Because the forecast calls for ANOTHER 20 inches of snow, I pulled out an unposted Christmas story to accompany the scene outside my window. A simple McGee retelling of events...


The thing that sticks a hook in McGee's gaping mouth in the midst of the unannounced programming is that Tony doesn't seem surprised.

Christmas Eve travels past their bleary eyes like a hallucination as the team works the drying angles of a triple murder. The general consensus is that another hour in the office and the bunch of them will drop like shaken grapes from the vine of bureaucracy. But Gibbs ignores the potential casualties, insisting that they pour over what little evidence the CIA has been threatened into releasing, as though the eighth review is the key. The case must be wrapped before anyone is permitted to sleep.

A perilous edge creeps into Ziva's voice as her visceral complaints about a great many things arrive in a fusing of unpleasant languages. McGee sits quietly at his desk, trying to blend into the back wall because a camouflaged target is harder to hit. DiNozzo's patience, a thing of minuscule quantity, is quickly draining as the Israeli rattles on about the futility of designating a holiday that some must work through. Tony's already trying to reign in his own disappointment and every bitter word she expels fuels his unruly fire.

And that's before the mistletoe incident.

A sprig is brought to the room by a well-meaning Abby, garnering a fair amount of eye rolling from the few agents not amused by the girl balancing on seven inches of molded heels. Which is mostly just McGee. The tech pulls him under the greenery to plant a friendly kiss on his reddening cheek, earning Tony's grin and Ziva's astronomical annoyance.

The former Mossad officer assures her partner that he will receive no such holiday cheer from her, to which Tony applies ample snark about her inability to handle him. The intensity of the resulting glares is a prelude to an outburst. McGee prays he can dodge the splatter in time.

Ziva's mood deteriorates as the night scurries toward the Santa-less morning, her snipping gaining traction to the detriment of McGee's kiss-brightened outlook and Tony's approaching crest of frustration. When the Italian finally snaps, threatening to phone in an expose to disqualify her citizenship application, the woman grabs her righteous indignation by the hand and stomps off to the lab.

With carefully disguised sideways looks, McGee watches Tony's jaw tighten as he retrains his focus on a tree-killing stack of bank records. An hour passes with the senior agent's occasional glances to Ziva's desk. At the stroke of three am, DiNozzo rises and leaves McGee to his own devices, which is to silently follow.

If a confrontation is imminent, someone should be nearby to mop up afterward.

A buffet table from a meal only higher-ups had time to enjoy has been temporarily stored in an underused hallway, sitting before double windows that let the early fingers of morning stretch into the building. Ziva perches on the edge, her feet dangling as she watches the sleeping world absorb the first sprinkling of a wintry mix. Tony waits at the entrance of the hall and when Ziva turns to him, McGee ducks into a doorway, out of view. But not before he witnesses an apologetic smile rob her features of the sternness she's carried all day. Peeking again, Tim watches her pull something small from behind her back.


When it's held suggestively over her head, the tense set of Tony's shoulders eases. He moves to her, stopping between her knees. In one fluid motion, Ziva's free hand rises to the shadows of his unshaven jaw before trailing behind his head to guide his lips to hers. He goes willingly, his hands reaching for her hips as he takes everything she offers. Which essentially puts rule twelve to bed.

Her actions not only fail to surprise Tony, but appear to be the entire purpose of his search.

The writer in McGee settles for languid to describe the scene. The kiss is slow, deep and far longer than mistletoe mandates. Familiar, as though they do this everyday. Pulling away, Tony whispers something that lights her eyes. Her short response draws his most genuine smile and she seems unable to resist tasting the expression, harder this time with an insistence that leaves three people breathless. The green sprig is dropped in order to free both hands, all the better to pull him closer. Her ankles lock around his calves and Tim has to blink away the blush of the increasing intimacy of their contact.

The partners have established some sort of symbiosis.

How long, Tim couldn't guess but they've certainly achieved a level of thoroughness that comes with practice. Does anyone else not know this is going on? Lacking the malice that she'd displayed during daylight hours, Ziva releases Tony with sizable reluctance, eyes glowing with a freshly brewed pot of want. By their mutual irritation with the prolonged case duty, they'd likely had plans, as any other couple might, that this case has interrupted.

Fearing the reality of being caught and therefore pummeled, McGee turns to escape, finding his path barred by the boss. Gibbs' weary eyes take in the frequently volatile pair and shrugs. The oft-divorced man can't be bothered to look surprised, an affliction going around lately.

Apparently, oil and water can combine on enough molecular levels to form a workable union.