ARE WE DATING?
Set between Hiatus & Shalom.
Tony is finding being team leader harder than he'd anticipated. He needs someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. He turns to Jimmy and discovers to his surprise that Jimmy has a well-kept-quiet love of movies.
A first time story.
Written: February 2013. Word count: 2,485.
Tony sat at his desk reading McGee and Ziva's reports on their recent case. He sighed as he read McGee's; couldn't he make a mistake for once? Just one tiny mistake; a mis-spelled word, a superfluous character, an incorrect name - anything! At this point Tony really didn't care; he just wanted to find an error. But as usual, the report was perfect.
Part of Tony felt childish for wanting to find an error, but it was just so annoying to have everything perfect all the time. Gibbs had never minded, quite the opposite, but finding one mistake, no matter how tiny, in one of McGee's reports would make Tony feel better because his reports were never perfect first time through.
Ziva's were nearly as good, although she did occasionally make the odd error with the way she phrased something - but even hers were perfect most of the time. He sighed again and closed McGee's report and threw it across to him. "Good job, Tim," he said.
McGee smiled. "Thanks, Tony," he said and smiled.
Tony sighed again and that was another thing; McGee and Ziva were so damn polite to him, so eager to please, so 'yes, Tony', 'of course, Tony', 'if you say so, Tony'. What had happened to the camaraderie they'd shared when Gibbs had been there? The back and forth banter? The teasing and prank playing? Okay, so it was usually Tony who did the teasing and played the jokes, but that wasn't the point.
He was fairly certain that no matter how polite, how eager to please, how willing McGee and Ziva were that they didn't think he was up to the job of team leader, that they didn't think he was doing a good job. They'd never said so; never even implied it - but he felt it, in his gut and the boss had always trusted his gut. Except the boss wasn't the boss any longer; the boss wasn't even working for NCIS; the boss wasn't even in DC; the boss wasn't even if America - so it was time Tony stopped thinking all the time 'what would Gibbs do'? It was time he relied on himself, on his instincts, on his beliefs. It was time he trusted himself.
Except he didn't - and that was problem number one. Problem number two was that he didn't believe, he didn't think, he was doing a good job; he didn't think he was up to the job of team leader. Problem number three was that he was completely stumped for ideas on the present case, the one he'd looked at every which way but still couldn't figure out - and he no idea who he could discuss it with; who he could bounce ideas off of. "
And he really needed someone. He couldn’t bring himself to ask McGee if he could talk through things with him, he was the team leader after all; he shouldn't need anyone else on the team. He had to be the strong one; the one who knew things. It had been easy for Gibbs, he'd had Ducky - his oldest and closest friend and the most intelligent person Tony had ever known. But who did Tony have?
Suddenly an idea came to him - but he dismissed it quickly. No, he couldn't - could he? Why the hell not? He stood up swiftly, so swiftly both McGee and Ziva looked up at him. "I'll be down in Autopsy," he said, and before either of them could answer he hurried off, the case file hidden under his jacket.
"Hey, Palmer," he called as the doors automatically parted for him and he sauntered into Autopsy.
"Hello, Agent DiNozzo," Palmer said, glancing up from the table he'd been cleaning. "I'm afraid Dr. Mallard isn't here."
"I know that, Palmer. It's you I want to talk to."
Palmer stared wide-eyed at him. "Me? What have I done? Did I do something wrong at the crime scene? Did I say something wrong? Did I knock something over and not notice? Did I -"
"Yes, Agent DiNozzo," Palmer sais stuttering slightly as he held the cloth he'd been using to clean the table so tightly in his hand Tony could see how white his hand was becoming.
He sighed softly. "I'm not Gibbs," he said. "You don't need to call me 'Agent'. DiNozzo's fine or even Tony."
"I . . . I . . . I . . . I could call you Tony?"
Tony shrugged. "Sure. If you want to."
Jimmy beamed and his cheeks flushed slightly. "Thank you, Tony," he said the name softly and Tony found he rather liked the way Jimmy said his name. "What can I do for you?"
"Is this clean?" Tony asked, nodding towards one of the other tables. Jimmy nodded so Tony leaned against it and pulled the case file out from under his jacket and began to spread it out over the table. "Leave that for now," he said, "and come here."
Palmer hesitated. "I really do have to get them all cleaned before I go tonight and I can't stay too late."
"I'll help you clean them later," Tony said firmly. "Just put down the cloth and come here."
"Well?" he said some thirty minutes later as they both leaned over the table, looking at the file. "Do you think it's possible it went down like that?"
Palmer licked his lips and stared at one of the crime scene photos, before picking up a second and then a third and then opening Ducky's autopsy report. Ducky's reports were also always perfect first time - well Tony had to accept they were given much of what Ducky wrote went over his head. Palmer frowned for a moment, put the photos back down in a different order, turned over a page in the report, took his glasses off and cleaned them on his scrubs. He put his glasses back on and looked at Tony for a moment before glancing away.
"Well?" Tony demanded.
"Do you want my honest opinion?" Palmer asked. "I mean . . ." He flushed slightly and again glanced away from Tony.
"Sure I do, Palmer," Tony said quickly realizing that what Palmer meant was 'do you mind if I disagree with you'?
"Well, in that case -" And Jimmy grabbed one of the crime scene photos, turned over another page in the autopsy report, scanned it for a second or two and then held it out to Tony. "Read that paragraph and look again at this photo."
Tony frowned as he read the paragraph and then re-read it and even re-re-read it before looking hard at the photo. He felt his eyes widen and he looked at Jimmy who was beaming almost like a proud father. "It's - isn't it?"
Palmer nodded. "Yes, it is. And it's so easy to miss."
"Which I did."
"Which anyone would have done." Palmer spoke far more forcefully than Tony had ever heard him speak before.
Palmer flushed and shrugged. "Only because you made me look at the photos and the file and because you suggested how it could have been set up to look like murder when it was actually suicide."
"Which it wasn't."
"Which is wasn’t." Palmer confirmed.
"So it was murder," Tony said slowly.
Palmer nodded. "And we know who did it."
Tony stared at Palmer. "We do?"
Palmer nodded. "Yes, look. Here and here and here. It's obvious."
Tony looked and felt a grin creep up on him. "Yes! It's just like in The Godfather." He readied himself for Palmer's 'I don't get it look'.
However, Palmer nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, it is! That's it, Tony."
"You know The Godfather?"
Palmer stared at him. "Of course I do. It's a classic movie. One of the best."
"Well, my friend, are you ready to do me this service?"
"Yes. What do you want me to do?"
Tony beamed. "Hey," he suddenly. "I've got an idea."
Palmer paused mid-way through putting the case file back together. "What's that?"
"Why don't you come over to my apartment on Saturday and we can watch all the movies back-to-back - unless," Tony added swiftly, "you've already got plans."
Palmer's cheeks became more than a little red. "No," he said. "No plans. And I'd love to, Tony - if you really mean it," he hastened to add.
"Of course I do! It'll be great, we can drink beer and order pizza and - can you eat pizza?"
Jimmy nodded. "Yes."
"Because if there's anything special you want or need just tell me and I'll get it."
"Pizza and beer sound great, Tony. I'll bring some chips and crackers which I'm sure you'll like."
"Great. It's a date. Come on, I'll give you a hand to finish cleaning the rest of the tables so you can get off home. Are you doing something special?"
"Um, well, actually, I was going to go and see Forest Gump. I missed it when it was released, but it's showing at The Bannatyne, you know that small theater off of -"
"I know the one. I've been there a few times. Forest Gump - I haven't seen that for a while."
Palmer was already wiping down the table he'd been cleaning when Tony had arrived. He glanced up. "I don't suppose - No of course you wouldn't," he added quickly.
"What?" Tony asked, "Come on, Jimmy, what were you going to say?"
Palmer swallowed hard and looked away from Tony back down at the table he was cleaning. "I don't suppose you'd like to come with me?" he muttered.
Tony thought quickly. Why not? He was the boss and he hadn't left work earlier than midnight for the past two weeks. But then he thought about the case and the fact they had a murderer to arrest - it didn't matter that he wasn't going anywhere, given he was in hospital with two broken legs - they really ought to formally arrest him.
He sighed. "I'd like to, Palmer. But . . ." he trailed off and held up the case file.
"Of course. Well," Palmer swallowed, "how about tomorrow? It's not as if I've got tickets and I'm not doing anything tomorrow. But I suppose you are."
Tony laughed. "Jimmy," he said grabbing a cloth as he remembered his promise to help Palmer clean down the tables, not that Palmer needed to rush off home now, but a promise was a promise. "Do you know what the earliest I've left work since Gibbs quit?"
Palmer shook his head. "Er, no."
"Midnight. So, no, I don't have any plans and you know what? It's about time I had an early night - so yes, I'd like to come with you tomorrow." He grabbed the bottle of spray, pointed it at the table and squeezed, nothing happened so he turned it around and peered at the top.
"Tony don't - Oh, dear," Palmer said hurrying over to him and beginning to wipe his jacket down with a clean cloth. "Sorry, I should have told you, it's temperamental."
"You think, Palmer?" Tony said in what he thought was a good approximation of Gibbs's voice. Palmer stared at him for a moment and then they both began to laugh and laugh and laugh; they laughed so much they both ended up with tears streaming from their eyes.
TWO MONTHS LATER
They fell into a regular pattern of going to see movies, old and new ones and also spending Saturdays at Tony's apartment (after all he was the one with the huge movie collection) watching Tony's favorites, several of which were new to Jimmy. Occasionally Jimmy would bring a movie with him, usually one Tony didn't know, and they'd watch that.
They bemused McGee and Ziva and Ducky at more than one crime scene when one of them would make a movie reference, usually an obscure one, and the other would instantly pick up on it, sometimes throwing in a bit of dialog and waiting for a reply.
Tony found himself relaxing more and being more his old self and put it down to the time he spent with Jimmy. And in Jimmy he'd found his 'Ducky'; someone he could go to and run something by or even ask for help or just someone to discuss the case in a non-field-team way. He got the feeling that Ducky knew what was going on, because more than once when he'd gone down to Autopsy Ducky had pointed him in Jimmy's direction and said Jimmy would help him or Ducky would even leave Autopsy for some reason or other.
As he hurried around his apartment tidying a few things away, getting chips and dips out and putting them on the table, Tony suddenly paused and looked down at one of the bags of chips: it wasn't a flavor he liked, but Jimmy did, in fact it was Jimmy's favorite so Tony always made sure he had some in his apartment - just as he always made sure he had other things Jimmy liked and not just to eat or drink. Only last week he'd bought a movie with an actor he really didn't like because Jimmy did like him. "Damn it," He said softly. "Does that mean -"
The sound of the doorbell interrupted him and he found himself grinning widely as he hurried across to open it. "Hello, Jimmy!" he cried,as he threw open the door and saw Jimmy standing there dressed in jeans and a soft mid-green sweater that really accentuated his eyes. "Well, come in, come in, don't just stand there." And he grabbed Jimmy's hand and pulled him inside.
Laughing Jimmy let himself be pulled, tripping over the doormat as Tony dragged him in, which caused them both to stumble and fall against the wall where they held onto one another as they laughed.
A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER
They sat side by side on the couch, beer, chips and dips on the table in front of them, watching the closing credits of It's A Wonderful Life. "Love this movie," Tony said, snagging his beer and taking a long swallow. "Love it."
Jimmy turned his head where it rested again the back of the couch and looked at Tony. "I know you do," he said a hint of something Tony couldn't quite identify in his tone.
They sat and stared at one another for several moments before Tony cleared his throat. "Hey, Jimmy," he said, surreptitiously wiping his hands on this jeans, "are we dating?"
Jimmy beamed at him. "Of course we are, Tony," he said.
Tony swallowed. "Oh," he said. "Well that's all right then. That means I can do this -" And he leaned across the small gap that separated them, put his hand behind Jimmy's head and pulled him close enough to kiss.
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