Here's a bit of fluffy oneshot to prove I'm not dead. And, hopefully, neither is Fitting Pieces!
It was a Tuesday, the team was stuck in an abandoned restaurant, and Gibbs was pissed.
Gibbs was always pissed lately, Tony reflected. Not just his normal gruff, often bitchy self, but truly angry, and always tired-looking.
DiNozzo was fairly certain the team's work was not the cause of Gibbs' special mood, though the immediate situation was definitely not helping.
"Who the hell builds a restaurant in a basement, anyway?" Gibbs snarled, pacing the room again and looking for a way out. "With one damned exit?"
"Used to be a speakeasy," McGee said unnecessarily, as they'd already discussed that at last campfire-esque meeting at the bullpen before they took off to search for their suspect here. "No windows, underground, one door – I'd have thought there'd be a back exit, but…"
Gibbs walked up into McGee's face and stared.
"Right. Rhetorical question. Trying to get a signal, boss."
Figures the place would be in a dead spot. Probably lined with some kind of radioactive material by gangsters in the 1920s that was slowly eating away at what remaining brain cells they had.
"I have heard of this restaurant," Ziva offered as Tim walked the room with his phone held above his head, searching for a way to call home.
Tony forcefully shut down the ET reference. Gibbs would not appreciate it right now.
So why did that make him want to do it that much more? Poking the angry bear always seemed so tempting in these situations.
"The owner lined the building with something that reduces cell signals," Ziva continued. "She wanted this place to be a place of relaxation, not texting and business calls."
Tony grunted. "Hippie."
Ziva shot him a nasty look, but knew better than to voice approval of the restaurant owner's actions. Telling Gibbs that cell phone signals were unnecessary right now may lead to violence within the pack.
Which was, on some plane of existence, hilarious, since the man couldn't even use his cell phone half of the time.
Tony sat down on a stool at the huge old mahogany bar and watched as Gibbs paced around the edges of their cage, McGeek wandered in grid-like patterns with his phone waving in the air in front of him, and Ziva searched the bar and office, looking for a landline.
Though many would never believe it, it was not so strange for those three to be in action, constantly moving, while Tony sat still. Their methods were different, but generally complimentary. When he was antsy and active, chances were that McGee or Ziva would be following up a paper, phone, or computer lead. When Gibbs was silent, thinking, Tony was talking out a theory.
It worked. That was all that mattered.
Oooh. The bar stools spun. He spun around slowly at first, then faster and faster.
One door, covered by who the hell knew what after that explosion the damn murderous petty officer set off to trap them in here.
No known working phone, no walkie talkie, no internet.
No one going to miss any of them tonight. No significant others, no dates with romantic counterparts or even friends during a case this hot. Even if any of them had had plans, they would've been canceled before this farce of a raid.
Round and round and round he went.
He stopped when Gibbs reached out and grabbed the lapel of his jacket, forcing him to violent stillness. "You puke, DiNozzo, and you eat it. I don't want to be trapped down here with that smell."
McGee piped up again, "How long do you think before Ducky or Abby would notice we were gone?"
Considering Ducky was done with the autopsies for this case, and Abby only had a few long-running tests that wouldn't be done until tomorrow anyway, the chances of them getting help tonight were small.
What was between small and nonexistent?
"Shut up, McGee," was Gibb's calculation.
Sounded about right.
Gibbs returned to a corner of the restaurant and started banging on the wall at different spots with the butt of his knife.
Ziva, lacking other ideas, started the same on the other side.
McGee continued wandering in increasingly less structured patterns, trying to connect.
Tony approached the air vent in the kitchen. It was the biggest vent in the place, but still only about a foot by a foot. The fan above the stove wasn't big enough for them to take down and try to crawl through, either. But the cold February air could be felt coming through the small slits, so they wouldn't suffocate down here.
He pulled out his flashlight and started shining it in each of the air vents, less looking for a way out and more hoping one would be straight enough to allow the beam to pass into the street. Maybe he'd get lucky and startle a bum who knew Morse Code.
He flashed a few dotdotdot dashdashdash dotdotdots in each just in case.
But it was a futile attempt, he could see where each of the vents turned at ninety degree angles within inches of the wall, his light merely bouncing back off of metal sides.
At least the lights worked. Somehow it made their predicament more ridiculous that they had lights and running water and even a bathroom. They weren't in any real danger. They even had heat, though the bastard perp had busted the thermostat when he so ungracefully fell against it after being love-tapped by Gibbs' right hook.
So it was forever 52 down here. Who the hell set their thermostat on 52, anyway?
Tap tap tap.
Pace pace pace.
Tap tap tap.
Tony rolled his eyes and boosted himself up to a sitting position on the bar. He eyed the beer; one probably wouldn't do him any harm, and they freaking deserved a drink. But it wasn't truly tempting. Drinking wasn't his way out, and he was too self-trained to the rules of law enforcement (or at least those he agreed with) to actively think about drinking on the job.
Though could you really call this on the job?
"Someone might have heard the explosion, yes?" Ziva offered hopefully.
"Maybe, but the entrance is in an alley. And the restaurant was closed anyway, in respect for their bartender's funeral today," McGee replied. The bartender at this quaint, quiet establishment was their third victim in this going-nowhere-fast case. "And the explosion wasn't very big, judging from what I saw of it. Just big enough to cave in the entrance."
Gibbs grumbled something about hating deviant munitions experts.
Tony's stomach replied with its own grumble, and he slid off the bar and meandered into the kitchen, which was open to the restaurant excepting large, fat wooden-sided pillars that kept the ceiling from crashing down on patron's heads.
The restaurant was only supposed to be closed for one day, so all the food not immediately perishable was still in the joint. And even if Abby or Ducky didn't put it together that the team hadn't returned by tomorrow morning, likely some employee would come in early to start kitchen prep, and would notice that they couldn't get in the damn door.
So, yeah, it was annoying that they couldn't get out.
It was annoying that they knew who the killer was, that they'd been trapped here by him, and that they weren't looking at him through bars right now.
It was annoying that they were trapped together, for as well as they worked together (most of the time), spending too much time as a group when not working a case sometimes became…volatile.
Gibbs stabbed his knife into the door in frustration.
Tony grabbed the remote for the little tv in the kitchen and hit the power button. The picture flickered to life quickly, and he noted as he absently flipped through channels that they even had cable.
More and more ridiculous.
He squashed the half-grin he felt pulling at his mouth. It would only piss off the boss even more.
Tempting, but not smart.
Leaving the tv on a local news program in case anyone did report an explosion in the area, Tony started poking into drawers, cupboards, and eventually the huge fridge.
There was a lot of food here.
He munched on some day-old bread while he considered his options.
Pasta would be easiest, and fastest. And it wasn't like any of them were very picky eaters.
On the other hand, did easiest and fastest matter? It would be nice to do something useful, even if it was just making dinner. And warming up the place with the big ovens and the gas stove wouldn't be such a bad side effect.
He took off his expensive jacket and replaced it with a white chef's coat for the slight additional warmth, then rolled his sleeves up and started in.
Gibbs noted Tony's actions. He was pissed that DiNozzo wasn't trying to get them out of this hellhole, but he didn't interrupt his stupid little cooking fest.
Because, honestly, Gibbs didn't know what else they could do either. He just wasn't ready to admit it yet.
They had all gone over the place together – janitor's closet, fridge, bathrooms, kitchen, office, and dining area – with no luck. They had tried breaking down the door, trying to get the hinges off, cutting through it, chipping away at the frame to no avail.
No way to get the hell out.
He and Ziva continued looking for weak points or secret exits in the walls. It sounded foolish even in his head, but this place had been a speakeasy, so there should have been some kind of backdoor exit, at least originally.
Besides, did the restaurant take their trash out in front of diners? There had to be a way out they hadn't spotted yet…
But it had been five hours, and nothing seemed promising.
He watched McGee give up his detailed crawl around all parts of the building, glumly sure now that there was no cell service to be had. The youngest of his team joined Tony in the kitchen.
DiNozzo had McGee from glum to laughing in less than three minutes. It looked like they were both…kneading dough? What the fuck?
He started to stride over and tell them off, but again stopped himself. There had to be an alternative action they should be taking right now for him to yell at them for what they were doing.
Ziva continued tapping the walls, though she was now going over a third or fourth time the same places she had already checked.
What the hell was he supposed to do? Give up? Start a fire in the middle of the floor and sit around braiding each other's hair and telling ghost stories?
Snarling, he dragged a stool into the middle of the floor and climbed on it, beginning to tap at the ceiling.
Ziva, following his lead, started crawling around the floor, trying to find loose boards that might lead to something.
He should have said something to her. "Good," or a glance and a nod. His team didn't require effusive praise or they wouldn't have been his team. But he couldn't bring himself to, because it should be Tony crawling around on the floor looking like a dumbass. DiNozzo was always the one who followed Gibbs, who was attuned to his moods, who went the absolute farthest distance anyone could go.
But lately, if someone was trailing him like a puppy, it was Ziva, McGee or Abby. Even Palmer, once. Tony was always there, but usually off to the side. Watching, laughing, thinking, throwing shit at McGee. Whatever. But he seemed more independent lately.
Not that he'd ever been dependent. Gibbs wouldn't take that kind of shit. But a niggling thought in the back of his mind resurfaced again – what if Tony knew he was ready to lead a team? What if Vance got smart enough to offer him one, or if Fornell tried to steal him away again?
What if Tony left?
Not that Gibbs needed Tony. The idea that Gibbs himself could be dependent on anyone was laughable.
It was just that it had taken so long to get the former detective trained in, used to the rules, used to where he should be and what he should be doing. Constantly. It took too much time to train that, to find the right person in the first place. He just didn't have time right now to start from scratch.
That was all.
The thought of Tony leaving certainly wasn't what was causing him to wake up in a startle every night for the past few weeks. When he slept at all.
He rolled his eyes at himself without admitting anything.
Ziva snuffled along the floor.
McGee had somehow gotten covered head to toe in flour.
Tony was singing, had flung something large and flat in the oven, and was now stirring a bowl of something goopy.
Maybe the secret exit had some link to the bar, the only piece of furniture still standing from the original speakeasy. Gibbs stalked over and started pulling out glasses and liquor bottles that were in his way, then set to work examining every minute centimeter of the hulking slab.
An hour later, even Ziva gave up. She joined the other two yokels in the kitchen and started trying to dictate the way Tony was making something. Their mostly good-hearted jabbering was like fingernails screeching on slate to his ears.
Couldn't they find anything constructive to do?
Well aware of the increasing ire of their fearless leader, Tony decided not to care.
While the crust was rising, he prepared the sauce, and then started a pan of basic brownies.
Seriously, what did he have that was so much better to do? Even if he had missed something, he was sure Gibbs would have barked out orders regarding whatever it was by now.
There was nothing to miss.
There was nothing to do to get out of here. There was just making the best of it.
Tony was adept at making the best of situations that royally sucked.
He had given up on the news and switched the small screen to, figuring everyone could watch that movie, even if it was kinda a chick flick.
Humming as he finished his frosting, he ignored Ziva's directives, eventually giving her her own bowl and supplies to make a competing frosting. Competing at anything made her happy, so she was set for a while.
McGee was watching them both intently, trying to learn as only McGeek could.
"It's frosting, McGee. Not rockets."
"But how do you both just know how to make it? You're not using recipes or anything."
"It's frosting, McGee," Tony repeated. "You just throw sweet stuff and creamy stuff in the bowl and keep sticking your finger in until it tastes good. No magic."
Ziva scoffed. "I memorized a recipe that I found quite tasty, McGee. Come here, I will show you how a true cook works."
Tim did tend more towards following Ziva than Tony, probably because she used measuring cups and spoons and seemed to be following some kind of mental list. The dweeb did better with rules.
Tony tasted his concoction again and threw in some more buttermilk and powdered sugar.
When Pretty Woman ended, they had a minor battle over what to watch next, which was settled when they found a Smurfs marathon. What rational-minded individual could pass up the Smurfs?
Since they had some extra time before the pizza was done, and had double the frosting needed, they started cupcakes.
When Gibbs finally decided to give up, his neck was possibly permanently stuck in its cricked to the right position, his knees felt like someone had been beating them with a rubber hose, and his eyes were burning from staring at nothing for too long.
Still, there must be something he had missed.
Spoiling for a fight, he stalked into the kitchen.
McGee was now not only covered in flour, but had streaks of something brown and something bright red down his face and his left side. It also looked like someone had dumped butter in his hair.
Ziva had tied her hair back, but the humidity of the kitchen had made it frizz out, as it used to look when she first joined the team. She was frosting yellow cupcakes, but there was more frosting going into her mouth than on the cupcakes.
Tony was not even mussed, and his chef's costume was still pristine white. He flashed a smile at the other two agents as he reached into the cavernous oven with a mitt and pulled out a goddamned pizza.
And a third.
And a fourth.
Tony brightened when he notice Gibbs enter the room. "Boss! You were busy, so I did the toppings for yours. Sausage and green pepper." He looked overly proud of himself.
Gibbs would never admit this, but watching Tony's face brighten calmed him some. Tony, Ducky and Abby were the only three people in the world who ever smiled when he entered a room. And meant it. It was hard to find fault in someone showing honest happiness that you exist and happened to grace them with your presence.
But it was annoying if one was spoiling for a fight.
"You really think this is constructive use of your time, DiNozzo?" he drawled, dripping with scorn, expecting to see the man's face fall.
"Yep. Hungry." Tony said simply, and seriously.
Ziva and McGee hung back, waiting to see if there'd be an explosion.
Tony cut a piece of pizza and handed it over. "Here you go boss. Thought you'd be hungry, too."
He was, so he crammed half the slice of pizza in his mouth at one time.
It was surprisingly good.
DiNozzo must have read from his expression – or maybe from his cramming of the other half of the slice into his face – that Gibbs approved, for that big doofus grin appeared on his face, and he went back to his own pizza, secure.
That was an odd thought.
But that's what Tony seemed – secure.
Unexpectedly relieved, Gibbs considered that perhaps Tony wasn't thinking of leaving, of leaving his own team. He was just…
A small quarter smile twitched across his face, and Ziva and McGee relaxed and moved over to claim their own pizzas.
In the morning, when NCIS agents and firemen broke through the rubble and the door, they found three very stuffed and sleepy agents calmly debating the uses of brown sugar and the respective merits of each of the ninja turtles, and one sleeping Gibbs.