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Running on Ice

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Running on Ice

Tony dumped his backpack in the front hall closet. He froze, ears picking up a soft sound in the living room that shouldn't be there. He pulled his gun while he reached for his phone. Then, there was a frieght train barrelling into him. His wrists were smacked into the door until his fingers loosened and dropped both items. His phone made a sickening crack as it hit the floor. A solid backhand and several hard knocks to his stomach left him gasping for breath.

"Did you really think I'd let you go, Tonio?" a soft voice purred in Italian.

"Marco," he gasped. He wrapped his arms around his stomach, eyes widening. Marco was more lean than he been, but he was still wide and full of muscles. A tattoo ran up his arm now, and his nose was crooked. But he still had a full head of dark black hair and mostly smooth olive skin. His eyes were dark and deep. Marco lifted Tony's face with his palm. "What are you doing here?" Tony managed that in a tone that resembled his normal voice.

"I had to work hard to find you, Tonio." Marco stroked Tony's hair. The soft rolling Italian was a shock to the system. All sorts of memories clamored for his attention. "You can't hide from me. You're mine. I'm here to remind you of that. You can start by making dinner. I've missed your talent." With that he grabbed Tony's arm and propelled him to the kitchen.

Tony stumbled into the small kitchen area. Breathing hurt and he realized that at least one rib was cracked. Marco caught him by the back of the neck and pushed him forward. "Marco, I. . ."

"Don't talk, Tonio. You never have anything worth saying anyway. Just fix dinner. I even brought wine."

Tony perused the freezer and the refrigerator. He pulled out the frozen chicken and defrosted it in the microwave. He took out his knife to cut the meat and Marco took it from his hand, none too gently. "If you want me to cook, I need to be able to cut the meat."

"I'll cut the meat."

"Marco."

The slap was hard and fast. "Don't question me, Tonio."

Tony closed his eyes. He leaned against the counter. "Cube the chicken for me, please."

"Of course, cara mio."

****

"Christ, DiNozzo, what happened?" Gibbs demanded.

"I was mugged. Nothing broken, just a little bruised and stiff, and a few bucks lighter."

"Why didn't you call me?"

"Cellphone's dead. I've put the call in to get a new one." Tony held up the remains of the cracked cellphone. "It hit just right and bam, the rest is history. My pager still works though."

Gibbs pinned the young man with his eyes. Tony looked down and away. Lying, Gibbs assessed. Training session got out of hand maybe? Or a bar-fight? "DiNozzo, with me." Tony didn't question, just grabbed his pad and followed Gibbs to the elevator. Gibbs started the elevator towards the morgue, then slammed on the stop button. "You know you can't lie to me, Tony," he said quietly.

"Yes, boss."

"Then tell me the truth."

"The extenuating circumstance from Illinois? He's back. He's probably still in my apartment." Tony was shivering. Gibbs cupped the young man's neck gently. Tony pushed his sleeve up to expose the bruises that circled his wrists. Each finger was visible. "There's always someone bigger," Tony whispered. "I'm so tired of running, boss."

"No more running. Ducky's going to look you over, then you and I are going to have a long talk, somewhere away from here."

"Where?"

"Somewhere else." Some devil made his lips quirk up. "Just so no one around here tries to get me on a domestic."

Tony chuckled softly. "Nah, you'd be smart enough to keep the bruises off of my face. I've never been so glad that Kate had a doctor's appointment."

Gibbs started the elevator, but he didn't move his hand. "I'd jump directly to killing you."

"Oh, good. You make clean kills."

The former Marine grinned outright. He guided his second out of the elevator. "Ducky, you have a minute?" The medical examiner looked up from his journal.

"Oh, dear me. Come along, Anthony, let's see the full extent."

Tony took off holster, then his shirt, then his tee. He moved slowly, pain holding his jaw tight. Bruises ran up Tony's arm. Gibbs counted at least five separate bruising grips. The back of his hands were bruised. A lovely bruise ran along the bottom edge of Tony's ribs. The right side of Tony's face was the same shade of purple and green. His lip was split. Ducky clucked to himself as he checked the injuries. The doctor frowned. "Anthony, what happened?"

"I got worked over by a line-backer." Tony tried a half-smile. "I got mugged, Duck. Just leave it at that okay?"

"You should have gone to the hospital, young man. Blows to the abdomen can be very tricky."

"Yes, Doc." Tony swallowed a groan as the doctor touched his ribs. "Damn. Maybe that one is cracked."

"Very likely." Ducky looked at the young man. "Excuse us for a moment, Jethro."

Gibbs shook his head. "DiNozzo?"

"Just pretend for me, Duck. Please?" Tony said softly. "I can only handle so much truth in one day."

"Did he do any other damage?"

"No." The two men looked at each other for a long moment.

"If this happens again, call me immediately. I'll go with you to the hospital. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Very well. Let me wrap your ribs. Take your aspirin or Tylenol for the pain."

****

Kate looked at Tony with a frown. "What happened? Flirt with the wrong girl?"

"Mugged, okay? It's embarassing enough." The defensiveness of the answer set off all of her alarms. Gibbs' phone rang drawing Tony's attention to their boss. She studied him. The bruises on his hands didn't come from a punch, she analyzed. Someone slammed his hand against a wall. Disarmed him, she realized. That's why he's so embarassed.

"Grab your gear. We've got a dead Marine in Alexandria. DiNozzo, get the truck. They get that phone to you?"

"Not yet, boss," Tony replied. He caught Gibbs' phone neatly. The younger man raised a brow. "It's not your anniversary is it?" Gibbs glared. Tony tucked the phone away and headed for the stairs.

"What happened to him, boss?" McGee asked in the elevator.

"He was mugged. Put up a fight. Phone got shattered. He's got a cracked rib, but nothing to take him out of the field. And Kate, if you elbow him in the ribs today, I'm not going to stop him from hitting you."

Kate winced. "Got it."

"McGee, keep an eye on him. Try to be subtle, but if he looks like he's hurting. . ."

"I've got the bags. Don't worry, boss, he'll just make me take them anyway." McGee shrugged.

Gibbs nodded. "Good."

****

Tony worked quietly, with no complaints and no snarky comments. It was unnatural. McGee started leaving openings. He saw Kate look at Tony in concern when he didn't take any of them. "DiNozzo, bag and tag." Tony tossed the camera to Gibbs and went to get the bags. His jaw was tense, his breathing light and quick. Gibbs frowned at his back, then crossed the ground quickly. They spoke too softly for McGee to hear, but it ended with Gibbs giving Tony a gentle pat on the back of the head. The local LEO looked on sympathetically.

"Got roughed up?" he asked.

"Yeah. Not enough to take the day off, but he's moving a little slowly."

"Sucks. I'm Bruce Delany."

"Tim McGee."

"Probie," Tony snapped. "Come're."

McGee hurried over, leaving Delany mouthing 'Probie' behind him. "What's up, Tony?"

"Do the photos for me while I tag." They worked carefully, but quickly. "Don't worry about me so much, McGee. I'll survive. I always do."

"Friends worry about each other, Tony," McGee offered in a similarly low tone. "So do teammates."

"Geeze, McGee, someone might start thinking you like me."

If Tim hadn't heard the real pain in that statement, he might have laughed it off. "I do. I'll never admit it to witnesses though. I've got to find his wife."

Tony nodded. "I can finish up. Go, before the boss gets antsy. He's already upset enough."

"Why? Besides the obvious."

"I didn't call him and I didn't go to the hospital. I thought he was going to let Ducky rip me a new one for it."

"Be careful. And if you need to, you can call me. I'm up late."

"Thanks, McGee."

****

Kate cornered Tony in the break room. "It wasn't a mugging was it. It was personal. That's why Gibbs is watching you like a hawk."

"He always mother-hens when I get hurt, Kate. He'll get over it."

"Tony, what happened?"

"I told you, I got mugged."

She frowned at him. "Let me see your wrist."

"What? Why?"

"You keep rubbing it." He let her look at his wrist. Her breath caught at the shape of the bruises. He closed his sleeve back over it.

"Let's get back before Gibbs yells for us."

****

"McGee! Where is she?" Gibbs demanded.

"She's in Interrogation room 1, boss. Like you requested."

"Where did you find her?"

"She was at the local coffee shop."

"Kate, Tony, observation. Bring those backgrounds with you."

McGee followed them since he hadn't been told to do anything else. Tony and Kate studied the woman behind the glass. She was in her early thirties with pale blonde hair and big blue eyes. Her hands fluttered as she waited. She had a black eye and split lip.

"Mrs. Banks, I'm sorry to bring you here, but your house is still a crime scene and I didn't want you going back to that. I'm Special Agent Gibbs, I'm working your husband's murder."

She jumped a little. "Murder? I thought there was an accident."

"Did Special Agent McGee tell you that?" Gibbs' voice was hard.

"N-no, he said something had happened. I just assumed." Her fingers fluttered some more.

"What happened to your face, ma'am?"

"I- I was mugged."

"Bet she falls down the stairs a lot too," Tony murmured.

"What?" Kate turned to look at him.

"Mugged. Fell down the stairs. Tripped on the rug. Slipped in the shower. The dog knocked her down. Got distracted playing tennis. Always calls home before she agrees to meet the girls. Never goes out after six without her husband. Always has to leave early to make sure his dinner's ready on time. Never talks to men, if she can help it. He gets jealous easily."

"You think she's being battered," McGee confirmed.

"I'd put good money on it. You see a lot of domestics when you work a beat." Tony shrugged.

"Tell me, ma'am," Gibbs said calmly, "can you think of any enemies your husband might have had?"

"N-no," she whispered. "He was a good man, Agent Gibbs. A little intense, but he was a good man."

"Anyone from work?"

"He didn't talk about work to me. He said it was classified."

"A drinking buddy maybe?"

"Oh, no, Todd only drinks at home. He doesn't like to go out."

Gibbs nodded. "I'm going to send in one of my agents to go over some background details with you," he said absently.

****

Kate exchanged a glance with McGee. She raised a brow. This was a Gibbs technique she'd never seen. Gibbs entered observation. He tossed Tony the file. "Get me the truth."

"Let me get her some coffee." Tony left the room.

"Gibbs? Tony? I mean he's not exactly up to charming her," Kate stated.

"You'd be surpised, Agent Todd. You'll be an interrogator. Tony's an interviewer. Just watch."

"What do you think he'll get out of her?" McGee asked.

"I think he'll get a confession."

"You think that *she* killed him?"

Gibbs nodded. They waited in uncomfortable silence.

****

The young agent poked his head in, "Mrs. Banks?"

"Yes?"

"Hi, I'm Tony DiNozzo. I brought some coffee. I didn't know how you take it, so," he set down a small basket of creamer and sugar.

"Thank you," she said softly. She put creamer into her coffee while he pulled out his PDA and his files.

He smiled at her, wincing when he stretched his split lip. He dabbed at it with the back of his hand. "Sorry," he said off-hand. "So, bossman wants me to go over some details with you. Let's wait until you get some coffee inside though. These rooms can get cold."

"Yes, it is a bit chilly," she agreed. He winced as he sat up a little bit. He cradled his side. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, I'm fine," he assured. "It'll heal up quickly."

"What happened?"

She saw the shutters go up in his eyes. "I fell down the stairs," he said after a pause. "You?" he added.

"I got mugged."

"Have you reported it? I can help you with the report." He was all solicitiousness, but she saw herself reflected in his eyes. He reached across the table to touch her hand in comfort. Her eyes were drawn to the bruises on his wrist. She looked up at him, quickly. He pulled his hand back, adjusting his sleeve, eyes down. He met her eyes, shyly.

"He's a good man," she whispered.

"What happened, bella?" he asked, voice soft.

"I was late with dinner."

"It can be hard to time some things. Chicken can be tricky when you have it in a sauce."

"And fish never cooks in the right time," she nodded in understanding. Maybe she could tell him all of it.

"Gibbs said you're a homemaker? I don't know if I could manage that. Getting dinner on the table is hard enough."

"Todd likes dinner exactly at six. He gets upset if it's late."

"Marco likes it at seven." Her shoulders relaxed. She gave him a small smile. "I don't think I could run a house-hold though. All the bills and organization. I get scattered."

"Oh Todd doesn't like me to do the bills without him checking them over. He really hates it when I have to have repairmen in, but that can't be helped. I don't know how you keep a job and deal with someone at home."

"Well, as long as I don't have to work late or come in on the weekend, he doesn't mind. At least he knows where I am, right?" He gave her a lop-sided smile.

"He gets furious when he calls the house and I'm not there. He got me a cell-phone so that he could reach me all the time." He nodded sympathetically at her. "He drives me crazy when I go to see one of my girlfriends. He starts screaming that I'm cheating on him!"

"Did you have a fight last night?"

"Yes. He thought I was sleeping with our new next-door neighbor. The poor man's been in the house for less than a week. I just took him some cookies to welcome him to the area."

"Younger than your husband?"

"By a few years. He's a doctor."

"A doctor's good. Cute?"

She shrugged. "Not clean-cut enough for my taste."

"I completely understand. Once you go military, it's hard to go back to civilians."

"I just wish Todd understood that."

"It must have been a relief when you finally got him to shut up."

"It was. He just kept screaming and ranting. And when I turned around I caught him with the fillet knife across the chest. He tried to get his hands around my neck." She looked at the pretty green eyes so full of sympathy. "I couldn't stop. Once I stabbed him it was like a damn burst and I couldn't stop." Tears ran down her cheeks.

The door opened, but she didn't look up. "Mrs. Banks, you under arrest for the murder of Todd Banks," a female voice said.

She looked across the table. "Get away from him, Tony," she said firmly. "Now, before it's too late."

"Don't worry about me, Mrs. Banks," he said softly. "I've got people in my corner."

****

"You did good, DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "Come on. We're going for coffee."

Tony followed him without hesitation and without question. Gibbs smiled inwardly. Tony would follow him into Hell and simply chatter to fill the time on the way. "Do you think she'll have to do any time? It would destroy her, boss."

"She killed a man, Tony, then went for coffee."

"You get good at hiding," he murmured.

"That's why we're going for coffee." Tony checked his watch. "You got a hot date?"

"Marco gets testy when I get home after five. I think it's low blood-sugar." The young man froze. "Christ," he whispered. "I can't go home, boss. I don't think I could survive him a third time."

"Just trust me, Tony, we'll get it taken care of."

"Always do, boss. So, your treat?"

Gibbs smirked. They stopped when Ducky appeared in front of them. The doctor looked between them. "Jethro, if I could have a word. It won't be long, Anthony."

"I'll just go grab my jacket and shades," Tony offered. He headed to his desk.

"What is it, Duck?"

"Who hurt him, Jethro? And what are you doing about it?"

"We're going for coffee to talk about it."

****

"McGee, do me a favor. I need some info," Tony said quietly. This was probably illegal, but he didn't really care.

"Sure. What?"

"I need to know when Marco Scipio got out of prison and whether or not he's still on parole. I also need to make sure that the restraining orders that are out against him are still in effect." He spelled out Marco's name and gave McGee his social security number. He added the last known address and the case number of his conviction. McGee's eyes widened.

"Sure. Just a minute."

Tony used the time to take another aspirin and shrug his shoulders to keep them from getting tight. He glanced at his watch and grimaced. Kate wasn't at her desk and Gibbs was with Ducky. He picked up the phone and dialed his home number. "Ciao, Marco, I won't be home until late tonight," he said breezily into the answering machine. The phone was snatched up.

"You come home, Tonio, or you will regret it."

"It's not my choice. Boss wants me to work late."

"You tell him you need to be home at five. I've warned you, bella, you don't come home after that. I know it's been awhile, but even an idiot like you can remember rules."

"I don't work regular hours. I never have."

"I'm coming to pick you up, Tonio. I will be there at five."

"You don't even know where I work."

"Of course I do, my sweet idiot. I even know about the grey-haired authority figure who's adopted you. Or is he something more, Tonio? Do I have to remind you who you belong to, baby?"

"Of course not, Marco," Tony said softly. He closed his eyes. The shame washed over him again. "I've got to go."

"Five o'clock, Tonio, or I'll come find you."

"Ciao." Tony hung up.

"Were you just talking to who I think you were talking to?" Gibbs asked.

"Yes."

"Look at me, Tony." Tony looked up and was pinned by Gibbs' eyes. "We're going to talk and you're going to tell me everything. Ducky offered his office."

"Yeah, that would be good." They fell into step automatically.

"Tony, I have that information," McGee called. "You want me to email it to you?"

"Thanks, McGee!" Tony called back. "I'll pull it up on Ducky's system."

"Information on Marco?"

"Yeah."

"Good."

****

Gibbs studied his second closely. His hands were trembling. The man was terrified. He hit the stop button and gathered Tony into a hug. After a moment's resistance, it was returned. "You know I'd never let you go home to that. If I even thought someone was hurting you, I wouldn't let you go back."

"I wanted to call last night, but he wouldn't let go of me. I thought he'd break my arm if I tried to get away while he was passed out." Tony shivered again and Gibbs tightened his grip. "You always come for me."

"I always will."

"Prego." Tony pulled back. He took a shaky breath. "I'd forgotten how strong he was." Gibbs started the elevator. He shooed Palmer out of the office and locked the door behind them. Tony perched on the desk. Gibbs took Ducky's chair. Tony looked at the floor. "He really was a linebacker. Prison's made him a little leaner and meaner, but he's still broad."

"How'd you meet him?"

"You really do want the whole story."

"Pretend it's a report."

"I met the suspect in college," he grinned. Gibbs laughed. "We were in Kinestetics together. He started cursing in Italian and I laughed. Turned out we were both fluent and it was a relief to just be able to talk to someone. And we started to hang out. He found out from someone else that I was there on scholarship and that's why I was working at the police department as a translator. He offered me his spare room as long as I cooked for him. It made things easier on me. We were both drunk the first night he kissed me, but I'd known I was bi since high school, so it didn't freak me out. I did start packing just in case he did."

Tony paused, eyes roaming a scene only he could see. "He threw the bag across the room. He told me I was an idiot if I thought he was going to be ashamed of me. He'd been out since high school, but he was big enough that no one dared jump him. I was still mostly closeted at the time. It's safer that way. Steve knew. And a few of my frat brothers knew. They were shocked that Marco had taken up with me. I wasn't a boy-toy like his last few. And that was probably what was wrong. About a month after we started fucking, he started to get controlling.

"It was little things at first. He didn't like dinner being late, so he didn't want me to get home late. And of course we only went out partying together, but we were supposed to be exclusive so that didn't bother me at all. He forced me into quitting at the PD though. It sounds stupid to me now, but he implied that it was hindering my school-work. And he was right to a point. He took me home for summer break because I didn't have anywhere to go and he didn't want me stuck at school." Tony shuddered. "God, I don't know where my head was. He took me everywhere with him. I tried to demure more than once. Hell, we were right there with his family and I just said something like, 'why don't I give you a chance to catch up?' and he backhanded me. No one cared Gibbs. I went the rest of the week with a split lip and a bruise on my jaw.

"By the time we got back to school, I barely spoke without his permission. My frat brothers helped me out. Steve helped me document everything. They ran interference. He couldn't really say no to my being with them because, hell, everyone knew you didn't get involved in frat business. It was a status symbol for him to be with me. I found a DA and a few cops I could trust and got him up on assault charges and a restraining order placed against him. I got his football scholarship recinded for a little clause I found about behavior unbecoming a gentleman. It'd been written in the forties."

Tony paused. His smile was triumphant. Gibbs nodded. "Nice. But what happened in Peoria?"

"His family was from Chicago. And they were Family, capice? And so, I went ahead and became a cop. I'd just been promoted from patrolman and I was starting to do bunco work. I was in the bullpen. I was joking with one of the guys when Marco walked in. I froze. I didn't know how he'd found me, but he stalked across the room." Gibbs could tell that Tony was there in that instant and didn't say a word as the memory tripped from his lips.

****

"Tonio," Marco said as he drew closer, "I've missed you. You shouldn't have done it. You should have just been a good boy. I'd have taken care of you for the rest of your life." He reached his boy. Tonio was leaning against the desk, green eyes fixed on Marco's face, as it should be. The man at the desk was trying to ask a question, but Marco ignored him. "Come home, Tonio. Don't make this difficult."

"How did you find me?" his boy asked.

"Money talks, cara mia. Did you really think I'd let you walk away from me? I know your brothers forced you into leaving me, into calling the cops." He reached out to chuck his boy under the chin. Tonio had the nerve to move away from his touch. He gave him a sharp slap to remind him of his place. The green eyes dilated, whether from surprise, fear, or lust, Marco didn't bother to assess.

"I'm not yours, Marco. Get out of here. Leave me alone or I'll have you arrested again."

"Strong words, baby. I don't buy it." His boy turned back to the man at the desk. Marco scowled. He grabbed Tonio by the neck and threw him down, pinning his hands above his head. He punched him twice in the stomach. "Now, you want to reconsider, baby?"

"Don't do this, Marco," his boy whispered, coughing softly as he tried to catch his breath.

"Nothing should come out of your mouth except an apology." Marco backhanded him. "Once more, Tonio."

"Fuck off."

That earned Tonio a strong hand around his throat. The struggling made him smirk, as did the desperation in his boy's eyes. "I don't give third chances, Tonio."

****

"I blacked out about then, but it took three cops to take him down. I couldn't stay after that. My larynx was bruised. I couldn't talk above a whisper for almost a month. He nearly killed me, boss. He never knew how strong he was. They put him in prison for assaulting an officer. No one there spoke Italian, so they didn't know what he'd said to me. Just that I obviously didn't want to talk to him. My captain helped me get hired in Philly." Tony's fingers gripped the edge of the desk until the knuckles went white. "I thought it was over, boss, or I would have told you earlier."

"Why didn't they try for attempted murder?"

"Couldn't prove intent without putting me on the stand about what he'd said. So, they went for the charge they knew would stick. There were a lot of witnesses to what he'd done and they spoke up."

"Good. You're not going home tonight. We're going to talk to the locals about what he's done and get him taken in."

"He's coming here, boss. He's been watching. He knows where I work and what you look like."

Gibbs moved slowly. He pried the fingers from Tony's left hand off of the edge. He held the hand in both of his. "Listen to me, Tony. I will do everything in my power to make sure he goes down."

"I could go back. Document it."

"It's too dangerous."

"They won't be able to ignore rape."

Gibbs fingers tightened. "If you ever suggest that again, I'll lock you in a room with Abby and tell her exactly what you just said."

"That's cruel and unusual punishment."

"So?"

Tony's smile was strained, but genuine. "I just can't figure out how to get rid of him." His eyes widened. "I wonder if I can get him on tape."

"What are you thinking?"

"He likes to talk, Gibbs. Always has. And he's Family. If I could get evidence of something more than just a personal attack. He only came after me because he was sure that my family wouldn't go after him. He thought I'd be one of his boy-toys and just be a pampered little whore for him. But he talked to me about the things his father'd done."

Gibbs studied his second for a long moment. "You're asking me to let you walk into a dangerous situation on the off chance that you can take down an alleged mobster."

"What makes you think it's just alleged? He assumed I'd help him in his business, boss."

"Doing what?"

"Whatever he told me to do including killing."

"There's no way he could think you'd make a good assassin. Bait, sure, but an assassin?"

"You sure about that, boss," Tony's voice dropped to a husky whisper. "I'd kill for you."

"You'd kill to protect me. There's a big difference."

"He thought I loved him, was devoted to him. I wasn't. I'll readily admit to lust, but he thought I'd do anything for him."

"I'm sure he did. You put your all into everything you do. If you were exclusive with him, you did it with your whole self."

"He had money. He was familiar. I almost got lost, Gibbs. I almost ended up like Mrs. Banks, afraid to go anywhere without asking permission or calling home. I think I would have killed him eventually, if he hadn't killed me first." A single tear tracked down Tony's cheek. "He offered me everything I had before my father sent me away, but he had the same damn price."

"Let me make a wild guess about what he looks like. He has dark hair, dark eyes, and a few inches on you in every direction. He can move you physically even when you fight back. And he drinks. You probably preferred it when he did. You had your ways of controlling him and for awhile you convinced yourself that you were using him for access to the lifestyle you remembered."

Tony snatched his hand away. "I hate when you do that."

"Ah, Tony, you don't have any secrets from me."

"Maybe one," Tony replied.

"I don't think so." Gibbs let a slight grin cross his face and Tony flushed.

"Yeah, well, that's not a secret."

Gibbs frowned suddenly. "You know I'd never hit you in anger, right?"

"Ah, boss, head-slaps don't hurt. They just show you're paying attention." The younger man winked.

"Fine. You're staying with Abby for the night."

"Rather stay with you."

"Pull up that information on Marco for me."

Tony nodded. He pulled the keyboard onto his lap and turned to open his email. He stiffened. "Boss, he said he was coming to pick me up at five. It's five-fifteen. He could be upstairs."

"Would he turn on McGee?"

"He senses weakness like a hunting dog, boss. He'll attack just for the fun of it. With words. Probie can be thrown off by words. If it were physical, McGee'd take him down. Hell, I could probably take him now that I've been fighting with Kate." Tony went absolutely white at the thought of that. "She better have picked up on the damn hints I dropped today. Hell, I hope Steve told her the whole damn story!"

"She's protected the president of the United States, Tony. She'll be fine. Let me look at that information. Then, we'll head up."

****

"Where's Antonio?" the man demanded as he walked into the bullpen.

"He's talking to our boss. How can we help you?" Kate said, voice coldly professional. This man set off all her instincts. She saw McGee's fingers flying over the keyboard. The man had dismissed the youngest agent with a glance. He gave her what he probably considered a charming smile and settled a hip on her desk.

"Well, I can see how he might get distracted and need a talking to, working with a lovely woman like yourself. I'm Marco Scipio." He offered his hand and she shook it. Strong, dangerous, with a prison background. He's been a bully all of his life. He's always been bigger than everyone else, she assessed.

"What can we do for you, Mr. Scipio?"

"I'm here to pick up Tonio. He was supposed to leave at five and meet me downstairs."

"Gibbs hasn't released us for the day. If you want to leave a number, I'm sure he can call you and find a place to meet you."

The dark eyes bored into hers. "He was supposed to leave at five," he repeated. "I don't give a damn what his boss says. He doesn't need this job."

Kate noted that McGee had his gun at his hip now and his jaw had tightened. "We'll have him call you," Kate replied firmly. "We're in the middle of a case and probably won't be going home for a few more hours."

"Then I'll wait and talk to Tonio." Marco continued to watch her, ignoring McGee as if he didn't exist. When Gibbs and Tony returned fifteen minutes later she'd reviewed the summary McGee had sent her and she was ready for almost anything. For a big man Marco moved quickly. He slammed Tony against the wall, pinned him by a harsh kiss and one wrist above his head. "You're late, cara mia," he snarled. He was maneuvering Tony toward the elevator a moment later, only to find Gibbs standing in his way. Gibbs reached out and disengaged Marco's hand from Tony's wrist.

"Go to work, Tony. I want that report finished before you leave tonight."

"On it, boss." Tony settled at his computer and Kate stared at him. He carefully loaded his gun and holstered it. His eyes were an ice cold green she'd never seen. He looked at McGee. "Hey, Tim, did you get those files to Kate?"

"She has all the information in her email." The two men's eyes met for a long time. "Just tell me what to do."

Tony nodded and looked at Kate. She nodded once. "We need to talk later," she said quietly. The arguement between Gibbs and Marco was getting louder. Tony seemed to shrink, eyes widening in worry. He looked more normal that way, but scared, vulnerable. He stood up to back Gibbs up. Marco spun on his heel and stalked to Tony's desk.

"You're turning in your resignation," Marco stated.

"No, I like this job."

"You still haven't learned the difference between a request and a statement of fact." Marco's voice was silky, condescending. "Put your badge and gun on your boss' desk. You're coming home."

"Marco, I am not leaving this building with you." Tony stood straight and tall next to his desk.

The conversation shifted into to Italian and Kate frowned. She stood up, hand on her gun. McGee mirrored her position. Marco shook his head. He stroked his knuckles across the bruised cheek with a sigh. His fingers curled against the back of Tony's head. He drew him further into the room, and closer to his own body. He leaned close and laid seige to Tony's mouth while he gathered Tony's shooting hand in his other hand and squeezed. He looked deeply into the slightly shorter man's eyes. He spoke softly.

"No," Tony replied just as softly, resignation coloring the word.

The explosive violence of the punch that dropped Tony to the floor should have been expected, but Kate still froze for a breath before pulling her weapon and leveling it on Scipio. Gibbs glanced at her, blue eyes cold, warning her to wait. "Your gun and badge on the desk. We're leaving. You're mine, Tonio. You don't belong here. You need someone to take care of you."

"Let him go, immediately," Gibbs stated. Marco glanced at him.

"He's mine and always will be, Agent Gibbs." The was a strangled gasp and Marco clutched at his balls. Once he was distracted, Tony swept Marco's legs out from under him, forcing him to the floor. He cuffed him. He resisted any other force, but the effort obviously cost him. He leaned against his desk, cradling his wrist and shaking slightly. Gibbs waved the security escorts forward and had Marco taken to a holding cell.

"Kate, call Ducky," Gibbs ordered. He knelt down next to Tony. "Let me take a look at it," he ordered gently. "I wanted you behind the desk, you know."

"Didn't want him to take a swing at you, boss," he replied. "I should have shot him." The younger man shivered.

"McGee get me Tony's coat." Gibbs tucked the windbreaker around the shivering shoulders. "I think it's just sprained, but Ducky's going to take you to the hospital while I see to Scipio."

"FBI's got a warrent for him, boss. Fornell'd owe you."

Gibbs smirked. "That's my Tony. If you don't behave for the doctors, I'm sending Abby after you."

"Yes, boss."

"Oh, Anthony," Ducky said softly. "Can you stand?"

Tony nodded his head. "I'll make it to the car."

****

"Boss?" McGee said, hesitantly. Gibbs just watched Tony walk out with Ducky before turning his attention to his youngest agent.

"Print a copy of that warrent and all three of the restraining orders, McGee. This son of a bitch will not get away."

"On it, boss."

Kate looked at Gibbs, biting her lip. "Gibbs, I should go with them."

"No," he said flatly. "You are the last person he wants with him, Kate."

"What? I'm his partner, damn it, Gibbs."

"He needs Ducky or Abby." Gibbs sighed. He didn't want to tell her too much. "He's already feeling weak and helpless. If I send someone to watch over him, even if it's justified, he's going to believe that I see him as weak and helpless. I'm not going to lose him like his captain in Illinios did."

"He needs to be protected."

"But not by you. Ducky's not harmless, Kate. Trust me on this one. Just get the report done." Gibbs settled behind his desk a little more heavily than he wanted to. He didn't want to be in this office. He wanted to be escorting Tony into the hospital and holding him as he finally broke down. He nearly snorted at his own thoughts. Half the staff of Bethesda thought he was responsible for Tony's injuries on a good day. Ducky would start the healing. Their job was to make sure that all the evidence against Mrs. Banks and Mr. Scipio were firm. He called Fornell. "Tobias, I have a present for you," he said as the agent answered.

****

Ducky politely told the nurse who was trying to usher him out to fuck off. Anthony curled closer to him, trying to get away from the world. He was in emotional shock. And Ducky thought he might have internal bleeding. "Duck?" he said softly.

"I'm here, Anthony. It'll take more than a little bit of bluster to make me leave. Just leave all the medical worries to me."

That earned him a sweet smile. Anthony laid back, one hand still holding onto Ducky's. The doctor bustled in. She stopped short, seeing Ducky sitting there. "What seems to be the trouble, Mr. DiNozzo?" she asked, deciding to ask questions later.

"Think my wrist's sprained and I'm pretty sure I've got a cracked rib. Duck'll tell you." He yawned. "Sorry. Didn't get too much sleep last night."

"Anthony," Ducky said, "no sleeping until after you've been checked out."

"Gotcha, doc."

"Dr. Donald Mallard, Doctor?"

"Jamison. What happened?"

"He was attacked once last night and again this evening. He's taken a few blows to the abdomen. I think the rib may have been broken this afternoon. His wrist needs to be checked."

She glanced behind her to make sure that the door was closed. "Anything else?"

"He didn't have the opportunity," Tony murmured. "Passed out last night before he could do anyhting."

A soft smile crossed her face. "That makes it a little easier. Let's get you in for x-rays."

****

Fornell looked at Scipio. "You should have shot him, Gibbs," he stated.

"Just get this crap out of my face."

Scipio snorted. "My lawyers will tear you to shreds."

"If your father bothers to bail you out this time," Gibbs said with a shark's smile. "And if I don't drop a word into someone's ear that you were thinking of turning state's evidence."

"Don't make threats, Agent Gibbs."

"I never do. This is a statement. Never come near him again, Scipio. He's mine and I don't share." Gibbs turned away and left the man in the FBI's custody.

****

Tony looked at the shambles of his apartment. Marco had gone on a rant and smashed half of his things. He locked the door. He swallowed hard, shaking. He picked up the parts of the little sailing ship he'd picked up while he was in Nice as a teen. He set the bits on the shelf, then sank to his knees. He wrapped his arms around his stomach and shook.

****

"Tony," Gibbs called through the door. "Open the door."

The door opened and Gibbs stepped into the middle of chaos. For all his teasing, he knew Tony would never let anything happen to his things. There were tears as yet unshed in the green eyes. Gibbs closed the door and clocked it. He didn't comment, but simply set the pizza on the table. "Ducky says two days off at least," Tony said quietly. "It's not broken, but it was a close thing. He's going to be prosecuted for murder, right?"

"And RICO. Seems the FBI was actually doing their job. They don't know where he's been hiding."

"Money talks, Gibbs. Papa Scipio wouldn't let his boy suffer."

"I think he might on this one."

"Oh?"

"Rumor has it that Old Mr. Scipio isn't happy that his son hasn't settled down and given him an heir."

Tony laughed until the tears rolled down his cheeks. "Oh, God, Gibbs, that explains so much."

"What?"

"Papa Scipio thought I'd get him an heir."

Gibbs brows rose. "You're going to have to explain that. Over pizza."

Tony settled at the table with a slice of pizza. "Think about it, boss. Marco settles down with me. He marries a pretty thing who has her own boy on the side. She has a baby that he says is his. Everyone's happy."

"Is this sort of thing normal on your planet?"

"More than you'd ever guess. My uncle Nico did it. He had three babies by his wife and slept with his lover for fifteen years. He's the only member of my family that still talks to me."

"That's just twisted, DiNozzo."

"It's politics, boss. Nothing more."

"There was a big crimp in his plan."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. You'd never share a lover like that, no matter who it was."

Tony's lip twitched up. "You know me far too well, boss."

"Not nearly as well as I want to."

"You're a brave man, Gibbs. I've got a lot of baggage for you to deal with."

"I think I can manage it. You're worth it."

Tony's eyes lit up. "And people wonder why I've stuck with you for so long. This mean I can call you 'Jethro'?"

"Never at work, Tony."

"Got it, boss."

"And don't call me 'boss' when we're meeting outside of the office."

"That's going to be hard. That mean no handcuffs?"

Gibbs chuckled. "We'll see."

"Sounds good to me, boss."

"Let me help you clean up after dinner."

****

Tony had fallen asleep on the couch as they were talking and Gibbs was loathe to wake him. He covered him with a soft comforter from the bedroom. He brushed a kiss across his forehead. "Sleep well, Tony," he whispered. He moved around the room, straightening things. He paused at the remains of a small ship on the shelf. He picked them up and took them into the kitchen. He'd seen some glue earlier.

****

Tony rubbed his eyes. He stumbled into the kitchen in search of the coffee that was brewing. I didn't set the timer, he thought. He smiled. Gibbs, of course, he thought, catching sight of the neatly cleaned kitchen. He settled down with his first cup of coffee. He stared at the little boat sitting in the middle of the table. He touched it. He could see the scars where it had been broken, but that was only because of his eyesight. There was a small heart carved in the prow now, disguising one of the cracks. First on tear slid down his cheek, then another. "Thanks, boss," he whispered.

FINIS