'Agent Gibbs, meet your new team.'
Special agent Anthony DiNozzo stared in shock as the new director handed three files to the man who had, up until thirty seconds ago, been his team leader. He didn't care if Vance had just been promoted to the president of the United States – the bastard had no right to split up the best goddamned investigative team in NCIS. Surely Gibbs wasn't just going to stand there and take this? As if in answer to DiNozzo's silent question, Gibbs took one look at the files in his hand and dropped them back on the desk in front of the director.
'Go to hell, Leon.' With those four words he turned and stormed through the open doorway behind him, denied the satisfaction of slamming the door in Vance's face by the close proximity of his team behind him. He kept walking, immune to the sounds of their voices begging for answers. He didn't have any answers to give them. He was overwhelmed with the need to get out of the building. He ran down the stairwell, got into his car and drove away, ignoring the pleas of the people behind him.
It wasn't long before DiNozzo found him sitting on the floor of his basement staring blankly forward. He had known that one of them would come and hadn't really been surprised when he discovered it was Tony. The younger man had worked for him for longer than any other agent and over the years they had become friends. Gibbs didn't move as DiNozzo sat down on the floor next to him.
'I'm sorry, boss. If I hadn't let the director talk me into…' Gibbs let out a sigh and dropped his head to his knees.
'I'm only going to say this one more time, DiNozzo. This was not your fault. Jen knew exactly what she was doing and if you'd followed her, chances are she wouldn't be the only one who ended up dead.' He sighed again and lapsed into silence again, continuing to rest his head against his knees. Noticing the aura of defeat emanating from his friend, the younger agent decided to put his guilt aside and for the moment focus on getting his team back.
'Are you all right, boss?' As soon as the words had left his mouth Tony was aware of the absurdity of the question.
'I don't think I can do this any more, DiNozzo.' The despair in the older man's voice tore at his younger friend's heart.
'You loved her didn't you?' Gibbs nodded slowly.
'I thought I was over her a long time ago, but recently…'
'She was one hell of a woman,' DiNozzo agreed, 'and she wouldn't have wanted you to fall apart because of her. She'd have wanted you out there leading your team and fighting Vance every step of the way.'
'I'm sorry Tony, I just can't.' For the first time DiNozzo took in not only the lines of exhaustion in the older man's face but the ghostly white pallor of his skin. The man was clearly close to the limits of both his physical and emotional endurance. He leaned forward to take a closer look at his friend.
'When was the last time you slept, Gibbs? Or consumed something without caffeine in it?'
'Tony…' The younger man ignored the warning tone in Gibbs' voice and placed the back of his hand gently but firmly on the older man's forehead.
'You have a fever, Gibbs. Making yourself sick is not going to help anyone, least of all you.'
'I'm fine, Tony.'
'Gibbs, you are sick, you are exhausted and you've just lost the woman you loved. Now is not the time to put on the hard ass marine act. Let us help you. Let me help you. Please?' He stood and held out his hand to the older man. After a few seconds' consideration Gibbs took it and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. He managed to take a few steps before his legs gave way under his weight and he collapsed against the younger agent.
'Easy Boss, I gotcha.' DiNozzo draped his friend's arm across his shoulders and virtually carried the older man up the stairs before helping him to a seat at the kitchen table. After a cursory inspection of the kitchen cupboards he managed to dig out enough ingredients to fix up a sandwich and after making sure the older man ate it, repeated his earlier feat and half dragged, half carried the exhausted man upstairs and deposited him on the bed.
'Get some sleep, Boss,' he ordered, giving the older man's shoulder a gentle squeeze, 'and don't you worry about this Vance thing. You trained the best investigative team in NCIS and we're not going to let that bastard get one over on us. When you're ready, we'll make sure you have a team to come back to.'
Gibbs looked at his friend through bleary eyes and barely managed a mumbled 'Thanks Tony,' before his head hit the pillow and he fell into an exhausted sleep.
DiNozzo looked down at his sleeping friend and smiled sadly. 'Anytime, boss,' he whispered, 'I've got your six.' With a last glance at the sleeping figure he left the room and headed back to NCIS headquarters, hoping that they would find some way for him to be able to keep his promise.