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The Last Word

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"Oof!" They were sparring in the gym, and Tony had just taken McGee down. Again.

"You know," Tony said conversationally after helping the McGoober up, "if you'd adjust your stance like this," he moved McGee into a slightly different position, "and held your right hand a fraction higher, you'd be better able to block my punch and get one of your own in."

McGee scoffed. He was in another one of those 'I know better than Tony' phases and not at all pleased to have been both taken down (again) and then corrected (again) by the man. Especially in front of the entire gym; no matter that the only one watching was Gibbs.

"He's right, McGee," Gibbs said from his vantage point inside the edge of the ring.

Rolling his eyes, McGee bit out, "You know, I thought I'd die before--" but that's as far as he got because Tony suddenly launched himself at McGee.

Gibbs, however, had (barely) seen it coming and managed to intercept Tony's fist before it made contact with McGee's face. He redirected Tony's momentum and pinned him to the mat. Tony, for his part, struggled fiercely against Gibbs, extremely angry and spoiling for a fight.

"C'mon, Gibbs, lemme up. He thinks I'm a fucking useless waste of space, let's see what he can do!" Tony growled, livid.

"Move it, McGee!" Gibbs ground out, struggling to hold Tony down. After another second of stupefied shock, McGee came back to himself and climbed out of the ring. "That's not a fair fight, Tony, and you know it."

"I know." The smiled gracing Tony's face at that statement was terrifying. A mad, feral, snarl of a smile. Think "Heeeere's Johnny!" a la Jack Nicholson. McGee momentarily feared for Gibbs, while simultaneously wondering what, exactly, had set Tony off. He'd never seen him like this.

At that moment, Gibbs let Tony up and he wasted no time in unleashing his anger on Gibbs. He went at Gibbs like nothing McGee had ever seen; he had never even thought that Tony could fight like this, he was almost better than Gibbs.

By this time, every other person in the gym had come to gawk. No one had seen someone take on Gibbs like this before; and no one had ever suspected that DiNozzo would or even could be the one to do it.

"What did you *do*, McGee?" Ziva hissed.

"Nothing! I didn't do anything!" he defended himself. Ziva gave him a look. "Okay, well, I wasn't exactly thrilled to have him correct me, and then Gibbs said he was right, and I said 'yeah, right' and then he just...freaked out!" Ziva didn't seem convinced.

"You have been at each other's throats lately, yes?"

McGee didn't answer.

Tony was ruthless, viciously going after Gibbs with everything he had. It was all Gibbs could do to block the blows so that they'd both come out relatively uninjured. He knew Tony wasn't out to hurt him, that he was mostly just lashing out and using Gibbs as a convenient target, but that didn't mean it wouldn't still happen given just how angry he was.

It was like watching a master class in combat training, with the addition of Krav Maga techniques they'd both picked up from Ziva and down 'n dirty street fighting Tony learned in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

After nearly ten minutes of brutal blows, Tony dropped to his knees without warning, spent. Gibbs dropped with him, reaching gloved hands up to Tony's shoulders and gently pulling Tony's heaving body forward to rest against him. McGee and Ziva made to enter the ring, but Gibbs shook his head at them. His accompanying look, however, informed the two that while they weren't welcome in the ring, they weren't to leave, either. The rest of the crowd received a glare that sent them scurrying for cover.

Tony, trembling now due to the sudden drop in adrenaline, mumbled, "Sorry, Boss," into Gibbs' t-shirt. "Didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No, you didn't hurt me." Tony nudged Gibbs with his head, unable to lift his arms for the moment. "Okay, nothing some ice and a few shots of Jack won't cure," he amended.

"Sorry."

Gibbs sighed, "S'ok, DiNozzo."

Ziva and McGee just looked at them, unsure of exactly what to do. Gibbs seemed to have everything under control, but they still wondered what was going on. Neither had ever seen Tony that angry, and while he might verbally take Gibbs on, they had ever seen him physically challenge Gibbs like that before. Not only that, but Tony had almost won, and then apologized. And Gibbs had let him.

Raising his head, Tony looked blearily at Gibbs, "I'mna go shower."

"Okay. Let me get your gloves off first, Tony."

After allowing Gibbs to remove his gloves, Tony stumbled off toward the showers. Everyone in his path gave him a wide berth, not wanting to risk provoking his rage now that they had seen what he could do.

"McGee!" Gibbs' bark was tempered by his exhaustion from fending off DiNozzo, but it was no less effective.

"Yes, Boss." McGee stood practically at attention.

"You got a problem with DiNozzo I should know about?" His piercing gaze rooted McGee to the spot.

"Uh, no, Boss. No problem." Ziva glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, but didn't say anything.

"You sure about that?" Gibbs cut him off before he could answer, "Seems to me you do. That," he nodded toward the locker room, "has only ever happened once before." Gibbs groaned as he got to his feet but didn't elaborate. "How do you think you would have fared if I hadn't stepped in?"

McGee didn't answer. It was apparent to all three of them that he wouldn't have lasted long at all. Certainly not without serious injury.

"There's teasing and there's disrespecting, baiting and being cruel. You," he looked from McGee to Ziva, "need to decide which is which. He's been taking a lot of shit from both of you lately, and I'm not entirely sure that you're joking." Gibbs eased out of the ring and stood facing both of them. "DiNozzo's a great agent, and a damn good leader. You'd do well to remember that."

They nodded, but then looked away, re-evaluating their behavior over the last few months.

"Boss, I--" McGee started, but Gibbs quelled him with a look.

"Those were Kate's last words, McGee. And she was kidding."