"I still never got my shirt, Boss," Tony DiNozzo huffed in disgruntled tones from his place in the back seat of Jethro Gibbs' car. "Before the ambulance came you promised you'd replace my designer--"
"Stow it, DiNozzo," Gibbs cut in mildly from the driver's seat, his alert, blandly amused gaze meeting Tony's in the rearview mirror. "You'll get your shirt--as soon as you finish this assignment to my satisfaction."
"That's what you said LAST assignment," Tony gritted out and cut a sulky glare in the direction of his seat mate as Ziva David lounged against the right side passenger door and gave a brief snort of amusement at her partner's sad fashion plight.
"Well, maybe I wasn't SATISFIED with your performance last time, Tony," Gibbs declared and smiled broadly at Ziva's chuckled, "He gets that a lot from all his lady friends, I hear."
"Ha, ha, VERY funny, you two. Yes, highly amusing; what a great way to pass the time on this so-not-exciting stake out," Tony growled. The look he gave David this time was downright scathing, but as usual his lovely, deadly, trained-killer partner remained blithely unperturbed.
"And there was absolutely NOTHING substandard about my performance on that last assignment, Boss, if I do say so myself," DiNozzo continued in an aggrieved tone. "I mean, keeping in mind that I was still weak and bravely recovering from my grievous bullet wound yet put myself potentially in harm's way again so soon--"
"It was a milk run, Tony," Ziva cut in drily, her smile a flash of white in the dusk-shaded confines of the back seat. "Ducky's demented mother could have completed that assignment without blinking twice. It was a simple delivery."
"You don't know; you weren't there," Tony protested indignantly, one hand going up to rub with pained, exaggerated care at the recently healed bullet wound high in his chest. "And as I was saying!...Taking my condition at the time into account, that assignment was pretty damned grueling. All sorts of things could have gone wrong; it might have ended up an unmitigated disaster! But I kept it together; I pulled off my duties without a hitch, and you're just making that sour-lemons face at me right now, Ziva, cause you wish YOU had my flair, the innate FEEL I have for a mission--"
"Are you gonna give him his stupid shirt, or do we have to sit here and listen to this all night?" Ziva interrupted, breathing out on a gusty, longsuffering sigh; but a slight, affectionate smile curved her lips as her gaze moved from Tony's blankly uncomprehending face to Jethro's wry grin behind the steering wheel.
"I was going to do it LATER, David," Gibbs admonished and flicked Tony an exasperated mock glare as DiNozzo's still too pale features slowly brightened from sulky petulance to a wide, beaming smile that showed way more white teeth than any one adult human male should possess.
"You got me a shirt, Boss," Tony murmured, a disarmingly adorable glint of sheer happiness sparking to life in his eyes. "You care; you really care!"
"Oh, just shut up and open the damned box, " Gibbs growled, but a tiny, pleased smile flitted at the corners of his mouth as he fumbled beneath the driver's seat and brought out a long, flat shirt box from Tony's favorite exclusive designer men's store.
Tony reached over the seat for the proffered package with eager, slightly shaky hands and for a brief moment merely clutched it to his chest, eyes closing in anticapatory bliss as he breathed in the scent of true, classy elegance wafting up from the garment folded neatly inside.
"God, I feel dirty just watching this," Ziva scowled sideways at her enamored partner. "Tony, should Gibbs and I just exit the vehicle so you can be alone with your...shirt?"
Ignoring Gibbs' choked-off laughter from the front seat, Tony opened one eye and shot Ziva a disdainful glare, one that was quickly replaced by sheer lust as his fingers slid beneath the seams of the box to stroke the tantalizing bits of silky, decadently expensive material hiding within. Maybe Ziva wasn't so far off the mark after all, he found himself thinking dimly as a shudder of pure, hedonistic pleasure travelled from his fingertips clear down his spine to his toes from first contact with the shirt's fabric.
"I bet it's pink...or maybe chartreuse," Ziva speculated, leaning over with one hand extended as if determined to pry the lid off the box and see for herself. "Or it could be magenta. Did you buy Tony a magenta shirt, Gibbs?" she asked as DiNozzo slapped her questing fingers away.
"Hands off the goods," he growled and blushed darkly as Ziva's eyes dropped with more than passing interest from the wrapped box in Tony's hands to his lap.
"You know what 'goods' I meant, dammit," Tony snarled absently, his mind currently preoccupied with a much more serious issue than his manly virtue. "And this shirt is NOT magenta! OR pink, or chartreuse...It isn't, is it, Boss? PLEASE tell me it isn't any of those colors!"
Gibbs' eyes met the pleading, earnest gaze blazing at him from the back seat, and the glib lie teasing the tip of his tongue faded away into amused compassion as Tony's panicked stare shifted from his superior's perusal back down to the enigmatic shirt box he was crushing against his chest.
"DiNozzo...do you honestly think I'd shell out THAT much money for a shirt you'd never wear?" Gibbs sighed, and Ziva lifted one eyebrow, mouthing "HOW much?" to Jethro as an exhilarated grin lit up Tony's lean, attractive face. The simple, unadulterated pleasure quivering in every part of his being now seemed to chase away the lingering shadows of strain and fatigue he'd been battling ever since the ambush shooting he and Gibbs had walked into seven weeks ago; and as he delved at last into the box and withdrew a soft, exotically shimmering expanse of midnight blue fabric, Gibbs and David exchanged brief looks of silent gratitude over his head for the gift they'd been given in the return of their friend and team mate from the edge of death.
"My shirt, Boss," Tony sighed now, dipping his head to gently rub one cheek back and forth against the expensive shirt like an ecstatic cat. "You got me my shirt. Thanks, Gibbs."
Dark blue eyes lifted to Jethro's with a wealth of emotion almost too open and raw for the other man to take; and as Ziva furtively slid one hand across the seat again to finger the silky fabric flowing through DiNozzo's careful grasp, the final, haunting phantasm of fear and guilt and imminent loss that had dogged Jethro's dreams for the past seven weeks faded away under the quiet gleam of humbled appreciation shining deep in Tony's eyes.
"So...is this still a stake out, or should we just use Tony's shirt to reel in the perps?" Ziva snorted, her gaze teasingly affectionate as Tony clutched the garment to him like a protective mama tiger with its new cub.
"Yeah, yeah...back to work, people," Gibbs rapped out, and as he and Ziva began an animated discussion as to the best strategy for pinpointing the exact location of their latest suspects somewhere in the hotel across the way, Tony quietly and carefully refolded his shirt within its protective tissue paper cocoon and replaced the lid with one last, longing glide of his index finger along the collar. My shirt, he mouthed silently to himself and felt a ridiculously maudlin lump rise in his throat; cause he knew, and Gibbs knew, and Ziva knew, too; it wasn't just a shirt. It was more...so much more.