Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 257

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 257: Tony's Bad Day

Tony was not having a good day.

Okay, honestly, he hadn’t been having a good month. Three weeks technically. Since Draga showed up, and McGee left. But today should have been a good day. It should have been a great day. Long weekend, not on call, cook out at Gibbs’, should have been great.

Last night had been great. Okay, didn’t start great, he’s been trying to figure this whole Draga thing out, and it’s stressful, so he’s been stressed by it. They’d been talking about where Draga’d be in the family, how much access he’d get, and talking about it was making him tense, because Draga’s not family, and he’s already overstepping his lines, but they don’t want to shut him out, but bringing him in even closer isn’t going to help teach him what the lines are.

First time he’s been Boss in almost a decade and it’s already going badly.

And he’s not sure how to fix it.

So, yeah, stressed. For three weeks.

But after everyone went home, Ziva’d offered to help him relax, and that was excellent. He was awfully relaxed by the time they’d finished with that. He was so relaxed he couldn’t have named his problems, let alone worry about them.

So, sleeping the sleep of the very relaxed and extremely satisfied.

And then it was morning. The morning of what should have been a fine and bright day, and fine and bright days end to start a certain way, but…

But then the thing happened.

Or more precisely it didn’t happen.

And it’s never not happened before.


And okay, yeah, it’d been less than twelve hours since the time before. And yeah, he’s forty-eight. And he has been stressed. But, that’s never happened before. That’s something that happens to other guys. Old guys. Usually, he’s awfully reliable in the morning, (cause, sure, that’s never happened before, but he has noticed that things are slower than they used to be) and, God, making it worse, she’d taken care of him, and he was planning on returning the favor with great vigor and enthusiasm, and he did, but part of returning the favor didn’t happen, and she had to notice, even if she didn’t say anything.

So, he wasn’t exactly dancing about with a spring in his step and joy in his heart that morning.

But, okay, it happens. Eventually. To every guy. At least that’s what they say. So get over it. Party to go to. Delicious food to eat. Fun to be had. Maybe by the end of the night Little DiNozzo would be showing signs of life again, and all would be well with the world.

And they got to Gibbs place, and it was going pretty smooth. They were having fun. Tossing around the Frisbee, showing off the fireworks he’d gotten for later, (As residents of Maryland, they can get legal fireworks, and as cops they had no problem getting them back across the state line to where Gibbs lives in Virginia.) just happily chilling out with his family on the Fourth.


Leon and his family shows up, and okay, that makes things a little less relaxed, but still good. He might be the Boss but that gets put on the back burner at parties. At least, Leon’s always been good about not making everyone toe the line when he’s a guest at Gibbs’ place. But Tony’s not perfectly comfortable with his full goofing-off self when Vance is around. He can’t fully relax and be fun and silly the way he likes to be.

But Jared’s just shooting up. Kid’s got to be fourteen now and at least six feet tall, and even better, he’s a rabid basketball fan and player. He had a Wizards t-shirt on, so they got talking. Jared’s looking at trying to play for college (has Duke in mind) so Tony was happy to talk about that. After all, if there’s anything he knows a whole lot about, it’s a good long college ball career.

Senior and Delphine showed up a few minutes later, so he spent some time chatting with his dad. That went well. Though he’s confused as to why Senior’s in DC right now, chasing some vague business deal, something to do with contracts for the ACA, but usually his dad handles real-estate-type deals, and he’s got no idea how that would work into the ACA.

Though maybe he was just looking for an excuse to get together.

Jimmy and Breena and Molly were there a few minutes later, and schmoozing the girls always makes Senior happy, and Molly certainly seems to enjoy the attention, so that worked out. (Until Ducky and Penny got there about ten minutes later, and Molly decided she wanted her Duck, toddling off to him as fast as her little legs could get her there, shrieking ‘Duck-eeeee!’)

Then Draga got there. And Flyboy’s just been looking for an excuse to show off. What sort of single guy brings a cake to a pot luck? A homemade cake. A nicely decorated homemade cake. Single guys bring drinks, chips, and maybe, if they’re feeling really frisky pre-made vegetable trays to pot lucks. They do not stand in a circle of the ladies explaining how they like to bake and swapping recipes.

They sure as hell don’t do it looking like… like one of the extras from Top Gun, one of the extras about to shoot the volleyball scene, while they do it.

Fornell’s standing next to him, shaking his head, elbows Gibbs and says, “Where do you keep finding these guys? Palmer was a bridesmaid, McGee’ll show up in a skirt, and this one bakes?”

“Test pilot for the Navy, Tobias. Flew experimental planes at six times the speed of sound. Off an aircraft carrier. At night.”

“Fine.” Fornell shakes his head, and Tony sighs, nodding, exactly on the same page with him. “How’s he working out?”

Tony was about to answer that, but Gibbs shook his head a little and said, “He’s settling in.”

Tobias caught that shake and looked between the two of them curiously.

So, instead of blowing off some steam Tony just nodded and said, “He’ll do.”

Fornell looked at the two of them, caught something in Gibbs’ look and decided he needed to go check on Emily and see what she and Wendy were up to.

“Not outside the family, Tony,” Gibbs said quietly. “Fornell’ll likely work with him a time or two before he retires. Don’t poison the well.”

“Fine.” He picked the Frisbee back up. “Toss it around?”

“Gotta get the meat on. Grill’s hot enough for it. Bet Jimmy and Jared’d be up for it.”

And they were, and that was fun. Tossing around the Frisbee with the guys, while the girls laid around on the porch, chatting with each other, occasionally making appreciative comments or whistling when he or Jimmy made a good catch, that’s always good.

The backyard was filling with the scent of very yummy grilled things.

All was well.

Then Draga got free of Penny. (Who knows what they were talking about, but he, Penny, and Ducky seemed to be having a lovely chat.) And he came over to join the toss. Kayla winged the Fribsee right at him, and he was in the game, laughing with them.

Frisbee break
It’s not even that Draga’s a bad guy or anything. No, he’s too damn smart to be a bad guy. He never does anything over the line. He’s always helpful. Shows up early. Stays late. Kind of like McGee back in the day. But unlike McGee, he doesn’t know his place and won’t stay in it.

Speaking of McGee, he shows up, and…

And Draga’s not stupid. He’s been looking for a chance to show off for Ziva for weeks now, and McGullible fell for it. Like anyone besides Abby gives a shit about his tattoos? No, Flyboy just wanted a chance to show his own skin off.

And Ziva twisted the knife deeper, staring at him, eyes dragging all over his skin, just about oohing at him, and Tony just wanted to smack the living shit out of Draga.

Warrior culture, woad, (what the hell is woad?) tribal marks, sacred honor of trust among warriors, blending the power of sea and sky and the eagle into his skin. Bullshit. Ziva’s lapping it up, but he knows it’s crap. Draga’s just laying it on with a trowel trying to impress her. Probably told that line to a million girls in every port the Navy’s ever landed at.

And it’s working. She’s impressed. He knows what Ziva looks like when she’s watching a guy she likes, and she’s liking what she sees.

Then, to make matters even worse an hour later the wonder twins are laughing at him over it, saying he’s flipping out because Draga’s younger and hotter and fuck, okay, that’s not wrong, but it’s not right, either. He’s worked with younger, hotter guys, that’s not a problem, no it’s the fact that Draga’s trying to fuck his wife, that’s the problem. But they’re just chuckling away ‘cause he’s not hitting on their wives, so it’s all a fucking laugh riot to them.

And Gibbs, who is supposed to understand this, who’s supposed to be in his corner, just lays down even more crap, and it is not his fault that Gibbs didn’t once mention his wife was named Stephanie, and look, you start dating a new woman while you’re still married to the old one, and you’re dumb enough to get caught doing it, she is going to get pissed, and she is going to do something about it, and if that means picking up your new hire in front of you, well… you fucking deserve it, asshole.

That was good.
The No Shame story helped, and he thinks Gibbs knew it would, that’s why he told it. And being the only guy to notice Abby was listening in was good, so he was starting to perk up. Ziva on his lap being all warm and soft was nice. And maybe there are a few stories he wouldn’t mind telling her later that night.

So that was good.

Firecrackers, sparklers, dessert, (And damn it, yes, Flyboy’s cake is good. It’s really good. It’s some sort of white chocolate, pistachio, raspberry mousse thing, and it’s delicious, and yes, he had seconds, or he was going to until he remembered Palmer’s comment about losing some weight, and damn it if he isn’t getting soft around the middle. So he gave Ziva the piece of cake, making it look like he’d grabbed it for her.) and more stories were good. He was starting to feel pretty relaxed and mellow again.

He was relaxing on one of the wooden porch chairs, Ziva on his lap, beer in hand, watching the kids blow stuff up, all was good. Vance and Gibbs get talking about past military adventures. Then Draga adds a few of his own. Ziva starts to talk about her time in the IDF. Fornell has stories from his time in the Army during Viet Nam. Ducky’s talking about his time in the Medical Corp. Even his dad has a few stories about Korea, which got him and Ducky talking about it, because they’d both been there.

So, he’s on the porch, the only adult (well, male adult, somehow, the wonder twins have vanished) with no military stories to tell. Then Delphine got into it, with stories of how she used to help sneak people out of the USSR. (Of course she did.) And Penny used to design cutting edge weapons for the military while being married to an Admiral, and when Draga got talking about night landings on aircraft carriers, she got asking about it, and turns out Admiral McGee (Nelson, not John) actually was one of the guys who designed the damn things in the first place (and she was the person he showed the designs to first, get a second set of eyes to look and see if it was worth sending up the line), and Senior had been in the Air Force during Korea, so they’re all talking daring do with planes and battles and crap, then Gibbs starts adding in some of his Dad’s stories, and he’s sitting there like Breena and Abby with nothing to say because, something like, ‘This one time, I was in Afghanistan, and I was close enough I could hear the battle’ just doesn’t cut it.

He’s a cop. He’s saved lives. He’s been in gun battles. He should not be feeling inadequate because he hasn’t gone off to war.

But he is.

And maybe it’s not just about not having served. It’s that he’s the only one. (Even though he’s not. Where the hell are McGee and Palmer?)

And it’s that Ziva’s sitting in his lap, idly stroking his shoulder, staring at Draga, looking at him with respect. And fuck. That’s worse than lust.

Because that’s the kind of respect that took him years to earn from her.

The kind of respect he had to go to Somalia to get.

Wrap the party up with the wonder twins finally coming back, and finally he’s not the only guy in the group who didn’t enlist. But, that’s a badge of pride for McGee. So he’s not bothered about not having anything to add to story time. He’s happy as a clam to sit there with Abby, snuggling her, keeping an eye on the baby monitor. Laughing at the funny stories, and acting impressed at the dangerous ones, asking good questions to keep the stories going.

And Jimmy made a few sharp remarks in his direction, and glared twice, but wouldn’t say what was up when he got him alone. “Nothing you can do anything about.” What the hell does that mean? And if he can’t do anything about it, why is Jimmy glaring at him? He was fine before they vanished, and now he’s pissed. What, do those two talk about him behind his back?

An hour later he got McGee on his own, and asked what the hell was wrong with Palmer, and he said, “Jeanne.”

He couldn’t believe he’d heard that right. “Jeanne? Benoit?”


“What?” Of all the myriad things that could be wrong with Jimmy, a decade old case he hadn’t even been part of was ridiculous.

“Long story.”

“Why are you telling stories about Jeanne?”

McGee shrugs a little, which is completely useless. “That’s a long story, too.”

“Well, why would he be glaring at me about that? It’s been a decade.”

Tim’s staring at him like he’s a moron for not putting it together, but he’s not seeing it, at all. And then he did. Jimmy was Jeanne. “Fuck.” Someone played Jimmy, tried to get him to love her so she could get access to what she needed. He figured out something was off and broke it off, but it still had to hurt when he learned what was up.

“He say anything to you?” McGee asked.

“Just that I couldn’t do anything about it.”

“Well, you can’t.” Yeah, that’s useful McHelpful.

“It’s not like her dad was selling candy. He was a bad guy.”

“I mentioned that. Jimmy mentioned there were ways to get him that didn’t involve screwing his daughter, literally and metaphorically.”


“Talk to him about it. Not tonight, it’s getting late, but, eventually.”

“Great.” Jeanne might not be his least favorite topic, but she was up there. Every cop who’s been in it for more than a year has a case he regrets. One that was screwed from top to bottom and makes it hard to look in the mirror.

Jeanne was that case for him.

So, yeah, he was not in anything even remotely approaching a good mood when the party wrapped.

And picking the fight with Ziva was stupid, and he knew it while he was doing it, but she was talking about Draga, smiling about something he’d said, talking about how nice he’d been, and he just flipped out and started ranting about it.

“Nice? You think he’s being nice. Here’s a hint. This is what he’s actually saying to you: Look at how young and hot and dangerous I am. Look at my tattoo, Ziva! It’s huge and blue and commemorates how I used to fly experimental planes for the Navy and kill people in interesting ways, just like you did. Oh, you like motorcycles, I like motorcycles. Fast cars, I love fast cars, did you know I used to drag race? What, you don’t know what drag racing is? Oh honey, let me tell you this complicated story about me driving in the streets at 150 miles an hour with nitrous oxide boosted car I built myself. You love driving fast? One day I’ll  have to show you my really fast car. You can drive it, too! Then we’ll have sex, maybe while driving it! Check out my muscles, and the muscles on top of those muscles, and here, let’s talk some more about how I’ve got the biggest dick you’ve ever imagined seeing, and I can’t wait to show it to you. Bet your hubby’s looking awfully limp and soft and boring and old compared to me, right? God, he’s so dumb, he’s just letting me do this. I don’t think he’s even noticed. So, wanna hear more about how awesome I am? My shirt’s already off, let me get my pants too, look at how cut I am! And maybe after that you'll suck me.”

“Are you done?”

“Not really.”

Ziva just looked at him, shook her head, and then shut the door to their bedroom behind her, very clearly signaling that whatever the hell game he was playing, she wasn’t interested.

So, he got back in the car and drove around, eventually finding himself at Gibbs’ place, and sure, Gibbs isn’t exactly his favorite person right this second, but he’ll be awake and he won’t ask questions, so, he parked and in he went.

He’d actually gotten two steps down into the basement before it hit him the lights were off, which meant, for the first time ever, he’d managed to show up when Gibbs was actually sleeping.

Since when does Gibbs sleep?  Gibbs doesn’t sleep. Gibbs lives on coffee, bourbon, and cases.

Except he doesn’t now, because he’s changed.

Because everything is changing.

And really, when it comes down to it, that’s the problem.

Tony doesn’t like change. Granted that can be pretty hard to tell since most of the time he’s standing next to McSameThingHappensEveryDay and Leroy Jethro Wouldn’t Know A Change If It Walked Up And Bit Him In The Ass And Took His Leg Clean Off Gibbs. Compared to them he’s an exciting cauldron of happily bubbling opportunities and change.

You know, in that he hasn’t had the same breakfast order for the last ten years. (Okay, two, technically for McDiet. He’s switched twice and is back on his skinny breakfast.) But still, not like he’s been getting the same meal at the same diner at the same time on the same day every day since God spoke and diners were invented.

He wanders over to Gibbs’ sofa and lies down.

Nine years, ten in September, since he turned down Rota, hoping for his own team, but it had to be HIS team. Not some random collection of strangers.

And he’s here again, but it’s not HIS team.

He knew Gibbs would have to go for him to move up. That’s just the way it works. Can’t be the leader if the old leader’s still there.

But Tim wasn’t supposed to go. And Abby wasn’t supposed to just vanish. And sure, there would have to be a new guy, but the new guy wasn’t supposed to give him any crap. The new guy was supposed to do his job and realize that he was the Boss, damn it!

“Can’t give me better people.” He’d said that to Borin, and he meant it. But his people are leaving.

Because everything changes.

Okay, it was stupid to expect Tim to be his right hand man forever. He got eleven years. That’s a hell of a lot longer than most partners last.

But it’s not stupid to expect some sympathy about this. It’s not stupid to be annoyed at him and Jimmy cackling away, completely missing what’s going on, because neither of them are part of the day in day out of this right now.

Sure, they’re going to be doing something like this, sooner or later. Tim’s already moving in, silently killing Jenner without Jenner having a clue. (It never occurred to Tony that Tim might actually have political instincts. Their team, because Gibbs is in charge, has always tried to avoid the politics. Can’t avoid it entirely, but they try to stay out of it. But in one move he watched McGee cut Jenner off at the knees, and Jenner still doesn’t know his feet are no longer attached.)

Ducky and Penny sound like they’re making the kinds of plans that require more off time than you get at NCIS or American, so, yeah, Palmer’ll be stepping up soon, too. So, sure, they’re going to be doing this, too, taking over, developing their own teams.

But they’re not doing this. They aren’t balancing their wife with their underlings and dealing with some kid who thinks he knows everything there is to know.

No, they aren’t going to get cocky little bastards who used to fly experimental planes and manage to work in how dangerous their last job was into at least one conversation a day, with their wives. McGeek’s gonna get twelve little McGeeklets, who may, if they get really frisky, flash him a snide smile while defraging his computer. And Jimmy’ll have one guy, who he’ll hand pick for this. And knowing Jimmy, it’ll be another Ducky wannabe, some quiet, timid guy who’ll stay down there listening to the blather while making sure the pipettes are sterilized.

They’re not going to deal with asshole adrenaline junkies who couldn’t define the word fear if held at gunpoint.

They’re not going to have to manage guys who look at them like they’re bleeding twerps who don’t have enough brains to do a crossword, let alone solve a crime or handle anything particularly difficult. (And worse, they aren’t going to deal with guys who see every fucking detail and make them feel like ancient idiots because they can’t memorize the entire layout of a crime scene with all the details in one glance. Who the fuck is this guy, Sherlock Holmes?)

They’re not going to be sandwiched between a Boss and an underling, with no real place in the team because the slot up hasn’t opened yet, and the slot down doesn’t know it’s down and just


Part of the problem is, he knows he fucked it up the first time.

Part of the reason he didn’t take Rota, beyond wanting HIS team.

Handling McGee was easy. He was so thrilled to finally be a Senior Agent that he gave Tony no trouble, and hell Lee couldn’t have picked trouble out of a line up.  (Well, okay, she could, but they didn’t know that then, and she was awfully meek sitting in McGee’s desk carefully nibbling carrot sticks and making sure every scrap of paperwork was perfect.)

Managing Ziva… Because like Draga, Ziva didn’t just roll over and take his orders. She always had to challenge him. Had to make sure that he knew she was better, stronger than he was.

So he found a way to cope. To even the playing field. A technique that played to his strengths.

It was stupid. It was massively stupid. And he’s not sure if she was using him or if he was using her, or if they both used each other, but a campfire turned into movie night. (Because none of the three of them had seen the movie he was using as a reference to help make the case make sense. So he got McGee to put it up on MTAC that night. McGee and Lee watched and went home. Ziva spent an hour talking to him about it, and by the end of that they had a date for another movie.) Movie night turned into movies and beer night, and movies and beer night turned into drunk kissing night, and drunk kissing night turned into this isn’t a big deal, happens all the time in Israel, helps build trust and teamwork, and he’d almost backed out but she said, “Your team, Tony, your rules.”

And it was his team, and Gibbs wasn’t there, and…

And his team, his Ziva, was in trouble, and it was his job as the leader to save it, and instead of turning to him, instead of knowing that the team came first, she went to Gibbs.

And Gibbs looked at him, and basically told him to his face that not only had he fucked up, but that he knew how he’d fucked up. Called him McGee, and said that he wouldn’t have messed it up, like that. On the fucking case for two damn seconds and he knew.

And then Gibbs was back. And the last thing she said to him about it was, “His team, Tony, his rules.”

So, he took the assignment with Jeanne, and purposely let Ziva wonder and worry. Let them all wonder. And God that was a clusterfuck.

And they never talked about it, or Jeanne, or Somalia, or Paris, again. Not until the night after they killed Bodnar, and he was aimlessly wandering DC, looking for something, and something was her place, and they sat on her floor and just talked. No walls, no bullshit, no… them… covered in head to toe emotional armor. They let it go and just talked.

And things changed, for the better that time.

And they’re changing again.

There are things about himself that Tony hates to admit, though he knows they’re true.

He’s deeply insecure.

He’d rather follow than lead.

He hates change.

He’s terrified of failing.

And it’s easier to be angry and lash out than to deal with any of the above four.

And Draga’s really not a bad guy, and he’s not doing anything over the line, and neither is Ziva, but he can be pissed about it, or he can try to deal with the fact that isn’t easy, and on top of difficult it’s terrifying.

So he’ll be angry and try to keep his head above water, and hopefully figure out how to run Draga before the whole thing falls apart.

Gibbs was halfway down his steps when he heard snoring. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head a little. Someone got into his house, onto his sofa, and is sleeping on it, and managed to do that without waking him up. Time to get his hearing checked.

He waits for a few seconds, listening, and decides he knows that snore.


He turns around and heads back up to his room to get his phone. It’s a bit after nine, which is a very late morning for him, but he’s sure Ziva’s up by now. So he flashes her a text.

Got your man on my sofa. Everything okay?

Two minutes later, and he thinks it was that late because she was deciding how to respond, not that she didn’t get the text he got back, Well enough. Sleeping?


He can come home when he’s done sulking.

What’s going on?

I don’t really know.

This is not, by a long stretch, the first time Gibbs has found a sleeping Tony on his sofa.

It is the first time it’s happened since he started dating Ziva.

But they’ve got a routine for this. And Gibbs knows his role.

So, down to the kitchen. He’s not being especially quiet, but he not going out of his way to wake up Tony, either. He gets the coffee going and knows Tony’ll be up by the time it’s ready.

Back to the front porch, grab his newspaper (he’s noticed he’s the only guy on the street that still gets one) and back to the kitchen to see what’s going on in the world. (Not all that much.)

Tony stirred, seemed to notice Gibbs, and turned to face the back of the sofa, settling in for a few more minutes.

The coffee started to perk, and the scent of it began to wander through the house. Gibbs had his first cup, and began putting together breakfast. Nothing fancy, just eggs, but as the sound of them hitting the hot skillet filled his kitchen, he also heard the sound of Tony getting up, and then pouring himself a cup.

Gibbs stirred the eggs in the pan. He’s feeding Tony, so he’s scrambling them.

“One to ten. How stupid was the fight?”

“Am I judging based on fights with Ziva, or my own personal history of stupid?”

“Doesn’t matter.”


Gibbs turned from the pan and stared at Tony. “They’re partners. They have to have this. They need to get along. They have to trust and respect each other. They need the in jokes. They need that space between them that you can’t be part of. You’re the Boss, not the buddy, so you can’t be part of it.”

“I know. But…”


But I’m better at being the buddy. I know how to be the buddy. “It was supposed to be Tim.”

Gibbs shrugged.

“It was supposed to be a guy I trusted. It was supposed to be someone safe. And it was supposed to be someone Ziva didn’t look at…”

“Supposed to be someone she wasn’t attracted to.”

“Yeah. Tim, Ziva, one other, hopefully a woman. Or a newbie for Tim to latch onto. Let him have the Probie.”

“And the Probie was supposed to be a geek.”

“At least right now.”

Gibbs shook his head, and dumped some eggs onto Tony’s plate. “Like I said, sucks when some new, young guy shows up, thinks he’s hot shit, knows everything there is to know, and hits on your wife.”

He’s flashing Gibbs the you’re pissing me the hell off look. “I did not know she was your wife.”

“And you didn’t have to work with her, either. I get it. But you were the young, hot shit punk who thought you knew everything there was to know and that I was a dinosaur you were going to show some tricks to.”

“I did not.”

“Please. At least Draga knows he’s not God’s gift to investigating. I had to break twelve years of bad habits from you.”

“I was a good cop.”

“No, you had the makings of a good cop. Wouldn’t have hired you if you didn’t. But you weren’t when you started with me. You’d been coasting in a sewer of lousy to okay cops and had never actually seen what a really good one looked like until you signed on with NCIS. Now, you’re a good cop. You’re a great cop. You are going to be a good leader, too.  You picked a challenge to start with. And any guy with any spine is going to fight the guy on top.”

“He’s not fighting you.”

“He’s not stupid. He knows I’m on my way out.”

“McGee never fought.”

“He did. Took me four years to figure out he was doing it.”


“I barely know how to turn the damn computer on. You can send email, and that’s it. You think he’s spending five minutes explaining what’s going on, in font of other people, like Abby or Vance or Borin, because we needed to know? No. He’s making us shut him down and admit he’s the brains.”


“They all do it. Even Jimmy’s playing off Ducky now.”


“Draga’s going to be the better cop. Aubrey was going to be the easier teammate. We’re the best team. You picked the better man. It was the right decision. Managing him’s the new challenge. But eventually, we will hit a case where you will pull out the stops and save his ass, and he will see you. Just like you finally really saw Tim after we got Ziva back. Just like Kelso case.”

“Long time ago.” That was the first case where he got to see that Jethro wasn’t just phoning it in, killing time between bottles of bourbon by showing up at work.


“I didn’t think you were a dinosaur.”

Gibbs smirks at that. “You thought I had to be some sort of massive burn out to be my age and working as a Navy Cop.”

“Jethro, you were.”

That got a head tilt, acknowledging that. “Might have been. Still a good cop.”

“Yeah.” Tony took a bite of his eggs. “What the hell am I going to do with him? Yeah, he’s getting along with Ziva great, but he still thinks I’m a fool.”

“Don’t be the fool. Class clown only works when there’s a teacher to play off of. The buddy only works when there’s a Boss breathing down your neck.”

“I don’t want to be you.”

“You don’t have to be, and it wouldn’t work if you tried.”

They both ate quietly. Gibbs knows where this needs to go, but he also knows he can’t make the suggestion, Tony’s got to get here on his own.

He’d finished his eggs, still not saying anything, and was standing up to get another refill on the coffee.


The tilt of his head told Tony to keep talking.

“I can’t be the Boss if you’re still the Boss.”

Jethro nods at that.

“I’m not the Leader if every big decision has to go through you.”

He nods at that, too, leaning against the counter in his kitchen, sipping his coffee.

A very long minute passes and he can see Tony thinking about it, getting ready to commit to what has to logically come after that.

“Jethro, I want you to step down as Team Leader.”

Gibbs nods, and smiles a little. “Not calling you Boss.”

“You don’t have to. That’s going out with you. Ziva’ll break me if I even suggest it, and McGee won’t do it, at least, not without a ton of sarcasm.”

Gibbs nods at that. “Until Tim gets back, I’ll work more on breaking in Draga. Can’t and shouldn’t keep him away from Ziva, but if half of the time I’m with him, that’ll be fine. Tim’ll be back week after next, get him into the mix. Draga’s doin’ okay on the computers but he’s not smooth, yet.”


And there was the biggest change of all. Leroy Jethro Gibbs had given his last order as the Boss of Team Gibbs.

Tony exhaled low and slow, simultaneously terrified and excited at the prospect of Team DiNozzo.


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