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Title: Falsely Accused
By: nancy
Pairing: Tony/Gibbs
Fandom: NCIS
Rating: R
Warnings: mentions of rape, bad language, f/f and m/m interaction.
Author's note: this actually came about over the course of a few weeks of bunny swapping/encouraging with blueracoon and the last episode of NCIS popped up a bunch of tony-threads w/undercover girls. throw in a twisted author and here's the result. poor tony. *pets tony*
Summary: Tony meets up with the detectives of New York's SVU squad the hard way.


Tony couldn't remember how many times he'd been in an interrogation room, how many suspects he'd questioned or how long he'd held a suspect in an interrogation room. Gibbs' personal best was the full twenty-four hours, the longest a civilian could be held without being charged with a crime. When he'd been running his own investigations as a detective, Tony was pretty sure he'd never gone longer than five, maybe six, hours; he'd just been too impatient back then.

Right now, all the patience and calm he'd learned from Gibbs was the only thing keeping him together. Of all the charges that he'd idly considered he might be charged with at some point in the future under weird circumstances, graft, assault, even murder in extremis, rape had been nowhere on the list.


Rape was an anathema to Tony, so was sex with a girl too young to know what she really wanted; combining the two made him sick. He hadn't actually been charged yet, but Tony could feel it coming. He'd been held in the green-gray, featureless room for seven hours so far. The detectives questioning him were at the top of their game, specialists in sex crimes, and knew the meaning of the word patience.

What a fucking vacation, Tony thought with a sigh.

It was bad enough running into his father at a show. Worse still to get caught up in a family dispute when his family had ignored his very existence for almost a decade. To put the icing on the fallen cake, he'd been brought in for questioning as he'd been checking out early that morning.

Gibbs was sure to be pissed from him not showing up for work after a whole week off. Trying to get a real vacation from the man had proved surprisingly easy, but Tony had known that irritated look in Gibbs' eyes when he'd said yes. It had meant that Tony had better have his shit together when he got back. If at all possible, he wouldn't have asked for one, but Gibbs had been driving him absolutely nuts for the last month; and not in a pleasant fashion, either.

The door opened, breaking into his thoughts, and Tony sighed again. It was worse to see the muted disgust in Detective Benson's eyes than the barely repressed fury in Detective Stabler's.

"You doing okay, Agent DiNozzo?"

Tony shrugged. "For a guy being falsely accused? Sure."

She sat and questioned, "You were back in the city in October of 2000, right?"

Not sure what that had to do with anything, Tony was tempted not to answer, but did so anyhow with, "Family funeral, yeah."

Benson sat back and asked, "Do you know a Mandy Taylor?"

Tony didn't even have to think about it, but he didn't answer right away, not sure what he should say. He instantly knew what she was driving at; Mandy Taylor had been raped while he'd been 'home' for his Grandfather's funeral. It had been the major topic of gossip and disgusted Tony whenever he heard the supposed 'social elite' whispering about the poor girl. And now he knew why he was being held instead of charged based on whatever evidence the cops had; they were fishing, trying to put Mandy's rape on him, too.

"Agent DiNozzo?"

Fuck! he thought, doing his best not to show the turmoil. If I admit it, they go after me for sure. If I don't, they'll find out later and it'll look like I have something to hide!

Damned if he did, damned if he didn't.

"I'm going to take your silence as a yes, how's that?" Benson suggested mildly.

Tony offered a brief smile and apologized honestly, "Sorry, got lost in my own thoughts for a while there. I know Mandy, sure. Dated her sister a few times off and on through high school."

Benson's eyebrows rose at the information. "You did."

Tony leaned on the table, abruptly deciding to just put his cards on the table. An inner voice that sounded a lot like Gibbs yelled at him to keep his mouth shut, but Tony hadn't done anything wrong. Whatever evidence they had, even if it was a positive ID, would be refuted with a DNA test. He hadn't been going to do or say anything unless threatened with arrest, but this had gone on long enough. Looking her straight in the eyes, Tony told her earnestly, "Look, Detective Benson, I don't know what evidence you have, but you clearly feel that it's damning. It doesn't help that I have no alibi for the time frame, I know that, but I would never rape anyone. Never. I don't even have rape fantasies."

Well, not in the way you're all thinking anyhow, Tony silently amended. Out loud, he continued, "Give me a poly. Take a DNA sample. I did not rape anyone."

Benson stared at him for a moment longer then nodded. "All right. Someone will be back to administer the polygraph and take a DNA sample."

Tony watched her leave and started praying.

*  *  *  *

"You don't actually believe him, do you?" Elliot demanded.

Olivia sighed and answered, "I think I might, yeah."

He made an angry, disgusted noise and stalked away, clearly too pissed to talk to her.

Turning to Cragen, Olivia said, "I should get the poly and DNA started."

"I'll take care of it," he offered. "Go talk to your partner."

Olivia smiled, tired. "Thanks, Captain."

He nodded and headed back to his office.

Following Elliot's path out of the bullpen to the vending machines just down the hall, Olivia leaned against the drink machine and asked, "So why is it impossible that he didn't do this?"

Elliot stared at his choices while he answered sourly, "I know the DiNozzo's, Liv. I know that none of them care about anything but themselves. They see something, or someone, and take it, regardless of the pain it might cause."

Stunned, Olivia moved closer and hissed, "And you didn't think to maybe mention this to me earlier? Elliot, it's a conflict of..."

"It's not a conflict of interest," Elliot interrupted. "It me more insight than the rest of you."

She grabbed his arm and pulled him into a free conference room. "Talk."

Leaning against the table, Elliot explained, "DiNozzo's cousin and I went to the same high school senior year. It was some kind of punishment for Peter to go to public school. We hated each other on sight. Me because I knew what the bastard was and him because he knew I could kick his ass."

Olivia snorted.

"Yeah well, seventeen," Elliot reminded, somewhat rueful. "DiNozzo was a freshman when we were seniors and his parents had already shipped him off to military school, so what's that tell you about what kind of kid he had to be?"

Keeping her thoughts to herself, Olivia motioned for him to keep going.

"That's about it. I saw Peter go through girl after girl, breaking hearts and ruining lives. He got two girls pregnant in one year, Liv. Two. And there were rumors that if you were lucky enough to go out with him, you were going to put out."

"So coercion, if not actual rape," Olivia guessed.

"At least."

Leaning on the table beside him, Olivia pointed out, "Peter isn't here, Elliot. That man in the interview room could be innocent."

Elliot snorted. "Yeah. Right. I'll keep that in mind."

She grinned and said, "Come on, let's get back to work."

Nodding, Elliot pushed off the table and headed for the door, Olivia right behind him.

*  *  *  *

It was almost three hours after the polygraph and DNA test that Benson and Stabler returned to the interrogation room and by then, Tony was getting a really bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. DNA tests didn't take three hours unless they were run a couple of times; at least not the way Abby did it.

Tony wasn't all that sanguine about how his poly would come out. The questions had, and hadn't, been specific to the rapes of Emily Paris and Mandy Taylor. The specifics had been fine, no, he hadn't raped Emily or Mandy. The non-specifics: do you see women as your equal, and yes, of course, but Tony really didn't. Women were better than men by nature and while Kate and Abby would kill him for the sexist beliefs, they were to be protected, too. Unfortunately, polygraphs were 'yes' or 'no,' period, so all he could do was hope for the best.

Tony's heart, and hope, sank fast on seeing Benson's closed off expression when she walked into the room with her partner.

"It's a good thing we have DNA evidence, Agent DiNozzo, because I was actually starting to believe you," Benson announced.

Stabler motioned for him to stand, which he did, and then said, "Anthony DiNozzo, you're under arrest for the aggravated sexual assault of Emily Paris..."

Tony heard his rights being read through a fog, not really sure how it could really be happening.

"Do you understand these rights as I've explained them to you?"

Stabler's sharp question jolted Tony out of his thoughts and he nodded. "Ah, yeah. Yes. And I want my phone call now."

Bringing Tony's arms behind his back, Stabler cuffed him and answered, "You can have it when Booking's done with you."

When they walked through the main office area, Tony felt the hard eyes of every detective there on him. Even innocent, he felt the sting of their condemnation like a blow to the gut. Only one real thought ran through his mind as Stabler led him down the hall...

Gibbs is going to be pissed when I call him.

*  *  *  *

By ten a.m., Jethro's messages to DiNozzo's cell had passed short and terse to pissed. The words didn't change, but the tone sure as hell did. When noon came and went on the day Tony was due back from vacation and there was still no sign of him, and no word from him, worry began to creep into the anger. At two p.m., Jethro called the airline only to find out that Tony had never gotten on his flight.

Calling the hotel, he discovered that Tony had been taken away in cuffs that morning, but the manager didn't know which precinct or who the detectives had been. Hanging up, Jethro snapped, "Kate! Book me on the next flight to LaGuardia and get me a hotel room."

"What am I, your travel agent?" Kate snapped back.

Jethro glared at her briefly before turning to McGee to order, "Find out which precinct arrested DiNozzo and for what."

He noted McGee's horrified expression and Kate's near-instant picking up of her phone to make arrangements, but Jethro was already dialing Tom's extension.

"What is it, Gibbs?"

"Agent DiNozzo has gotten himself into some trouble with the NYPD, Sir," Jethro explained. "I don't know what kind yet, but I'm on the next flight out. I'll be leaving Agent Todd in charge during my absence."

There was a brief pause before Tom answered, "If it turns out that he actually did something..."

"Don't worry, Sir, I won't bring the agency into it," Jethro interrupted.

"Good. All right Jethro, keep me posted," Tom paused again, barely, then continued, "Go straighten your boy out and bring him home."

Jethro blinked at Tom's choice of words, but only answered, "I will, Sir, thank you."

Kate was at his desk with an E-ticket for his flight by the time he hung up and informed him, "Flight leaves BWI in two hours. You need a ride?"

"No, thanks Kate, I'll park," he answered.

"Ah, Boss?"

Jethro looked over at McGee's pale face and mentally braced himself. "What is it, McGee?"

His youngest agent stumbled to his feet and hurried over. Speaking soft, McGee said, "Tony's been arrested for aggravated sexual assault."

For a few seconds, Jethro didn't say anything, too stunned to properly make a response. Then he stood and got to his feet, saying, "Get me information on who I'll be dealing with up there. Call me if you need me."

"I will," Kate agreed, following him to the elevator doors. "Just take care of this, Gibbs. Tony would never do something like that."

Jethro nodded like it was a foregone conclusion, but was pleased that Kate felt the same way; she'd come a long way since working at NCIS. He didn't say anything else as the doors slid shut, there wasn't anything else that needed to be said.

Not until he got to New York, anyhow.

*  *  *  *

Elliot looked around the bullpen and found Liv at her desk, intent on an open file. Smiling at the earnest picture she made, he walked over and leaned against her desk with, "What's up?"

She frowned, sitting back in her chair, and answered, "Just looking over Emily's statement."

Elliot's frown suddenly matched hers as he asked, "Why?"

"Because this doesn't add up, Elliot," she replied. "DiNozzo has a spotless record. He was a cop and now he's a Fed."

"So he knows how to clean up after himself," Elliot dismissed.

Shaking her head, Liv said, "Even if that was the case, something about Emily's statement bothers me."

"Like what?"

"I don't know."

Elliot was about to counter when a familiar looking man walked passed them and into Cragen's office. The ramrod posture and bad haircut bespoke military to Elliot, the air of unimpeachable authority and arrogance screamed 'Fed.' Had to be DiNozzo's supe, but how'd he find out so fast? DiNozzo was still being processed and hadn't gotten his phone call, so far as Elliot knew.

And why the hell did he look so familiar?


Liv's question broke through his concentration. "Sorry. I think I know that guy."

She looked over at Cragen's now-closed door to the men inside, as did Elliot. They were standing as they talked, two alpha dogs not backing down from a polite, if strained, conversation. After a few minutes, Cragen motioned to the bullpen and they both came out, walking over to him and Liv.

It was as Cragen opened his mouth, probably to introduce the man, that recognition hit. Elliot automatically straightened to attention as he held his hand out, instead of saluting, which was a pretty strong instinct just then. "Good to see you again, Gunny."

Gunny Gibbs had been both the terror, and salvation, of a lot of marine units way back when. The piercing blue eyes that locked onto Elliot hadn't changed a bit. There were some crow's feet at his eyes and the hair was more silver than not, but both were superficial. The man looked easily as strong as he had twenty years ago, maybe even more, a wiry, dogged kind of strength that never let go, like a pit-bull. Elliot might be bigger and younger, but he wouldn't even hazard a guess as to the winner if they truly went at it.

"Lt. Stabler. Good to see you," Gibbs replied, taking his hand.

"Call me Elliot, Sir," Elliot suggested with a grin. "I get the feeling we're going to see a lot of each other in the near future."

The faint grin that hovered over Gibbs' lips confirmed that.

Elliot continued, "This is my partner, Detective Olivia Benson."

"Let's find an open room," Cragen suggested as Gibbs and Liv shook hands.

They did and, once inside, Gibbs stated, "Agent DiNozzo isn't capable of rape. It's just not in his makeup. He's an old-fashioned sexist who thinks women should be protected, sometimes even put on a pedestal."

"Like yourself, Agent Gibbs?" Liv challenged.

Gibbs actually chuckled as he replied, "No, ma'am. I've got three ex-wives who disabused me of that notion a long time ago."

Elliot hid a grin as Liv responded, probably against her will, to the warm tone and self-effacing grin. The Gunny hadn't lost any of his charm over the years, no doubt about that.

"Be that as it may, Agent Gibbs, DNA doesn't lie," Cragen interjected. "And DiNozzo's matches the hair sample taken from the victim. We ran it twice to be sure."

Gibbs didn't pause, but Elliot got the feeling that he was startled by the news.

"How did you get a DNA sample? Leftover coffee cup?"

"He volunteered it."

Another not-quite pause before Gibbs questioned, "Polygraph?"

"Inconclusive overall."


"But it said that he was telling the truth about the rapes."

"And it's not admissible anyhow."


This time, Gibbs did pause as he thought about his next move. Several seconds later, he said, "Let me talk to him. DiNozzo can't lie to me, I know him too well."

"And what will that accomplish?" Cragen demanded.

"If he's innocent, I'll help you find the man who set him up and raped your vic. If he's guilty, I'll nail the coffin shut personally."

Elliot believed him. He glanced at Liv, who shrugged her agreeableness to the idea, and then he looked over at Cragen to say, "We're okay with it, Captain."

Cragen sighed, but nodded.

*  *  *  *

Tony was so numbed emotionally from being processed from free human being to numbered prisoner to be arraigned, that he just went wherever the cop with him told him to go. He knew that he'd snap out of the fog, but couldn't find the energy to do it just then. He found himself back in an interrogation room and even though that made no sense, Tony sat when directed to sit, and waited. He was so lost in his despairing thoughts and feelings that he heard the door open, but didn't really care who was coming into the room.

Not until someone whacked him upside the back of the head, seriously heavy-handed.

Pushed forward by the slap, Tony barely managed to brace himself against the table so he didn't slam face-first into it. Jumping to his feet, he snarled, "What the fuck!?" as he turned around to find...Gibbs.

Tony stopped short on seeing his Boss standing there when he hadn't even been given his phone call. Shock didn't even begin to cover it.

"You do realize that this is coming out of your earn time, right? I'm not going to pay you for this part of the vacation," Gibbs informed him.

Closing his jaw with a click of teeth to teeth, Tony took another few seconds to get his composure before he could say dumbly, "You're here."

"You were late."

The simple declaration soothed his jangled nerves and wounded emotions, bringing up a goofy grin. Tony replied happily, "I will never complain about your anal-retentive compulsion about being on time ever again."

Gibbs snorted, his own lips twitching almost into a smile. "I'll hold you to that. Sit, DiNozzo. We need to talk."

Sobering fast, Tony nodded and sat back down. When Gibbs took the seat beside him, pulling out the ever present notebook, Tony started, "It was pretty much as miserable as any other vacation I've been on where my family got involved. I ran into my father at a show the second night I was here. First night, I was just hanging out at a friend's apartment, catching up. Anyhow, he dragged me back to the old homestead where things went from bad to worse."

"How so?" Gibbs questioned.

Tony sighed, rubbing at tired eyes. "My father has decided that it's time for me to stop wasting my life and grow up. To take my place at the head of the company, by him, and learn to take over."

"Nice of him to make that decision for you."

With a snort at Gibbs' dry tone, Tony agreed, "Yeah, well, that's my Dad. Anyhow, it was a very long, excruciatingly painful three days before I could escape back to my hotel. Everyone decided to pitch in on the idea of me rejoining the clan, regardless of how I felt about the matter."

"Why didn't you just leave? No one forced you to stay."

Tony shrugged and answered, "I guess it was a perverse kind of masochism. I was curious to see what the outcome of the vote would be."


"There wasn't one," Tony said, wry. "Dad had invited the cousins and I didn't have that kind of time to hang around and wait. There were only another two days of my vacation and I wasn't going to waste them with my family."

Gibbs nodded, making some notes, and asked, "What did you do for the last two days?"

"Slept a lot. Being around my family takes a lot out of me. I went to the movies with a couple of friends on Thursday night, then went back to my hotel."

"That was the night of the rape."

"So I'm told."

"And no one can verify you were in your room all night."

"No one except the cameras."

Leaning back in his chair, Gibbs looked Tony in the eyes and asked softly, "Did you rape Emily Paris?"


"Did you rape Mandy Taylor?"


Gibbs continued to look into his eyes and, though Tony couldn't even begin to guess what he might see there, a few minutes later, the other man gave a sharp nod and stood. "Okay. Here's the plan. You're going to stay here in custody while the wheels of justice grind at their usual speed. I'm going to work with Benson and Stabler to find out what the hell is going on."

Standing as well, Tony started to reach out, but checked the motion, hating that he was in cuffs and not sure if any move he made would be rebuffed.

"It'll be okay, Tony," Gibbs said softly, cupping his face much as he had after they'd found Atlas and returned to NCIS. "We'll figure it out."

Tony nodded, knowing that if Gibbs couldn't fix it, it couldn't be fixed.

*  *  *  *

"They're closer than employer and employee," Elliot observed through the interview glass.

Olivia's lips pursed as she watched Gibbs take his hand from DiNozzo's face and leave the interview room, probably to find them. DiNozzo looked positively lost when the door closed behind the other agent, slumping in on himself before sitting back down. "You think it would cloud Gibbs' judgment?"

Elliot shook his head after a long moment. "I don't think so. Besides, you said that there was something bothering you about Emily's statement anyhow, right? Two gut instincts that I'd stake my life on."

"And have," Olivia pointed out, smiling. "C'mon."

They entered the bullpen as Gibbs was walking towards them. When he stopped in front of them, he said, "I want to see everything you have. Victim and witness statements, evidence, other suspects on the block, everything."

"Well first, there are no other suspects. DiNozzo was picked out of a lineup," Olivia informed him as they walked back to their desks.

Gibbs asked, "What do we know about the victim?"

She handed over the thick file that had been gathered so far and answered, "Emily Paris, sixteen years old, goes to school at PS 324. Average student, plenty of friends, well liked by everyone. She was on her way home from being out with friends when the suspect dragged her into an alley, held a knife to her throat and raped her. When he was done, he beat her. She walked to the emergency room of St. Joe's on her own where she was examined and we were called in."

"Out with friends on a Thursday? What time?" Gibbs questioned.

"Eleven-thirty, give or take."

"And her parents just let her out in the city at that time?"

"Mother deceased, father away on business. The housekeeper was in charge," Elliot chimed in. "Not the best of family situations, but it was working all right until now."

Gibbs didn't comment on that, just said, "Someone needs to take me to the crime scene."

Olivia reluctantly admitted, "We don't have one."

"Excuse me?"

"She couldn't remember which alley it happened in," Elliot confirmed.

Frowning, Gibbs pointed out, "But she could positively ID DiNozzo? You don't find that a little strange?"

Olivia exchanged a look with Elliot before answered, "We didn't, no. Details of a rape can be spotty, victims block out different things, depending on their emotional maturity and strength."

"I know that, Detective, this isn't my first rape case, unfortunately," Gibbs replied. "No crime scene, so where did the DNA come from?"

"A hair on her clothes," Olivia informed him.

"One hair."


"From the head, not pubic?"


Gibbs paused, thinking over her answers, then said, "I need an empty room for a half hour, then I want to speak to Ms. Paris."

"Okay," Olivia agreed, not sure what he was going to do. "I think Interview Room B is open, right Elliot?"

Elliot nodded. "I'll call Mr. Paris and let him know that we'll need to speak with Emily."

Olivia led the way to the interview room and offered, "You need anything to eat or drink?"

Waving her off, Gibbs answered, "Thanks. I can find my way around a vending machine pretty well."

She flashed him a brief grin before closing the door and heading back for her desk, only to meet up with Alex on the way. Smiling in real pleasure at seeing the other woman in the middle of the day, she lightly touched Alex's shoulder and greeted softly, "Didn't hear back from you this morning, everything all right?"

"Just peachy," Alex replied, dry. "Arthur's having a fit that you're sitting on Agent DiNozzo. Why are we doing that, and why didn't I hear about it before him?"

Olivia winced and answered, "Sorry, Alex, didn't mean to keep you out of the loop. First we thought that he might be tied to a rape back in '99 and now we don't think he did either one."

Alex's eyebrows rose. "Oh? This is news."

"His boss showed up and it turns out Elliot knows the guy from the Marines," Olivia explained.

"And we disregard DNA evidence on his say-so?"

"No, Alex, of course not, but it looks like there might be more involved than we originally thought."


Olivia put her hand on the small of Alex's back and led her over towards the wall, half sheltered by a door. Standing just a hair too close, she left her hand where it was and answered, "Like a family dispute with people rich enough to being on Trump's speed dial."

"So he's got a bad family history. What's that got to do with two rapes?" Alex questioned. "A positive ID, DNA evidence, no alibi, inconclusive polygraph, that's a slam dunk, Olivia, and you know it."

Shrugging a little helplessly, it was hard to explain what was, essentially, a gut feeling, Olivia replied, "I know. I just...I don't think he did it. In speaking to him and Agent Gibbs..."

"His boss."

"Right. In speaking to them both, I just don't think he did it. And there's something that bothers me about Emily's statement, too," Olivia continued.

"Which is?"

"That it's too perfect."

It was as the words came out that Olivia realized how true they were. There were almost always gaps in an account of any traumatic event, especially just after, but Emily had not only been able to recount exactly what had happened, but been able to work with a sketch artist to put together a composite. Olivia remembered Fin saying that she'd been on fire while getting the composite, there hadn't been any hesitations or doubt.

"Like she'd been remembering a picture of the suspect," Olivia murmured.


Shaking her head, Olivia answered, "Nothing. Just muttering to myself."

"A sure sign that you're losing it," Alex teased, blue eyes lit with humor. "So what's the plan?"

"Gibbs is going over the case file to familiarize himself and then we're going to speak with Emily after that."

Alex shifted just a hair closer, peering up at her from behind her glasses and said, "So you'll be working late tonight."

"Yeah," Olivia confirmed, regretful. She knew, now, how torn Elliot could get about the job vs. his family. At least she didn't have to worry about kids.

Smiling briefly, Alex replied, "That's okay. I've got work to catch up."

"Never ends, does it?" Olivia questioned, echoing the smile.

"I'll take that as rhetorical."

"Afternoon, Counselor."

Alex flashed Olivia a knowing grin before stepping back to face Elliot. "Good afternoon, Detective. I understand that you've got new information on the Paris case."

"We do. Liv, the Captain wants to see you about something," Elliot informed her. He winked and promised, "I'll take care of your girl here."

Eyes rolling, Olivia squeezed Alex's arm before heading over to see the Captain.

*  *  *  *

They were thorough, Jethro had to give them that; all the T's were crossed and the I's dotted. The detectives knew what they were doing, no doubt about it, but they didn't have his advantage of knowing DiNozzo. Despite their willingness to let him talk to Tony, Jethro knew that it had only happened because he'd served with Stabler.

Elliot, he corrected himself with the barest of smiles. If you're going to stomp all over their investigation, you should be on a first name basis.

And he was planning to do more than that. He was planning to rip it to shreds. There had to be absolutely no doubt that Tony had been framed, that he was completely innocent, or the man's career in law enforcement was over before it had truly started.

So what do we know, and what do we think we know?

Pulling out his notepad, Jethro tapped the pen against it a few times before writing:


Paris' account - too good for her not to remember the location

Paris' father's business going down the drain, finances shaky

All around average - school, looks, friends - not the brains behind the framing

Accomplice or real victim?

DiNozzo's Alibi

Hotel cameras - broken? Where's the security tape?

Where are the canvas reports?

Who was interviewed at hotel? Who interviewed at the hotel?

DiNozzo's Framer

Smart, well-financed, ruthless

Knows DiNozzo well enough to get a hair sample



And there Jethro had to stop. Who the hell would want to get rid of Tony badly enough to frame him for rape? No, not get rid of, but destroy him completely. This took away everything he'd worked for, everything he'd left his family for. Tony's career was everything to him and the lack of it would be a severe emotional blow. Not to mention that Tony wouldn't last more than a couple of months inside without becoming someone entirely different out of self-preservation. He would have to, or he wouldn't survive at all.

Jethro stiffened and tapped his pen on the pad a few more times.

DiNozzo's Framer

Smart, well-financed, ruthless

Knows DiNozzo well enough to get a hair sample




It was the only explanation that made sense. Someone in that family didn't want Tony getting back in his old man's good graces. Someone who had a lot to lose if that happened. All he had to do was find out who stood the most to lose if DiNozzo started working for DiNozzo, Sr, and that would be the framer.

Or if not, they would damn sure know who'd done it.

Standing, Jethro flipped his notebook shut and put it into his coat pocket. He picked up the case file and headed out of the interview room. Walking over to Stabler and Benson's desks, he found the ex-Marine talking to a tall, beautiful blond woman.

Bright blue eyes turned to him and she observed, "I understand we have you to thank for derailing a perfectly legitimate investigation, Agent Gibbs?"

Sensing that his charm wouldn't go far with this woman, Jethro replied, "A perfectly legitimate but wrong investigation, yes ma'am."

"Special Agent Gibbs, this is ADA Alexandra Cabot. She prosecutes the cases that we put together," Elliot introduced.

Jethro shook her head and continued, "DiNozzo's a good man who's been targeted for a very bad end, Ms. Cabot."

Standing a little straighter, Elliot guessed, "You know who it is."

"I have an idea or two," Jethro agreed. "Think you can find out who's top dog at DiNozzo's company? The VP directly below his father."


When Elliot turned away, Ms. Cabot pinned him with a shrewd look. "You certainly know how to get under everyone's skin, Agent Gibbs."

"I'm sure you do too, Ms. Cabot," Jethro replied, dry.

She gave a modest shrug before saying, "I hope you're right about this, Agent Gibbs, because if you aren't, I fully intend to charge you with obstruction of justice. I don't like Feds who come in and take over at all, let alone so...completely."

Jethro half-grinned at her and said, "It's a talent."

"Mmm. I'm sure. Good day, Agent Gibbs," Ms. Cabot said before leaving.

Glancing over at Elliot, who had pointedly stayed out of the conversation, Jethro observed, "She seems like hell on wheels."

"You don't even know the half of it," Elliot confirmed, his tone admiring. "Trust me. You do not want to get on Alex Cabot's bad side. She faced down a Columbian drug lord and won. He's dead now for turning state's evidence for the Feebs and she's still working."

Surprised, Jethro canted his head back to follow the slender woman's progress down the hall. He'd recognized the force of her personality immediately, but how had she managed to do that? Jethro knew plenty of good men in the DEA who'd been killed over the years just for investigating peripherals of Columbian cartels.

"I'll tell you about it some day."

Jethro nodded and questioned, "Where's your partner?"

"Unrelated case emergency," Elliot said, tapping on his keyboard. He stabbed at it with his index finger a few times, then muttered, "God damned stupid piece of junk."

Jethro walked over and peered over his shoulder before pointing at the monitor. "I think you hit that one."

Elliot shifted the cursor and sure enough, up came a personnel chart for DN Investments. The upper echelon looked like a family tree, instead of an official company org chart.

"Find me more on those three."

"You know, you're supposed to be helping us, not the other way around."

Jethro smirked a bit and said, "I am helping. I'm helping you find the right direction to take the investigation. I'm going to get DiNozzo something to eat and drink, then we can head out."

Already bringing up information on the three family members Jethro had indicated, Elliot just waved at him.

Once a Marine, always a Marine, Jethro observed with dark amusement. He knew that Elliot was obeying him partly because he was used to obeying him; that he still saw Jethro as his Gunnery Sergeant. Jethro wasn't above using that to his advantage, not if it got DiNozzo out of handcuffs and back to his life.

Back to DiNozzo's life, he silently amended on his way to the vending machine. Because under normal circumstances expressing feelings for DiNozzo would be a really, really bad idea. Doing anything like that now would be monumentally stupid.

Shoving down the feelings where they couldn't get in the way, Jethro scanned the contents of the vending machine and fished through his pocket for change.

*  *  *  *

"Wake up, DiNozzo!"

Tony jerked upright, then groaned at the pulled neck muscle. Something almost soft and almost hard hit him in the face to land with a crinkle of plastic on the table. After rubbing his eyes clear, Tony found a bag of Cheetos and grinned, grabbing it and ripping it open. Gibbs set a bottle of soda on the table, as well as a sub that looked like it had seen better days. Arching an eyebrow at the other man, Tony asked, "Was that in the vending machine too? Because, I don't know what kind of bathrooms they have here."

"Just eat it," Gibbs growled.

And it was so good to hear that growl that Tony unwrapped it and bit into it. The turkey was just this side of too dry, and the cheese somewhat sweaty, even if it had been refrigerated, but he washed it down anyhow. His stomach felt like it was buckled to his spine, he was so hungry. Mouth full, he questioned, "Find anything yet?"

The head smack was softer this time, but not by a hell of a lot.

"What do you know about Peter DiNozzo, Andrew Callister and Marie Phipps?"

Swallowing first this time, Tony answered, "They're all assholes."

Gibbs sighed. "Specifics, DiNozzo."

"Peter's three years older than me and been in more trouble than I can shake a stick at when it comes to women," Tony answered. "I think he's got something like six kids out of wedlock and only one from his marriage."

"And the other two?"

"Andrew's only a cousin by marriage and he used Tina to get into his job. They're still married with three kids, so it couldn't have been all convenience, but I wouldn't trust him further than I could throw him."

"Why not?"

"Because he's got a gambling problem."


Tony snorted. "Oh yes, Aunty Marie. Can't forget her. Dad's half-sister, different fathers. She's okay, but married to her work. She wasn't around much when I was growing up, but I don't think there's anything really wrong with her. She just always gave me the creeps."

Gibbs' gaze narrowed at that and he questioned sharply, "Why?"

"I don't know," Tony answered, thinking about it. "She just did. And I haven't seen her in six years anyhow. Not since my Grandfather's funeral."

"Which is when Mandy Taylor was raped."


"Why did they tie you to that one, DiNozzo?"

Tony shrugged and said, "You'll have to ask them. I mean, I dated her sister, but Mandy was just a kid when that was going on. And I didn't even see her when I was home for the funeral."

Out came the notebook and that, more than anything, told Tony that things were going all right, that Gibbs had a real game plan. Eating the rest of the crappy sandwich, Tony waited patiently while the other man thought things over. He'd seen that look in Gibbs' eyes too many times to count over the last three years and it always reassured him. If it got written down in the notebook, it was important.

"I'm going out with Stabler to question the Paris girl," Gibbs announced. "After that, I'm going to pay a visit to your family. Any messages?"

Rolling up the plastic the sandwich came in, Tony tossed it at the barrel and easily sank it before he looked at Gibbs. "Yeah. Arrest whoever's behind this, Gibbs."

Gibbs gripped Tony's shoulder and stated, "I'm planning to. They've really screwed up my week so far."

The smile that surfaced on Tony's face reflected all the relief and happiness at Gibbs' presence and he replied, "Then they deserve to be arrested, just for that."

"Damn straight, DiNozzo."

*  *  *  *

Things were abnormally quiet with both Gibbs and DiNozzo absent and Kate became excruciatingly bored within ten minutes of Gibbs' departure. After filling in Ducky and Abby, she managed to fill the morning by catching up on reports, but that left the afternoon wide open. Every now and again she'd look over at McGee, but he just hunched down further each time, as if sensing her scrutiny. Maybe he did. He was pretty good at avoiding Gibbs that way and she wasn't nearly as subtle about it as Gibbs was.

Damn it.

Sighing, Kate stood and walked over to McGee's desk after lunch and asked, "Any updates?"

"Not yet," McGee answered.

"You know, you're awfully quiet. Is something wrong?"

"Tony's been arrested for rape, what could possibly be wrong?"

The anger in that quiet statement took Kate by surprise. She knew that he looked up to Tony, despite the mild hazing and insults, and couldn't decide if it was anger for, or anger with, DiNozzo that had hardened the younger agent's tone. Hiding her frown, Kate replied, "It's not his fault they got the wrong guy, McGee. Gibbs will straighten things out and they'll both be back here by tomorrow."

Shaking his head, McGee answered, "I really doubt that the New York DA's office would have him arrested for rape without serious evidence backing it up. Tony's a Federal Agent. They wouldn't make a move without something solid."

"McGee, you don't actually think that Tony did it," Kate asked slowly.

A flush heated across McGee's face and he said, "What I think doesn't matter."

Stunned that he would even contemplate Tony's guilt, Kate replied, "He didn't do anything. There's been a mix-up or someone framed him. Tony would never do something so, so, despicable."

A surprisingly firm gaze met hers as McGee asked, "Is there anything I can do for you, Agent Todd? If not, I'd like to get back to work."

Nonplussed, Kate shook her head. "No. I'm fine. I'm going downstairs to talk to Ducky. Call me there if you need me."

He nodded, but didn't look at her again, starting to type on his keyboard.

Dismissed, she thought, mildly amused. Walking towards the elevator, she wondered, How's he going to face Tony when this all gets straightened out?

Deciding it wasn't her problem, McGee would just have to deal with his own guilt, Kate hit the button for the morgue and sighed. Things were going to be just a little tense when Gibbs and DiNozzo got back.

*  *  *  *

The Paris brownstone was typical of its neighborhood; not too old, not too new, comfortable. Inside, that veneer was shown false in the haphazard collection of furniture, old and new, not really decorated at all, only a few pictures of Emily on the hall walls and the cleanliness imposed from the outside in, as opposed to tidied by the housekeeper. It was a house, not a home, and Jethro knew the difference immediately.

Emily Paris herself looked like any other teenager Jethro had dealt with, save for the bruised face and swollen shut eye. She sat stiff, her broken ribs real, not falsely reported. Jethro had carefully read the medical report and the bruising of her vagina had indicated rough sex, but not rape. It was all the rest of the injuries that had tipped the report to rape, as well as the girl's own statement.

"Emily, Robert, this is Special Agent Gibbs with NCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigative Services," Elliot began as they stood in the living room.

Robert Paris, late 40's with a paunch under his business clothes, gave Jethro a curious look and asked, "Why does the Navy want to get involved?"

"Not the Navy, just myself," Jethro clarified. "Agent DiNozzo is under my command and I'm looking into the matter to make sure that no mistakes are made. On anyone's part."

Angry now, Robert snapped, "You're here to browbeat my daughter into saying it wasn't that bastard they arrested!"

Jethro shook his head and replied, "That is not the case, Sir. I just want to hear Emily's side of the story, that's all. I won't even ask her any questions. I'm sure you understand, Mr. Paris. If one of your employees were accused of such a serious crime, someone you knew was honest, and a good man, you would want to know for a fact that he'd done it. The simplest way for me to believe this, is to hear from Emily what happened, in her own words instead of reading a report."

That seemed to settle the other man down, as Jethro had known it would.

"Well, I guess it couldn't hurt. Honey, is that okay with you?"

Emily nodded, her one brown eye wide and uncertain.

Jethro was sure the uncertainty was real, at least.

"Um, I was walking home from the movies with my friends when it happened," she began. "I, I don't really remember where I was when he grabbed me. I fought against him and he punched me in the face. I was dazed, you know, I couldn't really tell which way was up. Then, um, th-that's when he did it, when he raped me. And when he was done, he just started beating me up. I, I don't know why, because, because I didn't fight him except at first, but he started punching me."

"Were you still lying down at this time?" Jethro questioned gently.

She paused, brown furrowed, and answered, "Um, yes. I had to be, I don't remember getting up."

"And you don't remember where it happened?"

"No, I'm sorry."

Jethro nodded and smiled at her. "That's okay. And after he left you, you walked to St. Joseph's Hospital, is that right?"


"Did he use a condom?"

The question threw her for a moment, but then she nodded. "Yes."

"It's really too bad you don't remember where it happened," Jethro said, just a hint of regret. "Then we could find the condom and this would be over. You wouldn't even have to testify."

A flash of something went across her face, but Emily's head lowered, hair covering her expression before Jethro could decipher it. Relief or hope, maybe? Her body language screamed 'uncomfortable' and 'unsure,' but not fear. Jethro walked over to her, abrupt and noisy on the wooden floor, but she only looked back up at him, curious. There was no fear in that lone brown eye, none. Offering a brief smile, Jethro said, "Thank you, Emily, that's all I needed."

He nodded to Elliot and left the too-warm house while the cop smoothed the transition. When Elliot joined him in the car, Jethro announced, "She wasn't raped."

Grim, Elliot nodded agreement. "I know. Now we just have to prove it."

"Next stop."

Elliot turned on the engine and pulled out into traffic, heading for Peter DiNozzo's apartment.

*  *  *  *

As different from the Paris' place as night from day, the DiNozzo apartment was stylish and expensive, lavished with all the newest furniture and décor that money could buy. A lot of money, Jethro observed silently, from his spot in the living room.

Peter DiNozzo was a fair-haired version of Tony, looking enough like him to be a brother instead of a cousin. The resemblance startled Jethro when the man first came into the room, though he didn't allow it to show. Instead, he shook Peter's hand and greeted, "Good to meet you, Mr. DiNozzo."

A cool, disinterested hazel gaze looked back at him as Peter replied, "What's this about, Agent Gibbs?"

God, even the voice is the same, Jethro thought with even more surprise. "I'm sure you've heard by now that your cousin, Tony, has been arrested for rape."

"It's only what he deserves," a vindictive, female voice, announced from the side.

Jethro looked over to find an elegant, dark-haired beauty striding into the room to stand beside Peter. "Mrs. DiNozzo, I presume?"

She nodded and ignored his hand, saying, "Tony's been in and out of trouble with women since we were all kids."

"Really. Must be a family trait, then," Jethro said, looking straight at Peter when he said it.

True to DiNozzo's reflexes, Peter flushed at the insult and bristled. "I've never been accused or arrested of rape, Agent Gibbs."

"Not yet," Elliot put in.

Peter's gaze moved sharply to him as he demanded, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Elliot shrugged. "Just that you and Agent DiNozzo look an awful lot alike, Sir. In the dark, in an alley, under confusing and painful circumstances like the victim went through, it would be easy for her to make a mistake."

DiNozzo frowned at him, then a faint smirk surfaced. "Detective Stabler. Elliot Stabler. I remember you from high school. So this is what you're doing for a living."

And 'this' was made into an insult.

When Elliot stiffened, just a hair but enough for Jethro to know that the other was likely to make an inopportune reaction, Jethro stepped forward, drawing all eyes to himself. Giving DiNozzo a calm, heavy look, he promised, "I will get to the bottom of what's going on, Mr. DiNozzo. Tony is one of my people and I know him better than he knows himself. I know that he would never rape a woman, nor have sex with an underage girl, let alone both. I can't say the same for you. Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. DiNozzo, we'll show ourselves out."

Jethro had to give them credit. The raised voices didn't start until after the door closed solidly behind them by a serious-faced maid.

*  *  *  *

Spending the night in an uncomfortable, cramped, lock-up wasn't where Tony had hoped to be when ten o'clock came around and the black guy, Fin, told him to hunker down for the night. At least he wasn't giving Tony that look that made him want to crawl into the nearest hole and die anymore. There was even a hint of sympathy in the other man's dark eyes and voice when he'd made the announcement.

Of course Gibbs wouldn't be able to solve things in one afternoon, he thought with a sigh. Totally unreasonable to expect he would.

Despite that, Tony had hoped that would be the case.

The worst part was the inactivity. He'd been kept in the interrogation room the rest of the afternoon, with one bathroom trip when it had gotten too much to hold any more. Then again for the rest of the night until Fin had come in to bring him to the cage and told him to get some sleep, that he'd be there the rest of the night. Tony had spent the time in the interrogation room with his thoughts chasing one after the other, unable to do anything except alternately pace and sit stupidly in a chair.

And now he was listening to the cops as they went about their business, the graveyard shift taking over for the day detectives. He heard Cragen tell them to make sure he was kept separate from other prisoners, though no explanation was given. He saw Benson leave with some gorgeous blond woman, and Fin and that skinny guy, his partner obviously, took off together arguing about some kind of newspaper conspiracy. Gibbs and Stabler were absent altogether and Cragen didn't leave until long after the others had gone.

It just figures that I take some time to get my head together about Gibbs, and don't actually get any time to do what I set out to do, Tony thought with another sigh.

Things had been tense at work in too many ways to even imagine. There'd always been a flare of attraction between him and Gibbs, but Tony had managed to ignore it completely until about ten months ago.

Friggin' Ari, Tony thought.

Finding Gibbs on the floor, shot and bleeding, had nearly given Tony a heart attack. He'd held on to the wounded man as he'd sat up, even when Tony had told him not to. Feeling the tremors in Gibbs' body had scared Tony in a way that staring down a gun barrel never would. It had been the first time that Tony had truly been confronted with the fact that yes, Gibbs was human and, therefore, could die. That he, too, could be taken from Tony's life without any warning. And ever since that moment, Tony's need to be around the other man had been almost compulsive. It had made him an ever-lovin' nightmare around McGee, trying to push the talented younger man off Gibbs' radar.

Grinning meanly to himself, Tony thought, Well, not just that. It is fun to torture McGee in its own right.

But mostly, he just wanted to keep Gibbs to himself, as pathetic as that sounded. He'd entertained a short-lived hope that Gibbs might be similarly inclined when he'd gone missing with Atlas. The drugs in his system had given him the illusion that the other agent had been seriously worried about him on the phone. And then that moment just off the elevators when Gibbs had touched him, held his face and told him that he was irreplaceable.

And then to find friggin' McGee at his desk and Gibbs' off-the-cuff remark.

Very short lived hope.

So he'd spent the last ten months riding a roller-coaster of emotions, even as he'd tried to ignore them altogether. One minute he and Gibbs were totally in sync and the other man was giving him tremendous responsibility to shoulder. The next, they were both being assholes and Tony found himself lashing out at McGee and Kate in more and more childish ways. It was like he was trying to force Gibbs to step in and tell him what to do, that if that was the only way to get his attention, that was what Tony would do. Embarrassing as hell, no doubt about it, but he just couldn't seem to stop himself.

"Tony? Still awake?"

Jolted from his thoughts by Gibbs' voice, Tony instantly sat up and said, "Yeah, just thinking."

Gibbs smiled at him. "With your eyes closed."

"I wasn't sleeping," Tony insisted.

Gibbs' smile remained, but he only said, "We're almost there, Tony, so just hang in there, okay? Another day and we'll have you on a plane back to DC, where you belong."

Worry about what happened after surfaced and Tony asked, "Then what?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do I still have a job?"

Gibbs seemed surprised by the question, which surprised Tony, and then said, "Of course you do, DiNozzo. You were set-up. None of this was your fault."

Scrubbing fingers through his hair, Tony replied, "Something was my fault or I wouldn't have been set-up in the first place. No, never mind, Gibbs. I'm just tired. Maybe I should get some sleep."

And for the first time ever, Tony turned his back to Gibbs and ignored him. He pulled the thin blanket up and curled up on his side, trying to ignore the thoughts that ran through his head as easily. Thoughts that said Gibbs would be better off without the insanity of his life to interfere with the order of Gibbs' world. Thoughts that said maybe it was time for his itchy feet to get wandering again. He'd been at NCIS almost three years now, that was something.

A few silent minutes later, he finally heard Gibbs walk away and tears stung his eyes that the other man would so easily give up, but Tony refused to let them fall.

I guess it is time to move on, after all.

*  *  *  *

Jethro had seen Tony run through a lot of emotions, but this was the first time he'd seen hopeless in those blue-green eyes. It had sucker-punched him and he'd walked away, something he now knew to be a mistake, but it was too late to go back and fix now. Of course Tony had every right to feel like things wouldn't work out. He'd been arrested, processed, held in jail for the last two days and treated like scum. Anyone was allowed to be depressed under those circumstances, even the irrepressible Tony DiNozzo.

It just hurt, more than he'd expected, that Tony didn't have faith that Jethro would get things taken care of. The hurt surprised him, too. He'd known that things between them had been strained in the last few months, but he hadn't thought it had deteriorated to the point that Tony might even consider he wouldn't be kept on the team because of something he hadn't done. That he might think Jethro would hold him responsible for things out of his control.

What kind of bastard does he think I am?

Jethro grimaced to himself as the actual wording of his question hit him. Taking a long gulp of the sharp bourbon he'd found in the mini-bar in his room, Jethro thought, It would serve you right to lose him over this. You've been a jackass to him for months, playing him off against McGee and Kate the way you have. You're lucky he hasn't left before this. Having some doubts about you is the least you should expect, all things considered.

But he really hadn't been able to help himself. It was more than enjoying the sharp, witty comebacks his team threw at each other, though that played a big part. It was that he finally felt part of a family after too long on his own. His team was his life, more than his job ever had been, and Jethro didn't want to lose that by making changes that could rock the boat. He wanted Tony, wanted him badly, but didn't want to lose the dynamics that made them such a close-knit unit. He hadn't had anything even remotely like this since his days in the Marines and he missed it intensely.

Sighing, Jethro finished off the bourbon and pulled out his notebook, tapping his pen against it as he looked the notes over.

DiNozzo's Alibi

Hotel cameras - broken? Where's the security tape?

            Tapes gone. Security guard too jumpy. Squeeze him later

Where are the canvas reports?

Neighboring rooms empty, even w/convention. Why? Talk to reception desk in the a.m.

Who was interviewed at hotel? Who interviewed at the hotel?

            Fin and Munch - thorough, but separate notes. Make sure they turn them in.


There was no real reason for Fin and Munch to have held their notes separate and he was going to have a nice chat with them about that later. Once DiNozzo was freed. Rubbing tired, gritty eyes with the heel of his hand, Jethro admitted to himself that getting more than five hours sleep would help a lot with what was sure to be a long day coming.

Closing his notebook, he stripped on the way to the bathroom, leaving his clothes on the floor as he went. After taking care of business and getting ready for bed, he slid beneath cool bedsheets nude and closed his eyes.

It was going to be a very long day and he wasn't looking forward to taking on the DiNozzo clan, even with Alexandra Cabot in his corner. He made a mental note to have Elliot fill him in about the Columbian cartel thing some time soon and closed his eyes, letting the bourbon do its thing.

*  *  *  *

Olivia woke slowly, cocooned in a pleasant warmth of blankets and Alex. Yawning, she stretched subtly and turned so that she was facing her lover, instead of being held by her. Asleep, Alex was even more beautiful, the pinched, tight expression of forced cynicism and simmering anger gone from her delicate features. Olivia nuzzled at the smooth expanse of skin over Alex's collarbone and kissed her way up to the tender spot just below Alex's ear.

Mumbling sleepily, Alex's fingers combed through Olivia's hair and she sighed deeply. Pale eyes fluttered open and she smiled, soft and content, as she observed, "Much better than an alarm clock."

With a soft smile of her own, Olivia kissed her, slow and easy, a greeting of the new day and renewal of the promise between them. The promise that no matter what the danger, they would face it together. Alex hummed happily and opened her mouth further to the kiss. Olivia took the invitation, rolling on top of her lover and deepening the kiss for several long seconds before breaking it up into little ones and stopping altogether.

Regretful, Olivia announced, "I have to get going. Gibbs is going to be ready first thing."

"I still can't believe that you're taking his word over the victim's," Alex said, shaking her head.

Olivia brushed fingers through tangled blond hair and answered, "It's not just him, Alex. It's Emily Paris herself."

"I know. You said the statement didn't sound right, after thinking about it. But Olivia, the evidence..."

"Was manufactured."

Alex huffed a little sigh but didn't argue further. Instead, she just said, "You know I trust your instincts, I just don't like to think of someone making up this kind of accusation and arresting an innocent man."

"Because everyone always plays by the rules in Alex's world," Olivia teased, kissing her again.

Slapping her on the ass, even as she grinned, Alex retorted, "And don't you forget it."

With a laugh, Olivia kissed her again and rolled out of bed. It was chilly, but not unbearably cold for a change. Spring was definitely here to stay, no more unexpected winter storms to blow in and clog the city down with snow. In the shower, her thoughts turned to DiNozzo and how he'd spent the night in the cage, sleeping on a thin, uncomfortable cot. Of how she might feel, falsely accused and arrested, freedom and rights taken away through no fault of her own.

Sober, she hurried through the rest of getting ready and left the bathroom, searching for the keys she'd tossed aside when she and Alex had stumbled through the door, making out the night before. Sliding on her gun clip and tucking her badge into her pocket, Olivia looked around the desk, grumbling to herself.


Olivia caught the keys when they sailed through the air at her and found Alex up and in her robe, though she didn't have to report to work for another two hours. "What are you doing up?"

Shrugging, Alex walked closer and answered, "You wouldn't put your trust in someone who couldn't be trusted, so I think I'll head in early and see how the investigation is going. You might, after all, need some warrants to get into places you normally can't."

Olivia smiled brilliantly. "I knew there was a reason I loved you."

"And here I thought it was because of my body, not my dazzling legal skills," Alex teased, wrapping her arms around Olivia's waist.

After kissing her thoroughly, Olivia replied, "Oh it is, believe me."

Laughing softly, Alex swatted her on the ass again and ordered, "Get to work, Detective. I'll see you there shortly."

Olivia wriggled her eyebrows at Alex as she backed towards the door. "You've got a fondness for smacking me on the ass, Counselor, I think maybe someone's got a kink she hasn't shared with the rest of the class."

Olivia couldn't help crowing in delight when a flush chased over Alex's face, then hurried out of the apartment before her lover could get out a single word.

*  *  *  *

Jethro waited impatiently for the bullpen to fill with personnel as he drank what passed for coffee in the 16th Precinct. It was more like tar, which meant that it passed his inspection, but he wondered how the others managed to stand it. If it were Kate or Ducky, they'd've complained about developing an ulcer, which was why Jethro bought his coffee and brought it in, instead of making it there at the office.

To his surprise, Benson was the first one in the office, and she didn't looked all that startled to see him sitting at her desk. She just arched an eyebrow and asked, "Comfortable?"

"Close enough," he replied. "Think you can check out the security guard at the hotel? He was a little too jumpy not to be involved."

"And find out why there wasn't anyone else in the rooms near DiNozzo's," she concluded when he took a breath. At his inquiring look, Benson continued mildly, "I do know who to look at when things get suspicious, Agent Gibbs."

Nodding, Jethro said simply, "Good."

"What are you and Elliot doing today?"

"I thought we'd take in the sights."


"I hear DN Investments is having a Board meeting today at ten."

"And you thought that you'd just drop in and say hello."

Jethro offered a shark's grin and answered, "I will be in the neighborhood."

Benson shook her head but only cautioned, "Anthony DiNozzo isn't someone you want to mess with, Agent Gibbs."

Losing the grin, Jethro stated, "Neither am I, Detective Benson."

Elliot walked into the office, Ms. Cabot in tow, which stopped the conversation where it was. Just as well, since he'd been close to showing more than he wanted anyhow. The fact that Tony's father hadn't once called to check on his son, or get involved in any way, pissed him off more than he cared to admit.

Benson opened with, "Agent Gibbs here was going to stop in to the DN Investments board meeting this morning."

Ms. Cabot eyed him a long moment before saying, "I don't think that's a good idea, Agent Gibbs."

"I don't really care what you think, Ms. Cabot," Jethro replied, maintaining a polite tone.

Smiling at him thinly, Ms. Cabot said, "It will hold more weight if the local DA's office were to show up asking questions, instead of some Fed on his high-horse."

Jethro was amused by the description and offered, "You're welcome to come with me, Ms. Cabot. Maybe our combined...weight...will move things along faster."

She inclined her head regally, reminding him of his first wife in a generous mood, and Jethro shifted slightly. Of all his wives, his first had been, and still was, the scariest. Thankfully, she wasn't around very much for him to deal with. Looking at Elliot, he asked, "You all set?"

Elliot nodded and said, "Fin and Munch are already parked outside DiNozzo's apartment, waiting for him to make a move."

"Wait, you're watching Anthony DiNozzo?" Ms. Cabot demanded.

"Peter DiNozzo," Elliot clarified. "He's a nephew."

"Son," Jethro corrected, knowing what he saw the day before.

Shrugging, Elliot continued, "We think he's the one who set up Tony DiNozzo, to keep him from taking the number two spot, which he currently holds."

Ms. Cabot thought it over for a moment, then asked, "Connection between Peter DiNozzo and Emily Paris?"

"None yet," Elliot admitted.

She pulled out a cell phone and said, "I'll have my office work on that. Are you ready now, Agent Gibbs?"

"Give me five minutes and I'll be ready to go," Jethro replied.

When she nodded, Jethro walked over to the cage where Tony lay sleeping. He took a few seconds just to look at the troubled expression set on Tony's normally carefree face and felt the anger inside morph into something hard and dangerous. No one messed with what was his, no one. He was going to take Peter DiNozzo down and do it as hard and painfully as he possibly could.

Once he had a grip on himself, Jethro called quietly, "Tony, wake up."

He saw Tony freeze in place, a survivor's instinct, and then the lanky body relaxed a hair before Tony sat up, rubbing his eyes. "Mornin' Boss."

Jethro managed a slight smile as he replied, "Morning, Tony."

"What's up?"

"I'm heading out in a few, didn't want you to think you'd been abandoned," Jethro answered.

Tony made a face and said, "Look, I'm sorry about last night, Boss, I know you're working on this."

Surprised again by the turn Tony's thoughts had taken, Jethro informed him, "It's not about that. I just wanted you to know that we're working on getting you out."

"Since when did you start telling me what your plan was?" Tony questioned skeptically. "Since never. Just...go do what you're going to, okay?"

Stymied by the odd behavior, telling himself to give Tony a break, Jethro shrugged. "I'll see you later then, DiNozzo."

Walking away with the younger man in so much obvious pain was about the hardest thing he'd had to do in a long time. Rejoining Ms. Cabot, seeing that Elliot and Benson were already gone, he asked, "All set?"

"Always," she replied.

Now why didn't that surprise him?

*  *  *  *

DN Investments was in a modern, downtown building and set in the top three floors. The offices were expensive and the people who went in and out of it, very well-dressed. These weren't people who would just roll over because Jethro glared at them. It was a different playing field altogether and for the moment, he was content to let ADA Cabot run the show. She was in her element, obviously coming from more money than most of the people whose salaries nonetheless outstripped hers by a significant degree.

Old money was an entirely different attitude. Alexandra Cabot only had to look at someone in a certain way to get their eyes to lower submissively. It was a talent that Jethro appreciated.

When Peter DiNozzo answered her summons instead of Anthony DiNozzo, Ms. Cabot eyed him disdainfully and observed, "I requested to speak with the head of the company, which isn't you, Mr. DiNozzo."

Peter flushed, replying stiffly, "I'm afraid my uncle is otherwise engaged in an important Board meeting, Ms. Cabot, so you'll have to make do with me. Please, follow me."

Jethro hid a grin as she made it clear with a single glance that he was skating on thin ice. He followed both of them quietly, curious to see how she was going to play it and how the other man was going to get out of whatever she laid on him. The conference room was large and spacious with an incredible view of the city. Jethro took a brief, appreciative moment, then focused his attention on the other two people in the room.

"So, what can we do for the DA's office, Ms. Cabot?" Peter questioned, once she was seated.

One slender leg crossed over the other, Ms. Cabot sat back in the high-backed leather chair like it was a throne and said, "I understand that Agent Gibbs informed you that we do not believe your cousin to be behind the rape with which he was arrested."

"He did," Peter confirmed. "I don't see what that has to do with contacting my uncle, however. He and Tony haven't been on speaking terms for a number of years."

"We were here to receive permission to conduct employee interviews," Ms. Cabot explained.

Peter paused, then repeated, "Employee interviews?"

Ms. Cabot nodded and said, "I don't take kindly to someone manipulating my office, Mr. DiNozzo, and that's precisely what's happened here. We were used to arrest your brother, presumably to keep him out of the family business. That means that someone here is the culprit and I intend to arrest him or her and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law."

A trickle of sweat trailed down the side of Peter's throat as he countered, "Tony's got a lot of enemies, why assume it's someone here? He was a cop and now he's a federal agent. No one in the family could care less if he and his father made up."

"Not entirely true, Mr. DiNozzo," she refuted. "You have quite a bit to lose, if your cousin took your place. As do a number of other employees. I'm sure you can see why, now, we wished to speak with Mr. DiNozzo personally."

He swallowed and agreed, "Yes, of course. I'm sure if you come back after the meeting, he'd be happy to talk to you."

Shaking her head, Ms. Cabot said, "I believe we'll stay here and wait. If you would inform the receptionist that I would like something to drink? Bottled water would be fine, thank you."

Peter DiNozzo didn't stand a chance against her, and Jethro watched in savage amusement as the younger man just stared at her, confused about what to do when it became clear that not only wasn't she going to move, but he didn't have the power to move her. He finally just nodded and said, "Right. Okay. I'll have someone bring you something right away."

She waved him off and Jethro bit his tongue to maintain a straight face as Peter left the conference room.

Humor-laced blue eyes met his as she asked, "Did I pass, Agent Gibbs?"

"If you didn't reminded me so much of my first wife, I'd offer you a job on the spot," he answered, smirking. Taking out his cell, he called Fin and said, "DiNozzo's probably on his way down. Don't lose him."

"Not a chance," Fin answered before hanging up.

Short and to the point. He liked the cop's manner.

The receptionist brought in a silver tray with both bottled water, sofa, and coffee. Jethro handed a water to Ms. Cabot and poured himself a cup of coffee. No sense letting the good stuff go to waste, after all.

*  *  *  *

Olivia hadn't known Gibbs long, but even she could tell he was pissed when he got back to the House later that morning. His body language screamed that he was looking for something, or someone, to punch, so she avoided him altogether on her way to see Alex. Who wasn't all that much better off, she realized, seeing just how wired the other woman was. "I gather it didn't go well?"

Alex snorted inelegantly, a noise that Olivia just loved, and retorted, "I could get blood from a stone more easily than Anthony DiNozzo would give anything up unwillingly. Apparently, he wants the mess to go quietly away, without his family name being dragged through the mud and if that means that his son goes to jail, so be it."

Ouch. Cold hearted bastard, Olivia thought regretfully, glancing over at the cage where the man in question still was.

"I'm going to the courthouse now to get the charges officially dropped," Alex said, as if reading her mind. "I'll call you when you can release him."

"Are you sure about that, Ms. Cabot? It could open you up to allegations of misconduct, dropping charges without evidence," Gibbs pointed out.

Alex half-smiled and said, "I can take anything anyone dishes out to me. I'm not going to keep an innocent man in jail one second longer than I have to. It was...interesting to work with you, Agent Gibbs. I'll see you later, Detective."

Olivia nodded, touching her shoulder briefly as Alex left. She glanced over at Gibbs only to find him staring at the cage. DiNozzo was still lying down, an arm over his face, and the older agent couldn't seem to take his eyes from the sight, a pained expression in place. Knowing that Gibbs didn't mean to show any of this, Olivia looked away and asked, "So what's the next move?"

And as if he hadn't just been staring the hell out of DiNozzo, Gibbs answered, "Fin and Munch are following Peter DiNozzo to see what shakes out. What did you and Elliot find at the hotel? Where is Elliot?"

Flashing him a grin, Olivia motioned him towards the viewing room with, "Turns out Harry Donaldson has an outstanding warrant on him for fraud."

"Is that so?" Gibbs muttered, following her over.

Inside the interview room, Elliot sat across from the security guard from Tony's hotel, Harry Donaldson, leaning on the table and saying, "...think that you're going to come out of this, do you? Best you can do is cooperate, get a deal for less time."

Huddled in on himself, the big black man looked amazingly small as he said, "I can't say anything or I'm dead!"

Stiffening in surprise, Olivia had been sure that he'd just been bribed to get rid of the tapes, she watched intently as Elliot pressed, "We can protect you, make it seem like the information came from somewhere else. You won't have to testify, but information you give us that clears Mr. DiNozzo will only help reduce your time."

Donaldson hunched down further, shaking his head.

"You think about things, I'll be back," Elliot said.

Gibbs was already out of the door before Olivia could say anything. She hurried after him, not sure what he was going to do to Donaldson to get the information they needed, but Elliot was blocking his way into the interview room.

"Move, Stabler," Gibbs growled.

Elliot shook his head and said, "Not a chance. You go in there like this and he'll piss his pants, but not give up squat. Ease off, Sir."

Gibbs snarled but stepped off, turning away to get himself under control. Olivia exchanged a look with Elliot, who shrugged and walked over to have a quiet conversation with Gibbs. The two men barely spoke, but when it was done, Gibbs was back to his usual, impassive self and apologized, "Sorry, Detective."

She nodded acceptance of the apology and suggested, "Let's get something to eat while we wait for Alex to call and to give Donaldson some time?"

But Gibbs shook his head. "I'm going to question him."

"Agent Gibbs, I don't think..."

"I'm fine," Gibbs interrupted, glaring at her.

Yeah sure you are, she thought, but stepped aside when Elliot caught her eye.

She and Elliot walked in behind him and, taking her partner's cue, Olivia stayed back, leaning against the wall. There was something anticipatory in Elliot's manner and she glanced over to watch the show.

*  *  *  *

Barely able to believe that he'd lost control like that, Jethro pulled himself together on the walk to the interrogation room where Donaldson waited. He grabbed a notebook from one of the desks that they passed on the way and pulled a pen from his pocket, not sure yet if he was going to invade and intimidate the man's space from behind yet or not. This was going to be every bit as delicate as negotiating with a terrorist; the difference being that only one man was going to be hurt if it didn't go well.

Looking at Donaldson, Jethro introduced quietly, "I'm Special Agent LJ Gibbs. I work for NCIS, do you know who that is?"

Surprised, Donaldson nodded and answered, "Yeah, I have a cousin in the Navy."

"Good. Then you know we don't come out for just any case," Jethro said, pulling out the chair and sitting down. Glancing over Donaldson to Elliot, he asked, "Mind bringing me some coffee, Detective? Mr. Donaldson, would you like something to drink or eat? Soda, chips?"

Wary now, Donaldson replied, "Ah, a soda would be good, thanks. Coke, if you have it?"

"Sure," Elliot agreed, leaving the room.

Jethro leaned back in his chair. "The man that has been accused of rape works for me. I know the allegations are false. I also know that you had a hand in putting him where he is right now and that just doesn't sit well with me."

Swallowing nervously, Donaldson replied, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure you do," Jethro countered easily. "Who's going to kill you if you talk, Harry?"

"No one."

"Okay, let me rephrase the question. Who do you think's going to kill you if you don't talk?"

And the way that Jethro stared right into Donaldson's eyes made it really damn clear who that someone would be.

"Whatever you think someone's going to do to you, it can't compare to the living hell I can make your life," Jethro continued softly, leaning forward. "First, I transfer you to a maximum security, federal prison. Next, I spread the rumor that you're a serial rapist of little boys. Last, I release you into gen pop. Just how long do you think you're going to last under those circumstances, Mr. Donaldson?"

"You, you can't do that!" Donaldson exclaimed, panic rimming his eyes.

Lips twisting into a sneer, Jethro answered, "Oh I can, believe me, Mr. Donaldson. And that's just for starters."

Donaldson looked over at Benson, as if for help, but she remained expressionless. Scrubbing fingers over nonexistent hair, he finally said, "Look, if I say anything, you've got to promise it didn't come from me. And, and you need to get me less time on the fraud thing. Not like I was hurting anyone with it!"

Jethro looked over at Benson, who shrugged and said, "I'll talk to the DA's office and see what we can work out, but it depends on what you've got to give us, Mr. Donaldson."

Elliot came back just then. He set a soda in front of Donaldson and put a paper cup of coffee in front of Jethro before joining Olivia at the wall.

Pushing the notebook in front of Donaldson, Jethro ordered, "Talk, and then write it all down."

Completely broken, Donaldson nodded and started talking.

*  *  *  *

The courthouse was filled with reporters as Sarah DiNozzo was brought inside in handcuffs to be arranged on various charges, not the least of which was obstruction of justice and a double charge of corruption of a minor. She'd paid Emily Paris to have her boyfriend beat her up and make it look like rape, that was why there was no crime scene. They'd done it in the girl's own house while the father was away on business. Sarah had also paid to take the security tapes that would exonerate Tony and booked the rooms to either side of his and across the hall, too.

Tony watched with Gibbs as his cousin-in-law walked up the steps with her lawyer and her husband, Peter. Shaking his head, he said, "I still can't believe it was Sarah behind everything."

Gibbs shrugged and said, "A woman scorned, DiNozzo. Maybe that'll teach you."

Grimacing, Tony asked plaintively, "Can we get out of here?"

Gibbs nodded and they walked towards the exit.

To Tony's surprise, Benson and Stabler were both waiting for them on the courthouse steps. And even though he was a free man now, completely cleared, seeing them made him uncomfortable, knowing that they'd believed him capable of such a heinous crime. He would probably never be on good terms with either, despite them being good cops. Thankfully, he almost never got to NY and couldn't see either of them winding up in DC for any reason.

"Thought we'd see you off, Gunny," Elliot greeted, holding out his hand.

Gibbs took it and answered, "Thanks, Elliot, take care of yourself. You too, Detective."

Tony took both hands when they were offered, but as briefly as he could. He listened as Gibbs and Stabler promised to keep in touch this time and as Benson made the ADA's excuses.

Well sure, he thought, derisive. She's putting away a different DiNozzo.

And while Sarah had tried to put him in jail for a crime he didn't commit, Tony could understand why she'd done it. Both reasons. If he displaced Peter, her lifestyle would be drastically changed, if not reduced. Also, despite his wayward ways with women, he'd rejected her advances after her marriage to Peter...twice. Coming from the wealth family that she did, Tony didn't think she'd ever been rejected by anyone before him.

He wasn't honestly sure which had motivated her more, which was the sad part.

"DiNozzo, you awake? C'mon," Gibbs barked.

Jumping in surprise, Tony waved hastily to the detectives and hurried after Gibbs to the taxi. The ride to the airport was silent, but not comfortable. It was like some barrier had come down between them, and Tony knew that he only had himself to blame. Once at LaGuardia, it was hectic and the flight itself was overcrowded, which also didn't lend itself to conversation. Not the kind that they really needed to have, anyhow.

By the time the reached Gibbs' car, Tony was exhausted and only wanted to sleep for a week. He did actually doze on the way to his apartment and it was Gibbs' hand shaking his shoulder that woke him.


Tony looked at the other man curiously, but when nothing else seemed forthcoming, mentally shrugged and said, "I'll see you tomorrow, Boss. And, thanks. For everything. I know that I'd still be there if you hadn't come and gotten things straightened out. I really appreciate it."

Gibbs still looked like he wanted to say something, but only nodded, keeping silent.

Sighing to himself, Tony climbed out of the car and opened the back door to grab his bags. He leaned down to peer in the window and said, "Drive safe, Boss, I'll see you tomorrow."

He left Gibbs at the curb and headed inside, listening to the car pull away, but not looking back. Things were painful enough without watching the way Gibbs couldn't stand to be around him any longer than absolutely necessary.

Inside, he dropped his bags on the floor and yanked his shirt off on the way to the shower. He had to get the stink of New York and its jail off of him. Sneakers and socks were next, then pants and boxers. By the time he hit the bathroom, he was naked and he turned the water on to a scalding hot temperature. Gasping as the stinging water hit him, Tony rode out the pain, welcoming it until his body acclimatized.

"Stupid fucking idiot!" he hissed at himself. "Gibbs probably thinks you're an incompetent moron who can't keep his shit together. Woman scorned. No shit."

"I don't think you're incompetent or a moron."

Gibbs' calm declaration scared the crap out of Tony and he jumped, yelping in fright and almost falling on his ass thanks to slippery porcelain. Peeking out of the shower, he found Gibbs looking at him with a smirk. "How the hell did you get in here?"

"You should learn to lock your door, DiNozzo, you don't live in the suburbs," Gibbs replied. "Dry off, we need to talk."

Tony swallowed nervously at Gibbs' significant look, but nodded, and waited until he was out of the bathroom before turning off the water.

This was going to be fun.


*  *  *  *

It wasn't until after he'd left that Jethro knew he had to clear the air with Tony for good or the other man would be gone. There was just a sense in the air that told him so, but he trusted it. This would be enough to shake anyone, but for DiNozzo to have his world so fundamentally altered by being arrested, something he'd damn sure never considered, Jethro was sure, it would have the other man nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers.

After driving around the block, Jethro found a parking spot and left his car there to go into Tony's apartment. The door was unlocked, which he would chew out Tony for later, so he walked right inside. The clothes on the floor and the sound of water told him where Tony was, so he headed for the bathroom. Tony's muttered words about being incompetent went right to Jethro's heart and he sighed to himself. Looked like there was more damage control than he realized.

Jethro scared the bejesus out of Tony and ordered him to meet him in the other room, but still wasn't sure what he was going to say. It was only a few minutes later that Tony came out dressed only in low-riding jeans that cause Jethro to harden under his own slacks. The bare chest still gleamed and thick hair was still damp from just a towel-dry.

Licking his lips, Jethro managed to drag his eyes up to Tony's to find a bemused expression on the other man's face. Shaking off the moment, Jethro said, "So what makes you think, that I think you're incompetent, let alone a moron?"

Tony looked away, shifting into a defensive stance as he answered, "I thought I was alone."

"Which means you meant it. Talk, DiNozzo," Jethro ordered sternly.

But Tony shook his head. "You can't just waltz in here and order me to talk, Gibbs, not about this!"

"About what?" Jethro questioned, closing the distance between them to stand a short foot away. "All I know is that you've been jumpy for months now and I can't think of anything I've done to make you act like that!"

"It's not you, Gibbs."

"Oh I've heard that one before, Tony, and it always is, believe me."

Tony sighed, giving him a helpless look.

It was a look that Jethro knew all too well, having seen it in the mirror too many times before. The look that said you wanted something, but knew there was no way you could get it. Deciding that they'd danced around the issue long enough, for way too long really, Jethro said simply, "I'm yours if you want me. Don't know why you would, given my track record, and I'm not going to change if we get together, but the offer's there, DiNozzo."

Clearly stunned, Tony just stared at him for a long moment. Shaking his head, Tony replied, "I know you don't pull your punches, but Jesus, Gibbs, do you think you could try to stop giving me heart attacks?"

Jethro's lips quirked and he replied, "Not my style, Tony, you know that."

"Yeah, yeah I do," Tony agreed, a faint grin surfacing. "I'm not real house-broken, Gibbs, and I doubt I'll be changing much either. You sure you want to make that offer?"

Jethro's hands cupped Tony's face. Staring into Tony's changeable blue-green eyes, he stated, "Yes. I want you in my life, Tony, and my bed. I want to know where you are all the time and that you're not in trouble. I want to go on vacation with you, instead of driving you away so that you need one. Yeah, don't think I didn't know why you took off, or that you were going to do something a little more permanent in the near future."

Tony looked startled, but didn't deny it.

Jethro took a breath and finished, "I don't know if it's love, Tony, but I think it might be. I do know that it's the last time I want to feel this way about anyone, and I don't want to feel it for anyone but you."

Something like happiness lit Tony up to shine brilliantly out his eyes as he echoed softly, "Don't know if it's love either, Gibbs, but it's the first time I've felt this way for anyone else and I doubt anyone else will ever make me feel like this again. Wouldn't want them to."

Jethro pulled him in, angling up to press their mouths together. It was a long, slow kiss, both of them becoming familiar with each other through it. Tony sighed, opening his mouth, and Jethro took the invitation, sliding his tongue inside to gently explore. He didn't fool himself that things would go smoothly with them, things never did, but this was a good start.

It looked like Tony wasn't going anywhere after all.