Kate Todd sat forlornly at her desk in the Major Case Response Team's bullpen.
She pat the head of her pet terrier, Toni, whose presence in the building went against agency regulations. The mug of coffee on her desk, on the other hand was allowed, and she was on her 12th refill in the past 11 hours.
Kate knew neither Ducky nor her personal care physician would approve of that much caffeine in her body. Both would be concerned over her lack of sleep, fueled by an irrational but nagging premonition that she would never see her family again.
Shortly after she left work yesterday, the power grid in Indianapolis went down. At the moment, much of the city and its suburbs were still dark; therefore, Kate was unable to reach family there by email or phone. And she tried to contact her sister Rachel in Miami, but her calls went right to voicemail and her emails were unanswered.
Kate realized they all probably were just fine, but couldn't shake the feeling that they weren't. With the workday about to begin, she opened her browser and went to the ZNN website to check the latest news.
PRESIDENT REFUSES TO BUDGE
BOMB KILLS 32 IN TEL AVIV: MOSSAD DIRECTOR AMONG DEAD
SWISS BORDERS WON'T CLOSE TO PANICKED CIVILIANS
COSTA RICA PROTESTS NICARAGUAN INTRUSION
NORTH KOREA PRAISES SOVIETS, DENOUNCES WEST -- AGAIN
INDIANAPOLIS STILL IN THE DARK
Scratching Toni behind the ears with her free hand, Kate read the article, then clicked on the link to the national news section.
TENSIONS FLARE BETWEEN REFUGEES, ACTIVISTS IN MIAMI
"This is new," she muttered, as she began reading. The expatriate Cuban community objected to peace activists holding vigils in downtown Miami and Little Havana. Arguments flared into fights here and there but Miami-Dade County police were keeping both groups under control.
Not seeing anything pertinent to Rachel, Kate looked at the clock on her monitor. It read 7:01 AM, so she closed the browser and opened her inbox to begin the workday.
Kate heard Toni growling, then looked up and saw Tony Dinozzo and Officer Ziva David walking to their desks.
"You look like hell, Kate," Tony joked. Aside from not having slept in over a day, Kate was her usual well-dressed, well-groomed self. All she needed was to freshen up and take a 12-hour nap.
"I couldn't sleep, DiNozzo," Kate said, instantly regretting she had said anything to the nosy senior agent. After all this time and even with partially preoccupied with Ziva, he still couldn't keep his nose out of Kate's business.
"Couldn't sleep? Why not? Get some action last night?" DiNozzo said with a grin. Kate was too tired to argue with him, but her eye roll only encouraged him. "Party hard? Who's the lucky fella? What's his name?"
"You interested in a date, Tony?"
"So our former Secret Service agent DID get her groove on."
"No, DiNozzo, I did NOT 'get my groove on'. I couldn't sleep."
"I bet you couldn't," he said, walking to Kate's desk.
"There wasn't any guy."
"'There wasn't any'...oooooooohhhh. There was a GIRL...was it Abby?"
Tony now was sitting on her desk, further annoying Kate. He saw a piece of paper and reached out to grab it, stopping only when hearing Toni's low and long growl.
Tony withdrew his hand and quickly moved away from the desk, causing Kate to smile for the first time in hours. Keeping a wary eye on Kate's terrier, Tony slowly backed away and into Ziva.
Surprised to bump into her, Tony turned around.
"You know, Officer David, in America when someone's about to bump into someone else, they say 'excuse me'," Tony said.
"We also do the same in Israel," Ziva replied. "Would you like me to tell you what we do in Mossad?"
Tony chuckled. "You--"
Ziva grabbed Tony, threw him to the ground to where she was sitting behind him, then 'lightly' put Tony in a rear naked choke. A second-year jiu-jitsu student would've been able to escape the hold, but not DiNozzo.
"I...see my...head's still on my shoulders," Tony whispered, as Kate (holding Toni) stood wide-eyed. She had come to accept Ziva as a teammate and a friend, but still was somewhat wary of the Mossad officer in her.
"This is when we want the hostile to remain alive," Ziva said in a low voice in Tony's ear.
"What do you do if you want to...take the hostile out?" Kate asked. Even with her Secret Service training, and her work with Gibbs, some things Ziva had shared with her regarding Mossad still unnerved Kate.
"There are 37 ways from this position in which to 'take the hostile out', Kate," Ziva replied. "Would you like me to demonstrate one of those methods?"
"No thank you Ziva," Kate said. "I don't think Tony could survive."
"What she said," Tony followed, catching his breath as Ziva released him from the hold. Ziva went to pet Toni, who growled at Tony when he stood up.
The elevator dinged, and McGee ran out the open door towards the bullpen, stopping at Gibbs' desk.
"Where--where's Gibbs?!?!?" yelled McGee, frantically looking around for his and his team's boss.
"He--he--he's not here yet, Probie," cracked Tony, still rubbing his neck from Ziva's 'light' chokehold. "Since when do you come in here looking for Gibbs? And you're late."
"So was Tony," Kate added, as McGee pulled out his cell phone, then remembered its battery was drained.
"Quiet Miss Smartypants," Tony replied. "Gibbs as you should be able to tell Probie isn't here yet, but as senior field agent and acting boss in the boss's absence you can tell me whatever you want to tell the boss."
"I absolutely can't tell you," McGee said as Tony picked up the dead phone and fooled with it. "I'm not even sure I can tell Gibbs--"
"What happened to your phone, Probie?" Tony said, putting his nose right on McGee's in mock indignation.
"Dead battery. I forgot to charge it last night. It died on me on my way to work."
"You forgot to charge it. Ladies, McForgetful McForgot to McCharge his phone. Rule Three."
"Rule Three, Probie: Never be unreachable. You were unreachable on your way here--"
"As opposed to when you left yours at home, Tony?" interjected Ziva. "Gibbs tried to call you on the other end of Rock Creek Park. He was not happy to hear your excuse."
"Or, my first year here at NCIS, when Tony was at a club and had his phone turned off," Kate added. "What was it you told those co-eds before Gibbs grabbed you by your shirt collar and pulled you out of there...'here comes my angry grandpa, he's off his meds'? That made him madder."
"Had to keep my cover Kate, and Ziva, it was two in the morning when we caught that case," Tony shot back, before placing his full attention back on McGee. "Probie. Have you not memorized Gibbs's rules--"
"Dammit, Tony, I don't have time for your crap!!!" McGee yelled at the older agent. "I need to find Gibbs."
Tony was momentarily taken aback, then allowed himself the slightest hint of a smile: Probie just stood up to me.
McGee looked over Tony's shoulder and addressed both women. "Ziva, Kate, do either of you know Gibbs's cell number? I have to talk to him and it can't wait -- and I'm sorry, Tony, but this isn't something I can talk to you or anyone else here about."
"No time like the present, McGee," said Gibbs, coming around the corner into the bullpen with a fresh cup of black coffee in hand.
McGee sidestepped Tony and met Gibbs before he could get to his seat. "Boss, I need to talk to you."
"About what, McGee?"
Gibbs nodded. "My office," he said, taking his coffee and going back in the direction of the elevator, McGee following.
Four minutes later, Gibbs ran out of the elevator and into the bullpen, McGee sprinting behind. "DiNozzo. Kate. Ziva. Where's Ducky?"
"He and the autopsy gremlin ought to be in the morgue, boss," Tony said.
"McGee. Head for the lab, get Abby and bring her to the morgue," Gibbs said just enough for he and the other four to hear. "The rest of you. With me."
McGee headed for the back elevator. "Boss, this have anything to do with what Probie said he couldn't tell me?" Tony asked.
"On my six," Gibbs said, halfway to the elevator. Tony, Kate (dog in arm) and Ziva ran to catch up.