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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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Until recently, being in Gibbs’ home never failed to be a strange experience for Tony.

Strange because the place had always managed to make him feel safe and yet vaguely uneasy at the same time. The simple and sturdy craftsman style framework looked solid, immutable. It was as if the house had always been there and always would be. The dated décor and utilitarian layout added to the timeless quality. The house would have been perfect for a movie prop---it looked like the sort of place where nothing bad happened.

That ‘nothing bad could happen here’ appearance was further enhanced by Tony’s faith in Gibbs. When he was on Gibbs’ team, Tony had genuinely believed the man was, if not outright invincible and infallible, pretty damn close to it. He was protective of his people and it made Tony feel secure to know the older man would look out for him.

The paradox of the house, and the man himself, was that even though he didn’t lock his door, he made it clear that most were not welcome in his home. Tony had never hung out with Gibbs. He’d never actually been invited inside---at least not directly. With Gibbs’ it was always subtle, something open to interpretation. A comment that could be taken any number of ways, but was never a clear direction of expectation or action.

Before they’d started sleeping together, if Tony stopped by Gibbs’ place, it was usually work related. They talked about the case in the basement while Gibbs worked on his boat. Gibbs didn’t offer him a seat, a beer, or even a smile. Tony wasn’t exactly unwelcome, but he wasn’t encouraged to linger or make himself at home. Gibbs would occasionally make dinner, but it wasn’t usual for them to eat together, and the meal was never something they lingered over. And while Tony loved having ‘cowboy style steak’, he would have liked for the meals they shared to seem less accidental and more deliberate. But his hints that he’d be willing to cook, that maybe they could eat in the kitchen for a change, or could they have more than eat a hasty meal and get back to work, had always been ignored.

When his apartment had been unlivable not long after he’d started at NCIS, Tony had stayed briefly at Gibbs’ place. But he’d been quick to realize the older man hadn’t wanted him there. He was a disruption to the quiet routine, a new element to an environment that hadn’t changed in years, an added presence that was tolerated but not encouraged to stay. He disturbed ghosts Tony hadn’t known existed then.

When they started sleeping together, Tony knew better than to think he would be asked to stay. They’d never had sex in the master bedroom but always used the guest room down the hall, the living room or the basement. That made it pretty clear how Gibbs thought of their relationship. And he never stayed at Tony’s place on the rare occasions when they met there. There was no reveling in the afterglow, no cuddling, no waking up together. It was a blatant signal they were simply fuck buddies, too obvious for Tony to miss, even as he did his best to ignore it.

That Gibbs had left Tony without so much as a backward glance had been equally telling. Gibbs had run off to Mexico, not once, but twice. He hadn’t bothered to say good-bye or even act like he gave a damn about Tony. The message had been hammered home when Gibbs came back and behaved as though there had never been anything between them.

But now things were different. He and Gibbs had talked more in the last week than they had in years. Really talked. It was more than just discussing a case or Gibbs letting Tony run off on a monologue about whatever stray thought occurred to him before head slapping him back on track.

It was more like they were friends. And it wasn’t something Tony expected to ever have with Gibbs. He liked it, a lot. But was afraid of getting to comfortable for fear it would all be taken away. It wouldn’t take much for Gibbs to simply shut him out again. The man had done it before.

Last night had not been like any other time Tony had been to Gibbs’ house. They’d had an enjoyable meal where the focus was less on eating and more on each other. They’d talked like equals, not supervisor to subordinate, or even elder to younger.

Tony had spent the night in Gibbs’ bed. They’d made love, not just rutted like animals in heat. Not once had Tony felt unwanted or unwelcomed. And waking up together had been every bit as nice as Tony had always imagined it would be.

Tony wanted more of that. He was pretty sure he could do it every day of his life and not grow tired of it. He thought Gibbs felt the same way, but he wasn’t sure. And he hated not knowing but was too leery of the answer to ask outright how Gibbs felt.

Agreeing to meet at Gibbs’ house to talk about Shepard with everyone else had seemed like a good idea when Gibbs had proposed it. It was neutral territory, well away from the Yard. Everyone knew how to get there, and the team being there could be easily explained away—provided no one thought to question why someone as asocial as Gibbs would invite his entire team plus a few more to his home when he never had before.

But now Tony found himself feeling apprehensive about stepping inside. Was he reading too much into the last few days? Would he still feel that sense of wrongness when he entered Gibbs’ home? Like his presence was requested only for business and nothing more? Would the others be more at home, comfortable and at ease?

Maybe not everyone had been treated the way Tony had been in the past. Surely Abby had been more welcomed, felt less like she was violating memories Gibbs never spoke of or disturbing ghosts unknowingly. And Ziva had been allowed to kill her brother in Gibbs’ home, and had hidden there when on the run. Surely an old friend like Ducky wouldn’t feel out of place or awkward. McGee was Gibbs’ senior agent now, maybe he was actually invited over for dinner to talk about work. Palmer and Miri were probably the only people who hadn’t been in the house before.

“I can hear you thinking.”

Tony gave his second a sidelong glance. “You can not.”

Miri shrugged, shifting in the front seat to look at him directly. “Okay, maybe I can’t hear you thinking, but I can definitely read your mind.”

Tony snorted. “Yeah, so what am I thinking?”

“That the last few days are a fluke. That you are scared to walk in there, and have the shithead you’re in love with confirm all your doubts and fears. You are almost as afraid to walk away just in case the last few days weren’t a fluke. Because hope springs for eternal and everyone is stupidly hopeful when it comes to love. You can’t risk walking away from the brass ring, not when you can almost touch it. “

She was actually pretty damn close. But there was no reason to tell her that. Tony rolled his eyes. “We are here about a case, Miri.”

“That’s not all we are here for.” Miri lightly slapped his arm. “You might have the likes of McGee and David fooled, but I know better than to think you are only one dimensional. You can multi-task with the best of them. And it’s natural to have your personal stuff crop up.“

Tony grimaced. So much for redirecting her. “I hadn’t planned to.”

“Most of us don’t,” Miri smiled at him. She reached out and cupped his chin, holding his face so he had to make eye contact. “Believe in yourself.”

“I’m trying.”

“There is no try.” Miri quoted solemnly. “There is only do or do not.”

Tony laughed. “I’m not a freaking Jedi.”

“Me neither, but I know good counsel when I hear it.” She squeezed his chin once and let go. “You two may not have gotten it right the first time, but you got a chance to get it right this time. So don’t start throwing roadblocks in your way.” She grinned at him. “It’s a bit early to bow out just yet, Sir.”

“I’m not bowing out.”

“But you’re worried he might.”

Tony sighed. “Yeah.”

It wasn’t like Gibbs hadn’t shut them down before. And no matter what he said this time, there was still the possibility that he’d change his mind. That Gibbs would realize it was just too much trouble. That there was another redhead in the offing who would strike Gibbs’ fancy. Or that he wouldn’t want to maintain their new connection once Tony went back to Spain.

Tony knew distance made it hard for most couples to stay together. And he’d briefly considered staying in DC, unwilling to test the bonds of this new relationship, before he realized that as much as he loved Gibbs, he couldn’t give up career, his life or his team without losing so much of himself as to be gone forever. Turning his back on all of that would leave him with only Gibbs to rely on, and Tony was still to unsure of where he stood to willingly put himself in such a vulnerable position.

Besides, Miri, Mouse and Caleb were his family. They were the people he trusted. They wanted him and needed him, and against all his expectations, respected him. They knew his faults and foibles and accepted him because of them, not in spite of them. He couldn’t abandon them. And he wouldn’t. They deserved better than ‘you’ll do’.

He hadn’t told Gibbs his thoughts or feelings when the older man suggested he go back to Spain and leave him to deal with Shepard. Even though Tony had planned to go back, but some part of him was hurt that Gibbs hadn’t seemed inclined to even ask him to stay. Tony had hoped they’d at least discuss it, maybe talk about how to continue their new relationship with an ocean between them or how he could ultimately arrange to transfer back to the States. He had no idea how to bring it up and, as Miri pointed out, he was afraid Gibbs would tell him he had no intention of continuing anything with Tony. He was afraid that Gibbs would be relieved Tony was leaving and wouldn’t be a distracting him from more important things.

Admittedly, it made Tony feel warm and fuzzy that Gibbs’ first thought had been for his safety. He definitely appreciated how valued he felt to have Gibbs be concerned for his health and well being, and not exclusively focused on bringing down Shepard. It had done a lot to sooth his fears and insecurities. It made him feel wanted and cared for, but a life-time of being told he wasn’t good enough didn’t exactly go away overnight. Too many lessons from the past affected his view of the present, cropping up when Tony least expected them.

“Deep breath, Sir.” Miri told him. “Let it out slow.”

Tony shot her a dirty look but did as she instructed.

“No matter what happens, me, Mouse and Caleb, we got your back. Remember that.”

Tony smiled. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known that, but it was still nice to hear it.

“Thanks, Miri.”

“You’re welcome.” She nodded once. “Okay, let’s go do this thing.”

Tony got out of the rental car and headed up the steps to Gibb’s front door. The only vehicle in the driveway was Gibbs’ truck and Ducky’s Bentley, but that didn’t mean the others hadn’t already arrived. Ziva was familiar enough with clandestine meetings to think it was better to park where her car wouldn’t be seen. And McGee would probably follow her lead, bringing Abby with him rather than letting her drive the distinctive hearse. Although, if they wanted to pass for innocent, not bothering to hide was probably a better ploy, but Tony wasn’t going to tell either of them that.

He tried to simply open the front door, stopping in surprise when the knob refused to turn. Gibbs never locked his door, at least not that Tony was aware of. He had suspected for awhile that the door didn’t even have a lock. It hadn’t seemed safe, and yet it had never felt dangerous either. It was something Tony had rarely thought about when he used to visit. It was just one more oddity about being at Gibbs’ home he’d grown accustomed too.

Shrugging, Tony raised his hand to knock. He wasn’t sure he trusted the doorbell to work. Gibbs opened the door before his knuckles could even connect with the door.

“Expecting us, were you?” Miri asked, a teasing smile appearing.

Gibbs ignored her and just opened the door wider. “Come in.”

“Everyone else here?” Tony asked as he let Miri enter first.

“Yeah.”

Tony didn’t react when he felt Gibbs’ hand on the small of his back. It felt natural and it was nice to have the older man make contact. He didn’t want to draw attention to the touch, not when it might be taken away if Gibbs was made aware he’d done it. And if left unacknowledged it could be explained away as something innocent, especially when everyone was in the living room waiting for them.

Tony had expected them to meet in the basement. It seemed like the most substantive conversations Gibbs’ had occurred there. But it wasn’t exactly spacious, even without the boat. And the living room had seating for everyone.

Ducky was seated in the wooden rocker Tony had always admired. Palmer sat on the nearby ottoman. Ziva had elected to lean against the fireplace, back to the stone and eyes shifting from the windows and doors to assess the rest of the room. Bahl stood against the wall opposite Ziva, clearly trying to keep as much space tween himself and her as possible. Abby and McGee were on the loveseat.

There was a time when Tony wouldn’t have hesitated to give them a suggestive look, to tease them a bit about whether or not they were bumping boots, but now it didn’t matter. If they got together again, and were happy, Tony was okay with that. If they were never anything more than good friends, Tony was okay with that too. It wasn’t his place to say anything, not when they were still filling the cracks in their friendship.

And he didn’t want to call attention to the fact that he and Gibbs were every bit as close to one another as Abby and McGee, with far less reason. It wasn’t like they had to stand close to one another. Or had to take a seat together on the couch. By all rights it would have been far more natural for Gibbs to remain standing, taking command of the room. Tony found himself breathing easier with Gibbs sitting next to him, their shoulders touching.

Miri perched on the arm of the couch. She waited patiently for someone to start.
Tony admired that about her. She could just settle in and wait, make herself comfortable and let things unfold around her.

“Well, Jethro, shall you tell us all why we’re here?” Ducky asked.

Tony hid a smile. He’d have bet money on Ducky being the first to speak. Abby would have been a close second.

Gibbs filled them in on what he’d already told Tony. Tony paid more attention to the others, gauging their reactions and repressions, than he did to what Gibbs was saying.

Abby was indignant about Shepard’s plan. Her eyes flashing and hands waving as she tried to express how wrong she found the idea of using Benoit’s daughter to get to him. And using Tony to do it. It had taken Gibbs two tries to get her to stop her rambling and get her to focus enough to let him finish.

McGee looked thoughtful. His eyes darted to Tony several times, but Tony couldn’t quite read his expression. He didn’t know if the other man was in agreement with Abby or wondering why Tony hadn’t simply taken the job. It wasn’t like Benoit wasn’t a bad guy, or that Tony’s ‘ladies man’ reputation implied he’d be unwilling to use a pretty woman.

Bahl seemed lost. Like he wasn’t entirely certain how he ended up involved. But he wasn’t making a break for the door or looking at Gibbs like he was crazy, so Tony figured it would be okay.

Ziva he couldn’t read at all, but he got the distinct impression she was unhappy with what she was hearing. She was no stranger to covert affairs. Her father was heavily involved in those, and his obsession had ultimately cost Ziva’s brother his life. What Shepard had proposed wasn’t nearly as complicated as the roll Director David had set up for his son, but it was just as likely to end badly with innocent blood being shed and betrayals abounding.

Palmer looked appalled. He looked like he wanted to say something but closed his mouth before he uttered a word. He made eye contact with Tony and it wasn’t hard to tell he was glad Gibbs had intervened to keep Tony from talking to Shepard. Tony couldn’t help smiling at Palmer. He really was a good guy. A little bit of a nerd, but he’d become a damn good friend, probably better than Tony deserved.

Ducky clucked his tongue, his expression one of sympathy and concern. The older man sighed heavily.

“I may be able to shed some light on her reasoning,” Ducky said after Gibbs finished speaking.

“Duck?” Gibbs leaned forward. “She spoke to you about this?”

“This, no.” Ducky shook his head. “But I have spoken to her about another matter I thought unrelated, but now believe may have some bearing on it. I would not normally consider breaching the dictates of patient privilege, but technically I am not a physician. At least not one formally bound by such dictates as my patients are normally in no position to need my silence. My usual patients need me to speak for them as they are no longer able to speak for themselves.”

Ducky sighed heavily. He looked tired and Tony realized for the first time just how much older Ducky was. He always knew Ducky wasn’t young, but until now he never gave his true age much thought.

Ducky grimaced, one hand rubbing against the other in an uncharacteristic show of distress. “And in this case, there is a clear indication of an intent to harm others and possibly herself so I believe I am ethically bound to speak up.”

“Duck,” Gibbs growled, his impatience getting the better of him the way it often did when Ducky started to ramble. Tony laid a hand on his shoulder, pleased to feel him relax a bit.

“Yes, I know, Jethro.” Ducky shot him a reproving look. “Always it is get to the point with you.” He clucked his tongue again. “Two weeks ago, Director Shepard asked me for a second opinion. She’d gone in for her annual physical a few months ago. She’d been experiencing headaches for some time, and assumed they were simply the byproduct of stress. But they were getting worse, becoming more debilitating as time went on and she felt it prudent to an exam.”

“They weren’t just stress, were they?”

“No, Jethro they weren’t. Her doctor found some anomalies and ordered a few tests. She then referred Jenny to a specialist. Jenny wanted some help interpreting the test results and clarification on what the special told her.”

“What was she told, Ducky?” McGee asked.

Ducky smiled sadly. “It appears Jenny has cancer.”

“Cancer?” Bahl bit lower lip, eyes wide.

“Brain cancer to be precise.”

Ziva’s posture stiffened. Evidently, Shepard hadn’t mentioned it to her. Maybe their friendship was not as deep as Tony thought. Or possibly she’d known Shepard was ill, but had been unaware of how serious it was.

“Can it be treated?” Miri asked quietly.

Ducky hesitated. “There is treatment.”

“She’s refused it. Right?” Tony knew Shepard well enough to know she would not want to lose any time she had left to a stay in a hospital or drugged to the point of being unable to function at all. And while brain cancer might not be a death sentence, everything in Ducky’s tone and demeanor implied it was in this case.

“You are correct, Anthony.”

“How long does she have?” Gibbs expression was painfully neutral.

Ducky took a breath. “With treatment she might add a few years. Without it, I can’t really say for certain, as I have not seen her full medical file, but she likely has less than a year.”

Ducky shook his head. “She may feel she needs to clear her father’s name before it’s too late. There is no one else to carry the torch after she dies.”

“Doesn’t excuse her trying to start an unsanctioned op,” Gibbs stated firmly. “Or trying to use Tony to do it.”

“No, it doesn’t, but as I said, it may explain her motives.”

“Perhaps, having spoken to Gibbs, Jenny is no longer inclined to follow this course of action,” Ziva suggested. She looked hopeful that might actually be the case.

Tony held up his phone. “I’ve got four missed calls from her and just as many messages. I’ve been dodging her since I left the Yard. I don’t think she’s giving up on this just yet.”

After his talk with Gibbs, Tony hadn’t returned to the office. It seemed like a good idea to just lay low. He’d called Miri and had her meet him at the coffee shop. They’d gone back to the hotel together and gotten in touch with Mouse. As far as anyone knew they were still investigating the missing explosives that had been the impetus for Tony and Miri’s trip DC in the first place.

“What do we do, Boss?” McGee looked pensive, uncertain.

“We investigate this like any other case.”

“Only a little less obvious about it,” Tony added. “Right now we don’t know what sort of groundwork Shepard may have done. Or what else she might plan to do now that Gibbs made it clear he wouldn’t back her play, or if I blatantly tell her no. If her time is as limited as Ducky thinks, she may be more desperate to get this done than we thought.”

“If you don’t want in on this, you just have to say the word,” Gibbs stated calmly. “No judgments, no questions asked. All you have to do is say so and you can leave.”

“I’m in.” Abby didn’t hesitate.

McGee nodded. “Me too.”

“Not sure how much help I’ll be but I’m willing to do whatever you need,” Palmer said, looking at Tony, not Gibbs. It was clear he was offering his assistance to Tony rather than the older man. He looked worried and scared but resolute.

“Thanks, Jimmy.” Palmer was definitely a better friend than Tony deserved.

“I would prefer it hadn’t come to this, but I understand the need.” Ducky shared a look with Gibbs. “I’m in, Jethro.”

Bahl nodded his head. He didn’t look as nervous as he usually did. Miri smiled at him, approvingly, and Bahl straightened a little more.

Ziva hesitated. She looked away from them and then back. “I would not see her hurt.”

“Not trying to hurt her,” Gibbs told her. “I don’t want her hurting anyone else either.”

Ziva nodded. “Very well.”

“Good.” Gibbs eyes touched on everyone in the room. “Let’s get started.”

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