Hey everybody-I know we're all still reeling from the finale, but I thought I'd finish this up and post it anyway while my head is still spinning from all the excitement and sadness and drama! This is the first time I've tried my hand at writing smut, and it was surprisingly difficult, so if you want to let me know if you think it worked or not, that would be appreciated. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this!

And I could never own NCIS. Nobody would watch because I would spill every detail of every cliffhanger and bore everyone to death with minutiae about each character. So yeah, disclaimed.

He knew as soon as she turned up in that short black thing, wearing heels and showing cleavage, that he was never going to get through the night without making some sort of inappropriate comment to her. And that would be expected—even appropriate—behavior at a bachelor party, but as it happened this wasn't a bachelor party, and leering at coworkers was not acceptable on an op (unless they were pretending to be Canadian women in green dresses, in which case it was okay to get naked with them. But that scenario had only happened once, and he didn't really think it was likely to happen again). And really, he didn't want to say anything inappropriate to Ziva that she might take as an unfortunate throwback to his sleazy fratboy days.

So he mostly tried to ignore her completely, acting the part of Jimmy's tipsy friend on a night out, laughing at his antics. Tony hated watery apple juice, but threw it back gamely. It was all a game, after all, all a play. It turned out that Palmer played drunk very convincingly.

And, glimpsing her on that bench as they stood up and began stumbling toward the shiny black car, he had to note that Ziva played a hottie waiting for somebody to show up so convincingly it wasn't even playing anymore.

For the sake of the mission, it was probably good that it was Gibbs who grabbed her hand and slung an arm around her back like he was the guy she'd been waiting for. He wasn't sure he could've done the same and kept his mind on the man in the car, who turned out to be not at all the one they'd expected.

The call about Vance came through Gibbs' desk, but since Gibbs was MIA and terrorist acts made federal agents jumpy and anxious for something to do, Tony jumped the aisle and answered by the second ring.

And shit, this would happen while Gibbs was off battling for dominance with that braingamer.

His tense face must've given away the nature of the call almost immediately, because Ziva was out of her chair and pressed against his side before he even started asking questions like "had the director been made aware of our most recent developments?" and "you put the BOLO out already?" and "is there a team with the director's family yet?" Yes and yes and on the way and please alert Agent Gibbs ASAP. Tony hung up the phone, feeling drained.

"Director's missing," he told Ziva.

"How's Jackie?" she asked, and that threw him a bit because he was prepared to straighten his back and think of strategies and motivations and the necessary protocols, and he was fully planning on shaking his head and cursing the director's insistence on independence, but he wasn't equipped to handle the image of Jackie and Jared and Kayla nervous and waiting without first downing a drink stronger than apple juice.

He just looked at her, and she breathed in sharply at the grimness in his face. "We need to call Gibbs," she said, switching out of concerned woman mode into efficient agent mode, and he followed her over to his desk, where she settled in the back and waited for him to engage the speakerphone.

Calling Gibbs made the situation with Vance seem more real, and the situation with Vance made the crazy person-led terrorism seem more real, and the reality of it all seemed oppressively heavy and tangled for a moment. Ziva seemed to feel it, too, sitting quietly with her hands on her knees and not making any move to return to her own desk. Tony swiveled his chair around to face her, and the motion brought him very close to her bare leg. She smelled like scented lotion. He tried not to notice, directed his gaze upward to her face, where she met his eyes. Hers were brown and warm and worried, and especially prominent tonight because of the makeup.

"Is there anything we should be doing right now?"

He shrugged. "Can't do anything till Gibbs gets here or gives orders. Most of the basic stuff's already been dealt with. We're playing the waiting game now."

She nodded and stood up, turning and starting to walk back to her desk. Her skirt was riding perilously high in the back, and his pulse suddenly seemed louder than usual, thrumming in his ears.

"You know," he heard himself saying, eyes glued to her ass, "that dress would look incredible next to my shirt on a hotel room floor." His mouth quirked into a smirk involuntarily and his mind suddenly flickered with images of a green dress fluttering to the carpet and a black dress following the same path.

The room seemed to go very still.

She half-turned and looked at him hard, mouth slightly open. Oh god. Oh god, that hadn't just happened. He blinked, appalled at what had just come out of his traitorous mouth. Because yeah, it was true, but bad. So, so bad. Worst choice of tension-breaker ever. The smirk dropped of its own accord as he braced for her to hit him or tell him off or shrivel him with a glare or something, because he could've gotten away with saying that sort of thing a few years ago, but time had passed. They flirted some, sure, but not the same way; not so overtly sexually, not with actual pickup lines, which seemed cheap—and (oh, shit) she was turning the rest of the way and coming back now. He rose from his chair, hands open and up. Classic "I surrender" pose. Prepared.

But rather than barreling into him angrily, Ziva stepped so close to him he could feel her breath warm on his neck and her breasts brushing the front of his jacket. It had been years since the last time she'd done this, gotten in his space quite this far. She'd ditched the heels under her desk earlier, and the way she tilted her head up and back to look at him exposed her neck in a manner which made his mind stutter and his mouth clamp shut to keep his tongue safely inside. This must be a trap, he thought frantically.

Ziva smiled up at him. "You think so, Tony?"

Trick question. Trick question. Go for an apology, his brain advised. He lowered his hands awkwardly and gave her an uncomfortable attempt at a grin.

"I, uh, know that sounded—"

She rose to her toes, hand on the desk for balance, and her face suddenly coming so close to his it cut him off. "Don't you think it would look better on the floor of the observation room?" she breathed, all intense dark eyes and tempting lips. Her body so close to his was radiating heat; he thought he saw something fiery in her eyes. His cock stirred. Damn.

"I—what?" The idea that he had heard incorrectly was precluded by the look on her face, but the idea that he had heard her correctly seemed impossible.

"You heard me."

This is incredibly inappropriate under the circumstances, some part of his brain pointed out. Then she slipped a hand between them and tugged lightly, just once, at the right side of his jacket, and that part of his brain fizzled.

He still hesitated, though, unsure of what to say or what to do or how to determine whether or not she was serious or just enjoying a really good joke, and she dropped to her regular height and before Tony had finished processing that, had started walking away, chuckling. And that was not okay, because she wasn't walking to the observation room, she was walking back to her desk, and suddenly Tony felt hot and angry and a little horny and very definitely like he had been played, and this time his actions were his own when he caught up to her in two strides and grabbed her arm, roughly spinning her to face him.

"What was that, Ziva? Just because I made one comment you think it's okay to toy with me like a cat with a goddamn mouse?"

His voice was low and harsh and his eyes were sharp on her face, and she clearly hadn't expected this reaction, judging from the way her eyes widened and darted all over the place. Everywhere but his face. A dreadful tenseness calmed her flight-or-fight reflexes after barely a heartbeat, though, and she answered him steadily. And coldly.

"You propositioned me, I propositioned you. This is fair, yes?" Ziva sounded dangerously controlled—the low, precisely-enunciated, scary type of voice she used to send shivers rolling down suspects' spines. She had her eyes fixed on his lamp and her jaw set. "Maybe next time we're facing a national crisis and Gibbs is not here, you will remember to act like a senior field agent should act instead of sexually harassing your coworker."

It should've stung. It attacked both his competency and his personality, so it should've stung like hell. But it didn't, because her mask wasn't as perfect as usual, and he could see an almost imperceptible quiver in her chin. And because they'd been getting along so well for such a long time now. And because she'd put her hand on his cheek and steered him into the elevator this morning. And because she'd just asked about Jackie and that confirmed to him that she was a good person, a caring person. As E.J. had said, a person who cared about him.

Mostly, it didn't sting because he knew full well that she didn't mean it.

So he laughed. "Bullshit. You have never one day in your life minded me sexually harassing you. You like me sexually harassing you."

Her eyebrows came together angrily but she still focused on the lamp. He was mildly surprised it didn't burst into flames or explode due to the intensity of her glare.

"Don't pull that trick with me, Ziva. Don't play with me and then walk away like that."

He noticed the pulse in her neck jumping hard and fast beneath her stubborn face, and suddenly he wondered if that was because she was angry with him or because she actually had meant to start something with him in the observation room. It occurred to him that her offer may not have been made to mess with him, that perhaps she had let his reaction determine whether it would be something genuine or something she could brush off as a sexy sort of revenge. That he'd let it go too long without taking her up on it, and so she'd made it into something else to keep herself from being embarrassed by his rejection.

He'd've probably done the same thing. His anger at her seeped away and left only the curiosity and desire.

And yeah, it was inappropriate to act in any way on sexual desires while a) at work and b) at work as a federal agent in a government building and c) at work in a government building as a federal agent in the middle of a national crisis. But wasn't this just the way they worked? They worked in a world which forced them to be always on alert, always a little tense, always on the job, even while flirting or chatting or teasing a coworker. Emotions ran high and were either suppressed or explosive; loyalties ran deep; stress ran to unhealthy levels. They became emotionally invested in their cases and emotionally invested in their coworkers and emotionally invested in the country they'd been charged to protect. He'd done this for years; she'd been born into it, so it really wasn't surprising that their emotions and their situations mixed in bizarre ways by this point. Stress was exciting and that was arousing and they were both nearly overflowing with unsaid things and god, she looked amazing and he wanted her—and not just because she was the sexiest thing he'd ever seen.

"Did you mean it?" he asked.

She looked down and tried to jerk her arm out of his grasp. He held her tighter, and she finally looked at him, angry.

"Ziva," he murmured, soft this time. He released her arm and hoped she wouldn't run.

"Why are you asking?"

No hesitation this time. "Because I think that dress on the observation room floor would be just about the hottest thing I have ever seen."

Her eyes closed and her mouth twitched in a weird way right then, and she looked caught somewhere between liking him and still being upset with him. He just looked at her, standing there in the middle of the bullpen, and let her decide what would happen.

When her eyes snapped open a few yearlike seconds later, they were bright and heat-filled, and the tiny, tiny smile she gave him made his heart give a gigantic jounce in its ribcage.

It was amazing, really, that they managed to make it to Observation before he pulled her head to his and kissed her. Gently, because they'd been arguing, and hate sex was fun and all, but…not now. Gently, she kissed him back, all soft, hot mouth and the barest hint of tongue sliding over his bottom lip.

He was dimly aware that as he kissed her, she was shrugging her jacket off her shoulders and letting it drop. His hands left her head to cup her bare shoulders. Run his hands down smooth arms, back up to her neck.

"Off," she said suddenly, drawing her head back and breaking their kiss. No, his fuzzy, kiss-addled head said, more kissing. He tried to capture her lips with his own once more but she leaned away from him and he looked at her, vaguely confused and ever so slightly hurt. "Off," she said more firmly, pulling on the hem of his suit jacket. Oh. He let go of her just long enough to slip out of it and toss it to the side somewhere.

Before he had even turned back, she was on him, and that was enough to put any lingering doubts that she was just humoring him out of his mind. She sucked on his lip and pressed the length of her body into him firmly, and his arms coming up around her were as much to keep them both balanced as to pull her closer. Her fingers were on his jaw, then on his neck, then at his collar, unbuttoning down and down and down, moving lithely between her belly and his all the way to his belt buckle, and he sucked in a hard breath when, instead of pulling his shirttail out and pushing the button-down off his shoulders like he'd expected, she worked his belt open and then smoothed her hand over the very obvious bulge below, running her fingers over him in a way that took him from seventy percent turned on to halfway to coming in two heartbeats.

"Going a little fast there?" he muttered. It came out less of a question in need of an answer and more of a sexy rasp against her lips, and he swore she moaned ever-so-softly before biting his lip and popping the button on his pants. And answering him anyway.

"Tony," she murmured. "We are in a hurry." She held his gaze and pulled down his zipper, and he was suddenly pretty sure that being in a hurry was fine by him.

"Well then." Suddenly he was desperate to get her dress on the floor, and his hands scrabbled at her back, trying to find a zipper or a button or some other tool that would be helpful in this situation. Not finding anything, he groaned and grabbed at the fabric on her hips, trying to pull it up and off until her hands stilled his.

It turned out that the dress had a zipper hidden under her left arm. It was on the floor five seconds after she led him to this discovery, and Tony was admiring an expanse of tan, toned body he hadn't seen in several years.

Black pushup bra. Black thong. Both with lace. She let him look for five full seconds, chin raised, before pushing herself back into him.

He ran his hands up her back, flicking her bra open and enjoying the feel of her smooth, warm skin. "Jesus, Ziva," he said in her ear between kisses pressed to her jaw and temple, "were you expecting somebody to see you out of that dress?"

And bless her, with her no-nonsense answer, offered breathlessly because he was kissing her throat: "Gibbs said to dress like I was going out dancing. And I didn't want panty lines."

He groaned. "I have got to take you dancing."

She laughed a little at that, then her breath caught in her throat and she bit her lip as Tony slid his hand down her stomach and underneath her lacy waistband, brushing against her clit and dipping into her wet heat. Oh god, this is happening for real. Her hands stilled against the front of his boxers as his fingers picked up speed, exploring her by tracing lightly here then rubbing hard there, by crooking his hand and sinking two fingers into her and then drawing out and stroking her in slow, slow motions until she shuddered and her hips began to move in tandem with his hand.

She whimpered and moaned and let her head fall back as she gasped, and he found that couldn't keep his eyes off her face when it was rippling with responses to physical sensation. So damn sexy. So…weirdly open and intimate. He gave her a light, teasing stroke and watched her mouth form silent words as she tried to press harder into his hand.

"Don't stop," she panted, hands coming back to life and reaching for him when he finally withdrew his fingers and wiped them on the hem of his shirt.

But Tony had just remembered something. He fumbled at the material of his pants until he found the pocket and pulled out his cell phone, then picked up Ziva's from where she had dropped it atop her jacket. "Case," he said, waggling them at her slightly. He turned up the volume on each and set them down in the middle of the room. Then he was back with his hands sliding over her ass—oh, that shapely, perfect ass—pulling her hips toward his and—Ziva's phone pinged loudly.

She breathed deeply and visibly swallowed her frustration before checking it.

"Email," she said with a little frown.

"Someone heard from Vance?"

"No…it's a BOLO update."

"Then someone saw something?"

"I don't think so." She scrolled up and down the little screen several times. "It looks like…just an update, no new information." She scrolled all the way up and began rereading to make sure she hadn't missed anything.

Someone was an overzealous overachiever, to be sending emails to the MCRT without anything of note to report. He made a mental note to reply to that email later telling its writer not to waste productivity that way, and turned his attention back to the much more interesting task at hand—namely, getting Ziva naked. While her attention was focused on the phone, he crouched and slid her underwear down her legs, lifting each of her ankles and pushing the material away, which didn't seem to throw her off-balance in the slightest. He smiled fondly. Typical Pilates-practicing ninja. He pressed a kiss to her hip and sat back on his heels to enjoy a view of smooth thighs and the golden-skinned V between them, which was interrupted when her bra suddenly dropped from the sky in front of his eyes. This only surprised him for a fraction of a second as it was followed by the lovely breasts it had been hiding and the rest of her upper body, bending from the waist as she went to set her phone back on the ground.

Her hands found his knees and her eyes met his. "That email included exactly no new information." She kissed him. "I am not actually sure why anyone bothered to send it." Kiss, a bit longer and deeper. Someone was definitely not interested in the email.

"Overachiever," Tony suggested. Make that two someones uninterested in the email.

"Maybe," she agreed, and kissed him again, grabbing his hands and pulling him up with her.

Ordinarily, he would've been a bit put off by the logistics of the thing. Sex on a dirty floor or against a door had been fine when he was younger, but he was a forty-something now, and beds were glorious things when it came to moments of passion. Couches weren't bad, but beds—beds were the thing.

But this was Ziva, and this was a crazy, unexpected chance. And if she wasn't phased, he decided, neither was he. And she clearly wasn't. No, Ziva just pulled forward one of the chairs clustered along the back wall and pushed him down on it, and they simultaneously reached to pull his dick out of his boxers, hands knocking into each other. It could've been awkward, but wasn't, really; she gave a little snort of laughter and simply tugged his pants and boxers down his thighs. He raised his hips to help her, sighing as his dick sprang free.

Before he had really finished processing that relief and or visually taken his fill of her body—damn the hastiness, really, damn it—she twisted and her backside was suddenly pushing against his groin. She was hot against his tight skin, so hot. Slippery. Then suddenly she wasn't against his flesh, but around it, riding him with her fingertips against the two-way mirror for balance and her head turned just enough to the side for him to see her bite her lip as she moved.

He stared at her back stretching up and away, arching and contracting. He watched her ass rising and falling as she struck a smooth, undulating rhythm. She was precise and graceful and this he knew he should be appreciating, but somehow, even with her skin warm under his hands and the most intimate parts of her body engulfing the most intimate parts of his, he felt a little surprised, a little…shell-shocked, maybe? To shake himself out of it and re-engage, he let his eyes creep up her back, strong and beautifully sculpted. Rest on the column of her spine. Fall to the lower-back dimples he wanted to kiss. He reached around her hip and pressed where it counted, drawing a low moan; he bucked his hips each time her rhythm brought her down, but…no.

It was hot, yes, he was terrifically hard, it felt fantastic—but somehow it wasn't quite enough, not for a first time, not with someone who wasn't a generic face and stereotypical name. He felt bad for even thinking it, but something was off. It's the face, his mind suggested; it's not seeing her face like you did earlier.

"Stop. Ziva, stop." He held her hips and stilled her motions, and she craned around, looking confused.

"I don't want to see your back. I want to see your face. Just—come here—" he pulled her off him so he could stand, and turned her around and brought her close.

"My face?" she sounded amused and perhaps a little bit touched.

"Your face. You have a very nice face." He peppered it with a few light kisses that made her smile.

"Your face is nice, too," she said, cupping his cheek in her hand and drawing him toward her. And just like that, he was lost in kissing her again, breath colliding and lips sucked into mouths and tongues stroking against each other in a way which, Tony flattered himself, would surely render any otherwise PG movie a PG-13. Kissing her was such an all-consuming activity, in fact, that he didn't even notice that she'd looped her arms around his neck and was leading them backwards until her bare back hit the two-way mirror and she gasped against his mouth at the feel of the cold glass on her skin.

Oh, look at that. A stable surface. Smart girl, this one, and ready to get on with it, too. He grinned.

Ziva balanced on one bare foot and hooked the other around Tony's hip; the height wasn't quite right, so he wrapped an arm around her back and pulled her up till she was balanced on the ball of her foot, leaning back against the window. He spared half a thought for what the janitorial staff would think of the back prints in the morning. The muscles in her arms flexed against his neck as she slid her hands underneath his collar, scratching her nails ever-so-lightly down his back. He shivered, bowed his head to nip at her neck. Ran a hand over her breast and heard her breath suddenly come even harder. She was pressing her pelvis into his, trying to pick up from where they'd been on the chair, and drew in a breath with a little cry when he held her thigh firmly against his hip to steady her as he thrust back into her body.

He would've honestly liked to have gone for gentle, tender, and loving. But as he reminded himself, time and place for everything. This wasn't the time or place for that, and it was hard to mind too much when Ziva was moving with him and against him, running her mouth over his jaw and smelling like vanilla and sex. He suddenly remembered a moment a year or two ago right in this very room, when Ziva had stood right here and tugged at her earlobe, saying she found certain older men attractive.

Her under-thirty-year-old body arching so eagerly into his over-forty-year-old one suddenly made that statement seem rather obvious.

"Hurry," she whispered, and he felt her muscles begin to tense around his hard length. She pressed a flushed cheek onto the cold glass. He could see her breath fanning out across the mirror in short bursts which fogged and faded and were replaced almost instantly.

He picked up the pace. Her hands began to clench at his sweaty back and she moaned at the way his hips slammed into her harder, slapping her against the wall as he tried to keep it fast, keep it steady and deep, keep control of himself long enough long enough to—

Just then she shook hard, and he watched her face tense as she came. Her mouth opened silently and her closed eyelids quivered madly, and he pressed into her and was still for just a second, until she opened her eyes and sucked in air, which he took as his cue.

He heaved again, and then once more, muttering incomprehensible nonsense into Ziva's neck, and…there it was.

They stood there together in the ensuing stillness, still connected, chests rising and falling rapidly. Tony kissed her neck once and burrowed his face in her shoulder. So that was it, huh? Unexpected and inconvenient and hot as hell and absolutely what he wanted. And probably, he had a feeling, addictive. Ziva sighed softly but made no effort to move away from him; she just stood there, wrapped around him. Warm. Surprisingly soft. Her thigh was trembling against his hip, muscles spasming slightly under his hand. He loosened his grip and she lowered it slowly. She sank off her toes to her normal height. Moved no further. Neither did he.

Observation was quiet. Peaceful, even. He smiled against her shoulder as he felt her fingers begin tracing lazy patterns on the back of his neck.

"So," she said, low, with a hint of a chuckle in her throat.

"So what?" he said, muffled. She pulled lightly at the hairs at the nape of his neck, and he yelped exaggeratedly and tried to bite back his grin in favor of a wounded expression as he straightened and met her eyes.

Didn't work. He hit those warm brown eyes and could feel the grin spreading across his cheeks all the way to his ears. Hell, further than that. It was probably meeting around the back of his head.

"You are incorrigible," she told him, the affectionate smirk on her face belying the statement. She looked rather as though she wanted to kiss him again, he thought. Or at least pat him on the cheek like she sometimes did.

"I think you like it," he said.

"Do I?"

"Signs point to yes. " He put on his professional bravado voice (with the volume turned down a few notches). "As a capable federal investigator, I'm going to say the evidence on this one is strong enough to hold up in court."

She hummed in amusement and continued lightly massaging his neck. He tilted his head.

"What, you don't think so?"

She lowered her eyes, glancing up at him through the lashes, and then—by god yes she really did—batted her eyelashes at him. He laughed aloud at the blatant flirtatiousness of the action. "I think the evidence is…strong. But," she purred, "collecting more would be useful for helping it hold up in court."

"Reeeally?" He swooped down to kiss the smirk off her face, and just then a shrill ringing accosted his ears.

The moment was surprisingly hard to shatter, and the phone rang four times before Tony had moved himself enough out of it to pick the phone up off the floor and press "Accept Call." McGee's irritated voice filled his ears and he blinked hard at the abrupt change in pace from whispers and moans and the warm tone of Ziva's voice.

"Be right there," he said, ending Tim's diatribe before it got too far. Tim sighed and asked approximately twenty-eight questions in closing. Tony chose to answer the last one, which was the only one he really heard, because Ziva had moved away and was fastening her bra and slipping her dress back on. He could focus on that a lot better than on Tim's progress on the longest sentence in history.

"Yeah, I've got Ziva here with me." He held the phone against his ear with his shoulder and concentrated on rebuttoning his shirt and tucking it in. Ziva, already back in her jacket, came up and helped with the back so he could focus on buckling his belt and not dropping the phone. She lingered behind him when she was finished, and he was surprised when she put her arms around him and rested her cheek against his back, just for a few breaths.

"We'll be there in a sec," he said to McGee, and hung up. She pulled away, handed him his jacket silently. Walked to the door.

He touched her shoulder. "You okay?"

"Yes. Just, you know."

"Back to the hunt?"

"Always another monster," she said wryly, mouth twisting.

"But we'll get him, just like last time." He ran his hand down her arm and squeezed her hand.

She said nothing, just nodded and waited for him to open the door.

His heart gave a sad little pang at the idea of their rendezvous being over so quickly—not because it was over, but because there was no guarantee it would happen again. And he wanted it to happen again. Wanted to make love to her, wanted to take his time, wanted to tell her how special she was, how beautiful, how smart, wanted to hear it back. Wanted to do it with her on a bed, for one thing. Wanted her to feel safe, not threatened by psychotic old men who liked to blow people up. And even though he smiled at her as he opened the door and held it, she seemed to know he wasn't completely happy, because she stopped in the doorway and raised her fingertips to tap lightly against his cheek. He turned his cheek into her palm ever so slightly, and she smiled.

"Let's catch the terrorist first, Tony," she said quietly. "Then we'll talk."

And that seemed better.

"Where have you been?" McGee demanded to know the second they walked into the bullpen. "Don't you know Vance is missing?"

"We were awaiting orders from Gibbs," Ziva said smoothly, slipping a hairbrush and hair elastic out of her desk. She began to smooth her hair into a ponytail.

"Where? I looked all over the place for you!"

"Just around," Tony said, purposely vague. Thank god Tim was being a good crisis-time government employee and focusing so intently on the case and on Vance's disappearance, or he probably would've noticed that Tony's shirt was rumpled, Ziva's hair was far more tousled than it had been earlier, and they were both flushed. Gibbs would've been on them in a heartbeat. Tim just made an exasperated noise, glanced at Ziva, and sat down at his computer.

"Well, Gibbs just called; he'll be back in a minute. Ziva, maybe you should change."

"Pity," Tony said, eyeing her.

She didn't say anything, just strapped on her shoes, shouldered her bag and headed for her locker, where he knew she had spare clothes.

He waited until she was out of sight before pulling out his cell and sending a text message.

Ziva had taken the stairs down, and because the stairwell was empty and because she was wearing heels, which made stairs tricky, she stopped completely when her phone buzzed and leaned against the railing to pull it out of her bag and read the message.

From: Tony's Cell

"btw, what I MEANT to say earlier, when I said what I said, was that you looked beautiful tonight."

A new message buzzed its way in before she had exited from the first.

From: Tony's Cell

"But just so you know, you're always beautiful."

She stared at the screen for a long, long minute before snapping back to action.

Never in my life, she thought as she locked the phone and continued down the stairs, would I have ever thought I'd be receiving that message from Tony DiNozzo.

Nor, Ziva admitted to herself later, would she ever have suspected that such a message would make her blush like a lovestruck teenager, clutching her phone tightly in a dim stairwell and trying to calm her quickened heartbeat.