A/N: This came to me this afternoon while I was crunching some particularly boring data at work. It seems my muse has reawakened and wanted to hear Tony's thoughts on what was going on duing 'Unexpected Sources', so here it is. Hope you enjoy.
Probationary Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo cringed inwardly, being careful not to allow any sign of his inner turmoil to reach his face. He forced his mouth to form what he hoped was a winning smile and turned to face his nemesis, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
He was greeted with a look of pure rage. The older man was definitely mad about something. This hadn't exactly been a rare occurrence in the three weeks DiNozzo had so far spent working for NCIS.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service, he mused. His dream job. And it would have been, but for the behaviour of his team leader. Gibbs, it seemed, hated his new Special Agent with a vehemence most people reserved for rapists and serial killers. Tony just didn't understand it. His partner Viv had told him that Gibbs was a hard taskmaster, but a fair one. For the first couple of days, he might have believed that to be true. Gibbs hadn't exactly taken a liking to him, but from what DiNozzo had heard, Gibbs didn't like anyone, except Ducky and Abby. At worst, Tony thought, Gibbs had been indifferent to his existence.
Three days after he started at NCIS, the team had caught its first case, and along with it, specially reserved for DiNozzo, had come Gibbs' increasing animosity. It was a tough case, Tony knew. The murder of a child was never an easy thing to deal with, even for a seasoned investigator, but that didn't explain why Gibbs had started treating him as though he was personally responsible. Tony was sure he hadn't screwed up. He'd been doing some of the best work of his career on this case, but the more he achieved, the more Gibbs seemed to hate him for it. Well, he'd dealt with worse during his time in the Baltimore P.D., and he wasn't going to break. There was no way that he was going to let Gibbs succeed where countless others had failed. The man could rant all he liked. DiNozzo was immune.
'I asked you for that God damned report….'
Tony forced himself to look his boss in the eye and allowed the words to flow straight over his head as he took the opportunity to really examine the silver-haired agent. Gibbs appeared to have aged noticeably in the past weeks, the case clearly taking its toll, but the eyes had the familiar spark of anger Tony had seen countless times in his own father's eyes. No, wait. There was something else. The anger was there all right, but there was something deeper, something that had been there all along, but that had, until now, gone unnoticed. If he had to put a name to it, Tony might have called it anguish. Could this, he wondered, be behind the older man's recent behaviour? Had something about this case unearthed something his team leader wanted to keep buried?
Buried. All six victims of the serial killer had been buried. What had he wanted to keep hidden? Something he didn't want them to dig up. Digging. That was it! Digging! So simple. Why hadn't he realised before?
'DiNozzo, are you listening to a damn word I'm saying?' Tony shot Gibbs a genuine smile this time.
'He borrows the old woman's van!'
'What? Who?' The older man was momentarily nonplussed.
'DiNozzo, who the hell is Mrs Lombardi?'
'Seaman Carstairs, the guy who found the third body. His neighbour, Mrs Lombardi. Her husband used to be a gardener until he died last year – she still has his van! Carstairs does odd jobs for her – fixing things, unblocking the drains, and the gardening! Abby found traces of fertiliser on clothes belonging to all six of the girls. There was no fertiliser in the ground where they were buried. We hadn't even considered Carstairs, because he doesn't own a vehicle or have a garden, but if he borrowed Mrs Lombardi's van…'
'Motive?' Gibbs wasn't going to be swayed that easily, but DiNozzo wasn't to be deterred.
'Applied to the US Marine Corps, but was rejected. His final appeal was rejected four weeks ago.'
'Connection to victims?'
'I bet if we take a closer look,' DiNozzo continued, tapping frantically at his keyboard, 'we'll find that,' he looked up, 'all six of those marines were involved in the assessment process.' He let out a breath. 'That bastard murdered six little girls because he couldn't make the grade. Guess he was too much of a coward to face a grown man.' Tony looked up, expecting…something, but Gibbs was already heading for the door. Quickly grabbing his badge and gun, he just made it to the elevator before the doors closed.
Tony headed to the morgue in search of Ducky. He'd typed up his final report and left it on Gibbs' desk, but the older man hadn't been seen since they had extracted a confession and closed the case. Abby had a forensic team going over the van, but the evidence would serve to reinforce, not make, their case.
Tony had hit it off with Ducky almost immediately. The medical examiner was difficult not to like, and his welcome was always a stark contrast to Gibbs' disdain. DiNozzo had found himself spending increasing amounts of time in the morgue over the past weeks - though he may have led his boss to believe that the time had been spent getting acquainted with a certain director's assistant, he thought guiltily. Oh, well. His reputation had to be maintained.
The morgue was the one place, he realised, that Gibbs had been steadfastly avoiding. Whatever had caused Gibbs to behave like this, he now understood, must be worse than anything he could possibly imagine. He knew Gibbs had served in the marine corps, and wondered briefly whether something Gibbs had seen or done during active service might be the cause of whatever was going on.
'Anthony, my dear boy,' the doctor greeted him, 'Congratulations on solving the case. I would have thought you would be off celebrating. What brings you here?'
'Gibbs,' Tony found himself admitting.
'He sent you for the autopsy reports?' the doctor erroneously concluded. 'I'm rather afraid you have had a wasted journey. I dropped those reports onto his desk over an hour ago.'
'No. It's not… I don't know where he is. I just thought…the case. He…'
'He has been taking this case rather personally,' Ducky admitted. 'He believes he failed to protect Seaman Carstairs' victims. He feels that the deaths are in some way his fault.'
'Ridiculous. He knows that. It's just going to take some time until he believes it.'
Tony felt he was finally beginning to understand. If Gibbs was taking all this so personally, then by pretending to be unfazed by everything that was going on, DiNozzo had been doing precisely the wrong thing. If his spot on Gibbs' team was to have any chance of working out, he was going to have to trust the older man with a lot more than watching his back in a firefight.
'Thanks, Ducky!' he called as he headed out of the room and up the stairs. He needed to find Gibbs, but where would he have gone? Tony could think of a few places – six to be exact, but it would be the last of these, where they had found the final victim, that would engender the most guilt.
He arrived in time to see his team leader climbing out of his car. It was obvious from the man's bedraggled state that he hadn't just arrived. That meant that the alternator Gibbs had been dutifully ignoring all week had finally given in. He brought the car to rest alongside the dripping agent and reached over to open the passenger door. Knowing that anything he said to Gibbs about now was likely to be taken the wrong way, he chose to remain silent. He reached into the back seat and passed Gibbs the towel he'd put there for that gym session he'd never quite managed to get to, and turned up the heater. The older man was visibly shaking, a fact about which he appeared completely oblivious.
When they reached civilisation, Tony made a decision. If he was going to do this, he was going to do it properly and he was going to do it his way. His way, he knew, required pizza…and beer. He pulled over and climbed out of the car. He returned in record time, but he needn't have bothered. He doubted Gibbs had even noticed his absence. Thankful that he had remembered to ask Abby the way to Gibbs' place, he re-started the engine and expertly navigated the rest of the route. Pulling into the driveway, he switched off the ignition and turned to speak to the older man.
'The kids are always the worst.'
He watched as Gibbs closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath. The man looked exhausted. Tony wondered if his team leader had slept at all since the case began. He certainly hadn't seen the man eat anything in the last two days. Nodding his head towards the pizza box, he decided to take a gamble.
'Want some company?'
Gibbs paused for a moment, and Tony was sure he was going to say no, but instead he nodded his head and led the younger man into the house. As he opened two cans of beer and passed one to his boss, he was suddenly sure that this was going to work. He would carve his own path towards a friendship with the older agent, and while he knew Gibbs wasn't going to talk tonight, perhaps with luck, time and careful handling, he would be able to earn his team leader's trust and respect.