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Summary: Tony's life in the form of a movie.
The Fade Out
Tony watched, stunned, as Gibbs walked away from them all just like that. If it had been just himself, he could've understood it, but Abby and Ducky? Just the final glance that every hero took of loved ones, and then Gibbs strode out the door and off screen without another word.
Taking the hero metaphor a little too far there, Boss, he thought, when he was finally able to form one. And when the hell did you start listening to me ramble about movies?
Turning belatedly at the Director's quiet statement of his name, Tony looked at her and answered, "Yes, Ma'am?"
Director Sheppard looked as shell-shocked as everyone else, but it was fading under the need to take control of the situation. "My office tomorrow morning, 0800 sharp."
Tony nodded and she turned to leave. He wasn't surprised when Ziva hurried after the Director. Her allegiance to the team was really allegiance to Gibbs and since he was gone, there was no reason for Ziva to stick around. Looking over at where Abby, Ducky, and McGee stood in a quasi-huddle, Tony was momentarily at a loss for words. Three sets of eyes landed on him almost simultaneously and he instinctively straightened, habit and ritual coming to the rescue as he asked, "Whose turn is it to buy tonight?"
Clearly startled, Ducky replied, "I believe it's mine, Tony."
"Great! I'll have Kung Pao Chicken and Hunan Beef," Tony informed him.
Ducky sniffed. "As if I'll be phoning in the order? My boy, please."
Tony walked over to McGee and clapped him on the back, agreeing, "Right. That would be the Probie's job."
For a second, McGee seemed about to protest, lips bunching up in a prelude to speaking, but he just nodded abruptly and spun on a dime to walk to the nearest phone. When he got there, McGee asked, "Abby? Ducky? What would you like?"
Abby wiped at her face and sniffled loudly before answering, "There's nothing fattening there and I need something really, really, fattening tonight."
"How about Death By Chocolate?" Tony suggested.
Her eyes didn't light up as they usually did at that particular suggestion, but there was a lessening of the complete misery as she took Ducky's handkerchief. At least a little. "Sounds like a plan to me."
Tony ordered, "McGee! Stop at Lorenzo's on your way back and get Abby's dessert!"
McGee sighed in a pale imitation of his usual put-upon air, but it was a start.
Exposition as a way of life...
"If anyone can bring him back, Agent DiNozzo, it's you."
Tony stifled the impulse to laugh. No matter how punchy he still felt after a night of no sleep, laughing at the big boss was not a good idea. Clearing his throat, he didn't miss the way her gaze narrowed as if sensing he was trying not to laugh. He said hastily, "Gibbs has made up his mind, Ma'am, and I seriously doubt that anything I say will do anything to change it."
"You underestimate yourself, DiNozzo," Sheppard countered.
Keeping as impassive as possible, Tony replied, "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ma'am, but in this case, it's overstated."
She looked at him, pointed, and Tony stifled the urge to sigh. He had the feeling that he would have to get used to explaining things to people, now that Gibbs wasn't around to cut through the red tape with Marine ruthless efficiency.
"Gibbs needs time, Director. If he changes his mind, it'll be his decision, just like everything else. He's burnt out. If he wasn't, he would be here, in charge, making everyone else's life miserable as only Gibbs can. That's the sitrep, Ma'am, and it's not going to be any different if I go after him. Well, aside from the fact that I might wind up with a hole that doesn't belong in me."
She glared, but didn't dispute his words. "I'll have the paperwork noting your promotion completed by the end of the day. You are, however, on probation as team lead."
Tony opened his mouth to protest, but she overrode him.
"I would do it to anyone, Tony, it isn't you. If Gibbs comes back, I need the wiggle-room to get him back in command," she assured him. "There's no reflection on you."
Yeah, right, Tony thought. If he'd left Ziva in command, she'd be fully confirmed overnight.
Out loud, he agreed, "Of course, Ma'am. Is there anything else?"
She looked at him a moment longer, then shook her head. "No, Agent DiNozzo, that will be all."
Tony turned and left the office.
Swearing colorfully, if silently to save his breath, Tony ran full-out after the suspect who'd tripped McGee and literally jumped over Ziva to get away. He spared the breath to hiss, "Friggin' gymnast!" before putting on another burst of speed. If Gibbs had been there, he'd've been able to read Tony's mind and bolt to the car to cut the suspect off. He wasn't, so Tony concentrated on closing the distance between himself and the dickwad who had the capability to vault over Ziva and take off running without missing a beat.
It was something of a surprise and a letdown when campus cops jumped out of the woodwork to tackle the young man on the run. Tony slowed to a jog, taking the last hundred meters to bring his lungs back to normal. By the time he got to the edge of the building where they had the suspect on the ground, Tony was composed and not even breathing hard. It helped that he'd spent the last month since Gibbs had left doing heavy conditioning so he could present an impervious fašade, at least physically.
Pulling out his cuffs, he hauled Ensign Joey McCardle to his feet and cuffed him. "Come on, Mary Lou, you've got some serious questions to answer."
McGee puffed to a stop in front of them, proving that he wasn't the one to call in the rent-a-cops. "I was...right...behind you...Boss."
"Good. You can retrace our steps to find where he threw the flashdrive," Tony ordered, pushing McCardle towards the car coming towards them. He tossed over his shoulder, "Don't come back without it, McGee!"
Opening the door, he maneuvered Joey inside with the ease of long practice. The only time a perp hit his head was when Tony wanted him to and they weren't at that point yet with McCardle. Once McGee found the flashdrive, the case would be over and he wouldn't even have to issue any threats.
Tony climbed into the passenger seat drawled, "Home, James."
Looking at him sideways, Ziva muttered, "My name is not James. My name has never been James. If you don't stop calling me that..."
She finished in a dire tone and Hebrew, but Tony wasn't all that worried. If she did kill him one day, he wouldn't know about it until it was done. Torture was reserved for people she hated or considered enemies and Tony was neither. Of course, they weren't friends, either, but still. No torture, so he wasn't worried. Besides, he was pretty sure Gibbs had warned her off the torture before leaving at some point. It hardly ever came up anymore.
Then again, maybe it was Gibbs who inspired the desire to torture in the first place, he thought, amused.
Tony shivered violently as he made the final few feet to the dryness of NCIS. Caught yet again in the rain without an umbrella, he was sure that he'd need to bring in some spare clothes if he couldn't manage to listen to the weather report the night before. And since Gibbs considered him his personal slave and Tony rarely left before every night, even when there wasn't a case, he hadn't seen the news since starting at NCIS four months ago.
The MP on duty gave him a sympathetic look as he sloshed by and Tony asked, "Catch the game last night?"
"You missed another great one, DiNozzo," the man replied.
Tony sighed. "Figures."
Friggin' Gibbs, he thought, pissed. I haven't had a life since coming here! 'A challenge,' my ass! More like indentured servitude. This isn't Stalag 13! Probie this, probie that. I'm no fucking probie, damn it! I've been a cop at least as long as he's been an agent, even if I wasn't a precious Marine before that. If he says one God damned word, I'm going to quit, I swear to God!
He sneezed violently on stepping off the elevator a few seconds later and groaned when a neck muscle pulled at the sudden movement. Rubbing his neck as he closed the distance to their desks, Tony was caught by surprise when cloth hit him right in the face. "What the...?"
Pulling it off, he discovered it was a towel. Since Gibbs was the only other person on the floor, it had to have come from him, but...
"Don't stand there dripping, DiNozzo," Gibbs ordered mildly as he stood, then pointed to Tony's desk. "Left you some spares in the bottom drawer. Get dry, get changed, then meet me in MTAC. We have a case."
And as Gibbs walked away without another word, Tony remembered why he'd decided to work for the man in the first place.
The Quiet Man, John Wayne, and other things circa 1952...
The Quiet Man was one of Tony's favorite movies because it had everything: a tortured main character, humor, an insanely long fight scene, and true love. Something else that made it one of his favorite movies was the release date. It was the first year of Gibbs' life and thinking of him as a baby kept things in perspective. It reminded Tony that the universe really had seen everything, even if he hadn't personally witnessed it.
In the last few months since Gibbs' departure, Tony had taken out his dvd of The Quiet Man no less than once a week to watch it from start to finish. Usually at the end of a hard case and he was ashamed to admit that they were getting harder as the days went on.
Pausing the dvd as John Wayne grabbed Maureen O'Hara for a 'stretch of the legs,' across the Irish countryside, Tony rubbed at tired, gritty eyes and slumped back on the sofa. He understood now, why Gibbs had called it quits. Technically, he'd understood from the moment that the gold badge had slapped against his palm that night, but now he really understood. He knew what it was like to send his team into danger and have it all be for nothing. He knew what it was like when one of them got hurt because he hadn't been there. He knew what it was like to lead without any real support from the higher-ups and, often times, his own team.
Tony wanted to go back in time and kick his own ass for the way he'd harassed Gibbs over the years.
Staring at The Duke on his television screen, Tony's lips twitched into a reluctant grin. John Wayne and Gibbs were cut from the same cloth, no doubt about that. The strong, silent types that all women swooned over, no matter how liberated the woman in question was.
His heart panged with regret for what could now never be, given Gibbs wasn't coming back. There'd been times over his years with Gibbs that they'd been so in sync, so close, that he'd have sworn on a bible that sex was a foregone conclusion. Maybe not a relationship in the traditional sense, given that Gibbs' military leanings had to be stronger than any gay or bisexual ones he had, but still. The two of them together, even without the words or declarations, now felt like the sequel that would never be made because the first one got critical acclaim across the board, but was a box office flop.
Bittersweet and somewhat emotionally masochistic, Tony hit play again and settled in to watch the end of the movie.
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