Ashleigh Anpilova


Set a few weeks after Hiatus.

DiNozzo doesn't know think he can cope. But then he gets help from an unexpected source.

A first time story.

Written: September 2010. Word count: 1,300.



It was well past midnight; the lights in the squad room had been dimmed, leaving only the odd desk lamp shining. Tony sat at his desk, reading reports and going through the on-going case files. Both piles were so high they threatened to topple over at any minute.


He sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose as he wondered how Gibbs had managed over the years. He'd been working seven days a week, eighteen hours, sometimes more, each day and still he wasn't on top of anything. McGee and Ziva did their best, supported him, worked just as hard as they always had done, helped him, encouraged him. But at the end of the day he was the team leader; it all came down to him.


"Damn you, Gibbs!" He threw down his pen and deliberately knocked the pile of case files onto the floor. "Damn you! How dare you quit? How dare you just walk away, you bastard!" He looked down at the files now sprawled all over the floor. It'd take him ages to get them back in order, but it had felt good. For the few seconds it had taken him to sweep them off the desk, it had felt good. He pushed his chair away from the desk, stood up and squatted down among the papers.


"Here, let me help you."


"What the - Palmer! What the hell are you doing here?" Tony snarled and glared up at Palmer. How the hell had he arrived so quietly without Tony hearing or seeing him? "Didn't your mom teach you not to sneak up on people?"


Palmer flushed and backed away. "I'm sorry," he said. "I just thought you might like . . . But of course you wouldn't. I'll go."


"Wait," Tony called, standing up and catching Palmer's arm. "It's me who should say sorry. Sorry, Pal- Jimmy."


Palmer flushed again and then smiled. "I've brought coffee," he said, hurrying away from Tony and grabbing the two Styrofoam mugs he'd left on McGee's desk. He handed one to Tony. "It's just how you like it," he said.


Tony took a swallow; it was. "How do you know how I take my coffee?"


The tips of Palmer's ears turned pink. "I listen," he said finally.


"Guess you have to be good at that working all day with Ducky," Tony said with a laugh, before hastily looking around him. He shook his head, "Stupid," he muttered. "I forget sometimes. I keep thinking I'll turn round and he'll be there. You know how he always was when you said or did something idiotic or when you were . . . You know. Stupid." He sank down onto the edge of his desk


After a second or two, Palmer also sat on the edge of Tony's desk and turned to look at him. "I don't think it's stupid," he said. "And you're not the only one who does it. I see Dr. Mallard look up when the Autopsy doors open and sometimes I see him sag just a little when y- er, I mean when -"


"When I walk in? Yeah, I know, Palmer. Does Ducky know where Gibbs is?"


Palmer shrugged. "I don't know. He hasn't said anything to me, but then he wouldn't."


"Guess not. For a guy who talks a lot, he only ever really talked to Gibbs, didn't he?" Tony took another swallow of coffee before putting it down. "Guess I'd better pick this lot up."


"Finish your coffee first."


Tony looked at Palmer, at the coffee and at the mess on the floor. "Why not? It's not going anywhere."


They sat in silence for a while. Then Palmer drained his cup, took his glassed off and polished them. "Tony?"


"Yeah," Tony replied, but he wasn't really listening. Instead he carried on speaking. "I don't know how Gibbs did it, really I don't."


"Did what?"


Tony waved his hand around the area the team occupied. "Ran all this; figured out all the cases; did his own reports; checked ours; did it all alone."


"He didn't."


"Yeah, I know we helped; we did our bits. But I meant he -"


"I know what you meant, Tony. And he didn't do it alone."


"What do you mean?"


"Why do you think he spent so much time in Autopsy?" Palmer looked at Tony intently.


Tony frowned. "Huh? Seeing Ducky about the bodies, what he'd found, that kind of thing."


Palmer shook his head. "Well, yes, he did that. But that was only a small part of it. He used to come and just talk to Dr. Mallard; talk about the cases. Often he'd talk and Dr. Mallard wouldn't say much, if anything. But he was there for Agent Gibbs and what he did say helped Agent Gibbs; helped him focus; helped him work things out."


Tony was surprised. "He did?"


Palmer nodded. "Yes. All the time."


"But Ducky's not - I mean, he's very knowledgeable - about everything," he grinned at Palmer who grinned back. "But he's not an agent."


Palmer shook his head. "Agent Gibbs didn't need another agent; he had you, McGee and Ziva. He needed another view, someone who was more detached, less close. He needed a friend." He said the last few words quietly.


Tony stared at him. "Gibbs and Ducky," he said. "Lead agent and ME. Yeah, it could work. Hey, Palmer?"


"Yes, Tony?"


"Do you want to be my Ducky?" To his surprise Palmer flushed again. He wasn't sure why Palmer was blushing, but it made him feel . . . He wasn't sure what it made him feel. So instead he hurried on. "I mean we get on, don't we? You and me. Like Gibbs and Ducky did. I'm the lead agent and okay, you're not the ME, but you're the assistant ME and I'm only the stand in lead agent. That's makes us -"


"What do you mean 'stand in lead agent'?" Palmer asked.


"Well Gibbs'll come back, won't he? I mean, he has to, doesn't he?"


Palmer was silent. Then he put his hand on Tony's arm and said quietly, "I'll be your Ducky, Tony." Then to Tony's stunned surprise, Palmer leaned even nearer and kissed him.


For a moment Tony froze. The next second he found himself kissing Palmer back, found his tongue licking Palmer's lips, felt Palmer's lips part and found his tongue inside Palmer's mouth. After a few minutes, he pulled back and sucked air into his mouth. "What the . . . Why did you . . . ? Jimmy?"


Palmer was watching him, a wary look on his face; his lips were swollen from the kiss and his chin was red in parts where Tony's late evening stubble had brushed against his skin. For a second Tony thought he was going to flee. Without thought he caught Palmer's arm and held him firmly.


They sat staring into one another's eyes for several long moments. Then Tony said, his voice slightly shaky, "Why don't we leave this lot, I'll get McGeek to pick them up in the morning. We could go to my place and . . ."


Palmer swallowed hard several times and Tony found himself wondering if he'd gone too far, too fast. He saw another flush touch Palmer's cheeks and watched him blink multiple times. Then Palmer said, his voice steady and more decisive than Tony had ever heard it, "I'd like that, Tony." He stood up.


Tony stood up too, grabbed his coat, Sig and keys and flicked the desk lamp off. Under cover of the darkness he gave Palmer another quick kiss, sliding his hands around Palmer's ass and pulling him nearer. Then he let go of him and said, "Just one thing, Jimmy?"


There was still enough light to see Jimmy lick his lips. "Anything, Tony," he murmured.


"I like Jamaican mocha. Get a good supply in. I think we're going to need it."



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