Disclaimer: Look! Pixies!
Continuity: Post Escaped.
Summary: "We're not his toy soldiers waiting for him on the shelf."
A/N: This is really, really cheesy. You've been warned.
By the time Tony landed in her lab, everything from his hair to the inside of his lungs coated in dust, it was almost after one AM. She was there, sitting Indian style on the floor with her laptop open in front of her. Though it didn't seem like it, Abby was, out of all of them, most careful to keep her personal life apart from her job. Tony knew that there wasn't one personal file or bookmark on any of the computers in the lab just as certainly as he knew that the laptop had never seen a DNA analysis or crime scene photo in its life.
She looked up at him, eyes large and almost glowing in the light cast by the screen. "Hey. What're you doing here?"
He frowned. "Nice to see you, too."
She shrugged. "I thought that with Gibbs back, you'd be over there."
He laughed. "Actually, I was expecting you to have been out of here as soon as he was."
She smiled slightly. "I'm not the one sleeping with him."
He blinked. "You're…not? But I thought—"
She arched an eyebrow. "You don't keep track of him that well if you thought that."
He leaned back against the counter, already knowing where this was going. "Why would I keep track of him?"
Her head tilted to the side. "You're sleeping with him."
He rolled his eyes. "No, I'm not. I thought you were."
"I—Oh. You're not?" She rubbed her eyes, smearing her make-up as if her entire view of reality had just shifted in a major way.
He shook his head. "I know you have some sort of kink when it comes to men who could practically be your father, but it's one that I really, really don't share."
She smirked. "No, you prefer your dates to be fresh out of Jr. High."
He reached down to smack her but she dodged it, instead using his hand to pull him down to the floor beside her. He winced as he landed on the tile. "This is cozy."
She stuck out her tongue at him. "Did you talk to the director?"
He flinched. It was almost impossible to notice and therefore he was sure that she noticed it. "She isn't going to file the reprimand. After Ziva's disappearing act last week, a note that she disobeyed a direct order to wait for back up and decided to take on an entire gang of assassins by herself wouldn't exactly look fantastic. And besides, I convinced her that, being that that happened a month ago, Ziva's learned the error of her ways and is a better person for it."
Abby smirked. "And then all the magical fairies came down from the heavens and sprinkled sugar all over everyone and you all followed the white rabbit to the castle in the sky?"
He shook his head. "They were elves, Abby."
"Oh." She looked contrite. "Sorry."
"How is Ziva?" he asked, because she had barely spoken to him since her return from being on the run and therefore he had no idea if she was about to snap and kill them all. Or something like that. For all Tony knew, she could show up the next day with a pan of freshly baked cookies. It wouldn't even surprise him. In that all too short two week period right after Gibbs left when Abby and Ziva had been a couple, they had brought in cupcakes for Palmer's birthday. Admittedly, Tony had been too preoccupied with figuring out how to lead his new team and trying to get rid of a girlfriend whom he'd become far too attached to, at the time, and therefore had never gotten the chance to ask who had done the actual baking. He frowned, realizing that he'd just spent thirty valuable seconds using equally valuable brain power on thoughts of cookies and cupcakes and… where had he been trying to go with that train of thought?
Abby's face lit up like—something that was not a Christmas tree. Tony mentally slapped himself for even contemplating thinking the comparison. The Goth's hatred of Christmas was almost as scary as Gibbs without coffee. "She's actually doing fine, all things considered. She's staying with me right now, I think she's afraid her apartment's bugged. I mean, she hasn't said anything, but—"
He could sense an Abby babble session coming on, and forestalled it with a question. "So…you're back in her good graces?"
Abby visibly slumped. "I'm not Bryan. And I told her if she stayed at McGee's anymore they'd both end up being alcoholics. Did you know that all they do over there is drink and play Monopoly?"
He nodded. "yes, actually, I did."
She blinked. "Oh."
"So, it's good that Gibbs is back," he said, moving the conversation away from Ziva with absolutely no subtlety at all.
Her head bobbed up and down. "Yup. You relieved not to have to worry about the team anymore?"
They sat in silence for a few moments before he slammed his fist into the cupboard with such vehemence that whatever was inside rattled ominously. Abby slowly turned to look at him as if she'd just been waiting for his explosion. "He doesn't deserve this. He left. He was too fucking scared to do his job and he left. This isn't the Holiday Inn. We're not his little plastic soldiers lying in the box until he's ready to play again. We can't just come back into our lives and expect everything to be the same. It's been four months. Four and a half."
She nodded, and he could see the tears in her eyes that were refusing to fall. He knew they were reflected in his own. "He came to pick up his cat," she told him. "I left after work today, and went home and he was in my apartment, trying to get her to come to him. And she wouldn't. That's why I came back to work. I didn't want to think about it. I'm just like that damn cat, Tony. The first time he came back, I didn't feel anything. I thought it was just because I was worried about Ziva, but when he left without even saying goodbye—I thought I'd break. I was prepared to shatter and have to put myself together again. But nothing happened. I didn't really care. And now. I mean, I tried!" She was crying in earnest, hands tightly clenched in her lap. He watched her steadily, trying to communicate compassion with his eyes. "I hugged him, and defended him when Lee said we were better off without him. I thought if I acted like it was the biggest joy of my life that he was back, I'd eventually feel it, too. But I haven't."
He carefully reached a hand to rest on her shoulder, rubbing the pad of his thumb against the hollow of her throat. "He can't have you back," he whispered. "Any of you. We all work fine as a unit without him. He can't come and fuck that up." And it was true. Each of them had grown in their own way after Gibbs had abandoned them. And not only that, but they'd grown together, using their shared anger and betrayal to forge a fierce bond. The summer had been a hard one, starting with Abby and Ziva's break-up and escalading from there. An agency psychologist who turned out to be Tony's girlfriend's father. Tony getting pushed out in front of a truck. Tony trying to use his closest male friend to lure his girlfriend away from him, only to have the friend wind up dating Ziva. Abby's disappearing act one weekend and her return with the news that she had almost killed herself. Finally, his return to the hospital when the painkillers he'd been given turned out to be drugs that induced heart attacks and the kidnapping of a sixteen-year-old girl who he had mistakenly slept with. It had all culminated the day that Ziva had managed to set up a meeting with a group of men who were willing to give them all of the information on Tony's aggressor in exchange for free and safe passage out of the country. Ziva's at that time boyfriend, Bryan, who had been assigned to keep the remainder of Tony's team under his wing until Tony was released from the hospital had ordered her to wait for back-up, another four hours. Ziva, being Ziva, had promptly gone off and confronted the men, getting the information and a head wound but managing to kill all of them in the ensuing gunfight. That had been the end of her relationship with Bryan, and Tony had been sent off to Germany as soon as he was released from the hospital. He hadn't gotten a chance to catch up on the inter-office Soap Opera as of yet. But there was one thing he was sure of. There was no longer room for a Gibbs character in the drama.
The door to the older man's house was unlocked, as usual. What was not normal was the sight of the ex-Marine sitting on the sofa, gaze fixed on a week old newspaper and no boat, coffee or Burban in sight. Then again, Tony thought ruefully, that may be due to the fact that there wasn't a single member of the team that hadn't raided his liquor cabinet at least once over his absence.
"It's late. Shouldn't you be asleep?" Gibbs asked without looking up.
Tony bit his tongue to prevent himself from saying anything. Instead, he stalked around the sofa to stand directly in front of Gibbs. "I have something I need to say to you."
Calmly, as if he'd been expecting this, the older man set aside the paper. Tony decided that he was going to have to make it a rule that even if someone were going to predict his every move, they'd be required to at least pretend to be surprised. "Okay, Tony. Go ahead."
"They're not your team. Don't say anything, let me finish. You left. You gave up the right to each of us the second you gave me your badge and gun. Any of us would have followed you to the end of the Earth and jumped off if you'd wanted us to, and you smashed that trust. You're not going to get it back. They're my team now. We do things differently. I didn't sit there and try to be you. I took the qualities I liked, mixed them with my own leadership style and you know what, Gibbs? It works. We all adapted, and we can't—unadapt."
He studied Tony with eyes that no longer seemed hard and mysterious but were now just the eyes of a tired and very "real" man. "I know that, DiNozzo. I'm not stupid."
Tony frowned. "Then why—"
Gibbs smirked slightly. "It's my turn to adapt."
Tony could feel the familiar frustration of not knowing what Gibbs meant and yet feeling like he should gnawing on the edges of his mind. "You don't get it. It's our Soap Opera now, not yours. The show's over. Go home." Tony was vaguely aware that he was making little to no sense, but Gibbs seemed to understand him and that just made it worse. He turned before the silver haired man could say something that Tony was absolutely sure would be perfect for the situation. He fled the house and sat in his car outside of the house until his hands stopped shaking.
The next morning, Gibbs was there and Tony wished that everyone would stop sending accusing glances his way whenever he couldn't see them doing it.