Gibbs struggled valiantly to contain his abject frustration as he worked on herding his small team of agents toward the oversized van the Director had ‘graciously’ allowed him to commandeer for the impending week-long ‘team-building’ event she had demanded they all attend. And while sad van was of the newer variety, and fully equipped with all those features which would make even the most ardent of gearheads envious, such facts did but little to lessen his pure ire at having been forcefully put in charge of everyone for the duration of such a hellish week. For not only would he have to see to it that everybody arrived, unscathed, to the small hotel located a full four hours away, but so too would he have to make certain that every event on the Director’s itinerary was properly attended to. And while he knew full-well that his agents weren’t any happier than he was about this forced event, Gibbs couldn’t help but maintain his usual gruffness. It wouldn’t do, after all, for his team to start treating the approaching week as a long vacation.
“I call rifle!” Ziva suddenly exclaimed, her accent only further garbled by a yawn.
Before Gibbs could so much as disabuse the Israeli of her assumptions, Abby stepped in front of the taller agent and crossed her arms, effectively stalling the brunette’s progress toward the van.
“Shotgun.” Abby corrected, not unkindly. “But I get the front seat.”
As Ziva opened her mouth, ever ready with a scathing retort, Gibbs held his hand up to silence her.
“Neither of you will ride in the front seat.” Gibbs declared sternly. “Ducky gets it.”
While he would have much preferred to allow Abby or Tony the privilege of riding in such a coveted space, their personalities much more harmonious with his own, the fact still remained that Ducky’s seniority had certainly earned him said seat.
“But I called dibs on the front seat hours ago.” Tim groused, poking his head out from the back of the hatch as the group approached.
While the younger man had happily volunteered to load the van, along with Jimmy, Gibbs felt less than charitable at having one of his decrees argued with.
“McGee,” He growled, “Don’t make me strap you to the roof.”
Paling at the prospect of seeing one his kinder colleagues strapped unto the roof like a Christmas Tree, Jimmy coughed softly and flinched as Gibbs raised an inquiring brow at him.
“Uh, Boss, I don’t think Virginia allows for live transports to be-“
“Palmer.” Gibbs interrupted, massaging his temples. “Don’t make me stuff you in the hatch.”
While he had initially wanted to threaten the ‘Autopsy Gremlin,’ with promises of refueling duty for the duration of the trip, Gibbs wisely refrained. For while Ducky had proven himself time and time again to be of a serene nature, that enviable temperance could quickly turn into contempt where the harsh treatment of his young assistant was involved.
“He wouldn’t fit.” Tim sassed, struggling ardently to place the fifth of Abby’s seven suitcases in the van.
Before Gibbs could so much as give the mouthy agent a thorough tongue-lashing, much less an accompanying head-slap, Ziva opened her mouth once more.
“You must flip it on its side.” Ziva corrected, making no move to assist. “Like Jenga.”
“Tetris.” Tim corrected tersely. “And I’ve tried flipping it.”
Wishing to gauge the truthfulness of such a statement for himself, Gibbs sighed loudly his displeasure and moved to investigate the supposed congestion taking place in the hatch.
“There just isn’t any room.” Jimmy assured him, moving aside to allow him a look.
True to the Assistant Medical Examiner’s words, the back of the van was filled beyond capacity, with several pieces of poorly-positioned luggage threatening to fall out and concuss one of the clueless loaders at any moment.
“You two have done the packing the lazy way.” Gibbs scolded, irritated but not at all surprised. “If you had begun the job the right way you could have made everything fit.”
“Take everything out and start over.” Gibbs demanded, levelling a fierce glare at McGee for having dared interrupt him.
Looking more than just a little mutinous, if not petulant, McGee grumbled his complaints to his shoes and set to work removing the baggage as quickly as he could- all but ignoring Jimmy’s suggestions that he go about the task in a slower fashion.
“Tony!” Kate squawked, looking indignant. “Come out here and help them!”
Having been utterly determined to secure himself a seat as close to Gibbs as reasonably possible, Tony had evidently arrived at the van early and planted himself in the middle seat of the first row. And while such laziness would have ordinally evoked outrage in Gibbs, he let such childish behavior go unchecked as Tony was injured and in need of close supervision.
“I didn’t ask Tony to help!” Gibbs barked.
Opting to ignore Kate’s scowl for the sake of his rising blood pressure, Gibbs rolled his eyes and willed the week to be over quickly.
“Get in the van, ladies.”
Scrambling to obey before Gibb’s charity could be exhausted, all three women slipped into the awaiting vehicle without protest. Wisely opting to seat themselves in the far back, where they would be relatively safe from head slaps and glares, they quickly arranged themselves to their liking and fell into a whispered conversation that almost surely involved the topic of Abby’s date the previous evening. Wishing not to be made privy to any of the more sordid details, Gibbs moved a few feet away and set to supervising the work of McGee and Palmer.
“Why does Tony get away with everything?” McGee was grousing to Palmer, sweat dripping down his forehead as he struggled to free a purple suitcase from the small mountain in the hatch.
“Hey! Be careful with that one!” Kate snapped, glaring over her shoulder at Tim.
As it turned out, the Brunette’s call for caution soon proved to be well-founded- as moments later the aforementioned luggage came crashing down on Tim’s head alongside a similar black one.
“Jesus Christ!” McGee cried, rubbing his sore head. “What did you pack in this thing, Abby?”
Thus said, he gave the offending rectangle a mild kick before reaching for the latches.
“Do not dare to open that one!” Ziva cried from the back. “It is mine!”
Unwisely ignoring the Israeli’s warning, Tim flipped up the silver latches and tugged up the suitcase lid even as Jimmy tried, and failed, to push the larger man away in a fit of gallantry.
“Jeepers!” Tim exclaimed, gingerly holding up a box of tampons. “How many of…’these’…does one person need?”
Gibbs blushed alongside Jimmy as Tim waggled the box in the air, then just as quickly flinched when Kate’s hard-soled shoe made contact with the instigator’s gut.
“I packed for us all.” Ziva hissed, flinging her own shoe.
As the rogue projectile inadvertently caught Jimmy on the chin, Gibbs sighed loudly and prayed for patience.
“Congratulations, McGee.” He quipped. “You’ve just earned yourself the privilege of repacking all by yourself.”
“And you’d best make certain that the back windshield is clear of obstruction before you even think of getting in this van.” Gibbs finished, charitably retrieving the fallen footwear.
“So everyone else just gets to sit inside the air conditioned van while I work my butt off?” Tim demanded, swiping his sweaty brow with the back of his hand.
“That’s precisely right.” Gibbs assured, tossing the ladies their shoes.
“I could help!” Jimmy offered, already stooping to pick up a fallen makeup bag.
“No.” Ducky refused, grabbing his assistant by the arm. “Let us get in the van, Jimmy.”
Looking unwilling to leave a member of his team to do backbreaking labor all on his own, the ‘autopsy gremlin’ opened his mouth to protest.
“C’mon, Jimmy!” Tony intervened, leaning out the window. “Come and sit by me!”
While he looked more than just a little reluctant to obey Tony’s summons, Tim’s dark grumblings soon sent the timid man shuffling for the van.
Much to Gibb’s great displeasure, it nearly took the entirety of an hour for the van to be properly repacked, during which time Ziva had gotten into a heated argument with both Abby and Kate about restraining themselves to their own seat in order to keep from ‘smushing’ into her.
“I swear to God, you three, you do not want to make me separate you before we even take off.” Gibbs warned, glaring over his seat at the girls. “And stop picking on Abby.” He added as an afterthought, taking note of the girl’s wounded expression.
“Abby is the one jabbing her elbow into me!” Ziva protested.
Even though the expression on Abby’s face was one of feigned innocence, Gibbs could not help but rise to her defense, for aside from Tony, the young woman was easily his favorite.
“Then keep yourself out of elbow range.” Gibbs shrugged.