DISCLAIMER: I do not own NCIS or any of it's characters. That is the genius that is Don Bellisario.
Tony edged his way through the elevator door, holding the multiple coffees in one hand and Abby's Caf-Pow drink in the other.
“How do you do that?” McGee asked.
“He doesn't know.” Gibbs spoke suddenly, making Ziva jump.
“Gibbs! Coffee?” Without waiting for an answer, Tony handed Gibbs a coffee.
“Thanks.” Gibbs said. He took a sip. “Come on. We have a dead Marine in southern Pennsylvania. McGee-” he tossed him the car keys-”You're driving.”
McGee smirked and led the way out of the building.
Ziva was taking pictures. Tony and McGee were having an argument with each other, Ducky was rambling on about some form of torture that had been used on the victim and comparing it to something they'd used in the French Revolution, or something, and Gibbs was speaking angrily into his phone.
Gibbs shut his phone. “The government has ordered an agent Max Pacifa to help us with the case. I told them we needed no help, but would they listen?”
A man slid under the crime tape at that exact moment. He had fair hair, and flashed Ziva a dazzling smile. Ziva was absolutely entranced. She never thought she'd meet anyone like him, ever. However, Tony glanced up- and straightened, with a look of fury on his face. Gone were his twinkling blue eyes, the million dollar smile. This man was ready for war.
“Agent Gibbs, I presume.” His voice was sugar coated. “Agents David and McGee.”
“Oh, yeah.” McGee said loudly. “Name me last. I get enough teasing from Tony; don't you start with me too.”
At that, Pacifa turned around and spotted Tony. His eyes narrowed to thin slits. “Agent DiNozzo.”
“Max.” Tony replied coldly.
“Wha- You know each other?”
“He set me up in a rigged job last month in New York!” Tony said indignantly. Ziva was shocked. Tony never spoke about his time in New York.
“I see it did you good, however.” Pacifa said smoothly. “It led you back here.”
“I went to run away from here.” Tony said through gritted teeth. “I never wanted to come back.
“I apologize for being so late.” Pacifa said silkily, ignoring Tony. “ I was held up at the office. They absolutely refused to believe that I was supposed to help you.”
“Ziva.” Tony said. Ziva turned around. “Pictures?” he asked.
Ziva jumped. “Oh, right.”
She came around from another angle, close to where Tony was standing. “You are just so jealous!” she muttered.
“About what?” Tony asked innocently.
“You're jealous because someone on the world is better-looking than you!”
“No. Well, that's true, but mostly I hate that he has such an interest in you.”
Ziva's cheeks flushed. “Tony...”
“Ziva, he's flirting. Believe me, I know. He used it in New York.”
“Oh, so you mean that it's better than that pathetic excuse of flirting that you do?” Ziva hissed. She moved around another angle and took another picture. She spotted a glint of something in the man's pocket.
“He was going to propose!” she said. McGee and Gibbs came over to have a look. Ziva pulled the ring out of the pocket and held it up. Pacifa took the ring out of her hands.
“Hey, this is my ex-wife's engagement ring!” he said with some surprise. “She lost it last week. I'd wondered where it'd gone.”
“Oh, so you're married and divorced!” Tony said bluntly. Without waiting for an answer, he said “You can't take it to her now, though. It's evidence. Might have some trace of the murderer on it.”
“Right.” Pacifa mumbled, and handed over the ring.
“Ziva.” Tony called. “Come look at this.” It was later that day, and Ziva just wanted to get lunch. He stomach rumbled. Against all her thoughts, Ziva walked around her desk and looked at Tony's computer screen. “Look. Police reports show that, 3 months ago, a body was found hanging in a abandoned warehouse in Alaska. It was tortured in the same way as the one we found.”
“Last year, a body was found stabbed brutally in a shack in France, with the same torture.”
“How many cases total?”
“Um... Thirty. All over the world.”
“We're not just dealing with a murderer. We're dealing with a murder artist.”
“Did you just make that up to impress me?” Tony asked, trying not to laugh.
“No.” Ziva retorted angrily.
Ziva was just leaving for the night when Pacifa approached her. “Hi, Ziva. I was just wondering- do you want to go to dinner?”
“Umm...” Ziva was taken aback. It had been ages since she'd dated other men. Not since Rivkin.
Against her better judgment, she said, “Sure.”
“Okay. I'll call you?” Ziva nodded shyly, and Pacifa vanished down the stairs.
Ziva entered the elevator- and swore to herself. Tony was leaning against the back wall, and he did not look happy. The elevator doors closed. Tony pressed the emergency switch and the elevator went dark.
“Now what?” Ziva asked angrily.
“Where are you going?” Tony asked. He sounded tired.
“Meeting Pacifa for dinner.”
Tony was immediately alert. “So, you're going on a date.”
“No, I'm going to dinner.”
“Going to dinner with a member of the opposite sex is a date, Ziva.”
“Just because you do it with your own sex doesn't mean I can't with the opposite.”
Tony looked taken aback. “My own sex?”
“Look, I have to go to dinner.”
“No, you don't.” Tony looked furious. “Ziva, you can't trust Pacifa! He set me up with a rigged job. God know what he'll do to you.”
“You know, I was wrong earlier. You're not jealous of Max, you're jealous because I'm finding happiness with someone else.”
“I am not!”
“See, by saying that, you just admitted it. You just admitted that you like me.”
“I did not!”
“Whatever.” Ziva hit the emergency switch. “I'm going to dinner.”
Tony hit the emergency switch. “Not til I figure out a way to make you see sense.” He paused, then suddenly leaned down and kissed her.
Ziva was so shocked it took her a couple moments to regain her senses and shove him away. “What are you doing?”
There. You don't like me.” Tony's voice was hollow. His fist suddenly whipped out and punched the emergency switch. “And since you are obviously happy with Max-” he spat out the name- “I'm just going to leave you alone.” The elevator doors opened. “Have fun at dinner.”
Ziva had woken up later than usual that morning, and had rushed to the office in a hurry. Almost immediately, she knew something had happened, mostly because there were seven empty coffee cups in Gibb's trash.
“Ziva!” McGee had suddenly grabbed her shoulders. “You saw Tony last night, right?”
“Yeah, why?” Ziva was pretty worried. What had Tony done this time?
“We received a call from Agent Pacifa last night.” Gibbs said. “He was behind Tony when a police vehicle cut him off and pulled Tony over. After a few minutes, Tony came out of the car in handcuffs, and the car drove away.”
“Looks like we have to go bail Tony out of prison.” Ziva sighed. Then she looked up. “Wait...”
“I already called the police. Tony never came to the station. Pacifa said the car veered away, heading north.” McGee said. “He also added something else...”
“Someone stole a police vehicle from the station two weeks ago. Pacifa said there was blood on the trunk of the police car that he saw, and I checked with the police. There's been almost no crime since two weeks ago, and certainly none involving blood.” Gibbs said quietly.
“Oh no.” Ziva covered her mouth with her hand. “Our murderer got Tony.”
Ziva was in a bit of a daze. Whoever had kidnapped and murdered the Marine now had Tony. It just couldn't be true.
When she entered the elevator, she almost ran right into Agent Pacifa.
“Hello, Ziva.” he said sweetly.
Ziva mumbled a greeting.
“What's the matter with you? Is it Tony?”
“We'll find him. Don't worry.” He was getting closer and closer. Suddenly, he'd pressed his lips to hers. It was great for one moment, then Ziva realized what she was doing.
She quickly pulled away. “I, uh...” Just then, the elevator door opened. God, if you're up there, thank you so much!! She quickly bolted out of the elevator, her heart pounding.
What was she doing? She didn't love Pacifa, not in the same way she loved Tony.
She stopped. Oh, God. She really did love Tony. It wasn't some silly little crush that a 15-year-old teenager would have. It was full-blown true love. The thought that she'd finally admitted it was mind-blowing.
“Ziva.” McGee called. “I found a pattern. You may want to see this.”
Ziva walked around his desk. She couldn't help remembering that only the day before, she'd been doing the same thing to see what Tony had found. The thought nearly drove a knife through her heart.
“Look.” McGee said. “The first victim was kidnapped. His records say he bought a ring, so he must have been proposing, right? Maybe our murderer wanted the girl himself.”
“But how does that help us?”
“The next guy was a member of the FBI. They must have been investigating the murder of the first guy. Every single kidnapping was connected in some way.”
“Except our Marine.” Then she remembered something. “The ring! Our Marine must have been going to propose to someone, like the first guy. Maybe a new pattern began with him. We began investigating the body. Somehow the murderer found out, so he went after some member of the team.” What Ziva didn't mention was that it was possible that Max had been telling the truth, and the ring really was his ex-wife's. Pacifa might have gotten angry, chased the Marine down, and murdered him... But Gibbs and McGee trusted Pacifa. She didn't want to raise suspicions.
“In this case, Tony. But that's not everything. The first guy lasted fourteen days between kidnap and murder. But since then, it's decreased. The last guy lasted three days.”
“This is bad. Really bad. We may be too late already.”
“Look.” McGee said. “I'll send the possible locations to Abby and ask her to narrow it down to two places. That's the best I can do. But I can't promise anything.”
Ziva turned to leave, but then realized something. “I thought the government told us that Pacifa would be helping us to solve this case.” she said. “So where is he?”
Ziva checked the coordinates she'd been given. Abby had managed to narrow it down to the two locations that McGee has asked her for. Half of the team had visited one of the locations- a shack in northern France. But she and the other half of the team had gone to a warehouse in southern Alaska, which would seem much more likely. Abby had insisted on coming with them, and Gibbs had let her take charge. He was somewhere in the back of the plane, talking to McGee.
Her phone buzzed. She answered it. “News?”
“No sign of him here, Agent David.” a team member told her.
“That means he's in Alaska, where we're going.” Ziva said. “Thank you.” She hung up her phone and turned to the team. “He's going to be there, somewhere. Check everywhere.”
Ziva slid through the open door of the warehouse. Although the locals had told her it was abandoned, she could see a chink of light under a closed doorway.
The rest of the team followed her in, although Abby hung back by the door.
“Spread out.” Ziva whispered. “Look for any sign of Tony or his kidnapper.” The team began to search. Ziva crept along a wall until she almost slipped on a patch of liquid. Shining her flashlight, it was revealed to be red and sticky. “Abby!” she called.
“Yup.” Abby said a moment later. “Definitely blood. I'll run a test, but I highly doubt that it's Tony's.” She took a sip from her Caf-Pow drink and hurried away.
“How do you know?” Ziva called after her. Abby turned around and began to speak, but before she could, a yell was heard.
“Never mind.” Ziva said to herself, and raised her gun.
The door opened and a shadow fell across the light that shot out from the hallway. It was Max.
“Max!” McGee called. “What are you doing?”
“We know you have Tony.” Ziva said. “Where is he?”
“I'm afraid our lovely guest decided to leave my party early.” Max said in his sugary voice.
“You tell me where he is!” Ziva snarled, lifting her gun higher.
“I regret to inform you that Agent Anthony DiNozzo is dead.” Max said, malice in his voice.
Ziva almost fell over backward. For a moment, the whole world dissolved around her, and it felt like someone had shot a hole through her heart. Tony couldn't be dead. He just couldn't.
“You're lying.” McGee said.
“Ziva, I thought you'd be pleased.” Max sounded genuinely surprised. “The last obstacle in our love is dead. I thought you'd be happy.”
“Ziva?” It was Gibbs' voice. “We need to go. No matter what, we can't help Tony now. We should go before more of us die.”
“So you trust him.” Ziva spat, wheeling on him. “You trust him? A man who would go so far as to murder another so he could love someone? Gibbs, he just announced that he murdered Tony. Remember him? Your best and oldest agent? My partner, and the man I'm in love with?” She suddenly realized she'd said too much.
Everyone stared at her in shock. She felt her cheeks turning red, then she turned around. “Gibbs, take the team back to the van. Take Max with you. Don't let him out of your sight. McGee, you're with me.”
There was a smack, and Ziva was rubbing the back of her head. “Don't think I'll be letting go of this when you come back.” Gibbs murmured into her ear.
They went all up and down the hallway. McGee was the one who banged through evey door, calling, “Tony?” All the rooms had a dead male body. None of them were Tony.
“No!” Ziva gasped, slamming herself against the wall and burying her face in her hands. “I have to find him.”
“You'd think that Max would know where his bodies were, seeing as we're in a warehouse and all.” McGee commented.
Ziva stared at him. “Of course! Warehouses have multiple levels!”
“But I find it unlikely that Max dragged a body up stairs. He probably would have thrown it down stairs.”
“McGee, you are a genius!” Ziva cried. She gave McGee a fleeting hug and ran to the last door in the hall. There were a flight of stairs leading down. Blood trailed down them and rounded a sharp corner.“Bingo.” she muttered.
Halfway down the stairs, she heard a muffled yell. Ziva bounded the last steps and wheeled the corner.
Two guards stood on either side of an iron pole. Handcuffed to the pole was a figure, male, with a black hood shoved over his head.
“Look.” McGee said. “We've arrested your boss. You might as well step aside.”
The guards glanced at each other. In unison, they drew their guns.
The figure handcuffed to the pole let out a muffled yell. “No!”
Ziva recognized the voice. She grinned. “I knew he wasn't dead.” she breathed.
“I was afraid of that.” McGee mumbled. Bang. Bang. The guards crumpled to the floor. The figure's head swung around as he tried to figure out who'd gotten shot.
“That one's still twitching.” Ziva pointed out. Bang. The man's head snapped up.
“Not anymore.” McGee said grimly.
“Keys!” Ziva gasped. “Find the handcuff keys.” She ran to the figure at the pole and ripped off its hood.
Tony stared up at her, drawing in great breaths. Relief washed over Ziva like a wave. Brown eyes bored into brown eyes, and suddenly she'd grabbed him and kissed him hard on the lips. She placed all of her relief and love into that one kiss, making sure that Tony knew what she'd risked to get him back. “Got it!” McGee cried. Click. Tony's arms, still with the cuff dangling off one wrist, flew out of nowhere and came around her, making her stagger backwards. Ziva knew that she would regret this, but it didn't matter. They were pulling each other close together, and the world was, finally, perfect.
When they finally broke away, they were both panting. The only thing any of them said was, “Well, Gibbs will be pissed.” Then something dawned over McGee's face. “Damn! Now I owe Abby twenty bucks!”
Tony and Ziva grinned at each other.