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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:02 pm 
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Title: Payday
Rating: FR13
Genre: General, Humor, Character Study
Pairings: None
Summary: A couple of dollars spent on a lottery ticket after a guy's day out in Baltimore turns Tony DiNozzo into a multi-millionaire, and reinforces what's truly important to him.

Notes: Set in Season 11; includes Bishop as a supporting character; and includes three characters from NCIS: Los Angeles whom act in a support role. Also is an AU of sorts, as it includes a couple of supporting characters from a non-CBS dramedy procedural.

Combines the following three prompts requested by iHeartGibbs:

1. Payday – Has someone been saving for something special? Did someone inherit some money? Win the lottery? Any genre, any pairing, any rating.

2. Three Musketeers – A trio of NCISers have fun outside of work. Any trio of your choice! [Some ideas: Gibbs, Tony, Abby./ Gibbs, Fornell, Abby./ Tony, McGee, Abby./ Tony, Ellie, Abby./ Ducky, Jimmy, McGee.] Any genre, any pairing, any rating.

3. Snickers – Someone unexpectedly finds himself (or herself) the butt of a joke. Did McGee have another teeth whitening issue? Has the sperm bank contacted Tony again? Any genre, any pairing, any rating.


Payday

Chapter 1


Funerals were never, ever easy on the team, especially on Tony DiNozzo.

Starting with Kate Todd's funeral, and going all the way to the one the week before for Jackson Gibbs, Tony hated them. In his way, he moved on after the funeral, looking forward while remembering the good times he had with the person in question.

Part of his moving on involved doing something fun for himself, usually some kind of movie marathon at his apartment. It worked with Kate, Paula, and Director Shepard, but the last couple of years had been especially rough on the team and himself.

Although Ziva was alive and well, in Israel, her absence felt in a weird way like a death to Tony. And, the memories of the memorials for Jackie Vance and the Navy Yard bombing victims were still fresh in his mind.

If he was truly going to move on from this chain of ordeals, something big and positive was needed.

He settled for a guy's day out with Tim McGee and Jimmy Palmer, and Tony had just the place in mind:

Baltimore.

Vance gave the entire team a couple of days off, and Tony's self-proclaimed "Three Musketeers" got out of town.

"I'm totally on board," gushed Palmer.

"But we have no idea of what Tony wants to do," said McGee, whose eyes betrayed his own enthusiasm.

"Come on, McPuter, you can put away the McXbox for one night," Tony said, trying to seal the deal. "We won't do The Wire/Dirty DiNozzo tour of Baltimore. We're gonna have fun..."

Tony pulled an envelope out of his top desk drawer, and pulled out three tickets. "Box seats. Camden Yards. Orioles vs. Yankees."

"Alright!" Jimmy squealed. McGee quickly came around after finding the seat locations online. "Okay...it's baseball, and they're great seats. I'm in."

"And we'll go to my personally recommended five-star steak house afterwards," Tony added. "Be at my house, 8 o'clock tomorrow - or stay here and help Gibbs sand wood."

By mid-morning the guys were in Baltimore, and started their ‘Man Day’ at Fort McHenry, where McGee gushed over the history saturating the former fort.

Then, they went to the aquarium, where all three guys gushed like kids over the fish, the sharks and the dolphin, and observed which fish looked like themselves - and the other team members.

They followed up with tours of historic ships; a ride on the water taxi; tours of some local museums; and a few games at a well-known bowling alley, with just enough time to get to Camden Yards for the game.

They topped it off with a dinner at one of Tony’s favorite steak houses, just a few blocks from Camden Yards.

It had been a long, long day, and one with more fun than any of the three men had enjoyed in years, and as a bonus, they could sleep in. So, Tony took his time driving back to D.C.

"Wonder what the girls did today?" Palmer asked. "Breena wouldn't say much."

"Abby didn't say much to me, either, and Bishop didn't tell Tony a thing," McGee said. "Wish Delilah could've been there."

"Bishop said more than that," Tony added. "'Girl stuff'. And Abs said she'd call Delilah early in the morning."

"After work for Delilah," said McGee of his girlfriend, who took a job working for the NSA in Dubai. "Ducky had some seminar to go to, Jimmy?"

"Prior commitment up in Boston," Palmer replied, as Tony pulled off the interstate into a truck stop.

McGee and Palmer headed straight to the restroom, while Tony went straight for the soda machine.

"Make it count fellas. I'm not stopping again before we hit Washington," he yelled their way.

Tony took his soda, grabbed a candy bar, and walked to the counter. Behind the cashier, a small flat-screen showed a commercial for the Maryland Lottery.

"Last day," the lady blurted out. "Drawing's tomorrow night. Up to $32 million."

"Dollars?" Tony blurted.

"It sure ain't pennies," she replied. "Couldn't hurt. It's just a couple of bucks."

Tony DiNozzo thought why not? and handed the woman a $10.

Tony played the jersey numbers for the starting lineup of the Ohio State basketball team he started on his senior year, the one that lost to UCLA in the national championship game.

And, he totally noticed McGee and Palmer sneaking up behind him.

"Yelling 'boo' won’t work, Probie and Autopsy Gremlin," Tony said, scratching off the final number.

Palmer stopped in his tracks. "I wasn't gonna say anything," Palmer protested, as McGee slapped him on the shoulder blades.

"Neither is throwing away money on that," McGee said, pointing to the piece of paper in Tony's hand. "It's a guaranteed money loser, Tony. You know the odds aren't in your favor."

"It's only a couple of bucks," Tony said. "It's a one-time thing, anyway. Just having fun."

"I had an uncle who played the lottery, every Tuesday," Palmer said, as the trio left the store and walked to Tony's car. "Won $1,000 one summer. Brought himself a nice fishing rod and banked the rest."

"Doesn't sound like much of a nest egg," Tony said, as the guys piled in the car.

"That's the only time he ever won. We think he wasted the rest of his winnings playing the lottery."

"There you go, Tony" said McGee, as Tony left the truck stop and headed towards the south exit onto the interstate. "Just in case you had any ideas that you might actually win something."

"Relax," Tony replied. "If - and I emphasize IF - I win anything, I won't throw it away or waste it. Like my partner when I worked for the Peoria PD, who asked to 'borrow' a couple hundred bucks on PowerLotto."

"Don't tell me you gave it to him," McGee said.

"No sir," Tony continued. "Got some other uniform to spot him a fifty, with the promise of splitting the earnings. They even agreed on the numbers; my partner ended up buying dinner for a woman he was interested in. She couldn't care less, but took the free meal, skipped out afterwards. Next day, the numbers were announced and the other uniform thought his proverbial ship had come in. Except my partner spent all of the money on the woman."

"Bet that went over well with the brass," Palmer said.

"Their fist fight didn't," Tony said. "Last I heard, Harvey was running a bait shop somewhere outside Galesburg. The lesson, my fine Probie and Autopsy Gremlin, is if you spend someone else's lotto money on a woman...she better be worth every penny."

"And she better stick around," McGee deadpanned.

"That, too," Tony cracked.

The Three Musketeers headed south, back towards Washington, and another day off before getting back into their regular routine.

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Last edited by Briwd on Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:03 pm 
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Chapter 2

The next evening


Tony, Abby and McGee went out and saw the new Captain America movie, then came back to Tony's apartment for drinks.

After Abs and Tim left for the night, Tony remembered the Maryland Lottery MegaMillion Power 13 drawing. He found the local station carrying the drawing, and thought he'd be lucky to get the circle number correct, and get a few hundred bucks out of it.

On screen, the representative pulled a sequence of numbers out of the machine, explaining that to win MegaMillion Power 13 one had to play the drawn numbers in the exact order, including the ones in and adjacent to the 'power circle'.

Tony looked at his paper, and at the screen.

He saw the numbers on the screen match the ones on his paper...every last one of them.

She repeated the order twice, and Tony looked at his ticket another couple of dozen times.

Then he got on his laptop and went to the Maryland Lottery Company's website, and stared at the numbers for two hours.

At 1:59 a.m., he figured out who to call first.

Not so surprisingly to DiNozzo, Gibbs was still awake, and hammering away at something in his basement.

"Boss," Tony finally said after several seconds of silence. "Can you get over here quick?"

"What's going on, Tony?" asked Gibbs.

"I won the lottery."

"You won what, DiNozzo?"

"I played Power 13 last night and got all the numbers," Tony said, in a half-whisper. "I'm a 32-million-dollar-aire, Boss."

A few silent seconds later, Gibbs spoke. "I'm on my way."

After Gibbs hung up, Tony punched in McGee's cell number, then hesitated before dialing. He looked at the goldfish bowl.

"Don't you two start," he said to Kate and Ziva the goldfish. "No giggling. No 'I told you so’s'...and yeah, Kate, I got a bad feeling about this."

Then he called McGee.

"Tim. I hit the jackpot."

McGee was silent for a few moments, then answered him. "Tony, what...you won?"

"All of it, Probie. Lucky number Power 13. I'm probably one-eighth as rich as Harrison Ford, and richer than Tom Selleck."

"Tony, don't prank me. I saw the letter from the Georgetown Cryobank addressed to Thom E. Gemcity, congratulating me on being a father."

Tony was momentarily stumped, then remembered his painstakingly crafted letter--

"Next time, at least white out your letterhead."

"Oh...oh yeah," Tony said, brightening up just a bit. "Kinda takes the edge out of the joke, eh."

"Fizzled out. Seeing Anthony DiNozzo, Special Agent upside down takes the joke off the radar. Maybe next time you ought to go old school...Tony...Tony?"

"Tim."

"Tony? Everything okay?"

"I won the damn lottery."

"Congratula—hey...you don't seem happy about it."

"I'm not, Tim. I just got off the phone with Gibbs and asked him to come over to talk about this."

"You woke him up???"

"No, just interrupted his latest ship-building endeavor."

"You're not happy. At all. Not even a little?"

Tony took a deep breath. "No...my gut's in overdrive. This is big. This changes everything, McGee."

"Well yeah it would," Tim replied. "Thirty million's a lot of money for anybody. And it definitely's going to be life-changing--"

"Hell yeah it's going to be life-changing," Tony said. "In a bad way, Probie...Tim. I thought if this ever happened I'd be on Cloud Nine."

"You don't sound like you're on Cloud Nine, Tony. You sound like--"

"--the doctor told me I have six months to live," Tony said. "Brewster's Fortune: Richard Pryor throws his 30 mil away. Nicholas Cage in It Could Happen To You falls in love with a waitress and gets sued by his wife. John Travolta trying to scam the system in Lucky Numbers. In Waking Ned Devine, you win the lottery but you're dead--"

"Tony. You're NOT dead, you're too smart to throw it away, you're not married," McGee replied. "Come on. Take a deep breath, and relax. No one knows about this. We've got time to figure things out."

"How much time, though?" Tony asked. "It'll get out within the next day or two--"

"Which means we have enough time to figure something out."

"Tim...I thought if I ever won the lottery, my first reaction would be elation, then excitement," Tony said. "Relief at not ever having to work again. What would I do with all of it, really do with it. All of my wildest dreams come true. But you know what? My gut's churning, in a bad way."

"You think you were set up somehow?"

"Not that, Tim...it may be random, it's still not a good thing for me. I'm in way over my head and it's about to get out of my control--"

"We won't let that happen," Tim said to reassure Tony. "Gibbs won't let that happen."

Tony heard a knock on his door; he walked over, looked through the peephole, and opened it. Gibbs came through, two large coffees in hand.

"Figured you might need this," he said. "Who's on the phone?"

"McGee."

"Put him on speaker, go sit down, and we'll talk about this," Gibbs said to Tony.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:41 pm 
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Chapter 3

6:15 a.m.
Navy Yard, NCIS headquarters
The Bullpen


Tony thought a talk with Gibbs and McGee would clear his head and help him sort through his feelings, and get on top of things.

Which it did. There were so many variables in play in an event like this, and it would be difficult for anyone to keep track of them all.

But if nothing else, Tony would stay in control, keep his cards close to the vest, his friends and bosses in the loop and everyone else off guard.

To do the latter, Tony decided to not be himself.

At a quarter after six, Tony kept looking around the third floor, saw only a janitor and a couple of CyberCrimes agents passing through, and he wondered which of them would be the first to beg him for a handout.

"Lottery officials have confirmed the winning ticket was sold late Tuesday night at a Slickee America truck stop off Interstate 95 in Columbia, Maryland--"

Tony took the remote and tuned the TV set behind his desk from the local CBS affiliate to ZNN.

"You could channel surf at home, DiNozzo."

Tony didn't react to Gibbs' abrupt appearance.

"Some fat guy's arguing interest rates and the President's health care initiative," Tony muttered. He began aimlessly flipping through the channels: morning shows, shopping channels, infomercials, cartoons, sports, movies, teleevangelists...

"DiNozzo!" he heard Gibbs shout.

Tony looked at his boss, friend and mentor.

"Tony," he said. "You alright?"

DiNozzo looked around, to make sure no one else was there; a few other people had begun to wander in to begin their Thursday.

In the corner of his eye, Gibbs saw someone watching a TV screen very intently.

"Tony," Gibbs said, squaring himself with his agent. "How're you feeling? Now."

Tony took a deep breath.

He felt in control, and felt like he was losing control.

"I...feel...like I have the means to do anything I ever wanted and I've just lost everything I really wanted," he said.

"That makes sense," said Gibbs, who saw Ducky coming off the rear elevator towards the bullpen. Then, he saw Agent Claire Washburn, and her idiot Probie, walking a few steps behind Ducky, quickly surpassing him.

"I called Vance a few hours ago. We'll discuss this when he gets here. We'll get--"

Gibbs couldn't finish before Probie grabbed the remote out of Tony's hand, and turned the TV back to the CBS station.

"Jethro, I'm sorry," Agent Claire said apologetically. "Perry--"

"Agent DiNozzo! You're on TV!" shouted Perry, a 26-year-old probationary agent who like McGee had the potential to be a great NCIS agent. Instead of being timid like McGee was, Perry was, to be blunt, goofy; Tony once heard Gibbs mutter under his breath that the kid acted like a complete idiot.

"Agent DiNozzo, is that you buying that lottery ticket???" Perry said, loudly, looking on DiNozzo in wonder.

Gibbs ripped the remote from Perry's hand, and turned up the volume.

"--again, this is footage from the truck stop's security camera, provided to us by the general manager, of the man believed to have purchased the winning ticket. This is exclusive to --"

Tony was speechless. Perry was not.

"AGENT TONY WON THE LOTTERY!" he screamed, running around the floor like a loon, and gathering some of the newly arrived agents to shout his good news. A few of them in turn started toward Tony's desk, only to be scared off by Gibbs' glare.

Claire hadn't moved, though she looked across the room in frustration as her probie ran his mouth, with zero concept of having shredded Tony's personal boundaries in the process.

"Agent Washburn," Gibbs said sternly to her. "Have your probie shut up."

She looked incredulous. "How dare you--"

Ducky stepped in. "Claire, I believe you would be wise to heed Jethro's request," he said. "This is not the time for Agent Jones to express his enthusiasm--"

"You'll whine to Leon. I get it," Claire fumed. "Your team's always been the Director's favorite, Jethro--"

"Not now. Claire. I'm not in the mood."

She fumed some more, then turned to Tony. "Why aren't you booking your flight to Europe? And if you're looking to give to charity, you can start by giving to my church's--"

Gibbs stepped in her face and nodded towards the other side of the floor; she fumed some more, told Gibbs he could have it his way, and turned heel and strode to the back, nearly knocking down the newly-arriving Bishop and knocking McGee's coffee cup out of his hand.

"I saw it too, Jethro," Ducky said as Bishop regained her balance and McGee groaned at spilled coffee. "Let her fume for now."

Gibbs saw his other two agents, both bewildered and put back, and barked orders: "McGee! Shut that footage down! Bishop! Find out why that truck stop gave their security footage without checking with us! DiNozzo! You're with me!"

Tony still hadn't moved, he was watching the CBS affiliate's weatherman explain El Nino.

So Gibbs lightly slapped him in the back of his head, and Tony snapped out of his 'doldrums'.

"Tony!" Gibbs said. "Come on!...Abby's lab."

Before Tony could move, Gibbs stopped in his tracks; he looked up and saw Vance, at the top of the stairs, looking on.

"Gibbs. My office," the current director said. "Don't worry. Agent DiNozzo will be fine, especially with Agents Bishop, Dorneget and McGee to keep him company."

Vance raised his voice. "And don't worry about Agents Washburn and Jones; I'll clarify for their benefit who I 'favor' and how I expect ALL of my agents to conduct themselves," he shouted, gaining their attention. "Ah. I see you're here. Please join me in my office."

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:44 pm 
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Chapter 4

8 a.m.

After Vance sat Washburn and her probie down and straightened them out, both scurried out of the building to work on their primary case. Vance sent out a department wide memo, reviewing the situation and ordering all personnel to conduct business as usual, then discussed it with Gibbs.

"There's nothing in the rulebook prohibiting agents from playing and winning the lottery," Vance said. "How's DiNozzo taking it?"

"He's worried about the aftereffects, Leon, but he's fine," Gibbs replied. "He's trying to throw everyone off."

"How and why."

"Acting down, sad. Everyone expects him to stand on his desk, shout his good fortune, put in his two weeks and be on his way to Monaco."

"Has he? Is he?"

"No, Leon. He definitely hasn't turned in his badge and doesn't plan to."

"How do you plan to play this, Gibbs?"

"Follow his lead, Leon, and see where it goes."

When Vance and Gibbs ended their meeting, they left the director's office and made their way to the stairs leading down to the bullpen. They saw a long queue of agents and other personnel in front of Tony's desk.

"I really wanted a boat-"

"-my wife has always wanted to go to Hawaii-"

"-my daughter only needs 50 grand to have her Dartmouth tuition paid for-"

"I just need five thousand. It'll get my kid a D-I scholarship-"

"Pastor Mark really wants to plant a gospel-centered church in Georgetown-"

"Come on DiNozzo. Help a buddy out. Did I ever tell you you're my best friend?"

"Tony, Rule 12 doesn't really apply across the agency-"

"-I have an awesome investment opportunity-"

"-just a few thousand bucks for a new car-"

Tony sat there, not moving, appearing catatonic.

Gibbs saw the line, stretching past the Most Wanted portraits, and started to shout something. Vance stopped him.

"It's like Christmas at the mall," Vance observed, then spotted Abby at the head of the line, Dorneget at Tony's side, while Bishop and McGee appeared to be trying to work cases.

"Excuse me!" Vance shouted. "What are you all doing?"

A few people tried to sneak out of the line.

"I SAID STOP!" screamed the director. "Now. Again. What are you all doing and did you not read my memo?"

Tony sat there, still catatonic, still not moving.

Agent Williams - the long-legged, long-haired athletic woman who recently transferred from Rota - spoke.

"Director, it, ah, just sorta happened-"

"This. Didn't. Just happen," Vance interjected. "ALL of you. Return to your desks...NOW."

The line began to disperse; Vance nodded to Gibbs.

"ANYONE who wants to talk to DiNozzo goes through ME!" Gibbs shouted, getting everyone's attention. "Not McGee. Not Bishop. Not Abby, Palmer, Ducky. Not Dorneget. Unless it's an emergency or related to an active case, do NOT bother me with a request. Am I understood?"

Most of the people on the floor nodded their heads.

"And if any of you have ideas about running around Gibbs by approaching me - don't," Vance said. "I highly encourage all of you to review the memo I sent out and treat it like the law...dismissed."

That caused the remainder of the queue to disperse.

Tony still hadn't moved.

"Gibbs, we've got to get a handle on this," Vance said as the two men made their way down the stairs. "Ms. Sciuto. What are you doing here?"

"Managing the line, Director," she said. "They all showed up at once after Gibbs went upstairs. I showed up and, uh, took it on myself in consultation with McGee and Bishop to keep the line in order-"

"If Abby hadn't shown up we'd have had to run it," Bishop added.

"And we couldn't have followed up on the camera feed," McGee said. "The CBS affiliate asked the truck stop for the feed. The manager obliged, admitted to me that he didn't get the permission from his corporate bosses as he's required to, said he wanted the publicity."

Just then, Tony's desk phone rang. He didn't react.

"Isn't someone gonna pick that up?" Gibbs said.

Dorneget shrugged his shoulders. "Phone's been ringing, nonstop. First three people asked for Tony, then demanded him. Last guy cussed up a storm."

"I've gotten a lot of calls; one on the case, the others looking for Tony," McGee said.

"People looking for Agent David at my phone - then asking for Tony when I tell them she no longer works here," said Bishop.

The phone on Tony's desk continued to ring.

Gibbs picked it up. "Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. NCIS," he barked.

"Gibbs?" said the familiar voice on the other line, that Tony and Dorneget could hear.

"Dad?" Tony finally said, the first words he uttered since mumbling 'fine' when Abby organized the now-dispersed queue.

"Mr. DiNozzo?" Gibbs said. "Yes," the caller replied, confirming it was Tony's dad, Anthony DiNozzo Sr. "Is my son there?"

"Yes he is, Mr. DiNozzo, but he's busy at the moment."

"I'm...I'm certain he is. I wanted to make sure he's alright."

"He is, I'm sure," Gibbs said, as Tony stared at him. Then Gibbs had an idea.

"That's good. I'd like to speak to him," DiNozzo Sr. said, "about a business opportunity-"

Gibbs followed through on his idea and hung up.

"Boss? Why'd ya hang up on my dad?" shouted Tony, a tad too incredulously.

Gibbs ignored the comment, and dialed Ducky, just as his own cell phone began to ring. "Duck. DiNozzo's coming with me down there. I want you to give him a checkup...hold on a second Duck."

Gibbs picked up on the fourth ring. "Yeah, Gibbs."

Metro D.C. Police were calling, about three dead sailors found behind a restaurant in Georgetown. Tony's checkup would have to wait.

"We've got a case," Gibbs called out. "McGee! Bishop!...and DORNEGET!"

"Yes sir-er, yes Agent Gibbs," said the tall, young, overeager agent, still a little too nervous around the ex-Marine while wanting to be on his team.

"Grab your gear. You're with us, three dead sailors in Georgetown."

Dorneget looked like he won his own lottery, and raced to get his jacket and cap as Bishop and McGee headed to the elevator.

Gibbs picked up the phone on Tony's desk to call Abby in forensics, then caught his senior agent gazing into the distance.

SLAP!

"Yeah boss?" muttered Tony.

"You alright, DiNozzo?"

"I don't know...boss I think I bit off more than I can chew," he said, loudly; then he whispered "I'm alright...though I'm not lying about the more than I can chew part."

Gibbs tapped Tony on the back of his head and smiled.

"I'm ordering you to go down to Abby's lab and stay there. If ya gotta go...only to the head, no longer than you have to, and right back until I get back. Got it?"

Tony nodded at Gibbs. "Loud and clear."

Tony walked to the back elevator; Gibbs watched him get on, alone, and saw the door shut.

"Abs," Gibbs said, calling her on his cell phone as he walked to the elevator. "Tony's coming down. Do NOT let anyone besides the team other than the director in there."

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:45 pm 
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Chapter 5

The NCIS Forensics lab


"Tony," said Abby, as a small line began forming in front of her locked door, and she reached out to hug Tony. "You okay?"

"I'm fine, Abs," Tony told her. "That bunch outside's the least of my concerns."

"Wanna tell me what's on your mind?" she replied. "What did you tell Gibbs?"

"I'm trying to think this through and how to deal with this...thing," Tony said. "And the money...I admit, I'm thinking about the cash."

Abby hugged her Bert the Farting Hippo doll; it let out a loud sound as she looked out the door and saw people knocking and asking to be let in.

"I'm going to call Director Vance and get him to make these people back...off," Abby said, exasperatedly.

"Probably a good idea," Tony said. "I can't hang my head and droop my shoulders like this all day...might lock into place."

"What're you worried about?" Abs replied, more chipper this time. "You got plenty of money now to fix yourself up."

They both laughed.

"Tony...can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Abs."

"I hate to ask you...it's your money and I'm happy for you, really...but do you--"

"I've already been thinking about that," Tony replied. "Even if I gave it all away I'd still make sure the people I care about in this world - you guys - are taken care of."

Abby smiled at Tony, and they embraced.

An hour and a half later

When Gibbs and the team got back to the Navy Yard, they saw a couple of agents waiting on them.

"Uh, Doctor Mallard...Agent Gibbs...where is Agent DiNozzo?" Agent Porter asked.

"Not your concern," Gibbs said, just as Ducky was about to speak. "Got business here?"

"Uh..."

"Get your asses back to your desks."

The two agents ran out through the door and to the elevator, as Ducky and Palmer began prepping the three bodies for autopsy.

"Jethro. Your glare and intensity may not be enough to ward off the interlopers much longer," Ducky told Gibbs. "And there will be some who complain about your response - however you are in the right on this matter - to Director Vance--"

"Then he can put an end to the nonsense," retorted Gibbs.

"That won't be enough," Ducky replied. "From what you tell me, he is pretending he is in some sort of daze, overwhelmed by the enormity of his winnings and the implications. From what little I know about the situation, and having known Anthony as long as I have, it is completely understandable if he WERE overwhelmed."

"He's not, Duck," Gibbs said. "We're trying to figure this thing out."

"Nevertheless, Jethro at some point Tony is going to have to address his situation and make a decision."

"We don't know all the details yet, Duck."

"He won 32 million dollars, Jethro--"

"I don't know all the details." Gibbs turned to leave.

"Jethro. You may not know all the details. But if you're expecting something other than the fact he randomly found himself as the recipient of a financial windfall, you likely are going to be disappointed...don't tell me you think he's being framed--"

"I don't think that," said Gibbs, turning back to Ducky, "but I don't believe in coincidences either."

With that, the MCRT leader turned around and walked out the door towards Abby's lab.

When the elevator door opened, to his disdain Gibbs saw a small line right outside Abby's door - which was locked shut.

Gibbs muttered to himself something the ladies in the line wouldn't want to hear him say, then strode off.

"Break it up! Now!" he yelled, and a few of the people in line glared right back.

None of them wanted to test his patience, however, and all hit the elevator or walked up the stairs.

He walked in, and saw DiNozzo sitting on a stool in front of Abby's mass spectrometer, with Abby next to him standing guard with Bert.

And, Vance standing next to them.

"Gibbs, although I'm certain Agent DiNozzo here is in relatively good spirits and sound mind, I'm having Dr. Cranston come in this afternoon to talk with him," Vance said. "In the meantime, I've come to the conclusion we have got to get control of this now."

"That so, Leon?"

"You should be aware that the Maryland Lottery Company is going to hold a press conference tomorrow and they expect DiNozzo to be there to accept the check."

"And I don't see any reason why I shouldn't," Tony added.

"You figure out what you're gonna do with it?" Abby.

"No...well, beyond what I told you and Director Vance and what I told Gibbs and McGee this morning," Tony said. "But as of tomorrow morning, I'm gonna to be Washington's newest multi-millionaire...and I wouldn't want to disappoint Slacks."

"Who?" Abby.

"Slacks?" Gibbs.

"Actually, Agent Sacks has nothing to do with this," Vance replied. "But a few people in Quantico have already been sniffing around, wanting to make sure this is on the up and up."

"Quantico???" Gibbs half shouted. "Over what?"

"A few agents went over Fornell's heads and started looking into DiNozzo's personnel file, going all the way back to Peoria," Vance said. "Including La Grenouille and Chip Sterling."

"And the case where Slacks thought I killed someone," Tony said, annoyed.

"Look, Leon," Gibbs interjected, "I'll talk with Fornell--"

"Already done," Vance continued. "He said those agents were overeager, looking to make an impression. Which they did, in the worst way, with the FBI Director. I don't believe they nor the rest of Bureau will give us any further problems."

Abby raised her hand, and the other three looked at her.

"Er, Director, Gibbs, Tony's been getting lots of phone calls--"

"I had to shut off my phone," Tony said.

"--and his voice mail is full, and so are his personal and work inboxes--"

"And I took the battery out of my phone so no one's been able to get ahold of me in a couple of hours."

"What's sad, Director Vance," Abby continued, "is that Tony's enduring all of this and he only played it on a lark--"

"No one's blaming him, Abs," Gibbs said, looking at Vance. "This is NOT your fault, Tony. Odds were against you winning anything. You just happened to beat them."

"Lucky me," he muttered.

"Talk with Rachel when she gets here," Gibbs told him. "Then we'll go from there. One step at a time, okay?"

Tony nodded.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:46 pm 
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Chapter 6

Friday morning


McGee, Dorneget and Dr. Cranston drove Tony up to Baltimore for the press conference. Tony said nothing, smiled and waved for the cameras.

Under Baltimore police guard - and with more than a few officers and detectives extending their wishes and "special requests" - Tony deposited the check into his bank account. Then, tailed by four cars carrying NCIS and FBI agents, the four returned to the Navy Yard.

Tony, with Rachel at his side, both flanked by McGee and Dorneget, walked off the elevator, and not a single soul on the floor wasn't staring at them.

Except for Gibbs, following up on a lead on the team's active case.

Tony looked around, waved at the starers, and walked directly to Gibbs' desk.

"We got a case, Boss?"

Gibbs looked at Tony, and pointed up.

"Go see the Director," Gibbs said. "Take Doc Cranston with you."

Tony looked at him funny. "Er...am I in trouble--?"

"Only if you don't go see Vance," Gibbs said, then glancing towards the top of the stairs. "Go."

Rachel smiled, and nodded, then tugged at Tony's jacket sleeve.

Both went up the stairs and were guided into Vance's office.

"I have three people I want you to meet, Agent DiNozzo," Vance said as Tony and Rachel sat down at his conference table.

"My financial advisor." Vance gestured to a small, diminuitive, bespectacled woman, who had an iPad and a leather folder on the table in front of her.

"You can call me Hetty," she said.

"And your new bodyguards," Vance gestured to a young, dark-haired, athletic, very attractive woman to the right of Hetty, and to a young, blond, bushy-haired man in need of a shave, uncomfortable in his suit and tie, standing to Hetty's left.

"Financial advisor," Tony said. "And bodyguards."

"You already have a shrink," Rachel deadpanned.

"I wanted to keep things in-house," Vance said. "Hetty will review your financial options with you and help you make your own decisions about your new-found wealth. And Ms. Blye, 'Fern', out in the field, and Mr. Deeks, otherwise known as 'Mr. Stone', will keep tabs on you while you're out and about."

Tony looked at all of them, then at Vance.

"Director, look, thanks," Tony said. "Believe me, I appreciate the gesture, but I'm fine. A financial advisor I could use, but I don't need bodyguards--"

"Well, Mr. DiNozzo, as the director of the agency you work for, I would be very happy knowing your financial needs and your physical well-being were taken care of," Vance said. "L.A. just finished with a case and is in the perfect position to help us out."

"L.A. - as in Los Angeles?" Tony asked, then looked at Hetty. "Hey. Aren't you their--"

"I, Mr. DiNozzo, am a woman who has had a hand in numerous ventures over the years," she said. "I unexpectedly came into wealth myself, years ago and understand your unique position better than anyone. I believe we can come to a solution that provides for your future, allows you to be generous with your loved ones, and keeps you from a dreadful life of leisure and luxury on the Mediterranean."

After spending an hour with his new financial advisor, Tony and his bodyguards went down to Abby's lab. Kensi and Deeks helped Abby come up with an interim solution to Tony's immediate dilemma: because he won the lottery, his face was shown on every media outlet, and he had become a local celebrity.

After Deeks changed out of his suit to a more comfortable SoCal surfer outfit, he produced a shopping bag, straight from Target, full of T-shirts and jeans.

"You don't have any choice, Tony," Abby said to him as he winced at the clothing. "Just long enough to get through this."

"This so isn't me," Tony complained, before seeing Kensi produce a pair of clippers. "And THAT definitely isn't me!"

Kensi grinned, and began cutting Tony's hair into a short buzz, while Abby helped darken Tony's unshaven face to match Deeks' stubble.

"Relax, Tony. At least you're not going undercover for three months as a Marine," Kensi cracked.

"Remember that op a couple of summers ago where we worked that Navy recruitment office in San Bernardino?" Deeks asked her.

"How could I forget the smell?" Kensi answered. "You had that homeless guy thing down pat. Looked - and smelled - the part."

"And you looked the part of the Navy officer," Deeks said. "Looked really good in uniform."

"Keep it up, Deeks, and we'll get to see here and now what you look like with a buzzcut," she said as she finished DiNozzo's haircut.

Abby handed Tony a USC cap, and bifocals.

"Abs?" Tony said, reluctant to put the cap over his new crewcut. "You know I went to Ohio State."

"You can wear their cap too, Tony," Abby replied. "The cap and glasses complete the look. You look like a guy on the street, not Tony the millionaire."

Tony looked at her and smirked. "Thanks, I think," he said. "So am I supposed to be a visitor?"

"A visitor from L.A., here to check out the sights and sounds of our nation's capital, and we're your buddies from college," Deeks said.

Tony nodded, and looked at the cap again.

"USC, huh?...Abs, if Kate were here, she'd appreciate this."

"She's appreciate the whole thing," Abby said, giving Tony a hug, as Deeks and Kensi looked at one another in confusion. "You're gonna be fine. Beginning of next week, this'll all be over and we'll be back to normal."

"We'll see," Tony said, "but this helps...and my hair will grow back...right?"

Abby looked down, her grin turning into a frown.

"...right??? Abs?...Abs. Is there something you're not telling me--"

"Of course it'll grow back! It'll all grow back!" Abby answered, regaining her smile and leaping forward to wrap Tony in yet another hug. "Tony. Sometimes you're way too easy."

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:46 pm 
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Chapter 7

Mr. Tommy DiNardo, and his friends Fern and Danny, left the NCIS building from a side entrance - and under surveillance from McGee in Washington, and Eric Beale in Los Angeles.

Their first destination was a coffee shop in Georgetown, in a meeting set up by Gibbs and Vance.

"Tommy" walked to a private back room, and saw his father.

"Dad???" Tony said, embracing his father, Anthony DiNozzo Sr. "Sorry Gibbs hung up on you--"

"No problem, son," Senior replied. "Agent Gibbs and Director Vance filled me in. You okay?"

"Fine. Just trying to figure this mess out...so why am I meeting you here?"

"Well, I was in the neighborhood--"

"Riiiiggghhttt. And Agents Balboa and Yates are moonlighting as baristas. You're not just in the neighborhood. I've known you for too long and despite what's been going on with me I can tell when you're in a bind. So, what's going on?"

"You know me too well, son," Senior told him. "I'm short twenty thousand dollars."

"Twenty--TWENTY GRAND???" Tony shouted. "Over what?"

Senior was "invited" to be a minority investor in a hotel being built in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup; he understood that the hotel would open in September of this year, not 2021.

"How'd you miss a seven year gap???" Tony said. "They’re asking for the money now???"

"Well, yes--"

"Great," Tony shot out. "Great...look. Don't worry. I've got you covered. And we're gonna get your money back."

"I know that, son, and thanks," Senior said, grabbing Tony's shoulder. "You know I'd pay you back--"

"Look, it's alright," Tony said to him, as he got up to walk out of the back room. "Not a problem. Glad I can cover you. I'll cut you a check, and talk with Gibbs to see what he can do about that sheik you got mixed up with--"

Walking out into the lobby, he noticed agents Yates and Balboa, still behind the register, and Kensi and Deeks drinking coffee.

He also noticed two women who weren't there before. Both redheads, one older, and elegant, the other college-aged.

And the older woman wasted no time in approaching Tony.

"Dahling," the older woman said, "they told me you'd be here. I'm so pleased we didn't miss you."

She smiled at the younger woman, who smiled back at her, then at him; Senior was as confused as Tony himself was, but none of the other agents were reacting.

"Let's sit back down, son," Senior advised, shaking his head 'no' after Tony mouthed 'you know these women?'

"I don’t believe we’ve met," the older woman said. "My name is Martha and I'm from New York City. This is Alexis, and I've been seeking you for years and finally found you through my new friend at NCIS."

"Your new friend," Tony said, suspiciously. "Wouldn't be the last few days kind of new, would it?"

"Oh no. It's been at least a week," she deadpanned. "But I am happy that I finally found you after all these years. And she is too," nodding to Alexis, who grinned.

"Um…this wouldn’t be your new friend, would it?” Tony replied, glancing at Senior, who shook his head vigorously.

"We've never met, either, though I do see the resemblance, between you two," Martha continued. "You are the reason Alexis and I are here, however."

"I see," Tony said. "Does that reason have anything to do with...recent events?"

"No, though I am happy you're almost as wealthy as my son," Martha said. "I'm here because of an event 22 years ago. You made a donation to the sperm bank."

Tony - reaching for his coffee cup - froze.

"A sperm bank, son??? A sperm bank??" Senior said. "What on earth--"

"College," Tony shot back. "Er, yes, I did make a 'donation', of sorts...and the bank told me at the time my, ah, contribution wasn't wanted."

"Not wanted?" Senior asked.

"By anybody," Tony retorted, then turned to Martha. "Are you from the bank...or are you telling me the bank was...wrong?"

"We're not from the bank, but the bank was...wrong...someone wanted your donation," Martha said.

Tony mused on that, as the other agents looked on in amusement.

"My...donation," Tony said, reaching for his coffee. "You're here to tell me who that woman is."

"Yes," Alexis said.

"Okay...who...?"

"Ahem," Martha said.

Tony nearly choked on his coffee. A well-placed hard slap to the back from Senior brought Tony to his senses.

"You're...saying...you accepted the donation," Tony said.

"Yes!" Martha shouted. "Finally he gets it...he's just as slow as that other guy was who we thought was your father, what was his name again, darling--"

"Rick," Alexis said.

"Yeah, ol' whatshisname," Martha dismissed. "He's history...but you" - pointing to Tony - "are the man my baby girl and I have searched for the past 22 years!"

"Twenty TWO years," Senior said, mouth wide open.

"That means he's my dad! DADDY!" squealed Alexis, as she launched herself across the table into Tony's chest.

Kensi and Deeks looked deadpan outside the front windows, while Balboa and Yates were huddled around the espresso machine.

"Guys...guys! GUYS!" Tony shouted, failing in vain to get their attention.

Right then, Tony's cell phone buzzed. It was McGee. Alexis broke the hold to allow Tony to take the call.

"Tony?" McGee said. "We need to talk--"

"Where's Gibbs? Vance? We got a situation," Tony began, and explained things to McGee.

McGee, in turn, explained to Tony he sent Martha and Alexis to the coffee shop.

Which wasn't a coffee shop, just a storefront used by Metro D.C.

And that Martha and Alexis were grandmother and granddaughter, and Alexis was the daughter of a writer friend of McGee's, and Martha the writer's mother.

While Tony wasn't sure whether to laugh or cuss out McGee; everyone else - Senior included – were laughing at the joke. And laughing.

"You got me, Probie," Tony admitted, chuckling at his predicament. "That beats anything I ever did to you."

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:47 pm 
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Chapter 8

Friday evening


The joke quickly spread around NCIS, and people began talking about it more than about Tony's newly found wealth - and how they were going to talk him out of some of it.

Being that Tony was undercover, he couldn't return to his apartment - which was being staked out by paparazzi and two local TV stations - so Vance put two agents out to guard it, and sent in a third to bring Kate and Ziva the goldfish to Tony's temporary home.

That night, Deeks and Kensi watched TV in Gibbs' living room, while Tony fed the fish in the basement, with Gibbs working on his boat nearby.

"I'm sure Jack would have been proud," Tony said, watching Gibbs sand the frame of the boat. "Gotta ask, though. How are you going to get this thing out of here?"

"Same way I got it in here," Gibbs joked, as he finished sanding a portion of the boat into a velvet finish. "If I ever wanted to send you undercover as a Marine, I guess now's the time."

"Trouble with that is my face's plastered all over the country," Tony said. "Saw myself on ZNN. Some guy outraged that I didn't give my money away. He had a charity or two in mind, of course."

"They always do," Gibbs said, having turned from the boat and laid his tools down on the workbench. He poured two nail jars half-full of bourbon, and gave one to Tony. "Given any more thought to what you're going to do?"

"I'll invest some of it, top off my retirement fund," Tony said. "Pay off dad's debts, pay for his wedding, make sure he and his wife are cared for...and make sure whatever needs you guys have are squared away--"

"Don't worry about me, Tony," Gibbs said. "I'll be fine. I think Ducky will be too."

"I'm gonna take care of the rest of my family," Tony continued. "You guys. McGee, Abs, Jimmy, Breena, Dorny. Bishop, Director Vance and his family too...and Ziva...and make some charitable contributions."

"That's good," Gibbs said. "What about the rest of it?"

"Guess I gotta hold on to it," Tony said. "Stash it away, pretend it's not there...I'll tell you this: I'm not ready to walk away."

Gibbs looked at him. "Might not have a choice, Tony."

"If I have any say in the matter I won't," Tony said, as sincerely and seriously as Gibbs ever noticed his senior agent say anything. "I chose to be a cop, went to Peoria, to Philly. Ever watch The Wire? I lived through some of it. That's not what I wanted out of life."

Gibbs took a drink. "That's one reason you joined NCIS," he told Tony.

"And it opened doors I never dreamed of," Tony told him. "Been around the world. Met lots of people I never would have otherwise. Lost some...Kate, Paula. Jeanne."

"We've all lost people, Tony," Gibbs said, "and had the luck to keep some - the ones you mentioned."

"If I do what anyone who hit a windfall is expected to do, I walk away," Tony added. "Move to Florida or Arizona, or Europe. Or stay home and give it away slowly, blow it on bad investments. Burn through it all before you realize it, and you're living on welfare."

Gibbs took his pocket knife, cut an apple in half, and pushed one of the halves to Tony. "You won't do that. You're too smart. Too deliberate. You may have even figured a way out of this or how to handle it."

"I'd sure as hell like to know what else I could do," Tony said, before biting down. "Damn. If I had just bought myself a candy bar instead of a lottery ticket--"

"Can't beat yourself up over that, DiNozzo," Gibbs cautioned him. "You had no idea you'd beat the odds. Sixty million to one, Tony, for that drawing. Question is, how're you gonna move on?"

"Move on?"

"Yeah. Move on. It's done. No conspiracy. No coincidence either - you hit the right combination of numbers. Now it's there. What're you gonna do?"

Tony stretched, and drank the last of his bourbon. "Hell if I know, Jethro...guess I'll take Dad and his wife around the world."

"That what you want, Tony?"

"No."

"Then what DO you want?"

"I want...what I've got," Tony told him. "My job, my career; my team, my family. Senior Special Agent of the best field team on the planet, working for the best boss I've ever had, working with some of the best people I've ever met. That's what I want. Money can't buy that."

"Then grab it and don't let go," Gibbs said.

"It's not that simple in my particular situation," Tony shot back.

"Yeah it is," Gibbs said, quietly and calmly, pouring himself another shot. "You already know what you really want. Now do what you have to do keep it."

"Okay," Tony said, "I'll play along. I want what I already have."

"And what's in the way?"

"Thirty-two million dollars."

"Then get rid of it."

"Yeah, right."

"No, I'm serious...get rid of it. Take care of your own, and your future. If you and Ziva ever settle down, make sure your kids are cared for."

Tony looked dead at Gibbs. "Boss?"

"The rest of it? I'd give it to people who needed it, in places where the money could be of good use. Someone like Washburn doesn't like it? Tough. She can win her own lottery."

Tony chuckled, and the two friends sat in silence, Tony thinking on what he had just been told by perhaps his best friend in the world.

"Is it really that simple, boss?" Tony finally asked Gibbs.

"I've never known you to screw things up," Gibbs told him. "You already know the answer."

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:47 pm 
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Chapter 9

The next day, Tony sat down with Hetty and worked through his fortune.

A percentage of it would go into retirement. Another percentage, into a fund marked for future expenses involving he, Ziva and any kids they'd have together, including retirement, medical and college.

Tony wondered what else Gibbs knew regarding he and Ziva's long-distance relationship - and if the rest of the team had picked up on it.

Another percentage went towards giving cash gifts to the ones he considered family; Gibbs, Ducky and Ziva declined, while the rest gratefully accepted. Their debts, ranging from credit cards to Jimmy and Breena's adoption expenses to Delilah's medical expenses, were taken care of, and Tony gave them enough to cover the tax hit.

The rest was divided up amongst charities - from Abby's church, to organizations serving disabled children.

Tony set up charities in the names of Kate and Paula, and helped cover their parents' medical expenses.

And, incredibly, this all was finished in two weeks, until Tony's bank account was the same, down to the penny, as it was when he bought the ticket.

August

Outside, the early D.C. weather was hot and muggy, and Tony was grateful that the building was air-conditioned. He was also grateful that his hair was growing back to its normal length, and that he was back doing the job he loved, working with the people he wanted most to be around.

Tony walked out the elevator towards his desk; he saw Bishop sitting cross-legged on her desk, McGee sitting behind his.

"Cold cases add up quick, don't they," Tony remarked.

"Yes, but I think I may have come closer to solving one of them," Bishop replied. "1996. Petty officer, found dead at Rock Creek Park--"

"Imagine that," McGee deadpanned.

"No one ever is found dead at Rock Creek Park!" Tony joked.

"Except when they are," said Gibbs, rounding the corner from the stairs. "Bishop came across a break."

"Meet Donald Percy Williams, ex-boyfriend, questioned but never charged in the death of Petty Officer Leona Harding," Bishop continued. "He may have been there after all."

Files and photos popped up on the screens in the bullpen.

"Nice work, Ellie," Tony told her. "Guy lives in Texas...we going down there to question him, boss?"

"Agent Pride and the New Orleans office said they'll handle it," Gibbs said.

"We have a case, boss?" asked McGee.

"Just cold cases, stacks on your desks, including yours, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied, heading towards the back elevator. "Going down to the lab to check with Abby."

Gibbs left, and Tony thumbed through the folders.

"Tony," Bishop said, still sitting on her desk.

"You know, Ellie...I'm still getting used to that," he replied. "You. Sitting like that. It's not something Ziva or Kate would've done."

"Well, it's me, and I gotta say if you had taken that money and moved to Monaco, it would've been..."

"Been what, Bishop?" Tony asked.

"Been strange, seeing someone else sitting there," she said.

"Gotta agree," McGee added. "It would've been really strange seeing you as Tony the millionaire, and not Tony the agent."

DiNozzo walked around to the front of this desk, and leaned against it.

"Would've been stranger living it, Tim," Tony said, addressing McGee and Bishop. "I tried to think of a scenario where taking the money and running turned out good. I couldn't come up with one. Not even the movies had it turn out for the best."

Tony chuckled, then looked at his friends.

"The things that count, truly count," he told them, "money can't buy."

THE END

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:22 pm 
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Epilogue

Tony's apartment


Tony and Ziva had kept in touch regularly since she left NCIS the year before.

It wasn't as often as he wanted, but Tony understood their friendship, relationship, while solid, had to make room for her sabbatical.

If that was the right term for it.

Sabbatical was what Tony was calling it this particular day, and it came with rules.

Rule #4: One must always contact the other in the event of emergencies, deaths or certain life-altering events.

Jackson Gibbs' death fell under their Rule #4, and unfortunately Ziva was not able to travel back to Pennsylvania for his funeral (although she did talk with Gibbs at length the day before, and sent flowers to the funeral home).

So did Tony's winning the lottery.

As he powered up his laptop to talk with her via Skype, Tony glanced at the clock in the corner of the screen.

11:06 p.m. in Washington would be 6:06 a.m. in Jerusalem. Ziva would be packing for some retreat, while he hoped to get a few hours of sleep before reporting to the Navy Yard in seven hours to train Dorneget and Wilson on undercover work, since he couldn't exactly do that anymore.

He wouldn't inconvenience her any more than absolutely necessary, but this couldn't wait.

Ten seconds after opening Skype, he saw her face on his screen, as beautiful as the last time he saw her in Israel.

"Hey Ziva," Tony said with a smile. "It's so good to see you."

"It is good to see you as well, Tony," Ziva replied, trying to maintain a straight face, but smiling just a bit at seeing Tony on her laptop.

"Getting ready to climb Mount Tabor? 1,800 feet in a single day, sounds like a Ziva thing to do," Tony said, trying to break the ice.

"Mount Tabor is 575 metres high, 1,886 feet to be precise, but no, that is not on my agenda today," she replied. "I am going on a retreat but I cannot--"

"--that you can't talk about," Tony said. "I realize that, I don't want to keep you any longer than I have to...did you get my package?"

He saw Ziva look to her left, off screen, then look back at the camera.

"Yes I did, and I appreciate the gesture, but I cannot accept it," she said.

"C'mon," Tony replied. "Of course you can. It's not every day a friend wins the lottery and wants to share some of his winnings with you. People usually blow it all by now, or relatives and friends and friends of friends and friends you never ever know you had pile on you to leech it away--"

"Tony," Ziva said. "I have already told you, I am appreciative of your gesture but I do not want to 'leech' you of your wealth nor am I in any need. My finances are more than sufficient."

Tony looked at the package on the desk in front of him, which contained a personal check written out to Ziva. It was stamped RETURN TO SENDER.

"Tony...I simply do not desire to, to take advantage of you," she said. "I value you and our relationship too much to allow something like money, that ultimately unimportant in the long term, to destroy it."

He took a couple of breaths.

"Believe me, I know how unimportant money is," he replied. "I could have walked away from NCIS, I could be sipping wine on a boat in the Mediterranean right now if I wanted to. If you had told me to, I'd have walked away and joined you there."

"And I knew, at this point in your life, you would be happier where you are," she retorted. "If I said yes, come with me, you would be alone because I am still on my journey--"

"I'd wait."

"I know you would. But right now, especially now, you need family, Tony. Family who loves you. I cannot give you that in the way you, we, need, because of the things I must address before we can be together...and I know that hurts you, Tony. I do not want to see that, and you being alone in Israel, me not yet being able to truly be with you, that would hurt me."

Tony picked up the envelope and held it.

"Ziva David, you're truly an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, surrounded by mystery," he said. "Sometimes I think I've figured you out, other times I realize I'm just along for the ride."

Ziva took a breath and wiped a tear from her eye.

"Tony, I must go," she said. "My ride will be here very shortly."

"Okay, I understand," he said, as honestly as he could. "I don't mean to keep you...but if you don't want the money, at least let me keep it for you, let it draw interest. When you're ready, you can use it however you want."

She paused a couple of beats.

"If that is what you truly wish, then I am fine with that as well," she replied. "I appreciate you calling me, in June, when you won your money. I am sorry I could not be with you, but am happy Gibbs and McGee and Abby and everyone else were."

Tony had already ripped open the package, and was typing out an email to his financial advisor on where best to place Ziva's money; she could hear his tapping on his keyboard.

"I'm telling my advisor now," Tony said. "And let me tell you, she's unlike any one you've ever met--"

"Prague, 14 months before I joined NCIS as liaison officer."

"You KNOW Hetty?"

"I worked with her, Tony. More than once."

"Damn...she really does get everywhere…you never said anything."

"You never asked," she said, smiling. "Now, I must go. My ride is here."

"Ziva," Tony replied, quickly. "When ARE you coming home?"

She looked downward; Tony could hear the faint knocking on a door in the background.

"I do yet know," she answered. "But when I do, my...gut...tells me we will both know it. Now, I truly must go, but I will contact you as soon as I return...and Tony. Remember. You are truly, truly loved by many...including me."

He smiled. "Love you, too, Ziva."

The screen went dark.

Tony got up, walked over to where he kept her Star of David necklace next to the bowl her and Kate Todd's namesake goldfish were kept, and pulled it out of its case, looking at it.

"Screw the money," he said to Kate and Ziva the goldfish. "I definitely made the right decision."

Then, he turned off the lights, hit the sack, and counted the days until Ziva came back home before falling asleep.

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