Title: Out of Control

Author: Lunardreamed

Rating: FRT

Category: Gen, Character Thoughts

Summary: Gibbs is starting to wonder about Ziva.

Characters: Gibbs

Spoilers: "Jeopardy," and bits for the rest of season 3.

Series: N/A

Length: 1,273 words

Note: I like Ziva, but Gibbs's behavior in "Jeopardy" was a little strange and I felt the need to explain it. Thanks so much to Rinne, who did a great beta job at the last minute.

Warnings: If anything in the details for this story offends you, then don't read. I put them up to warn you so that you can choose to read stories you think you will enjoy and avoid those you won't. Fan fiction is supposed to be enjoyable.

Disclaimer: I do not own NCIS, its concept or any of the characters. I mean no harm and make no money from this.

Out of Control

It could be seen as a test, he supposed. That's the word that would make the most sense to anyone else. Because he did not intend to let Ziva take the fall for Brian Demsey's death. He did not truly believe that she was responsible, but he's begun to have his doubts about Ziva herself.

Abby's starting to really warm up to Ziva, and Ducky was wrapped around her little finger from her first days on the team. She's the only one that pays attention to Palmer and he adores her for it. And he's not so blind that he hasn't noticed that not so little crush McGee has on her. Ziva's noticed it for sure and she's playing it for all she's worth. As for Tony. Tony likes her. He just hasn't figured her out. She's nothing like the women he's used to and it's thrown him off his game.

It's strange, because seeing the team warm up to her should make him feel more comfortable, not less. He likes to have a tightly bonded team, but there's something off here. Maybe it started when he saw the difference between her treatment of McGee and her treatment of DiNozzo. Because it is so familiar to him. She's playing them. Her treatment of them is carefully designed to give her maximum control over them. Gibbs knows all about that. He's been refreshing his skills lately.

The way she is with McGee is brilliant. He's always been the youngest child. The tag-a-long brother that was only good for teasing and the shit jobs no one else wanted. But not to Ziva. She gives him the impression she sees him as a good agent; that she respects him in his own right, not just as a member of NCIS's best team. She continues to pump up his ego, showing that she finds him attractive, even next to the blinding good looks of DiNozzo. Oh yes, she's got him good. And Gibbs caught that not so little lie she told McGee when he was trying to comfort her. That really pushed his buttons, because he had been very disappointed with her lack of support for McGee when he was accused of killing that cop. She'd been pretty quick to play devil's advocate against him. In Gibbs's world teammates don't do that. That's what defense attorneys and Directors are for. It had been especially disappointing after her unconditional support of DiNozzo. She had been the only one on the team to doubt McGee, and she certainly didn't have the right to tell McGee otherwise.

He's actually starting to worry about DiNozzo. He's been trying to ignore the problem. He shouldn't be fussing over him. DiNozzo's an adult and his senior agent and if he can't handle Ziva, maybe Gibbs made a mistake. But Ziva's been pretty ruthless when it comes to exploiting DiNozzo's insecurities. It's starting to take its toll and the effect is to make DiNozzo work that much harder to get to her. He's not as focused on the job and his confidence is waning. It's a slow decline, and DiNozzo's a good actor, but Gibbs knows his agents.

And Gibbs could handle the situation if he weren't fighting Shepard for control of Ziva. Having the Director assign Ziva to his team was frustrating, but he thought that in the end Ziva would be his agent. He was the one that knew her secret, not Shepard. Though he's starting to wonder if that is still true. He should have gotten a clue when Ziva proved that she had no problem reporting to Shepard over his head, but he thought he had nipped that in the bud. He's getting soft in his old age.

When the elevator doors opened on Ziva with a dead suspect, he had his doubts. He knew what she was capable of and he wasn't afraid of making her capabilities clear to others. However, he honestly believed that if she had caused Demsey's death, it was accidental. An unfortunate circumstance. He thinks he still believes that, but he definitely believes she was the cause. And he's a little unnerved.

When he went down to Ducky for the preliminary findings, he expected Ducky to either declare her at fault or not, with the conditional that he couldn't be absolutely sure until he was done, of course. Gibbs would have taken either finding and followed through. He was unpleasantly surprised. Ducky refused to give him anything definite. Told Gibbs, he couldn't give him what he wanted. He couldn't say she didn't do it. He caught the look Palmer gave him. If anyone else had been accused, Ducky would have said that the preliminary findings were that she was guilty. Ducky would have said that he was reluctant to say so, but at this point, things were not in her favor. Ducky would have said not to do anything rash, but this was what he knew so far. Ducky knows enough about where Ziva comes from to know what she is capable of. If it had simply been a matter of protecting a teammate, Ducky would have trusted Gibbs to protect her. Ducky lied to him.

He understood Ziva being frustrated at being grounded. He would have been. Any of them would have. But, she knew protocol, so he didn't understand why she was asking why he was doing it. He understood wanting to see the autopsy results. But, she knew how dangerous that would have been to her case. Certainly not worth indulging her curiosity. So, when he caught her down there, he actually started to wonder if it hadn't been so accidental. In the past, he's been careful to keep her in situations where she will control herself. Maybe he slipped up.

And now, now that the determination has been made, Gibbs knows that something is really wrong. Because it's no coincidence that Brian Demsey's aneurysm was set off right after she hit him. Anything could have set it off, but the hit is the only causal event they can be sure of. Of course, she couldn't have known that he had the aneurysm. They can't be sure that she was the cause. But those were his arguments to make. Ziva is his agent. The Director would have been arguing that it was possible and they couldn't get caught letting their agents get away with killing suspects. That was her argument when DiNozzo and McGee were accused. Then, he would have argued that they couldn't ruin the career of a good agent based on a mere possibility. And the Director would have given in, because she was really only trying to make sure their asses were covered and they had considered all possibilities. Just like a good director. But the moment he had asked about triggers, Shepard had given him a look and he'd known that wasn't going to be the case this time. Declaring it natural causes so quickly was out of character. But then, Shepard's been playing favorites with Ziva for some time now.

Sometime in the past year, while he wasn't looking, he lost control. Someone else is running the show. He doesn't know if Ziva is really playing or if she just doesn't know any other way to act. He doesn't care. It doesn't matter. When he wasn't looking her direction, Ziva was getting more control. And he is dangerously behind. He's been slowly playing Shepard, but he's not nearly as far along with her as Ziva is with Ducky and McGee. She's not so far with Abby and DiNozzo, but she's getting there. He's showing his age. He's been slow, rusty, and nearsighted.

It ends now.

The End