Note(s): First of all, THANK YOU so much for all you reviews on "Agony and Ecstasy". I never thought I could actually write something, especially in another language. But, considering the amount of fanfiction I read lately…
Your reviews really made me happy. I mean it!
And yeah, I am a Zibbs fan (in case you didn't notice…). In my first fiction I tried to explain the "father-figure" line and also why Ziva isn't involved with Tony. I don't want to do that all over again, so I'll just ignore it. The fictions are not connected, though.
And, the disclaimer: NCIS and the characters in ths fiction are not mine, Gibbs is not mine…
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs scanned the squad-room briefly from above, amused at how his team of well-trained investigators failed every time to notice him approaching until he was right there, practically in their faces. Well, their backs actually.
"… and I was just standing there almost expecting him to rip off the suit and take off in a red cape and tight pants… I'm telling you, boss-man must have some weird super-powers, 'cause…"
DiNozzo was rambling on, presumably about the heart-stopping conclusion of their latest case, which involved half the team dangling from the ledge of a 10 story building.
It just had to be McGee, of course, with his pathological fear of heights (not that he would ever admit he had a phobia), that the bad guy pushed over the edge of the rooftop. Seeing the younger agent flailing his arms wildly a second before he disappeared from view definitely made Gibbs' Top Ten "If-I-didn't-have-a-heart-attack-now-I-never-will" moments. Counting on Tony and Ziva to take care of the suspect, Gibbs threw himself towards the commotion in less than a second, at least part of him expecting to see another one of his people dying on a rooftop. Landing hard on his stomach near the edge, he came face to face with a more than panicked but thank God alive McGee, hanging on with just the tips of his fingers. Trying to gain some leverage with his knee against the raised ledge, Gibbs grabbed one of the other man's arms and pulled hard, almost managing to drag him up when his knee slipped and he found himself halfway over the ledge, his upper body supported by nothing but thin air and McGee dangling from his arms, screaming something incoherently. He still didn't know how exactly he managed to crawl backwards on the roof dragging his agent up with him, but he assumed it was he adrenaline rush that allowed him to pull himself plus a weight bigger than his own back up to safety.
More than half a day later, and his team apparently still talked about that. They were all pretty shaken up about it, actually, and he didn't mean just McGee.
Abby jumped him the moment they entered the squad-room earlier, hugging him like crazy, pigtails tickling his nose "Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, ohmygod, ohmygod, are you okay?" and then moving on to McGee for the same treatment.
Ducky took care of his scrapes and bruises and tended to the dislocated shoulder and torn muscle in his arm the best he could, all the time gently chastising him for refusing to go to a hospital and apparently "forgetting his age and being a hero without regard for his safety".
McGee thanked him so many times that Gibbs finally lost it and forced him to go Bethesda and have the sprained ankle and gash on the forehead looked at, just so he didn't have to keep hearing the younger agent's gratitude anymore.
Tony kept praising him to the skies to everyone who would listen (and Gibbs was mildly surprised that so many people were actually interested in his fate), but knew better than to let Gibbs hear him. DiNozzo knew very well, after all, how his boss hated public recognition, the stack of his un-claimed medals in Tony's drawer proof to that. He even let it slip that he had been "scared shitless" for Gibbs and "McPhobia", which said a lot about how serious the situation really was.
Ziva said all the appropriate things someone would say to a boss or even friend, but seemed remote, like her heart wasn't in what she was saying. Gibbs noticed her staring at him though, for longer than usual, as if she was trying to convince herself everything was fine. He wasn't an idiot, and he wasn't born yesterday. For a long time now Gibbs noticed how Ziva was giving him long looks when she thought nobody saw and how she reacted, subtly as it may be, to the few unintentional touches. He chose to blame everything on a case of hero-worship, or whatever. Not that he thought a lot about that, about her. No, they were co-workers, even more, he was her boss and what he felt, he felt for all of his agents, right? "Yeah sure, Jethro, keep thinking that…"
He stopped right behind DiNozzo, Ziva and McGee scurrying to their desks looking busy.
"He's behind me, isn't he?" Tony asked his by now rhetorical question.
"Yeah DiNozzo, I am". This was never getting old, Gibbs thought, Tony's face when he got caught saying something stupid. "Do you often think of me in tight pants, DiNozzo?"
"Aaa, no boss, NO, of course not, I was just…, we were just… why would I think of you in…" he grimaced, wrinkling his nose and than noticing the Gibbs-glare "…not that you wouldn't look OK…it's just really not my thing, you know…"
McGee was grinning widely from behind his computer screen and Ziva was outright laughing at her flustered partner, at the same time unconsciously looking Gibbs up and down, doing exactly what Tony wasn't. Gibbs could almost feel her gaze on him, warming him up. He took pity of DiNozzo and changed the subject.
"Why are you all still here at…" he checked his watch, squinting to see the numbers "… nine o'clock at night? Pack up, go home, whatever. "
Tony and McGee jumped up, apparently hurrying to leave before anything came up or the boss changed his mind.
"We were just, you know, waiting to see if there was anything else, if you maybe needed anything else, any… help…. Boss" McGee threw at the last moment, at Tony's pointed look in his direction.
Oh, so that was why they were all still here, they were worried about him but didn't dare to say so. Gibbs had to admit he was touched by their concern, although he wouldn't say that out loud in a million years.
"I'm fine McGee, I don't need babysitting. Go on, shoo!"
Tony opened his mouth to say something, but the glare stopped him.
"Yeah, okay boss, we'll just… Hey, you guys wanna go out for a drink or something?" he said, looking at Gibbs and Ziva. For someone else, it would appear he just thought of that. Gibbs knew better.
"You go ahead; I'll just go home and sleep"
"I have other plans", both Gibbs and Ziva answered at the same time.
"Plans, Zee-vah? Do tell!" Tony grinned widely.
"None of you business, Tony"
He again started to say something but gave up as Tim was dragging him towards the exit.
"Oh well, see you tomorrow. 'Night!"
Gibbs pretended to work at something on his computer, hoping it looked believable enough. He just needed some time to gather himself before he went home to… to what? He may be playing everything that happened down, but the truth was he was scared stiff that morning.
He'd seen a lot of people die, hell, he killed a lot of people in his days as a marine and especially as a sniper, but somehow when it was one of his people in danger it was… different. They were more like family that Gibbs wanted to admit, and after what happened with Kate he didn't seem to handle seeing them in mortal danger so well. He still felt his stomach turn and his heart pound in his throat as he remembered McGee going over the edge, just like he remembered every occasion Tony or Ziva were in similar positions. The un-describable, gut-wrenching horror he felt when he saw the footage of Ziva being carried out on a gurney during her undercover op in Morocco, not knowing if she was dead or alive, not to mention the whole Somalia fiasco when he thought for sure she was dead. And all the time he had to pretend it was okay, he was fine and he could live with whatever life threw at him. And for the most part, it threw a lot of crap. Last time he just couldn't pretend anymore and retired things didn't turn out so well either. "Quit, Jethro, you quit, not retired" he heard Ducky's hurt voice in his head.
His hands were gripping the armrests of his chair so hard his knuckles turned white, increasing the pain of his shoulder and torn muscle and making him groan.
Ziva was silently studying him for a while now, trying to read his thoughts, worrying. She learned years ago that all her deeply-engrained Mossad training and the more recent investigator training weren't much help in figuring out this man. He only showed what he wanted them, her, to see, and that wasn't much. Very rarely, and now it appeared was one of those moments, he let his iron-tight control slip and then his eyes spoke volumes. She knew about what happened to his family from the beginning of her assignment here and so she noticed the brief flashes of pain whenever a case or situation reminded him too much of them. She also noticed that he cared about his team a lot more than he let on, and sometimes she thought she saw something in those ice-blue depths when he looked at her. "But that's probably just wishful thinking, Ziva. He cares about you as much as does about Tony or McGee, not to mention Abby or Ducky…"
His pain-filled groan snapped her out of her mussing and she stood, turning towards him.
"Gibbs? Are you in pain?"
"Why no, Ziva, I'm just peachy" he snapped before he had the time to put a lid on his emotions.
He tried again "I'm fine, don't worry, I've been worse"
"That's supposed to reassure me, Gibbs?"
"I didn't realize you needed reassurance, Ziva… I thought I told you to go home, why are you still here?" He felt guilty about biting off Ziva's head, but hated the idea of her seeing him vulnerable, and he didn't mean only physically.
He certainly was pissy tonight, Ziva thought, even more than usual, that is. His arm must really hurt, not that he would readily admit that. And he looked pretty shaken up, which he was even less likely to admit. She still didn't have the whole picture, though, so she decided to ignore his question. "You are also still here, Gibbs. If there is more work to be done tonight, I can help you".
"You can't help me, Ziva", he hissed, before being able to stop. "I mean, there's no more work, I was just… reading my e-mail" he tried to cover. No wonder, she didn't look like she was buying that. To her credit though, she didn't push the issue further, trying instead "the DiNozzo approach".
"If you're finished, would you like to grab a drink with me? Or…" she quickly added "we could join the others".
"I told DiNozzo I'm not in the mood. And I thought you had plans…" He hated the tightening in his stomach when he thought of her with some other guy. He had absolutely no right to feel that way, and…
"I lied". Ziva's curt statement interrupted his thoughts and his eyes snapped to hers.
"Why?" he narrowed his eyes, assessing the situation.
"I thought maybe you wanted to talk. If I was mistaken…" She turned to leave, hurt by his abruptness and the rejection.
"Ziva". She stopped but didn't turn. "I didn't say I was unhappy you lied".
"Oh, I thought… Never mind." She turned fully towards him, leaning slightly over his desk.
"Look, Gibbs. I'm not much of a …talker either, but sometimes it helps to… not lock yourself up" he smiled a bit at the expression "and share with someone who understands. I've lost more people in my life than you can imagine, I know what it's like."
His smile was sad and it didn't reach his eyes. "Yeah, Ziva, so do I".
Before he had the chance to chicken out, he added "So, how about that drink?"
She tried hard not to let her relief show. "Well, I am not in the mood for a crowded and noisy place, and I doubt you are either. I have bourbon at my place – that is what you drink, yes?"
This time he really smiled. "You're inviting me to your place for a drink, Ziver?"
She managed to look somewhere between ashamed and hopeful.
"I thought it's quieter and more comfortable since your arm must hurt, and I do have enough drinks, I even have some beer, but if you think it is inappropriate…"
He stopped her, although it was almost funny. "Ziva, don't unleash an "Abby-ism" on me"
At Ziva's utterly confused look, he explained "You're babbling".
She smiled and nodded in understanding, looking at him expectantly.
Gibbs slowly got up, wincing as his arm jostled and grabbed his jacket with his other hand.
"So, you're coming or what?"