mrwubbles: (NCIS <3McGee)
[personal profile] mrwubbles




| 1 |


2. The delivery man arrived smelling like their orders of Chinese takeout like cheap cologne.

Spoilers: none

No one was hungry.

By the time the delivery man arrived smelling like their orders of Chinese takeout, no one was in the mood for the food everyone had half-heartedly debated just over an hour before.

Well, not everyone.

Gibbs was still in MTAC; had been for the past three hours. He'd growled his order to Ducky. The ME was the only one brave enough to interrupt Gibbs' vigil to remind him that he needed to eat if he was going to wait in MTAC for as long as he thought was necessary.

Gibbs was still waiting. Actually, they all were.

Tim tugged out his carton of chicken lo mein. The white box with the red illustration of a rickshaw and pagoda was slightly damp from the collected steam of similar cartons huddled inside the same bag. He pulled out Ziva's vegetable fried rice, Abby's black bean chicken, Palmer's beef chow fun, Ducky's steamed sea bass, Gibbs' wonton soup and Tony's—

With a jolt, Tim realized he'd automatically ordered Tony's usual sweet and sour pork. He glanced up and saw Ziva by his desk, her carton of rice in one hand, the other hesitantly touching the sticky sweet and sour carton.

"He may not be in the mood for Chinese," Ziva said quietly, no recrimination in her voice. Her dark eyes flicked over to Tony's desk, empty for the past two weeks while he was playing "Petty Officer Hanson Gray." It was supposed to have been only for a week.

"Tough," Tim said, but he failed to maintain the bravado and squeaked towards the end. Ziva blinked and her eyes slid back to the carton smeared with orange sauce.

"He should have said something when Gibbs told him at this morning's check-in," Tim hurried on. He remembered standing in MTAC, watching the scratchy satellite image of Tony in uniform and smirking when Gibbs told him they would be eating his food if Tony didn't come back tonight. Tony mocked-saluted then gave himself a headslap at Gibbs' glower and whined to Tim that no one better touch his fortune cookie. He signed off before Tim could retort.

That was before Fornell phoned in.

He told Gibbs about one of their own undercover agents spying DiNutso getting in Captain Steward's car when Steward was supposed to be out of town. The Captain's GPS tracker, in fact, still insisted he was out of town. Abby had thrown Bert at her computer when she couldn't get it to say otherwise.

That was three hours ago. Gibbs had been in MTAC ever since.

Abby and Palmer drifted up to the bullpen minutes later to claim their food. They sat on the edge of Tony's desk poking their food, occasionally nibbling, but no one had finished their meal by the time Gibbs came down the stairs with Ducky.

Tim and Ziva rose as one, simultaneously setting down their cartons and chopsticks.

"Tony?" Ziva asked, one hand on the drawer where she kept her service weapon.

Gibbs grunted, went around his desk, sat down, and peeled the plastic lid off his soup. He tilted the container back like it was a shot, grimacing as he took a gulp of steaming broth.

"Boss?"

"Tony's on his way back," Ducky explained as he peered into the bag to pull out his food. "He was detained by the FBI."

"FBI?" Tim exchanged a look with Ziva.

Gibbs took a gulp of the coffee left on his table. He made another face, although it was hard to tell if it was for the coffee or the FBI. "Seems they were in the area when Steward tried to execute DiNozzo," Gibbs bit out, his voice unusually hoarse.

Mouth dropping open, Tim realized there was still food in his mouth. He swallowed hastily while Abby squawked, her carton dropping to the floor. Palmer made a grab for it, rescuing it from becoming an MSG splatter across Tony's desk. Gibbs gave Abby a headshake as she peppered him with "Is he okay?" "Why were the FBI there?" and "When is he getting back?"

"Abby," Ducky chided as he placed a hand on her arm. "Apparently, the FBI had a man inside the shipyards investigating the weapon dealings before Tony went in as Steward's assistant."

"Why did they not tell us?" Ziva demanded, but she was looking at Gibbs, unflinching. Maybe her Mossad training taught her to be impervious to Gibbs' glare.

At the glower shot her way, Ziva meekly sat down and she picked up her food again.

Then again, maybe not.

"They didn't know Steward was involved," Ducky explained when Gibbs wouldn't. "They assured us had they known the Navy was involved, they would have notified us immediately."

Gibbs scoffed. Tim silently agreed.

"So…Tony's all right then?" Tim asked tentatively.

"The agent on scene reported one of their men is driving him back to the Navy Yard as we speak," Ducky told him. He chuckled when Abby squealed and threw her arms around him.

Gibbs snapped the lid over the quart of soup and focused on emptying his coffee instead.

"I could get you some tea and honey if you prefer," Ducky began, "I don't think coffee would be…" At Gibbs' wordless grumble, Ducky shook his head. Ducky shrugged when Abby's head canted toward Gibbs.

"I'm afraid he has a touch of laryngitis," Ducky explained before he sat down in the empty desk to Tim's right. Tim could smell the clean bite of the ginger and scallions as Ducky expertly picked out a flaky white morsel of fish. Ducky hummed. "This is very good. It's almost as good as the fish I once had in Xingping, on a fisherman's boat…"

Tim let the lilting reminiscence wash over him as he ate his food. His lo mein noodles were overcooked, a little oily and starchy but the plump bits of tender mushroom and juicy roasted pork that bejeweled the noodles kept jumping in with a burst of salty flavor. He was startled to hear his stomach rumbling though after being quiet for so long. He smiled at Abby when she grabbed a rolling chair from somewhere to sit next to him, knees touching. He could smell the salty, woodsy aroma of garlicky bean sauce of her food. It overpowered the grassy scallion scent of Ducky's fish.

Palmer sat in Tony's chair, wolfing down his food (when he could pick up the wide noodles with his chopsticks, that is) until Ziva complained he was sharing his dinner with her and she did not like the taste of his chow fun—she pronounced it perfectly, Ducky declared—with her fried rice. That wasn't true, of course, but Palmer slowed down enough that he had his eyes up when the elevator doors opened.

"Tony!" Palmer blurted out although it sounded like "phony" with his mouth stuffed with wide rice noodles.

"You're cleaning my desk later, Palmer," Tony said wearily as he shuffled toward his desk. "If I see one noodle—Hey, Abby!" Tony staggered a step as Abby flung herself at him in one of her exuberant, throw-out-your-back hugs. Her borrowed chair was still spinning on its axis next to Tim.

"You're late," Gibbs growled. With his raspy throat, he sounded like a certain dark Jedi.

Despite the smudges under Tony's eyes and the bruise on his jaw, the senior agent still managed a smirk as he looked past Abby, who had attached herself like a koala and was determined to stay where she was.

"I would have been here sooner if I didn't need to explain myself over and over again to the FB 'I don't know' guys." Tony waddled, Abby still treating him like he was her eucalyptus tree, toward his desk. He did a little arm flail as best he could, and Abby hopped back so he could drop heavily into the seat Palmer had just vacated.

"Thanks for convincing them to come in as backup, by the way. Heard you made the SAC cry," Tony added. He sighed as he leaned into his chair. "I could have done without their smug looks though when they busted in, guns blazing."

"They were closer," Gibbs muttered even as a thundercloud blew over his expression. "We were an hour away."

Tony pinched the bridge of his nose and blew out slowly. "I guess I could live with that."

"That's the point," Gibbs growled.

Tim dropped his eyes onto his food. He could hear Ducky walking over, tsking as he tilted Tony's face left and right for closer examination.

"Nice uniform," Ziva commented dryly even as she threw Tim a small smile across the room.

Tim grinned back as he studied the beige dress shirt untucked from formerly ironed slacks. His smile faded, however, when he spied a boot print smudged across the rib area, the front panel where the nametag would have been was torn and ragged.

"Didn't have a change of clothes with me," Tony mumbled as he yawned. He stretched his arms above his head and winced. "This place was closer."

"Any problem breathing?" Ducky angled Tony's desk lamp closer to his eyes. "Any headache?"

"No and no, but my eyes hurt now," Tony groaned as he gently nudged Ducky's hands away. He blinked when Gibbs dropped a carton in the center of his desk. Tony made a face.

"I don't think I'm hungry," Tony mourned. He sniffed the sweet and sour pork and gave a regretful sigh.

Gibbs strode back to Tony's desk, confiscated the carton and swapped it out with his unfinished quart of soup. Abby jumped in, peeling the lid off and shook out both bags of crispy noodles to its top. Tony stared blankly at the golden-crowned mess.

"Coffee," Gibbs croaked as he shoved his gun into his desk. Tim didn't realize Gibbs had had it strapped on the whole time. "That better be empty when I get back."

Gibbs stopped at Tony's desk, his face unreadable. Tony straightened in his seat and Tim caught the brief nod Tony gave and the twitch at the corner of Gibbs' mouth in response before he pivoted sharply on his heel and headed for the elevators.

"Can you pick up one of those chocolate caramel donut things there?" Tony called after his back. When the elevators closed on Gibbs without an answer, Tony glanced over to Ziva with a hopeful look. "Think he heard me?"

Palmer snorted. "Thought you weren't hungry, Tony." He sat on the edge of Tony's desk, missing Tony's glare as he continued to spear more rice noodles with his chopsticks.

"Goes well with soup," Tony mumbled as he poked at the yellow curls, submerging them. He stared at them blankly as one by one, they resurfaced.

"I would suggest you drink that," Ducky advised as he returned to his dinner. "I do believe Jethro was serious about the soup."

"We could get you something else if you want," Abby chimed in. "Maybe pizza—Ooh! How about Italian?"

"The soup's fine, Abs," Tony hedged. "Really."

"Would you like some of my rice instead?" Ziva offered with an elegant lift of her chopsticks. She tilted her head, thinking. "Or perhaps something bland is better."

"Yes," Ducky agreed. "It may be best to avoid anything too greasy or fried. After an adrenaline rush, your digestive system may be easily upset for the next twenty-four hours."

"A salad might be good," Palmer volunteered. "If you're feeling queasy."

"I don't feel queasy," Tony muttered. He squirmed in his seat, though, looking cornered as everyone gathered around his desk.

"How is your stomach feeling? Any nausea? How's the bruising on your side? Don't think I didn't notice, young man."

"Uh…"

"Ooh! Ooh! I know this guy—well, he's a she now, but she knows this great recipe for celery root stew..."

Tim watched Tony fidget in his seat as everyone around him began tossing out suggestions; they flew back and forth like a tennis match. Tim winced. It looked like Tony just wanted to crawl under his desk and grab a nap instead. The soup was barely touched; the crispy curls of noodle bloated with soup were slowly sinking. Tony stared at the mess with sympathy and what looked like envy.

"There is a place over on M street that does this great detoxing smoothie just for men…"

"Abby, was that the black spotted green thing you brought me last week?"

"Did you like it?"

"Uh, I thought it went bad. I threw it out."

"Jimmy!"

Tim absently twirled his chopsticks, gathering a glistening knot of noodles. He thought about Tony, what he must have been thinking when Steward pressed a gun to his head.

The chopsticks and its coil of yellow noodles lowered.

Tim wondered what Tony was thinking when he realized maybe no one really knew where he was. Tim then thought about Gibbs, how he went in with thunder in his voice and came out hours later his voice barely a whisper. He thought about Tony, currently staring at his soup, everyone around him pretty much determined to discuss what to feed him to deal with his 'ordeal'. Tony pretty much looked like he did the day he came back from his bout of plague.

So when Tony glanced over to him, his eyes wary, Tim gave it some thought before he met Tony's look with a smirk.

"You owe me $8.45."

The shadows retreated. Tony laughed and threw a once crispy noodle at him.




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