By The Book

Chapter 1

AN: This is AU since, at that time, we had no idea what Tony's place looked like. I gave Tony more education, and I probably got some of the series 'facts' wrong. It was not intentional. Please just overlook things if that is the case. Enjoy!

Gibbs stormed into the ER waiting room. He was seeing red. He had found out what had happened. The argument, the reason his senior field agent was in the hospital with a bullet in his chest. He had heard the story from Tim and Ducky had confirmation from Kate.

Gibbs saw the target of his anger, he took a breath and calmed himself just a little before he approached Kate.

"What happened, Kate?" Gibbs asked. "What happened?"

"He was just…he was shouting orders. He just…." Kate tried to explain.

Gibbs had seen it develop, a general disrespect by Kate of Tony. Tim had even started to take Kate's lead. Gibbs had not said anything. He knew the reason Tony was treating them the way he was. He was taking a gradual, easy approach to training both agents. Gibbs knew that. He had agreed that that method would be the most effective with the two of them.

"He's your senior field agent, Kate. He's in charge when I'm not there." Gibbs growled. "And you can't take orders from him? If you don't like his leadership, then find another team." Gibbs paused, his anger showing. "This will NEVER happen again! Do you understand me?"

Gibbs turned on his heel and went off in search of Tony's room, leaving a stunned, wide-eyed, open-mouthed Kate in his wake.

Tony was still in surgery. He left Kate in the ER waiting room and went to the surgical waiting room, and sat. He needed the time and space from Kate to calm himself. He was feeling much better by the time Abby and Ducky showed up. They had come from NCIS as soon as they heard.

Abby paced the floor between asking Gibbs questions and crying on his shoulder. She couldn't lose her best friend. Ducky had gone off in search of a nurse to give him an update on Tony's condition.

Ducky came back with Tony's doctor. The doctor told them all that Tony had survived the surgery. The bullet had been removed, it had damaged his lung. And he would be seen by Dr. Pitt as soon as he was out of surgery. The doctor was expected in the next hour or two.

Kate didn't say much of anything to anybody. What had she done wrong here? She was just asking Tony a question. And besides, she knew more than Tony. He had a Physical Education degree, something not even related to his current job. At least she actually used her degree. True, Tony had experience in law enforcement. But as a beat cop…please! Cops were a dime a dozen.

Kate looked up and Gibbs. He was talking to her, bringing her out of her ravine. "…go see Tony if you want. Then you're off for the rest of the week. You need some time to think about this."

Kate looked at Gibbs. "What did I do? This is not my fault. You can't…."

"You don't know what you did?" Gibbs asked, not believing her gall, and trying his best to control his anger. "Then you do need the time. And I absolutely can...the director already knows what happened. He's signed off on it." He replied.

Kate shook her head. She started to speak.

Gibbs stopped her. "I meant what I said, Agent Todd. Tony is my second in command. You don't have to like him. But you have to respect his position." Gibbs paused. "If you can't…I can find someone who will. I chose you over a lot of very qualified candidates, Kate."

Kate looked at Gibbs for just a moment before she gathered her things and headed for Tony's hospital room. Kate paused as she walked in the door. She had an instant flashback to the plague, the still pale form lying on the bed.

Kate went up to the bedside and looked at Tony. The right side of his chest was covered with a huge bandage. He had a couple of IVs going, and he was on a heart monitor and a ventilator. She found herself just staring at him, almost expecting him to open his eyes. She had wanted him to say that this was all a big joke. He wasn't lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life. She started to cry. But, the sad thing was she didn't know why. Was she scared for her job or scared for her partner?

Kate turned and left the room, ashamed of her selfishness. And the fact she didn't know the answer to her own question.

Kate was told by Gibbs not to come back to the hospital for a few days. He wanted her to have plenty of time to think about what had happened. Too, Kate suspected, Gibbs was still much, much too angry to deal with her. Kate was well aware of Gibbs's and Tony's friendship. Thought, she admitted, she did not understand it.


Tony improved quickly. He left the hospital in a couple weeks and went, immediately, to Gibbs's house.

Abby had taken on the task, as usual, to get Tony some things he would need while at Gibbs's house. She invited Kate along to help her. Abby knew about the friction between Tony and Kate. Abby thought maybe she could help the situation without actually appearing to do so. Maybe Kate would understand her partner if she knew him a little better.

"I've never been in Tony's place." Kate replied as Abby put her key in the door. "But once you've seen one frat house dorm room…."

Abby smiled a knowing smile, as she opened the door. Kate was in for the surprise of her life.

Kate was speechless at first. She thought sure they were in the wrong apartment. That Abby was playing a joke on her. Then she noticed the huge TV and the bookcases full of movies. She looked around stunned. The place was elegant, simply, but tastefully furnished and…she stopped right then and just stared. How had she missed the piano?

Abby, meanwhile, watched Kate, thoroughly enjoying her stunned reaction. Abby had started to gather what she needed. She went into the kitchen. She opened his stocked fridge and started to remove the perishable food. She put some what could be frozen in the freezer. She put the rest in a heavy-duty cloth grocery bag to take to Gibbs's house. The kitchen was stunning, even though it was simple in design, very modern and classic at the same time. Kate was, again, speechless.

Kate finally found her voice. "This is Tony place? Really?"

Abby nodded. "I have a few more things to pick up. I'll be ready in a few minutes."

Kate nodded. She went back into the living room. She couldn't resist hitting a few keys on the piano. She then noticed Tony's wall of degrees…wait degrees, with an 's', as in more than one? Kate studied the documents. As it turned out Tony had a Bachelor's in Criminology and one in Music, and there were textbooks lying on the coffee table.

Abby finished in the kitchen. She smiled as Kate looked at the books. "Grab those, Kate." Abby said referring to the textbooks. "And I'll get his laptop. I'm sure he'll be given an extension on everything. But still, it'll keep him busy."

Kate picked up the books and looked at them, then at Abby. "What?"

Abby smiled at Kate's confusion. "Tony's just started his Masters in Criminology. I would hate for him to get behind now. He…it took his so long to get his Bachelors, between working full-time, the changing jobs and the subsequent moves. I just…I can't see how he found the time, myself."

Kate just looked at her. "What?"

Abby just shook her head. Kate was in for another surprise as she followed Abby into Tony's bedroom. Kate had expected a mirrored celling, leopard-print bedding and a huge king-sized bed, among frat-boy paraphernalia. What she got shocked her, a nice, tidy tasteful bedroom, full of books and not a television in sight. She looked in his closet; it was even neat and orderly.

Kate went back into the living room and sat down. How could she have been so wrong about someone she thought she knew so well? Then she realized she had only taken Tony at face value. She had never taken the time to get to know him. She looked around his place and realized, with only a few, slight obvious modifications, this could be her apartment. She shook her head. How could she have been so blind?

"You ready?" Abby asked when she returned to the living room. She had a couple bags her hands. She motioned for Kate to get the rest.

"You didn't need my help." Kate stated as they locked up and walked down the hall.

Abby shook her head and grinned. "No, but sometimes it just helps to see how a person lives. You can find out what their interests are." Abby meant the piano in that case. "And you even find a few extra surprises." Abby said, referring to the degrees on Tony's wall.

"He talks about his P.E. degree." Kate stated.

Abby nodded. "He's proud of it, too. He wouldn't have gotten to play in the Final Four without that scholarship he got for his grades."

"Tony played in the Final Four?" Kate had no idea. She was a huge fan of college basketball. Though, she guessed, not many people knew that about her. She had heard his name, though, of course, at the time, it meant nothing to her. She just…never made the connection. Though how many DiNozzo's could there be who were 6 '3" with the first name of Anthony? "

"One of the best games of his college career, he might have gone pro, if hadn't been for Brad Pitt." Abby replied.

"You mean Dr. Pitt?" Kate asked as she and Abby put Tony's things into Abby's hearse. She remembered their conversation during Tony's battle with the Plague. She also knew that they were now very good friends. They even played basketball, recreationally, sometimes.

They both got in and Abby nodded. "Tony was mobbed by recruiters after that game. He had so many offers…." Abby shook her head. "But then, a few months later Brad came along."

"His broken leg ended his career." Kate stated.

Abby nodded.

"He didn't need a career…rich-spoiled brats, always have money." Kate replied, really not meaning for it to come out that way. But it was how she felt, one of those 'the rich only get richer' type things.

Abby glared at Kate at this point. She was getting irritated with the attitude. "Tony Sr. was rich. Tony Jr. had to work his way through college, Kate. And no," Abby stated knowing what Kate would say next. "…Tony didn't blow through his inheritance."

Kate was quiet for a few moments, considering that Abby had said. She had more questions, but she let the matter drop, for now. She then turned to Abby. "The piano?"

"…learned to play when he was 4 years old." Abby stated. "He knows how to play the guitar. And he experimented with the drums, a little, in his college band, decided he didn't like them too well." Abby paused. "And he has a great voice."

"How do you know all this?" Kate asked.

"I listen to him." Abby said simply.

"I've listened to him too, for two years, I've never…." Kate started.

"You've heard what meshes with your profile of him, Kate." Abby sneaked a glance at her while she drove. "You rejected whatever didn't match the frat-boy image."

"He brags about all the women." Kate stated.

"Right, but have you noticed none of these women have names?" Abby asked. "How good is Tony at remembering names?"

"Excellent." Kate admitted.

"Yet these women have no names." Abby replied.

"When you're just out for one thing, you don't really care or need names." Kate reasoned.

"True. That would be true with a lot of men. But Tony's not that way. He could tell you the name of every pretty woman at NCIS." Abby paused. "And he could probably tell you about their families and pets, if you asked him."

Kate was not sure what Abby was getting at.

"Tony's doesn't take his relationships lightly. He brags…Kate. Generally what most people brag about is not 100% true. They embellish a little." Abby explained.

So, Tony was exaggerating his dating frequency. He, most likely, she realized, spent his evening much like her, without the studying-for-a-degree part.

"Then why…?" Kate asked.

"Tony likes to keep his private life private, Kate." Abby said. "He wouldn't like it, at all, that you've seen his apartment. This is his sanctuary." Abby paused. "He is going to be very upset with me. But…" She kind of glared at Kate as she spoke. "…I will not lose my best friend just because his partner is too stubborn and too blind to see the type of person he really is. Because she is too prideful to admit that a beat cop, in this case, most definitely trumps a member of the Secret Service." Abby paused. "He trumped you before all the degrees, Kate. He's got more real-world experience. And he doesn't let his preconceived notions cloud his judgment."

That last part hit Kate hard. She just nodded and swallowed.

Abby leaned in close to Kate. "I will not bury my best friend because his partner has her head up her ass!" Abby sighed. "I like you, Kate. I really do. But this will never, ever happen again!" She warned.

Abby parked her hearse at Gibbs's, and they unloaded Tony's things in silence.