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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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13

Gibbs was impressed with the plan Tony had laid out.

It was a well thought out plan, and one they’d be employing if tailing Goliath didn’t give them something to work with in two days or less. As much as he’d prefer to catch everyone, Gibbs was far more intent on taking out the seller and securing whatever he was trying to unload. They didn’t have confirmation it was ARES, but it was looking more and more likely. ARES could not fall into enemy hands.

Gibbs found himself feeling unaccountably disappointed by the way Tony had filled him on the plan. Tony’s recitation was flat. It lacked the younger man’s usual flair and humor. There was no color commentary, no asides, no jokes, nothing. If not for the fact that Tony was right next to him Gibbs would have been sure it was someone else outlining everything he was hearing.

It felt strange to not have Tony working hard to earn his approval, striving for any indication of a job well done. In the past, Tony would have pulled out all the stops trying to sway Gibbs with additional arguments and evidence, anything to convince him of how good the idea was. From the time they met in Baltimore, Tony worked hard to make Gibbs notice him. It had reminded Gibbs of a child trying to earn a gold star.

Now Tony’s approach was more mature, confident and contained. He stated his case and left it up to Gibbs what to do with it; like it didn’t matter if Gibbs thought his idea was a good one or not, like it didn’t matter if Gibbs used his plan or found another way. It was almost like Tony didn’t have a stake in the outcome one way or another. And Gibbs realized Tony didn’t, not really.

Once Goliath landed in DC and Gibbs’ team took over the task of tailing him, it was Gibbs’ responsibility. He expected Tony to fight him on that, to push to be included in the case, and he would have welcomed that sort of rivalry. The argument would have given them some sort of common ground, something to talk about, but Tony didn’t seem inclined to take Gibbs on.

It left Gibbs feeling lost as to what to say and how to precede. He was annoyed that Miri had no trouble getting a response from Tony. Tony interacted with her naturally and easily, not stilted and careful the way he’d been with Gibbs. When Tony spoke to her his tone softened, lightened, and took on the playful cadence Gibbs remembered.

Gibbs hated how easily Tony and Miri bantered back and forth. It made him feel like an outsider. There was a time when he wouldn’t have cared, and he tried to tell himself he didn’t care now, but it sounded hollow in his head.

His team hadn’t really engaged in banter like that since Tony left. It shouldn’t have surprised Gibbs. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known Tony was the one who typically started things by acting childish or goofing off.

And it was Tony, who would gang up on McGee often with Ziva as an ally, or he’d tease Ziva with McGee backing him up or Tony would end up acting as their target when McGee and Ziva joined forced. But without Tony around to instigate, McGee and Ziva didn’t seem inclined to joke much or talk about things not related to the job. It was almost like they weren’t truly comfortable with one another. When or how that happened, Gibbs wasn’t sure. He hadn’t noticed it until now because it didn’t affect the job, and there hadn’t been anyone’s behavior to compare it to. Listening to Miri and Tony, Gibbs was painfully aware of how far apart his team had grown.

Gibbs knew things were off when he’d come back from Mexico, but there were too many holes in his memory to be sure of what and how much wasn’t quite right. After Tony left, things just kept shifting. McGee as his second altered the team dynamics. Ziva acting more like she had when she first joined the team shifted things a little more. A new Probie joining the team skewed things even further. They all worked together well, but that was all they did…work.

When Tony mentioned food, Gibbs saw it as an opportunity to bridge the gulf between them. He’d looked up the number for Mario’s when he knew Tony was coming to DC. He’d used every cuss word he knew getting it added to his list of contacts, struggling on his own to do it because asking for help was out of the question Gibbs didn’t want to have to explain to McGee or Abby why he wanted the number programmed into his phone. It wasn’t like they wouldn’t recognize Tony’s favorite delivery place.

And he’d managed to successfully input Tony’s new phone number without help. It was a matter of pride for him to prove that hadn’t been a one off thing. That he could not only figure some technical things out for himself he could apply that knowledge more than once.

The hesitant way Tony took Gibbs’ phone surprised the older man. Did Tony think he was going to pull it back? Or hit him with it? Why else would he have offered it if not for Tony to use it?

And why had Tony given him such a wary look? He was trying to be nice. It’s why he tracked down Mario’s number in the first place. He knew long flights sucked and the food was rarely worth eating. He thought being able to offer Tony something to eat, something he knew Tony would like, was a fool proof gesture.

He was equally confused as to why Tony waited to dial once he had Gibbs’ phone and knew where the number was on the speed dial. The man had to be hungry. Tony was always hungry. And it was his favorite delivery place. His favorite food. Why didn’t he just dial and order what he wanted?

Gibbs’ confusion expressed itself more in annoyance and anger. Barking at Tony felt normal. It was familiar and comfortable, and reminded Gibbs’ strongly of when they used to work together. It was a relief to see the tension easing in Tony’s expression and his shoulders, but it felt wrong that Gibbs snapping and snarling was what made the younger man relax. Gibbs would have thought remembering Tony’s favorite delivery place and going to the trouble of entering the number on his phone would have meant more than his being short, but clearly they didn’t.

Tony handed Gibbs his phone and credit card back once he’d made the order. An all too brief moment of contact felt electric to Gibbs. He shivered, surprised by how so little skin to skin contact affected him. Unable to take his eyes off the road to look directly at Tony he couldn’t tell if it affected the younger man the same way or not.

Unsure of what it meant, or what to do, Gibbs went with what usually worked for him. He stayed silent and concentrated on driving. He expected Tony to turn the radio on, or talk to Miri more, but he didn’t.

Tony shifted in his seat, his hand dropping to rub his thigh. He grimaced and tried to stretch out but even with the seat all the way back leg room was limited. Gibbs wanted to ask if Tony was okay, but was worried doing so would recreate the tension that had only recently dissipated. And he’d already asked that twice when they’d first met up at the airport. He didn’t think asking again would get him a different answer.

Miri tapped Tony on the shoulder, getting his attention before offering him a small pill bottle. “Sir, I thought you might need—“

Tony waved off the bottle. “Miri, I’m fine.”

“Of course you are.”

Gibbs was impressed with how she managed to make that sound as though she were agreeing with Tony and yet not at the same time. It was a neat trick. It reminded Gibbs of Ducky for a moment.

She continued to offer the bottle, rattling it. “It was a long flight, Sir, and our day won’t be getting shorter any time soon.”

Gibbs wondered why she called Tony ‘Sir’. She’d addressed Tony that way before, and Gibbs had nearly growled at her not to call him ‘sir’ before he realized it wasn’t him she was talking to. Why didn’t she call Tony ‘boss’?

It wasn’t like she didn’t think Tony was in charge. She obviously supported him and his decisions. She carried the bags and voluntarily took the back seat. Sir was clearly meant as a sign of respect and not an insult. Maybe that was why Tony tolerated being sirred. But it still seemed weird to Gibbs.

Tony tried to pass the pill bottle back to Miri. “Miri, you know what that stuff does to me.”

“I know what the good stuff does.” She agreed, refusing to take the bottle back. “But this isn’t the good stuff, Sir.”

Tony chuckled. “You offering me crap, Callahan?”

“Tylenol with Codeine is not crap, DiNozzo, it just doesn’t have the same kick. It is the best I could do on short notice.”

The last sounded almost apologetic, as though she should have gotten him Vicodin or Percocet. Gibbs knew what those drugs did to Tony. It was probably a good thing Miri didn’t have them to offer. Although Gibbs was willing to bet his last dollar that Tony had gotten a prescription for something a lot stronger and simply never got it filled or threw them away.

Tony took the bottle. “Thank you, Miri.”

“You’re welcome, Tony.”

Tony shook out two pills, and then dry swallowed them. He tossed the bottle over his shoulder to the back seat. Miri caught it easily. She resumed staring out the window at the passing scenery and Tony seemed just as fascinated by the view.

Silence filled the car again. Gibbs should have found that comfortable, but instead he found himself hoping Tony would start talking again. That this time he’d get some stupid movie reference, a joke, a random thought…anything that was like the way things used to be.

Gibbs bit back a sigh. He could try starting a conversation, but that had never really been his strong point. He’d never been good at breaking the ice, and if the reaction he’d gotten to being nice was anything to go by, it was probably better if he didn’t risk doing anything else anyone who knew him would consider out of the ordinary.

Gibbs was grateful it didn’t take any longer to get to the Naval Yard than usual. He wasn’t sure he could have handled the silence for much longer.

Tony shifted, moving to lever himself out of the car, using his cane and cursing under his breath as he struggled to get out of the car. Before Gibbs could get around to help, Miri was there helping Tony to steady himself on his feet. She didn’t any more than absolutely necessary, and Gibbs realized that was probably the main reason Tony had accepted her help without a fight.

“Mother hen,” Gibbs heard Tony accuse her, his tone teasing.

Miri smirked as she stepped away from him. “I prefer Momma Bear.”

Tony grinned. “That’s just because you have claws.”

“Fangs too.”

Miri shouldered the bag she’d carried from the airport. She grabbed the bag she’d given to Gibbs to tote earlier. He expected her to offer it to him, but she didn’t. She handed the carryon off to Tony. He pulled up the handle that made it easy to tow behind him as he walked. They both turned to look at Gibbs, clearly waiting for him to lead the way.

They went through security without any trouble. Gibbs expected Tony to chat with the guards but he simply nodded a greeting. Miri followed his example, adding a polite smile, but saying nothing. Gibbs wasn’t sure what to make of the continued silence. It felt wrong, and he didn’t like it, but he had no idea how to break it.

When they stepped off the elevator, Miri stopped and frowned. Tony stopped as well, eyeing his second in command. Gibbs looked back, wondering what the hell the problem was.

She raised both eyebrows, glancing around before looking at Tony. “Orange?”

For a second Gibbs wasn’t sure what she was asking. He barely registered the wall color any more.

Tony chuckled. “I think it’s supposed to be soothing.”

Miri gave an unladylike snort. “More like it was cheap and they had a hell of a lot of it.”

“That too.”

“Christ. It’s like being inside a pumpkin.”

Gibbs hid a smile, amused in spite of himself. He headed for his desk. It wasn’t like Tony didn’t know the way. McGee should be back soon. He only had to stay at the airport long enough to maintain his cover. He’d take a break and simply wouldn’t return to the rental counter. Ziva and the probie would be gone a bit longer. They have to wait for Goliath to settle somewhere. Once that happened they could call in a relief team. Gibbs figured the pizza Tony ordered for them would still be good even if it was cold.

“Where do you want us, Boss?” Tony asked.

Tony’s eyes flickered to his old desk before shifting away. The probie’s stuff was all over it making it obvious the desk was in use. The few personal photographs scattered around the area made it equally obvious that it wasn’t being used by Ziva or McGee. Gibbs couldn’t tell what Tony thought about a stranger having his spot. Was he upset? Disappointed? Annoyed? Gibbs felt a rush of anger. Why should he care what Tony thought or how he felt about it? It wasn’t for Tony to say where Gibbs put his people. If it bothered Tony then he should have stayed. It was just a damn desk.

“Gibbs?”

Answering Tony’s question, Gibbs nodded curtly toward the cubical to the left of his desk. The space had been vacant when Tony was on the team. It was still essentially vacant, but it now at least had a desk and a computer set up for use. Not that anyone ever used it.

Miri dropped the bags behind the desk where they’d be out of the way. Tony parked the carryon on the same area. He leaned against the desk, idly twirling his cane between his fingers as he looked over the bullpen.

Looking around, Gibbs couldn’t see where much had changed in the last few months. Hell, not much had changed in the years Gibbs had been working at NCIS. His desk was the same one Franks had.

Gibbs covertly studied Tony. He couldn’t read Tony’s expression. Was the younger man happy to be back? Was he sorry he came? Had he missed DC? Had he missed Gibbs? It was on the tip of Gibbs’ tongue to ask, but he couldn’t bring himself to give voice to his questions.

A black blur rounded the corner and came to an abrupt halt. “Tony!”

Tony jumped and nearly dropped his cane, instinctively reaching for his weapon.

Abby bounded forward, pigtails flapping madly, bright smile in place, arms out in preparation to give what would likely be a breath stealing hug. She stopped short, expression a mixture of delight and disappointment. Tony shot a confused look toward Gibbs. Gibbs shrugged. He didn’t know what to make of it either.

“I want to hug you, but we went to this harassment seminar and the instructor said my hugging people might be a red light situation.” Abby’s hands flailed as she spoke highlighting her nervousness. “I never thought anyone would be upset by a hug. I mean, it seems harmless enough, a good thing. I always feel better when I get a hug. I feel better when I give one too. But I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. Especially not since, well, since this is the first time I’ve seen you in ages.” She sighed, sounding plaintive. “I don’t want to ruin it.”

Tony smiled warmly. “Did the instructor say it would be okay if I asked for a hug?”

Abby cocked her head to one side. “You know, she didn’t cover that.”

“Well, then, we’ll just have to use our own judgment.” Tony opened his arms, and stepped forward. Abby closed the distance between them and all but melted into Tony.

Gibbs felt a stab of envy. The hug he’d gotten at the airport hadn’t been anything like that one. Of course, he’d never given one like that, but that was beside the point.

The hug lasted longer than was strictly necessary, in Gibbs’ opinion. And did they really need to touch for heads to knees? A little space wouldn’t be a bad thing. He should be able to see a little daylight between them. Gibbs cleared his throat, drawing their attention, and getting them to break it up.

Tony stepped back, still smiling. He waved Miri forward. “Abby Sciuto, I’d like you to meet my second in command and good friend, Miri Callahan. Miri, this is Abby Sciuto, forensic specialist extraordinaire and also a friend of mine.”

Gibbs was curious to see what sort of reception the two women gave each other. Miri had been warm enough when she first met Gibbs, but it was part of their cover. Still, she hadn’t given him the cold shoulder until Gibbs snapped at her and Tony. Abby was usually friendly, so long as whoever she was meeting hadn’t managed to offend her in some way.

Gibbs had expected Miri to be hesitant in her greeting. While it no longer even registered with Gibbs he knew a lot of people found Abby’s hairstyle, predominantly black clothing often decorated with macabre images, and visible tattoos a bit off putting. And if Miri was sleeping with Tony, well, that hug could have fostered all sorts of hostility. Most women didn’t like seeing someone they were with get that close to another woman.

Miri merely smiled, her expression open and pleasant. “It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Sciuto.”

“Abby, please, Agent Callahan.” Abby held out her hand.

Miri took Abby’s hand without hesitation, shaking it. “Call me Miri. Agent Callahan sounds far too formal.”

“Miri.” Abby grinned. “How do you like working with Tony?”

“I like it. A lot.” Miri brushed non-existent lint off Tony’s shoulder. “DiNozzo is the pick of the litter.”

“I’m not a puppy.” Tony rolled his eyes, but there was color in his cheeks that suggested he was decidedly pleased with her statement.

Abby laughed. “But you are as cute as one. “

“Cute?” Tony looked affronted. “I am not cute. Handsome, yes. Sexy, definitely. But cute, no, I don’t think so.”

Gibbs wisely didn’t voice his opinion on the subject. He pretended not to be listening at all.

He looked up when the ding of the elevator announced someone’s arrival. McGee appeared around the corner and came to an abrupt halt when he spotted Tony. Unlike Abby, he didn’t look happy to see Tony. He looked nervous. McGee hadn’t looked that unsure of himself since he first started working for Gibbs.

“T-T-Tony.”

McGee hadn’t stuttered in several years. Gibbs thought he’d outgrown that particular trait.

“McGee.” Tony returned his greeting, his tone and expression neutral. Tony’s posture straightened, his shoulders squaring as he faced McGee. The action wasn’t outright confrontational, but it wasn’t welcoming either. Gibbs took a certain amount of petty satisfaction in seeing someone else get the cold shoulder.

Miri moved to stand behind Tony’s left shoulder. Gibbs recognized her stance as one he’d seen adopted countless times before by seasoned soldiers---her posture loose and relaxed, ready to attack or defend. Gibbs didn’t know if she was taking her cue from Tony’s reaction or if Tony had told her things about McGee that would warrant her being wary of him.

Abby’s gaze darted back and forth between Tony and McGee. She was biting her lower lip nervously. Gibbs suddenly wondered if there was more unresolved between the two men than what happened before Tony left for Spain or if that small argument had somehow morphed into a far larger rift. It was possible that argument Gibbs had overheard had been indicative of a bigger problem he’d been unaware of, one that had never been resolved and only made worse by time and distance. Abby’s obvious unease made Gibbs think she was better informed than he was.

McGee stepped forward toward Tony. He didn’t offer his hand or try to hug him. McGee actually looked a bit lost, like he wasn’t sure what to do. Tony didn’t move, didn't do anything that would give him direction or indication of what was expected or would be allowed.

“You’re…you look…you look good.”

“You too.” Tony eyed McGee. “You lose weight?”

McGee nodded. “I joined a gym. Cut back on the carbs.” McGee cleared his throat. “I…ah…thought I should get in better shape. I needed to do something to keep up with the Boss.”

Tony smirked. “Being Gibbs’ senior agent isn’t the walk in the park you thought it would be, eh, McGee?”

McGee flushed. “I didn’t think it would be—“

“Sure you did.” Tony’s smile was bitter. “I mean if an idiot like me could do it, a smart guy like you shouldn’t have any trouble at all, right? Bet you get it all done in half the time and never even break a sweat.”

Gibbs frowned. He knew McGee thought his degree from MIT was superior to Tony’s educational background. He’d seen them go head to head at times over what was better, good old-fashioned police work or high tech solutions. And at times Gibbs had encouraged the rivalry, but he’d always thought they’d valued what the other brought to the table. Had that changed when he went to Mexico? Or had Gibbs been wrong to think they valued each other’s area of expertise?

McGee swallowed hard. “Tony, look, I should have—“

“Water under the bridge, McGee.” Tony waved a hand, cutting off whatever the younger man was going to say. Tony sighed softly. “It’s water under the bridge. And I should have let it stay that way. It’s ancient history, right? So don’t worry about it.”

McGee didn’t look entirely okay with not getting into it. Gibbs wasn’t sure he agreed that burying it was a good idea either. While he was not a fan of talking about anything, he didn’t think ignoring whatever happened between them would fix the problem. But it wasn’t Gibbs’ call. As long as their issues didn’t get in the way of getting the job done, he wasn’t going to force it. If it got in the way, Gibbs would see to it they addressed it. Letting them settle it in the ring might work. With Tony’s leg still less than 100%, McGee should be able to hold his own.

McGee looked to Abby. She shrugged, and looked helplessly back at him. She’d clearly made peace with Tony, but however she did that was likely something that wouldn’t work for McGee.

“Tony, I really think—“

“I’m sure you do, McGee.” Tony grinned brightly. “Shame about you cutting back on carbs. Pizza should be here soon.”

McGee blinked. “You got pizza?”

“No.” Tony chuckled. “Gibbs did.”

McGee’s jaw dropped. “Gibbs ordered pizza?”

“Oh, I ordered it, he paid for it.”

“Gibbs paid for it?” McGee stared wide at Tony.

“You fry that big brain, McGee?” Tony laughed softly. “You keep repeating things I say.”

“It’s just Gibbs doesn’t—“ McGee stopped suddenly, looking nervously over at Gibbs.

“I don’t what, McGee?” Gibbs asked with a glare.

“That is, Boss, you haven’t…I mean…Thank you, Boss.”

Gibbs nodded curtly. He spotted the delivery guy stepping off the elevator.

They’d eat and talk about the case. Personal shit would be shoved off to the side where it belonged for as long as humanly possible. Gibbs grimaced, knowing it wouldn’t be nearly as long as he’d like. It never was.


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