Christmas Countdown: December 2
"Gibbs I'm freezing my bells off."
Tony's complaint wasn't entirely unexpected; Gibbs knew his lover far too well to expect anything less. Rather than responding right away, Gibbs just silently handed Tony a fresh cup of coffee and took over the bell work. Tony didn't immediately drink, instead wrapping his hands around the paper cup and holding his face over the steam rising off of it. Tony was all for charitable works, but when they impacted his personal comfort like ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, his enthusiasm tended to wane a bit.
"It's barely down to freezing, DiNozzo," Gibbs pointed out once Tony had a chance to savor the warmth in his hands. "I think you'll survive."
"It's a cumulative effect," Tony huffed, finally taking a sip of the hot beverage.
Gibbs bit back a smile. "I don't think you're in any danger of losing any extremities. "
"I better not," Tony warned. "There's one extremity that you're particularly fond of."
There was more than one part of Tony's body that Gibbs was fond of, but they were in public and Gibbs couldn't respond the way he wanted to; namely to do a hands-on check of the particular extremity in question. Instead, he filed the thought away for future reference and tried a different tactic to deal with Tony's attitude. With sex out of the question, the other certain way to get Tony's cooperation was to appeal to his competitive nature.
"The FBI have the corner on the other side of the mall," Gibbs mentioned casually. "Fornell was bragging that his team would bring in more than us."
Tony looked up, eyes narrowed. "He did?"
"Yeah," Gibbs took another sip of his coffee. "Might have placed a little bet on it."
"What kind of bet?" Tony seemed offended at the very idea.
"Might have had something to do with the loser wearing a `Property of' sweatshirt," Gibbs stated blandly. "The whole team."
"Oh, hell, no," Tony growled. "I am not wearing a skanky `Property of the FBI shirt. No way, no how." He glared at Gibbs. "Great, it's only me and you ringing the bell - you should have let Ziva come."
"Not her holiday," Gibbs shrugged.
While that was entirely true, the fact that Ziva was Jewish wasn't the reason Gibbs hadn't wanted her to participate in the charity work. He was too worried about her shooting someone who hadn't donated sufficiently to her satisfaction.
"Well, McGrinch should be here." Tony complained. "He's a regular Boy Scout, little old ladies would empty their purses for him."
Gibbs shook his head. "McGee has a cold."
"So?" Tony countered, as he started digging out his phone. "That would get him sympathy points."
"Put the phone away, Tony," Gibbs ordered. "McGee's sick."
"Well, what about Abby?" Tony began to sound desperate. "We'd clean up if she were out here too. Everybody loves Abby."
"It's bowling night," Gibbs simply said.
Unlike with McGee, Tony didn't protest. He was well aware of Abby's devotion to her bowling team and that she wouldn't want to let the Sisters down.
Tony straightened his shoulders and held out his hand. "Well, I guess it's just you and me. Cover my back, Boss."
Gibbs gave Tony the bell and then stepped back to watch the show.
And quite a show it was.
Tony was a people person and seemed know how to approach each potential donor to the red bucket. He sympathized with harried parents, was respectful to military personnel, and sweet-talked little old ladies. Not surprisingly, flirtation was also a tool in Tony's arsenal and he used it shamelessly. Gibbs watched indulgently. Tony was an artist, in his own way and, complaints about the chilly weather aside, he knew that Tony would enjoy himself thoroughly once he got into it.
For the most part, observing the flirtation didn't bother him, because Gibbs knew who Tony was going home with. The one exception became a mature man who eyed Tony like he was something good to eat. He insisted on giving Tony the money personally, instead of putting it in the bucket, and then his thumb lingered just a little too long on the back of Tony's hand. Gibbs decided to nip that in the bud, even though Tony was more than capable of dealing with unwanted attention himself.
"Is there a problem here?" Gibbs came up behind Tony silently. He spoke quietly, but Gibbs had a lot of practice of loading a lot of menace into his tone.
The stranger took one look at Gibbs' eyes and gulped. "No, no problem." He hurried off in the opposite direction he'd originally been headed.
"Gee, Gibbs, Neanderthal much?" Tony teased, but Gibbs could hear the satisfaction in his lover's voice. Tony could have taken care of the situation himself, but he enjoyed not having to.
"We're done," Gibbs told him.
"What, because of that putz?" Tony protested. He seemed to have forgotten his reluctance for the whole bell-ringing activity.
"Nope," Gibbs took the bell from Tony's hand. The younger man had been ringing it so hard and so long that his fingers stayed curled. Despite being in public, Gibbs gently rubbed Tony's hand until they relaxed. "Time's up."
Gibbs nodded to the side, where the next group of volunteers was waiting to take over.
"Oh," Tony relaxed against Gibbs. "Okay."
After handing off the bell, the two men started walking towards their car. They were halfway there when Tony suddenly stopped.
"Hey," he exclaimed. "How are we gonna know if we beat Fornell?"
"We're not," Gibbs stated. He put a hand on the small of Tony's back and got him moving again.
That worked for a couple of steps before Tony stopped again. "We're not going to beat Fornell or we're not going to find out?"
"Neither," Gibbs answered. "There was no bet."
Tony stuttered, which distracted him enough for Gibbs to get him moving again. "You lied?"
"I said there might be a bet," Gibbs calmly reminded him. "Didn't mean that there actually was."
They reached the car, but Tony stopped short of getting in. "That's sneaky, Boss."
"Yup," Gibbs wasn't the least bit apologetic. "Now, get in the car, DiNozzo."
"You're in an awful big hurry to get home," Tony didn't seem eager to comply, maybe because he'd just found out he'd been fooled. "The night is still young, maybe we should-. . . ."
"Get in the car, Tony," Gibbs got right up into Tony's face so that the younger man could see how intent he was. "We're going to go home and I'm going to ring your bell but good."
It was funny, but Tony didn't protest any more.
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