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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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For a man who worked mostly on people who couldn’t feel anything at all, Ducky was remarkably gentle.

Tony never minded being tended to by Ducky. The care the man took never failed to impress him. It was a far cry from the doctor who made house calls when Tony was a child. Tony couldn’t remember the man’s name, or maybe he never knew it, all he remembered about him was the rough and impatient way he dealt with whatever injury Tony had at the time. That and the way he smelled of alcohol, it was a scent his mother’s drinking had made him more than familiar with.

“Don’t suppose I could get away with staples, Ducky?” Tony asked after Ducky had cleaned the cut on his arm.

He had a thing about needles ever since his bout with the plague. They’d drawn blood so frequently and had given him so much medication that is arms were badly bruised from the countless punctures. Tony was well on his way to acquiring a phobia about needles, but he’d so far been able to control his fear and keep it from becoming irrational.

“While staples are often an acceptable alternative to stitches, I’m afraid I don’t have any on hand, my boy. I don’t have much call for them in my normal work. Silk, on the other hand, is something I usually have readily available.” Ducky smiled gently up at Tony, patting his shoulder. He focused his attention once more on the slice on Tony’s bicep.

Tony looked away from the needle Ducky had in his hand. It didn’t look that big, but he still didn’t want to watch it pierce his flesh.

“Did you know the Romans used staples?” Ducky’s voice was as soft as his touch. Tony could almost pretend the ME wasn’t doing anything with a needle at all. He was just doing a very thorough examination of Tony’s arm.

“Not nearly as small or as delicate as what we have today, of course, but still a rather forward thinking approach to treating injuries. Galan was the foremost—“

“Doubt DiNozzo cares much about that, Duck.” Gibbs interrupted casually. “Just stitch him up.”

Tony rolled his eyes. He wised the man would just let Ducky talk. It didn’t matter that Tony didn’t care about what medical advances the Romans might have had; it was a nice distraction from what Ducky was actually doing. It gave Tony something else to focus on.

Gibbs probably never needed a distraction, Tony thought wryly. He doubted the older man had ever been afraid of anything. Gibbs would probably have been content to just get a band-aid and go. Tony would have preferred that option too, if he’d had a choice in the matter.

Ducky shot Gibbs a dirty look. “Honestly, Jethro, the boy is wounded. Not severely, mind you, but injured just the same and you brought him here--”

“Forced me is more like it,” Tony muttered.

“for me to attend to his arm. Now please allow me to do what needs to be done in my own way. I do not tell you how to do your job.”

Gibbs looked away. Tony figured it was a trick of the lighting that made it look like he was blushing. Tony smiled. Blue eyes met green. Gibbs smiled a little sheepishly back.

“He going to be all right, Duck?”

“He will be fine, Jethro.” Ducky assured him, giving Gibbs a quick understanding smile. “Now, as I was saying, Galen was the foremost physician of his day. He got most of his training treating gladiators before being hired to serve as a military surgeon--”

Tony tuned out the rest of what Ducky was saying. The tone was soothing; the words weren’t really important. Tony opted to let his eyes follow Gibbs as the man paced back and forth, measured strides carrying him to and fro. It reminded Tony of a metronome, and it was almost meditative to watch.

It was no hardship to watch Gibbs. The man had a neat, economy of motion. He wasn’t graceful in the traditional sense, but he was fluid in his movements, powerful and contained, every action precise and directed. Not for the first time did Tony wonder if Gibbs ever danced. For the first time he wondered if he’d be able to convince Gibbs to dance with him.

“There you are, Anthony, all done.” Ducky beamed at him proudly.

Tony glanced down at his arm, surprised to find a neat white bandage wrapped around it.

“No heavy lifting with that arm for a day or two.”

Tony grinned. “I’ve got Miri for that.”

Ducky chuckled. “Of course.”

Tony reached for his shirt and grimaced. Getting back into bloody clothing wasn’t ideal, but he no longer kept a change of clothes at the Yard. And running around half naked wasn’t really an option.

Ducky caught his hand. “I’ve got a scrub top you could wear, Anthony.”

“Thanks, Ducky.”

While Ducky’s coveralls would never be a good fit, given that Tony was so much taller than Ducky, the scrub top should at least be okay. It would be good enough until Tony could get something of his own to wear.

Tony pulled the scrub top on, wincing when the movement tugged uncomfortably at the new stitches. Gibbs gave him a sharp, measuring look. He’d obviously noticed the wince.

“It’s okay, Boss.”

Gibbs nodded but didn’t look convinced.

“I’m fine.”

Gibbs looked even more skeptical. Tony sighed. It was really just a scratch. Nothing to worry about. And it was his own damn fault. He should have been paying more attention. He still wasn’t sure what set Shepard off. He must have done or said something wrong. Maybe he’d get a chance to review the tape later and see if he could spot what he’d missed.

“He good to go, Duck?”

Tony resisted the urge to tell Gibbs to ask him. He was perfectly capable of judging his own health.

“Yes, Jethro.” Ducky frowned. “But please refrain from making Anthony do anything too strenuous.”

“Copy that.”

Tony shook his head. Like it was up to Gibbs? He didn’t need a keeper.

“Thanks, Ducky.”

“Any time, my boy.”

Tony followed Gibbs out of the morgue. He hadn’t really expected Gibbs to stay with him while Ducky took care of his injury. He thought the lead agent would be eager to make sure the case against Shepard was sound enough for the SecNav to do something about her. It wasn’t as if Tony’s injury were serious. He’d had worse on the job.

He followed Gibbs on to the elevator. He was surprised when Gibbs flicked the emergency stop button.

“Boss? Something wrong—“

Tony didn’t have the chance to say any more before Gibbs enveloped him in a breath-stealing hug. He instinctively wrapped his arms around Gibbs, returning the hug. He rested his head on Gibbs’ shoulder and breathed in the scent of him. It was amazing how safe he felt like this.

“God, Tony—“ Gibbs choked and held him tighter.

“Shhh….it’s okay.” Tony whispered. “It’s okay.”

“She could have—“

“I’m all right, Boss. ”

Gibbs turned his head and kissed Tony’s temple. “You damn sure better be.”

Tony laughed softly. “On it, Boss.”

Gibbs pulled back enough to make eye contact. “You sure you’re all right?”

“I’m sure.” Tony kissed him, soft and sweet, touched by Gibbs’ concern.

“I should have gotten to you sooner.”

“You got to me in plenty of time.”

“I should have seen—“

“Yeah, me too.” Tony sighed.

Gibbs pulled him back into another tight embrace. “Not your fault.”

“Not yours either.”

Tony was sure they both meant what they were saying, and he was equally certain they didn’t believe each other. But it didn’t really matter. They’d gotten what they needed from Shepard, and everyone involved was more or less okay. Mission accomplished.

“We’re still on for dinner?” Tony asked when Gibbs released him.

Gibbs smiled. “Definitely.”

He cupped Tony’s face with one hand, thumb caressing Tony’s cheek. Tony leaned into the touch for a moment before reluctantly pulling away. They were at work he reminded himself. It was better not to get too carried away.

Gibbs restarted the elevator. Tony couldn’t help smiling when Gibbs reached out and entwined their fingers together. He gave Gibbs’ fingers a quick squeeze before releasing him when the elevator dinged, announcing their arrival.

“I’m going to head up to MTAC. I should be able to get in touch with the SecNav from there.”

“I’ll get started on my report.” Even with the tape Tony would have to document his part. He’d need to explain why he was wearing a wire in the first place.

Technically, Jenny hadn’t done anything illegal. But what she’d proposed was most definitely not on the up and up. She likely wouldn’t go to jail, but she definitely wouldn’t be keeping her job as Director. She would up getting a psych evaluation as well. None too soon in Tony’s opinion.

“I’ll be back soon.”

Tony smiled. He hadn’t needed the reassurance, but liked getting it just the same. He was sorely tempted to blow an air kiss but decided against it. It wouldn’t be very professional, and even if it didn’t look like anyone was watching that didn’t mean someone wasn’t.

Tony headed for the desk he and Miri had been using. Miri looked up when he approached. She gave him a searching look.

“Just needed a couple of stitches.”

She nodded. “You’ll be the one to tell Mouse.”

Tony shot her a dirty look. Mouse could get pissy once he found out Tony had gotten hurt, however minor. Mouse in a mood was no fun at all.

“That’s not fair.”

“Better you than me.” She smiled brightly.

“It’s not like I got hurt on purpose.”

“So not the point, Sir. Mouse isn’t going to care that you didn’t mean to get hurt. He’s going to be upset you got hurt at all and he wasn’t there to watch your back. And he’ll be mad because I failed to do my job and keep you safe.”

“You didn’t fail.”

“You are sporting stitches.” Miri declared flatly. “I failed.”

“Miri—“

“Tony.”

Tony sighed. He was never going to convince her that his getting hurt wasn’t her fault. He held his arms open and Miri quickly moved to hug him.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” she whispered.

“Me too.”

Tony didn’t try to hold her for too long. He knew she wouldn’t accept comfort for more than a moment or two. She didn’t mind physical contact, provided she was the one to initiate it. Miri was always touching whenever she felt like it, and knew the other person wouldn’t mind, but Miri had a thing about receiving any sort of physical display of comfort. It made Tony wonder what happened during her childhood that made her reluctant to accept a hug. He patted her back and let go. It wasn’t a mystery he’d solve today.

“Take your laptop and write up your report somewhere else. I get the desk.”

Miri laughed. “Pulling rank?”

“Yes.”

Miri started gathering up her stuff. “I’ll be in the conference room if you need me.”

“Copy that.”

Tony sat down and set to work on his report. He glanced over at McGee’s desk. He was probably still down in the lab with Abby. They would transcribe the tape as well as the phone call Tony had gotten from Shepard.

He idly wondered where Bahl and Ziva were but didn’t think much about it. They hadn’t been injured during the case, and they really weren’t his team so they weren’t his problem.

Shepard had to be safely in a holding cell or Miri wouldn’t have been at the desk. She would not have left anyone she considered dangerous in a position to do more harm. Since Shepard managed to wound Tony, and was displaying some signs of mental instability, Miri would definitely consider her dangerous. She’d have made very certain Shepard was safely contained. Hopefully she hadn’t left Shepard in shackles, but knowing Miri it was possible.

Tony sighed. He made a mental note to check on Shepard. But before he did anything else, he wanted his report finished.

Tony sighed again and started typing. He was never a quick typist. He had learned to do more than hunt and peck, but he was nowhere near as fast as someone like Abby or McGee. His typing speed had improved a bit since Mouse had found him a typing tutor game he could play online. It was rather like playing space invaders. He was never going to have the high score, but he was improving.

Tony was deeply engrossed in writing his report when someone stopped in front of his desk. Tony glanced up from his computer surprised to see Ziva staring at him. He cocked his head to one side. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of her expression.

“Can I help you with something, Officer David?”

She frowned. “You do not need to be so formal, Tony.”

Tony wasn’t so sure he agreed with her. They hadn’t said much to one another since Tony’s arrival. He honestly didn’t know what to say to her. And she hadn’t exactly given him much of an opening. To be fair, Tony couldn’t say he’d given her much of one either. The cold shoulder they’d been giving each other was enough to cause frostbite.

“Okay.” Tony smiled. He and Tim had worked out their differences, maybe he and Ziva could as well. “What can I do for you, Ziva?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I need to speak with you.”

“About the case?” Tony asked, thinking that it was possible she had not actually wanted to discuss anything else. He preferred to err on the side of caution. Better not to read too much into anything; less trouble in the long run. “It’s probably better to talk to Gibbs—“

“Not about the case, Tony!” She huffed, and then looked around when she realized she’d raised her voice.

Tony was mildly amused. There was a time when such little lose of control wouldn’t have bothered her. He sighed. Whatever headway that had been made in her becoming less like a Mossad agent seemed to have been lost.

“What could you need to talk to me about that isn’t work related?”

“Do not be obtuse. It doesn’t suit you.”

“Really?” Tony arched an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure you thought I was an idiot. Seems to me you even said so several times. In that case, I’d say obtuse is--”

“Tony, please.”

He sat back, green eyes regarding her steadily. “Okay.”

“Okay?” She narrowed her eyes. “Okay, what?”

“You have something you wanted to say.” Tony kept his tone reasonable. “I’m listening.”

She glanced around again. “Perhaps somewhere more private.”

He wasn’t interested in tracking down somewhere else to have this conversation. She’d approached him; she could damn well deal with the location. And frankly he didn’t trust her enough to want to be anywhere secluded with her. Not that he thought she’d actually hurt him, but he wasn’t naively going to give her a golden opportunity to either. Miri would kill him.

“I’m not in the mood to indulge you’re desire for unnecessary clandestine meetings.” Tony pointedly looked around the practically empty bullpen. There was no one but the two of them in the immediate vicinity. “You want to talk, here is fine with me.”

She scowled. “Why must you always be so difficult?”

“Just part of my charm,” Tony said dryly. From his perspective she was the one being difficult. He had a report to finish before he could leave and have dinner with Gibbs. She was getting in the way of that.

“So what did you want to talk about?”

“I want to talk about why you left.”

Tony blinked and nearly gaped open mouthed in surprise. He had thought she was content to continue ignoring the subject of his leaving the team, and him. He hadn’t expected her to broach the subject quite so bluntly, but then Ziva wasn’t one to beat around the bush.

“I thought it would be best if we dusted the air before you came back to the team.”

“Cleared the air,” Tony corrected automatically.

Ziva smiled. She’d always acted as if she hated it when Tony corrected her mistakes with American idioms, but he also knew she wanted to know what mistakes she’d made so she didn’t make them again. He wondered if everyone had bothered to say anything once he left. Bahl was likely to afraid to do it more than once given Ziva’s normal response to anything he said or did. Gibbs wouldn’t have cared, and McGee would have simply ignored it.

“Yes, cleared the air.” She shifted nervously, looking away and then back again. It was an uncharacteristic display of unease.

“I want for us to be able to work together again. And I know things cannot return to the way they were if we do not address what it was that made you leave.”

“Ziva,” Tony said gently, “I’m not coming back to the team.”

She frowned. “You are here. Working with us. We can be a team again.”

“This is only temporary. There is no place for me here”

“Of course there is.” She pointed toward his old desk.

“That’s Bahl’s.”

“Bahl can be reassigned.”

On one hand he was flattered that retaking his old place was what she wanted, and on the other he was a bit dismayed with easily she saw removing a fellow teammate could be. Admittedly Bahl hadn’t been with them all that long, but it still seemed callous to be so cavalier about reassigning him. She dismissed Bahl as if he didn’t matter at all.

Of course, she hadn’t protested Tony’s own demotion. Nor had she quibbled about Lee’s reassignment; neither had Tony, at the time. Something he’d later apologized for. He should have stood up for her, done more to make sure Lee was treated right and a true member of the team. He’d set a piss poor example.

Tony had at least learned something about himself and how to be a better teammate. It was a lesson that Ziva apparently hadn’t learned.

He could always chalk it up to her training. Mossad agents were taught to come to terms with the idea of sudden changes within their teams, be they the result of reassignment or death. And most assassins worked alone. So it wasn’t like Ziva had much familiarity with working on a stable team. It was possible the longest stint she’d had with any one group of people was the two years she’d been at NCIS.

“Why do you want me to come back?” Tony asked.

Ziva stared at him. “What do you mean why?”

“When we worked together, you made no secret of what a poor agent you thought I was in comparison to those you’d worked with in Mossad. And when I was in charge of the team, you made it clear you thought I failed to measure up.” Tony regarded her steadily. “I didn’t magically become more capable or morph into someone smarter in the time I was gone, so I think why you would want me back on the team is a valid question.”

Tony’s lips quirked upward in a small smile. “I’ve still got the same juvenile sense of humor. The same fascination with movies. I still talk too much, eat disgusting food, and pry into things that aren’t really any of my business.”

Tony leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk. “All that shit you hated about me, all those things about me that drove you nuts…it’s all still right where it was.”

Admittedly, Tony had grown a lot while in Rota, but he was essentially the same person. That Ziva might have come to see him in a different light was nice, but it hardly mattered. If it took him leaving for her to value him, how long would it take for her to once again disregard him if he came back? Gibbs hadn’t been back from Mexico one day before Ziva had started in on him. He didn’t think he’d be on the team again for a week before she was once again insulting him.

“I was wrong.” Ziva cleared her throat. “You are a better agent than I realized.”

“In comparison to the probies you’ve been working with, I would hope I’d be considered better, but –“

“Damn it, Tony, I already admitted I was wrong.” She glared at him. “I am not putting conditions on that, okay? You have good experience that neither McGee nor I have. And you think outside the carton—“

“Box. It’s outside the box.”

“Whatever.” She waved a hand in dismissal. “The point is, you are a good agent.”

“And now that you know that, you think I should rejoin Gibbs’ team?”

“Yes.”

“And what about my team?”

Ziva blushed and looked away. Tony knew she hadn’t given them a thought.

“I’m not going to abandon them, Ziva.”

“Why not? You could so easily abandon me!”

“I didn’t abandon you,” Tony stood, bracing himself on his hands as he leaned forward into her space, forcing her to step back even though there was a desk between them.

“You made it perfectly clear who you preferred, Officer David. And it wasn’t me.” Tony all but snarled at her. “Gibbs was back. You had McGee and whomever they would assign to take my place. You had Ducky and Palmer and Abby. You were far from alone.”

Tony shook his head. “When the shit hit the fan, is sure as hell wasn’t me you wanted or needed. So don’t act like my accepting another position was similar to me leaving you alone on a doorstep somewhere.”

“You never said a word,” Ziva spat back at him. “You just left.”

“And that’s what’s got you upset? That I didn’t say good-bye? Neither did Gibbs.”

“You aren’t Gibbs.”

“Like that’s supposed to be some sort of revelation.” Tony snorted. “You only told me that every god damn day, Ziva, for at least four months.”

“I expected better from you.” She whispered.

“What?” Tony shook his head, completely lost.

“Not as an agent or a team leader, but…as a friend.” She swallowed hard. “I thought you would be better about talking to us…to me, than Gibbs was.”

Ziva bit her lower lip. “When you and I had dinner and watched movies together…I hadn’t expected to enjoy it. And I thought you would want something more than just the pleasure of my company. I was prepared to rebuff you. To make it clear we could be coworkers and nothing more. It did not matter that I might have wanted more. But you never even—“

Ziva huffed out a frustrated breath. “The men in my life have always wanted something from me. It did not matter what…it was always something. But you, you seemed content to simply be with me. It was new and different and I liked it. I wanted it to continue. And I didn’t want to do anything to ruin that.”

Ziva sighed. “Then people from my past became part of my present. And I needed someone I could trust. Someone who had the skills and ability to help extricate myself from the trap they’d set.”

“And that wasn’t me.”

“No, it couldn’t be you, Tony.” She shook her head, expression earnest. “You are a good man. A good agent. You play by the rules. I needed someone who would not be so limited in his approach. Someone who no longer had a career that would be endangered. Someone who didn’t have a team and friends to protect. And I thought it would help if I had someone in my corner who owed me.”

Well that explained why she’d called Gibbs. And he couldn’t exactly fault her logic with regards to Gibbs having a more flexible moral view at times. Tony made a similar observation not all that long ago when he and Gibbs had discussed Shepard’s plans and why she’d told him anything at all. Tony didn’t know exactly what Gibbs owed Ziva, but he could guess. No matter what the case file said, he knew it wasn’t Gibbs who’d shot Ari.

“When Gibbs came back, I knew he wanted things to go back to the way they were. Why else would he have put all your things on your desk? Why else would he have forced Lee off the team? Why else would he have felt the need to stake his claim to everything so blatantly?”

Ziva sighed. “I knew we could no longer watch movies, and that we could no longer have dinner together.”

“Why?”

“Because Gibbs would not have liked it.”

Tony blinked at that. “Excuse me?”

“He has never been subtle about you being the favorite, Tony.”

Tony wondered if they’d done something that hinted at the sexual side of their relationship, but he didn’t think so. Nothing obvious at any rate. And he definitely wasn’t going to admit to anything she might not already know.

“Abby is his favorite.”

Ziva rolled her eyes. “She is a surrogate daughter, and that gets her more obvious displays of affection and a lot of leeway, but she is not his favorite.”

Ziva raised a hand to fiddle with her necklace. “He has a rule about teammates dating. I couldn’t risk him thinking we had broken his rules.”

“We never dated.”

“We ate dinner together and watched movies, Tony. To anyone else it would have looked like we were on a date. Multiple times.” She glared at him. “Everyone knew we’d been getting closer. It was hay for the gossip grinder.”

“I think you mean fodder for the rumor mill.”

She kept talking as if he hadn’t spoken. “And if Gibbs thought we’d broken his rules, who do you think he’d have sent away? It wasn’t going to be you. Your place on the team was secure. You were his senior agent. His favorite.”

She swallowed hard. “But he no longer owed me anything. He isn’t in my debt any longer. I am not even an agent. I have less time on the team than you or McGee. I am not fully trained to act as an investigator. I do not even have citizenship in the country and there are basic tasks which I simply cannot perform because I lack that fundamental qualification. I continue to make mistakes with the most basic of expressions.”

Her fingers curled around her pendant tightly. “Why would Gibbs keep me around if I screwed up something more serious??!”

“And that’s why you were always running me down when Gibbs’ came back? So he’d know you were happy to have him back in charge and that he’d think you were a better agent than me?” It made sense, in a way, given the competitive nature Gibbs always tried to instill in his team. There was a constant game of one-upmanship going on; one Tony had made a conscious decision not to instill in his own team.

“No!” She answered with a forceful denial. “That was not why.”

Tony could believe her, to at least some degree. Many of the put downs she made had been done when out of Gibbs’ hearing. There was usually someone around, but rarely was it Gibbs. So if it wasn’t for Gibbs’ benefit, then why do it at all?

“Okay, if you weren’t trying to make Gibbs think I was incompetent then why bother saying anything at all?” It wasn’t like she needed to re-enforce how little she thought of him. Tony already knew that.

Ziva blushed. “I didn’t want anyone to think we were an object, not that we ever were, but I wanted them to think it was over.”

“Item. That we were an item, not object.”

“Item. Object. It does not matter.” She grimaced. “The point is, if everyone thought we were together, my behavior after Gibbs’ return would have made it clear there was nothing between us any longer.”

Ziva smiled sadly “And it worked to ensure you kept your distance. You didn’t stop by any more. You did not make any more overtures. It was like when I first arrived.”

“Ziva,” Tony spoke gently, “Gibbs would have known you and I didn’t sleep together.” The man knew everything. Or seemed to then. Tony knew better now.

“Our spending some time together wouldn’t have been any different than my going bowling with Abby. Or taking McGee clubbing. Or getting coffee with Palmer. Gibbs wouldn’t have read anything into it.”

“But Gibbs never does any of those things. Surely he would have seen it as--”

“As exactly what it was, two people who enjoy each others company getting together.” Tony sighed softly. “Or simply team building. Camaraderie. Nothing more to it than that.”

Admittedly, it was something of a foreign concept to Gibbs. Ziva was right. He didn’t spend much time with his team that didn’t involve work. But he never begrudged Abby and Kate spending time together. Nor had he likely worried that Tony and Abby going to dinner occasionally would be a problem. He hadn’t even warned McGee off dating Abby---before McGee was on the team full time, of course.

Doing things with his team outside of work was another conscious change Tony had made when he went to Rota and become a team leader. He didn’t see the point in being as secretive about his life or as standoffish as Gibbs tended to be. He tried not to become too heavily involved in their lives, not wanting his team to feel obligated to spend time with him or to resent him for including himself in their pastimes. But the time they’d spent playing together had become every bit as important as the time they spent working.

Tony shook his head. None of that mattered at the moment. “Even if Gibbs thought we were dating, all he would have to do is ask me. I can’t lie to the man. I never could. You should know that. He does know that. I’d have told him the truth.”

Tony made eye contact and held it. “Your position on the team, your place here, was never in any jeopardy.”

Ziva bit her lip looking more uncertain than Tony could ever remember her being. He didn’t totally excuse her behavior that contributed to his leaving DC for Rota, but he at least better understood the reasons for it.

“If my position was never in jeopardy, neither was yours.”

Tony shrugged. “I could have stayed on the team.” He hadn’t been forced to leave; he’d chosen to go when Shepard made the offer.

“They why didn’t you? Why did you leave?” She sounded plaintive rather than demanding.

“It was time.”

That wasn’t the whole answer. But it was an honest one. Given how much he’d grown in Rota, how much his team had come to mean to him, Tony was certain he’d made the right decision. It was something he needed both personally and professionally, even if he hadn’t totally appreciated that fact at the time.

“You were happy here.”

“I was.” Tony agreed. “But not for months before I agreed to take the position in Rota.”

“And that was my fault.”

“It wasn’t just you, Ziva.” Tony reached out to ruffle her hair, pleased to see her smile. “You are good, my little ninja assassin, but don’t take more credit than is due. A lot of factors contributed to my being ready to leave.”

He smiled gently. “And a lot of factors are contributing to the fact that I won’t be staying.”

She frowned. “But surely—“

“Ziva, I appreciate you wanting me back on the team. And believe me when I tell you it does my ego good to hear how poorly you have gotten along without me—“

Ziva rolled her eyes at that.

“But I have responsibilities and commitments elsewhere.” Unless Shepard being fired made his promotion null and void, his job was in Spain. His team was there. His life was there…all but one significant piece of it.

“Go get your report written. Gibbs will be down from MTAC soon. He’ll want all the I’s dotted—“

“And T’s crossed.” Ziva smiled. “Yes, I know that one.”

“So you do.” Tony smiled.

Tony sat down and tried to focus on his report again. Sooner it was finished, the sooner he could focus on more important things…like how to keep his burgeoning relationship with Gibbs intact and alive once he went back to Spain.

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