"Need a neck rub? I'm pretty fantastic at giving neck rubs."
Dean grins to himself despite his exhaustion; he presses the heels of his hands into his eyes and lets out a world-weary sigh before blinking blearily over at his boyfriend, who's standing in the doorway to the bathroom wearing nothing but a scratchy motel towel slung low on his hips. He's got two bottles of beer, one in each hand, and a seemingly innocent smirk on his face.
But if there's one thing the eldest Winchester brother knows, it's that Anthony DiNozzo never smirks innocently.
"A beer for me?" Dean muses. "Just tell me when, baby, and I'll put a nice ring on that finger."
Tony chews his cheek, employing his classic passive-aggressive expression before walking over to the table at which Dean sits, Sam's laptop open in front of him along with the Winchester journal and some scattered papers. Tony sets a sweating bottle in an empty patch of table beside the laptop and parks himself in the chair opposite Dean.
"So," he starts, this time actually sounding passive-aggressive as he brings the bottle up to his lips, "what brings your pretty little ass over to DC again?"
Dean hesitates. Tony knows what he does, but seeing as telling the truth practically put a catastrophic end to their very intense relationship, Dean's always been careful about bringing it up when he's in Tony's presence. "Ghost," he says carefully, stapling his eyes to the laptop screen.
"Is it the same one that was attacking my team?" Tony asks, almost genuinely concerned.
"No. Sam and I ganked that one for good."
Tony nods, clearly trying to hide his relief. "Whatever ganked means I'm guessing it's a good thing for us." He takes another swig of beer, then begins to watch Dean as he goes back to reading the amateur info page on the laptop. It's one of three things illuminating the room, the other two being the lone lamp on the wall above the double bed some feet away and the light from the bathroom across the room. In the dim light Tony can see just how tired Dean is; how he's still conscious is a mystery not even the criminal investigator can solve.
"How you doin', Dean?" he asks softly. He doesn't expect a positive answer.
There's a few beats before Dean peels his wide gaze from the screen and meets Tony's eyes. Something stirs in the older man's chest. "Honestly? I'm about to put a stake through my skull."
That's exactly what Tony wanted to hear. He sets his beer down on the table and reaches over, shutting the laptop gently. "Come on," he murmurs. "Sam will get the rest of the research done. Time to get you to bed."
Dean's got his arms wrapped tightly around Tony's chest from behind when he manages to fall halfway unconscious. Tony, however, is still wide awake, his right hand brushing absent patterns on Dean's wrist, brows furrowed in silent concentration. He can feel Dean's steady breath on the back on his neck, the little involuntary grunts he makes as he slips further and further into sleep...it's comforting. Five years ago he never would have imagined he would end up in a relationship with a man, but once he found himself thinking about Dean in more-than-friendly ways, it wasn't all that surprising. He was pretty much his type.
But the motels....
Five full seconds pass before Dean replies. He shifts so his bare chest is pressed into Tony's equally bare back. "Mmm?"
"Next time you should stay at my apartment while you're in D.C. This...the motels, you're wasting money you don't have." He grimaces. "And I'm not even legally supposed to know about your...financial methods...."
"I couldn't do that to Sam."
Tony sighs and nods. "Can you blame me for trying?"
Wordlessly—and still somewhat groggily—Dean reaches up to turn Tony's head around, giving him room to shift onto his back before leaning up and pressing their lips together firmly.
"'Sokay," he murmurs, mile-long eyelashes resting on defined cheekbones as Dean tries and fails to open his eyes. "I'll talk...."
Tony searches his face, eyes adjusted to the dark. He presses his fingertips into the small of Dean's back, the dip beneath the waistband of his boxers. "You'll...talk to Sam?"
"Mmm," is all Dean manages before he's down for the count.
Tony plants an affectionate kiss to his forehead. "I doubt that, dude."
When Dean wakes up to uncomfortable sunlight attempting to peer in from behind the grungy motel curtains, he's alone in bed. A twinge of disappointment and guilt pokes him in the head upon sitting up and spotting a piece of stationery on the table. He knows that sign...it's one he's quite familiar with but not so much recently.
Just as he hauls himself out of bed and pops his neck a few times (earning a satisfied shudder and groan), a knock at the door breaks through his sluggishness.
"Dean, it's me. I got coffee for you guys."
Dean shuffles over to the door and opens it, rubbing sleep from his eyes as Sam's ever-innocent face towers over him, holding in one hand a cardboard coffee tray with three cups in holders and assorted sugar and cream packets stuffed in the empty one.
"Tony's not here," Dean replies, leaning against the door.
Sam frowns. "...Well where'd he go?"
"I dunno. Probably went to work. He left a note on the table, haven't read it yet."
Decades of hunting has taught Dean Winchester several important things, one of which being how to read a tense situation seconds before it happens. They're only seconds; then again seconds are the difference between life and death when you deal with ghosts and demons and monsters and death staring you in the face every day. That skill helps the brothers think quickly, helps them decide what to do in no time flat, and it comes in handy right about now as Sam's frown deepens and he turns his head towards the parking lot behind him.
"You might wanna read that note, Dean."
And of course, the sight of Tony's car sitting in the spot beside Dean's '67 Chevy Impala, right where it'd been the night before, is one of those times when Dean can't think of anything at all.
Dean grips the note written on the motel stationery in his hand, not sure whether to feel relieved or concerned. He supposes he should feel grateful that the note says "Went for a jog" as opposed to "Kidnapped by demons, yikes" but the sensation in his gut is still not one he's completely comfortable with having.
He sips tentatively at the coffee his brother had brought him, brow furrowed. "Sam, hand me my phone, wouldya?"
"You think Tony's in trouble?" the younger man asks, grabbing the cell off the nightstand and carrying over to Dean.
Dean takes the phone from Sam's outstretched hand but doesn't answer him. He notes the genuine concern in his voice and appreciates it, though, as he flips open the phone and dials a number he had committed to memory early in the game. It rings twice exactly before someone picks up.
"NCIS, this is Agent Timothy McGee...."
Tim glances at the caller ID on the phone before slumping slightly in his desk chair, clearly not ready for this torture so early in the morning. "Is everyone calling me that, now?"
Dean smirks reflexively, carefully peeling off the lid of his coffee cup. "You know, Tony's right; I really could get used to that."
"That's wonderful, Dean." Tim narrows his eyes over to Tony's empty desk, then casts his gaze past the top of Ziva's head and to the elevators, getting more nervous by the second that his boss is going to stride out of it. "Speaking of Tony, do you know where he is? He's late."
Pouring a packet of sugar into his coffee, Dean swallows. The bitterness of the first few sips sticks in his throat as it lands that his companion is not at work either. "He's sick," he lies. "I um...wanted to call in on his behalf."
There's something in his voice that doesn't sit well with Tim. The agent lowers his tone and ducks his head behind his computer monitor, hoping the busy noise of the surrounding bullpens will drown out the carry of sound. "Is everything okay?"
"Yeah," Dean rasps. He really should calm down; he has no valid reason for panic at this point. He would've noticed or woken up had a demon or other monster come into the motel room, plus the signs like sulfur or chilled air...Tony probably did actually go for a jog. Dean starts feeling a little silly. "He must've come down with something. I'll send him in the minute he feels better."
He closes the phone before Tim has a chance to speak again.
Sam suggests calling Castiel to find Tony but Dean flatly refuses, arguing that the angel had better things to do than a menial task set by him. Plus, he'd gotten an earful the last time he asked for something he was sure wasn't trivial before he actually asked for the favor. He couldn't remember everything Cas had said, but he remembered it equated to "stop bothering me you piece of shit I am an angel not a manservant" and a very ruffled exit on his part.
Dean assures Sam he'll be alright and he's left alone to pace the room while Sam retreats to his own to continue research for the job they're in D.C. for to begin with...and not ten minutes later the door opens once again.
Dean stops pacing. "Where've you been?"
Tony stops and blinks at him, glancing around the room for either an exit or a sign for the reason behind Dean's tone. "Uh...the note I wrote? Wasn't just there to make the table look pretty."
Dean's breath hitches at Tony's big "innocent" smile but his worry and pounding heart overcome that. He takes a few heavy steps towards him then halts. "In my line of work," he murmurs, voice wavering imperceptibly, "when people up and disappear for no easily confirmed reason—"
Tony winces. He hadn't thought about that. "Sorry." His tone is just a breath. "Sorry. I am. I was tired, I had to clear my head, I just didn't think about it. I'm fine." He holds his arms out as if to show he hasn't been injured in any way. NCIS-issued t-shirt clear of blood, sweatpants the same."See?"
Dean marches over to the duffel bag sitting on the armchair in the corner of the room. "Gimme your arm."
Cautiously closing the door and approaching Dean, Tony's brow furrows in confusion. "Why, what're you...?" He balks when Dean pulls his special knife from the bag. "Whoa, hold on a sec there, babe, I—"
"I'm not gonna hurt you," Dean says, placing a bottle of holy water on the table. "I just...have to make sure."
"Does making sure involve me bleeding to death because I don't really enjoy that plan."
Their eyes meet and Tony's guard wobbles. He trusts Dean, that's not the issue. It's the fear in his gaze that causes him to falter. The fear is quiet, like it's tired of existing, like Dean's tired of having to deal with all the precautions and suspicion and worry. Tony swallows.
He silently holds his left arm out to Dean, who takes a deep breath before sliding the sharp end of the blade against the smooth surface of his companion's skin, right beside a scar he'd gotten in the line of duty. Tony hisses, but it wasn't as bad as he'd expected. The blood wells and thickens the red line, and part of Dean seems to relax.
"Here," says Dean, offering a towel from the bag to press on the cut. His hand lingers on Tony's arm before he takes the bottle and unscrews the cap. "And here."
The federal agent takes the bottle and downs half the water in one go. When he's done, Dean's hands are on his face and their lips are crushed together in what feels like relieved frustration to Tony. He'd passed the tests, now comes the emotion.
Tony gladly returns the kiss, gripping the back of Dean's neck, squeezing firmly, reassuring him that yes, it's him and he's here and fine.
"I'm sorry," Tony whispers against Dean's lips. "I won't do that again, okay?"
Dean embraces him, and Tony can feel the frantic heartbeat slow down to a normal, gentle thrum.
Sam watches with a particularly defined bitch-face across the table as his older brother and a professional Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent shovel pancakes into their mouths as if they'd been declared illegal in all fifty states and D.C. is next. Tony pauses just long enough to reach across Dean's plate and grab the blueberry syrup pitcher, an action Dean ignores completely and maneuvers his own arm around Tony's to get a forkful of buttermilk goodness into his mouth.
"You know, IHOP's never gonna let us eat here again," Sam mutters. "They're gonna put out an APB to all the IHOPs in the country."
Dean gives a goofy smirk while chewing, picking up a piece of bacon from his and Tony's shared bacon plate. "You just don't understand the magic of food, man. You never have, and I gotta be honest, it hurts my feelings a little."
Tony suppresses a belch and nods in agreement. "Breakfast is the best meal of the day, Sam. When our waitress comes back you order something good; this is all my treat."
Sam's bitch-face deepens. "Your treat."
Nodding again, Tony lowers his voice and snatches a piece of bacon just as Dean dives for it. "You know I can't legally approve of your financial system so I'll do the paying."
Dean smiles smugly and spears a bite of pancake with his fork.
Sam glances down at his own finished plate that once held egg whites, whole-wheat toast, and turkey sausage. "I thought I did okay."
"Dude, that's not breakfast," Dean informs him sternly. "That's not even a snack. Pancakes, bacon, eggs sunny-side up, toast with jam, sausage, ham...this," he stirs his fork in the air, gesturing to his and Tony's dishes for emphasis, "is how you eat."
"I'll make sure to order half the restaurant next time," Sam murmurs indignantly as he roams his eyes once again over the plates taking up more than three fourths of the table.
"Have you made progress?" asks Tony around a mouthful of bacon. "Who's the ghost?"
"Well I didn't really get a lot of time to check it out this morning—" Dean looks affronted at this and takes his hand off of Tony's thigh under the table, "—but I think it might be more than one ghost."
"If they're not buried in the same plot right on top of each other I'm gonna be really pissed," Dean grumbles.
Sam raises his eyebrows. "I know. But luckily the Hannenbergs and the MacGuires are the only families being attacked so I think it's only two ghosts. It's a little weird that they attacked at the same time, but...."
"So just...run-of-the-mill ghosties then, huh?"
"Looks like it."
Tony seems particularly pleased by this as he turns to Dean. "You think you'll be done by lunch?"
"If not, then definitely dinner."
Sam can't help but feel a twinge of frustration in his chest as he observes the two men sitting across from him. They are clearly holding back any PDA their human instincts are begging of them and Sam fights to roll his eyes. He wishes they could live in a world where neither of them are too proud to give the other a reasonable kiss, or even hold hands in public.
"Why did you take the day off?" Sam asks, interrupting the eye-fuck taking place in front of him.
Tony appears flustered. "I um..." When Dean lifts his brow expectantly, he clears his throat. "I...wanted to...spend time with Dean. It's been thirteen months but really...really it's only been one." Dean lowers his gaze to his pancake plate. "Anyway, I didn't take the whole day off."
Dean does something that surprises the other two just then: he takes Tony's hand and squeezes it.
"I'll be done for dinner. I promise."
Slowly and silently Sam turns his head away, grinning.
When Tony exits the elevator onto his floor, the first thing he notices is that Tim and Ziva are not at their desks. Upon further investigation he also notices there's no coffee cup on Gibbs's desk nor in the wastebasket beside it, implying that he'd taken it with him wherever he'd gone, which also meant he more than likely took Tim and Ziva with him as well.
Tony sets down his bag on his own desk and eases into his chair, keeping one eye glued to the elevator doors. Just as he makes contact with the seat, a black, white, and red blur dive-tackles him nearly out of the chair and onto the floor.
"Tony! Why weren't you here this morning?!"
Tony takes a second to recover from the sudden onslaught of metal spikes and chains before answering. "Abby, it's still technically morning...ouch." He manages to get an awkward back-pat in before Abby pulls away. "I wasn't feeling well."
Abby places her hands firmly on her hips and employs a very mischievous smirk, emphasized by her blood-red lipstick. "That's a lie, Tony DiNozzo."
Tony blinks, rubbing his shoulder, certain her throat spears gouged him. "Wh—"
"I keep track of paranormal happenings in the area you know, ever since that incident last year—well more like…my whole life but that's beside the point," Abby waves her hands to "erase" her own tangent, "there are two incidents of paranormal criteria within blocks of each other right around this general area, and that means...."
She doesn't finish her sentence, practically vibrating with excitement as Tony stares at her, dumbfounded.
"That means what, Abby?"
She jabs her finger in his direction. "Dean Winchester is in town, isn't he?!"
On instinct, Tony glances around to make sure nobody heard, then he nods tersely. "Maybe. Maybe I went to a strip club. You'll never know. Hey, where'd Scooby and the gang go?"
Abby rolls her eyes. She is going to get Tony to talk to her about Dean if it is the last thing she does on Earth...but another time. The team probably does need Tony's help right about now. "They're in Alexandria. I guess a petty officer was killed in some kind of robbery at his home. You go; I'll text you the address."
Tony's on his feet again before she finishes talking, and he grabs his bag and flashes his most brilliant smile. "Thank you, Abs. Remind me I owe you a Caf-Pow."
As he trots over to the elevator slinging his bag over his shoulder, Abby smiles.