Got back to working on "Antonia" after an inexcusably long absence...I apologize, but RL has been CRAY-ZY! I'm even behind on my NCIS watching. This little idea hijacked my muse, and so I wrote it so I could get back to work. One-shot, with anything your imagination desires to follow. Tiva for sure!

It was true what she'd told Tony. She didn't remember all their names. Ziva David wasn't proud of that fact, but in her former life as an assassin, it was what she had to do. She took out threats. Sometimes there was collateral damage. That was the nasty side of things, the one she preferred to avoid, but that was then. Now she was a federal agent, sworn to uphold the law. She still killed when she had to, but only to protect herself or someone else. It was the less fortunate side of the job.

None of these facts seemed that important as Ziva looked at the man standing before her, the brother of a man she'd once killed. Names, she didn't always recall, but she knew faces. She knew she should have taken them both out when she had the chance, back on different turf on a different continent when other rules applied.

"Agent David," he sneered. "I told you we would meet again."

"Should I call security or are you going to leave quietly?" Ziva asked calmly. She wished she remembered his name. What she did remember was his trademark – razor-sharp knives, blades and hilt made of ivory. Highly illegal, but a man who killed for sport wouldn't care about that. They slipped past metal detectors, and the security checkpoint didn't do pat-downs unless the detector went off. They didn't do fingerprints, so any of his aliases could have provided enough ID to slip in. The agent who'd escorted him to Ziva had already left.

"Quiet isn't my style; you should know that." He reached into his jacket; Ziva reached for her gun and yelled for someone to call security.

He flashed a gleaming off-white blade at her; she pulled the trigger.

He was a half second faster than she was; her bullet hit his shoulder while his blade bounced off her left tenth rib and slid into the space beneath. They both collapsed to the ground. Ziva landed on top of him and intended to stay there to keep him in place, but he used his good arm to shove her away. Timothy McGee was the first to arrive, cuffing Ziva's assailant and handing him to the just-arriving agents from Security.

It wasn't the first time Ziva had been stabbed, but it was her first time getting stabbed there. Her world was pain, blood, and a strange sense of comfort as McGee slid her head into his lap, applying pressure to her wound with his suit jacket. As Ziva gasped between breaths, knowing from unfortunate experience that she'd collapsed a lung – though last time, broken ribs had been the culprit – she couldn't help but feel that something was missing. Something she had been holding onto for a long time. Something she could never admit, never risk getting burned by her weakness.

She loved McGee dearly, but he was her friend. And right now, she wished he was Tony, even though Tony was in Annapolis with Gibbs, pursuing a lead.

Maybe if he was Tony, she could have told him.

He'd have told her to save her breath and she could tell him later.

And later, she would wimp out again.

"We got him; the ambulance is coming. Hang on, Ziva; I got you." McGee's words were perfect, comforting even, and he always had her back. But not like Tony. McGee had come to Somalia to save her, but he hadn't been the one to track her down. He hadn't been the one who had shrugged off uncomfortable feelings by saying he couldn't live without her. The truth, but one she could easily dismiss.

It was what partners did.

No, it was beyond that. Abby – once she got over her righteous anger – had told Ziva that Tony had been acting like a man grieving a lost love.

Ziva was too raw from being burned by failed relationships to accept what that really meant. But now, as she was lying there, bleeding, she had gained a sudden sense of perspective. If the situation were reversed, if it had been Tony attacked, his assailant wouldn't be safe, not even in custody. Gibbs had taught Ziva how to play "bad cop" well, very well. He'd taught her how to toe the line without technically crossing it. He'd taught her how to arrange for prisoner transfers that were technically acceptable in the eyes of the law but perhaps not as safe as they could be.

She remembered his name now, in a sudden flash of epiphany that was pretty much useless now that he was in custody. He was Palestinian. His name was Abdul Khan, the same name as a childhood friend of Ziva's. At least that was one of his aliases. Ziva didn't know his real name. NCIS would find out.

Ziva, Ziva, when will you learn? Muslisms might try to befriend Jews, but they will charm you to disarm you. Do not trust them. Her father's words came back to her, mixing in Ziva's head with McGee's report to the arriving paramedic. As a child, Ziva had refused to believe all Muslisms were bad. As an adult, she knew they all weren't. Each religion had its extremists, including her family's beloved Judaism. She'd encountered intolerance from Christian extremists in America. Despite her history, Ziva wanted to find the good in people when it existed.

She also really wanted Tony to be the one telling her it would be all right.

The stinging of the IV needle piercing her flesh was nothing compared to the pain Ziva was already in. She tried to focus on it to distract herself from the larger matter at hand, even as an oxygen mask was slipped over her face. She sucked in the air greedily, as much as she could. As a warm yet stinging sensation spread through her arm and the pain began to ease, her self-control waned. Unable to gather the breath to speak, she reached for Tony's desk, filled with the delusional hope that it might summon him. Blackness began to take over, and Ziva didn't have the will to fight. Hearing was the last to go, however, and she heard McGee tell her softly, "I'm going to call him right now. He'll be here soon." He understood.

Ziva was too relieved to care that it meant she had managed to hide nothing from McGee – and if McGee knew, Gibbs surely did as well.

Ziva awoke to a dull pain in her chest – literally – that competed for attention with several other sore spots in that general area. She heard the familiar beeps of medical monitors and smelled the antiseptic familiar to most hospital settings. Though her head felt fuzzy, Ziva was reasonably able to conclude she wasn't dead, and that was something to be grateful for. She wasn't ready to give up on her new American life just yet.

"Well, hello, Sleeping Beauty."

Ziva would have recognized that voice anywhere – so much so that she had hallucinated it many times in Somalia and was unable at first to believe she was hearing the real thing when he arrived. Her eyes trailed in the direction of Tony's voice.

"You gave me a heart attack," Tony scolded her, but gently. "One minute I'm dealing with Gibbs' crazy driving and the next, McGee tells me someone attacked you in our own squad room. I don't care how uncommon weapons like that are, we've got to get Security on top of that. You could have been killed."

Ziva tested her voice, and though it sounded rough and weak to her own ears, it was there. "I am fine."

"No you're not, you've got holes where they shouldn't be and a chest tube in," Tony insisted. He paused thoughtfully. "But you will be. If you take it easy and rest."

"Mother hen," Ziva accused.

"Partner," Tony countered. "I've lost one already in this job; it's not going to happen again if I can help it. Too hard to break in new ones." His tone was light, but his eyes were full of worry. "McGee did good, but I should have been there. I'm sorry."

It wasn't Tony's fault, but Ziva knew that when it came to others getting hurt, Tony would find a way to blame himself for anything. "Doing your job," she reminded him. When she was more fully recovered, she would corner him in the bathroom for another one of their talks. This was not ideal, but it would have to do for now.

"I know, but-" Tony sighed, spreading his hands in front of him. "Ziva, if you'd died, I...well, I don't know what. That's pretty scary." Then, deferring his concerns as usual, he cracked a smile. "At least you got one shot in. Messed up his shoulder pretty bad."

Ziva smiled. "Good." But it still didn't address the larger concern. She could shut up, pretend she'd thought of nothing in particular in those frightening moments on the squad room floor, but that wouldn't do any of them any good. And any day, it could be a bullet Tony wasn't quick enough to dodge, anything.

Tony glanced at a tray filled with broths and other unappetizing selections. It was a good thing Ziva wasn't hungry, because she didn't particularly consider that food. "Room service brought that up. It's a good thing we're not together, because it would be a lousy date."

Ziva looked away, not wanting to see what was in Tony's eyes at that moment. But for all the times he could be obtuse about things, he was always alarmingly perceptive with Ziva. "Hey, hey, there," Tony said, putting a hand on her arm. "What's this?"

Ziva would tell him more later, when she had her strength. For now, her hand found Tony's and she whispered, "Stay."

Tony looked pleasantly surprised. "Sure." He dropped a chaste but tender kiss onto her forehead and squeezed her hand. "As long as you need me."

Exhaustion began to overtake Ziva, but as she fell asleep, confident Tony would be there when she awakened, she wondered how long Gibbs would fuss when she and Tony broke Rule Twelve. As long as they kept it low-key, she was sure they'd be fine.

When she dreamed about doing some most unprofessional things with Tony in a variety of Navy Yard locations, she knew her days of putting her feelings off were over.