PART SEVEN

Tony considered the conversation with Gibbs for several days before he made the call to Garret. He wanted to be sure of not only the decision to bring her on but how he would conduct himself once he had. Tim would adapt, as he had before, but Tony wanted this new person to know from the beginning that he wasn't just a light-hearted playboy. He wasn't trying to find a new mask to wear; he was simply attempting to balance the different parts of his personality so that he could be most effective.

"You're thinking too hard, DiNozzo," Gibbs finally growled at him from behind his desk. "Just make the damned call."

"Right," Tony said with a sigh.

Garret was thrilled to be offered the job and agreed to come up to DC for the formal interview and evaluation process. Once that was done, she'd spend a couple weeks at FLETC. Before the month was out, they would have four on the team again.

TZTZTZTZTZ

"How is the new agent?" Zach asked over dinner a few weeks later.

"It's been interesting," Tony said with an ironic smile. "She thinks she knows everything and she thinks she could lead the team if only someone would recognize her genius."

Zach nodded as he stood to begin cleaning up. "I was once like that. Dr. Brennan showed me otherwise."

"Yeah well, that's my job: showing her otherwise," Tony sighed. "She hates me already."

"You do not like being disliked," Zach stated.

"No I don't," Tony said. "But there's no way to get her to recognize her limitations without pointing out her mistakes and reminding her of her place. She doesn't take criticism well."

That was an understatement. They had had a serious argument after Garret had overstepped her place and had given privileged information to a local LEO. Gibbs was ready to toss her, but Tony had convinced him to let him handle it. Unfortunately, that meant Tony had to pull rank on the probationary agent, something he hated doing and something she deeply resented.

"Do you think she will resign?" Zach asked.

Tony shrugged. "Only time will tell. If she doesn't shape up though, she won't have the option to resign. Jethro will fire her."

"Have you told her that?" Zach asked.

Tony paused. "No, actually I haven't. You think I should go with brutal honesty?"

"Honesty is always the most logical option," Zach said. "Dishonesty requires more energy and almost always fails eventually. The consequences of honesty are usually minor in comparison."

Tony chuckled at that. "Well, you've given me an idea. I'm going to invite Janie here for dinner tomorrow evening and we'll see how far honesty gets us."

"Would you like me to go out?" Zach asked. "I could spend the evening with Hodgins and Angela."

Tony shook his head. "No, you've met the rest of the team, so it's time you met Janie as well. Besides, it'll make convincing her to come easier if you're here."

"Okay," Zach agreed. He finished putting the dishes into the dishwasher and then went up to Tony and straddled his lap. "Will you take me to bed now?"

"It would be my pleasure, babe."

TZTZTZTZTZ

"What has you so quiet?" Hodgins asked Zach the next afternoon.

Zach was working on a new set of bones from a dig in Antarctica but set aside his tools for a moment to look at his friend. "I have been considering the reasons why sex with Tony is so good. All of my other partners declared me to be the worst partner in their experience. With data like that, it is hard not to conclude that they must have been correct. However, Tony believes that I am the best he's ever had sex with. Either he is wrong or the others were."

"Tony throws off your hypothesis," Jack said with a grin. "You know, some might say that you were using the wrong elements in your original experiments and therefore the first three attempts were invalid."

"Because they were women?" Zach asked.

Jack nodded. "Also because there wasn't the emotional attachment with them that there is with Tony."

"Emotions have no place in science," Zach frowned.

"Ah, but this isn't really science, is it?" Jack asked but didn't wait for an answer. "This is your life, and in life emotions play a huge role in how we act. It motivates our behavior."

"The theory of reasoned action," Zach said with a nod. "The attitude towards the act or behavior is weighted and added to the weighted subjective norm resulting in the behavioral intention which leads to the action. BI=(AB)W1+(SN)W2 where: BI = behavioral intention, (AB) = one's attitude toward performing the behavior, W = empirically derived weights, and SN = one's subjective norm related to performing the behavior."

Hodgins sighed. "Yeah, that's kind of what I was getting at. When you care about a person, or love them, it's easier to connect on a physical level because other things don't get in the way. For instance, with Naomi, I'm betting that you were nervous."

"Very," Zach admitted.

"And you probably over-thought everything that you did," Jack said. "Is it like that with Tony?"

Zach shook his head. "No. In fact, from the very first time, I was more focused on pleasure than any specific thing we did."

"You were able to relax and enjoy the experience because you were comfortable with Tony," Jack explained. "Without all that extra nonsense running through your brain, the sex was much better. And don't let what those girls said throw you. In bed, it takes two people to have good sex. They were probably just as nervous and uptight as you were."

"That is what Tony said," Zach nodded. "It is good to hear it from an unbiased source, however. Thank you."

"How are things going with you and Tony?" Jack asked. He was ready to change the subject. He didn't mind helping Zach understand things, but sex was one of those topics where he had his limits.

"Very well," Zach said. "He has been having some difficulty with the new member on his team and he decided to take my advice and have an honest discussion with her. She is coming for dinner tonight."

"I hope you aren't cooking," Jack teased.

Zach frowned. "I am getting better. Tony has taught me how to make three meals now and I haven't burnt anything for a while. I am not, however, cooking tonight."

Hodgins laughed and ruffled Zach's hair.

TZTZTZTZTZ

Tony was already hard at work in the kitchen when Hodgins dropped Zach off that evening. "Smells good," Zach said as he shed his jacket and headed for the room where his lover was.

"Thanks," Tony said. He paused in his stirring long enough to kiss Zach. "How was your day dear?"

"Before I lived with you I would not have understood that you were trying to be funny with that remark," Zach commented. He sat at the counter and watched Tony work. "My day, however, was rather pleasant. We received a shipment of three skeletons from a dig in the Antarctica which are believed to belong to aboriginal South American tribes from more than a thousand years ago. We have been charged with discovering their origins as well as the cause of death."

"Freezing to death seems likely," Tony joked.

"It is one possibility," Zach said. "But the likelihood that any aboriginal tribe would have sent only three men on an expedition of that nature seems remote. They have not found any further evidence of human remains or of the craft that the explorers would have used to reach Antarctica."

"Sounds pretty exciting," Tony said. "Better than my day at least. We didn't catch a case so we spent all day going over cold cases. Well, I also spent some time showing Tim how to do some of the paperwork for the team. It should help take some of the pressure off of me in the long run, but right now, everything takes twice as long because I have to explain everything to him."

Zach didn't have a chance to respond because there was a knock at the door. Waving at Tony to keep doing what he was doing, Zach went to let in Agent Garret.

"Good evening," Zach said to the beautiful young woman. "I'm Zach Addy. You must be Agent Garret."

"Please, call me Janie," she said with a warm smile. "I get enough of Agent Garret at work. And most of it isn't good."

Zach smiled and nodded. "Please come in." He took her jacket and hung it on one of the hooks by the door. "Tony is in the kitchen. This way."

Zach led the way and Janie followed. "This is a nice place you have. When Tony said you guys lived above a garage this is not what I was expecting at all. I was shocked when I saw the size of the property."

"My colleague, Jack Hodgins, owns the land and lives up in the main house," Zach explained. He gestured for Janie to sit at the counter and he went to prepare drinks for the three of them.

"Jack's loaded," Tony said. "But you'd never meet a nicer guy."

"White wine?" Zach asked her.

"That would be great," Janie said. "This Jack, is he a scientist like you? Tony said you work at the Jeffersonian but didn't say much more."

Zach poured two glasses of wine and handed them out before pouring a glass of water for himself. "I am a forensic anthropologist. Hodgins works on the same team as I do, but he studies the insects, soil and other environmental causes of deterioration. We often do work for the FBI, but our actual purpose is to identify the skeletal remains of ancient peoples."

"Wow, sounds… fascinating," Janie said with a smile, but Zach could tell that she was lying. She looked like all of the girls he had ever dated: completely lost and bored.

Tony stepped in and brought the conversation onto more neutral ground and soon the meal was complete and they gathered at the dining table. Dinner conversation was light and centered around how Zach and Tony had met and their subsequent courtship. It hadn't even been a year, and yet they both felt like they had been together forever in many ways.

After dinner, Zach excused himself to go work in the office. In fact, he began playing a computer game that Tim McGee had introduced him to a few weeks earlier.

Out in the other room, Tony turned to Janie Garret. She smiled warily at him. "Zach seems really… nice."

"He is," Tony said. "Most people take a little time to get past the rough edges, but he's a really great person."

"He seems a little socially awkward," Janie said diplomatically.

"You would be too if you had spent your entire youth studying," Tony shrugged. "He had two Doctorates by the time he was 22 years old. He's got three masters and four undergraduate degrees. His IQ is off the charts."

"Impressive," Janie said and looked toward the closed office door. Then she looked back at Tony. "But you didn't invite me here to talk about your partner."

Tony shook his head. "No, I didn't; though I have wanted you to meet him."

"Why are we here then?" Janie asked.

"Can I be brutally honest?" Tony asked in return. Janie nodded, though it was slow and she looked apprehensive. "Good. Janie, you are a very smart woman and a very capable detective, but you are not as good as you seem to believe." Janie frowned and would have spoken but Tony went on before she could. "I'm not trying to insult you. I think you have the potential to be a very good agent… someday. But you have been pushing the boundaries from day one. The only reason Gibbs hasn't fired you yet is because I asked him not to."

Janie looked shocked by that news. "He wants to fire me?"

"You gave confidential information to an outside agency," Tony reminded her. "I don't care if we were working together or not, you don't have the authority to do that."

"But nothing happened," Janie said a little defensively.

Tony sighed. "This time. And that isn't the point. The procedures are in place for a reason."

"You and Gibbs both break protocol," Janie pointed out.

"And we face the consequences when we do," Tony told her. "We also have a lot more time on the job than you do and we know when that is appropriate and when it isn't. I was a detective before I came to NCIS. I know what you had to go through to get where you were in Norfolk. But you have to understand that while the two jobs might seem the same on the surface, in reality they are very different."

"I don't understand," Janie said. "We solve crimes and catch the bad guys."

"There's more to being a federal agent than that," Tony said. "We don't just chase down murderers and drug pushers, though there is some of that. We deal with the military, and those guys are a whole world unto themselves. We also deal with arms dealers and terrorists and political assassins. The leaking of confidential information could get people killed."

Janie looked adrift and Tony felt a little bad for her. "So what do I do?"

"Forget the tough know-it-all persona that you adopted to get by on the force and let me teach you," Tony said. "Let Tim help you. And don't, for god's sake, talk back to Gibbs. It'll make my life much easier if I don't have to keep him from shooting you on a daily basis."

That last was said lightly and Janie actually laughed a little. "Thanks Tony. I'll try to be a little more receptive in the future."

"Just cut yourself some slack," Tony said. "You're new; nobody expects you to know everything in a day."

Janie laughed dryly. "Except me."

"Except you," Tony agreed. He turned back towards the office and shouted, "Hey Zach, get away from that geeky computer game and get your ass out here." He looked back at Janie with a smile. "I swear to god I'm going to kill Tim if he ever shows Zach another computer game."

TZTZTZTZTZ

It was exactly one year to the day since Tony and Zach first met at that crime scene in Anacostia. Twelve months had passed and Tony knew without a doubt that no matter how long they were together that he would never grow tired of being with his younger lover. He knew without a doubt that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with him. And so, when Tony picked Zach up from work that evening, rather than driving home, he turned the car towards Alexandria, to a very nice restaurant where they had reservations.

Zach, unaware that the night was so momentous, chatted brightly about the break he had made in the current FBI case they were working and how he had been able to declare himself King of the Lab over Jack. Tony listened and laughed at the appropriate moments, but in truth, his mind was more on his plans for after dinner.

Dinner passed effortlessly, as it usually did when the two men were together. It still amazed Tony how uncomplicated things could be between them, despite their differences. Tony often teased Zach about the need to teach him about life, but the truth was Zach often showed him new ways to look at the world. Zach's unique perspective was at times very insightful. They were equals in a way that seemed almost impossible considering the differences in their ages and personalities.

Tony ordered dessert for the two of them, adding on a request for champagne. Zach rarely drank, but he didn't protest when Tony handed him a flute of the bubbling tawny liquid.

"What is the occasion?" Zach wondered before taking a small sip.

Tony smiled. "It was exactly one year ago today that we met."

Zach smiled back at Tony. "A memorable day."

"Very," Tony agreed. He raised his glass. "To us."

"To us," Zach agreed and clinked their glasses together.

Tony waited for Zach to put his glass of champagne on the table before reaching for his hand. "You know I love you."

Zach nodded. "I do. And I love you."

Tony took a deep breath and smiled. "Yeah, I know. The last year has been the best of my life and that's all down you having you. I want that to last forever."

"So do I," Zach admitted shyly.

Tony smiled again, but he was a bit nervous this time. He pulled a small jeweler's box from his jacket pocket and opened it. Inside, nestled in the white satin, were two platinum bands with a single emerald in each. "Zachary Uriah Addy, Will you marry me?"

Contrary to his usual reserved nature, Zach jumped up from his seat, flung himself into Tony arms and kissed him deeply. It was several long minutes before he pulled away and said with a smile, "Yes, Anthony Michael DiNozzo, I will marry you."

Unbeknownst to the happy couple, the other patrons and the restaurant staff around them had stopped and watched the happy moment and when they heard Zach's answer, they began to applaud the couple and offer their congratulations.

Tony laughed and hugged Zach tighter as the younger man ducked his head and blushed.

TZTZTZTZTZ

"It has been a really interesting year," Tony said to Gibbs the next afternoon over beer in Gibbs' basement. Tony had shown up at Gibbs' to tell him the big news.

"Very," Gibbs agreed.

"I can't believe he said yes," Tony said with a smile and took another drink of his beer.

"He's a smart kid," Gibbs said. "And he's lucky to have you."

"I'm lucky to have him," Tony countered.

Gibbs smirked. "True."

"You'll be the best man, of course," Tony stated. "And I was hoping Jackson will come."

"I doubt you could keep him away," Gibbs said wryly.

Tony grinned. "Yeah. He's going to want to know when you're going to settle down."

Gibbs groaned. "Thanks for that thought."

Tony looked at Gibbs with a teasing expression. "Well, we aren't getting married until next summer. That will give you almost a year to find someone." Gibbs snorted and Tony smirked. "Hey, a lot can happen in a year."

The End


A/N: So, that's the end of this tale. I'm considering doing a follow up story on Gibbs, but haven't come up with any pairing that I really like. Ideas? Doesn't necesarily have to be in the NCIS or Bones worlds, though I'm more familiar with those than I am with most shows. If I can find a good pairing and a decent plot, I'll work on a sequel. Well, thanks for the support and I hope you all enjoyed the story. See you next time! Jules