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by: ksl (Send Feedback)
Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 030 Word Count: 111544
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Alternate Universe
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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Tony still couldn’t decide if coming back to DC was a good thing or not.
On one hand, he wanted to see the case resolved. Part of what Tony liked best about being an investigator was getting to put all the pieces together. He wanted to solve the puzzle, to see the whole picture and have all the answers. But seeing his old team wasn’t exactly an ideal situation. There was as much unresolved between them as there was with the case. Tony wasn’t sure he was prepared to deal with it. Somehow risking life and limb seemed a lot easier.
Although, to be fair, Tony had to admit meeting Abby had been essentially painless. Not exactly like he’d never left, but being able to hug her and be hugged in return had been wonderful. He’d missed her exuberant hugs. He had trouble understanding how anyone would think getting hugged by Abby would qualify as harassment. Although, she could squeeze with a bit more force than was truly comfortable for everyone, her hugs had never been something Tony regarded as a bad thing.
Seeing McGee hadn’t gone nearly as well. Tony had been surprised by how much he resentment he harbored toward the younger man. He’d thought he’d gotten past that, had learned to let it go. Finding out that McGee was actively working to step up his game as Gibbs’ senior agent but hadn’t put the same effort into being Tony’s had brought all the old bitterness, anger and disappointment to the fore. Clearly working for Tony hadn’t warranted any extra effort from McGee.
But then Tony had never demanded as much from him either. He didn’t have unrealistic expectation about McGee’s abilities or feel the need to set the bar constantly just out of reach. And Tony had been uncomfortable with the idea of turning over too much because part of him was never entirely convinced Gibbs was gone. If or when he returned from Mexico, or if Shepard opted to give the team to someone else since Tony was never more than ‘acting team leader’, Tony hadn’t wanted to be too comfortable in the big chair. He hadn’t wanted to place too many demands that would come back to bite him in he ass later.
Not that any of it really mattered to his old teammates. Every time he’d done anything the way Gibbs had, he was ridiculed for it. Any time he’d done things differently he got the same reaction. Tony hadn’t realized until leaving that there really was no way to win; he was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. All that truly mattered to his former teammates was that Tony wasn’t Gibbs; he was never going to be the man they all wanted. Whether he acted like a bastard or a nice guy, whether he was brilliant or an idiot, it wouldn’t have made much difference.
McGee hadn’t been the only one to slack off. It wasn’t exactly noteworthy for Ziva to show up two hours late to the office while Gibbs was in Mexico. Hell it was more unusual for her to show up on time. She obviously hadn’t thought Tony was in charge any more than McGee had.
Lee at least was in on time and did her job to the best of her ability. But she was a probationary field agent. So while she could and did get a lot of the thankless tasks there was a lot she lacked the experience for. There were things she simply hadn’t had time to figure out.
And there were a lot of things Ziva, as an officer of Mossad and not an NCIS agent, simply wasn’t permitted to do legally. Not that Gibbs or Shepard seemed to care about that technicality, but Tony had. Time as a cop had drilled into him the importance of not just finding the guilty parties, but making sure the case would hold up in court. He wasn’t quite the stickler for rules that Lee had shown herself to be, but he understood the need to at least recognize the line before he stepped over it.
There were a lot of things Tony hadn’t been comfortable trying to order Ziva to do. Tony knew her loyalty had been to Gibbs, not the team, not to him. He was leery of pushing too hard, lest she refuse and he had no real recourse. It wasn’t like he could fire her, or banish her from the team. Shepard had wanted Ziva there, and Tony knew that was where she’d stay, regardless of how he might have felt about it.
When they started getting together to watch movies once a week, Tony had thought he and Ziva had come to an understanding. He’d thought she’d wanted to fit in by getting a better grasp of pop culture. He thought she’d had asked to spend time together as a way of establishing a stronger team bond, of maybe creating some degree of personal loyalty that went beyond Gibbs and a friendship that a product of more than them being teammates. Tony wasn’t sure he wanted to find out exactly what she’d hoped to gain by willingly spending time with him. She’d cut him off quickly when Gibbs returned. Shutting him down and shutting him out without hesitation.
Tony was relieved that they’d eaten without Ziva making an appearance. Just having McGee around had put a damper on his appetite. And it was a struggle to try and act normal, to not snap at McGee. It wasn’t McGee’s fault he hadn’t thought Tony capable of being a team leader. It hurt that he had so little faith in Tony, so little respect, but the man was entitled to his opinion.
Tony was honest enough to admit to himself that his acting like an overgrown kid certainly wouldn’t have helped formulate a good opinion of him. Hazing McGee had been fun, and mostly harmless. It might have seemed rough to McGee, but it wasn’t like the younger man hadn’t gotten his licks in on more than one occasion. He learned to fight back and hold his own. Tony had been rather proud of McGee for growing a spine. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to punch McGee in the face though.
Tony had been there for McGee when Kate died. He’d been there for him when McGee had mistakenly shot a cop. He’d been there to hold the team together when Gibbs ran off to Mexico. Shouldn’t that have counted for something?
Tony wasn’t sure what to make of the nervous glances McGee had kept sending his way while they ate. It wasn’t like he’d threatened the younger man. Hell, he made sure to stay at least arms length away from him so that if he gave into the temptation to belt McGee one it would be harder to accomplish. Compared to some of the things he’d said to McGee in the past, what had recently passed between them was nothing.
Maybe the uneasy looks were because Tony didn’t have much to say. He didn’t trust himself to not spew forth more bitterness and he found slipping on the old mask all but impossible so saying as little as possible was the only option. So he focused on eating and trying to enjoy the best pizza he’d had in months.
Abby did enough talking for all of them. Tony couldn’t tell if it was because she was nervous, excited or if he’d just forgotten what constituted normal for her. She seemed determined to fill Tony in on what happened since he’d been away---never mind that they had covered some of it via e-mails.
Unfortunately, Abby rarely approached anything in a logical fashion. So Tony couldn’t follow her well, not quite understanding what the bowling team had to do with her favorite band, Plastic Death, or why a new machine for her lab needed a name, or how her grandmother’s ability to do cartwheels without getting dizzy fit in to all of that. He was sure it would have all made sense if he’d been around to witness any of it in real time or had gotten the bits and pieces when they were relevant to some larger picture.
Making eye contact with Miri, Tony got a small smile in return. She didn’t seem to have any trouble following Abby’s stream of consciousness. It was either that or Miri was a lot better at pretending to understand. When she mouthed ‘nod your head, smile a lot’, Tony had ducked his head to hide a grin. It was something Mouse had said was a good survival tactic when confront with people and things that one simply couldn’t understand. Although, the ‘and back away slowly’ portion of Mouse’s advice wasn’t something they could truly put into practice at the moment.
Other than his repeated wary, uncertain glances McGee wouldn’t look directly at Tony. Tony found that unsettling. It wasn’t like McGee had any problem getting in his face before he left. Why the issue now?
McGee had been confident in his abilities, and rightfully so. He was damn good with computers and had proven himself invaluable on more than one occasion. Tony thought being promoted to Gibbs’ senior agent would have bolstered McGee’s confidence and inflated his ego. He should be rubbing Tony’s face in all he’d accomplished, the cases he’d cracked, the ‘atta boys’ and ‘good jobs’ he’d gotten. He should be gloating about how much better he was than Tony. He should be smug about his promotion and how it hadn’t been a consolation prize the way Tony’s going to Rota could be seen as being. So why hadn’t he?
Gibbs could have stopped Abby’s rambling monologue with a look or a few well placed words. He always had the ability to shut her down without upsetting her unduly. He could have drawn McGee out with a few leading comments. It wasn’t like Gibbs hadn’t done it before. Hell, he could have even gotten Tony to talk if he wanted, making him interact and engage the way he had before leaving. But Gibbs seemed just as lost as Tony felt.
It was damned unnerving. And it was making for the most awkward time of Tony’s life. He hadn’t been this uncomfortable meeting his first step-mother, or when the headmaster had called him in to his office three days after he’d started at boarding school.
Tony had been relieved when Shepard called him and Gibbs up to her office. He found himself hoping that by the time he got to the top of the stairs he’d have managed to find his way out of the rabbit hole, or passed through the other side of the mirror. Or maybe Rod Serling would show up and give him the ironic punch line to this Twilight episode.
Tony let Gibbs brief Shepard on the status of the case. Gibbs was the more senior agent, regardless of the fact that they were essentially the same rank now. And letting Gibbs take the lead was a bit of normalcy Tony thought might help adjusted to the shifted dynamic that now existed.
Gibbs went and ruined that when he told Shepard Tony had a plan to get Goliath to talk to them and then proceeded to tell Tony to fill her in. While it was polite for the older man to give him credit for the idea, it made Tony uneasy to be again on the receiving side of an uncharacteristically nice gesture. Or it did until Tony realized Gibbs might well think the idea was crap and he was just setting Tony up to fall flat on his face, waiting until Shepard was in the loop to point out everything he thought was wrong with Tony’s plan.
It would be a petty sort of thing to do, and one Tony wouldn’t ordinarily have attributed to Gibbs, but it still made more sent than Gibbs being nice. Hell, even when they were sleeping together, Gibbs hadn’t been polite or nice. There was no real reason for Gibbs to be nice now. Tony was just another agent, not a teammate. It they were ever friends, it wasn’t like they were good friends. They didn’t hang out together, they didn’t have common interests, hell they rarely even spent a night together. It was just sex, Tony reminded himself sternly. And whatever trust they had in each other was only in play when they were on the job or Gibbs would have mentioned his first wife and daughter and Tony might have told him how he felt.
With a silent sigh, Tony opted to play it as straight with Shepard as he had with Gibbs when he filled him in on the plan to ‘kidnap’ Goliath. If by some slim chance Gibbs was being nice, there was no reason to ruin the gesture by acting like an ass. And if Gibbs was just waiting for the right time to rip his idea apart, again there was no reason to look even more like a fool.
Regardless of why Shepard gave him a promotion, Tony was determined to prove she hadn’t made a mistake. So he maintained a professional demeanor, assessing the risks and benefits of his plan as openly and honestly as he could.
Tony tried to get a read on Shepard as he filled her in, but he’d never understood her as well as he did Gibbs. Or more accurately, as well has he thought he’d understood Gibbs. He couldn’t tell if she liked the idea or not when he was finished.
“You really think that will work?”
Tony didn’t look at Gibbs, and refused to second guess himself. “Yes, Ma’am, I do.”
“I think DiNozzo’s plan is our best shot at finding out what Goliath is doing here and who he’s doing it for in the shortest time possible. It’s a damn good plan.”
Tony smiled. It wasn’t exactly an ‘atta boy’ but it wasn’t far off the mark either. He told himself that the warmth he felt had nothing to do with Gibbs’ comment. It shouldn’t matter what Gibbs thought.
Shepard had kept her focus on Gibbs when she asked, “What do you need to put it in motion?”
Tony knew Gibbs didn’t care to have outsiders messing around with his cases, so he thought the first thing Gibbs would say was it was time for Tony and Miri to go back to Rota. A cursory ‘thank you’ and ‘don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out’ was what he thought he’d be hearing.
Instead, Gibbs simply starting lining out the need for a van, a fast acting sedative, a plane and permission to circle the airport. Tony nearly gaped like a landed fish when Gibbs said, “I’d like to have Callahan work with David and the probie on the actual taking of Goliath. McGee and Abby can monitor and record everything electronically. DiNozzo and I will be on the plane to convince Goliath he’s going to Africa to face an angry dictator or gunrunner whichever one wants a crack at him first. ”
Shepard nodded. She looked askance at Tony. “You okay with staying around to help out?”
To see his plan play out, to solve the puzzle, to see another weapons dealer put out of business…oh yes, Tony was okay with that. Even if he wasn’t entirely sure about everything else, he was okay with that.
She snorted. “Please don’t Ma’am me any more Tony. I’m not that damned old. I told you nearly a year ago it was fine with me for you to use my first name. If you really feel the need to be formal, I think I’d prefer Director to Ma’am.”
Tony grinned, feeling more sure of himself. “Yes, Director.”
She rolled her eyes, but smiled back at him. “I’ll let you know when the plane is ready. I’m sure Ducky can recommend a drug for you to use. And I believe there is a van in the motor pool that should do nicely.”
She tipped her head to both of them, and then in an obvious dismissal she said, “Keep me posted gentlemen.”
Gibbs did a neat about face and headed for the door. Tony followed him, closing the door quietly behind him. Seeing Shepard’s secretary is away from her desk, and the area is one of the few semi-private places in the entire office, Tony reached out and put a hand on Gibbs’ shoulder to stop him.
Gibbs looked at him, both eyebrows rising. “There a problem, DiNozzo?”
“You and I both know you don’t need me here to do this. “
Tony forced himself to make eye contact. This was probably the only time he’d have to address why Gibbs would have voluntarily kept him around. He wasn’t going to pass on it or have the other man think he didn’t have stones enough to ask and be capable of handling the answer.
“While I appreciate having the opportunity to see the case through, you aren’t usually one to involve unnecessary personnel so why are you—“
“That would only apply if I actually had the lead here, Boss.” Tony shook his head. “I never had the lead on this case.”
The case was a joint effort. Both teams had worked together; they'd covered whatever aspect of the case was favored by their location and talents, but Tony never had any illusions as to who was in charge. The disgruntled group of terrorists who’d set three bombs in Spain had been addressed. That was the case Tony had been lead on. He was second chair on Goliath and La Grenouille.
“You got the best lead we’ve had.”
“Not the same as being in charge and you know it.” Tony shook his head. His gaze narrowed as he studied Gibbs. “Are you letting me stick around to see this resolved as some sort of pat on the back for doing my job?”
That was probably a farfetched idea, especially when Tony considered how few ‘good jobs’ he’d ever gotten from Gibbs. And Gibbs had always been of the belief that doing your job well was the only reward needed. Recognition and awards were redundant, so as unlikely as his question had been, Tony still had to ask.
“Then why have me here when you don’t need—“
“Because I want you here.” Gibbs bit out.
Tony refused to read anything into that. He wasn’t going to assume Gibbs meant what he’d hoped he meant. “Why would you want me here? You’ve got your team. McGee, Ziva and your probie are fully capable of—“
“I know they can handle it, Tony.” Gibbs stepped into Tony’s space, gaze intense. “That was never an issue.”
“Damn it, DiNozzo, don’t you get it?” Gibbs hissed. “I missed you. Okay? I missed you a lot. And I want us to keep working together for as long as possible.”
With that the other man turned and stalked off. Tony blinked, too stunned to follow after him. Well that wasn’t what he’d been expecting.
Gibbs missed him? Really? Tony grinned, feeling suddenly lighthearted. But he quickly squashed the feeling, his expression sobering. Gibbs had told him he was irreplaceable once and then turned it into a joke. This could easily be something similar, although without an audience or the punch line.
What exactly had Gibbs missed? Him as an agent? Or him as an occasional pressure release valve? And if the man had missed him, why the hell had it taken him so long to say anything? Was it just convenient now? A byproduct of the case and had nothing to really do with Tony at all? Was it just a moment of nostalgia? Maybe he just wanted to get laid and thought keeping Tony around would help improve the odds. Not that Gibbs had admitted to even remembering they’d had sex, but Tony wasn’t going to rule it out.
Tony took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He took another and held it for a slow count of five before releasing it. Maybe he should tell Miri everything. She’d proven herself loyal, and she wasn’t going to judge him for sleeping with his boss. Well, other than thinking it was a bonehead move on his part—which he already knew and Tony wouldn’t blame her for calling him on it. Miri was levelheaded and had been a good sounding board almost from the day he’d met her. God knows Tony wasn’t making much headway on his own so someone else, someone he trusted, to help him think it through was definitely a good idea.
He wondered if Miri had any more painkillers with her. All this shit was giving him a headache.
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MTAC - NCIS Fic