This is a prompt fill for a prompt on the comment-fic community on livejournal: any, any, driving across the underwater bridge = NCIS, Gibbs & Tony, driving across the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. Be sure to Google it, it's amazingly otherworldly - they charge $50/hr to birdwatch from the tunnel deck, btw! =)

Here, There Be Dragons

A child of the Northeast, he was never bothered by tunnels growing up. But that was before a gilded envelope gave him a taste of what it was like to drown. Before terrorists and explosions and idiot ship captains and "Independence Day" showed him the possibilities - tunnels were death traps, even moreso than Gibbs' driving.

Tony had been pleased to be the one chosen for the three hour trip Gibbs-style to Norfolk. A road trip with Gibbs always trumped boring paperwork and internet searches back at the Navy Yard. That was before they found themselves shunted to I-664 after a major pileup on Gibbs' typical route, leaving them on the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge, which, to Tony's dismay, inexplicably dove into a tunnel halfway across Hampton Roads harbor. With everyone sent around the affected highway and an accident on the approach to its twin tunnel further east, they were now enduring bumper to bumper traffic as they crawled to the Norfolk Naval Base on the opposite shore.

Tony tapped his feet impatiently when Gibbs slowed the Charger with a grumble once again. He fiddled with the radio, looking for the piped in stations before turning the static off with a frustrated click. His phone provided no answers; no service. Tetris held no allure. Not even the bubble light and siren they kept stashed in the glove compartment would help them now, he reflected moodily.

With a quick glance to gauge his boss' mood, Tony cautiously eyed the wavering lighting lining the underground tube. He could feel the millions of gallons of water weighing down above them; the oppressive, recirculated air stifling him.

Sucking in a deep breath, he observed, "You know, Boss, it's a strange thing naming a tunnel after two ships that sank, dontcha think?"

"The Merrimac didn't sink; it was burned to avoid capture, Tony."

"But it did sink."

Gibbs matter-of-factly leaned towards his agent, enjoying the way Tony's eyes widened ever so slightly at the sudden scrutiny. "It blew up," he corrected archly. Settling back into his seat with both hands on the wheel, he shrugged noncommittally. "And, then it sank."

"Still..." Tony mentally kicked himself for trying to argue nautical history with Gibbs.

Behind them, the squeal of tires was followed by the strident blare of a horn. Gibbs diverted his attention from the road ahead briefly to check the rearview mirror as the echoes reverberated through the tunnel before fading into the thrum of hundreds of idling vehicles.

With a self-deprecating grin, Tony continued, "Just seems like a mixed message, you know?"

Sliding away in embarrassment, his eyes drifted to the car next to them before gradually becoming mesmerized by the red lights shimmering far into the distance. Tony absently drummed his fingers on the window sill. He fidgeted restlessly while his mind raced from one movie scenario to another - "Daylight", "Flushed Away", "Fantastic Mr Fox"...

The unexpected sting caught him off guard.

"What was that for?" he squeaked in surprise while he smoothed the spot with a petulant frown.

"We'll be out soon," Gibbs calmly observed as he neatly slid the Charger into the other lane of traffic with a hair's breadth to spare. He smirked at the other driver's reaction with a tip of an eyebrow even while noticing with disappointment how he didn't get the slightest rise out of his preoccupied agent.

"What? I know! No problems here, Boss!"

Blue eyes regarded Tony skeptically for a moment before returning to the traffic without a word.

"Seriously! When I was little I used to lie across the back seat and watch the lights go by through the rear window. I thought it was what being swallowed by a dragon would be like..." He leaned forward to peer up at the tiled roof through the windshield.

His sharp eyes narrowed...was that a crack?

A gentle hand patted his thigh a few times before coming to rest upon it, grounding him as it radiated warmth and comfort.

Sliding his leg up onto the seat to better face his partner, he protested, "'m not afraid of a stupid tunnel."

"You're not afraid of rats, either, but you are."

"They can carry the Plague," he defended weakly.

"You beat the Plague. You took on terrorists. You've run into burning buildings. You carried a dead rat around a ghost ship." Gibbs turned to look at him sincerely, brooking no protest. "I know you, of all the people I know, could slay a dragon, too, if he had to."

Several protests died on his lips as a strange warmth filled his chest. Amidst honking horns, their eyes locked for a long moment as worries fell away and were extinguished by resolve.

A smile blossomed across Tony's face at his boss' endorsement. "Gotcha, Boss."

Suddenly accelerating at an opening in the traffic, Gibbs ticked his head over his shoulder to the road ahead with a fond smirk. "Looks like there's a light at the end of this tunnel, Beowulf."

Shooting his boss a broad grin in return, Tony made a show of flipping his sunglasses back into place to block the shafts of light gradually reaching for his eyes as if dropping a face plate onto an armored helmet and relaxed into the seat to enjoy the rest of his ride.