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Twenty Four Frames

by: Beckymonster (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 12924
Rating: TEEN
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Ducky Mallard
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Challenge, Friendship, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: Movies, murder, Medical Examiners and Marines - welcome to the life of Tony DiNozzo

Author Notes: Written for Lucifers Toy as part of the 2006 NCIS Tinsel ficathon on LiveJournal.
Beta'ed by Periwinkle24 (who deserves to be canonised!)

Spoilers for pretty much everything after Meat Puzzle. Goes AU after Twilight

Chapters: 1

Twenty Four Frames





Twenty Four Frames by Beckymonster

“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
‘Casablanca’


It had begun, as many of their days did. With a dead body.

Female Naval officer, found in her quarters at Norfolk, strangled by person(s) unknown. The crime scene revealed very few clues as to the identity of the attacker or even an MO for the attack.

Tony might have been the first to notice, but Ducky was the first to say it.

“It would seem the lieutenant had a penchant for ballet and or cinema,” the ME explained as he respectfully sat on the bed beside the corpse of the dead Naval Lieutenant.

“How did you work that out?” McGee asked curiously, as he paused from taking photos of the scene.

“Red ballet shoes on the wall, Probie,” he stated, as he pointed out the scarlet shoes sitting on a bookshelf. “The Red Shoes was a very famous Fifties British film,” Tony returned to his measurements and carried on talking, at the same time. “About a dancer who had to choose between her career and love-”

“With tragic consequences, I might add,” Ducky muttered as he took the liver probe from Jimmy.

“Martin Scorcese claims it’s his favourite film ever,” Tony continued, nodding in deference to the ME.

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs stated, using the ‘cut the crap and get working’ voice.

“Can’t say as I blame him,” Tony continued, pushing the boundaries as usual. “The use of colour, the dance sequences, Moira Shearer… beauty beyond compare,” He turned and grinned at his CO, “Your type of girl, Boss,”

Gibbs just glared at him.

“Tony is right, Jethro,” Ducky continued, oblivious to his old friend’s mood. “Hair nearly as red as the titular shoes. An astonishingly beautiful woman, both on and off screen, as well as an amazing dancer. I was fortunate enough to see her at Covent Garden, when I was young. Admittedly, it wasn’t the Royal Ballet then but-“

“Ducky! Time of Death?” Gibbs snapped.

“Approximately ten to twelve hours ago.” Ducky replied calmly. “I’ll have a better idea when we get her home.”

Gibbs nodded and started barking out orders. Tony bent his head to his work. There would be time to continue the conversation later. He was definitely with Marty Scorsese on this one.

*******

Tony had received the ‘Dear John’ text message from Katee, first thing that morning. It had been expected, just not right then. He thought that he had another week or two before it all went belly up.
The first break up had been a few weeks before. The reconciliation had been well worth it; the sex had been fantastic. Other than that, nothing to write home about.

Tony knew what the problem was. He was. His heart just wasn’t into chasing girls anymore. What his heart was into, he couldn’t have. So he did what he always did. Acted as if nothing was wrong.

The day didn’t get any better. Traffic was a bitch. Gibbs was a bastard and he had a ticket for the Powell & Pressburger season going wanting. Not exactly ‘should’ve stayed in bed’ material but not one of his better days either.

Their current case, privately dubbed by Tony as ‘The Red Shoes Case’ wrapped up just after lunch. In a documentable instance of the Universe having a questionable sense of humor, the case mirrored the film he’d been discussing with Ducky not 24 hours before to the letter.

“The boyfriend confessed,” Tony explained to Ducky. He’d run down to Autopsy to give the nod for the body to be released to the grieving family. “He’d given her an ultimatum. Him or the sea.”

Ducky’s shoulders slumped over the paperwork. These were the cases that made them all question humanity the most; the crimes of passion.

“The poor child should never have been placed in such a position,” Ducky muttered as he signed off the paperwork and handed it back to Tony. “Despite some of the Military’s more arcane rules, this is not the Dark Ages,”

Tony considered making a crack about lack of electricity but decided against it. Now was neither the time nor place.

“Unfortunately for the petty officer, her boyfriend didn’t hold the same views as you,” Tony noted, taking the file. “Gibbs landed the confession about an hour ago. Just finished processing the scumbag. She chose the sea and he went crazy,” he noted sadly.

Ducky nodded and turned away to tidy away the x-rays on the wall.

“You’re unusually quiet today, Tony,” the older man commented. “Are you well?”

On any other day, Tony would have smiled and waved away the concern with a witty rejoinder. Today, he just felt… vulnerable.

“Got a ‘Dear John’ this morning,” Tony stated, looking down at the pristine cement floor.

“Letter?” Ducky asked sympathetically.

“Nope, text message,” Tony stated, not taking his eyes from the floor. The action meant that he missed Ducky shaking his head in sympathy.

“Technology will be the death of good manners,” Ducky grumbled. “If she was going to break your heart, she should have at least had the good manners to do it in person.” He handed the x-rays over to Jimmy who was hovering silently nearby, ready to take the file for processing. “It reminds me of when one of my compatriots at University was given the heave ho by his young lady. She pinned it on-”

Tony closed his eyes and counted to ten. The last thing he wanted to deal with right now was one of the Medical Examiner‘s stories. He had things to do, starting with finding someone to come with him to the cinema that night. There was a ticket to see ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ going begging. It wasn’t the money that bothered him; he just wanted the company more than anything else.

He wanted to find someone who’d appreciate if not his company, then certainly the film itself. It was one of Powell and Pressburger’s finest films; the use of Technicolor and black and white made it a feast for the eyes. Even more so than ‘The Red Shoes’-

Tony paused in his woolgathering with a start. It was a crazy idea, so crazy in fact that it might just work….

“Ducky,” DiNozzo wheedled, turning his best smile on his older co-worker. The one that always pretty much got him a result every time he used it. “I’ve got a spare ticket for a showing of ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ tonight.” Tony explained, “Katee was supposed to be coming with me but…”

Tony watched the ME’s expression closely. He was listening intently, interested in what he had to say. Definitely a start.

“I was wondering, if you’d like to go see it with me, instead?”

The moment the words left his mouth, Tony winced internally. He was definitely not on his game today. How could he have forgotten about Ducky’s mom? Until he’d met her, Tony had thought that the eccentric Brit stereotype seen in movies didn’t exist. Ducky didn’t count because… he was Ducky. He had his quirks but no more than anyone else he’d worked with. Even so, he should have remembered that she always got anxious if Ducky wasn’t at home at night. If Gibbs had been listening, that would have earned him a headslap.

He glanced over at the other man. There was definitely a frown on his features. Tony turned to leave, wracking his brains over who else he could ask. The list was distressingly short. Abby was out of the office at a seminar, McGee had no appreciation for classic films-

“Mother has her Bridge club tonight.” Ducky stated loudly, making Tony stop in his tracks before turning to face the older man. “I usually try to make myself scarce on such occasions,” Ducky smiled, his face lighting up. Tony felt himself smiling back, “A trip to the cinema would be lovely,”

“Great!” Tony exclaimed, “Um, the movie starts at 7 pm. Do you want to go for a drink beforehand?” he asked. “There is a quiet little bar near the cinema. Comfy leather chairs, waiter service and no loud music,” he explained.

Ducky nodded his agreement. “One small request, Tony,” the older man asked, softening his voice. Tony moved away from the door, towards Ducky to hear what he had to say, “We talk about everything else apart from work,”

Tony nodded decisively. More than fine by him. He had to have some small part of his life where work didn’t intrude and movies were just such an oasis.

“Sure, meet you in the foyer at finishing time?” Tony asked over the ringing of the telephone. Dollars to doughnuts, he knew who’d be on the other end of the line. Gibbs.

Ducky nodded his agreement and turned to the desk to answer the phone. Tony walked out of Autopsy and into the lift, catching snippets of the conversation as he did so. As he thought - Gibbs was still a bastard. Whatever else the day would throw at him, there was at least something for him to look forward to.

*******

The evening spent in Ducky’s company surpassed all of his expectations. He’d been hoping for a good night’s entertainment, a drink and a film, in good company.

He got all of that and more. A drink with Ducky before the film had signaled the start of a long conversation that had begun with Ducky completing his anecdote from the day before about seeing Moira Shearer on stage. From there the conversation had moved onto favorite films. They had gotten so involved that they only had bare moments to find their seats in the cinema before the houselights went down.

The film was as wonderful as ever, with an audience quiet and respectful in the presence of such a masterpiece, which privately pleased Tony no end, as well as a companion that didn’t keep leaning over every five minutes or so to ask what was going on. Score one for maturity over youth.

The post film discussion slid easily into a highly enjoyable dinner and another drink at a different bar, one suggested by Ducky. All the time, the conversation was lively and interesting, on all manner of topics but their work. Before Tony knew it, the two of them were standing outside the bar, waiting for the taxi that would take Ducky to the Navy Yard to pick up his car. Tony would use the time to get some work done and sleep there. Wasn’t like he hadn’t done that before.

“Really had a good time tonight,” Tony noted, glancing down at his watch, it was gone midnight. He winced. He could function on a few hours sleep. Gibbs might ream him out because of it but that was part of the course. He could live with that.

“As did I,” Ducky remarked with a smile. “Haven’t had so much fun in…” he looked pensive for a moment, “Too long.” He looked down at the pavement, “If you are ever bereft of company for another cinematic excursion-“

“You’ll be the first person I call, Duck.” Tony stated, patting the other man on the back.

*******

“Did you go home at all last night, Tony?”

Tony started at the scathing tone in Kate’s voice. He cracked an eye open to look at his teammate and (verbal) sparring partner.

“Nope,” he replied truthfully, grinning at her as he yawned and stretched.

After he’d seen Ducky off, he’d come into the squad room and worked on some reports (which were now on Gibbs’ desk) When his eyes had grown too heavy, he’d succumbed to sleep and its dreams of making love to a beautiful man with silver hair.

“Looks like someone got lucky last night!” Abby commented with a smile as she hopped up to sit on Kate’s desk. Tony glanced around Kate to see her picking out the best spot for the ensuing fireworks.

Kate planted herself in front of his desk, hands balled on hips, her expression torn between scorn and annoyance.

“Tony, you are… impossible!” Kate hissed. The office was starting to get busy for the new day. There was no need to cause a scene or more gossip, despite the fact that Tony knew that Kate and his regular arguments were good grist for the office rumor mill.
Hell, he had even heard that there was a pool as to how long it would take before he and Kate were lovers. He was too kind hearted to break delusions like that, not when there was money involved.

“Let me guess,” Kate snarked, “Blonde?”

Tony considered for a moment before replying. Ducky was blond, his hair had gotten darker with age, from ash blond to a darker shade but still blond. Besides, Kate made it too damn easy sometimes.

“Yep,” he replied with a grin.

“Blue eyes?”

Tony nodded, his grin getting wider. He didn’t know who Kate had in mind but he wouldn’t mind meeting her.

“And you’re just with them for the company.” Again true. There was only one older guy who did it for him and it wasn’t Ducky. No offense to Ducky, of course.

Before Kate could reply, Gibbs came striding out of the elevator, coffee in hand. Tony caught a glimpse of his expression. Not good. He stood up, ready to gear up to go wherever directed.

“DiNozzo, call your date. We’ve got a suspicious death over at Bethesda.”

“On it, Boss!” Tony called out as he picked up the phone and hit the speed dial for Autopsy.

He could see Kate doing a doubletake out of the corner of his eye. She looked totally confused, glancing over at Abby who was giving the best impression of innocent this side of a litter of puppies.

Autopsy, Mallard speaking.”

Tony was about to reply when he heard Kate’s disbelieving cry of: “Your date was Ducky?!”

*******

“I’m a MAN!”
“Well, nobody’s perfect!”

‘Some Like it Hot’


To Tony’s delight, Ducky suggested the second film, Fight Club, a week or so later. The ME had heard some of the other agents talking about it and expressed a desire to see it. The suggestion made Tony’s day, even more than getting the phone number of the hot redhead in the coffee shop down the street from the Naval Yard.

“Surely you’ve seen it, though, Anthony?” Ducky asked as they walked down the block to the theatre that evening.

“Sure, but it’s nice to actually go see a good film with someone who…” Tony stopped and faced the other man, scrunching his face up, trying to find the words that would express what he was feeling. “I don’t have to ‘persuade’ to come see a movie with me.”

Ducky paused and turned to the younger man, ignoring the ebb and flow of pedestrians on the busy street around them.

“I was under the impression that you had no problems ‘persuading’ your lady friends to do anything!”

Tony chuckled, feeling a curl of heat in his cheeks. “Cinema is a completely different matter to the bedroom, Ducky. As I’m sure you’re well aware.”

Ducky laughed softly. “You are right there, Tony, Jo is not one for the cinema. It’s the only thing we don’t see eye to eye on.”

Tony started at that revelation. He didn’t know that Ducky was seeing someone. It had to be a recent thing. Scuttlebutt noted that Ducky was rather taken with the doc who pulled the Stalag 17 trick. Doctor Janice Byers, Tony remembered. She was pretty, not his type, mind. Then there was the whole cremating her patient to cover up her mistakes thing.

“I understand what you mean; it is lovely to simply be able to enjoy a film in the company of someone who understands your love of the art form.” Ducky said, deftly changing the subject on Tony. “We both love the classics but you are happy to bring me up to speed with more modern films, without making me feel like an old fart.”

“Two things,” Tony stated as he started to walk towards the cinema, Ducky beside him, “One, it’s my pleasure and two, you’re not an old fart. Gibbs is an old fart. You are not!”
Ducky didn’t reply to that statement. Tony could see out of the corner of his eye, Ducky regarding him with a look that made the younger man feel as if his innermost secrets were there for all to see.

*******

Time passed. Tony’s cinema excursions with Ducky turned from being a sometime thing to a regular occurrence. It didn’t happen every week. Their work and Ducky’s mom put paid to that. It would happen whenever schedules and inclination would allow. Each time, there would be a movie, there would be dinner, sometimes there was alcohol but most of all, there was talking.

To Tony’s eternal surprise, it wasn’t Ducky who talked the most - it was him. Sure, the ME could talk the legs off a donkey and did so on a regular basis. Despite that, there were times when… the older man would just throw out a topic and it would be Tony who’d be doing most of the talking.

Like when they had gone to see Psycho. During dinner, Ducky had started talking about his school days at Eton. Tony hadn’t realized that Ducky had a schooling very similar to his own. Away from home, reputedly the best money could buy… Before long, Tony was spilling his guts about his parents. He stopped abruptly when he realized what he was saying; berating himself for his lapse in manners. Last thing Ducky wanted to know was what a fuck up his family life was. It was supposed to be a pleasant evening, not an airing of the DiNozzo closet skeletons.

To Tony’s surprise and relief, Ducky explained that the oath he took, as a doctor, meant that whatever was said to him was said in confidence. If Tony wanted to talk about his family, then Ducky was happy to listen. He wouldn’t analyze or offer advice, just… listen.
He nodded, thanked Ducky and said that he’d be happy to return the favor.

Tony got that chance when they went to see The Day the Earth Stood Still.

When he and Ducky arrived at the cinema, there had been this guy, whom Tony swore blind he knew. The thing was he couldn’t place him, which annoyed the hell out of Tony.
Tall, kinda gangly, dark curly hair, nose buried in a book. Dressed in the scruffy/smart way that seemed to be in vogue, to Tony’s disgust; jeans and Chucks combined with a dress shirt and jacket.
It was Ducky who realized who it was a lot quicker than Tony did. It was Jimmy Palmer.

It was only when they ‘scared’ the daylights out of Jimmy; causing him to drop the book (which Tony, in a flash of physical dexterity, caught before it hit the floor) that he realized why he didn’t recognize him before. Jimmy wasn’t wearing glasses; the change made him look… if one guy could say it about another, handsome.

Tony had to take pity on Jimmy when Ducky asked Jimmy if he’d like to join them. In a moment, he’d regressed back to the stuttering klutz he knew from work. Calling Ducky, ‘Doctor Mallard’ and Tony ‘Agent DiNozzo’. Ducky put an end to that business quickly.

“Jimmy,” he said, softly as if talking to a frightened child, “We’re not at work, there is no need for formalities here.”

“First rule of ‘Movie Night’,” Tony explained, “Is that we don’t talk about work.”

“The second rule of ‘Movie Night’ is that we don’t talk about work!” Ducky finished, glancing up at his assistant, who was looking more dazed than normal.

The young man smiled and asked Ducky if he’d ever seen Fight Club. To which Ducky laughed and replied, yes, he’d dragged poor Tony to go see that a few weeks before. The look on Jimmy’s face was priceless.
Ducky took pity on him and explained what ‘Movie Night’ was all about. An opportunity to watch good films, eat good food and enjoy good company, shriven of the cares of work.

Tony wished he had a camera to hand when Ducky asked Jimmy to join them for that evening. The younger man looked so pleased, Tony thought he’d spontaneously combust. He grinned at how pleased such a thing would make Abby. She was into all that weird stuff. Then again, perhaps not, as it would deprive her of an admirer.

Tony was glad that Ducky had asked as Jimmy proved to be excellent company. Once he had gotten over his shyness, Jimmy let show that he was as much of a film fan as the other two and what he didn’t know about film scores wasn’t worth knowing. Tony carefully questioned the younger man, trying to get to know the guy behind the geek. Find out what, apart from work, films, film music and gothic forensic specialists, made him tick. The answer was simple; quite a lot actually.

Ducky thanked Tony for his patience and his drawing out of his assistant the next day. He had come up to the Squad Room to drop something off for Gibbs. As he wasn’t there, he left it on his desk and chatted with Tony instead.

Tony stopped what he was doing, writing a report he knew he would get thrown back at him, to usher Ducky to the break room where they could have the conversation in (relative) peace and quiet. While he didn’t exactly have his boss’ famous gut, Tony knew that Ducky had something on his mind.

He was right - the ME wanted to thank him for what he had done and to talk to him about his assistants, both past and present. Tony poured them both coffees and let the older man talk.

It became clear that Ducky cared a great deal about all of his assistants. He had no children of his own; they fulfilled that role quite nicely, thank you. From the ones who stayed not nearly long enough for him to get their names right, to his ‘favorites’. Like Sapphire Hammond, a tiny redhead from Texas who was currently working as a fully qualified ME for the FBI. Woe betide anyone who mentioned aliens in her presence. Quite why, he couldn’t understand. Gerald Jackson, who was to be back at work soon, as recovered as one could be, thank heavens, and of course, Jimmy.

As he listened, Tony wondered if Gibbs ever felt the same way about the agents he had working under him. After all, he’d been pretty cozy with Stan Burleigh, when they’d been hauled out to the Enterprise to deal with some doped-up deckhands. He mentally shook himself, how long had it taken Gibbs to get the poor guy’s name right? Three years?

Tony put the idea out of his head. He was already in love with the bastard, there was no need to get even more hung up over him.

“DiNozzo! Why isn’t that report on my desk?” Gibbs barked, dragging Tony away from his woolgathering.

Tony heard Ducky apologize on his behalf as he downed the rest of the coffee-like sludge with a grimace. “Be with you in two, Boss,” he said as he left the room, nodding his excuses to Ducky as he went. As he left, he could hear Ducky softly chiding Gibbs. For all the good it would do him.

*******

By Tony’s usual standards, it had been a quiet week. Only one new case, involving a kidnapped Navy brat. Thankfully it had ended without bloodshed and the family being happily reunited. Justice served and all of that.

The rest of the week had been spent in the usual pursuits: teasing Probie, verbally sparring with Kate, talking with Abby, doing paperwork, goofing off and eating his heart out over Gibbs. Tony knew that something had to give. Given his track record, he knew damn well, who it was going to be. He’d been at NCIS two years longer than each of his other postings. Perhaps it was time to move on. He was good at what he did, very good in fact, maybe it was time to cut his losses and run.

Ducky came into the squad room to have a word with him on Friday afternoon. It was just a quick visit; he wanted to get the paperwork squared away before letting Jimmy go for the weekend. The younger man had arranged to see Raiders of the Lost Ark that evening and had, rather nervously asked if Ducky would like to join him.

“Of course, I said ‘yes’,” Ducky explained to Tony, making himself comfortable in a chair pilfered from Kate’s desk. “I came up here for two reasons actually.”

“Which were what, Ducky?” Tony asked, happy for his friend and a little annoyed that he had other plans. Raiders was one of Spielberg’s masterpieces.

“One was to ask if you cared to join us,” the older man asked quietly, “More at my request rather than Jimmy’s. He finds it easier to talk to you, I feel, than he does me.”

Tony shook his head, “Sorry Ducky. No can do,” He said regretfully. “Promised Abby I’d help her with some furniture moving,” his eyes narrowed in mock suspicion at the ME, who at least had the good grace to look abashed. “She told me I came recommended. Know anything about that?”

“That was Mother, Tony.” Ducky replied, not meeting the younger man’s gaze, “Not I,”

“Anyway, she’s bribing me with home cooking and Evil Dead movies.” A fair trade in Tony’s eyes. “If she wasn’t, I’d take you up in a heartbeat,” he replied truthfully.

“Which brings me, neatly, onto the other thing that I came up to talk to you about.”

“Which is?”

It was only later on, as he called the elevator for the forensics lab to meet Abby; that Tony realized something. When Ducky asked him to join him on Sunday for lunch and a film (the ’58 version of A Tale of Two Cities,) he didn’t look him in the eye once. He was looking over at Gibbs’ (empty) desk the entire time.

Weird. There had to be a reason for it. He decided to ask about it on Sunday.

*******

“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing you can’t fix.”

‘The Big Sleep’


Tony clean forgot the strangeness he’d felt surrounding Ducky’s invite until Sunday afternoon. He arrived at the restaurant punctually and was told by the Maitre’d that the first arrivals of Doctor Mallard’s party were already seated. Tony’s curiosity woke up. He had been under the impression that the dinner and film would just be him and Ducky. Normally the older man would have mentioned something if others were coming along too.

Obediently Tony followed the Maitre’d to where Ducky was seated. He glanced around the dining room, looking for clues. It was one of his and Ducky’s regular post-cinema restaurants; he liked it a lot. It married comfort with style in its décor, all pale wood and warm upholstery. It served good food, gave good service and all for a reasonable price, too. All around were couples and families having either a late brunch or early Sunday lunch. So far, so ordinary.

The Maitre’d guided Tony to a table set for four, of which two seats were already taken, one by Ducky and as for the other person, well, he’d recognize those top knots anywhere.

“Ducky,” he greeted with a nod as the older man stood up to meet him. “Abby,” he said, greeting her with a peck on the cheek, “You look lovely.”

“Awww, thank you, Tony!” Abby replied, favoring him with a bright smile. She was dressed, by her standards, quite conservatively, in a black Suzie Wong style dress picked out with red embroidery, her usual pigtails twisted up into top knots.

“Do you wish to order a drink, Sir?” the Maitre’d asked, waving over a waiter. The smartly dressed servitor appeared silently at the table.

“Sparkling water, please.”

The waiter nodded and left the three of them in peace.

“I suppose you’re wondering what Abby is doing here,” Ducky began, steepling his fingers and looking over at Tony.

Tony shrugged his shoulders, burying his curiosity inside. The answers would come in time.

“I thought she might want to come join us in seeing A Tale of Two Cities,” Tony commented, “After I mentioned that it had an early appearance by Christopher Lee in it.”

“Nice try, Tony,” Abby pointed out. “Close, but no cigar.”

Tony looked at her in confusion. Admittedly, he wouldn’t have marked Abby as being the black and white movie type, but she’d been interested in his plans for the weekend. So what was going on?
He looked over at Ducky, to see if he was able to shed any light on the subject. No luck there as the older man’s attention was elsewhere, looking away from them to someone who was approaching their table.

He twisted around to see who it was. Whoever they were, they had put one hell of a smile on the ME’s face. Unfortunately, Tony couldn’t pick them out of the crowd in the restaurant. Unless it was the petite brunette who was walking in their direction. Tony wondered if she could be the mysterious Jo he’d heard about? After all, she did look like Ducky’s type.

“I’m so sorry I’m late, Duck,” a warm baritone noted from Tony’s left. He looked up to see that both Ducky and Abby had stood up to meet the new arrival.

As he stood up to greet him, Tony sized up the new arrival, whom he hadn’t noticed because he had been looking at the brunette woman who‘d walked past. About the same age as Ducky, if he was any judge. Wore his years a little heavier than the ME, Tony noted, though given his brunet coloring that wasn’t a surprise. Intelligent dark eyes that missed nothing and an accent very similar to Ducky’s but laced with a very slight American twang. Smartly dressed. The way he smiled at Ducky and Abby spoke of long acquaintance.

“Hey, Napoleon!” Abby cried, reaching out to hug him.

“Abby!” the newcomer sighed exasperatedly as he returned her embrace, “You flatter me outrageously. Does the ego no good whatsoever.” A devilish grin belied his words.

“So,” Abby asked, letting the older man go, “Ducky’s shown me pictures of you two in college. He looked like Illya Kuryakin and you looked like Napoleon Solo. It fits!”

Tony shook his head, a smile on his face. Abby had a point; she could always make the crazy sound sane.

The newcomer turned his attention to Ducky, letting Abby step out of his arms. She stepped towards Tony, a questioning look on her face.

“Ducky,” ‘Napoleon’ whispered, a wide smile on his face as he embraced the other man. Tony instantly picked up on the stress placed on the nickname. As if Ducky was more than a friend. The kiss that Ducky placed on his cheek answered that loud and clear for Tony.

“You must be Joe, who isn’t a great fan of films. It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Tony stated once the two men had parted, proffering his hand for the newcomer to shake.

Joe smiled at Tony and shook his hand warmly.

“Joseph Hendricks at your service. I see my fame precedes me,” he replied, glancing at his partner and arching an eyebrow.

“Not exactly; Ducky mentioned something a love of film being the only thing that you don’t see eye-to-eye on.”

“Of course, you’re Anthony DiNozzo. Gibbs’ senior agent.” Hendricks noted, “You’re a credit to him and to NCIS, if you could pull that together so quickly.”

“Not exactly,” Abby noted with a sly grin, “He thought you were a woman,” she explained as she sat down again, the others around the table doing likewise. “He tried pumping me for information one slow afternoon a couple of weeks ago.”

Tony closed his eyes and hoped that Ducky wouldn’t hold his faux pas against him. It was a mistake anyone could have made. ’Jo’ could have been short for Joanne, Josephine, Joanna… He opened his eyes again at the sound of laughter.

“Thankfully, I am nothing like the ladies that Ducky seems to attract to himself, through no fault of his own, I might add,” Hendricks replied, “Though I admit that I am not surprised at your logic.” He glanced over at Ducky, the side of his mouth rising in a small smile.
Tony felt his own mouth turn up. So okay, he’d been caught on the hop by that little revelation but on the whole, he was more than happy that Ducky had someone. It didn’t matter to him a bit that it was a man. After all, wasn’t he in love with his very male (handsome bastard) boss?

“So, how did you two meet?” Tony asked, trying to divert attention away from his mistake and onto more important matters. Such as what was going on here?

Tony had been a detective too long not to realize that there were other motives at work. So he’d did what he’d always did, ask questions, gather evidence and hope that he’d catch the break that would solve the case.

There was a silent glance between Ducky and Joe, laden with questions and meaning. Tony watched them, looking for clues. As far as he could see, there was more going on than deciding who would tell the tale.

“As Abby hinted earlier, we first met up at University in Edinburgh,” Joe explained. “Ducky’s course took longer than mine. Although we started in the same year, I graduated first. Upon graduation, I went into, what we call back home, the Civil Service-”

“Federal Employment,” Ducky supplied,

“Of a sort. I didn’t think that the diplomatic service really counted around here.” Joe continued, “They assigned me to the Foreign Office, to the Diplomatic Corp. By the time that Ducky completed his studies, I was working in the UK consulate in New Zealand.”

“We tried to keep in contact, but the world was a much larger place back then that it is now,” Ducky explained, taking up the narrative. “Letters would take what seemed an age to go half way around the world. It wasn’t conductive to keeping a relationship going, even a platonic one,”

“Unfortunately, somewhere along the line we lost contact until about five years ago,” Hendricks explained. “A marine had the terrible misfortune of expiring in the grounds of the British Embassy up on Embassy Row. As such, he was on sovereign territory and thus his death was a matter for our criminal investigation services.”

“Bet Gibbs didn’t like that,” Tony noted dryly.

“Neither did the CIA, the FBI or the local constabulary,” Joe continued, a small smile gracing his lips. “As the Embassy manager, I was the one turned out of bed at an ungodly hour to deal with the inter-departmental pissing contest that the poor boy’s expiration had caused-”

“It was eight am in the morning,” Ducky gently pointed out.

“When you’ve gone to bed at four am after a diplomatic shindig - eight am is an ungodly hour!” Hendricks grumbled. “To cut a long story short, I was acting as referee, when I heard a very familiar voice asking for details. When I looked around, I saw Ducky talking at the other Medical Examiners in attendance. I called him over, annoying quite a few of the representatives of the other agencies present. Asked him who he worked for and told everyone else that NCIS had jurisdiction in the case,” he finished with a grin.

“Bet that stuck in everyone else’s craw.” Tony remarked, with a smile.

“Oh yes. Caused all manner of headaches for the diplomats, having to pacify the other agencies I annoyed. Even so, they stood by my decision, since the poor sod was a Marine and therefore under the jurisdiction of NCIS,” he explained. “For my ‘penance’ I was assigned to work with the staff who were liaising with Gibbs and his team in the investigation, which brought me in regular contact with Ducky… One thing led to another and…” He shrugged his shoulders, “I think you can guess the rest.”

“Though I doubt I would have been half as nice to the NCIS personnel if I had known how Gibbs had treated Ducky during their relationship-,” Joe stated.

Tony didn’t hear the ensuing heated discussion between Joe, Ducky and the (to that point) unusually quiet Abby, as he pondered this revelation.

He’d had no clue that Gibbs was a switch hitter. He always knew that the friendship between him and Ducky had always been close. He would never have guessed that it went beyond friendship though.

“So what happened?” Tony asked, cutting through the babble of hissed arguments. Out of the corner of his eye, Tony could see their waiter approach the table, then smartly turn 180 degrees, and vanish into the crowd. He mentally commended his good sense. This could only turn into a goat rope; best that there were no witnesses.

Three voices started talking at once; Ducky quieted the other two with a glare. It was the look that would instantly make any of Ducky’s assistants nervous. On their companions it made them pipe down, eventually.

“Tony, what do you know about Gibbs’ third marriage?” Ducky asked.

Tony scrunched his face up as he recalled all the pertinent facts that he had picked up about her.

“Redhead, obviously. Was pretty much over by the time he went to Europe. Don’t ask me how I know about Europe,” Tony noted, holding his hand up, “Else gonna have to kill you,” he added with a smile to take the sting out of his words. “Hit him with a baseball bat once… or was that two who did that? You introduced her to him didn’t you?”

Ducky nodded and took a deep breath.

“What you would have never have found out was that Diane, for that’s her name, was originally intended as, I do believe the slang term is a ‘beard’.” The older man explained, not flinching from Tony’s curious gaze.

“How…” Tony asked surprise evident in his voice.

“Did it come about?” Ducky asked rhetorically. “There lies a tale,” he took a sip of wine and began to talk.

“I won’t bore you with the details of how Jethro and I became lovers. It’s best left as a private matter. All you need to know is that the previous Director of NCIS was a little more…” the ME paused in his oration to consider his words, “Straight-laced in his views. He wished that NCIS was more like the Navy in certain respects. I’m sure you can guess what one of those respects was.”

“Someone whispered to him that the relationship between Jethro and I was more than friends and co-workers,” he continued, fidgeting with the wine glass as he did so. “To act as a cover-up, I suggested that he ask Diane out for a couple of dinner dates. His legendary weakness for red haired women is well known. It was the perfect ruse.”

“So… what happened?” Tony asked softly.

“He fell in love with her,” Ducky whispered. Joe reached out and took his hand into his, squeezing it gently. “I… couldn’t… I valued our friendship too much to fight so I…”

“I get the picture, Ducky,” Tony said, hoping to save the older man pain.

“Not completely, Tony,” Ducky replied, voice stronger. “By the time the divorce came through, we had drifted apart too much for us to be anything but friends. Then Joe and I rekindled our relationship.” he explained, “As much as I care for Jethro… I moved on,” he squeezed his lover’s hand, “Admittedly back into the arms of a very old friend.”

“Why do I need to know all of this?” Tony asked, hoping he sounded less confused than he felt. That Gibbs was a switch hitter gave him a hope that he quickly murdered. Rule #12 saw to that.

“Because you love him, stupid!” Abby stated, giving him a whack on the back of his head that was almost a perfect replica of Gibbs. The silk of her gloves did nothing to soften the blow. “And for some inexplicable reason, he loves you, too!”

Oh shit, Tony thought dazedly. He’d been so damn careful. No one knew, no one; a different girl every couple of weeks, the bragging. All to throw everyone off the scent that his feelings for his boss were anything but deep-seated respect, a huge case of hero worship and the (very) occasional desire to tell him where to stick his job.

“You fooled pretty much everyone but Ducky and me,” Abby explained. “I’ve give it to you, we weren’t completely sure about how you felt about Gibbs until a couple of months ago.”

“What happened a couple of months ago?” Tony asked, wondering what he had done to blow his cover.

“The case with the murderous supply clerk?” Ducky added to the conversation.

“Oh,” Tony uttered.

So, okay, he might have been a little forceful in his opinions that Gibbs shouldn’t have gone into the situation with Ms. Wilkerson without back up. After all, she was their lead suspect in a double homicide. He was also more than justified in his protests. He was Gibbs’ lead agent; he had to give a damn about the guy’s safety. McGee commenting that the sparkage between Ms. Wilkerson and Gibbs was enough to power Abby’s lab for a week didn’t make him insanely jealous. People must be thinking of another Tony DiNozzo.

“Don’t say you weren’t jealous, Tony, because we know you were!” Abby accused, jabbing a finger at him.

“How?” Tony asked. They’d got him bang to rights. Might as well find out how they had done it.

“You seem to forget that although neither Ducky nor I are trained agents, we’re just as good as piecing evidence together,” Abby explained gently. “We only clued in because we see you around Gibbs more than most people do.” She took his hand. He felt the caress of silk against his sweating palm. “Ducky saw it first. He came to me for a second opinion.” She shrugged her shoulders, “I always had a vibe that you had strong feelings for Gibbs. When Ducky asked me to look for evidence… it was there all along.”

“And you’re mentioning this now, because?” Tony left the question hanging in the air.
The two of them would keep his secret. Given Abby’s total lack of reaction to Ducky’s bombshell that he and Gibbs were once lovers, Tony guessed that Abby kept more secrets than she let on sometimes. Same with Ducky.

“Because you have a chance,” Joe stated cryptically.

“He’s right,” Ducky added. “Jethro loves you, Tony. He is in love with you,” he stated simply. “All you have to do is tell him that you love him.”

Tony couldn’t help it. He started to laugh. It was either that or cry, so he laughed. Threw his head back and laughed to the point of near hysteria. People at surrounding tables were looking but he just couldn’t give a damn.

It all sounded so reasonable.
Go over to Gibbs’ place and get his heart and his nose (at very least) broken by the man.
At least it would make a decision about his future that much easier. If all went down like Tony thought it would, leaving NCIS would be easy.

Sure, he wouldn’t say as much in his resignation letter. He was too smart for that. He’d miss Probie and Kate of course, ditto Abby and Ducky, but there would be no way he’d be able to carry on working with Gibbs. It had nothing to do with the drama of a broken heart, it was simple pragmatism.

Then again, if he went and did the deed, at least he would know one way or the other.

So, what was it to be? A broken heart, a (more than likely) broken nose and a change in employment or not knowing and carrying on in blissful ignorance? Eating his heart out over what could be.

What was that line from that Aussie chick flick Katee liked? ‘A life lived in fear, is a life half lived.’ That was the one, from Strictly Ballroom, directed by Baz Lurhmann. Good film; he more preferred Moulin Rouge more but this one went down well with the girls he’d dated in the past. Who weren’t enough any more because he wanted Gibbs. Not just for a week or so, but for the rest of his life, as sappy as that sounded.

Tony took a deep breath. “It’s a far better thing I do now, than I have ever done before….” he recited from memory.

“Dickens,” Hendricks commented, “Tale of Two Cities.”

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan!” Abby exclaimed. She frowned at her friend, “I didn’t think you’d know that Tony, it’s a geek film!”

“I won’t tell, if you won’t tell,” he told her with a wink.

“So you’ll at least try?” Ducky asked.

Tony nodded. It wasn’t like he had anything left to lose so … why not?

Abby abruptly stood up. “Keys,” she ordered, holding out her hand.

Tony stared at said hand quizzically. “I’m your getaway driver,” she cryptically explained. “As in I’m going to make sure that you don’t.”

There was no arguing with Abby when she got like that. Better to accept defeat gracefully and let her (literally) do the driving.

He stood up and did as he was told, handing over the keys to his beloved car without a murmur.

Ducky and Joe stood up as well. “Jethro will be at home. I need not remind you that he’ll have left the front door unlocked,” Ducky commented, resting a hand on Tony’s shoulder. He smiled at the younger man, “Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.”

Tony so wanted to ask if he was sure about that, but felt it would have been facetious.

Joe shook Tony’s hand. “Thank you for being such a good friend to Ducky,” he said quietly, “We should do this, properly, sometime.”

“If I get out of this alive,” the younger man muttered quietly. Joe grinned and glanced over at his partner. He looked as if he was going to say something, then Tony was distracted as Abby grabbed his arm.

“Yo, she-bitch! Let’s go!” She called out as she strode out of the restaurant with Tony in tow.

*******

The drive from the restaurant to Gibbs’ place was mercifully quiet. No music, no chatter, just the sound of his thoughts writing a list of everything that they’d have to do when this ordeal was all over. Starting with a trip to the ER and then handing in his gun, badge and resignation letter.

“Tony?” Abby’s quiet call jolted him out of his woolgathering. “We’re here.”

Tony looked up to see the familiar façade of Gibbs’ house. The butterflies launched in the pit of his stomach. Now or never; do or die. He felt silk against his hands, which were balled up in his lap.

“Hey,” Abby whispered, “You look like you’re going to face a firing squad.”

Tony dredged up a wan smile, “Might as well be,” he said, unclenching a hand and placing it on top of Abby’s.

The next thing Tony was aware of was the sound of a click of a seatbelt being released and he had about one-twenty pounds of forensic specialist pressing him into the seat. Gingerly he pried his arms free to hug her back. Abby pushed away a moment or two later, her eyes suspiciously bright.

“Go, before I do something all three of us will regret!” She said, unhooking his seatbelt, all the time not looking in his direction. “You owe me dinner, Tony.”

He leant in and kissed her chastely on the cheek. “Whatever happens, it’s a promise,” he said as he let himself out of the car.

Doubt kicked him in the head the moment he passed the threshold. As ever, Gibbs hadn’t locked the front door. He would have done a 180 turn and kept walking if it hadn’t been for the fact that Abby was still sitting in her car at the curbside. He wasn’t going to let her down.

Tony called out to Gibbs as he moved along the hallway. He knew that although his boss was downstairs playing shipwright, he could still hear pretty damn well thank you. Last thing Tony needed right now was a Sig pressed into his temple by one very pissed off Marine. He reached the top of the basement steps. No sign of Gibbs. Tony placed his hand on the doorknob, took a deep breath and twisted.

As advertised, Gibbs was there, working on the boat. Tony could see him from the top of the stairs, dressed in faded blue jeans that snugly fit every curve of the older man’s legs and (to Tony’s appreciation, delectable) ass and a much washed USMC t-shirt.

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs said in greeting, glancing up from his work on the prow of the boat for a moment.

“Boss,” Tony greeted in return. Surprised that Gibbs showed no reaction to him being there, as if he was expecting him or something. “Um… guess you’re wondering why I’m here,” he said, wincing at such a terrible opening line.

Gibbs just looked at him.

Tony walked down the first two steps and stopped. “The thing is I was in the neighborhood and…”

The sound of wood being sanded filled the basement. “I thought you had a dinner date with Ducky,” Gibbs stated.

Tony started at that. He was under the impression that the only people from work who knew about their dinner date were Ducky and Abby. So how did he know? Unless he’d spoken to Ducky since Friday night. It was possible.

“I did but…” the moment had arrived. The moment where Tony opened his mouth and his heart and said the words. The ones that would earn him a broken heart and a one way ticket out of NCIS. Small problem, the heart-sized lump in his throat was stopping him from getting them out.

“Why do it, Boss?” Tony asked. The question was as much a defensive measure as anything else.

“Do what, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked, pausing in his rhythmic sanding.

Tony breathed a sigh of relief; he’d gotten Gibbs off the subject, at least for the moment.

“Build a boat using hand tools?” he asked as he walked down to the basement floor. He’d have to work up to asking the exact reason as to why Gibbs was building said boat in his basement. That was if he got to stay around to ask.

Gibbs didn’t answer straight away, just paused in what he was doing. Looked up at Tony with a small smile on his lips; the one that always made Tony’s insides melt every time he saw it. The older man turned slightly and gestured to him to come closer.

“Come here and I’ll show you.”

Tony cocked his head to one side, weighing up the offer. What the hell. What did he have to lose?

“Okay,” he replied, shucking his suit jacket as he did so. His tie was already rolled up in and stuffed into a pocket. He placed the jacket over the banister and began rolling his sleeves up.

“Where do you want me?” Tony asked, a small smile on his face. He knew how he sounded and he didn’t care. He was in this all the way to the bitter end.

Gibbs didn’t say anything; the smile got a little wider though, sparking up the beautiful blue eyes that haunted Tony’s dreams.

“Up here,” Gibbs stated, gesturing to where he was standing.

“Up the front,” Tony noted as he walked over.

“It’s called the prow, DiNozzo.”

Tony couldn’t hear any censure in the voice. He wouldn’t let himself hope.

“I knew that,” he lied as he stood next to Gibbs. Not quite in his personal space but it was difficult to tell, what with there being a honkin’ big piece of wood in the way.

Gibbs handed him the sanding block; placed firm hands on his shoulders and turned him ninety degrees to face the boat frame.

With a tentative hand, Tony reached out to touch the wood. It felt smooth and warm under fingertips. Caused by friction, he thought, glancing at the block in his hands.

“Okay, what do I do?” He winced, waiting for the inevitable head slap, which never came.
Instead, Tony felt hands roughened with sawdust and calluses firmly grip his forearms at the wrists. He felt Gibbs move behind him, covering him. Tony could feel the warmth of the other man’s body through the two layers of thin cotton. He tried not to think of how good it felt, but it was like trying *not* to think about pink elephants.

“Like this,” Gibbs murmured into his ear. He slowly eased Tony’s arms forward a few inches, using his body to guide him forward. Tony closed his eyes and made with the pink elephants again, deciding that Gibbs should be registered as a weapon of mass distraction.
Whatever happened, he’d be jerking off to that soft rumble for the rest of his natural.

Tony was too busy arguing with his libido to notice the content of what Gibbs said next. All he heard was the low, soft tone and the warmth it held.

For a few moments, the only sound heard was the slow, rhythmic push of the sanding block and the susurrus of two men breathing nearly in time with each other.
Tony just hoped that Gibbs wouldn’t look over his shoulder and down; because there was no way he’d be able to explain away the hard-on shaped hole he was drilling in the boat frame.

As he sanded the wood, he felt Gibbs’ hands move slightly. If Tony was going to be precise, it was just the thumbs, moving in slow, caressing circles against the soft skin of his wrists. The calluses were sparking sensations deep within his gut; the kind that were impossible to ignore.

Gibbs moved slightly behind him, closer to Tony, pressing his body shoulder to hip with the younger man. As he did so, Tony didn’t fail to recognize the hardness that was poking him in the hip. It couldn’t be Gibbs’ Sig, so that really was what he thought it was. He tried not to think about what Gibbs wanted, be it a night or forever. Whatever it was, Tony would gladly take it.

Just as he would take some more of Gibbs nuzzling his throat, a lot more, thank you.

“Like that, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked; warm voice, laced with laughter. Tony felt hot, mobile lips brush up his throat to his ear, his knees turned to Jell-O. He would have fallen onto the boat frame had strong arms not moved from his wrists to wrap around him tightly.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“You do that, Boss.” Tony husked. He leaned back into the other man, letting the sanding block fall unremarked to the floor. More kisses followed, down from ear, to throat to shoulder; a hand reaching up to shift shirt collar aside to nibble on the juncture of throat and shoulder.

Tony closed his eyes, surrendering to the eroticism of what was happening to him. Wondering how to persuade Gibbs to let him return the favor. Perhaps a little subterfuge was needed. He let his knees buckle, falling towards the floor in Gibbs’ arms. As he’d hoped, Gibbs grabbed him and turned him around to face him.

He tried not to think about rocks and hard places as he assessed the situation; it was nearly as bad as thinking about pink elephants. Even so, it was exactly where he wanted to be.

“You okay, Tony?” Gibbs asked concern in his eyes. “When was the last time you ate?”

Tony’s stomach rumbled on cue. Gibbs’ mouth turned up in a smile.

“C’mon, I’ll order pizza,” he said, breaking the embrace and taking Tony’s hand. “I’m sure you can find something to do while we’re waiting for the delivery boy.”

Tony’s grin was more suited to the cat that got the proverbial. “That a challenge, boss?”

“Ya think, DiNozzo?”

*******

“Too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?”
Bladerunner


Tony stood at the window in the squad room and stared out at the rain pouring down over the Navy Yard. It suited the mood he was in. It had been a hell of a day; just what he needed to top off a hell of a month.

The only plan he had for today was to get through the day without coughing up what remained of his lungs and then going to see the Alien and Aliens double bill with various people from work. He’d only been back at work for a day or two and they all wanted to celebrate his return to the team. Tony shouldn’t have gone back so early but he had ulterior motives.

That plan fell to the wayside when all hell broke loose. Two dead marines and a plot to kill a whole quay full of Navy dependents tended to do that.

Despite the fact that he’d felt like shit warmed up, he’d played his part to avert a major disaster. Helped to find out what the plan was, trace the cell to warehouses near the naval docks and work with his teammates in bringing the dirtbags down. Unfortunately, the ringleader went up in a fireball as the missile the terrorists were trying to control went straight into the building where he was holed up. Just another day at the office for DiNozzo and Co. If it wasn’t vigilante industrialists trying to get a case re-opened, it was terrorists. What a job, he wouldn’t swap it for the world.

The clean up went as well as could be expected, what with every damn agency in the area wanting to claim the spoils of taking down another terrorist cell. Small matters like jurisdiction and the like didn’t seem to matter to them.

Gibbs asked Tony to help Ducky and Jimmy, while he ventured forth to protect his territory. Kate and McGee were trying to collect evidence from the crime scene; with a little help from back up personnel called in from the Yard.

“Should you even be here, Tony?” Ducky asked Tony as the older man helped Jimmy to load the final body into the truck, taking it for identification back at the Naval Yard.

Tony waited until Jimmy was safely in the cab before replying.

“I know you wanted to see the Alien double bill and-”

“What’s Jethro holding over you, Tony?” Ducky asked a small smile on his lips and gentle humor in his tone.

Tony stared at his feet. He was fine with it, honestly. He had wanted to take it slow with Gibbs. Tony wasn’t as experienced with guys as he was with girls and he wanted to savor the experience. After all, he had no intentions of doing this again. This was it.

The plan had the upside of getting to know Gibbs better. What made him smile (Tony’s bad jokes didn’t make the grade), how he liked to be kissed (anywhere that was comfy, especially sprawled over Tony) and what made the older man the way he was (which would take a lifetime to learn).

Tony had been planning to seduce Gibbs after work, the day he was infected with the Y Pestis. He always had the lousiest sense of timing.

“He’s being romantic, isn’t he?”

“And to a certain extent, succeeding, too.” Tony replied, looking up at the ME.

Ducky patted the younger man on the shoulder, “It will be well worth the wait, Tony. Trust me on this.”

Tony nodded, trusting Ducky’s experience in such matters. “I never got to properly thank you for everything you did.”

Ducky shook his head, “There is no need. Our cinema nights will still go ahead as they have done in the past. If you’re referring to my so-called ‘matchmaking’…” he smiled, “I could not stand idly by when there was something that I could do to make two people, for whom I care a great deal, very happy.”

“Yeah, well… next night out, I’m buying dinner to say ‘thanks’,” Tony replied gruffly, doing his damnedest not to show how Ducky’s words had touched him to the core.

Ducky simply nodded and walked to the passenger door of the van.

“See you back at the Yard,” he said. Tony nodded and went to find the others.

*******

After all the excitement of the morning, the afternoon was anti-climactic.

Once the bodies were ensconced in Autopsy, there was nothing for the rest of the team to do apart from writing their reports and try to come down from the morning’s adrenal high.

Tony was futzing with the spellchecker when Director Morrow and a severely dressed redhead, with ill-suiting long hair, came into the squad room. Given that he sat diagonally from Gibbs, it was almost impossible not to notice the older man’s reaction to the redhead. Regardless of the fact he was looking out for it in the first place.

The redhead moved around with familiar ease, suggesting to Tony that she was either NCIS or she’d worked with the agency in the past. The look of recognition in Gibbs’ eyes made Tony think that she might a former member of Gibbs’ team. He glanced over to Kate, who was watching the newcomer with the same keen attention as he was. She caught his gaze, raising an eyebrow as she did so.

Morrow must have caught the silent communication as he chose that point to announce that he was leaving NCIS to take up a position with Homeland Security and Jennifer Shepard would be his replacement as the Director of NCIS.

Tony felt woozy at the news. He wanted to blame it on the after-effects of the Y Pestis but he’d seen the way that the new Director was unable to tear her eyes away from Gibbs. Tony was a lot of things, one of which was a damn good detective. It didn’t take someone as smart as McGee to put the pieces together.

Kate spoke up, saving his bacon.

“You okay, Tony?” she asked, real concern on her face, as she walked from behind her desk to come stand in front of his desk.

“DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked, anxiety etched on his face, ignoring nearly everyone else in the room. Tony could hear the soft voice of Director Morrow explaining about Tony’s little trip to Bethesda quarantine unit to the new Director. “Kate, phone Ducky-”

“On it!”

“Tony, go down to Autopsy and get checked out by Ducky.” Gibbs ordered. He turned to the two Directors, “his current cases can wait for him, while he checks Tony out.”
Tony noticed that the new Director didn’t seem too pleased by that, like he cared.

“Just spoke to Ducky; he’ll meet us in Abby’s lab. Palmer’s running tests and he wants to drop some samples off to Abby.” Kate explained as she put the phone down. “I’ll accompany him down there, make sure he gets there okay,” she said as she walked over to her desk and pulled her report from the printer, dropped it in the direction of Gibbs’ desk and marched over to Tony’s desk with an ‘argue and die’ look on her face.

Tony nodded to his bosses and slowly walked out, Kate at his side, watching him like a hawk. He was feeling sick to his stomach, hoping that he had a chance to speak to Ducky and see if he could tell him anything about Director Jennifer Shepard.

“Tony!” Abby cried, as she threw herself at Tony when he and Kate exited the elevator at her lab. “You look awful,” she commented to Tony as she snuck under his other arm. “I’ve laid out my futon for you,” she explained as she directed them to the mattress lying in her lab by her computer terminal.

“Gee, thanks Abs,” Tony grumbled as he slowly stumbled forward, feeling as weak as the proverbial kitten. The two women had just laid him down when the elevator door opened and Ducky came striding through. Tony offered up a wan smile to the ME.

“Sorry to be such a nuisance, Ducky,” he said as the older man knelt beside him on the floor.

Ducky waved the apology away. “I was in the neighborhood and felt you might prefer the environment up here more than downstairs. Especially after recent events” He commented, a smile sweetening the words. “When was the last time you ate, Tony?” he asked.

Tony considered the question, “Dinnertime yesterday?” he hazarded, wincing as he did so. “Haven’t had much of an appetite,”

It was a close run thing but Kate’s voice was the first one raised in indignation, closely followed by Abby’s and Ducky’s.

“I’ll run to the deli down the street and get some takeout,” Kate said, implying terrible things if Tony said anything. She asked Abby and Ducky if they wanted anything as she headed for the lift. Abby asked for more Caf-Pow and Ducky was fine as he was.

Abby patted Tony on the leg and went back to her machines, while Ducky knelt on the floor next to Tony to complete a more rigorous exam.

“Ducky, do you know a Jennifer Shepard?” Tony asked after a few moments of suffering the poking and prodding.

“Our new Director?” Ducky asked, not meeting Tony’s gaze. “Yes, I do,” he replied, quietly under the throb of Abby’s music. “To forestall your next question as Director Morrow must be introducing her to the agents currently in the squad room. She is the reason for Jethro’s rule 12.”

“Oh,” There wasn’t much more Tony could say to that revelation.

“She was the one to leave him, Tony.” Ducky explained, double checking Tony’s lungs with a stethoscope. “Jethro is not one to repeat mistakes, regardless of what you might think.”

Tony wasn’t completely convinced. He’d seen the way that she’d been looking at Gibbs and as Ducky had said himself, Gibbs had a legendary weakness for women with red hair. It was best that he put it out of his head for now until he knew more.

“Uh oh,” Abby cried over the music and the alarm of one of her machines, her ‘babies’ as Tony had often heard them referred to as.

“Abby?” Ducky asked as he stood up, “Oh,” he said as he read the computer screen.

“I’m gonna call Gibbs.” She replied as she stepped lightly over Tony, who wanted to know what was going on and was in the process of propping himself up on his elbows.

“You wanted to see me?” Speak of the devil.

Tony sat up properly as Abby turned, 180 on the spot, to face Gibbs. He’d just come into the lab with the two Directors accompanying him. The action put Tony nose to thigh with Abby, who was wearing one of her ‘schoolgirl’ skirts. One of the pleated ones that was short enough to make most guys thoughtful and most women jealous. From what he could tell, Abby was favoring eau de parfum of gunpowder that day. Any other day he could have enjoyed the experience. Today, not so much.

He glanced up at Abby with a lopsided smile; she smiled back at him, before she moved forward. He knew that Abby was cool with the proxmity but Director Shepard was another matter entirely. She did not look happy. Like he cared.

“What have you got Abs?” Gibbs asked, moving over to the plasma, ignoring the by-play on the floor.

“A DNA match for the crispy critter downstairs on one of Ducky’s tables,” she explained, tapping away at the keyboard.

Tony pushed himself to his feet. This had to be important - DNA matches usually took longer than this one had. The screen changed to show the results to everyone.

“It’s Ari Haswari,” she announced to a dumbfounded audience.

*******

After that little revelation, it was all over, bar the shouting in MTAC.

Tony didn’t see much of Gibbs for the rest of the day, apart from his back as Gibbs disappeared into the elevator on a coffee run. Not that Tony minded, it gave him time to think and to get on with clearing the backlog of stuff he had to do, what with him having been off ill for a couple of weeks.

Ducky and Abby came up to check on him during the afternoon. McGee and Kate kept a watchful eye on him as well. He appreciated the concern, but his mind was elsewhere.

It would be just his luck to have finally landed Gibbs, only for some old flame to swoop in and steal him away from him. All three of them were mature adults. They should be able to deal with this in a grown-up, adult fashion. Shouldn’t they? After all, Gibbs was no damsel in distress and given, at last count, three marriages to three different women, he wasn’t the sort to return to previous relationships.

When quitting time came around, Tony made the excuse that he was just finishing up and that everybody else should go ahead to the movie theatre without him. Tony pretended not to see the meaningful glances exchanged between Kate and McGee. He was fine. Honestly. He wouldn’t miss a double bill of Alien and Aliens on a cinema screen - even if they had to ship him off to Bethesda again. They weren’t convinced but they let him be, especially after Abby threatened to track him down and do unmentionable things to him if he didn’t show.

All of which had brought Tony to standing in a near silent, dark squad room, watching the rain pour down. All Tony had to go on was passing comments made by Ducky and the way that the new Director had made eyes at Gibbs. Not exactly evidence that would stand up in court, true. Yet Tony felt distinctly uneasy, like he was meant to mark time, not be anything too serious, which went against everything that Tony’s instincts were telling him. Gibbs did nothing by half measures.

If Gibbs was in, he was in all the way. Four, possibly five long-term relationships was evidence of that. Tony was hoping that he’d be the sixth and in his wildest dreams, he’d be the One for Gibbs. After all, he was the One for Tony. With the arrival of Director Sheppard and her seeming desire to reclaim Gibbs for her own, it would seem that little fantasy might just remain that.

Tony stared out at the falling rain. He was not one for nobility of spirit, like Ducky. If Gibbs wanted to get back with Director Shepard, then Tony wouldn’t stand in his way. In fact, he would do what he had been planning to do if Ducky’s plan hadn’t worked. He’d quit NCIS and go west. If Tony couldn’t have Gibbs, then he didn’t want to stay at NCIS. The two were bound together in an everything or nothing kind of deal. NCIS needed Gibbs while guys like Tony were a dime a dozen. That and Tony loved him and wanted Gibbs to be happy, as sappy and as noble as that sounded. Perhaps he could do noble, there was a first time for everything.

Tony’s stomach rumbled, breaking him out of his musings. Out there, there was good company, great films and dinner waiting for him. He *would* deal with the big stuff - but he’d do it tomorrow. Tonight - he wanted a perfect night out with his teammates to remember them by if and when he had to move on.

DiNozzo made the movie theatre five minutes before the curtain went up. He stood outside the ornate doors, took a deep breath, plastered his best ‘devil-may-care’ smile on his face and walked in to a slap around the head.

“DiNozzo, you’re late!”

“Boss?!” He asked, dumbfounded. There was no mistaking that voice or that hand either. He turned around and sure enough, there was Leroy Jethro Gibbs standing there as if he had every right to be there; which he did, what with it being a free country and all.

“Don’t get me wrong but…”

“What’s he doing here? We asked him, Tony!” Kate replied. “Same with Joe, whom everyone else seems to have met but me!” she groused before turning back to Ducky and Joe.

“How…” Tony asked, looking around at the assembled party. Everyone was there. Abby with McGee’s arm around her shoulder. Kate deep in conversation with Joe, Ducky and Jimmy Palmer. Something about not being sure about how she’d take it, what with the Catholicism and all. Tony mentally sighed with relief as he heard her explain that there were some doctrines that she didn’t have any truck with. He couldn’t decide what was more of a turn up for the books. Gibbs turning up or Joe turning up. Best call it a tie.

“We told him it had Marines in it,” McGee supplied, “It seemed to do the trick.”

“Only Aliens has Marines in it, Probie,” Tony replied, “Alien is the one with the ginger pussy-” Tony stopped dead, waiting for the inevitable head slap.

Which never came.

Ducky used the momentary pause as a chance to herd everyone into the theatre. Tony saw the significant glance Ducky gave one of his oldest friend and Gibbs’ nod in reply.

When they had all departed for their seats and the ticket hall was empty, bar the bored usher sweeping up the spilled popcorn, Tony stepped towards the older man.

“Tony,” Gibbs said, reaching out to place his hands on the younger man’s shoulders. “Ducky told me you asked about the Director and me,” he said, “Said you seemed jealous of her,”

“I was not!” Tony cried indignantly, secretly pleased at the small smile on his lover’s face.

“You keep telling yourself that DiNozzo,” was the reply. “He said that he told you that I don’t make the same mistake twice. I don’t.” Gibbs continued. “What’s past stays that way.” Gibbs smiled at him. “Rule 12 is being reconsidered, thanks to you,” he said, raising a hand to stroke the nape of Tony’s neck. The calluses on his hand making Tony feel all kinds of wonderful. He felt large, strong hands pulling him in closer until he could feel Gibbs’ warm breath brush past his cheek. “Besides, your ass is mine DiNozzo!”

For the first time since returning to work, Tony grinned, his heart swelling strange and light in his chest.

“Is that a promise or a threat Boss?” He whispered back.

“Come home with me tonight and find out!” Gibbs replied just as quietly. He let Tony go and took a step back. It pleased Tony immensely that Gibbs didn’t look as icily composed as usual as he walked into the cinema. “C’mon, movie’s starting,”

It wasn’t perfect, never would be. Even so, it was just right for Tony.

“Right with you Boss!”


Chapters: 1

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MTAC - NCIS Fic