Tony groaned, feeling weird as he woke up. His mouth was dry and his head was aching, and he couldn’t quite remember how he got to bed, or having had as many drinks as it would take for him to feel like this. He stayed still, trying to put his memories of the night before together. He remembered going out for drinks with Abby, Ziva and McGee after closing their latest case. Gibbs had declined, as they all knew he would, because he was having dinner with Ducky, a regular thing since Ducky’s mother had passed. Jimmy and Breena already had plans, so it had been the four of them going out for a relaxing drink.
The case hadn’t been that bad, all things considered, and Tony couldn’t quite figure out why he would have drunk so much to cause these symptoms. They’d been having fun, just talking and laughing and teasing. And then it just went blank. Feeling the pounding in his head, Tony brought his hands down to rub at his eyes. Or he tried to. He couldn’t. He felt the metal bite into his wrists.
Jerking his body at the unexpected restraints, he yelped as he felt something bite into each of his ankles. He couldn’t pull his legs up, couldn’t draw them together. Oh God. And there was complete darkness too, and he felt something on his face. Breathing deeply, Tony tried to relax to get his wits together. He moved around slowly as much as he could, moved his head to try to get the thing off his face, moved his arms and legs as far as was allowed by the restraints.
He came to a conclusion. He was obviously lying on a mattress, was wearing a shirt and his shorts, was handcuffed and his ankles tied spread by softer bindings, and he was blindfolded. What the hell? He hated being helpless like this! It had happened and he had seen it too many times in his career for him to like these sort of games, and he would never have consented to this no matter how drunk he was! He didn’t trust anyone to do this to him! He didn’t like it!
So… someone must have gotten to him. He’d been taken, they’d gotten him. Okay, breathe. Not the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, DiNozzo! Just keep calm and find your way out. Get your legs free, those bindings don’t seem too strong. Then get your legs under you, sit up, so your hands can reach your face and remove the blindfold. After that, look around, find something to help you pick the handcuffs, or break whatever you’re cuffed to. Easy. Escape. Call Gibbs, make sure the team is alright, find this bastard and make him pay.
Tony froze. The team.
He’d been with Abby, Ziva and McGee. If he’d been gotten to at the bar, where were they? Were they also tied up somewhere? He knew better than to call out, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that he was awake, so he focused on his other senses. He listened, but could hear nothing indicating another person nearby, could hear no struggles. Wait, was that a car passing? It was! So he wasn’t somewhere in the middle of nowhere, at least. There were cars out there, so when he got himself free, he would have a chance of finding someone to help him.
He took a deep breath through his nose, trying to discern anything about his surroundings. Part of him hoped to smell Abby’s gunpowder perfume, McGee’s new cologne or Ziva’s standard citrus shampoo, and he was oddly both relieved and disappointed when he didn’t catch any of them. Relieved because they apparently weren’t here and therefore hopefully safe, disappointed because he was alone and he could have used the comfort and encouragement from his friends.
That was odd. He did smell something familiar. It smelled like… Tony brushed it off as wishful thinking.
Deciding he was alone, Tony felt no reason to pretend he was asleep anymore. For what felt like hours, but he rationally knew was just half an hour or so, he tugged and yanked at his restraints, trying break the ankle holds, searching for any give in the handcuffs. He found none. Thrashing now, he put all his strength into breaking his holds, only to feel the ties around his ankles bite in deeper, surely bruising him, and he felt the telltale trickle of blood coming down his wrists and forearms from where he struggled against the cuffs.
He breathed deeply, trying to contain himself, exhausted from his exertions. He was obviously alone in this room, or something, or someone, would have made a noise. He called out, getting no response. His brain pieced together what it could of the night before, the bar, his friends. Oh God! Maybe Abby and Ziva and McGee were in rooms like this, tied down and blindfolded like this, helpless like him! Gibbs would kill him for being so stupid, but if anything happened to his team while he was on watch, to Abby…
Panic set in.
“I’m really not sure about this, Abbs…” McGee said quietly as he watched the two women place the unconscious Tony onto the bed.
“McGee! You agreed they are never going to pull their heads out of their asses and get to this themselves! You can’t back out now.”
“I know! But I just don’t think this is the way to go about it! I mean, can’t we just talk to them?”
“McGee!” Ziva huffed. “Gibbs does not talk, and Tony does not talk about feelings. It has to be made obvious.”
She unbuckled Tony’s belt and opened his pants, pulling them down over Tony’s hips and legs, as Abby unbuttoned Tony’s dress shirt and struggled to pull it and Tony’s suit jacket off of him. As the women’s hands reached for his Senior Field Agent again, Tim protested.
“Whoa! Whoa! Wait! You aren’t getting Tony naked! No way! That’s not happening!”
Both women looked at him curiously, but relented.
“Fine, Timmy. Gibbs will get these off him as soon as he sees his present anyway. We’ll leave him some fun unwrapping him.” Abby grinned. McGee felt slightly queasy.
Abby locked the handcuffs around the headboard and put the blindfold in place, while Ziva spread and tied Tony’s legs.
“Are you sure that’s going to hold, Ziva?” Abby asked, eyeing the bindings.
“It is deceptively strong. You can cut it, but there is no tearing or breaking it. And trust me, my knots will hold.”
“It looks pretty!” Abby smiled.
Ziva glanced at the trussed up and helpless Tony, and grinned back.
“Yes, it does, Abby.”
McGee wished to be anywhere but here. He had a very bad feeling about this.
Gibbs sighed as he opened his front door and threw his keys on the side table. Dinner with Ducky was almost always fun, the two of them reminiscing and talking of old times, and he’d even gotten a whole new respect for Jimmy Palmer and his Breena, who joined them occasionally. Palmer had majorly grown in his estimation, not just in his care and admiration for Ducky, but his overall demeanour and attitude, and Breena, she wasn’t just a pretty face. She was smart and dedicated, and obviously cared deeply for those who mattered to Jimmy.
Last night though, there had been just the two of them. And as was becoming usual on those nights, Ducky had imbibed just a little more than appropriate. Gibbs wondered if he should worry about that, maybe speak to Palmer, but truthfully he wasn’t one to judge. His bourbon intake was above Ducky’s indulgence, and he never minded spending the night in Ducky’s guest room on evenings like these.
Smiling to himself, Gibbs headed for the kitchen. The travel mug of coffee Ducky had provided him with this morning had sustained him during the drive, but Gibbs could do with some more.
Suddenly he froze.
Something was off. Though there weren’t any blatant signs, someone had been in his house while he was gone. He drew his gun and cleared the rooms downstairs.
Slowly making his way up the stairs, Gibbs listened. A small whimper. A soft sigh of distress. Methodically clearing the other rooms before heading for where he knew the sounds came from, Gibbs silently opened the door.
What the hell?
“Please!” The man begged. “Please, just show me that my team is alright! Please!”
Holstering his gun, his mind spinning, Gibbs approached the bed and the distressed man tied to it.
“Tony? Tony! DiNozzo!” He raised his voice on the last one.
“I’m gonna remove the blindfold. Tony, look at me. Look at me!”
Gibbs kept his tone stern and authoritative, even as he pulled back the cloth covering Tony’s eyes.
“Look at me!” He repeated, hoping to keep the desperate man in a semblance of calm.
“Abby!” Tony gasped. “Ziva, McGee! Are they alright?”
Pushing his hand down onto Tony’s chest to keep him from struggling, hoping to keep the man from hurting himself even more - he now saw the blood on his wrists and ankles - Gibbs leaned in.
“I’ve got you. I’ve got you, Tony. Calm down, I’ve got you.”
Tony’s eyes flickered to his surroundings, and he gasped as his eyes told him what his sense of smell had tried to tell him before.
“I’m… I’m in your… your bedroom?”
“Shhh…” Gibbs told him. “You’re okay. You’re okay. Look at me. You’re okay.”
The stress and emotions becoming too much for him, Tony’s eyes brimmed over with tears. Even with tears streaming down his face and still tied up, he managed to talk.
“Call Abby, the team. Are they alright? Please!”
Pulling his phone from his pocket, seeing that this was more important to Tony than the ties keeping him on Gibbs’ bed, Jethro hit the speed dial for Abby.
“Hey Gibbs!” She squealed on the second ring.
“Abby. You okay?”
“Sure! Why wouldn’t I be? You okay? Did you like your present?”
Something clenched in Gibbs’ gut, and he glanced at an obviously still very distraught Tony.
“I’m fine, Abbs. Great present. I gotta call the team.”
Even as he pressed the button to end the call, he heard Abby yelling something about him thanking her. He pressed another button.
“Ziver,” he said, not saying anything else.
“I take it the evening was a success?” She replied, and he could hear the smirk in her voice. He hung up.
McGee sounded nervous and uncertain in a way he hadn’t since about a year after he started on the team.
“Anything you’d like to tell me, McGee?”
“No, Boss!” McGee was quick to exclaim. And then he muttered something that sounded suspiciously like: “I didn’t want to have anything to do with this in the first place…”
Gibbs hung up again and put away his phone.
“Tony? Tony!” He called the bound man’s attention to him again. When their eyes locked, he continued. “They’re fine. I’m going to get something to unlock you, okay? I’ll be right back.”
Tony relaxed when told everyone else was fine, but whimpered at the idea of Gibbs leaving. Gibbs brushed his hand through Tony’s hair.
“I have to go downstairs to get something to cut through these. There’s no one else here, and I will be right back.”
Tony’s eyes pleaded with him.
“I promise,” Gibbs whispered.
Tony tried, but he barely held himself together while Gibbs was gone. The man made a lot of noise, obviously wanting Tony to hear what he was doing because normally he was as silent as a cat stalking its prey, but really all Tony could think was: “They’re okay, they’re okay!” Despite feeling weak for doing so, the relief he felt at that was taking over and making him cry again. When Gibbs returned with cutters and released him, it only got worse.
Ashamed and fearful, Tony balled up into himself and rubbed his bloodied wrists and ankles.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I’m sorry, Gibbs! I should have taken better care of them! I’m sorry!”
In the minute or so it had taken him to find the cutters in the basement and make his way back to Tony, Gibbs had let the three small conversations sink in, glad now Tony hadn’t heard them. His gut was aching. Once Tony was released, he wasn’t letting Gibbs close, and Jethro could see Tony was closing down. He knew Tony needed medical attention, but he didn’t want to call Ducky, and despite his newfound respect for Palmer, he didn’t want to involve him either. Instead, Gibbs called a number he had hoped he’d never have to use again.
“Agent Gibbs? This is a surprise.”
Dr Brad Pitt had hoped he’d never see that number light up on his phone. Brad had regular check ups with Tony, and Tony was doing so well, much better than could really be expected. So if it was Gibbs calling, that meant something was so wrong with Tony that he himself couldn’t call.
“Agent Gibbs? This is a surprise.”
“Can you come to my house? Now?”
“How’s Tony? What should I bring? Have you called an ambulance?”
“Nothing like that,” Gibbs said. “It’s not his lungs. He’s got some minor injuries I want a doctor to look at, but I don’t wanna call his regular one.”
Brad’s mind worked fast. Regular doctor meant Ducky, and if Gibbs didn’t want to call in his old friend Ducky, something was very wrong. Perhaps not in the medical sense, from what Gibbs said, but at least in the emotional one.
“I’ll be right there,” Brad promised, already grabbing his bag and heading for the door as he shut off his phone.
“Did Gibbs call you too?”
“He did. He woke me from a very satisfying dream.”
“Oooh! Anything you want to share?”
“Okay… What did Gibbs say to you? He told me it was a great present!”
“Well, then it seems to have worked.”
“You could sound a little bit more enthusiastic!”
“Abby, it is early and I am asleep. I am happy the plan worked. Now sleep, alright?”
“Okay. Think I should call Timmy?”
“I do not think it would matter. Let him sleep. We will speak later.”
“Alright, Ziva. Sleep. We’ll toast our success later!”
Gibbs’ gut was churning so bad, he made another call he’d never thought he’d make pertaining to Tony.
Fornell let himself in not ten minutes after the call, and made his way upstairs when there were no signs of life on the ground floor or in the basement. Finding Jethro leaning against the footboard of his own bed and a disheveled Tony curled up against the headboard, he dismissed any glib remarks and carefully slid into the room.
“Stay there, Tobias,” Gibbs answered. “Tony? Fornell is here.”
DiNozzo lifted his head from his knees and looked around, his eyes haunted. He sighed.
“I didn’t murder anyone.”
Tony swallowed, and paled.
Fornell took in the bloodied wrists and ankles, the haunted look, and the careful distance Gibbs was keeping from his boy, and stayed as far away as he could while still being in the room.
“Didn’t say you did, DiNotzo.”
He smiled slightly at the glare he got from Tony at his pronunciation of his last name.
“Care to tell me what happened?”
But before Tony could answer, there was a knock at the door and a soft call of Gibbs’ name.
“Tobias? That’s Dr Brad Pitt. Could you please bring him up here?” Jethro asked, and then immediately turned back to Tony, who was clearly distressed at hearing this.
Fornell left the room and quickly made his way down the stairs, intercepting the doctor before he could get any further than the hallway.
“Dr Pitt?” He questioned.
“Who are you?”
“Tobias Fornell, FBI. Friend of the bastard who lives here and, whether he believes it or not, of the stubborn idiot that is Tony as well.”
Brad smiled a little, then cleared his throat.
“Upstairs. Come with me.”
The two then made their way upstairs and Brad followed Fornell into the bedroom, only long experience keeping in the gasp as he saw Tony’s closed off and bloodied state. He glanced at Gibbs, appealing for help, and Gibbs nodded. Slowly, ever so slowly, Gibbs managed to coax Tony into lying down again, into letting Brad touch his wrists and ankles, and the rest of him, checking him over. Both Brad and Fornell noticed the cut bindings and handcuffs, and it wasn’t hard to figure out how Tony’s wrists and ankles had been injured. Tony refused any painkillers or sleeping aides, settling down and promising that even though he might not get any sleep, he would at least rest, for now.
With Tony safely ensconced in the room, the three other men spoke quietly in the hallway.
“Gibbs, what the hell happened to him?” Brad was furious, Fornell no less so from his expression, neither one of them even considering Gibbs had done this to Tony. Gibbs held up his hands to stop them.
“Here’s what I know,” he said. “Last night, I went to dinner at Ducky’s, and Tony, Abby, Ziva and McGee went out for a drink after closing a case.”
“You think someone slipped him a roofie?” Fornell interrupted. “Tony knows better than to trust anyone with his drinks!”
“If that’s the case, I’ll need to draw blood, Gibbs. I want an x-ray of his left wrist anyway, it looks like a sprain, but he could easily have fractured something,” Brad added.
Gibbs held up his hand, silencing the two of them.
“I agree, but listen to me first. I only just got home this morning. Ducky and I had been drinking, so I spent the night at Ducky’s. I was supposed to be home late last night. Instead I came home this morning and felt something was off. I heard a sound from upstairs and after I checked the rest of the house, I made my way to the bedroom and found him there, tied up and blindfolded. When he heard me, he panicked and begged me to show him his team was alright, even before he knew it was me.”
Gibbs swallowed, his gut again churning at what he had found.
“Damn,” Fornell said, already starting to connect some of the dots. “Whoever got to him, brought him here and left him like that, thinking you would be home to find him shortly after. And instead he spent all night tied up, trying to escape and panicking about what happened to the others. I assume that since you’re still here and not off bashing heads, the others are fine?”
Gibbs nodded, clenching his jaw.
“Why did they bring him here? A warning of some kind?” Fornell asked.
“It gets worse,” Gibbs said. “I removed his blindfold and got him to calm down when he saw it was me. He begged me to call the others. I did. They were fine.”
“Thank God,” Brad smiled.
“Don’t be so quick to say that,” Gibbs replied, and Fornell felt his own gut starting to act up. This wasn’t going to be good.
“Abby asked if I liked my present. Ziva wanted to know if the evening had been a success and sounded smug. McGee was stuttering so hard he could barely answer me.”
Fornell cursed and rubbed his face in his hands.
“What?” Brad asked, perplexed. Then his face paled as he started to understand. “Wait. No… they didn’t, did they?”
“It’s the only conclusion I can come to,” Tony’s soft voice said from the doorway behind them, where the pale man was standing, leaning against the wall.
“No, Gibbs. I figured it out while we were waiting for Brad. I don’t ever let my drink out of my hand, you know that. No one but someone I trust implicitly could get to it. And who would leave me here? And why? It didn’t make any sense for it to be anyone other than those three. And you called Brad, not Ducky. You didn’t want anyone from the team around me.”
“I don’t feel so good. My wrist really hurts and I feel like my head is about to explode.”
“I want to take you to the hospital, Tony,” Brad said. “Get your wrist checked out and do some blood work.”
All three men were surprised when Tony just nodded in agreement instead of arguing. In fact, him admitting that he wasn’t feeling well was a surprise too.
“Do you have some sweats I could borrow, Gibbs? I’d rather not go to hospital in my underwear.”
Gibbs nodded and stepped back into the room to get the requested clothes.
“Could you come by later? I can’t talk right now about how three people I trusted with my life saw fit to drug me, undress me and leave me tied up and helpless, but I think I might want to make a statement to you later.”
Exchanging a quick look with Gibbs, Fornell nodded.
“Of course. I’ll come by the hospital once I’m done here, or I’ll see you here when you get back, okay?”
Tony shivered and shook his head.
“No, somewhere else. I’ll let you know.”
He took the sweats from Gibbs and moved into the bathroom to change, knowing he was going to leave the t-shirt and shorts he’d spent all night panicking in right here. The three men watched him go, and Gibbs turned to Fornell.
“Can you get a team here? Treat it like a crime scene, but don’t make an official case of it yet, in case he changes his mind?”
“You think he might?”
“I don’t think so, but you know what he’s like. Right now he feels the betrayal, but soon he’ll start to blame himself.” Gibbs sighed.
“I’ll take care of it. He won’t come back here?”
“Would you? That’s yet another thing that’s ruined. He won’t want to go to his apartment either. I have his spare keys in my desk where they can get to them, and they all know how to pick locks.”
Seeing Brad’s questioning looks, Fornell explained.
“He won’t feel safe at his own home, knowing they can get to him. He’s always viewed Gibbs’ house as a safe haven, but that’s gone now.”
Brad nodded, but obviously had more questions.
“Why did they do this? Leave him here like that? What was with the comment about a present?”
Gibbs sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Checking that Tony was still in the bathroom and hearing him using the facilities, Gibbs quietly replied.
“We were working towards something. There’s always been something between us, but… These last couple of months, we’ve been trying to figure things out, get closer. It was going well, but now…”
Gibbs looked up, not sure what to expect. He just saw the two other men smiling at him gently, in understanding.
“You’re not surprised,” he huffed. They shook their heads.
“Well, as far as I can figure, those idiots saw that too and got tired of waiting.”
Their expressions hardened again, and when Tony came out of the bedroom, they were ready for action. Gibbs drove Tony to the hospital, following Brad, and Fornell called in his team to start processing the scene. He’d make sure to keep it hushed for now, until Tony made a decision.
A few hours later, across town, Abby and Ziva were toasting each other with another mimosa, gleefully speculating on the success of their scheme.
McGee sat and watched them, not joining in their cheer. He had a really bad feeling about this.
At the hospital, Brad made sure to use every one of his privileges. He got Tony a private room, not wanting to submit him to the ER, drew the blood himself, and got Gibbs full access, even when Tony was getting his wrist x-rayed. Gibbs never left Tony’s side. Brad put a rush on the blood work and got one of his colleagues who specialised in Tony’s type of injury to check out and treat Tony’s wrist. There were some hairline fractures from Tony’s struggles to free himself from the handcuffs, but he could be treated with a brace instead of a cast, for which they were all grateful.
Both Brad and Gibbs had been expecting Tony to blow at the coddling he was receiving, them treating him like a victim, him saying nothing had really happened to him, but it never came.
Tony seemed lost in his thoughts. He didn’t flinch at being examined and touched by the other doctor, nor at the nurse who came to fit his brace, but he wasn’t talking either. He was trying to make up his mind. They waited quietly, and when the results came back that he had indeed been drugged, he just nodded. He got up and stared out of the window for a few moments.
“I’d like to go somewhere they can’t find me.”
“Of course. We figured that.”
“I’ll need some time.”
“Take however much time you need. I’ll clear it with Vance.”
“No, I’ll talk to Vance. It’s time for the file.”
Gibbs just barely managed to keep his reaction under control. When he and Tony had first started clearing the air between them, he’d been shocked when Tony provided him with a detailed file of everything that had been going on right under his nose. There were detailed accounts of every infraction perpetrated by the team, including Gibbs and Tony himself. No one had been spared. It went back years. At first Gibbs had been angry, furious even, at seeing it all laid out like that, and it seemed like this would be the final nail in the coffin of their professional relationship, let alone the personal one they were building towards, but then Gibbs had calmed down, and seen the truth of it.
“I can’t do this anymore. Not like this. I can’t forgive this, no matter what.”
“Okay. How do you want to do this?”
Brad tried to quietly leave, sensing this was none of his business, but Tony stopped him.
“No, stay, please, Brad. You’ll have to give a statement on some things at least, and probably even have to speak to the Director and some lawyers. I’m sorry to drag you into this, but…”
“Anything, Tony,” Brad interrupted. “Just tell me what you need.”
“Well, apart from this latest mess, you were the one I went to after the disaster in the storage container, and also the one who treated me after the trip to Israel where Ziva decked me when I was already injured. You’ll need to give statements on those at least.”
Brad just nodded.
“I’d like you to call AJ,” Tony continued to Gibbs. “See if he’s available to meet later today, and hopefully tomorrow so the three of us can go speak to Vance. Together.”
Gibbs also nodded. Despite their rocky start, Tony had won over AJ Chegwidden and Harmon Rabb after the case against Rabb had been solved, and the four of them had become friends.
“I want to leave here and go to the boat. They won’t look for us there.”
Gibbs almost sagged in relief.
“Yeah. You’re coming with me, aren’t you?”
Tony seemed anxious, but relaxed as Gibbs smiled.
“Of course. I’ll go wherever you want, Tony. I just thought maybe you’d want to be alone.”
“No thanks. I just spent a horrible night alone. I’d like to be with someone I can truly trust.”
A little wary, but reassured by Tony’s claim, Gibbs approached him and was pleased when Tony let him cup his cheek and nuzzled into the touch.
“Stay here. Let me make some calls.”
Tony nodded and Gibbs stepped outside. Fornell answered on the second ring and gave a succinct report, then listened to what Gibbs wanted from him, agreeing to arrange it.
“So he’s going through with it then?” Fornell asked.
“Looks like it. It’s gonna be messy.”
“Need me there?”
“Maybe. Just come to the boat this afternoon. We’ll talk about it.”
“You got it.”
Gibbs’ second call was equally quick.
“Gibbs! What kind of trouble are you in this time!” AJ exclaimed.
“Not the kind you think. Can you meet us somewhere this afternoon? It’s for Tony.”
Losing his joviality at once, AJ went straight to business.
“When and where?”
Gibbs told him, and rang off, then went back into the room.
“All set,” he told Tony and Brad. “Fornell’s junior agent should be here shortly with our go bags, and she’ll take our phones back to the house so they’ll ping there if anyone looks. She’ll bring us burn phones. AJ and Fornell are meeting us on the boat.”
This boat was one none of the others on the team knew about, not even Ducky. Tony had suspected, but it had not been confirmed until a few months earlier, when Gibbs and Tony had started towards a personal relationship. Tony had just been certain Gibbs wouldn’t have destroyed every single boat he’d ever built.
Gibbs had assured him that no one else had ever set foot on it, not even the ex-wives. This boat he’d started building when Shannon and Kelly were still alive, and it had been docked under an alias all these years. Gibbs had figured that when the time came for him to disappear into the sunset, he’d do it - alone - on this boat. Then he’d gotten a chance with with Tony, and that changed everything.
Fornell knew because Gibbs had admitted it one drunken night, but he’d never been there before. He’d made sure to leave his phone with his team, telling them he’d be going off the grid for a few hours, and took one of the company cars instead of his personal one so he couldn’t be easily traced. He’d been filling Gibbs and Tony in on the investigation when a knock came and a powerful voice called out.
“Ahoy, the boat!”
Gibbs got up and went up to the deck.
“AJ. And Harm! What are you doing here?”
Leading the two men down below, he eyed Harmon Rabb curiously. Rabb grinned.
“Oh, come on! You give AJ a cryptic message and say it’s for Tony, and you don’t expect me to come along? I’m hurt!”
Smiling, both men exchanged hugs with Tony and handshakes with Fornell, Gibbs pleased when Tony easily allowed the touch and affection.
“So, what’s this about?” Chegwidden asked when they were both settled with beers.
And Tony began his tale.
“Damn, kid,” AJ said, as he sat back in his seat and Harm shook his head in disbelief. In their line of work, they’d come across all kinds of everything, but this blatant betrayal left them breathless and hurting for their friends.
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to give Vance the file.”
AJ and Harm knew about the file. They had, more than once, tried to persuade Tony to take action.
“It’s going to cause a shit storm,” Harm said.
“But I have you guys, right?” Tony smiled uncertainly.
“You have us, Tony. Always.” AJ made sure his friend knew they were with him all the way. “Call Vance now. Set up the meeting. Make sure he knows to bring legal representation if he wants. Don’t completely blindside him with this.”
The five men went to dinner at a restaurant miles away from the boat, and it was from there that Gibbs made the call to Vance, arranging to meet the following morning. Despite urging from the Director, Gibbs refused to disclose what it was about. None of them slept easy that night.
Abby was sharing dinner with the nuns, and feeling pretty pleased with herself. Her silver fox and Tony had finally gotten all that pesky unresolved sexual tension out of their systems, and were together! She knew it would work! She knew she was right.
Ziva had taken a nap after her long lunch with Abby and McGee, and then set out for dinner herself. An old Mossad friend was in town, and had reached out to her. As she partook of his body that night, she smiled to herself in the knowledge that Gibbs and Tony were probably doing the same. She smirked. They were both so going to owe her for this.
McGee spent the night in his bathroom. He hadn’t ever known the human body was capable of throwing up so many times, especially when there was nothing left to throw up. Oh God! Either Tony or Gibbs was going to kill him! Even odds on either of them! He’d never wanted any part of this, but it was Abby and Ziva… and they had to know something, right? Right? McGee hugged the porcelain bowl again and retched.
Vance tossed and turned all night. A demanding Gibbs was never a good thing, but Gibbs demanding a meeting on a Sunday, one of his team’s rare days off? That was bad. Add DiNozzo to the mix and the quiet suggestion that he might want to have legal counsel present… No, Vance wasn’t having a good night at all.
Chegwidden and Rabb spent a few more hours going over the case, before settling back with a drink. They spoke about old times, and how they used to be, and how Gibbs and Tony were now. They fell asleep on AJ’s couch, waking with cricks in their necks and well on time to join the others at NCIS.
Tobias Fornell went through his copy of the file again and again. Tony might not think so, but he really did care for the younger man. He was happy for his old friend Jethro at the direction he might be taking with Tony now, if they could get past this. Tony was a prize, professionally and personally, and he couldn’t think of two men who deserved it more.
“Don’t be afraid to touch me, please,” Tony pleaded.
“Don’t wanna crowd you.”
“It’s a crowd of one, Gibbs. The one I want.”
“You didn’t feel safe at the house anymore. Didn’t know if that extended to me.”
“I’ll always trust you. Please, Jethro.”
Gibbs laid his arms down at his side, opening himself up for whatever Tony felt comfortable with.
“You gonna make me come to you?” Tony asked. Gibbs nodded.
“Alright. You asked for it.”
And Tony pressed himself in close, practically glueing himself to Gibbs’ side, pulling his head down for a deep kiss that rocked Gibbs to his core. They’d never done this before. Yes, they had gotten closer, even spent some nights together sleeping next to each other, but this kind of intimacy had never happened.
“This has nothing to do with yesterday,” Tony whispered. “This has been waiting for us for a long time.”
Bringing his hand up, Gibbs cupped Tony’s head and pulled him into his neck.
“Rest, sweetheart. If you can’t sleep, just rest. I’m here. I’ll always be here for you.”
Tony didn’t sleep, nor did Gibbs, but when he felt those strong arms close around him, the lull of the tide sloshing against the side of the boat providing comfort, he closed his eyes. He felt peaceful.
“What’s this about, Gibbs? DiNozzo?” Vance’s eyes widened when he saw former JAG AJ Chegwidden and current JAG Harmon Rabb, as well as Tobias Fornell enter his office as well.
“No legal counsel?” AJ asked, as the men took their seats at the conference table. Leon activated SCIF mode.
“No. I decided I’d rather hear what you have to say alone. Although I am reconsidering that decision with the three of you here as well. Should I?”
Vance glanced around the table.
“No, Sir,” Tony said. “There are a few things I would like to talk to you about, but nothing much pertaining directly to you.”
Vance nodded, and after a short exchange of glances with Gibbs, Tony started to talk.
Leon took another sip of scotch as he let his mind replay the long conversation that he’d just had with the five men visiting his office. He couldn’t deny any of it. DiNozzo’s injuries were plain to see, and the copy of the file he’d handed over was comprehensive and detailed.
He was appalled and ashamed agents under his command had perpetrated something like this. He’d known there were things going on with his MCRT, but clearly he hadn’t grasped even the smallest things of what was really happening.
The two lawyers had left no wiggle room, not that he wanted it, and Fornell had been adamant that as soon as DiNozzo gave the word, the FBI would be all up in Leon's business and agency.
Then, as Vance was still trying to adjust to all he’d heard and read, Gibbs had delivered the kicker.
“I want you to know now, Leon, before this goes any further, that I’ve been exploring the possibility of a personal romantic relationship with Special Agent DiNozzo for a few months, and intend to continue on that path. I have not coerced him or pressured him in any way as his supervisor, but if you feel uncomfortable with the situation, I will tender my resignation immediately.”
“Gibbs…” DiNozzo had gasped, his hand landing on Gibbs’ arm, squeezing it tightly. Gibbs turned to his subordinate.
“I know we’ve not talked about this, Tony, but I want it clear. If it’s between you and my job, there is no choice. It’s you. Whatever may happen between us in the future.”
“Sweetheart, it’s you. It’ll never be anything else.”
Gibbs had looked back at Vance, his eyes like steel, his back ramrod straight. But DiNozzo, Tony, had looked at his boss with such love and adoration, it reminded Leon of those first days when he and Jackie had been married. He swallowed.
“I appreciate you sharing that, Gibbs. If this has been going on for months, I’m happy to state I have not seen anything different in your professional relationship. Continue like that, and you’ll both have my support.”
“You realise you’ve just made that statement in front of the JAG, right, Director Vance?” Harm asked with a smile.
“Hell, I’ve seen the hearts and flowers dropping in their footsteps for years. Honestly I thought they’d been together for ages, Rabb. And I guess that’s the problem.”
They all sunk into a contemplative mode for a few moments, being reminded of exactly why they were there.
“So what’s your plan of action?” Vance asked.
“I want the week off, Director,” Tony said without hesitation. “For me and Gibbs both. We’ve got a lot to talk about, and a lot of people to talk to, I guess. We’ll be out of reach. If you need to contact us, AJ and Harm know how to get a hold of us.”
“I’ve got a lot of people to talk to as well. SecNav for one.”
“Sir?” Rabb questioned. “We think it might be better to go directly to SecDef with this.”
Leon suppressed a shudder. No one really wanted to deal with SecDef O’Neill, but he understood the hesitation. Jarvis was political, and didn’t have a very good record when it came to DiNozzo. O’Neill at least was military, and didn’t have a history with Tony. Or so he thought.
Tony smiled at Harm.
“Want me to call Jack?”
“Put it on speaker,” AJ warned.
DiNozzo pulled out his phone and dialled.
“Tony!” A cheerful, gentle voice replied after a couple of rings.
“Hi Daniel! Uhm… You’re on speaker, is that okay?”
“Depends… Who’s on speaker with me?”
Tony quickly relayed the names of those present.
“Okaaay…?” Daniel hesitated. “Is this trouble?”
“Tony! Jethro!” Another voice cut in. “You’ve been on speaker since Danny answered. Just me and him here, no worries. What’s up?”
And once again, Tony told his tale.
“Did you see Leon’s face when you were talking to Jack?” Gibbs asked, chuckling.
“I thought he was going to swallow his toothpick!” Tony laughed.
“Teach him to underestimate you.”
Gibbs scooted in closer and pulled Tony to him, wrapping him up in blankets and arms. Over the past two days spent here on the boat, they’d gotten closer than either of them had dared to hope for.
“I don’t want this to be about friends I may have,” Tony pouted.
“It’s not. It’s about people who know your worth, and that you’re damn well worth fighting for. It’s time.”
“Are you sure? This is your family we’re talking about.” Tony seemed uncertain, something Gibbs tried to erase every time it cropped up.
“You’re my family.” He lifted Tony’s chin so they could look at each other. “I know I made mistakes, plenty of them, there’s no denying that. And believe me, all our friends have been telling me I’m a lucky son of a bitch and don’t deserve you. And they’re right. I don’t.”
“No, I don’t. I’ve hurt you, and I’ve let them hurt you. The ones you were supposed to be able to trust. The ones I told you to trust. They’ve hurt you. And that’s on me. I tried to give you a family, sisters and a little brother, and I charged you with their safety, and I never thought…” Gibbs choked up, but continued. “I never thought they’d betray you like this. I never thought they’d betray you at all. And that’s my fault. And I’m sorry.”
“Isn’t it a rule to never say you’re… hmphhh.”
“Shut up, Tony,” Gibbs grumbled as he pulled away from the kiss. “You were the one who wanted me to talk more, and then when I talk, I get smart mouthed, insolent comments. See if I do it again. See if I care! I mean, seriously, how can anyone… hmphh.”
“Yeah, that’s more like it!” Tony grinned as he pulled back from the kiss.
Leon flipped through the file again. DiNozzo was comprehensive, and hadn’t spared anyone; not himself, or Gibbs, or the Director. There were detailed reports starting with Caitlyn Todd’s hurtful comments, continuing with Ziva David’s placement on the team, her role with Ari, and her blatant disregard for Tony’s safety in and after the storage container, Jenny Shepard’s dismissal of DiNozzo’s complaints about his teammates while Gibbs was on his Mexican hiatus and her pressuring DiNozzo into the unsanctioned operation with The Frog’s daughter Jeanne Benoit, then progressing through Jenny’s orders that brought about her death, Vance himself sending DiNozzo afloat to get rid of him, Domino, the continued attitude towards DiNozzo; Rivkin and Israel, classified information sent to Eli David, and ending basically with the Dead Air incident, which Vance hadn’t even known about.
Throughout all of it, DiNozzo had been open about his own actions to try and keep the team together, honestly laying out when he might have gone too far. There were various mentions of Abigail Sciuto and McGee, even Ducky Mallard. He really didn’t spare Gibbs either. It was all laid out in the file in black and white, Gibbs’ manipulations, putting his team up against each other, disregarding DiNozzo as his second in command and allowing the disrespect to fester on from there, several incidents where Gibbs had gone off the rails and had not listened to Tony.
Vance himself didn’t come out smelling of roses either. Tony was right, there wasn’t that much pertaining directly to him, but there were several mentions of his actions that could be questionable. Looking back on these and attempting to judge them honestly, Vance couldn’t find fault with DiNozzo’s assessment, and therefore felt he had to trust the rest as well.
He called the Legal Department and his personal lawyer, and then phoned Jackie to say he would probably be late for dinner.
While Vance, Chegwidden and Rabb were conferring between themselves and with the additional lawyers, Fornell visited the two men on the boat.
“My team’s finished with your house, Jethro.”
“Plenty of evidence. Fingerprints on the cuffs, bindings and Tony’s clothes from both Ziva and Abby. Hairs on the bed from both of them. They clearly weren’t careful, didn’t think it would be seen as a crime scene. There’s not much of McGee though.”
“He did mutter something about not wanting anything to do with it…”
“Think he was just an innocent bystander?”
“Not so innocent if he stood there and watched them do it, was he?”
But DiNozzo had folded in on himself again, and shook his head. Instantly, Gibbs was at his side.
“Breathe, Tony, just breathe. Breathe with me.”
“Can I do anything?” Fornell asked.
“Call Brad, please,” Gibbs answered calmly, still looking into Tony’s eyes.
When Brad arrived, Tony was much calmer, but it still seemed sound to Brad to give his patient a mild sedative, and Tony took it without complaint.
“We should tell Palmer. And Ducky, I guess,” Tony said on the morning of the third day, as four men were hovering over him making sure he ate breakfast.
“You sure?” Gibbs asked.
“Jimmy’s called me six times, Ducky two, I heard from Fornell’s little Probie. I’m sure if you check your NCIS phone, Gibbs, there will be more messages. I really don’t think either of them had anything to do with this.”
“They could have supplied the drugs?” Brad answered cautiously.
“No,” Tony shook his head. “No, those came from Abby, I’m sure. She has connections for that sort of thing, for professional purposes, of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had tested them first and the results would still be somewhere on her computer, just to make sure I was safe.”
“Tony!” Chegwidden admonished. “This is something we would have liked to know before!” With a single look at Rabb, he had the younger man calling for a warrant to search Abby’s computers for just that kind of information.
Tony slumped, his appetite completely gone. Realising his mistake, AJ sat next to him, squeezing into the space left by Tony and Gibbs on the small bench. He clasped the younger man’s neck, started talking about boats, and brought Tony’s hand with a filled fork to his mouth while he was distracted. The others manfully contained their grins when they saw it worked.
Abby squealed in delight when informed on Monday morning that both Gibbs and Tony had taken the week off. She’d known that once those two finally got together it would be explosive! A weekend was obviously not enough to burn through the initial burst of passion, and they were taking the week for what was practically their honeymoon! She laughed and smiled, and didn’t even let McGee’s worried pessimism bother her. She was right, and she knew it!
McGee had barely slept all weekend, and still felt sick when he dragged himself into the office that Monday morning. He dreaded facing Gibbs and Tony, and at first was relieved to learn of their sudden leave of absence. But then his gut started acting up again, and he wasn’t so sure it was a good thing. He pinged Gibbs and Tony’s phones, and saw they were at Gibbs’ house. That was somewhat of a relief. But still, something didn’t sit right with him.
Ziva just shook her head at Abby’s glee and McGee’s concern. Normally, she would have balked at being assigned to cold cases for an entire week, and at Gibbs’ absence, but the respite from Tony’s annoyingly bubbling presence was welcome. She would gladly read through some files if it meant she could have some quiet days at the office.
Ducky frowned to himself when informed of Gibbs and Tony’s leave. Jethro hadn’t mentioned anything about it at dinner Friday night, and there had been nothing to indicate his old friend had had anything on his mind. Tony taking leave at the same time was curious. Usually, if the younger man had plans for a vacation or some time off, he would always be full of tales and speculation about what he might be doing. Ducky hadn’t heard anything of such plans this time.
“Dr Mallard?” Jimmy asked quietly on Monday afternoon.
“Yes, Mr Palmer?”
“Have you… have you heard from Agents Gibbs or DiNozzo?”
“They are on leave, Mr Palmer. Did you not get that message?”
“I did, Doctor, I did. But, I meant, did you hear from them personally?”
Ducky frowned again.
“I did not. What are you implying?”
“Nothing, Sir. I’m sure it’s nothing.” Jimmy sighed and looked down at the pipettes he was cleaning. Ducky waited. “It’s just that… Tony and I had plans to go to lunch today, and he never fails to cancel if something’s some up. And I’ve called him three times already, but his phone just rings out and then goes to voicemail, and he hasn’t called me back, and that’s just really not like Tony and I’m worried that…”
“I see,” Ducky interrupted, and pulled out his phone. He dialled Jethro, and then Tony, both with the same result. No answer. Ducky grabbed his desk phone, and dialled another number. “Yes, dear. It’s Dr Mallard. Does the Director have a few moments to spare for me right now?”
Vance looked at his Medical Examiner and his assistant warily. He’d been in with Legal and his own lawyer, and had several calls with others that day already. Now he’d need to assess whether these two had anything to do with this. DiNozzo was sure they didn’t, and Gibbs backed him but still wasn’t certain of letting them in.
“What can I do for you today, Dr Mallard? Mr Palmer?” Leon asked as the door closed.
“Director,” Ducky stood in front of his desk in military fashion, a tone of steel in his voice. “What is happening with Agents Gibbs and DiNozzo?”
“What do you mean, Dr Mallard? They are on leave. The message should have been passed down to you.”
“It has. However, Jethro never mentioned those plans to me last Friday, and Anthony was supposed to have lunch with Mr Palmer today. Neither of us can reach either of them by phone. Should we be concerned?”
“I saw and spoke to both of them yesterday. Something came up they needed to deal with. There is no cause for concern about their safety, I assure you.”
Ducky scrutinised him.
“No concern for their safety,” he repeated. “Is there concern for anything else?”
Leon bit his toothpick in half. Damn that man! Ducky was too perceptive for his own good.
“As I said, there is an issue they are dealing with, which is why at this moment they are incommunicado. I am aware of the situation. I will relay your concerns. If they see fit to read you in, I’m sure they will contact you.”
Jimmy looked like he wanted to say something, but Ducky silenced him.
“Thank you, Director. Most kind. We shall await their call, then.” And then he ushered his faithful assistant out of the Director’s office, leading him back down to Autopsy. But not before taking a long, hard look at the bullpen below, assessing Timothy and Ziva. He’d pay a visit to Abigail as well.
As soon as the two medical examiners left, Vance picked up his phone.
“Chegwidden? Vance. Just to let you know, Dr Mallard suspects something. Yeah, he and Palmer were just up here, asking questions. I really don’t think they know anything about this. Okay. Just let Gibbs and DiNozzo know, alright? Thanks.”
Vance slowly let out his breath after he’d hung up on Chegwidden. It may seem like they were on opposite sides in this, with Tony’s file threatening some key resources of the agency Vance, as Director, had sworn to protect - not to mention the damage it could do to Leon himself - but Vance wasn’t shying away from this. He knew there had been mistakes, made wilfully or by accident, and he wasn’t innocent. But this latest betrayal was not something he was willing to overlook. Leon may not have liked DiNozzo, but this was so far beyond what he had ever imagined agents, teammates, doing to each other, he couldn’t fathom it.
He shuddered to think what might happen if this were allowed to continue. What if they took justice into their own hands - again? What if they withheld information? What if one day, it wasn’t DiNozzo, but he or his family who were at risk because one them thought it was okay to decide for themselves who should be punished and who should be excused from a crime?
Immediately, he shivered. Jackie and the kids were fine. Nothing was going to happen to them. Not like had happened to DiNozzo. The guilt crept in again. DiNozzo was his agent, and he shouldn’t have dismissed him like that, even if it was just a single thought. DiNozzo may not have been hurt too badly, may not ultimately have been at risk, but the man hadn’t known that, and he had been injured, and despite what anyone may think, he had been violated. Violated by those he was supposed to be able to trust to have his back unconditionally. It was inexcusable.
Tony and Gibbs received calls from AJ about the visit Ducky and Jimmy had made to Vance, and an update on the various things the lawyers were discussing, including their conversations with SecDef Jack O’Neill, if those could be called conversations. Mostly, Jack just grunted his displeasure, and told them to get it done to his satisfaction. Between calls, they tried to relax and slept on the boat.
Their team continued as they had the previous day, Abby in happy bliss, Ziva in quiet contentment, McGee in queazy terror, and Ducky and Palmer in uneasy anticipation of unpleasant things to come.
Vance both fielded and placed many calls. AJ and Harm solidified their case with Fornell and his team. Brad visited the two men on the boat to see how Tony was doing, finding him far more calm and relaxed than he had expected, and the injuries to his wrists and ankles healing well, though some quite vicious bruising was clearly visible.
On Wednesday morning, a decision was made.
“Dr Mallard, Dr Palmer,” Vance said as the two men appeared in his office early in the morning. “I’d like you to join me for lunch today.”
Sharing a quick glance, they nodded.
“Of course, Director,” Ducky answered for both of them.
“Palmer, by request, if at all possible, your wife is invited as well.” This clearly shocked them both. “We can pick her up, or she can join us here and leave from here with us, just keep her down in Autopsy with you. Please do not share this information with anyone.”
Jimmy nodded and pulled out his phone, calling Breena. He had discussed his worries about Tony with her, and she was equally upset, so she easily agreed to meet them at NCIS and stay out of sight. Her inclusion had been heavily discussed, and Tony had objected, not wanting to submit her to this, but Gibbs had been adamant.
“Tony, you really think Palmer hasn’t talked to her about this? You think she’s not worried? The woman made you godfather to her firstborn daughter. She, just like Palmer and Ducky, needs to see you’re alright with her own eyes.”
Of course, Gibbs had another reason. Tony needed to see the one woman who hadn’t left him, hadn’t betrayed him, and Gibbs had every faith in the world that Breena wouldn’t fail him now. It was all well and good to have their friends in their corner, but they were all men, and Gibbs knew Tony would need that reassurance of a steadfast female friend as well.
It was a quiet quartet that secretly left Autopsy later that day to drive to an undisclosed location, to meet with a group of men in the backroom of one of the best Italian restaurants in the city.
“Oh my gosh, Tony!” Breena exclaimed as soon as she saw him. Uncaring of the others present, her eagle eyes fixed onto the brace and the bruises on Tony’s wrists visible due to his short sleeved polo, and she eagerly but carefully pulled him into an embrace. Tony hugged her back, surprised how much her presence and affection relaxed him. Jimmy followed when his wife let go, giving Tony a quick hug, followed by Ducky’s pat on the shoulder. They were the last to arrive.
Breena gave Gibbs a quick peck on the cheek, which made him grumble and many of the other men snicker, and he ushered her into the seat next to Tony, taking Tony’s other side himself.
“Alright, quick introductions,” Gibbs growled good-naturedly, pointing around the table. “Tobias Fornell, FBI; Dr Brad Pitt; Director Leon Vance; former Judge Advocate General AJ Chegwidden; current JAG Harmon Rabb; Secretary of Defense Jack O’Neill; Dr Daniel Jackson; Dr Donald Mallard; Dr Jimmy Palmer; Mrs Breena Palmer.”
Ducky raised an eyebrow and looked at the younger man to his left. “Are you one of Anthony’s physicians as well?”
“I’m not that kind of doctor, Doctor. I’m just here because I’m Tony’s friend and to keep this guy in line,” he grinned as he patted Jack’s hand.
As soon as the introductions were over, two waiters arrived carrying in several dishes and taking drinks requests. Within minutes, everyone was settled and eating and drinking.
When their appetite was sated by the delicious food, Ducky leaned back in his seat.
“As lovely as this all is, I’d like to know what is going on now.”
And once again, Tony told his tale. Ducky, Palmer and Breena, who were the only ones there not to know what had happened, were shocked and disgusted. Breena took Tony’s hand and spoke very quietly to him, and Tony listened. Gibbs smiled. He’d known he was right in including her.
After that, they discussed Tony’s file and the current situation of actions taken and those still in the works. With each word, Ducky’s and Palmer’s ire rose, not so much at what they were hearing, but at their three teammates and their disregard for Tony.
By the time lunch was finished, plans had been solidified, and Tony had submitted to both Ducky and Palmer checking his injuries; an amused Brad and Breena looking on.
Not far from where the group were talking and eating, Abby and Ziva were enjoying a long lunch for themselves. McGee had declined, claiming not to feel well. Instead, he took the time to write an extensive letter.
The next two days continued in much the same way.
Abby spent her time imagining the two men in hot bliss, Ziva read through cold cases and would look at Tony’s empty desk sometimes with a smirk, and McGee lost several pounds due to his inability to keep his stomach under control. He near constantly patted the letter burning a hole in his pocket. He’d reread it several times, thought about throwing it away and starting anew, but he knew his first attempt would be the most sincere.
Ducky and Palmer were almost grateful when a case Balboa was on heated up and they had several bodies to tend to; though they were saddened by the loss of life, they were grateful it gave them a good excuse to avoid their team.
Vance had various calls and visits, seeing the agents in the bullpen below notice and wonder at the comings and goings, and by Friday, he was ready. So was Fornell.
On Friday afternoon, Abby, Ziva and McGee were taken into custody, and questioned by Vance and Fornell, for now only about the incident with Tony.
Abby protested loudly, proclaiming that she’d only had Gibbs’ best interest at heart when she finally understood where this was all coming from.
Ziva remained aloof, and tried to pull the connection with Mossad and her father into it.
McGee told them exactly what had happened and how, and pulled out an envelope, asking them to deliver it to Tony.
Later that afternoon, Vance’s office was filled to the brim; DiNozzo and Gibbs, Chegwidden and Rabb, Ducky, Palmer, Legal and Leon’s lawyer.
Tony was handed the envelope from McGee, and read through the letter several times before handing it to Gibbs.
“What do you want to do about this, DiNozzo?” Leon asked.
“Does it matter, Director? I don’t expect to be here much longer.”
Tony eyed Vance and saw the genuine confusion there.
“Let’s face it, Director. I knew as soon as I handed over that file, my time at NCIS was done. Not only did I gather evidence on my team, but I kept said evidence from you for a time. I even collected evidence on you. I don’t expect to be employed here much longer. And even if all that wasn’t enough to have you dismiss me, my personal relationship with Gibbs will be.”
“I told you before, you’d have my support.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you. You’ve sent me away before. What’s to stop you from doing it again?”
“A better understanding,” Vance replied, and Tony looked at him, shocked. Vance sighed.
“DiNozzo, when I sent you out as Agent Afloat, I was not told about why you were not at Director Shepard’s side. I didn’t know. I have no intention whatsoever to send you away again. If that time taught me anything, it’s that you’re the only one who can handle Gibbs, and I don’t ever want to have to face him without you again.”
“So you just want me here as Jethro’s handler?”
“No. That would be easy. In between the lawyers and calls this week, I also did some further checking. You held out on me, DiNozzo. Why didn’t you tell me about your further studies? Why isn’t your file brimming with your recommendations and job offers? Why didn’t I know about your closure rates?”
“Would you have believed me?”
Leon thought for a moment.
“Probably not, not without evidence. But I have that now. And I’m not willing to let you go, and that’s not just because of handling Gibbs.”
“Hey!” Gibbs objected.
Tony grinned at him.
“Oh, shush. So, what are you saying, Director?”
Vance leaned back in his seat, deciding to just go for what he’d been thinking about ever since the situation had become clear to him.
“Promote you to Team Lead.”
“So, you are sending me away.”
“Let me be clearer. Promote you to Team Lead of the MCRT.”
“You’re sending Gibbs away instead??” Tony almost yelled.
“No, I’m asking Gibbs to stay as consultant to my primary team. A Supervisory Agent, not directly in charge, on the same level as you, but reporting to me. I believe the BAU at the FBI have a similar set up with Agents Hotchner and Rossi.”
Tony and Gibbs shared another quick look. Tony nodded for both of them.
“So, the question remains: what do you want to do about this?” Vance indicated the transcripts from their interviews with Abby, Ziva and McGee.
“Can I let you know later?”
“We’ll have to let them go for now, if you don’t make a decision now.”
Another shared look.
“Let them go,” Tony said. “Keep an eye on Ziva, though. I don’t think she’ll just take this.”
In the end, despite urging to reconsider from the two JAGs and Fornell, Tony decided not to press charges against his team for their violation of him. Though disappointed, everyone in Tony’s corner did understand. He simply didn’t want to deal with them, and pressing charges would likely mean having to testify in court against them.
That didn’t mean, however, that nothing was to be done.
Tony’s file would cause major changes on its own, even leaving out what they had done to him, and it was not just limited to the three who had betrayed him.
The move to promote Tony and make Gibbs a consultant was not solely to resolve the relationship issue between a supervisor and subordinate, it was also to remove Gibbs from a position where he could break the rules at his own discretion and drag others along with him. It was a sort of punishment, and those who were in the know all knew it.
While there were no immediate consequences for Vance as a result of the file, he was now under the direct scrutiny of SecDef Jack O’Neill, and if Leon had thought Gibbs was bad, Jack was worse. SecNav was pissed at being sidelined at supervising what he considered to be his agency, but quickly learned that O’Neill had many more friends and allies than he did, and he’d been read the riot act for his handling of NCIS so many times that Jarvis had actually considered getting the hell away from his position.
The other three were different matters. Tony had been heavily involved in the decisions regarding them.
McGee was suspended without pay for a month. Tony felt he hadn’t been actively involved in what they’d done to him, but he hadn’t tried to stop them or informed Tony or Gibbs or anyone of what they had been planning either. Other than that, Tony was most upset about his part in the Dead Air incident, making him feel yet again that he couldn’t trust his Probie to watch his back. McGee’s hacking was something that concerned the lawyers greatly, but as it was mostly done to on orders from Gibbs and Gibbs wasn’t being penalised specifically for that, they didn’t feel it right to prosecute McGee for it either. With Gibbs no longer being his boss, instead Tony taking over, they felt they could get McGee back on track. The heartfelt letter McGee had written Tony had definitely helped with that.
For Abby, there was also a month’s suspension, and a demotion. Her private lab was taken away from her, and she was to work under the three other forensic scientists who shared the lab next to hers in shifts. While Tony was not pressing charges, and there was not much in Tony’s file other than insubordination and disrespect, she had committed a crime against Tony and they had plenty of proof. For now, they left it up to her whether to accept these new conditions. Tony decided he wanted to wait to see what she would do.
Ziva David was another matter. Regardless of the situation with Tony, they had plenty to charge her with, mostly sending classified information to Mossad. Ziva was going to be gone from their lives soon. Again, it was Tony who argued for simply sending her back to her father in Israel, knowing that would be more of a punishment for her than to spend a few years in a US prison.
While most, especially the lawyers, felt that everyone, including Gibbs and Vance, were getting off way too easy, the fact was that Tony still loved NCIS, and they understood he didn’t want to see the agency he’d proudly represented for more than a decade dragged through the mud.
While the decisions were made, Tony and Jethro wanted to wait until Monday to see the hammer fall. Tony wanted to confront them all, hear what they had to say for themselves, and he needed the weekend with Gibbs and his friends to steel himself for that.
Laughter was loud on the boat as they all ate and drank and talked.
At first, Breena had felt a little self-conscious being the only woman in this men’s club, but soon she realised that Tony sought her out, and throughout the evening he had talked to her about how he’d felt about Abby and Ziva and even Jenny and Cait, and she’d understood that Tony was talking to her as the only woman he still trusted. She felt honoured and saddened at the same time. Gibbs’ hug and almost emotional thanks when she and Jimmy finally left for the night contained more gratitude than she could have ever imagined from the older man.
Saturday had had the distraction of preparing for the ‘party’, if it could be called that. Tony had wanted to do some shopping, and then had cooked in the tiny galley of the boat. His friends being there for him in the evening had hugely bolstered his self-esteem.
But Sunday was very different.
Tony had woken up next to Gibbs, his spirits high at finding himself in his favourite place in the world. Then, reality set in. Tony had become morose, trying to pick a fight with Gibbs several times. But Jethro knew it was Tony trying to see if Gibbs would leave him too, betray him too. So he just smiled, and pulled Tony to him, and gave him little kisses and soft touches.
By mid-afternoon, Tony was exhausted from the emotional turmoil, and let Gibbs take him below, to the bed. While Tony resisted at first, Gibbs eventually got his arms around him and had Tony’s back pulled into his chest.
“Gonna talk to me now?” Gibbs asked. Tony shook his head. “I have the patience of a sniper, you know.”
It took maybe half an hour or more, but slowly Jethro felt Tony relax against him.
“Am I doing the right thing?” Tony quietly asked.
“Can’t answer that, sweetheart. Wouldn’t be right for me, but I think we both know that I don’t always know what’s right for you.”
The silence after that lasted a long time.
“I want to hear what they have to say. What excuses…”
“And that’s all they are, Tony, excuses. Excuses for their behaviour, for what they did to you, how they… how they betrayed you. It’s got nothing to do with you. It’s them. It’s their fault, not yours.”
Tony nodded, but they both knew it was just a placating nod, not one either of them believed.
Monday morning came bright and early, and Tony groaned even as he obediently rolled out of the bed he’d spent the last week feeling safe in. After heavy discussion, Tony had been adamant. Brad had been the one to go to Tony’s apartment to pack a few bags and bring them over to Gibbs’ place, and now, Gibbs and Tony were on their way there as well. Parking in his own driveway, Jethro looked at Tony apprehensively.
They got out of the car and inside the house. Tony looked around, breathing deeply, as Gibbs closed the door and watched him carefully.
“How’re you feeling?” Gibbs asked.
Tony spun, and looked at his boss.
“Did you… did you seriously just ask me that?” Tony cackled with undisguised mirth. “Oh, this is just… this is too good!”
He took the few quick steps needed to take him back to Gibbs and pulled the older man into a heated kiss.
“What’d I do?” Jethro asked when he could finally breathe again.
“You, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, just asked me to talk about my feelings. To you.”
Bewildered, Gibbs stared back at him.
“Too precious,” Tony sighed, kissing him again quick. “You’ve got my back, right? I can shower and change and drink my coffee without worrying about anyone but you slipping in, or someone sneaking me something?”
“I’ve got your six, Tony. Always.”
They both cringed at that.
“Yeah, don’t say always until you mean it. But I trust you to have my six now. So make me a decent coffee while I’m in the bathroom, okay?”
“Yes, Boss,” Gibbs smirked.
“Oooh, I like that! Think I can make the new probies call me Boss?” Then the reality of the day set in, and they both sobered. “Right, I’ll be in the shower.”
As agreed, Vance, Gibbs, Tony, Fornell, Chegwidden and Rabb were stationed around the conference table in Vance’s office early in the morning. Ducky and Jimmy were there as well, but they were sidelined, sitting away from the group and with strict instructions to keep their mouths shut. They were there only to observe.
“McGee,” Vance said, as the agent was shown into his office.
Tim slunk into the chair that had been pointed to, and refused to look anyone in the eye. Vance delivered the verdict. McGee’s head shot up.
“You’re not firing me?” He asked incredulously.
“Do you want me to fire you, McGee?” Vance replied.
“No! No, Sir!” McGee chanced a look at Gibbs and Tony. “But I deserve it.”
“And the fact that you know that and acknowledge it, is the reason you’re still sitting here now. Nice letter writing, McGee.” Tony kept his cool.
“Tony… Special Agent DiNozzo,” McGee swallowed and gathered all his strength to look Tony in the eye. “I am so sorry. I truly am. I’m so sorry.”
“Yes, well…” Tony swallowed at seeing his Probie so dejected. “Think about that, yeah? And maybe we’ll see if we can make a Special Agent out of you yet.”
Realising he was being let off very lightly and not willing to push his luck, McGee rose and nodded, keeping his eyes on the floor. An agent was waiting outside the door to take him back to his desk, and then escort him out of the building to start his suspension.
“Gibbs!” Abby exclaimed as she saw her silver fox in the Director’s office when she had been summoned there.
“And Tony,” she said with distinctly less enthusiasm. She hadn’t forgiven him for trying to get her into trouble. She’d only been trying to help! And she knew she was right!
Hurt when Gibbs didn’t immediately rise to come soothe her, she pouted and sat in the appointed chair.
“Ms Sciuto,” Vance began, and proceeded to lay out the consequences of her actions. With each stipulation, Abby bristled further. When Vance was finished, there were a few moments of silence.
“This is your fault,” Abby hissed at Tony. “You couldn’t just be happy? You would never have made a move! So now suddenly I’m being treated like a criminal?!”
Gibbs slammed his open hand down on the table.
“Abigail!” He didn’t yell, but his tone was menacing. “You’re lucky DiNozzo isn’t pressing charges against you, or you really would know how it feels to be treated like a criminal. You perpetrated a crime!”
“Like you haven’t?” She hissed again, then blanched as she realised exactly what she’d said.
“Yes, I have,” Gibbs said evenly. “And it’s no secret anymore. I’ve taken my licks, and will continue to take them. But I did not drug and kidnap a federal agent, and leave him indefensible, someone who thought they were your family!”
“That’s ridiculous!” Abby exclaimed. “All I did was make sure that the two of you finally came to your senses! You needed my help, Gibbs! I deserve your gratitude, not whatever you’re doing now! How else were you ever going to…”
“Thank you, Ms Sciuto,” Tony said quietly.
“What?” She asked, clearly taken aback.
“Thank you for showing me exactly how little you think of me, and of Agent Gibbs.” He turned to Vance. “I’m done here.”
“As am I,” Vance agreed. At Leon’s call, the door opened and another agent stepped in, escorting Abby off the premises.
“Director. Gibbs.” Ziva said as she was escorted into the office, ignoring everyone else. Vance pointed to the empty chair. “I prefer to stand.” She declined.
“Very well,” Vance said. “Ms David…”
“Agent David,” she pressed.
“Not any longer. Ms David…” And Vance laid it all out for her.
“My father shall not be pleased.”
“Eli’s concerns don’t matter to me.”
Ziva bristled at her father being dismissed with simply his first name, but she kept her temper under control until she faced Tony.
“You vindictive little child,” she hissed at him. “We give you what you have been panting after since before I got here, and you whine like a little boy about it?”
“Child? Boy?” Rabb asked. “Is this how you would treat children, Ms David?”
Despite her anger, Ziva knew when to keep her mouth shut, and did so now. She too was escorted off the premises, but her journey would end up in an FBI holding cell.
“How did I cause this?” Tony asked of no one in particular.
None of the men knew how to respond, to reassure Tony that this was not his fault. Not even Gibbs.
“Morning, Boss!” Chirped three happy voices as he strode into the bullpen, and Tony quietly beamed with pride as he knew the greeting was meant for him, not the grinning Gibbs standing at his six.
“Good morning, all! Tea for you, Bishop; black coffee for Seaver; and a… even I don’t know what the hell to call this… for you, Dashiel.” Tony smiled as he handed out the drinks to his team.
“How was court this morning, Boss?” Seaver asked.
“Quick and clean, Ash,” Tony smiled as he settled at his desk, sipping at his own cup, while Gibbs sat down at his own desk behind Tony’s. They’d had the partitions taken down, Tony was at Gibbs’ old desk, and Jethro sat where he used to before he’d scouted Tony in Baltimore and brought him to NCIS. Always covering Tony’s six.
Ashley Seaver had been a real surprise. She’d been at the BAU for a while, then transferred to Human Trafficking. She’d burned out quickly there, and when Hotchner at the BAU had recommended her to Tony, DiNozzo hadn’t hesitated once he’d read her file.
Eleanor Bishop had been someone both Tony and Gibbs had had their eye on for a while. The former NSA Analyst had surprised them both pleasantly while working a joint case months before, and they’d kept track of her. When it came time for Tony to choose his own team, he knew he wanted her.
Kate Dashiel had perhaps been the biggest surprise of them all. She’d come to them through Fornell, and was a former FBI team lead who was looking for a change. She’d been promoted to team lead against her wishes, and while performing admirably, much preferred to be the second in command.
Tony had no idea how he’d ended up with three women on his team, but even after less than a month, he loved and respected them for their abilities and personalities. It didn’t take long for him to start calling them Dash, Bish and Ash, liking the similarities of it; and when the three women discretely asked Gibbs, their consultant, why Tony never called Dashiel by her first name Kate, Gibbs explained, and they never worried about it again.
Gibbs waited until Tony had accessed his e-mail and sorted through it, took another sip of his own coffee, and then spoke up.
“Big day, today, DiNozzo.”
“Yeah, thanks for bringing that up, Gibbs. I’m going for coffee…” Tony stilled as he stared at the full cup in his hand. “Going for a belated breakfast. Lunch? Anyone?”
“Blueberry danish, Boss?” Bishop chirped.
“Oooh, cherry danish, please Boss!” Seaver crooned.
“Chocolate muffin?” Dashiel asked, batting her eyelids.
“Right,” Tony huffed, scowling at Gibbs. “I’m totally whipped, aren’t I? Whipped by my own team! It’s disgraceful…” he murmured, even as he was leaving for the elevator.
“So, Gibbs,” Bishop asked when they were sure Tony was out of earshot. “Big day? Why?”
In the last couple of weeks, some things had become pretty clear. Tony was the Boss. Gibbs had the inside scoop on Tony. The two of them were far more than teammates, more than friends. Ask Gibbs about anything else but a case, or Tony’s state of mind, and get blasted with Antarctic cold. But when it involved Tony, Gibbs could be persuaded to talk.
They hadn’t kept it a secret. All three women knew about the former team, and how and why it had ended. They hadn’t spelled out their relationship, but knew the three of them suspected correctly what was going on.
“It’s been a month today,” Gibbs said, and shrugged at them.
“Damn,” Dashiel cursed. “Think they’ll turn up?”
“I’d think so,” Gibbs replied. “If they wanna keep their jobs.”
“Yeah, that still doesn’t sit right with me,” Dash muttered.
“Tony’s too much of a sweetheart,” Bish said.
“Can’t we protect him from them?” Ash asked.
“Ladies, I’ve done all I can do,” Gibbs said, smiling - without being condescending - as he usually did when he collectively called them ladies, and they kind of loved him for it. “You wanna protect your boss, you’ve certainly got my blessing.”
Just then, the elevator dinged, and a harried looking McGee came shuffling out. Looking towards their area, he saw three pretty women speaking to Gibbs.
“Boss,” McGee huffed as he was unloading a laptop and go bag from his shoulders, looking at Gibbs. “I know I’m late, Security took forever to reinstate my ID!”
“Agent McGee?” One of the women asked.
“Yes?” McGee answered automatically.
“I’m Special Agent Kathryn Dashiel, the Senior Field Agent of this team. Your desk is right there, across from Consulting Agent Gibbs’ desk. Our Team Lead, Special Agent DiNozzo, should be back shortly. Please settle in.”
Completely thrown off his game by the abrupt manner of the woman and Gibbs’ smirk, McGee did as told.
“Alright!” Tony exclaimed as he stepped into their part of the bullpen. “Danish for Ash, danish for Bish, muffin for Dash, after court sensible sandwiches for me and Gibbs…” Tony froze as he spotted the bewildered looking man sitting at the desk across from Gibbs.
“Hey, McGee,” he said quietly. “Didn’t know you were here, or I would’ve brought you something.”
Tony slid the wrapped sandwich across the desk to Gibbs even as he leaned down on it, trying to keep his composure. They’d talked about this so many times in the past few weeks, but the reality never came near the imagination of it.
“Thanks, Tony… Special Agent DiNozzo, but I’m not hungry anyway. But thanks.”
“Sure,” Tony said. “I see Special Agent Dashiel showed you to your desk?”
“Yes, thank you.”
McGee wondered at how Tony would know it had been Dashiel to point out his desk, but as he looked around, he knew in a way he’d never known before. Gibbs wouldn’t be the one to show him his desk, and Tony and the others trusted that when Tony wasn’t there, it was his Senior Field Agent who would take charge. Of course it had been Dashiel, and Tony knew it with a hundred percent surety. Again, McGee felt guilty.
It had been two and a half days, and McGee was already starting to get used to it. Tony ran a tight ship, as he had before, but unlike McGee and Ziva at the time, everyone listened to him. And it got results. It didn’t matter they were on cold cases, the three women and even Gibbs sat in on the campfires and talked. No one rolled their eyes, no one objected. They sat and talked. And Tony’d get something out of it.
“We need to run the DNA again,” Tony said, and received nods from his team. His team. McGee still balked at that, but did it quietly.
“Alright…” Tony sighed, “Dash and…” There was only a second’s hesitation, “McGee, with me to Forensics. Bish and Gibbs, talk to the wife again. Ash, sort out those credit card statements.”
“Yes, Boss!” Was chirped by everyone, even if Gibbs did it with a grin.
A loaded silence filled the elevator while the three of them were going down. Even though it was her third day back at NCIS, and everybody made sure Tony knew it, this was the first time Tony was going to Forensics where he would be confronted with Abby.
McGee could only stare as he took in the changes, it was his first trip down there too. At first, the first few days of their suspension, Abby and McGee had been in contact, mainly her calling him. But his own guilt and unease, and some very long and frank conversations with both Delilah and his sister Sarah later, McGee had declined contact with Abby, deciding it would be best for him to take this time to really think about things. Every time McGee felt irritation and some anger rising at the position he felt Tony had put him in, he saw his girlfriend and his sister, in separate conversations, saying the same thing to him. “What if it had been me, Tim, instead of Tony? What if they had drugged me, and tied me up? Would you have kept quiet then, too?”
The space that used to be Abby’s Lab for as long as McGee had been at NCIS was no longer there. Instead, there was a much larger lab, with two techs in lab coats, working in silence, the only sound the whirring of machines and computers. At the sound of the door, the front lab tech looked up, smiling when he saw Tony.
“Agent DiNozzo! What can we do for you today?” He asked warmly.
“Hey, Wilkins,” Tony grinned. “How are you? Good weekend?”
“Absolutely!” The curly haired man smiled again. “Took the wife and daughter to the park to feed the ducks. I think Kaley thinks she’s a duck as well, she was almost determined to get into the pond. Well, she is only one year old, of course…”
Tony grinned. “Got pictures of that?”
“Not me, I was too busy freaking out and trying to save my daughter. My wife, though, was laughing her ass off and holding her phone, so she probably has video of it. I’ll ask.”
“I look forward to seeing that, then. Hey, we’ve got a hunch on a cold case.” Tony gave him the number and name. “Can you run the DNA again? Something’s not right there.”
“Of course it’s right!” Another voice exclaimed. “I processed that case.” And there was Abby, completely toned down in dress, but not in attitude and manner. She had been the other lab tech working.
Ignoring the interruption, Wilkins took the post-it Tony held out to him with the case file written on it.
“Of course, Tony. We’ll check into it right away.”
“No need,” Abby growled. “I ran those tests, and I don’t make mistakes.”
“Don’t you?” Dashiel asked quietly.
Wilkins, though, didn’t hesitate.
“Ms Sciuto! Get back to your station. You should know better than to leave tests running unsupervised.”
She glared at Tony, who just stared back impassively. Then she glared at McGee for not saying anything. Finally, she scowled at Wilkins and moved back to her table.
“As I said, Agent DiNozzo, we’ll check into this right away.”
“Could you do it yourself, Wilkins?” Tony asked quietly.
After a quick look back at Abby, Wilkins nodded.
“Of course, I’ll take care of it.”
The three turned to leave, McGee swallowing back bile. Had he been like Abby? Had he behaved that way to Tony too? In a way, yes, he had. As soon as they were in the elevator, McGee turned to Tony.
“I’m sorry, Agent McGee,” Dashiel interrupted him smoothly. “The number you’re dialling isn’t answering right now.”
Both men turned to look at her, McGee bewildered, and Tony’s lips trembling until he burst into raucous laughter. When he finally calmed down, wiping tears from his eyes, he grinned widely.
“Thanks, Dash. I really needed that right then.”
“Yes, Boss,” she said with a straight face, but McGee didn’t miss her reaching out and softly squeezing a couple of Tony’s fingers, and Tony squeezing back.
And McGee realised something else. This hadn’t been about Tony. This had been a lesson for McGee. Tony hadn’t taken both of them along to the lab because he’d dreaded confronting Abby. Tony wasn’t afraid, he’d never been afraid of anything. He’d taken them because he knew that Dashiel would have his back, and would be the right person to formally file a complaint if things got out of hand. And he’d taken McGee, because McGee needed to observe that.
When the elevator doors opened, they stepped out, Tony still grinning.
“McGee,” he ordered, “join Ash in checking those credit card statements. Dash, look through the wife’s phone records again. You find anything, tell Bish and Gibbs so they can include it in their interview. I need to speak to Vance.”
“Yes, Boss,” came the answer, and this time, McGee didn’t feel weird about saying it to Tony.
Tony gave a quick update to the Director on the leads on the cold case, but his main purpose was to relay what happened with Abby. He and Vance had made a deal, and they were both sticking to it. Anything that came to either’s attention or happened in relation to Tony’s team or former team members, they shared.
When Tony came down again and sat at his desk, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander a little, thinking back over the past month.
“Big day today,” Gibbs said, even as he straightened Tony’s tie and kissed his lips at the same time before they left the house.
“What? Just because I’m going in as Team Lead and your nominal Boss today? Why would that rattle me?” Tony smiled, a little frazzled.
“You did good, Tony,” Gibbs smiled back. “You deserve it.”
Tony looked down at his feet.
“You gonna make this difficult for me, Gibbs?” He asked finally, fearfully.
“No, sweetheart, God no,” Gibbs replied quietly.
And he hadn’t. For the few days they were alone on the team, Gibbs had deferred to Tony every time. Tony was the boss, and Gibbs made sure everyone who saw them knew he knew it. Tony’s choices for new team members had been discussed between them, but they all had been Tony’s decision. With Hotchner and Fornell giving their input, the transfers of Seaver and Dashiel were quick and easy, both of the women jumping at the chance. Ellie had too, but she did need to complete some FLETC training, where the other two women could transfer clear. Luckily, Tony could negotiate Bishop to attend the few courses she needed whilst also working on the team.
So it had only been a few days of the two of them alone in the bullpen. As soon as they were all together as the new team, Tony took them out for a long lunch. This was when he had explained to his new team what had happened with his old one, and Gibbs’ position with them. They’d taken it all gracefully, and had been outraged on his behalf, even though none of them had known him very long.
Tony had worried about Gibbs, a lot. Not just about how Gibbs would cope with what anyone at NCIS could see as a demotion, but now having Tony as Team Lead where Jethro used to be in charge. Then Tony’s choice of teammates. All women. He sighed again, how the hell did that happen? And last but certainly not least, their personal relationship.
The week on the boat had been amazing, and they had shared kisses and a bed the entire time. But nothing more than that. Tony wasn’t worried about more intimacy between them, it had been what they had been working towards, and what he wanted. He was worried, though, how Gibbs’ new position at work would factor into it.
But Gibbs seemed calm, and more relaxed, and at home sometimes even mellow. It took two weeks for Tony to break.
“When’s it gonna happen, Boss?” He asked one night in the basement.
“What?” Gibbs grunted back.
Tony ran his hands through his hair roughly, messing it up completely - which looked very cute on him - and then drew them down his face before staring pointedly at Gibbs.
“When are you gonna break? When’s the Bastard gonna come out? When’s the Alpha male I’ve known and… followed for so long gonna have enough of playing nice? Will it be at work? Will you just suddenly snap and need to be the Boss again? Will I find my things at my old desk again one day soon, and my team dismissed like nothing? Or will it be at home? Will you suddenly start ordering me around here, to make up for not being allowed to do it it there?”
Gibbs smiled at him softly. Tony keened in frustration.
“Don’t smile like that! It’s not natural! When’s it gonna be, Gibbs? When am I gonna be thrown aside like trash again, have the bubble burst, and have Leroy Jethro Gibbs all up in my face telling me he’s the Boss, and I damn well better do what he tells me to do?”
“Is that what you want? Is that what you’re waiting for?”
Gibbs was suddenly in front of Tony, the younger man having no idea how it had happened.
“Yes?” He questioned quietly, looking up at the man who meant everything to him.
“Want me to take charge, Tony? Want me to be the boss?”
“Yes,” Tony moaned, half closing his eyes.
“I can do that. If you want,” Gibbs purred.
“Yeeesss,” Tony groaned.
“Then get your ass upstairs and naked for me to play with! Now!” Gibbs bellowed, and Tony scrambled to obey.
The night was a long one, and Tony was taken by Gibbs so completely, he didn’t even have words for it. All Tony knew was that Gibbs was the boss of him, and he’d do anything and everything to have his attention and give him what he wanted. He’d been blissed out and nearly comatose from pleasure, but he’d never forget what happened next.
Gibbs pulled a sweaty and sullied Tony into his arms, holding him close, making him feel safe.
“I can’t always be like this, Tony,” Gibbs whispered into his ear. “I like you being in charge. You’re so beautiful when you’re the Boss, sweetheart. You shine like you always should have. You’re powerful and strong.”
Tony whimpered, looking up questioningly.
“You are,” Gibbs smiled, “you always were. Can you really blame me for falling for that? You want to please so badly, but you’re just as much of a badass as I’ve ever been. I’ve always been the boss, sweetheart, always been in charge, always taken care of everyone. I like you taking care of me for a change. I’ll be your boss here whenever you want, no worries about that, I do like it. But, maybe sometimes… you can take care of me?”
Tony nodded, his bliss not letting him fully compute, but storing the words for later analysis. He wrapped his arms around the older man, holding him close.
“Thank you, Jethro,” he whispered quietly before falling asleep.
And Jethro had kept his word, so far, where everything was concerned. He might smile that little smile of his while he called Tony ‘Boss’ at work, but he did as told. And he might take Tony more often than Tony took him when at home, but mostly he followed Tony’s demands for harder, faster and deeper. Sometimes, though, sometimes, it was Gibbs all the way. Tony didn’t have any say in it, merely hanging on for the ride, as Gibbs took him against the boat, over the kitchen table, and on one very memorable occasion outside over the railing of the backyard deck, holding his hand tightly over Tony’s mouth to stifle his grunts, groans, and pleas. It was bliss. Tony wouldn’t have it any other way.
“McGee!” Abby yelled as he stepped into the lab.
McGee looked around, seeing that for the first time since the few weeks that they’d been back, they were actually alone. He’d been sent down to the lab by Dashiel to check on the fingerprints for their current case. Tony and Bishop were out checking out a lead, and Seaver and Gibbs were questioning the family. McGee chuckled a little to himself. It was very odd to him to see Gibbs take any of the young women under his wing, but he was doing it. It was clear Gibbs respected Dashiel, as he had come to respect Abigail Borin, but Bishop and Seaver got to him in other ways. The two young blondes got paternal Gibbs more often than not, and while it was still Gibbs love and therefore tough, he made time for the women to speak with him, took them for one on one lunches even sometimes. And once, McGee had actually heard Gibbs explain to them his reasoning for doing something.
He’d also noticed that while McGee himself was partnered with Gibbs or Dashiel when out in the field, he hadn’t been left alone outside with either Bishop or Seaver, and certainly not with Tony. And while Tony happily took any of the women along with him, he also never partnered with Gibbs solely. If the two of them were together for a task, there was always a third along, sometimes even McGee. Delilah had sighed when he’d talked to her about it. Their relationship had taken a blow in the wake of what happened, she’d been furious and so disappointed in him, as had Sarah. But they were getting slowly back on track, and in fact, they talked more about emotional things like this than they ever had before.
“Tim, really? Of course Tony’s not going to partner with Gibbs. I’d think he’ll never do that again, simply to avoid any sense of impropriety. It must hurt them both, seeing how they were partners for so long and working so well together.” McGee had gotten used to this too. Delilah never accused him of anything, but she certainly didn’t mince words with him either. “I don’t think either of them will ever feel comfortable with anything work related that might even hint at a more personal thing between them ever again.”
“Do you think there even is something more personal between them?” Tim asked his girlfriend.
“I honestly don’t know. I think they had a chance, but I’m not sure either of them would have taken it, considering what happened. I mean, honestly, does Gibbs seem like the type of man to want or need to have something he wants wrapped up in a neat little bow and presented to him as an offering? Does Tony seem like a guy who would just lie there and be grateful and accept?”
McGee blanched. No, they didn’t. Gibbs took what he wanted when he wanted it, and Tony, though he’d always been subordinate to Gibbs, was the kind of guy who would fight for what he wanted and enjoy the fight.
“Did I ruin that for them as well?” Tim asked. “Not just their working relationship, but the chance at the personal one too?”
“Tim?” Delilah asked. “Unless you did more than you’ve already told me, it wasn’t you who did this. What you did or didn’t do wasn’t good, but you didn’t have a hand in actively forcing this, did you? Please tell me you didn’t?”
“I didn’t, I swear I didn’t,” he told her honestly, and she heaved a sigh of relief.
“McGee!” Abby’s voice brought him back to the present. “Finally! It took you long enough! You didn’t answer my calls, and then when they realised they needed you and brought you back, they wouldn’t even let you talk to me here! So what’s going on, what are we gonna do? Gibbs isn’t behaving like himself, he hasn’t brought me a CafPow in like forever, and Tony’s being a real pain, making himself out to be hurt I guess, because everyone else is being really mean to me! And where is Ziva? Why isn’t she back here? And Ducky’s being mean too, not even talking to me. And those little girls that Tony’s gotten to be his groupies are totally annoying. I’m glad the others usually deal with them, because they’re just Tony’s minions and don’t even know it. So, when are we gonna get Gibbs back, and what are we going to do?”
And right there, Timothy McGee made a decision.
“Ms Sciuto,” he said, standing tall, and she flinched at his tone and demeanor. “I’m here for the fingerprint analysis for my Boss, Very Special Agent DiNozzo. Kindly provide me with the results.”
She gaped at him, but he stood firm, even if he never looked her in the eyes. When she didn’t move, he reiterated.
“The results, please, Ms Sciuto.”
A few minutes later, he was standing in front of Dashiel’s desk, handing over the fingerprint results, which she took with a thanks. When he continued to stand there, she peered up at him. “Something else, Agent McGee?”
“Could I have a few moments of your time, Ma’am? In private?”
Dashiel nodded and stood, beckoning McGee to a conference room. She didn’t even look at any of the others, but they all stared at them. McGee, while seeming to adjust, had never called his new Senior Field Agent Ma’am, had never been formal with any of them. After sharing comforting looks with Seaver and Bishop, Tony turned to Gibbs. They seemed to have an entire conversation without saying a word, and then Tony nodded and went back to work, as did they all.
Dashiel too understood the difference, and pondered it while she brought McGee to the conference room.
“What can I do for you, Agent McGee?” She asked quietly after they’d been seated.
“Ma’am,” Tim said, “I…”
She rose and passed him a bottle of water, squeezing his shoulder before she went to sit down again. He took a few sips, then straightened.
“Ma’am, when I was in the lab just now, I was confronted by Ms Sciuto.”
Dashiel nodded, she had been expecting this. She was curious though, because she would have expected McGee to go straight to DiNozzo, or even Gibbs. Instead, he reported the entire incident to her, word for word as best as he could remember. She paused after his recitation.
“I’ll need to report this to our Team Lead and our Consultant, and, as it involves both of them directly, to the Director. You are aware of this?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” McGee said, looking her in the eyes. “But as you are my Senior Field Agent, the correct course of action was to report it to you, and have you take it further if you deemed it necessary.”
Dashiel stared hard at him, then decided he was genuine.
“I’m glad you came to me, McGee. And we’ll take care of this. I have to ask, though… why the sudden change of heart? You would’ve taken this to DiNozzo or Gibbs not two days ago.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he said honestly. “But as I stood there listening to her, I just thought…” He couldn’t finish. “It made me sick, to think that I had…” Again, he stopped. He looked out the window, back at her, then at the table, and suddenly, it all came rushing out.
“Gibbs was never very good with the chain of command. That’s not me making an excuse! I’m trying to explain. But it resulted in some pretty awful things, in retrospect. And I’m fully guilty of that. But as she was saying those things, I realised how wrong that had all been, how wrong I’d been, and I want to do right, I want to be an agent, and help people, and I want to learn and I just want to…”
He stopped, and she patted his hand.
“McGee,” she said quietly, and he glanced up at her noting she’d left the ‘Agent’ part off this time, “call me Dashiel, or Dash.”
“Now, let’s go talk to the Boss.”
McGee nodded, and followed.
“Boss,” Dashiel said, standing in front of Tony’s desk, “I think the team should get lunch together. Maybe invite Dr Mallard and Dr Palmer?”
“And the Director?” Tony asked, eying her. She nodded.
Not long after, they were all seated in Tony’s favourite pizza joint, the two ME’s and the Director as well.
“Go ahead, Dash, you’ve got the floor,” Tony said, after making sure they could speak privately.
“Boss,” she said, not shy about talking in front of the Director, “McGee came to me with some information.” And she revealed what she and McGee had spoken about. McGee was questioned, and answered truthfully.
“Damn,” Vance cursed, leaning back in his seat. Tony nodded, and looked at Gibbs, seeing the disappointment in his lover’s eyes.
“What do you want to do about this?” Leon asked, but while he’d asked DiNozzo, it was Gibbs who answered.
“I’d like one talk with her.”
Tony stiffened; this was what he’d been afraid of. Abby had always been Gibbs’ weak point, and apparently, she was the crowbar that would prise the two of them apart. Gibbs was going to talk to her, get her to be nice to Tony even though Tony could see the falseness of it now, get her to mend fences with McGee, who would then listen to her vitriol again and hate on Tony, and he’d spread it to his team, the team he’d worked so hard for, and with, and…
“Boss,” Ash said, grabbing Tony’s hand, since she was seated next to him. “I’ll go with you anywhere, even if it’s back to the FBI.”
“Me too,” Dash confirmed, leaning over to place her hand on their joined ones. “And don’t think I haven’t heard about those Homeland rumours floating around, Tony. That could be fun!” She grinned.
“Count me in, Tony,” Bish said quietly as she placed her hand on theirs as well. “You know, if they’d even allow me. I know I haven’t even finished all the courses yet…”
Tony stared at the three women incredulously, then turned to his lover as Gibbs slid his hand underneath those of the four of them to grasp Tony’s fingers.
“I think you misunderstood, sweetheart,” he said gently, “but I can’t blame you for that. I think we both know that since she’s listened to no one in the past few weeks, it’s unlikely she’d listen to anyone but me now.”
Tony stared at him a little longer, then nodded.
Vance cleared his throat.
“FBI? Homeland? Should I be worried about this?” He looked straight at DiNozzo.
“No, Sir. Just, there have been some offers. Not that I’m considering taking them. You know, at this point.”
Tony let it sink in, and smiled. Yeah, he was so going to get whatever he wanted from Vance to get him and his team to stay! Maybe he could even push for a private jet like the BAU… Tony smiled. That was for later. He turned to Gibbs.
“Has to be. Won’t work otherwise.”
“And is this private talk going to include crocodile tears, lots of bitching about me, hugs and kisses on your part, and then Abby having everything that Abby wants to have again? She is your favourite, after all?”
Yes, the accusation stung, and it was meant to. They both knew it. Gibbs breathed and swallowed.
“No. Gonna be me telling her to do her job and be at least civil and professional to anyone she works with, or get the fuck out.”
It was the swearing that flustered all of them, much more than the message being conveyed. Oh, and don’t think any of them missed the fact that Gibbs had called Tony sweetheart. Especially McGee filed that one away for further discussion with Delilah.
“You… you’d choose me over her?”
“I know it hasn’t been too long that we’ve been together like this,” Gibbs said, squeezing Tony’s fingers that he was still holding, “but surely you know that you’re my favourite, baby…”
And then Gibbs leaned in and kissed Tony on the lips.
Ooh yeah, jackpot! The three women grinned widely at each other, and McGee stored it all away, knowing Delilah would want details. Meanwhile, Vance was covering his eyes, and muttering to himself.
“Not happening! I didn’t see or hear anything. Purely professional. Just a team lunch. Nothing going on that I should be worried about. Are they done yet?”
“Done with what, Director?” Tony asked, looking every inch the Team Lead that he was. “Are you alright, Sir? Did you see something that wasn’t there?”
Vance glared at Tony for the mischievous glint he caught in his agent’s eyes, then huffed.
“I’m fine. I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”
“Gibbs? Gibbs, what’s going on? Why did you lock your door?” Abby questioned as soon as Jethro opened the door to the house to let her in. “Tony told you to do that, didn’t he!” She accused. Gibbs just sighed, and pointed her to the couch in the living room. It seemed she didn’t even notice that it was Tony’s very comfortable luxury couch, not the crappy, lumpy one that had always stood there before.
At Gibbs’ urging, Dashiel had declared a night out, and the girls had made all the preparations and dragged Tony along with them. Seaver had used her connection with David Rossi to ensure a private room at one of DC’s finest restaurants. When Tony’s team - minus Gibbs - arrived, they were greeted by Ducky and Jimmy and Breena, AJ and Harm, Brad, Tobias, Vance, Delilah, and Jake too. Jack and Daniel unfortunately couldn’t make it, one of their secret things going on. Tony felt immersed in the love and respect these people had for him, even a little bit from McGee. It was just a dinner, but it was a dinner with those he loved, and Tony was happy as he talked and laughed, ate and drank.
At the house, the scene was very different.
Abby was sullen as Gibbs pointed her to the couch. Once again, there was no hug, no kiss. And he didn’t sit next to her, instead settling across from her in an armchair.
“What’s going on with you, Abigail?” Gibbs asked after long minutes of silence.
“What do you mean? It’s what’s going on with YOU, Gibbs! With you and…and Tony!”
“You can’t even say his name without hesitating these days.”
“Well, he hurt me!”
“He hurt you? How did he do that? Seems to me if anyone was hurt in this, it was him. And me.”
That took the wind out of her sails a bit, and she stared at him for long moments.
“What do you mean?” She finally asked.
Gibbs rolled his eyes, and actually huffed.
“Well, let’s see. He was drugged by people he completely trusted, undressed, tied up, and left helpless for an entire night. While you were in dreamland, he was frantic about making sure you were alright and hurt himself trying to get free so he could save you. Not to mention where his mind took him in that time. The first thing he asked me, even before I took off the blindfold, was whether you were alright. He didn’t even let me cut him free until after I’d called you to make sure you were fine. He damn near broke his wrist trying to get loose from those handcuffs, so he could come save you.”
Abby paled and shivered. She hadn’t known that.
Gibbs could see she was affected, but knew that part of her was still blaming Tony. Though it wasn’t fair to Tony, Gibbs knew it was the only way he could possibly get through to her. And he didn’t care if he lied, not to her, not anymore.
“And what about me? How do you think I felt to find out you had violated my home like that? Violated my friend? To find him bruised and bloodied from his efforts to get free, in anguish over saving you, tied to the bed I used to share with my wife?”
Even Abby knew he meant Shannon. None of the ex-wives had ever slept in there.
“Did you really think I would like that? Appreciate this, what did you call it, oh yes, present? Is that the kind of man you think I am? That I would take advantage of a helpless victim? That I would need your kind of ‘help’?” He asked sarcastically.
“Shut up!” He growled, and she flinched even more at that than any of his previous words.
“Tony and I could maybe have had something good. I don’t know what you think you saw, but that doesn’t matter now, does it! Do you really think that’s going to happen now?” He lied. “Do you really think he’d ever be able to trust me again, after what you did to him IN MY HOME!”
Tears were running down her cheeks, and she looked at him helplessly.
“Yeah,” he said, meanly, “think about that. I knew there’d be tears. And such convincing ones, too. But, Abby, your tears mean nothing me now. Thanks to you, there’s nothing.”
Gibbs got up and headed for the fridge, pulling out a beer. He didn’t offer her anything. He leaned against the doorpost, and just looked at her. Abby couldn’t take it, and in under two minutes, she fled the house.
Jethro put down his untouched beer. He didn’t feel bad about lying to her, because it could so easily have gone the way he’d said. Tony was quick to forgive, to let things roll off his back, and take the guilt onto himself. But trust was everything to Tony. It had been Gibbs’ most immediate fear after he’d released Tony from his bindings, that Tony wouldn’t trust him anymore by extension of what had been done to him in Gibbs’ house.
He waited to be sure Abby was really gone, not lingering to see what he would do, and then got into his car.
When he arrived at the restaurant, he stepped into a warm and happy atmosphere, pleased to see his people happy and chattering. No, he corrected himself, not HIS people. These were Tony’s people. Some of them might have been Gibbs’ before, but all of them together now, even McGee and Vance, were Tony’s people. He smiled as they immediately made room for him to sit next to Tony.
The conversation slowly halted, as they all knew what Gibbs had been doing before joining them, and they were all curious.
“She cried,” he said, when they’d all been silent for a minute, just staring at him in question. “I won’t tell you exactly what I said, because it doesn’t matter. I will tell you that I lied to her about our relationship. Told her what happened has ruined any chance I might’ve had with Tony. And I’d appreciate it if you’d all stick to that for now.”
A few of them frowned, but they all understood, and nodded in agreement. Tony took Jethro’s hand and squeezed his fingers in support.
“Anything left to eat? I’m starving,” Jethro said, and they all let him change the subject, because on some level, they all understood how difficult that must have been for him.
When Tony made a discrete inquiry two days later, Wilkins reported Abby had been professional but silent and subdued, and she had filed for leave for the next week, which Vance also reported. They had approved her leave, and when Wilkins had asked her in a friendly manner for the reason, she had told him she was spending it with the nuns. They all hoped for the best.
McGee was enjoying himself, he realised with a smile.
Several weeks had passed since the talk Gibbs had with Abby, and the team was really getting to know each other, at work at least. They’d had several cases and Tony had been every inch the Boss Gibbs had been, but Tony did it much more pleasantly, even though he could be stern and tough. But when there was need for it - and Tony seemed to read that need as well as he had when he was Gibbs’ SFA - he made room for a minute or two of levity. Now that he was seeing things more clearly, McGee appreciated Tony all the more, not just the current Tony, but the Tony of the past.
McGee both respected and liked Dashiel, and it seemed his breakdown after his own confrontation with Abby that he’d shared with Dash had warmed her to him a bit as well. Her style was very different from Tony’s as SFA, much more serious and even controlling, and while he did well with her brand of herding the team, McGee found he actually missed Tony’s humour and teasing, even his pranks. In an attempt to subtly let the man know that, one day McGee slipped him a tube of superglue. Tony seemed perplexed.
“Thought you might be missing that,” McGee said quietly.
For just a few seconds, Tony’s Team Lead face faltered, and a large smile spread over his face.
“Thanks, McGlue,” Tony beamed at him, clasping McGee’s shoulder for a moment before slipping back into work mode. From the corner of his eye, McGee saw Gibbs and Dashiel nodding approvingly, and he smiled when he noticed Tony sliding the tube of glue into his pocket, patting it absently every now and then. From then on, he started getting a few McNicknames from Tony. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes they just cropped up. It made him feel happy, and now that Tony was warming up to him again, the rest of the team followed suit.
Not long after that, Tony took McGee - and only McGee - out for an interview, and even though it was only an interview and Gibbs had made sure McGee caught his warning glare, McGee didn’t let that dent his happiness. It was the first time Tony had taken him out into the field solo. It seemed as though at least some of Tony’s trust in him was returning, and McGee would make sure nothing would harm that little bit of trust.
It also made him look at the team dynamics again. He still wasn’t sent anywhere alone with either Bishop or Seaver, but now he was starting to look at that differently. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust him with them. Any pair that went out now was always a senior with a junior agent, and as much as he would’ve once thought otherwise, McGee knew rationally that he himself was a junior agent. It was a departure from how Gibbs had done things. He’d often paired with Tony, and McGee with Ziva. Though he knew everyone saw Ziva as the badass Mossad chick and expected her to protect McGee, looking around at how things were now and at how other teams did things, he realised it hadn’t been the regular way of doing things. No other teams paired the Team Lead and Second In Command together except in special circumstances, and now he wondered how much of that had been Gibbs’ desire to have Tony with him at all times.
While McGee was mostly under Dashiel’s tutelage now, Tony seldom hesitated in teaching Tim a thing or two on the sly, much as he had done as SFA. Gibbs left the on the job training to Tony and Dash, but kept up his interest in Bishop and Seaver, taking them out for lunch every now and then, and sometimes explaining things. The day Tony asked McGee to show Bish and Ash some things he did with computers, was one of the proudest days he’d had in a long time. Unlike he would have before, McGee didn’t see it as his superior knowledge being handed down to others, but as sharing information, making them all faster and better.
So yeah, he was enjoying himself. And it didn’t hurt that his relationship Delilah seemed to flourish the more he mended fences with Tony and the team.
Abby had changed after her scolding by Gibbs and her week with the nuns. She wasn’t a changed woman - no one really wanted that - but she was more of a woman than a girl now.
After what Gibbs had told her, she had been really shaken. She’d had no idea Tony had hurt himself in worry over her, and she felt sick thinking that she’d ruined everything for both Gibbs and Tony with her well intentioned but foolish and even dangerous interference. She’d been honest with the nuns, and they’d been furious with her. No one - except Gibbs - did a scolding quite like nuns. But then, like the kindhearted souls they were, they soothed her, spoke to her, and helped her see. Abby had a lot to make up for.
In the weeks that followed, Abby was pure professionalism. She worked hard and diligently, and helped her colleagues whenever she could. She was one of the best in her field, no one doubted that, but where before she had been the indulged child always getting her way, she now shared her knowledge and worked with the other forensic techs. Wilkins was pleased to report these changes. On his recommendation, Vance approved Abby heading up some of the shifts in forensics, instead of her being the subordinate.
She was professional and dedicated, even with Tony’s team. The first time McGee was sent to the lab on his own, he returned swiftly with her reports and had nothing to share with Dashiel of impropriety. She’d been speaking with Ducky and Palmer frequently, slowly rebuilding what they had once had, and both men reported her efforts back to Tony and Gibbs.
Then came the day Gibbs and Bishop were the only two left in the office, the others out on interviews, and Abby called up to say she had results.
“I’ll go,” Gibbs told Bishop, who’d answered the call.
“Want me to come with you?” Bish asked.
“No. It’s time.”
Seaver smoothly took over the interview when Tony suddenly clammed up, as if he could feel something important happening.
“Hey,” Gibbs said, taking a sip of his ever present coffee. “You got results?”
“Yes, Gibbs,” Abby replied, knowing better than to call him Sir, or Boss. Really, saying Gibbs was her only choice.
She gave him her results, and he listened and nodded.
“Gibbs?” She asked quietly when done.
He turned back to her and raised an eyebrow.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. She didn’t plea, she didn’t cry, she just said it sincerely.
He nodded again.
“Could you… could you please tell Tony… Very Special Agent DiNozzo, that too? That I’m very sorry?”
Gibbs stared at her, hard.
“I’ll try,” he finally answered, and left.
“What happened?” Tony asked Gibbs as soon as he and Seaver returned. Dashiel and McGee were back too.
“Went to see Abby. Results are there,” Gibbs pointed at the file on Tony’s desk.
“Alone?” Tony asked. Gibbs nodded. “And?”
Gibbs looked around, seeing not only their team, but others across the partitions listening in as well.
“My office,” he said, something he hadn’t done since Tony took over. Tony quickly followed him to the elevator, breathing in deeply in anticipation when the emergency switch was flipped.
“Gave me the results. Said she was sorry. Asked me to tell you too, she was sorry.”
Tony knew that Gibbs wouldn’t have told him that if the older man hadn’t thought it to be genuine. He was nowhere near forgiving her. Instead, he needed Gibbs, and a small smile fought its way to his lips even as he lunged for the older man. Gibbs caught him easily, holding him tight, brushing his hand through Tony’s hair.
Gibbs didn’t speak, knowing the platitudes of ‘it’s fine’ and ‘it’s gonna be alright’ would mean nothing to Tony. Instead, he just held the man, and let his presence be the comfort needed. Though sometimes Gibbs missed being the Boss at work, and had to bite down on his lips to stop himself from issuing orders, this was more precious to him than anything. It might seem odd, or even selfish if anyone knew, but knowing that Tony still needed him to be his rock, to soothe him and appease him, made Gibbs feel like the boss again. He knew Tony would want him to take care of him that night, and smiled at the thought.
In the weeks that followed, Abby maintained her professionalism and even though those in the know kept watching her closely and waited for her to slip up or slide back now that the atmosphere around her was thawing, she didn’t. If Gibbs or Tony were the one to come to the lab, she stuck to work related topics, although she did send them sorrowful looks. They had expected pleading eyes from her after her apology to Gibbs, but it seemed that now, for the first time in a long while, her concern was for them, rather than for herself.
No one had breathed a word to her about the relationship between Gibbs and Tony, and she truly believed she had been the one to ruin that chance for them. Tony and Jethro spoke about it a few times. Though they were lying to her, they both felt it was necessary. Abby was making great strides forward, and they were both starting to like her again, but they also knew that if they had been honest about their developing relationship, she wouldn’t have come this far. She would have seen it as her being right and her plan having worked, regardless of the circumstances, and clung to that as justification. But now they were starting to feel like she could be told the truth, at least in part. The opportunity came along a few days later.
Coming up from Autopsy, Tony decided to stop by the Lab to see if they had anything for him yet. Abby was working at the front station, with Wilkins in the back. Tony couldn’t help but give her a small smile when he saw her face light up a little at the sight of him.
“Hey,” he said, “I just came from Ducky and thought I’d come see if you had anything for me yet.”
She shook her head.
“Not yet, sorry. The tests are still running. We’ll call as soon as they’re done.”
He turned to leave, but was stopped by her soft voice.
He turned back. It was the first time she’d called him by his first name since everything had happened, and he’d been both anticipating and dreading it. He saw Wilkins look up and keep a close eye and ear on them from the background.
She faltered a little, unsure of herself, then rushed out the words.
“The nuns’ annual charity bowling tournament is next Friday, and I know you probably don’t feel like it, and I really understand that, but you’ve always participated before, and it’s for charity, and you don’t need to be on a team with me or anything, I can make sure I’m on the other side of the bowling alley if you want me to, but it’s for a good cause, and you always liked joining us, and the nuns would really miss you if you weren’t there, and so would I, and like I said it’s for charity, and would you please consider coming?”
Tony blinked as he processed the verbal barrage. This was not what he had expected from their first more personal conversation. He’d honestly forgotten about the annual event with all that had happened, but Abby was right in that he’d always thoroughly enjoyed it, and hey, who could resist bowling nuns? That always made for good stories! He thought quickly.
“Sure!” He said with a smile. “We’re supposed to be off rotation next weekend, so that would work. I can probably get the team to come, and maybe some others? Why don’t you tell the nuns to sign us up for two lanes, and I’ll see who wants to come, and we’ll make two teams. I’ll send you the names as soon as I have them, alright?”
A brilliant smile spread over her anxious face, and his heart clenched a little. She looked like she wanted to rush forward and hug him, but she held herself back. Instead, she hugged herself, nodding happily at him.
“Okay, I’ll tell the nuns! Thank you, Tony!”
Tony smiled at her again, and saw the approving nod from Wilkins behind her as he turned and left.
Once upstairs, he called a campfire and shared Ducky’s findings with his team. They talked it over and decided upon a few more leads to follow up. Before they scattered to do that, Tony cleared his throat.
“Another thing,” he said. “On my way up I stopped by the Lab. They don’t have anything for us yet, but Abby asked me whether we would be attending the nuns’ annual charity bowling tournament.”
They all raised their eyebrows at that. First, because all of them had been waiting for the first time Tony and Abby would have a personal talk; second, because this was not what they expected from that talk; third, Gibbs and McGee because they had completely forgotten about the event, just like Tony; and fourth, because Dash, Bish and Ash were wondering if they’d heard their Boss right. Bowling nuns?
Tony grinned at them.
“Yes, ladies, you heard correctly. There are nuns who bowl. It’s hilarious, but don’t let the habits fool you! They’re fiends in a bowling alley, and as this is for charity, they’ll be bringing their best game!”
He toned it down a little.
“It’s next Friday, so we’ll be off rotation. I told Abby to book us two lanes. You’re under no obligation to come, but Gibbs and I are going.”
Gibbs grinned at Tony having made the decision for him.
“It’s for charity, and it’s always fun, and there’ll be food and drink, and it doesn’t matter if you can bowl or not. I’m thinking if you do want to come, we can easily make two teams. All of us, and then I’m asking Jimmy and Breena, Vance and Jackie and the kids, Brad, Tobias, AJ and Harm, Jack and Daniel. Ducky’ll come, I think, like previous years, but he won’t bowl. He’ll keep score for us.”
They all understood the significance of that list of names. All the people who’d been there for Tony, who’d had his back. Gibbs nodded proudly.
“Count me in, Tony,” McGee said. “You’re right, bowling nuns are always fun!”
“Well, I gotta see that!” Dash replied.
“Me too!” Ash nodded.
“Shall I ask Jake to come too, Tony?” Bish asked, to which she got an immediate approval.
During the rest of the day, Tony went to see Vance to update him and ask him and his family to join the bowling thing, and Vance confirmed later that day after having spoken to his wife. He went back to Autopsy and spoke to Ducky and Jimmy, who also confirmed. He sent messages to his friends, who also confirmed.
At the end of the day, Abby received an e-mail from Tony with the names of those attending, divided into two teams. When she saw her own name listed in the team with Tony and Gibbs, she cried.
Their case heated up even further, and it was all hands on deck for the next few days. Bowling nuns were the furthest thing from all of their minds. But by Thursday, they had the case closed and reports written and filed, and their attention shifted to the following evening.
“Are you going to tell her, Tony?” Dash asked, almost always being the one who brought up the difficult subjects, as was her job as the SFA.
Looking around and seeing they were alone in the bullpen, Tony allowed the personal to mix with the professional this time.
“Not tell her, no. We’ll see what happens. I’m not gonna hide anything this time.”
He and Gibbs had spoken about this.
The next evening, a rested and enthusiastic group joined the others there for the charity event in the bowling alley.
“Wow, you weren’t kidding!” Dash breathed as she watched some of the nuns warming up.
“About what? That bowling nuns are hilarious?”
“No, that they are good!”
They laughed and made their way to the two adjoining lanes that had their teams’ names on them. They were finding their seats and slipping on their bowling shoes when Abby came over and hesitantly approached.
“Hey, Abby,” Tony smiled at her when he saw her. After tying his laces, he stood and gestured around the group.
“I think you remember Dr Brad Pitt? And AJ Chegwidden and Harmon Rabb? And this is SecDef Jack O’Neill and Dr Daniel Jackson. And of course, Bishop’s husband Jake.”
She smiled a little and waved at them in greeting. While there was no hostility from them, they eyed her warily as they greeted her politely.
Before anyone could say or do anything, a nun in full habit and bowling shoes rushed Tony and hugged him tightly. When she pulled back, she patted his cheek and smiled at him.
“You are a good man, Tony DiNozzo.”
“Thanks, Sister Rosita. Let me introduce you…”
The evening was a success, not just for the charity, but for Tony and his team and friends as well. There was teasing and laughter, food and drinks, high fives and deep groans at the results of their throws. Delilah, who’d immediately declared she’d be joining them when McGee told her about the plan that first evening, even tried to throw a few balls, and no one laughed harder than she herself did when she admitted that bowling from her wheelchair was not a success. Instead, she joined Ducky at the score cards.
Though no one was obvious about it, they all knew that they were watching Abby, and Abby was watching them in return. She saw how all these people rallied around Tony, how they loved and cared for him, and she felt so very guilty at what she’d done to him. She used to love him like this too, when had that changed? Every now and then, she’d slip away for a bit to speak to some of the nuns, but they always encouraged her to return. They could see what she was having trouble accepting. While the group focussed on Tony, they were not shutting Abby out. They were including her, letting her get closer, while keeping an eye on Tony.
When Tony threw his third strike in a row to take him into the lead, Abby jumped up cheering with the others, and forgot herself. She rushed over to him and threw her arms around him in a congratulatory hug. He felt her stiffen when she realised what she’d done, and pulled her tighter to him.
“It’s okay, Abbs,” he whispered. “It’ll be okay.”
Several turns later, Gibbs was faced with two opposing pins to pick up a spare.
“Get ‘em, Boss!” Tony cheered, and it was only when Gibbs looked over his shoulder at him with a raised eyebrow that he realised what he’d said. He hadn’t called Gibbs Boss since the incident, and he blushed, but smiled prettily. When Gibbs managed to down both pins, Tony was on his feet and hugging Gibbs. Then the older man pulled back and looked at Tony intently, before leaning in again and softly kissing his lips.
When they returned to their seats, everyone was smiling and cheering, but Abby had tears in her eyes. They sat down next to her.
“You okay?” Gibbs asked her gently.
She nodded wildly, her pigtails flying, then hugged them both tightly. They hugged her back, and Gibbs even gave her a kiss on her forehead.
As they were saying goodbye at the end of the evening, the others gave the three of them space, but lingered to see what would happen.
Tony pulled Abby into another hug.
“I loved you, Abbs,” he whispered quietly. “Right now I like you again.” He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “But make no mistake. I don’t think I’ll ever fully trust you again.”
She nodded in acceptance and held back the tears. Gibbs put one arm around her shoulders when Tony released her, and kissed the top of her head.
“Night, Abbs,” was all he said, and they were gone before she allowed the tears to fall.
“No,” Tony said flatly.
“My response exactly,” Vance confirmed. “What about this?”
Tony eyed the envelope.
For the several months since the incident, Vance had been fielding calls from Eli David. While Leon had not gone into anything regarding what had happened to Tony, it was clear to him Eli knew something of it at least. But rather than focus on that, Eli had been playing up their friendship and the beneficial relationship between Mossad and NCIS, sweeping the fact that his daughter had spied for Mossad easily under the rug. But Leon did not forget lightly.
Then Eli had called again, claiming Ziva had been retrained, and was even planning to become a US citizen, and that her experience would be valuable to NCIS. Vance refused to even entertain the thought that Eli was trying to put into his head. Then Eli had offered other Mossad operatives for the position; surely collaboration would benefit them both? Leon quickly shut down the notion.
And then the letter had come.
From Ziva, apparently.
“No,” Tony said again, and this time he rose and left Vance’s office.
“Never,” Gibbs said, staring after his lover.
“Again, I fully agree,” Leon replied. “Not only is Tony’s team complete and better than ever, but I have no intention of harbouring a Mossad agent at NCIS again, in any function or team. I am curious, though… DiNozzo seems to have forgiven McGee, and even Ms Sciuto. Why not Ziva David?”
Gibbs stared at Vance as though Leon was crazy.
“You have to ask?”
“I have an idea, but spell it out for me, Gibbs. I’d like to hear it directly.”
Gibbs sighed, and got up and made sure the door Tony had closed behind himself when leaving was firmly shut. Then he pulled a decanter of bourbon from Vance’s bar and poured for both of them.
“McGee was stupid,” he eventually said. “But he knew it, and he was quick and honest in his apology. Aside from the hacking and those silly books of his, and his part in what happened to Tony, he didn’t really do anything wrong that he wasn’t being led to, by me or by Ziva, even if you count the Dead Air incident. If you compare that to what I did, not just to Tony but in general, McGee shouldn’t even have been cautioned. Why did you keep me around, really?”
Leon stared at his most senior agent, and saw the honest curiosity on his face. He sighed.
“A combination of things. This is not going to sound fair, but try to take it with grace, Gibbs.”
Gibbs studied him, then nodded.
“You’re old school, Gibbs. And the people who make the decisions know that and can appreciate that. Some of the things you’ve done, they aren’t good, but they were weighed against the things that you can do. Part of it was also that we knew we had little to no chance of keeping DiNozzo if we sent you packing. You do what you have to to get the job done, and that’s not something many agents are capable of. Even DiNozzo would hesitate - and has hesitated - at some of the things you’ve done. You’ve not always been right, but you’ve been right far more often than wrong.”
Jethro sipped his bourbon, and finally nodded.
“Accepted,” he said. “Abby did wrong, and eventually she knew it. But her offence was personal towards Tony, and he always takes the blame for himself, even when there’s absolutely no cause for him to do so. Apart from some of her behaviour, which, again, is partly due to me, her work has been almost exemplary.”
This time, Vance nodded.
“But Ziva,” Gibbs sighed. “Tony could forgive her part the incident, hell, he probably has. He forgave her for that damned dinner party, forgave her for decking him in Israel, aggravating his injuries at the hand of her so called lover. Went to Somalia to avenge her, forgave her for issuing that damn stupid ultimatum of hers, making me choose between them. But he never fully trusted her. You’ve read the file. He knew about her part with Ari. I didn’t tell him, but he knew. Everything she threw at him, personally, he could and would probably forgive. Two things he can’t. Thanks to her profile, Ari shot Cait. And she spied on us for her daddy.”
Silence reigned between them for a long while, until finally Vance nodded again.
“Understood,” he said, and downed the rest of his bourbon.
“Tell DiNozzo - I would have told him this myself if he hadn’t left - that I’m getting pressured on this.”
“SecNav?” Gibbs asked.
Again, Vance nodded, and Gibbs cursed.
“It may be wise to call some of your friends again.”
Gibbs slammed down the remainder of his drink too, and stood.
“Consider it done.”
And then he left.
“Tony,” Gibbs said, standing in front of Tony’s desk fifteen minutes later, after having made several calls. It caused the entire team to look up in worry. Gibbs never called the Boss Tony at work, so this must be bad.
Tony breathed in deeply, and stood.
“Team dinner tonight at seven. I’ve already made the calls.”
“Yes, Boss,” Tony replied, and sat down again, staring blankly at his monitors. Gibbs looked around, catching their eyes, making sure they understood. They did.
That night, they all sat about in Gibbs’ living room, the younger members taking the floor, the others the chairs and other seats that had been brought in. They’d left enough space for Tony and Gibbs to sit together on the couch, which they did.
Gibbs had debated whether or not to tell Tony beforehand, but had decided against it. Tony would only fret and worry in the three hours between then and team dinner, and would work himself up to being the guilty one again. He didn’t want to give Tony the time to do that.
The entire group was waiting for an explanation, while munching on pizza. Other than the team itself, Vance, Ducky, Palmer, Breena, Abby, Tobias, AJ, Harm, Brad, Jack and Daniel were also there, and from seeing the assembled party, they all knew this was going to be bad.
Vance was the one to explain this time, and from the way Tony suddenly sat up halfway through his explanation, they all realised Tony hadn’t known all of this either.
“I’ve been getting calls from Eli David. Claims his daughter is retrained and rehabilitated, and looking to become a US citizen. Wants to rejoin NCIS.”
He waived off the outraged mumbles.
“No way that’s gonna happen. So then, he offers me other Mossad operatives. Not gonna happen either,” Vance said, forestalling their anger.
“And Ziva David sent a personal letter. To Tony.”
He held up the still closed envelope, and Tony’s eyes flashed.
“I know you told me to burn it, but I think someone here should read it, just in case. I’ve been getting pressure from SecNav to allow Mossad in again.”
Tony sat up, but Gibbs held him close.
“I have no intention of doing that, and I’ll go to the President if I have to, but I thought you should all know.”
Jack nodded, already pulling out his phone.
“Wait,” Daniel said, stalling Jack. “I think Leon’s right. Someone should read that letter.”
“Do you trust me, Tony?” AJ asked. Tony nodded. “Hand it over, Vance.”
AJ opened and read the letter, twice. Then he made a decision and handed it over to Harm. Tony mewled in distress. While Harm read, AJ talked to Tony.
“Nothing bad, son. Nothing I believe, either. I think Jack should talk to some of his contacts.”
“I’d like to read that letter for myself. Daniel too.”
Brad was in front of Tony.
“Breathe, Tony. Deep breaths, with me.”
“I’m not an invalid! I’m not helpless, or a baby! Stop coddling me! I’m a badass Federal Agent, and a Team Lead, and I don’t need you all treating me like I’m some innocent little victim! I’m perfectly…”
The head slap hit him in just the right place in the back of his head, and he stilled. Looked at Gibbs.
“Not a baby, sweetheart. Not helpless. Definitely badass. You are not alone. You have friends. We want to help you. Nothing wrong with that.”
“Like you’d know!” Tony scoffed.
“Don’t I let you help me? Don’t I depend on you?”
“Didn’t I ask you to take care of me? Didn’t you think that meant I’d do the same for you?”
Slowly, a deep blush crept up Tony’s face and suddenly he felt deeply embarrassed. He didn’t care so much at showing his own weakness in front of these people, not even McGee and Abby, but his little episode had forced Gibbs to be vulnerable in front of them as well. They did take care of each other, but that was at home. They’d both had their weak moments over the last few months, but they’d handled them together. At work though, even though Gibbs was no longer the boss officially, he was still the badass they all knew and feared. And now, he’d made Jethro admit to needing Tony’s care in front of all these people, some of whom he’d spent years putting the Fear of Gibbs into.
Gibbs’ voice was soft as he pulled Tony’s face up so he could look at his lover.
“Hey. I don’t care. These are our friends. And anyone with half a brain would know that you are much more fearsome than me.”
Tony stared at him in wonder. Gibbs smiled.
“I’m a blunt instrument, Tony. You’re sneaky.”
“I’m sorry,” Tony whispered finally.
“For what?” Gibbs asked. “Because if it’s for me saying I need you and you take care of me, then you can shove your apology. If it’s for you having a little freakout over the fact that Mossad and apparently SecNav are still trying to ruin your life, all that you’ve accomplished and deserve, again, shove it. So what are you sorry for?”
“I… I don’t… I don’t really know,” Tony said, a small smile forming on his lips.
“Good. That’s my boy,” Gibbs replied, and briefly kissed his lips.
Tony took a few more moments to settle back into himself, smiled at Brad apologetically, and turned back to his friends.
“Okay, can we just forget about the last few minutes?”
“Forget what?” Jack asked, and although he sounded and looked completely serious, most of them knew him enough to realise he was laughing on the inside. “I didn’t see or hear anything. I was reading. And as Daniel is fond of telling anyone who will listen, I don’t multitask.”
The others smiled and nodded, holding up their drinks and pizza to show that they too had been busy and hadn’t noticed anything. Daniel smiled fondly at Jack, grateful that his lover still had the knack of diffusing tension with his own brand of humour. Then he turned back to Tony, folding the letter.
“This is not something you need to read, Tony, but I’d advise to hand it over to AJ for safekeeping.”
Tony nodded, and Daniel passed the letter back to AJ, who carefully tucked it away.
“Leon,” Gibbs asked, “any idea why SecNav is pushing this?”
“I’d like to know the same thing myself,” Jack added. “What’s his connection with Mossad?”
“I have no idea,” Vance shrugged helplessly.
“Maybe Eli reached out to SecNav?” McGee offered quietly.
That got everyone’s attention on him, and he swallowed under their scrutiny.
“What makes you say that, Timmy?” Tony asked, and again McGee couldn’t help but feel pride when he realised on hearing his first name how far Tony was letting him back in.
“I… Never mind, it’s stupid…”
“Tell us, Timothy,” Ducky urged, and several others nodded.
McGee swallowed again.
“Well, I… I just thought… well… Tony, when Jarvis was first appointed as SecNav, he had you on that undercover op regarding EJ and Cade. And when that went bad, well, he didn’t really seem to care. And I remember thinking at the time that here was another person using you undercover who didn’t really care if you made it out alive. You know, after the thing with the Frog and Director Shepard?”
They all stared at him in surprise.
“Tony…” McGee said quietly, looking at his Boss, “I may have been a stupid asshat to you, but I never wanted you to get hurt or be in danger.”
Tony held McGee’s eyes, his own subtly misting a little with emotion.
“It’s like… It was like it was with Cait. The two of you would gang up on me and rib me without mercy, but if anyone else even so much as looked at me funny, there were both of you, standing in front of me, ready to beat them down.”
This time, Tony managed a smile at the mention of Cait, and the good memories of that period. He nodded his agreement.
“And it was like… I could be horrible to you, and was horrible to you, but nobody else was allowed to hurt you.”
He shook his head to get back to the present.
“So, I just had this thought. Jarvis, he’s not your friend, he, well… he honestly couldn’t care less if he got rid of you. Maybe he even wanted that to be the outcome for some reason? And now, Eli wants Mossad back in with NCIS, and not just all of us, but on your team specifically. And Ziva… Ziva’s gotta be pissed at you. Sorry,” he said as he saw several frowns, “I’m not saying she’s got a right to be, not at all! But I’ve done a lot of thinking and reevaluating things and we both know Ziva will have been blaming you for being dismissed and sent back to Israel. So maybe she got her daddy’s ear again, and daddy’s looking for revenge for her.”
“Getting in touch with SecNav, who Eli would know would have no problem with DiNozzo being gone, in whatever way, and thus getting an in with NCIS for Mossad again and possibly arranging for a permanent removal of DiNozzo at their hands to get this vengeance for his daughter?” Vance asked.
“It’s a possibility,” Jack said. “And we’ll be looking into that.” He looked at Daniel. “Get Paul Davis on it? He’s got the contacts, diplomacy and charm to find out something like that.” Daniel nodded. “But meanwhile, I’d like to remove the pressure immediately. I’ve never liked Jarvis, and nothing I’ve heard and seen of him so far has done anything to change that. I’ll have him replaced.”
Yes, most of them knew Jack was a very powerful and dangerous man, and yes, all of them knew his reputation of having his fingers in oh so many powerful pies, but his quiet declaration that he would have SecNav replaced immediately shocked even them. None of them knew exactly what Jack was involved in to have that kind of power, and the ear of the President.
Unconcerned, Jack turned to Daniel again.
“I’d recommend Sam, but she’s too happy in her current posting. Besides, I don’t think even I could get the President to appoint an Air Force commander as the new Secretary of the bloody Navy. What do you think of Sarah Porter, Danny? She’s been Sam’s friend for a long time, and you’ve met her.”
Daniel thought for a moment, those of them knowing him well realising he was going over everything he knew about Sarah Porter in his head.
“I think she’d be a good choice. She’s a civilian, but hey, civilians do pretty well running military operations sometimes.”
He smiled at Jack, and they knew there was more to that statement than they understood. But they also knew better than to pry.
“Is Sam… here?” Jack asked. Daniel nodded again. “I’ll give her a call.”
And Jack excused himself to another room to make some calls.
Two days later, the President announced the removal of Clayton Jarvis and the appointment of Sarah Porter as the Secretary of the Navy. Only a week later, during dinner at Gibbs’ house, Jack O’Neill said casually that the Mossad situation had been resolved. He didn’t give any details, but neither Eli nor Ziva David were ever heard from again.
After everything that had happened, Tony and his team were glad to just get back to normal cases. Murder, theft, rape and fraud were much more to their liking than terrorism plots and unexplained disappearances, you know, in as far as one could claim to like such things.
“Jethro…” Tony whispered into the other man’s ear.
Gibbs grunted, not amused at having been woken up. Then he registered his surroundings and position. Gibbs was on his stomach, Tony was straddled on the back of his thighs, and from how he was feeling, Tony had been rubbing his back with oil covered hands for a while now. He felt loose and compliant, and shifted his hips up as much as he could under Tony’s weight to get him to continue. Tony laughed, and resumed his massage.
Though it felt heavenly, Gibbs was waiting for Tony’s hands to stray further down. Tony was always a horny guy, and, despite his age, with Tony in the mix Gibbs wasn’t much better.
“Not this time, babe,” Tony whispered again, leaning close to Jethro’s ear. “Later, okay? Right now, I’m taking care of you.”
Melting into the mattress, Gibbs groaned in approval. As much as he loved and revelled in the sex, Tony taking care of him was even better.
“Yes, Boss,” he whispered back. “Happy anniversary, Tony.”