A/N: I know I swore to never write canon stories anymore, but you know the 'never say never' edict.
This came to me while I was at work, watering plants in the green house. Don't ask me how the two are connected. Just one of those plot bunnies that scampered in and made itself to home, and sort of jumbled, but I have had writers block on my other stories, so maybe this will help unblock them!
Well, he guessed that explained it all, then. All the times he'd gone to Gibbs' house and found it empty, even the basement, save for scattered tools and scraps of lumber and lots of sawdust on the floor. So often Tony had needed to talk to him about something, to work something out in his head while his boss listened, or told his second what he needed to know whether Tony wanted to hear it or not. But really, it had been a while since he had felt comfortable sharing his inner most thoughts and concerns with Gibbs , what with the gruff way the man had handled Tony's last few basement confessions over the past many months, so his visits had been getting fewer and shorter anyways.
Now, here before his very eyes, stood the reason Gibbs had been so unavailable and preoccupied. And all this time Tony had thought perhaps the mysterious chick in the silver sports car was back in town. He had always hoped that that was the case, that his boss wasn't ignoring him, wasn't showing Tony where he stood in Gibbs' life by cutting him out of it.
It was a beautiful cabin, the most solidly built thing Tony could ever remember seeing since visiting Notre Dame Cathedral as a teenager. The sparseness of it took nothing away from its quality, and even though Tony had never built anything more complex in his life than a simple birdhouse at summer camp, he wasn't dull enough to not appreciate the workmanship of the simple but sturdy dwelling.
Even so, he hated it on sight.
Thrown into having to meet there to avoid being surveilled by probably every alphabet agency, including their own, Tony's guts clenched and roiled when he realized just what he was looking at – the source of his many nights of doubt and angst. Gibbs had purposely made himself unavailable other than being able to leave voice messages on his cell, to build this 'hideaway'. He had never given Tony one single clue as to what he was doing or where he was doing it, just dropping off the face of the earth until work called him into the office. Did McGee and Ziva know anything about it? He wouldn't be surprised to find out they had not only been there already, but had had a hand in building it. Nothing surprised him about his team anymore. Which was pretty freaking damned sad when he considered exactly what the 'surprises' had been in the past years.
Gibbs leaving without so much as a decent, heart-felt goodbye.
Gibbs coming back to help Ziva, though he had not once answered any of Tony's pleas for assistance with a difficult case and even more difficult team and director.
Ziva by-passing him altogether in favor of a man who seemed to barely remember her.
Gibbs coming back for good, usurping a position he had so righteously given both middle fingers to before dropping it all in Tony's lap, and then behaving as if everyone, especially Tony, had understood he was just taking some time off.
The entire team happily and inexplicably excluding him from their little team dinner.
Gibbs taking his sweet time bring Tony back from Agent Afloat, even after the notorious Agent Lee had been found to be the traitorous mole.
Beginning to wonder if the list in his head was endless, Tony brought himself up short when he realized how far his mind had meandered from the drama de jour, only to find his thoughts drifting back to how they had all gotten to that point in the first place. Secrets, lies, cover-ups, revenge run amok, and a team behaving in ways he never imagined possible for them. It was a good part of what had been eating away him the past few months, what he needed to lay out and look at and get a handle on, to at least make it more palatable for him to swallow whenever someone handed him some crap about righteous kills and finding justice.
He knew about Gibbs' own thirst for vengeance against the Reynosas. He knew about good ole Mike Franks' cold-blooded bullets, and the off-kilter Jenny Shepard murdering her hated 'Frog'. He even knew about Gibbs' mother-in-law, though that had taken some time and effort to verify, and how Gibbs had walked away from all of them knowing full well what had happened and chalking it up to instant karma. All of it had taken some doing to choke down, much less digest, though it had never truly settled right in Tony's blue blooded veins – the uniform wearing ones, not his father's misguided legacy. The justice system was there for a reason, and though it very often malfunctioned, it served to bring equity about in a legal, logical, provable sense.
And yet, these past few months he had watched as Gibbs and Ziva had plotted behind everyone's backs, with the blessings and urgings of their director, and eventually even McGee had been enlisted in their holy war as their technical cog in the wheel that had been turning since the eve of Jackie Vance and Eli Davids' untimely deaths. Jackie's death had shocked and numbed Tony, and he still found it difficult to imagine her warmth and steadfastness snuffed out for good, but Eli David was, if not deserving of a violent death, at least was accustomed to living knowing that assassins waited constantly in the shadows to avenge a lost family member, or perhaps even take the man's place in the chain of command. He was sympathetic to Ziva's grief, and the conflicting emotions of her loss, but not once would he verbally condone her plans to seek out her father's killer and take an eye for an eye.
Now he had recently found out that not only was she plotting to find Bodnar and assassinate him, but Gibbs and McGee were willing accomplices, if not by deed, then by implicit approval and concealment of their plans. And as usual, he had been the last to know, and then only by his dogged determination to find her and stop her before she caused harm to herself and the team. He had outwardly shrugged it off with his usual water off a duck's back attitude and settled in to help them, hoping he could at least keep them from being killed even if he couldn't keep them from going to prison. But inwardly, it had cut like a knife, or perhaps, been the snipping of the last stitches that were holding his battered self-worth and wobbly faith in his team together.
Suddenly the cabin, Gibbs' house and basement, the MCRT bullpen, were all as meaningless to him as the mansion in Long Island he had called home until he was twelve. Bricks, mortar, wood, concrete, windows – all material with no substance. Empty of warmth, devoid of any sort of comfort or belongingness. In the end, it wouldn't matter anyways. Gibbs had informed them that in order to keep them all from prosecution, he had offered himself up as sacrifice to yet another black ops mission, and that the team was no more. Instead of misery and anger, Tony had been surprised to find himself feeling relief and a sense of liberation at not having to be a part of a team that not only no longer felt like any sort of family, but had purposely betrayed him by keeping him out of the loop yet again and walked a path he would never have considered taking by himself.
Having accrued considerable unused leave and holiday pay hours he had weeks ahead of him to consider what his options might be and where he might like to work next. He hoped it would mitigate some of the sadness he felt from his most recent loss, that of Gibbs as mentor, friend and surrogate father, but in reality, Tony had to admit to himself that Gibbs had been none of those things for him in recent months, even when he had known the rocky path Tony had been treading and even after Gibbs' admittance a year ago that his team members and Abby were his family, his kids. If they were, then Tony had obviously become the red-headed step child, cast out of the clan for his failure to conform to whatever rules and ideas Gibbs had laid down in his latest venture off the rails. For all Tony knew, he was the only one who had been told about the team's dissolution, and while he was home making new plans and collecting sickdays and holiday pay, Gibbs, McGee and Ziva were back at the bullpen working on the latest hot case.
Tony laughed out loud to himself, a sound that was more of a strangled scream than real humor, thinking how deep into the pit he had descended to be thinking such a thing, and stopped abruptly before Gibbs could question what was going on with him. He looked up at the man who used to be his boss, who looked at Tony as if he were a stranger, and who looked like a stranger to Tony. How could this be the same man he had given so much of his devotion to, his literal blood, sweat and tears for?
So many years of his life, so many orders followed without question. And yet, there in the wilderness of the Virginia hill, stood a cabin that Gibbs had built without Tony having any clue, without any explanation as to why he wasn't available anymore for his second in command, for his special agent who had given and taken so much, for his supposed surrogate son. He had not wanted Tony to know of its existence. It was Gibbs' way of separating himself from the younger man just as assuredly as condoning Ziva's obsession to avenge her father and then including everyone but Tony in the actual mission.
That last night in the bullpen, Tony had cleaned out his desk without a word, no matter how Ziva and McGee, even Gibbs, prodded him to speak his mind. They would not want to hear what he had to say to any of them, and once he knew once he started, it would turn into a raving, foaming at the mouth rant. Better to just pack up and leave on some sort of peaceful terms, even if his emotions were anything but. McGee had tried to shake his hand in farewell, but Tony had rebuffed him, muttering something about hating goodbyes, but thinking he might knock the younger agent to the floor and ask him what the hell he had that Tony didn't, that made Gibbs treat him the way Tony used to be treated, no, better than Tony had ever been treated by their boss.
As for Gibbs, he avoided the man altogether, until his ex-boss confronted him in an angry huff and backed him into the tall filing cabinet.
"Say whatcha need to say, DiNozzo, don't keep hiding it under that idiot act."
"Not an act, Gibbs. I am an idiot. Everyone here knew it long before I bought a clue. But then again it's hard to get a clue when you're an idiot, so...there ya go."
"Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"You figure it out, Gibbs. If you can't, McGenious over there can do it for you. Or your favorite ninja agent, she's got the answers to everything. Me, I'm just a clueless bastard, thinking maybe you were out having a good time with that mystery woman in the silver Mercedes and all this time you've been building a secret hideaway. Well, secret to me, anyways." Tony lowered his voice to near whisper, hoping McGee would get the hint and find somewhere else to be. "I needed you, Gibbs. Things were happening that...I needed to talk to you about..you knew it, and you didn't give a damn. I may not be handy with a hammer and saw, but I could've done some of the heavy lifting and we could've talked over some beers afterwards. Seems you enlisted somebody else's help, cause I know you didn't move all those big logs up that high by yourself. Doesn't matter now. You go do your little suicide mission. I'm done here, in fact, I think I was done about seven years ago and just didn't know enough to leave. Like I said, clueless idiot. Bad habit of mine, along with a lot of others."
Tony pushed past the angry ex-MCRT leader and grabbed up his small box of personal belongings, his badge, weapon, and work cellphone sitting starkly atop his desk, his shocked team mates gawking in disbelief. Well, then at least he hadn't been the only clueless bastard, Tony decided. Seemed that Gibbs and the others hadn't even considered that he would go quietly and happily into the night after the FUBAR things they had just done and been through, nearly getting themselves killed, wrecking his new luxury car in the process, and after all of it, ending up on the brink of prison terms. He should have walked away long ago, should have taken the Rota job. Should have told them all to go do something anatomically impossible...well, he just had, in his own backwards way. Now he would be unreachable, and they would be excluded from his life, at least until he could decide where and when they fit into it, if at all.
He wasn't even sure about Ducky and Abby. How complicit had they been in this whole mess? Neither of them had seemed at all surprised when he and Ziva had flown off on wild goose chase to Berlin. Probably even Fornell knew about it. No matter. Very Special Agent DiNozzo was no more, in fact, Tony realized he probably had never existed, outside his own mind. Now he was just plain Anthony D. DiNozzo, all round fun guy and movie buff extraordinaire. Tomorrow was another day, with open-ended possibilities. He gave a wry grimace at Gibbs' furious face just before he pushed the button for the elevator door to close. With any luck, he could get to the islands before anyone knew he had even left the city.