Diorama: To the Popemobile!

Sparta: Kill Screen. But only for a few seconds.

Splinter: Three hours in a tiny little enclosed space, huh? No, it doesn't call for a sexy party.


Two minutes, fifty-eight seconds

Tony had stopped trying to predict the angle of Ziva's assaults on the partition and simply let her bump into him each time she backed up to gain momentum. Although she probably had some excuse about how her sensible, low-heeled boots were more convenient for everyday wear, he had often regretted that she didn't have a wider selection from the stiletto family of boots and shoes – what they lacked in door-kicking practicality, they certainly made up for in sexy… He grabbed her shoulder as she backed into him once again. "Hey, Chuck Norris! Stop kicking for a second! I think I heard something!"

"Gunshots." She sounded unimpressed as she went for another pointless assault on the steel; her foot was going to be sore in the morning.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." He shined his flashlight into her eyes, but it just resulted in her heel hitting the false wall covering the steel door. "And we're not worried about this because…?"

"Computers, Tony. How was Gibbs most likely planning to stop them?"

"What if it was another booby trap?"

She frowned and said, "McGee, is Gibbs all right?"

Tony felt a little foolish for not figuring out that he'd heard the shots so clearly because they were all communicating on the same frequency. Or that they could just ask Gibbs how…After a crackle in his ear, he heard the boss himself say, "I'm fine. Took care of the problem. You two sit tight, I'm headed back to you."

"Told you." Even with his flashlight pointed down, he could tell Ziva was smirking.

For once, he had the perfect way to wipe it off her face. "At least you haven't tried that on our little problem. Hey, remember the last time you tried to shoot our way out of a metal box?"

She abruptly stopped trying to beat the door into submission. "Perhaps if we had something to pry with."

"Oh, yeah, let me just pull the crowbar out of my pants…"

"Don't you dare!"

"I was kidding. Though I am flattered you'd compare me to…ow!" He was suddenly very thankful the heel crushing his toes was not a stiletto.

Fifteen minutes, seventeen seconds

"How long do we have to sit in here?"

"Well, you're not sitting and Gibbs said we won't know until the fire department gets here. So I suggest you get comfortable."

Ziva scowled, but slid down the nearest wall until she was sitting on the floor across from Tony. She didn't believe for a second that 'random interference' had resulted in McGee cutting off their earwigs, but she could understand why he'd done it. There were several things she wanted to cut off at the moment, all of them on Tony. Of course, if she did start slicing in a moment of weakness, she would just have to listen to his moaning until someone managed to get them out of this tiny. Little. Room.

No, that was just the situation talking. She didn't really want to cut off any of Tony's appendages. Not really.

"And how long until the fire department arrives?"

"I dunno. Depends on if they have any actual fires to fight. We're not exactly a priority, so it could be awhile, especially since we've got plenty of oxygen and, uh, air flow and everything in here. Who puts in a vent in their funhouse trap?"

"One who does not wish to be charged with murder, perhaps?"

"Too bad he didn't include a minifridge. I could go for a soda or something." He tapped his foot against hers. "Good thing you used the men's room before we left."

She pulled her legs in and crossed them. This room was really too small for two people. "Did you?"

"Maybe it's good I don't have a soda. Of course, then I'd have a bottle, so…"

She realized that would really make the room feel small. "Don't make me stab you."

Forty-eight minutes, twenty-three seconds

Tony leaned forward toward his feet, trying to stretch out his back. Sitting on the floor was really not the best thing for it. He decided to try some more extreme measures to get comfortable.

"What are you doing?"

"Lying down. I had a long workout yesterday and I'm sore."

"Liar."

"Well…" It hadn't really been a long workout, more of a vigorous if compressed session. "I'm sore, anyway."

"You should do more cardio. Weightlifting will only get you so far."

He folded his hands behind his head. "I'm not going running with you."

"I was not making that offer. I was merely suggesting that dedicate a little more time to the treadmill."

After a moment's thought, he asked, "Wait, are you saying that you don't think I could keep up with you?"

"I did not say that. Although it is true that you could not."

"Hey, I have no problems running. Bet I could whip your ass in a race." He regretted the words the moment they came out of his mouth. "Not a long race…like, maybe fifty yards or so. I'm willing to concede the longer distances, though I think I could still keep up to a point that was respectable…"

"Fine. Meet me tomorrow at five outside my apartment."

"Uh…tomorrow?"

"Do you have other plans for tomorrow morning?"

"No, it's just that…we don't know how long we're gonna be in here and, uh, I may still be a little sore. Also, that's kinda early for me." He shifted uncomfortably on the floor. "So…"

"That is what I thought."

"Hey I…I can bench press more than you."

She patted his chest. "Of course you can."

He dropped the subject rather than trying to interpret her tone. "If you wanted to go for pancakes at six, I'd be awake for that…"

One hour, three minutes, fifty-four seconds

"Nutella is delicious."

"Hazelnuts? Blegh. I don't like them in coffee. Why would I want them in a…what is it, exactly?"

"It is a spread. And it tastes like chocolate."

"Really? Then why do they make such a big deal about the hazelnuts?"

"I suppose it is a marketing strategy."

"Nah, if you wanna sell something in this country, you hype the chocolate. Hey, if this stuff is as good as you say it is, do you think it would be good with Fluff?"

"Fluff?"

"Y'know, marshmallow goo that most people put in sandwiches with peanut butter? Oh, peanut butter, Fluff and this chocolate stuff. Man, I'm getting hungry."

"This Fluff sounds disgusting."

"Nobody's gonna take you seriously as an American if you don't like Fluff but you eat Nutella."

One hour, twenty-two minutes, twenty-six seconds

Ziva had stopped checking her watch after the first hour. Her internal clock had been in utter denial of the actual time. She felt as if they had been waiting at least six hours for the fire department. Her breathing was getting shallower. "When will they be here?"

"Whenever they get here. Pacing won't speed them up, I promise." How could Tony be so relaxed? He had taken off his NCIS windbreaker to use as a pillow! That was actually a good idea; it was awfully hot in here. As she stripped off her windbreaker, he said, "Why don't you sit back down? You were fine up to a few minutes ago. Just relax and we'll get back to condiments. I still don't understand the whole Vegemite thing."

He jumped as she slammed her fist into steel door separating them from freedom. The blow sent vibrations all the way up her arm. "I do not like just…sitting."

His voice was quieter when he asked, "Are you feeling okay?"

"I am fine." She held up a hand to block the glare of the light he shined in her face. "Stop that."

He was now sitting up, looking at her carefully. "You look a little pale."

"I am not claustrophobic."

"I didn't say you were." The light was finally lowered and he let it rest against his thigh, illuminating his shoes. "I just thought maybe you were coming down with something."

"Oh. I am not. It is probably just the light."

After an extended silence in which she concentrated on a worn spot on the sole of his shoe, he said gently, "Sit back down. Relax. I'm sure you'd be happy to hear my Oscar picks, right?" He propped his flashlight against his leg, creating a cone of light up from the floor.

"Tony…" She took a few deep breaths to convince herself that the air was not getting thicker. "I will be fine in a minute or so."

"Is this something to do with…"

"It was a small cell, yes. Even so, I do not normally lose control."

"You seem pretty in-control to me. C'mon, have a seat."

Suddenly, unexpectedly, her chest began to unclench as she sat beside him, her shoulder in contact with his. "Perhaps you could talk. Just for a bit."

"If you wanna talk…"

"I think I would prefer to listen."

His stare was threatening to make breathing harder again when he said, "Now that they've gone to this new nominated every movie system for Best Picture, it's a little tougher to handicap the Oscars, but…"

She settled down quickly as her breathing came back under her control, not that she would admit that Tony's enthusiasm about movies had anything to do with it. Not out loud, anyway.

One hour, thirty-eight minutes, seven seconds

"C'mon, it's basketball season! Who do you like in the NBA?"

"I really do not…"

"If you're gonna be a real American, you have to start picking some favorite sports teams. I'm willing to share my Buckeyes, so you're covered for all things college, but you've got to start developing some allegiances! You can either go hometown or champion, so…"

"Fine. I like the Kings."

"Okay, the fact that you named an actual professional basketball team aside, I don't think you're getting it. You're not from Sacramento, and the Kings suck."

"Omri Casspi is Israeli."

"And that's your whole basis for…okay. Fair enough. Just tell me you're not wearing his jersey or something. I can't be seen with people in purple, unless it's at a Ravens game."

"Who are the Ravens?"

"Slow down there. We've gotta get you through the NCAA tourney and baseball season before we even start thinking about the NFL. I can't believe they don't go over this on the citizenship test! Don't even get me started on how you'll feel if your favorite guy gets traded!"

One hour, fifty-four minutes, twenty seconds

Tony was running out of small talk. He'd covered movies, sports, food, hell, they'd even obliquely touched on Somalia. He could always go back to movies, but he did want to live through this experience. There was only one topic that was getting more conspicuous as they avoided discussing it. He was careful not to look directly at Ziva as he asked, "So…think Ray will be concerned if you get out of here too late to call?"

She stiffened. "We do not speak every day."

"Oh. Well, it's probably, uh, too early in the relationship…"

"We are not sleeping together."

"Uh…" Tony froze. Ziva didn't just go around sharing information like that. He tried to do some quick mental math, but every sum was compounded by ski trips. "Not to be crude, but…why the hell not?"

She quirked an eyebrow. "Because we are just friends."

"That's…nice."

"Besides, I am not his type."

"I…how is that even possible?" This was way too much information. And freely volunteered! Something was wrong. He laughed. "I get it. You don't have to tell me anything real, that's fine. You almost had me for a second there. Taking you on ski vacations because you're not his type…heh."

"If you do not want to take my word that we are just friends, that is your choice."

"Men and women can't just be friends. Didn't you see When Harry Met Sally?"

"Not recently. Was any exception made for women and gay men?"

He laughed again, feeling an odd sensation in his stomach – disbelief? Relief? Gas? "Are you just yanking my chain?"

"Maybe."

"Okay, you can't just tell me things and then not tell me things. Or tease me by pretending to tell me things."

"Why not?"

"Because…okay, just for that, I'm reenacting the diner scene. And you can't have what I'm having."

Two hours, seven minutes and twelve seconds

"Sorry! It's the pastrami I had for lunch!"

"That is vile!"

"Yeah, I'm sure yours smell like roses."

"Don't you have any self-control?"

"Says the woman who scarfed a whole cheesesteak, extra cheese, extra steak!"

"I am not the one polluting the air in a tiny cubicle that we cannot leave! And do you want to turn this back into a discussion of your physical fitness?"

"There's nothing wrong with my…whoa. Guess I was wrong when I said this room was well-ventilated."

"Oh…you…you…hold it in!"

"Oh, like you're gonna find one doctor who thinks that's the healthy thing to do!"

"Healthy means remaining un-stabbed, yes?"

"I'll, uh, make an effort to…"

"That is what you call effort?"

"Sorry! Please don't stab me!"

Two hours, twenty-nine minutes, forty-one seconds

"Gibbs!" Ziva banged on the door. "You cannot just leave us here!"

Tony was less urgent from the floor. "He said he'd be back. He's probably just going out to lead the firemen in."

"Finally!"

"What, you haven't enjoyed our time together? I mean, aside from my little intestinal episode."

"It has not ended yet."

"I haven't…"

"I meant we are still trapped in here."

"But there's light at the end of the tunnel."

"Tony…" She looked down and he gave her a dopey grin. "I suppose there are worse people to be stuck with."

"Quite the compliment." He slowly pushed himself to his feet and stretched his arms over his head. "For the record, you're not entirely awful to be confined in a tiny little space with. At least no one's shooting at us this time."

"True."

Ten minutes later, she was feeling less optimistic about the situation. "What are the jaws of life? Please tell me that there is not a shark involved!"

"It's a thing they use to extract people from smashed up cars. I think they're gonna go for it because they can't find the mechanism to raise the doors and anything involving a blowtorch is gonna result in a nice little spark shower for us."

"So we are not getting out yet?"

"Just give them a few more minutes."

Two hours, fifty-six minutes, fifty-eight seconds

"Was it raining when we went in?"

"No."

"Wanna grab some dinner?"

"Not particularly."

"You'd rather hang around and flirt with the firemen?"

"Tony, I just want to go home."

"Oh. Would you be ticked if I showed up with take-out and a DVD a little later?"

"That would be…nice."

"You two aren't sick of each other yet?" Gibbs asked as he walked up to where they were standing.

"Well…"