It's been a long while. Apologies everyone who's been waiting on this! The story will be slow going here; work is quite crazy at the moment. That said, this story isn't on hiatus, or forgotten. I'm just chasing down my muse, and needing more hours in a day to get everything done.
Ziva had escorted Trina to a local hotel, and given her the number to her personal cell. "If you have any problems in the night, or become concerned about anything, please call me," she'd told Trina, several hours after getting her settled into her room. Tony had told her it was her call if Trina needed a watch, and Ziva had decided that agents would make Trina feel more nervous than safe. They had no threats on her, and Trina had checked in under NCIS's auspices, not under her own name. Instead, Ziva had helped Trina order dinner, and offered advice on the movies the hotel offered. She smiled to herself as she shut the door to Trina's hotel room. She'd asked for "a movie that won't make me cry," looking more than a little shaky. Ziva had been able to help her select a movie, but she also had offered some comfort, which before Tony had gotten his paws into her, she would not have been able to do. Tony's frustrating insistence that she not only deal with victims but also take a few FLETC advanced courses had paid off, and Ziva knew it.
Ziva made it to her car before she remembered that they hadn't ever asked Tony for dinner. Knowing their schedule, if she didn't do it tonight, she might not get a chance until after Wednesday. She sat in her car in the hotel parking lot for several minutes, debating with herself before she finally decided that going to Tony's was the right thing to do, instead of just calling.
She arrived at Tony's apartment in time watch a light flicker on in Tony's kitchen. Ziva got out of her car to head up, since someone was clearly awake, but then she noticed a familiar truck parked in front of McGee's sedan, and Ziva wondered if she would be needed for damage control. She was still hesitating, door open and hand resting on top, when the door to Tony's apartment complex swung open and slammed shut. Gibbs stomped – is stomped the right word? I thought stomped was for small children. – out, and into his truck. Ziva waited for the engine to roar to life, but it – and Gibbs – sat quietly.
She closed the door to her mini quietly, and started across, but before she had reached the truck, the engine roared, and Gibbs tore out of the neighborhood. Ziva shrugged to herself, and turned back to her car. Although she had much making up to do with Tony, it was McGee's turn to do so tonight.
Ziva entered the bullpen the next morning with breakfast for the team. McGee looked harried, and more worried than he had the night before, and an empty coffee cup told the story of a long morning after a longer night. Lee looked nervous about something – is she ever not nervous? – and was clearly keeping her head down. Tony was meditating, an unfamiliar case file open in front of him. A cold mug of tea suggested that he'd been in the office at least as long as McGee. When she'd joined the team, Ziva thought that meditating was just code for napping, but she'd learned by now that really what it meant was Tony was taking the information, and letting it shift into place, making the unbelievable rapid-fire connections he was known for. She set her bag down, and pulled her chair into the center of the desks.
"Campfire?" she asked, and watched Lee's head jerk up in surprise.
McGee made an unintelligible noise, and picked up the coffee cup, only to look at it with some confusion when it was cold and empty. He nodded once, and swung his chair around the desk as well.
"Good morning, Ziva," Tony said placidly, eyes still closed. "I thought you didn't like campfires?"
Ziva flushed. "Well. They can be silly. But I think this one is important."
Tony opened his eyes. "Yes?"
"I brought breakfast. And if you don't come eat it in the campfire, I will find a way to use your breakfast against you." It was a weak threat, but something about the way McGee was watching Tony (as covertly as he could; Ziva resolved to give him lessons) made her nervous. She was not going to make the mistake she had made far too often of trying to make a joke and striking – she blinked once in frustration. These stupid American-isms. I will never get them straight. "Michelle," she asked slowly, "when you say something as a joke, but it hurts someone instead, you say it strikes what?"
Michelle, carefully pulling her chair around the desks, looked up. Ziva winced at the surprise on her face – and was glad she'd resolved the day before to be a little nicer. "Um. Agent David. You can say 'strikes home' or 'strikes bone'. Sometimes people say 'strikes the heart'." She looked hopeful, as though somehow Ziva would know if had it right.
"Thank you," Ziva said, before slapping at Tony's hand. "That one is for McGee. Yours is over there," pointing at the tin-foil bundle.
McGee picked his bundle up, opened it, and looked up in surprise. "Ziva," he said, "this has ham on it. You keep kosher."
She shrugged, and didn't answer, pulling a thermos of coffee out instead, and handing it around. McGee leaned back to pick up his coffee mug as Tony took a bite of his meal. Michelle was carefully unwrapping hers, looking gratified that Ziva had noticed her breakfast preferences.
"Thank you Ziva," Tony mumbled around a mouthful. "This is really good." He paused for a moment while he chewed. "I don't need to worry about hiding a body, right?"
Ziva smirked, and pulled out one of her knives to clean it, studiously not meeting anyone's eyes.
"If this is what we get to persuade us to hide the body," McGee said, "please, Ziva, more bodies."
Michelle choked, coughed, and started to laugh. Tony's grin slid back into place. Ziva felt some of the tension leave her.
"We can talk about the case while we eat, yes?" she asked.
"Yeah. Ziva, report," Tony said, reaching back for a pen and notepad.
She took a bite of her muffin, and swallowed. "Trina helped Adam Peters disappear. She used her college savings to buy him a new identity."
McGee chimed in. "Whoever she paid, they did a really good job. It's about on par with what Abby and I would do to create an undercover persona. Looking at Peters and Simons side by side, there are similarities, but the Simons cover was thorough."
Ziva nodded. "They'd planned it together. She says that no one in their right mind would have sent a kid back into that house, and she and Adam were sure that someone was being bribed."
"The Detroit PD detective I spoke to said he remembered that case," Michelle said. "He didn't say it outright, but I got the feeling he hadn't looked too hard at Trina's alibi. He was also the officer who picked Adam up the night he ended up in foster care."
"So Peters became Simons. They got married within a year, and he joined the marines not long after that. He had some friends; no one too close, but no one actively disliked him, according to Trina. He was working on a project this weekend. Left the house Friday morning, and told Trina he'd be back Monday morning, spending the night off-base in a hotel on the way home Sunday. He spoke to Trina Saturday night. He told Trina he thought someone was watching him, but he hadn't seen anyone. He choked it up to stress – the project wasn't confidential, but it was important, and it had to be finished by the end of the weekend," Ziva recited, calling up the image of Trina sitting across from her in the conference room.
"Chalked it up to stress, Ziva," said Tony absentmindedly. "McGee and I talked to his CO yesterday – Jeff Thomas. He was pretty shocked by the whole thing."
McGee nodded. "Commander Thomas was sure that it wasn't about the project, but he's going to send us a list of the people working on it anyway. He did say that Tom seemed distracted, and he'd pulled him aside to ask him about it. He didn't really get anything out of him, but suggested we try asking Petty Officer Landish, who Commander Thomas thinks was his closest friend on the project."
"We should choose a name," Michelle suggested, and looked a bit surprised at herself. "We're going to get turned around if we use Adam and Peters and Tom and Simons. We should choose one and stick with it."
"I vote Tom or Simons," said Ziva. "They are the names he chose, yes? That is who he was."
McGee and Tony nodded. "I've got the preliminary report from Ducky," Tony said. "Cause of death was gunshot wound to the chest. TOD was between midnight and two am Monday. Abrasions on the wrists consistent with being bound tightly. Bruising on the temple, and torso. Extensive ligament damage to right knee, probable cause blunt force trauma. Abby is running a tox screen – his basic blood-work came up empty, and the bullet. Old scarring across back and chest, consistent with child abuse." Tony grimaced. "McGee, run his credit card. We need to know what hotel he was at, and we need security tapes. Ziva, you and Michelle should go pick Trina up and bring her here. I'd like to interview her again."
"And you?" McGee asked.
"I've got a meeting with the Director," Tony answered.
Ziva watched McGee and Tony have a silent conversation. She and Lee exchanged a glance. Lee shrugged, I don't know.
"It's fine, McGee," Tony snapped, finally. McGee looked skeptical, but nodded.
Ziva grabbed her gear, and nodded at Michelle. "We should be back in an hour. We'll call if it will be longer."
As she and Michelle entered the elevator, an unfamiliar agent stepped out. Ziva held the door, and watched as she headed straight for Tony. McGee smiled at her. "Cassie! How are you?"
Cassie smiled at McGee briefly. "Fine, Tim," she said, turning to Tony. "How are you?"
"Fine, Cassie," he said, voice demanding she drop it – though Ziva did not know what it was.
"Look, Tony," Cassie said, and then her voice dropped again, and Ziva couldn't hear what she was saying. She watched McGee's face instead. He had his "I've just caught the coding error" face on as he watched Cassie and Tony talk.
Lee tapped Ziva. "I think McGee's got it," she said. "Let's go."
Ziva looked at the trio one more time, and then nodded. "Yes. And then we will bring Trina back here, and I will make McGee answer our questions."