"DiNozzo. Autopsy. Update." Gibbs sighed. Never one to use two words when one would do, he could not face another tale from the Doctor this afternoon. As much as he loved the man himself, sometimes his extended commentaries tested Gibbs' patience.
"On it, Boss," Tony obliged, sliding through the gap between his desk and the partition that defined the MCRT's workspace. He whistled to himself as he stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the autopsy level.
"Jethro, I told you I wouldn't have anything for at least two hours," the doctor greeted without looking up from the newspaper he was reading.
"I'll be sure to tell him that, Ducky," Tony smiled. "Although when has a timeline ever stopped him asking?" He leant against the wall beside Ducky's desk.
Ducky chuckled "That is true. His impatience with the process of scientific testing is… testing at times."
"I didn't know anyone actually bought newspapers anymore, Ducky," Tony teased. "Except for using in ransom photos and notes, although coloured magazine letters make for a more aesthetically pleasing ransom note than black and white newsprint."
"Well my boy, there is just no comparison with holding the news in your hands. The smell of the ink and the paper. Not that I am against technology but it is not the same. It reminds me of when I was a boy and my friends and I took clippings of all the greatest headlines from the war. I still have the scrapbook we made. A living record of the battles and victories."
"That does sound kind of great," Tony agreed. He could picture a little Duckling laughing with his friend, snipping and pasting. "I'd love to see it some day."
He leaned over and tried to read the paper upside down. His skill apparently did not extend to the miniscule newsprint, all he could tell was that it was the letters to the editor page.
"So, Ducky, what do the great masses of Washington have to say to the editor today?" he asked.
"Well, actually there I was reading a very sweet letter when you came in. There was a rather scathing review last week of Thom E. Gemcity's upcoming novel and this reader has written a touching rebuttal." Ducky pointed to the particular letter. "You should read it, it is quite lovely."
Tony took the paper from Ducky's desk and began to read.
"In response to the review from 16.3.10. The suggestion that Mr Gemcity's characters are unrealistic and shallow is both unfounded and insulting. They perfectly reflect the brave people who risk their lives every day to keep this country safe.
"The allegation that the relationships between the characters would never stand in a professional environment is preposterous. As one who has worked in a high stress job for my entire adult life, I can confirm the interactions of the characters, particularly Officer Lisa and Agent Tommy, are very realistic.
"There is a certain inevitability when you work with people, trusting your life to them every day. This propinquity leads to intense loyalty and other emotions, which will probably eventually be surrendered to. While not all agents will end up on a sun-soaked beach in Israel, there are times when closeness with a partner makes you believe in inevitability. When hiding in a closet from armed guards, so close you can feel each other's breath, there will always be that question in your mind. "Is this the one for me?"
"Especially if your partner is as hot as Agent Tommy.
"So to say that Mr Gemcity's work is insipid and unrealistic is an affront to him, his millions of loyal readers and the people that his work represents. In my opinion, his characters are wonderfully rich and are people I would very much enjoy working with. Even Agent Tibbs…"
Tony looked up from the paper to the ME with a puzzled look on his face.
"This person is nuts!" he objected.
"How so?" Ducky asked.
"Millions of loyal readers," Tony quoted. "I doubt that. But Duck, this word," he pointed, "What does it mean?"
"Ah, propinquity. A lovely word. Just rolls off the tongue doesn't it. From Late Middle English, originally Latin propinquus meaning near. It generally denotes a very close personal proximity, physical or emotional or both. It suits the relationship of Agent Tommy and Officer Lisa very well."
Tony jumped as his pocket began to buzz. He took out his phone. "DiNozzo."
"Ducky better have cracked this case wide open for the time you've taken, DiNozzo," Gibbs threatened.
"Coming, Boss." Tony hung up. "Can I borrow this?" he asked Ducky, holding up the paper.
"Of course you can. Just don't do my crossword. I am stuck on 16 down a particularly cryptic clue which I think makes obscure reference to the medieval practice of…" he trailed off, realizing his listener was long gone.
Back in the bullpen, Tony walked to his desk with a new spring in his step. Despite the phone call, Gibbs' desk was empty, as was McGee's.
"Coffee and Abby's Lab," Ziva answered his unasked question. "You took your time."
"I did," Tony smiled. "I was going over some papers with the good doctor." He sidled over to his partner's desk and perched next to her.
"It was very interesting," Tony continued. "That's the thing about reading the news online. You miss the letters to the editor." He watched her reaction carefully, and knew he did not imagine the tiny, sharp intake of breath at his words. He had her.
"I did not know they'd made the SATs part of the citizenship test," he teased, holding up the newspaper. "Propinquity, insipid…"
"I am surprised you know what they mean." Ziva cut him off with a glare. "Well, insipid I suppose you would know. Most of your movie references are insipid at best. And annoying."
Not put off by her insult, Tony chuckled. "It is a really good letter. Well written, well constructed." His face grew serious but the smile did not leave his eyes. "Deep. And very, very true."
Ziva struggled to keep her face neutral. "You agree with…the writer?" she asked quietly.
"Oh yeah," Tony said huskily, leaning towards his partner. "Propinquity is good. I am definitely pro-propinquity," he whispered.
He jumped back as Ziva cleared her throat.
"Oh, hey, Boss," Tony winced, preparing for the head slap. The blood drained from his face when he saw what his boss had under his arm. Newspaper.
"Oh crap," he muttered. Maybe he hadn't read it. Ziva shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
Gibbs threw his coat in his chair and turned on his heels, heading up to MTAC. He stopped halfway up the stairs "When I get back, you two better actually have something. And I don't mean more damn fanmail."
Both agents let out their breath as Gibbs disappeared into MTAC. Busted. They would probably pay later, forced to stay behind doing paperwork until midnight at least.
Tony sat back at his desk and tried to concentrate on his work, but the feeling that he was being watched was very off putting.
"Will you quit staring at me?" he hissed. "It is creeping me out!"
"You agree with the letter?" Ziva asked again. She had definitely not counted on her partner ever seeing it. She knew she should have left the closet part out. It was too specific.
"I do," he said slowly. "But just because it's inevitable does not mean it's easy. There are too many factors at play. Consequences and…rules. A rule."
"But you essentially agree with the…sentiment of the letter?" she pressed.
"I do," he repeated with a grin. "I would be very interested to meet the writer of this letter."
"You would?" Ziva asked. Maybe he had not put the pieces together after all . But, no he must have with the SAT citizenship comment.
"Yeah. She sounds hot! With some great moves," Tony winked at his partner. "And I think she probably has an accent. Exotic."
"Of course she has moves!" Ziva scoffed, walking over to his desk. "The best moves you'll ever see. If you play your cards well."
"I will play my cards right," he corrected. "You agree too?" Tony needed to confirm.
"Oh yes. I very much identify with the writer of the letter." She leaned in close to her partner's ear, mirroring his actions from just minutes before.
"I agree that Agent Tommy is very, very hot," she said in a barely audible whisper, eyes scanning to add to her point.
Tony gulped as Ziva spun around and walked back to her desk.
Yes, he was definitely pro-propinquity.