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Title: In The Crosshairs
Summary: Gibbs is killed, devastating the team.
They were at the hospital to interview a witness when it happened. One second, Tony was yawning as Kate questioned the young Lieutenant and planning out his weekend, and the next, gunshots and screams rang out down the hall. He instinctively drew his own gun and, crouching low, ran closer. Peering around the corner, he flinched on seeing Gibbs on the floor, bleeding black blood from the left shoulder, the other agent's gun a few feet away. The world went dark on him, tunnel-vision focused solely on Gibbs for all of three seconds.
A scream brought him out of it and Tony's gaze lifted from Gibbs to find a nurse being held hostage as the gunman dragged her towards a door.
Beside him, gun up and aimed at the perp, Kate hissed, "I can take him."
Shaking off the paralysis, Tony shook his head. "You could hit the woman. I can see the black and whites outside, let me distract him. Cover me."
She gave him a disbelieving look, but nodded.
Grateful for his physical advantage, Tony kept his gun low as he stepped out, calling, "It's no good, man, you've got to let her go, okay?"
"She wouldn't give me my fuckin' meds, man! They're out to fuckin' get me!" the man screamed, eyes wide and wild.
Just perfect, a crazy junkie, Tony thought with a mental groan. But he could see the cops coming in the doors down the hall and knew he had to keep the man distracted. "It's going to be okay, I promise. I'll make sure that she gives you the meds you need, all right? I can do that, I'm a federal agent."
The gun in the perp's hand shook as he thought about Tony's words. "You're lying!"
"I'm not, I promise," Tony exclaimed, stepping forward a few steps. "I'll get you whatever it is that you need. That's totally something I can do. All you need to do, is let her go, okay? Just let her go and drop the gun so I can get you out of this."
Something like calm entered the man's eyes and Tony knew he was dead as the gun was aimed over the woman's shoulder at him. Gunshots exploded, but Tony felt no impact or pain. A glazed look came over the perp's face and he crumpled to the floor, apparently dead.
Without waiting, Tony spun and practically leaped towards Gibbs. His gun was automatically holstered as he shouted, "Agent down! I need a doctor here asap!" and instantly put pressure on the wound with his bare hands.
Kate was again beside him and he heard her calling for help, but his attention was completely on Gibbs. Pained blue eyes fluttered open and Gibbs looked up at him, confused.
"Tony? What happened?"
The words were almost too faint to make out, but Tony heard them. He leaned in and answered, "You were shot, Boss. I think you were trying to save a nurse from some junkie, but I wasn't here."
"It's freezing in here," Gibbs murmured, licking at his lips. "Can't you turn up the heat?"
Tony's breath hitched in his throat and he put even more pressure on the blood that wouldn't stop flowing through his fingers, staining him to the soul. "No, God damn it, Gibbs, you're not fucking dying on me! Don't you dare!"
Gibbs' eyes blinked open again at that and he smiled; an open, warm, and loving smile that hit Tony right in the gut. It made the years fade from the other man, the loss of cynicism and the shields that were normally in place. Licking his lips again, Gibbs said softly, "Should've told you before, Tony, sorry about that. Should've said...something...before now...when it's too late."
Tears closed Tony's throat and he shook his head, wordless, denying what he knew to be true.
"Yeah, yeah it is," Gibbs continued, coughing weakly. "Love you, Tony, with everything...I have. Sorry about this. I can't stay."
"No, please Gibbs, Jethro, don't, don't leave me," Tony begged, squeezing the wound and vaguely wondering why there weren't any doctors there yet when they were in the middle of a hospital. "I love you too, don't go, please!"
And then the doctors were there, pushing him out of the way and taking over with efficient hands and rapid-fire words. Strong hands, delicate ones for all their strength, pulled Tony to his feet and held tight to him when he tried to get close again.
"Let them work Tony, they might be able to save him," Kate whispered harshly.
They trailed after the gurney as Gibbs was wheeled at almost a run towards the surgical unit. A simple pair of double doors separated him from Gibbs and his arms wrapped around himself, that cold Gibbs had been talking about hitting him hard. He didn't really feel Kate's arm around his waist, even as he leaned heavily on her.
When the doctor came out only twenty minutes later, Tony knew what had happened before a single word was said. Shaking his head, Tony jerked free of Kate's now-confining hands and shouted, "He's not dead!"
"I'm sorry," the doctor replied, helpless and pained.
The strength left Tony's legs and he collapsed, wondering who the hell was making such a racket. It wasn't until a sharp pain hit his shoulder and the world started to fade out that he realized it was him making that awful, keening noise.
Makes sense though, he thought vaguely. There's no way I can feel this kind of pain and stay quiet. Am I quiet now?
He must be, he decided when Kate's tearful face was blacked out with nothingness.
* * * *
Fornell wasn't a person Kate wanted to see. Of course, she didn't want Gibbs to be dead and Tony insensate from grief, either, but there was no choice in anything just then. Exhausted, she asked, "What do you want, Fornell?"
"Just to help," he answered, quiet. "What do you need?"
Not really surprised, no matter the agency, when one agent went down, the others would pull together to help if they could. Same for in the cop community. It was a universal constant in law enforcement.
Sighing, Kate said, "Tony's been sedated. He...reacted badly...to Gibbs' death."
Fornell was definitely surprised by that information. "Sedated?"
"Yeah," Kate confirmed. "Can you keep an eye on him while I make some calls? No one at NCIS even knows about this yet. Wait, how did you hear about this so fast?"
"I was already here when it happened, had a personal appointment."
That was when she noticed the casual clothes and lack of weaponry on him and said, "Right. Of course. Nothing bad, I hope?"
"No, I'm fine," Fornell answered. "Well, my health's good anyhow. Jesus. Gibbs is really dead? That's hard to wrap my head around."
A bitter, slightly hysterical laugh escaped Kate and she replied, "I know what you mean."
He gripped her shoulder. "Maybe you should take a few minutes."
But Kate shook her head. Someone had to step up and she was the only one left. "No, but thanks. I need to make those calls."
"I'll keep an eye on DiNozzo for you," he promised.
"Thanks," Kate said, pulling out her cell and walking a short distance away for privacy.
There were too many people to call, but Kate knew who needed to be first on the list.
* * * *
Ducky's arrival was barely twenty minutes later and Kate had never felt more relieved to see someone in her life. It was almost like, now that Ducky was there, everything would be all right. That he would take care of everything. It was an unreasonable reaction, but one she couldn't help feeling.
"Oh Caitlin, my dear, how are you?" Ducky asked softly, pulling her in close.
Kate allowed herself a moment's weakness to wrap her arms around Ducky and hold on tight as emotion overwhelmed her. A long moment to let him hold her up and soothe her with gentle words and a hand rubbing up and down her spine. Kate didn't cry simply because she knew that if she started, she wouldn't be able to stop. Crying would come later, in the tub, with a bottle of wine.
Sniffling, Kate pulled back and looked up into kind, worried blue eyes that were a lot more like Gibbs' than she'd ever realized. "I've been better, Ducky. How are you?"
He offered a brief smile and agreed, "Not the sort of thing to make my evening, I can assure you. Young McGee is comforting Abby back at the lab. I wouldn't expect either any time soon. Has Tony woken yet?"
Kate shook her head. "The doctor gave him a strong dose, one to last until tomorrow morning."
Ducky's eyebrows arched and he murmured, "Strong indeed."
"You didn't see him, Ducky, it was like, God, he was in so much pain," Kate whispered, throat closing and tears rising despite herself as she remembered the agony as Tony keened in the manner of those women you saw on the news from a third world country mourning their husbands or sons.
A surprisingly strong hand gripped Kate's shoulder and squeezed, dragging her back from the emotional edge as Ducky said, "I'm not surprised. It's hard to lose someone you never fully got the chance to love as you should."
There was way too much personal experience in that statement for Kate to even chance asking about. Not at that time, anyhow. Sighing explosively, she said, "I spoke to the Director and he's going to make the funeral arrangements. Really, I don't know that I would trust anyone else to do Gibbs up right. Oh, God, no offense, Ducky!"
He chuckled, a warm, comforting sound, and replied, "No offense taken, my dear, honestly. While I am quite knowledgeable in the ways of a military funeral, I haven't truly had the personal experience to go about arranging one. And I'm certain that's what Jethro would have wanted."
Relieved that he hadn't taken her words amiss, Kate nodded, knowing that to be true. Gibbs was first, last, and foremost, a Marine. He would want, and deserved, full honors.
After a long silence, Ducky asked, "What do you need me to do?"
Kate thought for a long moment then said, "Just to be here. That's all I need."
"I can do that," Ducky replied softly, giving her an encouraging smile.
How wrong was it to feel more than just comforted by those firm, gentle words?
* * * *
Four days ago...
Despite the fact that TC had worked with Gibbs more than a few times over the last five years, he made sure to stand well back from him when making his announcement. As it was, the senior agent was clearly unhappy about being rousted from his home and dragged to the FBI offices at three in the morning. Sitting in an interrogation room for the last hour while TC had put the finishing touches on the man's new identity hadn't done any wonders for his temper, and the attempts at pacification through coffee strong enough to eat away anyone else's stomach lining had failed, spectacularly.
Taking a breath, TC said bluntly, "There's a hit out on you."
Gibbs stared at him for a moment, then asked, "So?"
<>"Gibbs, maybe you didn't hear me. Someone has put out word to kill you, and it looks like a government contract. You seriously pissed off someone with the juice to get back at you. You're not safe anymore."
The extra 'B' really does stand for bastard in my case. I'm sorry you had to get this letter and even more sorry that you got it without my ever saying I love you, because I do. Didn't expect to, didn't want to, but I do.
I hope you'll finish the boat for me, but if you burn it for kindling or keep it unfinished, that's fine, too. Keep the house, or sell it, it's your choice, but I know that you've been looking for a home for a while now, so I hope you'll keep it.
I'm not much for wishes, but I do wish that I'd been able to watch you sleep outside of the office. I don't have many regrets from my life, but that's one. A much bigger one, though, is leaving you alone like this. I don't know how it went down, but do not blame yourself for however it happened. Take comfort in your friends. I know that the team will be looking to you for leadership now and I'm confident that you can more than handle becoming the lead. My final regret is in not telling you just how damn good at your job you are, because you're one of the best I've had the privilege to work with over the years, and that's no snowjob.
Have a good life, Tony, you deserve it.
PS - Stop flirting and/or going out with psychos. You'll make Kate go gray early.
Tony couldn't help but chuckle at that, even though it was a watery sound, and wiped at wet eyes. It was just so fucking Gibbs, the short, too short, letter. No flowery words or sentiment, just honest statements and a final order.
"Damn you, Jethro," he muttered, pressing the heel to his eye.
When the multi-colored explosions receded and he could see again, Tony looked around the living room of his new home and smiled at the very Gibbs-ness in the lack of decoration. Not that it was empty, just that Gibbs hadn't spent much time on the finer aspects of home décor. There was furniture and there were books and on the fireplace mantel were pictures of Gibbs in his soldier days, with a couple of different platoons, but not too much else.
Going downstairs to the basement felt something like sacrilege, but he did it anyhow. He looked around the workshop, at the tools put in their proper places despite the fact that Gibbs didn't know he wouldn't be coming back that day. But then, Gibbs was meticulous in everything he did. Walking over to the boat, Tony hesitantly put his hand on the curved frame, moving it slowly down the arc and wondering at the smoothness.
"Hello? Tony, my boy, are you here?"
Starting at Ducky's call, Tony growled at the interruption but forced himself to take a breath. Ducky was just being a good friend, coming over like this to make sure he was okay. "Downstairs, Ducky!"
By the time Ducky came down the steps, Tony was leaning against the tool counter waiting for him. The older man smiled at him and said, "I haven't been down here in a number of months. It's amazing what he's done with her."
"He did good, didn't he?" Tony agreed, making sure that he didn't stumble over the past tense. "I have no idea what he thinks I'll be able to do."
Ducky clapped him on the shoulder and held out a paper bag. "In honor of Jethro."
Pulling the bottle out, Tony saw it was bourbon, no big surprise there. His eyebrows went up and he asked, "142 proof? Are you trying to kill us?"
"Jethro's favorite brand," Ducky informed him, blue eyes twinkling.
Tony snorted. "That explains a lot."
He grabbed a coffee cup off the shelf and found a regular glass for Ducky. They were both clean, if a little dusty, good enough to use once wiped out with a tissue. The deep amber liquor gave off a strong odor that set Tony's mouth to watering. He hadn't had good liquor in a long time, put off by his alcoholic father. He sure as hell never drank alone.
Raising his glass, he said, "To the best damn bastard ever."
"Hear, hear," Ducky agreed, clinking his glass to the coffee mug.
Tony coughed a little on the fumes, but drank down the spicy, cool liquor that exploded in his stomach to set off a nice burn throughout. Closing his eyes to savor it more, Tony took another long draught and managed not to cough this time.
"How are you, Tony?"
Shrugging, Tony opened his eyes and answered, "Fine, Ducky."
Concerned and not bothering to hide it, Ducky countered, "You're anything but fine, my boy. You really should..."
"What? Talk about it?" Tony interrupted calmly. "Ducky, there's nothing to talk about. Gibbs was, apparently, in love with me but never gave me a clue. And I thought he was as straight as an arrow, so I never said a word about how I felt. Now he's dead and there's nothing we can do about it. That's the situation. Crying over it, or screaming and ranting about it, isn't going to do a damn thing. It's sure not going to make me feel better."
A bit helpless, Ducky asked, "But what happens tomorrow when you go in to work and are suddenly in his position? When you have to take over for him?"
"Then I do the job, Ducky," Tony replied, taking another sip of the bourbon. "I'm not going to have a nervous breakdown because I suddenly have new responsibilities. Gibbs had been giving me more to do for the last few months anyhow."
"That's a far cry from being thrust into the limelight, my boy," Ducky pointed out.
Tony nodded acknowledgement and took another sip of the bourbon before assuring him, "I'll be fine, Ducky, honest."
Ducky sighed. "Well, I just want you to know that if there's anything, anything at all, that I can do, I'm here for you."
At that, Tony forced himself to smile and grip Ducky's shoulder lightly, answering, "Thanks, Ducky, I appreciate it."
"I'm afraid that I've reached my limit if I want to drive home safely," Ducky said with another sigh. "Not as young as I used to be."
"Come on, Ducky, I'll see you out," Tony suggested, guiding the other man to the stairs.
The walk was a short one, of course, and Tony went all the way outside to make sure Ducky was really okay. But the other man knew his limits and hadn't even finished his half-glass of bourbon, so he was fine. Tony watched him drive away from the door, then shut it and went to the bedroom.
It was almost overpowering, the feeling of Gibbs in that one room. Sighing, Tony dropped fully clothed on the bed and buried his face in the pillow that still smelled of his...never lover. He was awake for a long time, just staring into the dark, Gibbs' presence overwhelming.
* * * *
Kate found herself wandering down to the morgue almost as soon as she got to work on Monday. She and Ducky had talked the previous night about his failed attempt to get Tony to open up and it seemed like he was a little depressed that it hadn't worked. Actually, they'd been talking just about every night since Gibbs' death, even if it wasn't to say very much at all. Not on her part, at least. It was nice to listen to Ducky ramble on, his voice was soft and the accent starting a comfortable, warm feeling inside.
Ducky wasn't there, but Palmer was, which irritated her more than it should. She offered Palmer a thin smile and questioned, "Ducky's not here?"
Startled, Palmer replied, "Ah, no. I haven't seen him at all this morning, actually."
That surprised her, since Ducky was always the first one of the team in the office, even when Gibbs had been alive. Looking at her watch, which showed almost , Kate frowned and asked, "He didn't call?"
"No. But, Dr. Mallard doesn't check in with me," Palmer pointed out.
Even more irritated, and a little worried, Kate barely managed not to snap at the timid young man. Instead, she turned and headed out, over to Abby's lab to see if Ducky had spoken to her. Loud music was her greeting, but it was, of all things,
Bluegrassinstead of the punk or metal that usually blasted through the speakers. She had to yell to get Abby's attention, "Abby! Abby, turn it down!"
Abby jumped a little and then grinned as she reached over to lower the volume. "Bossman's favorite music, can you believe it?"
"Actually, I can," Kate replied, echoing the grin. "Hey, have you heard from Ducky this morning?"
The worry upped a notch and she answered, "Just, he hasn't been in yet this morning, or called anyone."
Abby shrugged. "Probably had to bring his mum somewhere. She's got more doctors that Carter had liver pills. And hey, isn't that the coolest expression? I heard him say it once and it's like, my new thing."
Kate wanted to smile, but the worry wouldn't let her. "You think everything's okay, though, right?"
"Well yeah, why wouldn't it be?"
"Just, no reason. I'm going to head back upstairs. Have Ducky call me, if you hear from him, okay?"
Abby reached out and gripped her arm, giving her an understanding smile as she comforted, "Ducky's fine, Kate, honest. He's not suddenly going to croak on us. I bet he's healthier than Tony."
And while Kate knew that was probably true, especially with Tony's eating habits, it was hard not to worry. Ducky had always been dear to her, from the very start, but now they'd drawn even closer. Nodding, Kate said, "Thanks, Abs. I'll see you later," and left the lab.
When she got to her desk, Tony still wasn't there and Kate wondered if maybe he'd decided not to come in after all. It was about five minutes later that she was disillusioned when he walked down the iron steps that led from the Director's level. Apparently, he'd gotten in before her and been talking with Morrow the whole time. Even though she couldn't fault him being promoted to the lead, he did have seniority after all, she couldn't help feeling just a smidgen resentful. She was better at interrogation than Tony and oftentimes a damn sight more responsible. Still, it wasn't her decision and as his friend, Kate would support him.
That didn't mean she wasn't going to give him hell when he deserved it, though. That part of their relationship was not about to change.
"So. Everything settled?" Kate questioned as Tony sat.
He nodded. "Yep. Paperwork's going through. Not only am I officially not dead anymore, I've jumped a couple of pay grades and gotten a promotion."
Kate gave him a sincere smile and replied, "I'm happy for you, Tony, honest."
Tony offered a faint one in response. "Thanks, Kate."
"Kate, my dear, I understand you were looking for me?" Ducky asked from behind.
Relief flooded through Kate and she glanced over to where Ducky was striding over, still in his overcoat and sporting a cane. She frowned at the cane and asked, "Are you all right?"
"What, this? It's merely for show, my dear," he assured her, smiling. "Makes me look more distinguished, I fancy."
Smiling for real, Kate agreed, "It certainly does, Ducky."
He stopped in front of her desk and repeated, "You were looking for me?"
Kate felt very foolish all of a sudden.
Flushinglightly, she replied, "It's nothing, Ducky. I just, I was surprised that you weren't in already, is all."
"Ah, I see."
It was clear that he didn't, so Kate said hurriedly, "Did you want to get lunch?"
"Kate's got a tapeworm she's trying to hide," Tony interjected.
"You know, DiNozzo, just because you're the boss now, doesn't mean you get to insult me at will."
"Oh, I think it does."
"Children, children," Ducky interrupted with a fond smile. "No need to get argumentative so early in the morning. Come, Kate, why don't we get ourselves a spot of tea, since there are no pressing cases."
"Don't mind if I do," Kate accepted, standing and accepting his arm with a smirk at Tony.
And if she walked a little closer to Ducky than was normal, just to make sure for herself that he was as strong as ever, who would notice?
* * * *
Tony stared after Ducky and Kate in minor surprise. He wasn't sure what was going on there, but it boded well for both of them. He'd never really thought of them together in that fashion, but now that he was, it suited. Kate always wound up eating her dates alive and Ducky was impervious to her sharp tongue. Not that she ever used it on him. And there was something about Kate that gave Ducky an even livelier air than he usually was.
It was nice.
McGee finally arrived just then, practically slinking into his chair. Not exactly sure how to interact with him, he couldn't pick on McGee now that he was the boss, Tony called out, "Everything okay, McGee?"
McGee jumped a little at his name, then squinted suspiciously at Tony before answering, "Had an appointment this morning. I, uh, I cleared it with, with Gibbs, before..."
Waving off the explanation, Tony nodded and said, "No problem. We don't have any cases, so today's just catch-up anyhow. I've got some meetings with Benstrom's team, since they stepped up while we were all out. Do me a favor and get me access to Gibbs' computer files? I'm going to need his notes and case histories. I really don't want to go through his cabinets."
Gibbs' cabinets were something of a horror to everyone on the team. They were meticulously kept and if anyone so much as sneezed on them, Gibbs had known. And despite the fact that Gibbs was gone, he didn't want to invade them, not just yet. Not when he had equal access via computer. Gibbs might not have liked technology at first, or, ever really, but once he'd learned how to use it, he'd waded through it with the grim determination of a Marine on a very distasteful mission.
"Ah, sure, Tony. DiNozzo. Um, Boss?" McGee finally settled on hopefully.
Stifling a faint glimmer of amusement, Tony stood and answered, "Tony's fine, McGee. I'm not going to start standing on ceremony now. Think you can have that access by lunch?"
McGee squinted at him suspiciously, as if waiting for the joke, but finally just nodded when Tony just kept looking at him. It would take a while for him to realize that Tony wasn't going to keep using him as a verbal punching bag, or take up where Gibbs had left off in terrorizing him, but Tony knew it would come. Despite the hazing, they were pretty decent friends, even if it wasn't nearly as equal a one as what he had with Kate. Mostly because nothing scared Kate and McGee was still afraid of his own shadow, when it came to standing up to authority.
Grabbing the palm pilot he'd confiscated from Gibbs' desk on first getting in, mildly comforted by having Gibbs' things around him, Tony headed for the first of several meetings. First was Benstrom and catch-up. Then was another meeting with Morrow regarding the status of the team in general, how Tony felt they were doing; Ducky was probably taking the same meeting regarding his state-of-mental health. After that was a bi-weekly update meeting for Senior Agents-in-Charge where the team leads got together to compare notes on cases and coordinate times off so that no one team was overworked. Tony knew most of the people there, having filled in for Gibbs several times in the past.
Meetings had never been Gibbs' thing.
It would all be different this time, of course. He wasn't filling in for Gibbs anymore, he was taking over for him. That could lead to being treated differently by the others, though Tony wasn't sure how, or if it would be for the better, or for the worse. Once thing was for sure, he wasn't going to be flirting with anyone at work anymore, except maybe Abby and Kate. There was no way he would have his actions, which were always meant harmlessly, misconstrued and wind up slapped with a sexual harassment suit.
The day passed excruciatingly slowly, as Tony had expected. The meetings were interminable and the condolences once again offered by everyone he met, became harder to bear as the day wore on. Still and all, he made it through and when he finally got back to his desk for the first time since that morning, McGee showed him how to access Gibbs' files from his own desktop.
"Thanks, McGee, I appreciate that," Tony said, offering a smile.
McGee seemed even more flustered and asked, somewhat plaintively, "Would you stop being nice to me?"
A little surprised, Tony replied, "You want me to go back to insulting you and giving you shit work?"
"Yes," McGee confirmed emphatically. "At least that way, I know what to expect."
Tony half-grinned at that and clapped the other man on the back, saying, "Life is change, Probie. Get used to it. And, as things to get used to, me being nice to you shouldn't be all that hard of an adjustment."
McGee gave a long-suffering sigh, but nodded as he returned to his desk.
Well, okay. Maybe a few insults here and there, Tony mused, a twinge of amusement surfacing.
* * * *
Sleeping in Gibbs' bed was again both a great comfort, and serious torture. The second night wasn't any better or worse than the first, but Tony found himself staring at the ceiling far longer. The day had been insane just on the sheer principle that he shouldn't be in charge. What kind of strange twist in fate had put him in charge of anything, let alone a top NCIS unit?
Tony sighed and shook his head, knowing that it wasn't going to be a night where he would get any sleep. Probably not any at all, let along the four tiny hours he'd gotten the night before. Rolling out of bed, he stuffed his feet into his sneakers, grabbed a t-shirt and headed down to the basement. He'd woken Gibbs up often enough down there, maybe there was something to working on a boat that was sleep inducing.
Once down there, he pulled out the plans that he'd found on a shelf the night before and looked them over. They were pretty straight-forward, probably even simple enough for him to follow, but Tony had bought a book on shipbuilding and woodworking anyhow. Dragging the stool over to the counter, his flipped open the shipbuilding book first and turned to the first page.
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