A/N: The plot bunny got me again

Summary: Five times Ziva avoids him, and one time he doesn't let her.

Disclaimer: Not my characters, I just like to torture them with dramatic and emotional storylines and then put them back where they came from.

The first time he asked, he couldn't blame her for avoiding him. She hated stakeouts, and twelve-hour shifts were not the best prerequisite for consuming alcohol in some dark bar that was open at four in the morning.

"I would prefer to go home and get some sleep," she said to him. It was not the statement itself that baffled him. The words were all there, but there was nothing more. It was not a "perhaps another night", or even a "not tonight." It was nothing more than ten words used to disguise a simple no. It suggested no intentions for the future.

Even so, she had reason enough to turn him down. After all, they had just spent their night in what was a less than pleasant-smelling car, after all the takeout that had been consumed in it, so he tried to ignore his pride and not give it another thought.

The second time it was lunch.

On days where a serious case could only allow for a small, allotted timeslot to consume any kind of food or beverage (other than coffee, which as the years went by, Gibbs seemed to survive solely on), one of them would run around the corner to the small, often deserted diner that gave them what Tony called the "best-kept secret in D.C.," (though Ziva disagreed, on a level she would never admit) – burritos prepared by a large, greasy hairy man named Al. They started going there Ziva's very first week at NCIS. In Kate's time there, Tony and McGee had suggested it, purely for its convenient location, and she had given them a flat-out no, because she had "seen the inside of it and the chef and there was no way in hell any sane person would eat something from there." That was the end of it until Ziva of the cast-iron stomach and appetite for just about anything turned up on their porch.

This was the birth of a tradition. People change, especially Tony, McGee and Ziva, but it was rare for any one of them to refuse one. This time, it was Ziva's turn to pick them up, but she told them she had to "run an errand" – a phrase not one of them had ever heard her use. She was clearly hiding something, but it was unlike her to voice it. If she wanted to keep something a secret, she didn't speak a word about it, and no one ever knew. She simply requested Tony take two turns and she would make up for it later.

Tony was beginning to get a gut feeling that something was definitely up. He tried to shake it off, but when he got to the diner and Al asked where she was, it bugged him to no end that he didn't know the answer.

The third time it was dinner.

Late night at work calls for Chinese, Tony thought as the clocked ticked over to 2200 hours.

"Who's up for some Chinese?" he called across the squad room. McGee raised his hand lazily, and Gibbs grunted as he got out of his chair and left the room, probably to visit the head.

"Ziva?" he asked, as she had not responded. "Wanna come with? I dropped Gibbs' soup last time and it didn't end well for the back of my head or my very expensive pants."

"I am sure you can handle it, Tony," she replied monotonously. She didn't look up from her screen, which as he tried to peer at he saw was an email or long document of some sort, but the way she said it didn't suggest any anger or frustration. He tried to read her face, but was having increasing difficulty.

"But your mu shu will get cold. You hate cold mu shu," he persisted. He wasn't sure if he was trying to persuade her or get a rise out of her. She didn't react, either way.

"I will cope."

He hesitated for a moment, and then left, without another word.

The fourth time, they were in the elevator. It was the perfect opportunity, and with the way she had been acting recently, he felt obligated to push the stop button, which of course he did.

"What?" she asked, sounding somewhere between acting like nothing was wrong and exasperation.

"Nothing, just…thought we could talk," he said, and she glared at him, trying to read his mind.

"About what exactly?" she asked, her eyes narrow.

"You've been acting kinda…strange lately," he said, trying to phrase it as gently as possible.

"Strange?" she questioned, with an almost threatening tone to her voice.

"Not strange really, just sorta detached. Like you're avoiding me. Sneaking off at lunch. Stuff like that."

"Well, it does not concern you," she snapped, and that alone told him there was definitely something to be concerned about. Her cell phone rang at that moment, and she answered after two rings, flicking the lights and the elevator back on. She left him as soon as the doors allowed her, and as they dinged to close again he felt it pointless to move.

The fifth time it was breakfast.

Another late night had ended even later…or earlier, depending on how you look at it.

Wearily, he approached her desk. While he and McGee were visibly exhausted, she was working steadily with a small frown on her face.

"Hey," he said quietly. "McGee and I are going to grab a little breakfast, 'cause I haven't eaten in like twelve hours. Wanna join us?"

"Actually, what I want is for Gibbs to actually let us go home on time," she snapped.

"Come on, Ziva, at least get some coffee into you. You look like you could use it. And maybe a muffin. You know…fibre…"

"I'm fine, Tony. And I'll be leaving just as soon as I finish up here."

He sighed, and walked out with McGee, trying to fight the urge to look back at her as they approached the elevator.

A/N: Part 2 tomorrow if I get reviews :)