They're about three episodes into the new season when Michael gets the nod from the director.
He gets his script and spends a couple of days alone chewing it over.
He goes over it a few times in the privacy of his apartment, seeing where the natural pauses lie, how to pitch his voice for maximum effect. He knows they're setting this up for a big Gibbsian reaction, and wonders if it'll pay off. He kind of hopes it won't backfire; he'd rather be spending time running lines with Mark than hiding from him.
He's feels on edge as he heads to the set from make-up. Just wants this done before he throws up. Provoking the Gibbs inside Mark is like bear-baiting, and while it makes for great television, Michael is privately of the opinion that Tony would like a few more softly-spoken Attaboys than yowled DiNozzos.
"Okay!" the director says, with a sidelong look at Michael. "Let's do this thing!"
The camera focuses in on Ziva, a long scar down the side of her face. She collates paperwork into a file and passes it over to Gibbs, who's watching her measuringly.
"You got somewhere to stay?" Gibbs asks, and she gives a half-shrug.
"I have a contact at the Embassy," she answers shortly. "McGee has offered to drive me tonight."
Another camera catches McGee's pleased flush as Gibbs says, "Good." It follows him as he hands his report in too, drawing back to include all three of them in the shot. "Anything else you need, boss?"
"Not from you two." Gibbs glares over at Tony's desk where he's still typing up his report. "You can get outta here - and take care of yourself, Ziva! You need anything, you call."
"I will, Gibbs," she says stiltedly, and bends to pick up her pack. "It is nice to be back where there are some people I can rely on." Her lip curls as she glances across at Tony and, as the camera pans to catch his reaction, he looks up and meets her scorn blandly.
"Goodnight, Ziva. Drive safe, McGee," Tony says, turning back to his typing.
"Night, Tony," McGee says uncomfortably as he passes on his way out, following Ziva.
"Any chance of that report before Christmas, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asks pointedly, once they're alone.
"Yeah, boss. Sent it to the printer a while ago," Tony answers. "Give me a moment and I'll go get it."
Gibbs glares and half-rises; Tony hurriedly presses a couple of keys and pushes his chair back. "Going now, boss."
Tony slides his report into a file back at his desk, signs another piece of paper and adds it to the pile as he crosses the bullpen to hand them to Gibbs.
"Can we talk, boss?"
"What about? How my senior field agent is the last to get his work done?"
Tony huffs humourlessly. "Sure. Why not? I could always get down on the ground if you want to kick me too."
Gibbs frowns, and there's a flicker of uncertainty in his blue eyes. "Give me the damn file, DiNozzo."
Tony hands it over and Gibbs flips it open, reading it cursorily.
"What's this, DiNozzo?" he holds up the additional insert.
"What I wanted to talk about, boss," Tony says, crossing his arms. "Need me to read it to you?"
Gibbs narrows his eyes. "An explanation might be nice."
And Tony does laugh at that. "Yeah?" he says bitterly. "I kinda wanted one of them myself. I mean, you let me back on your team this time last year and I thought that meant something. Turns out, it was just for your pride's sake and to piss Leon off for daring to break up your team - nothing to do with me."
"Not finished here, boss." Tony continues as Gibbs makes to interrupt. "Then I waited, you see. Been waiting a long time for something that I've finally realised isn't going to happen."
He uncrosses his arms and hunches a little, sticks his hands in his pockets and chews his lip. "We're just not a team anymore."
Gibbs looks annoyed. "Where d'you get that idea, DiNozzo?"
Tony gives him a wry smile. "You're not that unobservant, boss. I can't be your senior agent if the rest of the team don't respect me. McGee's grown so much in confidence he's come out the other side; Ziva's looked down on me since she arrived; Abby's opinion of my competence blows hot and cold ... and you -"
"And me?" Gibbs says dangerously.
"You ... give with one hand, and take away with the other," Tony sighs, looking down. "Don't get me wrong, I like your style, and I think you think I do an okay job most of the time or you wouldn't keep me around. But you don't take me seriously, boss. People see the way you are with me and think I'm a dick, and I'm talking about members of our team here - people who are meant to get that it's a front." He looks up glassily, and meets Gibbs' eyes. "The thing is, we're not friends. You don't ... trust me. And eight years is a long time to be a whipping boy."
"And then came that shit with Rivkin." Tony interrupts, rubbing his eyes with one hand. "And I thought 'Gibbs has got my back', but you know what, boss? I think you hated yourself for choosing me just because you didn't want to be manipulated. I think you think you made the wrong choice. And fuck, boss, the way you looked at me whenever she was mentioned ... you didn't even bother to hide it."
"And now Ziva's back!" Tony smiles widely and it hurts. "The golden girl returns. And she hates me, which - sure, I can understand, I did kill the love of her life, apparently. But that's just the icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned. Our team doesn't feel like a team to me anymore and I'm tired, boss. I'm tired of trying to fake it. I'm not a supergeek publishing a diary about my job, or an Israeli assassin-turned-liaison, or a marine sniper. I got the message - there's no room for a dumb jock ex-cop on the team. So I'm dealing with it, since no one else seems to want to acknowledge it. I'm the problem - if I remove myself from the equation, you'll have a nice neat solution."
"Tony," Gibbs takes a breath.
"I'm a big boy, boss." Tony says glibly. "Sure, I'm a bit of an idiot, but I know how to move on. Got out of the habit there for a while, but I bet it's just like riding a bike."
"Well, okay. Maybe you're right, but I expect I'll pick it up -"
"I said no, Tony."
"I'm not asking permission, Gibbs," Tony says, and there's a core of steel in his tone. "I'm saying goodbye. Vance has already approved my leave while I consider transfer offers. I'll come in and clean my desk out at the weekend or something."
Tony turns away and walks a couple of steps before stopping.
He turns around and gives a little huff of dry laughter. "I was gonna be so professional," he says. "Guess I wasn't as ready to talk about this as I thought I was. Sorry, boss. Just read the damn resignation and forget this, yeah? I'mma get outta your hair now." He heads for the stairs quickly; not gonna hang around waiting for the elevator.
Gibbs stands frozen in place for a moment - an Age - and then he's moving, Tony's crumpled resignation letter falling from one fist as he heads after Tony, cutting him off before he makes it out of the squad room.
"I don't think so, DiNozzo."
Gibbs manhandles Tony against the nearest wall like a suspect, pressing against him from behind, strong hands pinning his wrists by his shoulders so he can't move.
"You think you're just gonna walk out on me?" Gibbs seethes. "Just drop that fucking grenade and piss off, not fucking caring about the mess you leave behind?"
"It's not like -" Tony begins.
"Oh no you don't!" Gibbs snarls in his ear, moving Tony's arms to trap his wrists behind his back in one hand, his other hand sliding into Tony's hair and wrenching his head back. "You've done enough talking, I think. It's my turn. You think that's fair?"
Yeah. Probably. Tony doesn't answer.
"See, here's how I see it." Gibbs bites out, punctuating his words with angry shakes of Tony's head. "You belong to me."
Tony closes his eyes at the truth of that.
Gibbs pushes Tony's head forward so he's looking at the floor. "We had this conversation when I hired your ass. You don't run, Tony. You don't get to run away from me. And you don't need to be concerned with what other people think." Gibbs snarls. "There's only one opinion you should be concerned about, and that's mine. Now if you're not happy, if you start thinking I don't trust you, you come to me before you do something this stupid!" Gibbs pushes Tony's restrained wrists up, making him yelp. "You got that, Tony?"
"Got it, boss," Tony whispers.
Gibbs releases him, and Tony turns around slowly, looking at his boss with bright eyes.
"Doesn't fix everything," he says softly. "Everything I said -"
"I'll deal with." Gibbs finishes for him. "Not losing you, Tony."
"We'll deal with." Tony amends. "I'm not some delicate flower."
Gibbs huffs a humourless laugh. "Don't know about that, DiNozzo," he says. "Seems like lack of nurture's not agreeing with you."
Tony can't keep eye contact; his lashes lowering to hide his eyes. Damn. When did he get so fucking transparent?
"Get your kit." Gibbs cuts in to his thoughts. "You're coming round mine tonight. Bring takeout. We'll start by fixing you and me ... and Tony?"
"Yeah, boss?" He looks up.
Gibbs watches him steadily. "You're my senior agent for a reason."
Tony takes a breath and nods. "'Kay, boss." He moves to grab his backpack from behind his desk and heads for the elevator.
Gibbs follows him back to the bullpen, eyes following Tony out to the elevator, observing the slump of his shoulders. He's annoyed with himself for not seeing this coming, but he's also annoyed with Tony for trying to leave, and with the team for making him think he wasn't wanted. He picks up Tony's fallen resignation and consigns it to the bin with some venom. The elevator pings loudly, and he looks across to see Tony disappearing as the doors shut slowly.
Mark turns a baleful eye on the director. "We'll be discussing this little stunt," he growls. "Later." And then he's striding out after Michael.
There's a stunned silence on the set.
"That was pretty intense," the director says to the camera crew, frozen like deer in headlights.
They stare back at him like he grew horns.
"Gag reel?" he says hopefully.
Someone pats his shoulder. "We'll say nice things at the funeral, dude."
Michael makes it off the set and keeps walking, breathing hard. Damn, that was hard. That was so fucking hard to do without rehearsal, with Mark's Gibbs looking at him like he'd been stabbed in the gut, trying to keep up with Tony's raging angst while holding in all Gibbs' ire and then that confrontation was ... a little unexpected. He needs to get out of Tony's headspace right now, but after pouring himself into that scene, he's going to need a little time and space.
He's not going to get it though. Mark catches him by the arm not a minute later. "With me, Michael."
Michael lets himself be escorted to his trailer and thrust up the steps ahead of Mark. The door's barely locked behind him when Mark's pushing him back against a cabinet, pressing against him and taking his face in his hands.
"You okay?" he whispers. "Was that - was that some fucked up way of telling me you're leaving the show?"
Michael frowns, looks back at Mark. "No. Geez, no! It was just a thing. One of the new writers is a big Tony fan - wanted to see him acknowledge all the shit that's swept under the carpet. Needed to see what makes Gibbs and DiNozzo tick for a future arc or something - just wanted the actors' perspective -"
"Good." Mark cuts him off, kissing Michael hard, licking his way inside and swallowing all his little sounds.
"Want you," he says into Michael's mouth, in case Michael is being particularly dense about where this is heading. He's so fucking wired right now - Gibbs would be punching something, but Mark's going to fuck and he's going to fucking enjoy it.
"Getting that," Michael's smiling. "Can have me."
Mark's hands are fumbling with Michael's clothing. Wardrobe may kill him, but he doesn't care as he drops the tie on the floor and starts on the buttons of his shirt.
Michael helps him out, fingers slipping down to slip off his belt and unfasten his pants and then Mark takes over, scraping his teeth on Michael's jaw as he slides his shirt back over broad shoulders and down his arms. Mark's fingers trail down the sides of Michael's body possessively, pushing down the waistband of his pants as they settle on the firm swell of Michael's ass. He pulls Michael closer, thrusting his hard cock against Michael's as he nips his way back to that generous mouth.
Michael's got a nice sized cot at the end of his trailer, but they don't get that far. Mark manhandles him as far as the couch and decides this is far enough. He pushes Michael down until he's half-resting along the back of the couch before stripping Michael's pants down past his thighs. Mark opens his own pants briskly and then his hands are back on Michael, spreading him wide and rubbing his thumb across his hot dry hole.
Michael passes back lube, and fuck knows where he keeps it, but he always has some. Mark squeezes a liberal amount into his palm and jerks himself briefly to coat his cock; smears the rest in the hot channel between Michael's cheeks, teasing at his entrance with slick knuckles.
"C'mon," Michael says, as impatient as Mark. He bucks up a little and Mark likes that, guides his blunt knob down Michael's crack and then pushes his way into Michael's heat.
He forces his way inside until he's fully seated, and closes his eyes briefly to savour the pressure, then he's pulling out and driving back in hard, hands tight on Michael's hips.
Michael groans appreciatively, pushing back to meet Mark's cock. Mark picks up the pace in response, setting a punishing rhythm as he thrusts in and out of Michael's body, lip curling in a snarl as he watches Michael's hole sucking him inside only to try and expel him again. He loves seeing it cling to his dick as he withdraws, only to slide back inside easily like he belongs there. He does belong there, balls deep in Michael's ass, and Michael squeezes as if to say I get it, now fuck me and Mark takes him up on that.
Their breathing's loud in the small space, the air ripe with the smell of sweat and sex. Mark slides one hand around to grip Michael's cock, fists him fast and dirty and Michael fucking whimpers as sensation overtakes him and he comes helplessly over Mark's hand, twitching and shuddering around Mark's cock.
"Fuck, fuck." Mark pants, pistoning into Michael's ass, pressing in fully as he comes hard. Almost unconsciously, Mark covers Michael's body with his own, biting a chunk of tanned shoulder as he empties his balls deep inside Michael, holds on with his teeth while he rides out the aftershocks.
After a few moments, Mark places an apologetic kiss on the bite mark and rests his forehead on Michael's sweaty back. He can feel himself softening inside Michael. "You okay?" he asks, snaking his tongue out and licking a stripe down Michael's salty back before he gets up.
Michael grunts and laughs, and Mark slips out wetly. "Could sleep," he says, pushing himself to a standing position and turning round into Mark's waiting arms.
"Yeah," Mark smiles as Michael breathes kisses into his neck. "Sounds good."
"And then we can talk about your character bleed," Michael murmurs softly.
Mark laughs, slaps Michael's ass and shuffles him slowly toward the shower.