Tony DiNozzo cursed, fingers tightening on his gun. The alley stretched out in front of him, high houses lined up on both sides. He concentrated on his breathing, steady and even, in synch with his feet hitting the ground. Part of him absently noted that the cobblestone was dry and he was glad for it; he wouldn’t have liked running on wet cobble, even though he was not going at full speed. Instead, he was running in as low a crouch as possible, darting quickly from garbage dumpsters to cars, taking cover from the perp's shots wherever possible.
Tony loved his work but there were moments such as this that he resented it as well. Moments when he was chasing down a perp, dodging bullets fired by a man whose name he didn't know on his own because his partner was an old man with a beer belly larger than his legs were long who liked hanging out in bars to “make sure there were no brawls”, leaving Tony to do their work alone, procedure be damned. For Tony, being a cop was more than a job. The sentiment was clichéd and he had seen it in one too many cop-movies, but it held true nevertheless. Unfortunately, Tony often seemed to be the only one who felt this way. Jacky, his partner, certainly saw the Baltimore Police Force as nothing more than a way to pay the bills and did not see the need to put more than the bare minimum of effort into his work. Frustration welled up inside of Tony, the way it did every time he pondered how much more efficient the police force could be if only all cops were actually motivated. It was not a topic he'd ever talk about with anyone; since he goofed off more than any of the other guys on the job voicing his opinion would probably just earn him confused looks It was, however, one of the reasons why he never managed to stay in one place for long.
Maybe it was time to move on again. He had been in Baltimore for nearly two years now and though he liked Jacky as a person, he hated times like this, when his partner should be covering him and yet was not there. Maybe at some point he would find a partner who was just as invested into the work as he was. Then he caught another glimpse of the perp firing blindly over his shoulder as he ran forward, and he ignored his thoughts in favour of speed and charged after the man in earnest.
The perp fired one more blind shot. The bullet didn’t hit anywhere close. Tony had counted the shots and figured the man would be out of ammunition now. His own shots so far had only given the man incentive to run faster and fire more erratically
Running track in high school had taught Tony to gain speed fast and to keep it; his habit of running every day he had the time to uphold his form meant he was faster than the perp and from the shock in the man's eyes when he half turned to look over his shoulder and saw Tony closing in on him, the man knew that the chase was almost over. The perp lifted his gun again, pulling the trigger repeatedly. When no shots fell, he threw the gun away in an angry motion. The wind carried the man's unintelligible curses towards Tony.
The alley gave way to a mostly deserted larger street. Tony could hear a car's tire squeal behind him, the howling of the engine. For one brief moment, he thought it might be back-up and he made a mental note to berate whoever was driving later that it was not the way to treat a car, but then the car drove past him and his relief dissolved into anxiety. He had seen the man behind the wheel before, and the encounter had ended with an arrest. They had been forced to let Sergei Rockwels go on a technicality, something that Tony – every cop, really – hated.
The car turned, coming to a stop between Tony and the man he'd been chasing. Sergei and someone Tony did not recognise got out, always remaining in the cover of the car, and then there were two guns pointed at Tony. He swore under his breath and cast a quick look around; there was no cover anywhere and he was not about to make a run for it only to be shot in the back. Rockwels had better aim than the perp he'd been chasing. So he stood up straight, shoulders back, and looked Rockwels in the eye.
“Long time no see, Sergei,” he greeted Rockwels with a grin. His voice came out strong and he controlled his breathing, slowing it consciously. It would not do to appear breathless or nervous in front of these men. Tony just hoped that his call for back-up would mean he wouldn’t be alone in this situation for much longer.
Tony gave a nod to the man with Rockwels and the man he'd chased, the grin not leaving his face. “I'm afraid we haven't been introduced. I'm Detective Anthony DiNozzo and you, are under arrest.”
His words did not have the intended effect on the men. He had expected them to laugh, mock him, tell him that he was in no position to make arrests as he was outnumbered and on his own. Instead, Rockwels just lifted his gun a little higher and shot Tony twice. The first bullet hit his shoulder, the impact spinning him around. His hand went to his shoulder reflexively. The second bullet lodged into his thigh. Tony felt searing pain. His leg buckled and he fell, hitting the pavement hard.
Everything went black.
Tony washed himself slowly, meticulously. The hot water relaxed him and the familiar actions of soaping down his body made him feel in control. He swiped his thumb over the label of his shampoo. He could tell shampoo, soap and conditioner apart by their respective scents, but it was better to be certain. Once, he had ended up with conditioner over his balls and soap in his hair. It had not been a good day.
After the shower, he walked over to his bedroom (three and a half steps), carefully choosing a suit (grey, Armani) that made him feel confident and that he knew he looked good in. There were no mirrors in his apartment, so he styled his hair blindly, years of practice making it easy to create a tousled look.
Tony called himself a cab, satisfied to hear that one would be by his place in five minutes. The rituals of showering, getting dressed for the day helped erase the fatigue from spending an entire night awake; pulling an all-nighter was not something he was used to doing anymore. He flexed his toes in his shoes, took a deep breath, and slipped on his sunglasses. They were large and dark aviator sunglasses, completely hiding his eyes.
His cane leant by the door (five steps to the door of his bedroom, seventeen steps down the corridor and slightly to the left) and grabbing it had become a reflex. His fingers closed around it and he pulled his door closed behind him.
He had just reached the middle of the pavement in front of his apartment (three steps), when someone cleared their throat. “You called a cab?” Tony's cab driver had a high voice, but he was definitely male. Tony turned his face into the direction of the sound. “Yeah.” He thought for a moment of how he was going to play this, but since the man had sounded neither attractive nor very friendly, he gave a vague shrug and asked, “Where exactly is your car?”
The cab driver hesitated for a beat before carefully saying, “Bit to the right. Uh, d'you need a hand or something?”
Tony shook his head. People always felt obliged to ask and sometimes, he did need their help. It had taken him over a year but he had learnt to get through most things on his own and to ask for help when he really needed it. That learning curve had been the hardest of his life. “I'll manage.”
Sometimes, he asked for help even when he did not need it, usually when a nice, female voice offered so that he could get close, judge her size and weight and perfume up close. Tony figured he was doing the entire handicapped population of the world a favour by showing these women that he was not helpless. Maybe they'd remember having sex with him the next time they saw a blind man. Tony had never had any complaints from women (or men) that he had slept with in the last six months (the number was lower than he would have liked, but higher than he had had any reason to expect, so he counted that as a success) and he hoped they would forever associate blind men with attentive hands . Maybe it would help someone out there to score one day. It was all part of his master plan, really.
He got in the car (four small steps, using his cane to avoid running into anything or anyone and using his hands to figure out where the door was and where the car started; he did not need to hit his head and get a concussion on top of the tiredness). Tony heard the rustle of the cab driver getting in as well, he didn't flinch when the door banged close as he so often had in the beginning because now he was able to anticipate it.
“NCIS Headquarters,” he said.
He could almost hear the cab driver think. “You have an address for that?”
Tony was glad that he had looked up the exact address on his computer. He sometimes thought about how much worse off blind people must have been before all the technology that he was using now had been developed. “716 Sicard Street.”
The man let out a non-committal sound. Tony hoped he hadn’t ended up with a driver who could not find his way around the area. Settling deeper into his seat he tried to relax, even though he knew that it was a hopeless undertaking. Scenarios of being robbed, murdered, assaulted or just left somewhere he did not want to be all ran through his mind. He had no way of controlling where they were going.
Finally, the car stopped and the cab driver said “we're there.”
“How much do I owe you?” Tony took out his wallet, narrowing his eyes behind his sunglasses. He had a fair idea of how much a ride from his apartment to the Navy Yard should cost, but the cab driver couldn’t know that. How easy must it seem to him to fool a blind man by naming a much higher amount?
It seemed he had gotten lucky though, because the price his cab driver named was reasonable. Tony pulled out a couple of bank notes and his mobile phone, checking the value of the notes with it. He had tried to keep his wallet organised enough to be able to do this without the help of the reader installed on his phone, but in the end he had given up on it. He only had so much discipline and what little he had was better used in other areas of his life.
For not trying to screw him over, Tony left the cab driver a generous tip. “One final question: What way is the entrance to the Navy Yard?”
Tony ran a hand through his hair and swallowed down the nervousness. He firmly told himself that he could do this, that his blindness did not limit him as much as everyone (including himself, in the beginning) seemed to assume and that there was no reason to be afraid of what he could not see. The worry (he refused to admit that he was scared) was familiar, though no less intense for it. Still, he took a deep breath and gripped his cane tighter, walking forward on the off chance that this was where his goal lay. He had heard that researchers were developing a new device that would give precise instructions of where to walk, that would warn a person when they veered off the pavement or went in the wrong direction. He wondered whether it worked inside buildings too.
Of course, even if his vision was still perfect, he would’ve needed directions now so he did not begrudge himself the relief flooding through him when someone (male, again, probably a guard or similar) slightly to his right asked him where he was going.
“Uhm,” Tony said, turning so that he (hopefully) faced the man who had spoken and pasting on a sheepish grin on his face. “See, the thing is. I witnessed a homicide this morning and, who was it, oh yeah, Special Agent Gibbs is apparently leading the investigation, so I figured I would come by and give a statement.”
There was a silence that was only filled with sounds Tony could not identify and then the guard said “please step through the metal detector, sir”.
Tony spread his hands, wiggling his cane into the man's general direction and rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. Sometimes, the ignorance was almost harder to bear than over-eager people who wanted to help him or the condescending attitude of people who thought that blindness meant he was unable to do anything by himself. “And which direction is the metal detector?” Tony couldn’t keep the exasperated edge out of his voice.
“Oh,” the guard sounded surprised and out of his depth, though maybe Tony was only projecting how he thought the guard might be feeling onto the single word. “Turn to your left and walk... about two yards forward.”
Tony did and the cane jolted a little as it met what Tony had to assume was the metal detector. He moved it until it touched the other side of it and then walked through. It beeped.
Tony sank deeper into the chair and sighed. He hated waiting. He had been searched as a result of the metal detector going off, he had been required to give the guard his phone and walk through the metal detector another time without it and without his belt. At least the guard had followed standard procedure. Too many people made allowances for him when it was really not necessary. Finally, he had been led into this room and asked to wait for Special Agent Gibbs' return. He had his phone and his belt back, the latter where it belonged and the former lying on the table somewhere.
Despite the coffee that they had given him Tony felt the tiredness creeping back up to him. He tried to keep it at bay by humming the Magnum P.I. theme.
His phone rang at some point and Tony scrambled to sit upright, grabbing for it on the table and missing repeatedly. By the time he had it in his hands and managed to press the right button, the caller had already hung up. Tony cursed under his breath, put the phone in his pocket, and settled back in the chair.
The door opened and someone with very silent footsteps walked in and cleared their throat. Tony let his hands fall away from his hair which he had been petting into shape and looked up, smiling widely. “Hi.”
There was a pause, followed by the sound of a chair moving over the ground and someone sitting down. Tony assumed there was only one person (another male one, why was he not meeting any girls today?) in the room and that this person was now sitting opposite of him, but he could not be sure.
“What are you doing here?” The man asked. His tone was neutral, probably a conscious choice, but that did not make it any less impolite.
Tony leant back a little, making sure that his posture would radiate confidence, and kept his smile in place. “Why don't you tell me your name,” he purred, “and I will tell you why I'm here. That way, we both get something out of this conversation.” The man in front of him clearly did not care about good manners and Tony figured the no-nonsense approach worked very well in interrogation, but he was here to help and this was not an interrogation.
“The name's Special Agent Gibbs. Now, why are you here?”
Military, Tony thought, and then corrected himself, ex-military.
“Well, then, Special Agent Gibbs,” he drawled the name out, not entirely sure whether he wanted to be annoying or flirting or professional with this man. Tony knew, though, that his idea of professional was not the same as that the rest of the population had, so maybe it did not matter much. “I'm here because I witnessed the murder of a marine, of course.”
He leant forward now. “You're the one investigating, what's his name, Corporal Camden's death, right?”
“How do you know his name?” Suddenly, the man's voice was sharp, his tone hard and demanding. Tony felt the urge to snap to attention and salute him. He also felt the urge to rebel, just to see how long this man's fuse was and what he could get away with.
He did neither. “The LEOs found his wallet. I have good ears, so I picked up the name and rank.” His hearing had always been excellent but it had gotten better due to the blindness, when he’d become more dependent on his ears. He had become more aware of sounds, of how to classify them. That, however, was not something he really liked to dwell on, not in front of this man and not in general, so he forced his mind back to the topic at hand.
“I had a great time listening to the LEOs trying to figure out which acronym out of the alphabet soup they'd have to call to hand over jurisdiction to.” He knew his amusement showed on his face, but he sobered up quickly and continued talking. “I used to be a cop, too,” he confided, “but as opposed to those guys, I actually knew what I was doing. Can you believe they let me go home just because it was six in the morning and I'm blind, instead of making me wait for you guys like they did with Mark? Like they would with any other witness.” He shook his head in disgust.
This was the point in the conversation at which Gibbs was supposed to show interest in Tony. Gibbs should be asking where Tony had worked, what he had worked, why he was blind. Gibbs did not say a word, and Tony could almost feel Gibbs' gaze on him, heavy. It made something hot curl in his stomach. He wondered what colour Gibbs' eyes were, how the man looked.
Shoving the thoughts away, he tilted his head. “Aren't you going to ask what kind of cop I was?” It took effort to keep the pout off of his face. He hoped Gibbs would not pick up on the disappointment in his voice that he had not been able to hide.
Now, Tony did pout. “I worked everything! Well, almost everything. Vice, homicide--” he didn't finish the sentence, interrupted by a sharp sound and Gibbs' sharper voice, “DiNozzo!” Both of which made him jump. For a moment, he hated his blindness and he hated Gibbs for causing a noise that Tony could not classify. Then, he calmed down.
In the silence, Gibbs said: “The LEOs said you were the one to call 911. Walk me through your night.” His voice sounded soft and almost gentle now, a direct contrast to the sharpness from before.
Tony nodded slowly. “Mark probably told you that I play the piano at McLeod's sometimes. There's no keeping a secret around that man, really. So, I was playing last night. Started at around eleven, stopped... oh, sometime later. Around three, I think. By then, the bar gets a lot less crowded and most of the folks still there are regulars. Mark and I had a few drinks – beer for me and sarsaparilla for Mark since he was working. I wasn't drunk through, it takes more than five beers stretched out over two hours to get me drunk, so don't worry 'bout my credibility.”
“I usually leave through the back door. The alley is a lot quieter and easier to navigate than the main road, even in the middle of the night, and I'd hate to be run over by a car.”
“I'd just about opened the door when I heard voices.” Tony shrugged a little, and grinned. “I'd love to tell you that I'm not the kind of guy who listens in to other people's conversations, but I totally am.”
“I suppose I should be glad for that,” Gibbs said, sounding so dry and matter-of-fact that it startled a laugh out of Tony.
A small spark of satisfaction and pleasure shot through Tony. “Yeah. Yeah, you should be. After all, I'm your witness and about to reveal what went down there. You're lucky that I have exceptionally good ears.”
Tony quickly grew more serious. “Judging by the sounds and the different voices, there were about four men there, one of them Corporal Camden. The other three were together, one of them being their leader. They didn't give any names, but they sounded foreign.”
He sat up a little straighter and recalled the events of last night letting his mind go back to the conversation between the men. As he remembered, he intoned it for Gibbs, changing his voice whenever the speaker in his play switched. He was glad that Gibbs let him talk and did not interrupt, and he told him about the leader asking Camden whether he was able to uphold his end of the deal. He told him how Camden had sounded angry first, and then scared when it became apparent that the men were not going to give him more time.
“The Sarge isn't playing along, I need some more time,” Camden had said. The men had explained, quite patiently, that there was no more time, that they needed the merchandise now and that they couldn’t wait for him any longer.
Camden had tried to turn the situation around. “There's a huge shipment coming in soon, all kinds of weapons, everything you ordered and fuck, so much more. I can get it for you, I can.”
“We don't have time for your promises. We found someone else to make the delivery. We don't appreciate men who take our money without giving something back.”
At that point, Camden had dissolved into a babble of “oh shit, just give me another chance, I swear, you bastard, how dare you, just, fuck, just let me try”. There had been footsteps and the sound of a fist connecting with flesh. That had shut Camden up.
Tony had wanted to go out there, and help the guy, but from the sound of it, what was going on out there went over his head. He was no longer a police officer who carried, he was a blind man who would not know whether he was hitting the right or the wrong man, if he even managed to hit anyone at all. That knowledge had burnt then, and it burnt now as he recalled the situation.
He had known the gunshot was coming before he heard it, and he had sworn silently under his breath and crept back the way he'd come, shushed Mark's question with a gesture and called the police.
“I would’ve taken a picture of them on my phone for you,” he told Agent Gibbs with a smile that threatened to slip off any moment, “but my phone talks to me when I do that and I would've hated to alert them and get myself killed as well.”
If Tony had still been a cop and this was one of his cases, he would have started to feel a headache building behind his temples now, and the desire for coffee, cold pizza and sugar (not necessarily in that order) would have begun to eat at him. He itched for it, for the sense of purpose, the drive, the knowledge that he was making a difference.
“If I can do anything--” he let that sentence hang in the air, knowing that there was nothing here for him to do, not in any function other than as a witness.
Tony had taken a cab home, faced with the prospect of an entire, empty day stretching in front of him. He did not know whether it was the tiredness or the reminder of his work as a police officer that made him miss the sense of purpose he’d felt as a cop so badly now.
He ran a hand over his face and prepared for bed. Thankfully, he was tired enough to fall asleep quickly.
When he woke up again, it was one in the afternoon. The weight of tiredness had lessened, but Tony felt befuddled and out of place at first. It took another hot shower to make him feel human and like himself again, and even then his thoughts were still tangled. His brain seemed to be running faster than he could come up with, coming up with theories and disposing of them at rapid speed, each idea only half-formed. They all tied back to the crime.
There had to be more that he could do.
Tony wanted to be in on this case, he wanted to find who had killed Camden and prevent further crimes from happening. He hadn’t been able to prevent the murder from happening even though he had been right there and he wanted to make up for that, even though he knew that the inability to act stemmed from his blindness and was not his fault. He had done the best he could. He had done all he could. It was not a satisfying thought.
Tony called the Guide Dog Foundation. He had filled out an application four months ago, been interviewed and they had told him that they would contact him as soon as they had a guide dog that would match his lifestyle.
“Just 'cause I haven't figured out my own lifestyle, yet,” Tony muttered under his breath while waiting for Linda to pick up the phone. She had slipped him her number, written in Braille, when he had been at their office for the interview. Tony had no idea what she looked like but she had a fantastic voice and he enjoyed flirting with her even as she told him (again) that they still hadn’t found a dog for him but that there were several promising puppies and even some dogs currently undergoing training that might work out for him.
After that he called Mark, both to ask how his friend was holding up and to go through the night again, just to see if Mark had seen anything that Tony hadn’t (could not).
“For Christ's sake, man, I went over all of this with the feds,” Mark growled finally. Tony could hear him take a deep breath, and the harsh words were immediately followed by, “I'm sorry, I didn't mean that and I know that this must be hard for you.” Tony did not ask again after that.
He tilted his head down at his hands that were holding his phone, seeing nothing. Agent Gibbs has dictated his number to him, telling him to call if he remembered anything, anything at all. Tony had programmed it into his phone, thankful that Gibbs had not handed him a business card with no Braille whatsoever on it.
Tony resisted the urge to call and ask for an update on the case. He didn’t think Gibbs would take too kindly to that.
“I'll just take a walk in the park then,” Tony said to his phone. It stayed silent.
Tony had always made good use of his senses before, his eyesight having been 20/10 . His sense of smell and especially his sense of hearing had developed greatly over the last eighteen months. Had this not been the case, he might not have heard and then recognised the voice.
“That him?” a man behind and to the left of him asked. His accent was foreign, his intonation and voice the exact same as that of one of the men from the back alley. Tony kept the curses running through his brain from slipping out and reminded himself to stay calm. There was probably a good explanation for this, one that didn’t promise pain and probable death in his near future.
“Are you absolutely sure? That guy is blind.” Another man objected. Tony didn’t recognise this one’s voice. They were speaking in hushed tones, the only other sound in the park was a lone bird chirping and the wind.
“I'm sure. Now, let's go.”
Tony did not wait any longer. A small part of his brain told him that he was overreacting, but his instincts and the rest of his brain screamed warnings at him. His grip on the cane tightened, his other hand fishing his phone out of his hand and scrolling through his address book until his phone told him “Gibbs”. He pressed call and started running.
Behind him, he heard a distinct “shit” ring out.
The phone rang three times before Gibbs picked up. Tony could hear the footsteps of the men behind him, his own steps loud in his ear. He was aware that he would not be able to outrun these men. He knew the area well, even now, thanks to his determination to keep in shape and keep up with running every other day, but the men could see and in a situation like this Tony knew that would make all the difference.
“Gibbs,” the gruff voice at the other end of the line said, and Tony's stomach gave a relieved flip.
The words came bubbling out of Tony's mouth before he had even thought about what to say- calling Gibbs had been as much instinct as anything else. “Track my phone and come get me,” he urged. “The guys from last night found me.”
Tony managed to stay ahead of the men for long enough to reach a more crowded area. He didn’t think the man would try anything where there was a much higher number of victims. Instead, they would wait until he was alone again and then come after him. That, at least, was Tony's theory.
“Don't hang up the phone,” Gibbs had told him (as if Tony did not know) and so Tony kept it pressed to his ear. It made listening to his surroundings harder but Gibbs' occasional updates on their ETA and the sound of Gibbs barking commands to his team into Tony's ear were worth it.
For the last few minutes, Tony had not heard anything from his pursuers. He kept going, moving through the crowd as best as he could. Being blind meant that people went out of their way to make space for him. He did not know whether the two men were still following him or whether they had given up and it was that lack of knowledge that made tension coil together in his stomach until it became hard to breathe.
Tony had been in situations as dangerous, or even moreso dangerous than this before, before, but then he had always held at least some control over the situation. Tony had always felt compassion for the victims of crime but it was only now that he realised how helpless they must have felt. He hated the lack of control.
“I'm going to hang up now,” Gibbs' voice told him, “We can see you.”
Tony's knees almost buckled from relief.
They had sat him down on a chair at a desk. Tony guessed from the noise level and the conversations that he was able to overhear that the desk was probably situated in the squad room of NCIS.
“McGee, report,” Gibbs bellowed. Another man's voice followed, hesitant and worried. “I, uh, compiled all the information on Mr. DiNozzo, like you asked. But-- do you want to hear it right now, boss?” Tony imagined the words were accompanied by a very unsubtle nod into his direction and a panicked look. The man (boy) probably didn’t realise that Tony could hear him.
“Let's hear it,” Gibbs said at normal volume. Tony wondered whether Gibbs just did not care that he would hear everything or whether there was some ultimate goal behind all this. He didn’t believe Gibbs to be cruel, but indifferent was another matter and he hadn’t made up his mind about the man yet. One thing Tony knew: He wanted to get to know Gibbs better, and the little flip his stomach made when he heard Gibbs' voice told him it was not only he wanted this case solved.
“W-well. Anthony Daniel DiNozzo, born July 8th, 1970. His mother died in a car crash when he was ten, his father disowned him and sent him to Military Academy when he was twelve. He's got a BA in Physical Education from Ohio State and joined the police. He worked at the Baltimore P.D. until two years ago when in pursuit of a criminal he was shot and fell, causing a contusion haemorrhage, resulting in blindness.”
“He did what?” a female voice interrupted.
“Fell on his head and went blind from it,” Tony interrupted them, possibly a little louder than necessary. Silence followed his words, so he continued with a shrug. “What, you thought I couldn’t hear you?”
Tony could easily imagine the two of them blushing and exchanging embarrassed looks, even though he did not know what they looked like. He just wasn’t sure whether the amused snort coming from Gibbs' direction was also his imagination.
“Todd, McGee, meet DiNozzo, our main witness.” Gibbs' tone was gruff, accompanied by a sardonic undertone. Tony couldn’t resist wiggling his fingers in the direction their voices had come from, nor could he keep the cheerful grin off his face. “Hi guys.”
The woman (Todd) found her voice first. “So, you're the blind man who witnessed a crime and just now escaped two men trying to kill you?” Either no one had taught her how to handle a witness properly, or she had trouble believing his integrity. The first option was possible, but Tony leaned towards the second.
“It's not my fault they didn't want to kill me in the middle of a crowd, Agent Todd.” Tony tilted his head a little.
The woman did not reply and again, it was Gibbs who broke the silence. “DiNozzo, until we've found these guys you're in protective custody. You'll be staying at my place or the NCIS headquarters, one of us will be with you at all times.”
It took Tony a moment to process this. Once he had, he stood up from his chair abruptly and straightened his shoulders. “Now, Agent Gibbs, I--”
“With me, DiNozzo!” Gibbs barked out and reflexively, Tony shut up and, when a hand landed on his elbow and led him forward, he followed.
“What the hell are you thinking?” Tony demanded as soon as he had gotten over the initial surprise. No one had ordered him around like that since military academy but it seemed the reflexes drilled in him were still intact.
He was half-stumbling, half-walking with Gibbs' hand on his arm pushing him forward. Tony considered wrenching his arm away from Gibbs' hold. Eighteen months ago, he would have done so without thinking twice, but now he had lost all orientation already. Part of him resented giving in so easily.
They stopped for a second, the grip on his arm tightening. Tony heard a swishing sound that he could not quite identify. He realised it was the noise of elevator doors opening when he was pushed inside, feeling the cold wall in his back, and the doors closed again.
“You can't just put me into protective custody, damn it. I'm blind in case you hadn't noticed. I need a familiar environment. Do you even have any fucking clue how to deal with a blind person on your hands?”
He shook his head in disbelief. “Not to mention, what about my privacy? Do I get any say in this? I can take care of myself!”
The elevator jerked to an abrupt halt.
“The hell you can,” Gibbs growled. “These guys would've killed you if you hadn't known the area well enough to get to a crowded place and you know it.”
Tony raised his chin. “Still doesn't mean you can just order me out of my familiar surroundings.” As much as Tony hated to admit it, a large part of his independence came from knowing where his things were, how many steps it was to the next room. He loathed the idea of giving that up.
“Damn it, DiNozzo!” Gibbs growled. Tony did not back down.
Gibbs gave a sigh that also could have been a snort. Tony felt more than heard Gibbs' arms come up, hands hitting the wall on both sides of his head. Gibbs was suddenly a lot closer than before. Tony barely managed to catch the sound threatening to escape as his body reacted to the proximity of another person’s body.
When he spoke, Gibbs' voice was low and intense, and it went straight to Tony's groin. “Don't worry, you'll be safe with me. I'll make sure of that.”
Tony gave a weak grin. “That's very chauvinistic of you,” he managed, which was his way of saying yes. He got the impression Gibbs understood that.
Tony's first impression of Gibbs’ house was that it smelled different than his own apartment. His apartment carried a hint of his cologne and of the detergent the cleaning lady liked to use on his floors. Gibbs' house, by contrast, smelled of wood shavings and coffee. It was not, Tony decided, a bad combination, and said as much.
Gibbs probably nodded or perhaps his facial expression shifted to acknowledge Tony's words, but he didn’t give any response that Tony could perceive. Tony could not quite decide whether it was infuriating or intriguing. He was tempted to learn to read this man, visual clues notwithstanding.
“I'll show ya 'round,” Gibbs finally said, and with that, the hand on Tony's elbow was back.
It was apparent that Gibbs did not have much practice in guiding blind people; a more experienced person would have elaborated. But despite Gibbs' short comments (“'s the downstairs bathroom”) and warnings (“door!”), Tony found it easy to follow him.
Gibbs slowly walked Tony through the house. Tony asked him a few questions, though not as many as he probably should have asked to familiarise himself with the layout of the place, with the details of what actually stood where. For the most part, they didn’t speak and the silence between them felt good. Tony didn’t feel the need for inane chatter. It seemed okay to let Gibbs lead him around, even without the protective barrier of words.
After the grand tour, they settled down in the kitchen. Tony's foot was twitching under the table as he listened to the noises of Gibbs preparing food. At home he was able to make his own dinner, even if dinner more often than not meant microwaved food or ordering pizza. Here, he couldn’t do anything.
Here, his blindness condemned him to inactivity, unless he wanted to explore, which seemed impolite. Despite the moment in the elevator, despite the comfortable silence and the warmth in Tony's stomach, their relationship was professional. He was in Gibbs' house not as a friend but as a victim of crime who required protection. It would serve him well to remember that.
“So,” he finally said, hi voice more hesitant than he would have liked. “What happens next?”
Gibbs didn’t say anything for a while and Tony almost repeated his question.
“We'll get them,” Gibbs answered simply, “And until then, you're either going to stay here with me or at the NCIS headquarters at all times.”
Tony suppressed the flash of anger surging through him at these words. He was not, by any means, adverse to spending time with Gibbs, but the protective custody disrupted his life in a manner that seemed more intrusive than that of the bad guys, if only because he would not allow himself to be angry at NCIS. They were, after all, only doing their jobs. The bad guys he could hate, which made their intrusion much easier to bear.
Gibbs must have picked up on his feelings from the expression on his face, or maybe from the way Tony's hands curled into fists in his lap.
“It won't take long.” Tony did not know whether it was arrogance that made Gibbs promise that and mean it, or whether he did not mean it at all and just assumed that Tony would believe him.
Dinner was uneventful. Gibbs had thrown steaks onto the grill, cut bell peppers and grilled those too. Tony did not know what colour they were, he had always liked the red ones best, but there was no difference in taste when you could not see what you were eating.
The inactivity was getting to Tony. He hadn’t been allowed to help prepare dinner (it might not have been a good idea anyway, unfamiliar surroundings and all) and Gibbs turned out to be just as taciturn off hours as Tony had expected him to be.
He longed to go to bed, not only because of the tiredness nagging at him, but also because sleep would pass the time quicker.
“Tired?” Gibbs asked.
Tony gave a half-hearted grin and shrugged. “That obvious, huh?”
Gibbs just chuckled. “C’mon.” He took Tony’s elbow and together they walked to the guest room that Tony would be sleeping in.
“There ya go.” Gibbs’ voice was warm and rough and sounded closer than Tony had expected, and then Gibbs’ hand was on the back of Tony’s head, ruffling the hair there briefly.
Gibbs left leaving Tony speechless, confused and a little turned on. That had not been a professional gesture at all.
The sheets smelt of starch and felt cool against his skin. Tony dedicated a minute to missing his sheets at home, which had a much higher thread count. The pillow was bigger than his at home and he sunk in deeper, too. In contrast, the mattress was harder than his. What else should he have expected from someone who so clearly had military background? Tony thought to himself, amused.
He had read somewhere that the first dream in a new bed came true. Tony had always wanted to test that theory.
He slept without dreams that night, or, if he did dream, he didn’t remember them in the morning.
“M'ning,” Tony mumbled, assuming that Gibbs would be in the kitchen. He had managed, more or less, to shower (though he was not entirely sure whether he had not mistaken the soap for shampoo) and dressed in the clothes from yesterday. They would have to go by his apartment and get his things.
On the stairs, he had stumbled when he had lost count (hadn’t it been twenty steps?), but caught himself against the wall and found his balance again. So far, so good, he thought grimly. Living in a new environment was working out as well as could be expected.
There was no answer from Gibbs. Tony didn’t think the man was still asleep so he must be elsewhere. He sniffed and decided that he would just find out where Gibbs was hiding the (already brewed, he could smell it) coffee.
Carefully, he stepped up to the kitchen counter and reached out with one hand to feel for the coffee. He spared a thought to hope that Gibbs would not walk in and see him blindly fumbling around.
. Then, he moved and banged his head against the open door of a kitchen cabinet.
“You okay?” Gibbs asked gruffly.
Tony spared a thought to regret that he was blind, he would have enjoyed being certain that he was actually glaring at Gibbs and not at a wall. “I told you,” he said, “I told you that it's not a good idea to take a blind man out of his familiar surroundings. But did you listen?”
Tony shifted the bag of frozen peas against his head and pouted. His head actually didn’t hurt very much (he’d had worse), but he felt it was worth it to prove a point. He had, after all, told Gibbs so.
Gibbs did not reply, and for a while they sat on the kitchen table in silence. At least now Tony had coffee.
“Want fried egg for breakfast?” Gibbs finally broke the silence. Tony assumed that this was as close to an apology as Gibbs would come. He cheerfully accepted.
Tony stretched out his hand and carefully, slowly swiped it over the counter.
“A bit to the right,” Gibbs' voice said behind him, much closer than the man had any business being although Tony couldn’t bring himself to complain.
It felt strangely intimate to have Gibbs direct him like this, Gibbs' voice in his ear and Gibbs' hand gentle and sure on his shoulder, his arm, his hand, guiding him. The experience would not have left him as vulnerable, Tony concluded, if he had been able to see, if his world was not reduced to Gibbs' voice and touch.
He let out a soft sound of triumph when he finally held the coffee beans in his hand.
They went through the entire house like that, Gibbs directing and guiding and Tony feeling his way through it until he felt a little more secure in his knowledge of what stood where, and a lot more breathless and turned on by Gibbs' proximity.
Gibbs even showed Tony his bedroom. Tony tried not to read anything into that.
He liked the feel of Gibbs' sheets under his fingertips, even if his own sheets had a much higher thread count.
Tony wondered whether the experience had affected Gibbs as well or if the connection and closeness existed mainly in his head. Gibbs did not sound as breathless as Tony felt, but there was a warmth and bemused quality to Gibbs' voice now that made something in Tony's stomach tighten and tingle.
After breakfast, they drove to Tony's place to pick up his things.
“Stay in the car,” Gibbs told him.
“Screw you,” Tony replied.
He was not planning on letting someone else choose which clothing to take. Besides, he wanted to be there when Gibbs walked into Tony's home for the first time. It seemed important to gauge the man's impression of it, though Tony was not sure (did not want to admit) why it mattered to him.
The rational part of Tony found it prudent to mention that the men (killer, criminals) might be watching his place, might be out to get him still and that going out there was one of his more stupid ideas. Tony had never been very good at listening to his rational part.
“You have a gun?” he asked Gibbs.
“I'll shout before I shoot.” Gibbs sounded amused again.
They made it back to Gibbs' place without needing to shoot anyone.
“Let's do something to solve this case.”
Gibbs did not protest and did not point out that it was Saturday, that he was off duty, that Tony was not a cop anymore. Tony remembered all his previous partners' attitudes and felt a stab of longing and regret.
One phone call later, Gibbs had acquired the address of a linguistic lab from a girl called “Abs” who sounded very excitable and enthusiastic over the phone, insisting on meeting them there.
Tony was slowly getting used to Gibbs' driving style, though that didn’t keep him from clutching the safety handle with one hand and his cane with the other until his fingers hurt.
Fortunately, the audio lab was not far away and Tony made a show of making sure that he was steady on his feet after climbing out of the car.
“Gibbs! Gibbs!” Someone shouted, and while the voice sounded grown-up, the timbre reminded Tony of an excited child.
“Abs,” Gibbs acknowledged. Tony's hand tightened around his cane at the affection evident in Gibbs' tone. There was a brief noise that Tony identified as kissing (though without tongue involved, that sounded different and really, he had heard it often enough to know the difference) and then Gibbs was next to him again, a hand warm on Tony's arm as if it belonged there. “This way.”
“So, you're the stray that Gibbs picked up in the last case?”
Tony wanted to take offence at that but the woman sounded too nice and there was no sting in her words, only honest curiousity. He sat up a little straighter though and threw her a grin. “I suppose you could say that,” he drawled. “Though I wouldn't qualify myself as a stray, really.”
“Ah, but you've got the puppy expression and all! You're cute and that's what matters.”
Tony raised an eyebrow. He was glad that Gibbs had excused himself to the toilet (although not in so many words) because his cheeks felt a little warm all of the sudden.
“I'd return the compliment but-,” he said, shrugged and lifted his cane slightly.
He started when she touched his hand but nevertheless gave her a smile.
“Sorry,” she muttered. “Can I?”
Tony shrugged again. He was not sure what this woman was planning to do but he liked her voice and Gibbs seemed to trust her (love her), so he figured that she was most likely not going to hack his hand off and run tests on his bone marrow.
He had not expected her to raise his hand to her face and to tell him “I'm amazingly cute! See for yourself.”
Tony had done this before, but not very often and not usually in public. Usually, it was part of foreplay or the afterglow for him. It threw him a little to do it now, when he wasn’t planning on and hadn’t had sex with her.
He ran his index finger over her cheekbones, her forehead, felt the soft texture of her hair and discovered that she was wearing pigtails. “What colour is your hair?” Tony asked, and wondered at the same time whether he would ever know Gibbs' facial structure and how Gibbs' hair felt.
“Black,” Abby answered immediately, and Tony could almost hear her beaming. “Jet black. Awesome dark deep gothic black. You may call me queen of the dead.”
Tony made a noncommittal sound and brushed his fingers over her temples, down the sides of her face, feeling her chin and the curve of her neck.
“So, you and Gibbs...?” he finally asked when he could not stand the sense of disappointment and vague dread that had spread in his stomach the moment he had heard the sounds of kissing.
Abby drew back. “Me and Gibbs what?”
Tony tried not to look sheepish.
“Oh my God, you think Gibbs and I are together! Me and the silver-haired fox! The bossman! Hah, no.” She lowered her voice to a whisper, leaning in again. “I think he sees me as his daughter or something. Definitely not lusting after me. Sir, no, sir!”
The relief was probably written plainly on Tony's face but for once he did not much care that someone else would be able to read him. His stomach started unknotting itself again. He hoped that Abby would drop it but realised that the chances of that were not very high, judging by her behaviour up to now.
As he had predicted, Abby clapped her hands. “Oooh, this is so exciting. The two of you, that would be so hot. Can I watch? I bet you would work really well together!”
“Work well together on what?” Gibbs' voice came from behind Abby, making them both jump.
“Gibbs!” Abby protested. “What have I told you about sneaking up on me?”
“Work well together on what, Abs?” Gibbs repeated again, his voice quiet and calm in a way that Tony could only qualify as deliberately dangerous.
“Uh,” he said, wondering how much of their conversation Gibbs had heard and how the man had managed to sneak up on both of them.
“I bet you'd work really well together on solving the case, of course! Isn't that obvious?”
Gibbs didn’t reply and Tony allowed himself to breathe again.
Tony had made use of a linguistic lab once before for a case but now that he could not see anymore the experience was different. This time, is world narrowed down, existing of only the words played directly into his ears, of the different accents and dialects. From the very beginning, he had narrowed it down to Eastern European and Russian accents but still he spent what must have been several hours sifting through audio files.
Finally, he leaned back and took off the headphones. His ears felt numb and his brain like it was wrapped in cotton candy but he could feel satisfaction spread through his stomach.
“I think I got it.”
Abby let out a loud squeal, gave him an advance warning of “I'm going to hug you now!” and a second later, Tony found himself with a lap full of goth. He didn’t even try to stop the grin from spreading over his face.
Gibbs' reaction was considerably less enthusiastic: silence.
“Did he leave to get coffee?” Tony stage-whispered into Abby's ear but he was half-serious. If there was one thing he had learnt about Gibbs in the last days, it was that the man loved his coffee.
“I'm right here, DiNozzo,” came Gibbs' prompt answer. Abby giggled.
Tony sat up a little straighter. “The accent those guys had? Tajikistan. It's a small country somewhere near Russia.” He shrugged. “That should get us somewhere, right?”
From the sounds of it, Gibbs had flipped open his phone. “McGee? I want a list of every known and unknown criminal from Tajikistan currently in the US, and find out which one of them has ties to our dead marine.”
Tony raised an eyebrow. That demand was unreasonable, but he refrained from pointing it out. Gibbs probably knew what he was doing.
Gibbs drove and Abby was nice enough to inform Tony that they were going to the headquarters, Saturday or not. She seemed to be immune to Gibbs’driving if her inane yet endearing chatter was any indication. Tony enjoyed how happy and bubbly Abby seemed.
“I know sign language,” she told him, “but that wouldn’t do you much good, right?” Tony had to agree.
Gibbs led him into HQ by his elbow again. Tony almost blurted out that he was getting used to following Gibbs’ lead, but he swallowed the words at the last moment. Gibbs did not need to know that Tony quite liked Gibbs’ presence by his side and Gibbs’ hand on his arm. Gibbs led him to his desk – and Tony purposely didn’t think about how pathetic it might make him that he already thought of it as ‘his desk’.
“McGee, what’ve you got for me?” Gibbs barked. McGee rattled off a list of names of possible suspects.
“It’s too bad that DiNozzo can’t see,” Kate commented at one point, “That would make this considerably easier.”
Tony did not point out that again, he could hear her and that she should really learn how to whisper.
The next hour – or was it hours? – were boring for Tony. Gibbs and his team went through the possible suspects one by one, checking bank records, flight details and whatever else might give them a hint as to who was connected to the marine and the crime. Tony could not do anything to help.
He felt useless.
Tony learnt that Gibbs did not look kindly on blind witnesses armed with crumpled paper (Tony hoped there was no important information on it) trying to bombard Gibbs’ agent, nor was Gibbs impressed that Tony could aim from the sound of typing alone and hit more often than missed.
“DiNozzo,” Gibbs bellowed for the fourth time in the last few minutes, “stop it!”
“Then give me something to do!” Tony did not care that he had just raised his voice at Gibbs, or that he sounded petulant.
Gibbs sighed. “Let’s get you down to Abby.”
Spending time with Abby, Tony soon (re-)discovered, was a lot of fun. She turned down the volume of her music so that he could hear over the it and he promised not to run into any of her babies, not even by accident.
“I’ll hold you to that,” she threatened and Tony grinned in her general direction.
The keyboard clicked as she typed what Tony assumed were some commands and then Abby was next to him and pulled him to the ground with her.
Tony waggled his eyebrows and she swatted at him. “Don’t go getting any ideas now. We’re just waiting until my baby has some results for me.” Tony could almost hear the smirk in her voice when she said, “Here, meet Bert.”
Abby pushed something warm and soft into Tony’s hands. Tony took a moment to run his hands over the plush animal.
“Is it… a dog?” he guessed, though the ears told him it was not. Abby snorted at him. “Try harder.”
“A bear?” The ears could fit a bear, though the long body spoke against it. “Maybe a polar bear.”
Tony touched the nose, the little tail and was clueless until he felt the teeth.
“A-ha!” he held the animal up. “You’re a hippopotamus!”
When Abby applauded, he hugged the hippo against his chest and then almost dropped it when it promptly made a loud, farting noise.
Next to him, Abby almost choked on her laughter.
Abby had walked Tony back upstairs when her machines had begun beeping. “I work for other teams as well, Gibbs, so I can’t babysit your strays!” Her hand squeezed Tony’s bicep reassuringly. Tony pouted.
Tony then just used his cell phone to call every girl whose number he had saved and flirted with them as loudly as he could get away with.
“Boss!” McGee sounded excited and Tony knew what he was going to say next before he even said it, “I think I’ve got something.”
Tony heard Gibbs and Kate get up and gather around McGee’s desk, and listened to McGee explain.
Apparently Akim Putanov had booked a plane ticket to arrive in DC two days after Corporal Camden had been transferred there. Phone records showed that he had received several calls from various payphones in the vicinity of Camden’s residence. It all connected.
Akim Putanov was also a suspected arms dealer.
“Kate, grab your gear. McGee, track Putanov’s phone and see if you can dig up some more dirt on him. Oh, and keep an eye on our witness, will ya?” Gibbs drawled.
Tony sent what he hoped was an unbelieving look into the direction of Gibbs’ voice. “You’re going to leave me here with the probie?” It was obvious that McGee was the newest addition to Gibbs’ team, though Tony couldn’t tell how new.
Gibbs did not answer and Tony was left to McGee’s protests that he had passed his probationary phase quite a while ago and that he was a full-fledged NCIS agent.
“Don’t you know, McGee,” Tony teased, “that you’ll stay the probie until a new probie comes along? That’s just how it works in this business.” He should know, he’d been in the same position after all.
Tony was not sure, but he thought he heard McGee mutter that he sounded just like Gibbs. The idea pleased him immensely.
Gibbs came to pick Tony up from the bullpen and the decision to get take-away pizza was settled with a simple “hell yeah” from Tony when Gibbs asked if he was hungry.
They drove to Gibbs’ place in silence, the pizza warm on Tony’s lap and the car filled with the smell of pepperoni and double cheese. Tony felt something warm and comfortable settle in his chest; he could get used to this.
Tony yawned, hiding it behind a hand. “Sorry ‘bout that. It’s really not past my bedtime yet, though.” Tony wanted to know what had happened in the afternoon when he had been left with McGee. Kate Todd had returned an hour later and told McGee to start writing up his report, that Gibbs was in interrogation.
Gibbs had not exactly been forthcoming with information so far and it only served to make Tony more curious.
“So,” he began. “The fact that you were in interrogation means that you caught someone, I’m guessing. Yet I’m still here and not in my apartment with, I’d like to mention here, much nicer sheets where I know my way around, so there’s a feeling that you haven’t caught the right guy yet.”
There was no reaction.
Tony threw up his hands in the air. “Would you please fill me in here?” He did not even try to keep the exasperation out of his voice. “Hello, earth to Gibbs, do the words ex-cop ring any bell to you? Put yourself in my position, will you?”
That, finally, seemed to get through to Gibbs.
“Got three of them but one other guy ran off and Todd couldn’t catch up. We’ve got a name though, monitoring his credit cards and phones.”
Tony nodded. Gibbs did not make any promises about catching the fourth man as well, but at this point, Tony would have believed him.
The footsteps were heavier than Gibbs’. At first that thought barely penetrated the sleepy haze but as they got closer to the room Tony was sleeping in (it would have been strange to think of it as his bedroom already), it shocked Tony into wakefulness and he sat up a little.
The click of his door opening had him freezing- and then forcefully relaxing his muscles when he realised that there was nothing he could do. If the man (and with footsteps that heavy, it was unlikely to be a woman) was the missing criminal as Tony suspected, then the best thing for him was to play it cool and hope that Gibbs did not sleep any deeper than Tony did.
“Don’t make any noise or sudden movement,” a voice hissed, the accent affirming Tony’s suspicion. “I’ve got a gun pointed at your head.”
Tony identified the sound of the hammer being cocked and lifted his hands off the sheets.
“Well, this is awkward,” he muttered, hoping the man would not shoot immediately. Maybe he could stall the man, giving Gibbs enough time to act. “I made such a fuss about not needing this stupid protective custody and now look where it got me.”
He schooled his features into something between worry and a lop-sided grin. Neither was hard to fake. The man had not shot him yet, Tony took that as a good sign. “I never thought I’d die in my boxer shorts though.”
A shot rang out, making Tony flinch. A quick check on all his limbs told him that they were still attached and he was not hurting anywhere. He hadn’t been shot.
His next question - who had shot? - was answered when he heard Gibbs’ gruff voice. “Then don’t die.”
Tony slowly breathed out. “Sit rep?” Once again, he cursed his blindness and the inability to just take in the situation with a look.
“Perp down and unconscious. I’ll calling my team.”
When Gibbs hung up the phone, Tony looked in his general direction, wondering if Gibbs slept in pyjamas or in boxers.
“How did he get in anyway?” he asked to distract himself from the image of Gibbs in nothing but underwear.
“I think I would have heard him break in,” Tony protested, though he was not so sure of that. Some people were quite skilled at picking locks. “It’s not like he could just walk in and a locked door is at least a bit of a challenge, don’t you think?”
There was a long pause. “Door wasn’t locked,” Gibbs said and his voice sounded a bit rueful.
“You didn’t—” Tony broke off, opened and closed his mouth several times and finally realised he did not know how to reply to that.
Instead, he laughed. After a moment, Gibbs joined in.
Abby had insisted of helping him pack the belongings he had brought with him to Gibbs’ place, which was not much. Tony didn’t mind her excuse to get a proper chance to say goodbye, after all, he had grown rather fond of her.
“You have to promise to call me!”
Tony lifted a hand in the air and solemnly swore he would. “How could I resist calling a gorgeous woman such as yourself?”
Gibbs, who was supervising them (to avoid them breaking his home - his words) growled. “DiNozzo!”
Tony sincerely hoped that was jealousy he heard in Gibbs’ tone. Abby stifled her laughter against his shoulder as she hugged Tony before pushing him into Gibbs’ direction.
“Gibbs will drive you home!” she insisted.
Tony breathed in deeply as he got out of the car, as though the air in front of his building smelled differently than that near Gibbs’ house – it actually did, which surprised him. It made sense, of course, since Gibbs lived further outside the city, but Tony hadn’t realised it made such a difference.
“Would you like to come in?” he asked and did not even try to keep the hopeful note out of his voice. He had learnt the hard way that life as you knew it could change in a second; it was worth taking some risks. Besides, the worst Gibbs could do was say no and, if that was the case, Tony would not see him again anyway.
Gibbs grunted something that sounded like an affirmative and followed Tony.
Once in his apartment, Tony relaxed. The apartment smelled like cleaning detergent, his cologne and home. He allowed himself to enjoy the familiarity of it and then turned to more immediate matters; how to find out exactly where Gibbs was standing and how to kiss him without missing and without getting decked.
Before Tony could figure it out, two hands were on his face and Gibbs’ lips were hot and demanding against his own. Tony felt his eyes close – not that it made a difference – and his hands came up to rest on Gibbs’ shoulders.
Tony felt a tension he had not known he carried melt away as he leant into Gibbs.
“Been wanting to do that for a while,” Gibbs confessed. Tony did not even try to reign in his smile.