Title: The String Theory (4/?)
Word Count: ~3500
Pairing: Gibbs/Tony
Rating: R
Warnings and/or Spoilers: No spoilers so far. Warnings include violence, language, etc.
Author's Notes: Sorry this one took a little longer to get up - real life stuck its deformed head into my world.
Summary: Tony can't help but think that there was more to the rocket launcher debacle, and it's driving him crazy. It doesn't help that Gibbs is being Gibbs.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything except for the lint in my pockets and a bookcase full of psychology and crime books.




Gibbs stared at Palmer over the table in the conference room, his head cocked to the side and a coffee cup in one hand. Tony leaned against the wall with a frown pulling at his mouth, his pen poised over a notepad. Palmer kept wringing his hands and bouncing his left leg jerkily. He would periodically bring one hand up to touch the gauze at his forehead, but then he would snatch it away at the last second. He kept doing this, and Tony sighed inwardly. He gently placed a hand on Palmer's shoulder, who jumped a mile in his chair.

“Relax, Palmer. We're not interrogating you. We just want to know what happened.” Tony squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

“I – I know.” Palmer nodded his head and licked his lips. “I know.” More conviction this time, this was good. His shoulders relaxed a little, and his leg stopped jerking. He continued to wring his hands, however.

Gibbs shifted in his chair, bringing up one leg to rest on the other. He set his coffee on the table. “Start from the beginning, James.”

Tony looked up at that. Gibbs almost sounded... comforting. Not that he thought that Gibbs was incapable of being comforting; the man's heart couldn't be made of stone, no matter how many people emphatically stated the opposite. He knew first-hand how kind the man could be, even if his way of showing it was gruff. The use of Palmer's first name threw him for a loop, though.

Palmer looked up at the use of his given name, blinking rapidly. He didn't quite smile at Gibbs, but a light flashed momentarily in his eyes, and Tony knew that he appreciated the small gesture. He stopped wringing his hands, and he placed his palms flat on the table.

“I was walking out of the elevator on Abby's floor with the samples. I turned my head to the left, and I got hit with... something, I don't know what it was.” Palmer's mouth tightened, and he started to sweat. Gibbs remained silent, but nodded at him to continue.

Palmer took a deep breath, and he resumed speaking. “He pulled me down the hallway and slammed me against the wall. He pressed a gun under my chin.” Palmer's hands clenched. “He took the samples and stuffed them into his jacket – it was made of worn brown leather. I-I think there was some blood on the sleeve.”

Tony's eyebrows raised at this, and he glanced at Gibbs, who still remained silent.

“I could see under the jacket that he had a kind of jumpsuit on... m-maybe that was how he got in, he posed as a maintenance guy?”

When Gibbs didn't say anything, Palmer backpedaled. “I-I mean, I'm not an investigator, and I'm not telling you how to do your job, Agent Gibbs, and-”

“Palmer, slow down,” Tony moved a chair to one side of the table and sat down. “It's okay – that's actually a good idea. It'll make it easier to spot him on the cameras.” He felt bad for the kid – he may assist a Medical Examiner and deal with dead bodies every day, but he wasn't used to people attacking him in hallways... especially since the aforementioned hallways were supposed to be secure.

Palmer stared at him, looking lost, and then he nodded slowly. Tony gently motioned for him to continue. “After he took the samples, he said... s-said to remember his face. H-He seemed desperate, crazy. I think he was high.”

Palmer paused, and he started wringing his hands again. “He also kept muttering something about black diamonds.”

Tony's brow furrowed. “Black diamonds?” He looked up at Gibbs, who was frowning.

“Y-yeah – and then he knocked me again in the head with his gun, and the next thing I knew, you guys were waking me up.” Palmer sighed deeply. He brought his hand up to his forehead, lightly grazing the gauze he found there. His lip twitched.

Gibbs shifted again to plant both feet on the floor, and Tony took that as a sign that they were finished.

After Palmer's statement was finalized and an NCIS agent drove him home (Ducky was adamant about Palmer not driving), Tony followed Gibbs down the hallway.

“What do you think, boss?”

Gibbs' mouth twisted. “I think we don't have enough answers."

Tony winced. Yeah, he thought that too. Gibbs strode purposefully into the bullpen, features dark and stormy. McGee's head popped up. He looked anxious, but he didn't look like he was about to kill himself. Tony took that to mean that McGee had found something.

“Boss!” McGee jumped up from his chair. “I think I found Peter Billings.”

“You think, McGee?”

McGee fidgeted, but he continued. “I finally got a hit on the BOLO.” He sat back down and tapped on some keys. “He just walked into a run-down motel on the skirts of DC. He paid cash, had one small duffel bag, and he gave a fake name – Myron Platt.”

“He couldn't have picked a better name than that?” Tony asked. When he noticed Gibbs' dangerous look, he quickly muttered, “Shutting up, boss.”

“Let's go people – I want this bastard in our custody.”

Everyone rushed to get their gear, all eager to catch Billings. The attack on Palmer had been a little too close to home.

They all piled into an agency car, and Gibbs roughly put the car into gear. He peeled out of the NCIS garage, and Tony clutched at the dashboard for dear life. He could hear the “oomph” that McGee let out when he collided into Ziva, and then the subsequent “ow!” when Ziva pushed him off of her.

Tony estimated that most people would have made the drive in forty-five minutes, if there weren't too many people on the road.

Gibbs, however, wasn't most people, and Tony wasn't sure if he should be happy about that, or terrified.

They arrived at the motel (it looked more like someone smashed a bunch of shacks together and stuck a sign out front, but Tony wasn't about to get into semantics) in fifteen minutes. Gibbs was already out of the car, and Tony clutched at the car handle spasmodically. He shook himself and quickly followed Gibbs out of the car, Ziva and McGee on their heels.

Gibbs flashed his badge and gruffly barked, “Where is Myron Platt's room?”

The ancient man behind the counter merely blinked slowly at Gibbs. Apparently, the police barging in and asking for customers was a common occurrence.

“Room 35,” he said in a gravelly voice. “Here's the key.” He handed Gibbs a silver key, and he violently coughed repeatedly in his hand. Tony resisted the urge to gag as the man's breath washed over him – he clearly didn't know the merits of dental hygiene.

Gibbs grabbed the key and walked back outside without another word. They found Billings' room, and everyone drew their weapons. Tony took his place to the left of the door, with McGee behind him. Gibbs flattened himself on the wall to the right of the door, Ziva poised behind him. Gibbs reached over and rapped sharply on the door.

“NCIS! Open up, Billings!”

There was no sound from within the room.

Gibbs' mouth thinned, and he moved in front of the door. He roughly shoved his boot at the door, and the wood splintered. They all rushed in with guns drawn, and they found a man sitting in a chair, facing away from them.

“Peter Billings?” McGee furrowed his brow.

Tony sniffed. “I smell blood.”

Gibbs inched closer to the man in the chair, his gun trained on the back of his head. He slowly moved around the chair. His eyes narrowed, and he lowered his weapon.

“It's Billings, all right.”

Tony lowered his weapon as well, and he moved next to Gibbs.

“Aw man.”

Billings' head was resting against the high back of the chair, exposing his throat. He had been slashed from ear to ear, ruby-red blood spilling out and staining his shirt. Tony could see that some blood was still trickling out of the gash.

“The killer couldn't have gone far.”

“Get out there and search the premises!”

Gibbs flipped his cellphone open and angrily punched at the buttons, stomping out of the room. Tony then heard the dull sound of a fist connecting with a wall, and he hunched his shoulders a little. He looked up at Ziva and McGee.

“Better do what the boss says – unless you want his fist in your face next.”


--


Tony wearily clunked his head on his desk, and he moaned. It was one in the morning, and he felt like someone had sucked his brain out through his ear.

“Why can't we ever go home at a semi-decent hour?” he mumbled.

“Because that would be what normal people do, and since we work for Gibbs...?” McGee offered, slumped in his own chair.

Tony half-heartedly pointed at McGee, his head still planted on his desk. “Ding ding ding – we should get you a prize or something.” He lifted his head, and he glared at the piece of paper that stuck to his forehead. He angrily snatched at it and tossed it in the trash.

“I can't believe he's dead. We have the shittiest luck.” Tony plunked his head on the desk again. He banged it a couple times for good measure, and then finally stilled, his arms dangling in front of him.

“Who would want to kill him?”

“Oh I don't know, McGee – ask an easier question.”

“I was wondering aloud, not actually asking you anything, Tony.” McGee pointed out.

“Blah blah blah, whatever.”

Tony heard a squeak in front of him, and he moved his head just enough to see that Ziva had arrived, and she was sprawled in her chair much like McGee. Her hair was out of her pony tail, and it had started to frizz. He snickered.

“Looks like you need to invest in some de-frizzer, David.”

Ziva scowled, her hand twitching. “Your hair does not look any better.”

Tony resisted the urge to take out his mirror, and merely stated blandly, “Your inability to make contractions scares me.”

“Your inability to act like an adult is what is truly frightening, Tony.”

Tony mumbled something in response, too tired to even pay attention to what he was saying. He might have even drifted, but it was only for a few minutes, honest.

Movement in front of him startled him awake, and he bolted up in his chair. An agent walking by was what woke him, and he blinked at the bright squad room. A look at his watch told him that it was 0715. Shit.

His eyes darted to McGee, who was sleeping in his chair. His head tilted back and his mouth was open slightly. He was snoring. Ziva was no where to be found.

Tony stretched his neck, hissing when muscles flexed and contracted. He stood up and stretched his arms over his head, his spine popping and cracking back into place. He sniffed his armpit, and he pulled a face. He sighed, and started to unbutton his long-sleeved shirt. He tossed it into his bottom drawer, and pulled out a relatively clean t-shirt. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he washed it, but he decided that he really didn't care either way.

He clumsily pulled it on, blinking the sleep from his eyes. He grabbed a stick of deodorant and applied it with one hand while the other pulled out his mug, a toothbrush, and a tube of toothpaste. As he was pouring bottled water into his mug, he hissed at McGee. “Probie!”

McGee didn't stir, and Tony rolled his eyes. When the Dasani bottle was empty, he threw it at McGee, satisfied when it smartly smacked him in the nose. “Probie!”

McGee fell out of his chair with a yelp. He sat up, his chair partially obscuring his head, and he glared at Tony.

“What? You wouldn't wake up.”

McGee grumbled and hoisted himself back into his chair. Tony brushed his teeth furiously; he wanted to be ready before Gibbs-

“DiNozzo!”

Gah! The man had the absolute worst timing!

“Hurry up – you're coming with me.”

Tony hurriedly spit into his mug and wiped his mouth with his hand. He paused and looked up at Gibbs, who was looking at him with a strange expression on his face. In a flash, it was gone, and now he just looked plain annoyed. He hurriedly stood up to follow Gibbs, ignoring the horrified look McGee shot at his mug.

“McGee – check Otto's bank account. And keep checking on that BOLO – I want his ass in here too.”

McGee tore his eyes away from the mug. “On it, boss.”

Gibbs stopped, and looked around the bullpen. He threw out his arms. “Where's Ziva?”

“Uhh – dunno, boss.” Tony shrugged. “She wasn't here when I woke up.”

Gibbs muttered and took a sip of his coffee. Tony leaned forward a little, sniffing at the air. He would die for that cup of coffee, even though it has gone to the dark side. He wondered if it would snarl at him.

“DiNozzo! C'mon!”

“On your six, boss!”

And what a nice six it was.

Tony smiled brightly, and Gibbs narrowed his eyes. He grunted and turned away, heading in the direction of Abby's lab.


--


“Why do our suspects always end up dead?” Abby asked as they walked into her lab.

“Morning to you too, Abby.” Tony smiled.

“Tony! What are you doing, following Gibbs around like a puppy?” Abby grinned, and slurped her Caf Pow.

“Ah-”

“What do you have for me, Abby?” Gibbs raised his eyebrows at her. Tony silently thanked him for interrupting. He wasn't in the mood for an Abby-style interrogation.

“Patience patience, Gibbs! I've got lots of little goodies for you.”

“You break that code yet?”

Abby's features darkened. “No, and we shall not talk about it! It is a thing of evil.” She brightened. “But, I think I know who shot Clayton Billings before he died.”

She moved over to the gun that they had found under the bed in the motel room. “The round found in the petty officer's thigh definitely came from this gun.”

“He shot his own nephew?” Tony asked.

“Probably.” Abby shrugged. “Maybe he didn't like him?”

“Obviously, if he let him hang out with people like Otto.” Gibbs muttered.

“Also...” Abby twirled and headed towards her computer. “I managed to get a partial off the knife you guys found at the second crime scene. Someone tried to wipe it off, but they missed a spot.” She grinned. “I love it when criminals screw up.”

“Makes our job a hell of a lot easier.” Tony pointed out.

“I'm running it through AFIS, but it's probably going to take a while.”

“How long, Abs?” Gibbs stared at the computer screen over her shoulder.

“Erm... 6 hours?”

“You got one.”

“Gibbs! You can't rush science!”

“That thing's going through prints faster than my third wife went through husbands.” Gibbs snorted.

“Ugh, you are such a dinosaur. We've had this conversation before.” Abby grinned at him. “There are millions of people in this country, and a lot of them have done something to land themselves in the system. That's a lot of prints, Gibbs!”

Gibbs cocked his head at the computer. “Maybe if I kick it, it'll go faster.”

“Don't you dare kick my baby!”

Gibbs only smiled at her, and gently squeezed her shoulder. “Don't worry, Abs.”

Tony refused to be jealous of the teasing. He wouldn't be jealous of Abby. Sure, Gibbs smiled at her. Sure, he hugged her sometimes. Sure, he often brought her her favorite drink. And yeah, he seemed to genuinely like her...

Tony wilted a little. He was jealous of Abby.

He brightened when he thought that Gibbs didn't smack anyone else on the head quite like he smacked Tony. It was physical abuse, yes, but there was a certain level of affection there, right? And he doubted than any of McGee's head smacks had turned into a caress. Tony absently brought a hand up to massage the back of his head, and he smiled.

“Earth to Tony! You okay?”

Tony jumped, and found that Abby was looking curiously at him. Gibbs seemed to be stubbornly staring at the computer screen.

“Peachy, Abs!” Tony slapped on a grin that felt fake even to him.

Abby snorted and gave him a look that said we are SO discussing this later.

Not if he could help it.

“Is that it, Abby?” Tony crossed his arms.

“You're almost as bad as Gibbs, Tony.” Abby waggled a finger at him. “The stain on Billings' jacket – and I mean the weirdo uncle, not the petty officer – was blood; Jimmy was right about that. But get this: the DNA from the blood matches the DNA from the epithelials I found on the handle of the knife.”

“So Billings got into a tiff with some guy, and then the guy decided to off him?”

“As Ducky would say,” she put on her best Ducky Voice, “'Indeed, Anthony!'”

Gibbs sipped his coffee. “Did you get what Billings meant by 'black diamonds'?”

Abby raised an eyebrow and smiled. “I have a theory on that.” She paused for dramatic effect.

Today, Abby.”

“Pfff, you've got no sense for true suspense Gibbs.” She waved her hand at him. “He could have been referring to the obvious – actual black diamonds, but I have no idea why he would be rambling on about real black diamonds in the first place.” Abby cocked her head to the side. “And since Jimmy thought he was high as a kite, I'm guessing he was talking about street black diamonds.”

Gibbs rubbed a hand over his face. “Let me guess – drugs.”

“Everything always comes back to drugs, doesn't it?”

“It's the circle of life, Abs.” Tony shrugged one shoulder.

“'Black Diamond' is the street name for this fancy schmancy new drug. It's like if LSD, heroin, and cocaine got together and had a mutated crack baby, Black Diamond would be it.”

Tony blinked. “That's so descriptive, Abs.”

“Thank you, Tony!” Abby beamed brightly. “It's supposedly easy to make, but it's incredibly potent. It's the kind of stuff you would find at a rave, only more hardcore.” She paused. “I found traces of it in Petty Officer Billings' system.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“Because you're a good agent, Tony.” Abby patted his arm. “Ducky looked at the body again, and he found a tiny needle mark on the back of his thigh. He almost missed it, it's so tiny.”

“On the back?”

“Yup. It's in the wrong place for him to have done it himself, so someone else must have.”

“By force?” Gibbs asked.

Abby shook her head. “There weren't any bruises on his legs besides the ones he got just before he died. Maybe he took some while he was out having sex with two people.” Abby's face scrunched up, and her disposition performed a complete 180. “I can't believe I didn't find any fluids in his underwear! I should have found some!” She tugged at one of her pigtails in frustration.

“Aw Abs, it's okay-”

“It's not okay, Tony! I screwed up.”

“You didn't screw up.” Gibbs said pointedly. When Abby remained silent, he turned her to face him. “Abby.”

Abby blinked up at him. “I don't believe you, but okay.”

There's that damn jealousy again. Tony's mouth twitched.

Abby's computer suddenly beeped, and her eyes lit up. “My baby's calling me!” She pounded at a few keys, and Tony was surprised that she didn't break some in her excitement.

A picture popped up on the plasma at the end of the lab, and everyone looked up. Gibbs bristled dangerously, and his face darkened.

Abby stared. “Whoa damn.”

A picture of Franklin Lowell was plastered on the plasma. His buddies called him “Frankie.”

Tony called him “the dirty, rotten bastard who was indirectly responsible for Tony's crooked nose,” or "the sneaky prick who mysteriously disappeared after his drug ring got busted."

Either way, Tony hated the little slime ball.
 
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