Title: Burnt

Word Count: 4138

Summary: Sometimes, you don't recover. Sometime the fire burns. Dead Air Tag.

Characters: Tony Dinozzo, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Kate Todd (in spirit), Ziva David, Timothy McGee, Mallard Ducky, Abigail Scutio and Leon Vance.

Spoilers: Season 1-2, 6x01 Agent Afloat, 8x05 Dead Air, 8x06 Cracked, 8x17 A Man Walks Into A Bar, Minor reference to dialogue from 8x05 and 8x06 in this chapter.

A/N: Big thanks to everyone who has reviewed, favourited and followed this story. I am humbled by your awesomeness. This the 'reactions' chapter and explores how the cast react to the news. There will be another chapter and epilogue following this. Hope you enjoy!

-x-

Incident Report

Filed By: Anthony. D. Dinozzo

Case Number: 116792

Concern: Misconduct in the Line of Duty

Agents Accused: Junior Field Agent Timothy McGee, Probationary Agent Ziva David.

Upon returning from recording the potential 43 suspects voices, I returned to the car. Agents David and McGee appeared to be holding reading materials, however only Agent David appeared to be intent upon the subject matter. When I inquired about how much fun they had listening to me in a joking manner, Agent David responded that they had 'not been listening for some hours', this appears to be backed by the surprise they had when I returned to the car and the lack of audio feedback from my ear piece through the car radio…

Rule 1. Always have your partners back.

For many years this had been and always would be one of the core parts of the man that was Leroy Jethro Gibbs. There was also nothing more painful then realizing two people you had hand personally trained were disregarding that teaching and as an extension the teacher.

Gibbs stood silently as he processed this fact. And then it was like someone had flicked a switch and the sniper buried beneath the gruff demeanor took control: sighting, analyzing and decoding every interaction that had been going on between his agents for the past three months.

During the Thorson case Tony had leant on his desk, something his agent hadn't been typical of doing. Tony's comment to McGee after Abby's excursion, "Last time we let you out on a field trip" and Tony's comment to April "It's a terrible thing, betraying someone's trust like that". Subconsciously Tony had been trying to tell him something was wrong. And Gibbs had been oblivious to it all.

It was a hella of thing to realize.

Gibbs was all too aware of his failures these past few years. There were still little things, little nuggets of memories concerning Tony still coming back. It was strange that for all his time spent with Abby and Ducky, his history with the two was near completely intact but that some of the most important moments with Tony were only just starting to creep back in. The time when Tony has twisted his ankle playing basketball but had looked so carefree and in his element in that moment. The look he'd received right after the first day with Ziva on the team had ended. Bitter and angry. The nights Tony would quietly seek out his presence during weekends supposedly spend with his 'conquests'. The first time Tony had stayed with him and near cringed after every other sentence of speech as if afraid Gibbs was going to kick him out.

Realizing how much of a bastard he had become, he'd slowly begun to draw Tony back into his private life, inviting him over for steaks when game was on and, to his private amusement, also teaching the younger man how to horse ride.

It wasn't that Tony had never ridden a horse but thirty years was a long time and when you're hurting, it was easy to bury the memories. It had brought him back fifteen years to when Kelly had begun her lessons, and when she'd raced away across the beach her hair flying in the wind and eyes sparkling. His newest student had looked much the same, cantering along the trails beside him, the Italian's mare calmly listening to the rider's commands.

But Gibbs couldn't fix this with food and quality time in the great outdoors. He could've reverse time and head-smack his underlings into line years earlier when he'd returned from Mexico. He couldn't take back the experience of having your partner betray your trust not once but twice over. Gibbs physically couldn't do any of these things and that pissed him off more then anything.

It would be so easy to go down to the armory, take out one of the sniper rifles and shoot the two, perhaps not to kill them because that wouldn't be satisfying enough for the emotional damage that was going to be wrecked in the next few days. Perhaps he should use knives instead, carve them into McGee's hand nerves so they would be unusable. Shoot Ziva in the knees and elbows, forever restricting fighting mobility. He could - no - Gibbs shook himself out of submerging into his marine instincts and back into the present, Tony was no doubt working himself up into an anxious frenzy.

So he did the only thing he knew calmed the other man down when head-slaps were inoperable and words wouldn't be enough. Reaching out a hand to cup the back of his SFA's neck, Gibbs squeezed and willed every bit of pride he was capable of into the action. Tony made a low noise, blinking rapidly but it didn't hide the bright sheen to those glistening bottle green eyes.

"Boss-"

"Dinozzo," Gibbs interrupted dryly, "Do you really think I wouldn't be more pissed off if you hadn't told me?"

The mumbled, "No, Boss" was enough to satisfy him for now and Gibbs released him from his grasp.

"Good. I'm going to drop these off with Vance, if David or McGee come in while I'm gone, inform them we'll be working cold cases for the rest of the week." Gibbs ordered in clipped tones - saying even their names was causing the slow burning anger to flare up inside of him. Gibbs forced himself to move towards the stairwell, when a thought gave him pause. "Tony?" The brunette turned to look at him. "You realized IA will be called in don't you?"

Dinozzo swallowed but nodded and returned to staring at his computer screen. The ex-marine sighed but continued on his way up the stairs, taking a slower than usual stride along the walkway. Now he just had to figure out a way to get through to Vance that this was a serious matter and not just a cry for attention.

"He free?" He asked as he swept by Celia's desk.

"Yes but - Agent Gibbs!" She cried but the man had already stormed into the Director's room and slammed the door shut in her face.

Vance looked up with a wry expression on his face. "I suppose manners would be too much to ask?"

Gibbs dropped the copy of the report on top of the file that Leon was reading. "Read it, Leon. I'm going to speak with Abby about the evidence."

The Director frowned, picking up the first page. In capital letters at the top read

'INCIDENT REPORT' and scanning down for the agents accused Vance's eyes widened. He looked at the name of the agent filing the complaint. "Agent Gibbs-"

Gibbs didn't wait and had already gotten a hand on the doorknob. "I mean it, Leon! Read the goddamn thing cover to cover. I'm through with you making assumptions about my Senior Field Agent. You think just anyone could manage a whole decade as SFA on the major crime response team and under me?" The cold glint in those crystalline blue eyes screamed shivers down Leon's spine. Gibb's continued after a controlled exhale of air, "Read it, then and only then will anything you say hold any weight in this conversation. I'll be expecting your call, Director Vance."

Then Leon Vance's office door was swinging shut with a quiet 'shnick' sound. The air in his office rapidly settling, like a building storm pressure. Shit. He hadn't seen Gibbs this angry since Jenny had passed away and he'd decided to split up the man's team.

The way Gibbs had subconsciously turned to gaze at his second in command after the news that Dinozzo would be assigned agent afloat, and away from Gibbs preview, was vivid ever now after three years. There had been some unspoken conversation between the two in that moment, something fierce and beyond his comprehension, because moments later the Italian had conjured up the nerve to crack a grin at the marine. In response he'd received an exasperated exhale before the four had trudged from Vance's office. Just before the door had closed, he'd caught a glimpse of a hand snapping up to head-slap Dinozzo and the intimidating man growling at his former SFA to 'damn well behave out there or he'd be head-slapped into next week when Gibbs got his hands on him'.

It wasn't that he thought Dinozzo was incapable. It was because the man was so capable that he felt threatened. After undercover work, political warfare, investigating crimes and leading teams Leon Vance had not for a single second had been able to get more then a surface read on Anthony Dinozzo, Very Special Agent.

What little he had been able to read was an undercurrent of tension and self-guilt in the man in the wake of his predecessor. Burnout wasn't an option for the second best agent in NCIS. Thus the only course of action was to give the man time; time to think, time spent in a place where the lull of routine would drive the bouncy man into boredom, and, into having no alternative but to think about the events of the past few years. Dinozzo had been the better for it, Leon knew. After all, the agent had come forward only a year and a half later with a proposal for a mission that not even he or Gibbs could have constructed better. But now wasn't the time for his pondering; the Director of NCIS had a report to read.

The clock was ticking and Gibbs' patience wouldn't hold out forever.

-x-

The elevator ride down to the lab wasn't a pleasant one.

His hands clenched and un-clenched and when it opened on the floor above Abby's, the woman before him had squeaked and said she'd get the next one.

She should have called him. Why hadn't she called him? In reality he knew exactly why she hadn't. She had gotten too emotionally involved in the Thorson case and he had let; McGee had let her. Tony's comments and further silence after the explosion between Abby and himself had made a lot more sense now then it had before.

Her music wafted from the open doorway and he strode over to the player and switched it off.

"Gibbs!"

He shook his head at her, a few seconds after a serious look appeared on his face. "Need to talk to you, Abbs."

She smiled cheerily at him, her pigtails whipping. "Sure thing, Bossman. Hit me! Have we got a new case? Tell me we have a new case, Gibbs! Things are so boring for me when we're on cold ca-"

"Abby!" Gibbs shouted, feelings his anger bubbling again. Not at her; more at the situation and his ignorance. This could so easily have been swept under the carpet had Tony kept his mouth shut. "I need you to answer me honestly. The bomb case, did you check all of Ziva and McGee's radio feedback?"

The Goth's eyes widened. "Oh God! Gibbs! I completely forgot, I got up to number twenty-four and then we caught the new case and I was distracted... Andy from evidence said he'd check the rest for me but then his wife went into labor and - I missed something, didn't I? Does that mean our case is going to fall apart -"

"Abbs - Abby -" Gibbs tried to cut in but she was working herself into a state as physical as Tony's current emotional one. Quickly placing a hand on her mile-a-minute running mouth and making the ALS sign for silence with his other she quieted. Her big eyes nervously watched his. "Dinozzo, Tony, handed in a complaint form. Ziva and McGee told him when he returned to the car that they'd stopped listening a few hours ago. And he didn't hear any feedback from the radio, which indicates it was switched off."

Her eyes widened even further and she removed his hand from her mouth. "No - no way would they do that! Rule fifteen - always work as a team. They can't - but -" Tears began to form and she was shifting left to right, hands wringing as she tried to understand. "Tony could have been k-killed Gibbs… and we wouldn't have known! This is all my fault! I nearly killed-"

"Hey, hey! Abby, you are not responsible for their actions." Grimacing as she let loose a sob, Gibbs quickly pulled her into his arms and encompassed her in his warmth. He rubbed his hand up and down her spine as he tried to calm her. When she finally calmed after letting loose her tears, he kissed her forehead and murmured, "I know. But we aren't going to let this go, okay?"

She nodded, then scowled up at him. "You're damn right we aren't, Mister." Then she smiled teasingly, "I'm surprised Tony actually told you, he never usually let's loose these sorts of things, in fact apart for you the only one he really told anything to was Kate -" her mouth formed a small 'o' and she blinked. "Gibbs, do you think -"

He only smiled down at her, kissed her check and realized from his grasp. "Yeah, I do. Now I'm going to tell Ducky about what's happening. I need you to keep this on the low-down, and expect a call from Vance requesting the tapes. They'll be needed when he calls in IA."

She nodded then gently shooed him out of the lab. "Gotcha, my silver haired fox. Now go see Ducky and look after Tony up there."

-x-

It was a quiet day morning in the bogs of autopsy. Ducky had half been expecting Anthony to show up miserable from his SFA duties and one too many head slaps from an annoyed Gibbs. Jethro really did need to learn to control his temper at times, it certainly wasn't the poor boy's fault that they had been assigned cold cases for the next week.

The clear lack of said boy told Ducky all needed to know about the state of affairs up in the bullpen, and just on the dot Jethro walked into autopsy, a rather fowl expression storming across his face. How anyone could have such an unhappy disposition so early in the morning, Ducky had no idea. He wondered what had happened to bring his friend to such a state.

"Why Jethro, whatever is the matter? Why, you look rather like this man I once met back in Para-"

"Haven't got time for stories right now, Duck."

A serious matter indeed, for Jethro to be taking such a tone. "And what exactly is it time for old friend?"

The grey haired man sighed and hopped up on one of the spare autopsy tables. "Honesty, Duck."

This puzzled the ME. "Honesty, about what my dear man?"

"The team." And here for the first time in a many years, Ducky watched his friend falter. "Ducky have I been... have I been letting Ziva and McGee get away with things in the bullpen when they've been going too far with Tony?"

"Ah," was Ducky's succinct reply. "As I haven't been up there all too often as of late, I cannot say if this applies as a constant happening. But there are times when you do perhaps, shall I say, allow Ziva and Timothy to overstep the boundaries when it concerns our young St. Bernard."

Jethro's face was a fascinating spectacle to watch. Emotions scrolling across only to be replaced in a lightning flash by some equally strong emotion. Rage, anger, sadness, exhaustion, betrayal, and a bitterness Ducky couldn't recall seeing since the Director had sent Anthony away to the USS Seahawk.

Quietly Ducky questioned his friend, "Why exactly are you choosing to address this now, Jethro?"

There was a heavy silence, then, "Tony filed a complaint of misconduct. Ziva and McGee told him they had switched off the radio when he was collecting samples during the Walter Daniels terrorist case."

Ducky dropped his scalpel, his mouth opening and closing rapidly. "Do you mean to say that Timothy and Ziva, our Timothy and Ziva, broke protocol?"

His friend nodded once with a strong finality, and Ducky could already tell that the two's fate had been sealed. That is, unless the two had a very good explanation for their actions.

"And there is no way it could be an accidents?"

Jethro dropped his head, his shoulders slumping. Then there was a bang and the marine exclaimed, "Dammit Duck! What was the point of all these years teaching them if they throw the rules at the window first opportunity when they experience a little annoyance?, They're trained agents for fuck sake!"

Ducky shook his head in bewilderment. "I'm afraid I have no answers for you on this one, Jethro. I can only offer my disbelief and anger that they would do such a thing."

Growling, Gibbs pushed off the table and began to pace. "Vance is going over the report and is probably checking the feed tapes now. What the hell are we going to do, Ducky? At worst Ziva could be deported or put in Jail and McGee could loose his job and also go to jail."

"You believe there to be no other course of action?"

Gibbs ran a hand through his hair, "Unless IA is willing to come to a compromise I don't see how - they generally don't like giving people second chances in the face of potential terrorism. Had something had gone wrong and Tony had been hurt or... killed…" The last word was barely more then the faintest of whispers.

There was silence in the room a longtime before the ringing of a cell phone broke it.

"Gibbs. Yeah."

The phone snapped shut and with a grim nod to Ducky, Gibbs swept from the room.

Ducky could only watch and wonder how things had fallen apart so fast.

-x-

The bullpen was a hive of activity. Almost all teams were on rotation his week and three of the current seven teams stationed at the naval yard were involved in cold cases.

Ziva muttered under her breath as she slammed her draw shut, then controlled a flinch when the bang brought her back to a dark cell in a maze of metal doors. Her eyes crossed to Tony, who was bent over his desk and reading papers of his own cold case file. Perfect.

"Did your weekend not go well Tony?"

Tony, to her satisfaction, did flinch and when his eyes flicked up from his paper, she smirked.

"Frankly Ziva, I don't see how that is any of your business."

Well, well. This would be interesting. "What? Was she not interested in you masculine physique? Or was it the constant movie references?"

Tony's eyes narrowed a fraction and his lips pursed just as she had predicted. He truly was too easy to get a rise out of sometimes. "So you acknowledge I have a muscular physique now? What happened to 'we're not talking about a man Tony, we're talking about you', huh Ziva?"

"Perhaps if you were to assert your masculinity a bit more often, you would not encounter such challenges."

She jumped when a hand contacted harshly with the back of her head.

Then came a coldly uttered, "And I'm pretty sure I told my senior field agent to assert that we were working cold cases. Not presuming to know about our work colleges love lives, Probationary Agent David."

Swallowing, Ziva turned to look into the unimpressed visage of Gibbs. His eyes unreadable and body language blank. He was completely cutting off any indication of what he was thinking from her, like a - like a solider. Like a marine.

"Yes, Gibbs." She quickly scurried back to her desk, watching from the corner of her eye as her leader's gaze went to McGee who was watching the proceedings wide-eyed.

"Anything you want to add, McGee?"

The pale, gangly man shook his head quickly and then hunched down under the steely, unwavering gaze. "No, Boss."

"Good. Dinozzo, with me."

Tony scrambled out from behind his desk, chasing after the disappearing figure of Gibbs as they headed up to Vance's office.

Ziva turned to look at McGee, "What was that about?"

McGee glanced up and then quickly down again. "You should do your work, Ziva. "

She huffed and sat back in her chair. What was going on with everyone today? First Tony, then Gibbs and now McGee.

-x-

Tony forced himself to stay quiet even though his mind was running through a million movie scenarios in order to avoid thinking about what toothpick would say when they entered the office.

"It'll be fine, Dinozzo."

"You don't know that."

Gibbs paused and looked at him intently. "Yes Dinozzo, I do."

And then they were walking into the office and Tony lost his chance to retort, not that he was insane enough to try and out-banter his boss.

In the room was, of course, the Director but also two other people. One he knew vaguely from being IA, Joel Roberts if he was mistaken. He'd been sent up from basement to collect statements over the Domino incident. Good guy, played in the interagency baseball tournament every year.

The other was a mystery to him. She wore a pencil skirt, plain blouse and form fitting office jacket with a cup of tea in hand. But there was something familiar about her, in the tresses of her dark hair and warm eyes that called to Tony.

"Good of you to join us Agent Gibbs, Agent Dinozzo. As you are aware, we do have to involve IA in the investigation about this breach of protocol as it could have implications of the court case if it were to get out. However, as Agent Dinozzo was not hurt in the incident, should nothing come up in court, they are willing to allow you the final say on whether or not any charges will be pressed Agent Dinozzo." Leon immediately began. "This is Agent Joel Robert, I believe you became acquainted some years back after the incident with Agent Lee. And this is Dr Rachel Cranston, she'll be present during the interviews and forming psychological profiles on Agents McGee and David."

"Joel. You look good," Tony greeted with his hand out to shake the others.

Joel snorted, "Damn sight better then you, Dinozzo. What a mess, man. What the heck were those two blinkin idiots thinking?"

Gibbs remarked sarcastically, "It's more the lack of thinking, I'd gander."

"Perhaps, Agent Gibbs or perhaps it's more what led them to thinking it was acceptable for them to do so, that we should all be concerned about. From my understanding, your team were recently involved in a mission to Somalia during which your agents were all tortured?" Dr Cranston intervened softly.

Gibbs didn't seem surprised by the doctor having the guts to speak up. If Tony had his money right, the other was actually looking almost wistful. Who was this woman?

"That's right, Doc."

"And there was no psychological intervention beyond the mandatory five sessions?"

"Actually, Agent McGee has continued to see a councilor. On a private basis, not just about err - you know." Tony finished uncomfortably, when Gibbs intense gaze turned to him.

"I see," Dr Cranston replied demurely. "The perhaps it would be easiest for him to have his interview first, as he is likely to be the more mentally stable of then two?"

Vance took control again at this point, "Thank you for the input, Doctor. I would also like to extend my apologies to Agent Dinozzo at this point, as it is my responsibility to uphold regulation and ensure the safety of my agents as Director. I have obviously failed it doing so. This makes twice you've been failed by a director of this agency. I can only extend my apologies and assurance this matter will be handled with the utmost seriousness."

Tony flushed, heat rising from his cheeks and neck. "I-I... Um, thank you Director."

Vance nodded. "Gibbs, I would prefer if Agent Dinozzo stayed here and spoke with Dr Cranston while we go and inform your subordinates of the current proceedings?"

Tony looked up sharply at this. What? "Bu-" A hand smacked the top of his head. "Talking to the nice Doctor, got it Boss."

"Good," Gibbs smirked. "Stay."

Tony rolled his eyes, feelings a little tension seep out of him at the familiar pattern of interaction with his boss. "Woof!"

Gibbs continued to smirk as he, Agent Roberts and the Director left the room. As soon as they were outside, his smile dropped and he became blank faced. Sharing quiet looks of understanding from his companions, he turned and began the trip back downstairs.

Fireworks were about to erupt.