"Well, that's pretty freaky," Tony commented. He then let out a hiss as Ziva elbowed him in the gut. "Ow! Geez, do you love inflicting pain on me or something? I thought the females of our species had—"
"If you say 'finesse,' I will rip your throat out with my teeth. Besides, I'm a warrior, not an airhead model."
"Of course," Tony said quickly. "I've never thought of you as anything less."
Ziva's eyes narrowed. She looked like she was going to say something about that, but what left her mouth instead was, "Let's go already." The Israeli Shifter turned back and began marching through the woods. Tony, after scanning the trees beyond the clearing one more time, followed her.
A lone figure hidden in the trees aimed his index and middle finger like a gun at the two Shifters and pretended to fire. A cruel smile danced across his lips before he melted into the forest.
The rest of the team was still by the crime scene. Gibbs looked up from where he was examining the ground, saw it was his wolves, and stood up. He asked, "What d'ya got?"
"There was definitely a woman with our dead seaman, Gibbs," Ziva said. "Tony and I wanted to see if we could stay here and help search for her."
The former Marine considered it. They could take care of themselves, he knew, and with their abilities they would probably find the woman quicker than any search party. Wolves with human minds were a dangerous enemy—or valuable ally, depending on how you looked at it. "Okay," he said finally.
McGee's head swiveled toward the team leader, confusion etched in every line on his face. "Boss?"
"Did you say something, McGee?"
"It's just . . . You're seriously letting them stay out here . . . in the woods . . . alone?"
"They can take care of themselves, McGee."
"We all know Ziva can, but what about Tony? He's not exactly a Boy Scout."
"Neither are you, McPoison Ivy." That was DiNozzo, of course. And he was referring to the fact that almost every time they had a case in the woods, McGee would end up in a patch of poison ivy. Not fun for the probie, but the senior field agent thought it was hilarious. Everyone else just avoided Tim like the plague.
Thwack! "Shut up, you two."
Both probie and Shifter cringed, rubbing the spot on their heads where they'd been Gibbs-slapped. The phrase "shutting up, Boss" was on the tip of Tony's tongue, but he wisely held it back. It would not do to raise Gibbs's ire this early in the case. And besides, this way they would''t have to report to the shrink.
He must have been smiling or something, because Gibbs was eyeing him oddly. "You okay, DiNozzo?"
"I'm great. I just realized this means Ziva and I won't have to see the shrink."
Abby's silver-haired fox cracked one of his rare half-smiles. "I'll talk to Jenny, tell you you're working a case."
"Jenny, huh? Just how well do you know our Madame Director?"
Thwack! "Do you want me to hit you again, DiNozzo?"
"Smart answer. Now go with Ziva."
Gibbs rolled his eyes. "You two are going to be searching for the woman, so you'll need changes of clothes, right?"
"Then take her, go home, and pack. McGee and I will be working the victim's end from the Navy Yard." Gibbs paused, saw Tony and Ziva were still with him. "Well, what are you still doing here? Get moving!"
"Yes, Boss." Before the Marine could snap at him again, Tony had taken Ziva by the arm and begun the trek back to the car.
Hours later, the two Shifters were back in the clearing where they'd picked up traces of the woman's scent. It was early afternoon by now, and Tony was still hungry—Ziva knew this because he'd been complaining every ten minutes. She slid him a reproachful look. "Seriously? We ate half an hour ago!"
"Yeah, but that's like a day in dog time."
Ziva rolled her eyes. "We're wolves, not dogs; however, in your case I beg to differ. You can catch something once we shift."
"Great." Tony was already stripping, stuffing his clothes into the backpack they'd brought. Ziva caught sight of the ink on his right scapula—her name in the ancient letters of his former pack. Then there was a smooth ripple, a shimmering blink, and she was looking at a male wolf with thick fur the color of milk chocolate and green-gray eyes the shade of moss—human eyes, Tony's eyes.
«C'mon, Zi,»Tony said in thought-speak. «Let's go!»
The Israeli glanced around once more before removing her clothing. She, too, stuffed her clothes in the backpack and shifted forms. Somehow (she wasn't sure how), she managed to adjust and manipulate the backpack, one made for large dogs, so it was on her back.
«Can I tell you how weird it is seeing a doggy backpack on a wolf?»Tony commented.
Ziva huffed. «No, you cannot. If anyone sees us, they'll just think we're big dogs or something—Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes, maybe. Didn't you say something about being hungry?»
Any mention of food, and Tony was alert at once. This situation was no exception. The male wolf lifted his nose and sniffed at the air. He must have caught a scent, because he took off at a lope. Ziva followed him when the surprise wore off, but the backpack slowed her down. She growled quietly under her breath and forced her leg muscles to pump faster. The she-wolf gradually picked up the same scent Tony had: a couple of rabbits.
It wasn't long at all before both wolves were tearing into the warm meat.
When they were finished disposing of the remains, Ziva said, «We better get back to tracking her.»
«She can't have gotten far,»Tony replied, scratching at an itch behind his ear. Then he twisted around to attack an itch on his left flank.
Ziva, watching the so-called very special agent, sighed and walked past, whacking his snout with her tail.
She was gone before he could retaliate.
While Tony and Ziva were in Rock Creek Park searching for their Jane Doe, Gibbs and McGee were back in their bullpen at the Navy Yard. The probie had their victim's military ID up on the plasma and was busy digging up every single type of record the seaman had.
"How do you think Tony and Ziva are doing?" McGee asked at length.
The mention of his team's two Shifters reminded Gibbs that he still had to talk to the Director. He told McGee that Tony and Ziva were probably doing just fine, then rose and made for the stairwell. Tim watched him go with a puzzled air. He then shrugged and returned to clacking away at the keyboard.
The Bossman, meanwhile, had reached Jenny's door in less than a minute. He ignored Cynthia's protests and barged inside Director Shepards office.
When he entered, Jenny was on the phone. "I'll call you back," she said to the person on the other end, then hung up. The redheaded director leaned back in her chair, studying the field agent with interest. "Yes, Jethro?"
"I've caught a case," he said. "A dead seaman in Rock Creek Park. Evidence found suggests he was there with a female companion, who is now missing. I have Tony and Ziva out searching for her. It could take days, Jen."
Her eyes narrowed. "What you're trying to say is that Tony and Ziva won't make it to their meetings with Dr. Harris."
"Yeah. Probably not."
Jen smiled a little. "I could always read you, you know."
"You still don't know everything," Gibbs reminded her. "And you should know that Tony and Ziva don't need to see a shrink. They never did."
The ex-Marine turned to leave. His hand was just resting on the doorknob when Jen said, "You don't really believe them, do you? That they're werewolves?"
"Shifters," Gibbs corrected. "And yes, I do. It explains a lot about their behavior. Think about it." Then he was gone, leaving the female director to ponder over what he'd told her.