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Purgatory

by: ksl (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 5045
Rating: YTEEN
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Episode Related
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 5-18 Judgment Day
Summary: After Judgment Day...it isn't always heaven or hell, some times there is purgatory

Author Notes: I thought there should be a minor 'fix it' for the season finale, Judgment Day.
This is the conversation I would like to see between Gibbs and DiNozzo. And probably not one the Powers That Be would ever give the audience.

Chapters: 1

It took me longer than I thought it would to escape Vance’s office. He made me stay after dismissing DiNozzo, David and McGee. He wanted to talk about my new team. He acted like it would be a great opportunity for me and the agency to train new people. I should be grateful for the chance to share the wealth of my knowledge and experience with more people. Yeah, Right. It was all I could do not to deck the bastard.

By the time managed to affect an escape, I had to search most of the damn building to find my team. Or rather the people who used to be my team. Damn Vance. He had no right to do that to them…to me.

McGee was not happy about the new assignment, but at least he’s not taking it personally. He understood it wasn’t my call and that I didn’t like what Vance did one bit. At least cyber crimes would be right up his alley and McGee wouldn’t have to leave the area. He’ll be close enough I can check up on him. Close enough to call on him if I need him. Close enough to be brought back on my team, when I can find a way to make that happen.

I managed to get the elevator alone with Ziva so our conversation would be private. I had no idea what to say to her. Although we always refer to her as Officer not Special Agent, it really had slipped my mind that she was on loan. Jenny was her sponsor. It shouldn’t have surprised me that Vance would send her back to Israel without Jenny to vouch for her, but hearing him say she was being sent home was like getting kicked in the chest. For her and me both. I never really wanted her on my team, but now that she’s been here for over two years, I didn’t want her to leave. Unlike with McGee, I don’t have a flimsy excuse I could drum up to ‘borrow’ her when I needed her. And I don’t have any real clout to get her back permanently. At least not yet.

I finally settled for telling her to take care of herself, and not to be a stranger. It sounded better in my head than when I said the actual words; those things usually do, but I think she understood. One thing I have always liked about her was that decidedly practical nature of hers. She knows talking about it won’t change the situation. She also knows how important she’s been to the team, and when I find a way to bring her back, she’ll still have a desk ready and waiting. I have no idea how, but I’ll be working on it.

I couldn’t find Tony in the building. Given the marching orders he’d gotten, he didn’t have a lot of time before he was due to ship out. I headed for his place. I had to talk to him before he left for the USS Reagan.

I don’t want him to leave thinking I blame him for Jenny’s death. I’d told him it wasn’t his fault, but I did it too late. I know him well enough to know too much time passed---it might still have been okay if that was the first thing I’d said to him, but it wasn’t.

Standing in the California desert, I know my silence and my actions condemned him the same as if I’d shouted it from the rooftops. I know it cut deep. And at the time I wanted to. I wanted him to feel responsible…because if it was his fault then it wasn’t mine. I wanted him to hurt, to take the brunt of the burden for Jenny’s actions, when it was her own that created this mess in the first place. What kind of asshole does that make me?

And who was I to point fingers? The reason I was calling Jenny at all was because I knew she’d killed The Frog. I reopened a closed case to find proof things hadn’t gone down the way she’d told the FBI. I’m not sure if I wanted to warn her or bust her ass. Maybe I was hoping she’d have another twisted explanation, another excuse for what she did so I could bury the case and forget about it.

Hell, I’m not sure I could justify all the crap I’ve done if I had to. There is a lot I’m not proud of. Maybe I called because I owed it to her---to let her try one more time to explain how she could shoot an unarmed man in the head.

In the end it doesn’t matter. Not really. I’ll never know what I was hoping to gain with that call; never know what she might have said.

She’d dead. And she was already dying long before Decker’s funeral. It gave her a chance to go out in a blaze of glory instead of dying by slowly. I can understand the appeal of going quick—suffering isn’t something that appeals to anyone in their right mind. But I don’t agree with how she chose to go out. There was way too much collateral damage.

In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered who had been assigned to watch her, Jenny would still have died. That’s what I needed to tell Tony. What I needed him to understand. What I need for him to believe. He didn’t screw up. He didn’t do anything wrong. Oh there were mistakes made, no denying that, but they weren’t his.

I thought I’d have time to work it out, to make it right. I thought once we got back to business as usual it would be clear that I still trusted him, that I never stopped trusting him. That he was a capable agent, one of the best I’d ever had the pleasure of working with. That his judgment was sound and he wasn’t a screw up. That he hadn’t done anything wrong. It was Jenny’s mistake to order them away. It was her fault for not doing what she was supposed to ten years ago.

I sigh heavily, disappointed in her…in myself. Jenny should have known better than to go it alone. Hell, I should know that too, but I didn’t really to any better. I just managed to survive my own stupidity---barely. If it hasn’t been for Tony, I’d have suffered the same consequences as Jenny. The only difference is I’d have drowned instead of going down in a hail of bullets. Worse yet, a young woman would have died with me.

Shit. I left my team in the dark more than once. The case with Maddie was just the most recent example. I was as guilty as Jenny when it came to going rogue and flying solo. It was dangerous and stupid. What did we think were saving them from? It wasn’t saving them that I wanted, any more than it was what Jenny wanted. No. We weren’t thinking about anyone else when we did that crap. It was never about them. It was about us.

They got left behind, hung out to dry, not because we wanted to keep them safe. It was because we didn’t want them getting in the way. Neither of us wanted to admit we’d screwed up, share our secrets, reveal the past. It was about self preservation…not duty or honor or anything else worthwhile. What a cluster fuck.

Relying on Franks is a mixed bag, but at least I know he wouldn’t baulk at doing dirty work. And he knows how to bury bodies deep. Jenny was aware of Franks’ moral ambiguity when she called him---it’s why she pulled him in. The rest of my team…god love them…they have ideals, principles, morals. They would have kept me from killing anyone. Probably would have kept Jenny from doing it too.

I floor the accelerator. I need to make sure Tony understands that before he ships out. Ziva got it. But then, she’s no stranger to revenge, fanaticism, and fear as motivation. She understands keeping secrets and covert ops, and fucked up crap that you never want to see the light of day. It doesn’t hurt that she knows Jenny’s death wasn’t her fault. Tony, on the other hand, thinks he’s to blame.

He couldn’t have saved her. No one could. She didn’t want to be saved.

I don’t know if it would help to tell Tony about her health. She wasn’t going to live much longer. She had some disease I can’t even pronounce and it was terminal. That knowledge didn’t help me any so maybe I should just keep it under wraps. Respect her privacy.

I smack myself in the back of the head for that stupid thought. Secrets and lies was how all this started. If Jenny had just admitted to not killing the target. If she had just called for help---real help, not someone like Franks who wouldn’t object to a last stand. If she’d been honest about her health, she might not have been in California at all.

Ziva told me Tony probably felt guilty because he’d hesitated to look into what Jenny was doing, had argued against their doing anything but what they were ordered to do. Having gotten burned in one of her personal vendettas before, I don’t blame him for not being eager to get involved in this one. I know his instincts and principles got the better of him. Tony wouldn’t have let Ziva goad him into anything otherwise. He’s a damn good agent. He didn’t deserve this.

I bring the car to a screeching halt in front of Tony’s building, whipping into the parking lot faster than the posted limit recommends. I curse when I can’t find a spot and just decide the hell with it. I park behind Tony’s car, blocking the drive lane. At least I know he won’t leave until I get a chance to talk to him.

I forgo the elevator in favor of the stairs knowing I’ll get their faster. Taking them two at a time leaves me a bit winded, but I feel more in control now. Pushing myself physically always helps me focus. Probably why I did so well in the Corps.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly when I reach Tony’s floor. If I show up panting for breath it will freak Tony out. He’s too used to thinking of me as being in better shape, smarter and faster, harder and meaner than he is. It is an image I’ve cultivated with as much care and attention as Tony’s put into acting like a frat boy on spring break, and now is not the time for me to ruin it. If he has any reason to doubt me at all, I won’t be able to convince him he didn’t do anything wrong, that being reassigned is only temporary—just until I can fix it.

Tony’s apartment is closest to the stairs. He’s never said so directly but I always got the feeling it was a conscious choice. It’s quieter at the end of the hall for one thing. More importantly, it’s closer to an escape route if he needed one. Both of us are too wary not to want to know where all the exits are and how to get to them quickly if need be.

I rap my knuckled on his door. Unlike me, Tony never leaves his place unlocked. That’s probably a habit I should adopt. It’s not really safe to leave the door open to anyone who felt like walking in.

I’m just about to knock again when Tony opens the door. He cocks his head to one side, looking at me. I expected him to say something flippant, but he just steps back and lets me walk in.

I see two bags lining the entryway. He’s packed. The significance of that hit me—he was ready to leave, and he hadn’t planned to come back to the office.

“You weren’t going to say goodbye.” It’s not a question.

Tony shrugs. “You didn’t.”

I clench my jaw, realizing for the first time that just walking away was probably not the best decision of my life. My tone is harsher than I intended when I speak. “You’re not me.”

“Not like several dozen people haven’t already taken pains to point that out.” Tony snorts. His expression is self deprecating and I don’t like it. His lips twist into a bitter smile. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“Not being me isn’t a bad thing.”

“Thinking that depends on who you ask.” Tony shakes his head.

I glare at him. There was far too much in my life I wasn’t proud of to want anyone to be another me. He’s better than that…and he might just be better than me.

“I’m not asking. I’m telling you.”

“Duly noted.” Tony laughs softly, clearly dismissing what I just said. It makes me want to smack him one. I must have telegraphed my intent because he neatly steps out of reach.

“You want a cup of coffee?”

It’s a not so subtle effort at changing the subject. I’ll allow that…for now. “Sure.”

I follow him into his small galley kitchen. It’s a good thing Tony doesn’t cook. The place doesn’t have enough room for that. It barely has enough room for two people.

He doesn’t drink as much coffee as I do, so I’m a bit surprised to see the pot is full. He gives me a wry smile. “I expect to be up most of the night taking care of things before I leave.”

“You could have—“

“Just asked McGee or Abby for help. Yeah, I know.”

It wasn’t what I was going to stay. I was going to tell him he could have called me. I don’t get the chance to even mention it when he tells me he didn’t want to bother them.

“That why you weren’t going to say goodbye to them? You didn’t want to be a bother?” I manage not to snarl, but it’s a near miss.

“Abby would cry.” Tony says it like that explained everything, and in a way it did. I can’t stand it when she cries and I know he can’t either.

He pours coffee into a mug and hands it to me. “McGee would look at me like I just shot his dog.”

I nod as I take the offered mug. McGee was holding up when I saw him, but he didn’t have to say good-bye to me. And he always tries to look like he’s got it together in front of me. With Tony…well, McGee’s relationship with him is a bit more on an even level than what he’s got with me. He’d likely let go a bit more, and I can’t say I blame Tony for not wanting to see McGee looking lost.

“What about Ziva?”

“We’ve had our share of heart to hearts, and I always seem to come out on the losing end with her.” Tony sighs and shakes his head. “Besides, she’s got arrangements of her own to make.”

“And me?”

“You never said goodbye so I thought you wouldn’t want or need to hear it.” Green eyes met mine in a frank appraisal. “Kind of like apologies.”

I nearly wince. Funny how I could forget time and time again just how damn sharp he is. He’s one of the few people I’ve met who doesn’t shrink from calling me on my own hypocrisy. Before I can even come up with something to say, he’s speaking again.

“I’m not on your team any more.” Tony’s voice is painfully neutral. No inflection, no emotion at all. I’ve never heard him sound like that. It tells me more than I thought possible about how much being reassigned hurt him.

“Doesn’t matter if you’re on my team or not, I still ca—“

“You talk to Stan much? How about Vivian? Or Morrow?” Tony cocks his head, eyes measuring me in a way that makes me feel a lot smaller than I did before I’d opened my mouth. “You don’t have room in your life for agents you don’t work with any more. And as of a few hours ago, we don’t work together.”

He sighs softly. “Nothing in my professional life is your responsibility any more. And even when I was on your team, nothing in my personal life ever mattered as long as it didn’t interfere with the job. I’m sor--.” He stops abruptly and then shrugs. “I didn’t think it would matter to you one way or another.”

He might not have finished saying he was sorry but it’s clear he meant to. And that just makes me want to smack him again. Based on what he knows, on what he’s seen, he was right to assume it wouldn’t matter to me. I haven’t stayed in touch with other agents I’d worked with, and I don’t normally want to be involved in their private lives. But Tony’s different. He’s been with me for longer than anyone else ever managed to hang in for. He’s practically family. If anyone should be apologizing it’s me. I let him down by not making sure he knew I cared.

Tony bites his lower lip. “I have to be the only agent in history of NCIS to get a promotion for screwing up.”

Technically being assigned at Agent At Sea was a promotion. There were waiting lists for those assignments a mile long. If Tony had wanted a spot it would have been a toss up as to whether or not he could have gotten it This was a punishment dressed up to look like something else.

“You didn’t screw up.” I glare at him, trying to get my point across. Tony didn’t deserve to be punished. This wasn’t about him as much as it was about Vance proving he’s in charge.

“No, I didn’t.”

I blink thinking that was too easy. I didn’t expect more of an argument. Tony smiles grimly, eyes bleak and cold.

“I didn’t screw up officially…because officially Director Shepard died in a fire.” Tony gives me a tired look. “But that doesn’t change the fact that—“

“You followed orders.”

“So did the Nazis.” Tony shakes his head. “Not sure that was ever a good excuse, Gibbs.”

“Damn it, DiNozzo, this is not the same thing and you know it. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Didn’t do everything right either.”

I slam my cup down on the counter, ignoring the hot liquid that slops over the edges, and shove him back into the refrigerator. I’m right up in his face. He should be pissed or afraid, either way he should be ready to fight back. It bothers me that he’s not.

“She would have died whether you were with her or not.”

“You don’t know that!”

“The hell I don’t. Ducky said she was dying before she even left for California. She was going out by inches, Tony. And she didn’t want to die that way.”

Tony stares at me. “She was sick?”

“Terminal.”

“She never said anything.” He whispers, looking stunned.

“No. She didn’t.” Hell she’d lied to me when I asked her outright. More damn secrets. But that was one I could forgive her keeping---if it hadn’t gotten her killed and got my team scattered.

“She still shouldn’t have died like that.” Tony says softly.

I frown. “You mean shot?”

“I mean alone.”

No she shouldn’t have died alone. But it was her own damn fault that she did. I need him to understand that. I cup his cheek with one hand, forcing him to make eye contact.

“She should have filled you and Ziva in, not ordered you away.” Ziva said Jenny had told them more than once to get lost. “She should have called me for back up, not Franks.”

I want to tell him he should have done her damn job all those years ago, but that would raise more questions. And it wasn’t important now.

“She should have left that stupid diner, taken Decker’s insurance policy and gotten the hell out of there. There was time for her to get away. She chose to stay and die.”

“You sure that’s how it went down?”

Tony gave me a searching look. I know he wants reassurance that Jenny wasn’t trapped in that diner. That she hadn’t been forced to make a last stand without back up…back up that Tony believes he should have been.

“I talked to Franks.” I am still pissed at him…rather the same way I imagine Tony’s been pissed at me for doing stupid shit. But he was my ‘Boss’, and I still think of him that way sometimes, so there are things I let slide with him I wouldn’t with anyone else.

“They waited for the enemy to show. They waited for more than an hour, Tony. It wasn’t too late for her to leave. She chose to stay.” I caress his cheekbone with my thumb, wiping away the tears that should be there but he manages not to let fall. “It. Was. Not. Your. Fault.”

Tony takes a shuddering breath. He releases it slowly and then nods. I’m not sure if he really believes me or not, but I do know he’s not just humoring me. He heard what I said. He will think about it. It is more than I honestly expected.

I step back, giving him room. I reach for my cup, grimacing when I realize I snapped the handle off.

“Don’t make those like they used to,” Tony says, smiling.

“Lot of things they don’t make like they used to.” I smile back.

Tony pulls another mug from the small wooden tree on his counter. He pours me coffee into it and offers it to me. “You should be more careful with this one.”

I give him a glare because it is expected, but there isn’t any heat behind it. I take the mug and sip the coffee. It’s the way I like it, which means it's not at all how Tony likes it. I raise an eyebrow at him.

“I hoped you might stop by.” He shrugs, and I spot the faint flush of color on his cheeks. “But I wasn’t really expecting you to.”

I get that. I take another sip of coffee, looking at him, holding his gaze. I want no more misunderstandings between us. “I always look out for me and mine.”

“I’m not—“

“Until I tell you differently, you are one of mine.” I search his eyes. “We clear?”

“Crystal.” Tony smirks, going for cocky, but the relaxed set of his shoulders gives away how relieved his is. I should have told him that a long time ago.

“I’m not going to just leave you stranded on the Reagan.”

“It’s not like I’m being sent to hell.” Tony sighs. “Although, I’m pretty sure it will feel like it.”

“You can take it.” I have no doubts he can handle being at sea, being separated from his friends…his family. He’s almost as tough as he pretends to be. “You’ll do fine.”

He gives me a grateful look, reassured by my confidence in him and his ability as an agent before he nonchalantly folds his arms across his chest. I manage not to smile. I like him confident, sure of himself. It’s the way DiNozzo is supposed to be. Not the wounded man who came back from California.

“Hell a year is a shorter stint than I’ve put in at other crappy gigs.”

That’s the truth. How he’d managed to last two years in Phillie is still a mystery to me. And Baltimore wasn’t a whole lot better.

“Won’t be a year.” I’ll make sure of it. Even if he could take it, he shouldn’t have to.

“I appreciate that, and I know you’ll do your best, but Vance has it in for you, Boss.” He bits his lower lip, clearly worried. And I know him well enough to know he rarely worries about himself. He saves it for other people.

“Don’t do anything on my account that is going to make you more of a target.”

It wouldn’t just be on his account, at least not exclusively---I’ve gotten used to having Tony around. I’m a creature of habit, I don’t like change. And this was one change I don’t intend to accept. Besides in my mind, if I’m already being targeted I might as well go for broke.

“DiNozzo—“

Tony puts a hand on my shoulder, stopping my words. “You still have Abby, Ducky and Palmer to think about.”

“Vance won’t do anything to—“

“No one thought he’d split up the team either.” Tony shakes his head. “The man’s not that predictable, Boss.”

I want to argue, but I can’t. He’s right. I new Vance was an ass, and even I didn’t see this coming.

“If the opportunity presents itself to get me back—“

“I’ll make the most of it.”

He squeezes my shoulder once and then lets go. “Just don’t get yourself in more trouble.”

I grin, bearing my teeth. I am not going to agree to that. I’m good at trouble. Always have been.

“I should know better.” Tony laughs softly. “Forgot who I was talking to.”

“It won’t be a year,” I tell him again. It won’t take me that long to get him back. McGee either. Ziva might take a little longer. But my team will be my team again.

Tony rubs tiredly at his eyes. “It is better for me if I go into it thinking I’m stuck for the full tour.”

I grimace, but nod, signaling my understanding if not my agreement. I remember what long tours were like. Counting down the days. Being disappointed and then furious when I found out the tour would be extended and I would be away from my family for even longer than I expected.

“Try not to kill the newbies.”

“No promises.”

Tony grins, bright and joyful. It is a look I am sorely going to miss.

“Abby, Ducky and I already have a bet on how long they’ll last.”

I’m not surprised they would have a bet. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d bet on what I’d do. And I can count on one hand the number of agents who’ve lasted more than six months on my team. Tony tops the list for staying power. Even Stan didn’t make it as long.

“What kind of odds did you give me?”

“Was more like odds on them.” Tony chuckles. “And no, I’m not going to tell you. Ducky would be pissed if I mess up his chances of winning. You know how Scots are when it comes to money.”

“Yeah, I do.” Ducky wasn’t cheap, but the man was fanatical at times for sticking to the agreed upon terms of any bet. If he lost it would be fair and square, not for any other reason.

I finish off my coffee setting the mug down gently. “You going to be okay?”

“You know me, Boss, I’m always okay.”

I know he means that to be flippant. He doesn’t quite pull it off. There is no shame in being a survivor. Wish he understood that.

“Take care of yourself, DiNozzo.” I know I surprise him when I pull him into a hug. It’s not the sort of thing I do every day, but today has hardly been ordinary.

He hugs me back. “You do the same, Boss.”

When we let go, I cup his face with both hands. “You are irreplaceable, Tony.” At sea he’ll be on his own, without a team for back up. I don’t want him taking foolish chances. I lightly cuff the back of his head. “Don’t forget that.”

“I’ll remember.”

“See that you do.”

I take a deep breath and look around his apartment. “You need me to do anything?”

“Think you already did it.” Tony mutters, then clears his throat. That was probably not something he meant for me to hear.

“I got it under control, Boss.”

“Call me if that changes.” I mean that to cover more than just his getting to the Reagan, and his personal stuff squared away.

His smile tells me he got what I was saying. He nods. “Will do, Boss.”

We are still a team, no matter where we are. I came here to help Tony…but feel more like I helped myself. Vance might thing splitting up my team will make me weaker, will make them weaker. He will find out how wrong he is.

Chapters: 1

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