I’d sort of forgotten that I had a tumblr account until I got an alert the other day that someone had started following me. Father time marches on, and as he does so he takes with him my brain cells. Yikes.
As a happy new year gift, here’s a chapter of what I think will form part of an upcoming story. No ETA on when it’ll land. I’m still writing a lot but not really finishing anything. But I hope you like this.
Omnibus - Blackout
McGee’s head weighed heavily in his hand as he watched the clock on his computer screen to flip over to 2300. This was not how he’d been planning to spend his Friday night, stuck at the Navy Yard and running background searches on suspects. He supposed it could have been worse. He could have been sitting in the NCIS bullpen by himself, quietly seething as Tony palmed his workload off and ran out the door before Gibbs could slap him. But tonight he was joined by the entire MCRT complement. Ducky and Jimmy were in autopsy, Abby was down in Labby, Gibbs was around somewhere (presumably, although McGee hadn’t seen him in a while), and Tony and Ziva were with him in the bullpen, suffering in the same computer search hell as him.
Correction: Tony was suffering in computer search hell at his desk. Ziva, meanwhile, was standing by the window and drawing patterns in the condensation that formed on the cold glass under her breath.
Beyond her, McGee could see that the snow that had been fluttering prettily onto the ground throughout the day was now falling in drifts. He cursed to himself as he thought about the impending drive home. The streets would be icy and people would be moving at a snail’s pace. Somehow, he didn’t think he’d get to bed any time soon.
“My car will be buried by the time we get out of here,” Ziva mused aloud.
“Only because you drive a clown car,” Tony told her.
McGee sighed quietly to himself at the bickering that had been steadily increasing over the other side of the room. He’d just about reached his limit of The Tony and Ziva Show today, and was beginning to hope that Tony would finally say something that would cause Ziva to pull out her gun and shoot him.
“I hate this,” Ziva muttered.
“She said it’s snowing, it’s snowing, God I hate this weather,” Tony suddenly sang, startling McGee and Ziva both. “Now I’d walk through blizzards just to get us back together.”
McGee watched as Ziva turned around fully to aim her familiar, confused frown at Tony. “What?”
“They Might Be Giants,” Tony said.
McGee shook his head to himself. That wasn’t going to help her at all.
“What?” she asked again.
Tony sighed and rubbed his face. “It’s a song, Zee-vah.”
“About giants?” she asked, failing to see the relevance.
“No, about New York City,” Tony said, like it was obvious.
Ziva stared some more. “What?”
And that was when McGee reached his limit. He quickly pushed his chair back and stood. “I’m going down to see if Abby needs a hand,” he told them, and breezed past them as fast as he could. He didn’t want to be there when one of them strangled the other, because he wasn’t sure whose side to be on during the trial.
“Hurry back now,” Tony sang after him just before the elevator doors closed.
Ziva, McGee thought. He would definitely be on Ziva’s side.
He felt his blood pressure lower as soon as he stepped into the lab, and was greeted with Abby’s familiar, happy smile.
“Timmy!” she cried, and wrapped her arms around him to give him a tight hug.
He smiled into her ponytail and squeezed her back. “Hey, Abs.”
Abby pulled back and held him by the shoulders. “Have you got anything new for me?” she asked hopefully.
He shook his head. “No. Have you got anything new for me?”
Abby gave him an exaggerated pout. “Nope. Whatcha doin’ down here?”
McGee shot a filthy look at the hallway, as if Tony and Ziva were right there bickering away. “Needed a break from the Dynamic Duo.”
Abby nodded in understanding. “Ah. How are they tonight?”
“Bickering started half an hour ago.”
Abby scrunched her nose. “What? I was up there an hour ago and they were still flirting.”
McGee nodded along. “Yeah, they’ve been kind of schizophrenic lately. But Ziva’s getting tired, and you know how Tony gets grumpy after dinner if he doesn’t get dessert.”
Abby’s eyes widened briefly in acknowledgement. “We’ve got to do something about them, Tim.”
McGee scratched his head. Maybe in the long run, it would help if they just did it already and got it over with. Maybe it’d make his own life easier. Maybe he could find it within himself to care about it some other day. “Okay, but not tonight. They are not my favorite people right now, and I don’t feel like helping them in the slightest.”
Abby raised an eyebrow at his own grouchiness. “Harsh.”
McGee thought of the hundred or so paper balls Tony had thrown at his head just that evening. “I stand by my statement. What can I help you with here?”
Upstairs in the bullpen, Tony and Ziva’s conversation was mirroring Abby and McGee’s.
“We’ve got to do something about them,” Tony said.
“Why?” Ziva asked, walking over to sit on the corner of Tony’s desk.
Tony leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers behind his head. “I think McGee’s coming back around for a second bite of forensic scientist pie.”
Ziva shrugged, unaffected by his ‘bombshell’. “Perhaps. But they seem to handle it between themselves. And it is none of our business.”
Her reasoning did not compute with Tony. “Of course it’s our business. Why wouldn’t it be our business?”
Ziva braced a hand on the middle of his desk and leaned in. “Do you think you know everything about them?”
Tony shuddered. “That’s a scary thought. Of course not.”
“Then how do you know how either of them feels?”
He shot her a megawatt smile. “Because I’m a very talented investigator.”
“Mhmm,” Ziva grunted, unswayed. “Do you want my theory?”
Tony raised an eyebrow and leaned towards her, close enough to receive a secret. “Do tell, Zee-vah.”
“Deep down, Abby loves him just as much as McGee loves her,” she told him, her eyes briefly flicking over the length of him. “But she does not want a settled down kind of life right now. And she wants McGee to be a little less…blue? No…”
“Green,” Tony supplied.
“Yes. Before they try again.”
“You think they’ll try again?” he asked, lowering his voice even though, at last look, they were the only two on the floor.
“Eventually,” Ziva said. “Sometime after McGee finds the guts to reject Gibbs’ rules.”
They held gazes, just inches apart, as Tony worked that through. It was only a month ago that Tony had made it clear to his partner that he was prepared to do just that, and she’d indicated that she was too…at some indefinable point in the near-ish future. Moments like this assured him that while they still hadn’t made any progress towards total rule annihilation, Ziva was still a signatory on the Roadside New Year’s Eve Agreement.
He smiled softly as his eyes fell to her mouth. “Well, not everyone can be a hero.”
Ziva smirked and lifted her hand to very softly and briefly touch his cheek. “I suppose not.”
Her palm had left his face before he could think to brush his lips against it, and he attempted to get his thoughts back on the Abby and McGee train. “You know what, Agent David? I’m not sure if I agree with your theory.”
Ziva raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
Tony shook his head. “I don’t think Abby’s in it for the picket fence and mini van. I mean, you know what she’s like. She loves her friends with her whole heart, and sometimes her adoration and excitement at seeing you can be misinterpreted for more than it is.”
“That is what I told myself when she tongue kissed me,” Ziva said thoughtfully.
Tony narrowed his eyes at her joke. “Don’t even put that in my head unless you want me to ask 20 questions.”
She dipped her head with a smile. “Continue.”
“I don’t think she’s acting any differently to what she usually does towards him,” Tony said. “And it doesn’t make sense to me that McGee’s suddenly acting like he wants to see her sailor tattoo again.”
Ziva eyed him. “Where is her sailor tattoo?”
“I’m told,” he said deliberately, “that it’s on her left buttock.”
Ziva ‘hmm’ed, but the conversation was cut off when Tony’s computer let out a beep. Their eyes swung to the search result on his screen and they switched to work mode.
“Get a hit?” she asked.
“And they said I’d never find them,” he grinned. “Looks like our suspect’s alias has a residence in Bedford.”
Tony held out his hand for a pen and Ziva reached over the desk to grab one.
“2151—” he read off the screen, but that was as far as he got before everything went black. His computer died, the overhead lights went off, and the constant hum of the air-conditioning cut out.
“What the hell?” he yelped.
Ziva craned her neck to look around the floor. With the exception of a few emergency lights, nothing else was running. No computers, no televisions, no scrolling marquee, no desk lamps. There wasn’t even another person around to check with.
Tony reached around Ziva’s ass to pick up his desk phone. He found the line dead, and slammed the receiver down. “Damn it! Quick, what was the address again? I can’t do another search. I’ll go crazy.”
Ziva shook her head, not having had a good look at the screen. “2151 something street in Bedford.”
Tony crawled it on a random piece of paper. “Krishna?” he tried, trying to remember the street name. “Kirkshaw? K-something-S-H-something.”
Ziva pulled her cell phone out of her back pocket. “I will call security,” she said, but her thumb just hovered over the keypad. “I do not know the full number for the security desk.”
Tony looked up at her helplessly. “Eight?” he said, referring to the internal quick dial number.
Ziva sighed, and instead hit number two on her speed dial.
“Yah?” came Gibbs’ grunt over the line.
“Are you still down in autopsy?” she asked him.
“Nope. Came home a half hour ago,” Gibbs said. She could hear a slight smirk in his voice when he asked, “What’re you still doin’ there, David? There’s a storm coming.”
“We were doing background searches,” Ziva told him, rolling her eyes at Tony with exasperation, even if her partner didn’t understand why. “But the power has just gone out in the building.”
Gibbs took that in his deadpan stride. “Uh-huh. What’ve you got?”
“Just emergency lighting,” she replied.
There was a pause before Gibbs said flatly, “About the case, Ziva.”
“Oh! We found a house in Bedford under our suspect’s alias.”
“I found,” Tony interrupted.
“Sorry, Tony found it,” she amended. “But he did not manage to write down the address before the power went out.”
Tony looked at her traitorously, and she smiled sweetly in return.
“McGee?” Gibbs asked.
“Went down to see Abby about ten minutes ago.”
Gibbs hung up without a word, and Ziva snapped her phone shut. “Gibbs says good work.”
Tony’s cell rang before he could call her a liar or ask why she seemed irritated with the boss, and he read Abby’s name off the screen before he answered. “You okay, Abs?”
“This stupid power outage wrecked Major Mass Spec’s project!” she yelled down the line.
Tony winced and held the phone a safer distance from his ear. “Know how you feel.”
“I’ll probably need more samples, Tony,” she said at a more reasonable level. “Can you get some?”
“I’d talk to the Duckman about that.”
“His cell is off and Gibbs’ is going to voicemail.”
“He was talking to Ziva,” Tony told her. “He’s free now. Why don’t you just walk over to autopsy and ask?”
“Tony!” Abby admonished, although Tony couldn’t immediately work out why. “NCIS security systems. When there’s a power cut the system shuts down and locks off all forensic areas. Me, Ducky, computer forensics, we’re all stuck here until the marines with the keys and the guns come around to let us out.”
Tony winced for her. “Oooh, that’s not good. Is McGee still with you?”
“Well, at least you have company.”
“Is Ziva with you?”
“Sittin’ right here, pretty as a picture.” He winked at Ziva and she gave him a once-over in reply.
“Try not to kill each other, okay?” Abby begged.
“McGee said you were fighting again. For, like, the four hundredth time this week.”
Tony made a face like he couldn’t see the big deal. “That was ages ago.”
Abby sighed heavily. “Well, try to stay civil for the next three hours, okay?”
“Why only three hours?”
“That’s how long they think it’ll take to get the power back on, and you won’t be able to leave the building until then,” Abby told him.
Tony’s eyebrows shot up. “What?”
“I called the security desk,” Abby said. “They said a quarter of the District is without power, it’d take at least three hours to come back on, and that we’re in lockdown until then.”
“Oh, you’re kidding,” Tony sighed. He’d been fantasizing about his big, warm, comfy bed all night, but it looked like the two of them would not get to spend quality time together this evening.
“So you two are stuck together,” Abby went on. “Just like we two are stuck together. Be nice to Ziva. And tell her not to attack you, or else I’ll attack her.”
“Got it,” he said, and then hung up. “Huge blackout across the city and we’re stuck here in lockdown until it’s resolved,” he summed up for Ziva.
Ziva dropped her head back in defeat. “God, I hate this weather.”
Tony leaned back in his chair again and propped his feet up on his desk, making Ziva shift an inch out of his way. “Just another night in the bullpen,” he yawned. “But without the welcome distraction of computers or the Internet.”
Ziva narrowed her eyes. “Thank you.”
He cocked his head to the side as he regarded her. “That was not a comment on the quality of the company, Ziva,” he said on a single sigh. “It was a reference to the fact that I get distracted by shiny things.” His eyes fell on his cell phone, and he grabbed for it. “Hey! I can get the Internet on this thing.”
Ziva rolled off the side of his desk and went back to hers. “So, what? You can watch the YouTube version of Rear Window on a three-inch screen?”
“No, I was thinking of catching the game tonight,” he said, as he fiddled with the keys on his phone, trying to get the Internet application working. He frowned. “Okay, I don’t actually know how to use this thing for that.”
Ziva sat heavily in her chair and leant over the desk to rest her chin on her stacked hands. “An otherwise brilliant plan goes down the pipe.”
“Drain,” he corrected automatically.
“So, what do you do when the power goes out?” Ziva mused.
Tony tossed his phone back onto his desk, and then swung his legs off the desk so he could mirror her position. “Eat. Have sex. Sleep. Smoke pot. Tell ghost stories. Or just talk, you know?”
She mulled that over. “Got any pot?”
Tony grinned at her pick, but shook his head. “No. Hey, you know what we can do? You can teach me how to kill with a paperclip.”
“Baby steps, Tony. We will start with a stapler.”
Down in Labby, McGee and Abby sat on the futon on the floor, shoulder to shoulder. Abby clutched Bert to her chest with one arm and held a Caf-Pow in her other, taking sips in between bursts of rapid-fire discussion about Tony, Ziva and the problem she seemed determined to find a solution for before the power came back on.
“I mean, I think Gibbs would be okay with it,” she said. “If we staged some kind of intervention and explained to him that he wouldn’t notice the difference, and made sure he knew we all supported it. He’d be okay with it, right?”
“Maybe. Why do I have to be okay with it?” McGee asked, monotone, tipping his head back against the wall.
Abby whipped her head around to look at him. “Why wouldn’t you be okay with it, McGee? What have they ever done to you?”
McGee turned his head to meet her gaze and let his eyes speak for him. The righteousness immediately went out of Abby’s face.
“Don’t answer that,” she mumbled.
McGee sighed. “Look, I get it. He’s a different guy since she came along, and he makes her less…scary. I think in the really long run, they might actually have a shot. I just don’t know if right now is great timing.”
“Why not?” Abby asked.
“Because they’re still working together,” McGee said obviously. “Six feet from each other, 15 hours a day, six days a week. If they start spending the remaining nine hours in the day with each other as well? Abby, Ziva’s gonna put a bullet in him. And Tony’ll use his last ounce of strength to strangle her.”
Abby looked at him thoughtfully. “Ziva would never shoot Tony.” At McGee’s raised eyebrow, she added, “You know, to kill.”
McGee shook his head. “Maybe not. But they’d fight. A lot. And if they’re working together, that means I’ll get put in the middle of it because Gibbs isn’t going to hang around to listen, and Tony won’t listen when I tell him to shut up.”
Abby took a long draw on the Caf-Pow while she shook her head. “I don’t think they’ll fight that much more. I think that most of their fighting now is because they’re so hot for each other that they can’t stand it.”
McGee winced. “Ew.”
“And I think that if they can use each other for a regular release—”
He squeezed his eyes shut. “Ew!”
“Then they won’t fight as much,” she concluded.
“Maybe,” McGee said, still trying to scrub the mental image of his friends going at it from his brain. “But they’ll still spend just about every minute of the day with each other, and that’s not healthy.”
“We worked together while we dated,” Abby pointed out.
McGee bit back the words on the tip of his tongue. Yeah, and where did it get us? “Sure, Abby. But we’re superior beings.”
Abby turned her pout on him. “So, does this mean that I can’t count on your help when it comes time for Gibbs’ intervention?”
“Depends on how many names Tony has called me on that day.”
Abby shot him the barest of smiles. “He’s kind of got a gift for McNicknames, huh?”
McGee looked at her impassively. “You remember you’re supposed to be on my side, right?”
“There are no sides,” Abby lectured. McGee continued to stare, and eventually Abby cracked. “Yes, I’m on your side,” she mumbled.
Tony followed Ziva up the stairs, somehow managing not to trip despite the dim light and the fact that his eyes were trained on her ass. They were on a scouting mission to see who else was around (if anyone), and possibly steal some snacks off them if they had the chance, but Tony didn’t rate their chance of success too highly. Only a crazy person would hang around the building at 2330 on a Friday night. Team Gibbs was already present and accounted for (aside from their namesake who’d left half an hour ago without telling anyone, and oh, Tony was not pleased about that), but Tony couldn’t really think of anyone else who fit the bill.
“People may be trapped in MTAC,” Ziva said as they passed the door.
“They’ll be staying there until the power comes back on,” Tony replied. “No chance we’ll be able to bust them out. It’s like a fortress in there. A fortress of solitude. Maybe Superman’s in there with…”
“Oh, we need to find you some food, quickly,” Ziva cut in, sighing. “I have grown accustomed to your non-linear ramblings over the years, but I am not going to listen to you wax poetic about men in tights for the rest of the night.”
Tony shot her a look out of the corner of his eye. “I’m not the only one who needs food,” he muttered. “You’re not the best company when your stomach’s rumbling.”
In the pause that followed, Tony widened the space between them and prepared to combat roll out of the way if she decided to unleash her fists of fury upon his precious face. But instead, she heaved an epic sigh and gently tugged the sleeve of his shirt.
“Sorry,” she quietly offered. “I am not hungry. I am tired.”
Tony knew that was worse. “Oh. Thanks for the warning.” He held open the frosted glass door that led to the executive offices, and Ziva passed him with her hand on her gun on her hip. He rolled his eyes at her back as he followed her down the hall and peered into dark offices.
“Are you expecting an ambush?” he asked. “You heard security. It’s a city-wide blackout.”
“I am being prepared,” she told him, pausing in the doorway of one of the assistant director’s offices and taking a closer look inside. “Perhaps that was not security. Perhaps this is an ambush.”
Tony showed his disapproval of her theory by dramatically staggering a few steps and clutching the wall for balance. “Oh my God,” he said pointedly. “Why does everything have to be an ambush?”
Ziva spun out of the office and gently kneed him in the butt. “Maybe because sometimes, it is.”
“I’ll bet you anything that it really is a power outage, and that you’re paranoid.”
“That is a ridiculous bet,” Ziva declared.
“Think you’ll loose?”
Ziva turned back to him again, and flung her arms out. “I am almost positive, Tony. There’s a 99 per cent chance that this is simply a weather-related blackout. But preparing for that one per cent is what has kept me alive all these years.”
Tony shrugged an agreement—honestly, he couldn’t argue with spy girl on that point—but stayed quiet. Satisfied that she had made her point, Ziva continued up the hall. Tony wandered along behind her.
“You know that if there actually is someone up here harboring nefarious intent, they would have heard us coming by now.”
Ziva muttered something in Hebrew, and Tony chose not to ask for the translation. They entered Vance’s outer office, and Ziva once again rested her hand on her gun as she stepped over to Vance’s closed office door. She glanced back at him, gave him a pointed look, and Tony sighed and lifted his hand to rest over his gun as well. Fine, he would have her back in case she was attacked by the army of nothing hidden inside Vance’s office. Ziva nodded, and then pushed open the door until it was against the wall behind it. She did a visual sweep before stepping inside and doing a lap of Vance’s empty desk.
“Clear,” she told him.
Tony stepped past her, over to the large window that overlooked the Potomac and the District beyond. Usually at this time of night, there were lights as far as the eye could see. But tonight, there was a conspicuous belt of blackness between the river and the border with Maryland.
“That’s creepy,” he declared.
Ziva came over to stand beside him, so close that her shoulder pressed against his arm. “You are the one insisting it is just a power blackout, yes?”
“Yes,” he said quickly, so she wouldn’t think her caution was getting to him. “But it’s still creepy.”
She tilted her face up towards him. “Are you afraid of the dark?”
He looked back at her. “If I said I was, would you hold me?”
The corner of her mouth barely turned up. “Of course.” She held up her cell phone and pressed a button to make the screen glow. “But I can also give you a night light.”
“Always prepared,” he smirked, and then looked back out the window. “You know, if we’re here all night, you might have to hold me.”
She turned to lean against the bureau under the window, and crossed her arms. “Please share your logic.”
He bumped her thigh with his knee. “No heaters, Ziva. It’s gonna get cold in here.”
She hadn’t considered that. “Well then, I suppose we should go back downstairs and get started on building a two-person fort.”
“Sounds reasonable,” he replied, and tugged on her sleeve as he took a step back towards the office door.
Ziva pushed off the bureau to follow him out of the office. When they got to the top of the stairs overlooking the bullpen, Ziva did a visual sweep and found that they were still alone.
“Tony, why are we the only idiots here at midnight?”
Tony turned his head to look at her, and raised a self-aware eyebrow. “Sweetcheeks, I think you just answered your own question.”