"Got anything for me, Duck?" Gibbs asked as he crossed the threshold of autopsy.
Ducky held up the forceps holding a bloody bullet. Gibbs took a few steps closer and squinted at the projectile. "That what I think it is?"
"Abby will need to confirm, but I do believe this was fired from a high-powered rifle," Ducky replied, rinsing the bullet quickly in alcohol and depositing it in the container that Palmer was holding. "One clear shot that transected both chambers of the heart. This took precision. I do believe that you are looking for a sniper."
"Oh good," Gibbs quipped. "Not too many of those hanging around Quantico."
"I point you to the right haystack, Jethro. It is up to you to find the needle."
Gibbs smirked. "Thanks Duck."
"Autopsy report will be on your desk in the morning."
Gibbs rubbed his eyes roughly with his palms as he exited the elevator in the squad room. When his eyes focused again, they landed on the pool of light coming from the lamp on Tony's vacant desk. He paused, shaking his head before crossing the room to retrieve his weapon and the folder that he had been avoiding all day. He flicked off his lamp and crossed back to Tony's desk, sitting casually on the surface.
"It's late," he said flatly.
Ziva jumped, her eyes widening when they focused on Gibbs sitting across from her. "What are you still doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question."
She locked eyes with him for a moment before focusing on the desk below him again. "He did not say goodbye."
"No, no he didn't," Gibbs replied, flipping off the desk lamp.
They sat silently in the darkness for a moment before Gibbs moved slowly toward her desk. "Go home, Ziva. Get some sleep."
She nodded distractedly and followed him to the elevator.
Tony leaned casually against the doorframe as he listened to the approaching footsteps. The door creaked open and before he could get a word out, a squeal pierced the silence in the hallway and she was engulfed by two slender arms. "Tony! You decided to stay!"
Tony pried himself free. "No, Abbs. I came to say goodbye."
Abby's face fell into a disappointed frown. She shifted her weight slightly, blocking the doorway and fixing him with a glare. "You already said goodbye at work."
A smirk pulled at the corner of Tony's mouth as he looked her up and down. "Nice jammies."
Abby looked down and uncharacteristically blushed at the oversized MIT t-shirt and boxers she was wearing. Tony cocked his eyebrow at her and opened his mouth to speak when McGee emerged from inside the apartment, pulling a sweatshirt over his head.
"Tony?" It was more of a gravelly murmur combined with a yawn than a question. "What're you doing here?"
Abby, already tearing up, gave Tony one last sad hug before squeezing passed Tim and disappearing into the apartment. Tony flashed a toothy grin as he watched her vanish. "Didn't know you were having a sleepover, Probie. I would have brought my pjs."
McGee blushed and gave DiNozzo a sheepish grin before leading him into the apartment. He looked at the closed bedroom door and sighed. "I just got her to stop crying. The way she's been carrying on, you'd think she's never going to see you again."
Tony's smile faded and he locked eyes with McGee. "But you and I know better, don't we Probie?"
"Yeah, Tony, we do." McGee was suddenly very alert.
"Take care, Tim."
McGee stared at Tony's hand extended between them. "That's it? You woke me – us – up at this time of night for a handshake?"
Tony shrugged and the smile crept back across his face. "Busy night. Besides, I doubt that I woke you."
Tim smiled and shook his hand before walking him back to the door.
"Hey Tony," he called just before DiNozzo closed the door. "Try not to fall in love with this one."
The Italian popped his head back into the apartment. "Trust me Probie, I won't."
Gibbs was still toweling his shower-drenched hair as he slowly walked down the stairs to work on his boat. Without breaking his stride, he went to the cabinet, pulling down the bottle of bourbon and two glasses. "Breaking and entering is a crime you know."
There was a creak and the soft thud of chair legs returning to the floor. "Technically it's not breaking and entering if the door is unlocked."
"No, it's trespassing, DiNozzo." He handed Tony a glass.
"When you put it that way it sounds-" The playful smirk fell from Tony's face. "Yes Boss, and for that I apologize."
Gibbs took a sip of bourbon and motioned to the open manila folder on the work bench. "Doing a little reading?"
"My replacement," Tony murmured, thumbing through the file.
"And?" Gibbs pulled up a stool, eyeing the paperwork.
"You'll like this, Boss. She was in the Corps. Four years counter-intelligence, followed by stint in the Middle East with the CIA before joining NCIS two years ago. She spent a year in Bahrain before requesting a transfer to NCIS headquarters in Washington." Tony tossed the folder back on the bench. "Sounds like a first-class spook to me."
Gibbs shrugged. "Maybe."
"I don't know, Boss." Tony ran a hand through his hair. "Kinda makes you wonder if they chose the right person for the job, doesn't it?"
"Nope," Gibbs replied firmly and Tony smiled slightly. "You are the one going, which means you are the one Jenn thinks can do the job."
"Like last time?" His voice was strong, but Tony's eyes gave away his apprehension.
Gibbs squeezed the younger man's shoulder. "You'll do this, and you'll do it right. As long as I have known you, you have never disappointed me, Tony."
He fixed his protégé with a steady glare. "You damn sure better not start now."
"You got it, Boss." Tony nodded and headed up the stairs, but stopped when his hand touched the doorknob. "You going to be alright without me?"
Gibbs nodded and Tony smiled before turning back to the door.
Gibbs started to speak a few times, but stopped. He furrowed his brow before finally speaking. "Just watch your six, alright?"
"Will do," Tony replied, giving Gibbs a casual salute.
Tony stared blankly at the glowing numbers of his alarm clock, unable to determine how the minutes were ticking by so quickly. He knew that he should have been sleeping, that this was probably the last good night of sleep he would be having in quite some time, but he couldn't. 3:15. He blinked. Six hours until he reported to Jenny for his briefing. Six hours to say goodbye.
He was sure that he had imagined the knock on the door. Why would someone be knocking on his door at three – make that four in the morning? But there it was again. Heading for the door, he reached for his backup gun, hidden in the side table drawer. Peeking through the peephole, he quickly relaxed the gun in his hand and reached for the doorknob.
"Is it not customary in this country to say goodbye when one leaves?" Ziva asked, forcing her way into the apartment the moment that Tony turned the knob.
"Good evening to you too, Ziva. Come on in."
Ziva rounded on him, fixing him with an intense glare. "You said that there would be time… You left without saying goodbye. Who does that?"
"I was going to-" Tony started, but Ziva quickly cut him off.
"When? If I am not mistaken, you report at 0900."
Tony nodded, running a hand through his sleep-tousled hair. "I was getting to it. It's just… complicated."
"What is so complicated?" Ziva asked, now pacing in front of him. "It is one word, Tony."
Tony followed her with his eyes as she paced. "That's it? You came all the way over here just to hear me say goodbye?"
"Yes." Ziva stopped abruptly and met his eyes.
"Of course," Ziva replied in frustration, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "What else would there be to say?"
Tony let out a deep sigh and crossed the room toward her, idly placing the gun on the coffee table as he went. "Just doesn't seem to cover it, does it?"
Ziva shook her head, ponytail swaying behind her. "But goodbye will have to do."
Tony smiled and pulled her into a hug. "Goodbye, Ziva. I'm going to miss you."
"Me too," she murmured into his shoulder.
He pulled back slightly, a sad smile coming to his lips when he noticed tears forming at the corners of her wide eyes. Suddenly he felt like all of his nerves were firing at once, sending strange shockwaves through his body. Before he could second-guess himself or let his better judgment stop him, Tony leaned down and captured her lips with his. Never one to do anything half-way, he quickly escalated the kiss, hooking his fingers through the belt loops at her hips and pulling her flush against him. When the need for air became unbearable, he reluctantly pulled back.
Ziva stared at him incredulously, her astute eyes boring into his momentarily before she leaned up and continued the kiss with equal intensity.
Tony pulled them backward, stumbling over abandoned tennis shoes and fumbling with the buttons of Ziva's shirt at the same time. Never one for multitasking, he took a graceless tumble onto the living room rug, pulling Ziva on too of him.