A/N: Yes, I'm back and yes, this is the sequel. I still don't own NCIS, CBS, or any other known entity. The title of the story is a song by Daughtry, and I also definitely don't own that. I am basing a lot of Tony's conferences and things off earlier episodes of NCIS, where laptops were used to reach homebase. If that is not true to real life, I apologize, and those episodes are my reasoning for having things the way they are. As mentioned previously, this is the sequel to, "It's Not My Time," and while certain parts of the final chapters are highlighted in this prologue, there won't be too much reiteration. That being said, it'll serve you well to read that one before you read this one. Mature themes and scenes will come up along the way, which is why this will be rated M. This story may end up being slightly more graphic than the other one (it may not, but I'm preparing you all for anything), so bear that in mind as you read this. Finally, I hope you all enjoy the story, and please review. :)
Prologue: How Far We've Come
"A little," Tony admitted quietly. "Because… I don't want them to think I'm weak."
"Do you think our victim was weak?" Gibbs probed gently, but with a little bit of a strong undertone.
"Do you think any other rape victim you've ever met was weak?"
"So why are you so different?"
"Tony, Ziva," Jenny said softly. "You two will be coming with me to L.A., day after tomorrow."
"I've got a bad feeling about this," Tony said.
"Humor me," Ziva replied.
"No, I mean, I got a bad feeling about what we're going to find."
"She's dead, Gibbs," Tony said, his voice a little stronger as he scrubbed his hand over his face. He waited for Gibbs to start yelling, and was surprised at the next question that came from the older man.
"You and Ziva okay?"
"We're fine. We… uh… we weren't there."
"Rough few days," Vance began. No one responded, so Vance continued. "Officer David. The liaison position with NCIS is being terminated. You're going home."
Ziva simply glanced at Gibbs, who clearly had no indication this was going to happen.
"McGee," Vance continued. "I'm moving you across to the Cybercrimes Unit. You'll be working with Officer Hollister."
McGee also looked in shock at Gibbs, but said nothing.
"Agent DiNozzo?" Vance said.
"Sir?" Tony replied dismally.
"You're being reassigned. Agent Afloat, USS Ronald Reagan. Pack your bags. You fly out tomorrow."
Tony swallowed the lump in his throat, saying nothing.
"Agent Gibbs," Vance said in summation, taking the folders and walking around his desk. He handed them to Gibbs. "Meet your new team."
Two Months Later
Tony allowed his head to drop against the back of his desk chair as he waited. The day was long and tiring, and he wanted nothing more than to just hit the rack and forget the whole thing ever happened, but he knew he needed to do this. If for no other reason than to give him some semblance of the sanity he had lost months ago.
Two months ago, to be exact.
He had only lasted two weeks on the Reagan before Vance decided to move him to the Seahawk, where Tony was currently stationed. He had daily reports and weekly conferences with Vance, and while he understood the daily reports, the weekly conferences seemed a bit excessive. Vance assured him that after a while they would be on an as needed basis.
Tony couldn't wait for that day.
But this was not a conference with Vance that he was waiting for, and while that should have made him more excited for it, he was tired and just wanted to hit the rack. And after this, he would. But he had to do this first.
His screen finally showed Gibbs' face, and Tony inwardly smiled. It felt good to still be acknowledged by his old boss and, arguably, his best friend.
"Hey Boss," Tony said tiredly.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs replied.
"You talk to Vance yet?"
"I'm talking to you."
"I can't take it here anymore, Boss."
Tony watched as Gibbs shifted in his seat, sighing. "I know," the older man said.
"That's not what this is about. What is this about?" Tony asked.
"Abby hasn't heard from you, and wouldn't let this go until I could prove you were still alive."
Tony smiled slightly. "Tell her I've just been busy, and that I'll talk to her tomorrow," he said.
"Fair enough," Gibbs replied. He almost stared down Tony, scrutinizing him.
"I'm doing okay, Boss."
Tony scoffed. Busted. "Not really, no."
"Because you look like crap."
Tony half-chuckled, smirking lightly. "I miss you too, Boss."
Gibbs nodded. He watched Tony closely for a moment before saying, "Take care of yourself, DiNozzo."
"Will do." As suddenly as the conference began, it was over, and Tony found himself stumbling toward the rack. He threw himself into it, still wearing the clothes he had on all day. He closed his eyes, allowing the stress of the day to wash away with the waves that also coerced him into a deep sleep.
Gibbs made his way into Abby's lab, finding the tech asleep at her desk. Not wanting to disturb her, he peered over her shoulder to see what she was working on before draping her jacket over her shoulders. He kissed her on the top of the head, leaving Tony's message for her before turning and walking out of the lab.
Gibbs chose to avoid the bullpen as much as possible, wanting to avoid his new team. Two months into it, and they still had no idea what the hell they were doing. Hell, even stubborn DiNozzo trained faster than that. He would never admit it, but Gibbs wanted his old team back. They were excellent agents, and he needed them.
McGee was still around, and stopped by at least once a week to see Abby and Gibbs, but mostly Abby. Last week, McGee and Gibbs had dinner together, talking about what was going on. McGee didn't like the sub-basement and severely hated the Cybercrimes Unit, but was mostly awkward, due the fact that the people he was working with called him, "Boss." Despite his brief tenure as Tony's senior field agent, he still wasn't comfortable being a leader that people looked up to.
And Ziva. Well, no one had heard from Ziva.
Gibbs sighed, sitting down on the stairs. He really did miss his agents. He had hoped that DiNozzo was holding it together but judging by what he saw on the screen, he knew that his senior field agent had fallen apart. And the worst part was that Gibbs was completely helpless to do anything about it.
Abby woke up as she heard footsteps approaching her lab. She looked up in time to see Director Vance enter. "Director," she said. "What can I do for you?"
"I was just seeing who was still here," he replied. "You might want to go home, Miss Sciuto. Get some rest."
"I will when the test is finished running, sir."
"Okay. I'll hold you to that."
She nodded as he walked out, shooting a glare at his retreating form. She turned around to find the message Gibbs left for her, smiling to herself. She knew from Tony's notes thus far that the Seahawk was between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, so he was relatively close to their time zone. She figured he was probably asleep, and knew that if nothing else, Tony was a man of his word.
Her computer finally beeped with a match, and she smiled. She printed out the results, planning to walk upstairs and give them to Special Agent Balboa. She closed up everything, locked up the lab, and walked to the stairwell. She had to admit she was surprised to see Gibbs still sitting there.
"Hey Gibbs," she said, popping down next to him.
"Hey Abs," he replied. "Got something?"
"I do. For Special Agent Balboa."
Abby sighed softly, looking over at him. "Is he okay, Gibbs?"
Abby fixed him a light glare. "Tony," she said.
"He's fine," Gibbs replied, putting his arm around her. "He's Tony."
Abby closed her eyes, leaning into his embrace. "That's why I'm worried."
"He's always told you the truth, Abs. If he's not okay, he'll tell you."
"I know. It's just… last time I talked to him, he didn't look so good."
He still doesn't look good now, Gibbs thought. "You'll just have to talk to him," he said aloud.
"I know," Abby said. "And I will tomorrow."
Gibbs nodded, saying nothing.
"So… why are you sitting on the stairs?" she asked.
"Thinking," Gibbs replied.
"General stuff, Abs."
"Don't you normally do that in your basement with the boat?"
He looked at her.
"You don't leave while I'm still here unless it's for a case," she said as the realization struck her.
He looked back down the stairs.
"I've never known you to sit on the stairs, though," Abby said.
"Wanted to catch you before you left," Gibbs said. "Didn't want to wake you up, though."
Gibbs stood up, extending his hand to Abby. He pulled her up off the stairs, walking up to the bullpen with her. She handed Balboa the report, explained her findings, and headed out of the building with Gibbs.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Gibbs," she said, climbing into her car.
Gibbs nodded, watching Abby drive away. He sighed, climbing into his own car and driving home.
Gibbs had seen that Tony wasn't handling things well. He had told Tony before he shipped out to call him if he needed anything. Clearly, like most other instructions Gibbs had given him, Tony ignored that. Or maybe Tony just didn't need Gibbs anymore. Gibbs shook his head. The last part wasn't true, but he did have one question.
What exactly was Tony using as his crutch?