"This is weird," DiNozzo is saying, hands in his pockets.
Kate keeps staring. "Really weird."
Abby tilts her head to the side, admiring, and grins. "Good weird," she purrs.
Gibbs sometimes wonders what he did to deserve these morons, but then he looks through the one-way window at three naked and extremely uncomfortable-looking Marines and figures it could be worse. He could be their boss. At least his idiots are wearing pants — even if DiNozzo's are probably made by some nancy Italian.
"This is stupid weird," he growls, and throws his now-empty coffee cup in the general direction of the trash can — the fact that it nails DiNozzo upside the head is incidental. "Talk to me, DiNozzo."
"Right," Tony says, clutching at the coffee cup and clearing his throat. "Sergeant Harry Norman, staff sergeant Mark Yeoman, and Corporal Edward Harris — found naked and extremely disoriented in a mall in Bethesda." DiNozzo leans in to Kate, whispering conspiratorially, "They were in that Teavana you like."
"Okay, there goes one errand for the weekend," Kate mutters.
Gibbs rubs the bridge of his nose and DiNozzo hurries to say, "Marines were found with an unidentified piece of tech — McGee is down in the lab with it as we speak — and no identification outside of their tags. Even weirder — " DiNozzo produces a thin file folder with flourish, and Gibbs has to bite down on the smile that wants to creep across his mouth at that " — they're supposed to be stationed at a highly classified research based in, get this, Boss — Antarctica."
"I knew the government was doing something up there," Abby exclaims. "I read this fantastic book — well, not a book, really, kind of an online manifesto — about how there's this entire research facility in the ice up there, Gibbs, and how they've got secret alien technology — "
"They, Abby?" Gibbs asks, because if he lets her she'll probably keep going, and then DiNozzo will encourage her and the whole day will go to hell in a hand basket.
Abby grins, sheepish. "Technically, us."
"Damn the man," DiNozzo whispers.
"Why are they still naked?" Gibbs growls. He hasn't seen that much pasty, embarrassed man since boot camp and he hasn't missed it.
"Ducky's sending Jimmy up with some spare scrubs," Kate reassures him. "He should be up here any minute now."
"And where the hell is their CO?" Gibbs says. "Have they even broken any laws?"
"Mostly small potatoes stuff — public indecency, disturbing the peace, etcetera," DiNozzo says, automatic. "But frankly, they seemed pretty baffled by how they ended up naked in a boutique tea shop, too. As for their CO, Boss, even weirder. But Kate can tell you since she lost the coin toss."
Kate makes an aggrieved face. Gibbs can't believe that she used to protect the president, was part of the most elite protective force in the world — and two years with Tony has reduced her judgment to making professional decisions based on spare change. Gibbs can't ever let Tony leave NCIS, the man should be qualified as a weapon of mass destruction.
"Their CO is a Major Evan Lorne — also stationed at said highly-classified research base in Antarctica but, and this was made abundantly clear to both Tony and I all three times we called — "
"Including the time Tony called pretending to be Admiral Mullen," Abby adds.
Gibbs shoots DiNozzo a poisonous look.
" — that there was no chance in any circle of hell we were getting him on the phone," Kate continues. But before Gibbs can start raising his voice, Tony cuts in:
"However, the military commander of the entire Antarctic base is apparently on leave and stateside, and he's been dispatched to come collect his men. Oh, and the base commander? Is Air Force." Tony grins: a million watts, enough to light Times Square for a decade.
Gibbs rubs at his face. "I hate Tuesdays."
Gibbs actually hears Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard before he sees him, a irritated voice that snaps out every word, asking, "Excuse me? Who here's Special Agent, God, what the hell kind of name is Leroy Jethro Gibbs? He's got something that belongs to me!"
"Oh God," he hears DiNozzo whisper to Kate, "this is going to be the best train wreck ever."
Gibbs throws a pen at him and stands up, clearing his throat. "That'd be me."
Everything they say about the Air Force is still true, Gibbs thinks, smirking, when he sees Sheppard: red-faced and furious, a little on the soft side and stomping around the office in a CalTech t-shirt and cargos — it's like seeing McGee ten years older with 30 percent less hair.
"Colonel Sheppard," he says, trying for gracious. The mirrored looks on DiNozzo and Kate's faces make him aware he's fallen pretty deplorably short.
The man's blue eyes go wide. "Colonel? — oh, um, I'm not — "
"You couldn't wait five minutes for me to park the car," somebody says, disgusted. And when Gibbs turns to spot stranger number two, it's to somebody who shares a barber with DiNozzo, dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt. If they gave this guy lieutenant bird — the Air Force is in much worse shape than Gibbs had thought.
"You were taking forever," the first man argues, flustered. "And God only knows what they've done with — "
Gibbs interrupts, saying, "Your men are fine, Lieutenant. Naked and a little embarrassed, but fine."
The blond one makes a dismissive noise, flapping a hand. "Please. My name is Dr. Rodney McKay — I'm the lead scientist on the Antarctic project and I could give a damn about the Marines, I'm here for the experimental technology they had with them."
"I," the dark-haired one says, wry, "on the other hand, am here and giving a damn about the Marines." He gives Gibbs a bemused smile, extending a hand. "Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard — I'm sorry about all this mess."
Lieutenant Colonel Wearing Ratty Jeans is, admittedly, pretty hilarious with his men, all three of whom — thankfully now wearing scrubs — nearly crap themselves when he walks into interrogation.
"Holy shit, sir!" Yeoman says. "We thought — "
"That Major Lorne would be coming?" Sheppard asks, wry. "Yeah, me, too. Turns out, the dubious pleasure of springing you three from NCIS fell on me. During my leave."
The trio wince in tandem, and Gibbs wonders if there isn't anything else to Colonel Ratty Jeans. Marines don't usually respect anyone unless they've earned it — and Gibbs can't imagine many jobs babysitting scientists crop up that many opportunities to do so.
"Sorry, sir," Harris says. "We really don't know what happened."
Sheppard shrugs, helping himself to a free chair in the room and making himself comfortable, feet kicked up on the table. He's loose in the shoulders and unconcerned, and Gibbs thinks that if he had to call this guy his CO, he might die a little on the inside.
"Me," Sheppard starts, too casual, "I personally don't care. It was only killer breakers and California sun and sleeping, after all."
All three marines wince.
"Now McKay," Sheppard continues, and the Marines pale, "McKay was furious. Went off on one of his very special screeds from Reagan all the way over here — about how he was going to kill you and send you to study sand or manage Parrish or hang out with the geologists — but me." Sheppard smiles at them all sweetly. "Me, I'm totally cool."
"Sir!" they plead, in perfect unison — just as the door to interrogation is flung open and a furious McKay storms in, face bright red, clutching some sort of flashing remote control in his hands.
"You!" he shrieks.
Sheppard clears his throat. "Rodney?" he says, and raises his brows in the direction of the one-way glass.
"Oh, for — " McKay starts, and turns to the mirror, pulling another gizmo out of his pocket and dropping it onto the table before he turns back — waving his hands like a flight controller. Except he's perfectly mute doing it, and Gibbs can see his mouth moving.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs snarls and in the background Tony's saying, "It's not on our end, Boss — nothing's off, none of the mikes are reading anything. It's like he's sucked all the sound out of the room and hey why don't I just stop while I'm ahead here — Kate?"
"That door was locked," she insists.
Gibbs glares at her. "Then how did he get in?"
"Maybe he picked the lock? Real fast?" Tony offers, and before Gibbs can reach over to slap him silly he's saying, "On it, boss," and out of the room — headed toward interrogation.
On the other side, just as Tony opens the door, Sheppard has neatly collected McKay's trinket from the table and gathered his three shamefaced and slightly-ill-looking Marines, corralled a still frothing McKay, and just as Tony opens his mouth, the noise suddenly switches back on, in time for Sheppard to say: "Sorry about that — highly classified, very hush hush."
"Oh screw that," Gibbs growls.
"Apparently," he mutters, one hour and one conference call from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the president later, "It's highly classified and very hush hush."
Abby looks at McGee who looks at Kate who looks at DiNozzo — who's looking into the other end of the room where the three Marines are still cowering before a still-red McKay, who's being compelled to stay seated by Colonel Sheppard, one firm hand on McKay's shoulder holding him down. Sheppard's talking into a cell phone, smiling as he says, "Yes, thanks General O'Neill. No — no need to worry, but it's one of the hazards of a scientific expedition. No, we've got our own ride, Ronon's services won't be necessary." A pause. "Although. He's actually a better driver than McKay."
"Hey!" McKay snaps.
"This is still weird," Kate says.
Tony nods. "This is still very weird."
Pouting, Abby says, "Sadly, this is no longer naked weird."
"I watched a TV show like this," Tony says.
"What — military themed porn?" Kate mutters.
"Hah! But no," Tony retorts. "I meant the shadowy government conspiracy and snazzy ultra-secret technology part, Kate — not the nudity. It was called Wormhole X-Treme and — "
Gibbs cuffed him upside the head.
" — Right," Tony says. "Thank you, Boss."
"I hate Tuesdays," Gibbs says, and reaches for his coffee.