Rule 5

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

The knock on the front door pulled Gibbs' attention from paying the monthly bills at his dining room table. Not in the mood for dealing with solicitors selling either religion or product, he was frowning as he walked across the room.

He was startled to see Tony DiNozzo standing on his doorstep. "You didn't have to knock. You know the door's unlocked."

"I wasn't certain I would be welcome to just walk in," Tony replied.

"Why would you say something like that? If you need a formal invitation, come in." Gibbs stepped back, pulling the door wider open to allow the younger man access.

Once inside, Tony didn't immediately sit down on the couch as he usually did when visiting. Instead he stood in the area between the living room and the dining room, looking around with a sad demeanor.

Gibbs realized that it had been a while since he had seen his SFA display his wide "DiNozzo dazzler" grin. In fact, he couldn't remember the last time he had seen it.

"What did I do wrong, Gibbs?"


"What did I do so wrong that you can't stand to speak to me, much less trust me to do my job?"

"What makes you think I don't trust you?" Gibbs asked, surprised at the question.

"When you came back from being shot, I had flashbacks from when you returned from Mexico. You've either been demeaning or ignoring me. You treat me like I'm in the way. I've worked with you for 15 years, Gibbs. I think I deserve an answer. What the hell did I do wrong?"

"I need something stronger than coffee for this conversation." Gibbs walked into the kitchen, pulling out a bottle of Maker's Mark from the cabinet, a gift from the man standing in the other room. He grabbed two glasses as well.

"Sit down," he ordered, surprised when Tony chose to sit at the dining room table instead of the couch. Shrugging, he poured two healthy shots in the glasses, placing one within Tony's reach.

Gibbs sipped at the liquor, trying to gather his words. "I do trust you, DiNozzo."

"It doesn't seem like it. You flat out asked me what I wanted to do with my life? As if I was a child you needed to push out of the nest! You're confusing the hell out of me, Gibbs. I thought we were friends. I thought the plan was for me to take over the MCRT when you hit mandatory retirement. Now it seems you can't bear to speak to me, much less be a partner and friend. What do you want from me? Do you want me gone? Because I can do that. I've had enough offers from other agencies that I can leave tomorrow if that is what you want. Just tell me!"

The pain in Tony's voice ripped through Gibbs' soul. He had caused this. Not Ziva, not Vance, not Senior. Him.

"I don't know how to explain it. You're right in that it is the same as when I came back from Mexico. But the problem isn't with you, DiNozzo. This job is all I have. Look around you. I haven't changed this place since Shannon died. I haven't painted or redecorated or updated everything. The exes all tried, but I shot them down. Did you know that none of them actually lived here with me?"

Tony shook his head, but Gibbs could see that he wasn't getting it.

"I don't like change. I want to feel like I'm need, I'm wanted."

"So do I, Gibbs. But lately I don't think you do want me. Hell, Tim would make a decent SFA for you. Bishop is coming along nicely, even with the hiccup of her marriage issues. I'm useless. And you've made that very clear to me. I thought you…" He swallowed a hefty mouthful of bourbon. "You told me once that I was good. That you were proud of me. That you trusted me. That I was your partner. But I don't think any of that is true, if it ever really was."

"Aw, Christ, DiNozzo." The older man ran his hands over his face, feeling every year of his age. This was important, not only to Tony, but to Gibbs himself. The functional mute needed to make a few things clear. "I never meant you to doubt any of that. I do trust you, I am proud of you. When I was laid up, when I was in Mexico, life went on."

Tony's green eyes showed the tortured dullness of disbelief. "That's what life does."

"But it was obvious that I wasn't needed. You took the reins both times and did a hell of a good job."

"That's what you trained me to do. I don't understand."

"Damn it, Tony, it meant that I wasn't needed. That the world would keep turning whether I was there or not. That you were more than able to take over. It meant that I would be quickly forgotten once I died or retired." Gibbs shook his head. "I wanted everything to have fallen apart without me being there."

"Of course, you're needed. There's no way anyone would forget you." Tony shyly smiled. "You've pretty big shoes to fill."

Gibbs shook his head. "No, you're the one with big shoes. You know very well some of the things that I did over the years. Not just killing Hernandez. You've never really done that, stepped over the line. You have a strong moral code that puts all the rest of us to shame, Anthony. You've never betrayed it, even when it would've been more expedient for you to do so." He reached across the table, patting Tony's clenched fist. "I'm the one who broke Rule 5. I've selfishly held you back. You should've had your own team ages ago. Hell, you should've been Executive Assistant Director by now. I was greedy. I wanted your talents for me, for my team. I was wrong. I told your father once that you were the best young agent I'd ever worked with. I still mean that."

"Then what now?"

"Now, Tony, it is time to put your life back on track. Don't make my mistakes of only having the job in your life. You and Zoe, if that works out, embrace it. Even if it doesn't, keep your options open. Be the man you've always been. Strong, brave, intelligent, resourceful. Let's check what is out there and get you a position that is worthy of you."

The End