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A Chance at Romance

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The Ghost and Mr. DiNozzo: A Chance at Romance

"Agent down," Gibbs snapped into his com-unit. He caught Tony by the back of his neck and pushed him down, maybe a little harder than he intended. He pressed the younger man against the low garden wall. "Pressure on it. Now, DiNozzo."

Tony growled a little into his com, but Gibbs saw his hand move. "I can still shoot, boss."

"Keep your head down or I'll finish it myself." Tony's body was warm against Gibbs' knees. Gibbs forced himself to ignore the feeling of him there, safe. "Report," he snapped. This was the biggest firefight his team had seen. Kate and McGee were on the right side. They had three more teams converging on the house and snipers all around them.

"Moving in, boss." The teams checked in quickly. Things were going by the book. DiNozzo had taken a bullet to keep Gibbs out of the firing line. He couldn't help himself. He bopped the young man on the back of the head.

"What was that for?" Tony hissed.

"Getting shot," Gibbs snapped.

"Yes, boss," Tony muttered. His body relaxed a little more and Gibbs glanced down to check the amount of blood on the ground. Not enough to warrant getting him out of there in the middle of the fight. The snipers should be keeping this area clear and Gibbs was creating a good enough distraction that the idiots inside thought they were dealing with a set of partners, nothing more. They were still taking the occasional pot-shot. Gibbs caught one of them in the shoulder as he popped out. He didn't even feel the bullet that hit him in the back.


"Boss?" Tony tried to turn, but Gibbs was too heavy and his position was too awkward. "Gibbs is down," he snapped into his com. "Agent Todd, you have lead." Tony felt blood and more soaking into his clothes. His nose picked up blood, piss, and much more. The tears fell silently. Gibbs was dead. "No, boss," he whispered. He prayed silently, Don't let him leave me.

It seemed an endless span of years before he heard Ducky's calm voice. "Anthony, are you hurt?"

"Yeah, shot through and through. Right arm. A little bruised. I can wait until you get the shots."

"Close your eyes, Anthony, we're going to move him and I don't want anything getting into your eyes."

"Sure, Duck. They get the son-of-a-bitch?"

"They got both the targets they were intent on."

"Not what I meant."

"We'll talk after I've had a look at you, young man." The weight shifting off of him made him gasp in a deep breath. It hurt, like a shot to the gut. He clenched his hand tight to the wound.

"You live, DiNozzo," he heard Gibbs mutter in his ear. "Or I'll come back from Hell and beat the crap out of you. Capice?"

He nodded minutely. His body felt like it was on fire. He couldn't breathe. Might-have-beens crashed into his head. It wasn't long enough. It wasn't fair. Gibbs was gone and he had to live and he just didn't want to. Ducky was moving him gently, sitting him up. He wavered. "I need to see. Can I open my eyes now, Duck?"

"Just a moment." Ducky cleaned his face with something cool and damp. He gently put Tony's gun into its holster. "You may open your eyes, but if you look anywhere but at me, you'll think that Jethro's swats were nothing."

Tony's eyes fixed on Ducky's. "I need to see him."

"Once I've cleaned him up, you may. Right now, it will do more harm than good. Just listen to me, Anthony. There was no way to predict or stop what happened to him. You are in no way, shape or thought, allowed to feel guilty about his death. You will go to the hospital with Kate and McGee and when they let you out, you may visit my morgue and see him. Not before. Am I very clear on that, Anthony?"

"Yes, Doc." Tony never felt more like a child than when Ducky was dressing him down for something. He felt McGee's hand under his arm, helping him up. He followed without a word, not looking behind himself. He felt Kate come up on his other side. She checked his arm.

"Ouch," she murmured. "That looks pretty bad."

"Just a flesh wound," Tony said absently. "How bad did he look, Kate?"

"Ducky wouldn't let us near. Another team found him and you and secured the area."

"But you did look?"

"No, they had him in the body bag by the time they waved us through."

"Interfering old man," Tony grumbled.

"How did you bruise up your hand?" McGee asked.

"Slammed into the brick. My hand was between my gun and the wall. Not broken." Tony stumbled, suddenly feeling light-headed. "Sorry. Gotta sit down," he murmured before he sat heavily on the ground. He didn't remember blacking out.


"How's he doing?" Abby asked. She felt wilted. Ducky had ordered her out of the lab for a few hours and he was right. She needed to see Tony to make sure he was all right. With Gibbs not breathing down her neck, it was just strange to be in the lab on a big case. McGee and Kate had been ordered home and away from the case. She'd been invited to the wake.

"We've got him on broad antibiotics and a mild painkiller, which has thrown him for a loop. Do you know his primary contact? A Mr. Gibbs?"

Abs felt the tears in her eyes. "Gibbs is dead. He was shot today. Can I see him?"

"He's resting."

"He was shot, his partner is dead. I want to see him. I don't care if he's asleep or ranting about little white elephants marching across his stomach."

The nurse let her by.

"Hey, boss, wondered if you'd be here," Tony murmured. "Don't think I could have actually fallen asleep if you hadn't. Kate and McGee are okay? Yeah, figured they would be. That pirlone was only shooting at us. You gonna stick around or head home to the boat? Prego." His voice was sleepy. Her breath caught and tears stung her eyes. She believed in ghosts, but did Tony really believe that Gibbs was there and talking to him? She stepped into the room. Tony was looking at the end of the bed a wry smile on his face. He looked over. "Hey, sweetheart."

She hugged him, mindful of the IV's. "Hey. When are you gonna be sprung?"

"Tomorrow, if I can get someone to pick me up?" He batted his lashes at her.

"Sure. I'll drive you."

"Thanks. Are you okay, sweetheart? What's wrong?"

"Gibbs is dead, honey, that's what's wrong."

He pulled her into a one-armed hug and she buried her face in his shoulder. "Oh, Abs. He may be physically gone, but you know as well as I do that he'll never really be gone."

"You were talking to him."

"It would be rude not to. He's right there."

Abby pulled back. She looked into Tony's eyes for a long moment. This was make or break time. "Prove it." Tony looked over her shoulder.

"You tell me, boss. What would you know that I wouldn't?" His lips quirked up. "And no, that doesn't mean you have free rein." He concentrated hard on whatever Gibbs was doing. Tony frowned. "What does that mean? My hand's… okay." Tony signed slowly, obviously copying something. Her mouth dropped open. "Did I do it closely enough?"

"Gibbs, God," Abby turned to look in the same direction Tony had been. Tears streamed down her face, washing her mascara and eyeliner with them. She couldn't see anything. "I love you, Gibbs. I always will." She snuggled into Tony's arms and laid her head on his pillow. The nurse found them there, asleep, tear-streaks on their faces. Abby didn't even rouse when the woman spread a spare sheet over her.


"You must be, Mr. DiNozzo. Jethro told me you'd be taking care of his arrangements."

"Yes, sir." Tony nodded to the lawyer. He'd worn one of his black suits with a black shirt today. He knew Gibbs didn't expect him to mourn for a year, but some things were ingrained. Besides, he looked good in black. The white of his sling was a stark contrast, and he made a note to borrow a black scarf from Abby.

"Have a seat. You understand that the insurance will take a few days to come through, but in the meantime, you can begin to make the arrangements for his remains. Jethro was very clear that you were to handle all arrangements as you saw fit. Is there anything you need me to do for you?"

"Not until we need to read the will. I'll make the arrangements for everything else. I'll wait until the will is read to deal with any of the things in his house."

The lawyer nodded. "On that note, Mr. DiNozzo, I think you should be forewarned that there will likely be trouble with his ex-wives."

"Number two or number three?"


"I can handle them." There wasn't a woman in the world he couldn't handle. Not well, not all the time, but he could handle two pissed off ex-wives. "Why do you think there's going to be trouble? Because they won't be getting alimony or because they'll have to share his pension?"

"Because the bulk of the estate will not be going to them."

"Ah. I knew it was money related. We'll see how things play out. You'll let me know when we can get started?"

"Of course. Let me just make sure your contact information is correct." They went over the details and Tony left him with a nod. His hand was only banged up, but it would still hurt to shake hands. He got into the car he'd hired for the day. It would drive Kate insane to see it, but it was worth the money for a day of meetings when he couldn't drive. He gave the driver the name of the memorial park and leaned back.

"You keep it simple, DiNozzo," Gibbs ordered. Tony felt the smile curl up on his lips.

"I was thinking a pink coffin, boss," he murmured. Gibbs glared at him. He didn't know how long he'd get to keep his ghost, but he was going to enjoy having him there for as long as he could. He didn't want him to fade, even if he was just a temporary delusion. The memorial park was quiet.

"Mr. DiNozzo, I'm Sarah Plumer. I'm going to be helping you with the arrangements. My condolences on your loss."

Tony couldn't summon up the smile for her. His arm hurt, his head hurt, and his heart ached. "Call me Tony," he managed.

"Would you like something to drink?"

"No, I'm good. Let's just get this over with."

They settled in her office. "Now, I'm told that Mr. Gibbs already has a plot here?"

"Yes, near his wife and daughter."

She looked up from the contract with a small frown. "You don't have a plot near-by?"

Tony's brows rose. "Why would I? My family has a place for me up in New York."

"I was told you were partners."

He blinked at her. "We were. This isn't about me, it's about making the proper arrangements for him. Closed casket. He wants a mass. He doesn't want a wake, but I do."

"Then, let's look at some mass cards and we'll schedule a time. We'll make the arrangements for transporting him."

Tony frowned.

"Don't you dare have me embalmed, DiNozzo."

"No embalming."

"Embalming is a health practice."

"Bull. I work with an ME, honey. I've lifted bodies that have been dead for days. Gibbs has been dead for two days and refrigerated for most of it. So you don't need to put anything in his veins. Deal with it."

She bristled, but Tony didn't particularly care about her feelings. "Mass cards?" she offered.

He sorted through the cards. "This one," he said, voice dropping to a whisper. "He loved the sea." He could feel a soft hand on his shoulder and knew that Gibbs was trying to comfort him. "And the mass will be at the closest church. He didn't have a regular parish anymore. And the thank you cards for the condolences should have something sea-like on them too."

"The cards should be sent on to you?"

"Yes, I'll take care of them. He didn't have any family left. Now, for the wake, we'll need a few hours, and I'll have to have a security detail here. Sorry, but it's necessary. We'll keep it discrete."

"I'll make the arrangements. Let's look at caskets."

Tony followed her into the room of caskets. He couldn't help but think of Ducky almost dying on the embalming table. He shivered. His head throbbed a bit. "Ms. Plumer, could I get some water?" He fished his aspirin out and chewed a couple. The bitter flavor was familiar and he knew it would dull the pain at least to a bearable level. He swallowed down the water she brought him. "Okay, let's go." She urged him forward.

"This is a wonderful new addition. The metal lining preserves the. . ."

"Wood, Ms. Plumer. He wanted wood, not fiberglass, not metal. Wood."

"A traditionalist."

"If I could have given him a Viking send off in his ship, I would have, but there are laws against that."

"Then work around them," Gibbs growled. Tony ignored him.

Plumer's professional smile slipped a little bit. She moved them through most of the show room. Tony stopped. The cherry color and the soft gleaming finish of the coffin drew him in. The metal handles were burnished silver. "Okay?" he whispered.


"This one, Ms. Plumer."

"I think it might be a little bit out of your price range."

"You're wrong. I want this one."

"You'll need to get a liner for the plot."

"No, I don't. Not a law in Virginia."

Thrown off her stride again, Plumer regrouped admirably. "If you'll follow me, we'll just finalize the arrangements. Do you have a photo you want to include with the funeral announcement?"

"Yes. And I have his things in the car. Give me a moment and I'll get them for you."


"Why wasn't I consulted on the details?" the red-head snapped. The young woman of the funeral home gaped at her.

A smooth voice came from behind her. "Gibbs asked me to handle things so that you wouldn't be disturbed," it said. She turned to be confronted by a young man in an expensive black suit. His hair was artistically tousled. "I followed his wishes to the letter. If there's someone to yell at, it's me, not her. You must be Trish."

"Patricia Lewis," she said. She looked him over critically. She felt her shoulders ease. "You must be one of his co-workers."

"Anthony DiNozzo. You can call me Tony. Please, come in."

"I wanted an open casket."

"It wasn't an option," Tony replied easily. His right arm was in a sling and she felt mildly guilty. This man had been next to her ex-husband when he'd died. She'd heard that directly from her latest ex, Tobias Fornell. He offered her his arm. "Let me take you to a seat and get you something to drink. I know you're upset." Oh, this boy was good, really good. The guilt trip was so subtle that she wasn't sure it was really a manipulation. He settled her in a seat and went to fetch a glass of water for her. He knelt down to offer it to her. "Better, Trish?"

"Thank you, Tony." She looked at the tasteful display of Jethro's picture and a few medals. There were flowers all over the room. She frowned at some tacky wildflowers in a small wooden vase, but let it go. Maybe it meant something to some tree-hugger he'd helped. She watched Tony work the room with the ease of a professional politician. Her lips quirked up when she realized that he'd placed her discretely away from Jethro's third wife. She glanced around the room. Oh, my, Tony was obviously making sure that Jethro's crushes and old flames weren't near one another. It spoke to an upbringing that stressed proper cocktail party hosting. Another flower arrangement arrived. Tony signed for it awkwardly, then set it at the foot of Jethro's casket. He sneezed, turning away from the roses.

She stood and moved closer as he took the card out. "This one's from my parents, read my father's assistant. She liked you, boss. Roses are her favorite flowers. I've got to move them though or I'll be sneezing for all four hours of this little event." He moved the roses farther from the casket. She paused as Dr. Mallard came up. The older man didn't say anything, but he held out a box of Benedryl. Tony licked his lips. "How much is that going to cost me?"

"You will get a good night's sleep, take your pain medication, and let me check your stitches to make sure you haven't popped any more."

"I can't promise the sleep."

"Take the pain pills and you will."

"Yes, Ducky." Tony snatched the pills and fought two out of the package. He took them dry. "This place smells like a perfume factory exploded. I need air, Duck, but there's two ex-wives, two ex-girlfriends, a host of people who really shouldn't be mingling with our co-workers."

Ducky glanced around the room. "I see them. I'll move them out quickly enough. Just leave it to me. Now, get some water and find a place to sit. Let the lovely ladies come to you."

Tony followed those directions. He settled in a chair, half-hidden behind the flower arrangements and the coffin. Trish pulled one of the chairs up next to him. "So how hard did you fall for him?" she asked conversationally.

He put a hand onto the wood. "Don't ask me that, ma'am."

She shook her head. "That bad, huh? Don't worry. I'll be on my best behavior. Here, at least. At the reading of the will? That all depends on who's going to be there."

"Oh, you, me, his third wife - Michelle, his cousin Linda, the lawyer, and Ducky, I think."

"You'll be there?"

"I'm taking care of the details."

She patted his knee, then left him there to mourn a man she didn't love anymore. Maybe she never had loved him, but damn, Jethro'd been one hot bastard.


Fornell looked around the wake. It was hard to admit he was going to miss Gibbs. They were friends, of a sort, but not the kind that went bar-hopping or watched the game together. Hell, he knew he was welcome in the man's home because he hadn't been shot when he showed up there. His eyes sought out the familiar figures of Gibbs' team. There was Agent Todd, Agent McGee, Dr. Mallard and his shadows. He frowned. DiNozzo was in the corner of the room, leaning against the wall. He was staring out the window. He didn't look good. Fornell nodded politely at the people he knew, intent on cornering DiNozzo for a few minutes. The young man straightened as he approached eyes wary and hard. "Fornell," he greeted.


"Surprised you came for the wake."

"Call me for the one that includes more than coffee and water."

That brought a brief smile to DiNozzo's face .

"How's the arm?"

"Hurts," the man admitted, though the word obviously cost him. "I don't want to leave before Abby gets here, though. I'm supposed to stick around for the whole thing, arrange to get the flowers to the church. You coming to mass?"

"Yes." Fornell hesitated. "And how's your head?"

DiNozzo snorted. "I have it on good authority that if I try to off myself, Gibbs will beat the crap out of me. And honestly, I don't think there's any power in heaven or earth that would be able to stop him. I'll survive."

"That's what I thought. Call me. We'll get together for a drink."

"Watch your back. Trish is here."

"That's surprising."

"She's trying to soften me up for her lawyers." DiNozzo grinned suddenly. "I can't wait to set my lawyers on her. They'll eat her alive."

"If they're the ones that got money out of that granite wall that spawned you, I'm not surprised."

"Oh, you've met my father then."

Fornell smiled. "Who did you think handled background checks?"


"True. How are you hanging on, honestly?"

"Ask me in a few days."

Fornell chuckled. "Am I going to be in for a nasty surprise next time I have to deal with NCIS?"

"More than likely. Oh, Abby's here. I'll talk to you later?"

The FBI agent nodded. He watched DiNozzo cross the floor and catch up the conservatively dressed Abby in a tight hug. She was crying. It seemed to break the tight hold the young man had on his feelings. He buried his face in the side of her neck. He was surprised to see McGee come up to them and quietly move them towards the wall. Todd held herself tautly, like a badly strung doll. She was studiously blank, but he could see the tears streaks on her face. She put a hand on DiNozzo's back, between his shoulders and bowed her head. McGee swallowed rapidly. The two broke apart, wiping furiously at their eyes.

"Poor things," Trish clucked. "They look like they lost a family member, not a co-worker."

"They did," Tobias answered. "They were closer than we ever were."

"Of course, they saw him more than I ever would have. Which one do you think he was screwing?"

Fornell looked at her. "Gibbs had rules, Trish."


"Buck up, kids, the Director's here," Tony murmured. He wiped the last of his tears away. He straightened. "I need to find Ms. Plumer and make sure there's nothing else she needs."

"I can do it," Kate offered. Tony shook his head.

"No, I'm enjoying disconcerting her. The guns have her freaking out."

Gibbs grinned at him. "That's my Tony."

Tony's lips curled up into a smirk. He kissed Abby on the forehead, then moved to find Ms. Plumer.

"I wish you could talk to me a little more often," Gibbs murmured, falling into step next to him. "Have you figured out why Abby and the others can't see me?" Tony shook his head. "You will." Gibbs patted Tony's back.

"Agent DiNozzo," Director Morrow called.

Trapped, Tony thought. "Yes, sir?" He pulled his shoulders up, despite the twinge in his arm.

"Can I speak with you privately?"

"Of course. Ms.Plumer, may I borrow your office for a moment?" Tony asked, with his best "little boy lost" look. She smiled comfortingly at him.

"Certainly." She let them into the office.

"Director?" Tony said, cocking his head to the side of his head.

Morrow just looked at him for a long moment. Tony dropped his eyes. "Look at him," Gibbs ordered. He raised his eyes immediately.

"I normally would do this in the office, but I thought I should talk to you before you got back to the office."

"Sir?" Please, don't tell me we're being reassigned.

"You'll be the new team lead. Congratulations."

Tony blinked. "Not to argue, but wouldn't Agent Todd be the better choice?" He winced. The blow to the back of his head was lighter than Gibb's real ones, but enough to get his attention.

Morrow's lips quirked up. "You know that Gibbs had you slated for the promotion, DiNozzo."

"To be honest, I was thinking a few more years down the road, sir. I just have one request, that you tell Kate and McGee so I can enjoy the looks on their faces."

"Innate sadism. That's very useful in management," Morrow stated. "On a more personal note, my condolences, Tony. I know what he meant to you."

Tony blinked. "He told you?"

"Jethro never could lie to me."

"I should have guessed."

"If you need to talk, I will keep your confidences."

"Thank you, sir. It doesn't matter quite so much now, does it?" The pain was almost a physical ache. He closed his eyes to ride it out. "Thank you, Director."


Tony nodded. "Tom." They shook hands awkwardly.

"Take care of yourself, Agent DiNozzo. I want my best team fighting ready as soon as possible."

"Of course, Director Morrow." They left the office. Tony glanced to his left to see a smugly smirking Gibbs. He glared at the ghost, but couldn't hold it. He just had to ride out the rest of the day and get to a place where he could talk freely.


The mass was comforting in its patterns. Kate knelt, stood, and responded almost by rote. She was stared at the coffin on the altar. Gibbs was gone. It was impossible. The man was like a force of nature, nothing should have touched him. She shivered, like someone had walked over her grave. What were they going to do now? Tony would have temporary control of the team, obviously, but after that? Who would they assign?

Could she even work with a team-lead that wasn't Gibbs? There was no one in the world like him and no one who could replace him. She closed her eyes and prayed for strength, for guidance. A moment later, she added vengeance to her wish-list. She wanted the sniper that had dared to take their leader from them.

She took Tony's arm when he offered it. The pall-bearers were older men that Gibbs had worked with over the years. They followed the casket out of the church and got into the car. Kate looked at Tony in surprise when the driver of the car held the door for her. He handed her into the car. Abby slid in next to her, McGee on Abby's other side. It was a tight fit, but comfortable. Tony sat in the front, staring out the window, shoulders rigid.

There was something unnatural about a depressed DiNozzo. It was just more proof that something terrible had happened. Abby handed up a tape. "Side one for the ride there. Side two for the ride back." The driver nodded. A slow dirge filled the vehicle. Abby dabbed at her eyes with a black lace handkerchief. Her parasol was folded neatly over her legs. She looked like a Victorian beauty in a sweet, black, lace-encrusted dress. Kate felt under-dressed in her tailored black suit. McGee was holding Abby's hand.

The loneliness was almost unbearable. No matter how contentious and snippy Gibbs had been, he was a solid rock of support. Honorable, forthright and loyal. She closed her eyes. Let me live up to the example he gave us, she prayed.


The graveside service was thankfully short. Only a few people had come to see him interred - his team, his ex-wives, his redhead, and a smattering of other agents. Stan Burley had made it in to say goodbye. One by one the others left until it was only the team that stood at the site, watching the coffin lower into the ground. McGee stood. He couldn't figure out what to do. Abby's lip was trembling, but he didn't think she was going to cry again. She held her parasol over her, shading her face behind its mourning veil. She'd stepped up next to Tony. A surge of irrational jealousy made him want to tear them apart, but the more logical side of him won, seeing the pain that filled the older man.

Tony pulled a daisy out of his sling. "From the back yard, boss." He tossed it on top of the coffin. "See you around, Jethro," he added in a low tone. McGee froze. He swallowed hard. He glanced at Kate. She was lost in her grief and apparently hadn't heard. The next thing he knew, Abby was leading Tony back towards the car. McGee tucked Kate's hand into the crook of his arm. Ducky, Palmer and Gerald were waiting for them. They were headed to Ducky's home for an old-fashioned wake. Director Morrow had promised them all a day off so that they would be "in fighting form." That meant they could get falling down drunk.

McGee was looking forward to it. He just wanted to forget. He looked over his shoulder at the grave. We'll take care of him, boss, he promised silently. He thought he almost saw Gibbs standing at the grave looking after them.


Tony collapsed onto his bed. A gentle touch brushed the hair from his face. "Hi, boss," he said with a smile. "Glad you're still here."

"Told you I wasn't leaving you alone. Now, take your pills like you promised Ducky."

"Fine." Tony dragged himself up with a groan. "They're just going to put me to sleep." He heard the fear in his voice, and hated himself for it. Gibbs studied him.

"I'll still be here when you wake up," he promised.

Tony sniffed. Then, he took a deep breath. He stripped, dropping his clothes over the valet he'd gotten from Gibbs as a birthday present. He took a quick shower, brushed his teeth and took the pills. He settled on the bed. Gibbs spooned behind him. He was solid when they were alone. When Tony closed his eyes and settled into his arms, the only thing that was missing was a heartbeat. Gibbs gave off the same pleasant spiced coffee scent and his arms weren't cold, but rather warm like summer sunlight through a window. The pills and the comfort were too much to resist. Tony slept deeply for the first time since Gibbs had been shot.


Director Morrow surveyed his best team. Even with Gibbs gone, they'd be the best. They just wouldn't fit anywhere else. He was used to them being there now. They'd all worn black today and he felt a pang of their grief. It wasn't every day that you met a man like Jethro Gibbs. He leaned on Gibbs' desk. "Given the circumstances, I won't say congratulations on your promotion," Morrow began, "but this was actually set in motion a few weeks ago." DiNozzo's eyes widened. He looked over at Kate and raised his brows. Damn, the man was going to play this to the hilt.

"Told you he liked you best," Tony said with a grin.

Morrow shook his head. "Agent DiNozzo, you cannot make me believe that he didn't tell you."

"Tell him what?" Todd broke in, eyes narrowing. She glanced at Gibbs' desk.

"Agent DiNozzo will be the permanent team lead."

McGee sat down suddenly. Todd's mouth opened and closed a few times. "Well, at least we know how to handle you," she said finally.

"Good luck, Tony. You'll be in rotation starting tomorrow."

"Thank you, sir." The young man winked. "We'll be ready."

"Aren't you supposed to be in your sling still?" Morrow asked.

"I'll be at the range today, sir. Ducky cleared me for duty."


Morrow nodded his goodbye and headed up the stairs.

"So, does this mean you won't be calling me 'probie' anymore?" He heard McGee ask.

"I don't know, Probie, it suits." Morrow smiled to himself. They were going to be fine.


"Did you know?" Kate asked flatly

"Morrow told me at the wake, but Gibbs never mentioned it. I'd never have left his team willingly and I know he wouldn't retire, so I don't know what he was thinking."

"That you should have your own team, God help them."

"Are you going to be able to handle this, Kate?" Tony's voice was more serious than she'd ever heard it. His eyes held hers.

"Of course," she said. "I assumed you'd take the lead for awhile. I was worried about who'd be replacing Gibbs though."

"He could never really be replaced," Tony murmured. He closed his eyes. "You know what worries me most?"

"The budget meetings?" Kate teased.

"Touching his files." He grinned at her. "Of course, maybe I can find out his secret sources." Kate laughed, then felt guilty. She looked at Gibbs' desk. She looked at Tony who was smiling. It was a gentle smile, not a smirk or a wide grin. He crossed the three steps to Gibbs desk. He ran his fingers along the edge of it, then settled in Gibbs' chair. He opened the top drawer and pulled out the reading glasses Gibbs hated so much. He set them aside. Slowly, he looked through the drawer. "Ah, here they are."


"Mission letters. He told me once that he had his men write a letter home before each mission, just in case they didn't make it back." Tony put the envelopes on the blotter. "Kate," he handed her the envelope. "McGee," he sailed the envelope across the aisle to him. "I'm going to take these down to Ducky and Abby. Then, I'm hitting the range. Kate, McGee, finish up your reports. We'll catch lunch early." Tony was gone, leaving her and McGee gaping slightly shell-shocked.

"That is going to take getting used to," McGee said softly. He opened his letter, then froze. "Wait a minute. There were only four letters in that pile."

Kate blinked. "Which means no letter for Tony? That's not possible."

"Maybe he left something with the lawyer for him instead. He is taking care of things." McGee's voice was hesitant.

"I hope so. If not, I'll make Abby summon him from the grave and give him a piece of my mind."


Ducky accepted the letter carefully. "Anthony, how are you doing?"

"I'll be fine, Duck. I just don't want to let him go."

The doctor nodded sadly. He settled a hand on Anthony's arm so that he couldn't leave. "I do understand, my boy. If you need me, well, you know where I live now."

"I'm not going near the yapping hell-hounds. Don't worry."

"Will you be moving into the house completely?"

"We'll see what the lawyers tell me. I've got to give Abby her letter."

"And your letter?"

"Will keep me warm on cold winter nights."

Ducky chuckled. The relationship had been good for both men. Tony had lost some of the fear in his eyes and Gibbs had lost the pain that tensed his shoulders. He waved Tony away with a smile and a thank you. "Let's see what you have to say to me, Jethro."

He opened the letter: "Duck, I never know how to say these things. Thanks for being a good friend. You're the best doctor I've ever met. Watch the kids for me, if you can. God bless. - Jethro."

Ducky chuckled. Straight to the point, that was the Gibbs he knew. "Of course I'll look after them, Jethro. You have my word." He tucked the letter away in his wallet.


Tony tugged at Abby's ponytail. "And what have you got for me?" she asked, batting her lashes.

"A letter from Gibbs."

"Is he still here?" she asked, voice low, as she took it.

Tony nodded. "He promised he'd stay until the will was read." Abby heard the fear and pain in that statement. She offered a hug, not caring if anyone might come in. "I can't stay. I've got to hit the range," he murmured into her ear. She tightened her grip.

"Come over tonight?"

"McGee needs you right now, honey," he said quietly. "I'm going to talk Kate into Chinese. The will is going to be read in a week."

Abby sniffled. "I don't want to think about him leaving."

"He'll be happy, Abs. He'll be with his family. He was a good man."

"But we're his family too and he's got forever to be with them. We've only got right now."

"We'll have forever when we get there, Abs. Hope I actually like his first wife."

Abby tightened her arms. Then, she had to let him go before they both lost it. She tucked the letter away into her coat to read when she got home. She didn't think she could handle reading it today.


"Hey, guys, why don't we knock off early tonight? See you both tomorrow." Tony shooed Tim and Kate out of the office. Kate stopped at the edge of their space. She looked at Gibbs' desk.

"You're going to clean out his desk tonight aren't you?" she said quietly. Tony flinched.

"Yes," he said quietly.

Tim looked back at them.

"You, go take Abby home and remind her why she needs to keep going," Tony ordered. McGee gave him a brief smile.

"Does Abby know I'm taking her away from all this?"

"Yes, I told her this morning. So, go, talk geek and make her swoon." He shooed the younger man away.

"So you don't believe in Rule 12?" Kate murmured, raising a brow.

"Not really no. We're all involved whether we believe it or not. When you'd be willing to die for someone, you love them. There's no question."

"Can I help you?"

"Only if you order Chinese. I'll go find the boxes." He looked at the desk. Gibbs was sitting behind it smirking.

"Do you think I left something embarrassing or incriminating in here? If I did, you know Kate's the one who'll find it. Don't forget my medals." Tony's eyes snapped to Gibbs'. He heard Kate's voice on the phone, ordering their dinner. "What? You think I never went through your desk, DiNozzo?" He smiled and left. He wished he could answer Gibbs' questions aloud. He wanted to talk to him, but if he did, Kate would force him to see a shrink. He knew her well enough to know that. He was back with the box in short order.

He was surprised when Kate took it out of his hands. "You hand me anything that's got to be filed or transferred to your desk."

"Okay." He nodded. He sat gingerly on the chair. He took a deep breath, then opened the center drawer - pens, pencils, notepads. "We've got supplies here. Why don't we put them in the drawer rather than sending them away. We have five boxes right?"

"Yeah. Okay, supplies, files, personal, other?"

"Works for me." Tony touched the ring box. He frowned at it. The maroon velvet refused to say anything. He opened it. He sucked in a breath and tried to swallow his tears. He felt Gibbs' arms around his chest.

"It's okay, baby," Gibbs whispered. "She'll feel better if you cry anyway." He folded his arms and put his head down. The tears were silent. He'd learned as a child not to draw attention to himself. He felt Kate lift the box up and away from his hand, but couldn't look up.


Kate touched the white gold band. The delicate calligraphy of the D & G brought tears to her eyes. The initials were on the inside of the band. The outside was a burnished finish that looked a lot like the handles on Gibbs' casket. She dropped her hand as if she'd been burned. She took a shuddering breath, then settled her hand on Tony's head. She stroked through the soft hair, feeling him tremble under her fingertips. She didn't know how long she stood like that, wishing she were better at providing comfort.

"Oh, Tony, I know why he was maneuvering you into your own team now," she whispered. "Stupid bastard. You should have just given it to him, Gibbs."

"It's okay, boss, I understand," Tony murmured. "You couldn't. Not while you were still my boss. That's why we held off on me moving in too. So there'd be no hint of impropriety beyond the obvious, of course." He sat up. He put his hand out for the box. "Personal," he said. There was still wetness on his cheeks. Kate handed the ring back. She took his hand in hers though.

"How long, Tony?" How long had she been blind to it?

"How long what?"

"Did you love him?"

"From the day I met him. But you mean when did we actually get together? When Ari shot him."

"Then why did you kiss Voss?" she demanded.

"Because the selfish bastard thought I was cheating on him! We had a huge fight because I took a two hour lunch rather than obsessing about the bastard that shot him." Tony turned to glare at the picture of Ari. "I will find the son-of-a-bitch. I owe him. Gibbs shot him once for Gerald. I get to shoot him for Gibbs. Actually, I might do more than that for the men he's killed." Tony stopped himself. "No, let's not talk about this tonight. Let's just hope he didn't leave anything embarrassing in there."


Tony stood nervously in the lawyer's front room. He felt as if he were going to be called into his father's office. His eyes cataloged the women. Ducky hadn't been able to break away from the lab and Tony clearly felt his absence. One ex-wife. Two ex-wives. And. . . "You," he said finally. "You must be Linda?"

The redhead's eyes lit up. "And you're Tony."

"That sneak never told me your name."

"You never asked him."

Tony pouted. "I shouldn't have had to. Your car is sweet," he added. "I asked him to introduce us, you know. So we could talk stats."

She smiled. He kissed her hand before he sat down next to her. "I'll give you my number. We'll go for a ride." Her voice was a soft, soothing purr and Tony wanted to snuggle next to her and let her talk to him all day.

"I'd love to." Tony stood. "I better say hello to the others. Ducky sends his apologies. Oh, and Linda, I'm not telling Kate or McGee."

Her smile was wicked. "Good."

"Trish," he said with a charming smile. "And Michelle. It's a pleasure to see you again. I wish we could have met under better circumstances."

"Why?" Michelle asked bluntly. Her hair was short-cropped and dyed blonde. He could see the strength in her arms.

"Because I love Gibbs stories and you two have got to have some doozies. Besides, Trish here also has dirt on Agent Fornell and I can always use that."

Michelle's blue eyes assessed him. "Well, I suppose we can give you partial membership in the club."

Tony settled between them. "Now, really, a seven iron?"

"He was frustrating me."

"I did consider a bullet to the leg once."

"Just to slow him down?" Trish asked, brows raised.

"To keep the fool from running into the middle of a firefight without a jacket." Tony put on his best pout and was gratified to see it working. The women next to him had melted. Linda's lips were curled up in a satisfied smile.

"Mr. Winslow will see you now," the secretary said. He was a short, nervous fellow, who reminded Tony of Palmer. He walked past him with a slight nod. He settled into an out of the way couch.

The lawyer read through the will, dividing up the pension between the two ex-wives and offering them a few choice words each: "Patricia, you were always full of passion. I just wish it had been directed at me." and "Michelle, didn't I teach you to follow through on your swings better than that? Although I am glad you didn't kill me."

Linda was given the car and her choice of the books.

Ducky was given a small annuity to help ease the stress of caring for his mother.

"And everything else goes to Anthony DiNozzo, for putting up with me longer than Trish and Michelle combined. What you do with it is your choice, of course, but don't you dare blow it on women or I'll send you to Hell myself."

Tony chuckled at that.

"He gets the house?" Trish demanded.

"My name was already on the mortgage, Trish. I was going to be moving into the spare room and out of my apartment at the end of the year," Tony said softly.

The women stared at him. He looked down and away. He played with the white gold band he now wore all the time. He waited for the arguments to start. Michelle stood up and walked toward him. Great, it was going to be physical. She lifted his chin and looked into his eyes for a long moment. "Well, damn. When did he propose?"

"About two days after the funeral. Found the ring and a note. He was going to wait until I got promoted to team lead before he said anything."

The bottle-blonde shook her head. She kissed his cheek. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Not realizing that someone loved him. I always hoped I'd get him back. Send the paperwork to my lawyer," she ordered Winslow. "I'm not going to take you to court, Tony. I'll see you around sometime." Her voice was sad. She left the room.

Trish stared at him. "What is your lawyer's name, Mr. DiNozzo?"

"Vinnie Cantolini."

Her jaw dropped. He smirked at her. "You're a DiNozzo DiNozzo? From Long Island?"

"God help me." He shrugged.

She shook her head. "I hope to never hear from you again, Winslow. Send it through my lawyer." She came across the room and offered her hand. "It just wouldn't be worth the fight. I hated that damn house."

Tony shook her hand. "Will I see you around?"

"I hope so. I still have stories."

"I still have wine."

"I'll drop by sometime." She left.

"I'll arrange for your lawyer to receive the papers as well, Mr. DiNozzo. I have the title for the car ready for your signature, Linda." Winslow smiled. She smiled back.

She signed on the appropriate lines. "You'll do the filing?"

"Yes, of course. The books. . ."

"You can come home with me," Tony offered. "Check out the books. Then, I can drive Gibbs' car to your place and you can give me a ride back to his house."

She linked arms with him. "Sounds like a plan."


"Let's roll, people. We've got a dead Marine on base in Quantico." Kate and McGee reacted automatically to the prompt. "I'll get the truck. Kate, call Ducky and get him to meet us there."

"On it." McGee threw his backpack over his shoulder and grabbed his windbreaker. He noticed Tony had taken his bag too. He wondered what sort of difference there'd be on the scene with Tony in charge.

"I'll take the hump," Kate offered when they got down to the truck. McGee was startled to realize that he'd get to ride in the front of the truck from now on. The thought brought the loss home. He settled into his seat. Tony drove a little less insanely than Gibbs, but it was still faster than McGee was comfortable with. They got to Quantico in one piece. Tony took a deep breath before he stalked towards the scene. It was amazing to realize just how intimidating the man could be when he wanted to.

"Get those people out of my crime scene!" His voice cut above the din. "Special Agent DiNozzo. Agents Todd and McGee are behind me. Our ME will be here soon. Now, get them out of there. Immediately." The people who were milling around the scene scrambled to obey the order even though the MP who was stumbling through an explanation didn't say anything to them.

"McGee, 100 Meter perimeter. I want interviews from each of person. I want to know what they did, where they moved and anything they touched. Get us prints from all of them. Todd, start shooting. Hey, Ducky, I was just going to look at the body."

Dr. Mallard nodded. "Lead on, Anthony." They fell into their usual patterns. Tony started his scene sketches while he grilled the MP who should have secured the site. McGee found it easier than he'd imagined to mark the evidence for Kate to photograph. "Time of death, Duck?" It took a moment for McGee to recognize that Tony had asked the question, not Gibbs.

"Jethro!" Ducky started automatically. "I'm sorry, Anthony, give me a moment."

"I'm not getting any younger, Duck." Tony glared around the messy crime scene. "McGee, tell Abby we're going to have a lot of sorting to do on this one so she should lay in overnight supplies."

"Approximately three a.m., Anthony."

"Thanks, Duck."

They worked the scene carefully, in spite of the fact that they knew it was contaminated. McGee settled into the routine of the interviews easily. These guys were mostly his age, but they were quiet and respectful.

"Runner," Kate called. Tony was off like a prize greyhound. He caught the man and slammed him into a convenient wall. McGee couldn't hear exactly what he'd said, but the young man he'd caught was pale-faced. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something. Tony had him put it into an evidence bag. He gestured to the MP.

The MP actually saluted. McGee hid his smile. Tony stalked back to the scene, picking up his sketchpad and getting back to work. When they were finished, Tony returned to the MP.


"Getting hard to take without having your shot isn't it?" Tony said, voice low. The young man, Parker Blaine, twitched. "Tell me why you ran."

"I didn't want you to know I was there. I'm not supposed to be out of my quarters," the young man's voice trembled. His pulse was thudding in the side of his neck.

"And why did you pick up a piece of evidence from the scene?"

"It was mine!"

"Really. How did it get there if you're not supposed to be out of quarters?"

Parker twitched again. "I don't know."

"Wrong answer."

"I didn't kill him!"

Tony cocked his head to the side and studied the young man. "Really."

"I didn't!" Parker shuddered. "Please, man, I need it."

"What do you have stashed in your quarters, Parker? What did he find out about?"

"He didn't. He didn't find out about anything. He knew it was there."

"What was there?" Tony's made sure his voice was softer, silkier. Seduction was something he did well.

Parker's eyes dilated. He licked his lips. "Nothing."

"Liar. Tell me what was there."

"Just, just something to make me feel better. That's all."

"And this something was what? Heroin? No, you don't look like the type. Not meth. E?"

Parker gaped like a stunned fish. "I, well, yeah, but just a little. I swear."

"Just a little?" Tony soothed the young man with a touch to his wrist. "Tell me more."

"Just a couple pills a day."

"And Johnny found out?"

"He gave them to me!"

"For free? Why?"

Parker shifted uneasily. "CO's out to get me. That's why he killed Johnny and put my pills there."

"Why don't you come to the office and talk to me a little more?" Tony purred. The young man nodded. He was breathing hard. Panic attack, Tony assessed. Chronic user. He looked up at the MP. "Put him in your interrogation room for me." The MP led Parker away.

"Status, McGee!"

"Almost done with printing."


"All wrapped up. Ducky's got the body."

"McGee, take the evidence back to Abby." He tossed the keys to the younger agent. McGee looked at them for a stunned moment, then finished up his tasks. "Kate, with me. We need to talk to his CO. Pull records on Parker Blaine and Jimmy Branch." Tony surveyed the scene once more with eagle eyes. He didn't see anything that had been missed. He strode towards the offices. This was going to call for so much paperwork.


Tony collapsed onto his bed. "Hey, boss," he said, when he felt a warm presence next to him.

"You did good today, Tony."

His green eyes opened in shock. "Did you just give me a compliment?" he demanded. "Who are you and where's Gibbs?"

A gentle kiss was pressed to his lips. "Shut up, DiNozzo."

"That's better."

"I should have hit you more often," Gibbs grumbled. "Or maybe I should have just aimed lower."

"Now, now, Abby would have gotten jealous. Staying the night?"

"I love sleeping next to you. It'll be nice when you move into the house."

"Yeah, I'll move in this weekend, I think. I still have some stuff to get rid of. Your mattress has got to go. I know why you ended up sleeping under the boat so often."

"Wish we could have shared the house before now," Gibbs whispered, dropping a kiss to Tony's forehead. He lifted the hand with the ring on it to his lips. "I should have given this too you."

"Too late for might-have-beens, boss. How long can you stay?"

"Until you want me to leave."

"Forever then." Tony smiled. "Miss you being on the scene. Director Morrow wants a review of the case tomorrow. Did I mess up anything?"

"No, baby, you didn't. He just needs to know how you're functioning."

"I didn't see you there."

"Go to sleep, Tony. I'm not going anywhere." Tony's eyes closed against his will. He wanted to soak up every second with Gibbs he could get. He couldn't ignore an order though, not from Gibbs.


"Director," DiNozzo greeted. Morrow gestured for him to sit down. The young man did, back straight in a way it hardly ever had been when he'd been here with Gibbs. "What can I do for you, sir?"

"Case review."

"In summary, sir, Parker Blaine was a chronic ecstasy user. He thought his dealer, Jimmy Branch, was holding out on him because of their CO. He killed Jimmy, thinking he was in league with the authorities."

"Was he?"

"No, he just wasn't a good dealer. He only had a few pills left, and had been restricted to base for telling off the CO."

"What sort of evidence did you find?"

"The tabs he tried to lift from the scene. His prints were on the rock that he'd used to kill him. It was open and shut, sir. He confessed. Kate and McGee are finishing up their reports and you'll have my summation on your desk by tomorrow morning."

Morrow nodded. The young man in front of him was concise, respectful, and a consummate actor. He'd read Gibbs' commendations for DiNozzo's under-cover work. He knew better than to trust the outward appearance. He met the green eyes and studied them. DiNozzo dropped his eyes for an instant, then brought them back up. They were a little harder. "And your team?"

"Is doing well. We'll still need to adjust to the new shift in tasks, but it's being handled."

"Will you be taking over Gibbs' desk?"

That threw the young man for a loop. "Why, sir? Are we getting another team member so soon because I really wouldn't recommend that."

"No, I'll give you a month before assigning you a new teammate."

"Then, yes, I suppose I will be. I can't stand the thought of some probie sitting there. It would be sacrilegious." A wry grin twisted the young man's lips up. "Can I convince you to let me recruit someone when the time comes?"

Morrow chuckled. "You aren't Gibbs, DiNozzo. You still have some proving before you get to recruit like he did."

"So, no poaching? Unless I find the perfect person, of course."

"Staffing decisions will go through me for now. Not HR."

DiNozzo shrugged. "As you say, sir, we'll have to see what the future brings."

"Feel free to tap the other team-leads if you need advice."

The young man laughed and Morrow's lips twitched up. "You know what the other leads think of me from budget meetings." He paused. "Great, I can send Kate to those."

"I expect to see you at all of the management meetings for at least a year."

"I should have shot myself," he muttered. "Yes, sir," he said more plainly. Morrow shook his head.

"Go on. Back to work."

"Yes, sir." DiNozzo gave him a brief wave before he left.

Morrow waited until the door closed to address the air. "You did a good job with him, Gibbs. I didn't believe you when you told me he'd turn out to be the best. Congratulations."


Tony looked between his desk and Gibbs'. He grimaced. "Okay, guys, this one needs a vote. Either I can move into Gibbs' desk, or we let the new probie take it when he or she gets assigned next month."

Kate's gasp of horror was enough of an answer, but Tony waited. McGee looked at him. "No way, Tony. We can't let someone else sit there."


"I'd rather see you there than some new idiot that doesn't understand."

Tony nodded. He glanced at the desk again, to see if Gibbs had suddenly shown up there to make his displeasure known. His ghost was nowhere to be found and Tony felt alone for the first time since his boss' death. He took a deep breath and picked up his favorite koosh ball. He tossed it neatly onto the center of the blotter.

"Checking to see if it's rigged?" Fornell asked as he came around the corner.

"With Gibbs you never know." Tony shrugged. "What are you doing here Fornell? Got another crooked fed to take down? Or do you need help saving the President's life again? No, wait, I've got it, you want to warn me against Trish because she's been making hints that she wants to try for a full sweep."

"Nah, you're not stupid enough to fall for a woman when two people have warned you against her."

Kate snorted. Fornell looked over at her and dismissed her with his eyes. Tony straightened. "Get to the point, Fornell."

"I just came to survey the troops. I see they haven't given you a new misfit toy to lead you."

"If you're trying to piss me off, it won't work. I've been called worse by men far scarier than you."

"Yeah, I've met your father, remember? Oddly enough he was warning me away from someone I was investigating. A Ruth Parsons. Know her?"

"Drug horse for the Columbian cartel who went to work for the Bartoli family in Philly. Why you investigating her? She finally get whacked?"

"Your roots are showing."

"My stylist's too good for that. If all you wanted was gossip feel free to get the hell out."

"He was the closest thing I had to a friend. I just want to make sure his property is taken care of."

Tony's brows rose. "His property?"

Fornell looked Tony dead in the eye. "Who's in charge here, DiNozzo?"


Fornell nodded. "Good. If they replace you, call me. I have openings."

Tony snorted. "If they replace me, it'll be because I'm dead and not before."

Fornell's lips curled into a half-smirk. "That still a possibility?"

"Nah. Told you. Gibbs would come back from the dead just to beat my sorry ass if I try it." Tony waved the concern away. "Now, if you don't have anything for us, I've got paperwork to catch up on."

"Maybe I do. We need to talk." He indicated Kate with his eyes.

"You know the way to the conference room." Tony waved Fornell ahead with a carefully cultivated motion.


Kate looked over at McGee when the two men were safely in the elevator. "Is it just me or did Fornell just suggest that Tony was contemplating suicide?"

McGee looked up from his computer. He looked guilty. "He was."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"He told me the same thing he told Fornell. He has it on good authority that Gibbs will come back to beat him."

"His letter."

"That's what I was thinking. Abby said she wasn't surprised. Tony took it really hard."

"He still is. He's just pretending to be fine." Kate looked down at her keyboard. "He's stopped dating, Tim."

Tim looked at her. "He stopped dating a long time ago, Kate. Around the time Ari kidnapped you. I don't know what Gibbs said to him, but they did fight over it."

"Over what, Probie?" Tony said. They both jumped.

"Nothing, Tony, er, sir." Kate was caught by the edge of the glare. It wasn't a Gibbs-death-ray, but it was pretty displeased.

"Good. Since you two are so worried about my home-life, you can help me move this weekend."

"Abuse of power, Tony," Kate stated.

"You don't have to come. I know you don't really care as long as I get the job done." He shrugged. "You and Abs free this weekend, Tim?"

"Yes, Tony, we're free." McGee smiled and Tony's posture relaxed.

"I'll be there."

"Don't strain yourself, Kate. I don't have that much furniture. I've had movers in for the big things. Mostly it's the little stuff and things to go to charity. The three of us can do it. Then, we'll gorge ourselves on sci-fi." Tony waved off her offer.

"I'm serious, Tony," she said quietly. He looked at her. He nodded.

"You know the address. So, you have reports for me, si?"

"Almost." He raised a brow at that. "It'll be in your inbox soon enough."

"Good. You, McGee?"

"Already there."

"Can I actually read it?"

"Ah, well, that depends."

"Is it in English or in Geek?"

"You'll have to see."

"Gibbs, you so owe me for this," Tony muttered darkly as he moved to settle into his chair.


Kate went to get them lunch from their favorite Greek restaurant. She'd promised to not criticize the boys' eating habits. McGee watched Tony as he pulled out his dictionary. "What's up?"

"You write in Geek, McGee."

"You know every word in there," Tim shot back. That got him a quick grin.

"Yeah, but I can't spell."

"Oh." Of course, Tony had his own paperwork to do. "Ah, Tony?"


"Would you use a dictation program if I got it for you?"

"Dictation? No, not here. I don't want you two hearing what I'm writing."

"Why not?"

"Just let it go, McGee."

"I've seen your reports, Tony. I used them as my model."

"Yeah, well, Gibbs isn't here to send them back to me for revisions. Anything I do goes directly to the Director. I'm not screwing that up. And if you breathe a word of this to Kate, I will kill you in an extremely inventive and painful manner."

McGee nodded solemnly. "Of course. Ah, Tony?"


"What do I call you?"

"Tony? It is my name. Or DiNozzo. Your choice."

"Well, you know Gibbs had that thing about 'sir', but you don't and. . ."

"You can call me 'sir' or 'boss' if you want. I don't really care as long as you get the job done." Tony paused and looked around.

"What is it?"

"Feels like we're being watched." McGee raised his brows in surprise. "And not in a sneaking up and watching over you way. You heard anything about who might have gotten to Gibbs?"

The younger agent shook his head. "It's still an on-going investigation. And everyone's under orders to not let us in."

"There's ways around that for a creative man such as yourself." Tony's smile was predatory and McGee didn't like it. Tony was easy-going, a joker, a jock. He wasn't supposed to be aggressive or hard.

"I haven't heard anything," McGee replied again. He nodded at the unspoken request though.

Abby came into the bullpen. She looked tired. McGee was about to say something when she stepped around Tony's desk and dropped into his lap. Tony caught her easily. "Hey, McGee. Where's Kate?"

"Getting lunch. You have something for us?" Tony asked.

"You know that cold case you asked me to recheck the findings on?"

Tony blinked. "I'd completely forgotten. The Perez case?"

"That's the one."


"We've got a positive match from the DNA to a new rape case. Balboa's working it."

"I'll tell him. Good work."

"Of course. I am the best. We're still on for the Star Trek marathon on your TV right?"

"After we move it. Didn't Tim tell you? You've been volunteered for this weekend."

"Oh, so I finally get to put my hands in your drawers? Play with your equipment?" She would have continued the spiel, but Tony tugged at one of her ponytails. "So, you have anything interesting for me?"

"Well, if you're bored to the point of building pointless war models in your lab?"

"I am."

"Then, I have a few cases I'd like you to check again."

"What's up with the cold case fixation?"

"Nothing else to do at night."

"I'm sure Tim and I could change that." McGee felt himself blushing at Abby's eyebrow waggle in his direction.

"Sorry, honey. McGee's just too young for me. Besides, he's not interested in me. I know these things, bella."

"Ooooh, you're starting the Italian thing again. Hmm, you think, now that your evenings aren't tied up anymore?"

"McGee would shoot me, Abs. Not to mention Gibbs also made it quite clear that we're a no-go."

"Yeah, well, we were always no-strings. He never understood that." Abby rolled her eyes. "I told him it was the best way to keep you, but he didn't believe that."

"Gibbs had his own ideas about relationships. He was the marrying kind. Oh, Kate's back, I can smell the slouvaki."


Kate stopped short at the sight of Abby on Tony's lap. It wasn't the first time she'd done it, but usually she'd sit on Tim's lap. Or take up residence on Gibbs' desk. She must be worried about him, Kate decided. Tony had wrapped his hands around her waist. Abby squirmed a bit. "Hey, now, that's not fair, Abs."

"I don't have to be fair to you, you're a boy-toy. Which cases, honey?" Tony opened his bottom drawer and selected two files. He wrote down their numbers for Abby.

"Just look over the results and see if there's anything strange, okay? There's something that doesn't fit, but I can't figure out what."

"You think they're connected."

"I do."

"How long have you been staring at them?"

"I plead the fifth."

"So tell me you're going to keep the boat."

"Of course I'm keeping the boat. I might finish it."

"Then what?"

"I'll figure it out. I'm not exactly the woodworking type. It's just tradition. Maybe I'll just pad the table and use it as a lounge."

"Did you actually sleep there? I know Gibbs did, but. . ." Abby trailed off as Tony blushed. "Oh. My. God. When?"

"After Wilkerson," Tony murmured. "She left a bad taste in his mouth. I told him not to kiss smokers, but well, you know how it is."

"Under the boat?" Abby prodded.

"Kate, don't just stand there. I need food." He turned pleading eyes in her direction. She passed out their meals. Abby pouted until Tony gave her a bite of his slouvaki. The conversation was redirected by a few deft questions. Director Morrow paused at the foot of the stairs.

"Agent DiNozzo."

"Yes, Director?"

"A report?"

"Should be in your inbox, sir."

Morrow raised a brow as Abby snagged another bite of meat. Tony looked back blandly at him. "Don't do anything I'll have to report to HR."

Abby pouted at him. "We'll be good," she replied.

"Somehow I doubt that," Morrow chuckled. He continued on to his original destination.

"That was close," Kate stated.

"Nah. He knows Abs is like a sister to me. A slightly psychotic and far too perky little sister," he added.

"Hmm, but you don't mind kissing me."

"And I don't even need music to think about it." She stole another bite of his sandwich. "If I'd known you didn't have lunch, I'd have gotten you some."

"I prefer sharing," she replied. Then, she whispered something into Tony's ear. His eyes went distant for a second.

"Call me later with that full story," he ordered, pulling on his tie.

"Well, I better get back downstairs." She kissed Tony's cheek, waved cheerily at McGee and winked at Kate.

Kate looked after her. "How is she really?"

"Hurting," Tony replied. "She gets like this whenever Gibbs gets. . . got hurt. She started going to McGee sometimes, but," he shrugged. "It really isn't anything but flirting these days, you know that right, Tim?"

"I know." McGee nodded. His voice was quiet. Kate felt the tears welling up behind her eyes. He was just a co-worker, part of her screamed. The rest of her said, he was the best damn boss you ever had and he cared for you, it's okay to mourn him for more than a few days. "Tony?"

Kate watched as her teammate and new boss - and wasn't that going to take getting used to - turned his head to look at McGee with raised brows over his slouvaki.

"I don't mind if you need it to be more right now," he said. His stutter was gone. Tony licked some sauce off of his lip.

"No, we're over, Tim. Have been since she grilled me on whether or not you were cute and if you had the brains to hook up with her."

"You told her I was cute?"

"Yeah. So?"

"A compliment? From you?"

Tony studied the ceiling. "Well, it's not like I said it directly to you. If we don't get a call this afternoon, I've got a list of cold cases that need some checking into."

Kate had to admire his ability to act. She'd seen the momentary bleakness in his eyes when he realized that the call would come to him not Gibbs, but he'd blanked it out with ruthless efficiency.


Tony pulled his knees up to his chest. He sat huddled in the shelter of the boat, watching an aimless sitcom. Strong arms enfolded him and he leaned into the embrace. "What's wrong?" Gibbs murmured.

"It hit me today. You're really not going to be the boss anymore."

"When you get settled in, I'll visit you at the office. You're too good for me to cripple you by making you question your competence as a leader."

"You know, this whole being nice to me thing is going to take time to get used to," Tony murmured. His voice was shaky

"Couldn't let you run wild. Besides you'd never have believed me."

"Still don't, you mush. It hurts to look at your desk. I'm moving into it. It was that, or they'd put someone else there, which would just be wrong." Tony closed his eyes. "I know why you want me to do this on my own for awhile, but when I'm there, I'm afraid that when I come home, you won't be here."

"Hush, Tony, I'm not going anywhere. Honestly. I have the time."

"But your wife and your baby. . . " he trailed off, unable to see past the pain of knowing they had always been first in Gibbs' heart. And that was the way it would always be. He was fine with it, really he was.

"Tony, we have forever. Shannon likes you, by the way. She wants to meet you. And Kelly will have you wrapped around her ponytails faster than Abby."

Tony did start crying then, he couldn't help it. The silent tears rolled down his face. Gibbs just held him until the maelstrom passed. "But I'm just. . ." he gasped out at last.

"Never think it, honey," Gibbs whispered. "You are so deep in my heart that you'll never be rid of me. I'll find a way to let you meet her and see the truth. She's considered you a part of our family from the day we met. And so have I. You were meant for me, Tony. Don't ever, ever put yourself down."

"I never want to be without you. It's so hard to get up and go to the office and know that you're not going to be there. Hell, I miss you smacking me across the back of the head. It was nice to be noticed. They still haven't gotten the person who shot you. And Morrow won't let me work on it." Tony's eyes slid closed. He rubbed his cheek against the sweatshirt Gibbs was wearing. He knew without looking that it had the Marine crest on the front. Gibbs' arms tightened. "I want the bastard. I want to hunt him down and put a bullet into his skull."

"Revenge? You never struck me as the type."

"Well, I'm not obsessive like some people I could mention, but I am still Italian. And vengeance is second nature. I'm by the book, Gibbs. Well, mostly. I'm still one of yours."

"You're the best agent I've ever trained, DiNozzo. Morrow knows it too. Now, let's go upstairs so that you don't fall asleep down here. I don't think sawdust's your thing."

"Not until you," Tony whispered. "Can you... Can we work on it together?"

"Sure. I'll teach you." Tony turned. Gibbs smiling wasn't something he dared miss. It seemed to happen more often now than when he'd had a pulse. That just seemed wrong.

"You have a wonderful smile, boss." They finally did make it up the stairs. Tony curled up on the bed, wrapped in his lover's arms. He was content to lay there, awake or asleep.


Abby looked around the house. "Wow, so this is where bossman crashed."

"Mostly. I've shifted around some furniture. I wasn't giving up my couch and his futon was a piece of crap. But, you've really got to see the guest room. He built everything in there, including the lamps."


"Totally," Tony replied. Abby noted that he seemed more relaxed in the house. "I think that's the last load, right?"

"Yes," Kate confirmed. She was also looking around the house curiously. "You know, I've never been to your place or Gibbs' before."

"That was your choice. Well, in terms of my apartment at least. So, pizza or Chinese?"

"Chinese," Abby said bouncing. "And we can hook up your television and assorted media bundles while we wait. Then it's hours and hours of delicious camp. If you're really nice I won't torment you with the discussion of whether or not Spock and Kirk were getting it on."

"My money was on Kirk and McCoy, actually," McGee said. Abby watched Kate's jaw dropped.

"Okay, you are all officially insane."

"Join us, Katie. It doesn't hurt a bit," Tony said with a grin. "I'll order. You want to help unpack the bags in the kitchen?"


The night passed quickly enough. Kate bowed out early, saying she had to get to church in the morning. Abby snuggled between Tony and McGee, arms looped through theirs so they couldn't get away. "When are you going to tell her that you go to mass every Sunday?"

Tony shrugged. "Never. Hey, Shore Leave is up next. I love that episode."

The lab tech settled her head on Tony's shoulder. He leaned his cheek against her hair. She felt him start, then relax. When she looked over, his eyes were closed, but she knew he wasn't asleep. McGee raised his brows at her, indicating Tony with a nod. "Should I go?" he mouthed.

"No," she mouthed back.

"You're wearing gunpowder perfume again," Tony said suddenly.

"Yeah. Does it bother you?"

"No, I like it. It suits you. Hey, McGee, you want another beer?"

"Not if I have to drive home tonight."

"There's two bedrooms. You've slept in the coffin, so you two'll be fine on the double in the guest room."

"Thanks. Then, yes."

"Be right back. Abs? More caffeine?"

"No, get me liquor."

"That's my Abs."


"Agent DiNozzo."

"Yes, Director?" Tony looked up from his work. He stood up a moment later and followed the Director to his office.

"I gave you a direct order, Agent DiNozzo."

"About what, sir?" He was genuinely confused. This was the first time Morrow had been mad at him in particular.

"I told you that you would not work Gibbs' murder."

Tony blinked. "I'm not. I talk to some of the guys about it, but I haven't done anything on it. They're just keeping me in the loop, sir."

"Really, then why do I have your bullet trajectory traces in the report I just received?"

"That was Gibbs?" Morrow raised his brows. Tony gave him a lopsided grin.

"Didn't think that would work. They asked me to look at it because it's my specialty. You never told them not to talk to me. I know I should have told them 'no', but I just couldn't. I haven't done anything but that on it. I haven't even asked for names. I'm not working the case."

"How can I be sure of that?"

"I'd have solved it by now and his killer would be facing the death penalty. Snipers are premeditated." Tony was shocked with the anger in his tone. He met Morrow's eyes for a long moment.

"Very well, Agent DiNozzo. Come to MTAC. There's a new situation and I want you on it."

"Yes, sir."


Gibbs stroked Tony's hair back from his face. "You look tired, Tony. Come to bed."

Tony's smile was strained. "This is killing me, boss. Morrow won't let me work the case and he ripped the lead a new one for asking me to look at the trajectories. I've been ordered to keep my nose out of it all together. I've got a feeling though. Someone's watching my team and I don't like it. I think it was personal."

"You think it was someone I pissed off."

"Yes, I do."

Gibbs nodded slowly. "I think you're right. I've pissed off a lot of people though."

"I know, honey." Tony smiled. "Believe me, I know. Who do you think has had to listen to the recent ones bitching? Anyways, bed with you sounds good." Gibbs led the younger man upstairs. Tony got ready for bed. He was wearing boxers. Gibbs raised his brow.

"Getting shy?"

Tony smirked at him. "Don't want you thinking I'm easy."

"Not even for me?"

"All you have to do is say the word, boss."

"I want to make love to you, Tony."

The younger man's grinned brightly and jumped onto the bed, bouncing a little bit. Gibbs laughed. He crawled over his lover and placed a chaste kiss to his forehead. Tony pulled him closer, eyes closed.

"I'm not a dream, honey. I'm not going to disappear on you. I'm going to be with you forever."

"Don't make promises, Gibbs. It would kill me if you broke my heart."

"Just trust in me, Tony."

"Always, Jethro," the young man purred.

"Open your eyes and look at me then."

"You're too close. I'll get distracted by what I can see. Let me just feel you."

"What do you see?" Gibbs asked softly.

"Everything, the flecks of color in your eyes, the shine of light off of your hair, the soft focus on the edges of your body, the roughness of your skin on your fingers, and the variations in the color of your chest hair. I see it all, and I need to be able to concentrate on your touch, your smell, the small sounds you'll make as you thrust into me. Please, Jethro."

Gibbs kissed him gently, comforting him for a moment. Then, he kissed him less carefully, more harshly. His lover moaned into the kiss, head arching back as he opened under the assault. Gibbs took his time exploring Tony's mouth until he knew the younger man was focused on him and nothing else. Tony whined a little as the kiss ended. Gibbs palmed the hard length of his lover's cock through his boxers. Tony arched up into the touch.

It was a rush to have this control over the younger man. Gibbs stroked him gently watching him move to meet each touch. "Please, boss," Tony murmured. "Please, if you don't get into me soon, I'll be tapped out."

"Hush, baby," Gibbs whispered. "Hush." He worked the boxers off his lover's legs after one more soft stroke. He found the lube with one hand while he played idly with one nipple. Tony made a choked little sound deep in his throat.

"God, you're going to drive me crazy."

"Yep." Gibbs wondered if the lube was still necessary, then banished the thought from his mind. He stretched Tony. "You're so tight, baby," he said into Tony's ear.

"Stop teasing me, Gibbs. Just get inside of me before I burst."

The older man chuckled. "Patience, Tony. Patience."

"Fuck you, Gibbs. I'm dying here." Gibbs pushed into the hot, tight space. Tony groaned. "That's better." Gibbs thrust slowly, setting a pace he knew would drive his younger lover crazy. Tony loved it when Gibbs used him hard, but would take it anyway he could get it. "Bastard," he growled.

"You've known that for years."

Then, there was no room in his mind for quips. It was just too right to be riding his lover like this, hearing his breathless little moans and the hitch in his breathing that told Gibbs, he was close, oh so close to coming. He thrust hard. Tony groaned and clenched around him. Gibbs continued to thrust for a few more strokes until he too was coming. He kissed Tony gently. He used the boxers to clean him up before curling him close and letting him sleep.