Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS, the characters, or anything related.
A/N: Um...okay. Yes, I'm still alive, and in what seems to have become my usual author's note- so sorry for the delay, everyone. I hope a few of you are still with me. Also, already working on the next chapter.
Tony pulled into the parking space he'd left less than an hour ago and killed the engine. He scrunched down and peered out of the windshield, catching sight of something where it didn't belong. Or someone, rather. There was a shadowed figure next to the door, leaning against the wall.
There was an instant of adrenaline and a move for his gun before Tony recognized the figure.
What the heck was she doing skulking outside the room?
Tony gathered the three fast food bags and the two cardboard cup carriers, then balanced the load precariously as he scooted from the car, shut the door with his hip, and approached his team mate. He deliberately made the load in his hands seem more unbalanced than it was as a hint to Ziva that he could use her help, but she ignored his efforts.
He sighed. "What are you doing out here in the shadows?"
"Gibbs sent me on an errand," she said and held aloft a plastic bag from a convenience store that Tony knew was still open a couple blocks from the motel. "And waiting for you."
Tony halted before opening the motel room door. Ziva's voice hadn't been a whisper, but she'd pitched her tone low in an obvious attempt to not broadcast her words. And just the fact that she'd stood around outside waiting for him was strange enough.
"Okaaaayyy..." Tony drawled the word out and giving her a corner-eyed look. She took the hint.
"Don't look at me like that," she said lightly. "I just thought I would be nice enough to warn you. Beware of Gibbs. He is quite unhappy."
"What happened?" Tony asked quickly, wondering if one of the prisoners had somehow disappeared or something. He squelched down his desire to head straight back to the car and find another motel. For Ziva to feel the need to warn him of a Gibbs-mood, it had to be bad. And he wondered how much of her hanging around outside had to do with the fact that she hadn't wanted to brave Gibbs without him. In one way, Tony giggled inside at the thought of the bad-ass Ninja woman on the team being afraid of their Boss' bad mood. But the rest of him cringed, knowing that Ziva's reluctance was a huge hint, and that some of Gibbs' worst moods were best avoided by all.
"McGee tried to run," Ziva explained succintly. "Gibbs was ready for him, though."
"Ouch," Tony grimaced in sympathy for McGee. But he felt a little worm of unease. That wasn't their McGee, not something he would do at all. Where had he planned on running to? He was reunited with the team; not only did he have their help now, but he could be relieved that they were obviously safe from the hits that had been put out on them just about a week ago.
"Yes," Ziva agreed. "He was not happy. I was just returning from acquiring the connecting room to ours when he came from around the back of the motel with McGee. It was then that he sent me out for this-" she rattled the plastic bag- "but I think it was more so they could be alone than because he really needed anything. Gibbs was...unhappy...when he sent me away. It did not take me long and when I returned, I decided best to give them a little more time. And to warn you ahead of time."
Tony grinned at her slightly defensive demeanor. This could be good ammunition for a long while, if used correctly. "And you were maybe afraid to go in there alone?" Tony asked with eager humor.
Ziva straightened up with dignity and refused to answer the question. It didn't matter to Tony, he knew. "Shall we?" she asked.
He shrugged. It wasn't like they had a choice. And misery loved company, or so he'd heard, so it was just as well they were doing it together. When broaching a Gibbs-mood, sometimes there was safety in numbers.
Tony turned the knob and opened the door, and both agents stepped into the room. Ziva pushed the door closed behind her.
The first thing Tony noticed was that the two thugs had been removed from where they'd been cuffed at the table. The connecting doors to the next door room was open wide and Tony assumed the two men had been moved into the other room, though he couldn't see them from where he stood. The fact that Gibbs had placed a chair in the doorway of the connecting room and was seated so that he had a full vantage point of both rooms left no doubt as to the other mens' whereabouts.
The next thing Tony noticed-after a rustled movement from one of the two small beds in the room... McGee's bed...drew his attention- was that Tim was wide awake, still in the filthy and ragged state he'd been in before, and not happy. He was glaring with burning intensity directly at Gibbs, and probably had been for awhile. McGee's eyes looked slightly feverish, but Tony thought that could just be the anger. But still, something in McGee's eyes were just not quite right. Something as definitely different about their probie, and whatever it was disturbed Tony greatly.
Gibbs sat in his chair, a newspaper unfolded and held up before him, and he read on as he ignored McGee's glare. That was a novelty in itself, that Gibbs was refusing to respond to the obvious insubordination and bad attitude. Almost as unusual as the fact that the attitude was coming from McGee, of all people.
The third thing Tony suddenly noticed, with a drop of his jaw...
"Whoa," he muttered with a quick glance at Ziva, who's own eyes were wide-
…...was that McGee was handcuffed to the old-fashioned metal railing of the bed by one wrist.
"Remind me to be more careful about pissing off the Boss," Tony muttered, half to himself and half to Ziva.
Ziva just nodded.
"Did you bring the food?" Gibbs asked from his chair, eyes still on the news paper.
"Yes, Boss," Tony said quickly, tearing his eyes from McGee. He turned to the small table and set down his load of their take-out dinner, but he couldn't keep his eyes from shifting over to McGee a time or two, or over to Gibbs, who had been the one to put their team mate in his own brand of lock down.
"Ziva?" Gibbs asked next.
Ziva held up her bag as she had outside and shook it. "Yes, Gibbs. Got it."
"Good." The news paper rattled as Gibbs folded it neatly, then stood and joined Tony at the table where he was sorting the food items. "Tony, you're on duty to watch the morons. They're in the other room. They're secured but I don't want your eyes off them."
"Got it, Boss."
"And feed them."
"Right." Tony gathered the take out burritos and tacos meant for himself and the two prisoners, as well as three of the soft drinks in paper cups, and headed to the other room. He did not sit in the doorways as Gibbs had, as he didn't need to see both rooms. Instead, he fully entered the other room- leaving the doors open- turned on the TV with one hand as he passed, and set his own food on the table.
He was not surprised to see the two prisoners in the same position as McGee. A little close in the same double bed, both were sitting up against the head railing and were handcuffed by one wrist to the iron bed posts, but it could have been worse for them.
Tony wondered what Gibbs would have done if the motel hadn't been so unique as to have old beds with iron-railed head and foot posts. It was obvious the small town business was attempting to give the rooms a homey and unique feel by differing from the chain franchises that favored wooden head boards attached to the wall, or something similar. Either that, or they'd just chosen not to shell out the cost for more modern styles in a very long time.
Tony decided it was probably a good thing for Dumb and Dumber that Gibbs hadn't had to get creative; they might have been forced to sleep on the floor attached to the leg of the bed, or possibly somewhere even more uncomfortable.
"Here you go, boys," Tony said smugly. "Chow time."
He set the food for each of them atop in their laps. They'd both have to eat with one hand, though, being restrained as they were.
"Don't think you're getting moved if you spill those drinks," Tony said cockily. "So I'd be careful." He gave them a smirk at their predicaments, but points went to each of the other men for ignoring him.
Tony scooted a chair to the middle of the room, sat in it and propped his feet up on the end of the nearest bed, set his food in his lap, and began surfing the channels with the remote. The second bed wasn't for him; he wasn't meant to sleep. But one of the others would join him in the room soon, he knew. Otherwise, Gibbs would have given each of the prisoners their own bed rather than making them share to leave one free.
He also knew that he'd be relieved from babysitting eventually, probably by Ziva. Until then, he'd keep himself occupied.
Well, it's not pizza, Tony thought as he took his first big bite. But not too bad at all. Ooh! I love this movie!
Tony made himself comfortable, half of his attention on the movie he'd found, the other half on Lester and Paul.
"You are okay?" Ziva asked Gibbs as she handed him the small bag containing the items he'd sent her for.
"I'm fine," he said as he took the bag from her.
"But..." she gestured at the bag.
"It's not for me." His eyes flickered over to McGee, and hers followed.
"Oh," she said, her eyebrows raised in surprised realization.
His back toward the room and blocking most of McGee's view, Gibbs moved up close to the table.
"Glad it's burritos," Gibbs said as an aside to Ziva. "Makes it easier."
He unwrapped one of the burritos and took the top off of one of the soft drinks.
Then he reached into the plastic bag he'd taken from Ziva and retrieved the two items within and opened both.
Into the meat of the burrito Gibbs pushed two of the Tylenol pm's, and into the drink he poured one adult dose of Nyquil.
That ought to do the trick to not only put McGee out for the rest he so badly needed but refused to give in to, but also help relieve some of the aches and discomfort he no doubt had from his many small injuries and over used muscles.
"Are you sure that's not too much?" Ziva asked dubiously, but quietly enough not to tip off McGee.
"I don't think both together will hurt him, but if I know McGee he'll resist as long as he can before giving in and taking either the drink or the food. He needs both, but he's not happy with me right now and it will be a matter of principal with him. This way, both bases are covered."
Ziva nodded in appreciation of the full explanation. It wasn't completely like Gibbs to explain everything he did, but Ziva guessed that he saw her concern in such an unorthodox act and wanted to put her concerns to rest.
She also silently commended him on his ability to think like his agent, even with McGee acting so uncharacteristic. Gibbs knew his people, no doubt about it.
"Take it to him," Gibbs ordered, and Ziva knew it was because McGee might resist a little less if it came from her rather than the man he was so angry with.
There was not a lot of love lost between McGee and Gibbs at the moment.
She hoped that was something they could fix. She wanted the team back to normal and back home as quickly as possible. Of course, first they needed to somehow bring McGee back to himself, and then rescue Sara.
She couldn't fathom in which direction McGee's mental state would detour if they failed, or if Sara did not make it out alive.
But all indications said it wouldn't be good.
McGee did not respond when she gave him his food, but his furious stare never left Gibbs' form. McGee was burning with anger, obviously, and not yet ready to let it go, even as he sagged with exhaustion.
After a couple of awkward tries, Ziva simply left his food on the table well within reach. Gibbs lay down on the spare bed and told Ziva to get some rest in the extra bed in the other room, then to relieve Tony later.
"What about..." she gestured at McGee. Gibbs was clearly ready to give in and listen to his own body and get some rest- hopefully- but that left McGee unsupervised. He was restrained, but that could be escaped if one worked hard enough at it or had enough tricks up their sleeve.
"He's not goin' anywhere. Not with me here."
Ziva took him at his word, only partly because she had no choice. Gibbs was infamous for his very good hearing, but also for his ability to stay alert even when resting or sleeping. It was the Marine in him, Tony had told her many times. Some parts never faded.
Gibbs was already dozing as she quietly moved from that room into the connecting one. She took her food with her but decided she was too sleepy to eat and set it aside in favor of lying down. Tony barely acknowledge her when she informed him she would relieve him of duty in a few hours.
But she couldn't resist one parting shot before sliding into sleep.
"If you let the prisoners escape, don't wake me. You're telling Gibbs yourself."
She never heard his reply, if there was one.