A/N: Tag to the episode "Lost At Sea". This probably won't make much sense if you haven't seen the episode. Not much happens in this story, just a few things I felt needed to be said, so it's mostly dialog. If you are a big Ziva fan, this story is not for you.
Also, this is the first story I have written in a very long time. It's the first I've written in this fandom, it's not beta'd, and English is still not my native language, so please be kind :).
Was it Payback?
If Tony was surprised to see Ziva when he stepped out of the stall and went to wash his hands, he didn't show it. She found that a little irritating, but now was not the time to go into that. She had bigger fish to boil. No, that wasn't right. Roast? Cook? Bake? Whatever. She would never admit it to anybody, least of all Tony who seemed to have way too much fun correcting her, but it frustrated her to no end that even after all the years she had lived in this country, these idioms still escaped her.
Tony didn't acknowledge her. He had heard her walking in, and after all the years of working with her, he knew her step without actually seeing her. Recognizing the sound of any of his partners' footsteps was a skill he had acquired right at the beginning of his law enforcement career and honed ever since. It was one of the reasons he was still alive, and had never killed or injured any of his partners. Gibbs had been a challenge at first, but for many years now, Tony had only pretended to be surprised or startled when his boss walked up behind him – at least most of the time. It was a strange little dance they did, and both knew the steps well.
Add to that his better than average sense of smell, and it was really not difficult for him to recognize his co-worker of almost seven years. Did she really think her showing up in the men's room was still in any way a surprise?
That he wasn't surprised at his colleague's presence here didn't mean he had any idea what she wanted this time. So, instead of asking what she wanted – which was what she probably expected – he chose not to make it that easy for her this time, and said nothing. When Ziva had not said anything by the time Tony had dried his hands, he decided that if she wanted something, she could very well open her mouth, and if she didn't, it was her problem, not his. He was almost at the door, when she stepped in his path.
"Was it payback?"
Payback? Now, what was that supposed to mean? "I have no idea what you are talking about. Was what payback for what?" Tony didn't even try to hide his confusion. He couldn't remember playing any kind of prank on her recently, unless you counted not telling her how he and McGee had spent that one particular Friday night. And that wasn't really a prank; for one, it was none of her business anyway, and two, it was just a spur of the moment decision to yank her chain a little. So that couldn't really be what had her looking so…pissed? pensive? or both? Whatever.
"You and McGee did not ask me to join you when you were going out the other day." Ok, Tony thought, that sounded more petulant. Like the cheerleading captain who didn't get asked to the prom by her school's star quarterback. What was this, high school?
He shook his head. "You have a point?"
Ziva took a deep breath and did her best to appear calm and reasonable. "I was wondering if that was some kind of payback for when I did not invite you to the team dinner at my place, shortly after I came to work here." Beneath the forced calm of her façade, Tony could see a mix of strong emotions, but not clear enough to identify them all. "It was a very similar situation, was it not?"
Again, Tony shook his head, this time in disbelief. "I really don't know if this is more ridiculous or more insulting." He paced a few steps, then turned back to Ziva. "Okay, here goes. First, this dinner you are talking about, the one where everybody was invited, including Palmer? That's the one you mean, right?"
"So you remember." Ziva sounded like this had confirmed her assumption.
"Of course I do. I get paid to pay attention to small stuff and remember it. That's part of my job. First of all, it was not the same situation. Tim and I wanted to go out and have a few drinks, maybe meet some women. It was supposed to be a guys night out, not a team event. And not even all the guys, just the two of us. No Gibbs, no Palmer, no Ducky. And certainly no ladies, why would we ask a woman along if we wanted to pick up women? So, no, we didn't exclude you personally. This is ridiculous. You sound like the kid sister who's pissed and jealous because her brothers didn't take her along somewhere."
He smirked when Ziva's eyes flashed angrily. That had obviously hit home. "Now, I know you don't think much of me personally, but do you honestly believe I'm that childish and immature?" He held up his hand. "No, don't say it. I don't need to hear it. But really, this is low, even from you. Let me put it this way. The way you handled Ari gave him the chance to shoot Kate. When we first met, I told you I didn't wish you luck, because of the way I felt about him. But I never made you pay for it once you started working here. All the times you didn't follow my orders, I didn't make you pay for it. When you accused me of murdering your boyfriend out of jealousy, I didn't do anything about it. When you told me all I'm good for is being the class clown, or that a smart woman could never be interested in me, I didn't get back at you for that. When you called me 'dead weight' in front of Gibbs, I didn't pull rank. And I'm going to stop now, or we'll never get back to work. The point is, of all the things I could be pissed about, you think I would get back at you for something that happened over six years ago? Yeah, sure."
Ziva's eyes had gotten bigger and bigger while he gave her his short list. Not that she would ever admit that she had been in the wrong, but hearing it like this, it sounded bad. And still he insisted that he had not tried to get revenge for any of those perceived slights? "If this is how you feel, I find it very hard to believe you would not try to get back at me for any of that." She smirked. "Obviously you do not find me so horrible after all, maybe you like me more than you want to admit and you really are jealous."
Despite himself and despite the seriousness of some of the things he had brought up, Tony couldn't help but laugh at that. "Get over yourself, David. Not everything is about you. Gibbs has been there for me whenever I've really needed him. He's not perfect, but he's been a better mentor and role model than I could have ever hoped for, and certainly a lot better than my own father. You shot Ari to save Gibbs' life. That means I can forgive you just about anything. Because, believe it or not, Gibbs' life is more important to me than my pride."
"You know about that? How did you find out?" Nobody was supposed to know that it had been her and not Gibbs who had shot the rogue Mossad operative. And Tony was the last person she would have expected to figure it out.
"Please. Give me at least some credit. The reports just don't fit with the layout of Gibbs' basement. He couldn't have taken that shot. You were the only other possible option." He looked into her eyes with the most serious expression she had ever seen from him. "Shooting your own brother, even though you knew he had gone off script, must have been incredibly hard. You did it to save Gibbs, and for that I'll always be grateful."
Ziva was still trying to come up with something to say to that, when Tony continued. "Look, I know you don't respect me or my position. Even when I was team leader I could consider myself lucky if you and McGee didn't protest too much when I told you what to do. I know you think I'm an idiot and you can't fathom how I ever got to keep my badge, let alone be Senior Field Agent. But I am, and that means I'm your superior, even though the first thing you said after getting your NCIS ID was that you were now my equal. You're not, you're my subordinate, just like McGee. And since he's been a Special Agent longer than you, he's also your superior. So, when we allow you to take charge, it's not because your position warrants it, but because we are humoring you. You really shouldn't forget that. Probette."
With that, Tony brushed by her, and left her standing alone in the men's room, staring after him with huge, disbelieving eyes. As he walked towards the bullpen and his desk, he was under no illusion that the little talking to he had given her would change anything about her attitude towards him or her opinion of him as a person or his skills as an agent or his authority as Gibbs' Senior Field Agent. But that didn't matter all that much. Because it was like he had told her, there were more important things than his ego. Whatever her motives at the time had been – and he really didn't want to examine the possibilities of what Mossad might have really wanted at the time – she had saved his boss's bacon back then, and for that he could put up with any insult she could come up with.
Although, if she thought she deserved some payback, maybe he should oblige her…