Disclaimer: I don't remember what I'm supposed to disclaim ... ow! Wait! What was that headslap for?

Spoilers: 10x10 "You Better Watch Out" and 10x12 "Shiva," mostly. Otherwise, it's spoiler-free. And yes, her name is Jennifer in the press release.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! (Well, it is on my side of the world anyway.) Especially you, Mikey *suggestive eyebrows.* Enjoy!



Valentine's Day.

It was normally to be a day of glory for DiNozzo men—a day when they would get to demonstrate their charm; exhibit their abilities to seduce.

Anthony DiNozzo, Jr. would usually plan his Valentine's Day weeks ahead of time so that when the evening came, he would be with whichever leggy, particularly curvy woman was his choice for that year; said evening would always consist of too much wine and too-expensive dinner.

But rarely sex.

For some reason, the game always seemed to matter more than the prize on Valentine's Day.

None of this explained, however, why he was grocery-shopping this year with the very un-seducible, not-extremely-curvy Ziva on what was advertised to be one of the most romantic days ever created by mankind.

At least she hadn't laughed at him when he'd invited her along on the shopping trip. She'd just given him an incredulous look and asked, "Do you not have elsewhere you would rather be?"

And his answer had honestly been "no."

Which was why Ziva was now waving a red apple at him in exasperation.

"Did you invite me along on this trip just so that I would do all your grocery-shopping for you?" she was asking, and he was feeling guilty enough to refrain from answering.

It wasn't his intention, of course, but he couldn't help deferring to her for his produce-related issues. He didn't know the first thing about grocery-shopping (the lessons from his college days had been long-forgotten), and he hoped she wouldn't realize he had no use for groceries, either. He simply wanted to be somewhere with her; spend some time with her.

And when she tossed six ruby apples into a plastic bag and asked him if it was enough, he nodded compliantly.

He only ever ate fruit when Ziva made him, but she would never know.

Apple-choosing task completed, they moved on to the bakery—and that was where they ran into the Bloodhound who lived in the apartment across from him. He hadn't spoken to the woman (unless the half-hearted smiles that had probably looked more like a demented grimaces when he'd borrowed and then returned her airbed counted) since 'The Incident' with his father, but that was not a deterrent to Jennifer, who was apparently either ignorant of or indifferent to Tony's anger towards her. She regarded Ziva with an expression that could only be described as careful before blatantly turning her back to the Ninja and saying, "Hello, Tony. Who is the woman?"

He gulped and answered, "Hi … Jennifer. This is Ziva.

"And Ziva is…?" Jennifer queried.

"My partner."

He deliberately didn't specify what kind of partner.

Which of course meant, like he'd feared, Jennifer would pounce. "Your partner! Oh my, how wonderful. You never told me you had such a beautiful lady as your companion. Well, in that case, I'm sure you wouldn't mind if your father had a beautiful lady companion, too. I was thinking of calling him up tonight…"

And that was all he heard—all he could handle hearing, and didn't she know DiNozzo Sr. lived in New York, anyway?—before he tuned her out, responding the woman on autopilot until she'd worn out her desire for conversation and wheeled her cart away to God please anywhere in this huge store but here.


Ziva only started questioning him when they were lost amongst the liquor shelves.

"You didn't correct her," his co-worker said, sounding so amused that he dared not look away from the selection of red wines.

"Didn't bother to. She was the one who slept with my dad. I don't know where she was when you were at my apartment, but I'd rather keep you away from her," he remarked casually instead.

"You don't like her," Ziva observed from beside him.

"That bed you slept on? Yeah—that was where I discovered her and my dad."

He thought he could see her shudder out of the corner of his eye. "Ugh. I hope you washed the sheets," she said.

"Of course I did. I wouldn't have let you sleep on them otherwise." He turned to her, holding up two bottles. "Which one do you think I should get?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "I do not know why you have any red wine at home when you neither cook there nor entertain there. Does red wine really go that well with takeout food?"

He felt his cheeks warm. He'd been in the midst of forming an idea that he might just maybe—possibly—not very likely but perhaps—be able to get her to go over to his place and dine with him … but of course, that all went down the drain along with his misconception that he could actually get Ziva to do anything quite so intimate.

It was not like he had charm enough for her, anyway.

The bottles had already been returned to the shelves when Ziva caught his fingers with her hand, and he was fairly certain he flushed even redder than he already had.

"I just want to know why you didn't correct her," she told him. Bluntly, as always.

He lifted and dropped his shoulders without shaking her hand off. "I don't really have a reason."

"But you want one."

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

"You are usually so eager to explain that we are just co-workers. That there is nothing going on between us. Why is it different this time?" Her eyes, dark chocolate and liquid pools of allure, seemed to probingly search his.

"You're usually eager to explain that we're just co-workers, too," he deflected, and she blushed.


The honest answer caught him off-guard, and it was a while before he could recover. "So what makes it different this time, for you?"

She took a deep breath, and her eyes flickered away. "I am … in the middle of a grocery store on a very special day. With you, whom I know would usually be spending it with someone else. And I know something is different, but I don't know what. Why are you not on a date with another woman tonight, Tony? Why are you even with me when you see me every day at work?"

He stood before her, somehow unable to tell her that a Valentine's Day spent in a grocery store with her seemed a million times more appealing to him these days than a Valentine's Day spent at a too-expensive restaurant with a brunette he half-knew who would only remind him of her in the end.

But he couldn't find the words he wanted (needed), so he turned back to the shelves and picked up the two red wines he knew to be her favourite. Here goes nothing.

"Which do you prefer?" he asked, hoping she'd hear what he wanted to tell her.

"Cabernet Sauvignon," she answered without hesitation, and he was still busy figuring out if that meant she'd understood his underlying message when she squeezed his hand and smiled up at him with soft eyes. "And … if you needed to make this day special, then all you had to do was know how to tell me so."


He still didn't 'know how to' by the time they'd paid for the goods and were loading the bags into the car (and they hadn't bumped into the Bloodhound again, thank Buddha and all the other deities).

In the midst of his looking for a way to invite her to dinner, she straightened up from putting the last package into the trunk and said, "Well, I guess we're done," and his traitorous mouth sped up his thought processes for him by requesting, "Stay. Please?"

It wasn't exactly what he'd been aiming for, but it was close enough.

She rolled her lips before muttering, "Okay," and it sent fear streaking through him.

"I don't know how to tell you anything you want me to," he blurted out unwittingly, his mouth dry and palms wet.

Her eyes turned contemplative upon his. "Does that mean you don't want to tell me?" she asked.

He shook his head mutely. "I um, I just don't know how to," he whispered.

The reply seemed to make her ponder, and he shifted nervously from foot to foot (oh please please please not let that mean I've lost my chance forever) as she stood stock-still and with her gaze fixed somewhere below his chin. Eventually, she breathed in deeply and said, "Okay, then I will do it." Her eyes flicked up to his. "Will you have dinner with me, Anthony DiNozzo, Jr.?"

It was a miracle that he did not melt into a puddle of useless limbs right in that moment. "Where?" he gasped.

"My apartment. I will cook, since you clearly won't be using any of the groceries you just bought."

He must've looked like he'd been caught red-handed, because she grinned and then added with too much satisfaction for her own good, "You really did not think that I would realize you did not cook?"

He spluttered and thought hard for a good comeback, but it was obvious that Ziva knew him too well to buy his indignation, so he simply retorted, "Just for that, I'm withholding the Cabernet Sauvignon."

And then she laughed, because they knew it only meant she'd have to be threatening him for the wine later that evening.