A/N: This a fiction focusing on Gibbs as the father figure (showing his tough love) of the Gibblets with a Gibbs/DiNozzo focus.
Story Summary: Immediately following the events in S6's Semper Fidelis & Aliyah, the team adjusts to the recent events and loss of Ziva, who remained in Israel for her Somalia mission. Gibbs struggles as the leader of a broken team, trying to give each member the space to deal with the loss in his/her own way. However, not all of the Gibblets are just suffering from just the loss of Ziva. Meanwhile, Team-Gibbs has a unique case dropped in their laps.
From Israel to Washington D.C.
"So, she is really staying behind?" DiNozzo questioned again, looking to Gibbs with a pained and guilty face.
"Mmm." Gibbs mumbled closing his eyes, pretending as if he were sleeping. Vance gasped and looked to DiNozzo.
The three men remained in silence for the most of the trip. DiNozzo turned to Vance, trying to initiate a conversation but then he quickly thought better of it. Vance caught the effort out of the corner of his eye and waited for him to make a comment.
When DiNozzo fell silent, Vance stopped himself and leaned back. The second that the plane landed, Gibbs was ready to get out of the plane without saying a word to either of them. Vance glared at him a moment and turned to DiNozzo who was slow moving off of the plane.
"How is your arm?" Vance asked, as he turned to watch Gibbs exit the plane.
"Oh ugh . . .fine, sir." DiNozzo said. "Thanks you for asking."
Vance looked at him sympathetically trying to understand the guilt he had to be carrying at the moment along with the injury. Vance was beginning to feel guilty himself for putting DiNozzo in the position that he had with no support and for not having confidence in his abilities.
"Director?" DiNozzo finally said, noticing that he was examining him. Vance opened his mouth, but no words came out.
"Sir?" DiNozzo redirected Vance from his staring. "Do you think Gibbs regrets leaving her there?"
"Why don't you ask him that?" Vance asked.
"I mean. . .do you think he regrets leaving her there and not just having me reassigned?" DiNozzo asked.
"D-i-N-o-z-z-o" Vance groaned, in an effort to distract him from the idea. However, it was a thought that came to Vance's mind before, which was not helping his own guilty feelings for coming down on DiNozzo so hard earlier.
When he was in L.A., Vance would hear about Team Gibbs from Director Shepard. She was always singing the praises. However, Vance found the connection that this particular team shared to be confusing and the relationships almost abusive at times. He spent the last year trying to understand it, and he was more confused now then he was before.
"You are worrying about nothing, DiNozzo." Vance tried to assure him.
"If . . .Gibbs tells you that he regretted his decision, can you tell me?" DiNozzo asked.
"Tony." Vance said in unusually gentle tone. "That won't happen. Ziva is the one that made this about you. No one can give Gibbs an ultimatum the way that Ziva did. She needed her space, and he gave it to her. If she had just flat out asked to return to Mossad, Gibbs would have objected. I am sure that she will be back though."
DiNozzo nodded and processed the director's words. Vance could see that the words did have some comforting effect on DiNozzo.
"Thank you, sir. . . but can you tell me if he. . .?" DiNozzo tried to repeat the question.
"Yes." Vance interjected, waving off the comment, as he pointed DiNozzo in the direction of the ramp.
"Hey." DiNozzo said to McGee.
"Good Morning." McGee said. "Shouldn't your arm still be in a sling?"
"Nah." DiNozzo said shaking off his concern.
"What is new, Tim?" DiNozzo asked.
"Ugh. . ." McGee said, pausing a moment. "You called me, "Tim".
"I did." DiNozzo confirmed in a serious tone, looking to him for a moment.
"Well, I. . .I spent the night with Abby. She really misses Ziva. She said it is like losing Kate all over again." DiNozzo nodded and cringed from the news.
Coming from the director's office, Gibbs approached his desk slowly after talking with Vance.
"Morning Boss." McGee said, looking away from his examination of DiNozzo.
"Morning." Gibbs said looking to both of them. He noticed DiNozzo was no longer wearing his sling. He took a moment to examine him, but then looked away.
"We have been asked to help the investigation of a series of suicides. These suicides are of teenagers, whose fathers are currently serving in Iraq." Gibbs said, getting ready.
"Wow. . .I don't think we have ever had a case like this before."
"We support the Marines and their families. . ." Gibbs added, looking just as surprised at the cases' details. "Ducky has received the autopsy reports."
"Gear up." Gibbs said. "You two go talk with the families."
"Where are you going Boss?" McGee asked.
"The school." Gibbs said. ". . .where the suicides all occurred."
NCIS Car lot
"This is going to be weird with no Ziva." McGee said with a laugh, looking to DiNozzo.
"Here. . .why don't you drive?" DiNozzo said handing over the keys.
"O-kay" McGee said in surprise as he took the keys. McGee watched as DiNozzo sat next to him, noticing the pained face he had from pulling the seatbelt across his shoulder.
"Are you all right?" McGee asked.
"Yeah." DiNozzo smirked.
"Listen Tony. . ." McGee tried to prepare his words. "We are all missing Ziva."
DiNozzo nodded in agreement.
"But, I am the reason she is gone." DiNozzo said, looking to McGee.
"What? . . .No. . ." McGee said in surprise. "No, we just miss her. We all do. This isn't. . ."
"My fault?" DiNozzo said. "Well, she isn't here. She isn't here after telling Gibbs that the only way she would rejoin the team is if I was reassigned to another one."
"No. . ." McGee tried to laugh off the comment. "She is grieving. . .she didn't mean that."
"No?" DiNozzo said. "Vance asked if Gibbs regretted his decision, and Gibbs did not deny it."
"This was taken out of context." McGee snapped back. "Why did Vance tell you that anyway?"
". . I asked him to." DiNozzo said. "I wanted him to tell me if Gibbs regretted his decision of picking me over her."
"That isn't what happened, DiNozzo." McGee said. "He chose to give her the space she needed. This isn't about you directly. Gibbs regrets not trying harder to get her to grieve here with us."
"You are very wise, McGee." DiNozzo said.
"So, you believe me?" McGee asked.
"Sorry." DiNozzo answered softly.
"Tony." McGee warned.
"I appreciate what you are saying, Tim." DiNozzo said. "Thank you."
McGee shook his head looking to DiNozzo in irritation.
"So is Abby doing better after last night?" DiNozzo asked. "Did it help that you stayed with her?"
"Yeah. . .I think it did a little bit." McGee answered in frustration. "Hey, why don't you just talk to her?"
"What I was going to say before though. . .was that Ziva hasn't been with us that long. Somehow, we were able to do this job before without her, after we lost Kate." DiNozzo looked down and nodded.
Gibbs turned when he heard the elevator doors open. He stood up and waited for McGee and DiNozzo to join him. McGee was moving quickly towards Gibbs, but DiNozzo was straggling behind him.
"What did you find out?" Gibbs asked, looking to them both.
"Well, we met with Mrs. Simmons, who has not trusted the police's investigation of this case. The families confirmed that there was no known history of mental illness." McGee offered.
"Randy Simmons, was just accepted into an ivy league college. Tom Brady was about to finish his junior year in high school, and he was on the football team. And, the third teenager, Ronald Caldwell was also about to finish his junior year of high school." McGee explained. "All of them hung themselves. Tom hung himself in the locker room after a game. Ronald hung himself in the bathroom last week also, during a school dance. The latest one happened just yesterday. Randy Simmons hung himself in the middle of a classroom after school."
"The only things that they had in common was their fathers are serving in Iraq and they go to the same school." Gibbs added, looking to the quiet agent.
"Mrs. Simmons did want us to look into a boy named Leonard Todd, who was recently expelled from the school. His parents are very strong anti-war advocates. They have led some very cruel and violent protests. Leonard has picked fights with these boys, and he has harassed them about their fathers."
"We need to look into that, then." Gibbs said in response to McGee's information.
"Anything to add?" Gibbs asked, looking to DiNozzo. DiNozzo gave a soft grin.
"No, McGee said it all, Boss." DiNozzo said.
"Any theories?" McGee asked putting DiNozzo back on the spot. He just shook his head and smiled at McGee.
"What now?" DiNozzo asked softly.
"I will be talking with the fathers in MTAC." Gibbs said, looking over DiNozzo before leaving.
"What do you think he really wants us to do?" DiNozzo whispered, as they both stood in the center of the squad room.
"Tony, . . .you know what he wants us to do next." McGee said, shaking his head. "The Leonard Todd family?"
"What is wrong with you, Tony?" McGee asked.
"I am sorry. I am just distracted I guess." DiNozzo said, sitting back at his desk.
"What is distracting you? Is this still about Ziva?" McGee asked.
"Is Abby still upset?" DiNozzo asked.
"Tony?" McGee asked.
"I'll check with Ducky." DiNozzo said. "Thanks for the concern, Tim."
"I will have this analyzed. Try not to think about this right now, Tony." Ducky said. McGee entered just in time to hear that sentence.
"Have what analyzed?" McGee asked, seeing that Ducky had just drawn blood from Tony's arm.
"Oh." DiNozzo said with a nervous laugh. ". . .nothing." DiNozzo tried to wave off McGee's concern.
"What is the blood test for?" McGee asked. DiNozzo shook off his concern again. DiNozzo grabbed the files that Ducky had handed to them.
"Ducky just told me, that each of the boys had traces of LSD in their systems." DiNozzo said.
Ducky put the vile with the sample of DiNozzo's blood out of sight when he saw that Gibbs was about to come through the autopsy doors.
"DiNozzo. . .the director would like to see you." Gibbs said sarcastically as he entered, looking to Ducky.
"Ugh thanks Boss." DiNozzo said a bit embarrassed as he quickly left the room. Gibbs caught the way McGee was watching DiNozzo and the way Ducky seemed to be hiding something in his desk drawer.
"Well, . . .Anthony just took those reports. . ." Ducky laughed. "However. . ." Ducky continued to explain what he had learned.
"I am not accepting this, Agent DiNozzo." Vance said, at the moment his office door flew open revealing Gibbs who came in to get the files.
"Agent Gibbs." Vance said a bit startled. DiNozzo jumped in surprise.
"Ugh Boss." DiNozzo said surprised.
"What is going on?" Gibbs asked, snatching the files from DiNozzo's hand causing him to jump again. Gibbs looked him over suspiciously as he waited for an answer from Vance.
"What aren't you accepting from Agent DiNozzo, here?" Gibbs asked forcing eye contact from DiNozzo with his examining stare.
"My apology letter." DiNozzo quickly fired out. ". . .to Mossad."
"Really?" Gibbs said in disbelief, still staring at him. Vance sighed and agreed with DiNozzo's quick response.
"Tony?" Gibbs said.
"Gibbs. . .?" Vance said. Gibbs lifted the files in the air and turned to leave the room.