Disclaimer: NCIS is doing very well without my input.

Tony and Ziva are engaged in this story and are clearly the main characters, but, like it says in the description, the focus is primarily on Ziva. Just so you know.

It's also ridiculously long, and I'm still not really sure how that happened. All I can do is hope you don't get bored halfway through. There's an, um…intimate situation toward the end, my dears, if that's any consolation prize for slogging through 11,000+ words.

They end up having two wedding showers, which is two more than are necessary (they have been adults for a long time, after all, and do not need blenders and glassware) and thus two more than they had anticipated.

The first is for work, and is held at NCIS on a Friday evening, and Abby (because it was Abby's idea, of course) makes it into a pretty big party. Ziva had been expecting maybe ten people, but closer to forty cycle through, dropping off gifts, joking with McGee about having to endure kissy-kissy partners (he doesn't bother to set them straight), recollecting aloud times the couple has been seen together engaged in funny or cute or awkward activities. Vance remarks on the streamers and chuckles on his way to the elevator when Abby raises her champagne and pretends to bow. Delores Bromstead stops up to hand Tony a lovely chess set and a brief but genuine smile before scurrying back to her office (Tony doesn't play chess, but Ziva sees in his own smile that he is touched by the attempted parallel). Everyone has a fine time, and afterward Gibbs, McGee, and Abby take them out for a late dinner.

The second shower is held in Tony and Ziva's apartment a week later, hosted by Ziva's old landlady, who is so into the idea of Ziva's wedding that it is a bit exhausting. Abby comes (because Abby's also exhaustingly into the idea of Tony and Ziva's wedding), but this one is for people not related to NCIS. It surprises Ziva a bit to see how many people they know outside of work—some of Tony's cop friends and old clubbing buddies mingle with a bunch of people Ziva has befriended from the Israeli embassy and various martial arts studios across the District of Columbia. She definitely sees some people who are not even invited to the wedding. Nick Burris shows up unexpectedly with a sloppily-wrapped book of love poetry, the tape haphazard and the card unsigned, and Tony and Ziva both ache for the widower a bit even as they welcome him warmly. He declines a glass of wine and leaves early. Ziva can see in the lines of his face that he is still hurting, and she thanks him for coming more sincerely than any of the others.

Everyone drinks and snacks and chit-chats and Tony and Ziva are given things like sheets and drinking glasses and vases. Ziva thinks this whole thing is really rather unnecessary. However, Tony seems to be in his element, easy in his suit, shining in each conversation, and so she can't summon up much impatience with any of it. He's feeling like a man who has his life figured out on a level that the rest of them can understand—an exciting job, a pretty wife, pictures of close friends on the bookshelves, a massive television. It's not a night for insecurities.

She likes seeing him this way, all confident and sure of himself. She knows it means good things for her later, when the guests are gone but he is charged up on social prowess and feeling particularly successful and masculine.

She's enjoying herself, too, but finds the whole situation a bit surreal, because none of these people properly understand their history. They ask Tony how he landed a catch like her, or ask her when she knew he was the one, and she doesn't quite know what to say. (Tony's been making things up; twice now she's overheard a snippet of some story about how they hated each other at work initially but became friends over the internet. She's waiting to see if anybody notices that the idea's been stolen straight from You've Got Mail. She also heard him recounting something about a car chase she's ninety percent sure never happened.)

Just as Ziva's conversation with a friend from pilates peters out and the woman drifts off toward the kitchen to refill her drink, the door opens and a new guest arrives, tossing a present to the side with his coat and raising both arms above his head as he bellows, "Oh my sweet god, finally another DiNozzo par-tay!"

"Rob! My man!" Tony calls, and then there is hand-slapping and thump-hugging and all that typical male bonding bravado before Tony introduces Robbie as one of his frat brothers from college. He is a coarse sort of man smelling of booze; built short but solid, he has untamed black eyebrows that keep rising and lowering in Ziva's direction in a way that makes her want to button her jacket. His laugh is brash and annoying and entirely too frequent. She smiles nonetheless, even when he shakes her hand with both of his own and winks at her. Eventually he disappears, and she raises her eyebrows incrementally at Tony. It's a clear judgment on his choice in friends twenty-some years ago. "I know," he says, rolling his head around on his neck and then sticking out his bottom lip just a smidge and showing her a bit of his puppy dog face. She tries hard not to giggle at his attempt to clear his friend's name. "He's not really all that bad, though."

Before Ziva can respond to that, though, and remind him that his friend's eyes dipped down to trace her low neckline no fewer than three times in five minutes, Robbie comes back, pushing his way between two gray suits from Baltimore to reappear in their space like an unwelcome magician's rabbit (vaguely red eyes and fur included). He is holding a big, unwrapped box covered in red stripes, which he waggles at the couple teasingly before thrusting into Ziva's arms.

"What's this?" Tony asks, very nearly masking his wariness.

"Open it," he says. "Go on. I wanna see your faces."

The man is practically bouncing on his toes, so Ziva grants him another smile and lifts the top of the box.

It's full of sex toys, set in satin-covered foam. Silk bonds and handcuffs and some sort of feather duster. There's a gag, and a blindfold made to look like a man's tie, and several different types of oils, and something that looks like a small riding crop. And are those…nipple clamps?

Bootylicious Bondage! reads an overly curly script on the underside of the lid, surrounded by stamped lipstick kisses in tones of red.

Ziva just stares, and feels her face begin to color even as it drains of expression. She is honestly not sure how to react to this. Laughter? Polite appreciation? An impromptu lesson on what kind of gifts are only appropriate for bachelor parties? Blatant embarrassment? A suggestive wink and nod to match the gift? Tony takes the lid from her and leans in to get a better look, and the motion startles her into looking up and meeting Robbie's eyes. He is laughing, laughing hard, sucking in air and slapping his thigh and wiping dramatically at his eyes, and she really, really wishes he would shut up because now the suits from Baltimore have noticed what's going on and begun to stretch their necks to see what's in the box, and her facial muscles are still frozen in a perfectly blank expression and she can see the secretary to the Israeli ambassador walking over and does this man not understand how fast gossip travels from that damn embassy to all her relatives in Tel Aviv?

Fortunately, Tony has seen enough of the box's contents and so he straightens up and saves her. He laughs with a heartiness she's pretty sure he's faking, takes the box from her, pops on the lid, and stuffs it under his elbow. Ziva folds her empty arms over her stomach.

Tony punches Robbie's arm lightly, jokingly. "Dude, coulda given us some hint or something, huh? Wow. That's, uh, quite a gift! Wasn't really expecting that."

"Thought it might be something fun for you both. I have the same kit at home, and man, was my last girlfriend into it. Fuckin' amazing power play." He smirks like he'd love to tell them all the salacious details, and Tony suddenly looks extremely uncomfortable underneath the pasted-on smile. If he went to college with this guy, Ziva realizes, they probably have spent a great deal of time sharing sex stories. And although that doesn't particularly bother her, she'd really love for it not to happen right now, right here. For one thing, she's feeling possessive tonight. For another, she would rather not hear how this guy's last girlfriend liked being gagged and smacked with a riding crop. Ever.

Robbie sidles closer and elbows Tony. "Everybody knows that the woman is the head of any marriage, and you ain't in charge anymore. Suckerrrrr!" He shouts the word at the ceiling and if everybody wasn't looking their way before, they certainly are now. Tony laughs weakly. "But yeah. So," Robbie continues, "I can't believe you've gotten yourself tied down, man, but to make up for it, at least you can tie her down once in a while. You know, play boss, have some fun!" He leans in even closer, and Ziva's body does its damndest to back away without moving her feet as he drops his voice and addresses her. "So tell me, hon, you ever been tied up before? You're gonna love it."

Ziva thinks she'd like to punch him in the face. Except that she can tell from the way Tony is keeping the corner of his eye on her that he knows she's thinking of inflicting bodily harm on his frat brother. And that probably means he'd be ready to intervene and keep his fiancé from bruising any of their guests. At some point in the past few minutes his free arm snuck around her waist and pulled her close, and although she appreciates the togetherness and all, her desire to escape this situation has reached its peak. She arranges her face into a polite smile, touches Robbie's shoulder lightly (Tony tenses, preparing for action), and says thank you with as much graciousness as she can muster. And then she excuses herself, rolls out of Tony's arm, and walks away.

Abby finds her five minutes later fussing with a vegetable platter in the kitchen.

"I have never seen carrot sticks arranged with such perfect symmetry before," she muses, coming to stand beside Ziva and taking a cherry tomato. Ziva glances sideways and finds that Abby is giving her an evaluative look. It makes her neck prickle, just a very little bit.

"But the thing about vegetable plates," Abby continues as Ziva's hands fill the hole she put in the tomatoes, "is that they're meant to be eaten, so rearranging them is kinda pointless. It's like making your bed when you're just gonna get in it again. Or building a sandcastle when the tide's coming in."

"I'm just making it look nice," Ziva defends herself. Then she winces, because that was pretty damn weak so far as excuses go, and because Abby gives her a look that clearly says Bull-freakin'-shit, David.

"No, you're in here escaping from that awful guy and that über-embarrassing gift he gave you. Which is totally understandable. Seriously. But it is your party, and you know, you should probably get back out there."

Ziva stalls. She's irritated with herself for it, but she stalls nonetheless, holding up a cucumber slice and inspecting it as though it may suddenly display explosive residue or a blood spatter or at the very least a discolored seed.

Abby pulls out her trump card. "Plus Tony is looking kinda desperate in there without you because Mr. Hi-I-Haven't-Noticed-That-I'm-Not-21-Anymore won't leave him alone. But I bet you and I could introduce the dude to somebody wearing something low-cut and maybe distract him that way?"

Ziva sighs and chomps down on the cucumber slice, heading for the living room. The things she does for this man.

"Oh, good," Abby says, following close behind. "You got any cute friends you don't like?"

After the guests are gone and the gift boxes have been stacked in their bedroom and both Ziva's old landlady and Abby have been thoroughly hugged and waved out, Ziva wastes no time telling Tony that she is glad they met long after his college days were over, because his eighteen-year-old self apparently had terrible taste. It's harsh, and she knows it's probably uncalled for, but he lets it go and waits until she's wound herself all the way down and right into his embrace. And though it surprises her a little when Tony doesn't immediately defend his friend—his loyalty tends to be fierce—she kind of gets it. After all, it's hard to argue against the fact that Robbie is an inappropriate jackass.

However, Tony tells her a few minutes later while she rinses out wineglasses and he wipes down the countertops, Robbie was a reliable buddy back in the day. Maybe a bit obnoxious, but willing to charge headlong at Tony's problems even when Tony himself was in no mood to do so.

"You let him know your problems?" Ziva asks, rather surprised, and Tony chuckles.

"Well, my problems in 1987 weren't all that complicated, sweetheart. It's not like I bared my soul to the guy or anything."

"Maybe you did, and your soul just wasn't very complicated in 1987," she teases, and he playfully snaps a towel at her.

"Like yours was? You were like, five years old in 1987."

"I had a very deep soul for my age," she says, dignified.

"Well," he says, slinging the damp towel across his shoulder and stepping up until she can feel his big, warm presence against her back and his fingers spreading over her hips, "I think mine may have caught up sometime in the past few decades." He kisses her neck, right below her ear. "But anyway, Rob was a good friend and he kept in touch. Don't read too much into the whole macho persona thing."

"I never did with you," she murmurs, and he nips at her earlobe until she makes a noise that is very undignified indeed.

When she wakes up at 0400, though, she is back to feeling irritable. It bothers her that she reacted so awkwardly. It bothers her that people noticed the situation and thus noticed her reacting awkwardly. Because although it was definitely Robbie's fault for showing up to their wedding shower and sticking a bondage kit—really, of all things—into her arms for her to open in her own living room surrounded by friends, it is her own embarrassment and ensuing retreat that replay in her mind. She can't help but think that a younger Ziva probably would have been able to take the whole thing in better stride. (Or else she would have actually hit him, and that would have been satisfying.) Abby would've done well being handed a box of bondage supplies at her wedding shower—probably would've grinned and started a discussion about fetishes. Her old landlady would have opened the box and laughed her head off. Breena would have blushed, made a good-natured joke, and merrily joined in the conversation and laugher that followed.

And yet when faced with that red box, Ziva—yes, tough, sophisticated, anything-but-naïve Ziva David—had frozen and been able to do nothing more than grit out an insincere thank you.

She rolls away from Tony and moodily props her head on her hand, staring through the darkness at the stacks of gifts near the closet.

It is unfair, she thinks. It is unfair because she has worked so very hard to create a life for herself that is a good life, a happy life, a life she can handle, and then one stupid man walks in and is able to throw her off with Bootylicious Bondage and a few crude comments. She does not appreciate that he embarrassed her, but she truly dislikes how the whole thing has left her uncomfortable.

When confronted with the box, her mind went into an uncertain, vaguely panicky overdrive. But none of it was related to the idea of the bondage itself-it stemmed more from the shock. She didn't have to stop and think about how she would feel being handcuffed and blindfolded and gagged and spanked—because she already knew. There's a reason Ziva doesn't do any sort of bondage, not anymore. Doesn't think about it. Doesn't need to. Doesn't want to.

Somalia is the obvious reason. Her hands had been tied always; her feet had been tied sometimes. She was often blindfolded with a bag over her head. Torture, rape, being held down while she was struck and being held down while Saleem's men took turns thrusting into her and being held down while truth serum was injected into her veins. For some time after that she had found herself wary when almost anyone touched her, though she never said much about it. The first time Ray pushed her down on her back and climbed on top of her, a full year after her rescue from Africa, she had flipped him with so much force they both tumbled off the bed.

She and Tony did not have this problem, because, of course, Tony knew the problem from the beginning. So when they started dating, he let her set the tone of their bedroom activity. It is hot and inventive enough that she has always been sure he doesn't care that she tends to be the dominant partner. She does often like him to be on top, body heavy all around her. But she also likes to know that at any second, she can flip him over and settle over his hips. He will not mind.

Yes, Somalia is the obvious reason a bondage kit is a completely inappropriate gift for Ziva David, and Tony is aware of that and she is grateful for his awareness and the way it makes him drop the subject.

But Somalia is not the only reason, and she does not feel like telling Tony that and having to acknowledge aloud that there are multiple reasons, both clear and fuzzy, why she is just not up to this.

She has told everyone off-handedly about the times her father blindfolded her and led her to the middle of the woods so she could learn navigational skills puzzling her way out. She has not told them about the game her father favored to teach her how to pick locks. Here, in America, it would probably be frowned upon to give your young daughter a demonstration of how to pick simple locks and then to shut her in her room or her brother's bedroom closet or her sister's wardrobe, telling her to use whatever means necessary to extricate herself. Ziva does not remember it with any particular horror. She does remember that it usually took her a great amount of time to pick the lock from the inside or find some alternative way out of the small, dark spaces. She also remembers that when she did find a way out (most memorably managing to unscrew the hinges of her parents' bedroom closet by scaling her mother's shoe organizer and balancing there with a Swiss army knife), she was rewarded with a treat, a kiss to the top of her head, and an arm around her small shoulders as he knelt next to her and explained what she had done right and how she might've done better.

When she didn't manage to escape, she was not punished. No treat, no kiss, and a vague sense of disappointment, but no anger.

"You will not always be able to escape," Abba explained, "and while escape is better than captivity, you must find ways to endure captivity quietly so as to give yourself a better chance to escape later or to allow help to arrive." She did not always understand everything he said, but she nodded, and when she was trapped somewhere and feeling panicked, she remembered about being quiet and used the time to make up stories for her baby sister or to think about books she had read. She thought quietly, and ran her hands over stone and wood and smooth plaster, looking for an out. And sometimes she found one.

She was only punished once during the course of the game, early on, and that was the time she got scared and pounded on the door with her fists, sobbing. She was spanked and cold-shouldered, and she did not repeat the mistake.

On the first day of Pesach when Ziva was eight, Abba trapped her in the pantry (her father outfitted all the doors in the house with locks, to her mother's disapproval). She was scrabbling at the hole in the knob with the bobby pin that had been holding the curls over her left ear when the door suddenly clicked and the knob turned and there was a great deal of light.

Ziva blinked several times, and her mother slowly went from being a dark silhouette blocking the brightness to having shades and edges and colors. She saw her mother's eyes flit from her uneven hairstyle to the bobby pin in her fingers to her wrinkled holiday dress, and she felt a hot rush of shame when she noticed the key in her mother's hand. Ziva had thought she had pressed the tumbler just right, but apparently an external force had been involved—an external force which now pulled her close and lifted her up even though she was far too big to be carried like this. The arms holding her were steady, but the body she was held against trembled, and Ziva, confused, tried to twist around and see her mother's face, only to be held tighter.

Her mother said nothing, just smoothed a hand repeatedly over the back of her head, and Ziva gave up on the confusion and fell back on what she knew, silently chastising herself for thinking that she had successfully picked the lock. She should have noticed the shadow of her mother's feet under the door. This time Abba wins, she thought.

It was not very long after that that Rivka packed up her girls and left the big house with its many doors that locked.

Ziva did not miss the game, but she did miss her father when they left him. And she found herself remembering the very first time she and he had played at captivity, when she was five and he had caught her off-guard and locked her into her wardrobe and explained the rules of the game from the outside. She had caught a glimpse of his face through the keyhole, and it had been wearing a funny expression which she would only later identify as regret.

Which is why, twenty-some years and a particularly hellish encounter with captivity later, she switches therapists after the first one coaxes the stories of her closet- and forest-escaping games out of her and then implies that this was abuse.

"It was not," Ziva says sharply, sitting very straight in her chair and feeling as though she has been tricked into saying too much. "It was a necessary preparation. I was unharmed." She dislikes therapy; feels just as tied to this chair in this pleasant room as she has ever felt when literally tied to a chair. But therapy is part of her deal with NCIS—if she wants to become an agent and an American citizen, she must attend once a week for six months.

The therapist, treading lightly, says something about a study which suggests that adult victims of childhood abuse often confuse the memories of traumatic events and ultimately attempt to protect their abusers. She says maybe and perhaps a lot and uses delicate phrases like, "it may not look like it to you," and "this may not hold true for all people, but –" but her meaning is clear. Ziva can think of nothing to say, so she simply stands and leaves. She finds a new office in the morning, muttering to herself about nothing in particular the entire time she peruses the phone book.

She has no desire to make a therapist understand; she just wants to be done with the obligation. After all, she tells herself, she did benefit from the training or parenting or…whatever it was. She could pick a lock faster than any of her Mossad colleagues, and when she got to America, she found that she was faster than they were, as well. For the most part, she's exceptionally good at getting out of small, enclosed places. When she can't get out by herself—a shipping crate comes to mind, and so do a desert cell, a dark room sealed by fire doors, and the NCIS elevator—she still feels the echoes of her father's voice vibrating in her head. Ziva, Eli says in her mind, this is good practice for you. If you cannot escape, you must learn to endure.

Which is why it's a good thing she's usually stuck with Tony, who talks over Eli quite effectively, and helps her forget that she has failed to escape and that she hates the enduring part.

Another time, when she was twenty-two and after sensitive information, she had carried on with a gray-haired British "gentleman" who had not been very gentle at all. His house was full of mirrors and expensive, chunky gold frames and things made of ivory and animal fur, and he had not cared who she was or what secrets he let slip to her so long as she walked through his halls with a sensuous, feline swing to her hips. The look in his eyes when he watched her reminded her of a hunter with a valuable animal in his sights, and that sent unease moving up her spine like claw pricks. Still, her father had said to get the information, so she made sure she smelled like spices and thickened her accent and dressed in clingy things that looked rich and exotic against her tan. Whatever would get the man off. Earning his trust through his cock, she thought contemptuously, and wished she could roll her eyes without his noticing.

He held her wrists above her head when he fucked her on his wife's bed, and she felt like she was being colonized and didn't like it. At some point she tried to tug her arms free, to shift positions and make at least some part of this worthwhile for herself, and he grunted and frowned and became heavier on top of her, then suddenly moved and held her slim wrists crossed in one hand. The other hand was hard on her throat, pressing against the soft flesh under her chin—not choking her, but not far enough from it. Her pulse had roared and her eyes had widened and he had surged into her too hard and it had hurt. Later she didn't remember forcing him to the ground, just remembered his pathetic whimper as she twisted his ears and the look of his bald spot reflected in the polished floor.

She ended up giving him a blowjob as an apology, kneeling in front of him on the hardwood, fighting down the quivering hot anger in her belly in favor of appearing young and sorry and murmuring something about practicing for a self-defense class. Strategy, Ziva, she reminded herself. Anger can wait till you have what you need. Endure it. But it was hard to remember her own advice when he fisted his hands in her hair and jerked her head around until her neck ached and her throat felt abused on the inside as well as the outside.

He was drowsing when she asked him her key question, and he answered her in a languorous way that made her anger harder to contain, but he did answer her fully, and that meant her mission was a success. She called Mossad from the bathroom as the shower ran and her neck burned.

She wanted to kill him, but that hadn't been authorized. So instead, she left him sleeping and went to Paris for the weekend, where she wore loose, long clothes so no one could leer at the bruises on her wrists and knees and bought expensive soap that made her smell of lavender.

There were other targets who restrained her, and some of them she actually was allowed to kill. Then there were boyfriends, some of whom seemed to find dominance over her to be erotic. Before the British man, before Tali's death, even, when she was seventeen and just beginning to be lethal, she broke the fingers of one young man who persisted in sneaking up behind her and putting one hand over her eyes while groping about her front with the other. She received a reprimand for that, but did not apologize.

It was easier in America, later on—if she did not like the man's tactics or if anything he did made uneasiness prickle down her neck, she stopped seeing him. Somalia was rather a convenient excuse, in a way. If she didn't like the way someone touched her or their possessiveness or the way they made her feel trapped, she could justify it to herself as being backlash from her African excursion rather than being the result of a lifetime of events which left her with the definite impression that men liked to dominate women and the even more definite impression that she did not like to be dominated by people she did not trust.

Now, though, with years of distance from most of that, about to be married, she feels she really ought to be above all of it. Ought to have moved on, ought to be in a place where she cannot just endure games of dominance and restraint, but enjoy them like a different woman. A normal woman without the violent reflexes and the bad history. The box is mocking her, its red stripes beginning to look vibrant as the rising sun shines dimly through the blinds. It reminds her of the ways she is still not normal in spite of the time and the therapy and the growth and the mental pep talks. She casts it a baleful look over Tony's shoulder, and, in a fit of impetuosity, throws her pillow at it. She is unprepared for the entire stack of gifts falling over and knocking into the next stack of gifts, which falls over in sympathy. Ah. Well. She pulls a face, and pats Tony absently on the chest as his eyes flutter and he asks several incoherent, panicked-sounding questions. "It's nothing, my love," she says quietly. "Something fell." He makes a sound of affirmation and then noisily flops over onto his stomach, throwing an arm across her back and dragging her into his side. She closes her eyes and snuggles up, stealing half of his pillow and abandoning the idea of a morning run.

Hopefully everything in those boxes is wrapped well. If not, she supposes they can live with one fewer vase.

They restack the boxes in the morning, but other than that, they don't touch them all weekend. The problem with being given things you don't need is finding space for them, and neither of them feels like going through the linen closet and kitchen cabinets and making room.

Early Monday morning, though, Tony is in an up-and-at-'em mood. Ziva can hear him humming and jostling the boxes around as she leans over the bathroom counter doing her makeup.

"Hey, Zi?" he calls after a minute.


"What is this?" He appears in the bathroom doorway holding a…well, "what is it" is actually a pretty apt description. It appears to be a multicolored glass dragon, mouth roaring at the sky, with a hollow body and ugly metallic sunbursts splotched over the whole thing at random. His face staring at it makes her laugh aloud.

"Um…a sculpture? A vase, maybe?" He turns it in his hands and looks at her incredulously. "Really, really ugly?"

"Can we very discreetly pawn it or is it doomed to languish under the bed forever?"

"I'm thinking it can probably languish in the trash," she tells him, screwing the cap on a tube of mascara and sliding it back into her makeup bag.

He looks at her fondly. "You have such good judgment, Agent David."

And she laughs, and he steps up to land a smacking kiss on her cheek before getting back to his boxes, and she thinks they ought to both wake up this early more often.

But it doesn't last; whatever shadow Ziva's been batting around her skull all weekend puffs into an almighty thundercloud when she picks her way around and over boxes to tell Tony there are scrambled eggs on the stove and finds him crouching beside that damn red package and messing with the handcuffs, a chuckle in his throat. Her mouth tightens and she can't help it, her voice comes out with a bit of a chill.

"Having fun?"

And maybe he's not as awake yet as she thought, because he doesn't look up at her face and he doesn't seem to pick up on the edge of her question. Instead, he wiggles the handcuffs in one hand and a silk tie in the other.

"Yeah. Hey, which do you think goes better with that really sexy bra you have? The one I like so much?"

"Your eggs are ready," is all she says.

"Well, you're no fun," he complains, holding up the ball gag.

"I suppose not," she says tightly, and begins making her way back to the kitchen.

He tosses it at her playfully, aiming for her butt, but she is irritated, and snatching it out of the air and throwing it back at him hard (all before he has quite registered that it didn't bounce off her ass and fall to the floor) feels good for all she knows it's childish. And from the corner of her eye she sees his surprise when it hits his chest dead-center, and she knows the second it sinks in and he realizes he's been saying exactly the wrong things.

He upends the box in his hurry to follow after her.

"Hey, look, Ziva, I didn't mean that."

"I am sure you didn't." She really doesn't mean it sarcastically. It's just a statement, not even worth sighing over. Nonetheless, he's suddenly ashamed and apologetic and she feels a little guilty for making any sort of production out of it at all.

"No, but really. I know it wasn't exactly your favorite gift in the whole world, and I didn't mean to imply, you know, that I like it.

"Not that I have anything against it," he adds after a pause, obviously trying to make the picture as full and balanced as possible so she won't think he's just saying what he thinks will make her turn cuddly again.

"We really don't need to talk about it, Tony," she says briskly, scraping the eggs onto two plates and handing one to him.

His silence says he is not happy with that response. It's time to leave for work, though, and there's not time for an argument, so they lapse into a quiet state of not-exactly-fighting-but-not-exactly-not-fighting.

They are perfectly cool and professional at work, and Gibbs and McGee don't appear to notice that anything's off. Ziva knows they do, though, especially after Gibbs tells them all to grab their gear and she feels his hand, warm from his paper coffee cup, on her upper arm. He veers with her to the staircase, waving McGee and Tony toward the elevator.

"You're with me," he says, not looking at her. "Promised Abby I'd come down for a sec. We'll meet 'em there."

That's all he says, and it's all he needs to say. It's not the first time she and Tony have come in out-of-sorts with each other and Gibbs has unobtrusively separated them for most of the workday. It's a little embarrassing that he always knows when they've had a spat, but it's helpful, and so she doesn't mind. And really, for a man with three divorces in his pocket, Gibbs could be a much worse marital counselor.

"Tony?" she says that night from the kitchen as they wait for their dinner to cook. He looks up from the television. She catches his gaze and holds it. "I'm sorry for being snippy this morning." And his mouth eases into the special smile he keeps just for her, and he pats the couch next to him.

"Nothing to apologize for," he mumbles into her hair as she slumps into him and he pulls her close. "I am sorry, though."

"Not necessary."

"Sure it is. 'Cause—" he is interrupted by her finger on his lips.

"Shut up, Tony."

He tries to bite her finger, but she's quicker than he is, and he only succeeds with a small lick. She wipes her hand on his pants and threatens to withhold dinner if he does that again, which he takes as an invitation to tackle her sideways on the couch and do his absolute best to put his tongue somewhere more fun, and she laughs and he laughs and everything feels better.

Tony puts away the box and its scattered contents before they go to bed, and Ziva decides that ought to be the end of it.

Somehow she still wakes in the middle of the night thinking about boxes and bonds.

Tuesday, Gibbs seems relieved to send Tony and Ziva out together to pick up a suspect and bring him in for questioning. Abby has requested McGee's help sifting through and decoding the contents of their victim's laptop, and Gibbs' willingness to shift the team around in accommodation of his agents' relationship problems has its limits. So out Tony and Ziva go, following cell phone GPS data to find their suspect sitting in a mall parking lot.

It would be a little too much to ask for that he a) not have a weapon and b) not take off running when they call his name, and so of course he does both of these things, and Ziva curses as they take off after him. Their shouts for him to drop his weapon ring through the parking lot.

He sets the gun down, but she and Tony both notice the flash of a blade in his hand as he straightens. Tony shouts for him to drop that, too, but instead the man lifts his hand and looks at the knife as though he is not entirely sure what to do with it.

And that is when Ziva kicks him to the ground and plants a boot on his sternum.

"Do you feel where my foot is?" she asks conversationally as Tony kicks the gun further away and trains his own on the guy's head.

The man glares and grunts.

"Good! Then you should know that that is exactly the spot where our Medical Examiner will cut you open later to perform your autopsy if you do not put down that knife and I am forced to shoot you."

"Don't worry, it'll only take her one shot," Tony says. The man's bloody knuckles remain clenched white-and-red on the knife handle.

Ziva grinds in her heel. It occurs to her that she could have used a quicker disarming maneuver—honestly, this man is weak, and simply pointing their guns and shouting at him might eventually have worked—but somehow this method is much more satisfying. She's not sure exactly why she's felt on edge all week, but clearly this is one way of scratching the itch.


And of course he drops the knife and she lets Tony haul him up and cinch his wrists in handcuffs while she calls Gibbs.

"Abby'll be happy—two weapons to add to the pile," Tony mentions when she hangs up.

"Gibbs is not," she says.

"Is he ever?"

"Oww," the handcuffed man whines.

"Oh, shut up. She's done worse to me," Tony tells him. She has to give him an affronted look for that, and he has the nerve to look unashamed. "What? There are much worse things than being held down by a hot chick with a gun. It's really quite cinematic. You should try it more often," he adds as an aside to the suspect, who makes a noise of disbelief.

Ziva frowns.

It turns out that Gibbs wasn't just cranky on the phone. He's not happy in person, either, and he is particularly annoyed by the suspect's constant complaining about how his head hurts from hitting the ground and how his chest hurts from Ziva's boot and how he thinks he may be having heart murmurs or high blood pressure or cancer or whooping cough and so he wants to see a doctor immediately.

Not that these are things Gibbs cares about today or ever, but it is clearly irritating him this afternoon. He does not tell Ziva that she used excessive force, because sometimes even Leroy Jethro Gibbs recognizes hypocrisy, but he is even more brusque and businesslike than usual, and as soon as they come in the next morning, he sends McGee and Tony out and keeps her in the office. It feels like a slight.

By noon, the weather is pressing its face against the windows, bits of drizzle collecting and falling down the glass, and Ziva feels the dark gray outside well echoes her mood. Gibbs has been absent more or less all morning, Tony and McGee are not back yet, and none of her searches are turning up anything new. In an effort to do something—anything—productive, she pulls up footage of yesterday's interrogation with the knife-wielding suspect and plugs in her headphones. She had not been present for the real event, sent to make several calls while Gibbs made himself comfortable in the interrogation room.

It almost makes her laugh when she finds herself betting against herself six minutes in—a weak imitation of how she, Tony, and McGee usually behave in Observation. Will Gibbs go for silence till the guy cracks, or will it be angry shouting? She wagers herself a coffee against a hot chocolate that he'll go for the first.

And so naturally, Gibbs goes for the second (hot chocolate it is, then). He yells things about endangering federal officers, and betraying the country, and then quiets down for some heavy sarcasm before ratcheting back up to a full-blown murder accusation.

The guy, though, has something completely else on his mind, and responds to almost everything Gibbs says by insisting that his arrest was unjust and that Gibbs' questions are invalid for that very reason. Legally this is false, but even on the mediocre-quality video she can see frustration settle into Gibbs' features. She begins to wonder if the guy's obstinacy indicates mere stupidity or actual mental deficiency. Finally Gibbs snaps that he will gladly arrest the guy all over again if it'll make him feel better. He even gets out his handcuffs.

The man nearly howls. "That agent bitch is the one who should be chained up. Not me!"

The video is almost over anyway, so Ziva clicks it off.

She closes her eyes and wonders just how heavy-handed the universe can manage to be in a single week.

She broaches it with him in the car on the way home, because he's driving and that means he can't look at her too much, and somehow that makes it easier.

"Tony, do you ever feel like there's some sort of…significance to things that won't…leave you alone?" she drops suddenly into his idle complaints about traffic and road construction.

He flashes her a toothy smile. "What, like me?"

"No, just…things you can't get out of your head."

"So…still me, then?"

She shouldn't be finding his cocky grin as irritating as she currently is, and her hands flex on her thighs as she breathes in hard through her nose. She presses on.

"I have been feeling off all week," she confesses, and realizes that that isn't the wording she wants when he frowns.

"You sick?"

"No, no. Just…edgy, I guess."

"Well, babe, we can get you a motorcycle jacket and paint your nails black if you wanna go for edgy." She frowns, confused. "Unless you meant 'on edge,' which might make more sense in this context."

She loves this man, but he can be awfully annoying sometimes. "You know what I mean. I thought about it all afternoon, and I think it is related to that gift your friend gave us."

"You have to admit that gift is pretty hard to forget. All the guests are probably still thinking about it, too," is his lightly-delivered response. Ziva sighs. Clearly, Tony is not in the mood for a serious conversation right now. She turns up the radio and watches as his eyes flick to the volume dial, then to her, and then fix hard on the road as he opens his mouth and looks like he's about to say something. Whatever it is he's about to say must get tangled up on its way from brain to mouth, though, because he ends up just shutting his mouth as his eyes flit to her face once more, stormy green and concerned. Despite the advertisement playing on the radio, the car seems very quiet.

And because that concerned look always twangs something in her heart, she concentrates very hard and tries once more.

"I—well, there have been—I mean, I've faced many…situations in my life which made that gift, um…difficult for me to receive well. And I feel badly about that." The delicate words out, she expels a deep breath.

His look is sharp and slightly wounded, which is a surprise.

"Ziva, I hope you know that I haven't been trying to—"

"No! I know. I know. I wasn't trying to say that you were, I am just trying to explain—"

"You don't need to explain."

"I do. Because…just because it's hard to think about these things doesn't mean I can't—I'm not incapable, just maybe a little—" she thinks for a second, grasping for the right words. "Damaged?" she tries out, because 'psychologically scarred' seems like it takes things a little too far and 'uneasy' doesn't take them quite far enough.

His knuckles tighten on the steering wheel. Apparently he doesn't care for her terminology, but he says nothing, and the silence is oppressive enough to make her rush to fill it.

"I don't know. Maybe. Do you think I'm a control freak, Tony? You know, in our relationship? In bed?" It's not quite what she's trying to get at and she doesn't like how the tint of desperation she can hear in her own voice, but it might be a start.

He chuckles without sounding particularly amused, and she can nearly see him flip through a dozen scenarios in his head. He knows she likes it when he backs her against the door. She enjoys being lifted and thrown onto the bed. She likes it rough. She likes him heavy on top of her. She knows he remembers how impressed and vaguely aroused she was by Damon Werth's ability to overpower her. He is aware of all these things, but has difficulty reconciling them with the other scenarios—the rapes and the bad boyfriends and all those painful bits that contribute to trust issues and dominance issues and daddy issues and any other tangled strings of bad, undesirable stuff.

He looks very tired as he shakes his head. "Sometimes women make no sense."

She knows this already, and can think of nothing else to tell him.

They are both distracted and quiet that evening, and Ziva can tell that Tony's attention on his movie is just as spotty as her focus on her paperback.

Bedtime comes early.

He comes up behind her in the bathroom just as she puts her toothbrush in its holder with a plink. His eyes catch hers in the mirror before tracing her form, falling on the strap of her nightgown, the tumble of hair over her shoulder. The solidity of his body against her back feels just as good as it did Friday night in the kitchen. Just as good as it does every time she leans back against his chest.

His mouth presses warm kisses to her shoulder as his hands rub slowly up and down her upper arms. Reassuring motions, she realizes, meant to put her at ease. For some reason, her chest tightens at this small sweetness.


He nuzzles then licks the skin where her shoulder joins her neck before looking up. She expects him to admit the tension of the moment and turn serious as his eyes met hers in the mirror, but instead he rolls his tongue around his mouth in a peculiar way and scrunches his nose.

"Did you just put moisturizer on?"

She is not in the mood to be distracted. "Tony."

She watches him swallow hard and turn serious, his face settling into straighter planes and his hands stilling on her arms. He's as ready to have this out and over with as she is. Her tension has thrown the past week out of whack for them both, picked at the edges of their happy life—not much, but just enough to make them miss how it had been the week before.

"I'm listening."

She looks at him in the mirror. Takes a long look at her own face.


"I think we should just try it," she blurts out.


"The bondage. I think we should try it."

"What, now?"

"Yes. Why not?"

"Well, usually couples talk about this stuff beforehand, Zi!"

She turns to him, frustrated. "What do you think I'm trying to do?"

His face is tense, and he drags a hand over it and sighs. "Okay. Okay. Can we go sit down while we talk about it, at least?"

On the couch, Tony grabs Ziva's hand and pulls it into his lap, and she lets the rest of her body fall that direction, too, so that her bare legs are draped over his right thigh and her side curls into his. He toys with the ring he gave her.

"Look, Ziva, I know you have some sort of trial-by-fire mentality for yourself—"

"And I need to get over myself?" she mumbles into his chest.


"You said that. Years ago in Somalia. When I said—"

His voice is a little strained when he interrupts her. "Yeah, I remember what you said. And yes, something like that. You do everything the hard way, and—" she raises her head and he cuts her off preemptively—"shush. You do. I do. We always take the hard road."

"Says the man who drank juice straight from the carton this morning because it was easier?" She hears the smile in her own voice even as she wonders why she's taking on his usual role of trying to lighten the mood. He flicks her knuckle.

"You know what I mean."


"I just…I want you to know that you have nothing to prove." His voice is low in her ear, and his arm tightens around her as she chews on her bottom lip, like he thinks she might stiffen up and try to run. She has no desire to do either, but yet…he's not quite right in his evaluation.

"That's not true," she says eventually.

"Yeah, it is."

"It's not. I would…I would like to prove it to myself, I think."

They sit for a long minute, and Ziva listens to Tony's heartbeat, pulsing steadily beneath her cheek. And so she hears the rumble of his chuckle before it actually emerges, and looks up in surprise.

"I have to say, I never thought I'd be the one trying to talk a sexy woman out of getting tied up and having sex with me. But you know, since you insist."

"Clearly I bring out your best side," she grins.

"Clearly you do."

He laughs again when, upon digging out the red box and opening it, Ziva takes all of two seconds to divest him of the crop and snap it over her knee.

"Oops," she says unapologetically, and throws the pieces into the hallway.

"Go on, anything else?"

She surveys the kit carefully. The gag she plucks out and sends soaring out of the room with a contemptuous flick of her wrist. She does not throw the handcuffs, but the look she gives Tony when she holds them up manages to convey that if he attempts to handcuff her, he will find himself handcuffed. To a street light. In a bad part of town. The oils are deemed acceptable only if he wants to clean the sheets afterward.

"And I am not furniture," she informs him. "I do not need to be dusted." And there goes the feather duster.

What's left are silk ties, a blindfold, and Ziva slipping out of her nightgown and onto the bed before her brain can quite catch up. Tony stands awkwardly by the side of the bed, just staring at her.

"Well? Are you just going to stand there?" Her voice is just impatient enough to draw him out of his reverie.

"I was thinking about it," he mutters, and she can practically feel his eyes sliding slowly up her legs. It tickles and makes her feel flushed.

"Stop thinking," she tells him. But he doesn't move until she reaches out for him, fingertips grazing his wrist, and then he grabs her hand and crawls on the bed and can't kiss her hard enough. And she pulls him closer and spreads her other hand on his neck, feeling his pulse thumping fast under her fingers as he slides his tongue along hers and runs his hand up the smooth skin of her back until his free hand is clutching the back of her own neck.

It's easy to get lost in it, to just feel his heartbeat and the heat of his breath in her mouth and his hand tight around hers, and so she does. She leans into it and kisses him as fervently as he kisses her.

But eventually she draws back, breathing hard, leaving just enough room between their lips for words to form.

"Tony," she whispers, "Can we please get on with it?"

His eyes are dark. "Are you sure—"


The silk feels cool on her wrists as Tony ties them to the bedposts—she thinks maybe he'll make a joke to put her at ease, but instead he's quiet and focused—and it feels incredibly strange to be spread so openly across the big bed. Her chest feels exposed. It's a weird thing to feel in front of someone who sees her naked every single day. He rocks back on his heels when he's done, and as her body dips with his shifting weight on the mattress she feels the resistance of the knots through her arms.

There are many more ties in the box, but apparently he has no desire to tie her feet, and she is glad for that. He hesitates before holding up the blindfold.

Ziva nods. (If she's going to attempt a non-neurotic response to this whole thing, she might as well do it properly.)

And it's soft, but Tony's fingers feel softer when he strokes his thumbs over her cheekbones and lifts her head to slide it over her hair.

His fingers are a bit clumsy when he sets rests her head back on the pillow and brushes some wayward strands of hair out of her face, and if she didn't know before that he's a little uncomfortable with this, she does now, because usually his hands are sure and strong with her. Not uncertain—almost timid—like this.

It is that sweet uncertainty which tugs hard on her heart, and she blinks hard beneath the blindfold and then raises her head.

"Kiss me," she orders softly, and she swears she can hear him swallow before bending over her and meeting her lips.

She's not expecting it to be as soft and gentle as it is. It's for Tony's benefit as much as her own, she knows, because he can't seem to quite get it in his head that this was her idea and she really isn't trying to punish herself. She'll just have to make him understand.

His hands are still on her head, but she'd really like for them to travel elsewhere, so she chases his mouth as it hovers above hers and deepens the kiss. Her senses are working overtime since her sight is obstructed. It's making her very aware of how hot his mouth is and how good he smells and how the hem of his basketball shorts is trailing over her hipbone as he moves. She moans, and it flips some sort of switch for him.

Suddenly, his tongue is on her neck, on her breast, and his hands are skimming down her sides and she tries to hook her toes into the elastic waistband of his shorts and tug them down, but it's difficult when she can't see, and he breathes out a chuckle. His hands and mouth leave her body while he pulls his clothes off.

Ziva tries to reach for him instinctively, and it's almost a surprise when her wrists jerk and her arms stay back. For the slightest second, no more than a heartbeat, panic rises in her throat, and it's not because she is bound but rather because she cannot see him, or feel him, and she needs to know where he is. She looks for him with her feet but finds nothing but sheets, and she opens her mouth to call for him—and then his finger is warm on her lips.

"Shush, baby," he says, all low and rough, and she smiles under his finger and then nips at it.

"No," she says.

He runs the finger down her throat to the center of her collarbone, and then she feels the mattress depress as he lies next to her. He resumes, using just the side of his pinky finger this time to slowly trace an invisible line between her breasts, down her stomach. It tickles in the most pleasant way; makes her arch up just a tiny bit as she seeks a firmer, broader touch. He does not oblige. She breathes in sharply as he skims so delicately over her navel and lower, lower.

"You were saying?" he murmurs.

She could not care less about carrying on a conversation at the moment. "I can't remember." Just before his pinky dips between her legs properly, he diverts it to the side and draws light, lazy loops on the inside of her thigh. The muscles in her abdomen and thighs quiver in protest.

"Tony," she moans.

"Yes, Ziva?" She tries to nudge his hand where she wants it with her thigh. He merely reaches over and begins tracing patterns on the other leg, and she can just picture the way the corner of his mouth is crooking up in an amused smirk.

Normally this would be the point at which she forcibly redirected his hand or took charge, but not having the use of her arms or eyes makes that rather more difficult.

Even turned on and blindfolded, though, she's not incapable of strategy. He's lying on his side just a few inches from her—she can feel the heat from his body—and it is not difficult to shift closer and align her bare skin with his. When he stills his hand, probably trying to figure out what she's got up her sleeve, she takes advantage of her flexible lower back and twists, tilting her hips into his and sliding her leg behind his top one. It gives her a surprising amount of leverage with which to press her lower body against him, and she takes full advantage.

Even a Tony determined to tease can't resist that. He makes a growly noise deep in his throat and the hand that was doing the teasing before now grips her hip, is stretching over and around her ass, is—yes, finally—pressing two fingers into her and stretching the pinky to graze her clit.

As talented as Tony is at working with her body, though, and as ready as she is for him to do just that, it's an awkward angle, and it makes her stretched arm ache.

"Can we—" she starts to say, and he has her flat in the middle of the bed again before she gets out a third word.

He knows what he's doing and she grabs her tethers and rocks into his touch and lets him. It's intense, here in the dark, not being able to touch his shoulder, not being able to communicate how close she is to release just by how hard she grips his hair when he brings his mouth into the equation. She's compensating vocally. She doesn't realize exactly how much, though, until she feels him move and he hovers above her. His breath is hot on her already-heated throat. Then his lips skim up and she knows they are so close to her own, searches for them and groans when they seem to move just out of her reach. "You okay?" he whispers, and she cannot quite comprehend why he's bothering to ask that when her body is making it perfectly clear that she would be much better if he'd hurry up and push into her already. She arches into him and moves her hips and hopes it'll entice him into moving his own.

But he stays still. "Ziva?"

"Yes," she pants. "Yes, fine. Just—please—"

And thank god, he does.

Ziva hears herself cry out, and she tugs her arms down hard. She wants to touch him, needs to touch him—but Tony ties good knots, and she succeeds in nothing more than making her wrists burn. It is somehow not distracting, because the burn manages to meld with the pleasurable burn of her impending orgasm, and with her whole body hot and buzzing it's all just feeling and nerve endings and sensations everywhere, everywhere in the dark.

Then suddenly it is not dark, and she is gasping because her senses were already on overload and now there's another one in the mix, and it's telling her that Tony ripped the blindfold off, because she can see it still in his hand. She feels vaguely startled by this, thrown off, and she wants her hands—

"Wanna see your whole face," he says, looking down at her intensely.

And just like that, she's back on track. Because he smells safe, and the heat from his body over hers feels familiar, and if the smile he flashes her is a bit dangerous, it's the kind of dangerous that she loves, the kind that simultaneously turns her on and makes her chest throb weirdly with a deep fondness. And really, she likes seeing his face, too. He's easier to kiss this way.

She angles her pelvis and squeezes his hips tight with her thighs, and he takes the hint, but only for a moment.

"To hell with this," he mutters against her temple, his breath stirring the wisps of hair there ticklishly. Her fingers twitch, instinctively trying to rub the tickle away, and that is the moment she feels Tony pull out of her and move to reach for her left wrist, deftly untying the knots there, pressing a hot kiss to the slightly reddened skin over her pulse. Her right wrist is knotted tighter, probably because she's pulled harder on that side. He gives up working at it quickly—she can tell his focus is a bit shaky, with her wetness now grinding against his thigh and him so hard it must hurt a little—and reaches out to her bedside drawer, stretching to rummage through it and finally pulling out the smallest of her knives. She doesn't like the cold thrill that shoots down her neck at the sight of a weapon when she is bound. But he knows she is watching, meets her eyes and holds them while he cuts through the taut fabric, and that does a great deal to quell the feeling.

"You don't have to, you know," she says quietly.

He gives her a quick smile. "I want to," he says, breathless, "I miss you—your participation—it's not the same—"

Then the bond gives and the knife is still clattering on the nightstand when her arms wrap tightly around him and he forgets whatever else he was going to say and just breathes her name, over and over as she moves her fingers through the soft hair at the nape of her neck and presses her cheek into his.

When they're lying in a tangle of limbs, sheets, and ruined silk ties some time later, catching their breath, Ziva chuckles. Tony's head rests on her chest, and she's been stroking his scalp to soft hums of satisfaction while replaying in her mind how he shivered when the slashed silk at her wrist trailed over his back.

He doesn't lifts his head at her laugh, but turns it to the side a little to indicate that he's listening and would really love to know what's so funny.

"I have to say," she says, recalling his earlier words, "I never thought you'd be the one who didn't like the Bootylicious Bondage experience."

"Oh, shut up," he says, but she can feel him smiling against her skin.


And he tickles her breathless and tells her not to knock it unless she's tried it.

"Clearly you cannot understand unless you've been the perpetrator of the tying and blindfolding. It is a very delicate process which leads to complex emotions you are unable to comprehend," he says grandly.

"Really? Because I have no experience with tying people up?"

"Nah. If you didn't have your handcuffs you would just knock them out."

She concedes that he does have a somewhat valid point-so far as it applies to her current life, anyway.

"Anyway, I'm throwing that stupid box away."

"It can go languish with the ugly glass dragon," she suggests.

"Yeah. If you get any sudden urges to tie me up and have your wicked way with me, you can just use your regular cuffs."

"Be careful," she says with a smile that's purposely mischievous. "I might take you up on that."

"Oh, lord, what have I gotten myself into?" he groans, and she grins. This has been a strange day, in an odd week, but she somehow feels that, by opening the box she's avoided since Friday, they've pushed a harmful shadowy creature out of her mind. Sure, it could just be because she's tired and happy at the moment, and, obviously, there's no guarantee the edginess won't return—but deep inside, she thinks there's a good chance it won't. She feels lighter. And at least for now, that is enough.

On Thursday, they are late for work.

"Before you say anything, you should know that this is not my fault," Tony says as they walk into the bullpen. Ziva gawks at him.

"You are such a liar! Gibbs, I was ready on time. Tony was late and then he insisted on stopping for coffee."

She is fairly sure Gibbs is going to tell them he doesn't care, but instead he squints at his computer and sighs heavily. "DiNozzo, if you can't get here on time, I'm going to handcuff you to your partner and let her drag you out of bed at four in the morning and take you on her run." (In another profession, thinks some back part of Ziva's brain, it might be considered creepy to know this much about your teammates' sleeping patterns. Then again, this is Gibbs.)

"Really?" Tony says, drawing out the middle of the word and looking at Ziva sideways with a grin. Gibbs rolls his eyes.

And, quite unexpectedly, Ziva is struck by such a strong case of the giggles that both Tony and McGee find themselves laughing along—Tony a bit self-consciously, McGee clearly confused. Even a light smack from the boss doesn't entirely shut her up, though she tries hard to stifle the laughter, because really, in no way is any of this appropriate for the workplace.

"You two need to get more sleep," Gibbs grumbles on his way to the elevator.

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