Ducky and Kate had pulled far enough ahead, with McGee close on their heels, that Tony and Gibbs were essentially alone. The woods in summer were full of a torpid, fly-buzzed heat and Tony was sweating and slowing down.
Gibbs wasn't sweating and his stride was as forceful and energetic as ever. He just didn't seem to be closing the gap.
Tony puzzled that over for a moment and gave up. He was willing to bet Gibbs would still be the first to the body, the first to scan the way it lay, the first to accord it that moment of silence a corpse always got before the routine stripped away compassion and replaced it with a chillier competence.
Until then, he had Gibbs for company and as they had a ways to go…
"Why do you do that, Gibbs?"
"Do what, DiNozzo?"
"Play games with me."
"We play games?" Gibbs cocked his head, considering that, and then shrugged. "Not to my recollection."
It was too hot to dance. Tony rubbed peevishly at a tickle of sweat and snapped out, "Back there. What was with the, 'Kate, McGee, Tony, let's head out' deal?"
He thought Gibbs' mouth curled in a barely there smile but it might have been an attempt to dislodge a fly that had had the temerity to perch briefly on Gibbs' nose. "I wanted you all to start moving. Next time I'll just prod you with a stick."
"As long as you prod me first."
Gibbs laughed. Hey. He'd made Gibbs laugh. Or was Gibbs just laughing at him? Tony walked along in a suspicious sulk for a while and then opened his mouth to resume the attack.
Gibbs forestalled him. "You know, Tony…"
"It doesn't matter what order I yell at you."
"It does, or you'd do it the right way."
"You think there's a reason?"
"I know there's a reason." Tony paused and dug out a water bottle from his pack, uncapping it as he walked on after a Gibbs who hadn't even broken stride. "I just don't know what it is."
"I could tell you to work it out." Gibbs' voice was mild.
"Tried that. Got nowhere," Tony said briefly.
"Maybe I just like the way it makes you work extra hard to please me." Gibbs smiled then, looking as if he really found that idea amusing.
Tony huffed. "I do that anyway. All the time. I work my ass off, in case you weren't looking."
"No. You slack off and need nudging." Gibbs adjusted his cap, settling it down firmly on his head. There was a thin red line across his forehead where it had dug in but he didn't seem to care. "And when it comes to your ass, Tony --"
"Consider it watched."
Gibbs' hand flicked out, curved and swift, and landed a few feet south of where it normally did.
"Bee," Gibbs said blandly when Tony yelped and glared at him, his hand itching to rub at the sting. "See? I'm watching it. Say thank you."
"Thank you, Boss," Tony got out through gritted teeth.
Gibbs started to pick up speed and Tony was left eying Gibbs' ass. One he wouldn't dare swat if a swarm of bees landed on it.
But he could look at it. He liked looking at it. And even Gibbs couldn't see behind him.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs put a snap and a sizzle into Tony's name. "If McGee makes it to the site before you, he'll be the one riding shotgun and you'll be the one babysitting the body."
Or maybe he could.
He overtook Gibbs, caught up to the others, and was sucking down the last of his water when a thought occurred to him.
He twisted his head fast.
Oh, yeah, Gibbs was staring all right. Tony put in a little extra wiggle in his step and when Gibbs steamed past him, his face settling into solemnity because they were almost at the clearing where a body waited, he felt the drag of Gibbs' fingertips against the still-tingling skin.
It was the first time he'd looked at a dead body fighting down lust. If he'd had a therapist, they'd either have been cursing Gibbs or sending him flowers, depending on if they wanted to help Tony or milk him of every cent, because Gibbs was responsible for one hell of a lot of Tony's issues, kinks, and hang ups.
And Gibbs put him with the body on the way back anyway, although that might have had something to do with the skunk he'd disturbed stepping back to get a better photo.
Tony didn't take it personally.
Not when Gibbs was riding with him, too.
Brave skunk. Really brave.
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