"I'm deaf," the witness informed Tony, signing as she spoke.
Tony DiNozzo nodded with a smile. He signed carefully. "Let me get my boss. He's faster than I am."
The witness' eyes widened. She was a plain young woman with brown hair and eyes. "You sign?"
"Slowly." He turned. "Boss!" he called across the scene.
"What?" Gibbs snapped looking across the field.
"Witness needs a sign-language translator."
"You can do it," Gibbs signed.
"You're faster than I am, boss," he signed back.
Gibbs glared and Tony winced.
"On it, boss."
"I'll be patient," the witness signed, a small smile gracing her lips.
"Thank you." Tony sighed. The questioning went fairly smoothly. Janice relaxed as Tony listened intently to her story. He made her repeat a few sections more slowly to make sure he understood her. Finally, he nodded. "Thank you. We'll contact you if we need more information."
She nodded back to him with a sweet smile. "Or you could just come for coffee," she offered.
Tony looked down, then up tilting his head a little bit in an unconsciously flirty movement. "Thanks."
Kate looked at him with raised brows as he picked his way across the crime scene. "Anything?" Gibbs snapped.
"She saw a car leaving the scene. Blue with chrome trim and tail fins. From the shape of the fins she sketched for me, we're talking a classic Chevy, probably ''57. It didn't have a black plate, so it's not a registered classic. She said it was missing a back light. She doesn't know the victim, but she is the one who started first aid. She text messaged the TTY operator to call the police. The paramedics called his death when they got here."
"Got a film, boss," McGee said, a little breathlessly. "The min-mart on the corner has an external surveillance camera."
"Get it to Abby. Tell her I want a close up of the car and plate if she can get it. DiNozzo, walk it again. Todd, with me."
They split up.
Tony picked up the small traces of fabric with his tweezers. It didn't look like much of anything, but he'd let Abby test it anyway. He canted his head and studied the skid marks on the ground. It wasn't a plain hit and run. The brake marks didn't come until after the hit. He walked the scene one more time. His attention was caught by a shifting curtain. He jogged over to the house and knocked on the door. A young woman opened it with a frown. "Hi, I'm Special Agent DiNozzo with NCIS. I was wondering if I could talk to you about the accident."
She chewed at her lip and checked his ID. "I didn't see anything."
"Is there anyone else in the house?"
"Only my grandmother, but she's not all there."
"May I speak with her?"
"I guess. Nonna!" she called up the stairs. "I'm bringing someone up to see you. If she drifts out of English, just remind her and she'll switch back. I'm Clara, by the way."
"Nice to meet you."
"This is my grandmother. Isabelle Grace."
Tony kissed the old lady's hand. She was a lady too. Her back was straight and her hair neatly coiled up in a bun. She smelled faintly of lavender. Clara left them alone after a moment of listening to the pleasantries that fell from Tony's lips without thinking. After chatting lightly about the day, Isabelle smiled at him. "Ask me your questions," she ordered. He led her through the morning. She'd been reading by the window and just decided to stop and look out. He took down her description of the incident, not caring when she slipped in and out of Italian. In fact, he actually didn't even notice the shifting language or the fact that he was questioning her in the same language. He kissed her hand and gave her his card. In her smile, he saw the young beauty she'd once been.
He took his leave of Clara and walked out the front door. Gibbs glared at him.
"Boss?" Tony let his confusion into his voice.
"You better have something for me." Gibbs' voice was steely.
"Interview with a witness. She saw the whole thing."
The blue eyes blinked once, then twice. "Try English this time," Gibbs said finally.
Tony looked at him in surprise. He repeated his statement. Gibbs frowned. "She was looking out the window. She has trouble walking without help so she was sitting in her chair and watching the street. She uses binoculars when she looks at the birds, but today she was just watching the world go by."
Gibbs brows rose. "Anything else?"
"Some fabric for Abby." Tony shrugged.
Kate's eyes narrowed. "So, this witness. She pretty?"
"Yes," he answered absently. "But she's out of my usual age range."
"Oh, so she's not jailbait?" Kate batted her lashes.
"Ha. Ha." Tony rolled his eyes at her. He looked up at the window and raised a hand in farewell. The curtains twitched then a delicately fingered hand waved back.
Gibbs herded them into the truck and back to the office.
Gibbs watched as Tony started his searches. McGee was going over their victim's financial background. Kate was looking for anyone with a motive to kill him. Tony was looking for the car. He straightened. "Crap," he muttered. Then, he was dialing.
"What is it?"
"Stolen car that matches our description was found dumped an hour ago. I don't think they've towed it yet."
Gibbs let Tony negotiate with the local officers for custody of the car. When he hung up, the young man looked to him for a nod of permission. Gibbs gave it to him and he was off like a hunting dog on a scent. Kate glanced at him with a little frown. "Shouldn't one of us go with him?"
"To pick up a car? He'll take a tow crew." Gibbs dismissed the idea. He squinted at the note from security. He tucked it away as something to make McGee deal with after this case was finished. "What have you got, McGee?" he barked. The young man gulped once before clearing his throat. For a moment, Gibbs regretted sending Tony after the car. He just wasn't in the mood to deal with McGee's self-esteem issues.
All told, it was a fairly simple case to resolve. They found their victim's ex-girlfriend working at the supermarket. Kate and McGee had taken her out to the car while Tony confirmed shift details with the manager. Gibbs studied the gum machines. "DiNozzo, give me a quarter." Tony flipped the coin through the air without looking up. Gibbs put the quarter along with two of his own into the machine and cranked the wheel. He grinned at the ring in the plastic ball. He lobbed it at his second who caught it automatically as he bid farewell to the manager and the young woman who was bagging. She blushed at his wink. He looked down at the ring.
"Boss?" he signed, with a frown.
"I don't like diamonds," Gibbs replied. Tony chuckled, breaking open the plastic egg and revealing the blue light-up ring. He pulled the tab out and the ring glowed blue. Tony grinned at it as they made their way to the car. He turned it off and tucked it into his pocket. He ditched the egg in the trash can.
He let Tony take the woman's confession while he sent the others to work on their reports until quitting time. Once she was processed Tony leaned against the wall. "I should still call Isabelle."
That got him a light fist to the upper arm. "Anyone told you you're a smart-ass, boss?"
"Must be close association."
"Oh, you're rubbing off on me?" Tony batted his lashes.
Gibbs bit back the automatic "not yet." He glared at the younger man who smiled impishly at him. Tony put on the ring and turned it on. It glowed softly. "How long before someone comments on it?"
"I give Kate about twenty minutes. If she notices it. Abby about thirty seconds."
"Is too afraid of me to comment on it. He'll assume it's an Abby thing."
"Kate will say something as soon as she sees it," Gibbs countered. "And McGee will ask you if Abby gave you the ring. He's gotten a lot less jumpy since you called him in for help on the bank statements."
"Dinner on it?"
They shook on it.
Gibbs kept a discrete eye on the clock. It was fifteen minutes into the twenty minutes Tony had predicted and Kate still hadn't said a word about the glowing ring. Gibbs was a step away from firing her for lack of observation. She lasted out over twenty minutes. "Is she pretty?" she asked.
"The one who gave you the ring?"
"Not pretty so much as handsome."
Her brows rose. "Not a model?"
"Not the type of model you're thinking of," Tony replied. McGee's brows rose. He looked at the older agent.
Tony's lips curled into a smug smirk. "Well, that's a matter of opinion. Not exotic to me. Now, I've got a report to finish."
"Is it from Abby?" McGee asked.
"Nope." Damn, they were in a dead heat. Tony'd been right about Kate, but Gibbs had been right about McGee. A quick glance and frown from Tony let him know that the younger man knew it too. Abby should be up any minute with the results from the fibers that had been found on the car. That would decide the competition. The elevator dinged. Abby bounced into the area.
"My report, oh my lord and master." She dropped the papers into Gibbs' inbox. She sat on the corner of Tony's desk. "So, sweetie, spill. Who's is it?" She lifted Tony's hand to investigate the ring.
"That's for me to know, and you to go crazy over." She pouted, but Tony didn't relent.
"Fine. See if I tell you about Bonnie and Lucy."
Tony wavered at that. He bit his lip, then shook his head. "Not even for Bonnie and Lucy."
Abby's jaw dropped. "Damn, must be serious. You me, milkshakes after work tomorrow. Don't try to sneak out or I'll spike your tires."
"Touch my car and you won't sit for a week," Tony said evenly. They glared at each other for a long moment.
"Might be worth it."
"Not if I pay someone to take care of matters for me."
"Fine. I won't touch the car, but your closet is fair game."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "Wait a minute. Is that where my red silk shirt disappeared to?"
"Greek," Tony said. Gibbs' head popped up. "For dinner," he defined. "The kids are gone and you owe me dinner."
"Abby's too damned inquisitive."
Tony smirked. "So, about dinner?"
"Okay. Okay. Let's go. I'm driving."
"I'll meet you."
"There's no parking. You want your car on the street?"
Tony winced. "No."
Gibbs nodded once. "I'm driving. Move it before I change my mind."
"Can't change your mind. You never welsh." Tony was moving though. Gibbs' eyes were drawn to his hand. The normally stern countenance had a smirk on it.
"I can't believe you're still wearing the damn thing."
Tony smirked back at him. "You gave it to me," he signed. "I don't like diamonds either. They make me look like a card shark."
"You mean you aren't?" Gibbs signed back.
"Hey, I've got to keep some secrets."
"Not from me."
Tony gave him a grin, feeling totally sappy. "Thanks, Boss." Gibbs jerked his head in the direction of the elevator and Tony stepped past him. Gibbs caught him by the back of the neck with a quick squeeze that was nearly the opposite of his smacks.
Gibbs laughed at Tony's description of Abby's last disaster in home decorating. "And to top it all off, she called me and didn't warn me it was a paint explosion. I never did get those pants clean. Took us four hours to get it off of the floors. Then, she conned me in to repainting it."
"Is this when she got open access to your clothes?"
"No, back on the Hanson case, the first year I was here. You were in the hospital. I gave her my key to get me a change of clothes while I waited for Ducky. I decided she needed a copy of the key just in case."
"I had to threaten you for a copy of your key."
"Well, I know if Abby shows up while I've got a date there she'll just giggle. I'm not that sure about you." Gibbs grunted. He was smiling though and that seemed to make Tony nervous. "What are you smiling at?" he demanded.
Tony's eyes narrowed. He chewed his lip, then turned his attention back to his dinner. "So, tell me, why the ring. I don't associate you with impulsiveness."
"I thought my 'risk-taking, gung-ho, irrational, brainwashed impulsiveness' was part of why you went and got drunk after I got out of the hospital on the Hanson case?"
Tony froze with his fork half-way to his mouth. "I said that out-loud?" His voice was shocked.
"Were you pretending to be asleep?"
"No, you were on a rant when Abby brought you to my house to dry out. She didn't want to leave you at home because she was pretty sure you'd get hurt. She was laughing so hard that there were tears in her eyes when you finished dressing me down."
"Oh, God," Tony closed his eyes. "I thought that was just a really bad dream."
Gibbs chuckled. "Don't worry about it. I needed the laugh."
"And you. . . what did you do?"
"At the time I managed to keep you upright until you got into bed."
"No, but you did something." Tony opened his eyes. He was frowning, trying to remember.
"I made you promise not to drink that much ever again."
"Well, I threatened to smack you around and you said 'whatever turns you on' and winked." Gibbs couldn't help but smile.
Tony blinked at him, cheeks turning a pleasing shade of red. "That's not explaining the ring."
"Well, I kissed you then and you didn't hit me."
That froze the younger man again. "Oh," he said finally. "So, did I miss the proposal?"
"Not yet. I'm an orderly person."
"Well, you skipped the date and went for the kiss."
"But I wouldn't skip the date to the engagement."
"So, does this count as a date, or just payment for the bet?"
"This is payment. Friday's the date."
"I love a confident man. What time?"
"Do I get to change?"
"Then we're not doing anything fancy."
Gibbs smirked at him. "I'm not the fancy type."
"Bull. You're definitely the fancy type, you just don't think you are. I'll change your mind." Tony waved a hand carelessly in the air. "So, can I tell Abby?"
"Sure. I know better than to get between girlfriends." That earned him a napkin thrown at his head. The younger man was laughing though, so he didn't take it seriously.
Abby took a slurp of milkshake. The McDonalds was busy, but most patrons were getting their food to go. "So talk, boy," Abby ordered.
"About what? Ducky pointed me to a great movie the other day."
"Anthony," Abby snapped. Her eyes glittered.
"Gibbs gave it to me."
She stared at him. "Oh, my, God. You aren't kidding are you?"
"Nope. I was interviewing the store manager on the last case. He begged a quarter and next thing I knew, I had a ring." Tony shrugged. He smiled, feeling mischievous. "I had to wear it. It was a gift."
"That doesn't explain why it is now on a chain around your neck."
Tony grinned. "Gibbs gave it to me."
"I got that. But why. . . Oh. My. God. Finally! He's finally said something."
"Yeah. Date on Friday. We'll see what happens."
"That's great!" She practically squealed and Tony braced for the hug. She flung herself at him and hugged him tightly. "I so thought I was going to have to go in with Ducky and lock you two in the storage closet."
"Ducky?" Tony growled. "You and Ducky talked about this?"
"Well, Duh. Just because you two were too blind to admit it, doesn't mean we didn't see it."
"Sometimes you scare me, Abs."
She winked. "Good. So, give me details."
Tony chuckled. He settled in his seat for the interrogation.
"Come on, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, jerking his head towards the elevator. Tony grabbed his things and followed Gibbs out of the office. It was late enough for Gibbs to order him home.
"Boss?" he queried.
Gibbs ignored him. Tony sighed. He felt like a dog at heel, just a step behind and to the right. He followed Gibbs to the car. He frowned, but got in. "What's going on? It's not Friday."
The older man smirked at him, put the car into gear and peeled out of the garage. Tony grabbed the Jesus-bar as they swung into traffic. "What's your favorite color?"
"Sway with Me. Jesus, boss! You abuse this poor thing." Tony patted the poor car's side. Gibbs chuckled.
Tony bit his lip. "I don't have one."
The young man blushed. "The Velvetine Rabbit."
Gibbs was quiet for a moment. "I remember that one. It's good."
"Where are we headed?"
"Wait and see."
Tony sighed. He fiddled with the radio until Gibbs smacked his hand and turned off the power. "Fair's fair. Favorite color?"
Gibbs chuckled. "I Did It My Way."
"Didn't see you as the Sinatra type. Favorite book?"
"Laugh and I'll string you up."
"I won't laugh. Promise." Tony held his hand up seriously.
"I can see that. You planning to take me out on that boat of yours when you finish it?"
"I don't know. Do you get seasick? It's not like being on a battleship."
"I know, boss. I'm fine on small boats. My grandfather used to take me sailing when I visited him in Italy."
"I thought you were second generation?"
"Second on my father's side, first on my mother's. My grandfather's the one who told me about Mama. I don't remember her, just Papa's second wife." Tony shrugged. "But I loved Italy."
"Your grandfather's a fisherman?"
"He was." Tony smiled to himself. "So, you'll take me sailing?"
"When I finish it."
"Cool. So, where are we headed?"
Tony sighed. He slumped down in his seat. His stomach growled. "It better have food."
Gibbs reached over and carefully covered Tony's mouth with his palm. The younger man licked the palm. Gibbs glared at him. Tony' batted his lashes innocently. The younger man put his feet up on the dash. Gibbs settled his hand on Tony's stomach. He left it there until it was time to pull into a small parking lot. He turned off the car. "Come on. I think you'll like this place."
"On your six."
Tony looked around the pub, eyes bright. Gibbs grinned. "I haven't been here in years!" he said. They settled themselves at a table and waited for the waitress. "Hell, I don't think I've been here since," he frowned. "Since I started working for you, to be honest."
"Tony?" the waitress said, blinking. "I thought you moved?"
"I did. I'm living in Virginia now. Suzie, this is Jethro Gibbs."
"Nice to meet you, Jethro," she said with a slow smile. She looked Gibbs up and down. "I think I've seen you here before. Usually with a red-head. She finally tell you off?"
Gibbs gave her a smile. "Usually. Not anymore," he added, more for Tony's benefit than anything else.
"Good. It's about time someone managed to get Tony settled down."
"Hon, I have never seen you with the same woman twice."
"That's not true." Suzie raised her brows. Tony slumped. Gibbs hid his smile. "I just never bring a date to the same place twice. This used to be a third date sort of place."
The older woman had a rich laugh. "So, what can I get for you boys?"
"Coffee," Gibbs ordered.
"My usual. If you still remember me after all this time."
"A beer followed by hot tea with sugar."
Tony grinned happily at her. "You ready to order, Gibbs?"
"Fish and Chips."
"Crab cakes and onion rings."
"Not betting on a goodnight kiss?" Gibbs asked as Suzie left.
"Not even the first date, Gibbs. What do you take me for?" Gibbs smirked. Tony looked up through his lashes. "Be nice."
"You're mine," Gibbs informed him.