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by: twoweevils (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1333
Rating: TEEN
Character(s): Ensemble
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, Episode Related
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 3-24 Hiatus (2)
Summary: Tony had decided that Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was requesting...extended medical leave.

Chapters: 1

Tony put the Sig and Gibbs's badge back into the desk drawer where they belonged, locking it and pocketing the key. The team was still standing around, looking gobsmacked. He squared his shoulders, despite the weight that had settled on them, and strode smartly to his own desk.

There was paperwork to do. Reports to write. Other cases that needed his attention. There was new information on a cold case out of Pax River. He'd get McGee and Ziva to go down and check it out tomorrow. The Dorn case was coming up for trial in less than a week. He'd have to make sure Ducky and Abby were ready to testify.

After a few minutes, Tony looked up. McGee was patting Abby awkwardly on the shoulder. Ziva and the Director were talking softly. Shepard looked like a kid who'd just let the string of her balloon slip through her fingers. "Hey, guys." His voice came out a little cracked at first, but he cleared his throat and continued, standing up. "It's been...a long day. Unless you have work to do, I want you all out of here."

"But--" Ziva began.

"How can you--" McGee added.

Abby shrugged McGee off and stalked over to Tony. She held his gaze for a moment or two, then pulled a black handkerchief (decorated with tiny skulls, Tony noted absently) from her pocket. She swiped at her eyes with it and blew her nose. "He's right." Abby looked around, catching McGee's eye and then heading for the elevator.

Clearly struggling for control, McGee moved toward his desk and retrieved his knapsack. "Yeah. I'm kind of...hungry. And I have a-- a thing I have to do." He fell in step next to Abby.

Ziva watched them for a moment, then brushed a hand over her hair. "Good night, Tony."

"Night, Ziva." Tony heard her whisper something to the Director then urge her out of the bullpen, her hand on the small of Shepard's back.

DiNozzo worked in silence. He reviewed evidence logs, drafted a prosecution report, and skimmed the emails he'd been neglecting. It was late when he finally stopped and rubbed his eyes. Just one more thing. He pulled up the HR database and found the proper forms. Tony had decided that Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was requesting...extended medical leave. He ticked off the right boxes, then printed out the form, signed Gibbs's name to it, and dropped it into the bin to have it sent up to the Director.

He shut down his computer, switched off the desk lamp and hoisted his knapsack. After a second's hesitation, he walked over to Gibbs's desk. Dropping his bag, Tony sat in Gibbs's chair. He traced his fingers over the worn blotter, adjusted the angle of the framed photograph, then picked up the stress ball and squeezed it a few times. The office looked different from over here.

Tony switched off the desk lamp and picked up his bag. "You'll be back, Boss," he whispered.


DiNozzo pulled the garage doors closed and snapped the padlock. It wouldn't really keep a professional out if he wanted to make off with the Mustang. But it would deter the joyriders. Probably.

Up the back porch steps where the grey cat waited. She watched as Tony adjusted the cover on the barbecue. It had blown loose in the wind storm they'd had the night before. Gotta get something to tie that down. He reached a hand to the cat, but she turned her head away.

He wasn't Gibbs.

Inside, he did a quick visual sweep -- windows still locked, everything just the way he'd left it. Scooping some dry food into a bowl, he set it down by the door. The cat watched him warily, not bending to eat until his back was turned.

Tony loosened his tie and went out front for the mail. With McGee's help, he'd set up the bills to be paid automatically from Gibbs's bank account, so the mail was mostly junk. He tucked the latest issue of Semper Fidelis into the big envelope he kept on the table in the front hall, along with a few other items he thought Gibbs might want. He'd have to remember to ask Abby if she wanted to include another CD in this week's package to Mexico.

Upstairs for another quick check. All secure. He draped his tie over the bedroom doorknob, then extracted a hanger from the closet for his suit. The NIS t-shirt he took from Gibbs's dresser was old and soft. Tony took a deep breath as he put it on, carrying Gibbs's scent deep into his lungs. In the shirt and his baggy sweats, Tony made his way downstairs.

Every time he came down the basement stairs, he thought about Ziva standing right here when she killed her brother. Tony had seen through that little ruse fairly quickly, but never said anything to either her or Gibbs. It stung a little, but he was over it.

He flipped the tv on. Tony couldn't stand that much CNN, so he'd hooked up his portable DVD player. Tonight, he'd finish watching The Philadelphia Story. A new bottle of bourbon rested on the shelf over the workbench; it was a better brand than what usually sat up there. Tony pulled it down and poured a healthy amount into the thick white mug. He took a sip and stretched the kinks out of his neck.

It had been a month now. A month ago today, Gibbs had handed him his badge and gun and walked out of the office -- off to join Mike Franks like something out of the final scene of The Shawshank Redemption.

Tony did what he could. He kept things ticking along. He made sure everyone had what they needed to do their jobs -- whether it was an enormous Caf-Pow, a kosher pizza, or authorization to upgrade the processor in McGee's laptop.

But he couldn't lead them.

He wandered around, touching tools, dragging his fingers along the smoothly-sanded surface of the boat's ribs. He didn't know what else to do. Carpentry wasn't his thing. Or would this be called joinery? DiNozzo wasn't sure.

He could keep the house from falling down. He could keep the yard in good shape -- might put in some tomato plants and maybe a few peppers while he was at it. But he couldn't do anything with the boat. He wasn't Gibbs.

He would never be Gibbs.

Tony picked up the mug and stepped inside the boat frame. He lay down on a wide piece of planking, resting his head on one hand while the other balanced the mug on his chest. Katharine Hepburn's lilting, mocking voice reminded him of his mother. He remembered sitting at the top of the steps when his parents entertained. He remembered the teasing, aristocratic inflection of her voice and the way it made him feel like she was happy--for a little while.

A small rustling sound. Tony opened his eyes to see the cat stalking toward him. Must have left the screen door on the latch. She moved stealthily and looked at him for a moment. A light leap and she was on him, her claws making him wince as she kneaded his stomach through the t-shirt. She sniffed the mug, then jerked her head away. Not a connoisseur of fine sour mash, it seemed. The cat turned a couple of circles, then settled on Tony's stomach, her purrs vibrating through his skin.

He closed his eyes and let the warm, purring cat, the smell of wood and Gibbs, and the soothing sound of carefree cocktail-hour banter send him away from himself for awhile. Tonight, he was just Tony, with no immediate responsibilities and a nice buzz from the Knob Creek.

Tomorrow, Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo would put on a suit, strap on his weapon, and keep on doing what he could to keep their odd little family together.

Just until Gibbs came home.

Chapters: 1

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