The thing about Tony's apartment is that it's a typical bachelor pad. Unremarkable furniture, an expensive stereo system hooked up to a plasma TV, stacks of DVDs, a fridge full of condiments and leftover Chinese food, and a giant bed that's more often than not unmade. At least he makes a token effort to keep the bathroom from growing mold and he doesn't leave dirty clothes strewn around the place like some single guys I've known.

I haven't been there much. Just enough to know what it looks like and know how to get there. We don't do much socializing outside of work--spending sixteen hour days together tends to inspire a need for time away, when we can get it. But I've picked him up there on a case, or dropped him off after one. And there are occasional times when a case has gone wrong or it's just been a long day and the only ones we can lean on are each other. So I've had a drink or two there, just like he's had a drink or two at my place.

Tonight was one of those nights. We ended up at his place after a bad case that ended up with one suspect dead, another in custody, and a way too close call on Gibbs' part that left both me and Tony shaking at how close we'd come to losing our idiot of a boss.

Not that either of us would ever tell him that. Well, I shouldn't say that. Tony just might.

So we trudged our weary way into his apartment and sank down on the overstuffed couch and opened a couple of beers. We didn't talk, just drank and leaned back into the cushions, groaning with relief to finally be done with the day.

I looked around out of habit--I'm a profiler, it's what I *do*. And something just...looked different. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but then again, I was exhausted and having a beer and not really focusing.

But my curiosity got the better of me. So I pushed myself to my feet and prowled around.

"Sorry, Kate," Tony said wryly. "If you're looking for my hidden stack of cash, it's elsewhere."

"I'm amazed you'd manage to save enough to *have* one," I tossed back.

"You wound me!" He sagged back against the couch, hand over his heart. "Just because I enjoy the finer things in life..."

I snorted and ran my hand over the bookcase, noticing a few new titles. Some nautical history, a book on shipbuilding--things I wouldn't have thought Tony would have any interest in. "New hobby?" I asked.

He shrugged and drained his beer. "I need another one of these. You?"

"Sure." He'd driven and I was planning on taking a cab home, so it wasn't like I needed to worry about impaired reflexes.

"Be right back."

He got up and went into the kitchen and I took advantage. I admit it. I opened the bedroom door and peeked inside, curious about what else I might find.

For starters, the bed was made. Not just a haphazard job, either. The covers were pulled up evenly, the pillows were fresh and neat, and it even looked like he'd swept the floor recently. I saw a pair of sneakers at the foot of the bed, along with a windbreaker tossed over the chest at the bottom. His nightstand had an alarm clock and a few toiletries, like usual. But there was another nightstand, on the other side of the bed. It had an alarm clock and a book on it, although I couldn't read the title from where I was.

Okay, so Tony had a girlfriend he hadn't told us about. Not like him, but hey, maybe it was serious.

"Curious about my sleeping habits, Kate? All you ever had to do was ask." Tony gave me a leer and a cold bottle, clinking his own against mine.

I rolled my eyes out of habit. "Some of us don't need to imagine our co-workers' sex lives," I said dryly. "In fact, some of us would rather not."

"But where's the fun in that?" Tony grinned and took a swallow of beer.

"So is this serious?" I asked, nodding at the neatly made bed and the nightstand.

To my surprise, Tony didn't brush me off with a glib answer. He just shrugged. "Could be. I don't know."

I looked at him in surprise. For him to admit that meant it *had* to be serious. "Where'd you meet her?" I asked, taking a drink.

"Through work. Not someone trying to kill me, for once." Tony gave me a half-smile and looked around the bedroom before ushering me out and shutting the door. "I think I have some pretzels," he said, padding into the kitchen. "Or we could order pizza."

"Pretzels are fine." Frankly, I was too tired to eat anything else.

"Cool." He grabbed the bag and tossed it to me. We sat back down on the couch and opened it, getting salt and crumbs everywhere.

His cell phone rang and he snagged it, flipping it open. "Hey," he said, his voice softer than usual. "Yeah, I'm okay. You?"

I watched him curiously. Despite all his talk and the endless stream of women that seemed to come and go from his life, I'd never really seen him interact with any of them on more than a superficial level. As a profiler, it was a fascinating insight into his life. As his co-worker, I was just curious.

"No, it's okay. I was just having a beer with Kate." Tony laughed, and I was struck by how relaxed he looked, how open. "Yeah--well, you know. You were there."

There? What did his girlfriend know and where had she been? "No, *I'm* fine. I'm not the one who nearly--" Tony sighed and dropped his head into his hand.

Oh my God. Suddenly it all clicked into place. Someone from work. The books. The neatly made bed. The bottle of bourbon I'd seen and ignored in the kitchen. The running shoes at the foot of the bed. I could only stare, dumbfounded, as Tony ran a hand through his hair and sighed again. "Yeah. I know. It was still stupid. No, don't give me that. You know it was a stupid thing to do. At the very least you should have--" He sighed. "Okay, fine. Yeah. I know." Tony rolled his eyes. "Okay. Yeah. I should go, though. I'll--yeah. Night. Yeah." He smiled softly. "Take care of yourself. I'm not there to do it for you."

He flipped his phone closed and turned to me and I must have looked like the world's biggest idiot, staring at him with my beer bottle in my hand and my mouth hanging open.

"Oh," he said quietly.

I closed my mouth. "How long?" I managed to ask.

Tony shrugged. "Couple months."

"What--why?"

Tony picked up his beer bottle and drained about half of it. "Damn if I know, Kate." He gave me a wry smile. "Does wonders for my ladies' man reputation, doesn't it?"

I could only shake my head dumbly. "Were you ever going to tell me?"

"I don't know. We hadn't gotten that far yet. We're still kind of figuring this thing out." Tony shrugged, picking at the label on his bottle.

"Did I interrupt anything tonight?"

"No. It's okay. After a day like today, we both need some space."

That didn't ring true to me. It was pretty obvious that Tony thought Gibbs needed space, and Gibbs thought Tony needed space, and they'd both have been happier with each other instead of apart. I didn't need to be a profiler to see that.

Then again, I *was* a profiler and I hadn't seen this coming. "What happened?" I asked, finally.

Tony shook his head and smiled a little. "I still have no idea. It was after the McKinney case. He invited me in for a cup of coffee--and I still don't know why he did that. And somehow, we went from making coffee to making out. He had me pinned up against the counter before I could blink."

*I* had to blink at that. Not because I couldn't picture it, but because I could picture it all too well. And that made something in my stomach clench and I just wasn't going to think about that right now.

"Anyway. That was the beginning. And...somewhere along the line we went from sleeping together to...something else."

Something more, I filled in silently.

Tony shrugged. "No one else knows, at least not that I know of. Ducky hasn't said anything, and neither has Abby."

"They probably don't know," I told him. Ducky might know Gibbs better than the rest of us, but...if *I* hadn't figured it out, odds were they hadn't either. "So is this serious, Tony?"

"I...really couldn't tell you." Tony grinned. "I have no idea. Maybe?"

Which meant it had to be. I took a swallow of beer and leaned forward, resting my hand on his. "If he hurts you, I will kill hm," I told him.

Tony just stared at me. "Why?"

Ouch. That hurt. Sometimes I forgot that behind Tony's brash, arrogant, admittedly immature exterior was someone we didn't see very often, if at all. Someone a little insecure, a little more vulnerable. Hints of it showed through occasionally, but never more than that.

And I'd just gotten hit over the head with one.

I sighed, trying to figure out how to phrase it. "You don't have it in you to be cruel, not the way Gibbs does. You wouldn't--you couldn't hurt him deliberately. But he could, Tony. He could hurt you. And much as I think you're an immature jerk half the time--"

"Only half?" he interrupted with a grin. "Damn, I'm slipping."

"As I was *saying*," I said, glaring at him, "you're kind of like one of my brothers. We gave each other a hard time growing up, but I'd have gone to the wall for them any day of the week, just like they would have for me."

"Yeah." Tony smiled a little and squeezed my hand. "Hey, are we having a moment here?"

I rolled my eyes. "How the hell *does* he put up with you?"

"Sometimes I wonder that myself." Tony grinned. "Must be my stunning good looks and charm."

"Keep telling yourself that, DiNozzo." I sighed and got to my feet. "Time to get home, I think."

"You want me to call you a cab?"

I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head. "I'll take the Metro," I said. It wasn't a long walk on either end and I could use the fresh air. With any luck, it would clear my head.

"Okay." Tony walked me to the door. "Sleep well, Kate."

"You too. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah, something like that." To my complete surprise, Tony kissed me on the cheek before opening the door.

I made it home on auto-pilot and fell into bed, wondering just how I'd missed this the whole time. It was more than a little unsettling, to say the least. How had they managed to keep it a secret--and what did that mean for their future?
 
 
 
  Previous / Next e-mail Rebecca home