Tony DiNozzo swung into the bullpen, his grin wide enough to bridge the Potomac. Even Gibbs, right behind him, looked pleased for once. They wore suits and ties too hot for the sweltering heatwave oppressing the east coast, but it was in a good cause. Today had been the day of a long-awaited trial verdict.
"So?" Kate prompted, her face alight with expectation.
"Twenty years non-parole, Katie, both of them, for the assault and attempted murder of a Federal agent", DiNozzo all but crowed.
"Yes!!!" McGee pumped the air with his fist. Out of character for her, Kate gave him a high five.
"Oh, my, Jethro, that IS good news", Ducky said, coming into the bullpen in time to hear what DiNozzo said. "Go ahead and celebrate, Tony, you've earned the right, my boy".
"How did they take it?" Kate asked, putting down the phone she'd picked up to relay the news to Abby. The whole team had been hanging on the outcome of this trial.
"About how you'd expect", DiNozzo said. "Spurling didn't say a thing, but Bradshaw sure did. Tried to take the marshals down when they came to cuff him".
"Wow, Tony", Abby bounced around the partition and enveloped DiNozzo in a hug that nearly knocked him off his feet," Your name will soooo be mud with Baker".
"Yeah, Abs", Tony said, regaining his balance and returning the hug, "it occurred to me". Abby's eyes at once grew troubled.
"Not only to you, DiNozzo", Gibbs said, going around behind his desk and putting his Sig in its drawer. "I'm putting a 24-hour watch on you for the next couple of days. Baker won't take this lightly".
Baker. DiNozzo hated the name. The man who controlled the drug trade in most of Washington DC and large parts of Maryland and Virginia. The man responsible for the deaths of two NCIS agents in the past year, one of them his close friend Pete Fielding. The trial today had put away two of his enforcers who between them had all but killed Tony the previous autumn. Gibbs and the others had only just found him in time.
Spurling and Bradshaw - DiNozzo thought of them as the Accountant and the Hulk. Bradshaw was a steroid-raddled thug whose size and strength made him a handy enforcer as long as someone else did the thinking. A dime-a-dozen bouncer type. No real loss to Baker, but bound to be irritating.
Spurling, though, was a different matter. Of the many cruel and psychotic dirtbags Gibbs had encountered during his career, he was right up there among the worst. It was the Accountant – so named by DiNozzo because of his inoffensive outward demeanour – who'd had Tony chained up to drown as the tide came in, taunting him almost to the end. He was Baker's 2-IC and his strategic skills were important to their operation. Baker wouldn't let him go lightly.
"Boss, about that guard, I really don't think …"
Gibbs swung round and advanced towards DiNozzo, pushing himself so far into the other man's space that Tony retreated until the backs of his legs hit his desk.
He held his ground, though. "I don' t need a bodyguard … and no, boss, you don't look as though you care", he said, getting in ahead of Gibbs.
"Damn right, DiNozzo", Gibbs said. "Someone from Marchetti's team will stick to you like glue. And if you even think", he shoved his face into DiNozzo's and tapped a finger on his chest for emphasis, "even think of giving them the slip, you'll answer to me. Got that?"
"Yeah, boss", DiNozzo said, "got it".
Gibbs eyeballed him a moment more, then nodded, satisfied, and retreated across the bullpen to his own desk. DiNozzo relaxed. He raised his eyebrows at Kate, who'd been watching with interest, and grimaced behind Gibbs' back.
It could have been worse, he supposed. Could have been one of his own team assigned to watch him. He didn't want them finding out how boring his off hours really were, especially Kate.
"Hey, Tony", McGee said," nice threads. That your best suit?"
"No, Probie, no", DiNozzo said as he turned to survey his desk, which Abby was festooning with black balloons she'd brought up from the lab. "Saving that one for the day Baker goes down. If he ever does … ow!"
"Positive thinking, DiNozzo". Gibbs, miraculously back behind him – damn, the old man could move fast – surreptitiously rubbed his hand. "Not if, when".
"Right, Boss!" DiNozzo threw Gibbs a mock salute as he sat down at his desk. "When. Abs, do you really think …"
"Oh, come on, Tony", Kate said, going to help Abby with a recalcitrant balloon. "You know you look good in black".
Gibbs suppressed a smile as he sat down behind his desk. Just another day in the bullpen. Today was better than most, though, they'd had a win. His phone rang, and he snatched it up.
Thirty seconds later, he'd changed his mind.
Abby and Kate were still laughing as they fussed about with the balloons, McGee advising from the sidelines. But from behind his desk, DiNozzo's eyes were fixed on Gibbs' face as he slammed the phone back into its cradle.
"What's up, Boss?" He got up and came to stand in front of Gibbs' desk. Behind him, the others picked up on the tension.
Gibbs stood up and kicked his wastebasket. Hard. "Baker sprang Spurling on his way to prison. Three guards and Bradshaw killed in the firefight. They had a helicopter standing by, he's long gone by now".
Only the pop of an overfilled balloon broke the silence that followed.