Author's Note: This is the second story in what has become the "Tony & Jess" series. If you haven't read the first one (or don't remember it), there's enough basic information here to give you a general idea of who Jess is. However, if you want more background about her and her relationship to Tony, please see "From California to Peoria in Under Four Hours." And to those who read that story … this is the 'other story' alluded to in the Epilogue. Enjoy!



"This is another fine mess you've gotten yourself into, DiNozzo," Tony said to himself as he waited for the phone to ring again. It had been ringing at pretty much regular intervals – every fifteen minutes or so – since the standoff began. It was probably freaking out the other fifteen hostages, but it was okay with Tony, since it gave him some time to look around and map out what to do.

"Think it through," he said to himself. "Rule 20 – Think it through."

He'd managed to talk the gunmen into letting the pregnant bank teller leave. That was a good sign. The guys were willing to talk and they had some compassion. They'd sent out a note, so that meant they had demands, and they'd probably negotiate. Of course, they'd have to answer the phone to do that. No self-respecting hostage-taker was going to go on the strength of his note alone. Answering the phone was just part of the accepted protocol of modern hostage-taking. But the guys with the guns weren't answering. They weren't worried about it either. They were taking their time.

The phone rang again. Not just any phone either. It was Tony's phone. He could see it vibrating in the pile of phones that had been pushed against the wall. It occurred to Tony that he was really glad that his ring didn't have some weird soundbyte or videoclip on it. The last thing he needed was to hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Beyonce every fifteen minutes. He was especially glad that he'd removed the Disney tune that Abby had programmed as a joke one day when he was in a particularly surly mood. Hearing "I'm Just a Little Black Rain Cloud" every fifteen minutes would definitely hurt his 'tough guy' standing with the bad guys. He used to have the "Mission: Impossible" theme as his ring. That would have been kind of cool about now.

When the gunmen DID finally answer the phone, Tony knew the guy on the other end would be Fornell – the guys had specifically asked for FBI in the note. Tony chuckled. That would piss off Gibbs. And a pissed off Gibbs was a good thing, in this case.

The phone rang again.

Tony leaned his head back against the wall behind him and closed his eyes. How DID he get himself into these things?