Disclaimer: I'm not Bellesario or CBS, so I don't claim to own them.
Setting: Post-Hiatus; However Contains References to 06x16 Bounce
Written For: xanthe
Word Count: 1,000
Note: Companion Piece to Rebound
Crossposted: ncisfanfic; ncis_fic; ncis_haven; tonydinozzo
Summary: His first case without Gibbs behind the reins went by in a haze...
Tony tossed his gun and badge on the little end table just inside his door. Normally, he would have taken the time to lock his gun in the special lock box that Gibbs had given him for Christmas several years back, but his heart wasn't in it. He just wanted the beer that he knew was sitting in his near-empty fridge.
Once he had the cold bottle in hand, he sank down on his couch and scrubbed his free hand over his face. The last few weeks had taken its toll and Tony was at his wits end to make things right again.
Their first case had started the day after Gibbs' departure and Tony had felt the pressure for a quick resolve. The Director was breathing down his throat about performance evaluations and how his leadership was just temporary until proper procedures were followed. In a way, Tony figured she was taking out her anger and frustration over Gibbs leaving on him. He didn't like it, but he had to live with it.
The team was even worse. McGee barely listened to him, spending most of his time in Abby's lab. Abby had taken to calling him "Not Gibbs" and had turned her lab into a shrine that gave Tony the creeps.
Ziva spent the moments she wasn't glaring at Tony on the phone in her native tongue. Tony was beginning to think she might leave the United States since Gibbs was no longer present. He had never heard the full story of what happened in the boss' basement the night Ari died, but he knew from the reports that he read that there was no way Gibbs had shot the bastard. Ziva's only tie to the U.S. was something between her and Gibbs, so without Gibbs around he figured it was only a matter of time.
Ducky was the only one that appeared normal, but that was only if you didn't mention Gibbs' name around him. Something had transpired when Ducky had driven Gibbs home that final night and Tony was sure it had deeply wounded the older man.
In all honesty, Tony didn't begrudge Gibbs leaving the way he did. Gibbs wasn't the kind of man to do retirement parties or speeches. Tony had always figured Gibbs would find a bullet before he accepted retirement as an option. Tony was also aware that Gibbs' memory was still Swiss-cheesed. The older man still wasn't fully aware of who was who in the current setting. He had only placed names with faces by process of elimination. Knowing that the Gibbs Tony knew and respected wasn't mentally intact hurt Tony deeply.
That first case without Gibbs had passed in a haze. Embezzlement was not the same as murders, kidnappings or any of the other horrible things people did to one another. However, it was still a crime and the person who committed deserved their day in court. Renny Grant had been found quickly and Tony didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth.
McGee had argued every idea that Tony had through the case and Ziva hadn't even waited for instructions before doing her own thing. And every free moment Tony had to look up from his computer showed the director leaning over the railing from the second floor looking at him with this strange glint in her eyes. Every look he received from her made him rush faster for a resolution to the case.
As soon as he found a credible witness, he closed the book on Renny Grant and left it to the court to decide. He had signed off on all the paper work just a few hours before and now he was left with a feeling of emptiness.
Life had gone on without Gibbs, but it wasn't the same. Nothing seemed to be the same. He had received a compliment, however, when Director Shepard skimmed the final case reports. It was more than Gibbs usually gave him and it left him feeling even more off kilter. Tony had spent years learning when Gibbs was pleased with his work as an agent, even if nothing was said out loud. With the director, he couldn't be sure what was genuine and what was just humoring him.
Tony was aware that something would have to give in terms of both the team and the director. They would not be able to handle a high profile case the way they handled the embezzlement one. Tony knew it was up to him to bring them back together, but he had no idea how.
He longed for the days when it was just him and Gibbs pulling the long hours with takeout boxes littering their desks as they ran down leads the old fashioned way. Even when Kate had joined the team, there had been a camaraderie between all of them that hadn't really been there since her death. Instead of working the leads separately, they had talked things through. It had always been fun stealing bits of Kate's Chinese while they talked with Gibbs around her desk.
Tossing the last of the beer back and down his throat, Tony realized what he needed to do. Logically, he knew Ziva and McGee would make fun of the idea and of him, but it would work in the end. They would be able to work together to solve the cases. McGee and Ziva could at least connect over ridiculing Tony's idea. It wasn't the best way to get them working together again, but it would do.
Settling back into the couch and flicking on the Bond movie that sat waiting in his DVD player, Tony let his mind drift over names for his little idea. He needed something that was corny, something the others would scoff at but in the end it would work.
Sometime later, he whispered the word, "Campfire," just before his eyes drifted shut. It would be a new start for a new team and a new leader.