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Moving Forward

by: ksl (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 030 Word Count: 111544
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Alternate Universe
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Episode(s): 4-03 Singled Out
Summary: An AU where Tony accepts the position in Rota, Spain when Shepard offered it in season four.

Author Notes: This is an AU where Tony accepts the job in Rota.

I was intrigued by some of the maturity we saw in Tony during that season---and wanted to give myself a forum to explore it. What if he had taken the opportunity to truly become his own sort of leader?

The crap with La Grenouille that dominated season four did not happen. And while I may use some details from that season and later episodes, I will be eliminating Shepard's obsession with Rene Benoit.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

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Tony took the job in Rota, Spain.

He knew his answer surprised Director Shepard. In some ways it had surprised him too when he said the words, but once he spoke them Tony knew he'd made the right decision. When Jenny asked if he was sure, Tony's answer had been a simple, 'Very sure, Ma'am.'

She'd clearly expected him to turn it down. Having let the deadline for considering the offer run out before he'd told her his decision, it was logical to assume he would be staying in DC. Given the six years he'd invested the job, his team, in learning from Gibbs, it would have been logical to think he'd stay. Knowing of his worry about Gibbs being less than 100%, the well being of his teammates and his own lack of confidence in his ability to lead a team, it was logical to think he'd take a pass on Rota. Logical, but wrong.

Because staying in DC wasn't really an option. He knew this. Had known it for some time, he just hadn't wanted to admit it. He'd clung stubbornly to the idea that the team was his family, that they wanted him around, that they needed him. But with Gibbs' return it was obvious he'd simply been deluding himself. Tony had been nothing but a poor substitute, the understudy while everyone wanted the star.

He'd never had any trouble recognizing when it was time to cut his losses. Experience had been a good teacher with respect to that. He'd learned the hard way to know when it was time to leave.

Tony had already gone the route of working with a team that didn't trust or respect him. It hadn't ended well. He had scars to prove it. It was definitely better to move one when a chance to move up had been so serendipitously placed in front of him.

Hell, it wasn't like he was quitting NCIS. He was just leaving DC. He was doing what most people aspired to do---move up the ladder. It wasn't how he'd envisioned his promotion, but then Gibbs leaving his team to Tony hadn't been something he'd foreseen either.

Tony sighed softly, eyeing his apartment one last time. He'd packed the things he considered irreplaceable. Things he simply couldn't and wouldn't trust to the care of a government hired moving company. There was surprisingly very little that he was shipping ahead. The rest could be replaced if need be. The DVD's, his electronic equipment, and his furniture---none of it was irreplaceable. It had no sentimental value, no personal significance, no worth beyond basic appreciation and comfort.

Tony shook his head. Apparently the same could be said of him when it came to his teammates---former teammates.

Ziva had gone to Gibbs when she was in trouble. A telltale sign of what she thought of Tony and his abilities. Not that she'd simply allowed her actions to speak for her. Oh no, since Gibbs return she'd taken every opportunity to hammer home the point verbally as well. She hadn't passed up on a single chance to rub his demotion in his face---making sure Tony knew she thought he'd never been up to the job of leading a team in the first place. He wasn't Gibbs, and clearly that meant he wasn't good enough for her.

McGee was just as bad. And maybe a bit worse in some ways. McGee seemed to have forgotten that before Gibbs got blown up and lost most of his memories, it had been Tony's job to teach him how to be a field agent. It wasn't Gibbs who had taken time to explain forms, procedures and practices. It wasn't Gibbs who helped McGee adjust to the duties and responsibilities of being an agent. It wasn't Gibbs who'd explained how to dress and speak for court, how to think outside the box and find the answers. But then Gibbs was a hero, who despite everything managed to stay on his pedestal. No feet of clay for him, and just thinking about it made Tony feel more than a little bitter. Gibbs could do no wrong, and not being Gibbs evidently meant Tony couldn't do anything right.

McGee had come right out and said he didn't think Tony deserved to have a team of his own. Maybe that justified McGee's giving less than his all to the job while Tony had been in charge. Ziva had been just as apt to slack off, showing up late or leaving early. Tony still couldn't decide if their minimal efforts were a reflection of his leadership or them as agents. Did they need someone to be a bastard to do their best? Should he have been more like Gibbs or less?

Abby had created a damn shrine to Gibbs. It galled Tony that all her faith in Gibbs apparently left no room for her to have faith in him. She clearly didn't think there was anything magical about Tony, that he could solve all the world's problems. He was a best a poor stand in for the man she was sure walked on water. He was fairly confident his leaving wouldn't result in the same sort of monument being constructed.

Ducky was so lost in his own anger and pain over Gibbs leaving that he had damn little to offer Tony in the way of assistance or encouragement. Tony didn't begrudge him that. Hell, Ducky and Gibbs had been friends for years, but would hit have killed the ME to realize he wasn't the only one pissed and hurting? Would it have been too much to ask for Ducky not to slip up and address him as Jethro when he first walked into autopsy or asked him questions at the scene? Evidently the answer was yes because it happened nine times out of ten.

Tony ran a hand tiredly over his face. The only people he'd told he was leaving were Palmer and Lee. He'd left it to Shepard to inform everyone else.

Palmer had been a better friend to Tony than Tony had been to him. It shamed Tony to realize how damn good a man his 'autopsy gremlin' truly was. Jimmy deserved better, and Tony had told him so.

Gibbs saw apologies as a sign of weakness, but Tony was no longer sure he shared that view. He'd made mistakes, errors in judgment and behavior that he was genuinely sorry for. There was no shame in admitting it. He apologized to Jimmy for being an ass.

He apologized to Lee too. He'd tried to explain to her that as a Probationary Agent a certain amount of hazing was to be expected. She shouldn't take it personally, and it didn't mean she didn't have real potential to be a good agent. All it meant was the more senior agents enjoyed passing on a little of the ration of shit they'd gotten when they were in her place. If she stuck with it, Lee would get a chance to do the same to her own probie some day. He felt awkward and clumsy with is apology, having little practice at admitting to his own shortcomings and failures aloud to anyone, but determined to see it through, feeling she deserved to know she hadn't done anything to warrant being summarily dismissed by Gibbs.

With Tony leaving there would be a spot on Gibbs' team. Tony almost hoped Michelle had enough sense not to take it if it were offered to her. She'd done okay with Tony as her boss, but he had more patience than Gibbs had ever shown. He was more inclined to follow the rules than Gibbs, letting Lee find and establish her own comfort zone when it came to applying the rules of law so ingrained in her psyche. Tony suspected she might crack under the pressure of working for Gibbs full time, but she'd surprised him more than once by being stronger than he'd expected---maybe she could handle it. Either way, it wasn't up to Tony to make that call. He wised her luck.

Of course, nothing done or not done by his teammates was truly the final straw. He could have tolerated all that, made piece with it if Gibbs given even a hint he'd remembered anything, anything at all, about their relationship. Tony would have stayed, but Gibbs had made it clear that to him Tony was nothing more than a subordinate, a guy he worked with, and one he had little time or patience for. One he clearly had little to no respect for or Gibbs' return would have come with at least some sort of heads up that didn't include the haphazard dumping of personal belongings and case files from one desk to another.

Tony suspected Gibbs really did remember. He thought Gibbs likely regretted his decision to break rule twelve, or was simply ashamed of their relationship. Not that there had been much of a relationship. At best they'd been fuck buddies, keeping each other company, using sex to get through some of the worst the job had thrown at them after Kate's death. It meant, Tony realized after Gibbs had left for Mexico, nothing to the older man. Tony clearly meant nothing if he could be so easily forgotten and then so summarily dismissed.

The first time Gibbs left with no more than 'you'll do', Tony could forgive and understand. Gibbs had lost fifteen years of his life. Had lost his wife and child all over again. But the second time he'd left without saying good-bye, Tony got the message. The team didn't matter to Gibbs. He didn't matter to Gibbs. Not enough at any rate to merit the simple courtesy afforded to total strangers.

Gibbs hadn't come back for him. And he sure as hell hadn't stayed for him. What Tony might have wanted or needed was obviously not something Gibbs had given any thought to. It wasn't an issue or concern the older man paid any attention to.

There was nothing like being swept under the rug to dismantle one's ego, Tony thought with a grimace, hefting the bags he was taking with him. He might have been slow to get the point, but once he got it there was no going back.

Tony turned off the lights and locked the door. He'd already given Palmer his spare key and asked him to let the movers in on Monday. Tony stopped by the landlady's place on the first floor to give her his key, and let her know a cleaning company would be by after the movers were finished. He told her to give his security deposit to Palmer when he returned the spare key. Palmer said he'd make sure it got deposited into Tony's account. Tony had tried to get Palmer to keep it, thinking he owed the younger man something for helping him out.

Palmer had stared at him. "You don't owe me, Tony. Friends help each other out."

They were supposed to anyway, but Tony wasn't so sure about that any more. He'd just nodded and patted Palmer on the back not seeing any point in arguing about it.

"Call me when you get there?" Palmer had asked, hesitant and unsure. "Just so I know you got there okay."

"Will do, Black Lung." Tony's use of Palmer's 'code name' made him smile.

"Take care of yourself."

"You too, Tony, you too."

Tony smiled wryly. Taking care of himself was something most of his team assumed he was no good at. He snorted. He'd had been looking after himself since his mother's death. He had gotten out of practice while working in DC, thinking he had people he could rely on to watch his back, but Tony figured it was like riding a bike. He'd get back in the habit in no time. Hell, he'd already started. If he actually expected his team to look out for him, he wouldn't be going to Rota.

With a grim determination to move forward, he loaded his bags into the rental he'd arranged for. His Mustang was staying with one of his frat brothers until he got back stateside. Dan had a passion for classic cars. He would take good care of Tony's baby for however long he was out of the country.

Tony drove to the airport. He left the rental and got through security without any fuss or fanfare. He'd turned in his gun to Director Shepard knowing he'd be issued a new weapon when he got to Spain. He'd get a new cell phone there too since his one wouldn't work in Spain. The only thing that wouldn't really change was his office e-mail and private e-mail addresses. Those were nicely global.

Tony paid for an upgrade to first class out of his own pocket. He decided there was no reason to be any more uncomfortable than necessary. He was damned lucky NCIS hadn't insisted on his taking a military transport.

Tony settled into his seat. He had the personnel files of his new team to review and become familiar with. By the time his plane landed, he'd know as much about them as possible.

He was stepping out of Gibbs' shadow. Tony promised himself that this time his team would truly be his team. He'd use what he'd learned over the years, apply what he thought worked, discard what he'd never cared for or appreciated. He would lead his team as Tony DiNozzo, not some poor substitute or pale imitation of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Tony took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He could do this. He had to do this. There was no going back. There was no future in DC, only a rehash of the past. He was done thinking about what couldn't be. It was far better to commit his energy to what might be had, to the possibility of better, to the chance of being more than second best.

Tony grinned to himself. At least if he fell on his face in Rota, it would be as himself, on his own terms. And he'd still be moving forward.

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