Title: In-Between

Author: Mooncatff

Rating: K+

Summary: These are missing scenes from the episode 5-15 'In The Zone'. I like this episode very much, always thought though that there are two very important scenes missing. And because I loved writing this so much, there's a third thrown into it as well. Oneshot.

Warnings: Hmm. Nothing, I think.

Pairings: No pairings, but you'll find friendship with McGee (admittedly a bit strained at the moment), father/son with Gibbs and whatever that is going on between Tony and Ziva.

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of NCIS. Just borrowing them for my own amusement.

Author's Note: This is actually my second NCIS-story, but as the other isn't finished yet, it's the first I'm posting. So two things you need to know about me: First: I'm just a tiny little bit obsessed with Tony. And definitely a bit in love with him. - Yeah, I know. Yet another one. g Second, English is not my maternal language, but I hope it was still a smooth read. If not - I'm looking for a beta for my NCIS-stories, so if you feel compelled, please don't hesitate to send me a message.


In the locker room, just after Vance told Tony and Jardine to go to Baghdad

When the door banged open to be immediately shut again with audible force, Tony didn't have to look up in order to see who had entered the locker room with such a bad and most importantly angry mood. To be honest, he was a little surprised that it had taken him that long to find him and give him a piece of his mind. He sighed. Yeah, he had known this conversation was going to take place the moment he had convinced his probie that in order to get chosen for this mission he actually shouldn't volunteer.

Seriously though, how the hell had the kid been able to buy this crap? Whoever got ever chosen for a volunteer mission and climbing up the career-ladder by not volunteering?

"Really, Tony? You actually had to stoop so low to manipulate me like this so I won't be chosen just to win over me?" Tim hissed, stalking over to him.

Schooling his ever in place mask to only show an incredulous grin, Tony faced his friend. "Oh McNaive, where should I begin? First, there never was a competition, whatever you may believe. Second, you're a grown man, McGee. It was your choice to not volunteer in the end. Maybe you should think about why you rather chose to believe a pretty lame ruse of mine than your gut. Or do you really want to tell me that your instinct told you not to volunteer as well?"

The probie's cheeks flushed. "You're my SFA, why should I not trust you? Oh wait, I remember: you're Tony. I should have known better."

"Yeah, you should have. But not because of me. How many years are you on the team now?" Tony pushed his last shirt and his razor kit into his backpack, zipped it close and stood up, coming face to face with his junior agent. "You're not a probie anymore, Tim. It's time you start to think for yourself and not rely on me and Gibbs or even Ziva so much. Wait for us to make the decisions. You need to start to make your own decisions, stand up for yourself."

Tim frowned. "So this was just one of your twisted lessons? Dammit, Tony, sometimes you're worse than Gibbs! Have you any idea what your little joke cost me career-like? The impression the assistant director now has to have about me? Do you even care about that? Who am I kidding, of course not. That's probably why you did it."

It hurt, even if Tony hadn't expected otherwise. He knew McGee was angry. Knew it was a harsh lesson to be pushed down by the man you looked up to and trusted to lead you through everything this job threw at you. Just like he knew that eventually, with time, McGee would start to understand why he had done it. Tim was a good agent. With already quite a backbone that he had grown over the years since joining the team. But he was still too unsure of himself, too afraid to speak his mind and fight for what he thought was right. To fight for himself.

And that was why Tony had told Tim not to volunteer, pretty sure the younger man would listen to him. If not, all the better. He doubted Vance would have chosen him even if Tim had volunteered. When it all came down to it, McGee was just too green. They were headed to a war zone after all. Good, Jardine was even greener, but contrary to McGee she had at least some credentials that justified her being chosen for this mission. Tony just hoped she did't shoot him by mistake. Or let him die in the dust because too bad, he was covered with dirt.

But Jardine had volunteered for this mission and hell, she had even fought Ziva over it. While Tim had sat back and done nothing. He sighed. "There will be other missions, Tim. Now you know what you need to do if you really want them." He shouldered his backpack and moved past the probie. He had just reached the door, when Tim spoke up.

"Why Tony? I thought we are friends."

'Don't you see that's why I had done it? Because we're friends? Because I think of you as my little brother and don't want you anywhere near a war zone?' Tony screamed back at him silently. Outwardly though he only shrugged. "We are. But this isn't about friendship. One day, you'll understand."

He didn't wait for an answer and left.

In the men's bathroom, right after the talk between Tony and Tim

Tony headed straight to the bathroom, not so much because he had to go (which he did. Hello, he had a flight of about zillion hours ahead of him!) but because he needed some time for himself. It had been for the best. Or had it? He wasn't so sure anymore. While he was still absolutely sure that Tim wasn't ready yet for a mission like this - which his failure to use this opportunity proofed - maybe he could have handled the situation in a better way.

He looked at himself in the mirror. Truth was, when Tim had told him that he was thinking about volunteering, Tony's only thought had been that he had to find a way to discourage his overeager probie from doing just that. Hence his 'advice'. It had felt right at the time. Actually, it had felt right until just a few moments ago, until he had seen the hurt in Tim's eyes. The damage to their friendship. He could only hope that the young agent would soon recognize that this was a lesson Tony had to give him.

And just in case Tony had gone straight to the assistant director to volunteer himself, so should he choose Tim after all he'd be able to watch his six out there. He had been pretty sure that once he volunteered, he'd gain one of those tickets straight to hell. Vance would be an idiot for not choosing him. He was the Senior Field Agent with the most experience under his belt, handpicked by Gibbs himself and part of the team with the highest solving rate, responsible for quite a few of those solves. He didn't know Vance well and there was certainly some animosity between his boss and the tooth pick fanatic, so naturally, he didn't trust him but even Gibbs had admitted that Vance was not stupid. At least that was what he had convinced himself with, trying to get rid of any doubts he may have.

Shaking his head, Tony turned away from the mirror and headed for one of the stalls. Okay, maybe his desire to protect Tim hadn't been the only reason he had volunteered. He had no death wish and Heaven knew he really didn't care for a trip into a dusty, hot and, oh yeah, deadly war zone. But after being interrogated and accused of murder by the FBI, again, and seeing Jeanne ... Let's just say a little time away from all that and the memories that seemed to haunt him around every corner was sounding pretty good right about now. The fact that in a war zone and under pressure to find a killer he would hardly have time to dwell much on his past and his mistakes was alluring as well. So yeah, he had had his own reasons to volunteer for this mission.

But whatever reasons he may have had, that Tim thought he'd actually stab him into the back out of jealousy, that just hurt. Tony knew he wasn't the model agent and purposely constantly annoying his friends, still, how could Tim have any doubts that the only reason he had prevented him from participating in this mission was rooted in his worry for the younger man?

Annoyed, he zipped up and stepped out of the stall. Only to find out that he was no longer alone. Smirking, he went back to the sink to wash his hands. "Agent David. Still confused about the bees and the flowers?"

She scrunched up her forehead in confusion. "What have bees and flowers to do with a men's bathroom? You are not making any sense, like so often."

There were so many answers to that. Sadly though, Ziva wouldn't appreciate any of them. So Tony decided to cut straight to the point. "What do you want?"

To his surprise, Ziva didn't answer straight away. Instead, she paced a few times before coming to a halt in front of him. "I don't understand why the assistant director chose Agent Jardine over me. I am clearly more qualified."

"Yes, you are. You are also clearly more Israeli," Tony pointed out. "But may I remind you that I had nothing to do with this decision. If you want to complain about it you have to look for a stoic dark man with a tooth pick between his teeth." He cocked his head to the side. "So why are you here?"

Again it took a moment before she spoke, clearly unhappy that she could not stop the words tumbling out of her mouth. "I do not like the thought of you alone out there with Jardine." His eyebrows shot up and she hurried on. "Only professionally speaking of course."

"Of course," Tony agreed with a smile.

"We are partners, after all, yes? What I am saying is that I do not trust Agent Jardine to properly watch your back," she elaborated. "I doubt she can even hold a gun without accidentally shooting you because she has to wipe a spot of dust away. There is a lot of dust in Iraq."

His smile deepened. "Why, I didn't know you cared, Ziva!" He started to move past her, stopping to lean down to whisper into her ear. And breathing in the scent that was so uniquely her and oh so enticing. Heading to a war zone, remember? It was a good idea to take at least one good memory with him. "Don't worry. I can watch my own back. I'll be fine." For a moment he was thinking about kissing her cheek. In the end, he liked his balls too much. Too bad. He straightened, grabbing his backpack that he had put down beside the door. "Before you know it I'll be back again to annoy the hell out of you."

Again he didn't wait for an answer and left.

To almost ran into Gibbs. "Sorry, Boss. I was just about to look for Agent Jardine to head out to the airbase."

"I'll drive you." Thus said, Gibbs turned on his heel and walked away.

Tony didn't miss a beat. "Great. I'll just go fetch Jardine ..."

"Jardine drives with the equipment. You're with me," Gibbs said without even glancing back.

"Ah," Tony muttered under his breath before giving in to the unyielding force that was Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Who was apparently seeing him off to the airbase. Hooray.

In the car to the airbase

Naturally, Gibbs remained silent until they were at least halfway to the airbase. Unnaturally, Gibbs actually drove within the speed limit. If Tony wasn't wrong he was even sometimes under the speed limit. Huh.

Also uncharacteristically, Tony remained silent as well. He had been glad when Vane had announced that their flight was already leaving in an hour, leaving him with barely enough time to pack his bag. Foolishly, he had hoped to avoid the boss until he was back from Iraq.

"When were you going to tell me you volunteered?"

Right. So much for dodging that conversation. But Tony wouldn't be a DiNozzo if he didn't try anyway. "It's no big deal. Didn't think it's worth mentioning. Besides, I had no idea if Vance was going to pick me out of all the eager volunteers. I doubt he was much impressed by my involvement in the La Grenouille mess." Which was why other agents would have tripped over themselves to volunteer in an attempt to redeem themselves in the eyes of the assistant director. But Tony didn't care what Vance thought about him. The only people's opinions that counted for him were those of his team, his director and most of all, Gibbs'. And maybe, at least for a while, Jeanne's. But he was so not going there right now.

Gibbs' only response was a slap to the back of his head. Tony sighed. Didn't look as if the boss was in the mood for games. Then again, he never was. "McGee thought about volunteering," he said, almost defensively.

"So you thought you'd make sure you have his six."

"Exactly," Tony agreed, hoping that would be the end of this discussion.

"While at the same time making sure he wouldn't volunteer." Gibbs didn't need to look at him for Tony to feel his boss' famous see-through-crap-laser-glare. "Need me to headslap you again?"

"McGee's not ready yet," Tony pointed out, flat-out.

"I know. And he'll come to the same revelation soon enough. As did you, when it had been time for you to learn this lesson." Gibbs stopped at a red light and turned his piercing glare towards him. "But we're not talking about McGee's reasons for not volunteering, we're talking about yours for volunteering."

"I heard Baghdad is the place to be nowadays."

The slap that hit his head this time was exponentially stronger. He rubbed the sore spot, refused to offer another answer though, very stubborningly so.

Gibbs pulled into the parking lot of the airbase and parked the car. "Running to war won't solve your problems, Tony. Or ease your guilt over doing your job and by that failing a woman," he said softly, staring straight ahead. "Believe me, I know."

It took a long moment for Tony to bring up his chin from the floor and gather his wits after this mind-blowing opening-up of the man of silence and mysteries. If DiNozzos were men who'd cry he might even shed a tear. Instead, he shook his head. "I'm not running to war. Last time I checked I'm still employed by NCIS, who sent me to Baghdad in order to conduct an investigation into the death of Captain John Ranking. Not by the US Army, deployed for a tour in Iraq. I'll be back in a few days."

Silence stretched between them. Finally, Gibbs turned his head to look at him. "You better are, DiNozzo."

His throat closed off as Tony nodded, dead serious. Message received.

Gibbs held his eyes for a moment longer before he broke their contact and opened his door. "And for Heaven's sake, watch your back around Jardine. Don't give her a weapon."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Boss," Tony replied with a grin and got out as well.

On the airbase as the plane with Tony and Jardine takes off

Gibbs watched the plane take off, his jaw clenched and his hands balled to fists. He didn't like this, not one bit. For the first time he started to understand how his father must have felt when he had left to join the army. And to think that Tony was only leaving for a few days and there was no reason to believe that he'd see any enemy fire. Still. This was his boy heading for a war zone.

He had been this close to tell Vance to send someone else, that he needed his SFA here with him, not some thousand miles away playing with fire. But contrary to McGee, Tony was more than qualified for this mission, ready for something like this, always, and old enough to decide for himself. Besides, he knew that Tony needed some time away from Washington and all the ghosts here. Gibbs could understand that only to well. So he had quelched this first impulse and refrained himself to trust that he had tought the boy everything he needed to survive out there, preferably unscathed. Meanwhile, he and the rest of his team would turn every stone in order to work the case from this side on. The sooner they found the Captain's killer, the sooner his boy would be back home, safe.

He watched the plane disappear in the clouds. 'Be careful, Tony,' he silently ordered his agent. Then he frowned. 'And don't do anything stupid.'

The End

Author's Note: Okay, that's it, my first completed and posted NCIS-story. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. And you know how Tony craves Gibbs' approval? That's about how much I crave reviews. So hit me, guys, be it with a word of praise or headslaps.