DiNozzo takes the blame and Gibbs shocks the team by agreeing with him. Ziva makes a decision that could cost her dearly.
An established relationship story.
Written: April 2010. Word count: 1,000.
Gibbs strode into the squad room, Ducky by his side. Both men looked pale, grim, saddened.
Tony, Abby, Ziva and Palmer were by Tony's desk. Silent tears poured down Abby's face; Palmer was trying, but failing, to comfort her.
As Gibbs and Ducky reached Gibbs's desk, Tony crossed slowly to them. He stopped, waiting for Gibbs to acknowledge him. But Gibbs didn't look at him. Didn't acknowledge him in any way. Ducky glanced from Gibbs to Tony, before nodding once.
Tony wasn't sure if Ducky was acknowledging his presence or telling him to speak. He swallowed hard. "It was my fault, boss." His tone was flat.
Now Gibbs did look at him. Tony had to lock his knees to stop himself from backing away from the hatred that flared in Gibbs's eyes. "Know that, DiNozzo."
"Jethro!" Ducky exclaimed. He put his hand on Gibbs's arm, but Gibbs shook it off and instead, not even looking at Tony again, turned and strode back across the squad room. After a second's pause Ducky followed him.
"Gibbs, wait," Ziva called.
To Tony's surprise Gibbs not only paused, but turned and looked at Ziva. When she didn't instantly speak, he moved towards her, Ducky still at his side, and glared down at her. "Well?"
Ziva met the glare. "It is not Tony's fault that McGee is dead," she said, her tone hard. "If anyone is to blame it is you."
"Ziva!" Ducky said.
Gibbs continued to stare at her.
Tony watched Ziva. "You team Tony and me together, and you pair, you paired," she corrected herself, "McGee with yourself. Tony has got used to working with me and McGee with you. He -" She stopped abruptly as Gibbs took a step towards her.
But even as Ducky reached for his arm, Gibbs turned again and strode off. Once again, after a second, Ducky followed him.
Shaking now, Ziva turned to face the others who stood, mouths open in shock; even Abby's tears had stopped falling.
"Why?" Tony asked.
She looked at him. "When I first joined NCIS as a liaison officer, Gibbs told me one day I would have to choose between Jenny and he. I chose him. Today I had another choice and I made it."
"I chose you, Tony. I could not stand by and listen to him accusing you of something that was not your fault. I," she broke off and swallowed hard, she seemed uncertain of what to say next. Then she sighed and seemed to sag. "It appears I have lost a second father," she said. "But father or not, I could not, I would not, stand by and listen to him blaming you. I have made many choices in my life, today I made another." She stopped and looked at Tony. "It was not your fault, Tony." She took his hand. "McGee is not dead because of you."
"She's right, Tony," Abby said, her voice low and shaking. "It wasn't your fault." She gulped and tears once again began to fall.
For some reason Tony found his eyes drawn to Palmer. He wanted, no he needed, to hear Palmer assure him it wasn't his fault. Silently he waited; he couldn't ask; he wouldn't ask.
Palmer nodded before touching Tony's shoulder. "You weren't to blame, Tony," he said. "Agent Gibbs . . . Dr. Mallard . . . I'm sure he'll . . . That is . . . It wasn't your fault, Tony," he finished softly. "It wasn't," he repeated quietly.
Silence, punctuated only by Abby sniffing from time to time, spread around the group.
Finally Palmer said, "Abby, come on, I'll buy you a cup of tea; it'll make you feel better."
Abby gave him a watery smile. "You sound like Ducky. Tea’s his solution to everything."
Palmer flushed. "I didn't mean . . . That is . . . I'm sorry, Abby, I didn't -"
Abby shook her head. "It's all right, Jimmy. A cup of tea sounds good. Do you guys want to come?" She looked at Tony and Ziva.
Tony shook his head. "No, Abby, we're good."
Abby slipped her arm through Jimmy's and together they left the squad room.
"Ziva?" Tony whispered. "Gibbs'll be -"
"Furious with me? Yes, Tony, I know. Order me off his team? Probably. In which case, I shall make it easy for him."
"Ziva, you're not -"
"Offering to leave NCIS? No. However, I think it is time Gibbs knows we have broken Rule #12."
"But . . ." Then Tony realized she was right. "Yeah, Ziva," he said softly, leaning forward and lightly kissing her. "I reckon it is."
HALF AN HOUR LATER
Gibbs, Ducky again by his side, returned to the squad room.
Tony stood up and faced Gibbs. "Boss . . ." he trailed off as Ducky imperceptibly shook his head.
Gibbs stared at Tony. "Sorry, DiNozzo," he said. "Shouldn't have said it was your fault. It wasn't. It was -"
"It wasn't anyone's fault," Ducky said, his tone low but firm. "Was it, Jethro?"
Gibbs turned to look at Ducky and Tony saw deep pain flash through his gaze. For a moment he watched the two old friends communicate, as they so often did, without words.
Finally, Gibbs briefly closed his eyes, before opening them and saying, "No. No, Duck, it wasn't anyone's fault. DiNozzo," he held out his hand.
After a second Tony took it. "Boss," he said quietly.
The handshake lasted for a second or two, before Gibbs let his hand fall. "You ready, Duck?" He grabbed his coat. "Garage'll be waiting for us to pick the Morgan up."
For a moment Ducky paused. Then he nodded. "Yes, Jethro," he said quietly.
Gibbs nodded. "Meet you by the car," he said, and walked away.
Ziva stood up and opened her mouth.
Swiftly Ducky shook his head. "No," he said softly. "I'll tell him later." Then with a half smile at Ziva and another at Tony, he turned and followed Gibbs.
Ziva stared at Tony. "I thought Gibbs was the one who . . ."
Tony watched Ducky until he reached the elevator. "Always wondered how the boss knew everything," he said. "Now I know."
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