Chapter 1. Seward's Folly

The wad of crumbled paper hit its target, just above the left ear before falling to the ground at his feet, unnoticed. The target just rolled his eyes at the childishness of his partner. The floor was covered in previous projectiles launched by a man who was older than he was, but still acted like a three year old.

At one time he was generous enough to consider him a five-year-old, then came the day he stole his calendar.

He glanced off his computer screen and scanned his desk quickly, ensuring that his calendar was still there. In a month and a half, it would be back up to date after being used as ammunition three months ago.

His eyes went back to the computer as a shadow fell between the two men. The lithe woman standing there opened the cabinet and removed the files she needed before closing the drawer and turning to lean against it.

As another paper missile flew his way, she deftly caught it in her hand, not even looking at the thrower nor the target. It amazed both men that she could do that so effortlessly. The targeted man loved when she stood in that position. Sometimes she joined in on the practical jokes, but sometimes she was on his side. Not much lately, but she was there now.

She spoke, "Tony, can you tell me why you feel the need to punish McGee with pages eighty-three to one hundred and two of his novel?"

Special Agent Timothy McGee, the constant target, looked up from his computer at what Ziva had in her hand, noticing the close type of a page of a book. "Tony, that was a present. A pre-released copy of Rock Hollow that you're tearing up," Tim was mad enough to almost scream at him.

"Relax, McLiar. I don't have to read it. I lived it," Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo spat back at him. "Didn't I?" Tony pegged another paper ball at him.

Mossad Liaison Officer Ziva David just chuckled. "He does have a point, McGee," she stated before lobbing the piece of paper at Tim and walking back to her desk.

Tony admired the retreating form, looking away only moments before he came within her field of vision. He often had a dream of a stalking lioness in the African Savannah. He didn't have many of those dreams lately.

He turned his attention back to Tim. "Besides, this wasn't Rock Hollow. Its an old copy of," Tony changed his voice to one closer to a game show announcer, "Deep Six: The Continuing Adventures of L.J. Tibbs. I would never rip up a book that was a present, even from you, Probie."

Ziva grinned at Tony. "Did you not use Rock Hollow as kindling last weekend with Brittany?"

Tony frowned back. "Nope. Didn't get that far. She called off the date."

Ziva put on her best concerned face. However, she was unable to stop a slight lift of the edges of her mouth. "Did she give a reason why," she asked, too innocently.

Tony glared back at her. "Yeah. Said a woman called claiming to be my wife, asking when she would have her 'darling husband' home." Tony used air quotes to emphasize, 'darling husband' before going back to glare at Ziva.

"Well, maybe that will teach you to not stalk me."

"I was not stalking you. I simply happened to be having dinner at the same restaurant as you."

"In Richmond! Almost two hours away."

"Not the way you drive, Zi-Vah. Probably made it there in less than forty-five minutes, trailed by numerous accidents from people trying to avoid getting hit by you."

"Fifty-five minutes. There was traffic on the Beltway."

"Surprised you didn't use your Mossad Super-Secret One-Woman Helicopter to get there."

"It was in the chop, Tony," Ziva flashed back sarcastically.

"Shop, Zi-Vah. In the shop. Besides, its not like I tried to join you and your," Tony guffawed before he finished, "Date."

"No, you asked me, in front of Daniel, if my gonorrhea had cleared up yet," Ziva growled.

"Well, maybe you'll think twice the next time you decide to use my toothbrush to clean your pistol."

While the normal Tuesday morning battle waged, differentiated from the normal Tuesday afternoon battle only by the hands on the clock, McGee started to gather up the rolls of paper at his feet before opening his bottom drawer and depositing them inside, joining the past day's supply of Tony's ammunition. He had once hoped that Tony would simply break into his desk when he wanted to throw paper at him. Now, every Friday, he had to throw away a full trash bag full of them to make room for next week's supply.

The argument was not even slowed by the entrance of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, passing by their desks. He got to his and sat his coffee on the desk before he loudly whistled. "Hey, both of you, either take it to the gym and fight it out, or tell me how this Petty Officer managed to steal three million dollars of government property before getting himself killed."

Both jumped and started to talk at once, talking over each other, each giving the information they had. Gibbs whistled again.

"McGee, what do you have," he asked the technical wizard of the team.

Tim started, without getting up. "Boss, Petty Officer Carmichael was a genius. He set up an algorithm that would order twice the amount of any item that was ordered, and funnel that to his personal storage site. It was done at random times each day set up with a pseudo-random number generator that would compute the proper…" Tim was cut off.

"McGee. I'm resisting the urge to treat you like I do DiNozzo, " he growled at him.

"Boss, that hurts. I thought I was the only one you loved enough to head slap into an oblivion," DiNozzo almost-petulantly asked.

"DiNozzo," Gibbs warned.

"Shutting up, Boss!" Tony head slapped himself and glared at Ziva who was chuckling and grinning from across the bullpen.

Gibbs turned back to McGee and gestured for him to continue. "Basically, Boss, what he did was order a washer, and then the computer ordered another. One went to where it was supposed to go, and the other went to his storage site. It wouldn't be repeated until eight orders later, or eight hundred, depending on what the program decided," McGee finished.

"See, McTheasarus, simple English," Tony barbed from his desk. He glared at Ziva when a piece of paper hit him in the head. She was concentrating on her computer screen with a pen in one hand and her notebook in the other. Tony wondered how she did it.

"McGee, is there anything in Carmichael's history that would show that he could make this program," Gibbs asked. "He didn't seem to computer literate when we talked to him the day he died."

"Boss, this program is so simple even you…" McGee trailed off and his eyes shot wide as he realized what he was about to say.

"McGee, 'even you' what," Gibbs asked. "Are you saying that this program is so simple that even a computer Neanderthal like me could do it?" Tony and Ziva exchanged smirks as McGee debated on answering. Any answer he gave would dig him deeper, so he just kept his mouth closed. Gibbs waited an eternity of five seconds before turning his head away. "Ziva, what do you have on Carmichael's roommate," Gibbs asked.

Ziva stood and activated the plasma screen. A picture of a Navy Petty Officer flashed on the screen. "Store Keeper Second Class Bryan Reynolds. He has been in the Navy for ten years, due to be promoted in the next few months. His service record states that he is an average sailor. Transferred in from Hawaii a little over a year ago to the Navy Yard," she finished.

"DiNozzo, anything on the BOLO on Reynolds yet," Gibbs asked his Senior Field Agent as his phone rang.

"Nothing yet, Boss," he said, picking up own his phone. "I'll check on it."

Gibbs hung up and stood, coffee in hand. "Abby's got something. C'mon, Elf Lord, let's see what she has."

McGee hurried off with Gibbs, leaving Tony and Ziva alone in the bullpen.

Tony was making notes on his paper when he felt another piece of paper hit him in the head. His gaze shot up at Ziva, who was again staring at her computer screen, typing away.

"Zi, stop throwing paper at me," Tony whispered across the desks.

Ziva looked up, confusion on her face. "I have not thrown any paper at you," she said, looking into his face.

"Well, then, who did," Tony asked. His gaze was drawn away from the Israeli as a part of a head bobbed above the wall behind her. The part of a head revealed that it had a full face to go with it as he stood up. Tony groaned, but put a smile on his face. "Ricky? Ricky Seward? What are you doing in here?"

Ziva turned to see a tall man come around the partition and walk up to Tony. "Hey, DiNozzo, wondered how long it would take for you to figure out who it was. I just stopped by to see if one of your cases meshed with one of mine," Seward said, holding his hand out to Tony to shake.

Tony shook it, but was confused. "One of our cases," he asked.

Seward waved his hand dismissively. "No, belongs to another team. Turns out that they weren't related. Then I saw you and decided to say, 'Hello," Seward smiled. His eyes turned to Ziva and they quickly turned into slits, as if he was seeing a target. "Speaking of, 'Hello,' I'd like to introduce myself. Detective Ricky Seward, Baltimore Homicide. And you are?"

"Officer Ziva David. Pleasure to meet one of Tony's friends," she said as she stood up to shake Seward's hand. She had a slight smile on her face, looking either as if she saw something that she was sure she would enjoy, or that she was constipated.

Tony didn't miss the difference in her reaction to Seward. His jealousy reared its head as he stood and walked around the desk. "Yeah, Ziva's my partner," he said putting himself between the two.

"Well, I'm pleased to meet one of DiNozzo's partners," Seward leered. "And a lovely partner she is, DiNozzo. Where have you been hiding her," he asked, his eyes never leaving Ziva, roaming from her face to her breasts and back, only to repeat it. His hands held hers, hoping to maintain the physical contact for as long as possible.

Tony looked to Ziva, and when he saw the look on her face, he realized that this would be a conversation best to observe from far away. "I don't keep her, Seward. She's free to come and go as she pleases," Tony said, backing up slowly.

Seward almost whispered, "Is that right?" His finger had started to caress the palm of Ziva's hand.

Ziva closed the distance and smiled her most dangerous and seductive smile. "That is correct. Tony doesn't own me. You would like to own me, Ricky, yes," she breathed, her face only inches away from Seward's.

"More than you know, darling," he said.

A sudden scream from his mouth drew the attention of most of the agents on the floor and on the catwalk above. Heads even popped out of conference rooms around the work areas. Tony's snickering and his camera phone clicking was the only other sounds that could be heard.

"In Mossad," Ziva started, "We call that a 'thumb tap.' It is used before we shoot a target from extremely close range." Ziva's voice had taken a hard edge to it.

Seward's leer was erased, his eyes wide as saucers. "M-M-Mossad," he gulped.

Tony chose that moment to step back up to the pair, scratching his head as he did so. "My memory isn't normally that foggy. Sorry, Seward, must have forgotten to mention it," he said as he slapped a hand on Seward's shoulder.

Seward backed away as quickly as he could, still trying to keep what dignity he had left. He made it two steps when he bumped into Tony's desk. Ziva followed him, her hand never leaving his, the look on her face growing more murderous by the moment.

"No man will ever 'keep' me. Not even you. Are we clear, Detective Seward?" Ziva left no doubt in her tone as to what the correct answer would be.

"Clear, ma'am," he strangled, then yelled again even louder as he fell to a knee on the floor.

"Ma'am? Did you just call me 'ma'am'?" Tony could only shake his head and cover his eyes.

Another scream brought him out of his amusement. "Ok, Zi, let him go. I'm sure he'll need that hand for his personal entertainment tonight," Tony chuckled.

She released Seward who scrambled away from the duo as quickly as he could, keeping an eye on Ziva as he went, this time with fear in his eyes. He released his injured hand only long enough to push the button on the elevator. When it didn't arrive in moments, he moved quickly to the stairs.

As soon as he was out of sight, Tony and Ziva looked at each other a moment before they burst into laughter together.

They were still chuckling as they walked back to their desks, happy for the short respite from the stress of a challenging case.