Title: The String Theory (3/?)
Word Count: ~3000
Pairing: Gibbs/Tony
Rating: R
Warnings and/or Spoilers: No spoilers so far. Warnings include violence, language, etc.
Author's Notes: I will not be offended if you guys hate me after this chapter. *cough*
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. 



Uh oh, Gibbs at 2 o'clock – look sharp McGee!”

McGee started to break out in a sweat, and he began pounding insistently at his keyboard. Tony felt sorry for him; the search for Peter Billings had turned up nothing so far, and it looked like McGee was getting desperate. Judging by the grim look on Ziva's face and the positively scary one on Gibbs', they hadn't been able to find Richard Otto, either.

Tony reflexively brought up a hand to stroke the back of his head, and shuddered. This is just great.


McGee jumped, his eyes going wide. He slowly lifted his head to look up at Gibbs. “Yeah, boss?”

“Tell me you found Peter Billings.”

Ah – um, you see-”


McGee scrunched his eyes tight, and his words came out in a rush. “No, I haven't found him yet, boss.”

How long does it take, McGee?” Gibbs planted his palms on McGee's desk and leaned forward, eyes narrowing.

Boss, the guy dropped off the planet!” McGee winced. “There has been no activity on his credit cards, no contact with the family, nothing since 2007.”

Gibbs slammed his hand on McGee's desk, and McGee almost fell out of his chair. “Look harder.”

McGee nodded his head furiously. “Yes boss, right away boss.” He turned his attention back to his keyboard, blinking sporadically. Tony grimaced.


Tony jumped up from his chair, PDA in hand; better to jump the gun now rather than later – especially if “later” meant that he would have a sore head. “Petty Officer Billings had no close friends. No one has reported seeing Otto in the vicinity of Billings' room, nor anywhere else on base. All suspects from the base have been checked out – everyone has a solid alibi for the time our petty officer was murdered. His father, Donald Billings, has been in Kentucky for the past two weeks for a business trip.” Tony scrunched up his face. “Who goes to Kentucky for a business trip?”

DiNozzo...” Gibbs leveled a glare at him.

Tony shook himself and continued. “He's flying in as we speak. Since joining the Corps, Petty Officer Billings seemed to straighten out. No drugs, no encounters with the police, nothing.” Tony looked up from his PDA. “Seems the kid was trying to clean himself up.”

Then why the hell did his uncle plow into Ziva?” Gibbs growled. Ziva's features darkened, and her mouth thinned; if Tony knew his boss (and he'd like to think he did, if only on a professional level, and no where near the level he wanted to know him on - and he really needed to stop going on these tangents), Gibbs had been giving Ziva the silent treatment, intermixed with sharp (if somewhat worried) glances. Tony knew that Gibbs was pissed that Ziva wasn't able to get more than a partial on the license plate, but he also knew that Gibbs was pissed that one of his team had almost gotten killed.

Tony flashed back to when Gibbs had taken care of him after they busted the drug ring, and then he thought about Gibbs taking care of Ziva that way, and he felt a hot stab of jealously twist in his gut. He'd like to think that Gibbs would only go to those lengths for him.

A cuff to the back of the head startled him. “DiNozzo! Quit spacing out!”

Yes, boss!” Tony blinked rapidly, and flashed a grin at Gibbs. “Just thinking, that's all.”

Gibbs stared at Tony. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately. Gibbs would sometimes stare at him so intently that Tony often thought that his very soul was being pried open for Gibbs' perusal.

And then some days he would think for a crazy moment that maybe Gibbs had x-ray vision (because, you know, he's Gibbs, Dark Marine Sorcerer of all Things Scary), and was staring at Tony through his clothes, and then Tony would shift uncomfortably while crossing his arms over his chest. Which was silly, because you'd think he'd rather be covering his cock than his chest, but he thought that clamping his hands over that bit of anatomy in public would have seemed a bit strange.

At least Gibbs would have been staring at his naked body intently, and that was always a plus in Tony's book.

Finally, Gibbs sighed. “I need coffee.”

Gibbs' desk phone rang, and he stalked over to snatch it up. “Gibbs.” There was a pause, and then, “Be right there.”

Gibbs replaced the phone in its cradle and strolled away, crooking a finger at Tony. “With me. McGee, I expect something on the uncle when I get back.” His tone brooked no argument, and McGee's left eye twitched. “Ziva, start digging.”

Ziva frowned. “Dig where?”

Anywhere, just do it!”

Ziva quickly sat down and pulled the phone towards her. Nodding, Gibbs stalked off, muttering something about coffee and his boat.

Abby's got something?” Tony asked as he jogged to keep up with Gibbs.

Gibbs shook his head. “Ducky.”


Jethro! Punctual as always!” Ducky beamed, his protective shield smeared with blood. It made for a grisly, if vaguely amusing, sight. “And Anthony! You must visit me more often, dear boy – one might think that you're neglecting the bodies.” He shook his scalpel at Tony in mock chastisement.

Tony grinned. “I think the bodies are just fine without me Ducky, but I'll take you up on your offer.”

Ducky nodded, apparently appeased.

What can you tell me, Ducky?” Gibbs cut through the conversation.

Always so impatient, Jethro,” Ducky chuckled. His voice took on a more serious note as he gestured towards the body. “Our young Marine most certainly died of asphyxiation. He was forced to the ground – note the abrasions on his legs, arms, and face – straddled, and choked from behind. The killer utilized his bare hands.” Ducky frowned, and pointed to Billings' throat. “He crushed the lad's windpipe, for God's sake! It's difficult to do that with your bare hands while you're facing your opponent – the fact that our killer was able to do it from behind is more than a little frightening.”

Gibbs nodded, peering down at the body. Tony wasn't quite as enthusiastic about getting up close and personal like Gibbs. He didn't mind dead bodies, not really; you got over that quickly if you wanted to stay in his profession. They still creeped him out though. They almost looked like they were made of rubber, splayed open on Ducky's autopsy table like that, bright red blood accenting the stainless steel and starkly contrasting against pasty white skin. Tony shuddered, and rubbed his own chest absently.

Shortly before he expired,” Ducky continued, “Petty Officer Billings took part in some sexual activities. I've already sent Mr. Palmer to Abigail with the samples, but I'd wager that he had sex with at least two individuals before life was brutally snatched away from him.”

“How can you tell?” Tony asked, his brow furrowing.

Simple – I found vaginal and seminal fluid on his body. I hope I am knowledgeable enough to know that the vaginal fluids did not belong to him.” Here, Ducky raised his eyebrows and smiled. “And the placement of the semen suggests that it was not his own.”

How do you-” Comprehension dawned on Tony, and he blushed. “Oh.”

I guess that rules out the idea that he was bi-curious.

Yes, Anthony – 'oh' indeed.” Ducky's smile grew wider, and Tony had the sneaking suspicion that Ducky was enjoying his discomfort.

Anything else, Duck?” Gibbs kept glancing at Tony, as if he were trying to gauge his reaction. Tony shifted his weight, and began rubbing the strip of skin not hidden by the sleeve of his jacket and the band of his watch. He couldn't help but fidget under Gibbs' stare.

As a matter of fact, yes, Jethro.” Ducky picked up a clipboard and flicked through some pages. “It seems that this young lad was falling back into old, unsavory habits.”


Indeed.” Ducky sighed. “I do not know for sure how long he has been using - Abigail will have to divulge that particular secret to you.” He looked down at the body. “Such a shame – the ravages of drug-use have wasted you away, dear boy. You would have made a fine Marine, had you not succumbed to the allure of the unknown.”

Thanks, Duck.” Gibbs turned to walk out of Autopsy.

I'm not done, Jethro.”

Gibbs stopped and turned back to Ducky, a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. Ducky's eyes twinkled, and he picked up an evidence jar. “I found this lodged in his right thigh.”

Tony blinked. “That's a bullet.”

“Yes it is, Anthony!” Ducky smiled enigmatically. “What was it doing in this young man's thigh, I wonder?”

Gibbs drew his eyebrows together. “How long has it been in there?”

Oh, I'd say about six months, judging by the wound. It seems that he, or a friend, attempted to pry it out, but failed miserably. The wound was rather nasty, even healed over.” Ducky grimaced. “I'd imagine that it caused him a great deal of pain.”

“He couldn't risk going to the hospital – they're required to report all gunshot wounds.” Tony pointed out. “No telling what the base doctor would have done.”

It makes me wonder what really happened to cause such a nasty wound.” Ducky quirked an eyebrow. “Take this up to Abigail, would you, Anthony? I'd surmise that you two are stopping by her lab soon enough.”

Sure thing, Ducky.” Tony took the evidence jar and peered into it.

This reminds me of an old and dear friend – Jasper Whetting.” Ducky's eyes took on a faraway gleam. “Yes, he accidentally discharged his weapon into his thigh whilst cleaning it in an outhouse. Why he was cleaning his weapon in an outhouse, I haven't the foggiest, but he was so embarrassed that he neglected to call for help, and he died within minutes of blood loss. His Vietnamese mistress found him in the outhouse with his gun between his legs, and-”

Thanks, Ducky.” Gibbs said loudly, and he steered Tony out of Autopsy.

What? Oh yes yes, you're welcome Jethro.” Ducky waved his hand absently, and turned back to the body. “Let's get you closed up, shall we? And then you can rest for a while.”


Gibbs!” Abby bounced on her feet and launched herself at Gibbs. She hugged him fiercely, nearly bowling him over with her enthusiasm.

Abby,” Gibbs greeted her, smiling. Tony felt put out – he wished he could hugs Gibbs so freely. Gibbs offered Abby a Caf Pow, and her eyes sparkled.

I officially love you.” She noted the cup of coffee in Gibbs' hand and smirked. “I see that you have stocked up as well.”

Tony almost grinned when he remembered Gibbs' reaction to his first sip of that coffee. As his boss' eyes blissfully rolled to the back of his head, Tony could only think of one word: orgasmic. His fingers twitched, and he squashed down the memory mercilessly. Abby shot him a knowing look, and Tony grinned disarmingly back at her, silently daring her to call him out on it.

He was immensely relieved when she didn't.

Here, Ducky wanted me to give this to you.” Tony handed her the evidence jar with the bullet.

Abby took it, frowning. “I thought our guy was strangled.”

“He was,” Gibbs said. “Ducky found the bullet in his thigh. Said that it's been in there for six months.”

“Really?” Abby's eyebrows shot up her forehead. “Cool.” She set the bullet on the counter.

Any luck on that code?”

Abby scowled. “I've decided that I hate the stupid thing.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “You need McGee's help?”

Abby sighed. “Maybe.” She flapped her hands uselessly. “I don't know. I mean, it doesn't
look hard, even though there's a lot of it. Once you get one part figured out, the rest of it is easier. But it's like it's just a random jumble of symbols. I haven't been able to find any pattern.” She huffed, her breath momentarily disturbing her bangs. “Seriously Gibbs, this whole case is weird.”

Have you gotten anything from the samples Ducky sent up?”

Abby paused, and cocked her head to the side. “What samples?”

Silence descended in the lab, interrupted only by Abby's music.

Ducky sent Palmer up here with some samples – you didn't get them, Abby?” Tony slid a glance at Gibbs.

Abby shook her head. “I haven't seen Jimmy all day.” Her eyes widened. “You don't think something happened to him, do you? I mean, he's in NCIS, so he should be safe, but-”

But Gibbs was already purposefully stalking out of her lab. Abby looked pleadingly at Tony.

Tony?” she ventured in a small voice.

We'll find him, Abs.” Tony placed a comforting hand on her shoulder before following Gibbs, leaving a dejected-looking Abby standing in the middle of her lab.

Gibbs was already snapping his phone shut, and he looked pissed. Tony resisted the urge to turn on his heel and scuttle away from him.

What's up, boss?”

“That was security – Palmer was attacked in a hallway and dragged off to a supply closet. The security guards said they were
distracted, and weren't watching the video. My ass.” Gibbs took off in a run down the hallway. Tony ran after him, thinking that there would be a few security guards out of a job by the end of the day.

They found Palmer slumped in a supply closet, a nasty gash on his forehead. Tony hauled him out and knelt beside him. He shook him gently. “Palmer!”

When he didn't stir, Tony prodded him again. “Hey! Autopsy gremlin!”

That got Palmer's attention. His eyes fluttered open, and he immediately groaned, bringing a hand up to his head. “What...?”

He looked up at Tony, and then his eyes found Gibbs, and he paled. “I'm sorry Agent Gibbs, he just came out of nowhere, and he hit me on the side of the head, and-”

Gibbs held up a hand, stopping him. He looked angry, but Tony didn't think he was angry at Palmer. More likely, he was angry at himself.

We're taking you to Ducky, and then I'm taking your statement. Will you be able to recognize your attacker if you saw him again?”

Palmer looked petrified, but he nodded shakily. He looked down at his empty hands. “He took the samples.”

Tony shook his head. “Ducky will be able to get more.”

“But the evidence degrades, and-”

It's okay Palmer. Let's get you up to Ducky.”

Ducky was horrified that Palmer had been attacked, and he started fussing over him, shining a light into his eyes and prodding gently at his head.

It looks like you do not have a concussion, but I shall prescribe you some medicine for the headaches. You are also going straight home.” When Palmer tried to protest, Ducky effectively cut him off. “I won't hear another word about it, Mr. Palmer. I will be fine here alone – your wellbeing is more important, lad.”

Gibbs called Abby to update her on Palmer, and then called McGee with the new development. He snapped his phone shut and gestured towards Tony and Palmer, walking towards the sliding doors. Tony and Palmer followed, Palmer a bit shakier on his legs than Tony.

McGee and Ziva looked up when the three of them entered the bullpen.

Are you going to be okay, Palmer?” McGee asked, concern etched in his features.

Ducky said I didn't have a concussion – I'll just have a really bad headache for a few days.” Palmer offered McGee a watery smile. Tony was inwardly surprised that Palmer didn't stutter at all.

Palmer glanced at the plasma, and the blood drained from his face. He raised a shaky hand and pointed. “That's him.”

“Who him?” Tony asked, looking over his shoulder at the plasma.

That's the guy who hit me over the head!” This time Palmer did stutter, and he sagged against the wall next to McGee's desk.

Tony stared at the picture of Peter Billings on the plasma. “You know, McGee, for a guy that supposedly doesn't exist anymore, he sure is all over the place.”


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