Tony entered the squad room with less than a minute to spare before the clock ticked him late. He slung his back pack behind his desk, groaned, grimaced, opened the bottle of water in his hand and took a sip.
"Problem, Tony?" Ziva asked, watching from her desk.
"It feels like pixies in sandpaper slippers used the roof of my mouth as a skating rink."
"I am a fully dedicated federal agent, Officer David, and as such I do not drink on school nights. I am not suffering from a hangover. I'm suffering from Cap'n Crunch."
"Crunch. Cap'n Crunch. I overdid this morning. You know how it goes-you finish the first bowl, you got milk left, so you add more cereal, you add too much cereal for the milk you got left so you add more milk. It's a vicious cycle that ends with an empty box and a sore mouth. They need to slap a warning on that sucker or file the edges."
"File the edges?" Ziva asked.
From his desk, McGee rolled his eyes and spoke.
"Mr. Macho's whining because he's hurt himself eating kids' cereal, Ziva."
"The roughest of the kids' cereal, McQuisp. You couldn't handle the Cap'n. I know what your favorite cereal is: Geekies, the breakfast of chumpions."
"Unlike you, DiNozzo, both I and my appetite have matured past prepubescence. I start my day with grown up food."
"Oh really?" Tony said, "Then I guess I was hallucinating when I swung by to pick you up last week. Famished and waiting forever for you to get ready, I guess I just imagined that leprechaun hiding in your kitchen cabinet. Pink marshmallow hearts are very mature and manly."
"What can I say," Tim shrugged, unrepentant. "They are magically delicious."
"Granted," Tony answered, conceding the point.
"Leprechaun in the cupboard?" Ziva asked. "As in the Irish fairy with the pan of gold?"
"Ziva, Ziva, Ziva," Tony shook his head. "We're talking cereal. American cereal in all its gaudy, technicolor, crunchy, sugary, over-packaged, product may settle, artificially flavored, vitamin added glory. You know, Lucky Charms."
She stared back blankly.
"Come on!" Tony insisted. "Lucky Leprechaun is a cultural touchstone of this great land. You've been here, what, four months? You haven't heard the jingles, tasted the goods, seen the animated icons? Lucky the Leprechaun, the Trix rabbit, Snap Crackle Pop, Toucan Sam..."
"Coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs," Tim offered, raising an eyebrow and sending a pointed glance Tony's way.
"Perhaps," Ziva said, "I am not familiar with them because I prefer healthy food to artificial dreck and I don't spend my leisure time watching cartoons. Perhaps I am better off without exposure to either these cereals or the ads made to coerce children to want them."
"Anti-cereal, are you?" Tony asked, squinting suspiciously at Ziva.
"I enjoy a bowl of porridge now and then," Ziva said defiantly.
"Porridge?" Tony scoffed. "Only fairytale bears and fictional British orphans eat porridge. You're in America now, Ziva. Americans eat oatmeal, not porridge. Porridge is only one step up from gruel which even the name sounds slimy. Gruel," Tony winced and shuddered. "Porridge, gruel-story food, not for human consumption."
"Like crumpets," Tim said. "Except crumpets are for tea parties."
"Exactly!" Tony agreed.
"Crumpets?" Ziva asked.
"Crumpets," Tim said. "The generic, catch-all term for whatever's on hand that'll fit on the little tea set plates. Cheetos, cereal, Pop Tarts cut into small pieces. But, I had to pretend they were crumpets. And, that the apple juice or Coke was tea. And hold the tiny teacup with my pinky up because Sarah had a very rigid tea party protocol. That's how I earned my comic books. For every tea party with Sarah, I got three comic books."
"Do you have imaginary crumpets with your snooty porridge, Zee-vah?" Tony asked.
"Actually," Tim said, "Crumpets aren't imaginary. I'm not sure what they are, but they eat them in England."
"Have you ever seen one on the shelf at Kroger, Probie? Did you ever wish you could find a crumpet like your grandma made? Is there a MacCrumpet on Mickey D's menu? Are we part of the U.K.? Or, did our forefathers fight a revolution to be free of tyranny and crumpets?"
"You," Ziva said, pointing at Tony, "Are being ridiculous, obnoxious and nonsensical."
"And this surprises you, why?" Tim asked.
"No, McGee. Even for him, this xenophobic rant over children's cereal is over the roof."
"Top," Tony corrected. "Over the top."
"Could be through," Tim said. "You know, with roof. Through the roof."
"Rude nonsense!" Ziva said. "Enough! No more of your precious leprechauns or rabbits or crinkles or crazy puffs!"
"Okay, okay, okay," Tony said. "I'm sorry. Maybe I came on a little strong. But, you don't understand. My cereal is an important part of my childhood, my identity, my being, my life. My very name is cereal derived. "
Ziva gave a skeptical 'humpf'.
"No, really, I'm serious. Do you know why they called me Tony?"
Ziva didn't respond verbally, only raised a suspicious but curious eyebrow.
"Because..." Tony paused, smiled, then roared. "I'm grrrrrrreat!"