwich in hand — Ziva hums back into NCIS alone, and Tony notices that she's wearing a new denim jacket as well. "Seriously," he says, tossing his pen on his desk and watching it skip to the floor. He'll leave it there for now. He and Ziva are the only ones in NCIS — McGee and Gibbs are out on a lead — and he is seriously stumped. "Did you sleep with Jenny Shepherd in Czechoslovakia or something?"

She arranges the jacket on the back of the chair. "Czechoslovakia no longer exists," she points out haughtily. "It has not been a nation since 1992."

"When you were what, nine?"

"Ten," she corrects. "It is simple math, Tony. I was born in 1982." She sits down. "Why is my age such a problem for you? I am still an exceptional shot, I am experienced in the field, and have already learned much from Gibbs. I can handle being your partner."

For the first time since she sauntered into headquarters, she looks her age, young and vulnerable. "I know," he says, leaning forward. "Which is why finding out that you're 23 surprises me."

She looks at him, all playfulness gone. "I grew up fast, so what," she says briskly. "I learned languages, shooting, tracking from the time I was a child. You don't need college to rise through the ranks of the military and Mossad, and I'm not insecure enough that I need a degree to know that I am intelligent."

"I have a phys-ed degree," he says. "I don't think it matters that you didn't go to college. And you're the second best shot I've ever seen. Gibbs," he says, in answer to the flash of indignation across your face.

"So consider me twenty-seven then," she suggests. "If that makes you feel any better about my youth, ignore those four years that most people waste away in a fraternity house and consider me twenty-seven."

He stares at her, this furious, fearless, focused, intimidating, sexy woman, who is smarter and shrewder and more thoughtful than any 23-year-old he has ever met. She has immediately adapted to her new circumstances, won Gibbs' respect, earned Shepherd's undying loyalty, pranked McGee, sparred with him verbally and in the gym, cracked cases, saved his ass undercover, kissed like no 23-year-old had any right to. And now, suddenly, she is self-conscious.

"Well, no, because if you were twenty-seven, I would be thirty-eight, and we're not going to talk about that." This gets a laugh from her. "No, it's just …" he goes for honesty. "You impress me, Ziva David. Every day. You impress me. If you were 30, what you do would still be impressive." She smiles, disarmed by the genuine tone in his voice. "Plus, yeah, if you're 23, that means some of the women I've gone out with in the last month have to be at best 20, which is kind of …"

"Perverted?" she challenges.

"Hot," he cracks, and she throws a wad of paper at him.

"You are disgusting," she replies.

Later, when she is out running things down with McGee and he is finally leaving for the day (perks of being the senior field agent, and he's not going to apologize), he sets her gift on her chair, so that she'll see it but McGee and Gibbs won't. He smiles as he leaves. He'd gone to the mall to pick up the first two gifts when he'd seen the third gift, chilling out in a window. It had reminded him of that green dress, from last week's undercover op, and he'd bought it on impulse.

Ziva stops by the office on her way home. The few stolen hours with Jen had mitigated much of the loneliness she was feeling, which she thinks was their intent, and the new jacket that the older woman had purchased was both cute and warm. Gibbs had given her a chuff on the shoulder and a genuine smile, and McGee promised her a drink on Friday. Ducky had called her my dear girl and regaled her with a tale about his ninth birthday party, which somehow had been overrun by tadpoles. It has been a good birthday.

And then she sees the bag on her chair. She picks it up lightly, with one finger, and peeks inside, pushing tissue paper aside. Inside are two prank gifts (is that the term?): a bag of those red cups that were at the beer-ping-pong bar, and a leopard-print camisole, both of which make her roll her eyes. But underneath those there's a flat, square box, dark green and brass, like the ones found in jewelry stores. She casts another furtive look around before lifting it up and cracking it open. Inside there's a bracelet, gold and chunky and interwoven with jade. The first two are for those years of college that you didn't need but would have rocked anyways. Plus, you need the cups to practice for when we go against the d-bags from Michigan. The third there was a gap between this word and the next, which indicated to her that he hesitated I just thought you'd like it. Yom Huledot Same'ach, ninja.

She smiles again. Yom huledot same'ach, indeed.