Title: Night Out
Series: The Agent and the Admiral #2
Fandom: NCIS, JAG
Pairing/Characters: always-a-girl Toni DiNozzo/AJ Chegwidden, others mentioned
Genre: always-a-different sex/gender changes, AU, romance
Rating/Warnings: R; explicit sex and swearing
Notes: Takes place in JAG season 8, after “Heart and Soul” and before the episode “Ice Queen” which is also the NCIS pilot episode. Pre-series NCIS. Toni has been at NCIS about a year and a half.
Prompt: Fluff Bingo ‘Date Night’ Square
Word Count: 3789
Synopsis: It wasn’t that Toni didn’t date, it was more that she tried to keep things light, easy, and uncomplicated. And yet, she was going on a date with Admiral AJ Chegwidden despite the fact the man had ‘complication’ written all over him.
Toni dried her hair, a second towel wrapped around her, and studied the contents of her closet.
“If I were going on a date with the Judge Advocate General after I’d already jumped his bones,” she asked herself out loud, “what would I wear? Oh, wait, I am.” She blew out a breath. “Damn, girl, what have you gotten yourself into?”
She’d talked herself into and out of calling off the whole thing several times in the last week. It wasn’t that Toni didn’t date — she just tried to keep things light, easy, and uncomplicated. Admiral AJ Chegwidden was about as serious as a man got while he was in uniform, and had complication written all over him even when he was out of it.
But he looked damned good, in and out, of that uniform.
“You’re supposed to outgrow thinking with your hormones.” The towel went in the laundry hamper and Toni picked up a comb, detangling her hair while considering her clothing options.
There was no way they were going clubbing, which cut her date clothes down to a manageable level. Now it was a matter of deciding between demure and sexy. She really should go with demure — it was the first date, after all.
A first date she’d been invited to while both Toni and AJ were naked and recovering from orgasms. It was probably too late to play demure now. Toni reached for a dress she’d bought months ago but had yet to wear and laid it on the bed, then went to do her makeup.
She’d finished with her face and was putting the last touches on her hair when her doorbell rang. Toni checked the time, surprised — she wasn’t always punctual, but she rarely lost track of time except when she was working — and found it was ten minutes to seven.
Of course, he was early. Why wouldn’t he be?
Toni pulled a robe on over her underwear, belting it closed as she checked the peephole. “Don’t you know how this works?” she demanded as soon as she’d opened the door. “Nice suit,” she added. The dark grey visible beneath his open jacket was distinct from his naval uniform, but Chegwidden wore it with the same confidence. She gave him as much credit for keeping his eyes on her face, rather than her bare legs or the deep vee of the robe lapels, as she did for his taste in menswear. “You are early,” she continued, accusingly.
He took her complaint in stride. “I am early, but it seemed stupid to sit in the car for ten minutes. Not to mention a good way to draw attention from building security.”
“That’s a reasonable point,” Toni conceded. “I hope you don’t make a habit of it.”
“Being early or being reasonable?”
“Both,” she said firmly.
The corner of his mouth kicked up. “Noted. I also expected a delay at the entrance,” AJ added, “but the desk let me come straight in and up.”
“Don’t fuss at me, I gave them your name earlier,” Toni reassured. It was kind of sweet, his concern, but she was an agent and knew how to protect herself. No one was ever totally safe, but she’d chosen the building for a reason, and it wasn’t just the reasonable distance from work. “Management is pretty militant about not even confirming I live here unless I give the word.”
“Good to know.” He raised an eyebrow. “Should I wait out here for ten minutes?”
Toni huffed. “Only if you want a run-in with one of the neighbours.” She stepped back, giving him room to enter. “I’ve got a couple of them who think I need looking after, and at least one who thinks I’m one of ‘those’ women.” She brushed against his shoulder as she closed the door firmly behind him.
“And by that,” AJ murmured into her ear, “they mean a single woman with a job and active life, of course.”
Toni turned her head; their faces were only a few inches apart. It was a novelty for a man to bend down to meet her gaze. Toni was nearly six feet tall, and she wasn’t afraid to wear heels. Right now, between her bare feet and his height, AJ had a solid four inches on her.
“Pretty sure she means a slut, actually,” Toni said, smiling at the immediate frown. “Relax, she’s about sixty-five, and so miserable even her family only talks to her out of obligation.” She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his, distracting him. “Hi.”
The frown vanished and his mouth curved up. “Hello.”
AJ reached out and rubbed the lapel of her robe between his finger and thumb. His knuckles brushed lightly against the curve of her breast. “Clearly. If you need longer, I can wait.”
“Listen, I may play high maintenance on TV, but I regularly handle callouts that require me to get ready in ten minutes.” She tugged lightly on his tie. It was real silk with a subtle pattern. Either the man had a hidden fashion sense, or it was a gift from someone with excellent taste. “Besides, the hard work is already done.” She grinned when he studied her. “Trust me, if it actually looked like I’d spent an hour on my hair and makeup, I’d have failed. Ten minutes. There’s some coffee left in the pot if you don’t mind reheating it, or there’s water and juice in the fridge.”
“I’ll manage. But you should put some clothes on,” AJ said, knuckles brushing against her skin once more before he withdrew his hand and stepped back.
‘Some’ was pretty much the definition of her dress. Tissue-thin and siren red, it draped low over her cleavage and cut high on one thigh. One sleeve was designed to drape artfully off her shoulder. It covered less than the robe had.
“Better?” Toni asked, carrying her heels and purse as she emerged from her bedroom.
The coffee cup clattered against the counter. AJ stared for a moment, then rubbed a hand over his face. “You are trouble.”
“With a capital T” Toni agreed. She knew what she looked like and, for all her issues, she’d never needed a man to validate her appearance. It was still nice to knock a man back on his heels, though. Especially one she was attracted to.
When she bent down to pull on her shoes, Toni found him right in front of her, offering a hand. “An officer and a gentleman.” She grasped his hand for balance.
“Whenever possible.” He waited until she straightened up — the three-inch heels brought them nearly eye-to-eye — before he let go. “You need a coat. It’s cool outside even for people wearing an entire outfit.”
“I can go change,” she offered lightly, “if you don’t like it.”
The look he gave her, a long study that lingered on her legs, was the furthest thing from subtle. Or disapproving. “That’s not necessary. I can’t tell you what to wear.”
“Smart man,” Toni said. From the closet, she retrieved a knee-length overcoat and handed it off to him. If AJ was determined to act the gentleman, she would let him.
“I have a law degree and everything,” he said, holding the coat for her and settling it on her shoulders once her arms were through. His hands were gentle as he freed her hair from the collar, lingering against her neck.
So, this whole thing wasn’t so crazy after all.
“I did hear that about you.” She turned to face him. They were only a foot apart. “So, where are we going?”
“How do you feel about Italian?”
“Like there’s a lot of subpar Italian restaurants in the world.”
“Well, let’s hope both I and the restaurant impress.”
“Okay, I’m impressed.”
“Why do I get the feeling you don’t say that very often?”
Toni grinned at him over the rim of her wine glass. “Because I don’t. Not to men, anyway.”
“On behalf of my sex, ouch.”
“It’s not my fault you guys are so fragile.”
AJ shook his head. “Good God, woman.”
“Go on, then, tell me I’m wrong.” He opened his mouth, then stopped and took a drink of his own wine. Toni laughed at him. “You are a smart man.”
“I know better than to make incriminating statements.”
“You aren’t under oath, Admiral.”
“Under the gun, maybe.”
Toni laughed. “I’ll leave your male ego alone, then. It is nice,” she added, studying the restaurant. The dining room was elegant but not overly formal and managed to avoid the clichés so many Italian restaurants fell into, like fake Tuscan design elements and generic landscapes. The layout allowed for privacy, and the waitstaff was attentive.
And it smelled fantastic.
“Glad to hear it,” AJ said. “Are you always so free with compliments?”
“When they’re deserved. I was pretty free with the accolades last weekend. But you did work hard to earn it.” Toni offered a flirty smile.
He leaned back in his seat and propped his chin on his hand. “How do you get through your day without someone tossing your smart ass out of a window?”
“I’m very, very good at talking people down. And I’m armed.”
“That explains it.”
“I’m also freaking adorable.”
“I’m not sure that’s the word I would choose.”
“Are you saying I’m not adorable? Because appetizers haven’t arrived yet and it’s awfully early for a date to end.”
“I did not say that,” AJ countered. “I just said it wouldn’t be my first choice of words. Gorgeous, maybe.”
Toni pursed her lips. “You’re forgiven.”
“‘Chaos incarnate’ comes to mind as well.”
“And now I’m taking it back.” AJ grinned at her and Toni hid a smile behind her wine glass. No point in letting him know his brand of charm really worked for her. Which it did. Toni had always liked a man who could give as good as he got from her.
There was a brief lull in the conversation when the waitress appeared with the appetizer, steamed mussels in white wine accompanied by a basket of crusty bread.
Toni tried a mussel, chewing thoughtfully. She did the same with a piece of bread dipped in the cooking liquid. “Okay, you can be trusted with choosing restaurants,” she said once she’d swallowed.
“I got a recommendation from Mac,” AJ admitted, digging in with his own fork.
“Which means you can choose a restaurant and ask for advice. Not seeing a downside, here.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Hey, now.”
Toni popped the fat mussel she’d scooped up from under his fork into her mouth and chewed. “Sorry,” she said brightly.
“No, you aren’t.” He tore a piece of bread and handed half to her.
“No, I’m not.”
It was easy. They worked their way through the whole plate of mussels, and their entrees — saltimbocca and a divine osso buco that Toni was going to dream about and AJ agreed was as good as any he’d had while stationed in the Mediterranean — and discussed shared acquaintances and past postings in between teasing. AJ continued to give as good as he got, which was saying a lot because Toni was on form tonight. Good food, good wine, good conversation and the low burn of sexual energy between them made for a good time.
“Okay, I need to ask.” Toni stole a piece of veal off his plate. “What does AJ stand for?”
AJ returned the favour, swiping a piece of bread through the sauce on her plate. He popped it in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. “Are you telling me you didn’t check my navy record?”
“I would never misuse my access like that,” Toni said piously. When he raised a brow, she laughed and stole another bite. “Fine, it seemed like a bad idea to poke into the records of a flag officer, Judge Advocate General and former SEAL. Besides, I’d rather ask you.”
“The better to tease me about it in person?”
“Absolutely. So, spill. Antonia Clare DiNozzo. My parents weren’t terribly creative.”
He focused on her, leaning on one elbow. “Oh?”
Being the subject of that keen focus was heady and disconcerting. AJ Chegwidden was an intense man, not easily distracted or put off by Toni’s usual deflections. She was used to attention from men — Toni knew what she looked like — but it was all show and no substance. Not a description anyone would think to apply to AJ.
“Their names were Clare and Anthony.” Toni shrugged and picked up her wine. “That, or it was ego. Especially on my father’s part. I think my mum was just completely enamoured of him.”
“Enamoured? Not in love?”
“If they loved each other, they were really bad at showing it. I try to avoid talking about my obvious daddy issues on the first date, by the way.”
He didn’t push, or question. “I’m only concerned about any potential uniform kinks. That’s only fun the first time.”
She laughed, appreciating the out he’d offered. “None I’m aware of, and it would be hard to do my job if I had a uniform kink.” She gave him an obvious once-over. “Besides, it’s not the uniform, it’s the person wearing it.”
“Good answer. Albert Jethro Chegwidden.”
Toni’s jaw dropped. “Wait, are you kidding me?”
He sighed. “It’s a family name. Please, no Beverly Hillbillies jokes.”
“Shut up, that show is a masterpiece. I’m trying to process the fact that I know two different men with ‘Jethro’ as a middle name.” Toni shook her head and drank. “But Gibbs still wins the Hillbillies casting contest with ‘Leroy Jethro.’”
AJ rolled his eyes. “You are such a Yankee.”
“Also, don’t kid yourself, Albert Jethro, there will be plenty of jokes.”
“That’s weak, Antonia,” he teased. “Low hanging fruit.”
“Hey, low hanging fruit makes just as much jam as the fruit you break your neck trying to reach.”
“You don’t seem like the jam-making type,” he said disbelievingly.
“Why, because I’m a Yankee?” He tipped his head, acknowledging the shot. “I’m also a limey. English mother,” Toni explained. “My grandmother, great-grandmother, and various great aunts made plenty of jam for the home front war effort.”
“Good to know. You’re close to them? Your family in England?” he asked.
“Some of them. I spent summers and holidays with my uncle and his wife from the time my mother died through college. Before you ask, I was eight.” She shrugged off that old wound, scarred over by time and necessity. “I want something ridiculous for dessert.”
AJ accepted her change of subject gracefully, signalling a waiter. “Sounds good.”
When the waitress left with their order for coffee and dessert, Toni leaned forward and propped her chin on her hands. “So, parents can be a touchy subject. Dead mum, absent father; both were alcoholics who left hired staff and distant relatives to fill the gaps. Typical poor little rich girl story, entertaining in movies but not so much in real life.”
“Most things are. I’m divorced,” AJ said, offering up his own emotional wound. “Marcella and I were married when I was stationed in Naples. Four years later, I was reassigned, and Marcella had to choose between leaving her country and her family or leaving me. She chose the latter. Typical military career story.”
“Richard Gear can play you in the movie. Just the one divorce?” she asked.
He raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t one enough?”
Toni laughed. “You’d think so, but some people like to collect divorces like their lawyers offer a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal. Gibbs has three ex-wives, and my father is on his — fifth? No, that was Marilyn,” Toni recalled. “He’s with Linda now, so that’s six. I hope so, anyway — even he doesn’t have a one-year turnaround, but I don’t go out of my way to keep track.”
“Good God, you’d need a scorecard.”
“Something like that. We aren’t close if you couldn’t guess. This looks decadent,” Toni said, examining the plates set before them. Along with cups of fragrant coffee, there was a slice of rich, dark chocolate cake made with hazelnuts and soaked in amaretto and a plate of crisp, sweet ravioli stuffed with ricotta and drizzled in honey. The scent of coffee, chocolate, fried dough, and sugar was enticing, even after a full meal. “Good thing I’m not working tomorrow, I’m going to need a longer run.”
He waited for her to dig in before forking up a piece of cake. “Do you use the gym, or run outside? There are some great outdoor trails on the Virginia side of the Potomac.”
Toni licked her fork clean of her first bite. “Admiral, do I look like the outdoors type?”
“Hell, woman, you don’t look much like a federal agent right now, either.” He pointed his own fork at her and her dress. “I might not be an expert on women’s fashion, but my daughter is studying design. I know the difference between off the rack and designer.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere.” He wasn’t wrong, either, as the dress was designer. It was also tailored, a necessity for most of Toni’s clothes. Between her height and her career, she had a close relationship with the Alterations department at her favourite stores. “How old is she?”
“Francesca is twenty-two.” He shook his head like it was a surprise. “She’s living in Milan now.”
“Makes sense, if she’s in fashion.” Toni savoured another bite as she considered her next question. It could be a sensitive one — but then, she’d never been one to shy from asking touchy questions. “How often do you see her? Francesca.”
“Less than I should, especially since I was appointed as the JAG,” he admitted. He chased a piece of crisp ravioli with his fork before finally stabbing it. “I was assigned to the Mediterranean before this, so I saw her at least monthly through her teens. Custody arrangements are hard enough without parents living in different countries.”
Toni huffed. “No kidding. Pretty sure my aunt and uncle just bribed and blackmailed my father to get regular visitation. I’m sure the Italian family courts fell all over themselves to give an American navy officer custody of an Italian minor.”
“Basically. But Marcella is a good mother, and she did a good job with Francesca.” His brow furrowed as he chewed and swallowed.
Toni lowered her fork. “That’s not a happy look. Spill, Admiral.”
“Do you have to use my rank? I might be contemplating getting you naked.”
Toni pointed her fork at him. “If you’re frowning like that while picturing me naked, we’re going to have a problem. I’m armed, you know.”
He studied her dress. “How?”
She tapped the side of her nose with a grin. “It’s a secret.” She nudged his foot with hers. “So?”
“It’s nothing. Marcella is a good mother.”
“Good mothers make mistakes.” Toni waited patiently. It didn’t take long.
AJ brooded for a moment, frowning down at the last of the cake — something the rich chocolate and alcohol-soaked confection certainly did not deserve — before he spoke. “Marcella’s second husband turned out to be part of a mafia family,” he explained. “The legitimate son who took over the family when his older brother died. Something we — Marcella, Francesca, and I — only found out when Francesca was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend. Who was also part of a family and a rival of Vittorio, Francesca’s stepfather.”
Toni blinked and tipped her head to one side. That was not what she’d expected the hear. “Are you serious?” He nodded. Toni leaned forward. “You definitely need to give me more detail than that.”
“We haven’t even gotten to the part about the stolen Stinger missiles, yet.”
“Okay, now we’re talking movie plots. I’m ordering more coffee. Start talking, Admiral.”
A few hours later, Toni stretched out languidly. She felt relaxed and pliant from good food and wine and a couple of orgasms. She wriggled a little, settling into the bed, and reached out to snag a pillow that had been knocked askew by their enthusiasm.
AJ had a very comfortable bed, and unlike most men in her experience, he’d gone neither cheap nor over-the-top in the bedding department. The last man who’d proudly shown her black satin sheets and red covers had been quite put out when she laughed at him instead of falling into said bed.
Best not to think about another man right now, though. Even if AJ came off good in the comparison. It wasn’t only rude; it might ruin her afterglow. And it was a very nice afterglow.
“Okay, you win bonus points in the dating department.”
AJ sigh and turned his face into a pillow. “Darling, give a man a break.”
“They usually prefer orgasms in my experience.” She turned on her side towards him. “And I recall giving you one of those.”
“Which is why it’s cruel to ask me to carry on a conversation.”
Toni laughed. “Poor man,” she teased.
He reached out and dragged her against him, pressing a kiss to her hair. “Hush and go to sleep, woman. Or I’ll wake you at six for a run in Rock Creek Park.
Toni drilled a finger into his chest, making him wince. “Is that a threat? Because I consider it a declaration of aggression. The only time I go to Rock Creek Park is for bodies. You couldn’t pay me to go running there — the odds are too high it would turn into a crime scene. Possibly ours.”
He pressed her hand to his chest, preventing her from poking him again. “It’s not that bad.”
Toni huffed. “I’m surprised there aren’t signs posted, warning anyone in uniform away. ‘Abandon Hope, All Ye Naval Personnel.’” His chest shook under her hand. “Though our odds of survival are higher than some as neither of us is a petty officer or in the Marines.”
“I’ve run there plenty of times, and I’ve never had a problem. I almost stepped on a tripwire during a run, once, but that was in Virginia.”
Toni tugged her hand free and slapped his stomach lightly. “See! Let’s stick to the urban running trails, thank you. Better yet, let’s stay in bed and have morning sex.”
“That’s — a compelling argument, actually.”
Toni slid her hand down to his softened cock. “Yeah? Wait until I present my closing argument, personally, to the judge.”
“Bribing a court official is a federal offence.” He shifted to give her better access.
They did not go anywhere near Rock Creek Park the next morning; they didn’t go running at all. They did stay in bed. Toni excelled at oral persuasion.
So did AJ. She agreed to another date before breakfast was finished.