"Are you sure about this, Agent DiNozzo?"

It was a question Tony had asked himself many times in the last few days, hell in the last few weeks. Was he sure this was what he wanted to do? He'd been an NCIS agent longer than he'd done anything else and to throw it all away seemed... almost as pointless as waiting for something that was never going to happen.

"I could transfer you somewhere else, if it's a problem someone on your team," Vance asked, though his one raised eyebrow asked more than that? Tony could see the implied if it's something between you and your team leader as clearly as if the director had said it. But a transfer meant the painful prospect of working Gibbs showing up with a case and blindsiding him with a barrage of feelings Tony would rather not have to deal with once he left.

"No, thank you, sir. I'd just rather make a clean break. Start over, somewhere else. Do something else," he insisted, meeting Vance's questioning gaze with the cold, blank stare he'd learned from the master himself.

Gibbs never let anyone read him like a book. Especially not when he was hiding something from them.

Vance studied him all that much harder and then sighed, placing the letter of resignation on his desk. "Alright then. I will give you twenty-four hours to reconsider both this and the transfer. After that..."

"There will be no 'after that,' sir. My mind is made up."

Or rather is was made up for him somewhat abruptly, when he had returned from a mission in Paris to find Gibbs in bed with his usual flavor of red-head. Again.

Over the years, Gibbs had dated many a red-headed woman. Leggy, busty, young, middle-aged, his own age, even. They never lasted very long, though, and in between times, he had always carried on a flirtation with Tony. The younger agent had never thought to question it, at first. It was just how their relationship had always gone from the very first time they'd met back in Baltimore. Tony had been working the case Gibbs wanted to take over. Gibbs was all gruff and demanding; Tony had smiled like he didn't care if other people backed down. When Gibbs thought he wasn't looking -- Tony had caught him smiling back.

Flirtation had turned into a full blown affair after Gibbs returned from Mexico.

Tony hadn't thought to question it, not at first. He'd always wanted his boss, had always wanted to be needed by him in that way. His time in Mexico had only made Tony's desire all that much more urgent, so that when Gibbs finally took him home and took him, Tony was already lost. Heart and soul. He'd been Gibbs' man long before they crossed that line.

But Gibbs had not been his. Not completely. And as sad it sounded, Tony was only now beginning to realize that he never had been. That Gibbs had just been using him, stringing him a long. Toying with his emotions to get what he wanted. There were always going to be others -- other leggy red-heads who tilted their heads to side just so when they laughed at whatever Gibbs had said to them. And Gibbs would always want them more than he could Tony. Because they reminded him of the one person he couldn't have. Tony couldn't be Shannon in Gibbs' mind, and for that, Gibbs could never really love him as much as he loved Gibbs.

It was this thought that Tony pushed out of his mind as he left the director's office and returned to the bullpen. The cardboard box he'd placed on his desk was waiting and without a word to anyone else, he pulled open his desk drawer and began to fill it with little bits of his life. A life spent silently waiting for Leroy Jethro Gibbs to realize he wanted more than just a random strong of one night stands in between red-heads.

McGee and Ziva both stared -- McGee like a wide-mouthed bass and Ziva with an inscrutable expression.

"DiNozzo!" It had to be him who broke the silence, didn't it? "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Tony tensed up, waiting for the inevitable head slap and when it didn't come, he straightened his shoulders and turned around, slowly, to face Gibbs.

"Something I should have done a long time ago, Jethro," he said coldly. "Walking away from a train wreck."