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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.

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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Avoidance

In the months he’d worked with Miri, Tony never had reason to doubt she would back him up.

But when they’d met Gibbs in Dulles, he hadn’t been completely sure she would have his six. He’d seen far too many people crumble under the weight of Gibbs’ forceful personality, harsh glare and sharp tone. He should have known better. Miri was no shrinking violet, and she’d done him proud.

Despite his best efforts to hide it, Miri, Mouse and Caleb had all caught on fairly quickly that Tony was nervous about going back to DC. His old insecurities and doubts kept rearing up to haunt him. He wanted to tell his team, explain it to them, but he couldn’t seem to find the words.

To their credit, they hadn’t grilled him for information. They’d simply accepted his odd behavior and uncharacteristic reticence without comment. It wasn’t until he and Miri were on the plane that Tony managed to screw up his courage to tell her why he wasn’t entirely thrilled to be going back to DC and working with his old team.

He didn’t mention his sexual relationship with Gibbs, but other than that there wasn’t much he left out. He told her about Gibbs leaving abruptly and Tony filling in as team leader. He told her about Gibbs’ sudden return and how he’d never really been promoted. He was really just a stand in, a temporary place holder, someone good enough for a short time. His former teammates were people he’d thought of as friends, almost family, until they’d made it painfully clear they didn’t really want or need him. They had little faith in him, his skill and abilities. He mentioned how McGee had even gone so far as to tell him directly he didn’t think Tony was good enough to have his own team.

Tony had sighed deeply, ashamed of himself for not being completely honest with his team. “I probably should have told you this before.”

“Why?” Miri asked, her head cocked to one side as she looked at him. “I told you we’d read your file. Not like we weren’t aware that you being team leader in Rota was a promotion.”

“Yeah, but—“

“But nothing.” She had lightly bumped his shoulder with hers. “I don’t give a shit what some pencil dicks in DC thought or said. You are fully qualified to be our team leader. You have the knowledge, the experience and the ability.”

She’d made eye contact, forthright blue eyes holding him in place. “Or was it some clone of you who’s been working with us for damn near eight months?”

“Miri, you guys could have had better.”

They should have had better. If Shepard hadn’t felt like she owed him something, felt guilty for lying to him about not actually filing Gibbs’ retirement paperwork, or maybe she just felt sorry for him. It didn’t matter why she’d offered him the job, she had and he’d accepted. But he knew she should have picked someone else. He’d done okay, but he wasn’t the best. And now, Miri was going to meet his old team, and know just how inadequate Tony really was. She’d compare him to Gibbs and Tony would be found wanting the way he always had been. She’d understand, and explain it to Mouse and Caleb. They’d be pissed about his lying to them. They’d reject him and Tony would have to consider moving again. He cared about them too much to leave them without a leader they could trust and respect, someone qualified to lead them, look out for them, take care of them.

“Bullshit.” Miri had declared, dismissing his statement, and brusquely cutting off his negative thoughts. “That is grade A bullshit.”

Tony stared at her. That was not at all what he’d expected. “Miri—“

“You gave Mouse something to play with when he couldn’t still for another second. You never stared at Caleb like he was a freak for having his hair a color only found in nature on tropical birds. And you don’t care that I prefer women to men.”

Miri had smiled warmly at him. “You didn’t just tolerate our quirks, you accepted them, Sir. You suit us, and I think we suit you. It doesn’t hurt that you are damn good at your job. And you are an excellent investigator and one hell of a team leader. Don’t tell me we could have had someone better. We got the pick of the litter.”

Tony stared at her. “You can’t possibly---“

She gave him a look that stopped him cold. “I do not lie.”

Tony had nodded slowly. “I know.”

“Then take my word for it. I don’t care of your old supervisor could turn water into wine, and your old team walked on water. They are fucking idiots. And their loss was our gain.”

Tony had leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She took his hand in hers, interlacing their fingers. “Now pretend to be a good husband and let me use your shoulder for a pillow.”

Tony had laughed. “Like I could stop you.”

Technically, only one of them had to be on the plane to follow Goliath and confirm he was actually going to DC. Tony could have sent Miri or Mouse. But after trading a few e-mails with Abby, and a few with Gibbs, and even one or two with Ducky, Tony found himself wanting a chance to see them. He was also leery of actually being so close to them again, and the ambiguous feelings hadn’t helped settle his nerves any.

His emails to Abby were mostly fluff. He kept it lighthearted, feeling out how serious she was about trying to reform their friendship. He told her a bit about Spain. He told her a little bit about their cases. But he didn’t say much about his life or his team. He asked about her bowling team, and if she’d been to any good concerts. He never asked about McGee or Ziva. Or acknowledged any details about them Abby elected to share about them.

After he’d found about the firewall snafu, Tony had considered sending another e-mail to McGee and Ziva, but he’d decided against it. It wasn’t like either one of them had made any effort. Abby had sent repeated e-mails---albeit not all of them were exactly what Tony wanted to read, but she at least kept trying. Her efforts were there for him to find. There was nothing from Ziva or McGee.

He’d sent an email to Ducky realizing the older man had probably interpreted Tony’s lack of communication as rejection and his ingrained manners would have kept him from reaching out when contact seemed so unwelcomed. The ME had been obviously delighted to hear from Tony; his initial response was lengthy, well thought out and pleasant. He didn’t comment on the months of silence or the fact that Tony hadn’t said good-bye. Ducky had simply accepted Tony’s apology for not contacting him sooner and said in hindsight he better understood Tony’s need for new environs. Tony took that to mean he’d been forgiven and found it easy to forgive Ducky in return, especially when the older man apologized for not being as supportive of Tony as he could have been

Ducky had written ‘You would think someone of my advance years would have more wisdom and understanding, but occasionally, I too, am as short-sighted and foolish as a child. It does me no credit to admit I forgot I was not alone in feeling hurt and abandoned. It was selfish of me, and I shall endeavor to do better in the future’.

Although his communication with Abby and Ducky was still a bit stilted, they were making some progress toward reconnecting. The same could not be said for emails Tony got from Gibbs.

He’d been amazed to get any sort of response at all given how technologically illiterate Gibbs was. He wanted to read more into it---to see Gibbs making an effort as him actually caring about Tony. But his e-mails were always about the case. No personal details given or requested. Tony took that to mean Gibbs wasn’t interested in talking about anything not work related and responded accordingly. Gibbs using e-mail had nothing to do with Tony. It was just the Marine finally joining the modern age and the logistics of long distance communication.

Tony refused to act like a jilted lover or behave like some lovesick teenager. It was bad enough his temper had momentarily gotten the better of him during the first MTAC session. If Gibbs wanted to continue pretending nothing happened between them and nothing ever would again, Tony would do his best to be okay with that. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known that’s how Gibbs wanted it. Hell, it was the main reason Tony had taken the job in Rota.

In his e-mails, Tony offered no personal details. Never mentioned anything unrelated to the case---no movies, no theories, no jokes or inappropriate comments. He made sure there were none of the things Gibbs had considered ‘pointless’. He kept it strictly professional, and tried not to let it hurt that Gibbs couldn’t be bothered to ask if he was doing okay in Rota, if he was happy, if his team were good people.

Tony was glad Miri had insisted he bring his cane along, ignoring his protests. Even when perfectly healthy long flights left Tony feeling stiff and sore. It would be another week or two before his leg was 100% and he knew he’d need some assistance to get going and keep moving after being seated for so long. He hated showing any weakness in front of Gibbs, but being stupid and injuring himself wasn’t a viable option either. For one thing, Miri would kick his ass. And for another, he told himself he no longer cared what Gibbs thought of him. Hurting himself to prove something to someone who likely wouldn’t give a shit one way or another was idiotic.

Outlining the plan he and Miri had devised for finding out who Goliath was brokering for and what the guy was trying to sell Tony made sure to keep on task. He didn’t admit to being inspired by a movie plot line or mention any actors. He kept his voice even, keeping any inflection to a minimum, making sure to not seem like he was cajoling, whining or making light of the case in any way. He made sure he’d addressed every contingency, showcasing the level of thought and consideration he and Miri had put into it.

It reminded him a lot of reporting on his grades and school performance to his father. He hadn’t liked it then either, knowing nothing he said regardless of how it was said would ever be good enough for his father. He’d always come up short, be found wanting in some way that inevitably warranted getting smacked around. It was one of the reasons he’d taking to acting out in the first place. If he was going to get hit, he might as well deserve it.

And while Gibbs had never hit him as punishment the way his father had, Tony knew better than to play up being a jokester when he wanted Gibbs to take him seriously. So he stayed the course, and presented what he knew to be a good plan in a logical, straightforward fashion.

It was a good plan, one he was certain would work, if they got the chance to actually execute it. He didn’t want Gibbs to blow him off because he made the mistake of acting like he didn’t take this seriously. He didn’t want Gibbs to think he was too much of a mindless, frat boy to have a good idea or think through all the details. Enough people already thought of him like that.

When he finished, Tony fell silent. At one time, Tony would have continued talking, joking or badgering him until Gibbs gave him some sort of response; usually a head slap, or occasionally the rare ‘good job’. But Tony was tired, his leg hurt and he wasn’t interested in fighting for something that he would ultimately have little part in.

With a bum leg he wasn’t going to be part of the team sent to grab Goliath. And he doubted Gibbs would be willing to let him tag along on the plane while they circled DC and bluffed Goliath into thinking he was going to be flown to Africa to face an irate dictator who was decidedly unhappy with the last shipment of weapons he’d purchased. Gibbs wasn’t exactly known for sharing, and even though Tony was an NCIS agent, he wasn’t on Gibbs’ team and that made him an outsider. Outsiders didn’t get a place at Gibbs’ table, unless they happened to be Fornell.

His responsibility with regard to Goliath technically ended once Gibbs’ team took over tailing the man. The connection Goliath had to the missing explosives found in Spain was tenuous at best. He was a possible means to La Grenouille, but again, there was nothing concrete linking Rene Benoit to anything.

Tony wanted to see it all play out. He wanted to uncover the links and finally put together the puzzle, but he wasn’t willing to go toe to toe with Gibbs to do it. It wasn’t cowardice. He just couldn’t see the point of engaging in a fight he wasn’t going to win. He’d never come out on top when it came to Gibbs.

If Gibbs had a better idea than Tony’s, he’d go with it. Hell, he probably already had Ziva and McGee working on something. The wonder twins were certainly smart enough and capable. They no doubt found Tony being involved completely unnecessary.

Tony watched the familiar scenery pass by in a blur. Gibbs’ driving hadn’t improved any in the time Tony had been away. Nothing else seemed to have changed much except for the seasons; it was late spring now and it had been nearly autumn when he’d left.

Tony sighed silently. Gibbs hadn’t said much to him while he was outlining this plan. Not that he expected him to suddenly develop diarrhea of the mouth, but he’d hoped for a bit more from the older man than a few grunts.

Tony shook his head. He was being stupid. Hugging Gibbs had been an impulse, a desire to take advantage of the situation, and he realized almost immediately it had been a mistake. He knew Gibbs wouldn’t welcome the contact or return the gesture so he’d been quick to cut it short. It just made him hope for things not meant to be, to miss things he’d never truly had.

Miri reached over the seat and put a hand on his shoulder. She squeezed once. Tony smiled. He wasn’t surprised she knew he could do with a little reassurance.

He caught Gibbs giving them a look. Tony wasn’t sure what to make of the older man’s expression. Why would he care if Miri touched him? It wasn’t like they were goofing off, or slowing down the pace of getting the job done. Hell, they’d covered all the details related to the case before he and Miri left Spain. And Tony had already outlined their plan. It wasn’t like there was much they could do now until they got to the Navy Yard.

“You think we can get something to eat soon?” Miri asked, breaking the silence.

“The delicious meal we had on the plane didn’t satisfy you?”

“Delicious?” Miri huffed. “The cardboard container would have tasted better.”

Tony chuckled. “You’ve eaten cardboard?’

“No, but Mouse has.”

Tony looked over his shoulder at her. “I’m guessing kindergarten?”

Miri grinned. “Yep.”

“Hunh. I figured him for a paste man.”

Miri snickered. “I think that was more Caleb’s thing.”

Tony clucked his tongue. “There’s always one in every class.”

The little bit of banter between them did as much to settle Tony’s nerves and improve his mood as Miri’s hand on his shoulder had. He’d give her a raise if it were possible. As it was, he could at least get her something decent to eat. Assessment of the meal they’d gotten on the plane was accurate. Now that his nerves had settled a bit, Tony was aware of his own hunger.

“You okay with pizza?” Tony asked. “There’s a great place not far from the Navy Yard that delivers. I used to order from them a lot.”

“Sounds good. As long as it’s better than the one we got for movie night last week. That sucked. And for the record, Caleb and I agree, Mouse is never allowed to pick the restaurant ever again. He has all the standards of a starving billy goat when it comes to food.”

Tony had to agree. Mouse could and would eat almost anything. He wasn’t picky. As long as whatever it was hadn’t gone rancid, he’d take it.

Tony pulled out his phone. He frowned. He’d forgotten the number of the place he used to call to get pizza delivered to the yard. It had been programmed into his old phone.

He looked up when another phone appeared in his peripheral vision. Gibbs was holding his out. Tony frowned, not understanding why Gibbs would offer it. The last time he’d touched Gibbs’ phone, several years ago answering a call when Gibbs wasn’t around, the older man hand threatened to break his fingers if he ever did it again.

“Mario’s is number five on the speed dial.”

Tony hesitantly took the phone, careful not to let his fingers actually touch Gibbs’. “Why do you have Mario’s on speed dial?”

Gibbs only ate pizza if Tony had it delivered to the office. To Tony’s knowledge he’d never ordered it for himself. It wasn’t like it was Gibbs’ favorite food. But then, like Mouse, Gibbs would eat almost anything, provided someone else arranged for it to arrive at the office. He didn’t order in and rarely picked up take out for the team. The only thing Gibbs routinely spent money on was coffee.

Gibbs looked…hell, Tony wasn’t sure how to classify Gibbs’ expression. On anyone else he’d have labeled it ‘embarrassed’.

“Mario’s is your favorite.”

Tony blinked. He knew Gibbs was aware of what he liked on his pizza, but he didn’t think the older man paid any attention to where he ordered it from. Tony kept looking at Gibbs, silently waiting for a more detailed explanation.

“I thought you might be hungry.” Gibbs gave him an almost hesitant smile. “You’re always hungry.”

Both Tony’s brows rose. “So you programmed Mario’s number into your phone?”

Gibbs shrugged one shoulder. “I thought it would be easier than looking it up.”

It was a nice gesture. Thoughtful even. It made Tony’s heart leap a little at the thought of Gibbs doing something nice for him. His better sense took over before he made a fool of himself and he started babbling out some sort of heartfelt thank you. Gibbs didn’t do nice. There was probably some good logical reason Gibbs had thought to feed him. Something along the lines of making sure he was working to potential.

He scanned Gibbs’ list of contacts and was surprised to see his name in the number one spot. Tony thought it was just a hold over from when he was Gibbs’ second in command. It wasn’t like the man messed with is phone that much. He probably either didn’t know how to delete things or simply hadn’t bothered to do it. Then Tony noticed the contact number for his name was his new cell phone number, not his old.

That was…unexpected, and Tony wasn’t sure what to make of it. They’d only spoken over the phone once since Tony’s reassignment. It wasn’t like Gibbs had needed to use his number much. It certainly was not enough to bother with adding it to his list of contacts, or putting it in the number one position.

“Are you going to call and order something or what?” Gibbs demanded, his tone sharp, his expression a mixture of impatience and exasperation.

Tony nodded, disappointed by Gibbs’ brusque return to normal even while he found it reassuring. He wasn’t quite sure he’d know what to do with a ‘nice’ or ‘embarrassed’ Gibbs. And he had no idea what his number being programmed into Gibbs’ phone meant. He told himself it probably didn’t mean anything. Better to just ignore it.

Tony hit number five on the speed dial.

“Miri, you okay with pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese?” He asked while he waited for someone to pick up.

“Can you add bacon to half, Sir?”

Tony smiled, not surprised by her request. Miri was of the opinion nearly everything was better with bacon. Tony was finding himself agreeing with her the more times they ate together.

“Sure, no problem.” Tony looked at Gibbs. “You want anything?”

“Might as well get enough for everyone,” Gibbs told him.

Tony took that to mean no one had gotten to eat yet. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence with Gibbs. He often didn’t allow time for his team to get something, so it had always been catch as catch can. Tony didn’t miss that, and routinely made sure his people had time to grab something more than a candy bar from the vending machine.

Tony sighed silently; he was fairly certain he was going to end up covering the tab. It annoyed him to buy lunch for people he wasn’t entirely sure he could label as friends. But he didn’t see the point in acting like a selfish asshole. It wouldn’t help the situation any. Although, he seriously doubted his providing lunch would make anything better either.

McGee and Ziva would likely see it as him sucking up or consider it their due, as if he owed them for something. He mentally snorted. He’d made damn sure he paid up whatever debt existed when Gibbs left for Mexico the first time. As team leader it wasn’t right for him to owe his team money, or to allow a monetary debt to linger. He didn’t owe them anything.

He was surprised again when Gibbs offered him his credit card. Tony looked askance at him, thinking maybe he was offering to cover his team’s share.

“Just put it all on that. My treat.”

Tony couldn’t help the pleased grin that appeared. “Really?”

Gibbs smiled back at him. “Really.”

Tony accepted the card, and once more reminded himself not to read anything into the gesture. He could keep the feelings it engendered—nothing wrong with that. It was okay to let it make him feel happy and appreciated, but anything else was just asking for trouble. Better to ignore it the same way he shoved aside the fact his phone number and favorite delivery place were on Gibbs’ speed dial. It would hurt less in the long run whenever Gibbs decided to pull the rug out from under him.

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