AN: Regular supporters – bless you – will know that this is a new thing for me. Concrit will always be appreciated, but please bear in mind that I'm working according to another writer's wishes.
I'd often wondered what it would have been like if, after the hiatus, when Gibbs returned he'd changed so much there was only the 2nd B left, and always thought that 'Lateral Move', which I'd enjoyed very much, had that feel to it.
Ghosthands has given me carte blanche about all but one thing that he insists on, (what, I can't say because it'll give things away...) and I've studied the reviews he got for the original story, so something I WILL say because if any Tiva readers have come on board after reading it, is that I'll be dialling back on that aspect. You know me, I don't ship Tiva, (I prefer not to ship at all, although I have done occasionally at other people's request) and he felt as the story went along that more reviewers didn't want than did.
As time has moved on a few days from the Daniels case that Gibbs' team were working, I'm going with that case having been closed, and a fresh one being worked.
Making a long AN even longer by apologising for its being so long!
Sideways and Forward
Well, Alex thought, one thing she'd already learned was that Tony could surprise her. He sat and thought for a few minutes, then looked across at her; with the limited space available they'd pushed their desks together so that they faced each other.. "Alex?"
His probie heard the serious tone in his voice and lifted her head from her work. "Boss?"
He winced internally; he didn't know how he felt about being called that... he tried to figure out what Alex had called him up to now, and it had just been his name, as far as he could recall, after he'd told her not to say 'sir'. Boss... it had been a sign of respect when he'd used it... he hadn't told her not to, but it had come out of left field. He'd have to let it ride for a while, see how he dealt.
"Tony?" She was puzzled at his silence; he shook himself and grinned.
"I was thinking..." He was as awkward about saying it as she'd been about asking. "I'd hate to disappoint a young lady – especially one as charming as Princess Jasmine. It might be a good idea for me to accept her invitation, so she and your Aunt Jackie can have a serious look at the guy you're working for." He chuckled. "Might reassure your aunt that I'm not some loony who breaks into bedrooms waving a gun."
"Well, yes, that sounds good..."
"There's something else though," he went back to being serious, and the awkward look came back onto his face. This was so difficult... and he was a pro of how many years? "Those rules I said I'd tell you as we went along... Gibbs had one, rule twelve..."
Alex grinned. "Don't tell me, no office dating. I get it. You're my Boss. That's why I was embarrassed about asking."
Tony laughed, relieved and pleased at her sharpness. "Yeah... me too. It wouldn't be professional – not that you're not hot, Special Agent Dominguez!" He put on an exaggerated leer, that made Alex giggle, then nodded thoughtfully. "I think we have the makings of a good team, and that's what we'll be best at. What?" The look on his probie's face could only be described as guilty, with a side order of happy.
"I sent a picture of you to some of my girlfriends in Norfolk", she said. "They're all green with envy and wanting to scratch my eyes out." They both laughed loud enough for Gibbs, who was passing, to glare in their direction; inside Tony ached, outwardly he kept his attention on his partner.
"Well, I'd love to come to dinner, and now that's out of the way, where are we with our drug thieving PO?"
"I keep looking down this list and thinking the guy was nuts," Alex said with a sigh. Tony raised his eyebrows encouragingly and waited. "He didn't just steal painkillers," she said in a puzzled tone. "It seems like he stole things there was no black market for... anything that was available to steal, eyewash packs, suppositories – " she pulled a 'ewww' face - "until he'd taken fifty thousand dollars worth – think how much that'd be in today's aspirin..."
"So he was a drug kleptomaniac," Tony continued.
"Or a complete hypochondriac," Alex added.
"Who was everything from lactose intolerant to pregnant..." Tony agreed, then they looked at each other with light dawning, and said together, "Or he wanted to stock a pharmacist's shop!"
They laughed again, and Tony thought it was good to work again with someone he could share a joke with like this; he thought of his old team, the old days, and shoved the thought aside before it could get to his face and spoil the moment. "Nah..." he said, "It couldn't be... hell, it could."
"Why not?" Alex asked cheerfully. "So many patent medicines on the list... wait, wait, wait – where have I heard that word pharmacist before?" She began to tap her keyboard, and Tony walked round to her desk to lean over her shoulder and see what she was doing. "I'm sure it's somewhere in his history," she said, and he bent to look at her screen. "Stop racing me," she said severely.
"OK, not a competition, I know." She'd jogged his memory and he 'd remembered, but he kept quiet and let his probie find it.
"There," she said triumphantly. "He joined the Navy when he didn't get good enough grades in high school to go to college to study pharmacy!"
Tony said "Smart thinking, Batgirl," and she looked at him, eyes shining with delight that she'd made the breakthrough. He smiled back, until his face grew thoughtful again. "So... maybe we've got this Walter Mitty sort of character, who's found a way to live out his dream... but if he wasn't good enough in the first place -"
"He could be out there giving people the wrong advice," Alex said worriedly. "He could have been doing it for the last ten years. Not good."
"We'll find him. Now, how do we organise our search parameters..."
They were too far away for Ziva to hear what they were saying, but she watched the laughter, and how close Tony stood to his partner's shoulder. She observed the intensity and the seriousness that followed, and frowned to herself. Surely Tony could not be hitting on his probie, after all they'd talked about? She watched him walk back to his own desk and knew him well enough to think she was indulging in unnecessary jealousy, but by the time, barely fifteen minutes later, that the two picked up their guns and left, she'd realised something unpalatable. Her partner working with, and looking oh so comfortable with a new, good looking female partner, was not something she'd be able to endure with any sort of patience – or goodwill. Whatever he'd said about his feelings, and yes, she believed him, maybe it was best if they weren't able to meet up tonight; she wasn't in the mood.
Gibbs looked up at the wrong moment to see her looking across the partition; he didn't have to stand up to know what she was looking at. "David, do you have a problem with working this case?"
She sat down slowly. "I am waiting for Metro PD to call me back, and for Abby to call me with the results of the blood analysis, and I am running a search for the tyre pattern, from the information that local motorcycle shops have sent me. I have..." she looked at her screen, "three possible matches so far." She did not expect a reply, nor did she get one.
The next morning things went from bad to worse. Tony was in a slightly edgy mood, having waited up for Ziva; she'd finally texted him at around midnight to say she couldn't make the movie, but hadn't phoned to speak to him, or explained why not.
"Hey... DiNozzo!" The voice that hailed him as he came out of the elevator was full of surprise.
"Marchetti... good trip?"
"Oh yeah... had to show young George off to all the relatives, not just the parents, you know... we seem to have hundreds. I'm just about 'aww... googoo'd out... but hey... you still here? I heard you quit!"
Tony stiffened, and Marchetti didn't miss it. "When d'you hear that?"
"Just before Dawn and me went up to Wisconsin, man. Hey, it's not true then! Glad to see it – I was a bit shocked."
Tony smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Thanks Dave... let me guess, Gibbs said I'd quit, right?"
"Well... now you know why I was so shocked."
The newest Supervisory Special Agent shook his head, and his tone was a bit more biting than he'd intended, although he kept the volume down. "No, he quit. And came back. I got promoted." He hauled back on the anger with an effort; this wasn't Dave Marchetti's fault. "You hear him telling anyone else that, I'd kinda appreciate it if you put them right."
Marchetti frowned in bewilderment. "Be glad to, Tony," he assured the other man. "Why's Gibbs -" Tony tried to hush him with a shrug, but the other team leader was on a roll. "Way I see it, he wouldn't have had a team to come back to but for you. Congratulations on the promotion. 'Bout time." He went on his way, and Tony moved towards his desk, aware of Tim sitting at his old one, trying to look as if he hadn't heard a thing, and Gibbs standing over by the tall windows, coffee in hand, glaring at him.
What did I do, Boss?
He sat down and clenched his hands together in his lap. Hell, he told Leroy Jethro Gibbs where to get off the bus, that was what. But he knew that however great his capacity for shouldering the blame might be, that wasn't where it had started. He could have forgiven the Boss... ex boss... his departure; hell, who was he to forgive a man who'd endured what Gibbs had? He was ready to welcome him back, step aside, had done so without a fuss... so why had he been treated like he had? And why was Gibbs continuing the campaign to drive him from the team when he'd already done it?
What did I do, Boss?
AWOL Petty Officer, thief and bogus pharmacist Charles Hewson had been located, and arrested by LEOs in Altoona, PA, who were holding him while they investigated whether or not they had anything to charge him with, before contacting Tony to find out what he wanted them to do with him. He decided to go down to see Ducky to get background information on some of the drugs he was most anxious about mis-prescription of, (and although he may not have consciously realised it, to get a dose of Mallard sanity, maybe with a moral story attached.) He left a note to tell Alex where he was, as she'd promised to pick up breakfast on her way in.
As he stepped into the elevator, Ziva slipped in before the doors closed. He looked at her silently, damping down his edginess again; he'd almost snapped Marchetti's head off, he didn't want to do it again. She reached for the stop button, and that was too much for him.
"Uh uh, Zi. We're not doing a Gibbs here. We'll talk outside autopsy, or go back up top. I am through with talking in elevators."
"Of course," she said stiffly, and they rode down in silence.
As they stepped out of the steel box, he turned to her with a smile. "Now, what can I do for you, my ninja?"
"Do not make fun of me, Tony."
"Wasn't aware that I was, Ziva," he chided very quietly. "But I'm not Gibbs, as I've been told so many times, and I'm not into elevator talk any more." He wondered why she was so prickly today; he knew what was up with him. "What's up? Gibbs being difficult?"
"He kept us late last night when there was no need – the biker who died caused the accident, and was directly responsible for the injuries to the two sailors in the car. I am sorry I did not make it to see the movie with you, Tony."
He led her as gently as he could. "I guess... by the time you got away you were just too tired to come over. Your text … sounded tired."
"How can a text sound anything? You are angry that I did not call."
"Do I sound angry to you? And you wanted to talk to me, remember. It's just it broke your usual habit, so I was anxious. Gibbs hasn't got me to go off at any more... is he taking it out on you and McGee?"
Ziva sighed. "He is no worse than his worst... but he is always at his worst. Did I say that right? We wish you had stayed. We look for you to lighten the tension -"
"You look for me to take the flack, like I used to," he said without heat. "You see now why I'd had enough?" He frowned. "'We wish you had stayed?' This is the 'we' who left me out of Gibbs' homecoming celebration, right?" Ziva could find no more answer to that than she had the day he'd found out. His eyes grew distant for a moment as he recalled what he'd been thinking before he headed for the elevator, and she looked at him enquiringly. "I could have got my respect for him back... gone on working for him... if he'd let me. If he'd wanted me to. I don't know what I did to make him dislike me so much, and if I asked him he sure wouldn't tell me."
He put his hands on her shoulders. "Anyhow, none of this was enough to hold up the elevator for – what did you want to tell me? Ask me?"
"I have said it now - I am sorry I missed the movie."
Now it was his turn to look at her quizzically. He knew Ziva well enough to be sure there was more. He waited, and the 'I know better than that' look on his face eventually made her flush. "You do not believe me. Then I will tell you. I have watched you and your probie together... yesterday, when you were leaning over her shoulder, you were both laughing, you looked... close... it is not wise to be hitting on your subordinate, Tony!"
She knew she should have controlled herself better, held her tongue; she'd known it was only her own insecurities that were doing this, and if she was not sure of her feelings for him, why was she insecure? Whatever – it had been the wrong thing to say. Tony's face was completely under control, but his voice wasn't.
"Her name is Alex, Ziva. And you really have to trust me to know what's wise and what isn't where my own agent's concerned. It's not your problem." Ziva knew he could have said 'none of your damn business', and would have done if he were speaking to anyone else. Her phone buzzed. "And do you recall a word of what we talked about the other night?" He gestured at her hip pocket. "That'll be Gibbs. Better not keep him waiting." He spun on his heel and would have marched through the autopsy doors, but he had to wait until they opened. He stood rigid, his back ramrod straight until the gap was wide enough to slip through; she watched him for a moment, then turned back towards the elevator, taking her phone out as she did so.
As she rode back up, she punched the wall in frustration. He was right to get angry... and he was, even if he didn't yell. Why had she said anything? Did she want his reassurance? She should not need it! She should trust him... it had hurt him that Gibbs no longer trusted him, and now she was doing the same. She was about ready to bite as she stormed back into the bull pen, but Gibbs and McGee were not there. The message on her phone had said 'G.Y.G.', so she grabbed her gear and hurried after them down to the car.
Autopsy was empty. He didn't know where Ducky and Jimmy were, but why would he; he wasn't investigating nice fresh murders right now. He walked over to the drawers and put his hand on one-oh-seven. Kate's drawer. He knew it had only been occupied a couple of times since then; Ducky didn't use it if he had any choice. Both times it had held innocent women. Other than the ME and his assistant, Tony was the only person in the building who was privy to that information.
"Helluva lot gone on since you were around, Kate," he murmured. "And I don't have a freakin' clue what to do about it. Gibbs hates me, McGee pretends I don't exist. Abby denies there's a problem – or so I hear – and now I've made Ziva mad."
'Not how I saw it,' the thought seemed to have Kate's voice. 'You seem to be the one who's angry.'
"I thought she... ahh, it doesn't matter." The doors opened with a hiss as he strode towards them, and he headed up the stairs at a run rather than wait for the elevator again. Kate's voice pursued him upwards; 'do what's right, it's the best you can do.'
"What's right, Katie?"
Alex was at her desk, munching on a bagel and looking at a file, a small frown teasing her brows. A paper sack sat beside a hot drink cup on Tony's desk; he said 'morning', and dived into it with a word of thanks, plastering on a cheerful mood before asking her about the document. She bit her lip, and regarded him seriously.
"Director Sheppard just brought this one personally."
"Really?" His eyebrows rose in instant wariness.
"Oh, yes. She said to tell Tony her door's open, but to read it through properly before he goes storming up there. She said you wouldn't like it – and you won't – but to look at it anyway. I saw your note and thought shall I follow him down, or shall I use my initiative and start checking this out for him?"
"Fair enough. What won't I like?"
Alex turned the file round and pushed it towards him, coaxing it around the trail of wires from both their computers, which ran messily down in the narrow gap between their desks. She leaned over and pointed silently with a pencil to the line below the name, date, seven years ago, and case-file number, and Tony groaned – it was only 8am, and the day had just got even worse.
'Investigating agent: L. J. Gibbs.'