A/N: For Aly who requested it and Megan who kept me going. This may have been sitting on my computer for a while...

Rule 23

You are so fun and funny. When we're together, I feel like I'm all the better by association.

Ziva David looked up from her work to see Tony lurking suspiciously around Gibbs' desk. Whatever he was up to, this was not going to end well.

"Tony," she hissed.

He turned towards her, his most innocent look on his face. "What?" he answered.

"You are up to something," she declared. "And if it involves Gibbs, I will kill you before he gets the chance."

He seemed to weigh up the odds in his mind. "Rule Twenty Three," he decided in the end.

"Never date a woman who eats more than you do?" Now she was confused.

"Never mess with a marine's coffee," he corrected her.

"And you plan to break that rule?" While most people would have been scared at the very thought, the Mossad Officer was amused. And interested.

Tony held up a small carton of milk. "Only a little," he promised. "We need to wean him off the extra strong coffee that can stand up without a cup."

She nodded her head in agreement. "I will help you," she decided. "But only if we try to change Jenny's taste as well."

He smirked. "The only other person who can drink his swill. Yuck."

She stood up to keep a look-out as Tony added a touch of milk to the coffee. Then they settled down at their desks and trying to look as though they were working.

It did not take long for Gibbs to reappear. He reached for his coffee as two pairs of eyes watched him closely…


Leroy Jethro Gibbs was in a foul mood. His favorite coffee shop was closed after a pipe had burst, thus depriving him of his precious caffeine. Forced to use an alternative and inferior coffee dealer, he was not in a mood to be trifled with. At least they were only looking at cold cases at the moment – he didn't need extra caffeine to think.

Now, after a brief trip to Abby's lab and learning that her caffeine supply was unaffected but she had no new evidence to offer them, he was back in the squad room to babysit his squabbling team.

McGee was missing, probably on a run to the evidence garage or Ducky. Tony and Ziva had spent the morning bickering but now seemed to have made up, judging by the smirks on their faces. He took a moment to try to work out what they had done, but nothing seemed off. If they'd messed with anything of his, especially his coffee, he'd headslap them both into next week.

Giving them a good glare as a warning, he sat in his chair, picked up his coffee and took a sip.

He spat it out immediately. Milk?! Standing up slowly, he walked over to DiNozzo's desk as his Senior Field Agent cowered.

"Boss?" he queried.

Gibbs gave him a good glare before throwing the coffee in DiNozzo's trash can.

"Rule 23," Ziva announced triumphantly.

Gibbs turned his gaze on her and she settled down instantly. "The Director wants all of your reports before midnight," he warned them, heading towards the elevator.

"I thought we had until the end of the week!" Tony protested.

He ignored both of his agents as they whined. He needed a break.


Jennifer Shepard smiled as she entered her house. Her paperwork was complete, no one had annoyed a sister agency today and she had managed to escape early from the Navy Yard. Not to mention she knew Jethro hadn't caught a case and should thus have made it back before she had.

The house was peaceful; it made her smile all the more. The faint aroma of coffee told her where she could find him. She took the time to place her briefcase in the study, kick off her high stilettos and let her hair down. The aroma grew stronger and she wondered if she had enough time to change. Probably not.

She found herself drawn to the kitchen – more accurately drawn to the caffeine, though she would never admit it. As expected, Jethro had poured two mugs of coffee. But something else made her pause.

He was adding milk.

Instantly she reached for her cell phone and moved silently back into her study. Her call was answered after only a few rings.

"Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo."

"Tony, when did Gibbs hit his head?" she demanded, pacing up and down. Her nerves were getting the better of her.

"Director?" came the confused reply.

"He has head trauma," she pointed out, exasperated.

"If he hit his head, Jenny, he didn't do it in front of us or mention it," he told her. "Not that he'd tell us anyway, but we didn't have a case and he only left the building for coffee. What's wrong?"

"He's just…" She tried to think of a way to word it without panicking him. "Not himself."

"Like I said, I don't think its head trauma," Tony noted. "Maybe he's ill? Maybe a bug finally infected Superman."

Jenny took several deep breaths. Jethro ill? Those two words did not belong in the same sentence. "Thank you, Tony," she answered. "I'll keep you informed."

Snapping her phone shut, she headed back into the kitchen. Her heart lurched as he added a little more milk to his coffee. She didn't miss the concentration on his face either.

"Did you hit your head?" she asked, deciding that head trauma was the most likely culprit, regardless of what Tony claimed. The loyal Saint Bernard would cover for his boss after all.

He looked up at her, confused. "Nope." Reaching out, he tugged her closer and gave her a quick kiss. "Everything okay?"

She took advantage of his proximity to place her hand on his brow, trying to determine if he had a fever. "Are you well? Do I need to call Ducky?"

He pulled her back slightly. "Seriously Jen, what's wrong?"

She looked at him hard. "Who are you and what have you done with Leroy Jethro Gibbs?" she demanded.

Placing the offending coffee down, he stared at her. "What?"

Jenny snatched up the milk from the counter. "This! The last time I accidently put a drop of milk in your precious coffee, you spat it out and wouldn't let me touch the percolator for a month!"

"Paris," he recalled.

"And now you're willingly adding the stuff to your own drink!"

"Blame DiNozzo," he shrugged.

She glared at him. "I just got off the phone with Tony who assured me you hadn't hit your head," she growled.

He smirked. "He added milk to my coffee."

She began to grin. "He broke Rule 23? I didn't think he had the guts."

"I'm sure Ziva played a role," he reassured her. "But it tastes…"

"Different?" she tried.

Jethro nodded. "Thought I'd play around."

She punched his arm lightly. "Next time, give me a little warning," she sighed.

He smirked again. "You were worried?"

"For your sanity."

He drew her close again and Jenny allowed herself to relax in his arms. When she pulled away, there was a soft grin on his lips.

"Want to try some?"