Title: Stepping In

Author: Mooncatff

Summary: With Gibbs down, the director MIA and terrorists on the perimeter, Tony has his hands more than full.

Rating: T

Warnings: Everything that a good crime story needs, but nothing graphic. This is totally Tony-centric, so if you're looking for Tony bashing, this is not the story for you.

Pairings: It's exploring the relationships among all the team members, but most likely, there will be very slight TIVA-tendencies.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of NCIS.

Author's note: First long NCIS story, hope I'll do them justice. Also, my mother tongue is German and not English, but I'll do my best to deliver you a smooth ride. Thus said, a very, very big 'Thank You!' to Scousemuz1k for doing such an amazing job as my beta!

Stepping In

Chapter 1

As he stepped out of the elevator, his trademark grin firmly in place, Tony saw McGee and Ziva already waiting for him, both wearing smiles that had him on high alert immediately. But mostly, his curiosity was piqued. He loved a good prank or joke, no question. Of course he preferred to be the one delivering them rather than receiving them, but then again, he always had believed that whoever dealt them out also had to be able to take them and be a good sport about it. His probies had come a long way since they'd joined the team, a fact he took great pride in. Actually, sometimes they'd learned a bit too much from him. Hence the high alert.

"Good morning, Tony." Ziva's eyes held a glint. McGee too greeted him with such smugness that Tony's eyebrows rose.

"Probies," he greeted back, well aware that this word alone was going to ruffle their feathers. "What can I do for you?" For the first time he noticed the sheet of paper Ziva held in her hands. "What's that?"

Her smile widened, as she waved the paper. "This? Oh, nothing important. It is highly interesting though."

"Yes, very," McGee chimed in.

Tony raised his eyebrows a bit higher. "Well, McParrot, why don't you enlighten me then?"

It was Ziva though who continued, her pony tail almost bouncing with anticipation. "The girls at NCIS took a vote."

"Yes, for the ten most eligible bachelors," McGee nodded. "They just e-mailed the list."

Things at NCIS had been slow lately, obviously. Didn't mean that Tony didn't eagerly reach for the paper, sure it contained the list. "Oh, let me see. I'm on it for sure! I mean look at me: I'm single, attractive and one of the best agents we have. Who wouldn't want me?" His eyes lit up. "I'm number one, yes? I have to be."

"You're on the list, all right," Ziva confirmed, holding the list out of his reach though. "But certainly not on the top of it."

A frown appeared between Tony's eyes. "No?"

"Rather try place nine." McGee grinned, not able to hold that bit of information back any longer. But it was okay. After all, it was still going to get better.

"What? Let me see this," Tony exclaimed and reached for the list again. This time Ziva was letting him have it gladly, waiting for the moment he saw who was on top of the list. She knew the moment it sank in as his head jerked up to shoot them with a glare. "Are you kidding me?"

"We would never dare, Tony," Ziva grinned, waving at his computer. "But see for yourself if you want. The e-mail is in your inbox. Shelley, Vance's secretary, sent it."

McGee shook his head. "Won't change the list though. Just face it, Tony. You're not as much a ladies man as you always thought you were."

"Yes, exactly. In the end, women maybe like a ride or two with you, but they choose men like McGee for the long throw."

"Haul," Tony corrected Ziva automatically. "It's for the long haul." Staring at McGee, he cocked his head to the side. "How did you do it?" he demanded to know. "Woo every woman with chocolate and poems?"

"Tony, I swear, I had no idea. I was as surprised about the list and being voted the most eligible bachelor as you are now," McGee assured him, although very self-satisfied.

"Pff! Which woman with any shred of sanity left would choose you over me?" Tony pointed at Ziva. "Ziva! You'd choose me over him, wouldn't you?"

"Well - I admit, at first sight you might seem more attractive," Ziva began, only to be interrupted by a wounded "Hey!" from McGee and a victorious laugh from Tony. She held up her hand. "But then you open your mouth and one realizes how immature you act most of the time - like right now for example - and how unnerving you are with your never ending movie reverences and ..."

"Okay, I get it," Tony interrupted her, unsure he wanted to hear more. Not that her words were getting to him, he knew they were only trying to get a rise out of him. And with a grain of truth in them. His eyes dropped back onto the list, scanning it. After all, this was prime mocking material.

Unnoticed by him, McGee and Ziva exchanged a glance before quickly looking back at Tony, not wanting to miss the moment he saw who was elected as number seven. They didn't have to wait long. Tony's chin actually fell open, his eyes slightly bulging. "What? Are they shitting me?" The probies broke out into giggles. "Gibbs? Gibbs? They think he's the better catch than me? He's two places before me? Gibbs? Let's forget his age for the moment, but don't they know he's been divorced three times?"

"I don't know, Tony. Some women like the challenge," Ziva laughed.

"And he's got all that wounded mystery man thing going for him. And the sexy grey hair. That's pretty intriguing, I guess."

"Something you want to tell me, McGee?" Gibbs asked, breezing by with a brisk walk that had Tony turning to his desk in order to grab his bag even before the boss retrieved his gun and badge from his top drawer. "Before you answer, remember I'm armed."

"Uh no, no. Nothing at all, boss," McGee stuttered, his cheeks turning deep red. Tony snickered.

Bad idea. The glare honed in on him. "You got something to say, DiNozzo?"

"Who me? Certainly not, boss. Wouldn't dream of it."

"Good." Gibbs let his SFA off the hook and grabbed his gear. "We've got a dead Ranger."

Tony looked down at the dead man with a frown, an uneasy feeling settling down in his stomach that had nothing to do with the shot out brains of Major David Peck littering the hard concrete floor. He had been executed. Never a good sign. An execution usually meant a complicated case as motives were never so easily found, hence few suspects. It was one of the reasons why he preferred a good old murder for love, hate or money. Another reason was that with executions, the stakes automatically rose. Considering that there was a dead Ranger at his feet, those stakes rose even higher. They were certainly looking for more than one executioner. No way just one man overwhelmed the Major to have him kneeling down and waiting to be shot into the back of his head.

He looked around the vast, deserted old dock. A lonely place to die. Offering no cover. A shiver ran down his spine and he scanned the perimeters one more time. He couldn't see anything suspicious, but that did't mean that there was no one out there. At least they had the two trucks and Gibbs' car with them, providing them some cover. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Still, the faster they processed this scene and removed the body the better. True to his thoughts he hurried to take his pictures, listening to Ducky while he gave his preliminary findings, then proceeded to a story of the first known execution, where he tuned out. Normally he enjoyed the ME's verbal excursions, today though he couldn't appreciate it.

He wasn't the only one. "Hurry up, Ducky."

Looking up from behind his camera, Tony glanced at his boss. If his gut was twitching like this he could only assume what Gibbs' famous gut was screaming at the ex-Marine. He looked for Ziva and McGee. The ex-Mossad agent was searching the outer perimeter of the old docking station while McGee was collecting samples. Neither of them seemed to share his trepidation. Shaking his head, he moved to stand beside Gibbs. His boss didn't much care for unfounded worries, still, he felt the need to voice his uneasiness.

"I don't like this, boss," he said quietly, as not to worry Ducky, Jimmy or McGee.

Gibbs remained silent for a long moment, long enough that Tony was starting to doubt his decision to speak up. In the end though, Gibbs gave a small nod. "Me neither. Call Ziva back, I want to get out of here." He spoke up. "We've got enough. Pack up."

Ducky looked up sharply to glance at his old friend. Seeing both him and young Anthony uneasily scanning their surroundings, he didn't hesitate for a second and told Mr Palmer to go get the body bag. They wouldn't get more answers from the Major out here anyway.

Closing his phone, Tony saw with relief that Ziva was coming back to them at a light jog. McGee too seemed to finally have picked up that something was amiss. Tony could see the questions on his face, but he held them back and hurried to pack everything up, moving to help the MEs with the body just as Ziva joined them.

Unfortunately, it was too late. Tony just saw something flash from the old warehouse across the street before two rapid shots echoed and Tony's heart stopped. He watched in horror as Gibbs dropped to the ground, splotches of red already forming on his jacket.


Author's Note: Am I not a very bad, bad girl? I hope you liked it, despite the cliffhanger. But fear not, the next chapter is with my beta as we speak, so you won't have to wait long. That is, if you are good to me and flood me with reviews …