Kate typed deftly, her fingers flying over the keyboard. Every now and then she shot a slightly envious look at DiNozzo's already empty desk. Employing his new found typing skills he had blasted off his report in record time and disappeared, although the continuing presence of his backpack and jacket suggested he was still in the building. At last, she was finished, printing out a hard copy and saving the file, before e-mailing it across to Gibbs. All she wanted now was a hot shower and a chance to sleep in her own bed. Rising wearily to her feet she plucked the printed pages from the tray and made her way across to her Boss' desk.
"You're not done until I say you're done, Agent Todd."
Gibbs didn't look up as he took the report, scanning its pages with a practised eye. Kate waited, trying not to fidget, as he read through her work. She was learning not to take these things too much too heart. Cases involving dead Marines always hit Gibbs hard and consequently he was always tougher on them. On this last case he had really lived up to his second B.
"Alright," Gibbs finished reading the report and tossed it into his 'in tray.' "You're done. Go home, Kate."
She didn't need telling twice.
On his other side Gibbs noticed that McGee was still sitting at his computer, although he had stopped typing some time ago. He sighed. Knowing the MIT graduate he had finished typing, checking and re-checking his report well before Kate and now was simply too scared to give it to him.
The junior agent's head snapped up, his eyes wide, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. "Um, y .. yes, Gibbs?"
"You finish your report?"
"Ah, yes, Gibbs, right here," McGee surged to his feet, almost knocking his chair over in the process and having to take a second to right it, before he trotted over and nervously handed a bundle of papers for his superiors' approval. Gibbs scanned the report, as he expected it was concise, factual and utterly flawless.
"Um, Gibbs, I'm .."
"You better not be about to say you're sorry again, McGee." He warned.
"The jacket," McGee shifted from side to side uncomfortably. "I should have realised sooner."
"Yeah, you should have," Gibbs gave him a level look. But he had already come down harder than he should on the probationary Agent for the oversight at the time. There was no reason to belabour the point. Scrutinising the tense and worried his face he made his next words a statement. "You'll know better next time."
"Yes Sir." McGee nodded earnestly.
"All right, McGee," He let that one slide. "Get out of here."
"Yes!" McGee celebrated, instantly deflating as Gibbs glared at him. "I mean, thank you, Sir, um I mean Boss, er Gibbs."
With a wave of his hand Gibbs made a 'go away' movement. McGee grabbed his stuff and almost ran towards the elevator.
And that just left DiNozzo.
He tried Abby's lab first. If the younger man had taken refuge down there, things weren't so bad. Abby was good for a sympathetic ear, a bit of obvious comfort and the occasional insight into the 'workings of the inner Gibbs'. If he was truly upset, then Tony usually headed off to see Ducky, who could be relied upon to provide soothing words and sensible solutions to dealing with Gibbs more acerbic moods.
"He hasn't been here, Jethro. I do believe," Ducky's cultured tone were laced with reproach. "That Mr Palmer saw him heading towards the gymnasium."
"You sure?" Gibbs scrubbed at his face, this was worse than he'd thought.
"Young Anthony is remarkably tolerant of your outbursts, but even he had his limits."
"I know, Duck."
Determined to find justice for the little girl whose Daddy had been murdered he had driven himself and his team hard. As usual Tony had caught the worst of it. Gibbs refused to feel guilty about that. The younger man was the most experienced. Had worked with him the longest. As a former Homicide Detective he knew how these things were.
He had already legitimately given McGee a dressing down for overlooking a piece of evidence and reamed Kate out for a procedural error. No one on the base had seemed to want to co-operate with them and they didn't seem to be able to make any headway. When he had seen DiNozzo goofing off playing basketball with a group of young ensigns he had lost his temper and broken his own rule, tearing a strip off him in public.
The low, furious tone had made the hairs on the back of Tony's neck stand up. Instinctively, he had straightened, coming almost to attention; his eyes fixed straight ahead as Gibbs methodically chewed him out. Out of the corner of his eyes Gibbs' could see the base Commander's XO smirking as the tips of DiNozzo's ears turned red with embarrassment.
"May I say something, Boss?"
To his credit DiNozzo had waited until their audience had melted away before responding. Still, Gibbs hadn't been in the mood to cut him any slack, his eyes still glinting angrily at the impasse they found themselves in. He was not going to go back and tell that little girl that they didn't know what had happened to her Daddy.
"Only if it has to do with solving this case."
It had. Turned out that one of the wet behind the ears ensigns, too intimidated to confess his misdemeanour to Gibbs, had sneaked off base to see his teenaged girlfriend, but his willingness to confine in the more genial DiNozzo over a few baskets had blown Warner's alibi out of the water and closed the case.
Gibbs' rarely apologised, at least not in words. But that didn't mean he wasn't willing to accept when he had wrong. There was a difference between being a strong leader and being too pig headed to accept you had made a mistake. Contrary to what Kate might believe, Tony didn't follow him out of blind loyalty. He took his orders because he believed that Gibbs knew what he was doing.
He had to make this right.
And this time, a simple 'good job' wasn't going to cut it.
Tony hadn't bothered to change. Although, somewhere along the way he had lost his suit jacket and shoulder holster and his feet were bare. His eyes glittered with a dark focus, as his fists battered the punching bag, sweat staining his neck and back. At some point, he had also dispensed with the boxing gloves and was now attacking the bag with his bare knuckles. Keeping his face impassive Gibbs' moved into Tony's peripheral vision.
"You thinking of heading home anytime soon?" He asked neutrally.
There was the slightest pause in DiNozzo's rhythm, before he continued hitting the bag, even harder than before.
"I'll take that as a no," With a sigh Gibbs slipped out of his own jacket, rolling up his sleeves, even as he kicked off his shoes, before tugging off his socks by the toes. Then, taking his life into his hands he stepped into DiNozzo's personal space, and caught at his wrists, his own eyes darkening as he took in the bruising already beginning to form. "Enough."
"I'm not done yet." Tony pulled out of his grasp.
"You're done when I say you're done, DiNozzo," Gibbs almost winced as he heard the echo of his earlier words to Kate. He'd known what kind of a mood Tony was in. He should have caught up with him sooner. Now there was only one way to handle this and it wasn't going to be pretty. Deliberately he hardened his tone. "You touch that bag again and you'll be on suspension for a week."
"Then I guess its gonna be a little quieter around here."
The swing was fast, but Gibbs managed to intercept it before it hit the bag. Much to his relief, otherwise he would have had to make good on his threat. Shifting his weight he used his foot and DiNozzo's exhaustion to put him on the floor, looming over him with a glare.
"I said, enough. You break your hand and you'll be out longer than a week. I'll be looking for your replacement." Hauling him to his feet, Gibbs gave him a hard shove towards the mats. At worst it would cost then both a few bruises and he had to get Tony tired enough to really listen to him. Across the room he saw the new transfer Agent had paused in his workout as he watched the two of them with concern. Gibbs bit back a grin; the guy was so clueless he probably thought he was going to knock seven bells out of DiNozzo, just for the hell of it.
"You want me to save you the trouble and write out my resignation?" Finding himself on the mats Tony took up a defensive stance, balancing lightly on the balls of his feet, as he waited for Gibbs to make the first move. "Its not like I haven't had lots of practise."
"No-one resigns from my team, " Gibbs went in low and fast, only to have Tony duck left and trip him, with a tight smile, Gibbs turned the manoeuvre into a roll and came up grinning. "You sure as hell, aren't going to be the first."
"Yeah?" Tony smiled tightly, his own eyes glittering in challenge, as he caught Gibbs by the wrist and twisted him down to the mat, looking straight into his blue eyes. "Don't bet on it."
Determined to make his point, Gibbs rolled swiftly out from under him, intending to flip him over and pin him to the mat to ensure that he had the younger man's undivided attention. Except that, Tony unexpectedly shifted left so that the heel of Gibbs' hand connected solidly with Tony's nose, to the accompaniment of shattering cartilage and thick red blood.
"Damn!" Gibbs swore fervently as he scrambled forward and reached out to tip the agent's head, so he wasn't swallowing him own blood, only to have Tony flinch violently back from his touch.
"Don't touch me! Get your hands off me."
Gibbs watched intently as Ducky knelt on the floor of the gym, carefully probing Tony's injury. The younger man sat stoically, looking straight ahead as the MD gently manipulated the damaged nose. Already, there were telling signs of swelling and bruising appearing under his eyes.
"I'm afraid it does rather look like it's broken."
"Displaced fracture, Duck?" Gibbs asked.
"I would say so, wouldn't you? Never mind dear boy," Ducky patted Tony's shoulder comfortingly. "It doesn't seem to be too serious, a quick trip to the Hospital, a spot of ice, some painkillers and you'll be right as rain."
"C'mon, DiNozzo," Gibbs offered him a hand up. "I'll take you to the ER."
Tony wouldn't look up at him as he answered. "You don't have to, Boss."
Gibbs sighed. As soon as his outburst had registered Tony's eyes had widened and he had flushed bright red before stammering through an apology worthy of McGee. Since then he had been unusually quiet and subdued, barely responding to Gibbs' gruff sympathy and not launching into even a token protest when he had called the MD down here.
"Get your ass in gear, DiNozzo." Gibbs growled.
The smallest quirk of a smile lifted the corner of Tony's mouth and some of the shadows in his eyes lifted at the sheer normalcy of his boss' tone. Reaching up to grasp Gibbs' hand he rose, only slightly unsteadily, to his feet.
"Special Agent Gibbs."
"Director," Gibbs unconsciously moved his hand to DiNozzo's back to steady him, as he turned to face his superior. "It's a little late for you, Sir."
"I'm afraid you'll have to find someone else to take Agent DiNozzo to the hospital, Agent Gibbs." Morrow's expression gave nothing away.
Gibbs jaw tensed, as his expression clearly showed his displeasure at having his plans thwarted. Tony had been skittish enough before and the accident certainly hadn't helped mattered any. He was reluctant to let him out of his sight.
"Don't worry, Jethro," Ducky read his expression easily. "I'll go with young Anthony. We'll be just fine."
"Thanks, Duck," Gibbs gave him a grateful smile. If he couldn't accompany the younger man, there wasn't anyone else he would rather have with him. He switched his gaze to DiNozzo, holding his gaze as he let his eyes soften slightly. "You behave. I'll be along as soon as I can."
"I'll be good." Tony gave him a wan smile.
Gibbs snorted his opinion of that, watching intently as the MD gently shepherd the younger man across the gym and into the elevator.
"We need to talk," Morrow eyed him seriously. "I'm afraid there's been a formal complaint lodged against you."
"Sir?" Gibbs blinked; such complaints were almost routine for him, given his dislike of diplomatic niceties and his complete intolerance of anyone who stood in the way of his getting the job done. "With all due respect, couldn't this wait until morning? I'd really like to see how Tony is .."
"Jethro," Morrow's tone was coloured with regret. "I'm afraid I can't allow you to speak or otherwise communicate with Agent DiNozzo until further notice."
"Tom?" Gibbs was frustrated. "What the hell's going on?"
"The complaint concerns your verbal and physical abuse of an agent under your command," Morrow met his gaze gravely. "Namely, Agent DiNozzo."