McGee sent his boss a curious look, but let go of the door handle anyway. The three of them had rushed out of the building and headed towards the car faster than Abby could finish off a Red Bull. It was odd that Gibbs wasn't already behind the wheel, risking all their lives with his adventurous driving.
Still – the Boss said wait, so they waited.
Belatedly, McGee realized that both Gibbs and Ziva were watching the building carefully. The older agent leaned against the blue charger casually, staring at the entrance while Ziva stood on her tiptoes, straining to see through one of the upper story windows.
Wasn't he always kicking himself for under-estimating DiNozzo?
Granted, it usually had to do with silly pranks or stupid bets, but Tony had proved more than once to be smarter than he looked.
Deciding not to waste time castigating himself, McGee opened the trunk and fished around for some binoculars. He'd just pulled a pair from one of the field packs when Ziva snatched them away from him.
"Hush," Ziva commanded, looking through the field glasses without making any effort to be subtle about it. "You were right, Gibbs. Tony is in there, with his new team." Ziva spat the phrase as if it were something offensive.
Maybe to her it was.
McGee wasn't quite ready to admit it, but he found himself missing Tony just a little bit. With the other agent's absence, McGee was starting to appreciate just what Tony's role in the team was. Tim thought that maybe, with time, the rift would heal – like it had with Kate – but he wasn't sure he wanted it to.
Tony belonged to them – not that stuck up blonde agent and the mean-tempered redhead.
Guilt nagged at the back of his mind – none of them had treated Tony very well while Gibbs was gone – and even when he'd come back.
Still, surely they hadn't treated him badly enough to warrant this – desertion.
McGee sighed, returning his attention to the matter at hand.
"What's he doing now, Ziva?"
"I think – it looks like the team is leaving the bull pen."
Gibbs shifted, watching the entrance.
Surely he didn't expect Tony to just waltz out through the front entrance?
"No, they have gone up. I think they are going into the director's office – yes. I cannot see in there." Ziva sounded a bit frustrated. McGee bit back a sigh as he settled in to wait.
McGee had always considered himself to possess at least a modicum of patience. As a kid he had never dug the prize out of the cereal box – he had always waited until the box was empty. He never fast-fowarded through boring parts of a movie nor did he skip chapters while reading a book.
Even so, after only fifteen minutes of waiting – in a baking hot parking lot - for DiNozzo to show, Tim was starting to get stir crazy.
"McGee, stop fidgeting!"
Apparently Ziva's patience was wearing thin, too, even though she remained as still as a statue.
"I was just adjusting my position."
"For the fourth time in the last two minutes. That's fidgeting!"
"Knock it off, both of you," Gibbs barked.
He blamed Tony.
Twenty minutes, three or four minor squabbles, and two headslaps later, Ziva abruptly trained the binoculars on their target.
"Tony and crew –"
"Company, Ziva," McGee inserted helpfully.
"Whatever, they are entering the bullpen. Tony is – he is getting something out of his desk. It is – purple and orange and green and yellow. I have no idea what it is."
"He is taking whatever it is with him into the elevator – his team is following. I think – yes, they have all grabbed their gear. They are on their way down."
"And you don't know what Tony grabbed?" McGee asked Ziva while keeping his eyes on Gibbs. Gibbs grimaced again. "Boss?"
"It's his disguise, McGee. Get in." Tim and Ziva scrambled to get in the car.
"Yuck." McGee rather agreed with Ziva.
"You think Tony knows we're out here?"
"Well, he knows we're not at Swick's Pizza." Gibbs responded, starting the car and putting it into reverse in one smooth motion.
"Bowen, put this on."
They were all four crammed into the elevator which was, once again, halted between floors. Summers was starting to dislike that 'emergency stop' button. The boss used it way too often.
Summers turned around to see DiNozzo thrusting a large, shapeless hoodie at Bowen. Bowen, in return, was staring at the garment with distaste.
"C'mon!" DiNozzo shook the shirt until Bowen reluctantly accepted it. "Oh! And here, for you Summers, and Forrester." DiNozzo handed out standard more ugly hoodies to everyone and donned his own with a flourish. "I didn't want you to feel left out."
"Agent DiNozzo, why must I wear this?" Bowen hadn't moved to don the very bright article of clothing – none of them had.
"Because I said. Now get a move on." The Boss paused, and smiled in a very creepy manner. "Unless you need help?"
Summers' eyes widened when DiNozzo leered and waggled his fingers at them.
Surely… he must be having them on.
He was sadistic bastard that got his kicks by messing with their minds.
The red-headed agent gulped and glared down at her hoodie.
She had the orange one.
She glanced sideways at Bowen – who had the green one.
"Trade?" she asked hopefully.
Bowen snorted in disbelief and quickly pulled the stifling green material over his head. She turned to Forrester – but he was already decked out in purple.
He reminded her of Barney.
Maybe she could put up with the indignity of the orange one if she got pictures.
Still, it was with measured reluctance that she dressed in the orange thing – the XL made her feel like a bright, lumpy mushroom.
"Smile!" None of them had more than a second to react – flash!
Well – she had wanted a picture.
Just not hers.
Heaven help them all, but the Boss really was crazy.
Thirty minutes later, Tony and team waltzed out the front entrance.
Or, at least, Tim assumed that is was Tony and his team.
To his left, Gibbs growled threateningly.
Ziva said she had seen yellow and green and purple and orange – and, lo and behold – yellow and green and purple and orange there was.
One hideous color per person.
If this was Tony's plan for evading the Writer, then it was a very poor one. He ought to consider himself lucky that his old team had arrived to rescue him.
"What on earth did he expect to accomplish with that?" McGee asked incredulously.
"You know which one is him?" Gibbs challenged.
Actually – no. McGee didn't.
The Orange One was obviously Summers – she was too small to be confused as Tony.
The Purple One – Tony was taller than that, wasn't he? Only Purple was swaggering. Tony swaggered. DiNozzo couldn't pretend to be shorter, could he?
"If they did not have their hands shoved in their pockets we could probably spot him – even with those hoods pulled so low," Ziva commented.
"Ya think!" Gibbs snapped. Ziva sighed.
"I just meant that Tony isn't trying to fool the Letter Writer – he's trying to fool us."
McGee frowned – he supposed that made sense. There was no reason for them to believe that the Letter Writer would be so familiar with Tony's appearance that he would recognize his hands. Or skin tone.
The computer geek squinted at the wanna-be-thug look-alikes. No way Tony was going to pull one over on him – especially with something so juvenile.
Green and Yellow were about the same height – a few inches taller than Purple.
McGee was going to guess that the third 'man' was Agent Forrester – whom he had never met.
He knew, though, that one of Green and Yellow was Bowen. The other was probably – possibly – Tony.
Purple sure could swagger, though.
"This is childish!" Ziva burst out.
McGee was inclined to agree.
"We should not play this stupid game with Tony – we should go over there and confront all of them. We can arrest them for suspicious behavior inside a government facility."
"Uh, yeah – why aren't we doing that, Boss?"
"When they start running, who ya gonna follow?"
"And even if we pick the right one, none of us could catch Tony", McGee finished for his boss.
The three of them watched quietly as the Colors split into pairs. Orange and Green. Purple and Yellow.
Of course the two most likely candidates would go separate ways.
"I guess that means he won this one, huh?"
Gibbs just growled.
Tony felt like an ant underneath a giant magnifying glass.
He expected the Wrath of Gibbs to shoot down from the sky and burn his legs off at any moment.
He could clearly see his old team glaring at him from the idling blue charger.
They didn't look happy. None of them.
Even McGee looked very, very angry.
Too bad they weren't channeling that righteous indignation towards catching a killer.
Oh – right.
Tony grinned past his sudden I-am-such-an-idiot feeling.
"Um, Boss?" McGee stared down at his phone. "It's Tony."
Gibbs rolled his eyes.
Sometimes he wished DiNozzo was just a little bit stupid.
Well – more stupid.
Maybe about as stupid as he pretended to be.
Or, maybe, Tony could be just a little bit less stubborn.
Of course Tony would call him now. McGee's laptop was stowed with his gear – it would take him several minutes to get it up and running. He wouldn't be able to get a trace on Tony's cell until it was too late.
Gibbs reached for the phone. Seeing McGee go for his laptop, Gibbs cleared his throat and shook his head at the younger agent.
McGee shrugged and leaned back in his seat.
Gibbs opened the phone, trying to ignore how Ziva leaned in close so she could hear the conversation, too.
"Hey, Gibbs. Whaddya think of our Team jerseys? Nice, huh?"
Gibbs ground his teeth together.
"Agent DiNozzo, I am ordering you –"
Gibbs blinked at the fierceness of his agent's – he refused to think former agent's – tone.
"No, Gibbs. I am the Senior Supervisory Agent for the Major Crime Response Unit here. This is my town. You don't get to give the orders – not today."
I am, however, willing to offer you a deal."
Gibbs ground his teeth together – he had a feeling that this 'deal' was gonna be the take it or leave it kind.
Why couldn't DiNozzo see that he was just trying to keep the wayward agent alive?
And catch a killer?
What was with the damned hero-complex?
"What kind of deal, DiNozzo?"
I don't negotiate with terrorists, and right now, you sure as hell qualify.
But he wasn't about to tell DiNozzo that.
A/N: Sorry for the loooong break – and the cliffy… We'll just count this as ridiculously angsty-fluffy filler. Up next, DiNozzo's deal and some serious undercover work by Agent Double-O Bowen. Thanks for reading and please review!