Congrats to me for taking over two months to update. I'm an asshole, I know. Sorry guys. Please find it in your heart to forgive me. Enjoy and umm, review please?

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:: Chapter 36 – Fingerprints, Part I ::

Gibbs didn't call, which was always something that scared me. I could never tell if him not calling us to ask where we were meant that his anger would catch up on us when we arrived at the office, or if he just didn't mind and made an effort to understand that sometimes things happened and we couldn't always be there on time.

Tony, Abby, and I got to work pretty late. For starters, we walked to work, and Abby insisted on getting McDonald's breakfast, so we stopped there and ate. But the majority of the time I was thinking about Gibbs and what he would say. I thought for sure that this time he was going to be fuming because McGee was in the freaking hospital and we should have been there, trying to find out who put him there, because everyone goes to the ends of the Earth to get me to believe it wasn't me who put him in the hospital.

So there Gibbs was when we got there, and Abby had long ditched us to go to her lab. He was sipping at his coffee, without a shadow of impatience driving him to so much as yell at us for being late. As if McGee wasn't in the hospital and we had to be doing everything we could to find this bastard – the one that apparently wasn't me.

"'Morning, boss," Tony said casually as he slipped into his desk and onto his chair as if the boss man would not notice us being late.

And Gibbs answered in a way to let us know we had been late – in case we'd already forgotten, "It's almost noon, DiNozzo."

"I… know."

Gibbs took another nonchalant sip of his coffee cup. "What took ya so long?"

Tony's gaze fell on me for a second, and I felt like he was asking me what he should say to him. "We walked to work."

There was a smirk, a small one. "Exercise. 'S good for the heart."

"Yeah… I love exercise."

"I can tell. The McDonald's bag you're holding is a good way to start on that habit."

Two sets of eyes landed on the bag around Tony's clenched fist. Was he trying to hide it? And did this mean we were in trouble? Because I still could not tell. That was the thing about Gibbs. When he didn't answer, one could never tell if that meant trouble, to which I, or anyone who's worked with him long enough, would say: good luck figuring it out. Silence could go one of two ways. The suspense came from awaiting which one.

"Uhh… Boss?"

"Yeah, DiNozzo?"

"Have you heard from McGee today?"

"Mmm-hmm."

Tony just shot this look at me, like he could not believe that Gibbs was not saying more than two words right now.

"And…?"

"He's going to be released from the hospital today."

"Boss–"

Gibbs looked up and made direct eye contact with Tony. "DiNozzo," he said, clearly irritated. "He's fine. He's going to be released soon. I'm gonna go with Abby to the hospital to pick him up."

Tony was about to say something, when I interrupted. "Speaking of Abby," I put in, "she just asked me if I can go down to her lab."

Gibbs's eyes shifted around the bullpen quickly, and then he fixated his gaze right at me. "Did she turn invisible to tell you that, David?"

Sarcasm. Like I could really use that right now.

I held up my phone for him to see, thinking it might help my lie. She never actually texted me, but I figured he was too busy being annoyed with Tony to notice what I was – or wasn't – doing. "She texted me."

"Fine," he muttered, waving me off. "Go."

I left the bullpen quickly, not even bothering to take the elevator down to her lab. When I got there, I was kind of relieved to see that she had her music on; granted, it was not as loud as she usually cranked it up, but it was still on. And she did not look too miserable either, which, really, made one of us.

"Hi, Ziva," she said. "What's up? Haven't seen you in forever."

Was it some sort of National Sarcasm Day or something? Because I was really not appreciating everyone's sarcasm today.

Nevertheless, I brushed it off and said, "I have to ask you something. And," I added, "if anyone asks, you called me down here, okay?"

"Ziva, what–"

I knew she was going to say something in protest. "Abby."

She nodded. "Okay. I called you in here. Now," she moved on, finally, "what did you want to ask me?"

I hesitated a little. "I need to ask you for a favor. And I would like to keep it on the download, too."

She stopped me and went to shut the door and lock it. Way to bring about some suspicion. "Down low," she said when she was done acting oh-so-natural.

"What?"

"Down low," she said again. "Not download. Keep it on the down low."

"Whatever. It's not top secret, what I'm about to ask you. But I don't really want everyone to hear about this."

"Is it bad? Illegal? You gonna ask me to hire a hitman for you?"

I almost rolled my eyes. "No." I reached into my coat and pulled out the camera. She seemed so terrified of the thing, as if I was about to pull out a gun and shoot her, or something like it. I almost thought she was going to back up into her computer dramatically, and in the same dramatic way, place a hand over her heart and gasp loudly. "I thought of something."

She eyed the yellow piece of plastic and asked, "What?"

"Fingerprints," I said. "Maybe there are another set of fingerprints here besides the obvious."

"The obvious?"

If I did not know any better, I would say she was almost shitting her pants. "Me. Tony. You. McGee. Gibbs. The obvious," I answered. "I wanted to give this to you to ask you if you could find other fingerprints on it. Maybe an unrecognizable name will come up and–"

"And it'll be the person who…"

"Yes. Maybe." I looked at her. "Can you do it?"

"Of course," she said. "This might take a while, though. Is that okay?"

"It's fine, Abby. Thank you." I handed her the camera, noticing that through the hesitance, she seemed like she was afraid to touch it. Maybe she thought that she would start to have my bad luck if she touched it or messed around with it.

I was almost completely out the door when she stopped me and said, "I'm hoping we'll catch this guy. Or woman. Whoever it is. I'll let you know whenever I have an answer."

I nodded a little. "Thank you, Abby."


Gibbs and Abby had already left to the hospital. It was about one-thirty in the afternoon, and it was pouring outside, with a little bit of thunder. Ducky and Palmer were probably in autopsy, and Tony and I were still in the bullpen, getting caught up (trying, really) with paperwork.

I retrieved a blank sheet of paper from the mess my desk was starting to become and folded it to make a paper airplane. I tossed it at Tony, but it flew above his head and crashed against the wall behind him. He looked up at me.

"Normally, I'd be throwing things at you, and you'd be doing work. Or pretending, at least," he said.

"I need to talk to you," I said.

"Okay. What's up?"

"Let's go somewhere else."

He looked around. "Where?"

Without seeming like I needed to think about it for a moment, I said, "Observation."

"Observation? Is it empty?"

I could only hope it was. We had more chances of getting walked in on in the bathroom or the break room than in observation. "Let's check."

I stood up first, and he followed behind as we made our way down to the hall where the observation room was. I felt like I was a high school kid, sneaking out of class to be somewhere private with her boyfriend. We checked the room once we got there, and I was relieved to see that it was empty. I sat down on the floor right against the wall underneath the window to Interrogation, and Tony sat down beside me.

"So what's up?" he asked me.

"I asked Abby to do me a favor," I started to say. "It's not a top secret thing, but I do not exactly want this to spread like wildfire either."

"Okay. What did you ask her?"

For some reason, I was finding it hard to say. It was like I found it so embarrassing and a little intimidating to have to say what could potentially bring an end to everything (and, well, when I thought of it like that, it made me feel stupid for feeling hesitant to say it). But Tony, as always, could sense my hesitation and asked me if everything was okay. If he felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest, he was doing a really good job at not letting it show.

"I asked her to scan the camera for fingerprints." Was it just me or did he just look more relaxed… and confused?

I didn't think he was expecting to hear that. "Fingerprints?"

What was honestly so hard to understand about that? Scanning it for fingerprints that weren't ours; I'd expect anyone to understand that right away.

"You know," I explained, "fingerprints that are not mine or yours."

"Unfamiliar fingerprints." It sounded more of a statement than a question.

"Yes."

He took a deep breath – as if this was stressing him out as much as it was stressing me out – and said, "Well, okay. Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens."

I knew what was going to happen. Anyone filled in on what was happening should have known what was going to happen. Abby would scan for fingerprints, and there would be an answer. It either matched, or it didn't. That was what would happen. If anything useful or helpful came out of it was a different story, and it was best not to continue thinking about that, because I was already over thinking things.

Tony sighed. "I feel like this is gonna take a while."

"Me, too." Just then, Tony's phone began to ring, so I said nothing else. He reached into his pocket with a roll of the eyes, wondering who would be calling him and interrupting us talking, and pulled his phone out. Naturally, it was Gibbs. He said he was in the hospital with Abby and McGee, who was doing well, and that he was going to give them a ride to McGee's house. He told us to go home and to be careful because it was still raining quite a lot.

"We get to go home early. Awesome," Tony almost squealed like a little girl.

He got up from the floor and helped me up as well. Just as we were heading out the door, two other agents were coming in. They were some people I had seen around a few times before; and they were eyeing us weirdly. It could have looked like Tony and I went in there for a quickie – and that's probably exactly what it looked liked, as well as what they were thinking.

Tony said out loud as we made our way out through the hallway, "Well, that was awkward. They probably thought we were doin' it in there."

"Maybe."

"I wonder if they were coming in to screw each other, too. Observation is a good place to do it."

Maybe it was, if it was late at night, or in the wee hours of the morning. But autopsy – albeit creepy – seemed like a much better place, if Ducky or Palmer weren't around. Speaking of which, I suggested to Tony that we ask Ducky or Palmer for a ride home, since we didn't have our cars. We went to autopsy, but we didn't find them. We had no idea where they went. They were not answering their phones either, to make things so much easier on us.

That only left us with one option – walk home. In the rain.

We could have, however, called a taxi, used other forms of transportation, or even called Gibbs to come pick us up (that option was not our favorite, let alone very likely). But that was not going to happen. None of the options we had were going to happen. It just gave us an excuse to walk together in the rain – which I was not against at all, and neither was Tony.

We gathered our things and left the building. The rain could have been worse, but it was not the best weather either.

"It's just a little bit of rain," I commented. "A little rain never hurt anyone." Right?

"But a lot of it will kill ya," Tony said, then added, "Jumanji. Nice."

"Ju-what?"

"It's a movie. Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, Kirsten Dunst."

"Never heard of it."

"It's a good movie. If you're into that sort of stuff.

"Yeah, that's great, Tony. Now let's go before this rain gets worse."

We stood outside the doors of the headquarters, watching people pull out carefully in their cars, and in the pouring rain, others rushing to get in underneath the shade to escape the rain. We looked like two crazy people, waiting for everyone to leave our eyesight so we could go home and get soaked in the process.

"You know," Tony began to say as a married couple I had seen here and there before rushed to enter the building. They were already soaking wet, "It wouldn't have hurt Gibbs to offer us a ride home."

"Maybe we should ask," I said. Not that I wanted to bother him with questions. He had more important things to take care of anyway.

"Why bother? We're already here." Still an excuse to walk home together. "Besides, Gibbs is probably… I don't know… helping McGee bathe or something."

"Why would he do that?" I asked, confused.

Tony bit back a smirk. "Because McGee's weak and in pain. And he needs a shower, and someone has to help him do it."

"Tony, McGee is not weak – and he has Abby to help him with that."

"He may be weak from what happened yesterday," he said. "And having Abby bathe him… I don't think that's a good idea. He may be weak, but he's not weak for sex."

"Really? You speaking from experience, Tony?"

He gave me a ha-ha-very-funny look. "Think about it. Would McGee turn down sex?"

"How should I know?"

"He'll probably go for a quickie in the shower. And get out before Gibbs suspects anything."

The way he said that like he was so sure of it was disturbing at its best. But now was not the time to talk about McGee and Abby's possible quickie in the uncomfortable tight space that was the hospital shower. We had to walk home, and it was probably going to take an hour or longer in this rain.

A weird stare at our conversation later, we were ready to leave. We did not have umbrellas with us; we only had our coats.

"Ready to get wet?" Tony sent a glance and a smirk at me.

"Ready," I responded. I took my coat off and wrapped it around my back, pushing it up a little higher so that it could cover my head. Beside me, Tony did the same. I linked my arm with his, and on his count of three, we were off.

Walking home in the rain proved to be an adventure of its own. I had walked in the rain before, but never like that. We were splashed with water at least two times by passing cars, and we slipped on the ground a few times – which was funnier than it should have been. All in all, it took us way more than an hour to get home, and the rain had only ceased by a little even then.

"God, that was fun," Tony announced once we stepped inside the house. He was creating a puddle underneath his feet and around him the more he moved – and we were still standing close to the door. "We should do that again sometime."

I nodded. "We should." I did not think we were going to enjoy it – how wrong I was.

"Even though it took us a while to get home. You know what; next time, we'll walk home for a little while, and then we'll ask Gibbs for a ride. You know, if this ever happens again."

I hoped not. The reason behind us walking home is not exactly a happy one. Sure, we were given the afternoon off, and that was a good thing, but only because the day was slow and Gibbs had to go visit McGee and… the point was McGee. Just McGee. "Uh-huh," I said blankly.

Tony's shoes were squeaking with every step. My hair was stuck to my face, and I felt like I weighed about fifty pounds more.

"I need a shower," Tony turned to me. "Care to join?"


The rest of the afternoon (a lot of it) was spent showering (there was just more to do than just shower), washing and drying our wet clothes – that were not only wet, but dirty, too – and mopping up the floor where it was wet. It almost turned into a cleaning afternoon. When we were through, Tony asked me if I wanted to watch a movie. I really did not, but I said yes anyway. What I could not stop thinking about was McGee.

He was obviously already home, but how was he feeling? How was he doing? Could Tony really concentrate on a stupid movie when we had no idea what was up with McGee? Unless he was thinking about, but wasn't saying anything.

"If you put Psycho on, I am not watching it."

"But Psycho is a classic!"

"Or any of the James Bond movies. Or that stupid movie about beetles and juice."

"Beetlejuice. And it's not about beetles. Or juice."

"It was still a stupid movie."

"How would you know? We didn't even finish watching the movie."

I could feel my face flush a little. "I did not need to finish that movie to know it is dumb. The way those characters died was idiotic."

He gave me that smirk that told me he could see right through me. The kind of look that even if I looked away, I knew he was still reading through me. It was almost as if he was looking straight into my soul. And in a way, he kind of was.

"Yeah," he laughed at me, "idiotic character deaths."

We both knew what I was thinking, but he was thinking it, too. He was just not making it as obvious as I was, as I always made everything, at least lately. We never finished watching Beetlejuice because Tony could not stop thinking about what happened that day. It was also when I finally told him that I loved him, when I finally admitted it to myself. But I had already seen enough of the movie, even if we did not make it that far, to know I did not want to watch it. And even though she was dead, it reminded me of Carla and all of the shit she dragged along with her.

"Well," Tony shrugged, "any movie you want to watch then? And don't say The Sound of Music." I was not planning to, because I really was just not in any kind of mood to watch anything, not even remotely close to doing so. But I figured I could always just get lost in my thoughts, which also happened way too often lately.

"I was not going to," I told him. "You pick."

"You sure about that?"

"Yeah, Tony, just pick a movie."

"Patience, my dear," he said as he began to make his way all-too-eagerly to his movie collection. "Picking a movie is like choosing what you're going to order at a restaurant. You want to make sure you have the right one. Takes time."

I flopped down on the couch, folded my legs underneath me. "Whatever."

He found a movie that made me think that if I watched it, I would somehow convince myself that I was really just slowly going insane, and that I would pretty soon end up in a mental hospital: A Beautiful Mind. Perfect.

He sat down on the couch next to me after he played the movie, but as the previews began to roll, he realized we needed popcorn. He said to keep the previews going until the popcorn was ready. And when it was done, he sat back down next to me with his bowl of popcorn. He offered some to me, but just as I was about to grab some, he pulled it out of my reach.

"You can only have some if you grab a handful," he said.

"Really? You'll let me have that much?" I answered sarcastically.

He scowled at me in the same playful way I was with him. "It's the American thing to do, Ziva." Before I could protest, he said, "Oh, you wanna see something cool?" He stuck his tongue out and reached for a single kernel. It immediately clung to his tongue, and he turned to me as though I could not see his childish antics from five inches away.

"Thee?" he said. "It sthicks to your tongue. Cool, ri'?"

I reached for a handful of popcorn anyway, although I was not craving any. "Who taught you how to do this very-American trick? The president?"

He looked at me, having already eaten the lone kernel on his tongue and grabbed a handful. "Well, somebody's very sassy tonight, isn't she?"

I wrinkled my nose at him. "You love me when I'm sassy."

His lips collided with mine in a sweet, but short-lived kiss. "I love you even when you're not."

The movie began, and about fifteen minutes into the movie and a few handfuls of popcorn later, my phone began to ring. I had left it in my room, but I decided to ignore it the first time. Tony was too into the movie to notice – or at least he made it seem like he did not realize. The second time around was a little irritating, but I let it go. On the third time, Tony complained, without so much as throwing a glance my way, "You wanna get that, Ziva?" He sounded so much like Gibbs to me at that moment.

I stood up and trudged into the bedroom, leaving the door ajar behind me. When I sat down on the edge of the bed, I saw that I had three missed calls from Abby. Almost immediately, the phone began to ring again. I finally answered it.

"Do you know how to answer your damn phone?"

It took me by surprise, the way she spoke. But following that thought was another, much weirder one. Abby sounded so different on the other end, almost un-Abby-like. Her voice sounded so dull and lifeless, despite her snappy tone. I really did not know how to describe it. She just sounded not like herself.

"W-what?" I sounded like a stammering idiot. Again.

"It's about time you answered your damn phone. What the hell were you even doing?"

"Are you okay, Abby?"

She sighed on the other end, sounding so very exasperated. "I need you to come over to McGee's place."

"What's wrong?" I asked, suddenly feeling nervous.

"You ask so many questions, you know that? It's about the fingerprints thing. Just hurry up and get here!" With that, the line went dead. Surprised and shocked, I pulled my phone away from my ear and stared at my phone's background image until I was ready to move from that spot. That was definitely the oddest conversation I had ever had with Abby so far. Unless she was joking with me, but somehow I seriously doubted that.

I stood up from the bed and grabbed a coat from my closet. I stepped out of the room, knowing Tony would be disappointed that I had to interrupt our movie night, but Abby sounded so… demanding. I felt like I needed to get to McGee's place as soon as possible. Maybe even sooner than that.

"Tony," I called as I began to slip one arm into my coat.

He turned around to face me, not even bothering to pause the movie. "Where are you going?"

"Abby called," I told him. "She said I need to go to McGee's place."

"Why? What's going on?"

"She just has something important to tell me."

"Is it that important she just couldn't tell you on the phone?"

I shrugged a little, not wanting to mention the fingerprints thing until Abby told me all the details.

Tony shrugged back. "Alright, I guess we could go real quick."

I stopped. "Tony, I can go by myself."

He suddenly stopped and gave me a look. That look. The look that said it all: You're joking, right? And when he spoke, his voice matched the look on his face that also said, I don't think that's a good idea. "You… wanna go alone?"

"Yeah. It'll be quick. I will go, see what it is that Abby wants to tell me, and come back."

"But… alone?"

I sighed inwardly. I could see the concern he was masking behind his eyes, and there I was, being an insensitive asshole, trying to dismiss his feelings as him being a drama queen – or king.

I stepped up to him, tried to put myself in his shoes for a moment. In his defense, I did try to commit suicide not too long ago, and if I were him, I would not trust myself to be alone anywhere either.

He remained still as I went up to him, a sign that he was waiting for me to give him a reason to trust me.

"Tony, I know what you're thinking," I began. He did not say anything to me, just waited. "But I promise you I'll be fine." His hesitation led me to ponder what exactly was going on inside his head. He must have wanted to be absolutely sure I would be okay on my own, and not do anything stupid. Simply telling him that I would be okay was not enough. I understood.

"Fine, Ziva," he said shortly. "Go then. Go see what Abby wants before she bites your head off."

I had to go gather some things before I headed out, which gave Tony enough time to tell me, "If you need anything, call me."

"Okay."

"I'm serious, Ziva. Call me if anything. And I mean anything."

"I got it, Tony," I said before I headed out. "I'll see you in a little bit."

Before I left, I caught a glimpse of the somewhat worried look that grazed his face. And he was probably still masking the other half of it, the way he masked almost everything else. With good reason, he did so. The moment I brought the engine to life, that nagging little voice in my head began to present itself, the one that told me to do things I should not do. I had to sit tight and let it pass, so to speak, for a few moments. It was still raining a little, so I tried to let the soothing sound of the rain gently beat those thoughts out of me. I had to tell myself along the way that I was going to McGee's place to see what Abby wanted and come back – that did not include driving the car off a bridge, or straight into a lake at full-speed, or anything of the sort.

It proved to be quite a challenge, trying not to do anything that I tried to do before, but another task was underway, and it was trying to keep myself calm as I wondered what news Abby would slap me with when I got there.