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Confrontation and Change

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Tony was standing tall after the firefight, his breath ragged but his shoulders squared. He knew he had messed up, revealed his hand too early and it nearly got him shot when he went to question their suspect alone. Fortunately for him, Gibbs had decided to follow behind in the van with McGee and Ziva, but that was too close for comfort. The second the last bad guy dropped, Gibbs was striding towards him. The fact that he wasn't running had Tony more on edge--after all, that meant that Gibbs wasn't worried about his well-being and was more angry than anxious. "The hell, DiNozzo?!" Gibbs bellowed before he was halfway to where Tony was standing. "What did you think you were doing?!"

Keeping his shoulders squared, Tony calmly said, "I was following a lead, until you killed our suspect."

Gibbs growled and closed the gap between him and Tony until there was less than a foot of space between them. "You could have died. You would be dead if we hadn't followed you out here!"

"And thanks for that," Tony said, doing his best to keep his breathing even. He had to be calm. Because if he wasn't calm, if he lost his cool, McGee could have a panic attack, Ziva could wind up trying to break up a fight between him and Gibbs, or he could be out of a job. "But I really needed to talk to our suspect."

"Why didn't you wait?!" Gibbs hissed. "You should have told me where you were going!"

Tony resisted the urge to growl under his breath. "You wouldn't have waited to hear what I had to say, or you would have said that I should have already been on my way here. Let's be honest, Boss, you care more about results than anything else. The only reason you're bothered is because now our prime suspect is dead."

Gibbs lifted his gun, and for a second Tony was convinced Gibbs was about to shoot him. "This?" Gibbs asked, waving the gun back and forth, the metal glinting in the sunlight, "Being used is not why I'm mad. I'm mad because you act like you run NCIS, and you disappear for hours on end, and you act like you don't have to answer to me!"

"When?!" Tony asked incredulously. "When have I done any of those things?! I always tell you when I have to leave work early! I act like a boss to McGee and Ziva because in case you've forgotten, I am their boss! And where do I even start on that last point? Should I explain how hard it was to earn everyone's respect on your little Mexican siesta, or that old habits die hard, both with you coming back and the team disrespecting me when you left?! Should I explain that you've been a crappy boss recently, demeaning me and treating McGee like a probie again and acting like Ziva is Kate? Tell me, Boss, because I really want to know how you're capable of running a team you barely remembered for three months!"

Gibbs slapped Tony on the back of the head, a little harder than normal, and Tony yanked on Gibbs' wrist before he could put his hand back by his side. "Another thing," Tony growled. "Stop physically assaulting me every time I do something you don't like. One, I'm not three years old, and two, that's not even like a spanking, that's just straight-up abuse. And I'm sick. Of. It. I really should have taken up that job offer for Rota, because then I wouldn't have to deal with this crap every day!"

The deadly neutral stare he got in return for that comment had Tony actually feeling a small sliver of fear. He wasn't used to that stare being used on him. Or anyone, really. It was a rare sight and one that usually meant someone was going to die. "You really should have," Gibbs said simply. "I wouldn't have to deal with your incompetence then."

Tony's grip tightened around Gibbs' wrist and he growled, feral and deep. "If you think I'm incompetent, you really should look in a mirror some time, Boss," the last word was said with such sarcasm it was practically dripping onto the ground between them. "Because I don't see how you ever got the job."

Before Tony could react, Gibbs swung his fist back and brought it down on Tony's left eye. Tony toppled to the ground, stunned for a moment. As the world came back to him, he could hear the slight wheezing breath of McGee starting to have a panic attack. He could see Ziva approaching slowly, hands up, trying to diffuse the situation. And he felt the throbbing pain radiating from one eye where Gibbs had hit him. He pushed himself up off the ground, grunting. "When we get back to the office," he seethed, "I'm putting in my two weeks. That behavior is unacceptable."

Gibbs just glared at him as Tony whistled. "Hey, McGee! Why don't you ride in my car on the way back, huh? It has to beat the back of the sedan."

McGee stared at him blankly for a moment before nodding and walking over to Tony, and the two went to his car. "Did you re-re-really get an off-offer for Sp-Spain?" McGee stammered out between labored breaths.

"That I did," Tony said. "And I really regret not taking it. If I want a new job now I'm stuck at the Fibbies."

McGee nodded, quiet until they were in the car. "I'm sorry abo-about...sorry about how I acted before." Tony put the car in drive and focused more on the road than the hurt that came bubbling to the surface with that apology. "Hey, I don't really blame you. You were trying to grow into your own, get back at me for all the times I put you down. There just came a day where it crossed some invisible line. I doubt even I could point out when it happened."

Again, McGee nodded. Then, "If you really...really we-were to join the...join the FBI...could I c-come with you? I-It's okay to say no!" McGee hurriedly added at Tony looking over sharply. "I just...want to m-make it up to you. A-and a familiar face who didn't accuse you...you of murder might help, you know?"

Tony sighed. "I don't know yet, McGoo. Give me some time to think about it? I want to weigh all my options before settling on something."

"Okay," McGee said. "A-and if you need...I can grab you some ice for your eye when we get back. And act as a witness when you report this to HR."

"'When'?" Tony asked.

"You're not letting Gibbs get away with that," McGee said. "I already know that. You're too worried about what might happen to other people who'd join his team."

Tony's lips twitched up. "Well, that's a step in the right direction, McGee. Let's see how the rest of the day plays out and I'll tell you if I'm still up for working with you by the end of it."

McGee nodded. "Fair enough."