A/N I was a bit disappointed at how things just seemed back to normal in many respects during "The Spider and the Fly" so this is my take on it. I have no idea what the storyline with Senior will be, but I thought I'd explore Tony's angst about it. The story is mostly Tony's POV but there are some chapters from Gibbs POV as well.

This entire fic is nearly done, just needs polishing so I do intend to post a chapter a day if possible.

Obviously I do not own anything except my grammatical errors.


Chapter 1

Not now, Dad

Tony's POV

I slammed my mobile shut for the third time that day. The last thing that I wanted to deal with today was my opportunistic father's 'situation.' Four months of palpable tension in the bullpen and he picked now to try to maneuver himself back in my life . . . or more accurately in my life for the first time. I couldn't even clear my head enough to think through the implications. What I did know is that I wasn't up for this.

It had been four long months of everyone on eggshells. Gibbs had been guiltily avoiding Abby until she slowly climbed out of a certifiable depression of his making. His concern for his dad's safety had morphed into a terminal case of irritability, one for which no amount of my upbeat smokescreens could diffuse, especially since I hadn't been able to count on Abby to be my wingman to help me keep him from imploding. Ziva and McGee had been ushered all over the continent on a wild goose chase so it had been left to me to pull the pieces together.

I've always hated tension.

One up side to the summer had been the occasional beer with Jack. Sometimes with both him and Gibbs, but with Paloma Reynosa at large and Mike Franks MIA, any time Gibbs sat down, the idleness weighed on him and he was compelled to keep moving.

This should have been down time. The conclusion of an epic case should always be rewarded. After all, the bad guys had been killed or imprisoned, the protagonist had been justified by his pure motives, the rest of us survived and returned in tact and Shea butter still lingered in the air. Considering this, paperwork did not seem like a punishment but a reprieve.

"You have something against your phone, DiNozzo?" A much more relaxed Gibbs swept into the bullpen.

"No Boss, the phone is fine." I couldn't muster the happy go lucky look to sell that I was also fine.

Gibbs paused in front of my desk and took a long sip of coffee. It was as though he was able to see and process his surroundings again for the first time since this whole mess began. I looked straight back at him, I was going for content but I'm guessing the closest I could pull off was something just short of agitated. Regardless, he got the message and continued on to his desk.

Last time I had daddy issues I messed up royally and Gibbs not only stood by me, but he was proactively supportive. It was not that I no longer thought of Gibbs in the same way. Unlike Abbyland, the world I lived in was seldom black and white. I always knew Gibbs was fallible, just maybe less fallible than the rest of us. I understood why he did what he did and I didn't judge him for it. No legal system on earth would have administered justice on his behalf. I would always respect the guy and I knew I couldn't function sanely without him, but he'd working through his own personal minefield and he had just settled his father back at Stillwater. On the other hand, he had remained on thin ice with his 'daughter,' Abby, who had been struggling through her own daddy issues with him, so the last thing the boss needed was my whining.

What Gibbs did need was a break from drama and tension, even more than I did. As I got back to my report, I glanced over to his desk and noticed him really studying my teammates. I could imagine the narrative that was was running through his mind, but with Oscar worthy flair.

As he looked at Ziva he might have been thinking about how he let her down. He knew how monumental her naturalization ceremony was and yet because he screwed up not only did he miss her ceremony, but I had to as well. I knew Ziva had to have been disappointed on the day, but she was practical enough not to hold a grudge when duty trumped personal promises. When I stopped by to apologize when I returned from Mexico, she would have none of it. She could see that missing it had upset me as much as my absence had disappointed her. She did relish the red white and blue gourmet cupcake that I had brought her and even split it with me, so I knew that there were no hard feelings. Why Gibbs missed it was a little more ambiguous, and only he really knew the details - and if he should feel guilty or justified in it. Based on how he was looking at her, I would have to guess guilty. Ziva's never given him one minute of grief over that or anything else this summer. She has cheerfully followed orders while basking in the freedom of knowing that she will never be deported.

My next glance caught him looking at Tim. Maybe he was considering how independently McGee had been working this summer. Gibbs sent him off to Canada without a moment's hesitation confirming that Probie would be able to handle anything that came his way. After Abby regaled us with details of how he offered himself to drug dealers to save the rest of the group, it gave us a higher level of respect for how far Probie had come. McGee had spent a lot of time with Abby this summer since she had channeled all of her affection his direction while starving Gibbs of it. But, since her relationship with Gibbs had returned to something close to what used to be normal, the world was nearly back in balance with Abby allowing Gibbs to kiss her cheek and Tim desiring her to kiss his. Gibbs actually looked at McGee like a parent looking at his kid, wondering when it was that the baby of the family grew up and how it was that he had missed it.

I didn't want to catch him looking in my direction, nor did I imagine what his thoughts on me might have been. Who knows what was really going through his mind anyway. Maybe it was not that sentimental, but thinking about what Gibbs might be thinking was distracting me from thinking about my own screwed up issues. Sigh.

Gibbs' phone rang, he listened then stood up, "Paperwork can wait, grab your gear."

I had another tension headache and while I'd been mainlining asprin and caffeine all summer, the pain had persisted. I didn't even mind Ziva driving, although my head would have preferred it to be Tim, or even Gibbs. I called shotgun and Gibbs oddly conceded it. Ziva glanced at me from time to time and I tried not to make my stress apparent with a few light comments and smiles. The way she had been squinting at me, I knew I was failing but she didn't call me on it. We got out of the car, grabbed our gear and started to process.

While gathering witness statements we learned that there had been several domestic disturbances with an ex-husband, who was also enlisted and lived on base, so Ziva and I got back in the car to question him. During the drive Ziva, in all her gentleness, bluntly said, "Okay, out with it! You are far too quiet."

I looked out the window. "I'm fine. Nothing important in the grand scheme of things and besides, we're nearly there."

She nodded her understanding at the time limitation and let it slide but my mind was still full of it.

When we got out of the car, it all happened too fast. All the 'unimportant issues in the grand scheme of things' clouded my mind and my reaction was delayed when the ex-husband barreled out of the house in my direction. I did not move quickly enough to intercept, nor did I pull my gun or even try to tackle him as he ran right by my side of the car. It was like watching the Matrix ninja moves in slow motion and being helpless to stop them. I felt the weight of the elbow strike on my the head while my legs were swept from under me. To make matters worse, my thick skull dislodged the rear view mirror on the way down then freefell with it until both hit the concrete. The sound of shattered glass was the last thing I remembered before I followed the white rabbit into oblivion.

I could always hear when I came around before I could open my eyes or talk. I didn't really feel like looking awake since I remembered enough of the event to know that I had screwed up and why. I didn't feel like facing tension this morning and now in my self-absorbed haze I had invited more. Then I remembered Ziva had been with me. I had no idea if she apprehended the suspect, if she was injured as well, or just indignant that I zoned out on duty. The thought that she may be in trouble spurred my eyes open. I was disoriented as usual. I probably should have been concerned that this is such a typical occurrence that I know what is 'usual' for me in a concussed state. I was in a hospital, no surprise. I just hoped they got all the standard tests done while I was out of it so that I could get out of there quicker.

I was lying on my stomach and the back of my head felt oddly numb when I sensed Gibbs staring at me even before I spoke.


"She's fine." Hmmm, I couldn't read the tone in his voice. Resignation maybe? "You have a concussion and glass was embedded in the back of your head."

I immediately felt the area and was stymied by a bandage. Oh no. Not the hair. I knew I deserved to suffer for my actions, but the perfect DiNozzo hair was apparently collateral damage. I sighed.

"It'll grow back." I didn't expect Gibbs to understand.

He had to know how badly I had screwed up but he didn't seem mad, or even irritated with me. After a summer of him being on edge I was forgetting how to handle a docile Gibbs. I knew I had to find out how badly I failed so I bit the bullet, "Did the suspect get away?"

"Yeah. Ziver pursued him but he had a head start. She and McGee are working on tracking him now."

I closed my eyes and turned away. I knew she would have paused to make sure I was okay and that lag prevented her from apprehending him. "I messed up, Boss."

"Yeah, ya did." There was a long pause. "Tony, why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't think you'd be interested that I switched hair stylists, but I could give you her number if your barber ever retires." I could feel his silent stare. Seriously I didn't want to get into this, but I needed to own up to my mistakes. I owed him at least that much.

"How'd you know?"

"Your cell phone's been going off for a while and his number keeps coming up. Tony, if you ever want to talk . . ."

"I know, Boss, your basement is always open but right now I have a big enough headache without getting emotionally spent by one of your famous heart-to-hearts, so if it's all the same to you, I'll take a rain check."

I thought I'd get a smirk, but when I turned to look at him he was stoic. After a pause he informed me, "I'm going to head into the office. Ziva will be here before long to drive you home. Do me a favor and watch the attitude with her. She's had a rough day."

"Yeah, okay."

"You're to start your pain meds and stay on them for at least 3 days so you're benched until then."

"I'll see how I feel."

"You'll FEEL like staying home, DiNozzo, no discussion." This point was driven home by the all-authoritarian 'Gibbs' stare' that demanded unquestioned obedience.


Gibbs walked out of the room and I was bugged by how I treated him. Part of me wished I could have just passed out until everything blew over – the cartel, my dad, this bungled case. After that thought, I drifted off to sleep and eventually woke up to humming.

"Ziva?" My voice sounded weak.

"You are awake. How are you feeling?"

"Just peachy." I raised my head enough to glance in her direction. She was looking out the window on the other side of the room. She wasn't injured, but her brow was rumply.

"Then I suppose you are ready to go home, yes?"

"Please tell me I can get out of here."

"I have your discharge papers, but by now all of us have your concussion care instructions memorized, so there is little need for them." She came over to give me a hand, but I refused it. She went back to keeping her distance and my pride caused me to silently wince through the pain. She had her arms crossed and she watched me with slight amusement as I started walking then swaying as the world became swirly. She waited until I had to ask for her help – there was no doubt that she knew how to torture a guy.

"Okay, you win, a little help, please." She approached me, gently draped my arm around her shoulders while wrapping hers around my waist and replied, "You definitely need help, Tony."