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On a Personal Level

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“Something on your mind, DiNozzo?”

Tony blew out a breath. It had been a long couple days and he’d had a lot to think about while trying to save some crackpot Lieutenant who was pursuing her Mrs. degree in a rather deadly way. “More like something on my nerves. And it shouldn’t be, so I’m trying to let it go.”

Gibbs glanced over to the passenger’s seat of his sedan, where Tony was slouched down in the seat. “What’s on your nerves, Tony?” he asked, deliberately switching to his first name to try and draw him out.

“You mean besides the dead caterpillar I can’t seem to dissuade you of?”

“Yeah, besides that. We had that discussion last night. And the night before and several before that. And we’re not having that conversation now. We’re discussing what the hell’s eating at you.”

Tony sighed, shifting in the car seat. He shouldn’t be bothered. Hell, he shouldn’t have even heard, but his stint as Boss, had taught him the extreme value of listening in on his team. Even with Gibbs back, he hadn’t broken himself of the habit. Actually there were a lot of habits he needed to get back out of now that Gibbs was their team leader again.

“Tony, please, I would like to have this conversation over with before we get home,” Gibbs implored.

Tony smiled just a little. Day by day Gibbs was showing that he remembered not only their relationship, but all the little quirks they’d developed to make it work.

One such quirk was that if they were at odds about anything at work, they hashed it out in the car on the way back to one of their places, but as soon as they got there, they left it in the car. They couldn’t pretend it might not be there in the morning on the way back into the office, but when they were at home, they did their absolute damnedest to leave work shit at work. And when they couldn’t leave it there, they tried to leave it in the car.

“I heard you talking to McGee the other night,” Tony finally muttered.

“Funny, I heard you talking to McGee the other night,” Gibbs answered.

“So if you heard me, why did you think you needed to slap him around afterwards? You don’t think I can hold my own with McGee?” he scoffed.

Gibbs shrugged. “I think he is your Probie and you’ll never tell him to ‘fuck off’ in so many words. Even when you should.”

Tony turned to stare out the window. “Well, I couldn’t exactly tell him to ‘fuck off’ when he had a point, could I?”

Gibbs shifted into the next lane with no warning and far too little space, deliberately shaking Tony up. “Do not play stupid with me, DiNozzo.”

“Who me?” Tony asked as he shifted to reseat himself after falling towards Gibbs during Gibbs’ stunt driving.

“DiNozzo!”

“What?!” Tony was starting to get annoyed now.

“Don’t ‘what?’ me, Tony. You think the director didn’t tell me? You think she didn’t pound into my head that I better appreciate that you gave up not only leading this team - our team – but your own team in Rota to stay here?”

“Actually,” Tony sighed, “I sort of did ask her to keep it between us. Her and me ‘us’, not you and me – “

“I get it,” Gibbs cut him off. “And she did, until your decision was made. Alright, mostly she did. She’s not half as good at talking around a subject as she likes to think she is. She’s always been more transparent than she thinks.”

Tony nodded, bracing himself this time as Gibbs took a right hand turn that sent him into the car door. “I don’t want to be anywhere else. Maybe if you’d stayed in Mexico I would have taken the transfer. I mean, yeah… Spain. But you didn’t stay in Mexico. You came back.”

Gibbs slowed the car to the speed of traffic and reached over to take Tony’s hand in his. “I didn’t realize everything I was walking away from when I left. Wanna know what made me remember?”

Gibbs had come to him a few weeks ago, a coffee cup in each hand and he’d asked Tony to take a walk with him down near the Anacostia. He’d told Tony that he remembered and asked Tony to take him back. It had been an awkward and stilted conversation, but Tony had never been so glad to have such an uncomfortable discussion in his life.

“What?” Tony asked.

“Your lousy coffee. When we were in my basement and I took your coffee and drank it. I really didn’t remember until I took a swallow of that stuff and then I had this odd flashback of remembering that I needed to get that French vanilla cream crap on my way home from work some night because you’d want it when we woke up. Then it all came rushing back.”

“But then there was Ziva and her disaster…” Tony added, piecing out why it had taken another week for Gibbs to say anything. First there was Ziva and Iran, and then there was the fact that Gibbs had to be the one to start a fucking awkward conversation. Yeah, Tony realized, he was pretty lucky that had ever happened.

“But my point is,” Gibbs continued, “I am glad you stayed. For both personal and professional reasons. And I’ll continue to slap you around professionally when you need it, but McGee was taking to a personal level. That is unacceptable. And if you don’t do something about it, I will. I don’t let you pull that shit, and I’m not going to let someone do it to you. Got it?”

Tony smiled as Gibbs pulled into the driveway of his house. “Got it, Boss.”