When Gibbs and Kate entered a half hour later, Tony was sitting by the camera, checking out Amanda through the lens, and McGee was by the computer.
"Did anything happen?" Gibbs asked.
"Nope!" McGee said, too quickly. "Not a thing, boss."
Tony barely kept from rolling his eyes. Though he knew it was probably already over, he said, "Very quiet."
"Very," McGee agreed immediately.
Gibbs zoomed in on McGee. "Is that why you seem so anxious, Special Agent McGee?"
"Me?" McGee squeaked.
Kate frowned at Tony. "What did you do to him?"
"Nothing," Tony said.
"This place looks too clean." Before she had time to go off on a tirade about what Tony might or might not have done, her phone rang. She excused herself and stepped away.
"Where is she now?" Gibbs asked.
"Uh—in the back of the house," Tony said. "In the kitchen."
Gibbs leaned over a very uncomfortable looking McGee. "Did you check her trash?"
"Ah, yes, boss," McGee said. "And nothing unusual."
"Have it sent to Abby for prints," Gibbs said.
"Yes, boss," McGee said.
Tony entertained himself by turning the audio surveillance towards Kate instead. Her private conversation with lover boy Dwayne was recorded – until she turned and discovered him, at which point she quickly ended the call.
"DiNozzo!" she snapped, thoroughly annoyed.
Tony smiled at her. "Sounds like Dwayne's in love."
Kate looked at Gibbs. "Permission to shoot him?"
"Mm-hmm," Gibbs said, as though it was perfectly fine. Of course, it was – Kate had asked to be allowed to shoot him on at least two other occasions that he could remember right off the bat. Again, he wondered if she even liked him.
Abby called, telling them that whoever died in the fire wasn't Voss.
"He's alive with all those millions," McGee said.
"Living la dolce vita," Tony said dreamily. "Lucky bastard."
"Not for long," Gibbs growled. "Kate, you're with me."
"Where are we going, Gibbs?"
"Geo-tech Lab," Gibbs said. "Tony, you stay put."
The tone suggested that Gibbs knew perfectly well that Tony hadn't followed his orders about not talking to Amanda. For the thousandth time, Tony wondered how Gibbs always knew.
"But boss, I just—"
"This is not a debate, DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "You stay here. You do not contact her."
Tony nearly pouted at Gibbs, even though that had never worked. He knew he could get Amanda to talk if he just got to spend some time alone with her. And besides, considering he was never going to bed Gibbs, he might as well enjoy himself with the eye-candy right in front of him.
Gibbs gave him a measuring look, daring him to defy him. Tony sighed, signaling defeat, and Gibbs gave a short nod. Kate trailed after him as he walked out.
McGee looked at Tony with something like fearful wonder.
"What, McGoo?" he asked, a bit snappish. "Not all of us become idiots when the boss is around."
"I don't—uh," McGee said.
Tony turned back to the camera, moodily ignoring McGee. McGee seemed happier for it; he turned back to the computer and whatever it was he entertained himself with there.
In his mind's eye, death flashed before Tony again. He knew that Gibbs' order was only to keep him safe and sound. Voss had brutally murdered Pacci when he was keeping track of Amanda and it was, unfortunately, all too likely that the same thing could happen to him if Voss was around and he realized that Tony was a federal agent.
Still, Tony hadn't chosen this job because he wanted to be safe. If he had wanted safety, he would have been much better off staying in his father's company.
He and McGee barely talked for the next hour. Amanda stayed inside, reading the newspaper and eating. By the looks of the magazines, she enjoyed gardening, interior design and fashion.
By the time McGee broke the silence with his question on where he got the name 'Stringfellow' from, Tony's mood had bettered. He had pushed the thoughts of death, Gibbs, and his father's wishes for him out of his mind. Conversing with McGee was fun, especially when this one quickly turned into him taunting McGee for his writing.
"I never should have told you," McGee muttered.
Tony protested. "No, no, no! No, no – it's good! That's good stuff. We're bonding. Hey, uh—where do you get your ideas?"
McGee sound completely convinced that it was a good idea to tell Tony. "Well, uh, cases like this one. Guy steals millions of dollars, makes it look like he's dead, has his girlfriend buy the old family home."
Tony frowned. He had never attempted to write in his life – it had never been of interest to him. Books were just not as fun as movies. "Hmm. Isn't that plagiarism?"
McGee looked like he had never thought about it that way. "I—I don't think so."
Tony shrugged, and turned back to the camera. Just then, the mail man arrived, placing a package on the top of Amanda's mail box.
"I'd love to see the return address," he said. "I'm going to get a look at that package."
Gibbs' rules be damned – that package might have something of importance.
McGee didn't seem to think it was a good idea. As Tony brushed past him on his way out, he heard McGee's protest. "No, no! Tony, I don't think that's a good idea. Tony!"
Tony flew down the stairs, out the door and crossed the street with a few long strides. With another three steps, he'd reached the package, and grabbed it. 'Miss Amanda Reed, 215 40th street, Georgetown, DE 19947' it said, and below that, 'Products That Defy The Aging Process'.
Anti-aging cream, Tony concluded with a frown. That really wasn't helpful. He was glaring at the package, wishing for x-ray vision and wondering if it was really beauty products inside, when the door opened and Amanda stood looking at him, eyebrows raised in question.
His heart raced, his mind working best it could to come up with some plausible explanation for him being there, holding her mail in his hands.
"Hey," he said.
"Stringfellow," she said, still frowning.
Tony laughed nervously. "You remembered my name."
"How could I forget it?" Amanda said. "What are you doing here?"
"Ah, well," Tony said. "I could—I could say that I'm your new mailman."
He only barely managed to avoid wincing at his own words. It was such a lousy explanation.
"Which I wouldn't believe," Amanda said.
Tony forced himself to be calm and simply use the charm that he'd used on so many women – and a few men – before her. "All right. How about, uh, I just wanted to see you again."
He held out the package to her and she took it. He could feel her gauging him and he smiled slightly, encouragingly, at her. She chuckled at his look.
"Do you like espresso?" she asked finally, and he knew he was in.
"Oh yeah," he said. "I love espresso."
She invited him in and he followed. Her place was clean, spacious, and there was a moving box in the corner that suggested that she hadn't lived there all that long.
She headed straight to the kitchen and he gave the place a once over – he wasn't the least bit interested in interior design, but since he knew she was, it was a good topic to start with.
"Single or double?" she asked.
"Single," he said. "I like it strong."
"Same here," she said, and the way she spoke hinted that she wasn't just talking about the coffee.
The coffee machine whizzed to life and a minute later, Amanda handed him a cup of coffee. She smiled coyly at him.
"Smells great," he said, allowing their hands to brush just a little.
She made a cup for herself and sipped it slowly.
Although they began talking with ease, starting on interior design as he'd planned and continued onto colleges and sports – she was surprisingly knowledgeable about sports for a woman, at least compared to the women he usually hooked up with – Gibbs' face flashed before him a few times. He'd get head smacked for real this time for not following Gibbs' orders.
Glancing at his watch, he realized that an hour had passed by the time she asked him if he wanted to go to Paddy's Pub with her.
"Great," she said when he agreed. "Let me go change into something else, Stringfellow."
"Okay," Tony said, smiling. "I'm going to wait outside."
She smiled and walked seductively away from him. He watched her for a second before hurrying out. Once outside, he hurried across the street to the apartment and McGee.
"Did you get that? Paddy's Pub," he said excitedly. McGee didn't look nearly as excited – in fact, he looked pissed off. He held up the phone. Tony winced, already knowing, and whispered, "Gibbs?"
McGee nodded. "Yeah."
Tony grimaced. "They're watching me?"
McGee nodded again.
Tony took the phone and tried to sound as casual as possible. "Hey, boss."
"DiNozzo, what the hell are you doing?" Gibbs asked.
"I had an opening," Tony said. "It was a clear field. I had to go for it."
It sounded rather lame even to his own ears – but Gibbs surprised him. "Good."
"Good?" Tony echoed disbelievingly.
"Yeah," Gibbs said. "Good, Tony. You're the bait, okay? Voss is out there somewhere, watching you like he watched Chris."
Tony was suddenly not quite as keen on going on a date with Amanda, as images of Pacci's gutted body flowed through his mind. "Like he watched Chris."
"Enjoy your date," Gibbs said, as though he didn't quite care that Tony might be next on Voss' hit list. But then he added, "And stay out of elevators."
A smile ghosted over Tony's lips. That was as much of a 'take care of yourself' as he would get from Gibbs – and it was enough.
"Okay, cover my back," Tony said to McGee.
"Got it," McGee said, and Tony was about to leave when he said, "Tony! Uh, how do I—how do I take the safety off?"
He held up his gun.
"You take—" Tony started, and then realized that McGee was kidding with him, grin wide.
Tony glared at him and hurried out. McGee would be following him at a safe distance.
A few minutes passed before Amanda opened the door. She looked stunning in a turquoise dress, her red hair spilling down over her shoulders. Tony thought for a second that Amanda could run for the spot as Gibbs' next ex-wife.
"You look great," Tony said. "Really."
"Thank you," Amanda said. "You don't look so bad yourself. Shall we?"
"Definitely," Tony said.
Amanda led the way to the pub. It was a dark and dingy pub, a hole in the wall off the street with an old, worn sign.
They ordered food – Tony realized how hungry he was; it had been hours since they ate lunch. Amanda seemed hungry enough too and unlike most women he knew, she wasn't picky about eating French fries. She looked deep into his eyes, her gaze smoldering, and told him he had beautiful eyes.
Tony's phone rang and he glanced at it. Gibbs.
"It's my boss," he said.
He wanted to answer, but answering in front of her would mean running the risk of her hearing what Gibbs had to say.
"Work hours are over," she said. "It's time to play."
"Yeah," he said, "but I've got to take this because I've—got to take the call—from my boss." She placed her finger on his lips and he smiled slightly. Gibbs would certainly not understand this, but Tony would deal with the consequences later. "I—can always call him back later."
Her lips were suddenly against his, warm and soft, hot and wanting. He wrapped his arms around her – he might as well enjoy this when he had the chance.
The food arrived, and Amanda pulled back. "I'm going to go wash my hands before we eat. I'll be right back."
She kissed him again, pressing her body against him.
"Okay," Tony said.
"Don't leave," she said coyly.
"Okay." He watched her ass as she walked away and then turned to McGee, who was sitting in the bar, and he grinned madly. McGee didn't seem as thrilled.
He flipped open his cell phone, calling Gibbs.
"Why didn't you answer the phone?" Gibbs snapped, obviously annoyed.
"I couldn't," Tony said, lying but not really. He hadn't been able to answer the phone with her looking at him like that.
"Where's Amanda?" Gibbs asked.
"Swell," Gibbs said sarcastically. "We can add that misdemeanor to the murder charges."
"What?" Tony asked, and it felt like someone had started pouring cold water over his head.
"Amanda is Lieutenant Commander Voss, DiNozzo."
Tony chuckled – Gibbs must be joking with him. Never mind that Gibbs never joked. Not like this. "Stop it. Come on."
"She's a he, bonehead," Gibbs said. "And if he's packing a three fifty-seven and a knife in his purse, he killed Chris."
The pouring of cold water had become an ice bucket dumped on his head. He was unable to form words. He ran the back of his hand over his lips, suddenly nauseous. He had just tongued Pacci's murderer. Her lovely smile was really not a woman's lovely smile at all, but the mad grin of a murdering transvestite.
He stared at her as she returned. "Oh, I'm famished." She took a bite of her food, but stopped to look at him, when he didn't stop staring at her. "Aren't you hungry?"
"I lost my appetite," Tony said.
"Hmm," Voss said, playing coy once more. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know where to begin," Tony said, and he really didn't. There were so many things wrong with this picture that he couldn't begin to list them all.
"Is this the same man I left sitting here a few minutes ago?" she asked, sounding a slight bit miffed.
"I don't know," Tony said, around the bile building in his throat. He wanted to go to the bathroom and wash his mouth free of all traces of her – him. "Are you the same woman?"
Voss leaned in, and Tony fought the urge to run. "Oh, yes. I—"
Voss ran a hand over his leg.
"Open your purse," Tony said and leaned his gun against Voss' hand.
Then there was commotion – in a smooth move, Voss pressed against him, causing his gun to go off, and she stood up, running away from him, screaming all the while. Two men grabbed Tony, one of them knocking his gun out of his hand. The other landed a blow across his jaw.
He heard McGee scream, "Federal agent! Move!"
But no one listened. Tony tried fighting back against the two burly guys holding onto him, but someone smacked a knee into his stomach and he doubled over. He punched back but they didn't let go and they were pushing him to the ground. He managed to get loose from someone but then something crashed down over his head, hard enough for him to hear the breakage – it must have been a bottle – and he went down, vision blurring and darkening. They took the chance and landed him on the ground, holding him down.
He saw Voss grab his purse and run, and Tony screamed, "Stop him! Stop him!"
Another blow landed on his face, silencing him. He tasted blood.
Suddenly, things fell silent. Tony's face was turned away from the entrance, a heavy hand pressing his face down, but he heard Gibbs' steady voice.
"His name was Special Agent Chris Pacci. And he was a friend."
Two beats, and then—a gunshot rang off. Tony heard a body fall to the ground, and for a second death flashed before his eyes again. Gibbs falling over, blood pooling from a wound in his forehead—
But then he heard Kate's voice. "Federal agents! So are these two! Let them go."
The two burly guys didn't seem completely convinced. They didn't help him up as he stood, and they glared hotly. He glared back but he felt dizzy. His stomach hurt – and the nausea of the she-is-a-he-and-he-murdered-Pacci revelation had not yet loosened its hold on his body.
His head ached, his vision swimming.
He found Gibbs' gaze on him, steady, angry, but safe. The anger wasn't directed at Tony.
With three long strides, Gibbs was suddenly by Tony's side.
"You okay, DiNozzo?" he asked.
"I—uh," Tony said. "He—"
Tony stared at the Voss' dead body. A pool of blood was growing steadily around Voss' head, looking nearly black in the dark pub. People were staring wide-eyed at Voss and at the four agents. Someone began whispering.
Gibbs turned to Kate and McGee. "Kate, get Ducky. McGee, get these people out of here."
They both nodded and a moment later, they started herding people out.
"Boss, I didn't mean to—" Tony said softly.
"Mean to what?" Gibbs asked.
"I didn't think she—he—I thought—" Tony said, and he wondered if this was what McGee always felt, when he was stammering away, unable to form complete, coherent sentences.
He felt Gibbs' hand on his shoulder and he looked up, wide-eyed.
"Sit down, DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "And have Ducky check you out when he gets here."
"I'm fine," Tony said, though he felt far from it.
"Yeah? How many fingers am I holding up?" Gibbs asked.
Tony hesitated a second before answering. His vision was swimming. "Three."
"Let Ducky check you out," Gibbs said. "That's an order. One that you will follow, unlike what you did earlier."
Tony nodded sheepishly and then regretted it when it made a bolt of pain pass through his skull. Gibbs had told him to stay put and not engage Amanda. If he had followed the order, then Tony wouldn't be sitting there, his head pounding and his lips still coated with Voss' lip gloss. He ran his hand over his lips again. He needed a shower to get the grime off.
If he hadn't been blinded by her beauty, then they could have taken her down in her home, without a pub full of onlookers and anyone's health in danger. Perhaps they could have taken Voss alive, so that he could actually rot in jail the way he ought to, instead of taking the easy way out with death.
He felt self-loathing grow like a black seed in his mind.
"I'm sorry, boss," he said. "I shouldn't have—"
"No," Gibbs said. "You shouldn't have. But apologizing won't change anything."
Tony looked at the floor.
"Stay put," Gibbs said. "You don't move until Ducky's cleared you."
Then he walked off and Tony was left sitting amidst a sea self-loathing and a pounding headache. He watched as McGee spoke to the pub keeper and Kate photographed Voss' body. The pool of blood around his head was no longer growing.
Ducky arrived with his assistant in tow. They inspected the body first so that it could be moved and then Ducky headed over to Tony.
"Well, Anthony, in the way of violence again," he said conversationally.
"It wasn't really my fault," Tony said. The fighting itself wasn't – why they'd gotten into the situation was. "They misinterpreted the situation."
"Yes, well, in another situation, they might have been considered gentlemen for helping a woman out," Ducky said. He shone a pen light into Tony's eyes; it was never a particularly fun experience. "Gibbs tells me they hit you over the head?"
"Yeah," Tony said. "A bottle."
He gave a small nod to the shards scattered over the floor.
"I see," Ducky said. He turned Tony's head to the side to look at the bruising Tony could feel was building. "Any dizziness? Nausea?"
Tony shrugged, looking down.
"Anthony?" Ducky probed.
"Yeah, well, a little, but it's pretty much gone now."
Ducky nodded, looking satisfied. "I think you need to go home and get some rest. It would be good if you had someone with you, just in case."
"Ducky, I'm fine," Tony said.
Ducky pursed his lips. "You let me be the judge of that."
Gibbs came over, standing right behind Ducky. "How is he?"
"Thickheaded, in every sense of the word," Ducky said.
"I'll be fine," Tony said wearily. "It was just a bottle."
"And a punch, and a knee, according to McGee," Gibbs said.
"Probie needs glasses," Tony muttered.
He stood up, though he leaned on the table just a little bit so that he wouldn't show Ducky and Gibbs just how woozy he was still feeling.
Ducky gave him a look that said he clearly wasn't fooled. "He should have someone with him at home tonight."
Gibbs nodded. "I'll take him home."
"No—no, boss, that's—I have to go to the office and—there's the report," Tony said. "And really, I'm fine, I don't need—"
Having Gibbs around when Tony was feeling more than a little disgusted with himself? Not if he could help it. Then again, he probably couldn't help it; Gibbs had that look in his eyes that told Tony to shut it and just go along with what they decided for him.
"We are going by the office first," Gibbs said. "And then I'm taking you home."
"I'll take a cab—" Tony started, but then he shut his mouth at Gibbs' stern look.
"Get some ice on that when you get back to the office, then," Ducky said.
"Boss, we've finished," McGee said, coming up to the trio. "Voss' body is in the van, and we've got statements from the bar keeper and a few of the guests."
Gibbs nodded curtly. "You go with Kate in your car."
"Yes, boss," McGee said.
"Well, then," Ducky said, "I'm off too. I'll see you tomorrow, gentlemen."
He trotted off. Tony was left with Gibbs, who looked grim. Without a word, he turned and walked out, obviously expecting Tony to follow. Tony did, albeit slower than usual. When he came outside, he found Gibbs' car parked on the curb, highly illegal, but it didn't matter – it was what had allowed them to be on time to get Voss. Standing by the car, Gibbs watched Tony as he walked, challenging him to say that he was fine when his world was obviously still a bit tilted.
They rode in silence back to the office. Tony leaned back in his seat. Gibbs drove like a maniac as usual, but with a tight grip on the ceiling handle, Tony could follow the car's movements. He still felt nauseous, and when he closed his eyes he saw Voss, smiling at him with that sultry, lazy smile. Bile rose in his throat.
They would all think, of course, that it was because he'd kissed a transvestite. But considering that he had to use both his hands to count the number of guys he'd had sex with, he didn't feel that was it.
He had kissed – and enjoyed kissing – Pacci's murderer. He had kissed the murderer of a friend.
Their footfalls echoed through the garage and they rode the elevator up to the bullpen. Gibbs still didn't say a word.
Abby was already there, leaning against McGee's desk.
"Tony!" she exclaimed upon seeing him. She rushed forward and hugged him. Tony hoped it didn't show on his face just how much more the momentum of Abby's body against his made his head hurt; she was only trying to show concern, in her Abby way. "Ducky wanted me to give you this."
She held out an icepack. Tony took it. "Great," he said with little enthusiasm. "Thanks."
He crushed it and held it against his head. He doubted it would help much – too long had passed since the hit – but it still felt nice and cool. He sat down, sighing into his chair. He would turn on his computer and write his report soon – just as soon as the elephants stopped stomping around in his head.
"I didn't really believe it when I first saw the DNA results," Abby said, returning to McGee. "I mean – he really looked like a woman."
Voss' female face flashed before Tony's eyes. He could still feel her lips against his. He swallowed back bile.
"He certainly had a convincing disguise," McGee said. There was some badly masked glee in his voice as he glanced at Tony.
"That reminds me of 'The Crying Game'," Abby said.
"Don't know it," McGee said.
"It was such a cool flick," Abby said.
"Abby – could you pick some other movie, please?" Tony said, exasperation obvious. God, he wanted to go home. But Gibbs was going through Pacci's things and it would be at least another half hour before he was done, before everything was as pristine as Gibbs wanted it when he presented the things to Pacci's family.
"Oh, um," Abby said, pondering. "'Victor, Victoria'?"
Tony looked at her. He remembered the movie, although he'd only seen it once. "That was a girl, pretending to be a guy, pretending to be a girl."
"Right," Abby said.
"Yeah," Tony said. "That one's okay."
"You've got to hand it to Commander Voss," McGee said, while still working on his computer. "For three years he hid in plain sight as a woman."
Gibbs and Kate came walking over, Gibbs carrying the box containing Pacci's things.
"Well, he wasn't a woman yet," Kate said. "The surgery was scheduled for next month in Bangkok."
Tony wished they would stop talking. Now that Kate had returned, he knew what was coming. He wanted to get out of there, but he knew that leaving would be grounds for even more teasing.
Images of Voss flashed before his eyes, warping from the coy smile he had given Tony, to a mad rage as she sank a knife into Pacci over and over again. Tony squeezed his eyes shut against the images, but it didn't help.
"Getting your plumbing turned outside in is so—" Abby searched for the word.
"Hinky?" McGee suggested.
"No, no," Abby said. "Way beyond hinky. It's—"
Kate turned to Tony and Tony braced himself. Forcing back his nausea and pushing the images of Voss out of his mind best he could, he looked up at Kate.
"Speaking of way beyond hinky, Tony—"
"Okay," Tony said. "All right, give it to me, Kate. I can take it."
She smiled. "What was it like – tonguing a guy?"
It was as though she had completely forgotten, or at least was ignoring, the fact that Voss had killed their colleague. Tony wanted to scream at her, to grab her and shake her, and say that that could have been any of them working that cold case. Any one of them could have left their guns back at the office while tailing Voss – any of them could have been gutted and bled out in an elevator.
He heard Voss' chuckle echo through his mind, turning into crazed laughter. Tony knew that neither Kate nor McGee would have stood a chance against him – and it was entirely possible that he and Gibbs would have fallen prey too, as they would all have been underestimating him. Like Pacci probably had, they would have thought him to be a civilian woman, not a trained Commander in the Navy.
The memories of Voss' lips against his, now remembered hot like hell's fire, crashed upon him in dark waves. He'd kissed a murderer.
He fought to breathe and he looked away from her.
"Forget it," he said, voice rough, as he stood up. "I can't take it."
He stormed away, hearing Kate's laughter after him. How could she laugh?
He passed Pacci's now empty desk as he left and it only served to make bile rise faster in his throat. He would puke soon.
He headed to the bathroom, where he threw open a door to a stall and promptly expelled the meager content of his stomach. He still hadn't eaten since lunch – and it was dark outside now so that must mean it was late – and little to nothing came up after just a little while, leaving him dry heaving instead.
He stood shakily, legs barely holding him up. At least throwing up had meant slowing the images flashing through his brain somewhat as his body worked to heave.
He rinsed his mouth and splashed water on his face, letting cool droplets run down his cheeks. His head still hurt, although the pain was duller now. He looked at himself in the mirror above the sink and he barely recognized the man looking back. He felt empty.
"You knew she'd tease."
Tony startled, head snapping around to look at the source of the sound, one hand automatically going towards his holstered gun.
Gibbs stood in the doorway.
"Boss," Tony said, hand falling limply to his side.
Gibbs took two steps closer, eyes traveling over Tony's body, taking in his ragged appearance. Tony had a feeling he looked like a deer caught in headlights. He hadn't meant for anyone to see him right now, least of all Gibbs.
"I'm fine, boss," he said softly. "I just—I kissed a transvestite, you know. It was awful."
Gibbs gaze was unwavering and Tony found himself fidgeting. He forced himself to stand still.
"Don't believe you," Gibbs said calmly.
Tony laughed nervously. "What else would it be?"
"I don't know," Gibbs said. "You tell me."
"I just did," Tony said. "Like Kate said – I tongued a transvestite."
Gibbs didn't say anything out loud, but his eyes spoke volumes about how much he didn't believe in Tony's words. There were also other things in those blue eyes, things that Tony barely dared to name, for fear of being wrong. He thought he saw compassion and understanding.
"It's just," Tony said, speaking before he could stop himself. "He killed Pacci."
He barely recognized his own voice.
Gibbs gave a small nod. "Yeah. I know."
"Never did kiss a killer before, boss," Tony said. Jokingly, because jokes were what he did, he added, "Not that I know of, at least."
Gibbs frowned at his addition, but then he seemed to let it go, recognizing it for what it was – an attempt at distraction.
"Car's waiting for us," he said.
"You're done? Already?"
"It was just his desk, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.
Tony swallowed and ran a hand across his face. "I can just take a cab." Gibbs' stare challenged him and he sighed. "Or I can just go with you."
"Good choice," Gibbs said.
They took the back elevator down to the garage so that they wouldn't have to be seen in the bullpen. Tony really didn't want to face Kate anymore today. He didn't want to see Abby or McGee's gloating smiles either, but mostly, it was Kate. She wouldn't let this go; it would be payback for all the times he'd bothered her about her dates.
They rode in silence, until Gibbs stopped the car somewhere that was nowhere near Tony's home.
"You hungry?" Gibbs asked.
Tony frowned. "Starving."
"Pizza it is," Gibbs said.
They ordered a pizza each and Tony took all of his favorite toppings, because he felt he deserved that after the day he'd just had. The car smelled deliciously of pizza by the time they stopped again.
"This isn't my place," Tony said, frowning.
"I'm not sleeping on your couch, DiNozzo."
They had parked in the driveway to Gibbs' house. It was dark and not particularly inviting, but Tony had always liked Gibbs' house. Perhaps mostly because it had Gibbs in it. Still, he wished that he would have been in a better mood – one that could have appreciated having pizza and a beer with Gibbs in his house. Right now, he mostly wanted to go to bed and sleep for at least twenty-four hours, to forget what had happened today.
"You gonna sit there all night?" Gibbs asked.
"No, uh, sorry, boss," Tony said. He quickly got out, balancing the pizza in one hand, and followed Gibbs into the house.
Gibbs turned on the lights in the hallway and the kitchen, and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator for himself. He handed Tony a soda.
"I don't get beer?" Tony asked. He would have liked to get drunk right about now.
"Nope. Doctor's orders."
"Right," Tony said. "Ducky."
Tony began on his pizza, mouth watering as the smells wafted up when he opened the carton. He had eaten a quarter of it before he noticed that Gibbs was looking at him, a piece of pizza hanging lazily in one hand and there was an amused smile on his lips.
"Certainly hungry," he said.
"Haven't eaten since lunch," Tony said. "And it wasn't a big lunch."
Getting food into his system seemed to calm his body and mind a bit. His thoughts slowed in the safety of Gibbs' kitchen, where his boss had his six. By the time he had downed all but the last piece of the pizza, the images of Voss and death had slowed to an almost complete stop.
He leaned back. His head no longer hurt as badly and instead of dizziness, he felt rather drowsy.
"Bed next?" Gibbs asked.
Tony started at the words. He knew Gibbs hadn't said them in that context, but it was still odd to hear Gibbs ask him if he was going to bed.
Gibbs was looking at him calmly. Tony looked at him, and imagined what it would have been like if Gibbs had been the one shot, if Voss had been faster. Tony's body jerked as his mind supplied him with the sound of a gun going off.
He squeezed his eyes shut, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes.
Then he forced himself to calm and he looked at Gibbs, heat rising in his cheeks for his behavior. Then he looked away.
He said softly, speaking to the floor, "I keep thinking about what it'd be like if he'd killed one of us instead."
"Can't think like that," Gibbs said. "It's our job, and it can be us at any time."
"I know, I just—" He drew a shuddering breath. "I'm fine. I just need to sleep."
He stood up, placed the pizza carton in the trash and turned to leave. But before he could, he felt a hand on his arm. Gibbs turned him so that they stood face to face, too close for comfort. Tony's heart beat rapidly.
"You're not fine, Tony," Gibbs said, and Tony's eyes were wide at the use of his first name.
"It's like you said," he said softly. "It's the job. I just have to deal with it."
"We can't always expect the worst," Gibbs said. "We'll go crazy, and then what good will we be?"
"Crime fighting in the mental institution," Tony said, chuckling quietly with little humor. He studied the floor.
He gasped when he felt two fingers under his chin, forcing him to look up. Gibbs stood two feet away, far too close for it to be a good, professional distance. But Tony didn't care; he was looking into Gibb's eyes – those clear blue eyes, gentle and kind in a way they hardly ever were.
"Boss?" Tony asked, hating his voice for sounding like a squeak.
"Do you mind kissing men, Tony?" Gibbs asked.
Gibbs might as well have dumped ice on Tony's head; the question was such a shock that Tony instinctively took a step back. He had always been careful about his liaisons with men, for fear of the retribution society served gays and bisexuals.
Yet Gibbs didn't look like he was going to fire Tony, or hang him out in some other way.
Taking a step forward, Gibbs looked – as far as Tony could decipher his façade – like he wanted Tony to say no, he didn't mind.
Tony couldn't get the words out, so he shook his head instead. It was a simple action, but it meant so much more than the minute turn of his head.
Gibbs took another step forward and Tony could feel Gibbs' breath on his lips. His heart hammered away a mile a minute. Voss' face flashed before him, briefly, fleetingly, the way he'd looked when he'd leaned forward to kiss Tony the first time—
Then Gibbs' lips descended upon Tony's and the thoughts of Voss came to a halt. Gibbs lips were warm, but nothing like Voss' soft ones, the stubble raspy and reassuring against Tony's chin. The kiss was chaste and short, and nothing like the one with Voss.
"Stop thinking about him," Gibbs growled, pulling away.
"Sorry," Tony squeaked.
"What have I said about apologizing?" Gibbs asked. He leaned his hands on the wall on either side of Tony's face, making Tony realize just how much he'd backed away earlier.
"I—uh—I just don't know—this," Tony said.
"I would've thought you knew exactly what this was," Gibbs said.
"Yeah, but—" Tony said. "What is it? Some sort of pity-fuck, to get me out of my head?"
Gibbs made an annoyed sound. "I don't do pity-fucks."
"I didn't know you did guys at all," Tony said, feeling somehow reassured that it wasn't pity, at least.
"Didn't know you did either."
"Yeah, well," Tony said, ducking his head. "There are some things you don't know about me. So, what is this?"
His heart was still pounding, having Gibbs so close.
"A kiss, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.
"Do you want it to be more?" Gibbs asked.
Tony wondered if he should be honest or if he wanted to keep his job.
He decided on honesty. "Yes."
He leaned in and kissed Gibbs again. This time, with less shock and more certainty, Tony was able to taste Gibbs, to run his tongue along Gibbs' lips. There was coffee, pizza and beer, and the slight tang of salty sweat. Below all that, the smell and taste of simply Gibbs.
It was enough to intoxicate Tony, who pushed against Gibbs. Their tongues were suddenly involved in a war neither man needed to win and Tony felt Gibbs' hands run down his sides, pulling him close. Tony's movements were a bit more hesitant, but he finally dared to run his hands through Gibbs' hair.
By the time they pulled apart, they were both panting.
Tony chuckled. "I never thought I'd say this, but – you're a good kisser, boss."
Gibbs smiled slightly. "Not half-bad yourself, DiNozzo."
"Tony," Tony corrected. "With this, here, I'm Tony."
Gibbs shook his head.
Then Tony yawned, pretty much ruining any moment they may or may not have been having. He remembered how long ago it was since he had a full night's sleep and it almost made him yawn again. He smiled sheepishly.
"I don't think I'll be up for—uh, you know," he said.
Gibbs nodded. "I brought you here to make sure you get rest and aren't concussed. 'You know' can come later."
"Really?" Tony asked, unused to having a kiss stop at a kiss, and nothing more.
They left the kitchen and Tony headed towards the guestroom that he'd used on a few earlier occasions. Gibbs grabbed him before he could go into it – and steered him towards the master bedroom instead.
"Easier to keep track of you here," he said with a shrug at Tony's questioning glance.
"That all?" Tony asked, suddenly smiling. "Here, I thought it was because we just smooched in your kitchen."
"Call it 'smooch' again, and you'll be sleeping on the porch."
As he undressed, his mind began replaying the events of the past few days, from Pacci's murder to this very moment. Flashes of death passed before him, the imagined demises of his friends, colleagues, and his soon-to-be lover and boss.
His heart calmed as Gibbs came into the bedroom, wearing boxers and nothing else. He decided that he should cherish each day as though it was his last, because even though it was corny, it was also true. On their jobs, they never knew when a terrorist decided to shoot you, or a murderer bombed your car, or you made a mistake that cost the lives of your colleagues.
They got into bed, pulling the covers up tight. Gibbs wrapped his arms around him and Tony closed his eyes, feeling safe.
Author's notes: I hope you enjoyed. Comments are appreciated.