"Tony," Gibbs sighed, then he reached out and brought the elevator to a halt, before turning to face his senior field Agent. "There are no excuses because you did nothing wrong. You were in your own home and you got poisoned by an odourless, invisible, gas. How is any of that your fault?"
"The Harrisons .." Tony protested.
"Were already dead, hours before you got home," Gibbs cut him off. "There was nothing you could have done for them. If you had stayed in,you would have died too. That what you want?"
"But you said I should have called in." Tony floundered.
Gibbs had a take a breath, to control his own rising emotions. Every time they came up against this he cursed whatever it was in DiNozzo's childhood that always made him think he was the low man on the totem pole.
"For help, DiNozzo," He spoke softly. "You should have called in for help."
All day long he had been torturing himself with what might have been. The image of DiNozzo, sick and disorentated, sitting in the gutter as he tried to come to terms with his inability to save the Harrisons and waited for a cab to come and drive him to work, where he thought his Boss was going to tear him off a strip, was bad enough.
"Oh," Tony digested that, the only thing Gibbs was pissed about was that he hadn't had him come take charge? It almost made things better. "Are you going to slap me now?"
A small smile quirked at the edge of Gibbs' lips as he gave the idea his full consideration. As he raised his hand Tony tensed, squeezing his eyes shut in anticipation of a serious slap, only to crack one eye open, as Gibbs gently ruffled his hair.
"You almost died today," Gibbs offered, making a face. "I reckon that gives you a free pass."
"It does?" Tony perked up.
"Just one," Gibbs clarified, leaning over to set the elevator car in motion again. "C'mon, Ducky says you need to eat regualrly. I'll buy you lunch."
"Wow, you're actually going to pay?"
"Don't push it." Gibbs warned.
"Boss, pushing it is what I love about this job. I hear the truffles at La Chat D'Or are particularly good." Tony tried, bouncing a little on his heels, as he named one of the city's most exclusive and expensive restaurants. He knew better than to think Gibbs was done with him yet. He'd been distinctly off his Game today and that never happened without good reason. Maybe, if he acted as normally as possible he could head things before Gibbs decided to open that particualr can of worms.
"My wallet, my choice," Gibbs grinned mirthlessly at him. "We need to make a stop on the way."
"We do?" Tony blinked. He had no idea what Gibbs was planning. And judging by the way the ex-Marine was staring straight ahead, a small smile playing around his lips, Tony was pretty sure he wasn't about to find out until his Boss was good and ready. He sighed. He wasn't entirely sure he was going to like this but he trusted Gibbs not to open up old scars just to see them bleed. "Of course, we do."
Gibbs made short work of the lunchtime traffic, refusing to react in any way to Tony's deliberately increasingly annoying attempts to find out their destination. Except for reaching over to slap his hand away, as he changed the station on the radio for the tenth time and threatening to shoot him if another word came out of his mouth. When Tony resorted to humming, he actually laughed. Right, before he popped the back of his head.
"Ouch," Tony rubbed his head, more for effect than any real discomfort. "I almost died today."
"Pay attention. One free pass is all you get, DiNozzo," Gibbs kept his eyes on the traffic.
Subsiding back in his seat, Tony looked out of the window, peering curiously at the passing neighbourhood. He knew this part of town pretty well and he couldn't think of a single reason why Gibbs would bring him out this way. He was just about to risk asking if they were nearly there yet, when the car came to a halt.
"We're here." Gibbs said.
"We are?" Tony looked out at the rows of neatly kept houses. "We visiting someone?"
"Something like that." Gibbs agreed as he put the car into park, undid his seatbelt and took the key out of the ignition, before exiting the vehicle. Tony matched his actions, following his Boss across the road and up the steps of the large, imposing, Church situated on the corner.
"Someone is right," Tony observed, sotto voice, for some reason feeling the need to speak in hushed tones, even though they were clearly alone in the cavernous structure. "Um, Boss. It's been a while since I've been in a Church. He might not be that pleased to see me."
Gibbs just gave him a look as he dropped some coins into a box and passed a taper to his senior field Agent, as he picked one up for himself.
"You want me to light a candle for the goldfish?" Tony blinked.
Gibbs took his time answering, making sure his own candle was burning brightly before turning his head to give his senior field Agent a level look, which had Tony squirming slightly before his Boss even opened his mouth.
"DiNozzo, you work in a building full of people who investigate things for a living. You really think we're going to believe any of this is about the fish?"
"Boss..," Tony didn't want to talk about this. He really didn't. For a moment he took refuge in action, lighting one of the candles, watching its flickering light and thinking about his memories of Kate. "I was supposed to take care of them. I promised her I would and I let them die," Tony swallowed hard looking up to meet Gibbs' eyes as he added the unbearable bit. "Just like I let her die."
"You didn't let her die. That bastard Ari killed her." Gibbs corrected, as he settled himself into a pew.
"You really believe that, Boss?" Since Gibbs clearly had no intention of leaving just yet, Tony joined him, sitting side by side, as they both looked straight ahead.
"Not at first," Gibbs admitted. "It's never easy to stand by and watch someone die. It's not meant to be. That doesn't mean you could have done anything different."
"I know," Tony ran a hand through his hair. Gibbs was right. It had all been over in seconds. There had been no time to move or react. "I would have saved her if I could."
"Sometimes, that's all we have." Gibbs spoke softly.
They both fell silent for a moment as they relieved that moment on the roof. McGee had been down on the ground, trying to co-ordinate things with his laptop, whilst dodging Ari's bullets behind the parked car. Tony remembered how his heart had stopped when he had heard the fatal shot and seen Kate go down.
"It should have been me."
He wasn't even aware that he had spoken aloud, until he felt the slap connect with the back of his head hard enough to make his ears ring. Looking across at his Boss, Tony's eyes widened with genuine surprise. Despite appearances, Gibbs' head slaps were usually a wake up call rather than a serious reprimand. Right now he looked as mad as hell.
"What? Everybody loved Kate." Tony defended himself. Ducky had admired her for her beauty and compassion. She had been smart enough to understand what McGee was talking about. Abby had warmed up to her quicker than Tony had ever seen her take to any one. And, despite her lack of experience in the field, she had earned Gibbs' respect.
"You ever think what things might have been like if you had been the one who was killed?"
"Kate had a family who loved her." Tony answered tightly.
She had had a mother and father who had cried over her grave and brothers who had mourned her. More cousins, aunts and uncles than Tony had ever seen gathered in one place had come from all corners of the world to pay their respects. Even her aged Grandmother had insisted on being brought from her retirement home to be there for the service.
"So, do you." Gibbs responded softly.
The quiet words brought Tony's head up sharply. It was the look in Gibbs eyes as much as the words themselves that convinced him. He remembered that exact same look as they faced each other across Kate's body on the roof that day. In full Marine mode, he had given Tony his orders then, just as the ex-cop had turned to obey, he had called him back, pulling out his own handkerchief to wipe the blood off Tony's face as gently as a Mother caring for her toddler. Then he had stuffed the blood stained handkerchief back in his pocket, before squeezing Tony's shoulder, sending him on his way. All the while, with that same look in his eyes.
"You gonna buy me a pet, too Boss?" He grinned softly.
"Hell, no." Gibbs vetoed that.
Tony smiled, as he realised there was only one thing Gibbs thought he should be taking care of right now.