by B. Cavis
by B. Cavis
“Does this look infected to you?”
Gibbs jerks his head back as a brown, tissue wrapped finger is shoved in his face. The wall impacts the back of his skull with a resounding thunk, and he starts to curse with all of the zeal and vocabulary that he saves for Tony.
Tony is the only one who makes him say “Mother fucking ass chewing whore.”
“God damn it, Tony!”
Tony pouts quietly and takes his finger back, looking hurt. “I was just asking-”
“I don’t know if it looks infected. Just… don’t do that again. Ever.” He sighs and tilts his face away from Tony. The younger man’s body odor has become more pungent in the last hour, and it’s the knowledge that he probably smells just as bad that makes him more uncomfortable than anything else.
The sour smell in the room has only gotten worse as time passes, and their air is stuffy and hot with carbon dioxide. There are cracks to keep them from suffocating, and the air won’t actually run out, but they are going to get increasingly more and more uncomfortable as long as they are in here.
Which, if the lack of noise coming from outside of the thick, locked, wooden door at the top of the stairs is any indication, might be a while longer.
Damn it. He knew he should have recharged his cell phone before he left. Never again, he promises himself.
Tony, of course, will get chewed out for not having his cell phone charged. One of the perks to being the boss is the right-- nay, the responsibility to make those who aren’t the boss work for their money.
And Tony, who somehow thought it appropriate to shove his finger in Gibbs’s face, will work for it today.
“I can’t believe we’re stuck in here,” Tony sighs, and Gibbs looks back at him.
“This won’t go any faster if you keep whining about it.”
“I am not whining,” Tony protests breathlessly, and when Gibbs turns his eyes onto him, he looks away. “Okay, just a little bit of a whine. This is the dumbest thing ever. Kate is never going to let me live this down.”
“Kate won’t say anything,” Gibbs mutters.
Tony sighs and shifts in place. His butt has started to go numb. “Of course she will. I am locked in a suspect’s basement, clutching a tissue to my finger because I accidentally cut it on, get this, my own badge.” He lets out a laugh that isn’t really a laugh, and smiles without humor. “She is going to make this the new sign around my neck.”
“She won’t say anything. I’m down here with you. I am the one you have to worry about, Tony.” He tries to give his most threatening look, which is somewhat lost considering that there’s not enough light for the finer nuances of his face to be seen. He does what he can by adding in a threatening posture, but Tony doesn’t seem to be quailing like he usually does.
Just another reason why this day sucks.
And the most irritating fact is that this is, in some small part, his fault.
Well, he thinks to himself, let’s not go that far. Tony should have had his cell phone on him. Leaving it in the car is inexcusable; it is his lifeline to the outside world, and to be missing it is both irresponsible and dangerous. Hence their current situation. Hence the reason he had just been looking as a (possibly infected) finger.
But, pipes up the annoyingly right and moral voice in his head, it wasn’t Tony’s fault that you didn’t have your cell phone fully charged, now was it? He didn’t somehow make that happen, now did he?
Gibbs hates thinking like this. Thinking like this involves just a bit too much truth for his tastes.
Yes, he should have had his cell phone charged. Yes, he should have made sure it was taken care of. Yes, that was his responsibility.
It had just been a collection of unfortunate circumstances. He had been standing at his desk, plugging it into the charger, and when he looked up there was Kate with a file that she just apparently desperately needed to discus with him.
He usually had a very high tolerance for Kate. Hell, more often than he was willing to admit, he actually enjoyed her company. She came up with good ideas, spoke her mind (to the extent that she was able to do, what with him as her boss), and making her blush bright red was always an interesting and fun task. He had cured more than one case of boredom by pulling some embarrassing thing out of mid air and making her trip over it.
It beat television by a long shot.
She had leaned in at him, head down as she stuck her nose in the file (couldn’t she have done that at her desk, he had thought grumpily), and pointed to something. He had leaned in towards her, and she must have started wearing a different perfume or washing with a different soap, because she usually smelled soft and like baby powder.
He tries to tell himself, sitting down in this hole, that it is no big deal that he has a “Normal Kate Todd Smell” memory in his head, as opposed to the abnormal, changed one. He is a trained investigator, he tells himself-- he notices these things; Ducky smells of Old Spice and Abby smells of Cherry Coke mixed with Old Spice (something he is not even going to touch with a ten foot mental pole). Tony always smells like the Pear Berry cologne some girl or another had gotten him. Kate always smelled like… Kate. Except for this morning.
It hadn’t been unpleasant, of course. Above all else, Kate valued good taste, and everything about her reflected that. The smell hadn’t been offensive or overly strong, and he hadn’t pulled back in disgust.
It had just been… different. Penetrating. It was soft, but for some reason it got all in his clothes and up his nose and in his throat and mouth and down into his lungs until he was floating around in a cloud of KateSmell, which wasn’t entire unpleasant. It had just been unexpected.
He hadn’t let that stop him from listening to her and watching her finger move across the page as she tried to make a point. He hadn’t been so distracted by her smell that he had shirked his duties.
However, for some reason or another, he hadn’t been able to stand her presence this morning. Maybe it had been the sunlight or the way the planets had aligned, or maybe, as she had sullenly growled under her breath, someone really had pissed in his coffee cup.
…Had his coffee tasted different this morning?
Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, after less than half a minute talking to her, he had hollered over at Tony to get up and get the car ready. She had stumbled-- her rhythm and her thoughts interrupted to ask where they were going, and he had grumbled something out to her about staying at her desk and doing research while they went to interview the suspect.
And grabbed his cell phone, half charged, out of the power station on his desk.
… So really, he reasons, if this is anyone’s fault, it’s Kate’s.
Gibbs sighs and shifts his weight around for a moment. Tony has unwrapped the tissue from his finger, and is examining it critically. Gibbs glances over at him, and quickly jerks his eyes away when Tony turns towards him.
Don’t encourage him.
“I think it’s infected,” the younger agent informs him. “It looks all… infected, I guess.”
“You know what infection looks like, Dinozzo?”
“Well, um…” A decidedly dirty reply comes into Tony’s head (something to do with thong underwear and yeast infections) and he bites his tongue hard. He had a filter installed between his brain and his mouth last week when Gibbs had grabbed him by the collar and shook him hard and rough for mentioning something about blonds having more fun.
“No,” Tony finally concedes, “I don’t.”
“Okay then,” Gibbs says, in his “this conversation is so over” voice, “then stop thinking about it.”
Tony grunts something and looks pointedly away from his finger. He can feel it throbbing underneath the dirty tissue.
Something scuttles in a different corner of the basement, and Gibbs unconsciously squeezes the gun in his lap. He’d thought, originally, to try and shoot the lock off the door, only to remember the multiple security chains, locks, and deadbolts that he had heard click into place after the door slammed shut behind them. They had come down into this basement in search of some clue as to where their suspect might have gone, only to have said suspect throw the door closed and shut them in.
That had been three hours ago.
Of course, he knows, eventually Kate will come for them. She’ll look around at quitting time, try and call their cell phones, and put two and two together. He knows that she’ll come and get them out and not speak of it again (because, hell, Tony may be disrespectful to authority, but Kate is terrified of disappointing him and he knows it) and that everything will go back to normal.
But until that happens, he is stuck in a basement with Tony.
“I mean,” the agent in question blurts out, “what if it needs to be amputated? I mean, what if I’m gangrenous?”
“What?” Tony sighs and peels the tissue away from his finger, winces, and puts it back on. He is looking slightly green. “It’s covered in dried blood,” he informs Gibbs weakly.
“Of course it is, you numbskull. It was bleeding, you pressed the wound to a tissue. What did you expect to happen?” He is never leaving the office without three cell phones and five back up batteries again. Ever.
“I can’t stand the sight of blood. Especially mine. Makes me feel like I’m going to be sick.”
Gibbs shoves on his shoulder quickly. “Just… do it over there. You puke on me, Dinozzo, and the dry cleaning bill is coming out of your paycheck.”
Tony takes a few deep, shaky breathes and groans. “What is taking her so long? It’s not like it’s that hard to figure out. We’ve been locked in a basement. Who the hell doesn’t know that?”
“Shut up and be patient. She’ll show up soon enough. Right now, all you have to focus on doing is not puking all over yourself and me.” And keeping dirt out of your wound, he almost adds, but bites back. It’s best not to give Tony fodder for anything. He’s a fodder whore.
Tony looks back at his finger, contemplating the merits of putting it in his mouth and letting his old childhood remedy work its magic. He decides against it, firmly, and hides his hand under his un-tucked shirt, feeling the waistband of his pants as it digs into his stomach.
“You seem… certain,” Tony offers after a moment.
“Tony, do you honestly think that Kate would leave us down in a basement if she knew we were here?” He settles his shoulder blades so that the brick rests more comfortably against his back. “She’ll figure it out and then she’ll come and get us. It’ll be fine.”
“Then I guess it’s a good thing that you were all grouchy and mean this morning and made her stay in the office.”
“I was not grouchy and mean, Dinozzo.” Gibbs winces sharply. His voice rose up at the end of that statement just a tad too high for comfort. “Kate stayed because it was the best thing for the case.”
“And because you growled at her. You can be very intimidating when you want to be, Gibbs. You rob people of arguments.”
“Yeah? It never seems to work on you,” he snaps, and Tony brushes it aside with a wave of his hand.
“That’s because I know what a big teddy bear you are on the inside, Boss. Kate doesn’t know how sweet you can be yet.”
“Tony,” Gibbs seethes quietly, “if you call me a teddy bear again, I am going to amputate your finger with a credit card.”
Tony sighs and looks down at his hand. “It might come to that,” he concedes unhappily.
“Boss, come on, we’re stuck in a basement. We can either talk about my finger or about how sweet you are underneath the… Gibbs-like outer shell.” He shrugs. “There really isn’t any point in playing ‘I Spy,’ after all.”
He should have shot Tony ten minutes ago. The fact that the younger agent is still breathing must be a cosmic joke or something equally beyond his control. “We could try and be quiet and wait patiently until Kate shows up.”
“But talking will keep the rats away,” Tony argues back uncomfortably. “And, uh, I really hate rats. They’re all gnawing and gray and big with these bald tails and evil red eyes. Rats are…” he shudders, and Gibbs groans loudly.
“I’m thinking she’ll figure it out in a couple of more months. I mean, it took me almost two years, but Kate is more perceptive about these kinds of things. Woman’s intuition and all that.” Tony beats out an acoustic accompaniment against the cold concrete floor with his heel. “Of course, she still hasn’t figured out that you look at her ass more than I do, so I might be off.”
Gibbs grits his teeth as his hand tightens hard around the gun. “I do not look at Kate’s ass, Dinozzo. I leave that to you and McGee.”
Tony pauses, and a second or two ticks by. “McGee looks at her ass?”
“Like a twelve-year-old looking at his first Playboy magazine.” Damn little dweeb didn’t even have the decency to be discreet about it. The last time she had bent over to get a file out from under her desk, his eyes had near popped out of his head. Gibbs had had to restrain himself from chewing him out in front of everyone, Kate included.
Actually, Kate had been the thing that had stopped him-- McGee was a geek, but he wasn’t a harmful geek. He looked because he was male and because Kate was (oh so very) female, but there was no harm in it. He wasn’t about to go over and grab her ass or (heaven forbid) ask her out to waste a Friday night with him; he was just… looking. To bring attention to it would do nothing but make Kate uncomfortable around McGee and make McGee wet his pants.
And besides, if Gibbs was totally honest with himself, the whole “looking” thing was something that he was not unfamiliar with.
He had been hoping that Tony was, however.
Tony sighs beside him. “You think you know a guy.” He shakes his head sadly. “I have to make him miserable about this when I see him next.”
“Leave McGee alone.”
“Why?” Tony snorts. “You can’t tell me your blood didn’t boil when you saw him looking. Revenge is called for. Saving Kate’s honor.”
Her… what? “Tony, since when have you cared about Kate’s honor. You rag on her more than anyone else.”
Tony shrugs. “Yeah? So? You bark at her half of the time-- don’t you like her?”
“Of course I like he-- Tony, what the hell is up with the questions? Huh? Has the blood loss effected your brain?” He is getting pissed; he’s not quite sure why, but he has the feeling that he is being forced to walk through a mine field blindfolded, and the idea does not sit well with him. What is it to Tony if he likes Kate? What is it to anyone how he feels about anything? It’s nobody’s business but his own.
And nobody most especially means Tony.
“Nothing,” Tony offers peacefully, sensing that he has gone past his boss’s friendly point. “Just making conversation.”
“Well cut it out.” He pounds his back against the wall to punctuate the point, and the dull slap feels good through the fabric of his shirt. His skin feels overly tight, like he has shrunk in the wash or something.
This is why he doesn’t spend long periods of time in Tony’s company, without being focused on a task. He doesn’t like being idle, and he doesn’t like being asked inane questions until he breaks and lashes out.
It reminds him too much of high school.
They lapse into silence eventually. Tony doesn’t look at his finger, and Gibbs keeps his eyes turned firmly up at the crack of light that glows from underneath the door, searching for movement. The sun is going down, and the line is dimming. A quick glance at his watch tells him it’s almost seven. Kate should be here soon.
At least, he hopes she’s here soon-- spending the night with Tony in a basement is not his idea of a fun sleep over.
Tony sighs and shifts beside him. “You know, it’s pretty obvious.”
Don’t get drawn in.
Don’t get drawn in.
“What’s pretty obvious?”
“When you look at Kate. You do it a lot.”
This is going back into that “BAD” territory. He has got to remember to shoot Tony the next time he’s not trying to save his bullets for either the rats in the basement or a suspect who could return at any time.
“I look at everyone a lot. It’s my job to be aware, Tony. And yours, I might add.” Be aware, he warns the younger agent. Be aware of the fact that I could kill you in here, hide the body, and no one would question me. He bares his teeth in frustration. Be VERY aware.
Tony shakes his head. “You look at her differently. I mean,” he searches for words. “You look at Abby like she’s a kid. You look at me like I am the dashing, handsome, debonair man I am,” he tosses his head, and Gibbs rolls his eyes discretely. “But you look at Kate like…” he waves a hand. “I don’t know, like she’s something else.”
“Tony, if you want to live, you will shut your mouth until Kate gets here, and forget that you ever decided to be an idiot and tried to start this conversati-”
“Guys?” comes a half laughing voice from the top of the stairs, and Gibbs is on his feet in a minute.
“Kate?” Tony hollers. “That you?”
“No,” she replies, “It’s the Easter Bunny. What are you guys doing down there?” Gibbs sees the light shift. She’s on her knees, picking the first lock.
“Our suspect locked us down here,” Gibbs replies, glaring at Tony. The other man stands in response.
“Why didn’t you just call me for help earlier?” She asks, and he can hear her slipping the deadbolts free and undoing the security chains. Gibbs holsters his weapon.
“Don’t ask questions. Just get us out of here.”
He hears her mumble something uncomplimentary under her breath as she pulls the last lock free, and the basement is suddenly flushed with the orange of dying light. Kate stands, backlit by the sunset, hair aflame and hands putting her picklocks back into their leather strap.
“See if I let you guys out of a dark place again,” she scoffs and walks away from the doorway. Tony and Gibbs make their way up the rickety stairs, careful not to put too much weight on the weak banister.
Kate is leaning against the wall when they get up, and when she sees Tony’s tissue, she sighs and takes him over to the sink to make him wash it out.
“Oww,” he moans, “The soap stings.”
“Quit being such a baby.”
“Hey, I thought my finger might have to be amputated. Try that on for size and then call me a baby.” He pouts, and she bites down a smile, but he’s gotten the reaction he wanted, and stops complaining.
Gibbs watches, propped up against the wall, arms folded over his chest.
She still fills his senses and fucks his nose with her scent. The kitchen is glowing in the light from the standard issue windows, and it takes her skin and hair and turns them into something more exotic and forbidden. Her hand on Tony’s is the only thing he can see, and he wonders why he is focusing so much on that sight alone.
Her guard is down. That’s dangerous. Best to fix that.
“Did you see our guy anywhere in this house? Or did you not even bother to look?” Her back straightens, and she drops Tony’s hand quickly. He can hear her teeth clicking in her mouth, and he quietly turns away from the two of them, like a child trying to ignore the sounds of his parents fighting.
Kate crosses her arms over her chest, mimicking him unconsciously, steeling herself for battle. “We already have him in custody,” she hisses. “While you guys were locked down in a basement, not calling for help or anything, I found the link that ties him to the third victim. The base records showed that their wives served together in ‘93.” She tilts her head up. “He was interrogated, he confessed, and he is now sitting in a holding cell.”
Gibbs nods absently, and the hope in her eyes dies quickly. She’d wanted positive reinforcement. She’s going to have to learn to get that on her own, he thinks to himself. A good agent; the agent she is going to be, can not depend on anyone but their own sense of right and wrong to give value to their actions. She needs to know she did good-- needing him to tell her is a sign of weakness on her part.
Him wanting to tell her she did a good job is a sign of something on his part that he won’t go into right now.
She bares her teeth quickly, and roughly shoves her pick locks back into her pocket. “You’re welcome, by the way, for letting you out of your dark little hole.” She pulls her keys out of her pocket. “See you both Monday,” she growls, and walks out of the room. The front door slams behind her.
Gibbs’s fists clench and his jaw tightens until he can feel the enamel rubbing together and hurting his head. Tony turns around, his finger wrapped in a new tissue, and offers Gibbs a weak smile.
“Not a word,” the older agent growls, heading towards the door himself.
“Not from me, boss,” Tony agrees, and follows quickly.
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