DISCLAIMER:- I do not own NCIS or its characters and no copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Set straight after the Season Eight episode Dead Air, this nonsensical CRACKFIC denotes my confusion over the depiction of the Tony and Ziva characters. Wildly OOC, it was not written as a character bash but to allow me to "thumb my nose" at the NCIS writing team as I desperately hope for a consistent return to the strong but believable characters we used to know. The story was written for laughter, not offence. Please take heed of the rating - testicular references abound. L

The Cremasteric Reflex

It was dé·jà vu all over again as Tony sat on the edge of his desk, swaying slightly and fidgeting under the gentle ministrations of NCIS medical examiner, Dr Donald Mallard. The younger man looked uncomfortable as the doctor continued to coax the remains of a cup of hot lemon and honey tea down Tony's painful and swollen throat.

"What's the verdict, Duck?" Gibbs asked, taking a break from his interrogation of mailman turned would-be-murderer, Matt Lane.

"A rather nasty throat and chest infection appears to have been exacerbated by the cool night air, I'm afraid," Ducky replied. "It's not too serious at this point but due to Anthony's previous lung problems, I would prescribe 48 hours bed rest."

The lack of objections from his agent caused Gibbs to narrow his eyes and assess the younger man's appearance, noting the cheeks flushed by fever, the slightly wheezy breaths and the glassy eyes. But it was Ducky's steadying hand on the younger man's shoulder, the goofy smile and the distracted mien that drew his concern.

"You give him something?"

"I sent Mr Palmer to the pharmacy for some medication to make Anthony a little more…comfortable," Ducky explained. "Unfortunately, in a momentary lapse, I failed to remember our young man's rather low tolerance for any type of painkiller, including antihistamines. He's a little…drowsy at the moment."

Gibbs stood in front of his agent, waiting until he had his full attention. "You finished your report?" he asked.

Tony pointed with his chin toward the lead agent's desk. "Inbox," he said with a pronounced squeak, prompting Ducky to quietly encourage the agent to finish the hot tea.

Gibbs turned to address the rest of his team.

"Ziva, when you're finished your report, see if you can give Abby a hand. McGee, you've got DiNozzo duty. Get him home."

"Yes, Boss," McGee replied.

With a final look at his ailing agent, Gibbs turned on his heel and headed back to resume his interrogation. "And make sure he eats something!" he called over his shoulder.

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The twenty-minute drive to Tony's apartment was made to the accompaniment of snoring, emanating from the passenger seat as the senior field agent gave in to the pull of the medication. McGee winced as the symphony of congested sinus passages and narrowed respiratory airways reminded him of his own frequent battles with his allergies.

His thoughts travelled back to the afternoon and the bomb explosion at the park. His blood ran cold at the image of Tony walking obliviously near the barbecue grill. What the hell happened? Okay, so the man obviously wasn't feeling well but he was a seasoned cop and a highly skilled federal agent. Why hadn't he reacted? McGee had asked himself those questions again and again and found no logical explanation. He decided to wait for an opportunity to ask Tony.

He parked the car in Tony's parking space and guided the unusually compliant man to his apartment. With his charge reclining on the couch, McGee checked the contents of the refrigerator before whipping up a light omelette for dinner.

Placing both plates on the coffee table in the living room, he nudged Tony awake and directed him to try to eat something, watching surreptitiously to ensure he did. The glazed eyes and slightly uncoordinated movements told McGee that Tony was still feeling the residual affects of his meds, however, Ducky's lemon and honey tea had worked a treat and allowed Tony to speak without sounding like Alvin, Simon and Theodore's long lost cousin.

Unable to suppress the combination of concern and anger any longer, McGee addressed his partner.

"What the hell happened in the park this afternoon?" he said, genuine concern warring with an anger that he didn't quite understand. "Didn't you hear everyone calling? If Ziva hadn't risked herself you could have been killed! What's the matter with you lately?"

Tony sighed loudly and McGee recognised a rare vulnerability in the other man's expression.

"I really don't know, man," Tony answered. "Somewhere in the fifth season I seemed to misplace my gonads."

"Really?" Surprise supplanted anger and McGee's eyes widened.

"Really," Tony nodded despondently. "They were there in all their glory during Angel of Death and Bury Your Dead but by season seven, I was acting like the village idiot and needing Ziva to fight my battles for me."

"Well, gonads don't just disappear," McGee reasoned. "Maybe we can figure out what happened. They were there for Requiem, right?"

"Damn straight they were...I had cojones of steel in that episode. Hey! You think... you think that's what happened? I mean, that water was damn cold...coulda caused some major shrinkage problems."

"Maybe...you had them in when you went to Baghdad in In the Zone and you had them in Internal Affairs when you ended it with Jeanne," McGee recalled, noting Tony's grimace at the still painful memory.

"There's no rhyme or reason, McGoo!" Tony said, the desperation straining his already raspy voice. "My gonads seem to come and go as they please, it's like they have a mind of their own!"

"That's not possible, Tony. Despite what some women say, there's no medical evidence to support the claim that men think with their genitalia…even you," McGee said calmly as a small grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. "Okay…let's see, you definitely had them when you took on Rivkin in Semper Fidelis and in that terrorist camp in Truth or Consequences."

"The hairy buckeyes were the size of grapefruits in those episodes, Probie," Tony stated proudly. "What about Judgement Day...I couldn't wait to distance myself from the director while Ziva wanted to continue our protection detail."

"Wait…are you thinking what I'm thinking, Tony?"

"That depends…are you wondering how sumo wrestlers tuck their testicles back into the bodies?"

"What? No!"

"Then, I'm not thinking what you're thinking, Probie."

McGee rolled his eyes and explained. "I'm thinking that maybe this isn't just about you. Maybe we should also be looking at how Ziva's been acting lately. Are you with me?"

The senior field agent smiled fleetingly and opened his mouth as if to agree, but then his eyes clouded with confusion. "No, Probie…I don't think I am."

"Think about it Tony...standing in front of a moving semi-trailer in Jack Knife, firing two guns simultaneously to kill those would-be assassins in Dead Reckoning while you cowered in the bathroom. Kimbo-slicing her way through a room full of armed Marines in Cloak."

Tony nodded as the pieces began to fall into place.

"That's right!" he said, pausing as he broke into a harsh coughing fit. "Let's not forget her coming to my defence in Jet Lag when that mean flight attendant lady pushed me over or when she took on a bar room full of red necks in Faith. Why didn't I see this before? It all makes sense now, McGee...Ziva's got my gonads!"

McGee stared at Tony in amazement. The bloom of fever was high on his cheeks and confusion and betrayal showed in his fever-bright eyes. 'Okay,' McGee thought. 'Not firing on all cylinders, here.'

"Tony…that's not exactly where I was heading," McGee stated firmly. "I think you may be suffering from a case of intermittent cremasteric reflex."

"Cremasteric reflex? Sounds like a good name for a movie…like The China Syndrome… Jack Lemmon was great in that by the way."

"The cremasteric reflex is the name given to the reaction of human males under certain stimuli, such as a cold shower or a gentle stroking on the inside of the upper thigh. The "cremasteric reflex" takes over and the testes are partially retracted into the body."

"Well, that would explain why sometimes I'm Clint Eastwood and sometimes I'm Carson Kressley," Tony replied.

"Actually, I've heard that male kangaroos suck their testicles into their abdomen before battle."

Tony unconsciously crossed his legs and winced.

"Not a bad idea, Probie, cause a kick in the nuts by a kangaroo would certainly bring tears to your eyes," Tony answered earnestly. "So…you're sure that Ziva hasn't got my gonads?"

"Yes, Tony, I'm sure she hasn't got them," McGee affirmed, standing to clear the plates from the table and ruthlessly forbidding a smile to come to his face. "Take your night meds and get some rest…I'll call you tomorrow."

After seeing McGee to the door, Tony took his meds and prepared for bed. His headache pounded mercilessly and his throat was scratchy and inflamed. His muscles had tightened painfully, his joints ached and fever heated his body to an almost unbearable temperature.

He released a long calming breath as he climbed into bed, kicking off the blankets that trapped his stifling body heat. He was restless and agitated and as he prayed for sleep to claim him, his discussion with McGee kept replaying through his fevered mind.

"Cremasteric reflex…Ziva's got my gonads….cremasteric reflex…Ziva's got my gonads…."

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A humourless laugh erupted from Tony's throat as he hopelessly assessed his latest predicament. He had never thought of himself as claustrophobic but the more time that passed, the more the smooth walls of the small prison seemed to close in on him. How long had he been here anyway, ten hours, ten days, ten months?

He swallowed harshly to suppress his nauseating fear while desperately trying to control his rising panic. He tried to calm himself with the thought that his team would be looking for him…but would they be too late? Could he hold out that long?

Despite his attempts to calm himself, he felt the terror of his hopeless situation assail him. His skin was cold and clammy and his chest hitched painfully with each rapid and shallow breath. He began to feel light-headed and the tingling sensation in his fingers ignited a new feeling of dread not felt since he had the plague.

All rational thought fled from his mind as darkness encroached the edges of his vision and spots danced tauntingly before his eyes. His knees buckled and his shoulder made painful contact with the wall before he felt his body slide to the floor.

Through the thick red haze that engulfed him, a voice called out to him. At first he dismissed it as a figment of his beleaguered mind…then he heard it again. Someone was calling to him…Ziva…Ziva had found him!

Drawing on the last of his energy reserves, he choked out her name in a hybrid sob, unable to prevent hot tears of relief falling freely down his cheeks as he heard his partner working the lock on the door.

"I am here, Tony!" she assured him. "Move away from the door. I will have you out in no time."

Tony heard a soft flick from outside and through tear-filled eyes, he watched as the blade of her knife appeared through the crack in the door and disengaged the lock, releasing him from his forced confinement.

The cubicle door swung open and in a flash she was at his side. She assisted him to his feet and when his knees gave way again, she guided him to sit on the toilet. She gently wiped the tears from his cheeks with toilet paper from the roll, holding a wad to his nose and instructing him to blow. She felt the tremors still coursing through his body as she removed her cell and called for medical assistance.

He leant into her warm embrace trying to draw strength from her. Their eyes met and the gaze lingered longer and deeper than was acceptable between partners. Then, having met their contractual obligations to send the TIVA's into delirium and the forums into meltdown, they slowly parted and the moment was gone.

The next few moments passed in a blur as Tony was wrapped in a warm blanket and assisted back to his desk where a hot beverage was waiting. He sat quietly as Ducky methodically checked him for injury and took his blood pressure. As word spread throughout the building, he was only vaguely aware of the large number of concerned colleagues, eager to wish him well and to shake Ziva's hand for a job well done.

"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs!"

The crowd parted as the sound of platform boots pounded into the bullpen and came to an abrupt stop at Gibbs' side.

"I just heard. How is he?" Abby asked, watching as Ducky continued his examination.

"He's fine, Abs, just had a nasty scare," the lead agent advised. "Could have been a lot worse if it wasn't for Ziva."

"How long was he in there?"

"As far as we can figure…three, maybe four minutes."

Abby paled. "Oh my poor baby! He must have been terrified."

Pushing her way through the crush of people wanting to shake Ziva's hand, Abby found her friend and wrapped her in a fierce embrace.

"Thank you, Ziva, thank you for saving Tony," she said, her gratitude almost overwhelming her. "And thank God for your unique and mildly disturbing fascination with the men's room."

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Gibbs rushed down the hospital corridor toward the nurse's station, looking decidedly harried and concerned. He veered sharply to the left when he saw his old friend and NCIS medical examiner, Dr Donald Mallard exit a private room.

"How is he Ducky?"

"He's going to be fine Jethro but it was a close call, very close indeed," he replied with a frown and a shake of his head. "I can't bear to think what might have happened had Ziva not arrived when she did and neutralised the situation."

"Damn it!" Gibbs cursed, pounding his fist into the wall. "This one's on me Duck. I should have known better than to send him in alone."

"It serves no purpose for you to blame yourself, my friend. No one could have foreseen Anthony walking into such unexpected danger."

"Ziva did. She disregarded my orders and risked her own safety, knowing that someone needed to have Tony's back," Gibbs replied, his admiration for his probational agent warring with his anger. "When I sent Tony to pick up the suspects daughter from day care, I didn't expect there to be any trouble. Did he tell you what happened?"

Ducky nodded his head slowly, removed his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes.

"It was an ambush. Anthony wasn't expecting it and he was greatly outnumbered. They surrounded him and their attack was swift and extremely vicious. He's resting now, they've given him a light sedative and Ziva is with him. You might want to give them a minute, when I left they were gazing intently into each other's eyes."

"What?"

"Don't worry, Jethro, as always, there's not enough heat to make you think they would break your rule number 12 but just enough to whet the appetites of the TIVA fans."

"What about injuries?"

"Ziva came through this ordeal without messing a hair," Ducky huffed out a laugh.

"Wouldn't expect anything else," Gibbs said. "I was talking about DiNozzo."

"It's not pretty I'm afraid…shock, massive bruising to both shins indicating he was repeatedly kicked, his hair was pulled and dishevelled, he has numerous bite marks on his forearms."

"God…" Gibbs whispered.

"That's not the worst of it, I'm afraid, there is evidence to suggest Anthony suffered repeated chinese burns and doctors had to remove…"

The elderly doctor closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath.

"Ducky?" Gibbs said fearfully.

"I'm sorry, Jethro...give me a minute." Regaining his composure Ducky continued with barely restrained disgust. "The doctors had to remove chewing gum from his hair…"

"I've been his partner for 10 years, I should have known he couldn't handle something this big by himself."

"Don't blame yourself Jethro, let's just be glad that Ziva had the amazing foresight and training to get young Anthony out of there. I would hate to think what might have happened had she not arrived when she did."

"God, Duck, how did I keep him alive before Ziva joined us?"

"I don't have the answer to that, my friend, let's just be glad she's here."

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Everything had gone to hell in a hand basket. The intel they'd received from Homeland Security placed the location of the terrorist cell, nearly 100 miles from this location.

Director Vance and SecNav had organised with the commander of the USMC Special Ops, Camp Lejeune to "light up" the terrorist cell with an amazing show of Marine firepower while the MCRT split up to check out several abandoned hideouts looking for any evidence inadvertently left behind.

So how was it, that Tony, armed with only his Sig Sauer and two spare clips, managed to walk onto a small farmland property and attract the attention of thirty terrorists armed to the hilt with more RPG's, automatic weapons, mortars and C-4 than Tony had ever seen in one place?

Hunkered down behind the tentative cover provided by some large trees, he frantically called for help while picking off the odd terrorist who was brave or foolish enough to try to take his position.

"I say again, Boss, terrorist cell is at my location. I am heavily outmanned and outgunned. Need immediate back-up."

"Tony, Special Ops are a hundred miles away," Gibbs told him. "Get the hell outta there!"

"Not gonna happen!" Tony replied. "I'm pinned down and these guys aren't going anywhere until I run out of ammo which, at this rate, will be in about ten minutes."

Another three terrorists made the suicidal charge toward Tony's position. He knew they were trying to draw him into exhausting his ammo but he had little choice. Waiting until the last possible moment, Tony fired a rapid salvo and watched as the terrorists fell lifelessly to the ground. Breathing heavily, he yelled into his cell phone.

"Boss, I need an ETA on the back-up."

"McGee and I will be at your position in fifteen minutes," Gibbs told him. "Special Ops are on their way back. ETA forty minutes."

"This will be over in ten – these guys are already starting to bug-out and they'll take their firepower with them. National security is at stake here, Boss!" Tony replied, desperately trying to keep the fear from his voice.

Another three terrorists rushed Tony's position and another salvo put paid to his supply of ammunition.

"I'm outta ammo."

"This isn't over yet, Tony, helps coming."

"You contacted the Seals? The SWAT Team?"

"Nope, even better - Ziva's on her way in a Navy SeaHawk. She's two minutes out."

Tony looked around the heavily wooded area. "There's nowhere for the chopper to land!"

"Won't be a problem for Ziva," Gibbs said in awe.

"Of course," Tony said, slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand. "What was I thinking? But isn't something like this under-utilising her amazing capabilities?"

"Well, yeah," Gibbs said in a tone that added 'you idiot.' "Don't question it Tony, let her save your ass again and just thank God she's on our side."

"I do, Boss, I really do!"

Tony gasped as another six terrorist left the cover of the building to charge his position.

"This is it, Boss, time's up," he said and flipped the cell closed so that Gibbs would not hear him die. Breathing deeply, he tried to calm himself, refusing to die a coward.

As the terrorists neared his position, they came to an abrupt stop, looking skyward as the Navy Seahawk hovered above. Ziva descended rapidly, holding the cable from the chopper in one hand and an M249 light machine gun in the other and with two ammo belts slung over her shoulders and crossed over her chest.

The six men stood, their mouths agape at the sight. Ziva took advantage of their momentary stupor to fire a burst from the machine gun, cutting them down. Letting go of the cable, she dropped the last twenty feet and performed a perfect commando roll before regaining her feet and running to Tony's side.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I think so," he replied around the lump in his throat. "Just a little scared."

"Do not worry, I am here now," she said cupping her hand to his cheek. "Stay here and rest, I will be back soon."

And with that, she was gone. Sprinting at a crouch, she made her way to the edge of the woods and called for the terrorists to throw out their weapons or die. The terrorists made no move to surrender and Ziva hoisted the machine gun and set her shoulders as she fearlessly entered the farmhouse firing from the hip – into the fray of bullets, danger and death.

The sound of running footsteps from behind, startled Tony and he spun in that direction with no time to find cover. He breathed a sigh of relief as Gibbs and McGee came into view.

"You okay?" Gibbs asked.

"Fine, Boss, but Ziva just ran into the farmhouse with the terrorists."

"Why didn't you stop her?" the lead agent snapped.

"It's Ziva!"

"Good point."

Silence descended and the three men squinted through the cloud of gunpowder in the direction of the farmhouse. A smile blossomed on all three faces as Ziva appeared from the smoky haze, tucking a loose strand of hair back into her perfect braid.

"Nice of you to join us," she said with a grin. "The terrorists are all dead, I have secured their weapons stockpile, decoded their plans to attack two major US tourist attractions, defused a ticking bomb, oiled a squeaking door hinge, changed a light bulb, fed the cat, made the beds and started dinner."

"Good job, Ziva," Gibbs said, shaking his head in admiration. "Let's take a look."

He set off toward the farmhouse to inspect the damage.

Tony took Ziva in his arms and held her tightly for a moment. Their eyes connected on a deep level. His green eyes intense and assessing with a hint of apprehension - her brown eyes libidinous, passionate and oh so dangerous.

"You feel it too," she smiled covetously as she saw a small tremor run through his body.

"Feel what?" he asked.

"Our unrequited sexual tension."

"Is that what that was? God, I'm sorry, Ziva, I thought you were going for..."

"Amorous? Erotic? Sexy?" Ziva offered.

"I was gonna say downright scary but…okay."

"Are you two coming with us or do you wanna get a room?" McGee asked his teammates.

"Keep your panties on, McGoo, you know that at least once per episode we have to stare at each other with undisguised lust and undress each other with our eyes to send the TIVA's into a frenzy," Tony replied.

"Sorry guys, I forgot. Well hurry up and get it over with, we've got work to do," McGee groused. "Oh and Ziva, don't forget to tell Tony that he's jealous – you haven't said that for a while and you must be due."

McGee gave a small shrug of his shoulders and followed Gibbs to the warehouse.

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The excitement was palpable as the men and women of NCIS filled the small auditorium to witness the award ceremony convened for one of their own. Director Vance made his way to the podium, clearing his throat before speaking into the microphone.

"Ziva David, for gallantry way, way, way above the call of duty and beyond reasonable credibility, you have been awarded this agency's most prestigious award - the Shane Brennan Medal of Honour. In addition, it is my great privilege to declare this day to be national Ziva David day! We salute you."

As the beautiful Israeli stepped up to receive her medal, the rapturous applause of her colleagues was almost deafening. Tony found himself admiring the soft fall of her dark hair and her flattering, tailor made pantsuit that accentuated her figure in all the right places…all the right places except one! His jaw dropped as he recognised the manly bulge in Ziva's pants. It was true…she had his gonads!

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"Noooo!" Tony yelled, sitting up quickly then falling back onto the pillows when he recognised his darkened bedroom. His chest heaved and the linen on his bed was twisted and drenched in sweat. As his breathing returned to normal, he found he lacked the energy to get up and take a shower and as sleep reached out to reclaim him, he made a vow to get his gonads back before the end of the season.

The End

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Here's hoping! Thanks for reading, L