This is an old, old plotline done by just about everyone, but I have always wanted to write one. It's been sitting partially done on my docs for weeks, time to finish it and delete. Thanks for all of your wonderful support! Not beta'd. AU. No slash. PS- I have the last chap of No Strings Attached almost set to go, that should be posted sometime this weekend.

DiNozzo had tried to warn him and he hadn't listened -didn't want to listen -and now Gibbs had the entire team, hell, the entire place on the wrong side of him. Thinking back on it, he should have seen the signals himself, but guy was a Senator, and an old friend, the hell could he have let his judgment get so skewed? So Tony was a kid in his eyes, didn't mean the guy didn't have a good brain in his head, and even better instincts. Was that what he was really pissed about? That DiNozzo had caught something that he hadn't about the Senator, that his gut had failed him and Tony's had worked over-time? He had all but screamed at the younger man to put him in his place, knowing full well what that sort of heavy-handed treatment did to Tony's psyche. Worst of all, he had done it in the bullpen, in front of the team, for the entire floor to witness.

He knew as soon as he started it was the wrong road to take, but his self-righteous anger over-took his good sense as he wound up for the big blow-out. And he knew all of Tony's hot-buttons, the ones that turned him into a moody, tight-lipped autobot for days until the kid could find some sort of flimsy thread to pull himself back up out of his black hole of negative emotions, but Gibbs was worn down and frazzled, lacking sleep and answers and the suspect Senator himself, and his rational side was nowhere to be found.


"And you were going to tell me this when, DiNozzo?"

"Uh, well, Boss, I thought I already had, like two or three times, but I could've been talking to myself, that happens a lot on this team lately."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean, DiNozzo?"

"It means just what it sounds like, Boss. You've got blinders on, and Cate's got the hots for the Senator, so my opinion is worth bull crap on this case."

"Hey, I do not have the hots for him, Tony, he treats me with respect, which is more than a lot of men in this business ever have, you might try it yourself sometime instead of slamming guys that do!"

Tony jumped to his feet from behind his desk at Cate's words, his mouth set in a hard line.

"You sit back down, DiNozzo!" Gibbs bellowed, not giving the guy a chance to defend himself. "You haven't liked the guy the minute you laid eyes on him and yet you can't give me one damned, good reason why I should sit his ass down and question him! You think I don't know a guy after twenty-something years, you think I'm losing my touch cause I'm not as young as you and don't know my ass from my elbow anymore?"

"No, Boss, I never -"

"Cate and I are headed out to Georgetown, got some ass-kissing to do since you saw fit to insult and

intimidate our only witness to this investigation."

"Boss, I didn't intimidate her, Cate, tell him what happened -"

"You park your ass at your desk and make those calls I told ya to, you go anywhere other than the head and I'll have yours on a platter!"

"Gibbs, you're making -"

Gibbs crossed the bullpen back to Tony's desk in seconds, and slammed his hands palm down on it, scattering pens and papers and keyboard to the floor. He was inches away from his SFA's face, eyes daring the younger man to defy him further. This insubordination was going to be dealt with, and now.

"Do I have to get serious with ya, DiNozzo? Cause I can always make Cate my SFA and you my probie, or maybe even somebody else's probie if ya don't like following my lead. You keep this up and you'll be sweepin' the floors at yer old man's corporate offices before the week is out!."

Cate stood by in horror as she watched all color drain from her partner's face and he collapsed back down into his chair.

"Gibbs, you can't – you can't tell him that!"

"The hell I can't, Cate, or are you bucking for an occupational change of venue?"

Cate took a shocked step back, beginning to realize herself that just maybe her boss wasn't coming from the most rational frame of mind. Gibbs turned his attention back to his now-cowed SFA, and angry as he was, he felt a jolt of remorse from the now shuttered and flinty set of Tony's eyes as he gathered up the scattered papers and pens. So maybe he'd stepped to far over the line this time, but he got his point across to the younger man. Nobody disparaged and smeared the reputation of one the guys who had fought shoulder to shoulder with him in battle, especially a kid whose only combat experience had been at a posh military school over who got the best cut of meat at the table.

He had no clue where or why Tony had gotten the idea to make his old friend the prime suspect in the grisly murder of a female warrant officer just transferred to the base to replace a retiring chaplain. If the Senator hadn't been his buddy, he would have been asking DiNozzo if they guy had shifty eyes or something. But he'd known Paul Kinglsey since his early days in the Corp, and the man had done nothing but prove himself under fire over and over again. He was a war hero, a shoe-in as a political candidate, and had transferred his grace under pressure to a different kind of battle, here in the nation's capital. For an inexperienced investigator like DiNozzo to insinuate the man was a cold-blooded murderer was not only laughable, but downright infuriating and he was going to nip that notion in the bud here and now.

"N -no, Gibbs." Cate stammered, backing off.

"Then I suggest you grab your gear and the elevator so we can get to Georgetown before dark."

She huffed a small, silent protest, and turned to leave, but Tony caught her eye when Gibbs went to grab his weapon and keys.

"Watch yer six, Catie, something's hinkey, I'm tellin' you!"

"Yeah, Tony, got it." she told him sotto voce as she snatched her purse and backpack off the floor.

"Behave, don't make him..."

"Agent Todd, you comin' with me or are ya joinin' DiNozzo at corporate headquarters?"

"Later, Tony." Cate assured him with a nervous smile, and followed Gibbs to the elevator.

That 'later' turned out to be hours later, as Gibbs had escorted Cate to the emergency room and called in Chris Pacci's team and the local LEOS to take over the scene and escort their supposedly put-upon witness now turned assault perpetrator to the Navy Yard for Gibbs to have for dinner when he got back from the hospital. Tony paced and fumed, punching Gibbs' speed dial number over and over and getting no response; the older man had been too proud and embarrassed to call him, even when he knew Tony had to be ready to combust from worry over them. The young agent had finally resorted to demanding that Abby trace both Gibbs and Cate's cells, and a stunned lab goth informed the SFA his boss and partner were both at Bethesda Hospital.

"And neither of them thought to call us and let us know where they were and what was happening? It's been what, almost four hours since they left the bullpen?" Tony seethed. "Call Gibbs, ask him what the hell is going on, text him if you have to, and tell him if he doesn't call one of us back, I'm heading out to Bethesda in ten minutes."

"Got it, calling." Abby snapped, as angry as Tony was for him being kept in the dark all that time. She didn't know all of the details, only what that the two team members had not been heard from in a reasonable amount of time, and were at the hospital of all places. The line rang three times before a familiar voice barked at her.

"Gibbs, what is it, Abby?"

"Are you still at the hospital, are you okay, is Cate okay?"

"How did you – you traced my phone. We're at the Yard, up in the bullpen, where DiNozzo should be right now."

"He's here with me, trying to locate YOU!"

"Yeah, figured that out, Abs. I'll be down later."

"He hung up." Abby turned to Tony, and they shared surprised looks. "No, 'Tell DiNozzo to get his ass up here ASAP!"

"Yeah. Something's not right."

"Well yeah, Tony, one of them got HURT, they've been at the hospital!"

"Could've had to take a witness turned suspect there."

"Tony, just go up there and find OUT, Gibbs never told you to not to come up there, didn't he tell you NOT to leave?"

"Yes, Abs, and thank you so much for reminding me. I'm sure he'll be welcoming with open arms when I get back up there."

"I M me, let me know what's going on!"

"Sure, Abs, Gibbs was already royally pissed at me before he left, so how about if I just text you from my hospital bed where I'll be lying in traction for the next two weeks after he breaks me in half?"

"He didn't sound that mad to me, Tony, maybe he cooled down, had his coffee quota!"

Tony gave her a wan smile and strode out of her lab with every intention of facing his boss with or without coffee. He'd had enough of the man's hard-headedness when it came to his gut always being right; this time Gibbs' gut was shut off, or at least being ignored in favor of an old friendship. Whichever was the case, his gut was wrong, and shutting Tony out for all those hours had steamed the younger man up but good. He was just about to light into the man when he saw Cate turn towards him from behind her desk. Her arm was in a sling. Cate's arm was in a god damned sling. Now that steam turned to burning anger at his superior, but he tamped it down long enough to talk his probie.

"What happened, Catie, are you alright?"

"Oh, yeah, I'm okay, Tony, just a sprain, it'll be fine in a couple of days, just have to keep some ice on it."


She hesitated telling him, but he was resolute, his eyes drilling into hers until she caved, and sputtered a string of half-truths in the hopes of keeping some sort of peace on the team.

"Witness decided we'd asked him one too many questions, got a little impatient, slammed the door in my face."

"She's fine, DiNozzo, grab your gear, we're done for the day, be back at 08:00 tomorrow."

"Cate.." he spoke in a warning voice.

"I'm fine, Tony, really." She gave him an earnest smile that even reached her eyes, but her eyes were telling him to please drop it, for God sakes. He backed off, only half-satisfied, and gave Gibbs a look she'd never seen him give anyone, much less his beloved boss.

"Yeah, great, that's great." he put in cheerily, his voice anything but cheery as he turned his back on them and grabbed his coat and pack. "See you in the morning." he called behind him, heading for the elevators.

"DiNozzo..." Gibbs called after him, not liking his second's attitude or the glare Cate was giving him.

"Basement, Gibbs. Not having it out here in public."

And with that, he was swallowed up in the elevator, leaving a stunned Cate and furious boss to stare after him.

End Flashback

Now he waited in his boss's basement, stalking the length of the floor and too angry to bother with a beer, or any other liquor. He wanted to be totally clear-headed, nothing clouded by alcohol when he tore the man a new one. He heard the man come in the door, toss his keys and coat, and head towards him, and he folded his arms across his chest to keep from swinging at the man. There was no care to the fact that Gibbs may be as angry as he was, he was ready for a full- on, all -out battle, which had been brewing since the first time his boss had come into the bullpen accompanied by his old war buddy, and now Senator, Paul Kingsley. Senator Kingsley had supposedly been the victim of a weekend burglary attempt at his office, and two days later, had been roughed up in an apparent kidnapping attempt, where his aides had wrestled the perpetrator to the ground and called the local PD.

The details and information provided about both incidents seemed to make enough sense, until the man had been found dead yesterday afternoon in his home after making bail, bullet through the head in an apparent suicide. That's where the story started getting a little hinky in Tony's estimation, and he had had the temerity to suggest that the Senator might somehow be involved in something that was perhaps causing the uproar in his life. Gibbs had not only vehemently denied the fact that his friend could in any way know the answers to why these things had happened, but screamed at DiNozzo in full hearing of the entire floor to find the real truth, or find another team. The man was a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Marine, for God's sake.

Gibbs ambled down the stairs, knowing full well his second would be waiting to pounce on him, and in no hurry to face him, mostly because he was beginning to understand how wrong he'd been, and in front of his team, no less. The fact that his comrade in arms was starting to look less than pristine tore at him, as did the fact that he had let his heart ignore his instincts. Never again, he vowed.

He looked up at the sight in front of him and sighed inwardly. Normally DiNozzo was a level-headed, easy-going young man, even in the heat of field work or interrogation, but right now he was ready to eat his boss alive. Gibbs sighed inwardly, knowing he had it coming, but dreading it anyways. He knew Tony well enough to understand that he never wanted to be on the wrong side of the young agent. Up until now he had done a good job staying on the winning side, and could only imagine what was coming. Tony glared at him a good long minute before laying into him.

"You know, I'm not so blind as to not be aware that I have some serious flaws in my psyche, like, borderline not right in the head. I know damn well I have issues, they follow me around 24/7 waiting for the right opportunity to jump out and ruin what I've worked so hard for. Anger is one of them, repressed, mostly, till now. Blind loyalty to someone whom I don't know as well as I thought. Commitment issues out the wazoo.

"But for all my idiocy, have I ever once since you've known me, assumed the worst in someone because they were older than myself, or less educated than myself, or any other reason someone would assume things about another person? Do you really think I'd just pick a fight with your buddy cause I woke up one morning and said to myself, 'Hey, Tony, been a while since you've kicked a war veteran, think I'll do that today!' Do you really think that you're the only one whose gut tells them things, that I figure everything out in my head for hours before I give you the right lead? Do you think I liked telling you I thought he was dirty, like I liked finding out about Danny after all we'd been through, so I thought I'd lay that on someone who's – that I'd make it up just to piss you off?"

"In what universe do you think I want you pissed off at me in any way, shape or form? Cause sometimes I have a hard enough time dealing with you when you're pretending to be happy with me."

"DiNozzo, I -"

"Did you not ever get that feeling in your gut that something bad was about to happen to someone you cared about, Gibbs?"

"Tony.." Gibbs growled, not knowing if the younger man was referring to Shannon and Kelly.

"Cause I got it and tried to do something about it, and you stomped on me for it, so if you want to send me packing so be it, but if I ever find out you ignored your own gut again for a friend and Cate gets hurt again for it, I'll come right into the bullpen and take you down in front of everyone, and I'm not going to use words to do it. You think because I was only a street cop and you were a Marine that I don't have some moves that would shock even you. Don't ever underestimate me just because you haven actually seen me do something, Gibbs. Remember that anger I was telling you about? Ask my old football coach if he thinks I can do some damage."

The fact that Tony's voice was level and calm the entire time he spoke to his boss meant nothing to Gibbs, he could hear the iron scream underneath it, see DiNozzo clenching his upper arms in an effort to keep his fists from swinging.

"Could've gone real sideways out there today, Boss. Could be telling you this the same way Ducky talks to his friends on those tables, with Cate lying next to you. Next time you think I'm stirring the pot just to make a friend of yours look bad, you better either think again or get the hell out of my line of fire, cause I won't let you bully me like you did today. What you said to me was bad, Boss, but what happened to Cate, what could have happened to one or both of you – I couldn't handle that again. So get your head out of your ass and start treating this case for what it is or I'm done, and I'll take Cate with me."

"She's mine, DiNozzo, on my team!"

"Then start acting like it instead of putting some old war buddy before us! You haven't seen him in, what, ten years, and somehow he's still more important than Cate and I because you were in a war with him? I got news for you, Boss, this is a war, every day we fight these arms dealers and drug dealers and crazy-ass killers, is a day at war, we cover each other's asses just like you do on any battlefield, here or five thousand miles away. You owe us the same respect and loyalty you've been giving him, actually more, seeing as how he's been lying right to your face since the minute he called you."

Gibbs stood stock-still, trying to think of way to defend himself and finding none. There was no defense against what his SFA had just told him, nothing he could say to refute the evidence. He'd let his team down, and if he wanted to keep them his team, he needed to figure out how to make things right.

"Paul Kingsley saved a lot of lives in Kuwait." Gibbs started quietly, hesitantly, and went on when he realized Tony was willing to hear him out. "He – he was a different guy back then, had different goals. Different agenda. I dunno what happened to him in between then and now, blame it on politics or the war or hell, maybe he's got a god damned brain tumor, I don't know! But you have to understand, Tony, Marine or not, I didn't know a lot of men like him back then, he was a genuine hero!"

"And the rest of you guys weren't? Leaving your families and going to God only knows what kind of hell? Medics save lives, officers save lives by being smart and knowing when and where to move their troops, troops save lives by watching out for each other – just cause you never threw yourself on a freaking grenade doesn't mean you don't deserve praise! He's just a guy, Boss, a guy that lost his way somehow, or was able to keep his dark side under wraps until now! Maybe he has Post Traumatic Stress and something triggered it the other day, I don't know, but I sure as hell do know that he's deep into this somehow, either by his own hand or by his knowledge!"

Tony relaxed a little, his body language betraying his sadness and fatigue.

"Don't make me do an end run around you to nail him, cause I will, I have to, and it won't be pretty for any of us."

"I know, Tony." Gibbs replied, his own weariness starting to show through. "You'd be on report by me if you had even thought of trying it. Truth is, it's not easy to lose another piece of my past to violence, it just – it's hard to let go of something that had such a place in my life."

"I understand, Boss, and yeah, I do know how it feels, I felt the same way about Danny P., and yeah, I didn't blow him in for being dirty, but he didn't murder anyone, or have anything to do with anyone being murdered. And truth be told, as long as we're telling them, he'll probably meet a grisly end at the hands of one of his dirt bag perps, or maybe even another dirty cop, but Kingsley? He's got enough power and connections that he can walk away from this and nothing will ever touch him, hell, maybe he even becomes President some day. Not totally the same thing."

"I know, Tony. Wouldn't try to say that it is, just – I'm getting tired of everything in my past coming back to haunt me. Thought I at least had a few good suits in the closet besides the skeletons."

"I'd say something about your suits, Boss, but ..." Tony said with a hint of a smile.

"Good call, DiNozzo. Point is I not only broke Rule Ten, I let it get in the way of my gut. Pissed me off that you called it and I was blind to it. Didn't want to admit it."

"You're – you're saying you were – come on, Boss, you can say the word, I know you can. It doesn't start with an S or even an L. Wrrrr-ong. I. Was. Wrong."

"Alright, DiNozzo, I was wrong, I get it!" Gibbs barked angrily. "Making me say it doesn't change the fact that I could've gotten Cate killed, bad enough she got hurt!"

Tony sobered, seeing the guilt and raw anxiety in his boss's eyes, and changed direction.

"It's okay, Boss, just a sprain, like she said. And there won't be a next time after this cause none of us will forget it from this time. You apologize to Cate?"

"Yes. I actually said the 's' word to her."

"Good. That must have meant the world to her, Boss. She's probably still in shock, though, hope Ducky gave her a good muscle relaxant scrip."

"Yeah, well maybe she'll share them with you, DiNozzo. Cause I'm gonna say the same thing to you. I'm sorry I threatened you like that in the bull pen, should never have let myself get that out of control.
Problem is I was starting to see things for myself and I wasn't just pissed that he had lied to me, I was pissed I hadn't figured it out the same time you did, hell, before you did, I'm supposed to be the veteran agent here. Should've known better."

"Well, now you do, Boss." Tony stated matter of factly, though his face was showing deep signs of astonishment and awe that he was desperately hoping to disguise. "And now you know that I'm gonna have your six even when you don't want me to. So get used to it."

"I'll try, DiNozzo. Just don't get used to me using the 's' word. Blanket coverage on this for the crap I pulled on ya the last couple of days, and for not having your six covered."

"Got it, Boss. What happens now?"

" go order some dinner. I work on my boat. Order something for Cate, she won't be able to cook anything in her sorry state. Probably shoot ya on sight if she's got drugs in her system, so call ahead. Make sure to tell her she's still your Probie."

"On it, Boss. And Boss?"

"Yeah, Tony."

"I am sorry about Paul. I – it wasn't something I liked finding out, I was really hoping I was wrong."

"I know, Tony. Go. See you in the morning."

"You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm alright. Not the first person in my life to disappoint me. Won't be the last."

"Yeah. Okay. See you in the morning."

Tony turned and headed up the stairs, searching his pockets for his cell phone as his boss watched him leave. Gibbs sighed and closed his eyes, falling back against the workbench. He felt older than his years, and used beyond all reason. He rubbed his face hard with both hands, as if that would wipe away the memory of the last few days and how he'd been so determined to be right that he couldn't even begin to see how wrong he was. Before DiNozzo had joined his MCRT, he would have told who ever had defied him to either get over it or get the hell off the team. He didn't have that luxury anymore; if he wanted to keep Tony on his team, (and he did) he would have to either get over himself and learn to listen to his second, or plan on using the 's' word a lot more than he was comfortable with, which he didn't think any of them would be able to handle very often.

Gibbs turned and searched out a jar for his bourbon, and felt a smile creep onto his face in spite of his mood. The kid had stood up to him but good, and had told him exactly what he needed to know in no uncertain terms. There was no doubt in his mind that Tony would have convinced Cate to mutiny with him if Gibbs had continued on his bent course, they were like siblings, and would protect each other to the end, even from their boss. He huffed a quiet laugh at the thought, and knew that that was not really a bad thing, but that it was best not to continue testing the theory on them. He finally had a team he liked and that he could work with, there was no sense in driving yet another one away with his implacable attitude. He would need to lighten up more than just using the 's' word on occasion. He knew it wouldn't be easy, but his gut was telling him that it would all be worth it.