Ziva kicked the driver's side door open as she managed the two backpacks in her lap and two coffees in her hands. Standing, she placed the coffees on the roof and slung a bag over each shoulder. She leaned into the car again. "Coming?"
"In a sec," Tony replied, struggling to open the passenger side door of the Mini with his right arm in a sling.
She rolled her eyes as he tried to reach over his body to open the car door with his left hand. "I'll get it."
"No, I've almost…" He made one last reach, only to bounce back and squawk with pain. "Okay, maybe you should get that."
Leaving the coffees on the roof, she rounded the back of the car and pulled the door open. He swung his legs out of the car and strained to stand, pulling on the roll bar. He finally extended his left hand to her. "Little help?"
"Oh, for the love of…" She took his proffered hand and pulled.
He silenced her with a kiss as he stood from the car with very little effort. "Gotcha."
"Tony, we're at work!" She glanced around the parking lot, which was mercifully empty. "Gibbs has been very clear about what he doesn't want to see."
"Well, he's not here and if he were, we wouldn't force him to look." She pushed his hand off her hip and handed him his backpack. "Aw, c'mon, Ziva."
"Fine." She abruptly turned and pressed her lips to his, startling him. As quickly she'd started it, she ended the kiss, retrieving the coffee cups and handing him one. "You'd better behave for the rest of the day."
He returned her smile as they walked toward the building. "I'll try, but remember – I'm injured. I may need a kiss to make it better every so often." She held the door open for him and they silently passed through security on their way to the elevator, which was long in coming. "Gibbs must be having a chat," Tony remarked, moving closer than strictly necessary.
She didn't react, even when his hand skimmed down her back. He was holding a coffee, so it wasn't as if he could even do anything. Still, the closeness was immediately noted by the two casually dressed agents who emerged from the elevator as the doors opened. The redheaded man, Mather, said good morning then nudged his partner, whispering loudly, "Think we should have put a tarp down? I'll bet the elevator needs protection."
Ziva was too quick for anyone to even notice she'd done something, but once the elevator doors closed, Tony asked, "Why is your knife out?"
"Let's just say that I hope Agent Mather doesn't need his wallet wherever he's going." She sheathed her knife and held up a black leather billfold and square of denim. "Or his back pocket. I think I'll just leave these on his desk."
"Wow. And you didn't even spill your coffee. Uh, he did make a good point, though." He flicked the switch, dimming the lights as the elevator came to a jarring halt.
"We've been over this. No more sex in the elevator." She reached for the switch, but he held her hand back. "Tony, seriously. We're going to be late…"
"Another euphemism that makes me nervous." He spoke rapidly, "Look, this may seem like an odd question, especially considering I haven't brought it up until now, but I figured you'd have it taken care of, just because you're that kind of person."
"And what kind of person is that exactly?"
"Well, you plan ahead and have the angles covered, is all. So I've just been assuming that you've got us covered, but I should still ask, even though this is probably the wrong time and place."
She waited a moment, but he didn't continue. "Just ask."
"I'm sorry, this is just awkward because we should have talked about this a long time ago, but…"
"Tony!" She tried not to sound annoyed, but she was starting to get frustrated by his stalling.
"Right. Do we need to worry about protection?"
She laughed at the ridiculousness of the question. "I know you didn't bring all my weapons over from Gibbs house, but I sleep with my Jericho, and I put Glocks in both the nightstands. My Browning is in the kitchen in the drawer with the utensils and there's another Jericho in the couch. Not to mention that you've got your own weapons and I'm not exactly a peony when it comes to defending myself."
"Uh, pansy, you mean?"
"Whatever. My point remains valid. If anyone comes after me, I'm ready for them."
His expression changed from awkward amusement and slight confusion to concern. "Hold on. Why would people be after you?"
"Because that's the way it is." She wasn't sure that she wanted to tell him more. He knew she'd been involved with counter-terrorism, but he obviously didn't understand the number of enemies one could make in such a line of work. Scaring him off was not part of her long-term plan. She sighed. "In Europe, you saw how many people I interacted with. They aren't the types to piss off. I'm well aware that there's a chance one of them could try to track me down. It's part of the job."
He nodded. "Like how paroled criminals sometimes go after the cops that put them away?"
"Exactly!" she said, with more enthusiasm than she wanted. "You know what I mean, then, yes?"
"Yeah." Seemingly reassured, he restarted the elevator. "That was a weird turn in the conversation. I just wanted to ask you about birth control."
"Then why didn't you just ask that?" She sipped her coffee. "We don't have to worry about it. I have an IUD."
"Oh." He looked at her nervously. "Is that contagious?"
"It's a birth control device, not a disease. I had it placed a few years ago so I wouldn't have to worry about pills or anything while on missions." He still looked uneasy, so she tried to make light of it as they left the elevator, "Think of it this way – you've yet to make a useful donation here or at that clinic in Ohio."
Dropping his bag on his desk, he pretended to double over. "Ouch. That was a low blow."
"Tony, are you okay?" Abby looked at him with concern, having rounded the corner at an inopportune moment.
"He's fine, Abby," Ziva answered for him.
"Well, other than the broken arm, I'm just peachy."
As Abby moved to fuss over Tony's cast, Ziva sat at her desk and dialed her voicemail. After the third confusing message, she interrupted the chitchatting at the opposite desk, "What, exactly, is the ASPCA?"
"American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," McGee provided before anyone else could answer, rounding the corner on the way to his desk. "Why?"
"They keep leaving me messages about appearing in some kind of public servant announcement on Animal Planet."
"I think you mean public service announcement," McGee amended.
"I thought we were public servants."
"So why isn't is a public servant announcement?"
"Okay, tedious exchange," Abby interjected. "We're missing the fun part. Did someone at the ASPCA see your panda and elephant lovefest on TV and think you'd make a good wildlife spokesperson or something? Because that would rock out loud! Can't you guys see Ziva on TV, doing ads where she threatens violence and torture on people who hurt animals?"
"Um, yes," McGee replied, nodding his head thoughtfully.
"Definitely," Tony answered. He walked over to perch on the edge of her desk. "Maybe they'll give you your own show and you can show people how to stick up for animals through use of superior firepower."
"I'm not going on television." Ziva poked him in the arm as she joined him, sitting on the desk.
"You mean again?"
He gave a general glare to the team before looking at Abby. "You said you had something?"
"Only the answer to the mystery of Robert Earnshaw's dying words, if that's good enough for you. Also, I'm glad you've finally learned to use your voicemail."
"You left it on my answering machine."
"Oh. Right, well, Earnshaw's car was finally delivered yesterday afternoon, so I took the liberty of looking it over. The right front end was smashed up like that time Ziva took out that golf cart…"
"Point of reference! There was also some paint transfer and a little bit of blood on the bumper. Wanna hear what I think happened?"
"Earnshaw was in a hit and run with a bicyclist on his way to the Zoo," Gibbs stated.
"Okay, for once, I want to do the big impressive reveal, Mr. Magic Gut!"
"Metro PD logged the plate number from an eyewitness to the accident on Connecticut Ave. shortly before Earnshaw arrived at the Zoo the other day. The victim was a bike messenger. Pretty banged up, but alive."
Ziva tapped her chin, taking no notice of Tony, who was now carelessly leaning his shoulder against her. "I suppose that explains why Earnshaw said he didn't mean to kill anyone before he shot himself."
"Too bad he didn't just whisper 'Rosebud,'" Tony quipped. "Even McGee would have gotten that one."
"But not why he was carrying a suicide note!" Abby said. "What, I'm allowed to have more theories, right? All right. He was taking Prozac, which you found at his apartment, so he was depressed, possibly suicidal to begin with. Since I know Gibbs didn't manage to run the prints or calls on the prepaid cell phone under the driver's seat, is it possible I may have some further insight here?"
Gibbs smiled. "Clarify away."
"Excellent. I found prints on the phone that match Stephanie Smith and she started calling the number the afternoon of Lt. Miller's shooting. I think she bought the phone and gave it to Earnshaw along with the note. She talked to him from a phone at the panda pavilion just before he arrived, so he was probably on the phone when he hit the biker, which just proves that it's dangerous to plan crimes on a cell phone while driving…"
"Oh, yeah. So I think she planned to have him kill the panda, then either talk him into offing himself or kill him herself and make it look like suicide."
"Makes about as much sense as anything else around here."
Abby looked proud; Ziva ignored the fact that Gibbs was staring at Tony and her.
A/n: Thanks for reading (and reviewing if you did that too)! I don't know if this series will be continued. I've got something in mind, but at present it looks complicated, so I'm leaning toward no, but that could change at any moment, then change back again, followed by a complete turnaround in which I change my name, move to a new city and start a new boating school. I'm undecided at the moment, is what I'm really saying. Thanks again for reading.