Title: Case Seven (in Eight Acts)

Author: Girl Who Writes

Recipient: thenewhope

Request:Teamfic set between seasons three and four, either before or after they get their new probie. a case or just goofing off in the office - I don't really care as long as it's Tony, Ziva, McGee and Abby being themselves and working together.

Rating: PG

Warnings: None

Spoilers: Hiatus 1 and 2; Shalom.

Genre: Gen

Sub-Genre: Humour. Team fic.

Characters: Tony, Abby, Ziva, McGee, Ducky, Jimmy, Jenny Shepard and peripheral Gibbs.

Summary: They'd had six cases since Gibbs left. Abby stuck up a gold star on her pin board for every case they solved since Gibbs retired.

Word Count: 2 972

Disclaimer: NCIS and all its characters are the property of Donald Bellisario and CBS. No profit is being made from this fan-based venture.

Author's Note: I'll admit I'm terrified about posting this, it's my first posted NCIS fic. Thank you to mializ and Gen for the amazing beta-job; any resulting errors are my own. All medical/scientific references was cheerfully taken from Wikipedia. Thank you to thenewhope for a fabulous prompt; I had a dozen different responses for it, and I felt this one was the best. I hope you enjoy it :) Merry Christmas and good luck for 2007.

Author's Note 2: Written for the lj ncis tinsel 2006 ficathon.

They'd had six cases since Gibbs left. Abby stuck up a gold star on her pin board for every case they solved since Gibbs retired. There was a box of gold stars for wins and a box of black dots for losses, and so far there were six stars and no dots. That was good, Tony reassures himself. Families had closure, criminals went to prison and he was the boss. It was good they were solving the cases and finding guilty people, even if it still felt strange, almost a month later, to be the one who gave the orders. He kept waiting for the thwack on the back of the head, and the "Get back to work, Dinozzo."

Tony comes down to the lab, Abby's Caf-Pow! in one hand, and his coffee in the other. The first week he was the Boss (he prefers the capital B), he forgot the Caf-Pow! It was Gibbs that brought Abby her drink, in exchange for a cheerful grin and a detailed explanation of the case. Tony goes down to the lab with nothing but a charming smile on his face, and that's his currency for Abby; was his currency for Abby.

After the forgotten Caf-Pow!, which Abby jokingly reprimanded him for, he brought her a new one every time he got coffee. So did Ziva and McGee. Ducky brought her several, and Jimmy bought her one.

Then Tony had to tell them to stop because all that caffeine was doing bad things to her, and he still needed her to do some work that day. He didn't want to open the box of black dots just yet.

The first few weeks felt like they'd all been thrown up in the air and landed back down in different places, and were trying to find their way home; it sometimes felt like he was trying to walk around a jumping castle – he wanders off course and slips up, but it's nothing serious. Tony liked jumping castles as a kid. Now he feels tired. When he tried to explain it to Ziva and McGee, McGee stared blankly at him, not understanding what Tony is trying to say. Tony is absolutely certain that McGee was never a kid; he popped fully grown out of a computer, complete with cheap suits and an inability to relate to actual women.

Pictures had to be downloaded and diagrams had to be drawn before Ziva began to understand. "It is like being in a boat, yes?"

Well, yes, Tony tries to explain, except if you fell in a boat, you'd get wet. If you fall on a jumping castle, you bounce straight back up. Ziva puzzles over the jumping castles for the rest of the morning, McGee sneaks an extra Caff-Pow down to Abby and Tony spends the morning whether he should take them to some sort of fair or amusement park to drive the jumping castle metaphor home.

And he then wonders if he can call it a training exercise.

Ziva stands in front of Judy Riley, her patience stretched to the absolute limit, the little notepad in one hand.

"Explain to me exactly what happened here, Mrs Riley," Ziva says, trying to resist the urge to shoot the woman, who is weeping into a paper napkin printed with the Barbie insignia.

Murder at a child's birthday party; at least Americans are original in their murder plots, Ziva considers as she notes down what the woman says.

"Arnold kept complaining about the party food," the woman wept.

"The food?" Ziva looked over to the table, laden with cakes and biscuits, soft drink and lollies.

"But my daughter was sick, and I snapped at him and went inside the house, and I heard the neighbor screaming and I came back outside, and Arnold's there on the patio all… all sunburnt and p-pink." Another bout of wails drowns out the crying, chattering children who are being lead away from the party.

From across the room, Tony looks up at Ziva, her face set in annoyance and moves swiftly to her side, plucking the notepad from her hands and skimming the notes. "Find out the time of death," he asks Ziva and she gratefully moves out onto the patio, where the Lieutenant Commander is lying sprawled out on the concrete, complete with the pink tinge his wife mentioned.

"Have we got a time of death, Ducky?" Ziva crouches beside the M.E. Jimmy Palmer is crouched on the other side of the body and grins widely at Ziva.

"He almost matches the festivities, don't you think, Doctor?" Jimmy jokes, before freezing up, realizing how inappropriate his comment is. Pink streamers and balloons are draped all over the pool and garden; the bowls, plates and cups are pink and the dead body of Lieutenant Commander Arnold Riley is unnaturally pink.

Ducky glares at his assistant. "Really, Mister Palmer…"

But Ziva ruins the looming speech with a small chucking, and Tony walks over with McGee, both munching on one of the dainty cupcakes

"Mrs. Riley mentioned that the Lieutenant Commander complained about the food," Ziva reminds Tony, and both men freeze, mouth full of cake and eyes widening with horror.

Tony snatches a napkin from the table and spits his mouthful into it before turning to a horror stricken McGee. "Bag and tag for Abby," he says, slightly sheepishly. "Time of death, Duck?"

"Around two to four hours," Ducky examines the liver probe. "Fetch the gurney, Mister Palmer, I have done all that I can here."

Ziva watches as Tony and McGee stack the party food, bagged, and slips back inside, where Mrs Riley is alone on the couch.

"My daughter's been taken to hospital, on her birthday," Mrs Riley moans and Ziva resists the urge to roll her eyes. "Arnold, he had epilepsy – he took Diamox for it. He was always complaining about it."

"Epilepsy medication does not make you turn pink," Ziva blurts out and at the sound of more crying and wailing about the Lieutenant Commander being in the sun far too long, she decides it's probably safer to wait in the truck than to question the wife anymore. Much safer.

"He said the food tasted what? Bad? Salty? Metallic?" Abby clinked the test tubes of blood together, looking expectantly at the three agents in her lab.

"Mrs. Riley just said he complained how it tasted. She also mentioned he was taking a medication to control epilepsy," Ziva supplies. Both McGee and Tony stay suspiciously quiet.

"Do you know what it was called?" Abby bounces, her pigtails swinging. "Because Acetazolamide is a carbonic anhydrase inhitior that is commonly used to treat epilepsy and seizures, and one of the side effects is altered taste – specifically a metallic kind of taste. Like when you lick a metal railing." Silence. "Tony? McGee?"

"I don't feel so good," McGee admitted, sitting on Abby's chair. "You got anything to drink?"

"There's soda in the fridge, and my spare Caf-Pow!" Abby motions towards the refrigerator. "Was the drug Acetazolamide?"

"It began with a D," Tony speaks up, giving McGee a sidelong look.

"Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner," Abby replies triumphantly. "What it Diamox?"

"That is the one the wife mentioned," Ziva nods as McGee sips at Abby's Caf-Pow.

"You better remember to replace that, Timmy," Abby begins to type rapidly at the keyboard. "I've put a rush on the blood work, Tony, I'll call you as soon as it gets in."

Ziva sits at her desk, crunching potato chips and flicking rubber bands onto Tony's desk. McGee's lying behind his desk, complaining of feeling sick, and Tony's skimming through his email.

"You're moving up in the world, McGeek," Tony says cheerfully, focused on a message from the Director.

McGee stops complaining and Ziva snaps a rubber band that ricochets off the back of Tony's computer screen.

"Officer David." Director Shepard appears out of nowhere, pointedly stepping over the rubber band, but with the ghost of a smile on her face. "Special Agent McGee, I trust that Special Agent Dinozzo has informed you of the recent staff appointments?"

McGee's sitting up now, complaints silence, and Tony notices that McGee's not wearing dress shoes to work for the first time. He also bets that McGee finds fewer grey hairs now that Gibbs isn't there to skulk and yell.

He's letting his agents go soft. He's going to have to skulk and yell. But that was Gibbs' thing. He needs to come up with something of his own, a sort of trademark, signature Dinozzo move…

"I think it's time we had… a campfire."

Ziva and McGee exchanged confused, and then wary looks, as the malevolent grin spreads across Tony's face.

The desk shuffle occurs that afternoon, waiting for Abby or Ducky to come up with something useful. Ziva continues flicking rubber bands with an accuracy that makes Tony wonder precisely what Mossad trains their people in. Could Ziva rubber-band him to death? Could a rubber band be snapped hard enough that it would kill him?

He reminds himself to ask Abby later on, before taking his seat at Gibbs' old desk – his new desk – and stretching out – and reaching for the Director's dossier on their latest Probie: Lee, Michelle, and Tony wonders what sort of bundle of unbridled crazy this woman will bring to the team – there's Ziva, with her slender grasp of the American vernacular, and ninja killing powers as Tony's taken to thinking of them; there's McGee and computers, comic books and Elf Lords; there's Ducky with an infinite number of well-detailed stories, Jimmy Palmer working the Harry Potter thing (Tony doesn't understand how no one else can see it) and Abby, in her eclectic and random little world.

Then there's him. Tony's not sure precisely what makes him a little bit crazy, but he's not going to ask. Ziva's got her arsenal of Deadly Rubber Bands and McGee's just taken a look at Tony's hard drive.

"The blood results were completely normal," Abby shrugs, clicking at the computer when Tony joins McGee and Ziva in the lab. McGee looks less queasy and frowns at the results displayed on the computer. "I'm waiting for Ducky to bring up a tissue sample. But other than normal levels of Diamox, this guy was clean."

Tony picks up Bert and gives him an experimental squeeze, mulling over the facts in his head. He doesn't feel like spending the weekend at work again. "How did he die?"

"Ducky said that it was a pulmonary oeema followed by a massive cardigan arrest," Ziva supplied, crossing her arms.

"Uh, Ziva, cardiac. Cardiac arrest," McGee supplies, Abby covering a grin.

"Cardiac," Ziva corrects herself before turning back to Tony. "Ducky cannot find a cause for the cardiac arrest, though."

"On the contrary, my dear." Ducky appeared in the door way of the lab, holding a sample jar in one hand. "Abigail, I believe if you test this tissue sample, you will find out the poor man died from acute cyanide poisoning."


"You said he was sunburnt, not pink!" Abby turned to McGee, punching him on the arm.

"Ow! Abby! That's what his wife said!" McGee clutched his arm.

"I suggest that when the tests on the party food come back, that you will find evidence of cyanide, too," Ducky smiled tolerantly as McGee tried to defend himself as Abby flounced away to prepare her tests.

One… two… three. Ziva counted in her head, as Tony and McGee both swung around.

"The party cakes, Ducky?" McGee asked in a small voice.

"Mrs. Riley, I need you to go over the events of the day your husband died exactly how you remember them," Ziva says slowly.

"I've told you and both of the other men a dozen times," Mrs. Riley twisted a dirty-looking handkerchief in her hands. "Arnold and I got up, and Arnold made our daughter, Emily, breakfast, and she opened her presents. Then Arnold went to get some more balloons and I set up the decorations and food. Arnold and Emily kept stealing the food, promising they wouldn't eat it all, and he kept complaining about how the food tasted. The party started, and Emily said she was going to be sick, and I took her inside. When I came back out, Arnold was on the ground…"

Ziva cut her off before more tears could start. "Did anyone try to help the Lieutenant Commander while you were in the house?"

"The neighbor, Shelly Thomas, was kneeling beside him when I got back outside. Said he'd had a fit. I knew he wasn't listening when I told him to take his pills this morning," Mrs. Riley sobbed into her hankie.

"It wasn't an epileptic seizure that killed your husband, Mrs. Riley," Ziva said, spreading out photographs of the Lieutenant Commander's body from Autopsy. "He died from a cardiac arrest, brought on by acute cyanide poisoning. Cyanide was found in all the food samples taken from the crime scene."

Mrs. Riley let out a ragged gasp. "The food killed him? It was poisoned?"

"You poisoned both your daughter and your husband with cake," Ziva said flatly, her patience frayed by the weeping woman. "Emily Riley will recover, after long treatment, but you will be charged with the murder of your husband and attempted murder of your daughter, along with manslaughter charges for all the people accountable at the party."

"No, no, you've got it wrong," Mrs. Riley sprang up, her eyes wide. "I can't cook toast I'm so awful in the kitchen - Arnold did all the cooking in our house. Neither of us bake well, so I asked… I asked the neighbor, Shelly Thomas, if she'd mind making Emily a birthday cake and some p-party food." Mrs. Riley sat back down hard. "That woman use to baby sit Emily. She was my friend."

A friend who tried to murder the entire family and sixteen little girls. Ziva kept her mouth shut and picked up the folder, slipping away from the Interrogation Room, to where Tony was waiting. He took the file from her, and handed her back her weapon.

"Thank you for making me do that, Tony," Ziva said suddenly.

Tony shrugged and offered her a trademark grin. "It's a hard lesson to learn; the annoying aren't necessarily the guilty."

Another weekend sucked into the void of overtime, another murderess behind bars. Tony balanced the coffees and Caf-Pow! on top of the pizza boxes and punched in the elevator button for Abby's lab.

Abby was in the corner, making notes for other cases she was working on, her music turned down to mild background noise, tapping her foot along with the beat. McGee was playing with Abby's computer, a game that Tony didn't think was meant to be there, but refrained from commenting. Ziva sat opposite Abby, cleaning her weapon. Domestic bliss or something like it – as close to it as Tony ever wanted to get.

"I bring sustenance," Tony plunked down the boxes at the other end of the table.

Abby gathered her paperwork together in a pile and all three of them looked up at Tony expectantly, not moving towards the food.

"What?" Tony asked, flipping the lids open. Abby held up the box of gold stars and shook them, her expression pained.

"You've been in Interrogation for a day and a half," McGee crossed his arms over his chest. "Who's guilty?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson," Tony lifted a slice of pizza from the box and took a big bite, leaving his team in suspense for an entire minutre.

"Mrs. Michelle Thomas has admitted to attempting to poison the entire Riley family on account of running over her purebred poodle last Christmas after he escaped from her yard. Apparently Lieutenant Commander Riley refused to pay for the animal's funeral and Mrs. Thomas took offence," Tony said congenially.

McGee blinked. "Really?"

"What? A funeral for a pet? Of course, McGee. What did you do, just flush your goldfish down the toilet?" Tony shook his head. "No heart, Probie, none at all."

"Because of a poodle?" Ziva said disbelievingly.

"Nah, of course not," Tony shrugged. "Lieutenant Commander Riley refused to leave Mrs. Riley for Michelle Thomas because of Emily, and Mrs. Thomas decided that almond flavoring was a way to make her feelings known."

"The poodle thing was cooler."


"You were thinking the same thing, Timmy."

Abby waves off McGee's protests and marches up to Tony. "We got you something."

Tony looks up from his pizza, confused. "It's not my birthday."

"No, McGee and Ziva said you wanted a jumping castle the website even said they've got multi-level jumping castles," Abby began. "And I tried to get one but safety requirements won't allow me to have one in here – I could have gotten one in the evidence garage, but I would have to get permits and stuff, and the Director would have to approve my request…"

"Aside from the fact we're all responsible adults here," Ziva interjected.

Abby snorts and McGee smiles, and even Ziva realizes the ridiculousness of her sentiment. Tony just wonders how long it will be before a multi storey maze jumping castle will appear in the evidence garage, complete with NCIS approval.

Abby digs around the pocket of her skirt and pulls out a shiny, yellow badge of a star, the sort of thing a child would wear on their birthday. It has a smiling face, and when Abby presses it, a tinny voice sings an incomprehensible song. She pins it to his lapel, and he dismisses thoughts for badge holes his Armani suit jacket.

"Seven cases well done, boss," McGee says, and with a saucy smile, Abby adds the gold job well done sticker to Tony's forehead instead of the pin board.