It felt good; he would admit to himself, a smirk twisting his lips as the short, fast pursuit was brought to an abrupt halt, the larger man's body cushioning his impact as Tony used his shoulder and all the weight he had behind it to drive Carlos into the wall. When the man struggled, trying to push him away and continue with his flight, Tony used the strength hidden beneath the plain clothes he wore to throw the man back into the wall, and he heard with satisfaction the sudden grunt of pain that escaped the other's mouth.

"That's right, buddy," Tony almost snarled to the back of the man's head. "Don't run, I said. Come quietly, and perhaps we might be able to work something out." His forearm rested across the man's shoulder-blades, using his whole weight to press him into the wall, rendering his struggles useless. His other hand held the pistol in his hand to the back of the perp's head, dissuading him from making a move. "Cut a deal," and he murmured the words in the man's ear, chuckling at the thought of the opportunity this guy had passed up. "But no. You knew better, right Carlos? You could get away..."

His attention – distracted for a moment as he went to holster his weapon – was forced sharply from his short speech when out of nowhere a knife appeared in the man's hand, slashing blindly at his antagonist; the detective releasing his captive long enough to dodge the vicious looking blade. When Carlos tried to make another run for it, Tony bolted after him, running a lowered shoulder right into the centre of his back, the extra weight running the man back into the wall.

Unwilling to allow the guy another shot at him, Tony slammed his still un-holstered gun into the man's wrist – braced against the red brick wall – and a cry of pain later saw the wicked blade falling from nerveless fingers.

Finally able to holster his gun, confident in his ability to hold the guy – now without the use of his right hand – Tony laughed humourlessly. "That's right," Tony spoke harshly into Carlos' ear as he cuffed one wrist, pulling the man from the wall and with a well placed hand and an expert twist of the guy's left arm, forced his perp down to the ground. With an arm pulled up and back, and Tony's knee forced into his back, he had little choice but to remain where he was.

In custody, Tony thought. At last.

"You just don't get it," Tony explained, the laughter in his voice drawing an angry snarl from the man lying prone on the ground. "I won," and he cuffed the other wrist almost viciously as he spoke that triumphant word. "I won before you even woke up this morning," and his smile was smug as he raised his blue eyes to watch his partner jog up beside him.

"Got another one, DiNozzo," the man panted, his breathing laboured, heavy frame preventing him from keeping up with the chase. "What the hell did we ever do without you?"

Tony offered the man his most charming smile as he climbed off their perp's back. "Apparently not a hell of a lot of exercise," he offered with a mischievous grin, his eyes flicking down only momentarily to the other man's girth; watching with satisfaction as his partner's eyes narrowed in that 'I'm-not-really-offended-but-am-going-to-pretend-I-am' sort of way that Tony was used to now with his co-workers. Then he indicated the knife lying on the ground by the wall. "Want to grab that as evidence. Might be the murder weapon," he added with a careless shrug, his tone making it very clear that he didn't think it likely.

James's low whistle was all that showed his appreciation for the nasty blade, but pulling a white glove – and once again Tony felt that annoying spark of remembrance at the sight of it – lifted the thing from the ground with nervous care. "Come on, DiNozzo. Best get this guy into holding. Who knows how many buddies he has around these parts..." and Tony chuckled at the nervous glances the man shot around him.

"Not worried are you, James?" he wanted to know, one brow sliding to his forehead as he yanked the cuffed man gracelessly back to his feet, his grip tight and unyielding on the man's wrists as he began pushing him back the way they'd come. "A hardened homicide detective like yourself... Surely not." Then he shrugged slightly, his gaze moving around the brightly lit plaza area. "And besides. This isn't his neighbourhood." He chuckled, pulling Carlos sharply back towards him, close enough to continue his words – speaking directly behind the man's ear. "That's what you get choosing to make shady deals with corrupt cops."

"You know... You'll make a lot of enemies, behaving like that, DiNozzo."

Tony just shot his partner the mega-watt smile he was known for, blue eyes sparkling almost wickedly at the man he'd known almost no time at all, and yet a man he had complete confidence in. The guy would watch his back, no matter the situation, or the perp. He may act it at times; by the guy was no coward. Why he maintained the act that he was, Tony couldn't be sure.

"Can't get along with everyone," Tony answered his comment with a brief shrug, blue eyes moving back to Carlos, his smile turning slowly back into the common smirk. "And besides; it's inevitable. I have an abrasive personality. Why fight it?"

James just snorted his amusement at the thought. "Can't be too much of an ass... I still like you."

"And so does your girlfriend," Tony added with a cheeky wink.

James just shot him another of those dark glares the younger man was far too used to, and Tony shook his head with a chuckle as he pushed the – still struggling – perp back through the arched entrance of the plaza and towards the car he and James had parked – thankfully – close by the entrance.

"And besides," he added as they reached the nondescript dark blue sedan the two plain clothes detectives had driven that morning. "Conscienceless drug dealers bordering on the homicidal..." and he allowed his voice to trail off, as though the rest of his sentence should have been clear. "Let's just say that a guy like this..." and he pushed the perp with added force for emphasis into the side of the car as his partner got the door open. "Not likely to attract the friends and henchmen, is he?"

James just snorted, knowing that no matter how many of his henchman a guy like this would kill, maim or otherwise injure, many would still come out of the woodwork to assist the man in a moment of need. A man like Carlos Nazziri would always be worth money to the right people – and mean money lost with his arrest. "You far too optimistic, DiNozzo. Bad guys aren't called that for the sake of it."

"Good advice."

The two simple words, calmly spoken, felt to Tony as though perhaps one of Carlos' henchmen had appeared and put a gun to the back of his neck, just like he had earlier with their boss. As it was, there was no gun, and no sudden death, but the cold shiver that snuck down Tony's spine did nothing to calm his nerves.

Ignoring the man for a long moment, Tony proceeded to manhandle the perp into the backseat of their specially modified 'normal' car – after all, the metal mesh between driver and passenger was essential in their business – pretending for all the world as though he hadn't heard those two words that made him want to run hard and fast in the opposite direction. He might have done just that too, ready to jump in the car and ignore the man completely, when he heard something that made his stomach drop sharply; a long – and yes, loud – sigh escaping his lips as he turned to face his former boss.

"James Middleton," his partner offered a hand that Gibbs shook wordlessly, clear blue eyes fixing on the man's face for a moment, doing a brief assessment before moving back to Tony. It was James however, who spoke first. "You know Detective DiNozzo?"

Gibbs' answer was short and succinct, and nothing that Tony wouldn't have expected from him.

"We've met."

He was the last person that Tony wanted to see, if he had to be entirely honest with himself. Sometimes, Washington DC just seemed too bloody small. The faintest desire to move back to Baltimore struck him, before he shook the thought off and walked the short distance to join his partner and the man he'd happily never have seen again – because thankfully the man was no longer his boss.


Gibbs nodded at his short, far from friendly greeting, and the cold blue gaze pinned the NCIS agent steadily and refused to move for even a second, as though to take his eyes off the man would leave him open to some sort of attack. To Tony it was almost odd using the man's name. He'd never really used it before, not to his face. Even from the beginning, back in Baltimore – back when his life had been normal, drama free and something that he'd actually enjoyed – he'd called the man 'Boss'. Now, the word simply didn't apply.

He'd be more than happy if it never did again.


Sensing the tense mood between the two, not to mention instantly recognising the charged and dangerous aura around his partner, James hurriedly cleared his throat, his eyes darting from one to the other, before flicking over his shoulder and glancing back at their car. "I'll, uh... make sure the perp's secure, shall I?" he offered, hurrying off as Tony nodded without moving, his eyes never leaving Gibbs'.

"McGee misses you."

Tony snorted at the calm words, angered by those frustratingly composed and emotionless eyes that continued to stare him down. McGee missed him. Great. How was he supposed to react to that one? With a friendly 'Oh yeah? And how is McGee?' He snorted mentally at the thought. Yeah right. Holding any sort of conversation with Gibbs these days just wasn't a requirement. He had no desire or inclination to get along with the man at all. Leroy Jethro Gibbs had been completely and utterly cut out of his life, and Tony didn't care to let him back in.

"He has my number."

Tony's brief answer, not giving up anything, did nothing to change the neutral expression on Gibbs' face. He too was as unreadable as Tony had ever seen him. That was Gibbs. Quite, calm, composed. Gibbs didn't let anyone know what he was thinking or what was on his mind; never gave anything away. Ever. It might have been for this reason that Tony found himself so angry right now. Still, managing to keep his anger in check when Gibbs didn't respond to the waspish words – he was clearly waiting for DiNozzo to make the opening – Tony spoke with forced politeness.

"Nice day from a stroll in the plaza?"

His tone was sarcastic. Gibbs had purposely come to see him. This encounter had been no accident, and both knew it. Whether he would admit it or not, DiNozzo was yet to find out, but he wasn't about to ask why the hell the guy wanted to see him – that wasn't his problem; hadn't been for a few months now.

"You know... Ziva wanted to come."

"For a stroll in the plaza? How nice for her."

His voice was sharp as he mentioned his former colleague, but this had nothing to do with her. None of it had anything to do with those people that he'd used to work with. He had a faint suspicion why it was that the man had come here today; come to this precise location where he had somehow known that Tony was going to be.

When he found out who'd told the man, there'd be hell to pay back at the station.

And besides, it wasn't as though he was going to accept the man's offer, after all. Gibbs hadn't fired him. This wasn't his mistake to take back. Tony had quit for a reason, and returning to work with him just wasn't an option. He liked where he was, he liked what he did, he liked the people that he worked with. He wasn't giving that up. Not for a man with an axe to grind.

"You know... If this doesn't have a point, I do have a wanted criminal in the back seat of my car. I'm beginning to think sitting around in the open isn't exactly the best way to go about keeping this under wraps."


Tony almost sneered at the man, blue eyes narrowing slowly as he attempted to assess whether it was really worth standing here and continuing a conversation that Gibbs didn't feel inclined to take in any particular direction.

"No. I'd just rather not have his men take a rocket launcher to my car, is all."

Gibbs had heard about the incident several weeks ago to which Tony had been referring. The last detectives who had attempted to take this man down had suffered a death nothing short of over-dramatic. The drug dealer, Carlos Nazziri, alerted to their attempts, had sent a 'message' to the local PD. The message had, naturally, only made the police department try even harder to capture the man, sending in cop after cop for information, but waiting for the right time – the right partnership – to strike. The fact that they'd chosen DiNozzo, and the fact that Tony and his partner – he still hated thinking of that unknown man in such a role – had taken the criminal down almost singlehandedly... Well it was obvious that Tony still had it, and Gibbs was, to put it shortly, impressed – not that he'd ever admit that to Tony, even though Ziva would tell him later that this was exactly what he should have done.

"The team needs you."

Tony's gaze didn't soften at all at the veiled offer to return, and seconds later – after staring at the man in complete disbelief for several seconds – he shook his head, turning and moving back towards the car and his perp. "Not interested."

"Tony," and the word – though the detective hated the fact – stopped him dead in his tracks and turned him back to face the silver-haired man. It was rare in the extreme that Gibbs had ever used his first name. Maybe once, back in the day, but Baltimore had been a long time ago. "We need you back."

It was perhaps the closest Tony had ever seen to this emotion in Gibbs' eyes before. Not quite as believably sincere as Ziva could manage – or even McGee – but still a damn sight more emotion than Tony could remember seeing in his hardened, former marine, former boss.

Tony just allowed a soft laugh to fall mirthlessly from his lips, before he shook his head almost disdainfully at the man. "Criminal in the car, remember? Needs my attention more than this conversation ever will."

"I need you back on the team."

And there it was. Gibbs personally reaching out to Tony, hoping that this acknowledgement would succeed where the others had failed – it actually might have in the past. Gibbs however, might have reconsidered laying his pride on the line like that if he'd in any way been able to anticipate Tony's cool, calm and disinterested – Ziva was right, Tony was more like him than he'd ever realised – reply.

"Funny thing is, Gibbs, I don't need you anymore."

His eyes were casual and disinterested as he fixed his gaze on his former boss, before a brief shrug ended what little conversation they'd had, and Gibbs just watched in silence as the younger man slid with all DiNozzo's usual elegant grace into the driver's seat of the generally nondescript sedan. He saw the partner say something, and saw Tony's brief shake of the head. Another word from his partner and that familiar laughing smile flashed white teeth, before Tony reversed the car, executing an almost perfect three point turn and ducking out into the traffic with experienced precision.

As he watched the former Special Agent disappear into the midday rush, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs couldn't help but feel that he'd made a huge mistake.