You may not have noticed, pal, but that's not a swastika hanging around my partner's neck.

"Pumpkin spice latte," Tony announced, sliding the drink across Ziva's desk. She brought it to her nose and inhaled. "And it has the little marshmallows, even though the dude at the counter looked at me funny when I asked for them."

Ziva was amused. After taking a sip of her latte and savoring it for several seconds, she regarded him curiously and said, "You really are whipped, aren't you?"

He sputtered. "I most certainly am not. As you might recall, a certain ninja chick threatened to castrate me if I dared return without marshmallows."

Chuckling (because, yes, she did recall), she glanced around for Gibbs, half-expecting him to materialize and abruptly end this conversation with a double head slap. He wasn't there, however, and McGee was either engrossed in his computer or dutifully ignoring his coworkers, so she stood from her chair and moved to Tony's side. "Perhaps I am still in the process of whipping you."

Tony stared for a moment, then threw back his head and laughed. She watched, unsure what was so funny, until he managed, "I don't think you used that phrase correctly."

"What was wrong with it?"

"Uh- never mind." His laughter subsided into an affectionate gaze. "There's just one problem here. I can't be whipped, 'cause I'm not your boyfriend."

"You can be my whipped partner, then."

Something about that statement drained all the playfulness out of the atmosphere. Their eyes locked; she wondered if the word 'partner' had triggered the same memory for him. Two statements from that interrogation had stuck. One was for them to joke about. The other carried meaning, at least for her, and it appeared that he knew it.

McGee excused himself to go grab a Nutter Butter. Nobody acknowledge him.

Finally, Ziva spoke. "I am not sure why, but what you said to Wilson… about my necklace…" She fingered it, bit her lip. Looked for the words she wanted. "I keep thinking about it."

"You're Jewish and a woman, and he offended you as both. It pissed me off."

"I am not complaining," she said quickly, daring to reach out and touch his hand. When he didn't pull away, she gained confidence and squeezed his fingers. "I think… I think that I am still not fully used to somebody taking their mind off of a task, a job, long enough to stand up for me like that. Especially someone who is aware that I do not need it. Who does it… just because we are partners."

Tony didn't say anything. She started to draw away. "It is stupid, I know-"

"It's not stupid," he cut in, raising both their hands and skimming the back of his across the skin her necklace rested on. She tried not to get goosebumps at the contact. "I got your six. You know that."

And yes, Ziva did know that, and had never forgotten it. "You give me reminders sometimes, I guess."

He allowed one stray thumb to brush the Star of David. They smiled at each other.

McGee returned, sighed, and left again.

TAG.

Written during study hall. I dunno. It's weird.

I loved this episode, guys, by the way. LOVED IT LOVED IT. Probably more than the premiere!

Thanks for reading!