One Man's Poison
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. If they were, would Kate be dead? (bares fangs) All the NCIS agents, Ducky, Abby, Gerald, Major Doherty are canon (including Balboa of "Bete Noire" and Axelrod, who's mentioned in "Yankee White"). The others are not.
RATING: K+ (I'm so bad at this)
SUMMARY: A series of poisonings-shootings in a small town has the NCIS stumped, and the wall of silence by all the locals force drastic measures to find the killer. Kate/Gibbs casefile.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: One of my "eh, not so good but I'm posting it anyhow" stories.
With much thanks to my beta, Em. Speaks to her great patience that I had her beta this story in full last fall (Fall 2005), and am only putting it online (plus a sixth chapter by request) now. Thanks, Em!
For me, Kate lives, Gerald works for Ducky, and Morrow is director. Period.
Shoutout to all the fans on the Kate and Gibbs fanfic lists for allowing me to use their names in these stories. ;-) Which characters got whose names was pretty random and entirely not a reflection on the person him/herself. I do apologize for making y'all wait that long, having asked your permission over a year ago and not putting it up until now.
"Hey Cass," Balboa greeted as he opened the car door and she got out. "Thanks for coming. I could really use your help," Balboa replied as he walked with her up the motel stairway. "This was boss's last open case. You know how he is about his notes; about how the Chris Pacci brain works."
"For an agent who was a neat freak," Cassie agreed, "his logic wasn't so neat."
"Well, he was distracted by the reopened Voss case when this one began," Balboa replied. "So he's got a pile of notes, but nothing solid." He waved to another NCIS agent. "Been working with Agent Axelord. You know him?"
"Hi," the other man greeted. "People just call me 'Rod'."
"Cassie Yates," she replied, shaking his hand.
"Cassie was Agent Pacci's probie a couple years ago," Balboa replied. "Rod was the one who drew the lucky straw in the Air Force One case - Gibbs'."
"Lucky?" Axelrod laughed. "I was the one trailing the FBI truck to pick up Tony in the body bag." His eyes twinkled. "I still have the photos of them throwing his butt out on the highway. Those pictures were worth Tony's whining all the way back to headquarters."
Cassie laughed. "Pleasure to meet you." She entered the motel room with the others. "Hey Ducky, Gerald."
"Cassie, my dear!" the NCIS medical examiner straightened and greeted her warmly. "So delighted to see you again. Surprised you found this remote location so easily." He looked over at Gerald meaningfully.
"Hey," Gerald held up his hands. "You were carrying the map." He turned to Cassie, a huge grin on his face. "Hey, Cass!"
"The killings began late March 2004," Balboa began as they walked through the crime scene. "Pacci and I covered two before Voss - well, whatever - killed him. Since then, Rod and I have done three more. This one is number six. Same MO: woman poisoned, Marine shot point-blank through the heart."
"Well, we cannot be sure this one was the same poison," Ducky commented.
"Set number six, but total twelve dead?"
"Actually, murder #1 was just a woman shot point-blank," Axelrod replied as he continued to snap photos. "#2 through #6 have been doubles. Eleven dead."
"Murder-suicide?" Cassie asked.
"Doesn't seem like it. The general suicide method for men is a shot to the head, not to the heart," Gerald pointed out. "And if the woman had a gun, it would seem more likely she'd shoot him and then shoot herself instead of taking the longer poisoning method."
Cassie held up the dead woman's hand, the fingertips bluish against her white gloved hand. Axelrod snapped a photo.
"I asked if Norfolk could send you by, not just to help with Pacci's notes, but also to talk to them." Balboa led her to a window and pointed down, where three women were sitting on a motel bench, police cars around them. "They found this pair dead. Each woman has been a a waitress at the local watering hole: Rade's. Every time I talk to the women, I can never get a lot out of them."
"One of them did it?" Cassie asked.
"That's what we thought at first, but we checked. Only two of them carry small arms, and neither are the right make - generic Sig Sauer." Cassie nodded. "Look," Balboa sighed. "Rod and I are really stumped. We don't know where else to turn. We can't get into this killer's head - can't even tell if it's male or female. I've looked at the boss's notes so much I could recite them in my sleep," he said, referring to the late senior agent. "I need a fresh pair of eyes looking at them."
Cassie shook her head. "I'll do what I can, but have you considered talking to Gibbs? In the very least, he and Pacci were close."
"Ah," Ducky stood up, and motioned to Gerald to put the bodies on the gurneys. "And I think Jethro can be of help in another fashion." The agents turned to him. "Agent Todd is a profiler."
"NOOOO boss," Tony groaned as he looked down at his report. "NOOOOO."
"You should have spell checked before you rushed out on that date," Gibbs replied pointedly, returning to his desk.
Kate picked up the report and skimmed quickly. "It's not just the spell check," she replied, barely suppressing a grin. "McGee." The woman turned to him. "What's wrong with 'He was determined to completely demolish the building'?"
"Split infinitive. Shouldn't divide the 'to' from the 'demolish'."
"And 'fearing the worst, the safe was left behind'?"
"Dangling modifier: the safe wasn't the one fearing, it was the person who left it behind."
"Very good, McGee," Kate replied, impressed, as McGee grinned. Tony glared at them both.
"Right now," Gibbs cut in, "I'd just settle for the spell check."
Tony groaned. "I really wish we had a hot case right now."
"You're wishing a sailor or a Marine were dead or committing crimes?" Gibbs asked pointedly.
Tony dropped his head to his desk.
"Hey Gibbs," came a voice, and Balboa came around, trailed by Cassie and Ken Axelrod. "We could really use your help on this case."
"Yes!" Tony exclaimed, jumping up. "I could kiss you, Bal."
The agent grinned. "Like Voss/Reed?" Kate and McGee burst out laughing as Tony glared murderously at them. "No thanks, I'll pass."
Gunnery Sergeant Howe watched as the MPs again dug through all the trainees' lockers. If it wasn't bad enough that Mike Caywood had died - shot - the MPs and the NCIS were stumped again as to who was doing the killing. So they were being thorough and going through everyone's things. Again.
"Nothing, sir," came the first call, and it was repeated several times.
Howe watched as Isaac Mathis rubbed his face tiredly. He and the MP were on cordial terms - not friends, but the murders stalking the base had brought everyone closer.
This job didn't get any easier. If the killer were a Marine - and who would shoot his fellow Marines? - then the MPs went looking for recently fired weapons.
Which was EVERYBODY.
"This" Balboa cued up the picture "is Jessica Milner. She was the first death, late March 2004. Shot," he replied, waving at the file in Gibbs' hand.
He clicked again, and the first couple came up on the screen. "The next five come in pairs; their names and designations - ranks, jobs, all that - are all in the folder. In each instance, the woman is a waitress at the local watering hole - Rade's - between the ages of 18 through 41. Each Marine was from the local base.
"They range from two recruits - PFCs - to a Colonel, a gunnery sergeant, and a corporal. The corporal was the only married one - yes, he was having an affair. They covered everything from admin to firing range sergeant. Each Marine is killed with a single shot through the heart. PFC Winter was with his girlfriend - they were found together - as was Gunny Caywood, the most recent one."
"Three of the Marines showed signs of impaired reflexes," Ducky supplied.
Abby explained, "One PFC was really drunk, and the other PFC and the Colonel had a tinge of sleep medication in their blood. Not enough to knock them out, but, you know. Caywood's blood test still hasn't come in."
Balboa cued up a map of the area. "That's the base there, on the right. It's about three miles to Rade's - hence the popularity of the place. About 2 miles out, forming a triangle, is the local logging company. They've been working the area, surveying and logging."
"Problems?" Tony asked.
Balboa nodded. "Yup. Couple bar brawls. The base's MPs are kept fairly busy, at least on their own guys. One Marine told me that the guys aren't really happy about it - they obviously get more brig time and punishment than do the civvie loggers when something happens."
"The loggers tied to the waitresses?" Kate asked.
"Five of the six. Only murder #3 did not have any tie to the loggers. Some of them were tenuous, though. Between talking to the girls, and the Marines, and the loggers, the waitress who died alone - #1 - actually was dating a Marine, but broke up with a logger just two weeks before. #2 and the most recent, #6 - there was only guys mildly interested - light flirting, nothing more. #4 was a real case: that corporal cheating on his wife found out his girlfriend was cheating with a logger. And #5 ... like #1, recent break-up, but in reverse: the logger was the new boyfriend, just a day after she dumped the Marine."
"Lovely," Kate muttered.
"Well," Axelrod said somberly, "You have got to see that place. I got the sense that a lot of those women are desperate to marry out. The loggers come in for eight-month shifts, with four months back at the main factory or a temporary break - and that's if the logger doesn't leave earlier because of injury. Only supervisors stay on. And the Marines, the minute they ship out, well, they move off the base. It's those poor girls stuck in that piss-ant town."
Balboa added, "Couple #3 and couple #6 - they were the couples that lasted longest. Couple #3 had been dating for eight months and were engaged for two when they died. Couple #6 - six months, engaged for six weeks when they died. The others - they'd been dating only a few months."
"Did you question the loggers?" McGee asked.
"Yeah, we talked to everyone," Balboa replied, pointing at the box of papers Axelrod thumped on to Gibbs' desk. "Our best bet is that it was a logger, but again we can't be sure. They were the most defensive, though."
"Not that it was easy to crack anything," Axelrod added. "The Marines and the loggers aren't talking, although at least for Bal and me we got more out of the Marines and the MPs. Until Cassie came, we could barely get a peep out of the waitresses."
"Well, I got a max of two peeps," Cassie replied. "They're more comfortable with me, but to use Abby's word, there's something hinky going on in that dive they call a bar and restaurant they're not telling me about."
"Boss, we're not working a hot case," Tony said eagerly. "Send Kate and me in. We'll break 'em."
"Why am I included in this?" Kate protested.
"Kate can play a waitress at a bar," Tony insisted, and Kate narrowed her eyes at him. "I'm sure she's experienced with the bar scene and any possible wet t - " Gibbs bopped him on the head, and Tony winced. "I can go in as a logger, boss."
Balboa turned to Kate, who frowned at Tony but said to Gibbs, "Gibbs, I can do this. If that's what it takes."
Gibbs nodded. "You can have 'em," he replied to Balboa. "Just remember what I do if I don't get my agents back in one piece."
Tony was already whooping his way out the door.
RADE'S BAR AND RESTAURANT
"Did you see the new girl?" Lissa raised an eyebrow at her old friend.
"Hired already?" Erin turned, surprised, and looked over at the office door to the restaurant owner and manager. "Nancy's barely cold."
"Like Kennedy'd care," Lissa muttered as she piled her tray high with the drinks, then continued, "She's pretty, somewhat petite brunette, brown eyes." She shook her head. "I'm not so sure she's ready to be in this place."
Just then their boss reappeared, the new waitress following him as she got her brief tour of the place.
Erin snorted. "No kidding on the last one. Pretty and innocent face. Those loggers are going to eat her alive."
x x x x x
Scott tried not to laugh at the newest recruit. After Johnson had gotten injured, their own team of ten had a hole, not to mention a few other newbies getting hurt on the job. He'd rotated in for his eight-month shifts and four-month breaks long enough to know that a lot of the teams worked short-handed.
His team got lucky when Gus Logan came in, just a week ago. Most teams didn't get to fill holes.
And Logan was as much fun as he was a good worker. He had a great sense of humor - well, they generally thought so. He could bong beer pretty well for a guy in his thirties. Mostly, though, he was a shameless but harmless flirt, and in all reality, he seemed to have all the bad luck with women: attracting the scary ones and getting turned down by the pretty ones. It was part of the fun, really; Logan was a good looking guy as far as guys went, and it was just funny to watch him get shut down.
Scott looked up to see an unfamiliar face come over, and was briefly startled to think that they had replaced Nancy so soon after her death.
'Not that Kennedy would care,' came the disgusted little voice in his head.
Scott had to agree. Kennedy was a bonafide jerk; if Scott agreed with the Marines on nothing else, it was that. But Rade's was the only place open late for miles, and the only way they could try to counter it was to slip the waitresses some extra cash on the side or try to help them out other ways. They were great, and none of the men who visited ever wanted Kennedy to make their buck.
Now he had a new victim. She was a beautiful, petite brunette who looked...rather innocent for this town. Scott winced inwardly. She was coming towards them, tray in hand.
He saw Logan come alive, like a lion at zoo feeding time. Scott tried to suppress a smile: three, two, o -
"Well hey," Logan grinned. "I've never met you." Scott tried not to snicker as Logan managed to hit on the newest face in record time. "Gus Logan," he introduced himself.
"Nina Sutton," the petite brunette replied with a smile, her dimples appearing. "Just hired." She put the mugs in front of the men, getting a couple "thank you"s and "welcome"s from the men.
"Let me buy YOU a 'welcome' drink," Gus tried, and Scott wasn't the only one trying not to laugh.
"Let me think about that. No thanks." The waitress at least had the grace to smile at him, then tucked the tray under her arm. "Is there anything else I can get you?"
There were a couple headshakes 'no,' and Logan grinned at her. "Your number?"
She gave him a small smile matched with a 'over my dead body' look.
x x x x x
Lissa watched as Scott - a regular whenever he was in town - patted Gus on the shoulder. "It's OK. Your time and your gal'll come. Just not today. And not her."
"Hey," Erin called, stepping away from her old friend and coworker to intercept the new waitress as she came towards them. "Hi, I'm Erin," she said warmly. "Welcome."
"Nina," she replied, extending a hand formally but wearing a friendly smile.
"Melissa," the other replied, coming over to join Emily. "You can just call me 'Lissa'. Well, if anything, you passed the first test," she joked, her eyes dancing. Nina blushed but smiled, and Lissa returned a grin. "You, uh, have a place to stay yet?"
"No...not yet. I'm, uh, living out of the motel about a mile out."
Erin winced. "A whole bunch of us live together out in an apartment complex two miles away," she replied. "They give us a discount. The unit next to Lissa's is open, and there are a few others."
Seeing her pause, Lissa said quietly, "If you're wondering, the unit was Nancy's, the one who was found poisoned. She moved out three weeks before she died."
The new waitress paused a minute. "Yeah, I'd love to take a look, thanks." A genuine smile crossed her face.
"What was that?" Cassie asked, looking up from her file as Balboa finished his call from Tony.
"According to 'Gus Logan,'" Balboa replied, referring to the agent who had just called, "the bad blood between the loggers and the Marines were worse than we thought. It's almost an unspoken competition to see which one of them can attract more of the women in town."
"DiNozzo must be having a ball," McGee muttered.
"Women in town includes the waitresses at Rade's," Cassie replied.
"Yeah. So while there might be specific loggers tied directly to the dead women - "
" - there were likely a whole bunch of others hitting on the waitresses just to compete with the Marines," Axelrod finished.
"Poor Kate," Cassie muttered. "This Nina Sutton business must be driving her up a wall."
"That just opened up our murder pool," Balboa groaned.
Kate looked around the unit, looking up at the ceiling and breathing in deeply. No weird smells. That was good. She wasn't too good with the smell of smoke, and Rade's was bothering her enough with that without her apartment having to be like this, too.
"Nancy was a stickler for cleanliness," Lissa replied as she watched the brunette walk around, looking at the walls and the floor carefully.
"She must've been really good," Kate chuckled at her fellow waitress. "This place is immaculate."
"Well, management must have cleaned after she moved out."
"Who did you say was on the other side of me?"
"I'm on your left when you're entering the unit, and Em's on the right. Kim's caddy-corner. You'll meet them soon enough. I think they're at work."
Kate turned and paused a minute, then asked as gently and softly as she could, "Do you mind me asking...what...what Nancy was like?"
The other woman was taken aback for a moment, then shrugged. "Nancy...Nancy is - was - great," she replied slowly. "Like most of us, she was pretty enduring of a lot of the stuff that goes on at Rade's. She was a hard worker and made the best hard lemonades." Kate smiled, and Lissa chuckled. "She was serious, but she liked a good time. She let maybe two or three of the loggers and the Marines buy her a drink - just chatted. It was never really serious...at first."
Kate frowned. "Does Kennedy have a problem with us...seeing them?" she asked innocently.
Lissa shook her head. "That's not the problem. This town is small - it's sustained by the logging company and the Marine base. Tons of men, and the town has few women. So, you know." She nearly laughed at the exasperated eye-roll the newest waitress gave at that. "Yeah, alpha males getting together. It's like watching National Geographic antelopes or something."
Kate chuckled. "Is it that bad?"
Lissa shrugged. "Most of the time it just simmers. Kennedy likes it because it draws guys to the bar." She waved a hand in disdain. "Notice that all the waiters are female except two - and it's only women at night, when the loggers and the Marines come in."
NCIS HQ, AUTOPSY
"Ah, Jethro! Timothy," Ducky greeted as the doors opened to autopsy.
"You here for your sailor, or Bal's dead Romeo and Juliet?" Gerald asked.
"Agent Balboa thought you might like to know the autopsy reports for Gunnery Sergeant Michael Caywood and Nancy Koenig," Ducky said, handing Gibbs a file.
"Same MO as the others, isn't that what you said?" McGee asked.
"Yes, indeed. The young woman died from formaldehyde poisoning and the gunnery sergeant from a point-blank shot to the heart."
"What's that," McGee asked, wincing at the pictures on the plasma.
"Oh. We dug up the other bodies. Those are the waitresses' insides," Gerald replied. "They all kind of look the same - very oxygen-starved. The picture on the left is the picture taken during autopsy, and the picture on the right is from the body now. I think this one's #3."
"Agent Axelrod got a court-order to have the other bodies exhumed," Ducky explained. "The women obviously appeared to have decomposed marginally less than their male counterparts."
"Yeah, formaldehyde tends to do that," Gerald replied dryly. "Only people generally apply the formaldehyde for preservation AFTER death."
RADE'S BAR AND RESTAURANT
Scott watched in amusement as the headstrong brunette thumped Gus's drink down in front of him, hard, causing some of it to splash out over the ladies' man.
"Aw," he replied, but looked up at her with as charming a grin as he could muster. "You could serve a smile with that splash."
"A good tip would make me smile," she sassed back, the amusement in her voice taking some of the bite of her comment.
"Let me buy you a drink," Gus tried for the tenth time that week alone, and the waitress just rolled her eyes.
"She knows you like the back of her hand," Scott chuckled as she left.
"No she doesn't. The point of buying her a drink is so she can get to know the real me."
Scott rolled his eyes in amusement. Gus never gave up. "Yeah, and that's when she'll just pour the beer on you. I think she's got your number, Gus."
"Trust me, Scott, if she had my number, my phone would be ringing off the hook."
"In case Kate and Tony don't have anything," Balboa replied as he led the three of them toward Gibbs' team's area, "you remember our proposal, right? Cassie?"
Cassie narrowed her eyes at Balboa and Axelrod. "I don't understand why you two can't ask Kate. She's not going to do anything to you. She'd likely agree to it in the blink of an eye."
Axelrod made face. "It's not Kate we're worried about. It's the guy who has the desk next to hers."
"We never had to suggest something like this before," Balboa added. "Gibbs has qualms about hitting women - hitting Kate, at least - and you're the only woman among the three of us."
Cassie rolled her eyes. "You owe me."
"Lunch at Cafe Atlantico. We remember." Balboa waved them quiet as they neared to hear the team talking.
"You've been there a month now," Gibbs was saying impatiently as the others entered.
McGee waved to them in silent greeting, and the other three slipped in silently so as not to disturb the chow-down Gibbs was giving DiNozzo and Todd.
"Gibbs, I know that," Kate retorted. "But I'm telling you, those waitresses are as in the dark as we are about who the killer is. And as much as I hate my boss - " Gibbs frowned " - at the bar-restaurant, Gibbs - I honestly do not think he knows, either."
"Kate," came Tony's voice over the speakerphone. "Kennedy is a huge jerk. He doesn't care about you guys. I don't see why he couldn't be the killer."
"Because he wouldn't waste the time, the money, or the energy to do that," Kate replied sharply. She turned to Balboa. "Look. He sees us all as pieces of meat. That's why he could replace Nancy Koenig so fast. He doesn't care. He wouldn't waste a phone call to 911 to save one of his girls. He certainly wouldn't take the time to plan out something this complicated or kill his own customers - the Marines."
"That's rougher conditions there than we thought," Axelrod muttered, stepping in for the first time. "Why do the waitresses stay?"
"Well, Kennedy isn't there but two days out of the week. His manager is Rick Quincy."
"We met him," Balboa nodded. "Nice guy."
"He is. He makes most of...everything more bearable."
"Could he be the killer?" McGee asked.
"I doubt it. I don't think he's even seen a real gun ever, much less shot one. He's a business mind."
"What about you, Tony?" Cassie Yates asked.
"I highly doubt it's one of the loggers," came Tony's voice over the speakerphone. "They don't like the Marines, but their competition with them is more a Cold War thing than anything. They don't even have problems with all the Marines. As for the waitresses, most of the guys here wouldn't do anything. They're on pretty friendly terms."
"We're not looking for the majority, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied. "We're looking for one killer. Or maybe two."
"There are some irritating loudmouths here, but I don't think any of them are killer quality."
"So, that has been entirely fruitless," Kate groaned. "And my clothes smell like smoke to boot."
"Maybe not entirely fruitless," Cassie murmured. She looked over at Balboa and Axelrod, who stared hard back at her. "If you're willing, Kate." She paused a minute. "It's been proposed...that...we could turn into you into bait." She noticed Axelrod and Balboa carefully avoiding the instant frowns appearing on Gibbs' and McGee's faces.
The woman in question, however, sat up suddenly. "That's a good idea," Kate said thoughtfully. "It's a good idea. Set up enough surveillance, and let the killer come after me."
"We'll monitor all your food, the air in your apartment, everything," Cassie replied, nodding. "And hopefully the killer'll come after you."
"You're forgetting a key component," McGee pointed out. "All the waitresses were seeing Marines. We'd have to get one to pursue Kate."
A laugh came over the speakerphone. "The way they were looking at you," Tony chortled. "It won't be a problem. Didn't I say before it's possible to work a field in high heels?"
TWO WEEKS LATER
"How hard is it for a beautiful woman to get a guy to do what she wants?" Gibbs barked as he leaned forward to put his elbows on his desk, rubbing his eyes.
Kate's eyes shot daggers at his head, and the brunette retorted, "Gibbs, short of throwing myself at every Marine that walks in the door and paying them to buy me a drink, I've tried everything." When a snort escaped Tony, she turned the death glare on him.
Balboa looked over at the other men - Gibbs not included - and could see them all trying to suppress their laughter. Even Cassie was having a little trouble trying not to smile at the scene before them.
It had been a few weeks, and while (according to Tony) every logger and unmarried Marine on the base had flirted with Kate's 'Nina Sutton,' no Marine was willing to go beyond that. Even by Tony's colorful descriptions - punctuated with Kate's pained looks - Kate had gone above and far beyond her usual level of public decorum to try to secure any possible interest from a Marine - interest that might draw the killer out again.
Axelrod had spent two days in town ostensibly to talk to the MPs again and retrod the murder scenes - but was really there to set up surveillance around Kate. Even he said that the normally proper Kate had been tossed aside - within reason, of course, given the nature of 'Nina Sutton.' Even so, nothing.
"My guess is that most of those Marines are gun shy because of what happened," Axelrod explained. "They just lost another guy to this psycho; they're not going to get involved with ANYBODY for awhile. Considering that dictator MP Mathis? He's most likely got surveillance on every Marine down there hoping to keep them from getting involved with a girl at the bar - and thus keep 'em alive."
"So, we're going to be stuck there for how long?" Kate asked, frowning.
"Not long, if our plan works," Balboa answered both questions. "Quite frankly we can't wait for this guy to kill again before we manage to catch him. The base is having enough trouble staying open - needless to say, there's been a mass exodus of residents since the murders began."
"Plan," Gibbs ordered, bringing them back to the topic.
"Well," Cassie began, before looking over at her two teammates. As before, Axelrod shook his head slightly as his eyes drifted nervously to Gibbs, and Balboa stared hard back. "Chickens," she muttered under her breath. She straightened and said to the team, "We...supply...the Marine who hooks up permanently with Nina Sutton. We set everything up."
Tony paused, a minute, his brow furrowed. "Run this by me again?"
"We set up the circumstances mirroring every murder we have, or the most common pattern," Balboa replied. "Marine dating one of the waitresses, logger who had shown interest in her. 'Gus Logan' already spent the last month trying to charm up every waitress in the bar - including 'Nina Sutton'."
"And failed miserably," Kate added sweetly. Tony made a face.
"Now, all we do is supply the Marine."
"Where are we going to get a Marine?" McGee asked.
"Well, if you had to get somebody to play a Marine, who would YOU get?" Cassie replied pointedly. Even she wasn't stupid enough to suggest her old boss' close friend play the role. Gibbs didn't have THAT many scruples about shooting women who annoyed him.
"Gibbs. He used to be a Marine," McGee replied without thinking. When Gibbs pinned him with a patented stare, he gulped. "I mean, I was...speaking...generally. Not...necessarily...for this case. Or...ever." He didn't seem to realize how deep he was digging his own grave. "I...just...meant...that...I'm sure you'd be...a good Marine. Like...you were before."
Tony snickered and reached over to pat McGee on the shoulder. "Quit while you're ahead, probie."