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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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Gibbs tried very hard not to look at what had been Tony's desk.
Tony had been gone for two months, and the team's new probie now sat at what was Tony's desk. Gibbs wasn't sure what the kid's name was. Dwight? Dwayne? Daryl? Something with a 'D' was all he knew. Not that it mattered. It didn't look like the kid would be staying with the team for long. He had some sort of nervous twitch and stuttered badly every time Gibbs asked him for what he'd found. It was annoying as hell.
Initially, Gibbs had some reservations about putting the probie in what had been Tony's desk. It had been Tony's for as long as he'd been on Gibbs' team. Giving it to someone else felt wrong. Kate's desk had sat empty for months after her death, a quasi shrine to her, but Tony hadn't died, he'd left. And Gibbs' anger over that kept him giving into any sentimentality. It was just a piece of furniture, no more, no less. It didn't matter who had used it or who would be using it in the future.
He didn't question why it still bothered him so much, two months after Tony left for Rota, to look over and see someone else sitting there. It was a stupid, knee jerk reaction. A force of habit that he knew would fade in time. Tony had been there for years, it was perfectly natural to look over and expect to see him sitting there; to imagine him lounging back in the chair with his feet up on the desk, playing some stupid video game on his phone.
It was also natural to look for Tony at a crime scene to give orders to. It wasn't strange at all that he had to stop himself from barking out 'DiNozzo' when he wanted or needed something. He'd been doing it for years; it would take him a bit to undo that. There was nothing odd about expecting to hear inappropriate jokes during an investigation and being disappointed when none were forthcoming. It was normal to miss hearing obscure movie reference made that didn't relate in any way to what they were working except to the guy making them.
It would fade, Gibbs told himself. He'd gotten used to DiNozzo. He could get unused to him.
Ziva hadn't commented on his assigning their new probie to Tony's desk. But then she'd been the one to point out the impracticality of treating Kate's desk like it was a shrine. To her any desk was just another piece of furniture. And without all of Tony's things it looked just like any of a dozen others NCIS had.
The lack of personal items had been Gibbs' first clue that something wasn't quite right. He'd hesitated that Monday morning, scanning the area, looking for what it was that had made him feel so uneasy. That was when he noticed how clean Tony's desk was. Not clean as in orderly, neat and tidy. No, it was clean as in it looked like no one was using it, like no one had ever used it.
Gibbs couldn't remember what all used to be on the desk; there were still gaps in his memory from the explosion he'd been in months before, and he hadn't honestly ever paid that much attention, but he knew things were missing. There wasn't one single personal item. No pictures, no calendar, no coffee mug. No post it notes, no files, no forms recently completed or waiting to be completed. Gibbs had shivered looking at the barren surface, his gut telling him it was a harbinger of something he wasn't going to like.
McGee had looked like he might protest having the new probie sit at Tony's desk, but one sharp look from Gibbs had been enough to silence him. He was Gibbs' second in command; he should know it didn't matter where anyone sat as long as they got the damn job done. Gibbs ignored the little voice inside that kept asking if he really believed that why was had he been so determined to take back what was his desk from Tony when he returned from Mexico. Why not just take any empty desk?
Gibbs would have expected Tony to announce his promotion to everyone in the building. He thought the younger man would have rubbed his plum new assignment in his coworkers' faces. It was the sort of showboating behavior Tony was known for. But he'd left quietly, no fuss, no fanfare. He didn't even say goodbye. Gibbs still wasn't sure what to make of it.
Not that Gibbs expected Tony to say good-bye to him. It wasn't like there was anything between them other than the job. They were coworkers, nothing more. Gibbs didn't even count Tony as a friend--not really.
Gibbs ignored the little voice that continued to prod him, telling him they weren't anything more because had made it clear that's what he wanted. He hadn't come right out and said their sleeping together was a mistake, but he implied it with enough force for the point to be made.
Sleeping with Shepard had been a mistake. A huge, monumental mistake that resulted in a shuffling of Gibbs' rules to reflect the importance of the lesson learned. No dating coworkers made it into the top 20. He couldn't clearly remember why he'd broken his own rule with Tony. And he wasn't sure how they'd ended up in bed together--multiple times--how long they'd been doing it or how often. It didn't really matter because he'd made it clear on his return from Mexico that aspect of their relationship would not resume.
He told himself Tony not saying good-bye was because it was well known Gibbs had no tolerance or patience for any sort of emotional display. Tony had just been saving them both from what would likely have been embarrassing moment--well embarrassing for Tony because Gibbs didn't get embarrassed.
He told himself it didn't hurt to have Tony walk out without saying a word. He didn't feel abandoned. Gibbs wasn't upset six years together didn't warrant even a handshake or a thank you. He was immune to the irony of being treated the same way he'd treated Tony when he'd left for Mexico the second time. Gibbs wasn't pissed. No matter what Ducky had to say on the subject.
He thought for sure Tony would have said something to Abby. They'd always been close. Obviously something happened in the time Gibbs had been gone, but he didn't know what, and he wasn't sure if he should ask. From the hurt and bewildered look on Abby's face when she found out Tony had left, Gibbs didn't think she knew why Tony would have left without saying good-bye. He wasn't sure how she could not know, but then she probably hadn't known why Gibbs had left without saying anything either. At least he'd made sure she had a number to get in touch with him, in case of an emergency. Tony hadn't even done that much.
Tony hadn't said anything to McGee or Ziva either. They were just as surprised as Gibbs had been to walk in Monday morning to find out Tony had been offered and accepted the position as lead agent in Rota, Spain. The reassignment had been effective immediately.
For an agent being assigned overseas time to get affairs in order was usually the rule, and Gibbs knew there was nothing that pressing going on in Spain that Tony had to rush getting there. Tony could have had up to a month to move if he wanted. The choice to be there within two days of being offered the position had likely been his decision.
McGee had looked chagrined when he'd found out about the job and Tony leaving immediately. Gibbs knew McGee's reaction related to the conversation he'd over heard between the two younger men. McGee's derisive comment about Tony not deserving to be a team leader had been said in anger, fueled by resentment of his own demotion from second in command. To the best of Gibbs' knowledge neither man had addressed it before Tony left. It was unfinished business between DiNozzo and McGee. Gibbs told himself he didn't care if it ever got resolved. It wasn't his problem.
Ziva hadn't shown any emotion other than surprise at hearing of Tony's reassignment, but Gibbs knew she was hurt by his abrupt departure. He'd heard that she and Tony had spent some time together while he'd been in Mexico. He didn't know if there was anything romantic between them, and he firmly dismissed the surge of jealousy thinking about the two of them together brought. It wasn't any of his business. It wasn't like he wanted Tony for himself or anything. And really, it was clear that Tony didn't want anything serious with Gibbs if the older man being gone for a few months was enough to have him turning to Ziva.
If there had been anything between Tony and Ziva it was obviously over. Ziva had called Gibbs for help, and had made pointed comments about Tony's ability as a leader getting in digs whenever the situation arose once Gibbs came back. If there had been something between them, Gibbs thought she'd probably been the one to end it.
Tony running off to Rota made more sense that way. Being demoted and dismissed by a beautiful woman were big blows to the ego. Gibbs didn't need to feel guilty or responsible for Tony not being able to suck it up and deal with it like a man. It was Tony's decision to leave. Gibbs hadn't made him go, any more than he'd made his ex-wife Diane leave. It wasn't his fault she couldn't handle him being a little intense over catching a serial killer or always being focused on the job. Ducky said he'd left her no choice but to leave, that Gibbs had shut her out, but what the hell did Ducky know about it? He'd never been married.
Tony also hadn't said anything to Ducky about leaving. Ducky seemed baffled and hurt by that, even more so when it came to light that Tony had spoken to Jimmy Palmer about leaving.
Palmer of all people. Gibbs couldn't believe that was who Tony elected to talk to. Palmer wasn't a bad guy, but Gibbs couldn't see where he and Tony had anything in common. He couldn't even remember them being friends. All he could remember was Tony teasing Palmer. It didn't make any sense that the 'autopsy gremlin' would be the one Tony confided in.
Why would he tell Palmer he was leaving? Why would he trust Palmer with taking care of last minute details? Hadn't Gibbs been the one to watch Tony's back? Shouldn't Gibbs have been the one he came to? Gibbs deliberately ignored the fact that Tony had four months without him around to find a new confidant. And that maybe his trust in Gibbs had reason to be less solid since Gibbs departure for Mexico. Not to mention the fact that he'd called Tony by the wrong name more than once since his return. His curt resumption of his place as team leader and subsequent demotion of Tony likely hadn't helped any.
Tony had talked to Lee too. It was another thing that baffled Gibbs. Lee was a probie. Why would Tony talk to her? Maybe he needed legal advice. Gibbs knew she was well versed in that arena if not overly qualified as a field agent.
When Shepard approached her about resuming her position as probie on the MRCT, Lee had politely declined. She said she was looking for more regular hours with less potentially dangerous situations because she had recently assumed responsibility for the care of her younger sister.
Gibbs hadn't known she had a sister. It was apparently news to everyone else as well. He shrugged it off. It wasn't an issue for him if she didn't want to be a field agent. She wasn't terribly well suited to it in his opinion. Neither was Dwayne, or Derek or whatever the hell his name was.
Gibbs sighed, sipping his coffee and staring at his computer and refusing to look at what had been Tony's desk. At zero six hundred he was the only one in the office. The quiet should have made it easier to concentrate but it was proving to be more of a distraction.
Gibbs grimaced forcing himself to focus. He had a boatload of paperwork to complete. He'd forgotten how much of that stuff Tony had done for him as his second. Gibbs had been passing off more and more to McGee. McGee was looking a little shell shocked these days. Apparently when he was Tony's second he'd been unaware of how much paperwork had to be completed. Why Tony had elected to go easy on McGee Gibbs couldn't fathom until he realized how much the younger man was struggling with it.
Gibbs leaving the way he had thrust McGee into a senior position before he was really ready for it. He didn't have the experience Tony had when he'd started at NCIS and for all his intelligence McGee was remarkably ill equipped to deal with red tape. He didn't seem to understand logic had nothing to do with the process and that it was better not to ask why. Just do whatever was needed to be done the way it had to be done and don't question it. Simple.
While Ziva was gaining in skill and ability as an investigator, she wasn't an NCIS agent. There were things that legally she simply couldn't do so it wasn't like McGee could share the duties. McGee technically outranked Ziva, but in reality he couldn't order her around or pass off the shit detail.
The probie was barely out of FLETC. He wasn't going to be much help. Gibbs had made training him another of McGee's duties. He tried not to pay too much attention, not wanting to see McGee falling back on what he knew and applying the same words and techniques he'd learned from Tony. He doubted McGee was even aware he was doing it. He was just copying Tony the way Tony had copied Gibbs and Gibbs had copied Franks, following the example set for them.
It made Gibbs' gut hurt to hear Tony's words coming from someone other than Tony. McGee put his own spin on it, changing the inflection and adding emphasis in places but it was still Tony's material. It was as wrong as the probie sitting at Tony's desk, but Gibbs couldn't and wouldn't undo that. It was done. He was not going acknowledge or even consider that it might have been a mistake.
Gibbs glanced at the clock. McGee, Ziva and whatever his name was should be coming in soon. Ziva had only been late once and Gibbs had told her if she couldn't be in on time to not bother coming in at all. DiNozzo wasn't in charge any more; slacking off wasn't going to be tolerated. It never occurred to Gibbs that Tony had no more authority when it came to Ziva than McGee did. In his mind, if Ziva hadn't toed the line when Tony was in charge it was because he allowed it. It never occurred to Gibbs that the only reason she followed his orders was out of personal loyalty, and because her father made it clear her roll was to gain his trust.
Gibbs' thoughts were interrupted by the approach of Jimmy Palmer. He'd heard the elevator and the younger man's steps as he came closer, but Gibbs didn't look up or acknowledge his presence. Palmer cleared his throat nervously. Gibbs turned his head to look at him. Palmer held out a folder, offering it to Gibbs.
"Doctor Mallard asked me to deliver these autopsy reports to you."
Gibbs knew Ducky hadn't sent Palmer to deliver the reports because he was still pissed at him; it was simply expedient. Ducky and Gibbs made their peace when Gibbs had finally apologized to him. He hadn't liked doing it, but it was obvious he'd hurt Ducky's feelings, and for the sake of one of the longest friendships he had, Gibbs had sucked it up and offered what he knew Ducky needed.
He took the file from Palmer. "You're here early."
"I came in early to get caught up on things since I've got classes this afternoon. I'd meant to drop these off last night but I lost track of time when Doctor Mallard was telling me about his time at...and you don't really care about any of that." Palmer blushed. "I'll just be going."
"Palmer?" Gibbs called out before he'd gone more than a few steps.
Palmer turned, eyebrows rising. He clearly hadn't expected Gibbs to call him back. He wasn't the only one surprised. Gibbs had spoke without even realizing it.
"Was there something you needed, Agent Gibbs?"
"Have you talked to DiNozzo lately?" Gibbs asked. He wasn't sure why he asked. It wasn't like Tony was on his team any more. But Tony had been his second for years; it was only natural to want to check up on him. And Palmer was one of the few people Tony has spoken to before leaving. It was possible they'd stayed in touch.
"I haven't actually talked to Tony since he first got to Spain. The time difference between Rota, his hours and mine here makes it hard to find time to talk directly. Tony had some issues getting a new cell phone that worked, something about, well, I'm not really sure, he wasn't clear--"
Palmer stopped abruptly. He took a breath. "We e-mail each other. It's easier."
E-mail? Gibbs arched an eyebrow. He hadn't expected that, but then he didn't use his computer for any more than he absolutely had to.
"You get an e-mail from him recently?"
Palmer fidgeted nervously. Gibbs' gut clenched, but he tried not to read too much into Palmer's hesitation. He knew Palmer was wary of him. That Palmer looked uncomfortable didn't mean there was anything wrong.
"Tony sent me a message yesterday."
"He doing okay?" Gibbs asked wanting to be sure there wasn't anything he should be worried about.
Palmer nodded. "He says he likes Rota. This time of year, it's a lot warmer than DC. He hasn't gotten to the beach yet, but he was hoping to go this weekend. One of his team surfs regularly and Tony said he wanted to try it."
Palmer smiled hesitantly. "If you want to send him a message, his work addy hasn't changed. It's just his first initial, last name at NCIS.gov. Same as mine or yours."
Gibbs glared at Palmer and the younger man began to back away. "But you knew that, of course. You didn't need me to tell you that. I'll, ah, I'll just be getting back to work now."
Gibbs sighed softly once Palmer was out of sight. He hadn't known Tony's work e-mail address. He'd never sent anyone on his team an e-mail.
McGee, Ziva and Abby would know doubt have known. If they'd had been in touch with Tony, they hadn't mentioned it. Not that they would have said anything to Gibbs. He'd made a point of not mentioning Tony's name or saying anything about him since coming in and finding out Tony had left. Assigning the probie to Tony's desk had been a blatant indication of Gibbs' feelings on the subject of his former second in command.
He decided it wasn't petty for him to feel justified in trying to wipe the slate clean. Tony was the one who'd left. He stayed in touch with Palmer; he could have stayed in touch with Gibbs just as easily. He'd obviously chosen not to.
Gibbs looked at Tony's desk. His jaw clenched when a sudden wave of loss swept over him. He missed Tony. Damn it. He slammed his hand down as he thrust himself out of his chair.
He'd go get a cup of coffee. By the time he got back, Ziva and McGee and the probie would be in. With them around maybe he could finally concentrate and get something done. With them around, he could continue to ignore that nagging ache in his chest that appeared the day he found out Tony had left for Spain and hadn't lessened since.
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MTAC - NCIS Fic