A/N: First part takes place during 'Sub Rosa'. Beginning conversation taken directly from episode. No copyright infringement intended.
"What is this, Victorian England?"
Kate turned on them the moment Tony and Gibbs exited the building that housed the Submarine Squadron Commander's office. Gibbs knew that hearing Captain Veitch state that submarines were no place for women had done more to ruffle her feathers than he could do on his best day. He took note of her tightly crossed arms and the twitch in her jaw as she continued speaking.
"The men with their cigars and brandy while the women sip tea in another room? I'm more qualified for this investigation than Tony." She fought and failed to keep the smugness out of her voice. "To replace me because I shave my legs and not my face is unconscionable and certainly not in the best interest of the case."
Gibbs turned away from her, hiding the rolling his eyes. Women. Another example of why he had three ex-wives. "You claustrophobic?" he asked without preamble.
Kate looked at him in confusion. "No."
"Good," he offered, purposefully walking away and missing the look of delight on his newest agent's face.
"I'm going?" It was hard to keep the pleased disbelief out of her voice.
Tony came shoulder to shoulder with her, polishing his sunglasses with his tie in an air of studied nonchalance. He offered her a smile. "Don't forget to wax."
He didn't wait for a reply, but hustled on to catch up with Gibbs, coming abreast of his team leader as he walked off toward the parking area.
Gibbs glanced at him without turning his head. "You get why I'm taking Kate instead, don't you?" Not one to usually explain his actions, the effect of recent events was still far too fresh in his mind to want to leave it to chance that Tony might think Gibbs was once again comparing him to another agent.
"Sure," DiNozzo said simply, and there was absolutely no guile in his tone. "You want a woman on board to throw everybody off. Makes it more likely the suspect will trip up. I gotcha, Boss."
Gibbs couldn't help but feel pride in Tony's straightforward answer and the way that, once again, they were completely on the same page in an investigation. He nodded slowly, knowing the words weren't necessary, but saying them anyway. "Atta-boy, Tony."
The way the younger man's face lit up made him glad he'd made the effort. He really should try to do that more often. His gaze shifted to where they'd left the car, and he thought of something else. "Besides, I want you to stay here and coordinate with McGee out of Norfolk."
If Gibbs had thought Tony's face lit up before, now it was positively blazing, and he could easily read the gleam in the younger agent's eyes. Fearing slightly for the extremely green probationary agent, he couldn't help but take pleasure in Tony's obvious delight at the hours of torment he could inflict on the young MIT grad. He shook his head almost indulgently before tossing out a gentle warning. "McGee could have promise, DiNozzo. No making him quit." He reached into his pocket, searching for the keys as DiNozzo joined him by the driver's side door.
"No making him quit, Boss, promise. But if I only make him want to quit, does that count? 'Cause you know it's not the same as him actually quitting, and . . ."
The head smack seemed to come out of nowhere, the noise resounding in the nearly empty lot. Gibbs waited for the words he knew were coming.
The corner of his mouth turned up as he effortlessly caught the keys DiNozzo tossed him, and before he climbed behind the wheel, he started to whistle.
Epilogue to the Epilogue – Post 'Agent Afloat'
Tony released his grip on Abby, but kept her close as he listened to her update him on Sister Rosita's bowling score and the movies she'd watched without him while he'd been stuck on that damn ship. He gave up on trying to get into the conversation and just let her words wash over him, filling him with a sense of peace and a feeling of having come home.
It had been a long haul, and there had been too many nights that he'd wondered if he'd make it, but the minute he'd walked off the elevator, he'd known. There was no doubt left. This was home.
Much of that had to do with the silver-haired man standing across the way, and Tony thought back to the challenge that Gibbs had given him so many years ago. At first, when the date rolled around, he wondered if he were the only one who had remembered, since his five-year anniversary with NCIS had garnered little fanfare, save a bouquet of black roses from Abby and a card from Ducky. He'd tried not to be too disappointed, especially since he was just glad to have Gibbs back from Mexico without the more-than-disturbing mustache. He simply chalked it up to some lingering memory loss and did his best to forget about it. Which is why he was more than surprised when Gibbs showed up on his doorstep a month and half later, sporting a bottle of Dom Perignon and two champagne flutes.
"Boss?" he questioned, letting Gibbs into his apartment and watching as the older man shrugged out of his coat and hung it on the hook. Gibbs picked up the bottle and glasses and moved into the living room without comment, making Tony nervous.
"Please tell me you didn't go and get engaged again," Tony blurted out, then winced.
Gibbs leveled him with a glare before rolling his eyes. "No, I didn't get engaged."
"Then what's with the bubbly?"
"Really? 'Cause no offense, Boss, but I didn't think you usually viewed them as occasions for celebration. What with the whole ex-wife thing."
"You think DiNozzo?" He popped the cork on the champagne and poured an equal amount into the two glasses, handing one to Tony. "Not my anniversary," he explained. "It's yours."
"Um, actually," Tony hesitated, not sure he wanted to bring up Gibbs' apparently faulty memory.
"You remember Burley?" Gibbs asked, interrupting.
Tony tensed, still feeling the pangs of jealousy after all these years. "Kind of hard to forget him," he admitted.
"Burley worked for me for exactly five years, one month and twelve days," he continued, as if Tony hadn't spoken, waiting a beat. "Know what today is?"
Tony grinned as he recognized the significance, but kept silent.
Gibbs raised his glass in a salute to the younger agent. "Here's to five years, one month and thirteen days."
Tony clinked his glass with the man he'd come to see as so much more than just his boss. "I'll drink to that."
Now, as Abby babbled on next to him, he looked up and saw Gibbs watching him, a look of intense pride on his face as he offered Tony his hand.
As Tony stared back at Gibbs, he thought back to what he'd told Burley that day on the ship. Gibbs still had never once shaken his hand, not in all the years they'd been together. To be given that level of respect from the man he admired above all others was something he'd longed for far more often than he would admit.
He stretched out his hand, placing it in the warm grasp of his mentor, his friend.
It was worth the wait.