Author's Note:

This is my first attempt at an NCIS fanfic, so please let me know what you think!

I set this after Agent Afloat, and I gave it a higher rating because the language is kind of coarse and (obviously) the drug use.

P.S.—Yay! The team's back together! (Even if Tony and Ziva's reunion wasn't what I was hoping it would be.)

Hey, we can't get everything we want. Including this show. You know, because it's totally not mine.

Chapter One

"Back to Normal"

Derek Connelly sat, sipping his whiskey and enjoying it more than he probably should while an old disco song played obnoxiously from the jukebox. He was contemplating leaving—going back to his apartment, as empty as Michelle had left it—before one of his favorite songs rang out into the crowded bar. He shrugged, took another long pull from his whiskey, and took the song philosophically; a few more minutes wouldn't kill him.

Sparing a few barely interested glances at the short skirts that passed by, he almost didn't notice another man approach his table. When he did notice, he sent the man a curious glance followed by a look that said quite clearly, Leave me alone.

"Great place, right?" the man asked, leaning his forearm on the table. Dark hair fell in front of his face and he absently brushed it away.

"Sure," he said gruffly, unwilling to hold up any conversation the stranger was willing to start.

"I'm not much of a drinker myself," he said, nodding his head in the direction of the bar glass on the table. "Takes too long."

His interest effectively peaked, Derek briefly nodded his head. "What do you mean?"

"You have to drink glass after the glass of the stuff," the man elaborated. "And by the time you're actually drunk, you're puking your toenails up or too wasted to enjoy it." The man continued when Derek neglected to reply. "I go for the harder stuff myself."

"And by harder, you mean?" he ventured, half expecting the small white baggy the man pulled out of his jacket.

"A line or two of this, and you're fucking Superman," the man whispered under his breath, looking to see if anyone happened to have picked up on their conversation. With the music as loud as it was, Derek doubted it would be an issue.

"How much?" he asked, apathetic of the drug's consequences.

"This?" the man asked. When Derek nodded, he shook his head. "Not a damn thing. Call it a free sample. I'll be around if you decide you've got a taste for it."

Derek took the bag and discreetly tucked it into the pocket of his Navy whites. He downed the rest of his whiskey and threw a tip carelessly on the table.

"Mazel tov," the man called to Derek over his shoulder as he exited the bar.


An hour later, he was sitting at his coffee table with the bag of white powder sitting ominously in his hand. He stared at it, unsure of what exactly he was thinking when he took it out of the bar. He missed Michelle, sure, but enough to jeopardize his career? Hell, it was because of his career that she left him. She couldn't take the fucking worry. Two years and—almost—an engagement, and now she can't take the worry.

Well, he didn't have to worry about that anymore. He didn't have to worry about her anymore. Drunk, depressed, and determined, Derek opened the baggy to pour it out onto his glass coffee table. Doing his best to imitate the millions of times he'd seen Pulp Fiction, he separated the drug into thin lines and pressed his nose to the glass without a moment's hesitation. He inhaled, traveling down the line with one steady intake of breath. The powder stung his nose but he continued, waiting for the burn to take away the lingering smell of Michelle's perfume in the air.

He finished the better part of the three lines when his hand started shaking. Shrugging off the small tremor as part of the effect of the drug, he leaned back on the couch and waited for it to kick in. He worked his way through every memory of his ex-girlfriend, starting with the night they met.

He was remembering the look on her face when she walked out the door when the first seizure racked his body. Shaking uncontrollably, he clenched his jaw and jerked until he fell to the floor. He was painfully aware of his limbs flailing and hitting the table and the floor at odd angles, leaving contusions that wouldn't have the chance to swell. A heavy weight descended on his chest and his lungs ceased to function, leaving his brain and body screaming for air that wouldn't come.

He died wondering if this was what being Superman felt like.


"Another overdose, Ducky?" Ziva asked, taking a photo of the paraphernalia still lying on the sailor's glass coffee table. Her aim was off; it had been a few months since she'd taken crime scene photos. More than that, it had only been two weeks since she'd come back to the States. Only two weeks since she'd been home.

"It appears so, my dear," the medical examiner said, shaking his head. He eyed the traces of white powder on the table. "I suspect we will find cyanide in this, as well." He looked around the room. "As soon as Mr. Palmer gets here with the damned truck, we'll have the young man back to autopsy."

"This makes two dead," McGee offered a little absently, scanning the items of the deceased's bookshelves. He expertly suppressed a grin at finding his own novels. "How are the other two doing?"

"Still comatose, I'm afraid," Ducky said, taking the liver temperature of the victim to decide time of death. "With the amount of cyanide in their systems, it's a wonder they survived at all. Although, it is extremely unlikely that they'll ever wake up."

"Then we won't get the luxury of a witness, will we, Duck?" Gibbs asked in rapid-fire, entering the room and instantly filling it with his air of authority and the strong smell of his coffee. "What do we have?"

"I would estimate that the young man has been deceased just less than two days," Ducky said to his friend of many years. "Apparent drug overdose, but I'm willing to wager that cyanide poisoning will be the official finding."


"Seaman Derek Connelly," McGee recited, pulling from memory the information he'd been collecting the last few minutes. "Twenty-three years old, lives alone."

"Only recently," Gibbs added almost under his breath.

"What makes you say that, boss?" McGee asked, pausing in his duties to watch their leader.

"Some of the furniture's gone," he said, pointing to the indentions in the carpet. Most of the bookshelf is empty, but there's no dust." He paused and ducked his head a little. "And there's lipstick under the couch."

"Right," McGee said, not exactly surprised that Gibbs had picked up on something he'd missed. He'd been in the basement too long. "I'll see what I can find out."

"Too late, McGeek," Tony announced as he walked into the room. His eyes flitted to Ziva's crouching form before continuing with his speech, ignorant of her own quick glance. "Derek Connelly was recently separated from his girlfriend of two years, Michelle Meyers. She left him a little over a week ago."

"Anything else?" Gibbs asked, taking a long pull from his coffee cup.

"Not really, boss," he said. "Quiet as a mouse, according to the neighbors. Everyone thought he was a nice kid."

"A nice kid who does lines on the coffee table, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked pointedly.

"I know, right?" Tony replied, not-so-silently thrilled to have someone to listen to him. "Very Tarantino."

Gibbs sent him a single look that spoke volumes.

"Shutting up, boss," he said, feeling happier in that moment than he had in some time. He was part of a team again. Gibbs' team, at that. His word had slid back into place, and his feelings bordered on absolute euphoria.

Ziva caught the look on her partner's face and smiled, knowing exactly how he felt. It had been strange for the first few days; when she looked across the walkway, she actually found Tony at his desk. For a long time, even in Israel, she'd had to imagine him and deal with the longing that came hand in hand with the illusion. By the end of the summer—before she'd gone undercover in Morocco—she'd almost resigned herself to the idea that she would never see him again. But now they were both home, where they needed to be.

"Officer David?" Gibbs asked pointedly for the third time. Ziva jerked her head up, unaware that she'd stopped taking pictures.

"I'm sorry, Gibbs," she said. "I must have placed out."

"Spaced out, Ziva," McGee corrected good-naturedly.

"Don't apologize," Gibbs reminded gruffly.

"Yes," she said, standing. "It seems that I have forgotten that rule."

"McGee you're with me," Gibbs said, exiting the room. "DiNozzo!"

"Yeah, Boss?"

"Collect evidence with Ziva until you've cleared the scene," he ordered as he walked out the door, McGee following closely behind him.

Tony nodded at Ziva, who only stared back. The tension was palpable; Ducky could feel it and almost shook his head. Saying nothing more, Ziva went back to her pictures and Tony cleared his throat loudly—both in an effort to pretend that no awkward silences hung between them. Once upon a time, there weren't any.

"Hurry it up, Zee-vah," he said, accentuating the sound of her name. The gesture felt so familiar, yet somehow foreign, and she found herself smiling. "I've got places to be."

"Then you should collect the physical evidence as Gibbs said," Ziva suggested. "And then you can get back to your busy life."

"Fair point," he admitted, pulling latex gloves onto his hands. He worked around Ducky and Palmer to collect the drug paraphernalia from the table. Careful not to inhale the powder, he deposited a sample of it into a vial that Abby would analyze later in her basement.

"I'm ready when you are, Tony," Ziva said, putting the camera away as she watched him. Trying not to smile, she realized with some humor that the statement was incredibly ambiguous. He pretended not to notice.

"Give me a second," he said, taking a careful fingerprint off the baggy next to the drugs. "True genius takes time."

Ziva lifted an eyebrow. "Do geniuses often leave their shoes untied?" she asked, staring down at the loose laces on Tony's right foot.

He glared. "Sometimes, yeah," he justified. "Einstein couldn't tie his shoes, either, you know."

"You are not Albert Einstein," she pointed out, walking from the room. "You are barely Yogi Bear." The retort tingled on her lips, and for a brief moment she felt like she had for the last three years. Pushing the nostalgia aside, she called over her shoulder, "I will wait for you in the truck."

Ducky waited until Ziva was well out of earshot before commenting.

"I'm glad things are back to normal," he said simply, packing up the rest of his bag while Palmer wheeled their victim out to the coroner's van. He watched Tony's face carefully as he replied.

"Me, too, Duck," Tony said, ignoring the small pressure on his chest that told him things were still far from normal. He still missed Ziva like she was a thousand miles away, even though he could reach out and touch her if he wanted. And he did want. Things wouldn't be normal again until he could look at her without hurting a little.

That thought hanging unpleasantly in his mind, he bagged the rest of the evidence he'd collected and walked out to the truck, where he found Ziva leaning against the side waiting for him.

"Are you ready now?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

He sighed. "As I'll ever be."

A/N: I know this chapter was kind of short, and uneventful, but I promise that the chapters following chapter two will be much longer. I just need to set the stage a bit. If you want me to continue, that is. Tell me by hitting the little button!