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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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The view through a sniper scope was amazingly clear and stunningly sharp, but decidedly limited in its range of vision.
The narrow view through the scope was one of the reasons a sniper usually had a spotter. Having someone with a wider field of view to watch for things the sniper couldn’t see while focused on his target was important. It was often vital to the success of the mission and the sniper’s survival.
That narrow focus was also why when a sniper was acting as back up for a larger team, he wasn’t the one calling the shots. Snipers were never in charge on a SWAT team. Too much happened on the periphery that they simply couldn’t see or weren’t aware of for them to be in command. Someone capable of seeing the full picture needed to be the one calling the action.
Gibbs knew when he elected to handle acting as long range protection for Ducky that he couldn’t be in command of the operation. Not that the CIA would have let him take complete control anyway. They were willing to cooperate only so far, but making sure it was NCIS personnel in the van directly monitoring the action and making sure Ducky got out in one piece was Gibbs’ main priority.
Having Tony as the one to coach and monitor Ducky ultimately meant he was the one in control of the action. Ducky who was point man on this operation, but Tony was the one telling him what to say, and when to say it. If things went sideways, Tony would be the one to call the operation off.
Gibbs trusted Tony’s judgment. Not only had Tony been very good at undercover work himself, and had been an agent for a long time. He had the experience and ability to make the call. He’d done it before for himself on countless cases, and for Gibbs when a teenager was holding his class hostage.
It didn’t hurt that Tony thought on his feet better than anyone Gibbs had ever met. If things didn’t go according to plan, Gibbs knew Tony would be able to adjust and adapt. And he also knew that regardless of the outcome the CIA wanted, or what Shepard longed for, Tony and he were on the same page in thinking Ducky’s safety was the number one priority. It was a nice feeling to once more be in sync with Tony.
It was rather anti-climactic that everything went smoothly when Gibbs was so prepared for things to degenerate into a monumental cluster fuck. There were a few tense moments when Ducky forgot that he was playing a roll, and nearly neglected to take payment, but overall it was far easier than Gibbs expected. It was a relief to stand down, but it would be awhile before the adrenaline bled away and let him truly relax.
“It feels wrong to be glad the bad guy got away,” Miri murmured as Gibbs began packing up his rifle. She sighed heavily. “Working for the greater good really sucks some days.”
Gibbs wasn’t sure a response was required given how rhetorical the statement seemed, but he responded anyway, thinking he should at least make an effort at conversation.
“The CIA will be happy.”
“Someone should be.” Miri grimaced. “Although, I would not be surprised if they got their panties in a bunch over something just to have a reason to make sure we didn’t forget our place. God forbid they admit to needing us or anyone else.”
She grinned suddenly, white teeth gleaming in the darkness. “DiNozzo, can we bet on that?”
It was only then that Gibbs realized their mics were still on and Tony could hear every word. They’d been able to listen in on Tony’s directives to Ducky and hear the conversation between Ducky and Benoit. But it had been quiet long enough for Gibbs to have lost sight of the fact they were still wired.
“Sucker bet, Callahan,” Tony replied to her question, amusement easy to hear in his voice.
“I miss Mouse, Sir,” Miri said, sounding like a child whose favorite toy had gotten lost. “He’d have taken me up on that.”
“Probably.” Tony chuckled. “But he’d have worked it in his favor.”
“The little shit is good at that.” Miri’s tone was fond. “Even when he loses he wins.”
“Call him when we get in. He’ll want to know this got wrapped up and we are safe and sound.”
“It’ll be damned early there.”
“You really think that matters?”
“Nope.” Miri grinned again. “But he’s going to bitch because it’s expected and it’s how he covers up the fact that he was worried and not sleeping anyway. So I’ll tell him it’s your fault he’s not getting the full requirement of beauty sleep he prefers.”
“Yeah, yeah, make me the bad guy.”
“It’s why you get paid the big bucks, Sir. I’m just here to look pretty.”
Gibbs’ chest tightened at the sudden reminder that Tony had a team of his own. Tony had duties and responsibilities somewhere other than DC. He had people who cared about him and that he cared about.
Gibbs’ jaw clenched. He was making headway toward fixing things with Tony, but what did that mean? Repairing the rift didn’t mean things would go back to the way they were. All his earlier joy at Tony’s dinner invitation faded away with the realization Tony wasn’t going to come back to Gibbs’ team.
For one thing, there wasn’t an open spot and Gibbs couldn’t see Shepard allowing Tony to come back. He was doing well in Spain, and making NCIS look good. She wouldn’t agree to his coming back to DC without a damn good reason. Gibbs couldn’t see her accepting his saying he needed Tony as a good reason, not when he’d gotten along without him for months.
And even if Shepard was willing, why would Tony come back? Having a team of his own was clearly something Tony deserved. He’d earned that promotion. If Miri was anything to go by, his team liked and respected Tony. He’d made a place for himself. After everything Tony had said about why he’d taken the job, and left his old team, Gibbs couldn’t see him trading the new team in for what he’d left behind in the first place; especially not when McGee would barely look at him and Ziva wouldn’t talk to him.
Thinking of Tony leaving hurt. A lot. Gibbs didn’t want him to go. Having Tony back had reminded of everything he’d lost, and everything he’d wanted to hold on to. Gibbs had missed Tony fiercely, only realizing what he’d lost after Tony was gone; he didn’t want to be without him again. He didn’t want to be alone.
Something of what he was thinking and feeling must have become apparent to Miri, even with the poor lighting. She looked at him, eyes narrowed, head cocked to one side.
“Well meet you at the van, Sir.” Miri said, the comment obviously directed at Tony even as she continued to study Gibbs.
She clicked her mic off, and motioned for Gibbs to do the same.
“You are an idiot.”
“I’d like to excuse you but honestly I can’t think of one good reason to.” Miri shook her head. She reminded Gibbs a lot of his mother at that moment. How was it possible for her to do that? She wasn’t even half his age for god’s sake.
“I get that Tony left on less than ideal terms with you and his old team. The way everyone has acted when we got here would have clued me in even if Tony hadn’t said a word. Subtle you and your team are not.”
Gibbs wanted to deny that, but it was hard to argue with the truth. A blind man could have seen there were issues that hadn’t been addressed.
“And since I made the two of you talk to one another, it’s a safe bet I’m fully aware of where things stand between you now. So please do not act as though I’m some how ignorant of what is going on.”
Miri pointed a finger at him. “Because I am aware, and I like Tony, and don’t hate you, I’m going to give you a bit of advice. Before you start looking like a kicked puppy again, talk to the man.”
Gibbs glared at her. “I did not look like a kicked puppy.”
“How would you know? You can’t see yourself.”
Gibbs didn’t have an answer for that. And suddenly she no longer reminded him of his mother but of his daughter. That was exactly the sort of argument Kelly would have made. It was the same sort of argument Abby would have made as well.
“Trust me you looked like a kicked puppy.” She clucked her tongue. “It’s not a good look for you.”
Gibbs wondered if he could get away with head smacking her. He was tempted but he was also sure she wouldn’t tolerate it. Gibbs was confident he could take her, but he didn’t think Tony would appreciate him kicking Miri’s ass.
Miri smiled, the mischief in her eyes made it clear she had a good idea of what he was thinking. She shook her head and pointed at him again. “Before you twist yourself up into a lot of unnecessary knots you should talk to Tony. I realize you can get by most of the time with a few looks and some grunts, but this is one or those cases where expressing yourself in English is actually be necessary. Not saying anything is sort of what got you to this point in the first place, remember?”
She wasn’t wrong, not really. Not talking to Tony had been the root of a lot of the problems between them, but Gibbs couldn’t see what difference talking would have in this case. It wasn’t like talking about it would change anything. Tony still had a team of his own to go back to. He still had a life that didn’t include Gibbs. None of that would change just because Gibbs had feeling for Tony, feelings he wanted to confess but hadn’t exactly figured out how to fully express.
But Gibbs was honest enough to admit the last time Miri had finagled it so he and Tony had to talk to one another it had been really beneficial. They were definitely better off if Tony had planned to ask Gibbs to dinner. Gibbs knew that would never have happened without the conversation they’d had in the hotel bar. So there might be some value in admitting to more.
He was only assuming that his feelings wouldn’t be enough to convince Tony to stay. He didn’t actually know. And he wasn’t honestly sure he wanted to be told that how he felt, that what he wanted and needed, wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But he knew better than to assume. Miri was right. He should talk to Tony before he gave it all up as a lost cause and walked away. He’d already cut Tony out of his life once, and he’d survived, but he wasn’t sure he could do it again.
“You are a pain in the ass,” Gibbs told Miri, the statement lacking any real heat.
“I know.” Miri laughed, shouldering her pack and heading for the stairway that would get them off the rooftop. “Tony tells me the same thing. But as faults go, it’s one most people I know find they can live with.”
Gibbs shook his head, shouldering his own equipment and followed her. What the hell could he say to that? It’s not like he didn’t embrace his own tendency to be a bastard. Most people he knew and liked were tolerant of his nature.
They meet up with Ziva and Bahl at the van. Bahl looked nervous, but then it was how he usually looked so Gibbs didn’t read too much into it especially since time spent with Ziva usually compounded the younger agent’s tendency to twitch. But it was hard to ignore the fact Bahl seems a lot more comfortable with Miri than he did with Ziva or Gibbs.
Bahl barely knows her, Gibbs thought, resenting how petulant that sounded in his own head. But unlike Ziva who’d threatened Bahl with a myriad of painful tortures and death almost from the moment she met him, Miri hadn’t been anything but polite to Bahl. It was no wonder he was more comfortable with her.
Miri punched Bahl lightly in the shoulder. “Well done, Padawan.”
Bahl grinned. “Thanks.”
Ziva snorted. “He didn’t do anything.”
“Neither did you,” Miri said with a quicksilver grin. “For that matter, neither did I. And that we had nothing to do is why we should all be proud of a job well done.”
“You just want ice cream,” Tony said, opening the door to the van and stepping out, cane in hand.
“We always get a treat when the job is finished.” Miri held out her hand, palm up, as though expecting Tony to put something in it. “I would take my just desserts, Sir. As well I should. I earned them.”
Tony chuckled, twirling his cane before tapping Miri’s hand lightly with it. “You are so easy.”
“Only for you, Tony, only for you.” Miri winked at him. “I make everyone else work for it.”
Gibbs again fought down the urge to smack her. He hated how casually she and Tony tossed innuendos around, and the easy way they touched without hesitation. He was jealous of how comfortable they were with one another, of how well they seemed to know and understand each other. Miri had told Ziva she and Tony hadn’t slept together, and Gibbs believed her, but she seemed closer to Tony than Gibbs had ever been even when he was sleeping with Tony. It was decidedly frustrating.
“Congratulations Ducky on completing your first undercover assignment.” Miri smiled at the ME as he approached the van.
“Thank you, my dear.” Ducky beamed at her. “Despite this success, I do think it will likely be my only undercover assignment. As exhilarating as the experience was, keeping track of multiple identities is far harder than I expected.”
“It gets easier with practice,” Tony told him.
“As do most things, Anthony,” Ducky said with a smile. “But I think I’ll stick to the profession I’m already proficient with and leave this sort of thing to those younger and better suited to it.”
“I don’t know, Ducky, you might have missed your calling,” McGee grinned at Tony. “You could give Tony a run for his money.”
Gibbs bit the inside of his cheek to keep from showing any surprise. That was the first time McGee had said anything to Tony since he’d come back from Spain that didn’t sound even remotely hostile or uneasy. McGee didn’t look tense or uncertain either. Clearly something had happened between Tony and McGee while they were in the van together.
Gibbs was initially worried that they might end up trying to kill each other. But McGee was their go to guy for all things technical. And Tony had to be there to monitor Ducky. There had been no other choice but to have Tony and McGee in the van together.
Gibbs realized he wasn’t the only one who’d picked up on McGee being more relaxed. Miri shot Tony a speculative look. Tony just shrugged and smiled. Miri laughed softly and tapped the side of her nose with her index finger. That earned her a sharp look from Ziva. Obviously Ziva got there was something going on but wasn’t clear on what and she clearly resented that Miri seemed to know what she did not.
“We done here?” Gibbs asked, redirecting his team’s attention to the job rather than each other.
“Yes, Boss.” McGee and Ziva both answered promptly. Bahl simply nodded.
“Still seems weird to be letting the bad guys get away,” Miri grumbled.
Ducky clucked his tongue. “I have found that much can be accomplished by taking the path that does not run true.”
“As long as you aren’t running in circles,” Miri retorted with a smile.
Gibbs couldn’t help but see what Ducky had said as relating to him and Tony. Things might not be ideal, but Gibbs couldn’t honestly imagine they would have been better had Tony stayed in DC. Given what Tony had said about his experience while Gibbs was in Mexico, and what Gibbs had witnessed for himself after his return, he had a feeling things might have turned out worse if Tony had stayed. That was a sobering thought. Gibbs frowned. He really hated it when Ducky waxed philosophical.
“Let’s head for home. Ziva, McGee and Bahl bring the van. Miri and Ducky you’re in the limo. DiNozzo, you’re with me.”
If any one had objections they were wise enough not to voice them. Gibbs’ team might be a bit dysfunctional, but they still functioned and did what they were told. His team got in the van. Miri had only looked at Tony, and getting a nod, walked arm in arm with Ducky toward the limo where the ME had his meeting with Benoit. Gibbs had a feeling the older man would enjoy having a captive audience to whom all his stories were new. And Miri would likely enjoy listening to his stories. Even Gibbs would admit Ducky’s stories were entertaining when they didn’t interrupt an ongoing investigation.
“Good call on sending Miri with Ducky.” Tony smiled wryly as he slid into the passenger side of the sedan Gibbs had driven to the site, his cane tucked between his leg and the door. Gibbs noticed Tony played with his cane more than he used it. He suspected he only brought it because Miri had given him a dirty look when Tony had tried to leave it behind.
“Miri likes Bahl, and things with me and McGee are better so she’d be less inclined to hurt him, but putting her and Ziva in a small space together for any length of time would be…well, maybe not a total disaster, but not far from it.”
“You think she could take Ziva?” Gibbs was genuinely curious.
“I don’t honestly know.” Tony chuckled. He held up his hands as though weighing something. “Miri doesn’t have Ziva’s training, but she’s no slouch. She might not win outright, but not all the blood on the floor would be Miri’s.”
Gibbs turned on the car and headed for the Naval Yard. It would take more than a few hours to get there. Still it was a lot less than if the exchange had taken place in Canada as had been originally planned. He was damned glad that they’d managed to convince Benoit to change the meeting place to a remote airfield in West Virginia. Citing Harrows poor health as the reason he could not to fly had been a brilliant idea. He made a note to remember to tell Ducky that.
Letting it be known his health was failing would help in the long run. Harrow’s death wouldn’t need to be a secret and if someone realized the version of ARES that Harrow sold was a Trojan horse, Harrow wouldn’t be around to explain it or have to answer for it. If someone else was looking to buy ARES, they would have to find a new avenue to acquire it. Harrow would become a literal dead end.
Settling into the driver’s set and getting comfortable for the ride back to DC, Gibbs quietly asked Tony, “You find out what was bothering McGee?”
Gibbs really wanted to ask more, to interrogate Tony for details, but he held back. He’d never gotten involved before, unless disputes among the team threatened their ability to work together. But Tony didn’t work for him any longer. And it wasn’t really about work. At least not just about work. Gibbs really wanted to know what had been settled and how to make sure the hope that had arisen when he’d realized Tony and McGee could work together wasn’t misplaced. If they could work together that was one less obstacle in the way of Tony coming back.
“So what was the problem?” Gibbs kept his tone mild. He didn’t want Tony to think he was grilling him. Tony wasn’t a suspect in a case. And all three of Gibbs’ ex-wives had drilled into him that loved ones didn’t appreciate being given the third degree.
Tony sighed. “Mostly a lot of misunderstandings that were mainly a byproduct of confusion, fear and a little jealousy. Maybe it was envy. I was never quite clear on the difference between those two.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. He was not going to be sidetracked by that small misdirection. “What didn’t McGee understand?”
“The main thing was that being your second in command was not as easy as I made it look.” Tony laughed softly. “He missed out on the early years.”
“It’s not supposed to be an easy job.”
“No it isn’t. But he thought he was ready for it.”
“He was ready.”
“Ready or not, he could probably have done with a bit more guidance.” Tony turned to look at him. “The sort of guidance you were giving before I left. From what McGee said, I got the impression you stopped doing that.”
Gibbs felt his face warm. “I don’t coddle my agents.”
“There’s a difference between coddling and not letting them drown, Gibbs.”
“He could have said something. Let me know it was getting to be too much.” Gibbs looked over and made eye contact. “You did.”
“He’s not me.”
Gibbs sighed. He knew that. Admittedly, he kept thinking McGee should be as capable as Tony had been. But he’d forgotten how long it had taken Tony to learn everything involved with being Gibbs’ senior agent. Explaining the why’s and how’s of and investigation wasn’t Gibbs’ forte. He didn’t explain himself; Gibbs led by example and gave orders not reasons for what he wanted done. He’d made an effort with McGee while Tony was there in part because he was doing his best to put space between himself and Tony. And he knew McGee was a probie from comments Tony made, but he’d forgotten how long McGee had been on his team. So he’d felt obligated to spend more time with him to gauge his knowledge and skill level.
Gibbs had wanted Tony for his team almost from the moment he’d met him in part because Tony had good instincts. He was well versus in the art of investigation, and was quick to pick up on what Gibbs needed. What Tony hadn’t understood when he’d started at NCIS were the guidelines and regulations for the agency. Those were things Gibbs had thought McGee would have no issue with. But McGee’s logical mind set got in the way of efficient processing of the paperwork.
Tony huffed out a breath interrupting Gibbs’ thoughts. “You know, for awhile, when you were in Mexico, I almost hated you.”
Gibbs’ grip on the wheel tightened. That didn’t sound promising.
“Or more accurately, I hated that no one thought I lived up to your example. You’re a tough act to follow.” Tony reached across the car, his hand coming to rest lightly on Gibbs’ thigh.
Gibbs tried not to read too much into that touch, but it was hard not to see it as a positive sign. Tony wouldn’t do that if he hated Gibbs or even ‘almost’ hated him.
“It sucked major ass to be constantly compared to you. And while no one said anything to McGee about filling my shoes, he was saying it to himself. He saw himself as coming up short and the more he did, the worse it got. My being here just intensified things because he kept waiting for someone to actually say out loud what he’d been saying to himself.”
Tony sighed. “He thought I would point out the mistakes he’d made and it made him defensive. He thought I’d expose all those imaginary short-comings he was struggling so hard to keep hidden and that made him nervous. He was hostile because he thought I was back to take my old job and he’d be demoted. And he says he missed me. So you’ve got all those ‘I want to be happy you are back and everything will be like it was’ feelings that clash with the reality of what going back to the way things were might mean. I could relate to what he was feeling. Been there, done that.”
Gibbs laid a hand on Tony’s, holding it lightly. Tony turned his hand over and laced their fingers together.
“I didn’t mean to make you feel—“
“I know. Well, I know it now. I didn’t then.” Tony squeezed his hand. “Not blaming you, I’m just trying to explain it.”
Gibbs nodded, squeezing Tony’s hand back. They’d cleared up a lot of things. There were still things they had to cover, but Gibbs was no longer leery of having another conversation. He wasn’t sure if that was progress or not, but it sure felt like it.
“You still want to get dinner?”
“Yeah,” Tony grinned. “I still want dinner.”
“What are you in the mood for?”
“I’m thinking steaks done cowboy style.”
Gibbs grinned, immediately grasping what that meant. “Dinner at my house it is.”
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MTAC - NCIS Fic