Now that he had some time to himself, Tony started to seriously consider his future. It was a given that it wasn't going to be in Baltimore, but that was about all he was sure of. He sighed, settling more comfortably into his seat. It was nice to be the one driving again, though he knew Gibbs hadn't been pleased with his decision to return to Baltimore that night. However, it wasn't as if he had much choice. IA wanted to speak with him first thing in the morning, and it made more sense for him to drive back tonight rather than get up at some ungodly time in the morning and try to make it in time. Besides, he felt as though he'd imposed upon the other man more than enough. It was time for him to start dealing with his own mess. He had every confidence that Gibbs would bring down the black market ring, and Jimmy Courtland was going to be behind bars for a long time. Just a few loose ends to clear up, and he'd be heading out of Baltimore for good. 'Maybe California,' Tony mused. 'Nice, sunny climate, girls in bikinis... or maybe Florida. After all, it is a premier spring break destination. And I always did enjoy spring break.'

His thoughts were interrupted when his cell phone went off. It startled him, as he'd almost forgotten he even had it. Frowning as he considered who might be calling him, he answered, "DiNozzo."

"You'd better not be going back to your apartment," Gibbs growled.

Tony blinked in surprise and then smiled. "Aww, Gibbs, you're worried."

"Damn right I am. Need I remind you that seem to be persona non grata in Baltimore? I said you could go back, but that doesn't mean I want to be attending your funeral. Kate got you a room at the Radisson under the name Tony Gibbs. It's already paid for, you just need to pick up the key," Gibbs said.

For a moment, Tony was speechless. He couldn't believe that Gibbs and his team had gone to that much trouble for him. "Thanks, Gibbs," he finally managed to get out.

"You can thank me by staying alive. Get your butt back here after your meeting," Gibbs ordered.

"Understood. See you tomorrow," Tony said, and then heard the click as Gibbs disconnected. He shook his head. The man had terrible phone etiquette, but he certainly proved himself on the important stuff. Still a bit dazed, Tony spent the remainder of his drive entertaining fantasies that he knew didn't have a chance in hell of ever being realized.


Gibbs glared at Lance Corporal Richard Carpenter. The man still hadn't spoken a word, but Gibbs didn't really care about that. He was pretty sure they wouldn't need anything the man had to say. However, he did want Carpenter to realize just how much trouble he was in. Calmly, he placed the evidence bag with Corporal Bailey's cell phone in it on the table.

"This phone belongs to Corporal Todd Bailey, who just happens to be in our morgue downstairs. It was found on your person, with plenty of your prints upon it. We've also found your DNA on Corporal Bailey's body. Your shoes have fresh mud on them from the training ground at Quantico, even though you were discharged months ago. You do see where I'm going here, don't you? We have you cold for the murder of Corporal Todd Bailey, though I have to admit it wasn't much of a loss. Of course, that's not all. You've also been identified by a witness as being part of a white slavery ring operating in Baltimore. You're going to disappear into a deep, dark hole and never come back out," Gibbs promised.

"I want a lawyer," Carpenter said.

"Oh, you can have your lawyer. I'm done with you. I just wanted to look into your eyes when I told you your future," Gibbs said with a smirk, picking up the evidence bag and turning away.

"Wait," Carpenter said.

Gibbs turned slightly, his eyebrows raised. "For what?"

"If I'm going down, I'm not going down alone," Carpenter said grimly.


Tony had just stepped out of the shower when his phone went off again. "DiNozzo."

"We got them," Gibbs said, his voice dripping with satisfaction. "Carpenter sang like a canary when he realized there was no way he was getting out of this."

"So, clue me in. What was going on?" Tony asked, getting comfortable on the bed.

"Turns out, the whole thing was masterminded by a Quarter Master at Quantico. Man by the name of Donovan Stalwarth..."

"Stalwarth? As in Stalwarth Industries? The company that went under about ten years back?" Tony interrupted.

"That would be the one," Gibbs confirmed. "Seemed he didn't like having to work for a living, so he set about making his own fortune--no matter who got hurt in the process. He found a couple of wealthy buyers in the Mideast and set about procuring for them anything they wanted... and I do mean anything."

"So, he used his powers for evil. Face would be very disappointed," Tony said.

Ignoring the comment, Gibbs continued, "General Thompson is making it his priority to round up the rest of the men involved, though there are only a few left. Stalwarth knew that the more people involved, the more likely it was he'd be caught."

"True. And if Mullens hadn't had a grudge against the General, then Alison wouldn't have been dragged into it, and then who knows how long it would have been before anyone discovered what was happening. Speaking of, how is Alison doing, have you heard anything?" Tony asked.

"Agent Cassidy brought her back here once Stalwarth was apprehended. The General is taking her on a vacation. Said he wanted a chance to really get to know his daughter, and she him," Gibbs said.

"That's good. I'm glad things are working out for her," Tony stated. "So, does that mean I can go back to my apartment? All the marines out to get me have been accounted for, right?"

Gibbs hesitated. He didn't know why, but his gut told him that it wasn't a good idea. "Not yet. There are still some unanswered questions," he said.

Tony frowned, but didn't argue. "All right, but I'm going to have to go back sometime. I'm running out of clothes."

"You can manage another day. We'll talk about it tomorrow." And then the phone went dead.

Clicking his own phone shut, Tony collapsed back onto the bed. 'Tomorrow...'


Tony stepped out of the interview room and breathed a huge sigh of relief. His shooting of Mullens had been ruled self-defense. He hadn't had much time to worry about the outcome of the investigation, what with working with Gibbs nonstop since he'd called to let the man know he had his missing witness, but it was good to know that he wouldn't be facing a disciplinary hearing. Truthfully, if NCIS hadn't taken over the case, he had doubts that the investigation would have cleared him. Now, however, the case was closed, Tony was cleared, and he hadn't the faintest idea of what to do with himself. Sure, Gibbs wanted him back in DC today, but after that? In any case, he was turning in his resignation as soon as his medical leave was up.

Sliding into his car, Tony was just about to start the engine when he felt a blade next to his throat. "Follow my instructions or I'll slit your throat right here and mess up your pretty car," a low voice growled.

"Sure, no problem," Tony agreed, even as his mind was racing. He was sure he'd locked the car, and it was supposed to be a secure parking ramp. 'Right, secure unless your name happened to be Anthony DiNozzo,' he thought to himself. "This is all original interior," he said, "and there's no way all the blood would come out."

"Shut up and drive," the voice said, and the blade pressed into his skin to emphasize the point.

"Shutting up," Tony muttered. He pulled smoothly out of the spot and headed for the exit.

When they reached the street, he finally received some directions. "Head for your apartment," he was told.

For some reason, that idea sent a chill through him, but he was in no position to protest. And something about the voice seemed familiar, but he just couldn't place it. Was it one of the guys he'd put away? One of the marines he and Gibbs had questioned? It didn't sound like any of the cops he knew... Unobtrusively, he started to ease one of his hands towards his pocket.

"None of that," the voice warned. "Both hands on the wheel."

Mentally cursing, Tony did as he was told. He'd have to make his move when they got to his place. The guy would have to remove the knife in order to get out, after all.

He was two streets away when he happened to notice his tail, and he'd never been so relieved to be followed in his life. He didn't know how or why, but Gibbs was two car lengths behind him. "Any parking preference?" he asked, hoping to keep his unwanted passenger distracted.

"Your normal spot, DiNozzo."

"Hey, you know my name. That's hardly fair. Why don't you introduce yourself, since we're on such intimate terms at the moment," Tony suggested.

"Oh you know my name," the voice assured him. "You as good as murdered my boy, so I'm going to return the favor."

At that, Tony was stunned for a moment, before the penny dropped. "Mr. Arnett?" he asked, in disbelief.

"See, you are a detective. And soon, you're going to be a dead detective. We're going to go up to your apartment, where you will be so overcome with grief over the death of your partner than you're going to join him. Seems fitting, doesn't it?" William Arnett asked, the knife pressing in just enough for blood to begin dripping down the blade.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I don't really think so. After all, Brian beat a woman to death, and all I did was make sure he paid for it," Tony stated, as he pulled into his regular parking spot. A quick glance in the rear view mirror didn't show him Gibbs, so he hoped the NCIS agent was somewhere nearby.

"She was just a whore and he was my son. My son, DiNozzo, was worth quite a bit more than some piece of street trash and he was worth more than you," Arnett assured him.

"Yeah, my father would probably agree with you there," Tony stated quietly. He turned off the engine and waited, hands clenched tightly on the steering wheel.

"Now, you're going to get out nice and easy," Arnett instructed, slowly removing the knife. "I've got a gun pointed at your spinal column now, and I'm pretty sure I couldn't miss at this range, even with my left hand."

Moving as though he were made of glass, Tony maneuvered himself out of the car, being extra careful not to drip blood on the seat.

"Stop right there. Don't move a muscle," Arnett said, and Tony heard him getting out of the car and then closing both doors.

'I bet the bastard didn't even bother to lock it,' he thought bitterly. He pasted a smile on his face when he saw one of the daily dog walkers headed his way. He couldn't make his move yet, not with innocent bystanders apt to get caught in the crossfire. He'd have to wait until they reached his apartment. The thought had no more than flashed through his mind when he felt an arm come around his shoulders and Arnett scooted close to him as if they were old friends... that is, if you didn't take into account the gun he could feel jabbing into one of the bruises on his side.

"Upstairs," Arnett said, and Tony started moving.

'I wonder if they've fixed the door yet?' Tony thought idly as they rode up in the elevator. He never took the elevator himself, preferring the stairs, but he supposed Arnett might be worried about being pushed over the side. Still no sign of Gibbs, but Tony trusted he was around somewhere. When they reached his floor, it was a tense walk to his apartment where, he was sad to see, there was nothing but plastic covering the doorway. "Oh great, I wonder if my TV is still there," he groused.

"That's the least of your worries at the moment, DiNozzo. Get in there," Arnett said, even as he gave Tony a push through the plastic.

Tony went through easily enough, but he turned at the last second, whipping the plastic around Arnett's arm and pushing it upward. The gun went off and then they were both on the floor, each struggling to gain control of the gun.

"God damn it, DiNozzo. You couldn't wait one more minute?" Gibbs complained as he came running out of Tony's bedroom gun at the ready.

"I'm kind of impatient," Tony gasped out, just before Arnett slammed his head back into Tony's nose.

"All right, that's enough," Gibbs growled as he stalked over and stomped his foot down on Arnett's gun hand. There was sickening crunch and a howl of pain as the gun was released, and then Gibbs grabbed Arnett's hair and and pulled his head back with one hand while pressing a gun to Arnett's throat with the other. "It's over. Release Dinozzo or you're going to be decorating his apartment with what's left of your brains."

As soon as he was released, Tony rolled free, bringing his hand up to his bloody nose. "Ow," he stated. He heard movement from the hallway and immediately crouched, ready to take on any buddies that Arnett might have brought with him. It proved unnecessary, however, as an out of breath McGee and Kate stumbled to the door, guns drawn.

Cocking an eyebrow, Gibbs asked, "What kept you?"


Kate and McGee had taken a subdued Arnett out of the apartment and were even now on their way first to the ER, and then back to DC. No way was Gibbs going to trust him to the Baltimore PD.

Tony leaned against his kitchen counter, a bag of frozen vegetables pressed to his nose. "How did you know?" he asked Gibbs, who was sipping at a cup of Tony's most excellent coffee.

"McGee finally managed to get ahold of Gunner Peterson. Turns out, the day he was destroying the bad batch of ordnance, he'd had lunch with an old marine buddy..."

"William Arnett," Tony finished for him, shaking his head.

"Yep. He remembered that batch in particular, as he had the worst case of food poisoning of his life that day. Arnett slipped something into Peterson's food so he could make off with some of the explosives," Gibbs said.

"I still can't believe it was Brian's father that was trying to kill me, but it does explain a few things. He still has friends at the precinct, and I'm sure one of them would have had no problems with keeping tabs on me... or making a copy of my car keys for him," Tony said.

"His friends aren't going to be able to help him now. Stealing explosives from a military base is a federal crime, which makes him mine," Gibbs stated with a feral grin.

"I almost feel sorry for him. I never wanted Brian dead, but I couldn't let him get away with murder. I think he would have done it again. He had anger management issues," Tony said.

"It wasn't your fault, Tony," Gibbs said. "You did the right thing."

Tony stared at Gibbs for a few moments, and then slowly smiled. "You know, there's been something I've been dying to do since the moment we met."

"What's that?" Gibbs asked.

"This..." Tony moved towards Gibbs, closing the gap between them slowly, giving the other man plenty of time to move away or stop him. When that didn't happen, he closed his eyes and pressed his lips against Gibbs'. Almost immediately, they opened in response, and Gibbs put down his coffee cup so he could pull Tony closer.

After a few minutes of hot, wet kisses, Gibbs pulled back, panting slightly. "We can't do this," he said.

"Why not?" Tony asked, moving in for another kiss. God, Gibbs was a good kisser...

"Rule number 12, never date a co-worker," Gibbs managed to get out once they came back up for air.

"Last I knew, we weren't co-workers," Tony countered.

"We will be as soon as you sign the papers." Gibbs backed up, putting some distance between them. "You're joining my team. I need a trained investigator with field experience, and we work well together."

Tony frowned. "Wait, don't I get a say in this?"

"Do you have a better offer?" Gibbs asked.

"Well, no..."

"Then it's settled. Be in the office at 8 AM in two weeks or don't bother showing up," Gibbs stated, and then he walked out, leaving a stunned DiNozzo behind him.

Tony slumped down into one of the kitchen chairs. 'Well, damn.' He wasn't quite sure what to think. But then he grinned. He was going to be on Gibbs' team! And as for rule number 12, well, rules were made to be broken.