Follows on from "Driving to Trenton", which I feared was a bit intense and boring. Herewith an attempt to lighten up.

…..AND DRIVING BACK by Scousemuz1k

Lieutenant Commander Broadfield (Hell, son, just call me Bob,) was kind, if chatty. Knowing Tony had had a long journey, and that he'd have to do it all again, he insisted on making a meal before they set out. Over steak and fries, he told the agent just how he'd got two black eyes.

"You mean it wasn't anything to do with the case?"

"Heck, no. The case is to do with fraud. This was to do with going up to JAG headquarters to discuss the ins and outs… trouble is, before I got in there, I found myself watching this gorgeous young ensign sashaying by, and I fell out of my car. I tell you, son, I've got more bruises than just the eyes."

"That's tough, Bob," Tony said through a forkful of the most melt-in-the-mouth sirloin.

His host chortled. "Not half as tough as when I confessed to Evie what had happened. She called me a randy old bugger. Hey, I don't touch, but anyone can look."

"They sure can. Is Evie your wife?"

"Of thirty-two years. She knows I'm going to be away for the duration of this trial, so she's gone to see our daughter in Galveston for a few days."

"Oh," his guest said with a relieved smile.

"Hey, did you think she'd gone home to mother?"

"Well, I wondered. I'm glad I was wrong."

"Heh heh, not a chance of that. Tony, I'm not saying her mother's got a big mouth, perish the thought, but she is the only woman I know who could eat a banana sideways. Even Evie only takes her in bite-sized chunks."

Tony chuckled, then suddenly paled.

"What's the matter, son?"

"I think my girlfriend has a mother," he said in a voice of doom.

"They do tend to," Bob told him sympathetically. "A fine young fellow like you has to be able to make with the charm, surely? Just lay it on thick."

"I'll try," Tony said hollowly. He pushed his plate away with a contented sigh. "That was really good, Bob. Thanks."

"My pleasure, son. Now you chill out for a bit. My bag's packed, but I need to go change. Witness for the prosecution, got to look my best. I know, trial doesn't start 'til tomorrow – but I'm going to arrive in DC looking like I mean business! Might need you to check over my uniform - can't see so well just now…." He went off, chuckling.

Tony leaned his head against the soft chair back, and closed his eyes for a while.

Well, he's a card, and that's a fact… He fell to musing. Let's see… if he's been married thirty-two years, that puts him mid fifties? Hard to tell with those eyes. OK, he's as scrawny as a boiling fowl, and vertically challenged, but that doesn't mean ineffective. He felt guilty, and hoped that the Commander wasn't a mind reader. Give the guy a break, DiNozzo, he just fed you didn't he? What's eating you?

Fed… eating… did I really just think that? He worked out what it was that puzzled him. Bob Broadfield was only a Lieutenant Commander. He was used to people in their fifties being of higher rank. Come on, DiNozzo. They can't all be admirals. But hey, I wonder if Bob has had a chequered career? Chased an admiral's wife or two? He opened one eye briefly, and looked at a picture on the wall nearby, which he'd noticed earlier. Nah, he and Evie look happy enough there. And he sounded proud when he spoke about her. What's up with you, DiNozzo? Whyd'you see a mystery everywhere? And why are you so damn nosey?

He knew the answer. He was keeping his mind occupied with any ridiculous thing he could come up with, so as not to sink back into the gloom he'd felt earlier in the day. And let's face it, if you didn't notice things, and ask questions, you wouldn't be the helluva fine investigator that you are, Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo.

Nevertheless, as he dozed off, he was glad that he'd have the little guy's company for the journey back.

Bob cut a much better figure in uniform, he had to say, as they headed out of the town. But his eyes still looked uncomfortable, and Tony half wished he'd brought an agency sedan. One downside about his princess that never bothered him, was that the soft top made her a rather draughty car. There wasn't anything he could do about it, but it wasn't doing Bob's eyes any good. After trying to be a cheerful and entertaining travelling companion, the older man became less talkative, and Tony knew he was suffering.

"Shall I slow down?"

"No, son, I don't think it would do any good. Tell you what, d'you need gas? Right, well when you stop, just get me a pack of tissues, OK?"

"First gas station I see, Bob. Like, now. Just up ahead. That's good."

They pulled up at a pump, but before filling up, Tony went to the trunk and took out a bottle of water and a clean handkerchief from the overnight/emergency bag he kept there. He handed the items in through the window.

"Here, Bob, see if these help."

"Ah, thanks, Tony."

The agent left him to it, filled the Mustang's tank, and went to the mini-mart to pay. It was then that things went pear-shaped.

The first thing he noticed as he entered the store, was the small, bored girl with the ice cream cone. She was sitting on the floor, methodically, one-handedly peeling all the price labels off the shelving, with the utmost concentration. She'd clearly been at it for a while, as her strawberry swirl was dripping all over the floor. Her mother and the clerk were leaning on the counter, deep in conversation, and paying her not the slightest heed. Tony shuddered and tiptoed past the child.

It seemed to be a well stocked shop, so he went looking for a medicines section. Perhaps he could find some sort of soothing lotion for Bob. He never had trouble with his eyes himself, and he had no idea of brand names, so it took some careful searching.

He wasn't so deep in thought, however, that he didn't notice the two guys in hoodies who strolled in trying to look inconspicuous. The cop in Tony groaned, and he hitched his jacket back away from his holster.

"Why does this always happen to me?"

The taller guy produced a baseball bat from under his jacket. Tony had suspected that was his weapon of choice because of his rather stiff posture. He didn't know why the man bothered to hide it though, the two women wouldn't have noticed if it had been a howitzer. Still, he was glad it wasn't a gun.

Tall Hoodie used his bat to smash the display case on the counter which held cell phones, as Short Hoodie pulled out a sack. They both started yelling the sort of tough guy stuff they'd got from watching too much TV. The two women screamed. The little girl, hearing the sound that came out of her mother, joined in even louder, and threw her ice cream. Yell, scream, scream, yell –

"Federal Agent, drop your weapon!"

Faced with the business end of a Sig, the two would-be robbers dropped bat and bag, and began to raise their hands. It was fortunate for Tony that they were wannabes, somewhere around the foothills of competence; as the expression of panic on the shorter guy's face began to turn to a smirk as he looked over the federal agent's shoulder.

"Shit, a third one." Tony jerked his head to one side, and took a step forward, not knowing exactly where and what the attack from behind would be, and instead of the baseball bat striking the top of his head, it caught him a glancing blow across both shoulders and down his back. Glancing or not, it sure as hell hurt, and he stumbled to his knees.

The little girl started screaming again. Tony grunted, dropped flat, rolled onto his back, and kicked hard, hoping his assailant was where he thought he was. Yep, no problem. The whinny of pain he let out as the agent's elegant Italian shoe made acquaintance with his goolies was deeply satisfying. One down.

Still holding his gun, Tony rolled to his knees and jumped up. He'd say ow later. He took a couple of steps towards the other two, who were standing frozen. At that point things got plain silly, as he stepped on the discarded strawberry swirl, and suddenly found himself on his back again, (still no ow,) hurtling towards Tall Hoodie feet first. He smacked into the man's shins, and brought him down on top of him, smacking his sore shoulders back into the floor and knocking most of the wind out of him. Not enough left to say ow with. His Sig slid off under the counter somewhere.

Tony did the only thing he could, deprived of breath or any real ability to move. He wriggled his arms free, and punched both sides of the face that was so embarrassingly close to his own at once. It did the trick. The guy rolled off him, dead to the world.

Trying to draw breath, and with black spots in front of his eyes, Tony nevertheless saw several things at once. One. The clerk had got herself together enough to pick up the gun, but by its trigger guard; she had the sense not to try to use it. Two. Short Hoodie had picked up his insensate buddy's discarded bat, and was raising ithigh. Tony couldn't even lift his arms by now in order to defend himself. Three. There was a small blue blur behind the guy.

The air suddenly rushed back into Tony's starving lungs, with a whoop that should have sucked in half the shop. He rolled onto his side, and rested his forehead on the cold floor for a moment. A familiar voice said "Son, are you alright?"

"Ow," Tony said softly. He sat up, and his face broke into a huge grin. The short robber was on the floor, with Bob Broadfield's knee in the small of his back, and his arm twisted up behind him. Wordlessly, with a smile of pure admiration, Tony handed the lieutenant commander his handcuffs.

As the local LEOs drove away some time later with their bedraggled prisoners, and Bob clutched a bottle of eye lotion, Tony glumly surveyed his lovely leather jacket. Between the large scuff mark from the bat, and the well rubbed in strawberry swirl, it was going to need professional help if it was to be saved. He rolled his aching shoulders and sighed ruefully. "And you didn't even muss up your uniform," he said.

"Well," Bob said kindly, "You had two to deal with." He chuckled. "Mind, it wasn't bad for an old'n, was it?"

"I never said you were an old'n, Bob!"

"I bet you thought it, though."

"Nope. Hand on heart."

"Well, everyone else does," Bob said without offense. "And while we were eating you were sure wondering something."

"OK," Tony said. " Truth. I was just wondering why only a Lieutenant Commander. Cuz contrary to what you may be thinking, I was thinking that you knew what you were doing. Right?"

As they climbed back into the Mustang, Bob laughed that gurgling laugh again. "Oh, he said, "I joined up late. I was an accountant – that's why these days I investigate fraud. I ran away to join the Navy. At thirty-one."

Tony's delighted laugh lingered behind as the car roared away.

The End