Title: Thanks for noticing, Boss
Category: Angst/ Friendship
Genre: Gen (Gibbs/DiNozzo friendship)
Character(s): Gibbs, DiNozzo, Abby
Summary: Gibbs reads the lists Tony wrote in Anthony's Weakness. Anthony makes a decision that has a profound effect on his working relationship with Gibbs. Set during Bounce. Gibbs/DiNozzo/Abby friendship.
Spoilers: Bounce, Deliverance, South by South West.
Disclaimer: NCIS characters belong to Bellisario, CBS and Paramount. No copyright infringement intended.
Beta(s): csigeekfan and Will. Thanks also to Obsessed Pam for the read through.
AN: This is the sequel to Anthony's Weakness, and as it draws heavily on several loose threads from that story, I would encourage you to read that story first. I also made an assumption that Tony knows about both the 'narcissistic' and 'attitude adjustment' comments that Gibbs made about him early on in S6. Part of the Resignation series.
Chapter 1 – Searching for cookies
Several days earlier.
“So what sounds good?”
“Don’t mind, Abs. You choose.”
“And you won’t complain, or huff or roll your eyes at whatever I choose?” Abby called through the open door as Tony made fresh mugs of tea for the pair.
“Abby, first off they’re my DVDs and I don’t own anything I would ever roll my eyes at. Second, it depends what you mean by huff.”
Abby raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“I saw that eyebrow, Abs,” Tony called out from the kitchen. “I felt that eyebrow.”
Abby folded her arms silently.
“Okay, maybe I have a few – especially the huffing variety,” Tony relented. “You can tell that eyebrow to stand down now.”
Abby smiled safe in the knowledge that Tony knew he was beaten. “Tony, you have more than a few.”
“Well, I’m sorry for being a guy. I’m sure McGee has his fair share too.”
“He does now.”
Abby smirked and sidled from the front room to the entrance to the kitchen. Leaning against the door frame she watched her friend grab the sugar from the cupboard. “Thanks, Tony.”
“Letting me in.” Abby registered the confused look as Tony spun around to face her.
“Abs, you’re welcome any time. You know that.”
“I know, I just... you’ve been acting weird recently.”
“Weird.” Abby sighed as Tony turned away from her and began to poor the tea into the two mugs on the work top.
“Good or bad?”
Tony’s voice was low almost inaudible.
“Oh.” Tony thrust a mug into her hands. “Chosen your DVD yet?”
“Tony,” Abby sighed at lack lustre deflection. She obliged and let him spin her around as he hustled her in the direction of the front room.
“You want cookies?” Tony called as he searched in the kitchen cupboard. “Think I’ve got some plain or chocolate ones somewhere in here.”
“Don’t mind,” she replied as she sat down on the sofa. This was obviously going to take a while if he was pretending to look for cookies so she might as well get comfortable. Abby took a sip of tea–apparently Tony had run out of coffee and hadn’t had chance to go shopping for groceries–and then placed the mug on the coffee table next to the sofa, carefully avoiding the red patterned tie that Tony had neglected to put away.
“Hey, Tony, isn’t this Frank... what are you doing with Mike’s tie?”
“It’s not Mike’s. It’s Gibbs’s.”
“Gibbs left his tie here? Wanna tell me something?” Abby raised both eyebrows, “You and Gibbs aren’t... you know?”
“Abs, he can barely stand to look at me.” Tony sighed exasperatedly, slamming one cupboard door and forcefully opening another, “I’m really not in the mood.”
“Sorry, Tony.” Sensing the tension from inside the kitchen begin to fade, Abby ventured another try. So...”
Tony stopped pretending to look for cookies. “Franks gave it to me before he left. I figured he’d tell Gibbs at some point that I had it - thought I’d see whether he’d come and ask for it back.”
The search for cookies resumed. “Nope.”
Abby retrieved her mug and took another sip of tea, before replacing it on the coffee table, cursing as the liquid sloshed over the top of the mug, onto both the table and Gibbs’s tie. She brushed away the wet tea quickly, hoping Tony wouldn’t notice, and in her haste knocked the tie onto the floor.
“Well, maybe Franks didn’t get chance to tell him. You could take it to him.”
“Don’t think that’s a good idea, Abs. Really don’t think Gibbs wants me dropping in unannounced. He tolerates me Abby. He doesn’t need me; not anymore. First sign of trouble and he runs to Franks.”
“That’s crap, Tony.” The guy was obviously in self pity mode and thinking of leaving. Abby had dealt with a quite a few of Tony’s down moods in the past and knew she had to nip this in the bud - quickly; for all their sakes. They’d only been a team again for a few months and she couldn’t bear to lose any of them again. Abby bent down to pick up the tie and as it whipped around the table leg she noticed a piece of paper jutting out from under the couch. Picking up the paper, Abby turned it over and studied the writing on the other side. Tony’s handwriting. She knew the scrawl anywhere. Three words in total. Under the double underlined heading of Anthony’s Weakness was one final solitary word.
This was worse than she had thought. “Tony,” she stood up and held the paper aloft. “What’s this?”
Tony paused in his cookie searching duties and turned around to look at Abby from his vantage point in the kitchen. Stopping dead in his tracks when he saw the piece of paper she held in her hands, he swallowed hard. Memories of that night came flooding back into his mind. How he’d sat on his sofa, ripping his, or Tony’s, psyche to pieces. How he’d lain himself bare, trying to understand the difference between Tony and Anthony; trying to realise what the hell had gone wrong since he’d come back from the Sea Hawk. Why, where and when his relationships with each member of the team, but particularly his relationship with Gibbs had gone so unbelievably FUBAR.
“It’s nothing, Abs.”
“This is not nothing, Tony.” Abby sounded shocked. “What did you do? You didn’t do anything stupid did you?”
“Geez, Abs. No... of course not.” He walked up to her and quickly placed his arms around her, holding her tight. “God, No.”
Abby was trembling, from fear or anger he wasn’t sure. “Sit down, Abby. Drink your tea.”
“Got anything stronger?” Abby asked as she placed the note on the coffee table and slowly sat back down on the sofa.
Tony smiled as the colour began to return to Abby’s cheeks; not that her cheeks were really pinkish at all - the black eyeliner emphasising her paleness - but he always noticed subtle changes in her colour. He’d never say anything though. “I’ve got some Lagavulin that Ducky brought back from his vacation in Scotland last year. It’s good. Better than that Bourbon Gibbs keeps in his basement. Wanna try it?”
“Yeah, think I do.”
Tony gingerly placed an arm on Abby’s shoulder and gave a small squeeze before walking over to the shelf next to his DVD collection, taking the stopper off the decanter and pouring Abby a generous measure of whiskey. He sighed imperceptibly, walked back and placed the glass firmly into Abby’s hands.
“You’re not joining me?” she prompted, accepting the drink with both hands. “That’s not like you.”
“Nah,” Tony smiled weakly. “Vance has got me entertaining later this week. School night. Don’t tell McGee. Can’t do two consecutive nights.”
Abby nodded. “I heard our counterparts from Japan were over. I’ve got to give them a tour of the lab.”
Feigning hurt, Abby pressed further. “Still, you’re passing on a glass of Scotch...”
“Whiskey,” Tony corrected. “Well, according to Ducky it’s whiskey, and he is Scottish.”
“Passing on a glass of... whiskey. That’s not like you,” she said before taking a sip and gasping as she felt the fiery burn of the liquid as it slid down the back of her throat.
“Me,” Tony scoffed. How could anyone possibly know what ‘he’ was or wasn’t like? Quickly switching his focus away from within, Tony stifled a laugh as Abby scrunched up her face and shook her head vigorously.
“Yeah. You. Said you’d been acting weird recently.” Abby placed the glass on the coffee table, picked up the piece of paper and held it up for Tony to see. “Now tell me, Mister. What’s going on?”
It seemed that Abby was not going to back down. “It’s nothing, really. I...”
“I swear, Tony, if you say ‘I’m fine’, I will personally ensure that you won’t be fine by morning.”
Abby’s heavily blackened eyebrow inched skywards.
“You would too. Wouldn’t you?”
“Abby, that’s cold.”
“Your choice, Tony. Tell me what’s wrong, or I go straight to Gibbs.”
Tony stared at Abby for what felt like an eternity but in reality was only five seconds, if that. She stood her ground.
“Maybe I can help?”
Tony let out a resigned sigh and sat down on the sofa next to Abby. “I wasn’t going to say I was fine.”
Abby turned to face him.
“I’ve been back a while now.”
“You never should have gone away, Tony.”
“Yeah I should. Vance was right.”
“No, it’s not. Sure, maybe he could have done it differently. I mean, one minute we’re all together at Jenny’s funeral, the next we’re in different continents; different time zones. That wasn’t right. But really, when you think about it—in the grand scheme of things—we’re just pawns; resources. Ziva was needed in Israel. McGee was needed in cyber crimes...”
“What were you needed for, Tony? Why the Regan? Why the Sea Hawk? Why afloat? Why didn’t he transfer you to another team - here in D.C?”
“Have to ask the toothpick that one?”
“Theorise, Tony. I’m asking you.”
Tony smiled weakly. “I was needed on the Regan so Vance could point score.”
“Gibbs needed to be taken down.”
“Yeah,” Tony nodded. “Gibbs needed to be taken down.” Tony had needed it too. He knew his position afloat had had nothing to do with finding the leak. It had been made out to be a promotion; a long overdue posting. In some respects Vance had been right. He should have done it years ago to further his career, but not everyone wanted to become Director. For some, there were more important things in life than being at the top of the food chain. Running an agency; not knowing who was going to stab you in the back next was not Tony’s idea of fun. For Tony, catching the bad guys, seeing justice done, working the front line, having friends you could trust - it was clichéd - but that was what mattered to Tony. Everything else was window dressing. “Vance knew what the confines of life afloat would be like for me. He knew I’d get bored; frustrated. And... he knew it would drive Gibbs mad.” Tony turned to face Abby. “God, Abs, I was really desperate those last few weeks. I tried not to... I don’t know how long...”
“You’re back now.”
“Yeah. But I’m not really back, am I?” His mouth rambled on when he took in Abby’s confused look. “Vance was running an op to find the mole and sidelined me. He kept Gibbs in the dark and purposely kept me, and only me, out of his operation.” Tony paused. “Gibbs has been sidelining me too. He didn’t trust me with the Domino op. Oh yeah, he used me. Used Ziva. Used us all. Still uses us to get the job done now. That’s how it should be. But I don’t think he trusts me. Not like he used to. Like he trusted you with Domino.”
“He was just trying to protect you, Tony. Protect all of you.”
The knuckles on Tony’s right fist whitened as he fought to control the anger within him. “I thought we’d gotten over all that crap of ‘protecting us’ and ‘keeping us in the dark for our own good’ when he went haring off after Maddie last year. Seems some of us haven’t quite gotten over that.” The words flew out of Tony’s mouth with no chance of censorship; the opposing wall taking the full force of his tirade. “It’s okay for him to have our backs, but not for us to have his. Seems to trust Franks a hell of a lot more with his back than he trusts me. But then, I suppose a lot has happened since Maddie. I mean, no wonder he doesn’t trust me when I got his ex-girlfriend killed...”
Tony’s eyes snapped shut at the blow to back of his head and he swallowed hard before slowly licking his lips and turning to face Abby.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“I know. It’s just hard, you know.” The downward spiral of self pity was all too evident in Tony’s voice. This wasn’t something he shared often. Abby ran a hand up Tony’s bicep letting it rest on his shoulder.
“I worked with Lee. She was part of my team when Gibbs was in Mexico. Maybe I could have foreseen...”
“No, Tony. You’re not going to blame yourself for Lee’s mistakes.”
Tony eyed the glass of whiskey on the coffee table. “Gibbs is doing enough of that for everyone put together.”
Abby let her hand fall away from Tony’s shoulder. There was a long silence before Tony spoke – to no one in particular.
“I should have been there for her.”
“Lee made her choice. She could have asked for help.”
“She was protecting the person she loved,” Tony whispered absently. “Who was supposed to protect her, Abby?”
“So Vance was right to send you away?”
“Yeah. Toothpick got it right. Needed time to get my head screwed on right.”
“Bastard didn’t need to keep you floating for four months.”
“Nope. A month was more than enough to sober my thoughts.”
“Does Vance need to send you away again?”
“No. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t want to go, but I don’t think Gibbs wants me to stay.”
“Tony, Gibbs is a stubborn ass but you’re his right hand man. Of course he wants you to stay.”
“Abby, you want me to stay. I’m not so sure about Gibbs - and as you well know, what Gibbs wants he usually gets. I’ve got to keep a clear head and stay out of trouble.”
“That why you’re not drinking much now.” Abby knew she’d hit a raw nerve when Tony looked away. “So how does this,” she said holding aloft the piece of paper, “fit into your master plan then?”
“No plan, Abby. Don’t even know what I was thinking when I did that.”
“Sure you do.”
Tony exhaled deeply. “Why are you always right?”
“I’m Abigail Sciuto, forensic specialist extraordinaire and friend of very special agent Tony DiNozzo. I’m always right. Now spill.”