Velvet Touch

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Contrary to popular opinion, Tony was not stupid. Nor was he blind. He'd known the moment Gibbs came out of the elevator with Ziva that he wasn't as irritated at having her with them as he apparently wanted Tony and McGee to think he was. Hell, he'd never have slipped into the elevator like that in the first place if his back was really up about having her on his team. Telling her to pack up her trash had been an excuse to get her into Gibbs's private conference room. Nothing more and nothing less.

Tony had wanted to believe Gibbs was giving her a hard time, but the little looks they kept trading torpedoed that attempt at self deception. Repeatedly.

He just didn't get it. He'd been working his ass off for almost four years trying to get Gibbs to warm up to him and just when he thought he was getting there, just when he was starting to believe that underneath the head smacks and the marine bark the man might actually like him, Ziva shows up and manages the same feat in five minutes.

Scowling to himself, Tony dumped out the half inch of old coffee in the break room coffee machine's carafe and rinsed it out.

The worst part was, he couldn't help liking Ziva a little himself. Okay, so she threw him off his stride a little. He still wasn't sure quite how to flirt with her--or how to tease her--but he'd work his way through his repertoire and something in there would hit the chord he was aiming for. It was a pretty extensive repertoire, after all. In the meantime he could make do with playing on the cultural differences. Not that those seemed to work all that well, either.

That was just it, Tony thought, filling the reservoir of the coffee machine and dropping a liner into the basket. Nothing seemed to throw her off. Not even Gibbs, and Gibbs threw everyone. Tony had been counting it a point of pride that he handled Gibbs better than either McGee or Kate, even if he did get smacked regularly.

And then suddenly Ziva David appears and for all that Gibbs growled at her and took her weapons away, there was the inescapable feeling that the two of them were sharing some sort of in joke. He hated being left out of in jokes.

Tony paused in between scoops of coffee grounds, his scowl fading. An in joke. That's exactly what it felt like. Absently, he tipped another four scoops of coffee into the filter and closed the basket. Gibbs and Ziva had to be keeping some sort of secret. Something that made her relax around him, something that made him cut her a little more slack than he normally would.

The plunk of coffee striking the bottom of the carafe momentarily interrupted Tony's thoughts. He watched it for a minute, waiting for there to be enough for a cup. Pulling the carafe off the warming plate, it was only when he poured the coffee into his mug that Tony realized he'd automatically made it to Gibbs's taste--ridiculously strong--rather than his own.

"What's wrong with me?" Tony moaned to himself, replacing the carafe and setting the cup of six-scoops-to-a-cup coffee down on the counter with a thump.

A hand reached around his body and picked up the mug. "Other than a little food poisoning, nothing as far as I can tell."

Tony turned around slowly, leaned back against the counter, and watched Gibbs drink the coffee he'd made.

"Not bad," Gibbs pronounced. He quirked an eyebrow. "Little stronger than I thought you liked it."

"I was distracted," Tony said. "I gotta ask, boss. What's up with you and Ziva? Is there something going on that I don't know about? I mean, she winked at you. Why are you going so easy on her?"

"And not on you?" Gibbs asked.

Tony fought down an embarrassed flush and nodded shortly. "You ride me harder than anyone else. I thought it was just you, but McGee and Ziva have practically gotten the velvet touch. For you, anyway."

Gibbs took a long sip of the coffee and leveled his gaze at Tony. "You were an experienced investigator when I got you, DiNozzo. I didn't think you needed to be coddled."

"I don't!" Tony said quickly. "But there's a difference between coddling and being nice."

"Thought it freaked you out when I was nice."

Now Tony was just confused. "You have your own kind of nice," he said lamely.

Gibbs smirked at him for a moment. "You want the 'velvet touch', DiNozzo? Invite me out for a drink sometime." He turned and left the break room, pausing briefly at the door to lift the mug. "Thanks for the coffee."

Tony stood there and blinked to himself for a moment. Eventually he just shook his head. That couldn't have happened. Gibbs has practically invited Tony to invite him out for a date. Or something. It had to be a hallucination.

Opening the fridge, Tony retrieved a couple leftover miniature pots of creamer to dilute the coffee with. Turning back, he opened one to pour into his mug. His mug which was not there. Right. Gibbs had taken it with him.


Tony would have to go find the man. To get his mug back, if nothing else.