Click for Printer Friendly Version
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
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
The drive to the hotel was both far too short and way too long.
Gibbs had no idea clear idea of what exactly he wanted to say to Tony. All he really knew was that he needed to talk to him. He had to clear the air a bit more, to continue making some progress, however minute, on repairing the rift between them. He wanted to confirm what he’d overheard---Tony was not sleeping with his second in command and never slept with Ziva. He wanted to know if Tony’s feelings for him had been more than Gibbs thought, more than he’d expected or deserved, to find out if any of those feelings might still exist. But the trip wasn’t long enough to give him time to figure out how to bring up any or all of that.
Conversely, the silence in the car was nearly a tangible thing, weighing on him, and it was a relief to finally arrive at the hotel and be free of the oppressive feeling. It reminded Gibbs of the tension in the air that built before a summer storm. It made his skin itch, and he didn’t like it.
Pulling into the lot for the hotel, Gibbs searched for something to say that would get him an invitation to follow Tony inside. There had to be something that would give him a few minutes alone. Something that would break the ice and give him the answers he wanted. Ordinarily, Gibbs would have fallen back on work as an excuse, but that wasn’t an option because they’d already covered everything, twice. He didn’t think simply asking would do the trick.
Miri and Tony got out of the car. Gibbs did the same. He could offer to help with the bags. Maybe that would at least get him into the hotel. He’d find out Tony’s room number.
“This place have a bar?” Miri asked, shrugging the strap of one duffle bag over her shoulder. She shot Gibbs a warning look when he reached for the other. Gibbs tried not to snarl back at her, but it was a near thing.
“Yeah.” Tony answered. He reached for the carryon, but he got the same look Miri had given Gibbs. “Miri, what are—“
“Perfect.” Miri nodded once firmly. “I’ll check us in and meet you at the bar in twenty minutes. That should give you two plenty of time.”
“Time for what?” Gibbs asked, frowning heavily and watching her warily.
“For you to both ask a few questions and get a few answers.” Miri smiled at him, unaffected by his demeanor, reminding him of Abby for a moment. She was clearly not going to take no for an answer. “God knows it’s long over due and you two definitely need to.”
Piercing blue eyes measured both of them. “And should you both find yourselves stricken mute, which I grant you is more likely than not given the nearly universal male belief that talking is somehow more painful than having a limb amputated without anesthetic, then twenty minutes is more than enough awkward silence for one evening.”
She ran a hand through her hair, blonde spikes bending and flexing to accommodate the movement but remaining otherwise in place. She sighed.
“Hell, the car ride here is more than enough as far as I’m concerned, but that’s just me. Much better to just deal with shit in my opinion. Get it out in the open, address it, label it done and file it. The elephant in the room isn’t going away just because you refuse to dance with him.”
“Sir.” Miri arched an eyebrow, her back straightening. She wasn’t backing down.
Tony sighed, resigned. He closed his eyes and nodded once, clearly recognizing a losing battle. Gibbs wasn’t sure he’d fair any better. And he wasn’t sure why he’d want to—Miri had just given him exactly what he’d wanted, time alone with Tony. Not that he was entirely sure what to do with it, but he had it.
“You want me to order you a drink, Callahan?”
Miri smiled warmly. “Please.”
“Fat chance, Sir.” Miri laughed. “You know better than that.”
The corners of Tony’s lips quirked upward in a small smile. “Something with a lot more age and bit more pain.”
“Definitely.” She grinned. She patted Tony lightly on the shoulder. “Twenty minutes. No more. No less. No worries, Sir. I’ve got your back.”
As she walked away, Gibbs looked at Tony. There were so many things he could say, but all that came out was, “What did you mean by something with a lot more age and a bit more pain?”
“She wants whiskey.” Tony chuckled. “Miri doesn’t drink alcohol very often. But when she does, she says a drink should bite back or it might as well be water. And she says life is to short to drink bad booze, so she always wants the good stuff. Which means she wants something that’s been around awhile.”
Tony’s smile turned wry. “No one will ever accuse Miri of being a cheap drunk.”
“She’s something else.” Gibbs was surprised to find he meant that as a compliment.
“That she is.” There was no mistaking the affection and admiration in Tony’s voice.
“So…”Gibbs hesitated, unsure of what else to say as he and Tony both headed inside the hotel. He was not going to be stricken mute, if for no other reason than to prove Miri wrong. “She does base jumping?”
“Listening in, weren’t you?” Tony rolled his eyes, sounding more amused than annoyed.
Gibbs didn’t bother answering. It was clearly a rhetorical question.
Tony clucked his tongue. “You’d think they’d be smart enough to pick up that little detail, but obviously they haven’t.”
“McGee and Ziva.” Tony shrugged one shoulder. “The light on the phone is only on when the phone is in use.”
Gibbs frowned. He never noticed that detail either. Of course since Tony had, then he was fully aware of what Gibbs had heard, assuming Tony had overheard it all too. And Gibbs was betting Tony had. He wondered how he’d managed to do that since Gibbs hadn’t seen him from the mezzanine. It made Gibbs feel a little proud knowing Tony had more than one trick.
They crossed the lobby and headed into the bar. Tony nodded to the bartender and pointed to a booth, getting a nod in return and a hand signal that he’d be with them in a moment. They sat down, facing each other.
Gibbs wanted to bang his head against the wall. He still had no idea of what to say. This shouldn’t be so hard. He’d never had issues talking to Tony before---of course nothing deep, meaningful or personal had ever been the topic, but still Gibbs had always managed to express himself and get his point across.
Tony lightly drummed his fingers on the table. “Miri only started jumping about two months ago. Says it’s a natural off-shoot of rock climbing, but I’m not buying that. I think she just likes heights.”
“She convince you to try it yet?” Gibbs asked, relieved that Tony had picked up the conversational ball and brought it back into play.
He remembered how excited Tony had been by the idea of getting to parachute out of a plane so many years ago. Base jumping sounded like it might be right up Tony’s alley. And while he’d only met Miri today, he couldn’t imagine her not trying to coerce Tony into trying it, not when she’d already mentioned trying to get their other teammate to give it a go.
“We’d scheduled it but,” Tony held up his cane, “had to put things on hold for a bit.”
The only time Tony had jumped from a plane, or more accurately been pushed out of the plane, he’d hurt his leg. It hadn’t been serious, a badly sprained ankle and a bruised knee, but Gibbs suddenly worried Tony do real damage to himself.
“You could break your neck.” He fought like hell to keep his voice even, to sound calm rather than panicked. Who would look out for Tony if that happened? Who was going to keep him safe? Hell his second in command was the one who talked him into it for crying out loud.
“Yeah, that’s why Mouse says he won’t do it.” Tony laughed quietly, obviously unconcerned by the possibility. It made Gibbs hands clench in frustration.
“I don’t think the possibility he could get hurt is the real reason Mouse keeps saying no. The truth is Mouse doesn’t like heights. He prefers depths.”
“The man likes to dive.” Tony smiled. “Prefers surfing, but diving is definitely in the top ten. Anything with water actually. I swear the man is part fish.”
“Caleb has a thing about small spaces.” Tony shook his head. He looked bemused. “My whole team has issues.”
The last was said with real fondness. Tony clearly liked his teammates. The same way Gibbs thought he’d liked his teammates in DC. But the way he left, and the chilly reception he gave everyone but Abby, belied that fact. Of course, it wasn’t all one sided. Hell, Ziva barely looked at him and hardly spoke to him. And McGee acting like he kept expecting Tony to bite his head off. It wasn’t what Gibbs had expected. And it made him wonder all over again what had happened in the four months he’d been gone.
“Your team? They are good people?”
“Oh, yeah.” Tony nodded. “The best.”
Gibbs opened his mouth, only to close it when the bartender approached.
“What can I get you boys?”
“Do you have Guinness Stout?” Tony asked.
The bartender nodded. “We do.”
“I’ll have a glass of that.”
“And for you?” He looked at Gibbs.
“Whatever you have on tap is fine.” Gibbs considered asking for bourbon but decided against it. He still had to drive home. And he preferred to drink bourbon in his basement. It never seemed to taste as good if he drank it anywhere else.
“Stout?” Gibbs raised both eyebrows. “Didn’t think you cared for dark beer.”
“I blame Caleb.” Tony shrugged, smiling. “He likes dark beer. A lot.” Tony laughed quietly. “And he is a firm believer that everyone else should like it too. It’s made for some interesting arguments between him and Miri.”
The bartender was back with their drinks. Tony told him in fifteen minutes or so a friend would be joining them. He’d like a shot of the best Irish single malt whiskey available when she showed up.
“Whiskey girl, eh?” The bartender grinned, his rounded face creasing with lines more indicative of laughter than age.
“She a pretty one?”
“Drop dead gorgeous.”
“I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for her.”
Tony grinned. “Thanks.”
Gibbs sipped his beer. He still had no idea of where to start, but he also knew he was running out of time. Miri had said twenty minutes. He was pretty damn sure twenty was all he’d get.
Tony bit his lower lip and then muttered to himself. “One of these days, Miri is going to be wrong.”
Tony sighed. “She said if I really wanted to know, I’d have to be the one to get the ball rolling. She said you might as well be the archetype for strong silent type, emphasis on silent. And really, how do I argue with her on that point since I’ve thought of you as a functional mute for years. So her advice was to man up and just ask. Be direct, blunt even, otherwise I will never get an answer.”
Gibbs blinked. “What are you--”
“When you said you missed me, what did you mean?” Tony asked bluntly, green eyes holding his with an uncanny directness. “I could take that any number of ways. Some good and some…not so much. Before I jump to any conclusions about what you were trying to say and ultimately how I should feel about it, I thought a little clarification might be in order.”
“What could be bad about me missing you?” Gibbs asked. He’d thought it was obvious what he’d meant.
“Well, you could have meant that you missed me because I was a damned good lay. Not to mention, I made it so easy for you. I didn’t get clingy and want to spend the night. I didn’t insist on us doing it in my bed. Never demanded you take me out, wine and dine me. Didn’t expect to get gifts or think I’d get privileged treatment. Hell, I didn’t even ask to be acknowledged as anyone you might be interested in more than simply fucking. I even let you pretend you didn’t remember any of it.”
Tony leaned forward a bit, his voice low and tight. “A lot of guys like getting fucked without having to work too hard for it and aren’t overly picky about who they fuck as long as it comes easy. I know a lot of people assume I am one of them, but a lot of people don’t really know me that well.”
Tony’s expression hardened. “You never struck me as that kind of guy, but I’ve been wrong before. So was your missing me just because you suddenly get a little lonely? Found yourself looking for a good fuck that wouldn’t ask for more than you were willing to give and realized someone like that was harder to find than you thought? You stop pretending and let yourself remember how good the sex was and decided that you wanted more of that when you saw me again? That why you missed me?”
“No.” Gibbs almost shouted his denial. “That is not what I meant. And you were never, ever, just a good fuck. I’m not that guy, Tony.”
Okay, admittedly, Gibbs could see how Tony might think that. Their sexual relationship had only ever been sexual. They hadn’t dated. Never went out together. Never did more than work up a sweat together and let off some steam. And honestly, Gibbs couldn’t point fingers at Tony for thinking he was only interested in a good lay. It wasn’t like he hadn’t thought the same thing about Tony---especially when he’d assumed Tony had immediately jumped into bed with Ziva. He had thought Tony was one of those guys just interested in getting his ashes hauled, and he should have known better, but he was smart enough not to admit that out loud.
Gibbs took a breath and let it out slowly. “I know I was…well…an ass about a lot of things when I came back from Mexico.”
Ducky and Shepard had both pointed it out to him on more than one occasion, particularly when things came up that had occurred in his absence that hadn’t been handled the way Gibbs would have preferred. Shepard had been far less diplomatic about it than Ducky. She’d told him rather pointedly that ‘things didn’t just stop around here while you were on your margarita safari. If you wanted it handled your way, you should have stayed here and taken care of it.’
“But none of that was about you, or…us. Or the team. Or…well it just wasn’t. Okay. It was more…” Gibbs hesitated. He wasn’t even sure why he did what he did then. So much of it was operating on instinct, and emotion. There wasn’t much logic behind his actions then.
“I’d lost fifteen years of my life, and four months in Mexico hadn’t really done much to put the pieces back together. I wasn’t quite sure who I was or how to get it all back and I just…wanted everything to be the way it was except I wasn’t entirely sure how things were. I just reacted to the situation. I bulled my way through it, which in hindsight, was probably not the best way to deal with it. But at the time---”
Even to himself that sounded lame, so Gibbs quit talking. He eyed Tony, waiting for him say something. Tony looked at him, anger giving way to acceptance if not outright forgiveness. Tony nodded slowly. He sat back and the tension seemed to leach out of him. Gibbs realized just how important his answer had been to Tony, and he hoped like hell Tony’s reaction meant he’d said the right thing.
“Okay.” Tony nodded again. “Okay, I get that.”
Tony looked away. He bit his lower lip nervously, and Gibbs wished he could reach out and touch him, pull him into a hug and hold him close until Tony no longer looked---Gibbs wasn’t even certain he could label what he saw in Tony’s face. But it wasn’t his place any more to offer comfort, if it ever had been. And damn it hurt to think that.
“When I said I missed you, I meant I missed you.” Gibbs sighed. He shouldn’t have to explain this, but clearly he needed to. He’d forgotten that Tony wasn’t always as confident as he pretended to be, his insecurities showing up at the strangest times. Some old issues never went away, Gibbs thought to himself. Like ghosts they lingered, appearing unexpectedly, rising up to color the present with shades of the past.
“I miss having you on my team. I know I didn’t say it often, but you are good at your job. You are probably the best agent I ever worked with, and I miss being able to rely on you to get the job done.”
That had been surprisingly easy to say. And Gibbs realized it was probably something he should have said months ago.
“When I said I missed you, I meant I missed hearing you talk about movies I couldn’t give a crap about. I didn’t think I’d miss that, but I do. I miss you teasing McGee and Ziva. I miss you joking and laughing. I miss your insights and willingness to work long hours. It’s not the same at the office without you.”
“I’m guessing you don’t mean things are better?”
Gibbs snorted. “You were there today. You think any of that was better?”
Tony winced. “Everyone did their jobs.”
Gibbs grimaced. Was that supposed to help? Of course they did their jobs. It was how they did them that got to Gibbs.
“What the hell is up with McGee?” Gibbs asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know.” Tony made a helpless gesture with one hand. “I know I wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy, but I’ve said worse to him. Hell, I’ve done worse and he’s never acted like he was afraid of me. Annoyed, sure. Pissed off, definitely. The four months I filled in for you, he—“
Tony stopped abruptly. Gibbs eyes narrowed. “He what?” When Tony didn’t answer immediately, Gibbs pushed harder. “Tony, what did McGee do?”
“Just let it go. It doesn’t matter.”
“The hell it doesn’t.” Gibbs resisted the urge to slap his hand on the table. “Tell me.”
“DiNozzo.” Gibbs glared at Tony.
Tony sighed. “Let’s just say he didn’t exactly treat me with the same respect he gave you.” Tony rubbed one hand tiredly over his face. “And really why the hell would he? I’m not you.”
Tony laughed softly, the sound devoid of any real humor. “They all took great pains to point that out. Every one of them, damn near every day. Like I didn’t already know that? Like it was some sort of fucking secret I wasn’t you?”
Tony breathed out in a forceful huff. “No one stepped up their game for me. They weren’t afraid of me or what I might do. No one went above and beyond the call because I asked them to or even when I ordered them to. Hell, Ziva couldn’t even be counted on to show up on time.”
“You should have--”
“Made her? Yeah, right.” Tony smiled tightly. “How exactly was I supposed to make a Mossad assassin toe the line? She didn’t answer to me then, any more than she does now. In case you’ve forgotten, she’s not really an agent. Hell, she’s only on the damn team because Shepard put her there. You really think I was going to be allowed to fire her? That I could dock her pay? That I could figuratively if not literally take her out behind the woodshed and spank her ass? You really think that she’d stand for having me…the guy she considered just barely a step above a moron take her to task and get away with it?”
Tony chuckled darkly. “Maybe if she owed me something the way she owes you. The way she owes Jenny. That could have been an option. But she doesn’t. All I’d have gotten for my trouble was laughed at or more likely a knife in my ribs.”
Gibbs hadn’t considered that. He never thought for a moment that Ziva might not follow the chain of command because she didn’t fall within their chain. Not really. He’d gotten used to think of her as a teammate and ignored the fact that she wasn’t truly an agent.
“McGee, he did his job, nothing more. He just didn’t push, didn’t do any more than absolutely necessary, didn’t stay late, never came in early, and played by the rules. How exactly was I supposed to come down on him for being competent rather than extraordinary? And why should he go above and beyond the call? McGee didn’t even think I deserved the job. He at least was honest about that. And as much I hate him for it, I can’t fault him for stating his opinion.”
That much Gibbs had known. Well the fact that McGee hadn’t thought Tony deserved to be team leader, not the other stuff. McGee’s lack of experience with things Gibbs kept handing him made a lot more sense. If he was only doing the minimum to get by, how could Tony have relied on him to do more? Tony’s greeting McGee today no longer seemed so odd. Gibbs better understood why Tony would be angry with him. He didn’t understand McGee’s reaction though, unless the younger man felt guilty, or ashamed. In that case, he obviously felt he warranted a dressing down and kept expecting the other shoe to drop. When Tony hadn’t let it fall, it just made McGee increasingly more anxious.
Tony shook his head. “And Abby, for all her ‘you’re not Gibbs’ attitude, kept expecting me to act like you. I should ask for information like you. I should show up the second her babies had something the way you did. I should have a new caf-pow for her the moment she ran out. But clearly, I am not magic. I’m never going to be. And honestly, it’s taken me awhile, but I’m good with that.”
Tony’s hand clenched around his glass of beer hard enough to whiten his knuckles. “Ducky was always his competent self. He is and always has been very good at his job, but to have him constantly address me as Jethro made me want to scream. I know habits are hard to break, but when everyone is telling me I’m not you, how fucking hard it is to call me Tony?”
Tony took a deep breath and released it slowly. “Except for Lee and Palmer, all of them acted like I should keep the damn family together. Like it was my job to keep them all from falling apart. Never mind they were all doing their best to make sure I knew I was a piss poor stand it. That it wasn’t my family. It never had been. It was yours.”
Tony grimaced and shook his head, releasing the glass to flex his fingers. “If being a bastard is what it takes to get the best out of people, I am never going to. And frankly, I don’t want to. That’s not me.” Green eyes met blue. “That’s you.”
Gibbs didn’t know how to respond to that.
Tony sighed. “And then you come back. Hurray. Everyone is happy. Until you leave again. Then they are all devastated once more, and again it’s my job to make it okay for all of them. To make it bearable for them. Never mind how it made me feel. Clearly that wasn’t a concern for anyone else.”
Tony picked up his glass and took a sip of his beer. “So you finally come back and decided to stay. Of course, everyone is ecstatic. It is back to the regularly scheduled program, except that they have to rub my face in the fact that I’m being demoted. Like I was so awful to them they couldn’t wait to return the favor? Like I was such a bad leader they had to make sure I knew how little respect I deserved. And really, why shouldn’t they be like that?”
Tony looked at Gibbs, his expression so painfully neutral it hurt to look at him. “They followed your lead. Just like they always have. You gave me your badge and gun with such a great ringing endorsement.”
Tony sneered. “You’ll do, you said. Like I just happened to be handy and you couldn’t be bothered to look any further. I’d do in a pinch, right? I’d do since you weren’t actually leaving long enough for my being in charge to matter?”
“That wasn’t how I meant that.” Gibbs protested.
Tony ignored him. “And when you came back, you dumped everything on my desk without so much as a ‘hi, how are you?’ making it clear you have no respect for me so why should they?”
Gibbs didn’t know what to say to that. He hadn’t seen his actions in that light. Hadn’t understood how other people might perceive what he’d done. When he’d left, he was too broken by events to do more than simply leave his team in capable hands. And when he returned, he was more focused on putting his world in order, redrawing things the way he remembered them to consider how it might have seemed to anyone else.
“I get why you did it now. I get it.” Tony’s smile was hard and bitter. “But then, not so much. And nothing said I had to like it, even if I had understood it. Or that I had to stand around and take it. Especially not when you were shutting me out so firmly I might as well be on the other side of the world.”
Tony took another sip of his beer. “You made it very clear I wasn’t needed. There was no reason for me to stay.”
Gibbs leaned forward, reaching for Tony’s free hand only to have the younger man shy away. “You were needed.” Frowning at his use of the past tense, Gibbs spoke again. “You are needed.”
Tony shook his head. “The team doesn’t need me. They’ve gotten along just fine with out me.”
Fine? No, Gibbs wasn’t sure he’d call it that. Yeah, the team functioned. Yeah, they solved cases and did their jobs, but it wasn’t the same. Things were lacking. Things Gibbs had turned a blind eye to that he couldn’t ignore any longer. The team wasn’t the cohesive unit it had been. Hell even Miri noticed and she’d only just met them. They weren’t close the way Tony’s team was…not any more. But Gibbs didn’t really want to mention any of that. He didn’t want to confess how long he’d been willing to ignore what was right in front of him, or admit he didn’t honestly know how to fix it.
“What about me?” Gibbs asked instead.
“What about you?” Tony frowned. “I never even heard from you until it was about a case. If all you need me for is the job, Gibbs, there are plenty of other agents who could do it. Just ask McGee and Ziva. I’m sure they’ve got a list. And if they don’t, Shepard is bound to.”
Tony played with condensation on his glass. “I think you’re selling Bahl short though. I know he is green, but he seems solid. A little on the nervous side, but I would be too with Ziva glaring at me all the time, and McGee being more hostile than helpful, and you snarling—“
“He’s not you.” Bahl was never going to be Tony. Not in Gibbs’ eyes. He couldn’t do for the team what Tony did. He couldn’t be to Gibbs what Tony was.
Tony laughed, clearly not taking Gibbs’ statement the way he’d intended. “Yeah, well, according to some people that would be a good thing.”
Tony’s expression sobered, making eye contact. “For all you know, Boss, he might just be better.”
“I doubt that. You are the best I’ve ever worked with.”
Color warmed Tony’s cheeks. “Thanks.”
Gibbs wanted to say more, to find out more about what happened while he’d been in Mexico, and to apologize for how his actions came across. He wanted clarify that his needing Tony hadn’t been just about the job. He wanted to screw up his courage and admit that what he’d felt for Tony had been deep and meaningful and he hadn’t realized it until it was too late. He wanted to find out if Tony still had any feelings for him, but he saw Miri walking in and realized his twenty minutes were up.
Gibbs stifled the urge to curse. Tony must have seen something in his expression because he glanced over his shoulder. Tony gave Gibbs’ a rueful look.
“She’s usually got better timing.”
Gibbs found himself chucking. Evidently he wasn’t alone in thinking they had more to talk about.
Tony’s smile was hesitant. “Maybe if we make a habit of doing this in twenty minute intervals before you know it we’ll have said everything we’re supposed to say.”
“You think that would work?” Gibbs asked, returning the smile. Please say yes; please say yes, Gibbs thought with a fierceness that surprised him.
“I don’t know.” Tony chuckled. “We’ve never done it before.”
“Would you be willing to try?”
“Yes.” Gibbs didn’t hesitate. “Hell, yes.”
When Tony smiled this time it was so warm Gibbs felt like he’d stepped into a sunbeam. “Okay, Boss. We’ll give it a shot. Tomorrow, we’ll do this again.”
Gibbs raised his glass of untouched beer, and Tony lightly clinked his own against it. He knew better than to assume everything could be fixed in one fell swoop. This was going to be like building a boat, time and attention was needed. Rushing it wasn’t an option, not if he was going to do it right. And Gibbs definitely wanted to do this right.
Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
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
MTAC - NCIS Fic