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Tangents

It wasn't anyone's birthday, nor was it a holiday, but it was Friday and Jen had decided that she wanted to barbecue. Ziva was always up for that and any other kind of cooking, and just as well, because Jen ended up having to stay at the office past five p.m. McGee was the first person to arrive and was also the bearer of the 'I'll be late' message from Jen. He washed his hands and started to help Ziva with some food prep.

"I know Tony and Gibbs are coming," McGee said. "But they'll probably hang around at the Yard until Jen leaves. Who else?"

"Only them," Ziva said. "Abby is bowling with the nuns, and Ducky is taking his mother to the opera. I invited Todd and his girlfriend but they have a family commitment... We can do two things at once here. Tell me, in Hebrew: what are you cutting into quarters?"

"Betzalim," McGee said, and those onions were burning his eyes.

"And the singular?"

"Batzal."

"And what am I peeling?"

"Egvan'yot. Singular: agvaniyah."

"And I hate peeling tomatoes," Ziva grumbled. "But this relish always seems to taste better if I remove the skins... What do most Israelis call this thing?"

"Ha'blender," McGee said with a wry grin. "But the proper Hebrew is me'arbel."

"Nachon," Ziva said. Correct.

She cut the stalk end off of a large jalapeno chili and dumped it whole into the blender; three cloves of garlic were peeled and tossed in, too. McGee added the quartered onions. When he was done scraping the cutting board, he looked Ziva's way and found that she was roughly chopping up a large pickle.

"Tomato, onion, a jalapeno, and garlic– that makes sense for a relish, but now you're adding a pickle?"

"A kosher dill pickle, yes. Smoch alai." Trust me.

"You've told me not to trust any Israeli who says that."

"This time, no," Ziva giggled. "Trust me about the relish, okay?"

"Okay... And speaking of kosher, the guy at that new deli wouldn't add a slice of cheese to my chicken sandwich," McGee complained. "Said it's not kosher. Chickens don't produce milk, so I thought that chicken is... par... Eich omeret..?" How do you say..?

"Parve," Ziva said. "And that is Yiddish with Polish origins, not Hebrew. The Modern Hebrew word is stami, but it is less common than parve."

"Thanks," McGee said. "Nu?"

"Why is chicken not kasher-parve? Because it has to be slaughtered. The rule is very simple. Rabbi Akiva said that if any creature must be slaughtered, then that is meat. Anything that does not need to be slaughtered to eat it, is parve: neither meat nor milk. Fish and eggs are parve—"

"But eggs come from chickens," McGee said, frowning.

"And this is why I eat cheeseburgers," Ziva drawled. She added some salt and dried oregano to the blender, and capped it. After pulsing the contents several times, she said, "Sometimes kashrut does not make sense, and I will not be dictated to by dietary laws that are neither logically nor ethically consistent."

"The ethical bit involves not cooking the calf in his mother's milk, right?"

"It is actually 'a kid in its mother's milk.' Anyway, the ethics grow wings and fly away, because it is still okay to cook the calf, or the kid, or the month-old lamb. Some rabbis got together and declared that pâté de foie gras is not kosher, because the geese are treated so cruelly, and the Torah forbids tza'ar ba'alei chayim—cruelty to any living creature. But veal calves are also force-fed, and their short lives are exhausting and painful. Is their meat still kosher? Yes, if the animal is slaughtered correctly. Forgive the pun, zeh lo kasher." —that's not kosher.

"I've never eaten veal," McGee said while washing his hands.

"You are missing nothing. I used to eat it when I was a kid, because I did not know any better. It is almost tasteless. You have to cook flavor into it."

"So what's the point?"

"Lech teida," Ziva said, shrugging. Who knows? "The tenderness of the meat is one argument, but any hobby cook knows that only a few cuts of veal are guaranteed to be tender, and even then, cook it the wrong way and it will be tough."

"Humans are stupid," McGee said.

"There is that. But there is also this: kosher veal is big business. Any group of rabbis that manages to get veal declared trefah—not kosher, is going to be lynched by the people who sell the stuff, and a million or more Jewish people who cook it, and also the many-many Jews who like to eat it... including many rabbis. And so I interpret that like this: despite the fact that veal represents tza'ar ba'alei chayim, and it does so very clearly, kashrut in that case is dictated to by wallets and palates. That being so, I eat cheeseburgers, because I can afford them and they taste really good."

"But what if, by some miracle, veal is one day declared not kosher? Would you change your mind about cheeseburgers?"

"No, because how is it logical that certain species of locusts are kosher but lobsters are not?"

"Locusts?" McGee mumbled. "Big-grasshopper-thing locusts?"

"Yeah. And how is it logical that tuna fish are kosher, but swordfish are not strictly so? And staying there: those big fish cannot be left to flop-until-dead; they must be killed so that they do not suffer, and why are there not specific laws about slaughtering them? And-and-and," Ziva said and gestured irritably. "I cook kosher for a few people, out of respect for their adherence to kashrut. One of them observes absolute adherence, meaning that pots and utensils for meat and milk must be different and kept separate in a divided kitchen, and I go to her home and cook for her in her kosher kitchen. I would never mock anyone's adherence to kashrut, but personally I will not abide by kashrut for reasons I have already stated."

"Got a feeling I hit a nerve," McGee said.

"I talk about this and I hear my maternal grandfather saying, 'It is the Law, and you are just a woman. How dare you argue?' Stupid man..."

"Whoa-wait," McGee said. "Your mother's family is Orthodox?"

"Not quite," Ziva said, her smile wry. "At least, they were not dosim-Orthodox: no black hats and pe'ot—sidelocks. My maternal grandparents were observant but also smart. When they first arrived in Israel, they realized that for people with almost no money, flexibility was a critical asset. And later, even as valued kibbutz members, that flexibility extended to accepting that making religious arguments was not a good idea on a mostly secular kibbutz. So they were observant in the privacy of their home, and just regular people outside of it, to paraphrase what Yehuda Leib Gordon said. The Jewish-in-the-home part was sometimes not fun for their kids and grandkids. My grandmother was very bitter, and my grandfather would sometimes remember that in the old country women were meek and obedient... He died when I was fifteen, and it is bad and definitely disrespectful, but I have not changed my mind: I am glad that I knew him for only fifteen years."

"Fifteen years is a little less than half my life so far," McGee noted.

"Bi'dyuk!" Ziva said with a short, humorless laugh. Exactly! "It was long enough. My memories of him could be different, but the choices that he made dictate to those memories... Still, he was not all bad. My maternal grandmother was worse than him, actually, and even she was not all bad. I have some good memories. That is what counts, in the end."

"I guess. And I got lucky with my family, both sides," McGee said. After a pause, he said sheepishly, "Is it bad that I'm reminded of that when other people grumble about their families?"

"The only sort-of, very-mildly-bad thing is that maybe you should remember more often," Ziva said.

She was just speaking her mind, and that was what McGee expected.

"Point taken," he said.

"Mmm."

Ziva fetched a bag of marinating meat out of the fridge.

"I thought we were just having burgers," McGee said. "What's that?"

"You do not like kebabs?"

"I didn't say that," McGee said, grinning.

They were still busy poking various ingredients onto kebab sticks when Tony arrived in the kitchen. That was the rule in this house: if invited, the door would be unlocked, and one was expected to just walk in.

"That marinate smells so good I could eat those things raw," Tony stated. "And what else smells good?"

"The relish for the burgers," Ziva said. "Eifo ishah sheli?"

"Where's your what?" Tony mumbled.

"She said, 'Where's my woman?'" Jen supplied as she walked in. She blinked and frowned. "That sounds a whole lot better in Hebrew."

"Everything sounds better in Hebrew," Ziva insisted.

"I personally think everything sounds better in Irish," Gibbs said and placed a paper-wrapped package of flank steak on the center island. To Jen: "What was her name?"

"Ronah," Jen said, with a wicked smile. "Oh my. Even I had a thing for that one."

"Where was I when she was turning heads?" Tony complained.

"In high school," Gibbs drawled.

"Damn. Okay. What am I doing?" Tony said.

"What you are good at," Ziva said. "The food processor is in that cabinet there."

Tony fetched the processor and set it up on a counter top. Ziva handed him a knife and he tested its edge on his thumbnail before opening the package of flank steak.

"You got everything else I need to make my famous burger patties?"

"Yup, everything."

"I didn't know you make 'famous burger patties,'" McGee said.

"You would, if you trusted me to cook," Tony shot back.

"He'll trust you after this, because he'll have plenty of evidence to prove that they're really, really good," Jen said. "I'm going upstairs to change."

Ziva waited until Jen was out of earshot.

"She is trying to hide it, but she is pissed off. What happened?"

"Bureaucratic bullshit," Gibbs said and swigged from a beer bottle. "Some Naval Secretariat pencil-neck questioned a budget allocation... thing. After explaining it about five times, Jenny realized that this fool's a NUB. Got hold of his supervisor and suddenly the problem's not a problem."

"That is an okay irritation," Ziva said.

"What's that mean?" McGee asked.

"She'll quit being mad about it soon," Gibbs said.

"Jen hates being angry," Ziva said.

"If she gets real mad about something that can't be fixed..." Gibbs whistled low and slow. "Bad mood for a week, or longer."

"And that is bad in general—"

"But really bad for you cos you live with her," Gibbs said.

"Oh, definitely," Ziva said and laughed.

Tony put a couple handfuls of chopped up flank steak into the food processor's meat grinder. He glanced McGee's way and was gifted with a 'Don't say anything!' look. Fat chance of that.

"Y'know," Tony said loudly over the food processor's grinding. "According to what a lifetime of movie-watching has taught me, the ex-lover/current-lover relationship is not supposed to work this way."

"That is because the idiots who write for movies and TV like to invent unnecessary drama," Ziva stated. "In this sort of relationship, drama is a choice. Why would we want to fight all the time? Where is the sense in that?"

"Besides that," Gibbs said. "Fight about what? Me and Jenny didn't work out; Ziva and Jenny fit like gloves. Simple as that."

"You left out the part about me and you being really good friends," Ziva said.

"Yeah, that also helps," Gibbs said while opening and closing cabinet doors. "Who reorganized stuff, you or Jenny?"

"Me. Ma ata rotseh?" Ziva asked. What do you want?

"Umm... ha'botnim," Gibbs said. —peanuts.

"Cabinet next to the fridge," McGee said.

"If us three guys go to Israel without Ziva, we'll never starve," Tony said while washing his hands. "We'll be able to order in restaurants, in Hebrew, without any trouble."

"I also learned food Hebrew first," Jen said on her return to the kitchen.

"It is the easiest place to start," Ziva said. "But I think that is so with any language. Everyone needs to eat, so start by learning the language associated with food—Hey, that is not peanuts!"

Gibbs managed to look like a leprechaun while smirking around a peanut butter-flavored corn puff.

"I told you not to put the Bamba next to the peanuts," Jen said. She giggled when both McGee and Tony grabbed a handful of the iconic Israeli snack. "By the time these three go home, there'll be none of that left, not even crumbs."

"Cos the crumbs are the most peanutty bit," Tony said.

"I am going to have to start hiding it in my underwear drawer," Ziva muttered.

"But I know where that drawer is," McGee said.

"You'll have to pass that intel on to me," Tony said with his mouth full.

"Yeah," Gibbs said. "You might know where it is. Open it? You?"

Which comment instantly turned McGee's face pink.

"You're all so mean to Timothy," Jen said, trying not to laugh. "Although, he's even cuter when he blushes."

"Jennifer!" McGee complained, his face now crimson.

Jen laughed and smacked a kiss on his cheek before dragging him out to help her with the grill. They'd barely been gone thirty seconds when McGee was back. He fetched a bowl, snatched the Bamba bag from Tony, and shook some of its contents into the bowl.

"I know better than to leave you two with a full bag of this stuff," McGee said on his way out.

"Bag never stays full for long," Gibbs agreed with a grin.

"I will lock the next one in the safe downstairs," Ziva threatened.

"Just buy more next time," Tony suggested helpfully.

"And then you three would just eat more!"

"Exactly," Tony said, grinning.

"Chachmolog," Ziva muttered. Smart-ass.

"Shovava," Tony chortled. Brat.

"Ben zonah," Ziva giggled. Sonuvawhore.

"That'll be all, thank you," Jen said, just beyond the backdoor.

"I wasn't gonna go there," Tony said.

"Yeah, right. Lo nolad'ti etmol," Jen said, laughing.

"What?" Tony said, frowning.

"She was not born yesterday," Ziva supplied. While shaping a hamburger patty, she added, "Neshamah, you forget that I am Israeli and know the difference between play-swearing and cursing?"

"Sometimes," Jen admitted.

"Yeah well, my mother is a total bitch, and so?"

"'Bitch' is an exceedingly imprecise translation of 'zonah,'" Jen said. "And I personally object to anyone at all calling you 'bat zonah.'"

"Good thing we do not yet live in Israel."

"I'll try to get used to the 'title' by then."

"I do not think she ever will get used to it," Ziva whispered to Tony and Gibbs. "I foresee many occasions where I will have to try not to laugh."

"Aww, c'mon," Gibbs said. "How many people would toss 'bat zonah' at you?"

"In Israel?" Ziva said and laughed. "Translate to Hebrew: 'many people.'"

"Anashim rabim," said Tony. "I can believe that."

"She's right. You're a smart-ass," Gibbs said. To Ziva: "Seriously?"

"Oy..." Ziva laughed and shook her head. "It is like I said to Jen, there is a difference between meaning it, half-meaning it, and not meaning anything except that right now, the hat fits. Did I hurt Tony's feelings by calling him 'ben zonah'? No. He gets it. And a big part of why it is okay for him to call me 'bat zonah' is because he would be as playful as I was. Israeli women do not like double standards. We give as good or better than we get. Being all polite around women in Israel is a bad idea: you will get hammered. We expect men to feel good about themselves without us patting them on the head for being supposedly nice to us."

"But that's not—" Gibbs began.

"Oh yeah, Boss. It is," Tony said. "We go out of our way, big time, with opening doors, and remembering not to swear, and being polite, and why? For the same reason that male lyre birds dance. It's a mating strategy."

Gibbs blinked and rubbed at the back of his neck.

"So then what's the 'mating strategy' in Israel?" he asked eventually.

"If you like someone, just go ask her out," Ziva said. "If she says no, well, sorry. But she might say yes. In Israel, a 'nice guy' is someone who has a job, has a brain, has a sense of humor, does not have a short temper, does not have ten girlfriends, and has the same political and maybe the same religious ideas as the woman he likes. And bonus if he has the same political ideas as the rest of that woman's family. When you think about all of that... That is enough, and it is all good. A guy like that should feel good about himself, yes?"

"I guess," Gibbs said, frowning.

"So what Ziva's saying is that Israeli women don't like it when guys seek more approval than what they'd get without trying for more," Tony said. "But that's Israeli women in Israel. Being extra polite around women here is part of the culture. We're stuck with it... Not that I mind. I like being... decorously courteous."

"It is the 'decorous' part that we do not like," Ziva said. "'Decorous' is 'just for decoration.' So what is he like when people are not watching? That is how we think. And not only Israeli women; Israeli men think that way, too."

"Kinda surprising that a lot of Western women don't think like that," Tony mused.

"Ha! No, it is not surprising," Ziva drawled. "For them it would be very impolite and not nice to think of super-polite behavior as two-faced. Here in the West it is more important to be nice than to be honest."

Silence. Ziva let her hands do the work of shaping another patty, and looked up. Tony's patty-making efforts had been forgotten and he was staring at her. Gibbs was, too, with a piece of Bamba stalled about four inches away from his mouth. McGee hurried into the kitchen to fetch something, and frowned, gesturing at the two gobsmacked men.

"What's up with them?"

"They got some dugriyut," Ziva said. —straight-talk.

"About?" McGee asked and opened the fridge.

"She says that here it's more important to be nice than to be honest," Tony said. "And she's right..."

"Kinda shocking," Gibbs mumbled.

"I got accused of being rude the other day," McGee said while capping a couple of beers. "We were in a store and I told my sister that a color really didn't suit her. It clashed real bad with her skin, her eyes. So Sarah says I'm rude. I said, 'You asked me what I think about the color. I told you. How is that rude?' She said that I coulda been nice about it. I gave up around then."

"Did she pick another color?" Ziva asked.

"Yup, blue, and any kinda blue is her color," McGee said. "I told her that much, too, and you'd think that woulda put me back in her good books, but nope. I don't even know. Women are complicated."

He shrugged and walked out with the two beers.

"He will probably go ask Jen about that now," Ziva whispered.

"Why doesn't he ask you girl-questions?" Tony asked quietly.

"Because I am useless at answering American-girl-questions. To echo what McGee said, I do not even know. Most of the women here confuse the hell out of me."

"Unless they're of a certain appearance," Jen said. "You're never confused about or by those women."

"Eavesdropper!" Ziva accused. "And I could say some things about that scoring system of yours."

"Scoring system?" Tony said with a laugh. "No way!"

"Hell, yes," Jen said. "You guys can't have all the fun, dammit."

"I can't believe what I'm hearing..." McGee groaned.

"You would pass out if I gave you the details of that scoring system," Ziva said, and she was grinning but she'd managed to keep that from her voice.

"Oh, he would not," Jen argued. "And it would put Tony right to sleep."

"Yeah? What about me?" Gibbs asked.

"Probably the same, seeing as I'm not the one with the hots for redheads."

"Redheads score real low, huh?" Tony asked Ziva, and he was trying not to laugh.

"Efes," Ziva giggled. Zero.

"No competition allowed, Jenny?" Tony said.

There was a delay and Jen eventually appeared in the kitchen doorway, with a hand on her hip. Ziva knew that look, and mentally steeled herself for absolutely anything.

"Jethro, why did I have no 'competition' when you and I were an item?" Jen demanded.

"I was too tired," Gibbs stated plainly.

"Same," Ziva drawled.

Jen arched an eyebrow at Tony.

"I'll... be more careful with my questions next time," he said, face bright red.

"Pays to be smart," Jen said. "And now I'll go and tell Tim that it's safe to take his fingers out of his ears..."

She walked away and Tony had to bend quite a way down to hide his face against Ziva's shoulder.

"Oh. My. God," he said.

"You asked for it," Ziva giggled.

"I never expected her to answer like that," Gibbs said.

"Have you forgotten that Jen likes to win?" Ziva asked.

"Oh. Right..." Gibbs mumbled.

"Yeah," Ziva said seriously. "Put her in a corner, even a small one, and goodbye, Miz Oh-so-private, here comes the poker player, and jokers are wild: expect a five-card flush."

"Well, I'm not likely to forget that anytime soon," Tony said quietly. "And I take it she's good at poker?"

"She wins more often than she loses," Gibbs said. "But Jenny's not a gambler at heart."

"Her 'games' are sailing and skeet shooting," Ziva said. "She was junior state champion in both sports, and college league champion, too."

"She also raced stock cars, once-upon-a-time," Gibbs said. "She'd still be doing it if she didn't have such a solid grip on what constitutes a waste of money. If you've ever been in a car with her and wondered how she got to be as good a driver..."

"As a matter of fact, yeah," Tony said. "Her thing for almost-sports cars now makes a lot more sense, too. Ya think you know someone—"

"And then she surprises the hell out of you," Jen said as she came inside and fetched the plate of burger patties. "If I was just a smidgeon less sensible I'd be driving around in a Lamborghini Diablo."

"Uhh..." said Tony while buttering a burger bun. "Nothing 'almost' about that sports car."

"The Diablo is not a mere car," Jen muttered on her way out. "It's an orgasm on wheels."

"Did she just—" Tony mumbled.

"Yes," Ziva and Gibbs chorused.

"Cars? Those are my 'competition,'" Ziva said.

"They were mine, too," Gibbs said, laughing.

"Y'know, I'm beginning to see how this works," Tony said. "Ziva's kinda in need of a supportive ex—"

"I heard that!" Jen said, laughing. "Don't forget the grill's right outside the door."

"I keep hearing way too much," McGee grumbled. "I did not need to know the Director's opinion of Lamborghini Diablos."

"Oh, come on," Ziva said. "You should have figured out long ago that for Jen cars equal sex. You in particular."

Outside McGee groaned and Jen giggled, and indoors Gibbs rubbed a grin off his face.

"What don't I know here?" Tony asked.

"Jen took McGee along when she fetched her previous Mercedes," Ziva said. "I bet Jen practically glowed the whole way back to the Navy Yard, all the way from Baltimore. I gave her a hug later that evening, and I thought that buzz was my fault, but no, it was the car."

"Wait, wait," Tony said. "The Mercedes-before-the-current-one?"

"Yeah, that one."

"Jenny got that one new like two, almost three years ago. You two have only been a couple for a year or so. And Ziva, you thought the 'buzz' was your fault?"

"You're a little dense there, Sherlock," Gibbs chuckled. "Ever heard of that word 'attraction'? These two have been sparking off each other since they first met in Egypt something like thirteen years back."

"Pretty much," Ziva said. "I told my cousin the other day that me and Jen have always spoken three languages fluently: English, Hebrew, and flirting."

"I think we're the most fluent in flirting," Jen said, amused. "And I have evidence. When we first met, we didn't say anything, but we still said plenty, and that particular variety of conversation just continued."

"You talking about that... eye thing that goes on every now and then?" McGee asked.

"Well spotted, Tim," Jen said.

"How come I never spotted that?" Tony complained.

"While you were oh-so-busy speculating about these two, I was just observing," McGee said.

"Same," Gibbs said.

"You did plenty of speculating of your own, to start," Jen said.

"Are you ever gonna let that go?" Gibbs grumbled.

"No, because I've become rather fond of the fact that you've been a hundred percent okay with the idea of Ziva and myself right from the get-go."

"Only someone blind coulda missed that match," Gibbs said. "Am I setting the table out there or in the dining room?"

"The one here," Jen said.

Gibbs had been gathering plates and cutlery onto a tray. He marched outside with it and Tony gave a soft hiss to get Ziva's attention.

"Changing the subject is a habit with him? That's twice this evening."

"If you two guys were not here, he would not have changed the subject," Ziva said quietly. "I do not think that that will ever change, so do not feel bad about it. Gibbs is Gibbs, and he comes here often, and then subjects are not changed."

"Good to know," Tony said. "Don't like the idea of being an interfering spare wheel, y'know?"

"You are not one of those," Ziva said firmly. "And this evening has been fun so far. Expect Jen to issue more invitations. Or you can just do what McGee does: call and then arrive... Anyway, why do you always wait for invitations?"

"Now I think about it, I don't... know," Tony said, frowning. He'd had Ziva and Jen over to his place for dinner umpteen times in the last year, but he could count the number of times he'd been here, and every time he'd been invited. "Guess it's that spare wheel feeling?"

"But you are never a spare wheel when we go to your place," Ziva said. She looked at Tony carefully, and eventually said, "Your little insecurities, here and there, are often surprising to me."

"Hey, most of the time they surprise me, too," Tony said and he felt his face redden. "You said that McGeek just calls and invites himself, and my reaction was, 'Wow. Aren't I s'posed to be more grownup than him?'"

"He has something of a head-start: when I was shot Jen got him to help her deal with me– they did not call me 'the Worst Patient in the World' for nothing. So McGee was here every evening and every weekend for a month, and he got comfortable. Even now, you are not properly comfortable, but I think that just by spending more time here, that can be fixed, especially if you make a point of inviting yourself."

"I can try that," Tony said. "Just promise you'll say no if it's inconvenient."

"Neither of us has any problem with saying 'Not tonight, but what about tomorrow?' Ask McGee."

"Ask me what?" he said, head poked around the door frame.

"If you call up here and it's not convenient?" Tony said.

"I usually get something like, 'Not tonight, but tomorrow will be okay,'" McGee said. He disappeared from the doorway, then came back. "Just... Just if you get told 'Tomorrow' make sure to still call first."

Jen cracked up and Ziva got a bad case of the giggles. McGee banged his head lightly on the door frame a couple of times, but Jen came and made him quit with that by giving him a hug. Tony looked at that picture, and the one of Ziva in stitches.

"Usually people don't laugh about walk-ins," Tony said. "So it had to be something else."

"Yeah, now even I'm curious," Gibbs said.

"We remembered that Tim was coming over, but we remembered at the last minute," Jen said.

"And we thought that we got away with it," Ziva said, still giggling.

"But Ziva's shirt was on inside-out," Jen said.

"Trained investigators don't miss stuff like that," McGee said, and he'd found the funny side.

"They also tend not to ignore the fact that they're sitting on an under-wire bra," Jen chortled.

"Lacy?" Tony asked with a grin.

McGee nodded.

"The really expensive kinda lacy?" Gibbs asked.

McGee nodded again, eyebrows raised.

"Ziva only wears that stuff on-the-job. Hers," Gibbs said, jabbing a thumb at Jen.

"I figured," McGee said.

"How do you know Ziva only wears lacy lingerie on-the-job?" Tony just had to ask.

"Talking about the little things we use to keep us focused," Gibbs said. "For me it's a little piece of pea-gravel or something similar in my shoe. Ziva said she hates fancy lingerie, but always wears it if she's undercover... We gonna eat, or what?"

"I do not know why you are in a hurry to eat," Ziva said. "Seeing as you ate most of a bag of Bamba."

"Not most, only about a third," Gibbs said, grinning. "Besides, like Jenny always says, I got hollow legs."

"Anyone who manages to eat three servings of my lasagna just has to have hollow legs," Jen said and gave Gibbs a shove out the door. "Let's eat, people."

"Yes, ma'am," McGee said at once, then frowned. "I really gotta kick the auto-obedience thing..."

"That will only happen when she quits being bossy," Ziva chortled.

"Why should I? You like me that way," Jen said.

"Tony, shut up," Ziva, McGee, and Gibbs chorused.

"I wasn't gonna say anything," Tony said indignantly.

"Like I said earlier," Jen said, laughing. "Lo nolad'ti etmol."

_____Ω_____