A/N: I know, I said this was a one-shot, but the story kept going in my head so now it's a two-shot. Again, thanks go out to my beta Rinkle. The usual disclaimers apply.
He always woke up with the sun, today was no different. Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs rolled out of bed, stretching to loosen the tired muscles that were still recovering from the force of the blast that put him in the hospital. He padded over to the bathroom, rubbing his face. Once again he found himself standing in front of the mirror, looking at an older version of himself. He'd gotten rid of some of that extra hair, but when did he get so much gray? The eyes were the same, but not the same. They seemed sadder, wiser. He pictured Shannon standing behind him as a younger Gibbs shaved. She was laughing at something he said, looking at his reflection with such love.
Gibbs closed his eyes. Shannon was gone. Kelly was gone. His family… gone. The pain was still raw. Logically he knew it had been fifteen years, but emotionally it had happened months ago. Shaking his head, he turned on the shower, stepping under the hot spray to wash away his pain and tears.
Ziva walked into the squad room, glancing curiously at Tony's empty desk. "Where's Tony?"
McGee looked up from his computer and shrugged. "Don't know, he wasn't here when I got in."
Ziva laughed. "He's probably off sulking."
"Nah, Tony's not like that," McGee replied. "He loves working with Gibbs. I think he's relieved that he doesn't have to keep us on track anymore and he can go back to making my life miserable."
"It has been different around here," agreed Ziva. "Tony's so serious and focused in a crisis, isn't he? I kind of miss the playful Tony."
"Me too, but don't let him know that, we'll never live it down."
Ziva laughed. "I know; he loves when you calls him Boss."
McGee smiled in agreement.
"Where's DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, entering the squad room a little later than usual.
"Haven't seen him today, Boss," replied McGee. "Good to have you back."
Gibbs grunted and sat down, picking up an envelope sitting on his desk. Opening it, he read the contents, his brow furrowed in confusion, then anger.
"What happened while I was out?" Gibbs asked the two agents.
"What do you mean?"
"Who headed the investigation while I was in the hospital?"
McGee stood up. "Tony led the investigation here while the Director worked with you."
"Were there any problems?"
McGee looked confused by the anger in the senior agent's voice. "No, not that I recall. I mean, other than not being able to find Pinpin Pula, or figure out what he was planning."
Gibbs sat back in his chair. "Did Tony have any trouble at all? Did he seem like he was in over his head?"
McGee shook his head.
"He handled everything very well, Gibbs," replied Ziva. "We were just saying how focused he gets when the situation gets serious."
"Yeah, Boss," McGee said. "He seems to know everything going on around him, even if it looks like he's not paying attention. We were in the observation room while Ziva was interrogating the captain of the ship. He had his back to the window and was talking about movies when all of a sudden he shushed me and said Ziva was about to get an ID from the man." The young man looked impressed.
"Maybe he was feeling frustrated because we couldn't get a lead on Pinpin, but really, there wasn't anything he could have done without your help," Ziva added.
"Everything was okay between you?" pressed Gibbs.
"We started to give him a hard time," admitted McGee, "about trying to be you. But he pretty much laid down the law. I felt kind of bad for what I said, because he was right."
"We were all pretty screwed up tightly," Ziva said.
"You mean wound tightly?" asked McGee.
"Whatever," she replied in exasperation. "We were all worried about you, Gibbs, so tempers were running a little high."
Gibbs put the letter back in the envelope and placed it in his pocket. "I'm going out. If Jenny... the Director is looking for me, tell her I'll be back later."
"Where are you going?"
Gibbs ignored the question and headed for the elevator.
Tony was in the zone, he had his iPod on and he was running at a steady pace. It was almost hypnotic, the physical exertion eased his mind somewhat. Something started nagging at him and he became instantly alert. A car was following him. Damn, he didn't have his weapon with him.
Suddenly the car pulled up beside him, the passenger side window was powered down and he heard a familiar voice.
"Get in the car, DiNozzo," barked Gibbs.
"What are you doing here, Boss?"
"I said, get in the car."
Tony knew better than to argue with that tone. Obeying immediately, he got in the car, barely getting the door closed before Gibbs floored it and took off. Buckling up quickly he glanced nervously over at the older agent.
"Should you be driving, Boss?"
"Shut up." Gibbs' expression was grim. He never took his eyes off the road. Tony could see that he was gripping the steering wheel tightly.
The ride was taken in silence. Tony wanted to ask where they were going, but one glance at the stony face beside him made him swallow his words. They appeared to be driving out to the coast. Maybe Gibbs was going to shoot him and let his body wash out with the tide. He wouldn't put it past him.
An hour later they pulled up to a secluded beach. Gibbs got out of the car and headed to the water. He stood there, looking out over the ocean. Uncertain of what he should do, Tony followed the older agent and stood next to him, silently.
Gibbs' words were soft, Tony could barely hear them above the sound of the surf.
Tony looked down at his feet, trying to pull together the words to express his feelings. Everything had seemed so clear the night before. He knew what he had to do. Today, in the light of day, things weren't so black and white.
"I don't know, Boss," he said. "Last night I was thinking about the investigation and how I handled it, and I just feel like the rest of the team doesn't want to follow me. That they don't trust me the way they trust you."
"We're different people, DiNozzo," Gibbs replied. "They'll feel differently about your leadership, but that doesn't mean they don't think you're a good team leader."
"I don't think they do." Tony looked up, his face reflecting the confusion and hurt he was feeling. "They accused me of trying to be you."
Gibbs nodded, waiting for the younger man to continue.
"I just feel like you deserve someone who can back you up, take over when you need to be somewhere else. Someone who the rest of the team will follow."
"I'll be honest with you, Tony," Gibbs said. "Things are still pretty messed up in my head. I know who everyone is, but I can't seem to remember much more about them." Tony felt his stomach drop.
"I get images in my head," he continued, "but they're random. I see myself interacting with people, but it doesn't make sense, there's no context, just little scenes. Things that happened years ago seem so fresh, and then I remember things that happened recently, and I know they're recent, but I gotta tell you, it's confusing the hell out of me."
Gibbs turned his sharp gaze to Tony, locking eyes so that the younger man could see he was serious. "When I saw you, I knew instantly that you were someone I trusted, someone I could count on. I didn't know why, I just had this relieved feeling, like everything was covered."
"I did. How long have you been on my team?"
"Going on five years."
Gibbs was silent for a moment. "When I was a Marine, I was a tough leader."
"Don't interrupt. I was hard on my men, pushing them to be the best they could be."
"Isn't that an Army Reserve slogan?"
"Are you always this obnoxious?"
"I didn't tolerate screw-ups. They either got their act together or they were transferred out. You can't afford mistakes or carelessness on the battlefield. I can't imagine I changed that much as a civilian. My people are the best they can be, I make sure of that. If you've been on my team for five years, and you're my second-in command, you must be good. I can't cite specifics, but I feel that..."
"In your gut?"
Gibbs smiled. "Yeah, in my gut."
The two stood in silence for a while, watching the waves lap against the shoreline.
"My father always said I'd end up in the gutter. He wasn't interested in anything that I was good at; he thought most sports were a waste of time. Golf, was okay, though. You could make business deals on the golf course. And police work?" Tony snorted. "Cleaning up other people's trash, according to him, the human trash. He just never saw the need to protect the helpless, to get the bad guys off the street. I was just a human garbage man."
"I'm sorry your father never gave you a chance, Tony, never saw the promise in you. I know that's affected your self-esteem, but there comes a time when you have to let go of that. It's an explanation of why you feel the way you do, not an excuse, not anymore. You've accomplished enough to prove your father wrong. Get his voice out of your head, because he didn't know what he was talking about."
"Tony, I need you to come back." Gibbs looked at his agent. "I need to take some time off, and I don't trust the team with anyone but you."
Tony looked surprised. "Time off? How long?"
Gibbs shrugged. "I don't know, a few weeks, maybe. I might go down to Mexico, hang out with Frank and get my head on straight. I feel so, I don't know, raw. I miss Shannon and Kelly so much, I'm reliving the whole thing."
"Shannon and Kelly?" Tony asked.
"You don't know?"
"You keep a lot of things close to the vest, Boss."
"My wife and daughter. They were mur... killed, 15 years ago," Gibbs said softly.
"You had a daughter? And so Shannon was, what, your first wife? You've been married four times?"
Gibbs nodded. "I'm surprised I got married three more times. The way I felt when they died, the way I feel now, I'm surprised I didn't kill myself. I almost did, back then."
Tony didn't say anything; he didn't know what to say. He was shocked at the revelation that Gibbs had a family, a wife and daughter that had died. That explained why he was so good with children.
"What were they like?" Tony asked softly.
Gibbs smiled in remembrance. "Shannon was beautiful, full of love and laughter, full of life. She had a temper, a typical redhead, she didn't show it that often, but when she did, even I didn't cross her."
Tony laughed. "Wow, someone who could keep you in line? I wish I had met her."
"You would have liked her," Gibbs said. "She liked to have fun."
"A redhead, like her mom. Pretty, smart, a little devil."
"Daddy's little girl," Tony said with a smile.
Gibbs nodded. "They were very special," he said softly.
"That's why you go for redheads," Tony observed.
Gibbs looked at him in surprise. "I do? Were my other wives redheads?"
"I never met them," replied Tony, "but I believe so. You must have been trying to recreate what you lost."
"I guess I failed, then, didn't I?"
"I guess so."
The two stood there, each lost in their own thoughts.
Gibbs broke the silence, "The others trust you, Tony."
Tony looked over at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"I asked them how things went while I was out of commission."
"And they said you did a great job, admitted they gave you a hard time and they were wrong to do that."
"Oh god, do they know I quit?"
"Because I can't face them if they do. I'll look like a whiny baby who took his toys and went home because the others wouldn't play nice."
"They don't know, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.
Tony blew out a breath of relief. "Good, Ziva will never let me live that down."
"You'll come back?"
"You need me to keep things running while you're gone." Tony smiled.
"I do." Gibbs shook his head. "Come on, we better get back before Jen... the Director puts out a BOLO on us."
The two men headed back toward the car.
"Hey, the director is a redhead. Ow, sorry, Boss."