McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 334: Pitfalls
Tony brings Bishop into the bullpen and introduces her, and Gibbs feels his heart freeze.
She's young. She's really young. And blonde, and pretty, and innocent, and bubbly and cute and just, shit. Sure, she's dressed for an interview, so her hair's up and she's got a cream colored suit on, but… she just radiates cute and playful.
She's a problem waiting to happen.
She's a problem he's really hoping Tony's outgrown.
Really, really hoping.
He smiles and shakes her hand and notices that Tony's introducing her as Bishop, which he thinks is good, but…
Shit. This could go so bad so fast, and bite Tony so hard in the ass he'll limp for the rest of his life.
Gibbs knew Bishop was a woman. That was clear from the resume. But his mental image of her was someone older, less attractive, less cute. Someone a whole lot more Eleanor. God, she's a puppy, so light and bubbly and eager to make everyone around her happy.
She's talking to Tim and Draga, getting acquainted, and Gibbs is just staring.
Tony catches the look, and Gibbs looks toward the elevator. Tony nods, wondering what Gibbs is seeing that he isn't. He can feel the worry coming off Gibbs but doesn't know what's setting it off.
She looks over to him, away from McGee. "Yes?"
"We're mostly coffee drinkers here. First one's on me. Next one's," he gestures to the group, indicating she's getting a whole round, "on you. What do you like?"
"Ohhh…" She thinks about it. "Half-caff macchiato with a shot of vanilla syrup and whipped cream."
Tony nods, burning that into his memory, and he and Gibbs go on the coffee run. Two seconds after the elevator doors close, he whacks the emergency stop.
Gibbs stares at him, not sure how to even start saying this, because he knows this is going to be touchy. But… Just… SHIT! "You can't be bending or breaking the sexual harassment rules if you're the Boss."
Because they do, generally, ignore them. They always treated them like a joke, did everything they could to get out of having to deal with them, and Gibbs knows he turned a blind eye to everything Tony dished out to Kate and Ziva, mostly because if they couldn't handle him, he knew they weren't tough enough for field work.
But Tony's the Boss now, and he can't pull that crap. If he does… Shit. And… in the more than ten years since they hired Ziva those rules went from something they all winked at to laws that had to be followed.
And Tony's reacting exactly the way Gibbs expects him to. He's staring at him, horrified, hurt, stammering, "I'm not…!"
Gibbs holds his hands up. "Just, listen, okay? Not your Boss, not right now. But as your friend, as a Dad, as someone who wants the best for you and wants you to succeed in everything you do, please, take this seriously. You cannot be crossing, bending, stepping on, or even getting near the line with her. And, if the stuff Penny says about her school is anything to go by, the line's about three miles closer than you or I think it should be, and none of these kids have any sense of humor."
"Please. Get the regs, re-read them, and then go talk to Penny; she's going to have a much better idea of how someone Bishop's age understands this stuff. Because I know it's not how we do."
Tony's looking stunned, hurt, and like someone's shining a light on the parts of himself that he doesn't like seeing, let alone anyone else seeing.
"I love Ziva."
Gibbs winces, that's a direction he wasn't thinking, but… Yeah, that's in play now, too. He was thinking about Tony making some sort of stupid joke or off color comment or… but not that. "I know you do. I know you're faithful to her, and I know you're going to stay faithful to her. I trust you on that. But… God, you make the wrong joke, or she catches you looking…" Tony appears unhappy at that, but Gibbs knows Tony's gonna look, he's married, not blind, and Bishop is well worth looking at. "You and I both got away with things with Kate because she would take it, part of proving she belonged in the boys' club. Ziva knew anything you dished out she could take and double down on. You don't know how Bishop understands this stuff, you're more than twenty years older than she is, and she's married, so anything you do may seem really creepy to her."
Tony's glaring at Gibbs. "What do you think I'm going to do?"
"I don't know, use her deodorant? Take your shirt off in the bullpen? Talk too loud with Draga about when you got laid last? I don't know! And that's why I'm worried. That stupid porn conversation you guys were having last month might be her idea of sexual harassment. Or… remember that time Borin was talking about playing softball left-handed and you made that comment about swinging both ways? First time you met Kate, she asked about sketching, and your example for scale was a model's cup size, I know you know that's out of bounds now, but…"
Tony's nodding, getting an idea of what sort of minefield this might be. "I'll re-read the regs."
"Good. Talk to Penny, too."
Tony flicks the elevator back on, and it gets less than ten feet down before he hits the stop again.
"Did I just shoot myself in the ass?"
Now Gibbs isn't sure what the problem is, so he says, "Not if you keep your mouth in line."
"Not what I'm thinking."
"What are you thinking?"
He's thinking that, ten seconds ago, he'd been really insulted at the idea of the sexual harassment thing meaning him flirting with or hitting on Bishop. That Gibbs was hitting him on something he was trying hard not to be. But he wasn't. And yeah, inappropriate jokes/comments is a possible issue.
But once Gibbs got off that idea of crossing more personal lines with Ellie, Tony got onto it. And he'd quickly shifted from feeling like he's a million years old and she's some new little puppy to noticing that Ellie Bishop is very attractive.
"I'm thinking as Ziva's Dad, you're gonna kill me for this."
"Right now, I'm your friend. And even in full on avenging Dad-mode, I'm not going to do anything to you for just thinking. And you haven't done anything yet, so talk to me, and let's not end up with Ziva's Dad putting together his sniper's rifle."
Tony flicks on the elevator. "Someone's going to want to use this eventually. Too cold for outside. Locker room's usually empty this time of day."
Gibbs nods, and off they go.
Tony does check to see that it's empty, and it is. Gibbs sits down on one of the benches and Tony paces between the lockers and the bench. He's not talking, just sort of moving back and forth, trying to get this right in his head, so he can say it to Gibbs.
He's not attracted to Ellie. She's cute, she's perky, she's pretty, but he's not feeling any spark for her. However… thinking about it... He can see a situation where he could. He can see it happening very easily, and it scares the shit out of him.
Every woman he's worked with, gotten close to, trusted his life to, he's fallen for. Adrenaline, the fight or flight chemicals pumping through your system, the chase, that soaring high of getting the bad guy, add that to a beautiful woman sharing it with you, and it's almost as good, and for him, often more intimate, than sex. Definitely more intimate than sex with anyone who wasn't Ziva or Wendy.
This might be a much bigger problem than he was anticipating. And worse, the net of help he depends on, people who keep him straight and narrow, they're all leaving.
"Tim's gone Monday. You're gone two Mondays after that. Ziva's leaving… whenever she leaves. Draga can't do it…"
Gibbs watches him walking around.
"She's leaving. She's going to go get pregnant, and have the baby, and she's going to change, and she'll be focused on it, and… I'll be here, but she won't be. Her being here keeps me in line. And I just hired my dad's hot secretary's body double."
Gibbs nods. He gets this. Just because you love your wife doesn't mean every other woman on Earth goes away. Doesn't mean you stop wanting. He knows that worries Tony, because they talked about it when they talked about him marrying Ziva.
He knows that love isn't always enough. And he knows that people are frail and do stupid things.
And he knows that Tony's actively scared of doing something stupid.
"You guys would keep me in line. She keeps me in line. But you won't be here."
Gibbs nods at that, too. "Bishop going to do what you need her to?"
Tony gets that Gibbs is asking did you just hire someone cute and decorative, or can she do the job. "I think so. New job, new way of looking at the old job, but I think she'll do it, and be good at it. That's probably part of the problem, too. If she isn't good at it, I likely won't be interested. But she'll be good, she'll be working with me, all day, late nights, talking killers and terrorists, overnight trips to God knows where and who knows what cover IDs, and I'll go home and Ziva'll be talking diapers and teething."
"You're afraid Ziva'll be less interesting to you?"
Tony waffles on that, but he is afraid. "She's going to change."
Gibbs nods. "She is. So are you."
"My ninja's becoming a soccer mom."
"I love the ninja. I fell in love with the ninja. I married the ninja. Me and her taking on the world, together, catching the bad guys."
"She's not dying, Tony."
"No… but… our life is."
Gibbs nods at that, too. Life as they knew it is coming to a close. Life as all of them know it is ending right now.
"And it's not like I'm looking at Bishop and thinking 'I want some of that.' I don't. And you suggesting it—"
"It pissed me off anyway."
"But she could…" That's not right. This is on him, not Bishop. "But I could find her attractive. Kate, Cassidy, Jen, Ziva, of course Ziva, always Ziva, EJ… Borin's the only woman we work with regularly that I've never been interested in."
"The job's so intense and…"
"Tony, I know. Rule 12 didn't just come to me in a dream one day."
"Twelve involved your third marriage going down the crapper?"
Gibbs shakes his head. "That marriage was… It was never good, Tony. Jen didn't kill it. Desire for Jen didn't kill it. But wanting Jen, thinking that maybe, somehow I could have her. That screwed a lot of things up."
Tony nods. "For a long time, I thought twelve meant don't get caught."
Gibbs nods, he knows exactly what Tony did with twelve and how to get around it, and he knows how Tony got burned on Cassidy and EJ.
"When I was married to Shannon…" He's never come close to saying anything like this to Tony, but right now he thinks Tony needs to hear this. "I loved her more than anything in the world." Gibbs smiles sadly. "Still do. But, even with that… I'm not going to say I never looked. Not going to say I didn't think about it." And Gibbs' look gets across that some of those thoughts involved some pretty vigorous hand motions, too. "And there were nights I did extra rounds, took extra sentry duty, and made sure I had a buddy with me all night so I wasn't alone. Because the job is intense, and when they're with you, going through it, and home's far away and it's been a long time, and… And you know. You've felt it. But you do the rounds, you make sure you aren't alone, you call us for help if you need it, and we'll come. None of us are going to think less of you if you call at one in the morning because it's late and you've been on a case non-stop for two days, and she's telling you her back hurts and wouldn't a quick rub feel so good. That happens, you get the fuck away from her, you call, we'll be there. You do what you need to do to make sure you don't end up in a bad situation with her.
"That's love. That's being a man. That's knowing that what you have is worth more than what you can get." He stares at Tony, decides to go crude as hell, because right now, that's part of this. "There's pussy all over the goddamn world, and it's all yummy, and we all want it, and it's easy as hell to get. If anyone knows that, you do. But there's only one woman attached to a pussy that lights up your life and makes you glad to be alive. So you be a man, you be a husband, and you keep control of yourself, and if you get shaky you call for back-up and we get you through it."
"That's being a good husband. But you've got to be a Boss, too. I don't have a great track record with this, but… You do whatever it is you have to not to see her as someone you can have. It was easy to see Abby as a daughter. We just clicked like that. After Ziva killed Ari, that slipped into place, too.
"But Kate had a dad. She didn't need me to be her father. She didn't want me to be her father. And… I wanted her so much. All the time those first few months. I had a girlfriend, but I still wanted her. She was so good at her job, and smart and strong and beautiful and…" Gibbs shakes his head at that. Three quarters of his interest in Allison Hart had been based on how much she reminded him of Kate. And right now he doesn't want to think about how much of his attraction to Rachel was Rachel or similarities to and memories of Kate. "But I was the Boss. And I'd already been down that road and it had been a disaster." Gibbs looks a bit embarrassed by this, but, it… Maybe worked is a bit of an overstatement, but it made it easier. "I finally started telling myself you two had a thing. I wasn't going to mess it up for you guys. I got it so deeply embedded in there, that…" He lets that trail off. Tony probably doesn't need to know about that… vision, fantasy, whatever that was. "It helped some. Your future girlfriend was off limits, so that was that." Gibbs can hear Penny yelling at him in his head on that, that he had an easier time dealing with Tony's claim on Kate than just shutting himself down. but he's thinking that isn't very important to this. "Bishop's married. You are. Use those rings as anchors. It might help."
Tony nods at that, and Gibbs knows this must be serious because he's not getting any ribbing on being attracted to Kate.
"You were Jen's Boss when…"
"Yeah." Gibbs rubs his eyes. "She was my first Probie, at least, first one as Team Leader. And Burley was trying to keep me in line, but it didn't work. I didn't want to be kept in line, and Jen really didn't want me in line. I married Stephanie as part of trying to keep myself in line, and you know how well that worked."
Tony sits down on the other end of the bench. "Not even sure what to think about that."
"I mean, you couldn't do it. You can do anything…"
"I didn't want to do it. I put myself and Jen into a situation where it was going to get sticky. The only reason Burley didn't get sent into Paris is that I didn't want to share Jen. Say you do find yourself wanting Bishop, you gonna go on a two-month-long deep cover op, where your cover is couple-in-love with just her?"
"And that's the difference. When I wanted to do it, I did. Sure, there weren't a lot of beautiful women in Iraq, and they kept the female Marines away from us, but Colombia was a different story and so was Nicaragua. But that time, I knew I had something at home worth guarding, so I did it."
Tony sits quietly, thinking about it.
"It doesn't get easy. Your dick wants what it wants and the fact that your head and heart know it's a bad idea doesn't change things. But like I said earlier, I trust you. Ziva trusts you. I looked at Bishop and saw you saying something that horrified her, making a bad joke at the wrong time, maybe looking a bit too long or standing a bit too close, but that's it."
Tony nods. He looks at his watch. This is way too long for a "coffee run." "Let's get the drinks and get back there."
When they get back, Bishop grins at him, taking the pro-offered coffee. She takes a sip. "Perfect. McGee was telling us about going after Saleem and using the Caf-Pow trail to find him. That's one of the things I used to do. Just on a much, much bigger scale."
She's all smiley and perky and chatting with Ziva and Tim and Draga, and Tony watches, thinking, studying what he's feeling. He's not feeling any attraction to her. She's pretty, she's aesthetically pleasing, but... no spark, no craving. He looks a Bishop as she talks to Ziva, the way she's leaning toward Ziva, listening carefully, asking good questions, and he's pleased by that. She looks like she's going to make a good student, good addition to the team.
He looks at Ziva and sees his whole world standing there.
And right now, he's thinking, hoping, this is going to be okay.