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Moving Forward

by: ksl (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 030 Word Count: 111544
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Alternate Universe
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Episode(s): 4-03 Singled Out
Summary: An AU where Tony accepts the position in Rota, Spain when Shepard offered it in season four.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

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Gibbs hated it when a case went cold.

Staff Sergeant Randall Brown had died while transporting materials from the Naval Surface Warfare Dahlgren Division in Northern Virginia to the Naval Research Lab just outside Washington, DC. Evidence at the scene didn't indicate foul play. Ducky's autopsy later confirmed that Brown had died from a congenital heart defect. So while his death was a tragedy, it was not a crime.

Gibbs' frustration didn't lie in confirming why or how Brown died, but in what happened with the explosive ordinance he was transporting. The manifest for his shipment was not a perfect match for what was found in the truck. Brown's load was missing a few pounds of a new Semtex like compound recently developed at the R & D center at Dahlgren. It was being shipped out for final testing before being included in the Marine Corps' arsenal. But further review of previous shipments put the total amount missing at closer to several hundred pounds that had been lost, mislabeled or stolen over the last few months.

Due to the inconsistencies in the record keeping and turnover in personnel it was virtually impossible to know when the new explosive started turning up missing. The amounts missing from any one shipment were always relatively small and were attributed to accounting errors if they were noticed at all. Given that it had been going on for some time, it was increasingly obvious that the discrepancies were not merely mistakes, but deliberate.

McGee hadn't uncovered anything suspicious in Brown's financial records. He hadn't bought a new car or house. His bank account had a modest amount that was in line with his salary. He didn't seem to have a gambling problem or drug addition. His credit cards had a small balance that was easily traced to a new brake job for his wife's car and a computer for his son.

Ziva and their probie, who had surprisingly managed to last almost the entire six months since Tony left, hadn't turned up any evidence of Brown being unfaithful to his wife. No mistress on the side to support, no hookers, nothing that would indicate he wasn't as happily married as his wife claimed. There were also no health issues that might have prompted a desire for quick cash. His coworkers all considered him an okay guy to work with, if not exactly the most ambitious when it came to getting the job done. He didn't help load the trucks, he just drove them.

Neither Abby nor Ducky turned up anything that would indicate he'd handled the material directly. There was no residue on his skin or clothing. There was nothing in the truck itself to suggest the material had been removed during transport. Video footage available for part of Brown's route didn't show him stopping anywhere, and the timing from when he left Dahlgren and ultimately died didn't allow for him to offload anything.

The only direct link with Brown to the missing ordinance was his signature indicating he'd counted the boxes in the truck and was accepting responsibility for their transport. If Abby hadn't noticed the still sealed boxes didn't have the correct weight when she was cataloging evidence, it would have been impossible to tell anything was missing.

Someone at Dahlgren had to have facilitated the theft, but Gibbs and his team hadn't been able to find anything yet. Like Brown, everyone they'd looked into seemed clean.

Gibbs grimaced. No one stole explosives for fun. Someone had to be getting paid for it.

Gibbs was starting to wonder if McGee wasn't as good at the computer crap as he claimed. He knew of at least once case the team had worked on while Gibbs had been in Mexico where stolen funds were never recovered. McGee hadn't been able to follow the trail then either so this time wasn't an isolated incident.

It was possible whoever arranged for the theft and sale was simply better at hiding their activities than McGee was at finding them. Thinking that was far from comforting because McGee, even if he wasn't a good as he seemed, was still the best computer person Gibbs knew. If these people were better, catching them was going to be damned difficult.

It was also possible that who ever had stolen the explosives hadn't sold them yet, meaning no money trail to follow. If that was the case then they were stockpiling it for some reason. This new compound wasn't on the market. It didn't even have a name yet. Whoever took it obviously recognized its potential on the black market, but might not know how to make contact with a buyer or know how to sell something so unique. They could also be a terrorist group waiting for the right opportunity to use it themselves. That thought made Gibbs' blood run cold. Failing to prevent another Oklahoma City sort of bombing was not an option.

Ziva hadn't uncovered any ties to terrorist organizations or cults or any other group that might have an immediate use for it. No one at Dahlgren was a card carrying member of any known militant group. And no one harbored an obvious grudge against the government--at least not that Ziva had been able to locate.

He sipped his coffee, reviewing the case notes. He'd go over it again with his team when they came in. There had to be something they were missing.

It had to be someone on the inside. All the shipments of raw materials checked out. Everything that was supposed to be delivered had been. All the testing done accurately accounted for how much had been used. Nothing went missing until the new product was getting shipped out of Dahlgren for final review.

There was no suspicious activity prior to that, nothing to give away the fact that each shipment was missing bits and pieces. If Brown hadn't died, whoever it was could have continued to steal the explosives indefinitely.
Whoever set this up was smart enough to know how to cover their tracks.

It had to be someone familiar with how the explosives were accounted for, when and how they'd be shipped. They were content to take small quantities over time. That wasn't the normal MO for someone stealing weapons or selling them.

"Gibbs?"

Gibbs blinked, looking up to see Director Shepard standing in front of his desk. He'd been so engrossed in his review of the case that he hadn't even noticed her approaching.

"Yeah?"

"I may have a lead on your case."

Gibbs glared at her. "We talked about you messing around in my cases."

Shepard stared back at him coolly. "I haven't been, as you put it, messing around in your cases. I realize it may come as a surprise to you, but I get reports from all NCIS teams, not just yours, and that occasionally what is happening on one case is related to another."

Gibbs stood up from his desk to face her. He didn't like having to look up at her. It made him feel like she already had the high ground. He gestured with his right hand for her to continue.

"Some of the missing explosives apparently found their way to Spain."

Gibbs blinked. He hadn't expected that. The Middle East, Eastern Europe or South America were possibilities he'd considered.

"Spain?"

"Rota, actually."

Gibbs froze for a moment. Rota. Tony was in Rota. He hadn't mentioned Tony's name in months, but he thought of him every day. He constantly had to fight down the urge to ask Palmer if he'd heard from Tony, to ask McGee, Ziva or Abby if he'd been in touch. After six months, Gibbs thought the urge would lessen but it hadn't.

"According to Agent DiNozzo's report, they've encountered two bombs made from it."

"Why am I only hearing about this now?" Gibbs bit out the question harshly.

She didn't roll her eyes, but Gibbs could tell she wanted to. "Because there wasn't enough left from the first bomb to accurately identify the explosive. And it wasn't until two weeks after they encountered the second bomb that what was missing from Dahlgren was brought to our attention. The composition of the explosive was available for comparison. Until it went missing, the composition was proprietary. They didn't have anything to compare the bomb to in order to identify it. Until they could identify it, they had no idea where it came from."

She gave him a glare that rivaled his own. "And if you bothered to check your e-mail, Jethro, you likely would have heard about this before now. Briefings about what is going on with other teams are regular posted to the intranet. Two bombs made from an unidentified material were mentioned."

Gibbs ignored the look and her jibe at his lack of technological savvy. "I need to see DiNozzo's report."

He managed not to choke or stumble over Tony's name.

"I'll do you one better." She smiled tightly. "He'll be calling MTAC in fifteen minutes. You're welcome to sit in."

"I'll be there."

Shepard nodded curtly and walked away. Gibbs watched her go, waiting until she was up the stairs before sitting down at his desk with a sigh. Six months ago he'd wanted to rip her a new one for offering Tony a team of his own without talking to him. He was still pissed at her, and consistently found reasons to be at odds with her. He knew she didn't understand his animosity. It wasn't like offering the job wasn't within her purview as Director, or that Tony wasn't worthy of the position. And she wasn't the one who set Tony's reporting date; he'd done that himself.

Gibbs certainly wasn't going to tell Shepard that he was upset over losing his second when he'd spent the last few months acting like he didn't care one way or another. And he definitely wasn't going to tell her he was pissed that Tony hadn't said good-bye--it was the truth, but it was entirely too petty to mention. He also wasn't going to tell her he was hurt that Tony hadn't made any effort to stay in touch. Ducky harping at him to admit it was enough for him to deal with. He didn't need her on his case as well.

Gibbs finished his coffee. He took a deep breath and headed up the stairs. He passed through the security protocols without much thought. He'd done it so often he could probably do it in his sleep.

He took another deep breath as he stepped into the dimly lit room. The large screen that dominated the far wall had always made him think of Tony. The whole room was set up like a personal viewing theater, and he could clearly remember Tony mentioning more than once how much he'd like to use the equipment to showcase a favorite film.

The screen lit up and suddenly Tony appeared in front of him. Gibbs heart rate accelerated, his breath hitching at the first sight of the younger man in six months. He managed to keep his face impassive, even though no one could see him from his position in the shadows.

He couldn't help noticing that Tony looked good. Green eyes were more vibrant than Gibbs remembered, looking warm and bright against the backdrop of smooth, tanned skin. His hair was longer, and although his suit hid it well, it looked like he'd lost a few pounds. His features were more angular looking, cheekbones and jaw more sharply defined than Gibbs remembered.

Gibbs found himself wondering if Tony was eating right. Ducky had always said Tony's eating habits were appalling. Gibbs rolled his eyes, annoyed for thinking such things. What did it matter if DiNozzo was living off candy bars and coffee? It wasn't his concern. As long as his health didn't affect his ability to do the job it wasn't an issue.

Small physical changes not withstanding, what Gibbs noticed the most was that Tony looked relaxed. He wasn't on edge, defensive and wary the way he'd been when Gibbs had come back from Mexico. He looked poised and confident. It was a good look for him. A very, very good look for him.

Gibbs reined in his thoughts. He wasn't going to go there. What happened between them was over. It never should have happened in the first place. Breaking Rule 12 was a mistake, and he should be pleased Tony had enough sense to take the promotion.

"Hello, Tony." Shepard greeted him. She sounded very pleased to see him.

"Jenny." Tony smiled. "You're looking good."

"You too. I'd say Spain agrees with you."

"Definitely prefer the warmer weather." Tony grinned, white teeth gleaming. "Hell of a lot easier on my lungs."

Gibbs stepped forward to where he could be seen. He wanted to cut short Tony's interaction with Shepard. It wouldn't do for them to get too friendly. She'd screwed him over once in Paris, and he wasn't so sure she wouldn't screw over Tony as well if given the chance. Tony wasn't on his team any more but that didn't mean Gibbs wanted to see him get handed the shaft by his old partner. The fact he didn't like that Tony's smile for her was warm and genuine, and he hadn't smiled at Gibbs like that since even before his time in Mexico, was immaterial.

Tony's countenance immediately sobered, his posture straightening. It could have been a knee jerk reaction, the same sort of response that usually happened back when Tony worked for him and Gibbs had caught him goofing off, except it wasn't. Gibbs couldn't identify exactly what it was--he only knew what it wasn't. He wasn't sure what it meant either.

Tony studied him for a moment, assessing and measuring him. It was familiar but it took a moment for Gibbs to place it. Tony had given him a similar look any time after Gibbs had been hurt. It was a visual once over that judged his fitness. And at one time, he'd thought it an expression of Tony's concern for his well being, a mark of affection that he would take the time to make sure Gibbs was as okay as he claimed to be, but now it just pissed him off.

What right did Tony have to question his ability to do the damn job? He'd always done his job. Even with his brains scrambled. If Tony had any doubts about his ability then the younger man should have stayed in DC on his team. He should have been willing to look out for Gibb, to watch his six. Never mind that Gibbs had insisted on more than one occasion he didn't need a babysitter, that he didn't want or need Tony's help with anything.

And so what if Gibbs called off whatever it was they'd had? That didn't mean Tony had to leave. He could have stuck it out. It wasn't like them sleeping together meant that much.

"DiNozzo." Gibbs' greeting was curt, irritation and anger bleeding into his voice.

Tony's tone by contrast was neutral, neither hostile nor welcoming. "Gibbs."

It reminded Gibbs rather forcefully of meeting with his first ex-wife years after their divorce. She had the same tone. She told him later if he'd been even half way decent, even remotely friendly, she would have welcomed him with open arms, pleased to see him again.

He could still hear her saying, "You bristling up like a pissed off porcupine the second you saw me, Jethro, made me even more glad I wasn't the one who had to put up with you and your shit any more."

Did Tony feel the same way? Gibbs stifled a wince at that thought, unwilling to ask the question--definitely not where Shepard could hear him and not when he wasn't sure he really wanted to hear the answer. This wasn't the time or the place for that.

Gibbs had no idea what would be the right time or place. He'd never known. It was one of the main reasons his first ex has left him. She said she still cared about him, but she wasn't willing to live with some one who so consistently failed to express himself in any meaningful way she could understand.

"I hear you found some of our missing explosives." Gibbs decided it was best to stick to business.

Tony nodded, accepting Gibbs request to move passed their initial less than ideal greeting and focus on the case. For that, Gibbs was grateful.

"Our two bombs account for about ten pounds of what you're missing. No where near all of it, but it's a start." Tony gave them a quick briefing on what he and his team had uncovered. It was a neat, concise report, without a single inappropriate comment or movie reference.

"You interrogate this Maria Martinez yet?" She would be the one to answer the obvious questions as to how the explosives had made it to Spain, when they got there, who had sold it, how much had her radical group purchased and how much was still being offered on the open market.

"No."

"Why the hell not?' She was their only link. Talking to her should have been Tony's number one priority. He'd trained him better than that.

Tony glared at Gibbs, jaw clenching before relaxing. It was obvious he read the censure in Gibbs' question. When Tony spoke his voice had a deliberate evenness that Gibbs knew was forced.

"Obviously you haven't been listening, Gibbs. She's a Spanish National in Spain. I don't exactly have the authority to question her. You may recall that I already mentioned we've got no evidence to link her directly to the two bombs we found. It's all circumstantial and conjecture."

Gibbs frowned. "You've got fingerprints from the second bomb--"

"Yeah, and she's not in any system. I can't confirm they're hers."

Tony's careful control slipped as some anger leaked through. "She's not wanted by Interpol or any local authority. And apparently neither are any of her Spain for Spaniards cohorts. None of them have ever been arrested for so much as a parking ticket."

Tony sighed. "Other than the explosives, the components for the bombs were not distinctive. You can get wiring, nails and a clock just about anywhere. And until I can actually tie her or anyone in the group to the bombs, I can't legally look into their credit card records and purchases."

Gibbs caught the 'legal' reference. He knew Tony had likely put his team to work on illegal methods. But he was smart enough not to say anything about that in front of the Director.

She likely caught the emphasis as well. Shepard, for all her faults, was no fool. But she knew better than to comment on what Tony might have done.

"Both of the bombs we've found were placed on Spanish soil. Technically I don't have jurisdiction. The only reason they called us in was because the playgrounds are predominately used by Americans and we've got a better equipped lab. We now know the explosives originated in the US, but that still doesn't give me much clout."

Gibbs nodded, trying to signal his understanding and let Tony know he was wrong to judge the younger man's actions. Gibbs had been involved in covert ops, but he had never worked on foreign soil as a legitimate agent. He knew there were constraints but had never had to live within them. Tony nodded back, a small smile appearing.

Gibbs felt something relax in his chest knowing the ability to communicate silently hadn't been irrevocably damaged. There was no one else he'd worked with that Gibbs had been able to do that with. He'd taken it for granted while Tony was around and missed it with him gone.

"Do you need me to make some calls?" Shepard asked.

"If you would, Jenny, I'd appreciate it."

Tony smiled at her. Gibbs wasn't sure who he wanted to smack for that--Tony for doing it, or Shepard for getting it. Tony had even used her first name. He'd thought he'd at least get the familiar 'boss', but from their first greeting and throughout the briefing, Tony had consistently called him 'Gibbs'. If not for their brief moment of silent communication, Tony could have been addressing a stranger.

"A little pressure from above wouldn't hurt. I've already called in a few favors with the local police. The Chief of Police agreed to help us monitor the movements of the key members of the group."

"How'd you pull that off?" Gibbs asked, sounding impressed in spite of himself. He'd never had much luck getting local law enforcement to cooperate.

"His kid plays baseball at one of the playgrounds." Tony shrugged. "Just because it's used mostly by Americans doesn't mean we're the only ones who do."

"How did you know that?"

Tony smirked. "I talk to people. And I listen when they talk to me."

Gibbs opened his mouth to ask another question but didn't get the chance to voice it. A tall, beautiful blonde woman appeared behind Tony. She cleared her throat.

"Sir, I'm sorry to interrupt but we've got a situation."

Tony turned to face her. She leaned into to speak to him, making it impossible to hear what was said. Gibbs couldn't read her lips clearly, but he thought he caught the word bomb.

Tony turned back to the screen. "We've got another bomb. I need to go."

"Call me when you're free." Shepard ordered. I'll want a full briefing."

"Will do, Ma'am."

He was already stepping away when Gibbs called out. "Tony!"

Tony looked over his shoulder, eyebrows raised. "Yeah?"

Gibbs hesitated. There was so much he wanted to say, so many things he had no idea where to start. He silently cursed his inability to just speak his mind.

"Gibbs, I have to--"

"Be careful."

Tony smiled, clearly pleased by the small display of concern. "I always am."

"Don't make me wait another six months to talk you."

Tony paused. His smile stayed in place but lost its warmth. That's when Gibbs realized what he said hadn't come out the way he'd meant it. He'd only wanted to encourage Tony to stay in touch. He wasn't finding fault or blaming Tony, but clearly he'd just made it sound as though he were.

"I never made you do anything. Pretty damn sure Satan will have mastered ice skating and moved on the luge before anyone makes you do anything you don't want to do."

Green eyes met blue--open and honest, unforgiving in their mute assessment. "It's a two way street, Gibbs. You could have called. Sent me an e-mail. I hear they still deliver mail by hand if you were really desperate. I didn't run off to parts unknown. I was never hard to find. The entire agency knows where I am. If you wanted to talk, you could have, Gibbs. No one stopped you."

Tony's smile turned bitter. "No one stopped the others either. Guess I was a case of out of sight out of mind. Not all that surprising, I suppose. Not like I was irreplaceable or anything."

Tony looked like he might say something more, but just shook his head. He made a slashing motion across his throat signaling an end to the connection.

Gibbs closed his eyes rather than stare at a blank screen. He took a deep breath and released it slowly. He hadn't expected Tony to place any blame on him. No one else did. And Tony never had before.

What did he mean no one stopped the others either? Had no one but Palmer actually been in touch with Tony? Surely McGee or Abby had contacted him. It didn't make any sense that they wouldn't. They were Tony's friends. Or at least they had been.

Shepard touched his arm, reminding him he wasn't alone in the room. "Jethro, are you al--"

"I'm going back to work. Call me when you know something."

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