Ackkk...My apologies for being such a dufus. An astute reader/reviewer rightly pointed out that McGee would probably not be welcome at Homeland after Gibbs and Vance directly defying Tom Morrow's orders to leave Bodnar alone and let him deal with Jackie and Eli's killer. I just grabbed an agency and used it without thinking it through – gah, I'm taking after Gibbs now, aren't I? Well, maybe Morrow accepted Tim into the agency so he could torture him personally? I dunno. No matter, maybe my muse will come with a solution to my stupidity before the end of the story...poor muse. Also, I haven't abandoned my stories, just super busy with work and summer yard work and well, all the other stuff that takes up a peeps time.

Contrary to Tony's original (and valid) misgivings, things had not gone to hell in a hand basket with his father ten minutes into their reunion. In fact, he had actually enjoyed himself, and for the first time, felt some sort of familial emotions towards the man. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was the vacuum he suddenly felt in his life now that Gibbs had dropped out of it, he wasn't sure. Maybe it was just that he was on his father's turf now, with no work mates fawning over Senior, or giving Tony smug looks of satisfaction for his discomfort, or worry that Gibbs was going to k.o the man in the middle of the bullpen.

Whatever the reason, Tony took it at face value, not reading anything more into it than the planets being aligned and this was probably a one-off sort of thing. He and his father, on occasion, had managed to have spent a few pleasant days together in the past, mostly when he was still too young to understand how self-absorbed Senior was. This was just another day, to add to the four or five other ones. He had no illusions that for any wild reason, he and his father wouldn't be at each other's throats tomorrow.

It didn't matter, he was only staying the night, and then flying on to London to meet with Petey, his British cousin whom he'd remained friends with since childhood. His father had foot the bill for him to fly to Milan, with the blessings of Sheik Omar Ibn Alween, and Tony had sprung for the passage to London and parts unknown. One of the Prince's private jets had picked him up at a small airport outside of D.C, leaving his departure undetected and virtually untraceable. Prince 'Al' had kindly offered to jet him the remainder of the journey, but Tony had politely turned the man down, not wanting to follow in his father's tacky footsteps of mooching off anyone he could.

He thoroughly enjoyed the lush hotel and the fine cuisine of its dining room, and after the two hours it took to help solve a security problem for his old man's newest venture with the Sheik, which Tony highly suspected was fabricated to get him to come join his father for a little bragging time, he settled down in the marble jacuzzi tub with a glass of very expensive wine, which Tony also suspected was being footed by the Sheik Omar along with his air fare and hotel bill. Tony didn't care. He was tired of playing by the rules, he had tried to always do the right thing, first for his father, then his school instructors, his coaches and police captains, and finally and most importantly, Jethro Gibbs. Look where it had gotten him. Caving in to the pressure of his partners and bosses when every fiber of his being told him they were going in the wrong direction, he had been false to himself, and forced to toss in his hand along with the rest of the team.

It seemed to be no huge deal for them, though Tim and Ziva fussed audibly about missing the agency and team members, and Gibbs was totally nonplussed, behaving as if it was the normal course of things, and it had been inevitable for them to part company all at once. But it had been a huge deal for him. Not only were Abby, Ducky and his team mates the only solid, stable thing he'd ever had in his life, he was at a loss for what the future held for him. Vance had all but bent over backwards to make sure Tim and Ziva were placed in non-hostile, relatively high end positions, and Gibbs had made his own bed by agreeing to sell his soul by returning to his sniper for hire roots, but no one had approached or asked Tony where he would be going, or if he had a place to be going to.

Not that he had given them much of a chance after the shit hit the fan, but still, they had been given the courtesy of 'job placement' by a man who had never been, and now never would be, a fan of Anthony DiNozzo. Tony had made it clear before he left for Berlin with Ziva that he was going against his better judgment, and that they all needed to take a deep breath and a step back and a good look at the cliff they were getting ready to stampede off from. Unfortunately, level heads were not prevailing at the moment, and they had accused him of being insensitive to the memories of Jackie Vance and Eli David. That he simply did not want to be yet another agent in the long list of Gibbs' vigilante law enforcers had never occurred to them.

After his showdown in the bullpen with Gibbs, Tony had a sudden and deep need to be bad, to go off on his own little payback spree, knowing full well how pissed Gibbs would be if he knew Tony had done his father's bidding and jetted off to Milan. He was smart enough, and certainly jaded enough, to know that this little bonding moment with Senior was just that, little, and momentary. Tomorrow, hell, probably already, he was not even on his father's radar, and wouldn't be until he needed something else from his son. That was the way they rolled. About as dysfunctional as it got, but when Tony thought about it, nothing about the way that he and Gibbs interacted was exactly 'normal', either. Head slaps? Grunts? Emotional blackmail punctuated by occasional good ol' boy nights of shared steaks and too much alcohol.

Sitting in the hot bubbling jacuzzi, Tony finally started considering his options, and decided not to do anything for the time being. He was in Europe, and had brought his ATM and credit cards, backed by a small nest egg he'd been unwittingly sitting on for years after his mother had passed away. It had been started by his mother, kept secret from his rainbow chasing, philandering father, and gifted to him after college when his mother's solicitor had finally tracked him down.

He had made a big show of hoping to inherit some of his Uncle Clive's fortune, yet another ruse to throw anyone off about his wealth. His team and co-workers had taunted him through the years about growing up rich and privileged, never considering it might not have made for the happiest of lives with such tormented and absent parents, and Tony had never let them know any different. He resented the fact that they all, including Gibbs, assumed they knew everything there was to know about him from his human resources profile and a few off-hand comments he made. He knew a lot more about them then he let on, and they all would have been shocked, perhaps angry, about the depth of knowledge he had accumulated regarding their pasts over the years. Ziva and Tim had always arrogantly assumed Tony's contacts in the real world, and computer skills, no doubt paled heartily in comparison to their own, and that his circle of friends consisted merely of frat brothers and a few fellow NCIS employees.

He had attempted at first to convince them otherwise, but had gotten drowned out in the cacophony of their derisive laughter and comments. After a while, he decided to keep even more secrets from them about the skills and networking he had developed over his years as a police detective. Even the military academy he attended and college had provided the savvy son of a conman with a world of contacts, some benign, some not so above board. If there was something he couldn't figure out how to access on the computer, he had buddies who could. When he needed to know where some suspect or person of interest most likely went to ground, he usually knew who could ferret them out. Kate had eventually caught on to his wealth of outside help and begrudgingly learned to appreciate him for it. Gibbs had known from the start, and was rarely surprised when Tony came up with information no one else had been able to find. He had done his homework before hiring the kid, and knew how resourceful Tony was.

Now none of it mattered. He had no use for any of those hard-won skills at the moment, other than being able to work with his father for long enough to enjoy it and short enough to not want to murder the man in his sleep. Which usually worked out to be about twelve hours. NCIS had become a comfort zone for him, in spite of the often jagged edges his co-workers brought to it. He'd always been a fast healer, mostly out of necessity, but lately it had been getting more difficult to recover from the wounds, and this last fiasco engineered without his knowledge had given him serious thought as to if it was really worth it to him to stay. Now he had his answer. No solution yet, but at least an answer to the back and forth 'stay or don't stay' conversation going on in his head the past few weeks. Had it only been weeks, or perhaps years?

He tried not to have regrets, but in his line of work, they came with the rest of the baggage working in law enforcement generally heaped on you. Missed leads that resulted in cases going cold, or worse, another crime; missed opportunities for having a wife and kids, missed promotions for misguided bosses...the list seemed endless. Now he missed the bullpen and the excitement of the chase and the solving of puzzles, and maybe a little bit the Probie, and a lot Abby and Ducky. Gibbs...well, the man was twelve years of Tony's life wrapped in regret. Things could have been so different between them if...well, Tony wasn't sure what that 'if' was exactly.

Words said, not said, secrets kept, trust broken – that the blame lay mostly at the reticent former Marine's sale rack Sears boots, Tony had no doubt about that. That some of it lay at Tony's own designer shoes, well he knew that to be true, too. He had allowed Gibbs to treat him like a doormat, many times over, and it had eventually become habit for the team lead. McGee and Ziva had simply followed their leader, seemingly delighted to have permission from the big man in charge to do their own thing when it suited them instead of following chain of command, until it got to be a habit for them, too.

Tony knew damned well what had gone down when he had canvassed that high-end neighborhood looking to get a voice match while his partners waited in the car for him. He had alternately silently steamed and agonized over reporting them, but if it had indeed all been just a joke he would have looked like a poor sport and made life even more miserable for himself on the team. If it hadn't been a joke, if they truly had left him swinging in the wind...well, he was pretty sure he didn't want to know that truth, or even contemplate it. Not only the dire consequences for Tim and Ziva, and probably some for himself, but the break-up of a team he thought he considered family. Not to mention what it have pushed him to the brink of emotional ruin to confront the fact that his friends, partners, and supposed 'family' had thought so little of him as to disregard protocol and leave him without any back up.

Most of all, he was afraid to find out what Gibbs would do if he found out about the whole sorry mess. Or, more accurately, in Tony's mind, what he wouldn't do about it if he found out. He was pretty sure Gibbs would find a reason to point the finger of blame at him, if only to keep McGee's and Ziva's chestnuts out of the fire and keep them on the team. Not exactly the best of reasons to not report gross insubordination to your team leader, but nothing in Tony's past, or past experience with Gibbs and the team, told him that it was a safe bet or even the right thing to do.

When he had been grilled once by his team as to why he was suddenly changing his behavior, he had claimed out loud that if 'you keep on doing what you've been doing, you'll keep on getting what you've got.' Maybe it was time to actually take those words to heart and apply them to his future. He for sure wasn't going to go into leagues with his father, no matter how fine the hotel room and its room service was, but he wasn't at all sure he could go back to his team now, either, if indeed there was ever going to be a team again, which he was beginning to doubt. Or any other team on NCIS. Problem was, he had no idea what he really wanted to do now. Well, he was in Milan now, and the French Riviera was not that far away. Taking another drink of the very expensive bubbly his father had provided for him, he decided it perhaps be fun to go play at being James Bond for a month or two.