AN – The events and characters in this story are part of the Baltimore back story that I created for Tony and Gibbs in "Trial and Tribulations" – although you don't need to have read that to read this if you're prepared to take my word for a few things! Oh, and for all those wanting me to write the road trip in "Room at the Inn" I may get to that sometime but there's a reason I wrote this shot thing next, look out for my next story "Safe Harbour" about Tony's arrival in DC.

Disclaimer – Not mine and my only profit is my amusement and your enjoyment.

"DiNozzo, what the hell are you thinking?" Captain Bob Hawkins of Baltimore PD fumed as he faced his junior Detective across his desk. "This is career suicide. If you go into that review board hearing and tell them that you were the one who took an unauthorised cell into an undercover situation, to call some girlfriend, blowing six months of work and getting your partner killed in the process, no law enforcement Agency in this country will ever hire you again."

He saw how the younger man actually flinched at that confirming his long held belief that DiNozzo was far more a privileged Long Island, rich kid playing at being cops and robbers. Any investogator worht his salt knew that results like DiNozzo's took more than a dose of charm and whole dollop of luck. A cop like DiNozzo made his own luck, from sheer determination and dammed hard work. Hawkins had already lost one good man to this operation. He wasn't about to loose another. He softened his tone, hoping to reach the younger man that way. "Son, none of this mess is your fault."

"Is that what I'm supposed to tell his wife Laurel and their two yomng sons and un-born daughter?" Tony answered bleakly, his eyes dark and glittering. "Or should that be his widow and orphaned children?"

"Damn it, Tony," Hawkins ran a hand through his thinning hair. "Will you just think about what you're doing?"

"I already have," DiNozzo answered stubbornly. "It's for the best."

"The hell it is!" Hawkins roared, as he brought his fist down hard on his desk, causing his coffee mug to fall over and his blinds to rattle. DiNozzo didn't even blink. The Captain took a breath and tried to get his own feelings under control. "So, your partner took an unauthorised cell into an undercover operation to check on his heavily pregnant wife in the Hospital, sure it's a blot on his record, but that people will understand."

"Mike was a career cop with decades of distinguished service," Tony countered. "He doesn't deserve to be remembered for one screw up."

"I applaud your loyalty kid," Hawkins met his gaze. "But the fact of the matter is that Mike's no longer with us. His service record will be enough to see that his wife and child get what they have coming. I'll make sure of that."

"I appreciate that, Captain," Tony acknowledged. "But my decision stands."

"Damn it, DiNozzo, Mike loved you like a kid brother. You think this is what he'd want for you?"

"I don't know," Tony shook his head bitterly. "Maybe, if I hadn't let him get killed, we could have asked him."

Gibbs stood quietly at the back of the room, his arms folded, as he watched the heated exchange. He'd already had this out with DiNozzo in the car on the way back from the Hospital. He'd promised then that he wouldn't order DiNozzo to let his drop, not when they both knew he would have down the same if Dyer was his partner. But that didn't mean he was just going to stand on the sidelines either.

"Alright." Hawkins sighed, admitting defeat. "You're on suspension, pending the review board."

"Thank you, Sir." Tony said quietly.

As he turned on his heel his face was expressionless, but Gibbs wasn't fooled. In the past few weeks he had seen how DiNozzo lived for this job. Beneath the ridiculous ties and frat boy humour was a bright, intuitive, investigator, with a promising career ahead of him, if he didn't go ahead and flush it down the head.

Gibbs knew how that went. The Italian was angry and hurting, he blamed himself and he wanted others to loathe him as much as he loathed himself right now. So, he pushed and he pushed, till he got what he thought he wanted. Gibbs had other ideas. He had already told DiNozzo that he would speak up for him at the hearing and there was no way he would have let any of this go this far if he didn't have a better plan.

He just needed to get all the pieces in place before he raised the kid's hopes.

"Gibbs," Tony paused, tipping his head on one side as he surveyed the ex-marine, his eyes too bright and brittle. "Look, this thing could get ugly. Are you sure you really want too..?"

"Call me when you get a date for the hearing." Gibbs cut him off.

"Because, I hear Moscow, is nice this time of year .." DiNozzo gave him an out. "I could get one of those hats with the furry ear flaps .."

"DiNozzo." Gibbs growled.

"The hearing, right."

"And the funeral," Gibbs added unexpectedly. "Dyer was a good man. Like to pay my respects."

"Right," Tony nodded, feeling his throat tighten at the unequivical show of support. Gibbs had only crossed paths with Dyer a time or two. They both knew that he was doing this for DiNozzo. "I'll call you."

"See that you do."

As DiNozzo exited the room, Hawkins loked up, as if noticing Gibbs for the first time, although the ex-marine had no doubt he had realised he was there all along. "Something I can do for you, Special Agent Gibbs?"

"You could order him to tell the truth." Gibbs observed mildly.

Hawkins gave a short bark of laughter, but there was no humour in it. "Then I'd just have to add disobeying a direct order and most likely gross insubordination to the charges. If there's one thing I've learnt about DiNozzo it's that you can't lead him anywhere he doesn't want to go. Kid gives the word stubborn a whole new meaning."

Gibbs didn't doubt that. From the get go DiNozzo had been determined to hang on to his crime scene, putting up with everything Gibbs could throw at him, brushing off his caustic reprimands with a shrug, obeying most of his orders without question, but still not afraid to go toe to toe with him when he thought it was warranted. After one such particularly heated exchange, Gibbs had overheard Ducky's conversation.

"Very impressive, my boy, most people find Jethro's command style rather intimidating."

"Really?"DiNozzo had sounded genuinely surprised "They should meet my father."

That comment had surprised Gibbs enough to do some preliminary background checks on the younger man. What he had found out had both angered and impressed him. If this was what DiNozzo could accomplish with an uncaring bastard for a father, Gibbs couldn't help but wonder what he might achieve if he had someone prepared to push him to his limits.

It was time to find out.

"Perhaps we should give him somewhere else to go." Gibbs smiled thinly.

Hawkins head came up sharply at that. He hadn't missed the way that the ex-marine's leadership style had brought out the best in DiNozzo, or how the supposedly straight laced NCIS Special Agent had been surprisingly tolerant of the young detective's irreverent humour and constant junk food habit. Tipping his head on one side he gave Gibbs a piercing look.

"You have someplace in mind?"

"As a matter of fact," Gibbs nodded. "I do."

Gibbs had been raised to believe that nothing worth doing was ever easy. Even so, convincing Morrow that a detective, junior grade, from Baltimore, who was facing a board hearing that could concieviably end his law enforcement career, would be an asset to NCIS' prestigious major crimes team was far more difficult that he had imagined. Only when Morrow had given his agreement and sat back in his chair with a smug smile on his face did Gibbs realise that he had been played.

"You were going to let me hire him all along." He realised.

"Jethro, in all the time I've known you, I've only ever seen you this fired up about hiring Miss Scutio, I practically had to hold you at gunpoint to get you to accept Burley and he was a former Senater's aide. I just wanted to see how far you were prepared to go to bat for this one," He gave the ex-marine a level look. "If you want DiNozzo this badly, I won't stand in your way, although you'd better be right about that fact that there's not enough solid evidence for anything more than a suspension and a reprimand in DiNozzo's jacket. If this thing comes back to bite NCIS in the ass, it'll be your butt in a sling. Understood?"

"Understood, sir." Gibbs nodded, as he broke the web cam connection. "Thanks for the use of your office." He glanced up at Hawkins.

"You really think we can talk this thing down to a suspension and a slap on the wrist?" The Baltimore Captain frowned.

"We don't have a choice. Not if we're going to save DiNozzo's career."

His next stop was human resources to get a copy of DiNozzo's home address from his file. As he pulled up in front of the modest apartment block in a decidedly middling part of town, he scowled down at the zip code scrawled on a piece of paper - not sure that he had read it right. DiNozzo sure didn't live like the only son of a wealthy Long Island businessman.

"At least I know he's not on the take." He murmured.

Pushing his concerns about the young detective's finances to the back of his mind, Gibbs remembered that they had other problems. He snagged the brown paper bag from the seat beside him, got out of the car and made his way up to the second floor apartment. Knocking firmly on the door, it took a minute or two until he heard the sounds of movement inside. When the door finally opened he wasn't surprised to see DiNozzo looking rumpled and exhausted.

"Gibbs," The younger man blinked, obviously not expecting him. "I thought you left town. Something else I can do for you?"

It took an effort for Gibbs to keep his expression neutral. DiNozzo had put his career on the line to help him close his case. He had risked life and limb, getting a busted arm for his pains, to bring down the drug ring. His partner had been shot and died on the operating table, he was facing a hearing which could destroy his career and he was still willing to do whatever it took to get the bad guys, even on no sleep.

"You could let me in."

"Um," Tony shifted awkwardly, as he cast a glance behind him. "Now isn't really a good time."

For a second Gibbs thought that he had a woman in there. In the circumstances, the ex-Marine could hardly blame him. Some guys used alcohol to forget, others hit the gym, DiNozzo was definitely the type to prefer other physical pursuits. Then he took in the dark circles under the haunted green eyes and decided that leaving him to his own devices wasn't an option.

"I brought breakfast." He held up the bag.

"I'm not much of a coffee drinker." DiNozzo shook his head.

"Got tea for you and one of those breakfast burrito things you like."

Afterwards Gibbs would understand that this was the foundation of everything. Solving the case together had been nothing more than a mutual desire to see the dirt bags behind bars. DiNozzo already had a closure rate to be proud of. Gibbs wouldn't have wanted him otherwise. Actually remembering the younger man's personal preferences, that was different. He watched DiNozzo's eyes widen in honest surprise, before he stood back and opened the door to let him in to the apartment, Gibbs stepped over the threshold, carefully schooling his expression at the sight of half packed cardboard boxes.

"Planning on going somewhere?" He raised a brow.

"Away from here," DiNozzo agreed. "Even if the hearing lets me keep my badge, there's nothing left for me in Baltimore now Mike's gone."

"You still have his family."

"Laurel feels the same way, she's selling up and moving the kids to be nearer her mother once the baby's born."

Gibbs watched thoughtfully as the younger man used his good arm to reach out plates and silverware. The ex-marine swiftly organised the hot food onto the two place settings, adding two Styrofoam cups. DiNozzo took his place opposite him breaking his burrito in two, chewing slowly on one end, more out of politeness than any real appetite. Gibbs didn't care just so long as he ate. DiNozzo didn't look as if he had been doing enough of that lately.

"You got anywhere particular in mind?" Gibbs asked mildly as he chewed.

"Not really," DiNozzo shook his head, as he took a sip of his hot tea, letting the thoughtfulness of that gesture warm him as much as the fragrant liquid. "Just need to get the hell outta Dodge."

"You're not tempted to go work for your father?" Gibbs raised a brow.

"If you know enough to ask that question, then you already know the answer." Tony met his gaze.

"I'm sorry." Gibbs was sincere.

Tony's lips quirked, as he tipped his head on one side and pointed an accusing finger at the ex-marine, as he asked in something like amusement."Did you .. Did you just apologise to me? Isn't that a sign of weakness?"

"Not between friends." Gibbs allowed.

"Friends, huh?" Tony appeared to consider that, a hint of mischief appearing in his eyes. "Does this mean I get to call you Leroy?"

"Only, if you don't want to live." Gibbs grinned dangerously at him.

"O-kay," Tony drawled, his confidence not remotely dented. "What about Jethro?"

Gibbs allowed himself a genuinely amused smile the younger man had earned that much. Still, best to start as he meant to go on, reaching out he cuffed the younger man non too gently across the back of the head. As he had expected, DiNozzo blinked but didn't flinch, instead he looked almost grateful that the ex-marine was prepared to bring him up short.

"Guess that's a no," He made a face, as he rubbed the back of his head, pausing as Gibbs narrowed his eyes and Gibbs could see his mind working rapidly to see what else was required. "Sir?"

"You work for me you call me Boss or Gibbs." The ex-marine told him.

"Yes sir." Tony nodded solemnly.

Gibbs gave him an old fashioned look, pretty sure that the younger man was just doing it to yank his chain. He kinda hoped so. It had been a while since he had had an Agent who was prepared to push his boundaries and one thing was for sure, working with DiNozzo would never be boring.

"Wait a minute," DiNozzo frowned at him. He'd figured Gibbs had discharged any obligation he might have towards him when he had offered to speak up for him at the review board. Not to mention his offer to come to the funeral. Not that Tony would hold him to that. In their line of work cases cut through the best of intentions but he definately hadn't expected anything else. "Was that a job offer?"

"You're supposed to be an investigator," Gibbs reminded him. "You work it out."