Tony leaned over the partition to talk to Kate. She looked up at him with a smirk. "You're going to piss Gibbs off again."
"Nah. I'm caught up. Besides, the boss is up with Director Morrow. We're clear for another half-hour."
She saw the man sneaking up on Tony. She didn't recognize him, but the finger he put to his lips and the twinkle in his eyes kept her from commenting. The man put his hands over Tony's eyes. "Guess who?" he murmured.
"Den!" Tony turned to greet the man with a smile. "Enter freely and of your own will," he said with a flamboyant gesture towards the desks. "Den" did so with a wink. "Hey, now, what did I tell you about your suits? European cut *only*, Den. Emphasis on your hips and shoulders. And what are you doing in black? You should be in browns."
"Well, I was going to wear my red suit, but I thought Gibbs might appreciate the black. Now, be a good boy and introduce me."
"Dennis Bryson, meet Kate Todd. Den is with the DEA. Kate used to be Secret Service, but Gibbs poached her."
"A pleasure. And how do you put up with this miscreant day in and day out?"
"I just ignore him." Kate smiled at the agent as he shook her hand. She wondered just how good he was if he got away with being openly gay.
"Now, that's a shame. I'm sure he wouldn't ignore someone with your attributes."
"You mean being a breathing female?" She shot an overly sweet smile in Tony's direction.
"If you're done flirting with my partner, what can we do for you?" Tony asked, rolling his eyes at Kate. Dennis smiled over his shoulder at Tony.
"Feeling left out, honey? I'll flirt with you, if you want."
"You'll flirt with me if I don't want too, so what's the point?"
Dennis leaned against Tony's desk, resting one hand on his hip. The other he used to tug at Tony's hair. "You let it grow out. It looks good."
"So what's up? DEA giving you up? I'm sure we can find a use for you."
"Oh, no, no, too many uniforms are distracting. I need your… skills." Dennis batted his lashes and Kate stifled a laugh. Tony shook his head with a rueful half-smile.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs barked as he came down the stairs.
"You're early, boss." Tony said after glancing at his watch. "You remember Den Bryson, right?"
Gibbs glared at Bryson. "DiNozzo, go make coffee."
"Boss?" Kate stared at Gibbs.
Tony glanced between Bryson and Gibbs, then left the area.
"You, conference room, with me. Now." Gibbs gestured for the younger man to proceed him, almost guiding him with a hand at the small of his back. Kate's brows rose. She left her desk to find Tony. She needed to know what was going on and she needed to know now.
Tony slammed the door of the cupboard shut. He shoved the filter into the top of the coffee pot. "Go make coffee," he muttered. "Why the Hell am I making coffee? I could just tell him 'no.' Yeah, right, of course you could, Anthony. See how fast your ass was sitting on the curb." He slapped the coffee measurer back into the pile of brown grounds. He slammed the machine together and turned it on.
"Whoa, careful with the machinery," Linda chided. "Bad mood, Tony?"
"What gave you your first clue?" He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.
"What strength of coffee did you just make?"
"Gibbs ordered it."
"Okay, so I'll just make my own pot." Linda was in charge of travel arrangements and reimbursements. "Want to tell me?"
"I would if I could."
"It's got to be bad if Gibbs is ordering you to make coffee. I thought that was McGee's job now."
Tony ran a hand through his hair. Kate arrived before he could answer. "What is going on, Tony?" she demanded. "I have never seen Gibbs snap like that."
"Are you sure it's safe to be away from your desk?"
"He's in a conference."
Linda raised a brow. "You want me to come back in a few to check on this?"
"No. No, we'll go to the back stairs. Make sure no one drinks the battery acid, okay?"
"I'll just put a sticky on it with Gibbs' name."
"Thanks." Tony led Kate to the back staircase. Kate looked at him with a frown.
"What's going on?"
"I met Den and Gibbs at the same time. It was a joint case. All three departments banged into each other. It was a homicide case that was connected to a new major dealer in Baltimore. My captain pissed off both Gibbs and Den. I ended up playing peacemaker. I went undercover to catch the dealer who'd shot the petty officer that Gibbs was interested in. It was my collar, but the PD tail lost me. Gibbs and Den pulled me out. Gibbs ordered me to show up here and I found out when I showed up that he'd done all the paperwork to get me as his agent. I didn't even get a chance to explain it to anyone. I kept in contact with Den and with my captain, but my partner won't talk to me anymore. Den and Gibbs just push each other's buttons. You'd think Den was a redhead."
Tony leaned against the wall. He closed his eyes for a moment while Kate thought it over. "So, Gibbs is just being jealous?"
His eyes popped open. "Jealous?"
"That someone else wants to have you on their team."
"Oh, possessive? Yeah, more than likely. The FBI comes sniffing around every once and awhile too. Gibbs doesn't usually throw me out of the office." He grimaced. "Maybe it's because Den's Den. But Den's straight so I don't think that's the issue."
"What?" Kate squeaked.
Tony blinked at her. "Oh, Den's straight. Not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but we go girl spotting at bars sometimes." Tony paused, considering for a moment. "He might be bi, but he's just always been Den. He still appreciates a nice leg and a sweet curve." He ran a hand through his hair. "Let's go get the coffee before Gibbs kills some poor agent."
"So he ordered you to bring him coffee because he didn't want you talking to Bryson?"
"Yeah. Let's go. Probie was down with Abby. We can't let him walk into the middle of that sort of tension. It'll make his heart give out."
Gibbs glared at Bryson. "I warned you when I hired him that you wouldn't be able to use him. You nearly got him killed."
"My people didn't lose him, Gibbs. Don't you dare try to pin that on me. He went undercover. He knew the risks and was willing to take them."
"I'm not willing to risk him for your operation."
"You don't even know what I want."
"You want DiNozzo undercover for you again. And you can't trust anyone from your agency because you think there's a leak."
"How do you *do* that?" Bryson pouted.
"Pouting doesn't work on me."
"How about Tony pouting? Would that work?"
Gibbs snorted. "Convince me." He didn't bother to crowd the younger man. Bryson was taller than he was, closer to Tony's height with a trim, swimmer's figure.
"I'm sure the leak is a particular FBI agent working on the case. The dealer I need to get close to attends therapy sessions with his significant other three times a week. I need to get into that session and I can't do it alone. I can't do it with anyone on the task force."
"So you're working without backup."
"That's why I need Tony. I know how good he is. If we manage to become friends with the dealer and see him in a more relaxed manner, I'm sure Tony can worm the information we need out of him."
"What's the catch, Bryson? No budget? No back-up?"
"It's a mixed couples group."
"Mixed as in?"
"Gay, straight, and in between, in Dupont."
Gibbs leaned against the wall. "Christ. You don't do anything the easy way do you? Backup I can provide. Tony gets into trouble too easily. Do you have your boss on board? Is it even legal to approach him this way?"
"We can't use anything from the group without a subpoena, but if we meet him outside of that, we can use anything we get that way."
"And he's dating a transsexual?"
"Yes. But I'm not planning to get anything cut myself."
Gibbs gave the young man a half-smile. "Good."
Bryson blinked, stunned. "Agent Gibbs, are you flirting with me?"
"If you can't guess, that's your problem."
"So you're going to let me use him?"
"I'm going to let you talk to Tony and then pitch the idea to Director Morrow yourself."
"That's a breeze compared to talking to you."
Tony made a show of looking Den over for bruises. He offered Gibbs a mug of extra-strength coffee. "So what's up?"
"Let's take this somewhere more private, honey."
Tony glanced at Gibbs. The older man gave a minute shake of his head. "Not the best idea. Kate'll find out anyway. So?"
Den bit his lip. "I need you to go undercover with me."
"Undercover." Tony perked up. "Boss?"
"Listen to the pitch first."
Den glanced at Kate, then leaned in to whisper in Tony's ear. He listened to the pitch without saying a word. Den was wearing hints of the light vanilla he preferred. Tony leaned against his desk, considering the proposal. He looked to Gibbs again, not willing to make this decision without his approval. The older man gave him a twisted half-smile, then shrugged. Den gripped Tony's jaw and turned his face. "He already said that it was up to you and the director." Tony sighed. He ran a hand through his hair.
"I wouldn't actually have to share at this thing would I?" he asked planitvely, memories of the groups his parents had sent him to as a child swimming up.
"That is the point of it, but I think we can come up with a good enough story if we work on it."
Tony nodded slowly. "But it's still not really my decision."
"Then let's make an appointment with your director and discuss it. If you won't be comfortable, I completely understand."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Den, come off it. You know me better than that. Hell, I've already got a cover story started in my head."
"I'll see if I can get us onto the director's schedule. It might not be today," he warned.
"I'm prepared for that. Do what you can." Den ran a hand through his hair. "Should I go red, do you think?"
"I always did," Gibbs said, with a smirk. Tony frowned in Gibbs' direction. The older man smirked at him. "Call the director. I'll call Abby and let her know you're here."
"Well, as long as it's auburn, not that weird European red that looks fake. A natural red would look good." Tony picked up the phone to call the director's office. When he'd first started at NCIS, the idea of that had made him nervous as Hell. Now, having suffered Gibbs for a few years, he was a lot more relaxed. He flirted lightly with the director's admin and got an appointment for twenty minutes later. He was just in time to see Abby pop out of the elevator. She stopped for a moment, looking Den up and down.
"You so don't look like yourself."
"Everyone needs a change now and then. Except for you. You're perfect." Den smiled at Abby. She gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Are you coming to NCIS?"
Den shook his head. "No. I'm trying to convince NCIS to lend me Tony for awhile."
Abby frowned. "Hey, we won him fair and square." Tony raised a brow. "Well, mostly fair. I might have done a little bit of paperwork on it. You can't just waltz in here and take him."
"Abs, I'm not a stapler."
"No, you're at least on the level of one of my machines," she said cheerfully. "So, spill, Den. What op do you need our boy for? Because if it's just because you need someone who speaks Spanish, adios, baby."
Kate couldn't hide her smile or the laughter that shook her shoulders. Tony rolled his eyes.
"Enough!" Gibbs snapped. "Where's McGee?"
"Just getting the files you wanted, boss," McGee said coming around the corner. He looked at the people standing there, confused. He made it to his desk. Gibbs seemed to be in a fairly good mood and McGee wasn't about to question it.
"What sort of support would this op need? Wire? Microphone?"
"Video camera, boss," Tony said calmly. "Lazy rich-boy who's a wannabe director. Or maybe one who's actually working on a documentary or something." Tony shrugged. "It's not like the cover will need to be that strong. He won't expect this approach. We say Den's working, say, Department of Energy. I was working on a segment on solar power and that's how we met."
"I like it. Keeps things simple. Gives me a specialty I know something about." Den nodded. "I can work with that."
"You're into alternative energy?" Abby said, cocking her head to the side.
"It's a hobby. I know it well enough to fake it. And Tony can fake being a director in a heartbeat."
Tony grinned at that. "And you will let me update your wardrobe right?"
Den frowned at him. "You haven't even seen my newest outfits. I've updated."
"I'll believe it when I see you not looking like you fell out of the eighties, deal?"
"I like shoulder-pads."
"Tailoring will give you the same effect," Tony snapped back.
"Enough!" Gibbs barked. "DiNozzo, start on the requisitions paperwork. Den, find a chair and stop hovering. McGee, files."
"On it, boss," Tony said, dropping into his chair and waking up his computer. Den dragged a chair from what appeared to be an empty cubicle. He settled down between Tony and Tim's desk. Den casually invaded Tony's space to look at the paperwork and make suggestions. Tim watched him for a moment. It wasn't a complete shock. He didn't think Tony understood the concept of personal space any more than Abby did. What did surprise him was Gibbs' amused smile as he watched the two of them together over the top of a file. He shook off the moment and went back to work.
"Okay, so that's a conversation I never want to have with the Director again," Tony said to Gibbs. Gibbs snorted.
"I don't want you having that conversation with him again. And Den here now knows that I'm not the scariest one in the building."
"Yes, you are," Den said firmly. "So, is Kate single?"
"Yeah. She's also Catholic."
"So are you."
"I'm lapsed. I'm talking scarily repressed."
"Poor Tony, she must scare you."
"She worries me. I don't know what's going to happen to her when she gets a serious taste of the real world. I mean, she's not a virgin, but seriously." Tony shrugged, unable to find the words to explain it. "So, anyways, when are we starting this little adventure?"
"The group meets on Thursday evenings at 8. Pick you up at 7?"
"Depends on whether the boss will let us talk about it tomorrow."
"If we don't catch a case."
"See you around lunch time then?"
"With bells on."
Tony smirked at Den.
Den punched him in the shoulder. "You have a dirty mind."
"I know. Ain't it great?"
Kate looked up with an absent smile at the woman who’d entered the bullpen. She wasn’t a classic beauty, but there was something attractive in her confidence and smile. “Agent Todd,” she said, voice lower than Kate had expected.
“Hi. Can I help you?”
She smiled. “I’m Denise Bryson. We met yesterday?” the woman prompted. Kate’s brain froze. The woman laughed. It was a deep, husky laugh.
Kate gulped in air. She was saved by Tony’s arrival.
“Hey, Den,” Tony said cheerfully. “Just got back from lunch. Did you eat?” He greeted Den with a kiss to the cheek. Kate’s jaw hung open in shock.
"I did. Did you get a conference room where we can talk?”
“I am under orders to take you down to see Abby before I even think about talking business. Come on. You really need to lighten your hair. The dark brown doesn’t do anything for your coloring. Go for the red like Gibbs suggested.”
“I am not coloring my hair simply because Gibbs suggested it. Unlike you, I still have a spine.”
“And a very well put-together spine it is, but honestly, Den, you’d look good with red hair. And I’m taking you to my tailor. That suit just doesn’t flatter you properly. It needs to be nipped in at the waist more. I’m heading down to the lab,” Tony informed Kate. “Will you let the. . . oh, hi, boss. I’m taking Den down to see Abby.”
“I want you two back up here in half an hour so we can figure this op out.”
“Right, we’ll be back up in half-an-hour.” Tony’s voice dropped to a low whisper. “Or so,” he murmured into Den’s ear. They were nearly the same height. Tony guided Den with a hand in the small of the back like Gibbs had the day before. Kate cleared her throat.
“There a problem, Kate?”
“No, just, I, is that really Agent Bryson?”
“Yep.” Gibbs smirked at her.
Kate stared at him for a moment, then turned her attention to her report.
"Den!" Abby gave the DEA agent a hug. "That's a cute look on you. Ever consider a collar?" She grinned up at her. "Sit down. Tony, stop playing with that." Tony pouted at her. She frowned at him, trying for Gibbs-like sternness. Tony's lips quirked up.
"You know, I never imagined you as a librarian before," he teased.
She snagged her ruler from the desk. She pointed to him with it. "Touch my equipment again and you'll find out how good I am with a ruler."
"Stepping out on me already, Tony?" Den asked.
"Sweetheart, you know I'll always be a flirt."
Abby giggled. "Oh, Den, come off it. I know you're more interested in the female of the species. Talk to me. Tell me everything. Did you ever settle down with that red-headed lady you were with?"
"No. She wasn't really my type. She was looking for a baby and I gave her one."
"You got her pregnant?" Abby's jaw dropped. "And she was okay with that?"
"Completely. It's what she was looking for. Turns out that she had a girl on the side."
"Did you get to watch?" Tony asked, eyes wide. Abby rolled her eyes. "What? It's a reasonable question. You're the one that always pesters me for details."
She giggled. "So, you need some tracking stuff huh? Want to go for the glasses?"
Tony grinned at her. "I don't know. Do girls make passes at boys with glasses?"
Den laughed out loud at that one. "I did not peg you for a Dorothy Parker fan."
"We all need a touch of class in our lives."
"You've got all the class you need, Babe," Den informed him. "Go back to playing dumb while I talk to Abby."
"Is that the McGinty evidence?"
"Yep." His attention diverted, Tony wandered to the table. Abby settled next to Den and started flirting in earnest.
"Why the Hell are you not at your desk?" Gibbs snapped into the phone. Abby had her phone on speaker and he could hear the music pulsing.
"I'm looking at the McGinty evidence that I asked Abs to pull. I think we've got the jerk, boss. Remember that second hole we found in the wall? It was a corkscrew hole. A peep-hole to watch from the other room. That's why no one ever saw him there. Can I grab McGee and check out the room again?"
"I don't know if it's still sealed."
"Who's going to touch it? McGinty didn't have a will. It's still in probate and the state's got the house locked down."
"I'll come with you. Get the van. Bryson, go back to your office. We'll call you."
"I'm picking Tony up at seven. I'll pick up a few things on the way." Gibbs hung up on whatever comments were going to come after that and grabbed his gun and gear. "Kate, McGee, finish up your reports. I want them on my desk by five." He left without telling them anything more. Tony was waiting by the van. Gibbs put his hand up for the keys. The younger man tossed them over without comment. "What tipped you off?" Gibbs asked as they roared out of the garage.
"Swiss Army knife had drywall dust on it."
"On the corkscrew?"
"No, inside the joints. It's hard to see. Abby nearly strangled me when I pointed it out to her. She muttered something about making me wear glasses for the rest of my life so I decided it was time to get out of her way." Tony leaned back, resting one foot on the seat. "So, you're okay with this op?"
"Don't ask stupid questions."
"There are no stupid questions."
"Only inquisitive idiots," Gibbs finished the thought. Tony chuckled. Gibbs flicked Tony's temple with his index finger. "It wouldn't have gotten to this point if I didn't agree with it. I like Den. I'm not going to let him get killed by a mole."
"Good. Now, if the DEA were to offer me a permanent job. . ."
"You're not going anywhere, DiNozzo. I won fair and square."
Tony laughed again. He fiddled with the radio dial until Gibbs shut it off. "Hey!"
"Recreate it for me."
Tony sighed, then started talking through the scene. He was blocking out the action with his hands, but Gibbs was actually watching the road, most of the time, so he knew he'd make him run through it again once they reached the house.
"Hey, baby," Den said as Tony settled in the passenger's seat of the car. He was dressed casually, with a soft blue shirt that made his eyes change color. He was wearing thick black glasses that should have made him look like a geek, but somehow didn't. His jeans were well-worn as were his sneakers. He had a backpack that he kept on his lap. He grinned at Den.
"Do I pass muster?"
"You'll do. You have a story worked out for us, right?"
"It's our first night. We'll do a quick little intro and then sit back and watch. No one will think it's strange if we don't want to talk right away."
"Tell me a story, Tony,"
"Well, we met when I was trying to find someone in the department of energy to help me out with solar power basics and we hit it off. We went out for coffee and that sort of thing. The main stressors are that you can't stand me flirting and I have issues coming out to my family and friends." Tony shrugged. "Other than that, I think we should just keep it simple. The day to day junk that comes from being in a relationship. Nothing major like cheating or something. Just little stuff like not putting the laundry away and that sort of thing."
"I can deal with that. We'll just stick with Tony and Den too. What were those last names Abby hacked up for us?"
"I'm Scuito, believe it or not. She's made herself my sister so that if we need a third, she'll be there with no issues. And you're Gold. Denise or Dennis Gold depending on the day. If any one checks, you work for the Department of Energy on special assignment and I'm not." Tony grinned then. "They'll find a trust fund and a few snips of clips on a website, but that's about it. She also hacked up a semester of college for me at Ohio in the film school, which I quit because I was bored. Favorite restaurant?"
"Me? McDonald's. You?"
"Any pizza I can get my hands on."
"Then we can fight the rest of it out as it goes."
Jim Parsons looked at his new couple as they settled into the plastic school chairs. They sat close together, arms touching. The young man whispered something that made his partner's lips twitch up into a winning smile before she shook her head. He pouted at her. He looked around the room that was slowly filling up with clients. He leaned his head on his partner's shoulder. Absently she tucked an arm around him. Jim felt himself smile. At least these two didn't seem to have a problem expressing their connection.
Diego looked at them wistfully as he sat down next to his lover. Jim should call him on it once the group started. Joey looked at the young man in surprise before smiling. The young man lit up. "Is that your Bobbi?" the young man asked Joey.
"Yep," Joey said with pride. "And you have been holding out on me." He got another smile in response. "Later?"
"Something you need to tell me, sweetie?" the young man's partner's voice was soft, but there was a hint of steel under it. The black haired man blushed.
"Um, no comment?" he tried. "I'll er… introduce you later?" That got him a kiss on the nose. He settled back in his earlier position, leaning on his partner as if they were the only two people in the room.
"Let's begin. We have two new members here today. Would you like to introduce yourselves?"
"Hi, I'm Tony. This is Den."
Den looked down her nose at her partner. "Be good. Denise Gold. This is Tony Scuito, my partner. Ignore him if he starts bothering you. He's just trying to get a rise out of you."
There were a few snickers from the group. Tony's eyes were somewhat obscured by his glasses, but he looked at each person as they introduced themselves around the room. His gaze lingered on a few of the members a moment longer. He seemed to appreciated Leni's legs and Marshall's dark looks. He perked up when Diego introduced himself and grinned at Bobbi and Joey. "Diego, you and India were talking about your communication issues last time. Was there anything you wanted to add?"
"Not this week," Diego said quietly. He glanced at India who was staring firmly at the ground. She was wearing what appeared to be a new diamond necklace. Jim made a note to watch them closely during the session to see if there were any other indications of a new strain in the relationship.
"Okay, does anyone have something pressing?" There were negative head-shakes around the room. "Then why don't Den and Tony tell us why they've come to our group."
Tony bit his lip. He looked to his partner. She gave him an encouraging smile. "I guess I've just been elected, huh?" he asked with a half-shrug. "It's nothing really big. The big things, family and all that, we've worked through that. But the little things just keep cropping up. It's like we're okay in an emergency, but the everyday things? Those are starting to stress us out."
"Like what?" Jim prompted.
Tony ran a hand through his hair. "Okay, I don't work traditional hours and I don't work with a lot of people. There's this girl I do work with. Real straight arrow. 12 years of Catholic school with a Catholic college after that. Mass every Sunday. The whole nine yards. She's so repressed that if I flirt I'm more likely to get an elbow to the ribs than anything else. So, we were working with this pre-op transsexual. You couldn't tell. Seriously, she was perfect. She didn't tell any of us. Well, we were getting along and I ended up kissing her. We found out a little while after that. And my co-worker ended up getting nasty about me tonguing a guy. So, now I've hooked up with Den and God help me I just don't know how to deal with her about it."
Den frowned. "Not the little brunette?"
"I should drown her."
"Stop it. She's a good girl, just a little brainwashed."
"How did you react?" Jim asked.
"I walked away."
"Does she know you're gay?" he asked Tony bluntly. The young man stared down at his shoes. Den stroked his partner's hair in comfort.
"Bi. And I don't know. I need to keep working with her. I don't want to drive her away."
"Maybe not so small things then?" Jim asked soothingly.
"Nah, it's still small stuff. The big stuff's already happened. The family stopped talking to me." Tony shrugged. "Most of the people I work with really don't give a damn one way or the other."
"Just this one person? I find that hard to believe."
"Well, my sister knows. Her boyfriend of the moment has his head so far into a computer that he doesn't understand human interactions anyways."
"What about old blue-eyes?" Den prompted her partner.
Tony laughed at that a wicked grin turning up the corners of his mouth. "Oh, I don't think he minds one little bit."
Den did a double-take. "You little sneak. You never told me."
"Sh! It's a secret," Tony told her. "They'd throw him out of the reserves."
"My lips are sealed. Still, you could have told me." She pouted at him.
"The definition of a secret is that you don't tell anyone."
"What other things keep coming up?" Jim asked, willing to let Tony steer away from the matter.
"Clothes shopping. She doesn't want to listen to my tailor. Managing to get time together. I work odd hours and Den works a regular day shift."
"He spends money like water."
"I do not. I just happen to be willing to pay for quality. You wouldn't wear a suit from Sears."
"Yes, I would. I have in fact."
"Yeah, that dreadful black piece of crap that I managed to give to the Goodwill."
Den smacked his shoulder. "I loved that suit."
"It made you look awful."
"You said I looked cute."
"You asked me if it made you look fat. It was a trap question. Besides, you always look cute."
Den's eyes narrowed. She held her fingers apart about an inch. "Close squeak, sweetie." Tony smiled at her, dipping his head and looking up through his lashes. "Oh, don't play coy." He bit his lip. She sighed and went back to stroking his hair.
"Getting back to your coworker, Tony, have you told her you're bi?"
"No." Tony settled his hand on his partner's thigh, idly stroking the hem of her skirt.
He was quiet for a long moment. "Because I like her, in spite of the narrow-minded repression. She'd put herself on the line for me and I don't want to jeopardize that."
Jim frowned. "And you believe that telling her would make her turn her back on you?"
"Wouldn't be the first person." Tony shrugged. "But this is singularly uninteresting. I'll figure it out." Den's fingers started a slight massage of the back of the dark head. Tony leaned into the touch with an almost feline smile on his face.
"Does he purr?" India asked, voice sweet.
Den laughed. Tony made a little growling noise and winked. "So what's a lovely lady like yourself doing here?"
"My dear Diego says that I'm cold and uncommunicative." There was a trace of an accent in her words. Jim stayed silent, waiting to see what this would bring up.
"And why does he say that, Lovely?"
"Because she is cold and uncommunicative," Diego said, with a smirk. "I think, Denise, that you should watch your partner."
"I knew he was a flirt before we hooked up."
"But why do you say cold? Just because she's reserved? My Den is reserved as well. I mean, look at the suitcoat." Tony looked over top of his glasses.
"Because I dislike public displays. Diego is very open and physical. I am not. Thus, he says I am cold."
"She tells me nothing of what is happening in her life. She never speaks of her friends or what books she is reading."
"When we're together, I want to focus on being together," India said sharply. "But I can't know you if you won't tell me what's happening!" Diego snapped.
"When I get home, I do not want to think about work."
Tony cocked his head to the side. He was studying India. "Anyone at work know?"
"Yes, I'm in pre-op," India said kindly. She gave the young man a cold smile.
"And they treat you like crap?"
That threw her. She looked at her lover. "Sometimes, but it is important work. I will deal with it."
"But you aren't getting the good assignments anymore?"
"No, I am no longer on the management track." Her voice was bitter. "I still believe in the work."
"What do you do?"
"I am a scientist."
Tony nodded. "You work for the government or one of the bandits?"
"I am running clinical trials at American University."
"Drugs? What specialty?"
"Dementia." Tony sat up and away from his lover.
"And success?" He was leaning forward.
India sighed and shook her head. "I won't know until we're done. We're looking for the second group."
"Can you give me a card?"
She blinked her bright blue eyes. "Of course. You have a candidate?"
"I do. I'm not sure her exact diagnosis, but I'm fairly certain it's dementia, not Alzheimer's. If it could possibly help her, her son would be overjoyed. I'll have him contact you."
"We'll speak a bit more later, yes?"
"Definitely. Now, I think I'd better be quiet and let Jim have his group back." Tony gave a quick smile to the moderator and sat back. He immediately settled against his lover's side again.
"This is the problem," Diego pointed out. "You have just told him more about your work than you have told me in months."
India shot him a startled glance. Jim was ready to thank God for the breakthrough.
"You're very, very good and sneaky."
"Moi?" Tony batted his lashes. He tucked the glasses away. "Goodnight, Abs." He took off the wire and put it into its case in his backpack.
"You were wired?"
"Yeah, but it was just Abs listening to keep an ear out for trouble."
"What if your little brunette had been listening?"
"What if she were?"
"Aren't you worried about lying about her?"
"I wasn't lying."
Den pulled the car onto the shoulder and turned it off. "Is that wire off?"
"Yeah. I disconnected it, why?"
The DEA agent stared at him. "What she did was harassment, Tony."
"I zing her all the time. She just hit a little deep." Tony shrugged. "We're dealing with it."
Den frowned. "But you're afraid to tell her that you're bi."
Tony shifted uncomfortably. "Um, can we not talk about this?"
"God, Tony, I wouldn't have shown up at work dressed up if I'd known she'd razz you for it."
"As long as we don't make out in the bullpen, she won't care. Besides, I thought you were into the female of the species."
"I am. Completely, by the way."
"Yeah, well, you know me. Pet me and I'll follow you anywhere."
"Oh, is that what Gibbs did? I always wondered why you took his offer instead of mine."
"Offer? What offer?"
Den stared at him. "Didn't you get the employment offer I sent you after the case ended?"
"I didn't get an offer. Hell, I barely got to clean out my desk. My partner did it."
"That possessive bastard."
"Den, relax, it's a two-way crush."
"Christ, you've got a crush on your boss. That's not going to end well."
"He's got a fine end," Tony countered. "Besides, he's the first boss to make me break my two year rule."
"He treats you like a dog."
Tony laughed at that. "Den, I'm his scrub. If it needs doing, I do it. He's got my six and I've got his."
Den studied him for a long moment. "If you ever need to talk or you need to get out of there, call me. First thing you do when this blows up on you, you call me."
"Gibbs won't hurt me."
"Honey, they could fire you!"
"Only if we actually do something. As long as it's a crush and neither of us are offended they won't do anything."
"*You* are a masochist."
"Am not. That's not my deal. I'm straight, erm, vanilla. Ask Abs."
"She'll tell me you like chains."
Tony looked up at the ceiling of the car in studied innocence.
"You're not teasing me are you?"
"Of course I'm teasing you. It's fun and easy."
"Yeah, I know you're easy." Den started the car. The concerns would have to wait until he had Tony's trust more completely.
"You knew I was a slut before we started this. India's sort of cute."
"You flirt with a drug dealer's girl and I am *not* going to save your stupid ass. What was up with that whole dementia thing?"
"Ducky's mother has dementia. She thinks I'm a gigolo."
Den raised his brows. "You mean you aren't?"
"Ha. Ha. Very funny. Hey, drop me off at the video store. I'll walk home from there."
"Good." Tony leaned over and gave Den a quick kiss on the cheek.
"DiNozzo," Tony answered the phone absently.
"Hey, cutie, you busy?"
"Got a case. Call you later?"
"Just a quick sitrep for you. Same time Thursday. If you can't make it call me. I'm going out of town on a case. Cell contact."
"Got it. Later."
"You too." Tony hung up.
"Hot date?" Kate queried.
"Nah. Just Den letting me know he's going out of town. Hand me that specimen jar?"
Kate handed over the jar. Her eyes narrowed. "You're sure he's straight?"
"Hell yes. Such a shame." Tony shrugged. He packaged up another piece of fiber for Abby to test. He hated complex crime scenes. He looked up to find Kate staring at him with a little frown. "What?"
"Agent Todd, there's work to be done," Gibbs snapped. Kate shook herself and got back to work. Tony had never really stopped. He didn't actually have to think for most of what he was doing. In fact, it worked better for him not to think too hard. That way he'd get the picture in his head that he could work backwards from. "If you're going to tell her, just do it and get it over with," Gibbs growled into Tony's ear as the younger man stood up.
Tony blinked at him. He blanched. "Oh crap. I didn't even think about it."
"Obviously." Gibbs pinned him with a harsh look. "Do you trust her enough?"
"It's been a year and a half."
"That's not what I asked."
"I don't know."
Gibbs nodded. "Finish up and do a perimeter sweep."
"Probie's getting pretty good at that."
"It was a statement, not a complaint," Tony said evenly. Gibbs nodded once.
Kate wrapped her hands around her mug. She didn’t know how Tony managed to be cheerful at one in the morning, but he was humming softly to himself as he worked. McGee had escaped to the lab with Abby. Gibbs was home. There would never be a better time. The office was silent except for the click of Tony's keyboard. "Tony," she said quietly.
"Si, bella?" he replied, not looking up.
Her guts twisted. "Why is it a shame that Den's straight?"
He looked up, startled. "Did I actually say that?"
"Today. At the crime scene."
"Yeah, I guess I did." Tony shrugged. "He's cute." He went back to work, humming interrupted.
"I didn't know you were looking," she said quietly.
"Well, I'm not suicidal."
She took a sip of her coffee, praying for courage. "So are you straight, gay or bi?" She managed to keep her voice steady with an effort.
"Once you know for sure, you'll never be able to forget the information. Are you sure you want to ask the question?" he replied.
"I'm sure. I mean, I thought you were one hundred percent macho chauvinist pig."
"I am a chauvinist, Kate," he told her bluntly. "But you like my chauvinist manners. I hold the door for you. I pull out your chair. I let you go first. I let you take shotgun most of the time. I'd die to protect you. I'm not a misogynist and that is what gets you confused."
She stared at him. He looked through his lashes at her.
"Tell me to shut up at any time, or I'll finish up my analysis."
"No, keep going."
"You think that because I treat you like a lady, that I don't think you're capable of the job. I think you need to choose. Do you want me to treat you like one of the guys? That includes swearing and crude jokes. Do you want me to treat you like a lady by holding the door? Or do you want me to be a complete pig and think of you as a sex object."
"Like you don't."
"I meant, do you want me to disrespect you so that you have a reason to kick my ass in the gym or are you content just doing it because I’m a guy?"
That made her sit up straight. "What does that mean?"
"It means that you're as much a chauvinist as I am! You think you're better than me because you're female, because you're Secret Service trained, because you're a good little girl. You kick my ass when I look at you and appreciate what I see. You bitch when I treat you like an equal. Make up your mind."
"I want to be your partner."
"No, you want to be Gibbs' partner."
She bit her lip. "Yes, I do," she said quietly.
"And not just as an investigator."
She looked him dead in the eye. She opened her mouth to lie, but instead said, "Yes."
Tony nodded. "Yeah, rule freaking 12."
She started at the bitterness in his voice. "So are you bi or is it just Gibbs?"
He snorted. "Gibbs is why I can't settle down. As for being bi? Does it matter?"
"Yes, I . . ." she paused. She sighed. "No, actually, it doesn't change anything, does it. You're still going to be as irritating as ever. But I've never seen you drooling over a guy."
"Well, leering at guys doesn't go over very well. I would have thought Steve told you."
"No, just the nickname and a few stories that are so embarrassing, they've got to be true."
"He'd know. He's probably the cause of half of them."
She gave him a small smile and got to work. It took a few minutes, but the questions she needed to ask couldn't be held back. "So, how many guys?"
"Since you started at NCIS."
"That I've dated or that I've wanted."
Kate's head snapped up. He wasn't looking at her. "Oh, Tony."
"Yes, he knows. He knows I'm bi. He knows that I'd do anything for him. But he also knows that I won't do anyone else. I date, sure, but my heart's somewhere in his desk drawer and I haven't figured out a way to get to it without getting myself broken."
She lowered her head. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Tony's voice was steady. "Just don't think you're going to get anywhere. He's a bastard. And if you give him that power over you, he'll have it forever."
She acknowledged the advice. "This doesn't change anything."
"That's up to you, not me."
"Special delivery," Den said cheerfully, dropping off a large tea on Tony's desk.
"How was the case?"
"Slam dunk! Pub crawl tonight?"
"Sure, Den. Soon as I slip my leash."
"Shhh," McGee hissed. "If he hears you have plans we're toast."
"You noticed," Tony smiled at the younger agent. He sipped his tea, turning the smile towards Den.
"Less flirting. More working," Gibbs snapped on the way to his desk. "Bryson, get your tail off of DiNozzo's desk."
"I'll put my tail anywhere I like," Den sniffed.
"You want to keep using Tony?"
"God, he's a bastard," Den muttered. "You really need to blow him or something."
Tony choked on his tea. "Don't do that to me!" He wiped away the trail of liquid. "That was evil."
"I was just being honest."
"Out. Avant. Begone evil spirit and trouble me no more. And just for that comment, you can buy me dinner. Don't you have an office of your own?"
Denise laughed as she left the bullpen. "I'm driving," she called back over her shoulder.
"DiNozzo, get her a gag," Gibbs stated.
"As if that would work. Crude bastard would just mime it."
Gibbs smirked at that. He signed something.
"That would be the sign for it. Just so you recognize it next time."
Tony flipped him off. "I hope I don't have to translate that one."
"Maybe later. After the sexual harassment training."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Okay, so on that note, there's a conflicting workshop on ballistics that I can sign us up for?"
"Do it. Include Ducky and Palmer."
"On it, boss."
Den and Tony were sprawled on Dennis' sofa with a six-pack of beer cans on the coffee table and ESPN on the television. Den was in sweats. Tony was wearing jeans and a tee. "So, tell me about old blue-eyes."
"What's to tell?" Tony shrugged. "He's honest, faithful, and an absolute bastard."
"And I'd do anything for him, including just working for him." Tony ignored the screen for a minute. "Den, why this sudden interest in my crush on Gibbs? It's not like I haven't been mooning over him since I met him."
"But you were working for BPD then. Jesus, Tony, this could get you killed! You could lose your job over it."
"Only if he takes me up on an offer." The young man sighed. "Not that he will, mind you. He's got this stupid rule that says no dating coworkers."
"Smart man. So what you do, is you get promoted or transfer to a different department and then start dating him."
"No way. I couldn't handle seeing him go out with the team and not being there to watch his back. It's simple. I just don't trust anyone else to do it right."
"You're a mother-hen."
"Nah, I'm just in love." Tony waved a careless hand in the air. "Tell me about the bust. No hitches? So, where's the problem? Prosecution?"
"They're going to deal," Den said with a sigh. "They always pull this crap. They start out with the, it's wonderful, and then end up with, but we have to make a deal to get more. We got seven hundred kilos of coke and about three hundred of smack. What do they want me to do?"
"They want you to be a miracle worker of course." Tony's cell phone rang. "DiNozzo. Hi, boss, what's up? Sure I can be there in fifteen."
"No, you can't," Den contradicted. "Give me the phone."
"Gibbs, he's had a couple beers. He can't drive."
"I can get a taxi!" Tony protested.
Dennis was busy giving Gibbs the address. "See you then." Den hung up the phone. "He's going to pick you up."
"Oh, God, he's not going to be happy about that."
"He's less happy that you pretty much implied a DUI."
"I was going to call a cab."
"There's no cab that would get you there in fifteen."
"You just don't pay well enough," the young man muttered. He put on his shoes. "I better get downstairs before he gets here or he'll string me up."
"Nah, he likes you."
"Wish he did more than like."
Den gave Tony a quick hug. "I'll pick you up the same time on Thursday."
"See you then. Be good." Tony got his backpack and a change of clothes from his car. He locked it up. He looked at it, biting his lip. He didn't want to leave it on the street, but he could see no alternative. Gibbs would have his head if he tried to move it into the parking garage around the corner. Gibbs screeched to a halt. Tony put his things in the back and climbed into the passenger's seat. "Hi, boss," he said quietly.
"Wipe that look off your face. I'm not that much of a hard-ass. You're not on-call."
Tony managed a smile. "Sorry to make you come out of your way."
"Would've been worse if I'd found you driving drunk. You'd be out on your ass."
"You'd fire me?"
"I'd make sure everyone knew why too."
"Would you have driven?"
"I don't know. Probably not though. I wouldn't risk the car."
"Your life and career?"
"Not as important as the car," Tony replied. He grinned though, to show it was a joke. "I'd never endanger the public. That's not my thing." Tony stared out the window, remembering the screech of tires and the crunch of glass that had killed his mother and left him bruised, shaken and more alone than he'd ever been. He'd been ten. Three months later, his father had been so drunk that he'd abandoned him in a Maui hotel and never noticed him missing. He shivered, pulling his jacket closer to his body. Gibbs squeezed Tony's shoulder.
Tony looked at the case that Gibbs handed him. He looked up at his boss. He looked back down at the case. “Okay, boss, tell me you didn’t call me in for this.”
Gibbs raised a brow.
“Come on. This one’s so obvious that McGee could solve it in five minutes. The sister was jealous of her sister. She bought some crap at school and threw it into her sister’s drink. She was too young to know that it would kill her.”
“How do you know that?”
Tony sighed. He sorted through the evidence list. “Okay, here, there’s no traces of anything a chronic user would have. There’s no evidence of her being depressed. We might find general teenaged angst and maybe something a little, but not suicidal. The wrapper’s gone. Ducky said the only thing in her stomach was the alcohol, no evidence of caplets. That means either they dissolved, which with this dose is unlikely, or was put into her drink. If she were going to commit suicide she wouldn’t have started her homework. God, dying over your homework. That’s sort of pathetic.” He shook his head. “So, my guess is, since this is actually a cold case from Pacci’s files, that you were feeling jealous or an old friend asked you to look into it because he didn’t believe the girl committed suicide.”
“I’ll admit to the second.”
“Because God forbid you admit to liking me. So, I’ll write some of this up, we’ll haul her sister in for questioning and get the confession. Then, we’ll destroy this family over a jealous little girl’s mistake, if it isn’t already ruined by the thought that their daughter was depressed and committed suicide or was drug user and they never noticed.”
Gibbs winced at that, but Tony didn’t care. “DiNozzo.”
“This is a mess, Gibbs. Why is it we end up cleaning up other people’s messes?”
“Pacci’s dead, he can’t undo it.”
“I know that!” Tony snapped. “I remember the case rather vividly. Christ.” Tony rubbed his face. “This wasn’t urgent, boss.”
“Yes, it was. That family’s dying piece by piece. At least if they know the truth some good might come of it.”
“Oh, yeah, because confession’s good for the soul. It doesn’t make it any better, Boss. The loss is still there. So you want their one remaining daughter to go to jail as a murderer? Or be locked up in some mental institution because she misjudged how many reds to put in her sister’s vodka?”
“Tony,” Gibbs said quietly. “You don’t know what might happen. The man who called me, he’s afraid that Jane’s going to kill herself. Do you remember what being a teenager was like?”
“No one could pay me enough to go back to that hell. Okay, let me clear my head and think some, okay?”
"I’ll get coffee.”
“Just, get me cocoa or something okay?”
Gibbs snorted. “Right. We’ll talk to Jane tomorrow.”
“No, I’ll talk to her tomorrow. You’ll arrest her. Her parents will hate us, but the dead girl will have justice and that’s what matters isn’t it. Why did I sign up for this?”
Gibbs didn’t respond, but he did lay a comforting hand on Tony’s shoulder.
Tony spoke quietly to Janey Marshall. A few minutes later she was sobbing into his shoulder. He rocked her gently, still talking to her. Gibbs didn't bother to listen to what he was saying. Tony was too good of a cop to taint evidence. He was surprised when Tony let her go and stalked over to her father. "Let's talk," he said to the man. His voice was dangerously low. This time, Gibbs did listen in.
"How long has Janey been abused?" Tony asked bluntly. Lt. Paul Marshall looked stricken. He didn't look at his wife. "Lt. Marshall?"
"Since she turned seven," the man said quietly. "We had both girls in therapy."
"But you kept them in the same house and even sharing a room for a few years?"
"The therapist thought it would be good for them to learn how to interact."
"I need the name of this therapist."
"I don't think. . ."
"Do you want your daughter in jail? At the moment, she's still a juvenile. We might be able to get her into psychiatric care." Tony's posture was earnest and unthreatening. Marshall gave him the information. Tony went back to the teen. "Janey, you're going to have to come with us."
"I had to."
"I know. Come on. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you can and will be used against you in a court of law."
Gibbs tuned out the rest of the rights. He looked at Lt. Marshall for a long moment. "You and your wife need to come to headquarters with us." He had a funny feeling that Tony was going to urge him to press charges against these two. He didn't even care overly much. Children should be protected. He had no patience with parents who stood by and let their children be harmed. Tony had the young woman in the back of the car. She wasn't cuffed. Gibbs didn't call him on it.
"Boss, we need to get her an advocate before we question her," Tony said quietly. "I've got someone on the way."
"Yeah. She does pro bono for kids. And I know you're a teenager, but trust me, in this case you want to be thought of as a kid."
Janey sniffed a bit. "I get that. I should have killed myself too."
"No," Tony said quietly, "then the one who hurt you wins. I didn't think you were the kind of girl who gives in."
Gibbs smacked him lightly on the back of the head. "She's too young for you," he growled. "Besides, I thought you weren't interested."
"I like girls," Tony sulked. The young woman in the back stifled a quick laugh. "Too," he added after a long pause. That got him a little giggle. Tony mock-polished his nails on his suitcoat. "I am so good."
"Keep it up and next time I'll bring Kate."
"You do that. She just loves being close to you."
Gibbs glared at his unrepentant second. "Would you say that in front of her if we were heading to the gym?"
Tony winced. "Maybe."
"Who's Kate?" Janey asked.
"Our partner. She used to be with the Secret Service."
"And has a tendency to win if they're sparring in the gym," Gibbs added.
Tony rolled his eyes.
"Why wasn't I called in?" Kate demanded of Gibbs.
"Because I didn't call you," he replied evenly.
"But I should have been involved."
Gibbs looked at her. He frowned. "DiNozzo's my senior agent, Agent Todd."
She didn't have a response to that that wasn't childish, so she swallowed the comment. Tony came around the corner and flung himself down into his chair. He didn't look at Gibbs. Kate stared at him for a moment, surprised. "Tony?" she queried.
"I don't have time to talk," he snapped at her. He was picking out something on his computer.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs snapped.
"What?" The younger man glared right back at Gibbs. "I didn't take it out on the parents, but I wanted to beat her shrink within an inch of his smarmy little life. Bad mood or assault charge, your choice."
Gibbs snorted. "Don't get caught."
That startled a sly grin from Tony. "Right, boss." He focused on his computer and ignored Kate completely.
She looked at Gibbs for an explanation. "The older sister was abusing the younger one. Physically and sexually. The shrink thought it was a good idea for them to share a room."
Kate felt her spine stiffen in anger. "I should have been called. I have training."
"As a profiler, Agent Todd," Gibbs snapped. "A situation like this takes experience that you simply don't have yet."
"And Tony does?"
"Yes," Tony said flatly. "I didn't always work in Homicide." He looked up at her. She saw pain and anger in his eyes. She moved back to her desk, still hurt that Tony got the call. He was just a cop. She was Secret Service. She had training. She worked on her report from their last case, tightening up the ideas that Gibbs wanted added in. When she glanced up, she saw Tony stabbing at the keyboard with two fingers. "Her advocate's working with prosecutor right now," Tony said quietly.
"This advocate any good?"
"She's one of the best."
"Tell me you didn't date her."
"No way. She's not my type."
"And just what is your type?" Kate asked sweetly.
"I don't date lawyers," he replied, matching her tone. There was poison in his eyes though and she dropped the rest of her comment. Gibbs might know that Tony was gay, but that didn't mean that McGee did.
"Tony," the older woman's voice brought Kate's head up about half an hour later. There was a grey-haired lady in a conservative red suit standing near Tony's desk.
"Marsha," Tony replied.
"I'll take care of her," she stated. "She'll be placed in a good facility until she turns twenty-one."
"Thanks," he said quietly. He gave the woman a little boy smile and she reached over to pinch his cheek.
"You know that smile doesn't work on me. Have you spoken with Rebecca recently?"
"She's pregnant. I trust it isn't yours."
"No, ma'am." Tony's spine stiffened.
"Good. I don't mind working with you, but I refuse to be related. I'll speak with you soon." She turned and left without acknowledging anyone else.
Gibbs raised a brow in Tony's direction.
Tony shifted. He avoided looking at Gibbs for a long moment. "I sort of dated her granddaughter."
"Sort of dated?" Kate asked.
"We went to dinner together and that was it. I got called away on a case and she got called away to the hospital. It never worked out after that." Tony shrugged. His shoulders had loosened a bit. Kate let the topic rest.
"Hello, Darling," Den drawled as Tony settled into his seat. "You look like crap, Tony."
"Thanks, I'd hate to look better than I feel." Tony put on his seatbelt and slid down in his seat. He put on the glasses that Abby would be tracking for them.
"Want to tell me what's wrong?" Denise prompted.
"Succinct." She reached over and ruffled Tony's hair. "You okay to do this tonight?"
"Wouldn't be here if I wasn't. Let's go before I get called in."
They drove in silence to the meeting. Den occasionally shot a worried glance at her partner who had taken to staring out of the window. He got out and walked around the car to open her door. She beat him to it, but took the offered arm. "So, do I have to get you drunk to get to know what's bothering you?"
"God, Den, don't start that, okay? I get enough of that from Abs."
"I didn't think she drank?"
"She drinks, but not with me. She says that one of us needs to stay sober so we don't end up in the wrong bed."
"You mean you never?" Den blinked at Tony.
"No! She's my sister. I'll vet her dates and tell her practically anything, but I don't think we'd ever make it as a couple."
"Probably not." Den slid her arm around his waist and gave him a quick squeeze. That earned a small smile. "That's a little bit better at least. Do I have to strangle the wench at work?"
"No, it wasn't her." Tony settled his hand a little too low on Denise's rump. She glared at him. He batted his lashes innocently at her.
"You are a brat."
"That's why you love me."
"No, I love you in spite of that." She hugged him close for a moment. Then, they found their way into the room and settled in for the group. Tony snuggled against Denise's side. She smiled gently at him, knowing he just needed contact.
"You amuse me," India said looking between the two of them as she sat down across the circle from them.
"What do you mean?"
"You are so good about your affections, yet you tell us that you are a secret out of this room."
"We are," Tony said quietly. "Mostly." Denise's fingers tangled in his hair. She gave him a brief hug. India looked at her lover. He offered her his hand with a small nod.
"Then you must come somewhere where you can be yourselves. Carlos and I have a small house with a lovely back yard. We are having a small party this weekend. You are welcome." She looked around the group. "All of you. I will give you our number."
Tony bit at his lip. "I'd like that," he said quietly. Thank you."
Gibbs looked at his senior agent. It was past six on Friday night and the younger man was still scowling at his computer screen. "Go home, Tony," he said quietly.
"In a minute, Boss. I just want to finish this."
"It's been two hours since McGee and Kate headed out. If it's not done, it's not happening tonight."
DiNozzo made a non-committal sound and continued to work. "Gotcha, you little bastard," he muttered. The printer kicked to life. Gibbs raised a brow. Tony looked up with a suspicious glance. "Were you saying something?"
"I said, 'go home.'"
"McGee and Kate are at home."
"Well, Kate is. I think McGee has writer's group tonight or something."
"What are you working on?"
"Um, a case?" Tony said. He blinked as though that were the most obvious answer in the world.
"Which case, DiNozzo?" There was a hint of impatience in Gibbs' voice. The green eyes blinked, then dropped. "Answer me."
"You found her yet?"
"No, but I finally found her car. It wasn't dumped. She sold it to a junk yard. A friend of a friend did the scouting for me. I'm going to see if there's anything left of it. Damn, I'm supposed to be with Den this weekend. Crap."
"I'll go. Give me the information."
That earned him a sweet smile. "Thanks, Boss."
"How's this thing with Den going anyway?"
"Like you haven't been sulking down in the lab with Abby?" Gibbs grinned at him. "Okay, okay, I knew you'd do that. It's okay. Sometimes, I wish I weren't lying about things, you know? I wish I could actually maintain something sweet and loving like that."
"That's not what I asked."
"No, not with Den. With someone I love. I don't want to talk anymore about it."
Gibbs' eyes narrowed. "Come on. We'll catch dinner and you can catch me up on your schedule for this weekend."
An uncertain frown crossed Tony's face, but he logged out of his system and picked up his backpack. "Where are we headed?"
"I told you, dinner." Gibbs walked towards the elevator. Tony was caught up with him within a few steps. Gibbs resisted the urge to stop the elevator. He saw the younger man's eyes narrow, glancing at the button.
"Okay, you're obviously planning to not listen when I say I don't want to talk about this."
Gibbs smirked. "Doesn't bribery still work on you?"
"Try getting me drunk."
The older man chuckled at that. "Getting you drunk isn't the problem. Keeping you drunk until I get my answers is."
"Have you been talking to Abby?"
"She worries about you. So do I."
"So you're worried, huh? I'll follow you to wherever." Tony settled into his car, giving the wheel a fond caress.
"You always do," Gibbs murmured as he got into his own car.
"Okay, food, wine, and a candle. Tell me this is just you deciding that you wanted Italian."
"I just wanted Italian," Gibbs said, trying on his most innocent and boyish expression.
"That is incredibly disturbing. Stop it."
"Flirting. I know you're not going to follow through, so just stop it."
Gibbs let that lie until their food arrived. "I thought that might be the problem."
"My not following through. Rule 12 is in place for a reason."
"If you tell me you slept with Burley, I'll kill you."
"No, I created Rule 12 before Stan."
"Because if it was before Burley, it had to be one of your redheads."
Gibbs raised a brow. Tony waved it off. "You'll explain that later."
"I'm a better profiler than Kate," Tony said bluntly. "Stan was the first one to turn your head so far. That's why you were so hard on him. You liked to see him twitch. But he couldn't take the not knowing and got himself reassigned."
Gibbs eyes narrowed. "You read his personnel file."
"Of course I did. No one even freaking mentioned him and then they were oohing and ahing over him. I read his file when we got back. I even sent him the damned Cricket ball because I didn't want to smash it into his skull anymore." Tony's smile was tight and almost predatory.
The older man chuckled. "Yeah, he doesn't like you either."
That got the ex-cop laughing. "Bet he feels guilty about that too."
"He does. He thinks you're a good, yet incredibly insecure kid."
"I've still got it. Kate was falling all over herself to make me feel better about him too. Why haven't we been to this place before?"
"Can't get rid of Kate early enough in the day." Tony tipped his glass in acknowledgement of that. "I miss it."
"Yeah, me too," Tony said softly. "I miss a lot of things from before Kate."
"Like you listening to me, letting me toss off ideas and bounce them around. Being able to just sing out when I think you're wrong."
"Nothing stopping you on that point."
"Because she's your newest damn golden child. Just like Viv and Charlie and Patricia. They can do no wrong and you don't call them on it when they do because you're a bigger chauvinist than I am. You need to work with a female cop, not fed for once. She'll put you in your place."
"Like your partner."
Tony went white at that. "Yeah, well, hopefully I won't have to bury Kate too."
Gibbs reached across the table and rested a hand on Tony's wrist. He squeezed. "That was cruel. I didn't mean to bring that up."
"She laughs when I mother-hen, but she doesn't get it. I won't bury you, Gibbs. I can't."
"Ah, Tony." Gibbs returned to his food. "I know you love me. I don't mind."
"Yeah, well, I wish you did."
"Because you'd care."
"I do care, Tony. You're my friend. You're my partner."
"But not your lover and that's the problem."
Gibbs looked down at his plate. Tony was staring into his wine as if it would tell him the way to deal with this. "If you want to transfer, any of the leads would love to have you. Or you could go for lead that just opened up in Georgia."
"I'd rather stay," the young man said quietly. "Because if you die when I'm out with some other team, I'll end up eating my gun. As long as you don't mind knowing that my heart is yours, no matter what you do with it, I'll stay."
"I'll be retiring in another five years," Gibbs said quietly. "No more rules then."
"Promise?" The green eyes weighed his words, his sincerity.
Gibbs held the gaze. "I promise."
He got a blinding smile in response.
Denise studied her partner. "You talked to Gibbs?"
"You're looking better."
"Sometimes the days just get really long," Tony said quietly. "I get lonely."
"Which is why you date."
"I enjoy it."
"You're like a dog chasing a car."
"What?" Tony's brows drew together.
"You chase women, but have no clue what to do when you catch one." Denise pinched one cheek.
"Why you. . . I should dump you in the pool when we get there. It would serve you right." Tony turned on the camcorder. "This is Denise. She's going to get very wet, so I should give you all a before shot," Tony drawled as he recorded a long, slow head-to-toe shot of his partner. She put her hands on her hips.
"If you think you're going to throw me into the pool, you are sadly mistaken, little boy." She tapped on the lens with one neatly painted nail. "If you get me wet like that, you will not sit easy for a week." Tony snapped off the recorder.
"Brat." Tony gave her an impish smile. They settled into the car. Denise was driving as usual.
"You don't have to always dress up you know. I like you just as well in your sweats."
"I know that, but I simply can't show up at this party dressed down."
"It's a backyard pool party, You could try jeans. Even tight jeans and an oversized top or something."
"You look like we're going to the Ritz."
"And you're wearing."
"Okay, okay, I knew you'd dress up and figured I'd better match." Tony slumped. He put on the glasses and fiddled with his camera. "Mind if I charge this thing up on the way?"
"Not at all."