It had started so simply and amazingly by the book for the MCRT. Why it went so wrong is still open to interpretation but, thankfully, everything worked out really well for the team in the end.

Tony had finagled the keys from Gibbs before Ziva knew about the warrant. While she pouted in the passenger seat and sent meaningful glares at her partner while pointedly playing with a knife, Tony sped down the highway with the windows down, singing along with Elvis Costello at the top of his voice, his eyes gleaming with happiness at the sudden change in the weather which warmed his face and eased the ache in his lungs.

An hour later, a frantic call from Tony had Gibbs racing after his fallen team members.

Amidst all of the emergency response vehicles, Gibbs found his errant Senior Field Agent in the back of an ambulance, smiling cheekily at the pretty EMT pasting a butterfly bandage to the corner of one eye. "DiNozzo! Report!" he barked.

Tony's head snapped around. He winced, and then goofily grinned at his superior. "Hey, Boss!"

Gibbs internally winced at his partner's technicolor face and the way he leaned ever so slightly to one side as he sought some semblance of equilibrium. Grasping Tony's upper arm, off a nod of encouragement from the EMT, Gibbs gently steered his agent towards the Charger. "What the Hell happened, Tony, and where is Ziver?"

"It was the strangest thing, Boss," Tony happily replied as he tripped along beside him. As they neared the clearing in the vehicles, Tony pointed towards the eight men tied together in varying states of consciousness. "We were jumped when we got here. That ugly guy in the wifebeater hit me here." He indicated the bridge of his nose where two black eyes were blossoming. "After that, Boss, I really don't remember much."

Gibbs nodded his head sadly. "If they would only hit the back of your head, you might have stood a chance."

"But, that spot is only for you to hit, Boss! I'd have killed them if they did that!" Tony insisted indignantly.

Gibbs stroked his spot gently. "Atta, boy. I'm glad you didn't; they woulda pulverized ya. So, what happened to Ziver?"

"Well, as I was coming to, I had barely wiped the blood outta my eyes when it happened."

"What?" Gibbs growled as he eased Tony into the passenger seat.

"Ziva had tied them all up and was coming for me with a strange gleam in her was scary, Boss!"

Raising an eyebrow, Gibbs wordlessly indicated his impatience.

With a grin for his boss, Tony spread his arms wide. "She tripped over her own ego and fell into a huge plothole that opened right in front of her!"

Gibbs' snorted in amusement. "She's gone?"

"Gone gone, Boss, with a cherry on top." Tony singsonged with a pleased grin.

"Any chance of her coming back?"

Shaking his head enthusiastically, he gulped, sending his Adam's Apple bobbing reflexively. "It closed up right around her. You should have heard the sucking sound; I'll never forget it." He shivered at the thought and then suddenly brightened. "You know, it kinda reminds me of a movie: "The Langoliers" written by Steven King and directed by..."

The headslap wasn't unexpected.

And, neither was the party held that evening, which went on well into the next day.