Title: The Boat, the Bourbon and the Basement

Summary: He gets it. Gibbs did, too…

Spoilers: Post "Bounce" tag. Mentions "Twilight", "Frame Up" and implies past character death.

Disclaimer: Bellisario owns them. I just kidnap them and feed them cookies.

Notes: I loved the episode, but I just needed a little something more…


Reagan was hell to get out of.

Even with Gibbs at the wheel, getting into the G.W. Parkway from Reagan is tricky business during a weekday. And getting into three lanes filled with drivers all wanting to go the same way as Gibbs usually meant a few car horns, some tire screeching and everyone tumbling out of the car at the yards, looking like Ducky needed to be there with his liver probe.

The ride back to the yards this time was surprisingly uneventful. Then again, Tony was too busy staring at the underbellies of 747s as they soared by to notice Gibbs was actually staying within the speed limit for once.

"Think you can get me that report by tonight?" Gibbs said gruffly, by way of announcing they'd arrived.

Tony blinked once and, like putting on his trench coat, his reply slipped out just as easy. "Already half done in my head, boss."

Gibbs grunted, levered out of the car and, with the thump of the driver's door, it was back to business.

It should annoy Tony that everyone looked relieved Gibbs was boss again. Should, but frankly, Tony was a little too tired, too something to care anymore. He thought he heard McGee mutter something about it being like being in a mirror universe without the goatees. Tony smirked as he dropped himself heavily into his seat. Knowing McGeek, it was probably a sci-fi reference, not a movie reference, and Tony mentally filed it away in his list of things to Google later to use as Probie ammo.

Across his desk, Ziva gave him a look that, even to this day, he couldn't tell whether it was sympathy or something else. Tony swallowed a sigh as he shrugged off his coat and turned on his computer. He could tell without looking that Ziva was trying hard not to stare, which, of course, made it more obvious.

It had been easier with Kate. She hadn't liked something, she'd tell you; her temper was honed and trained from years working in a macho world before she joined them. There was an almost Marine-like mincing to her language that had probably made Gibbs proud. But he'd always known what she was thinking. Which could be good and bad.

Even when she surprised Tony with that rare moment of "okay, I don't think you're a jerk all the time," it wasn't that much of a shock. Because Tony always suspected Kate was still a woman with the warm and fuzzy niceties of one hidden inside. Tony could expect it; treasure it when it did come. Kate had never truly surprised him. The only time she'd ever surprised him was when her head snapped back and her blood splattered—

Not now, Anthony. Not now.

"You did not find Renny?"

"Nope," Tony quipped as he pulled up a new document and started typing away.

Thank you, Saint Mary's College, he thought as the words came automatically, arranged in bullet points because ex-Marines don't want War and Peace,they want an outline for a pamphlet. His eyes on the monitor, Tony didn't look up.

"Must have just missed him," Tony murmured as he filled in the details in his report. His upper lip curled. What's a more political correct way to say FUBAR? He had to stop himself from pounding at the keys. At one point, instead of 'screwed up', Tony wrote "screeeeeeeeeeeeeeewed up." Thank God for backspace.

"Pity." Ziva offered only that one word before the keyboard clacked away on her desk, faster, as if to prove she can.

McGee cleared his voice. "So, uh…should we put out a BOLO?"

Tony was tempted to look up to see whom McGee was directing the question at, but instead he just shrugged. "Boss?"

"Beyond our reach now," Gibbs replied with that tone that also added, "Drop it." And, of course, they all did, because Gibbs has a way of making you drop things or hold onto grenades until they blow your hands off. It was the one thing Tony was sure he'll never master.

Renny's probably pulling a Andy Dufresne and working on a boat in some coast in Mexico, Tony thought. All he could feel about that though was a roiling twist in his stomach Tony was certain wasn't from too many sake bombing. He glanced up and caught McGee's and Ziva's heads ducking behind their monitors. Tony checked up on Gibbs. The former Marine was on his mobile, Abby's teeny voice audible even from here.

"Well," McGee chuckled, but it came off pretty crappy, "'least you weren't framed for murder this time."

"Yeah," Tony grunted. He stared at Renny Grant's picture on his screen.

That might have been better though.


The NCIS gym was always empty after eighteen hundred, because everyone was too focused on going home to take advantage of the equipment downstairs. Tony had nodded to the guard posted on the double doors, signed in and saw no one else was on the floor.

The punching bag was dented with sweat by the time Tony finally checked the time. He grunted and shook loose his aching fists as he stared at the clock on the wall. Late enough to go home, grab dinner and hit the sack. He should go home. Nothing more could be done here. Things were fixed. A man was cleared. Another would get life. It was time to go home.

Tony gave the canvas lump one last punch, hard enough his elbow vibrated. He then pivoted sharply and headed for the showers.


Wilson's face blurred no matter how many times he knuckled his eyes. Tony squinted, but the lieutenant's face just became a fuzzy dot again.

"Come on, come on," Tony muttered. He twisted around to a drawer and rummaged for his eye drops. He made a face when his hand curled around the crusty little bottle under the layers of pens, pencils and candy bars.

A plastic vial bounced off his head and dropped to his lap.

"I wouldn't use that one, DiNozzo. Expired."

Tony closed his eyes and pushed the drawer closed before he slowly swiveled back to face the shadow looming over him.

"Boss," Tony sighed. He peered up and paused at the two coffee cups Gibbs held.

"Wow, two-fisted drinker now? Seriously, boss, I think you should seek he—"

One cardboard-sleeved cup was set down in front of his keyboard. Tony blinked. He curled a hand around the warm middle and took a cautious sniff. He gaped.

"Jamaica mocha." Gibbs's mouth quirked. He pulled the other cup to his lips. "How many have you reviewed so far?"

Tony's shoulders slumped. "Just got up to the first month I was boss." They'd had a lot of cases. Tony screwed up his face at Gibbs. "How'd you know?"

Gibbs gestured toward Tony with his coffee cup. "You said you get the boat. I get this." He scowled. "One case doesn't mean every case was wrong."

The grimace Tony made was both for the coffee burning his tongue and for Gibbs' remark. He said nothing and sat back in his chair. Odd, this chair felt better behind this desk. He'd swapped chairs when Gibbs had left—retired—but it never felt like it fit around him.

Gibbs's voice lowered. "You can't second-guess yourself, Tony." He made his way to his desk and sat down. He turned on a lamp with a quick flick of a wrist. "You have to be able to close a case and walk away from it."

Tony frowned. "Can't be right all the time," he argued, "look what happened last time with you and For…" Tony gulped and took another sip of coffee under the dark look sent across the bullpen.

"No." Gibbs surprised Tony by agreeing. He rifled through the reports on his desk. "You can't be right all the time, but you can't think you're wrong all the time, either. You go with your gut and tell yourself it's enough."

Tony stared. A talkative Gibbs was weird. Maybe that's what McGee was talking about with all that mirror business.

Tony dropped his eyes and studied his cup. Absently, he peeled the edges of the sleeve. He leveled a gaze at Gibbs again.

"Is it enough though?"

Gibbs gazed back at Tony with little expression.

Tony grimaced and nodded. "Boat, bourbon, basement. Right. Got it." He held up the eye drops and grinned crookedly. "Thanks, boss." He tipped his head back and blinked until the soothing solution eased the burning away.

"See? Told you he would be here."

What the hell? Tony raised his head and squinted at the watery images of McGee and Ziva by his desk.

"Geez, you people have no concept of what 'good night, see you tomorrow' means."

Ziva rolled her eyes and nodded toward McGee. "He wagered you would be here, not home with your DVDs." She made a face even as she dug into her pockets and slapped a bill onto McGee's waiting palm with a huff. "You did not say you would be here."

Tony grinned. "Well next time, I'll just put it up on Facebook. You could check it out there when I poke you."

Ziva's eyes widened. "How did you—"

McGee shot Ziva a wide-eyed look. "You're on Facebook?"

Tony swallowed back a snicker as he waved them off. "You two shouldn't be here."

"Neither should you two," Ziva pointed out smugly.

"I'm just reviewing some things," Tony sighed.

Everyone turned expectantly toward Gibbs. Their boss only stared back, not offering any answer. But then again, who was going to demand one from him?

McGee cleared his throat and squirmed. He leaned over and turned Tony's monitor toward him.

"Hey, look at porn on your own computer, McNosy!"

McGee frowned. "Isn't that the suicide case a couple of years back when you were—Oh."

Ziva cocked her head to the side and considered Tony. "How many cases have you gone through?"

"Not many," Tony grumbled and he reached over to spin the monitor back around. "Just double-checking some things."

"You know, Tony…" McGee fidgeted. His shoulders slumped. "I didn't catch that the logs were falsified the first time."

"And I," Ziva said softly, "dismissed Commander Davis as a suspect after I had interviewed him." She exchanged a look with McGee. "We came back to see if there was anything else we might have missed."

It was weird how people, even after a while, can still surprise you. Tony grinned up wanly at them. This oddly reminded him of a campfire, the light from his computer monitor flickering in the center.

"I was team leader then—my responsibility," Tony reminded them. "A case is closed when I say it's closed, not when you guys say it's closed. Can't second-guess yourself all the time; we'd never get anything done."

"Couldn't have said that better myself," Gibbs murmured from his desk.

Tony smirked half-heartedly to himself. He wished he could see Gibbs from where he was, but McGee blocked his view. He waved at the two still standing there.

"I'll finish up here, but I'm pretty sure—No, I know, everything was airtight." Tony shooed them. "Go home."

"No offense, Tony," McGee grinned cheekily, "but you used to complain about my reports being too geeky. Might be better if I review my own notes."

"And I am a much faster reader than you," Ziva said with a smug smirk as she sashayed to her desk. "You move your lips. It is very inefficient."

"I'm a careful reader!"

"And I," Gibbs growled, but Tony knew better, as he stalked over to his desk, "am waiting for your report, DiNozzo." Grady's case file dropped squarely on Tony's desk.

Tony's brow knitted. He opened the folder. "But I already…"

His report, all printed out, had a huge red circle drawn over the lines of text. "Fix it" was tattooed across the page in big, red letters.

"On it, boss," Tony murmured, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth as he tore his report in half. He met Gibbs's eyes and nodded.

"Good," Gibbs grunted and went back to his seat.

"Maybe we should get some dinner then?" McGee suggested as he squinted at his monitor. "Chinese?"

"Italian?" Ziva suggested.

Tony brightened. "Pizza?"

Gibbs grunted out his vote and Tony crowed a "Yes" as McGee pulled up a menu online.

"Who's buying?" Ziva asked suspiciously.

Tony relished taking a drink of his coffee before answering.

"How about Gibbs?" Tony suggested, eyebrow raised, a sly grin across his lips. "He could pay for it with the forty bucks he won from you two earlier."

Oh, man, the collective look of surprise the three shared with each other was almost as satisfying as the meat's lover pizza that came twenty minutes later.


The End


Author's Note: Many thanks to brate for the beta! Feedback is like cookies. I like cookies. -lol-