AN: takes place around the beginning of season 8. Lots of spoilers for lots of eps in lots of seasons. I read somewhere that there's an episode in season 8, which I haven't seen yet as we're about six weeks behind over here, which suggests that people know Tony turned down Rota.

This story is based on the assumption that Gibbs knows, although Tim and Ziva don't. It's also making use of the extreme brittleness of Gibbs' character at the beginning of this season, which ( and I know I always see things from Tony's point of view) DiNozzo seemed to cop most of. I've not gone into all the details of the case, as the story begins when it's closed.

Apologies to any Spanish readers for my rather jingoistic mood, but…Google Drake's Drum. Read the poem, listen to the song. If you're in England, go and see it. If you're planning a trip over here, put it on your itinerary. When I saw it, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It's just, wow…

Drake's Drum

by scousemuz1k

"Where the hell is DiNozzo?" Mmm… not 'DiNozzo and Ziva' – just 'DiNozzo'.

The bear growled loudly enough for Tony to hear it, where he sat behind the container on a tarpaulin covered lord-knows-what, looking out across the bay. On a clear day, he'd been told, you could easily see Cadiz, on its spit of land only seven miles away, and the whole round sweep of the bay, deep Atlantic blue. He'd not seen it yet. Today, as for the last three days, it was grey… shore, sky and water alike, and the city was invisible. At least today it wasn't raining, but sunny Spain was saying 'you shouldn't have come, DiNozzo,' in the clearest way she could.

"Tony's taking a breather, Boss."

"A breather?" The bear really hadn't talked to Tony, or about Tony, in anything but that growl, since he'd lost track of when. Well, since Al-ey-han-dro and Paloma, maybe?

"Boss, he found a way of getting the evidence out without the Port Authority being able to make difficulties; he supervised the loading, then he went to deal with the lovely Senora Tavares, to try to make peace, and make sure she doesn't try to stop the truck from using their access roads."

"Truck?" Gibbs seemed to be doing a lot of echoing, his SFA thought sardonically, but since McGee was more than holding his own, he opted for staying where he was, and being grateful for the stout defence.

"Yeah. I'll show you." The sound of the container doors being opened indicated that Tim was showing the Boss what they'd been up to. "He came back muttering about the Spanish Inquisition and saying that the Senora could have given Torquemada a lesson or two."

Too right, Tony thought, without even a glimmer of Monty Python. In the end he'd undone any good impression he might have made by reminding the lady rather firmly that the decision was for a much higher authority than hers to make, and had already been made in the USA's favour, which was true.

He sighed. None of the events of the past four days had taken place outside of the US Naval Base, or impinged even slightly on the workings of the port, or the safety of its people; not the murder of the sailor, nor the uncovering of the smuggling ring, nor the minor shoot-out. Well, except for the activities of the mini sub, of course… The senora was mad that vehicles carrying contraband had run through her territory unchecked for at least a year, and yesterday, instead of Gibbs pointing out helpfully that they wouldn't be doing it any more, he'd asked her what her port police had been doing in all that time. Not a help, Boss… But since her attempts to charm the Marine hadn't worked, she'd grown more confrontational, until Gibbs didn't feel obliged to be polite any more.

Another sigh; Tony knew if he'd been translating, not Ziva, instead of tear-arseing around the innards of an aircraft carrier after an errant fitter, it probably would have gone more smoothly. He'd have taken the edge off both parties' abrasiveness in his interpretation, without actually mis-translating. Ziva would see no reason to mollycoddle; he knew that a spade would have been called a spade in fine detail, even before he got Tim's blow-by-blow account of what happened, but what the hell… the mini-sub and all the other evidence was in the container, a 'Baby Herc' was being despatched to the airport, the crane was standing by and the truck was on its way, with Ziva riding shotgun.

"So, I told him to go chill until you got back from briefing the Admiral, or Ziva got here with the truck."

"What about you? You were shot!"

"Yesterday, Boss. Crease to the arm, you know that. Nothing wrong with my legs. Tony really wouldn't let me do anything much of the loading, so I'm fine. And I wasn't left on my own;" Tony could hear the younger agent's grin, "Agent Cecil's over there."

Gibbs apparently looked across to where one of Brian Moreton's team stood disconsolately, guarding the gateway onto the quay, (possibly as his last act on that team,) since he snorted derisively. They all knew what they thought of Moreton's efforts.

The container doors clanged shut, and Tony waited for a comment on his ingenuity. It didn't come, and the cycle of thoughts began again. Either McGee didn't know he was here, or, more likely, he wasn't telling Gibbs, for which, again, he was grateful. He couldn't deal with the Boss right now except on the most superficial of levels, and he didn't really know why – except that coming here had a lot to do with it. Or at least, with bringing it to a head.

He looked across the bay again, where the haze was a little less, and, now that he was about to go just as soon as the truck arrived, was beginning to faintly reveal the city on the other side. Cadiz…

"Well you see, Tony, the Spanish thought Drake was a pirate, and so he was, but the Queen herself wanted him to do what he was doing… as long as it was only Spanish gold that he stole."

"Why, Mommy? If I were a pirate I'd attack everything!" The little boy jumped up and danced around the room, swinging an imaginary sword, before returning to his mother's side.

"Well, yes, darling, but England and Spain were at war. They really didn't like each other at all, although the King of Spain wanted to marry the Queen of England. Her name was Elizabeth, like mine."

"Really? So, what happened?"

"Well, the Spanish were getting a great fleet of ships ready to attack England. They were waiting in the Bay of Cadiz, in southern Spain. In 1587- "

"That's four hundred years ago, Mom!"

"And it's never been forgotten," Tony's mother told him proudly, "Drake and his men attacked and burned so many of those ships that it put the invasion back by a year. It was said that El Draco singed the King of Spain's beard!"

His mother had been animated and beautiful as she told him the story; happy to tell her small son some of his English heritage. (Tony imagined with what fire Alia, their cook, and his first Spanish teacher, would have told the other side of the story.) Elizabeth DiNozzo was the grand-niece of a belted Earl, which was something her son, the brash native New Yorker cop was never going to tell anyone. Her family came from Devon, not so far from where Drake himself had grown up, and before she began to get sick she often spoke of taking Tony there. Many times afterwards the solitary child, running through the wild parts of the grounds of the big house on Long Island, slashing at the undergrowth with the same imaginary sabre – El Draco, lopping enemy heads - would also imagine he was in his mother's childhood garden, and dream of going there.

She'd gone on to tell him how, the following year, Drake had dealt with the Armada itself as it came up the English channel, and the wide eyed boy had adopted Drake as one of his favourite heroes on the spot.

"They made him Sir Francis Drake… that meant he was a knight, Tony. In the end, he died a long way from home, in a place called Panama. And do you know what he did?"

The boy shook his head, mesmerised by the wonderful tale his beautiful mother was telling him. "He had a drum, that they'd beat when they went into battle. When he knew he was going to die, he told them to take the drum back to England, and if the country was ever threatened by sea, to beat it, and he'd rise from his watery grave and come back to fight with them. There."

When he was older, Tony had learned by heart the stirring poem by Henry Newbolt. "Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore, Strike et when your powder's runnin' low, If the Dons sight Devon, I'll quit the port o' Heaven, and drum them up the channel as we drummed them long ago," he quoted softly to himself. He'd promised himself that he'd go to Cadiz one day. Just like his dream of Devon, it had never happened. The memories made his heart ache unbearably.

The unexpected, sharp grieving for his mother was a consequence of the trip that he hadn't counted on, although with hindsight, perhaps he should have; other things didn't take him by surprise at all. He shouldn't have come here. He didn't want to, and he knew the Boss had read it on his face, quick as he was to hide it. Just another thing to irritate him.

"Grab your gear. Bring a bag. We're going to Rota."

Rota? Of all the places in the world, why Rota? Why them? Why him?

It was all such a long time ago…

He'd tried not to find out who had taken the posting after he'd turned it down, but two years ago, when he'd heard that the post was vacant again, and knowing that he hadn't a prayer of being offered it this time, his heart had sunk when he'd heard that Moreton was assigned. He'd worked with the useless effort in the days when he and Gibbs were a two man team, and hoped never to again.

He'd been right; in the time he'd been in the post, Moreton had managed to not see the small but lucrative operation going on under his nose, (so of course it had grown and thrived,) or come up with any reason why a US sailor should be found shot dead aboard a drifting launch, with a couple of lobster pots in the well. Whatever had been in them it sure wasn't shellfish.

Tony reviewed the mental list that had been occupying his thoughts since they boarded the plane four days ago.

If he'd taken the posting when Jenny had offered four years ago, this mess wouldn't have happened. (Looking at Moreton's empty desk yesterday, the man himself having been packed off back to DC on the same transport as the arrestees, was when he'd first added that one, which seemed to have gone to the top of the list. Then he'd winced to see the ghost of himself sitting in that chair.)

If he'd taken the posting he'd never have loved – and lost – Jeanne… or killed Michael, so Ziva would never have ended up in Somalia. He'd never have caused her that torment, or experienced the pain of his doomed passion for her…

If he'd taken the posting who knows what sort of a knock on effect it might have had. Paula might not have taken the Pentagon job…

Jenny would have had other bodyguards, who'd have disobeyed orders when they thought something was wrong.

He wouldn't have had to conceal the knowledge that his Boss was prepared to let his Boss hurt him and do nothing, and worse, let him get away with committing murder. Gibbs seemed to have taken it for granted that he'd keep that secret, and he had done, was still doing; and if it ever came out, it'd be his career blown away, let alone Gibbs'.

He'd never have had to spend weeks washing away the bitter taste that his demotion and the heedlessness and barbs from his team left in his mouth. No reason why he should expect the world to pay attention to his feelings anyway. And he was over it. Come on, it was years ago.

He wouldn't have been there when Gibbs reversed that car into the Potomac.

The thought made him gasp. Gibbs had gone alone, and no-one else on the team, whoever his replacement might have been, would ever have known the Boss well enough to see he was up to something, and be there when he was needed. If he'd taken the posting, Gibbs would be dead. Go on, DiNozzo… try balancing that against all the other things. Jeanne, Michael, Ziva, Paula, Jenny, Franks, demotion – no, scrub that one, he didn't give a damn… or hadn't… a lot of deaths, a broken heart or three, all of those to save Gibbs' life.

He couldn't think about this; his head was in a mess, and his heart was beating so hard he found himself looking over at Cadiz again, seen more clearly now, so close and completely beyond his reach. He found himself thinking irrationally of Drake's Drum that his mother had told him about, beating out the doom of the ships in the harbour he was looking out across. He wished he hadn't come; his thoughts were pushing him in a direction he couldn't see and didn't want to go.

He stood up. Get a grip on yourself, Anthony… you can't expect anyone to sort this for you, the only solution's going to come from inside you. He shook his head. It was foolish to try and think of an equation that didn't actually exist; if Gibbs and Maddie had been strangers, he'd still have dived into the river after them; if Ziva had told him the truth about Michael, he'd most likely still have gone to the apartment to warn her… he could second guess himself until he went blue and stuck to the spot where he stood… this all boiled down to himself and Gibbs, a collection of secrets, and a friendship heading down the tubes.

He wondered why the Boss hadn't wandered round the container and found him, and concluded that the deep introversion hadn't lasted outside his head as long as he thought it had. His phone shrilled; it was the logistics Major he'd spoken to earlier. He listened, thanked him, and disconnected.

As he hung a smile on his face, played a resounding rattle on that war drum of Drake's in his head and turned to go back to McGee, Gibbs, who must have heard the ringing of the phone, came round the corner of the container, the usual frown on his face.

"DiNozzo. Where –"

"Good news, Boss… or it might be. I dunno, you say. There's room for us on the Baby Herc. I asked the Major to try to swing it for us. We can go back with the evidence if you want to get back to DC right away. No waiting for a commercial flight."

"Of course I want to go back right away, DiNozzo, d'ya realise how long all this stuff's gonna take to process?"

He hadn't been expecting a 'good job', so there was no point in feeling disappointed when he didn't get one. Smile. "Sure do, Boss… I loaded it! Abby's going to be pretty pleased, don't you think? I don't believe she's ever had a submarine to play with before."

He was spared another surly reply by the sound of a large diesel engine revving down and the crunching of mighty gears. High up in the cab of the olive drab flatbed, Ziva sat smiling down on them from alongside the Navy driver, as he manoeuvred it round skilfully, in a space he shouldn't have been able to without pushing it into the bay, until it was alongside the container. As Tony waved up to the operator sitting patiently in his overhead crane, and he began to glide into position, she leapt lightly down.

"Tony! I stopped at the barracks and collected all our things, as you said. We can go straight to the airport." Tony opened his mouth to thank her and say 'good job', but Gibbs got there first. Tony managed not to even shrug inside himself. "Did the Major call you back? Can we really go back to DC now?"

"Sure we can! As soon –"

"We can go back to DC when I say we can, DiNozzo," Gibbs' bark cut him off.

Tony bit his lip and nodded. Hadn't the Boss just said – he upped the smile, and gestured with his phone. "Well, what shall I tell the Major, Boss?"

"Tell him we'll be on the plane, of course." There was a sharp metallic crunch as the lifts were attached to the corners of the container, and Gibbs swung away to watch the loading.

Tony looked at the ground for a moment, then looked up to see his two team-mates regarding him with curiosity and some concern. He put the smile back on again and shrugged. "I don't know," he said cheerfully. "It's like grass stains."

Ziva felt her leg being pulled. "Grass stains?" She went along with it.

Tim nodded wisely. "It'll all come out in the wash," he said.

Tony's smile never wavered. If only it would…

AN: Gibbs won't be 2nd 'b' for ever…