Chapter 8

“Ah, thought you were in Miami? You’re looking… positively Alpine.” Tony mused as he saw Ziva enter the squad room still wearing a thick layer of clothes.

Ziva grinned at him as she pulled off her coat. “Yes, we went skiing in Vermont,” she replied as she sat down to her computer to check her messages from the weekend.

“Vermont?” Tony laughed. “How… quaint, you must have been bored out of your skull when you were there.”

She only smiled as she worked on replying to an email. “Actually we were quite entertained the entire weekend. How has things been here?”

“Oh, you know, the usual,” he shrugged. “No weekend off, unlike you.”

She didn’t reply and kept on with her work. A smile came to her face as she thought about the weekend and how – relaxing, it had been. Of course their bedtime activities were a great contribution towards her overall pleasant mood that even Tony could not bring down. Ziva was happy and for once she actually begun to think about her personal future rather than just what she was going to do next professionally.

Making pasta tonight. ~ John

“So, when are we going to meet this pilot of yours?”

Ziva heard her phone beep and looked at it. Smiling she sent a quick reply.

Sounds delicious. I can’t wait ~Ziva.

Looking back at Tony, she shrugged. “I do not know. I do not know if I could trust you to behave if you did meet him,” she said simply.

“Oh come on, you know me,” he smiled widely.

“Yes, I do know you Tony. That is why I do not want you two to meet quite yet.”

“I’m glad you had fun on your weekend off, Ziva.” Tim smiled. “You look refreshed.”

She let out a sigh and smiled. “I am. It was very relaxing and I had a good time,” she replied. “Is there an active case?”

“Dead Navy recruit,” Tim said, “I’ve emailed you what we have so far.”

“Ah, haven’t gotten that far yet. Too much spam,” she said turning back to the computer and focused on clearing out her inbox.

“Or it’s clogged up with your boyfriend’s emails.” Tony snarked and took a bite out of his breakfast burrito.

Ziva glared at him over the monitor and shook her head. She wished that he wouldn’t be so jealous and would just get over that she found someone else. He had his chance to come to her so many times over the past and never took it. Regardless of Rule #12, he had done nothing and is only putting himself through the unnecessary self punishment. For the first time, she knew what it was to be happy and intended to follow it through, wherever it may lead her.

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He was on the phone when Ziva came home that night after work and at the same time he was trying to make sure that his pasta wouldn’t go to waste by cooking it too long. “No, I understand General,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll find something to do in the next few days.”

For some reason there was a foothold situation on Atlantis, and until it was resolved, he wasn’t going anywhere. Which was fine because he could spend some more time with Ziva; but on the other hand, he really wanted to save his home too. He hung up and greeted Ziva. “Hey,” he smiled. “Had fun today?”

“Oh tons,” she replied tiredly as she dumped her things on her sofa. Making her way into the kitchen area, she smiled at John as he cooked. “Important call?”

“Yeah, there’s something wrong with the plane that’s supposed to take me back.” he shrugged. “Would you mind if I stayed a couple more days?”

She was at his side taste testing his spaghetti sauce. “Mmm you can stay for the next month if you keep cooking like this for me,” Ziva said, licking her lips from the hot red substance. She went back into the other room to pull off her shoes to put away as she continued to talk. “My team keeps asking me when they will get to meet you,” she informed him as she went to secure her weapon in her usual hidey spot.

“Well, you could invite them over for dinner,” he shrugged.

Ziva made a face. “I’m not quite ready to share you with them to be honest…”

“Then don’t,” he smiled widely. “I’m all yours.”

Grinning she went up to him and slid her arms around his body and up, under his shirt. “Is that a promise?” she purred.

He nodded and chuckled. “Yep, but if you don’t want this dinner to be burned, I’d suggest you stop what you’re doing right now.”

“Hm,” she hummed and let go before going off to the other room to finish her usual post-work routines.

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“Gear up, we’ve got a dead marine near Fairfax.” Gibbs said.

Ziva immediately grabbed her bag and her gun from her drawer and ran after Gibbs barely catching up at the elevator. “Details?” she asked as she double checked the barrel of her weapon out of instinct and holstering it.

“Apparently it’s been drained of blood,” Gibbs shrugged.

“Interesting!” McGee smiled widely. “Is Ducky coming?”

Gibbs head-slapped McGee as an answer.

“Yea, of course he would. It’s a body. Sorry Boss,” he replied with the dignity to actually look ashamed for his ridiculous question.

“Abby is going to go insane with this,” Ziva whispered to Tony who merely stared forward at the elevator door. She narrowed her eyes at his change in demeanor but said nothing else.

It took them 40 minutes to drive to the crime scene as Gibbs was driving. When they got to the scene, they saw with their own eyes that the local cops hadn’t been imagining things; the body looked absolutely drained of its blood, the leather skin dangling off the bones.

“Abby’s going to have a field day,” Tony said as he started to snap some pictures of the body.

“It’s impossible to get a positive ID like this, boss,” McGee said. “He’s not wearing his dog tags, no wallet as far as I can see…”

“Wait for Ducky,” Gibbs ordered.

Ziva was staring at the withered corpse like it was something out of a science fiction movie. Thank god Tony hadn’t made that connection quite yet but something about it left a sense of tingling under her skin. She looked around and there were nothing but nature and wilderness in sight. “If there is no identification on the victim then how did they know it was a marine?” she asked to no one in particular before carefully walking around the scene, studying the ground more closely.

“Jacket,” Gibbs pointed out.

“You know…” Tony started, “This reminds me of this movie… and the TV show attached to it, that ridiculous show… ahh… ehm… Wormhole X-treme! Cheap special effects, bad acting… rubber bodies…”

She let out a breath as she shook her head. And it began. “That is television, this is real life,” she said slowly as she noticed an odd set of footprints that led away from the scene. “Gibbs!” Ziva called out.

Gibbs nodded when he saw the footprints. “Tony, take a few shots.” he pointed to the ground, looking around, waiting on Ducky’s arrival. He’d probably be lost again.

Approximately fifteen minutes later, the ME van was pulling into the closest lot to where the team and the body were located. For whatever odd reason, Palmer wasn’t with the older man so that might have explained the delay as it appeared that he was working alone today.

He slowly made his way up the grassy field to just inside the treeline where everyone were congregated. “What do we have here?” he asked as he knelt down beside the body. With his gloved hand, Ducky began poking at the dried, tight skin that had shrunk around the man’s bones.

“We’d love to have an ID on him, Ducky, is there a wallet?” McGee asked eagerly. “Oh, and…”

Gibbs glared at McGee before returning his attention back to Ducky. “Would you like to have McGee ride with you today, Duck?”

Ducky looked up at Gibbs before shifting his gaze to McGee. “Ah yes, of course Timothy. You may look for your wallet. I could certainly use the extra pair of hands -”

“GIBBS!” Ziva called out again, but her voice was much further away. While they were focused on the body itself, she took it on herself to track the footprints she pointed out…and came across another two bodies. Withered away just like the first.

“I guess we need a bigger boat,” Gibbs said upon seeing the other bodies.

“Really, boss?” Tony asked. “You’re pulling a Caruso?”

Gibbs glared at Tony, then called for Ducky. This was going to be a headache of a case.

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