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Chapter Four: Explosions

Tuesday December 2, 2008

The Agency was a twenty-four hour, seven day a week operation. Crime didn’t take time off for holidays, weekends, or vacations, and as their marines were on duty or on leave, so too did NCIS have to remain on duty and on leave.

It meant the odd hours that Gibbs and DiNozzo were known to work didn’t phase security none. Gibbs might come in at four in the morning, but Tony was well known to pop in after ten at night and stay until two.

Assuming, of course, that they didn’t have an active case. Then, the whole team came and didn’t leave until the case was closed.

So, Gibbs showing up at 0400 hours did not surprise anyone, nor did it strike anyone as unusual. Gibbs showing up without coffee already in hand, or making an immediate beeline to the kitchen to make a pot of his unholy stiff brew, well, that was odd. Gibbs parking his arse outside the Director’s office, with a sheaf of old case files - that was just downright bizarre.

When Leon Vance showed up, it was typically 0700. A good hour before his EA. The Director’s routine was well established, and any changes to it were avoided. It was part of his security setup. Were he to miss arriving at 0700, and no word came in, by 0800 his EA would sound an alarm.

Vance’s morning routine was a little simpler. He showed up, passed general greetings with the security staff, stopped at the kitchen on his way up for a top off on his travel mug of tea, and while reading The New York Times in one hand, his mug in the other, sauntered up to his office.

He’d review his diary, go through any approvals that had been set on his desk the day before, and mentally prepare for the day ahead.

Finding Gibbs perched outside his door (but, surprisingly, he hadn’t just broken into the office), waiting for him threw his routine right off kilter. “Agent Gibbs?” Vance arched an eyebrow. “Can I help you?”

“Need to talk to you about DiNozzo.” Gibbs said, apropos of nothing.

Vance blinked, a shoe dropping somewhere in the back of his mind. DiNozzo’s call had been a wake-up. But, to have Gibbs here waiting for him in wake of that call? Oh, something ominous was afoot! “I have an appointment with Agent DiNozzo later this morning, Gbbs. He’s requested transfer. Is that what you wanted to talk about? Kicking DiNozzo off your team?” He asked cautiously.

It didn’t make sense. Gibbs had pestered him for his team back. Harassed, actually was a better word. More encompassing for the number of calls, face-to-face encounters, and general mulish behaviour Gibbs pushed at him after breaking the team. He’d caved giving back McGee. Then Ziva. But still, the man had been relentless about bringing DiNozzo back. After giving Gibbs what he wanted… it just seemed so surreal to find things shattering apart.

DiNozzo's call on Thanksgiving had thrown him for a loop. The man honestly, to his bones, believed his teammates thought so little of him. It was… astonishing. And, beyond any doubt in his mind, Leon believed DiNozzo wrong. That said, he was willing to cut him loose, and place him on another team

Davenport rained doubt on that idea as being good. On the subject of one Special Agent DiNozzo, Davenport had reams to say, and all of it spun Vance in circles. His plan this morning was to really sit and study DiNozzo's jacket in depth. It was a plan that he could see had just been torpedoed..

"Damn it, no!" Gibbs turned and thumped his fist into a wood door. The solid African blackwood vibrated under the force, but didn’t break. “I’ve screwed the pooch.” He muttered. “Didn’t expect there to be consequences… thought it’d just roll off of ‘im like everything always did.”

“Project Domino.” Vance surmised at a loose guess, mentally reviewing the last few weeks and any significant activity for the MCRT. Project Domino had left a sour taste in Vance’s mouth. He could only imagine how DiNozzo, Gibbs second, had felt. .

“Yeah. That too.” Gibbs grit his teeth, “No idea why it’s pissed him off. Told him it was need-to-know, he shoulda understood that..”

“The need-to-know was of your own making, Gibbs. You deliberately excluded your second in knowledge of the operation that involved him. You kept me out of the loop too, and I can honestly say it pissed me right off, but at least I wasn’t physically endangered by your plans.” Vance crossed his arms, leaning against a wall, still in the foyer outside of his office. “I took time on Friday, after DiNozzo called, to really review his case notes on Domino. It took a conversation with Jackie to read between the lines, but bottom line -- he was livid. Would have walked then if he could have been sure it wasn’t just his temper being up.”

He shook his head, watching a still Gibbs, whose head was down but at least he was listening. “I had a few words with Davenport about DiNozzo. He had some interesting input, and walked me through some statistics. The numbers tell a daunting tale, Gibbs. DiNozzo leaving your team will be a nightmare for the agency. Still, I have to give him transfer options, he has that right, but between you and me -- it’s going to hurt your team badly. It’s a safe guarantee that the close rate will drop back to where it was, initially, when DiNozzo was Agent Afloat, those last two months. The time it takes to close cases will increase. You’re average caseload per month ratio will fall. But, the complaints I get about you and David from other Law Enforcement Agencies is going to skyrocket. I can’t say I am looking forward to it.”

Leon took a sip of tea, and reordered his thoughts, mindful of the way Gibbs was silently snarling. “On the upside, if DiNozzo takes one of the transfers I can offer him, I benefit. If he takes Pearl, well, it’ll be nice not have to say thank you to the Governor’s task force for doing our job.” Vance was really warming to that particular thought. To not have to listen to the Hawaiian Governor’s snide little comments on how 5-0 stepped up and handled their issues, at 5-0 and the Hawaiian government’s expense. Hell, Davenport had already said if DiNozzo was insisting on leaving DC, the first place to send him was Pearl.

DiNozzo had a stellar closure rate as a detective in Baltimore, and had managed to maintain the MCRT closing rate while running an undercover op while Gibbs was in Mexico. The man would easily handle the NCIS units there and significantly raise the profile of NCIS Pearl Harbor.

Of course, there was also the possibility of ROTA. Depending on how DiNozzo handled the political aspects working with the Spanish government, Interpol and other European intelligence agencies, it was conceivable he would rise to Assistant Director in less than five years.

The possibilities were… tantalizing.

“I know.” Gibbs muttered. The pain filled blue eyes staring now at him spoke profoundly of remorse, of dismay, of deep hurt. “I know you see what I do. He’s the best damn young agent I ever worked with, bar none. And, yeah, he’s way overdue for his own team. I get that Leon. It’s me that held him back. Because, I need him on my team. I need him as my second. I need him watching my six. NO ONE has ever done that like DiNozzo does.”

“Then why did you keep him in the dark?”” Leon asked baldly. “Why would you call him up and basically declare he’s a worthless human being?”

“I… ah, Domino…. Ducky says it was a power trip. Maybe it was. But, I stuck to Rule 4… a secret is best if only 1 person knows about it… and I was that person, and so I kept it.” Gibbs ran a hand through his short hair, frowning. “DiNozzo told you about the call?”

“You’re a bit of a hypocrite, Gibbs. Rule 4 may be your excuse, but there were other people in the know. Dr. Mallard. Abby.” Vance shook his head. “Did you ask yourself what happens if the mole had gotten YOU? How was DiNozzo to step up if he knew nothing about what you were doing?” Vance moved towards his door, entering his security code, and entering his office.

Gibbs followed on his heels.

“I didn’t think of that.” Gibbs grumbled. “Not that I wasn’t aware that there could be consequences, but I believed and still believe there was no way I could be taken down.” He sighed. “The big problem is, DiNozzo coulda let Domino roll off his back if I’d let the sleeping dog lie. But he left me a message on Thanksgiving -- and I was in a shit mood. Called him back, and I….” Gibbs stumbled. He straightened his shoulders and manned up. “Shannon used to tell me I always went for the jugular when I was in the mood to verbally attack. That’s what I did. It was the wrong thing to do.”

Vance found his chair, leaned back and stared at him with hooded eyes. “And it really was the straw that broke the camel's back, then.” He surmised. “Why did you have an issue with him being a few minutes late? He wasn’t late for frivolous reasons, and frankly, our people are on salary, Gibbs. Would I like them to all report for their shift on time? Absolutely, but what DiNozzo was doing wasn’t for personal gain. It could be equated on the same unavoidable hindrance of a flat tire, or a traffic accident blocking a route.” He leaned forward, opening a pen drawer on his desk and pulled out a wrapped toothpick. “More importantly, why did you take your temper out on DiNozzo? If you knew you were in a bad mood, why did you return his call?”

Now, that hurt. It hurt, because the answer made him a boorish pig. “I… was raring for a fight, and DiNozzo’s always has…”

“...been your punching bag.” Vance sighed. “Well, I’m afraid that last punch broke the bag, it has fallen down, and ripped out a good chunk of ceiling doing so. It’s done.”

Gibbs ran a hand over tired eyes. “I wanta fix it. Convince him to give me another chance. He’s given me fourteen days before he goes… that’s fourteen days to make things right. Or at least, better.”

Vance snorted. “Why should I let you?” He asked. “You’ll just fall back on old behaviours, Gibbs.”

Gibbs shook his head. “No. No I won’t. I knew the moment he hung up on me I was in the wrong. Bad mood and all. And I knew then that I had to change his mind. I’d kick Ziva and McGee off the team before I ever did him, Leon.”

Leon tilted his head, “McGee’s a powerful asset. His computer skills are second to none.”

“He’s not an investigator. Not like DiNozzo. He doesn’t get people, doesn’t read into their actions, or state of mind. Does understand motives like DiNozzo. Can’t get under their skins and walk in their shoes. If it’s a grain of sand on the net, yeah, McGee can find it. But he has to know what he’s looking for. DiNozzo can look at a murder scene, and tell you where the killer was standing, what kind of emotion was behind it. Most times, how the murder was done. Give a few more pieces, and he’ll tell you why.”

“He’s completing a Masters in Psychology.” Vance said. “I skimmed his file on Friday, saw the academic reimbursements we’ve been paying.” A pen began tapping, thoughtfully, “He’s doing it with Georgetown, and should be finishing next year.”

Gibbs nodded. “Yeah, I knew. Told him he didn’t need it. Said he wanted to do it.” Gibbs shrugged, looking down, “Told him he could do whatever he wants on his own time, so long as it doesn’t impact mine.”

A tired sigh came out of the Director. “Honestly, Gibbs, with that attitude, I think he’s right to transfer.”

Gibbs shook his head. “You do that, and you might as well draw up my retirement papers. I won’t finish a year alive without him on my six.” The older man laid his hands flat on the table. “I got a counter offer -- I am getting long in the tooth. We been working longer and longer hours. We all got vacation time backed up to a ridiculous degree… promote DiNozzo to co-lead. Give me two probies, and another agent to serve as our SFA. We’ll turn out probies for you on a regular basis, but have the ability to function as two teams in one.”

Vance steepled his fingers. “Why not create a second MCRT altogether.”

“Cause then I ain’t fixing McGee and David’s perceptions. I ain’t drumming home that it’s DiNozzo I value. That he’s worth the position he holds, and more.” Gibbs drummed the fingers on one hand. “Ima gonna work to rebuild his trust. Need to prove I do respect him.” He frowned, likely realizing what a difficult task that was.

The funny thing about trust, his wife once said to him, it was given freely the first time around, but once lost? It was a bugger to regain.

Vance leaned forward, “You have fourteen days, Gibbs. I’ll put your offer on the table, but I’m giving DiNozzo the right to chart his own path. You’re going to have to sell your idea by actions, not by empty promises. I wish you luck with that.” He leaned back in his chair. “Now, get out of my office. I have work to do.”

He waited until Gibbs shut his door, and turned to his credenza, pulling out the bottom drawer that held the personnel files of the MCRT. DiNozzo’s wasn’t as thick as Gibbs, but it was the second place winner. He hefted it up, and slammed it onto his desk. Settling back into his chair properly, Vance found his reading glasses, and flipped the cover. “Let’s learn who you really are, DiNozzo.”


The bullpen was still empty when Gibbs made back to his desk, only to turn on heel and make a run for the kitchen, as his caffeine withdrawal announced itself via headache. Thanksgiving had been a wretched experience. Jack hadn’t been at his best, the old man being frailer than Gibbs could ever imagine, and tiring far too easily -- but refusing to sit down and take it easy.

They’d gotten into a big fight over the issue of the store -- Jack refusing to let it go, and Gibbs believing his Dad needed to either sell the business or close it and retire. He’d admit, in hindsight, asking his Dad to pack it in, move to DC and into his house hadn’t been handled with any degree of delicacy. He’d all but said it was clear the old man was dying in degrees. And things had snowballed from there.

It had been wrong to use Tony’s message as a reason to vent his spleen. It had been wrong to paint DiNozzo in a bad light. That man gave 150% to everything he did. If kids didn’t like him, it was because they got the read off of him, and he wasn’t trying to be liked. If this one did, it’s because DiNozzo made the effort.

The man had stepped up when no one else would for the sake of a child; Tony stepping outside of his comfort levels, stepping up to a responsibility far more serious than any other was just DiNozzo in every way he faced the world -- and Gibbs had completely disrespected that just because he wanted to snap and snarl. He was, beyond a doubt, an utter bastard.

He ripped the bag of coffee grinds with a bit more force than necessary, sending some of the contents flying. Most of it hit the filter properly, though. Inserting the filter cup, and pressing the start button, and the machine started doing it’s work. Gibbs watched the pot fill with hooded eyes, mind a thousand miles away.

How did one rebuild trust when they had torn it down? Could it be rebuilt? And wasn't that a dreadful thought. He had to believe he could regain DiNozzo's respect and trust. Had to. But, how did he physically go about doing it? Was it by partnering with the man in the field? Or, maybe he should give him lead more… only, that wouldn’t go well if McGee and Ziva didn’t follow along with the plan.

Gibbs filled a travel mug he found on top of the microwave, indifferent as to who the real owner was. No one was gonna come ask for it back, his reputation made sure of that. The first sip was nirvana, and fortified his soul. He made his way back to his desk, and sat down.

He needed inspiration. Some sort of divine guidance here. Another day like yesterday was gonna kill him, he realized. The silence, and frost coming from his SFA had sucked the life and energy out of them all. Twice, McGee had tried to start a conversation with DiNozzo, and DiNozzo had shut him down quick.

Maybe if Ziver hadn’t opened her mouth and bitched…

Gibbs dropped his head into his hands. The problem, he thought with a mental groan, was more than just HIS actions and words. Tony was right, he'd screwed the team on the chain of command by being a dictator. The way the junior member of the team treated DiNozzo was, in truth, appalling, and despite his attempt to ignore it, he knew it existed. Sure, there was teasing and jibes, DiNozzo gave as good as he got there, but… it wasn’t good-natured all the time, especially when it was directed at DiNozzo. He'd let those moments slide. Shouldn't done that, dammit.

And their lack of respect had communicated itself in the field, DiNozzo wasn't wrong there. Gibbs had damned well seen the way Ziva and McGee would question DiNozzo's orders in the field. And more the fool he was, he went along with it, often reassigning their tasks just to get them moving and the job done, and not thinking about what the consequence would be.

What message had his actions given? The wrong one. Dammit.

Christ...he had a mountain to scale, and no fucking gear but the worn-out shoes on his feet!

So, how did he change the team dynamic and make DiNozzo want to stay? Thirty minutes later, and two cups of coffee drained, and Gibbs was still fussing at the problem when DiNozzo showed up… early as he usually was. Cold green eyes skittered over him, and then turned to his own desk. He started his computer, without saying a world, pulled a cold case forward.

Quietly, Gibbs moaned. It was going to be another frosty day at work. Oh, how Gibbs hated glaciers. Solid walls of ice that were so slow to retreat.

“DiNozzo… I… ah,spoke to Vance this morning.” He tried tentatively. “He’s got… he did what you wanted… brought together some options.” Nervously, he watched for any response, any hint that Tony was regretting requesting a transfer. About all he got was a stiffening of shoulders.


“I… I asked him to give ya a counter-offer. Like I said last night, I don’t want to loose ya, DiNozzo. You’re important to this team, more than I can find the words ta explain.” He was grasping at straws. Lord, he wasn’t good at this shit.

“I don’t want to talk about it, right now.” Tony said quietly, deliberately flipping a page in the case file he was reviewing.

“Please...” Gibbs wasn’t above begging. Well, normally he was, but this was a really special circumstance. The MCRT was his reason for being. It was the reason he got up in the morning, the reason he kept breathing. But, if he was the soul of the MCRT, DiNozzo was the heart. And if the heart went...

Eyes, harder than agates, stared at him impassively. “Please what?” He snarled quietly. “Why would I want to stay on a team that thinks I'm a useless space of human flesh? That has so little respect for me as a person, much less the Senior Field Agent of the MCRT? Why would I want to work with people who think it's completely acceptable to treat me like crap?”

Gibbs winced. Yeah, well, he knew the junior members were as much a problem as he was. Oh joy. “It’s not acceptable. It’s not. I swear… I’ll make them understand. I promise, I won’t fuck up like that again.” He promised, desperately. “Gimme a chance -- I’ll teach them to give you the respect you deserve.”

DiNozzo’s snort was contemptuous at best. “You can’t teach what you don’t know.” He muttered, flipping yet another damn page.

Gibbs could feel his temper rising, but he fought it down. The writing on the wall said plenty. He lost his temper, and the price was going to be the fourteen days to woo DiNozzo's trust. The churning of his gut said that keeping DiNozzo, even with his efforts and offerings, was a long shot. But he was a sniper by training. Long-shots were what he did best.

He settled down to his own reports with a quiet. “I do know, DiNozzo. You’re the best damn agent I’ve ever worked with, hands down. Possibly, the best federal investigative agent in all of the US. And I’ll prove that I believe that it to you, somehow.”

DiNozzo had no reply, and Gibbs, wisely, chose to let the subject lie quietly -- for now.

The quiet that descended was, arguably, peaceful. The sound of a mouse click, or a page turning. The hum of a printer, or the sound of a sip from a coffee cup.

Forty minutes after DiNozzo had arrived, McGee toddled in, casting a wary sea-eye on his superiors moods, and slumping when he realized the dismal atmosphere from Monday was still, painfully, in effect. He scuttled into his desk, adjusted his monitors to obscure his visibility, and slunk down to face a stack of cold cases.

Ziva breezed in some five minutes after, still early, but not as early as the rest of the team. She took a look around her, and noticed the tension. Maybe it was her being a woman that made her react differently, maybe it was her being MOSSAD, or an assassin by train. Or maybe it was because she really did have an agenda against DiNozzo. Gibbs wasn’t sure.

Either way, the woman had all the sense of a squirrel running across a hot highway. “So, Tony. Your alarm, it worked this morning? Or did you sleep at some new girls house and she kicked you from her bed on time? it is amazing that you are not late, Tony. That is quite the good accomplishment.”

IF, and Gibbs cast a wide aspersion on this, having only known the story thanks to Abby, that killing curse from the Harry Potter movies could come from eyes, rather than a wand, then DiNozzo was cursing her dead with his gaze. Seriously, dead. “Thank you for your input, Officer David. Take your seat, and get to work. Now.” He ordered, his tone flat.

Prudence advised Gibbs to support Tony, if he really wanted the boy to retract his request for transfer. “Agent DiNozzo has been a member of my team for seven years, Officer David. And he is your senior on this team -- the only person who has the right to question him for tardiness on the very rare occasion that it has ever happened, is me.” He levelled a flat glare. “Besides, ain't you ever noticed that DiNozzo is usually here a good hour before you every damn day, David? You ever hear that people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? Cause you ain’t no saint when it comes to be on time to work, so don’t preach what you can’t practice.”

She snorted disdain, but took her seat. Body language suggesting she was still raring for a fight.

Perfect. Just what he needed. Ziver setting DiNozzo off, and him taking the first transfer Vance offers with an immediate request to leave. Yeah, it was official, his juniors really needed a two by four up their skulls.

“So, Tony…” Ziva didn’t give five minutes before starting again.

Gibbs wanted to slam his head into his desk. Instead, he reefed his desk drawer open, and threw his gun in there, before slammed the drawer shut, the bang cutting Ziva off, and making McGee and her jump. DiNozzo, he noted absently, hadn’t even twitched.

And people wondered why he liked having DiNozzo on his team. The kid had nerves of steel.
“David. Ain’t tell you again. Cut with the chatter, and GET TO WORK, NOW!” he growled. “I don’t need another peep from you unless it’s related to the case file on your desk or your own damn resignation!”

Her eyes went wide, not comfortable with having his ire directed exclusively her way. In that way, she was totally different from DiNozzo. His glares, his growls, his temper had never put the Senior Field Agent on a jump. When he did flinch at head-slaps, it was always over-acted, never real. The boy’s situational awareness was greater than any Marine that Gibbs ever knew.

It came, he suspected, from a childhood of needing to know where the next beating was coming from, and how to evade it.

The quiet lingered, broken by a few phone calls, a couple runs to the kitchen for coffees or teas. Gibbs didn’t miss the odd glances bypassers gave, the stillness and quiet so unusual for the MCRT. And, when Abby called with input from a cold-case he’d looked at the day before, Gibbs fled for the safety of the elevator.

It was, he’d realize later, a mistake.


“You will tell us what you have done to piss up Gibbs.” Ziva rose from her test and came to stand in front of Tony. “I do not enjoy having him snarl and growl like a beast at me.”

Behind his monitor, McGee groaned, head coming to rest on his keyboard. The atmosphere in the MCRT was awful. Like, seriously, funeral. It hadn’t been this grim in the days after Kate’s death, but it was now.

McGee knew he wasn’t the best at interpersonal communications. He didn’t know how to read someone’s ‘tell’ like Tony did. But he did have fairly well developed survival skills in family dynamics. The MCRT was pretty damn close to that -- and his survival skills were telling him that there was a divorce looming on the horizon.

‘If Tony leaves, what happens to me?’ He wondered, eyes closed and prepared for the explosion. He could hear Ziva baiting Tony, pushing. And the Senior Field Agent, currently on the phone tracking down some former Agent Afloat, was getting pissed.

“SIT DOWN, DAVID!” Tony roared, his finger on mute. “NOW!” Half risen from his seat, Tony was leaning into Ziva’s personal space. It was clear his patience was shot.

‘Will Gibbs promote me to SFA?’ McGee wondered, even as he tried to make himself smaller.

“You are not my superior.” Ziva disdained. “I do not have to listen to you yip at me like some little dog.”

‘Do St. Bernard’s get vicious?’ McGee absently thought, even as he tried to envision the team without Tony, but with him in Tony’s role. The paperwork process would be streamlined, more orderly. He’d be able to do the jobs he preferred when out in the field. The cherry picking jobs -- like talking to suspects or witnesses. He froze, ‘Hold up. I hate talking to witnesses. I always say the wrong things.’ Sure, he liked sketching and measurements -- though DiNozzo was far better at sketching. And he was good at bagging and tagging… though, Tony always recognized the little ‘things’ that connected into a case that he and Ziva routinely missed.

He’d be more in Gibbs trust, be read into more stuff. ‘Like Tony was? Really? Stop being an idiot. Gibbs plays it close to his chest.’

Tony had his eyes closed, and was clearly counting to ten. “David,” He bit out. “If your ass doesn’t hit your chair in the next five seconds, I’m going to have you written up. Sit. Down. Now.”

She sneered.

‘Oooh, boy.’ McGee thought with a sigh. ‘Do I get involved, or stay out of it.”

“You have done something to anger Gibbs.” Her tone was condescending. “Who do you think he will support, when it is you who has angered him? You wish to leave the team because he is angered at you. It is a coward's choice to run; a man would face his better and take his dues.”

‘Seriously, how can it only be 0930 hours, why isn’t it already lunch time? I’d like to be anywhere but here.’ McGee groaned.

Tony moved so fast, McGee thought it was a blur. He slammed the phone down, moved around his desk and seized Ziva’s arm in a furious grip, wrenching her around, and bent over the desk, arms behind like a perp. He kicked her legs wide, and put pressure so she couldn’t use her legs to flip him. Spread out like a criminal, she was cursing a storm against his desk. Tony bent down close to her ear. “Squirm all you want, Officer David. Bottom line: little girls shouldn’t play with matches if they can’t take the fire. You’ve been pushing every fucking button I have for years, and I’m done putting up with it.”

It was into this scene, Gibbs returned, lips thin, eyes flashing and temper raring to blow.

‘Right.’ McGee thought, looking at the equivalent of a human nuke about to go off. ‘Do you really want to be on the receiving end of Gibbs temper every damn day like DiNozzo is?’

“WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE, DAVID!” He roared. “Let her up, DiNozzo. I can guess, and her ass is mine.”

Tony let go, and sprung back. It was wise he did, she came up with a kick, that would have gone straight to his stomach had he not moved. Gibbs moved faster than McGee thought the Senior Agent could, and swept her feet out from under her. She hit the ground hard.

“You’re off the team.” He decided shortly.

Her eyes went wide. “No!” She cried out. “No, Gibbs -- you misunderstand!”

“You’ve been baiting DiNozzo for MONTHS… and I’m done with it too. I’ve ignored it. I’ve let it slide, thinking whatever bug crawled up yer ass would leave sooner than later. But it’s much later, and your attitude has gotten goddamn ridiculous. He’s your superior, and he shouldn’t have to put up with your bullshit!” Gibbs growled. “No member of my team ever physically attacks their superiors. Ever!”

“I… I am sorry!” She pleaded. “I… it was instinct…”

“Instinct would mean something if it really happened. But it wasn’t instinct. Yer trained, David. Yer training won’t let you cry ‘instinct’. Yer using it as a pathetic excuse, only sorry that I caught you at your usual bullshit. Yer jist regretting that DiNozzo snapped this time, and had the upper hand. Yer jist sorry that there’s finally gonna be a consequence.” He sneered. “Ain’t instinct, Ziver. It’s retaliation, ‘cause you hate to lose. Y’know, I wonder what Daddy would say if he knew his little darling ain’t following the chain of command, just ‘cause she thinks she's too good fer it?”

Eyes wide with the impending threat, Ziva’s breathing went somewhat shallow. This was, McGee thought, GIbbs at his most vicious.

“I’m sick of this shit. It’s got too high a price-tag, and it’s done.” Gibbs decided, casting a searing glare at McGee who was still huddled behind his desk. “Conference Room 3. Now. You. McGee. GO!” Gibbs barked.

McGee swallowed. He wasn’t sure how he got into hot water, but knew he was feeling it. He grabbed tablet, notepad and pen -- and made a run for it. Ziva got up off the floor, moving slower given the hard fall she had taken -- and walked a wide berth around Gibbs.

‘This week can’t get worse.’ McGee thought desperately, as he lost sight of the bullpen. “Seriously. It’s Tuesday, it can’t get worse.”

Somehow, he knew he was wishing on a pipe-dream.
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