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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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Gibbs took a deep breath and tried to control his rising anger.

Over the years he’d found people could grow accustomed to being yelled at. Learning how to handle someone screaming in your face was an essential part of basic training for a reason. So Gibbs had made a point of not raising his voice unless he had to. He wanted his people to react to his yelling, not get used to it. He wanted raising his voice to add emphasis and get results, not become so common it lost all meaning.

He also knew the cutting power of a quiet tone. It was decidedly more intimidating to be able to lean in and force his audience to strain to hear what he had to say. Close proximity made it impossible to ignore someone all but whispering in your ear.

Ice-cold fury had an impact that a white-hot raging temper couldn’t match. Having the opposition know beyond any doubt that Gibbs was in complete control of himself added to the intimidation factor. Ranting would not convey the right message, so Gibbs refused to do it, no matter how tempting it was.

Meeting up with Ziva and Bahl, Harrow’s body still cooling on the steps where he died, Gibbs was hard pressed not to give into his desire to scream and beat them about the head and shoulders for good measure. What in the hell were they thinking? He’d told them to keep an eye on the man, confirm he was the Harrow they were looking for, and bring him in for questioning if he was. Nothing in his orders said kill the man. Nothing he’d told them to do included interrupting the first chance he’d gotten to talk to Tony alone in two days—or create a situation that might keep him from talking to Tony alone in the future for an untold number of days.

With Harrow dead, Gibbs wouldn’t have the opportunity to even consider how he might find a way to invite Tony to dinner. Hell, and given how happy Tony had sounded about being in Spain, repairing the rift between them might not make a damn bit of difference. Gibbs would have liked the chance to come to terms with that over several stiff drinks in his basement, but that was no longer an option.

Instead of dinner with Tony, or drowning his sorrows in his basement, Gibbs had to deal with a dead man, a lost weapons system, and a team that couldn’t seem to follow the simplest of orders. It made Gibbs want to break things.

“You two want to tell me what happened?” His tone was deceptively mild. He could see Ziva tensing up in response to it. Bahl looked even more nervous than usual. They knew they were on dangerous ground.

“We spotted Harrow leaving a coffee shop. He was a match to he photo McGee gave us, so we and followed him,” Ziva said, her clipped speech sounding defensive.

“He ran, Boss,” Bahl interjected. “I’m not sure who he thought we were, but—“

Gibbs held up a hand, stopping him from saying any more. “So you chased him?”

There were twin nods from Bahl and Ziva. The nervous, jerky motions made their unease obvious to anyone looking at them.

“And he dropped dead here?” Gibbs directed his glare from one to the other. “That’s what happened?”

“Essentially,” Ziva cleared her throat, “yes. Had we known the man was ill we would not have chased him. But a man of his age and in such poor shape had to have known that running was not a good—“

“Do not make excuses,” Gibbs growled.

Bahl was a probie, he didn’t have the experience to know any better. He’d followed Ziva’s lead. But Ziva was a seasoned operative. She should never have been spotted in the first place. And chasing Harrow was a stupid thing to do. The man was sixty-five if he was a day. Just how far had they thought a man his age and in his shape was going to run? Why not just tail him at a distance, give him a chance to calm down and then approach?

Gibbs didn’t want to hear either of them try to justify their actions. Their only lead on ARES was dead. That fact was the only reason Gibbs cared at all about Harrow dying before he could talk to him. If ARES ended up in an enemy nation’s hands a lot of good soldiers would pay the ultimate price and that was simply unacceptable.

“In case you two numbskulls have forgotten,” Gibbs ground out between his teeth, “Harrow was our only lead on ARES.”

He waited a beat. “So you had better get busy finding another one.”

Bahl glanced to the body. “But what about—“

“Ducky and Palmer are fully capable of taking care of Harrow, especially since you two made it his job.” Gibbs snarled. “So get busy. Now.”

“We will go to his home and see what we can find,” Ziva offered, sounding like she was asking permission, color warming her cheeks.

“Ziva, take McGee with you. He’ll know more than Bahl what to look for.”

Bahl looked like a kicked puppy, and it just made Gibbs want to kick him for real. He hated that look. Gibbs wasn’t an ogre damn it. He hadn’t even punished either them…yet. He glared at the probationary agent, anger further inflamed by the younger agent’s wounded look over a simple statement of fact. McGee was the one most likely to recognize ARES when he saw it.

“Bahl, trace Harrow’s steps. Find out where he came from before you spotted him and ran him to death. Find out if he spoke with anyone and what he said. Find out if he left anything anywhere.”

“On it, Boss.”

Gibbs watched his team scatter. He turned and saw Tony and Miri nodding to one another before Miri headed after Bahl. Gibbs was tempted to call her back, but he already knew Miri wouldn’t respond to him. She demonstrated that more than once already.

“DiNozzo, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Bahl is too green to be on his own.” Tony told him, meeting Gibbs’ angry glare with more panache than Ziva or Bahl had. “And even if he was seasoned, he should have back up.”

Gibbs knew that, but he resented having it pointed out to him. “He’s not going to run into any trouble.” It wasn’t like Gibbs had assigned him dangerous duty.

“So the gun he’s got on his hip, the one that regulations require him to carry whenever he’s in the field, is that just because the powers that be are overly cautious? That he won’t ever run into trouble unexpectedly? He’ll never be surprised, caught off guard or be in any real danger unless it is announced in advance?” Tony huffed out a breath, looking every bit as annoyed as he sounded. “We are prepared for trouble at all times for a reason, Gibbs.”

“He’s not your concern.”

“And Miri isn’t yours.” Tony countered calmly. “No agent should ever be without back up in the field.”

Gibbs’ jaw clenched. It had been a long time since anyone had deigned to question his decisions or felt the need to point out something he’d overlooked. The only one who’d ever challenged him to any real effect was Tony. Gibbs had forgotten that some times he needed someone to do it—especially on those rare occasions when his temper or obsession with a case had gotten the better of his good sense. Gibbs had forgotten that sometimes having his six was more than just literally physically guarding his back.

Gibbs took a breath and let it out slowly. He didn’t want to argue about this. Not when he already knew he was wrong. He wasn’t going to apologize either, even if it was warranted. He did give a consolatory look to Tony, trying to convey his understanding and acceptance.

Tony smiled. “I’ll sketch and shoot so we’ll be ready when Ducky gets here.”

Gibbs nodded back, lips curling upward slightly in an answering smile. “Thanks.”

Gibbs meant that for more than being willing to work the scene. He knew Tony understood when the younger man smiled a bit wider.

“Ningún problema, Jefe.”

Gibbs frowned in confusion, the Galician accent of Tony’s Spanish throwing him for a moment before he realized what Tony had said.

Tony pulled a camera from his backpack and started to shoot the scene. Gibbs was about to help when he saw Ducky and Palmer arrive. They’d made good time, so apparently there were no detours due to faulty navigation. Palmer must have realized by now not to rely on Ducky to read a map or provide good directions.

Gibbs was less happy to see Director Shepard was with them. She didn’t normally leave the office. He knew she had an interest in this case, a personal one at that. But he hadn’t expected her to be any more involved than simply being briefed on their progress because so far she’d left it alone. He had expected it to stay that way. He should have known better than to assume.

Gibbs didn’t like it when the higher ups got involved. It didn’t bode well. It never did. Tony looked up from where he was working, making eye contact with Gibbs before his eyes cut away to look toward where Shepard was striding determinedly toward them.

“Well, shit,” Tony muttered.

“Roger that, DiNozzo,” Gibbs murmured just loud enough for Tony to hear him, a warmth blossoming in his chest over the simple fact they were in complete agreement.

Director Shepard looked pissed. Gibbs imagined it was about how he’d looked to Ziva and Bahl when he’d arrived, except Shepard didn’t intimidate him the way he knew he intimidated his team. He was glad he’d sent his team away. If anyone was going to read them the riot act it would be Gibbs. They didn’t need to take flak from the Director. That was Gibbs’ job.

“What happened?” Shepard demanded.

Gibbs went with the truth. “It appears that Harrow died of natural causes, but Ducky only just got here so the real cause of death hasn’t been officially determined.”

She glared at him. “Natural causes? That’s what you’re going with?”

“It happens, Director.”

“Not around Ziva it doesn’t,” she muttered.

Gibbs kept his expression impassive. Ziva might have been the shoot first and ask questions later type when she’d started on the team, but she was more investigator than assassin now. Or at least, Gibbs thought she was. Chasing Harrow had been a bone headed move, one she should have known better than to do, but Gibbs didn’t honestly think she or Bahl had caused the man to have a heart attack—at least not deliberately.

In some ways they were lucky. If Harrow’s heart was in bad enough shape for him to suffer a fatal attack from a few minutes of brisk exercise, the man could easily have died before they’d managed to locate him. They’d be even worse off if that had happened.

“What about ARES?” Shepard asked, blue eyes scanning the area pensively.

“We’re looking for it.”

“Looking for it?” She arched both eyebrows, the tone of her voice sharp enough to almost make Gibbs wince.

“He didn’t have it on him. And the auction hasn’t been held yet.” Gibbs forced himself to keep his tone as neutral as his expression. He didn’t really want to antagonize her.

“Gibbs, we cannot lose—“

“I know that,” Gibbs snapped, his control slipping slightly. He did not need to be reminded of how important ARES was to the United States. And her being at the scene would not help the case go any smoother.

“Our only link to ARES dead and with it our only possible way of capturing La Gren…a number of well known arms dealers has been seriously jeopardized.”

That little slipped of the tongue confirmed what Gibbs already knew. Shepard wasn’t interested in catching anyone but Benoit. She may have come to terms with her father’s suicide, but she obviously harbored a firm belief that Benoit had played a hand in her father’s decision to end his life. Gibbs was willing to concede that she might not be entirely wrong, but catching Benoit didn’t rank higher on the priority list than finding ARES. If they could have both, great, but he wasn’t going to sacrifice ARES for Benoit.

“Director, let me do my job.” Gibbs didn’t make it a request, or an order. It was a statement of fact. She should go back to the office. There wasn’t anything for her to do here.

“Jethro—“

“Jenny,” Gibbs spoke softly, “are you trying to tell me you don’t trust me to handle this?”

“Of course not,” she said indignantly. It was the answer he expected. She’d never come right out and say she had doubts in his ability, regardless of how she genuinely felt.

“Then let me do my job. I’ll brief you when we’ve got something.”

“But—“

“There isn’t anything for you to do here, Jenny. You’d be more effective keeping an eye on things at the Yard.”

“I just—“ Shepard sighed. “I’ll head back to the office.”

Gibbs nodded. He knew better than to actually say anything else. She would see words as an invitation to continue talking when there was really nothing more to say. She’d see anything he said at this point as a challenge, and a chance to fight with him. Gibbs watched her walk away, relieved, as always to have her gone.

It was odd, Gibbs suddenly realized, that Shepard was a former flame, someone he’d cared about at one point in time and had passionate sex with, but he almost couldn’t stand to be around her while he had no such trouble with Tony at all. Technically, he and Tony had parted on any better terms, but only because Tony had simply left without making a fuss or feeling the need to explain himself to Gibbs or place blame to justify his actions. The end result, though, was the same, they’d both left him. Gibbs had gone on with his life, and his former lover’s had gotten on with theirs.

Tony, unlike Shepard, hadn’t left solely to further his own career and ambitions. Admittedly, Gibbs hadn’t been entirely sure of that in the beginning. Rota was a promotion for Tony, and he’d clearly refused to accept being demoted to Senior Field Agent. He’d moved on to bigger and better things rather than stick with Gibbs and his team.

But Gibbs was honest enough with himself to get that he’d been the one to push Tony away. He’d denied what they’d had; acting like he hadn’t remembered it, making sure Tony wouldn’t bring it up or try to talk about it. Gibbs couldn’t remember if he’d consciously pushed Shepard away, but he remembered her accusing him of shutting her out. If he had, it couldn’t have been as blatant was what he’d done to Tony, but she’d gotten the message just as quickly as Tony had.

Of course, she had her own agenda, so in hindsight, Gibbs likely didn’t have to push all that hard. And she hadn’t shed any tears over them parting ways. There had been explanations, recriminations and angry gestures, but no tears.

If Tony had shed any tears, Gibbs didn’t know about it. And for the first time, not knowing bothered him. He’d angrily assumed that Tony had no trouble just walking away, hadn’t considered what or who he was leaving behind.

Meeting up with Tony again had been fairly straightforward, not like his initial encounter with Shepard after so many years apart. Tony wasn’t sex kitten one minute and claws bared the next. He hadn’t tried to make any of their interactions into anything more than Gibbs was comfortable with. He didn’t play up on what had been between them to curry favor, or demand concessions. Tony hadn’t let his tone imply intimacy, or stood too close, or flaunted his physical assets in an effort to distract Gibbs. He hadn’t tried to insinuate himself in Gibbs’ cases, or force them to interact when there was no need.

Since coming to DC, Tony been the epitome of professional, and Gibbs hated it. Not that he wanted Tony to act like Shepard, but he was so damned relieved that they weren’t acting like polite strangers any more. And they were moving toward something not yet defined, something Gibbs hoped would be more than what they’d had before. It was no wonder a dead man interrupting that steady forward progress had pissed him off so badly.

Gibbs felt like head slapping himself. All of his ex-wives had accused him of being dense, and they were probably right. It shouldn’t have taken this damn long to grasp the basic premise that Tony was simply following his lead. Gibbs had never said good-bye when ran off to Mexico. Tony hadn’t said it either. After Tony left, Gibbs hadn’t called or written, so Tony hadn’t either. When he did finally call, Gibbs had talked about work, so Tony kept he conversation focused on the case. Tony’s e-mails were always case related details, not personal, because Gibbs hadn’t asked or talked about anything else. When they met in the airport, it had been perfunctory not personal. Tony was only in town because of case; he hadn’t been invited, wasn’t on vacation, and hadn’t stopped by to visit old friends.

Looking back on it, Gibbs realized Tony had always let him set the tone. He’d only come by Gibbs’ house if Gibbs had extended some sort of invitation. It had only taken one nasty comment about Tony showing up uninvited, and a single refusal from Gibbs regarding an invitation to Tony’s place to stop the younger man from dropping by unannounced or ever extending a second invitation. Tony stopped sharing anything about movies or his dates the second Gibbs told him to shut up. He focused on cases when Gibbs ordered him too, and took on some truly thankless tasks. He worked long hours and put up with more shit from Gibbs than anyone ever had.

Christ, Gibbs thought, Tony had been in love with him. He’d never even suspected. He’d never even noticed.

Tony had accepted Gibbs leaving. He’d accepted him coming back. But he hadn’t tolerated the lack of respect or consideration. Tony had drawn a line; it had taken months, some honest soul searching and a number of lectures from Ducky for Gibbs to understand why Tony had and why it was the right thing to do. Miri forcing the issue and making Tony and Gibbs talk to one another had helped explain even more.

Gibbs realized that even thought Tony was letting him set the tone; he hadn’t been blindly following Gibbs’ lead. No more than he ever had. The case might have forced them to reconnect, but Tony had been the one to offer further communication. Miri may have made them talk to one another, but it was Tony who’d asked the first question. He’d agreed that making time to talk would be a good idea. He’d asked Gibbs out for coffee. He still stood up to Gibbs when it was warranted. Tony wasn’t passively doing anything.

They were both feeling their way—cautiously, carefully, to wary of what might go wrong to leap forward with both feet. It was like they were crawling through a minefield in the dark, unwilling to risk losing ground by backing away and too afraid of doing irreparable damage to rush forward without knowing the lay of the land.

Gibbs chuckled quietly to himself. Tony had mentioned something about shifting perspectives earlier. It looked like he wasn’t the only one experiencing them. It only made sense that they’d both have a few moments of insight. He still cared about Tony; naturally the younger man would still care about him. Neither of them would have been so cautious if the outcome wasn’t important.

“Boss?”

“Yeah, Tony?”

“You okay?”

Gibbs smiled. “Just working through my own shifting perspective.”

Tony arched an eyebrow. “Good or bad?”

“Good.”

Tony eyed him for a moment, brow furrowed, but he didn’t ask for any more details. It was a mark of how well he still understood Gibbs that Tony had immediately recognized now as not the time or place to discuss it. Instead his attention turned toward Ducky.

“So we got a cause of death, Ducky?”

“It appears, Mr. Harrow, had a heart attack.” Ducky told Tony with a warm smile Gibbs hadn’t seen in some time. “I’ll know for certain, my dear boy, when I get him back home and open him up.”

“Then lets get him loaded, Duck,” Gibbs told him. New perspective or not, there was still work to be done.

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