The ping-ping-ping of hailstones dancing against his bedside window woke him before the upbeat jingle from his phone, but the tinny melody was what ultimately forced his eyes open and his brain alert, causing yet another loss in the daily battle of responsibility versus sheets tucked up under his chin and soft pillows beneath his head. His fingers deftly traversed the planes of his nightstand and found purchase on the cool metal of his phone, and he was not surprised to see the letters "NCIS" flashing on the screen, a stark bright light against the darkness of his bedroom.
"DiNozzo," he mumbled, rubbing a hand over his face and seeing spotty impressions of the bright letters "NCIS" behind his eyelids when he squeezed his eyes shut to yawn.
"Dead Marine Petty Officer, Agent DiNozzo. I emailed the details. Call Gibbs and get your team in here ASAP."
"Got it," Tony mumbled. "Be there soon." Even though the switchboard operators at NCIS called Tony more than anyone else he knew (although he would never admit that to his coworkers), he didn't think he'd ever spoken more than a handful of words to them.
Pushing his weariness aside, he pressed speed dial number one, the constant hum of hailstones threatening to lull him back to sleep as it mingled with the phone ringing in his ears.
"Gibbs." Even half-asleep, Gibbs managed to sound intimidating and impatient.
"We got a dead Marine, Boss," Tony said, voice gruff with sleep.
He was met with silence for a moment, and then the sounds of rustling fabric and a deep, heavy sigh.
"Call McGee, David, and Ducky; office in twenty minutes," Gibbs ordered.
Predictably, Gibbs hung up before Tony could even attempt to respond. For about half a second, Tony just stared at his phone, brain sluggishly catching up to what was said, ears still intent on the ping-ping-ping of hailstones, eyes processing the "4:23 AM" that flashed on his phone while gradually adjusting to the darkness of his room-then he was on his feet, making phone calls and tugging clothes off hangers in a frenzy. Another day.
Tony noted with satisfaction that his phone read "4:42 AM" as he exited the NCIS elevator and went to his desk. "Made it in nineteen, boss," he said upon noticing Gibbs' presence.
"Good. Give yourself one of those awards in your bottom drawer," Gibbs said, and then took a long drag of coffee as if it were his lifeline.
For just a split second, Tony's eyebrows shot up in surprise - Gibbs knew about those?! - but then he flashed a cocky grin. "Chicks dig a man with awards," he said as he tugged off his jacket and shook the rain off in the general direction of McGee's desk. He noticed an NCIS T-shirt laid over the back of McGee's desk chair, and he grabbed it and gave his face and hair a quick drying-off before tossing it back where he found it.
He sat heavily in his own desk chair and turned on his computer, stifling a yawn as he read the email from dispatch.
"So?" Gibbs asked, throwing his empty cup into the trash and grabbing his gun. "What do we have?"
The elevator chimed, effectively silencing any reply Tony may have had, and McGee and Ziva exited together, Ziva silent and composed, McGee apologetic.
"Sorry, Boss, traffic-"
"Dead petty officer Lisa Wooster, 24, in Georgetown. Neighbors heard a shot and called 911...local LEOs checked it out and called us when they saw dog tags around her neck. LEOs are calling it suicide," Tony said.
Gibbs nodded. "Grab your gear, everybody. McGee, gas the truck."
Tony's gun was already secured in its holster, his NCIS jacket halfway zipped when McGee's wet T-shirt flew into his face. He tossed it back at McGee with a grin that widened with the double pleasure of a scowl from McGee and the look from Ziva that said, "Really, Tony, you are such a child." And with the energy of one, he bounced behind Gibbs into the elevator and smiled blindingly at the surly man. Another day, indeed.
The exuberance found by irritating McGee within moments of his arrival and before the sun had even risen was quickly lost when the sun still hadn't risen, and he'd already taken more photos than he could count and endured enough of Ducky's stories to fill a whole afternoon. Thankfully, Ducky and Palmer had already left with the body.
He hated when the victims were women. He supposed some would say it made him chauvinistic, something he didn't think was worth denying. He'd rather blame it on something that simple, anyway, than delve any deeper into the issue, if it was even worth calling one.
This particular crime scene seemed pretty standard-woman lying in a pool of her own blood, gun in her hand pointed vaguely in the direction of herself, eyes staring up at nothing in particular, lips in a slack, parted position. Someone had done a great job trying to make it look like a suicide, but the angle was completely wrong for her to have done it herself, and Tony was willing to bet there was no GSR on her hands before the test was even done.
When, for the time being, he snapped his last shot from inside the apartment, he stepped out from underneath the yellow crime scene tape and into the hallway to find Gibbs, somehow holding another cup of coffee, origins unknown, talking to a tall, thin, balding man.
"Sounds like a model tenant," Gibbs said to the man, taking a casual sip of coffee.
The man nodded, composed expression betrayed by a wildness lurking in his eyes and a hand that would not stop worrying the too-long sleeve that fell, threadbare, into his palm. "Used to bring cookies over, too-loved to bake, she did. Good cookies. My grandson loves-loved 'em. That boyfriend o' hers was a lucky bastard."
"He got a name?" Gibbs asked.
"Yeah, sure, Nicky. Tall guy. Some kinda musician. Lotsa pictures of him in there."
Tony nodded his agreement to this, and smiled at the man. "Agent DiNozzo," he said by way of introduction.
"Steve Thompson," the man said. "I'm the super."
"You finished with pictures?" Gibbs asked Tony.
"So far," Tony said, tugging on the camera strap around his neck.
"Go get more bags from the truck," Gibbs instructed. "McGee's out of 'em."
Tony nodded, sparing a moment's thought as to how Gibbs knew that when he'd been in the hall the whole time, and descended the flight of stairs back to the ground level of the building. He was pleased to see that even though it was still gray and dreary, daylight was beginning to filter in. He grabbed some more evidence bags after stowing the camera away and jogged back in, walking past Gibbs and Thompson once more.
"Out already, McGee?" he asked.
"Yeah, how'd you know?" McGee said. He was painstakingly bagging and tagging small fragments of a once-whole dinner plate.
"ESP," Tony said very seriously as he dropped the bags next to McGee's crouched form and walked towards a tall bookcase crammed into the corner of the apartment.
Ziva snorted from where she was bagging a pile of letters found in the Petty Officer's desk. "And what am I thinking right now, Tony?"
Tony grinned. "Easy. You're thinking about how hard it is to concentrate while the best looking NCIS agent is standing within fifteen feet of you."
Tony was not surprised when Gibbs' presence was given away only by a slap on the back of his head. "Didn't know you thought I was the best-looking NCIS agent, DiNozzo."
"Actually, Boss, I wasn't-" he began to say, but cut his words short as his brain caught up with his mouth. "Of course, Boss, you're a regular Richard Gere-I mean, not that you're old, you're just...distinguished, um, so, really, you're like...like Brad Pitt...uh, not the doctor, the actor, but not when his hair was bleached-um, shutting up now, Boss," he said with a wince, and then a scowl at a snickering Ziva once Gibbs' back was turned.
"Best idea you've had all week, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied. "Find out about the boyfriend. Super says his first name was Nicholas, goes by Nicky, last name starts with M."
Tony looked up from where he was leafing through a book. A recent-looking picture of Petty Officer Lisa Wooster alongisde a tall man with short, almost black hair and a goatee slipped out from between the pages. "Think this is him, Boss," he said.
"There are many letters here from a Nicky Miller," Ziva said from the desk as Gibbs eyed the picture. "I have bagged them already." She had another camera around her neck, and snapped a picture inside the desk drawer before bagging some more items from inside.
Gibbs nodded. "Good. We find her cell?"
"Bagged," McGee confirmed.
"Ziva, McGee, finish up here and take the truck back. DiNozzo, with me. I want everything there is to know on Nicholas Miller," Gibbs barked.
Tony left his perusal of the bookcase to McGee, who finished with the broken plate. "Lunch time yet, Boss?" he asked hopefully.
Gibbs snorted and shook his head. "No. 0720."
"So...breakfast?" Tony asked, hope still coloring his voice. Gibbs just shot him a glare.
By the afternoon, which felt at least a week later than the morning, they had established that Nicholas Miller was a pretty popular jazz trumpeter of the DC area. According to his parents, he was a reliable, kind homebody whose love of music was only eclipsed by his love of Lisa Wooster, the dead petty officer. According to Lisa Wooster's friends, however, he was a party animal who spent the afternoon hours with his trumpet, the evenings at gigs, and the nights at parties or with Lisa, and on rare occasions, at parties with Lisa, who apparently, didn't like his "scene."
Lisa's parents were long dead, and her sister, an accountant in Oregon, was understandably upset but hadn't kept in much contact with her, so didn't have a lot to contribute to the investigation. Her CO was adamant that she was going to be a great Marine one day, and her friends in the Corps were visibly shaken by her death. No one thought her capable of suicide.
Which left one Nicholas Miller, someone who Tony thought was a sneaky, elusive bastard. They'd checked his apartment, and they'd checked the apartment of the other guys in his jazz combo, and they'd both turned up empty. McGee had almost pissed himself in his haste to put out a BOLO, but his car and face were as yet nowhere to be seen.
Out of desperation, Tony decided to just Google "Nicholas Miller." It was a tool they often overlooked; what kind of information would a Google search provide that phone records, interviews, and detective work couldn't? When Google gave him professors, law firms, and irrelevant people, he redefined his search to "Nicholas Miller trumpet" and struck gold: a website for "The Miller Quartet-D.C. jazz combo."
"Hey Boss," he said, scanning the calendar section of the website. "Says here Miller's band is playing at a new jazz club in Georgetown tonight."
Gibbs looked up in interest. "When?" he asked.
"They're supposed to go on at nine," Tony said, still scanning his computer screen. He impatiently tapped his foot as he read. "The place is called The Jelly Roll Round-up...what the hell kind of name is that?"
"Jelly Roll Morton," Ziva said, glancing up momentarily from her computer screen. "A famous jazz musician. Should you not know this, Tony? Jazz is American music, after all."
"Of course I know that, Ziva," Tony said flippantly. "It's just a stupid name for a club." He rolled his eyes and ran a hand over his face. This was a long day...he was already getting a headache from the combination of a lack of food, too much caffeine, and staring at a computer screen. Outside, the morning's hail had given way to torrential rain that came down hard in gusts. No one relished the idea of leaving the office.
"The place opens at three," Tony continued. "They have a happy hour until six, then dinner and drinks the rest of the night. It's open now. The manager's name is George Pelham."
"Good work, DiNozzo. Let's go; you're with me. We're having a chat with George Pelham," Gibbs said. He barked orders out to Ziva and McGee, and Tony stood up quickly to get his gear and follow Gibbs.
"Good enough work to get some food on the way, Boss?" Tony asked as the elevator doors creaked closed behind them.
Gibbs glanced at him, and then narrowed his eyes. "You eat lunch, DiNozzo?"
"No, my boss is kind of a slave driver," he complained.
A comment like that could have had many possible results with Gibbs. They ranged from, at best, a light head-slap to, at worst, a threat of unemployment or file-room duty. It was a total surprise, then, when Gibbs actually chuckled, and told him they could stop.
"Hey Boss," Tony said, feeling lucky, "did you just...well, did you just chuckle?"
"I don't chuckle, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, and his voice was back to a threatening growl.
This was relief to Tony's ears. "Okay. Okay, good, just making sure," he replied, and he wasn't surprised this time when a hand cuffed the back of his head.
The Jelly-Roll Round Up was surprisingly modern. While the name evoked all kinds of olden images in Tony's mind, the club itself was cutting edge. The bar was made of thick green-tinted Plexiglas, and small, round, multicolored lights were hung in such a way that they looked to be suspended in midair throughout the club. The floor was a mosaic of small tiles in differing shades of blue and yellow, and famous Blue Note album covers hung along the walls, framed in strange materials and colors. There was an empty stage on the far side of the lounge, with tables and booths lined up against the walls. Tony could see himself visiting off-duty...that is, if the crowd at night was better than the meager handful of patrons during the afternoon, most of which were pale and scruffy college students, probably musicians.
George Pelham was younger than Tony expected; he couldn't be any older than thirty. His office, situated in the back room of the lounge behind the stage, was adorned with posters and even more album covers. The lights there were normal lamps, though, not like the colorful dangling orbs in the main room of the club, but the surface of his desk was the same green Plexiglas as the bar outside.
"Of course I know Nicholas Miller," George Pelham was saying. His voice was as smooth as his clean-shaven cheeks and neatly styled hair. "I've known him for years. He was one of my best friend's trumpet students growing up. My friend just got out of college and started teaching lessons when Nicky was about...I don't know, 14? "
"You play?" Tony asked, eyes straying from a poster of Ella Fitzgerald to glance over at where Pelham stood leaning against his desk.
Pelham nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. "You think I'd be this into jazz if I didn't? Of course I play. Some nights I even gig with some of my friends, like Nicky. But I learned the hard way that being a musician means no money, so I went into the business side of things."
Tony nodded, taking in the rather expensive suit jacket Pelham wore over a bright Ed Hardy T-shirt tucked into faded and ripped jeans that had to be worth hundreds. "Seems like the business side has paid off," Tony remarked casually.
"Yeah, you could say that," Pelham said. He pushed himself off the desk and sat behind it. Gibbs, who had been mostly quiet so far, sat on the edge of the desk beside Pelham. Tony fought the urge to grin; he knew Gibbs had been biding his time, but now he was going to get some answers.
"Where can we find him?" Gibbs asked with a deceptively casual tone. Tony crossed to the other side of the room and picked up a figurine of a tall black woman in a slinky red dress with a feather boa around her neck.
"Beats me," Pelham said, brow furrowed as he watched Tony toss the figurine from hand to hand. "Hey, don't touch that-it's worth-"
Gibbs reached out and turned Pelham's chin so that he was staring him in the eye. Pelham's look of frustration at Tony's mishandling of his belongings turned to one of surprise at Gibbs' stare. "You wanna try that again?" Gibbs asked, his voice dangerous.
Tony grinned and replaced the figurine back on top of a stack of papers. He reached for a stack of photos this time, sitting beside the financial documents guarded by the little plastic vixen he'd handled a moment ago.
"Nicky doesn't answer calls during the day," Pelham finally said, sounding defeated. "He keeps to himself...doesn't like to go out before dinnertime."
"That's funny," Tony said conversationally, browsing through the photos and holding up one of them. "Because in this picture, the two of you are eating lunch together at Rock Creek Park...looks to me like it's daytime. And Nicky Miller is definitely out before dinnertime." He went over and showed the picture to Gibbs. "Doesn't really add up, does it, Boss? I mean, they'd have to communicate to eat lunch together."
Tony knew that when Gibbs glanced at the picture, he couldn't really see too many details-he'd have to hold it a lot further from his face for that-but Gibbs took his word on it and turned back to Pelham after a quick glance.
"How do you get in contact with him?"
"Those pictures are mine," Pelham said, rather than answering the question. He was starting to take on the distinct look of a nervous man; small beads of sweat were apparent around his temples, and his eyes were darting between the photos, Tony, and Gibbs. Seeing this, Gibbs laid a restraining hand on Pelham's shoulder while Tony continued to browse the photos.
"Something in there you don't want us to see?" Gibbs asked.
"I've got nothing to hide," Pelham said, but his wavering voice and distracted eyes said otherwise.
Suddenly, Tony laughed and looked from Pelham to a photo and back again.
"Georgie!" he said. "You got a hookah in here somewhere?"
"There's nothing illegal about owning a hookah," George said defensively.
Tony shrugged. "No, there's not," he conceded. "But...there is something illegal about smoking opium in one. And pot, too. And that's what I see in this picture." His eyes scanned the room and fell on an Aquafina water bottle by the window, one just slightly taller than average.
"And I'm willing to bet," Tony continued, heading towards the water bottle, "That this water bottle holds more than just water."
George really did look nervous now, and Gibbs tightened the hold on his shoulder.
"You want to tell us where Nicky Miller is now?" Gibbs all but growled.
George looked from Tony, quickly pulling on a pair of gloves before grabbing the water bottle, to Gibbs, wearing a typical stone-faced, no-nonsense expression, and swallowed convulsively. "He has a second cell phone," he finally said, the words coming out in a rush. "One he uses during the day. It's pre-paid. Nobody knows about it."
"You do," Tony observed, casually reading the label on the watter bottle, shifting it slightly as the light from the window illuminated the water. Pelham's eyes followed its every movement.
"Yeah," George said. "I do. And so do the guys in the quartet."
"Give me the number," Gibbs said. George nodded, taking out his cell phone and scrolling through. He grabbed a pen and a post-it note and jotted down the number.
"The other guys in the quartet have pre-paid numbers too?" Gibbs asked.
"No...just Nicky," George said. "His girlfriend, Lisa, was always on his case so he had a separate phone. He didn't want her seeing who he talks to."
"Why not?" Tony asked, twisting the top half of the water bottle.
George watched that motion with wide eyes. "She was always going through his stuff. She wanted to know everything he did. Look, what is this about? Is Nicky in trouble?"
"Maybe," Gibbs said. "Lisa Wooster is dead."
The surprise on George Pelham's face was real-his mouth hung open and his eyebrows shot up, eyes widened as he stared at Gibbs to determine the truth of his words, and then his mouth snapped closed and he ran a hand over his face, turning away from Gibbs' probing eyes to process the information.
"She's dead?" he finally asked, turning back after regaining composure.
"As a doornail," Tony said brightly, grinning when Gibbs rolled his eyes at him.
"Christ," George said. His skin, fair to begin with, had paled at the news, and his hands did not look as steady as they were a moment ago. "And you can't find Nicky, so you think he did it," he deduced.
"But thanks to you, we can find him now!" Tony said, bounding over and giving George a pat on the back. He kept the Aquafina bottle tucked under one arm.
"Are we done here?" George asked, looking between Gibbs, who stood back up and just stared at him, and Tony, who was still grinning.
"Yeah, we're done here," Gibbs said. "But now we leave. And we start again at NCIS. Cuff him, Tony."
"You can't do that! What are you arresting me for? I have a club to run!" George protested, backing away from the agents. Gibbs caught him by the arm easily as Tony twisted the top half of the water bottle off.
"It's a neat trick," Tony admitted, holding the two pieces of the bottle, one in each hand. The bottle didn't open like normal water bottles; the cap's seal was still in place. There was only water for show in the top and bottom parts of the bottle; behind the label was an empty pit. The top section twisted off the top of the label, and no one was the wiser to the empty pit inside the bottle. Well, no one who was not either a drug user or Tony DiNozzo, former member of the Narcotics Division of the Baltimore PD. He glanced inside the bottle and winked at George. "Let's see what's inside here, hmm?" He paused for a moment, peeking around the empty cavity hidden in the water bottle. "Opium," he observed. "Marijuana," he added, pronouncing it with a Spanish accent and a wiggle of his eyebrows. "And one small hand-blown bowl with lots of resin. You must use it a lot."
He replaced the contents of the bottle and set it on Pelham's desk before cuffing him and reading him his rights as Gibbs released his hold. Gibbs grabbed the bottle and gave Tony a brief pat on the shoulder as they left the office.
"You're in charge tonight, Paul!" George called to the bartender as he was escorted out of his own club. The bartender stared in shock and only looked away when the glass he was filling overflowed with beer and coated his hand.
Any response the bartender had was lost to the sounds of traffic as Gibbs opened the door and Tony pushed Pelham through. Even though his headache was still present and the rain was still pattering loudly around him, Tony couldn't help but smile-it looked like they were beginning to make some headway here. That made his 4:30 AM wake-up call totally worth it.
Back at NCIS, Gibbs tossed Pelham into Interrogation 1 while he worked with McGee and Ziva to get a hold of Nicholas Miller on the pre-paid phone number. Tony went down to Abby's lab with the faux-water bottle snug in an evidence bag.
"Tony!" Abby said in excitement, bounding up to him and giving him a tight hug. "What's this?" she asked, taking the evidence bag from her.
"Trick water bottle," Tony said, carefully touching a large neon skull that dangled from her ear. "That new?" he asked.
"Yeah! Gloria sent them to me in the mail!" she said brightly. She turned her head so he could see both ears. The one closest to him was bright green, with an angry expression, while the one on the far side was orange, a toothy smile spreading across its jaw.
"Cool," Tony said after a moment, not quite sure what to make of them. "So, this water bottle has opium, pot, and a bowl inside. We found it on George Pelham...he's a friend of Nicholas Miller. These might have Miller's DNA on them. We've got pictures upstairs of the two of them smoking a hookah together, so they've probably smoked this bowl together, too. Maybe you'll match something to the DNA at the scene."
"I hope so," Abby said, taking apart the bottle and carefully examining the contents. She held up the bowl and her eyes widened.
"This is beautiful!" she said, sounding awed. She turned it carefully under the lights, admiring the details. It was a strange color; clear in some places and a blue-ish gray in others. Small, hand-blown yellow stars were placed intermittently among swirls of green silver along the neck of the bowl, and the bowl itself was adorned with raised black orbs.
"It smells like shit," Tony observed, not quite seeing the beauty of something his brain categorized as worthless drug paraphernalia. He kept his distance from Abby while she scrutinized the bowl.
Abby rolled her eyes. "Of course it does, because it's used. But do you know how much care and detail goes into making one of these? And dichroic glass is so cool; it's specially made for things like this so that the color changes after it's exposed to heat."
"It's art, Tony," she said, setting it down reverently on her evidence table.
"Got any hits on those prints from Wooster's necklace?" Tony asked, changing the subject abruptly and heading towards Abby's computer, where the screen rapidly flipped through fingerprints searching for a match.
Abby shook her head, pigtails swaying as she did so. "There were two prints-one was hers, and I don't have a match for the other one yet."
Tony nodded, crossing his arms while he peered thoughtfully at the screen. Things seemed to be at an impasse in Abby's lab.
"Hey, do you have a Tylenol or something?" he asked, looking up hopefully. If he couldn't get more information for Gibbs down here, at least he could get rid of his headache.
"Why, are you feeling okay?" Abby asked, turning away from where she had already begun to process the new evidence to face him completely. Her eyes searched his face carefully, looking for any signs of weakness.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Tony said. "I've just had a headache all afternoon. Probably from waking up at 4:23 this morning."
"Ouch," Abby said sympathetically. "That'll do it. Come on; I have some in here." She headed towards the little office room where her computer and desk were.
"Hey, new couch!" Tony said and plopped down on the long red couch eagerly. It was shoved against the wall opposite her computer desk, and left very little space for anything else in the small room.
"Yeah, I got a new couch in my apartment," Abby said, "So I made McGee help me bring the old one in over the weekend. If you ever need a nap, you're welcome to it!"
"Comfortable," Tony said in approval, sinking into the cushions happily. "You're amazing." He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the couch. The day's events caught up to him and he relished the moment of quiet, feeling his limbs sink like stones into the warmth of the couch.
"Careful," Abby warned. "It's dangerous. It pulls you down and never lets you up. That's why I had to get rid of it." She pulled a little bottle out of her desk drawer and Tony put his hand out without picking up his head. When he felt two little pills land in his palm, he sighed and opened his eyes.
"Got any water?" he asked her hopefully.
"What would you do without me, Tony?" she asked playfully, grabbing a water bottle off her desk and sitting next to him.
He took a grateful sip and dropped the two pills into his mouth, swallowing them down quickly.
"Thanks, Abs. I better run before Gibbs notices I'm gone," he said.
"Don't be silly, Tony; Gibbs knows everything. He already knows you're gone and-"
"Damn right I know you're gone," Gibbs said, appearing in the doorway of Abby's little office.
Tony grimaced and recapped the water bottle. "Thanks, Abby," he said morosely, pushing himself up off the couch and steadying himself when it took a little more effort to get upright than he thought it would. "That thing really does suck you in," he said, looking at the couch curiously.
Abby nodded very seriously. "It's like a Venus Fly Trap and you're the fly," she said sagely.
"You think you'll be able to get any prints from that...that glass thing?" Gibbs asked Abby, gesturing behind him to the evidence table where it sat.
"It's called a bowl, Boss," Tony said automatically.
"Hopefully," Abby said. "There might be some old saliva on the edges, too. Gibbs, let me show you something," she said excitedly, pushing past him to the table. She picked up the bowl and held it up to the light. "This is made of dichroic glass, so when the stoners light up, the glass starts to change color-"
"What's all that black gunk inside?" Gibbs asked. "It smells terrible."
"Resin," Tony said. "It's residue leftover from when they use the bowl. In fact, if Abby tests it, she can find out if they smoked anything else in there."
Abby smacked Tony lightly against his chest. "If? I think you mean when. I am a brilliant forensic scientist. Of course I'm going to test the resin," she said. "I can't believe you would even think-"
"Hey, of course I knew you'd test it," Tony said. "I was just-"
"If you two are done," Gibbs cut in threateningly, "we have a location and a warrant on Nicholas Miller. Get your ass in gear, DiNozzo."
"On it, Boss!" Tony said eagerly, saluting at Gibbs and turning to give Abby a wink that made her pout turn to a smile. He walked ahead of Gibbs, but stopped when Abby called out to him.
"Tony, do you want to take some Tylenol with you?" she asked.
Gibbs looked at him curiously, and Tony shook his head at Abby. "Nah, that's okay. Thanks, Abs."
"Suit yourself!" Abby called and went over to her computer, which was beeping imperiously.
"What are you taking aspirin for?" Gibbs asked once they were inside the elevator. It didn't surprise Tony that rather than sounding concerned, Gibbs sounded suspicious.
"Just a headache, Boss. No big deal," Tony said dismissively with a lazy wave of his hand.
"You never take aspirin," Gibbs observed shrewdly, raising an eyebrow and looking Tony over, as if he expected to find an arm missing.
"I do today," Tony said. "So you found Miller?"
Gibbs looked at him skeptically for a moment, and then let it go. "Yeah, we found him. McGee looked up the pre-paid phone and got a fix."
"What about Pelham?" Tony asked.
"We'll hold him and question him when we get back," Gibbs said.
When the elevator stopped at the bullpen floor, Tony eagerly followed Gibbs out. The familiar sounds of typing and one-sided phone conversations immediately flooded his ears. He tuned them out expertly and headed straight for his desk.
"McGee!" he said in surprise, looking at him askance before opening his drawer to pull out his gun. "Are you eating fruit snacks?"
McGee glanced at him sourly while Ziva laughed. "Yes."
"Why are you so upset about it?" Tony asked, adjusting his belt to the weight of a gun. "I mean, they're chewy and fruity, what more could you want?"
"The vending machine did not do as McGee asked," Ziva said.
"I wanted a granola bar," McGee complained. Tony went over to McGee's desk and peered into the bag of fruit snacks. With a shrug, he reached down and snatched them out of his hands.
"Then you won't mind me taking them!" he said, turning the bag over and emptying it into his hand. He threw the whole handful in his mouth and patted McGee on the back. "Thanks, Probie," he said, but it came out more like, "Thnnkshpbie."
"Let's go," Gibbs said, brushing past the agents to get to the elevator. As soon as his back was turned, Tony gave McGee a thumbs-up, and McGee gave him his best cold stare, which Tony had to admit was getting better.
"Tony," Ziva said, as the three of them shoved into the elevator with Gibbs. "You really are a child sometimes."
Tony shrugged and swallowed his mouthful of fruit snacks loudly. "Then it makes sense for me to take the fruit snacks," he said. "They're not fit for adults, Probie," he added.
McGee just rolled his eyes.
"Why does our vending machine even have them?" Ziva asked a moment later. "They are for children, no?"
"Because they know DiNozzo works here," Gibbs said shortly. "Next person who mentions the damn fruit snacks is fired."