Disclaimer: NCIS does not belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Story takes place after "Blowback" (Season 4), after Gibbs discovers that Tony has been secretly working for Director Shepard, helping to track Le Grenouille.
Tony has been standing on his boss's front steps for several minutes now, but he still hasn't managed to make up his mind. The rational part of his brain is telling him to get the heck out of there before he makes an idiot out of himself. Again. But still, he can't quite convince himself to leave.
Because he needs to talk to Gibbs. He really does. Even if he doesn't have a clue what he's going to say. What can he say?
The facts are simple: he lied to Gibbs. Sure, he had a good reason, but he's not stupid enough to think that that will make much difference in his boss's eyes. Because no matter how good his reasons were, he still broke his trust. And in doing so, Tony is afraid that he caused something in their relationship to change. Maybe forever.
How can it not have? Everything they had was built on trust. It had taken a long time – years, even – for Tony to really believe that Gibbs trusted him. He'd had to prove himself over and over again before he had finally come to sense that Gibbs knew he could rely on him. It hadn't been easy, but it had all been worth it. The feeling that he had his boss's trust, maybe even his respect, had been worth so much.
But now, Tony is convinced that he's screwed that all up. Because now Gibbs knows. He knows that Tony spent months lying to him, hiding the fact that he was working personal missions for the Director. And Tony's not sure that his boss will ever forgive him.
And who can blame him, really? Tony tries to tell himself that it wasn't a betrayal. Not really. Gibbs had been gone, after all, when it all started. It's not like Tony had had the option of telling him. Tony hadn't answered to him, not then. And after Gibbs had come back? Well, by that time it had been too late. Hadn't it? Tony had already been in over his head, and as much as he'd wanted to tell his boss, he couldn't. Jenny had sworn him to secrecy. He'd been ordered to keep silent.
He tries to tell himself that he'd had no choice. That it wasn't as if he could simply disobey the director of NCIS. He'd been following orders. The way a good agent was supposed to.
But even as Tony tries to convince himself that he shouldn't feel so guilty, an echo of Gibbs's voice enters his thoughts: "On my team, you don't bypass the chain of command!" How many times has he heard his boss say that? And yet, that's exactly what he did.
It is the way his hand is beginning to burn from the pizza box he's carrying that finally pulls Tony out of his internal argument, forcing him to make a decision at last. And, much as he's tempted to simply get back in his car and pretend this never happened, Tony finds he can't quite bring himself to do it.
Because even at the risk of sounding like an idiot, he needs to talk to Gibbs. To say something to try to explain himself. To apologize again, maybe. Mostly, he decides, he just needs to know where he stands. Because this feeling of uncertainty, this strange new awkwardness he feels in his boss's presence? It's eating at him. And he's not sure how much longer he can live with it.
So, taking a deep, bracing breath, Tony shifts the pizza box to his other hand and lets himself in. He glances around, but there's no sign of Gibbs. Wondering to himself if the ex-Marine ever comes out of his basement, Tony makes his way across the kitchen and over to the top of the stairs.
He finds Gibbs bent over, doing something to the frame of his boat. To be honest, Tony isn't exactly sure what he's doing. Carpentry isn't exactly his forte, after all. Whatever it is, it seems to be taking up all of his boss's attention. Tony considers clearing his throat, but decides that that would just be pathetic. So instead he simply stays where he is, waiting for Gibbs to notice him.
When he finally does look up from his work, Gibbs doesn't look particularly surprised to see his Senior Field Agent standing there, hovering awkwardly in the doorway.
"What, are you stalking me now, DiNozzo?" he finally asks, his mouth twisting in a wry half-smile.
Tony laughs, a little self-consciously, remembering the scene in the men's room earlier that day. "Ah, no. I, uh, brought pizza!" he offers brightly, projecting a confidence he doesn't feel. He extends the box toward his boss, a blatant peace offering.
Gibbs flips the lid open and glances at the contents. Seeing the sausage and cheese, he laughs a little, shaking his head. "Usually when you're trying to bribe someone, DiNozzo, you bring their favorite pizza. Not yours."
Tony has to smile at that, though he feels the need to protest, "Not a bribe, Boss. Call it a…" he searches for a witty response, but comes up with nothing. Sighing, he admits ruefully, "OK, fine! So I needed an excuse to come over, all right?" His confident smile back in place, Tony adds, "Besides, I was hungry. And no offense, Boss, but I've tasted your cooking, and –"
"Yeah, all right, DiNozzo," Gibbs cuts him off. He's rolling his eyes, but there's still a softness around his mouth that makes Tony suspect he's more amused than he's letting on. Gibbs takes the pizza box from him and sets it on his workbench, then grabs a slice for himself. Tony does the same, and there's a long moment of silence as the two men eat.
Tony darts occasional glances towards his boss, but Gibbs says nothing, clearly waiting for him to speak. Finally, Tony begins hesitantly, "Boss, I just – I know how you feel about apologies, but I want you to know…I really am sorry."
Gibbs just sighs. "Thought we already had this conversation, DiNozzo."
"Yeah. I mean we did, I guess, but I…" Tony trails off. He's beginning to regret coming. It's not like he has anything new to say. It's just…their earlier conversation, if you could call it that, had been anything but satisfying. And despite feeling like an idiot right now, he still does want to figure out where he stands with his boss right now.
When Tony doesn't say anything more, Gibbs sighs again. "But you're feeling guilty, right?" Somewhat surprised by his boss's directness, Tony gives a quick nod. Gibbs stares at him for a moment, apparently sizing him up, then says quietly, "Don't."
Tony glances up at him, surprised. After a moment, he adds quietly, his voice just shy of pleading, "I really did want to tell you, Boss. I hated keeping secrets from you. It's just…it was complicated," he finishes lamely, echoing his words from earlier, wishing he had something more intelligent to say.
"It always is, DiNozzo. Always is."
Tony glances at his boss uncertainly, not really sure what to make of that. He can't help but remember their conversation in the men's room, when Gibbs had told him that he'd have done the same thing in his position. "You would've lied to Mike Franks?" Tony had challenged. There's a sinking feeling in his stomach, now, as he remembers the way Gibbs left without a word.
To his surprise, Gibbs appears to have been thinking along the same lines. Because when his boss finally speaks again, it's to tell him quietly, "You aren't me, DiNozzo."
Tony slumps a bit at that. "Trust me, I know. I know I'm not the agent you are, Boss. Maybe I never will be."
"What I meant," Gibbs interrupts, "is that the situations are different. You can't compare them." There's a long pause as Tony considers his words. Finally, Gibbs demands abruptly, "Do you really think I'd have left you in charge if I didn't trust you, DiNozzo?"
Tony can't quite meet his boss's eyes. That means a lot, coming from Gibbs. It really does. But some part of him must still need reassurance, because he finds himself whispering, almost without realizing it, "What about now, though?"
In response, Gibbs just crooks a finger at him. As soon as Tony is within arm's reach, he feels his boss's hand connect solidly with the back of his head. Gibbs actually sticks his index finger in his face as he tells him firmly, "Long as you're on my team, DiNozzo, you answer to me. You don't let anyone undermine that. Not even the Director."
Though Tony flinches a bit at the stern words, he can't help noticing that his boss's other hand is still on the back of his head, its warm weight oddly reassuring. "Got it?" Gibbs demands.
"Got it, Boss."
"Good." Gibbs tightens his hold, giving the back of Tony's head a brief squeeze. "That said…" he sighs, then continues quietly, looking intently into his agent's eyes, "I do trust you, Tony. That part never changed."
Tony has to swallow several times before he can manage to speak. When he does, his voice is hoarse. "Thank you, Boss."
A/N: As always, feedback is more than welcome! I'd love to hear from you.