Title: The Charming Gardener, Prologue – Chapter 5
Genre: Crime/Drama, Episode Related, Romance
Relationship(s): Tony DiNozzo/Jeanne Benoit; Jenny Shepard/ Ziva David
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Discussion – Child Abuse, Character Bashing, Discussion – Murder, Genocide, Infidelity, Violence Canon Level, Explicit Sex, Voyeurism, Permanent Injury, Mental Illness, Delusions, Adult Language.
Author Notes: This is a fix-it for the seasons 4-5 La Grenouille Jenny Shepard revenge arc. The warning about genocide relates to a canon character who is an illegal arms dealer. The primary relationship is between Tony and Jeanne and is a romantic one. The secondary one between Jenny and Ziva is not – more one of convenience. Translations can be found in the Summary Sheet.
Word Count: ~134,300
Summary: Gibbs resigns from NCIS and heads down to Mexico. Jenny sees the perfect opportunity to realise her plan to make her father’s killer pay dearly and DiNozzo is key to her dangerous undercover mission. The only problem is, she has no idea that Tony is already good friends with Jeanne Benoit, the daughter of her nemesis.
Andy had sent him a text message reminding Tony DiNozzo to pick him up for their game tonight. As if Tony would forget about the game!
Some days it was all that kept him half-ways sane and going back into work each day. He’d first run into Andy on a couple of cases they’d worked together, back when Caitlin Todd had joined the MCRT. The Metro PD detective and Tony had just sort of clicked, joking around together and their friendship had started out as acquaintances, just sharing a few drinks together to unwind after work, had deepened into a solid friendship.
After a while they’d started grabbing the occasional burger after work, which was when they’d discovered that they were both huge basketball fans, both playing at college. Tony may have neglected to mention that he was on the varsity team for both football and basketball however and not on intermural teams as Andy had assumed. And he probably should have told him, he realised belatedly since before he knew it, Kochofis had dragged him along to play with Andy’s fellow Metro Dees in a pick-up game against the Unies.
They won – won by a large margin, which wasn’t exactly a surprise with the former Buckeye playing on their team and the team was elated. Tony promptly became a regular on the Metro PD’s team playing against other PDs such as Maryland, Virginia and even Baltimore, sometimes they played against teams from other federal agencies in DC (although not NCIS who didn’t have enough players to field a team). As the team’s reputation of being almost unbeatable began to spread, Tony figured that their opponents had checked him out and started the rumours that Metro was cheating.
The major grievance doing the rounds was that he was deliberately brought in as a ringer as Detective Kochofis knew he was a former Buckeye – which was categorically false. The other main complaints were that he didn’t work for Metro PD and he wasn’t a cop or a detective. It didn’t seem to matter that the games were supposedly just friendlies between law enforcement professionals. When they were consistently and comprehensively getting their asses kicked – badly kicked by Tony – the so-called friendly aspects of the games suddenly became moot.
Tony pointed out publicly that Andy had no idea he was a Buckeye when he dragged him along to sub in on a game when they were missing a player several months ago. Andy had countered the argument that DiNozzo wasn’t a Metro Dee by pointing out he’d had worked joint cases with Metro Homicide on numerous occasions since coming to DC and that he was, in fact, a former homicide detective from Baltimore. There was still a lot of bitching and sledging tossed around (both on and off the court) by the vanquished teams, so Tony regretfully offered to stand down from his position.
Playing on the team had originally started out as Tony filling in for someone who couldn’t make it to one game. Then it had become a regular gig when Detective Sergeant Tom Grimes was killed in a shootout and DiNozzo was invited to stay on by the team. He’d suggested at the time that they co-opt another MPD detective to take Grimes place since Tony was no longer a cop.
That suggestion had been howled down as more than one of the Dees had declared that once a cop always a cop. Their attitude had made DiNozzo feel welcome in a way his NCIS teammates never had. However, he was also pragmatic enough to know that if he sucked at the game, they might not have been quite so ready to have him as a permanent replacement for the fallen detective Grimes.
So, when the proverbial shit hit the fan and the team was accused of cheating, naturally he’d offered to stand down, albeit with a heavy heart. The other detectives had unanimously refused to accept his offer and Tony was secretly relieved since he loved playing on the team. Not because of the winning, although that was a bonus, but because of the camaraderie, the joking around and the fact he really did love to play.
It was Andy who made a suggestion that finally shut up their opposition – they made him an honorary Metro Dee – a consultant to be specific. After the weekly games when they took the celebration or on a few occasions (when they got beaten) a commiseration to a bar for a few drinks, he’d consult with the Dees on any cases that they needed a break on. It was a win-win situation.
He got to play with a bunch of buddies, cops who really understood him and he talked their lingo. Plus, he got to feel like he belonged and was a valued team member. At NCIS he never felt good enough – Gibbs didn’t believe in praise and the junior agents felt they were at least his equal despite being far less experienced.
The Metro detectives were happy with the situation, too. They got to rub arrogant feds noses in it when they whooped their butts on a regular basis and they benefited from some coaching by a former college basketballer. As a bonus, they also got to pick the DiNozzo brain, a guy who thought outside the box and seemed to be able to pull a lead out of thin air.
Tony was also really enjoying having his brain picked. He got to feel valued and to be regarded as an asset and wasn’t that a pleasant change!
To those people who didn’t know him well, or never bothered to take the time to look just below the surface, he was a frat boy, a brash jerk, a dumb jock, a skirt chaser and/or a goofy class clown. The truth was ever so much more complicated though. Each of those personas was merely window- dressing to hide a highly complex and rather damaged individual.
He’d learnt at an early age that the real Anthony DiNozzo wasn’t ever good enough no matter what he did. Told when he was eight at his mother’s funeral that DiNozzo men don’t cry, he felt his heart was breaking and tears were threatening to overflow. So little Anthony learned how to make a joke instead.
He learnt that the sadder he was and the harder he joked which garnered him attention. Granted it was not always positive attention, but it was better than the isolation he often experienced from a father that frequently ignored him or forgot about him. He also figured out that getting into trouble, pissing people off and acting like the life of the party annoyed people so they didn’t look too closely into what Tony had been schooled to think of as his weaknesses. And when all those avenues failed, he could always use pain to divert any displays of weakness.
So, emotions, specifically fear, sadness (especially tears) anger and grief were to be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, Tony was extremely adept at appearing happy whatever the situation. The more strongly he experienced what he saw as emotions that made him weak, the more he turned up his class clown, happy as a lark act. The more hurt he felt (be it physical, emotional and psychological pain) the more he joked or acted obnoxious to stop people poking at him too closely and seeing all the fault lines of the individual he held together with iron-willed determination.
He knew deep within himself that if people ever had a chance to see the darkness, the pain, the weakness that was at the heart of the real Anthony DiNozzo his life, his career, friends, everything he’d worked so hard to achieve would be over. No one liked a weakling, so he played the role he’s assigned to himself faithfully.
The only time he ever intentionally let his mask slip was when he went running or he played ball. Like most individuals who acted the fool and made everyone laugh, Tony suffered from crippling bouts of clinical depression from time to time. It wasn’t surprising to him that the black dog had chosen to…well… dog him so intensely. After all, his mother suffered from post-partum depression and he suspected that her alcoholism had been all about her less than smart attempts to self-medicate her depression into submission.
Psychiatry wasn’t something that the DiNozzos (or the Paddington’s for that matter) approved of. Particularly for something like depression which was considered to be a character flaw, or personal weakness, as opposed to mental illness. They would never willingly consider seeking professional help for their ‘problems.’ Going to see a psychiatrist was most definitely considered to be a sign of weakness!
Consequently, Tony was careful not to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. Even though he often pretended that he engaged in serious bouts of drinking, it was all part of his cover story of ‘The Annoying Frat-Boy’. The truth was that he rarely had more than one drink, except when he was undercover, or at work functions where he needed to keep up the pretence. He was extremely proficient at dumping his drink into pot plants or simply abandoning it beside drunks (who assumed it was theirs and then slammed it down) while Tony would get a fresh one and start all over again. It was part of the game he played – all smoke and mirrors.
Aside from hating hangovers, and most of those that he displayed around his team and frat brothers were Oscar-winning performances to reinforce his party reputation. Given his genetic history, he avoided drinking more than a couple of drinks. He hated any scenario where his control over his emotions and his masks was in danger of slipping, so he avoided at all costs getting drunk.
He also avoided taking drugs or even prescribed medications which had psychotropic side-effects in case they might make him loose-tongued or become overly emotional. His displays of emotion were always…well almost always, carefully choreographed. There was that time when he had been in the FBI holding cell and he’d had a panic attack and showed his soft underbelly. That was something he couldn’t permit and getting drunk – well that was just asking for trouble.
That said, given the gruesome nature of his job, the stresses involved in being in law enforcement and the additional pressure of keeping people from finding out about his real identity (i.e. his weakness) he was often struggling. Plus, the fact that he worked for Gibbs, was his senior field agent – was highly stressful.
Stan Burley, Gibbs last senior field agent had developed a stomach ulcer and heart palpitations. Burley requesting a permanent deployment aboard the Enterprise as an agent afloat, purely to get away from Leroy Jethro Gibbs, self-declared bastard and proud of it. Given that he was exposed to such a high number of stressors, not to mention a genetic predisposition to depression, Tony really needed an outlet for his emotions and the stress hormones coursing through his body daily.
Which was why Tony went running, sometimes getting up at 0400 hours if that was what it took to get in at least six miles daily. If he didn’t run, he always felt out of sorts and irritable – a combination that was lethal when he was around Gibbs and the rest of the team. A bonus was that he also did a lot of his best thinking when he ran – it was a time for himself, where he could drop the masks and just be Tony – as pathetic, imperfect and weak as he really was.
While he was running, there was no one that he had to impress or hide from. He could focus purely on thinking about whatever it was he was concerned with – not having to focus part of his energy in being on guard and pretending to be someone else. Running gave him a euphoric sense of freedom and enabled him to cope for the rest of the day.
Playing basketball was even more liberating since there was a skill level involved, plus strategies inherent in the game that he found so empowering. In some ways, it was like his music since it allowed him to express himself, albeit in a physical sense rather than an emotional one (which his song-writing afforded him) but basketball let him use his mind and body in a way that was totally different.
He got to do what Gibbs did with the MCRT every single day, lie, scheme and strategize, he could mess with people’s heads, feint, intimidate and smack talk his opponents. For the hour or two each week (including timeouts, intermissions, free throws and extra time, if required) he got to be seen as a threat and the opposing teams feared his skills. Better yet, he got to do it while interacting with others who were too engrossed in the game so that he didn’t need to worry about hiding away his myriad imperfections.
With basketball he could simply focus on his strengths and that was unbelievably liberating in a totally addictive way. To be surrounded by people he genuinely liked, and he felt accepted him; teammates who weren’t constantly looking for his flaws to use them against him was a heady experience. To have friends who didn’t see his many faults and constantly point them out was something he’d learned to value.
It had become addictive in a similar way that running gave him an outlet for his stress. By keeping his stress under control, he could also continue to be a chameleon without sinking into a depression so deep that he couldn’t get himself out of bed every morning – unlike his mother.
It kept him sane so when Andy had sent him that text today, reminding him about the game tonight, he couldn’t help but snort in amusement. It was unlikely that Tony would ever forget about their game. The truth was that he played when he was sick, he’d even played when he was still recovering from the plague and barely able to remain on his feet. He’d been beyond desperate to feel that sense of mastery; to overcome the deep sense of shame and guilt he experienced for being stupid enough to open that damned SWAK.
He’d even played after being shot once or twice. The physical pain he’d had to fight through to play had been more than worth the emotion benefits he always experienced after coming away from a hard-fought game. And truthfully, Gibbs had been pissed at him when he got shot, so the pain helped him deal with the knowledge that his boss was disappointed in his performance.
Tony had forced himself to play games after cases had ended badly, like after Cate had been shot by Ari and Gibbs deliberately kept him out of the hunt. By going to the game he’d been able to switch off and forget for a little while about the fact that his boss had chosen Ziva to watch his six, not Tony when he set up Haswari, even before she joined the team. And there’d been a lot of those ‘playing to forget moments’, lately. His life had always been difficult but since coming to DC, it was almost as if he was jinxed.
He left Baltimore because he’d discovered that his partner was a dirty cop; he’d had such high hopes when he met Gibbs who told him he’d have his six. So, he ended up joining NCIS – an insignificant agency in the hierarchy of federal alphabet agencies but for some reason, Tony had decided to trust Gibbs; and for a while, all was well. Especially when they ended up just the two of them – it was almost like being a cop with a partner again, even though Tony shied away from personal intimacy with workmates after Danny had betrayed him. After all, you didn’t get much more macho than cops and feds – even the females were just as likely to rip your arm off and beat you over the head with it if you pissed them off.
Still, the working relationship that came with being a partner was the closest Tony had ever really come to experiencing unconditional acceptance and though he wouldn’t admit it, unconditional love. Purely platonic love of course, since only an idiot would ever consider sleeping with a partner who was responsible for watching your back. When you put your life in the hands of another person in life-threatening situations, you didn’t get anything more intimate than that (unless it was to end up having your partner’s grey matter splattered on your face).
But romantic entanglements were a bad idea. The last thing that you needed in the field was to be relying on someone who might be peeved that you left the top off the toothpaste or forgot to buy fresh milk when you needed them to have your back. You also didn’t want to be having or reliving sexual fantasies about your partner when you are putting your life on the line and needing to have your wits about you.
But with basketball, the intricate interplay of the physical and the mental, the situational awareness of the team and his opponents, the euphoria of being so in tune with his body. His proprioceptor system, which in gifted athletes, was an important aspect of their abilities and his ability to let down his masks and just be Tony, was an indescribable feeling. It was a tragic irony that the real Tony thrived on social interaction yet felt that he needed to hide who he was from others. So, to be around other cops and feds and not have to worry about his usual pretences was something he really prized.
Especially with everything that had been happened lately. All the changes on the team had affected his relationship with Gibbs – Cate being hired on, McGee joining the team then Cate’s death. Then Ziva, with all the drama surrounding her and her damned family, including providing them with the means to destroy them all with her damned dossiers.
Ziva being the one who replaced Cate was like rubbing salt into their still fresh wounds. Plus, acquiring a new director who had some serious sweaty-sheet history with Gibbs (if he wasn’t mistaken) had all added up to a team dynamic which was unrecognisable from the one he signed on for when leaving Baltimore.
It left him unsure of why he was still there. Now in lots of ways, he was ‘simply’ the class clown, ‘just’ the cop, ‘just’ the guy who took one for the team, so Gibbs didn’t maul the probies. He was tired of the masks, but it was hard to change ingrained patterns of behaviour and not leave himself feeling exposed.
Letting his innate talent shine through and have people see him and appreciate his real self… well, it seemed a helluva lot easier for him to accomplish when he was on the basketball court. He wasn’t sure why, except that somehow when he played, it had nothing to do with his father or his impossible to please boss, for that matter. Nor did it have anything to do with his teammates who thought so little of him despite his best efforts to conceal his flaws.
Nope! There was simply no way that he would ever miss a game on a Friday night unless it was absolutely unavoidable. A hot case was pretty much the only thing which would prevent him from turning out on the court since sleeping and eating weren’t even an option as far as Gibbs was concerned. Basketball didn’t make the grade as a remotely important prior commitment.
Which was what prompted Andy to introduce another sub to the team for when Tony couldn’t make it, a detective named John. Tony had no way of knowing it at the time, but this substitute player ended up becoming a permanent fixture on the team and was responsible for dramatically changing the direction of his life.
Thanks to Detective John Carson, Tony met his best friend.
Dees – detectives
Unies – uniformed police officers
Detective Andy Kochofis (from prologue Ice Queen and Meltdown; Left for Dead S1 E10)
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
Director Jenny Shepard watched as Gibbs tossed his badge and gun on the desk and stormed out of the bullpen, resigning in protest after the debacle that led to the destruction of the Cape Fear and all the men and women who were on her.
She had to admit she was in shock and in one sense, she rather envied him his tantrum. Part of her would like to stamp her foot and hold her breath too and threaten to walk out but Jenny realised that it wasn’t exactly adult behaviour. It only ended up punishing more innocent people by turning your back on them.
Of course, Jenny was sure that it wasn’t the real reason why Gibbs left, it was just a convenient excuse. If it hadn’t occurred, then sooner or later he would have manufactured something else to resign over. Truth to tell, Gibbs was mad at the whole damned world right now and quite clearly, he’d never reconciled the loss of his wife and daughter or else he never would have gone to such ridiculous lengths to keep them a secret.
If there was anything Jenny understood, it was the grief and anger over the death of someone you loved more than life itself. She understood that Gibbs was hurting and reliving all the initial pain he suffered when Shannon and Kelly died, and not just because of his retrograde amnesia. According to a Bethesda psychiatrist, the grief he was experiencing was magnified exponentially because he’d never dealt with it at the time of their deaths, he’d repressed it. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise that he couldn’t deal with it this time around either. Hence his decision to run away!
But being such an uber badass alpha male, there is no way that Jethro’s pride would allow him to be seen to be walking (running) away because of his personal anguish. He would think that it made him look weak and if there was anything he abhorred, it was to be considered weak by his contemporaries and subordinates. But he would think that it was perfectly permissible to go storming off in a snit, protesting some dumbass official since he’d already made a career out of ‘sticking it to the man’.
Jenny, while she felt empathy because seriously, anyone with a heart would over his losses, she also felt a thrill of hope, sensing an opportunity presenting itself to her. As the director, Jenny had reason to know that Jethro was planning on hiding out with that repulsive old dinosaur, Mike Franks, who quite frankly (no pun intended) made Jenny’s skin crawl. Franks was Gibbs’ old NIS boss and she guessed that was where Jethro was headed since it was where he requested that his entitlements were to be sent.
He’d gone down there to Mexico to lick his wounds in private. She also knew, because she knew Jethro (and not just in the biblical sense, because she’d been his probie back in the day), so she’d learned to anticipate him that he’d be back and demanding his old job back again. He would eventually grow bored with hanging out with nothing to do but drinking to avoid his feelings (which he already did in DC) and with nothing better to do, he would come back to DC.
The truth was he had nothing meaningful in his life, well aside from his job and a handful of friends. People who permitted him to behave like a despot without calling him on it. Where else was he going to find a womb-like haven like that? As far as she knew, he’d already pushed everyone from his time in the Corps out of his life.
Jenn knew why now. No doubt he’d been avoiding people who knew about his family, people who reminded him of Shannon and Kelly. People who might…god forbid, have interfered and tried to persuade him he needed help to deal with his grief. Instead of grieving he’d preferred using the ostrich- in –the- sand method of dealing with painful emotions.
Which was why she wouldn’t file his retirement papers, even after he went storming out, instead of putting him down for sick leave since he had months’ worth of it accrued. And as much as her heart – and yes, she did have one, ached for his pain, the part of her that was highly motivated and sought revenge for her own pain, recognised this as the opportunity of a lifetime. Recognised it for the lucky break it was, and Jenny was prepared to take advantage of it, even if she hadn’t anticipated being able to put her plan into practice quite so early on in her tenure as Director.
Many a friend (and foe) had commented on the fact that Jenny was an opportunist…like that was a bad thing. There was no way she wouldn’t take advantage of the gift that Gibbs’ resignation had presented her with, to further her plans.
Right from day one she had been eyeing off the MCRT – studying the individuals on it to figure out the best way to manipulate it to do her bidding. Of course, she already knew about the infamous leader, Leroy Jethro Gibbs; with an intimacy that only came about through being his probie, going on Black Ops and sleeping with him.
Oh yes, Jenny had Special Agent Gibbs measure, even as she rocked his boat, sticking her nose into his cases, knowing how infuriated he was with her for her micromanagement. She could also see how hurt he’d been with her for dumping him six years before with just a Dear Jethro letter as she moved onward and upward. But honestly, what did he expect?
As if someone like her could have ever really been happy as the fourth Mrs Gibbs. Happy with letting Jethro call the shots in the relationship and living in an unpretentious little house in Alexandria. A life with the proverbial white picket fence domesticity of a man from Stillwater, Pennsylvania when she was so much more ambitious than that. So much smarter, cultured, talented and yes ambitious, and if anyone needed further convincing, her appointment as director was vindication; she was destined for more than wifely duties.
Still, the amount of antipathy he displayed when she needled him by taking an interest in the cases of the MCRT, confirmed to her that Jethro still had feelings for her. He had feelings even if he would rather cut out his tongue than act on them. Which was promising! It meant she could still manipulate him, even if it was just by pissing him off so that he didn’t examine her business too closely.
Plus, she’d stacked the deck by ‘arranging’ to have an ally placed onto the MCRT. Ziva David was someone she had worked with in Europe and the Middle East. In fact, she’d saved Jenny’s life and Jenn had come to depend upon her, even if she was an Israeli National and worked for Mossad, not NCIS. They’d also collaborated, compiling the dossiers on the four members of the Major Case Response Team and several ancillary staff which Ziva’s half-brother, Ari Haswari had needed in order to fulfil his mission as a double agent. It was too bad he’d turned out to hate his father with such a passion that he was prepared to sell him and the rest of his country out to get back at him. Although, since his mother was from Palestine, she supposed his loyalty might have always been somewhat divided.
Still, the truth was that Ziva as Ari’s Control Officer, and Jenny with her plan to avenge her father, Colonel Jasper Shepard’s death, both had desperate need of the Intel. And then later, with Ziva on the team, the Intel. from the dossiers was proving to have the unexpected benefits of making it possible for Ziva to lay the groundwork to move her plan of revenge along.
Jenny had long ago identified Anthony DiNozzo as being the key to her plans. He was NCIS’ foremost undercover expert – an agent who excelled in long term undercover missions and was the envy of all the alphabet agencies. She needed him (not just because of his undercover skills) but per Ziva’s dossier, he was a certified lothario which was a huge part of her plan. She needed him to seduce the daughter of the man who’d killed her father, Colonel Jasper Shepard in cold blood. The difficulty being that because this was a long-term mission, he would need to carry it out concurrently to his regular duties as an agent.
This op was off the books, so she couldn’t afford for other people to know about it in case word got back to Sec Nav and the powers that be. If it did, they’d likely put a stop to it. She’d waited far too long to be able to make Rene Benoit pay for what he’d done to her father and herself. She wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip through her fingers when she was so close to achieving her goal.
She needed to find a way to destroy Tony’s devotion to his mentor and build allegiance to herself. Of course, while the man was loyalty personified and had been faithful to Gibbs to the point that he earned the moniker of Gibbs’ loyal St Bernard, Jethro really was his own worst enemy and her most valuable ally. Ever since hiring the late Caitlyn Todd, then Timothy McGee and now with Ziva David joining the team, Gibbs had been playing head games with the team, pitting them against each other. He even pitted DiNozzo, his SIC against the others by treating him as just another junior agent, undermining his position on the team – the stupid ass!
It created competitiveness and ill feeling between the individual team members – all designed to wring a little more effort out of them and made Jethro feel powerful. It also made for an atmosphere where no one felt secure in their position on the team and having read through Anthony DiNozzo’s jacket, including his psych profile, it was possibly the most toxic of environments for the talented but seriously flawed agent to be placed into.
For most agents of the calibre and experience as DiNozzo, they’d have refused to submit to such shocking disrespect from their team lead and requested a transfer ASAP, or they’d have accepted the standing invitation from the FBI via Tobias Fornell to join their agency instead. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon your perspective, not only was the agent incredibly talented and loyal, but he was also pathologically forgiving (according to psych evals.) to the extent that it could be considered self-harming behaviour.
In addition to his forgiving nature, he had a completely screwed up concept of family. All this meant he was stuck in a toxic work situation forgiving workmates (who he mistook for family) which were injurious to him professionally and psychologically. The bottom-line Gibbs behaviour and management style continued to have a huge impact on him.
Director Shepard abhorred the damage that Gibbs was doing to such a valuable asset to the agency. Which wasn’t to say that Jenny-the- Opportunistic-Daughter wouldn’t use Tony’s impaired personality traits to further alienate him from Gibbs and the team. She knew exactly how to go about it too.
Officer Ziva David (daughter of her one-time lover, Eli David, who was naturally competitive to the point of obsessiveness) upon joining the team, set out to make DiNozzo look bad at every opportunity. She also used a very common Mossad tactic of ‘divide and conquer’ with each member the team to cement her place on the team. Since David was convinced of her absolute superiority, it was inevitable that she coveted the role of Gibbs 2IC. Thanks to the dossiers they’d compiled, she knew about the other three agents Achilles’ heels and played them magnificently.
Gibbs’ Achilles was a biggie – his dead wife and daughter and his unresolved guilt that he’d been unable to save them, despite being a Marine. So, Ziva made sure he owned her a life debt and then called in the debt by letting her stay on his team to save her from her ‘monster’ father who would punish her severely for killing her half-brother – his heir. They gave him the opportunity to play the protective loving surrogate father to her in contrast to Eli David’s ogre.
Of course, it was an illusion, since Ziva was following Eli’s orders in getting rid of Ari. Eli didn’t want an outsider dealing with Ari’s betrayal of not just his family, but their country; it would impact negatively on Eli’s career prospects. Then again, Gibbs didn’t know that though, so their campaign of divide and conquer began even before Ziva had joined the team. Jethro kept Ziva’s ‘secret’ by taking credit for killing Ari. That lie had the immediate effect of creating a ‘them and us’ mentality affecting the team dynamics of the MCRT.
Pity for Jethro it was all based upon a lie!
Then there was the alliance Ziva forged with Timothy McGee. The young agent was a talented but highly insecure wizard of the computer keyboard. McGee’s dossier revealed his near genius level of computer forensic abilities – and yet his relationship with his alpha male father (an admiral in the navy) and his rather strident activist grandmother had created deep-seated insecurities that they could exploit.
Those insecurities caused him to be unsatisfied with his achievements. They left him with a tragic need to prove himself – manifesting in him wanting to be a field agent. As Jenny noted as a by the by, the pity of that desire was it would destine him to a life of mediocrity instead of the brilliance he may well have achieved.
Computer sciences was a field which was constantly changing. A discipline where you needed to be right at the cutting edge to stay relevant, which is why teenagers were the wunderkind, and college grads, even with post-graduate qualifications that were more than a couple of years old, were deemed to be has-beens by those people in the industry. She remembered a high placed intelligence analyst she had dated a while ago, telling her that the shelf life of these so-called computer wunderkinder was 3 years max post grad and that he recruited annually from the latest crop of grads because of their high turnover.
According to Pete, the only exception to their longevity was if they regularly returned to the hothouse environment of academia, constantly updated their knowledge and skill base and kept up to date on the breakthroughs. Or else, if they went into environments like Silicon Valley where the R& D was cutting edge and they were surrounded by likeminded geniuses who nurtured their abilities and pushed each other to grow.
By trying to prove himself as a field agent, McGee had pretty much kissed goodbye to his chance of greatness in the cyber world, especially by working on Gibbs team. The man didn’t know the definition of the term work-life balance. In fact, Jenny was sure that Gibbs hadn’t even heard of the term.
So being on Gibbs team didn’t leave a lot of free time for professional development. Plus, the Mossad dossier had revealed that in his infrequent spare time, Tim played MMORPG’s on his computer, instead of staying abreast of the latest in computer forensics. He was also writing a cheap dime store novel, using his colleagues and the cases they worked on as his inspiration. Given his downtime activities, McGee was on a fast train to obscurity in the cyber world. That’s if he hadn’t already achieved it already being more than three years post grad.
Plus, from what she’d seen when he killed that detective – he wasn’t destined to be a great field agent either. A waste of his talents, all because he wanted to impress Admiral McGee, who was unlikely to ever be impressed with a son who refused to enlist in the navy, no matter what else he achieved. Sad all round!
So Ziva used the fact that he had a burning desire to prove to his dismissive father that he could cut it as a macho agent, as well as being his cerebral superior as a certified genius computer hacker. Ziva had played on his obvious insecurity and his natural competitiveness, coupled with his desire to prove his superior field agent skills to Tony DiNozzo, who he (erroneously) felt was his inferior him in terms of education, intelligence and abilities.
As Ziva had observed, he was ripe for manipulation and she was an expert manipulator. It was game set and match to Officer David!
The Mossad liaison officer formed an alliance with the junior agent, the so-called probie who hated both the moniker and the position with a passion. She bolstered his sense of accomplishment, trashing DiNozzo’s skills and experience and went out of her way to belittle and disrespect Tony. Ziva actively encouraged McGee to join in with the character assassination as well. Mind you, that wasn’t a difficult task, since Gibbs’ style of leadership actively encouraged it, so it was already highly ingrained behaviour. Ziva just managed to dial it up a few notches.
When it came to her campaign of divide and conquering of DiNozzo, well that had been a slightly more complicated proposition. Based on her dossier, Ziva had determined that he was a serial dater and skirt chaser, so the Israeli spy had decided to use sex and seduction to form an alliance with him. Of course, that had dovetailed neatly with Jenny’s undercover plans for him too.
Although Intel. from the last few years confirmed that he wasn’t into long term relationships, Jenny still didn’t want to take a chance that he might have a lover, even a temporary one. It would interfere with her plans when she was ready to launch her assault on Rene Benoit via his daughter’s affections.
So, it made good sense for Ziva to fuck him, not just to control him, but to make sure that he wasn’t involved with anyone when his services were required. Unfortunately, he hadn’t taken the bait, even though he’d reportedly slept his way around the office. Oddly he seemed immune to the exotic Israeli’s considerable attempts to seduce him.
Ziva was furious, insisting that the only reason why he would reject her attempts to get him into bed was if he was secretly ‘in the wardrobe’ although Jenny wasn’t so sure. She thought about the way that DiNozzo checked out her own well developed assets and it wasn’t as a gay I- really- like –your- shoes- or- that- dress-sort- of- way but in an I like your boobs and I’d- definitely- like- to- see- you- in your- underwear–sort-of- way. She’d also observed him checking out Ziva’s ass once or twice when he thought no one was looking and the lust in those expressive eyes of his.
Jenn was willing to concede that some of the females at the office who bragged about sleeping with him were lying about it, she wasn’t convinced that all of them were dishonest, by any means. No…Jenny had concluded that the issue was that Ziva was too aggressive.
Some men got off on the chase – on the whole, predator hunting down a mate, clubbing them over the head and dragging them off to their cave to mate with them shtick. Jenn kind of figured that DiNozzo was one of those guys. Albeit an ultra-smooth caveman, who didn’t find aggressive women taking the initiative to be seductive or appealing.
Of course, Ziva had scoffed at Jenny’s theory, refusing to believe that the fault could lie in the execution of her goal since Mossad had trained her in seduction techniques. Ergo in her mind – Anthony DiNozzo was a ‘wardrobed gay man pretending to be straight.’
Regardless of which one of them was right, it seemed that trying to control Tony via his dick wasn’t an option for Ziva. Convinced he must be gay, she’d changed tack, opting instead for isolating him from the team.
Privy to his psych evals, painting a picture of an individual who’d always felt like an outsider, it had proved extremely effective. As a child, he spent more time with his parents’ domestic help than with his own parents, both of whom had substance abuse issues. His mother died when he was eight and he began a revolving door of attending expensive boarding schools and stepmothers, his father’s mistresses and gold diggers who generally had no time for a needy and highly energetic little boy. By the age of twelve, he suffered the dual traumas of being forgotten in a hotel room in Hawaii (allegedly an accident) even though the HPD felt it had been an intentional abandonment but couldn’t prove it. Then shortly afterwards, he’d been disowned by his father and shipped to a military school.
At college, he became a member of a fraternity and kept in close contact with his frat brothers. He didn’t stay in the various police departments long enough to form any strong attachments with his fellow cops but the relationship he had with Gibbs, and to a lesser degree with Abby Sciuto and Ducky seemed to be pivotal ones for him.
So, armed with that data Ziva set out to create feelings of betrayal and abandonment between Tony and his teammates, by the very simple yet effective expedient of holding a dinner party and excluding him. It was sheer brilliance and worked like a charm and not just with DiNozzo when his exclusion created so much emotional angst for him. It also corrupted everyone else, causing an additional sense of isolation too (apart from Dr Mallard as a non-show) as Gibbs, Abby and McGee had actively colluded in concealing the dinner from him until after the fact.
The trio also joining in Ziva’s rubbing his face into his omission from the gathering with gleeful maliciousness was pure gold even if that hadn’t been factored into their plan. So, it was an unanticipated bonus although Jenny and Ziva were extremely appreciative of the benefits.
After all, this was supposed to be a team that was more family than workmates. A team that had been rocked to the core by the death of one of its members not so long ago. You would expect them to close ranks and repel the newcomer trying to aggressively infiltrate their midst. Especially when Ziva was suggesting they isolate one of their own, a teammate who’d nearly died only weeks before from an archaic illness.
Ziva’s dinner party played right into Jenn’s hands in driving DiNozzo away from his team and Jenny was delighted at the results it achieved. There was another part of her – the part who was a federal agent and director of NCIS – was truly appalled by the behaviour of Gibbs’ little cadre of meanspirited individuals.
That directorial part of her wanted to head slap all of them and humiliate the shit out of them. This was not the behaviour of loyal teammates and considering all Timothy McGee owed the senior field agent, it was pathetic. So much for Tony’s selfless actions replacing the young probie, holding onto the car bomb which Tim had inadvertently triggered. Ari’s gift, which had been left behind to kill members of the MCRT. Not to mention DiNozzo’s staunch support for him during the agent’s ordeal after killing a cop.
Abby too had acted like n ungrateful little brat. It had only weeks before that she’d been saved by DiNozzo’s lightning quick reflexes when Ari tried to assassinate her in her lab, just after Cate had died under similar circumstances.
McGee and Abby should not have survived the attempts by a trained assassin. Ari had factored into his plans to take out the team that DiNozzo would still be recovering from the plague and off sick, which was pretty much the only reason why McGee and Abby were still here to be such ungrateful jerks. So much for gratitude!
Jenn recognised that they’d fallen down badly in compiling the senior field agent’s Intel. dossier, since Jenny had learnt retrospectively that he had a reputation for returning to work early, against medical advice. It flew in the face of his dumb jock/ clown status who didn’t take anything seriously but then DiNozzo seemed a mass of inconsistencies.
Of course, with any other team, their SSA wouldn’t permit it, but since Gibbs was tarred with the same brush, he approved of DiNozzo’s actions. Still, even if he’d returned early, no one in their right mind would have let someone still recovering from the plague and pneumonia to return to active field status early, but then Gibbs had often been accused of being crazy.
Anyway, the point was that Tony had on that single case, put himself in danger to save the lives of Todd, McGee and Sciuto. He’d also saved Jethro’s ass on plenty of occasions too, yet it seemed that collectively, his cohorts couldn’t wait for the opportunity to attack him and exclude him from the team get-togethers. Considering how soon it was after the loss a member of their team (their so-called family) in a violent assault, their alacrity in going along with Ziva’s plan to exclude and hurt DiNozzo’s feelings was despicable.
Scuttlebutt around the bullpen and secretarial pool had placed the blame for his isolation, especially from Ziva’s dinner party fair and square at Ziva’s feet as the interloper on the team. Yet from Jenny’s perspective, she doubted that the Mossad operative could have pulled it off with any of the other NCIS teams because they’d have banded together in the face of such a loss. The other field teams would never have been that disloyal, especially with an outsider against one of their own.
Truthfully, Gibbs leadership style of forcing his people to compete for his attention and approval had created an extremely cut-throat attitude in Abby and McGee. And Palmer – well, you could hardly blame Ducky’s assistant. Palmer was like the bastard son of the lord of the manor and the downstairs scullery maid, in an Agatha Christie novel. Someone who never really fit in, not with the hired help and most definitely with his half-siblings upstairs but was oh so desperate to do so.
Anyway, the point was that without the willing and active participation of Jethro’s team in concealing the dinner party before the event, it would have been impossible to execute. Putting all the blame on Ziva was ridiculous and short-sighted. Weren’t these people supposed to be professional investigators – students of human behaviour?
Oh well…just goes to show that people will always adopt the most expedient and least confrontational approach to their problems. Blaming the insufferable, arrogantly aggressive foreigner was far easier than placing the blame on everyone else who was equally culpable – perhaps more so because Tony was one of their own. Ziva, on the other hand, had no loyalty to him but she was the bad guy?
Pathetic double standards!
However, while the Director Shepard of NCIS decried the lack of solidarity for a team member, ‘Jenny the Daughter of Colonel Shepard’ rejoiced once again at just how effective Ziva’s dinner party had been. It had achieved her goal of driving a wedge right down the middle between DiNozzo and the rest of the so-called close-knit Major Case Response Team. Close knit – yeah right!
Whenever she had a flicker of guilt over her role in causing Tony harm, she comforted herself. The fact remained that she – no they – couldn’t have driven apart a team that was so easy to corrupt if they’d truly been the family, they all prided themselves on being.
If there was one thing that she knew all about, it was loyalty to family and so did Ziva. Loyalty was spending years working her way up the ladder in a pissant little agency that no one had ever heard about. Loyalty was about doing some distasteful stuff, including as Gibbs so crudely put it – ass kissing – and not just on the hill. Hell, her lips were constantly chapped but it was the price she was prepared to pay.
Loyalty was turning down all those relationships that might have led to matrimonial bliss and family, so instead, she could avenge her father’s murder. Family loyalty was killing your own half-brother on daddy’s orders because your sibling was a threat to your father’s career.
So, if a bunch of insecure, jealous individuals with daddy issues which had been ruthlessly exploited by Jethro, chose to turn on one of their own, then she and Ziva had nothing to feel guilty about…no really.
And now, Jenny concluded cynically, as Jethro had held his breath until he turned blue and stomped off in high dudgeon in an epic tantrum, Jenny was left with a team that was even more fragmented than before Ziva joined it. And let’s face it (thanks to Jethro’s leadership style) it hadn’t been all that cohesive to start with, otherwise Ziva couldn’t have wrought as much damage as she’d done in such a short space of time.
Although Shepard’s timetable beginning her payback of La Grenouille wasn’t supposed to take place for months yet, she knew how to be adaptable. Jenn was accommodating. She would seize the opportunity of a lifetime when presented with it.
She had developed strategies (now redundant) on how she could take Gibbs out of the equation so that he didn’t get in her way. She’d been toying with calling in some markers and having Gibbs recalled to the Marine Corps for a temporary Black Ops assignment or simply order him to take part in a long- term undercover Op for NCIS. Now that wasn’t going to be a problem.
As she watched the scrubs-clad Jethro, with his Marine shaved hair- cut make his dramatic exit from the bullpen, she was secretly elated. Naturally, she needed to make everyone believe she was pissed off that he walked out without giving notice, but it was all a façade. Especially as she knew that he wouldn’t stay retired.
Jethro voluntarily absenting himself from the team and NCIS was a Godsend. Jenny believed it must be a sign that her revenge had divine support – after all, an eye for an eye was part of the Old Testament. Based upon his own actions with Pedro Hernandez, it was one that Jethro held dear too. Since Jenny had learnt of his family tragedy, plus Ducky’s certainty that he would have killed Hernandez, she’d done some digging and confirmed the ME’s theory. Hernandez had been killed by a sniper’s shot and Jenny knew, because she knew him only too well, Jethro had taken his revenge.
So now… here she was, sitting in her office sometime after the dramatic ‘walkout’, considering the very precious gift that Jethro had presented her with. All she needed to do was figure out how best to take advantage of it.
Walking across to her small kitchenette, she pulled out a bottle and a glass and poured herself a celebratory glass of bourbon. Raising her glass, she took a drink, feeling she’d earned it after all the melodrama that evening. Finishing her drink, she packed up her papers and collected her personal possessions before switching off the lights in her office and heading down to the car where her driver waited to drive her home.
As she climbed into her armour-plated SUV, Jenny thought about it. She really had to hand it to Gibbs. Even when he was acting like a spoilt brat, he’d played right into her hands. Turning over leadership of his team (and really who the hell did he think he was that he could usurp her role in appointing the new SSA, anyway) by condescending to anoint his young heir-apparent with two words of questionable praise was just so typical of his narcissistic arrogance.
Jenny shook her head at the agent’s egotism that he thought that ‘You’ll do’ was, under the circumstances an appropriate or half-ways adequate manner of passing on the mantle of leadership. Yet it was totally in keeping with Jethro’s exceedingly inflated ego that he would see such a pathetically parsimonious declaration as having enormous value, simply because it came from Gibbs’ own lips.
Jenny smirked, thinking about one of Ducky’s eccentric phrases, ‘From your lips to God’s ear.’
In his arrogance, with just two words he’d managed to plant into the team’s head, confirmation that DiNozzo was a second-rate agent, who only barely cut the mustard. Since McGee and Ziva already thought that they were far better agents, smarter and better qualified to lead the team, this was pretty much guaranteed that they wouldn’t be reconsidering that erroneous narrative any time soon.
Of course, if that had been all that Jethro had done, it would have been more than enough for ‘Jenny the Vengeful Daughter’s purposes but he didn’t stop there. Oh no, Jethro then ran his yap after the ‘You’ll do’ insult, telling Agent McGee what a freakin good agent he was and not to let anyone tell him differently while casting a gimlet eye in DiNozzo’s direction. Even the thickest of idiots would interpret that as a slap in the face to the person he’d just handed off the team to.
Frankly, it always amused ‘Jenny the Director’ no end to hear Abby (with her homespun philosophies and rose-coloured glasses) go on ad infinitum about how the team was a big happy family. Even more hilarious, she insisted that Jethro was the fierce but caring slash loveable ‘Papa Bear’ who would defend his cubs to the death. Really, if he was the loving father-figure that Abby claimed he was, then he would start out by treating his agents equally and fairly. He wouldn’t go around whacking the crap out of Tony or encouraged the others to disrespect him.
Most importantly, Jethro would praise him (like he did the others) and he wouldn’t have set him up for failure before he’d even started the job as the new leader. And if the forensic scientist objected that Gibbs would never favour McGee over Tony, Jenny would demand to know why the hell Jethro didn’t just tell McGee ‘You’ll do’ too? unless he was intentionally trying to sabotage DiNozzo’s career?
After all, the miserly comment Tony received was far more in keeping with Gibbs asshole personality – but the comment to McGee was most definitely Pod Gibbs. McGee also took the endorsement as his due as it confirmed his own deeply entrenched belief that he was superior as an agent to DiNozzo. From his biased point of view, it was proof for all to see that Gibbs held him in much higher regard to the class clown.
Director Jenny had been so damned mad at Gibbs for his final act of leadership thuggery (right before leaving a massive pile of shit for someone else to clean up) that she’d shooed everyone from the MCRT out of the office to get some sleep, on the pretext they’d been working nonstop since Gibbs got himself blown up. Then she’d retired to her office to plot her next moves. As much as the director abhorred Gibbs’ bastard act against his loyal Saint Bernard, Daughter of a wronged hero Jenny, was inwardly crowing in triumphant glee because really this couldn’t have worked out better.
Except she reminded herself for the fact that 19 men and women had lost their lives because of stupid ambitious pencil pushers wanted to cover their asses. But they were dead and nothing, she or anyone else could do, to change that travesty so it seemed like a stupid waste not to try to ensure that some good should come out of the fiasco. And Jenny Shepard (the director and daughter) was far from stupid.
So, she started to consider how best for her to take advantage of Gibbs’ hissy fit. Firstly, she needed to find someone to make up the fourth on the MCRT. She looked at the list of probies, trying to find the right one to assign temporarily to the team. Someone who would not be an asset…someone who was a rank newbie, just to make DiNozzo’s job even more difficult than it already was.
As she’d worked, her heart began to race with hope. After years of plotting and planning, scheming and scamming, it was finally time…it was really happening. Rene Benoit aka La Grenouille was going down!
Now, home at last after battling the usual DC commuter traffic, as she climbed out of her car and her driver said good night, Jenny felt exhilarated. She decided that she would have Noemi, her housekeeper cook something special to celebrate and open a special bottle of wine she’d been saving.
Soon Colonel Jasper Shepard would be exonerated and recognised as the hero he was. Jenny Shepard hoped every last friend of her father’s who’d stood ready to condemn him, would all choke on their betrayal.
Notes: Some quick housekeeping. Some of the dialogue used in this story may sound very familiar and that’s because I borrowed it from various episodes from season 4. However, there is a lot of new dialogue too. Due to the nature of a fix-it story, much of the canon events have changed significantly or do not occur, therefore the dialogue wasn’t relevant. Second thing, this story contains multiple points of view. When the perspective shifts to Ziva David’s POV you can expect canon typical murdering of idiomatic English – it isn’t an unintended typo. No really…all the rest of the typos you come across are my bad but the Ziva-isms is intentional.
Tony wasn’t surprised when he arrived early the day after the Cape Fear had exploded killing all nineteen people aboard, to find that Director Shepard wanted to see him. He’d been expecting it. When he went home last night, he’d been totally shell-shocked by Gibbs dramatic exit – devastated by the feelings of abandonment and loss he was feeling. Understandable since it had been so tumultuous, but Tony was also a pragmatist about his summons to the director’s office. He knew the score!
He knew that as much as Gibbs liked to think the world revolved around him and his word was law, the reality was he was just a small cog in a large wheel. Gibbs didn’t get to appoint his successor like it was a dynasty or something. Oh, sure he might make a recommendation about who might replace him – and with an endorsement like “you’ll do,” well gee whiz kiddies, who wouldn’t be impressed by such an eloquent and emphatic evaluation of their abilities from their retiring CO?
No seriously, Director Shepard didn’t like him, didn’t trust him – had doubted his ability to fill in for Gibbs during the hostage drama at the high school, only a few short weeks ago. Would have come down and usurped his authority to manage the scene except that Ducky had succeeded in talking her down.
Nope, there was no way she would want to appoint Tony as team leader of the MCRT, even though she’d let him lead while Gibbs was in a coma after the explosion. Sure, they had talked amicably about Gibbs while in his hospital room, but Tony was still feeling like Director Shepard had two different standards when it came to him and McGee. Not a good way to develop trust in the director of the agency when her mentor would have beaten Rule 1 into her psyche.
Honestly, he still felt resentment at the disparity of how two superficially similar crimes were treated. Shepard let the FBI lock him up because of a severed leg but there was no actual body (hardly surprising that) because it was a faked crime scene staged by the lab rat she hired to ‘help’ Abby. Chuck not only set him up on a bogus murder charge, but he almost killed Abby too.
So much for background checks and scrutinising job references. Was this going to be the new normal under her leadership?
Tony had spent serious time locked up and that had given his overactive imagination chance to run rampant. It also resulted in some seriously fucked up role play when Tony’s masks had come crashing down in front of Gibbs. How freakin embarrassing was that! Was that why he got a ‘you’ll do.”
Yet literally days after Tony being locked up and interrogated (because Shepard had declared that NCIS couldn’t interfere and had to be seen to be doing the right thing), McGee had been involved in the shooting of an undercover Metro PD detective. There’d been a real body. Tim had fired his agency issued firearm and admitted to shooting the cop in self- defence, although it appeared the Dee was unarmed.
Yet despite damning evidence – which was more conclusive than the crap evidence which resulted in Tony being locked up unjustly, when the DA charged McGee with negligent homicide, Shepard pulled strings. She’d arranged to have him released into the custody of NCIS, so he never spent any time in jail.
Against standard operating procedure, the probie was permitted to work the case and Gibbs even took him with him when he arrested the dirty cop – Sgt Keith Archer, which was very definitely against protocol. Ha, so much for being seen to be doing the right thing, Director Shepard!
In the end, it was established by the NCIS that McGee had mistakenly believed that Detective Benedict was firing at him when it was the occupants of the Range Rover, Sgt Archer who’d fired the shot. However, the bottom line was Tim still shot the unarmed cop, although it wasn’t possible to determine if he’d fired the kill shot or not.
In stark contrast, Tony had done nothing wrong because there had been no crime. He’d been set up by Chip and abetted by the failure of NCIS security protocols that had made it possible. Yet he’d been afforded diddly squat in terms of professional or personal support from Shepard or her agency. So, two very different standards had operated, which seemed to be the order of the day for Director Shepard.
He shrugged. It was over and done with, but it showed what he could expect from Director Shepard in terms of her support. Nada, zip, zilch!
She was someone who would always look to cover her own derriere first and foremost whenever there was a threat to herself or the agency. Not surprising since her appointment was more a result of politics and ass kissing (and probably a lot more) than her earning the role based on merit. She hadn’t been in law enforcement all that long for someone appointed as a director.
So, as a realist, and a cynical one at that, Tony started mentally flipping through the candidates who would be appointed to the senior supervisory role and what it meant for his future. He thought that Ric Balboa had a good shot at being given the MCRT and of all the possible candidates Tony felt he was the one that Tony would prefer to work for. The man was a good agent, a good leader but there were a couple of others he would agree to serve under if Ric.
Special Agent Carrie Abbot was another distinct possibility – although she was only a year or two shy of mandatory retirement age for field agent status. Joe Baines was the other obvious candidate, even if he was a bit straight-laced for Tony’s tastes, but he was still a fine agent and was qualified. Obviously, Chris Pacci would have been his first choice to serve under, but the gentle agent had been brutally slain a couple of years ago.
Of course, knowing Shepard, she might have a candidate from one of the other field offices that she wanted to appoint as Gibbs successor. Tony didn’t know them all – he’d only been at the agency for five years, but he knew enough about politicking to not be surprised if Jenny brought in an outsider who would be beholden to her for the appointment to the plum job of Team Leader of the DC Major Case Response Team.
It was like when a lion in the wild killed a rival and took over their pride of females and territory. One of the first things that the victor did was to chase off any juveniles or slaughter any offspring of the former leader that were still dependent upon his new lionesses. Not only to cut down on potential rivals in the future to challenge him but to ensure that his mates went into oestrous immediately so he could begin to spread his genes ASAP. Tony thought that Jenny was probably just as brutal, based on how ambitious she seemed, so nothing would surprise him.
Which left him asking what it would mean for him. He could work as SFA for Ric or Carrie, probably Joe too, although he wasn’t entirely sure it would be a good fit, he’d give it a go. Others who she might appoint but he didn’t trust to have his or the team’s six – well he couldn’t see himself staying on the team.
Gibbs was a gold-plated bastard at times, and he didn’t agree with how he usurped the chain of command and ignore rules and regs. Still, despite all that the one Tony did have confidence that in the field Gibbs would have his back, which was one reason why he continued to put up with so much crap and hadn’t moved on. Trusting your partner implicitly to have your back in a shit fight – well you couldn’t put a price on that in Tony’s opinion.
Maybe it was time for him to move on…after all, Ziva and McGee both made it perfectly clear during the case that they wouldn’t appreciate him acting as the team leader. He wasn’t Gibbs – which was freakin insightful of them. As if he was under any misapprehension about it.
Let’s face it, the Boss would never have let McGee skive off processing the crime scene of the bomb blast when Gibbs was blown up. He’d kick his butt, tell him to grow a pair and suck it up, McGee! No, it was soft-hearted, soft-headed fools like DiNozzo who’d taken pity on the Probie (even if he wasn’t technically a probie) who sent him to do something less gory and did the job himself. And the truth was that they didn’t respect him; they saw it as a sign he was weak.
Ziva and Tim thought they were more qualified; thought they were better investigators. So, it wasn’t as if he should feel like he owed them any loyalty if he decided to leave and seek greener pastures.
However, Tony vowed, if he did leave, he wouldn’t storm out petulantly as Gibbs had. He’d give notice and hand over his position to his replacement in a responsible and professional fashion.
Of course, there was another scenario he hadn’t considered yet. Returning to the analogy of the victorious lion slaughtering his predecessor’s progeny when taking over the pride, it was entirely possible that Director Shepard would decide to disband the MCRT now that Gibbs was gone. She could put a brand-new team of agents in to create a fresh MCRT which would then be totally loyal to her. Well okay, perhaps she’d let Ziva remain and can himself and McGee.
If she did dismantle the team, he didn’t need to waste any energy feeling like he was letting Gibbs or the team down by looking out for number one for once. He’d give notice and probably take some of his accrued annual leave rather than serve out four weeks’ notice.
So Tony, despite feeling hurt and abandoned by Gibbs departure (not to mention being angry that they’d failed to save nineteen souls) had ended up staying up half the night. He updated his resume, sending out feelers with his numerous contacts at sister agencies and police departments, also checking out potential interagency vacancies. He entered the bullpen next day, feeling that his time in the pumpkin orange bullpen was about to end.
Hearing his presence was required in the director’s office ASAP hardly surprised him – hell he was expecting it. Time would tell just which of the scenario’s he envisioned was going to be enacted.
Glancing around the empty workspaces of his other team members he shed his gun and his creds, locking them away before climbing up the stairs to the mezzanine level and proceeding to Director Shepard’s office.
It was show time!
DiNozzo demanded the keys to the truck since he had no intention of letting Ziva drive to Rock Creek Park where a dead Marine had been discovered by a jogger. He mentally reviewed their interview – albeit interview interruptus, because the call had come through for the team to investigate the dead Marine. Tony was gobsmacked when Shepard announced her intention to appoint him as SSA for the team. He’d expressed some doubts if he was the right person to lead, citing Gibbs’ less than effusive handover speech.
Shepard had frowned. “C’ mon Tony, you worked with Gibbs for five years. You know what he’s like – he’d rather cut out his tongue than give anyone praise. Coming from him, ‘you’ll do’ is the equivalent to the Silver Star.” She argued, attempting to foment dissent between Gibbs and the new SSA.
Tony wasn’t convinced by her argument. “If that was true, how do you explain his speech to McGee? Now that was effusive and flattering. So much for the theory that he’d rather cut his tongue out than utter anything complimentary.”
She’d grimaced and stayed mute. After all, there was no countering of his observation. She tried a different tacked.
“Look, Tony, it really doesn’t matter what Gibbs thought. He’s gone and I have faith in your ability to lead the team. You have eleven years of law enforcement experience, five of them serving under one of the toughest taskmasters and biggest bastards that the agency has. Don’t discount your abilities and skills. I don’t.”
Tony looked uncomfortable, since getting praised was such a freaking rare event – rare as hens’ teeth – which is to say – never. Shepard’s over the top volubility made him extremely uncomfortable.
Returning to the topic at hand he observed. “The point is that Ziva and McGee don’t share your faith, Director. They fought me all the way during the last case. Pretty sure they’ll be pissed if I’m their team lead.” Tony confessed, sounding both pained and angry.
“It was a difficult case, Tony. But Gibbs is gone, and you have my official endorsement as team leader now. It is a totally different situation. They’ll get on board and besides, don’t forget that the team dynamic will change. There will be a new team member who’ll come onto the team. They’ll accept that you are their SSA and won’t have any loyalty to Jethro.” Jenny persuaded him, even as he looked dubious.
“Look, Tony.” She’d told him to call her Jenny so of course he reciprocated and told her to call him Tony. “Don’t go thinking the worst. If there are problems, then we’ll deal with them, but chances are that they’ll fall into line like meek little lambs.”
Tony had snorted. Comparing Ziva David to a meek little lamb was utterly ridiculous. McGee wasn’t exactly a lamb – more of a sheep in that he followed anyone that was domineering or prepared to physically intimidate him. Maybe that’s what he needed to do to make McGee respect him – physically scare the crap outta him – like Gibbs did, like his father the Admiral did.
The trouble with that was that Tony isn’t comfortable with acting like a rabid DI – it reminded him too much of military school. Not to mention his own father when he drank and then there was Gibbs. Tony had a different style – he preferred to prank, to joke and rely on collaboration to lead people. Unfortunately, the remaining members of his team saw this as weakness and proof of his inferiority.
“Sorry Jenny, but I don’t think it will be so simple,” he finally responded.
“Let’s just try it and see. I’ll announce your appointment and we’ll go from there.” She insisted tenaciously. “And speaking of your new team member,” she lifted a file as Tony’s cell phone rang.
He looked at her apologetically and answered, telling her, “It’s Dispatch.” He listened and nodded before ending the call.
“Dead Marine in Rock Creek Park.”
She shooed him out. “Go Tony. Take your team and investigate. Here is the personnel file for your new team member to look over when you get a chance. We’ll talk more later.”
Tony looked at the sulky countenances of his ‘team.’ Ziva was pissed because he wouldn’t let her drive, but honestly, Gibbs driving had been bad enough. Despite what others thought, he didn’t have a death wish. McGee’s issue – he wasn’t sure – sulky because of Gibbs leaving them, leaving them with him in charge of them, or maybe he got his Elf Lord ass whooped the night before. He didn’t know what was up with him and he didn’t really care, either – if he did his damned job!
He was surprised at Shepard’s support and her praise, surprised, dumbfounded, staggered. It was totally unexpected. Tony still wasn’t convinced that it was such a great idea for him to take over as the senior supervisory agent.
Even if him taking over had been the plan when Gibbs hired him…but that had been back in the day when they’d been partners and Tony was afforded professional respect from Gibbs. That was long before he hired a bunch of unqualified individuals and started treating them as Tony’s equal as investigators. He sighed tiredly. Once this case was closed, he was going to think long and hard about what his professional plans were these days.
He was going to talk to someone whose opinion he respected but first, he guessed he should see who Jenny had chosen to bring into the team as the senior field agent. If it wasn’t someone who had good investigative skills and was going to have his back, both in the bullpen and the field then it wasn’t going to work.
Time would tell if he was destined to remain here at NCIS or find somewhere else but for now, he needed to focus on this case. There was a victim that needed the MCRT to make sure they received justice. Tony prepared to do what he did best…investigate.
Tony finally dismissed the team at 2030 after they’d put the case to bed. Private First Class, Jonathon Reeves death was deemed to be due to a self-inflicted overdose of morphine-based prescription medication. What was not clear and probably never would be, did Reeves intended to die, or it had been an accidental death. The 22-year-old had only just returned from Iraq and discovered that his fiancée had left him and married her former boyfriend.
He was an orphan and been brought up in a series of foster homes. Jonathon had gotten into trouble with the law as a juvenile before a no-nonsense youth worker suggested he join up in the Marines. It seemed to be exactly what Reeves needed to straighten out his life and he’d settled down and flourished with the structured environment and the support of his platoon. When he got engaged to his girlfriend, Margot Wells, his life seemed perfect to the young Marine.
Arriving back Stateside after being wounded in a mortar attack, he’d been looking forward to recuperating in the loving arms of his fiancée, only to discover that the pretty nineteen-year-old was now Mrs Margot Perry. Perhaps if he’d had a family to help cushion the blow and provide emotional support Johnathon wouldn’t have ended up dead in Rock Creek Park.
Tony felt empathy for the PFC since he still recalled just how much it hurt when Wendy had dumped him the day before their wedding. After that, Tony had made a conscious decision to avoid any serious relationships, just so he never had to take a chance on experiencing so much pain ever again. And Wendy hadn’t run off and married someone else – he didn’t think he would have survived that!
As he contemplated the tragic death of the Marine and lamented the waste of such a young life, he reached for the file that Jenny had given him this morning before they got the callout. Casually flicking it open, he started reading, frowning as he began to process the details – there had to be some mistake.
Jumping as he felt a hand on his shoulder since he hadn’t registered anyone approaching. “What’s up, Kiddo?”
Tony looked up to find SSA Carrie Abbott staring at him, concerned. He managed to rustle up a grin. “Hi, Carrie. Just realised that the director must have given me the wrong personnel file for the new senior field agent.”
He gestured to the file, inviting her perusal. “This one is for a Michelle Lee. She’s a legal officer – graduated from Harvard. Not a field agent.”
DI ~ Drill Instructor
Carrie Abbot frowned, an expression Tony DiNozzo couldn’t quite identify on her face. “Must be a mistake,” she reiterated unconvincingly.
Tony misconstrued her comment, thinking she was referring to him being appointed as the senior supervisory agent of the MCRT. After all, Carrie had seniority over him, as did several other agents. They really should have been given the plumb position not him. No wonder she was feeling like it was a mistake.
“I know. I’m as shocked as you are that you, Ric or even Joe didn’t get the lead of the MCRT.” He apologised. “I don’t know what the director was thinking, giving it to me.”
Carrie smiled. “That’s not what I meant, Kiddo. And stop putting yourself down. I’m close to retirement and while Balboa and I have seniority over you, you’re more qualified. We don’t have your range of experience.”
He looked dubious so she explained. “You have five years working for Gibbs on the MCRT in high profile crimes – especially murder. But more importantly, there’s all your experience as a cop – working homicide, vice, beat cop, bringing down the Macaluso Family, transit cop. You worked in three separate police departments. Plus, there’s Military school, expert marksman, trained hostage negotiator, profile training…”
“Stop Carrie! You’re making me blush,” he joked to divert attention away from the fact that it was the truth. After Jenny’s spiel earlier in the day and now Carrie singing his praises it was more positive reinforcement than he’d received during the whole time he’d been with the agency, maybe in his whole life. He didn’t know how to deal with it.
The veteran lead agent chuckled, amused. “I didn’t think you were into older women, DiNozzo,” she bantered, rather to his discomfit.
“Wait! How did you know so much about my background?” he demanded inquisitively.
Carrie ruffled his hair flirtatiously before squeezing his shoulder. “Keep your shirt on Tony. Chris and I were… close. He may have let me peek at the background check that he ran on you for Gibbs, before you came aboard.”
They were both silent, remembering Special Agent Pacci. Tony was surprised to hear that Chris and Carrie had a thing. “Chris was a dark horse – he never said.”
She smiled sadly. “He was a private man and I wasn’t all that keen on us being water cooler gossip either. What we had was too special.”
He noticed she had teared up and he handed her a tissue and squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry, Carrie. Chris was a great guy and I miss him.”
Feeling that the emotional tone of their conversation was getting a little too raw for both, Tony changed the subject adroitly. People might think he was an arrogant ass, but he knew what it was like to mourn lost love.
“So, if you weren’t thinking that me leading the MCRT was a huge mistake, then what was with the dubious expression, Carrie?”
“What? Oh, that! It only just occurred to me while we were talking about Lee that the collective years of field experience of the entire MCRT now that Jethro is gone, is 14 years and eleven of those years belong to you.” Carrie pointed out frowning.
“It’s now an extremely inexperienced team, apart from yourself and that concerns me. So, I hope that the director transfers over an experienced SFA to help compensate and doesn’t promote some rookie junior agent in their first gig as SFA. You’ll need the added skills and experience to help compensate for the fact that both Ziva and McGee are little more than newbies.”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I don’t need to be training a new SFA while I’m settling in as team lead. Don’t suppose that the director is still here?” he asked hopefully wanting to sort out the composition of his team ASAP.
Carrie shook her head. “No, she went home about 1830, Kiddo.”
Tony sighed. “Have to wait until morning, I guess. Gibbs would probably go storming over to her home, demanding to deal with it now. But as Abby, McGee and Ziva were quick to point out, I’m not Gibbs.”
Carrie patted him comfortingly on the shoulder. “Hey, that’s not a bad thing. You’re you and your way of doing things work for you. Don’t think the agency could cope with two Gibbs. Go home and get some rest. Deal with it in the morning,” the seasoned SSA advised him firmly.
In the end, Tony never got an opportunity to talk to the director the next morning as literally minutes after getting into the office a call came in about a suspected break and enter and death on-base housing at Norfolk. Seems there had been a rash of minor burglaries but a Marine Captain’s wife, Juliet Truscott, (who was supposed to be visiting her parents) had returned home early. She disturbed them during the robbery and was killed. Tony wasn’t sure yet if she’d been killed in a struggle with the intruders or that they’d killed her in cold blood, so she didn’t identify them. They’d know more when they reached the scene.
It was late afternoon by the time they’d processed the scene, interviewed all the neighbours and decided that they’d done everything they could at Norfolk. When they returned to the navy yard to log in the evidence with a sobbing Abby, still in denial about her Silver Fox, it was 1720 and the day was winding down for most. Although for Tony, Ziva and McGee it was not done by a long shot.
As they wandered into the bullpen there was a weird buzz and they got strange looks from the other agents. Tony wondered what was going on. Had Gibbs come back again to take back the team or something? No, that was just too bizarre.
Once they checked their emails, they figured out what had shocked the office – an announcement from Human Resources, detailing the changes to the MCRT. It confirmed the appointment of Anthony DiNozzo as Senior Supervisory Agent. This wasn’t what had created a stir though since it had previously been announced in the DC office and most people seemed to agree it was a good decision and not all that unexpected. After all, Gibbs had been grooming him ever since he’d hired him to step into his shoes.
No, his official announcement wasn’t what had shocked everyone. It was that Timothy McGee had been appointed as Senior Field Agent and Michelle Lee was joining the team as Probationary Field Agent. Tony read the email in total disbelief, wondering if he’d somehow collected a concussion at some point and this was all a bizarre hallucination. That was a helluva lot more palatable than facing the reality of what had happened, including Gibbs taking off and abandoning the team in a tantrum of epic proportions or that McGee was promoted to Senior Field Agent. Plus, Tony got a raw green probie agent and was expected to form three rookie investigators into a major case response team, taking on the high-profile cases for the agency. That was simply ludicrous!
After pinching himself hard several times to reassure himself that this was not a dream or a delusion, he surveyed the room. Ziva looked furious – surely, she didn’t expect to be SFA? He mentally kicked himself for his stupidity – of course, she did! After all, she genuinely thought that she should be leading the MCRT since Gibbs departure. She’d already made her feelings plain when his promotion had been announced previously, so why wouldn’t she think that she could be senior field agent?
McGee was looking smug but not shocked and Tony wondered if he had been notified in advance or he simply was as deluded as Ziva and thought it was his due. If so, he’d clearly never read the NCIS Handbook that stated that not only did special agents need postgraduate qualifications, but they also required a minimum of five years of field experience to be eligible and needed to be able to demonstrate leadership skills.
After all, a senior field agent had to be able to step up and lead the team in an emergency if the leader was unable to. The idea that McGee with barely two years of field experience, one of which was as a probationary agent automatically qualified him for such a responsible job, despite having academic qualifications was ludicrous.
It was akin to holding the rank of an ensign for a few months and skipping a couple of grades and being promoted to commander and expected to train and lead others. It was nothing short of incredible idiocy.
There was no way that Tony could accept someone as underqualified as Tim as his second in charge – not to watch his back in the field and control Ziva. Nor to watch out for and help train a complete probie like Lee. With Tim as SFA, it would be a case of the blind leading the blind.
Even if they were on a regular field team that wasn’t handling all the high profile and complex crimes that the MCRT was expected to deal with, Tony wouldn’t have countenanced his appointment. Tim was still too green – he didn’t have the necessary field experience. After all, the rules and regulations were there for a damned good reason – to protect everyone.
Tony couldn’t believe that Director Shepard wasn’t au fait with the NCIS regulations regarding the promotion of agents into supervisory roles, or that Human Resource wouldn’t have drawn them to her attention if she didn’t know. Which could only mean she chose to override them, ignoring them for some reason and he didn’t really care why. The result was what concerned him.
Tony had heard the scuttlebutt surrounding her surprise appointment to the big chair. Some people said that she must have slept her way into the top job. Early on, Tony had discounted the rumour as being based on sexism and jealousy, because after all, she’d been Gibbs’ probie and he didn’t suffer fools. Still, with these acts of sheer stupidity of hers, case in point, her promoting McGee and assigning Michelle Lee to the MCRT as a probationary agent and his own promotion as team lead (since he wasn’t a seasoned team lead) Tony was seriously beginning to revise his opinion of how she snared the top job.
After telling Ziva to take the evidence down to Abby and directing McGee to do background checks on all the victims of the robberies, including the murder victim, he prepared to do battle. He made his way resolutely up the stairs to the mezzanine level to have it out with the director. He cursed that he hadn’t hauled ass last night and visited her at her home to get this settled! Maybe there was a method in the boss’ madness after all!
Jenny Shepard watched Anthony DiNozzo stalk out of her office seething with anger, wondering how everything had imploded around her so damned fast. The carefully laid plans and plotting, all the intricate groundwork she and Ziva had laid down in preparation (even if Ziva didn’t know the purpose of what she was doing) was now looking to be a total bust.
Tony had been livid that she had promoted McGee to senior field agent status and placed a totally green probationary agent, a lawyer onto the MCRT. He’d pointed out that the team was supposed to be the best of the best and handle high profile cases. Yet he was the only one with any real investigative experience, apart from Gibbs – who was now sunning himself in Mexico. It made the team woefully inexperienced to handle complex and high- profile investigations. Fourteen years of collective investigative/ field experience was pathetic, particularly when three quarters of the team could only claim to collectively have three years of field experience between them.
DiNozzo insisted that it was a disaster waiting to happen, that mistakes would be made. Innocent people could be falsely accused. Cases would be thrown out on technicalities and guilty people would walk free.
Of course, Jenny knew that was possible but what DiNozzo had no way of knowing was that she had deliberately given him a team full of inexperienced agents. She wanted him to be so stressed out – physically, mentally and emotionally from doing the lion’s share of the work, plus trying to train the rest of the team that he wouldn’t have time to examine her motives too closely.
Oh, she knew that Ziva and McGee were exceedingly arrogant individuals and genuinely believed they were better agents than Tony. They would make life difficult for him since neither would like him giving them orders. She’d even been prepared to go so far as stirring the pot if necessary, building up their egos – but she concluded it would probably be overkill.
Neither one needed their ego’s being boosted – they would be insufferable, and it might even backfire. DiNozzo might quit which was the last thing she wanted or needed. No, after careful observation of the team for a year and Gibbs continual undermining of his SIC, she was supremely confident he’d done her job for her already and she should simply sit back and let them run with it.
Then there was Lee, who as a Harvard law graduate was likely to be supremely underwhelmed with having a team leader with a Phys. Ed major, just like David, Todd and McGee had scorned him, accusing him of being an intellectual lightweight. Plus, Michelle as a lawyer would argue every little point of law. Jenn knew how much Gibbs team was used to ignoring rules and regs (and even the law) just to close a case, so Lee would have a field day. Jenny expected her to drive DiNozzo crazy with her nit-picking ways.
As to McGee and Ziva’s delusion that they were better qualified to lead the team, Jenny was amused, and very grateful Gibbs’ much-vaunted junior investigators never bothered to read the requirements for agents to hold supervisory positions. If they had, they’d know that DiNozzo as SFA had to have post-graduate qualifications. She hadn’t been in any hurry to correct the misperceptions of either one of them or correct facts in Ziva’s dossiers (prepared for her brother Ari) as it suited her purposes for the Israeli to underestimate his intellectual acumen. He only ever mentioned his degree from OSU (as it was in keeping with the persona he portrayed) so there was little chance that information would come to light and threaten her plans.
Although he did occasionally slip up. Tony’s grammar was a dead giveaway if you bothered to look, like the time he lectured a gangbanger on double negatives and their usage by the bard, William Shakespeare. It was hardly the discourse of a dumb jock. It really should have given the obtuse pair a clue, but it went right over their heads’.
Fortunately for her machinations, once people have made up their mind about someone or something, there was a tendency to discount any evidence that contradicted or threatened their pre-formed perception. Which was precisely what McGee and Ziva did, conveniently ignoring Tony’s eidetic memory he displayed daily with his vast recall of movies, including the minutest of details, for instance, obscure details about directors and film crews.
A classic example of how his teammates underestimated him was a recent case where Gibbs decided to play hero and make a hostage of himself with a teenager who took a classroom of his fellow students’ hostage and threatened to blow them up. After they’d determined that the boy was a victim and operating under duress, Tony had come up with a strategy to free everyone safely and catch the bombers without a shot being fired which he’d seen on a movie.
Yet the team ridiculed his accomplishment, failing to acknowledge that they had all seen the movie too. It never occurred to them to apply that same knowledge to resolve the hostage situation safely and elegantly. They’d disparaged him instead.
However, while ‘Director Shepard’ might rail at their inability to see beyond the mask, ‘Daughter Jenny’ was mightily thankful they were such boneheads who couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Their petty belittling kept him self-questioning, it prevented him from seeking out more challenging work and going in search of the professional respect that was due him.
She didn’t want him to be confident in his abilities and have the respect of his teammates. Jenny wanted to be his lifeline – his mentor. The only one who believed in him so that he would feel he owed her and only her, his loyalty. She needed him to jump when she told him too and not question how high, either. Essentially, she needed to become Gibbs. So, she deliberately gave him a woefully inadequate team full of personality flawed, inexperienced personnel.
She was confident that it would only be a short-term situation, since knowing Gibbs as she did, he would return once he got over his little tantrum and had his emotions back under control. She had complete confidence that Tony’s abilities as an investigator were such that he could carry the investigative load on his own for a few months – he was that good.
She deliberately ignored the fact that her machinations may let criminals get away or innocent people be falsely convicted. Of course, she conveniently avoided acknowledging to herself that she was actively placing impediments in DiNozzo’s way that could end up causing him physical and mental stress. He was resilient – he’d bounce back. He always did!
And even if he didn’t, collateral damage was a fact of life. Benoit had to pay for taking the life of such an extraordinary human being like her father Colonel Jasper Shepard.
Jenny was confident that she’d choreographed the perfect setting to carry out her undercover operation. It would ensure her father’s killer would pay for what he’d done.
That had been the plan and yet she’d watched completely bemused as it blew up in her face. Tony had demanded she appoint a suitably qualified senior field agent to the MCRT team, and his reaction caught her off totally guard. She never saw that coming.
“There is no way that McGee is ready to be senior field agent, Director.” So, he’d gone back to Director Shepard – that wasn’t good.
“He’s only had two years of experience on the MCRT as a field agent and one of those was as a probie. He’s still terribly green, which is hardly surprising. It isn’t a crime to be green, which is why there is a minimum requirement of five years before an agent is eligible for the extra responsibilities inherent in supervisory duties. It isn’t fair to McGee and it isn’t fair to the team for him to be expected to handle a job he clearly isn’t qualified to perform.” He argued decisively.
While Jenny agreed in principle, she needed an inexperienced team. Not just so DiNozzo was too damned busy to question the undercover mission with Rene Benoit but she needed for his team to be so divided and inexperienced that they wouldn’t figure out that he was working undercover.
As good an agent as DiNozzo was, leading the team and working undercover concurrently, without letting on what he was doing was a huge ask for anyone. She needed to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to stop her – she’d waited too long for this. An experienced senior field agent would notice his absences and ask questions.
“Gibbs has great faith in McGee, Tony. And he has the academic qualifications that are required.” She reasoned mildly, trying to get her plan back on track.
“I don’t care about the degrees he holds or what Gibbs thinks, Director. He isn’t here. McGee is too inexperienced for me to trust him to watch my back, let alone the team.” Tony looked pissed off with her and didn’t try to hide it – which was distinctly out of character.
Before she had a chance to reply Tony pressed home his point with conviction, “He wore squeaky shoes to that high school hostage scene which telegraphed not only his position to any perp who might have been concealed but also his partner’s position, too. If it had turned into a firefight, that mistake could have proved deadly. It was a real newbie mistake. SFAs can’t afford to make errors like that, Director.”
Jenny secretly agreed but McGee as Tony’s SAF was pivotal to her plan, so she shrugged like it wasn’t a concern. “It was an easy mistake to make, Tony but I’m sure he’s learnt a valuable lesson.”
Ignoring her protestation, he continued to lay out his damning case. “Plus, Special Agent McGee was unable to process the crime scene aboard the Bakir Kamir, last week (which I’ll admit was grisly) but come on, Director…we’re the MCRT. It’s what we do, we investigated the grisly crime scenes.” He glared at her and Jenny wondered what had happened. Where had the self-doubting desperate to please agent gone?
Shaking his head, he told her harshly, “A senior field agent cannot afford to be squeamish in front of the team – it’s seen as a sign of weakness. They need to demonstrate leadership for the junior members.”
Jenny was not expecting to have to justify assigning McGee as the senior field agent. This was not supposed to be how he reacted at all. The only thing she could do was to remind him that Jethro had chosen him for his team.
Tony didn’t even bother dignifying that with a response apart from him rolling his eyes before laying out his case with implacable logic. “He also failed to step up and show leadership when Ziva and Abby Sciuto started a physical fight over Gibbs. Instead, he panicked, running to me to deal with it. In the time I took to get there and deal with them they could have done serious harm to each other.”
Here Jenny felt like she was on firmer ground. “Abby was just upset but she would never hurt anyone.”
Tony stared at her with incredulity. “When it comes to Gibbs, pretty sure Abby would do anything for him and that includes hiding a body if he asked her too. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that she’d kill for him, if she thought someone was threatening him, Director. McGee should have stepped in, but he didn’t.”
“I know you’re aware that Gibbs and I (as his supervisors) have noted more than once in his performance evals, that he’s too easily intimidated by domineering women. He can’t say no to them and that is a bad thing.”
He leaned forward to emphasise his point. “Have you met Ziva David perchance, Director? She epitomises domineering female if ever there was one. All of which are factors that make him incapable of filling the role of senior field agent currently, even if he were to meet the other pre-requisites. Which. He. Doesn’t.
Tony watched Jenny who was avoiding making eye contact. Instead, she was pretending to read her computer screen, trying to figure out how to salvage the situation and change his mind. “He’s got a great deal of potential – he just needs some experience, she reasoned. “Gibbs held him in very high regard, she repeated, wondering why pointing out that Gibbs had faith in him to watch his six didn’t seem to be swaying DiNozzo at all – if anything, mentioning Gibbs seemed to make him more obdurate about McGee. It was supposed to have him falling into line.
“That’s not true, Director.” Tony disputed her statement. “After accidentally shooting the undercover cop last year, he froze when Gibbs took him to arrest the dirty cop. He didn’t have Gibbs’ six and nearly got them both killed because he is still too inexperienced. And let’s not even talk about what would happen in the field if I happen to get injured or killed and he needed to assume command if he was second in charge.
Tony stared at her reflectively. “You and I both know he needs more experience…and to grow some balls and a spine. Ziva will walk all over him.” Tony stated, trying to remain calm, even if he was becoming markedly angrier by the minute.
Jenny tried very hard to ignore the extremely cogent and well-measured arguments about why McGee was not ready to be appointed as SFA. He’d caught her completely off guard and Jenny didn’t like not feeling in control.
She was so pissed off. She fully intended to put a bomb up Ziva for creating a profile of Tony that was so far off target. How could Ziva and the various agency psychologists get it so very wrong? He was supposed to be so destroyed by Gibbs resignation that he’d accept any bone she offered him. Go along with whatever she wanted. He was supposed to be a yes man who followed orders unquestionably.
Time to give it one last shot on the softly, softly approach before pulling out the Ice Bitch persona. “Maybe you’re right, Tony. Although now that the promotion has been formally announced, McGee would be extremely embarrassed if it was retracted. It would damage his self-esteem, possibly irrevocably.” She stated, looking concerned and appealing to his well know empathy and his need to protect his teammates.
“Why don’t we make it conditional? Give him a trial for two months and if you still have reservations, we can review his position then.” She used her wheedling voice, giving him the doe-eyes look that men, including Jethro, had found hard to resist. Part of her despised having to resort to such measures but her father was more important than her dignity.
Hell – to keep her plans in place, she’d willing seduce DiNozzo. He’d be several dozen steps up from most of the men she’d been forced to sleep with. He was young, athletic and very easy on the eye and being an athlete probably had great stamina. Jenny could guarantee she’d succeed where Ziva failed, she had subtlety – Ziva was a sledgehammer.
“Director, in two months, we could all be dead, civilians could be injured or worse, all because an agent was asked to do a job, he wasn’t qualified to carry out. I’d rather he suffered a case of chronic embarrassment over the promotion being rescinded. I’d even settle for permanent damage to his self-esteem if that’s what it takes to prevent him or anyone getting hurt or worse.”
He shook his head at her illogical thinking. “Trust me…that would be far more damaging to him in the long run. It would destroy him.” DiNozzo responded stubbornly thinking about how badly he’d dealt with the wrongful shooting of the Metro PD cop.
When she didn’t agree he rose suddenly and headed for the door and Jenny felt a surge of fear and anger at losing control of the situation so badly.
“You haven’t been dismissed Special Agent DiNozzo,” Ice Bitch Jenny made an appearance. “We still have things to discuss.”
Tony stopped mid-flight. “On the contrary, Madam Director,” he drawled, using the hated moniker deliberately to piss her off and it was working. “I think we’re done. I’ve said all I have to say on the matter. I won’t work with people who I can’t trust to have my back. I don’t believe that McGee is ready to become my senior field agent and you refuse to listen to my recommendation. So, we’ve reached an impasse.
“I’ve already faced what happens when you hire someone without following proper procedure – Chip Sterling ring any bell?” He demanded, his voice dripping with pure sarcasm and Jenny couldn’t help recoiling in surprise.
“I was prepared to cut you some slack – one time, Director. You don’t get a second shot at hurting me or agents that I’m responsible for. You want to put a rookie without qualifications into a supervisory role, go for it. But if you are so damned misguided, you’ll ignore written Department of Defence policies to do it, then I also must question your professional judgement. And that includes making me the team lead, too.”
He stared at her intently and she thought he was probably trying to figure out what her end game was before he seemed to give up. He had no chance of figuring it out, of course. Shrugging, Tony’s face went blank as he slipped on one of his masks before he delivered his coup de grace.
“You’ll have my resignation on your desk before I leave tonight. I will, of course, finish up our investigation into this current robbery/murder. I’ll even provide four weeks’ notice to give you a chance to find my replacement, although I think that any senior supervisory agent you appoint will baulk at having a senior field agent who isn’t adequately qualified. Although, that won’t be my problem.”
After dropping that bombshell, he exited, leaving her in a state of utter shock and her meticulous planned and unsanctioned operation to catch La Grenouille lying in tatters around her feet.
By the time Tony reached the bullpen he’d resolved to use his standard coping mechanism – put his anger into a mental box and deal with later… or maybe never. The case came first – as always. There was a vicious killer to catch.
He noted that Ziva was yet to return from logging in the evidence downstairs. McGee was still carrying out the background checks on the victims and he contemplated whether to assist. Nope, after all, McGee was SFA now.
Instead, he decided to check to see if the robberies were confined to military residences or if the Norfolk PD or other PDs in the immediate vicinity had any home robberies with similar MOs on their books. When Ziva returned, he told her to go help, McGee. She was not happy!
Some hours later, Carrie tapped him on the shoulder. Looking up enquiringly, she smiled at him. “Got a minute, Tony?”
Smiling grimly, he responded, “For you Carrie, anytime. What’s up?”
Just a quick senior supervisory agent’s consultation in the break room,” She informed him tersely, glancing at Tim and Ziva with something akin to disdain.
Standing up, he struggled not to chuckle. Tony checked in on McGee and Ziva who were both working steadily, although he could see that Ziva was still pouting. She’d been shooting venomous looks at McGee since she returned to the bullpen. At least she was sharing the anger between the two of them now. Before the Probie’s promotion was announced, Tony bore the brunt of her ire, for her being overlooked, as she saw it.
Making his way into the breakroom he discovered Carrie, Ric and three other senior supervisor agents sitting around one of the lunch tables. Carrie shot him a look. “Close the door, please, Kiddo.”
Frowning, he did as she’d requested. Seating himself he stared at the others. “What’s up, guys?”
Balboa waggled his eyebrows at him curiously. “You. Tell. Us. What did the director say?”
Carrie gave him a stop beating around the bush look as she started listing points.
“About dumping a probie on you? Well, another probie.” She conceded wryly, shaking her head as the Ric scowled beside her.
Whoa… the perennially even-tempered Balboa was pissed off!
Carrie continued, “About promoting a junior agent who is unqualified to be appointed to a supervisory position for at least another three years?”
Balboa chimed in too. “Yeah, what about ignoring NCIS rules and regulations, specifically the prerequisites for someone to be appointed as a senior field agent? What about her loading up the MCRT with a god-damned bunch of rookies that don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, so that you’re the only experienced investigator on the team?”
Yep, Ric was definitely pissed!
Listening to Ric and Carrie articulate the same arguments he’d expressed futilely to the director, Tony felt his own anger beginning to stir. So, he tried to clamp down on it, because honestly, what was the point?
He shrugged. “She didn’t have a lot to say. Didn’t provide a rational explanation. Suggested that McGee be given a trial for a couple of months because he would be embarrassed if she rescinded the promotion now it’s been announced.”
Ignoring several snorts, Carrie asked. “What do you intend to do about it, Tony?”
“Already done it. Resigned. Gave her four weeks’ notice,” he stated woodenly. “Luckily, I’d already updated my resume and put out feelers when Gibbs pissed off, leaving me with that poignant, oh-so touchy feely tribute of his.”
Barry Dixon sipping on his coffee, choked over Tony’s snarky comment before catching his breath and re-joining laconically. “Ya might want to hold off on accepting any offers just yet, Tony.”
Rob Greenberg nodded. “Yeah. We had a joint senior supervisory and senior field agents’ meeting a short time after the announcement was posted. Passed a unanimous resolution to tender our resignations en masse, if McGee’s appointment goes ahead.”
Tony looked discomforted. “No… don’t do it guys. I don’t expect people to fight my battles for me. This is my fight, not your,” he protested.
Ric looked pissed. “How can you say that, Tony? Sure, it’s your team that is affected now but what happens when one of us has a vacancy on our team and Shepard wants to appoint someone else that isn’t ready or suitable, all because of some mysterious agenda of hers? If she gets away with creating a second rate MCRT with you as the only qualified agent, then what will she do to all the other teams?”
Taryn Lacey who had remained silent until now chimed in. “This is a matter of principle. If we let her set a precedent then we are all screwed, DiNozzo. That’s why it was a unanimous decision – no dissenters.”
Carrie nodded. “Director Shepard can’t afford to lose all her senior supervisory agents and her senior field agents in one fell swoop. She won’t be able to keep a mass resignation from the SECNAV if we resign. All we have to do is threaten to walk and she’ll fold, trust me.”
“What if she calls your bluff?” Tony asked, playing devil’s advocate.
“Then Jamie Phelps who worked on Assistant Director Leon Vance’s old team in San Diego will have a friendly chat with him and read him in on our situation.” Barry said firmly.
Taryn chuckled. “The word is that Leon’s in tight with SECNAV and he’s been cultivating connections by indulging in some serious political ass-kissing on the Hill to rival Director Shepard.” She smacked her lips together, to mimic kissing when she said ass-kissing and Tony couldn’t help smirking.
“Vance is far too ambitious to let such a massive FUBAR wreck the agency because it will ruin his chances too.” Ric countered calmly. “Believe me DiNozzo, we have you covered and the MCRT too.”
Realising that they weren’t going to budge, he gave them a tight grin. “I just hope this doesn’t come back to bite you all on the ass.”
Carrie patted him maternally. “It will be fine. Jenny Shepard is ambitious, and she can’t afford a crisis of the magnitude that losing all her supervisory staff in DC would entail.”
Rob nodded in his agreement. “Besides, I’d hazard a guess that if it came down to it, a good proportion of the juniors would follow suit too. NCIS is a small agency and it wouldn’t be able to cope with a mass exodus.
Carrie laughed sardonically. Jenn Shepard is one smart cookie. She knows that her job would never survive the scandal. Trust me, I’ve been around the block a few times.”
Balboa grinned cheekily. “True dat, Tony. Carries had more than one bite on her ass,” he quipped glibly.
Carrie eyed him calculatedly. “You’re just cranky, Ric because you’ll never get a chance to see it,” she said looking back at her derriere suggestively and Tony choked, wondering if he could erase some extremely disturbing mental images.
He might have been elevated to the ranks of team leader, but it still felt a bit like Mom and Dad talking about their sex life with their newly adult kid in the room.
Colonel Jasper Shepard had taught his only daughter the game of chess when she was a very little girl. As she sat in her office, which had also been her father’s office staring at the chessboard, she considered her very shitty day at NCIS. It had not gone as anticipated.
Tony had refused to roll over in supplication. He was supposed to be eager to reciprocate her loyalty and faith in him in, grateful for his promotion. Not only wasn’t he falling over himself to make her happy, but he was also acting obstructionist and stubborn. In fact, he ended up resigning. If their encounter had been a chess match, then she was in check!
And if that wasn’t bad enough, an envoy representing the entire complement of senior supervisory agents and senior field agents from the DC office had demanded a meeting. She figured that they were going to protest over DiNozzo’s resignation, and the director hoped she could use them to persuade the popular agent to stay.
She’d badly miscalculated and unfortunately, had lost his trust with her manipulation of the team for her own purposes. He’d also brought up the fact she’d placed a foreign operative on the team for her own obscure reasons. That and the appointment of McGee as SFA and Lee to his team was just too much to tolerate.
So, when she received the petition at the close of business, informing her that all her DC supervisory agents were ready and willing to resign in support of DiNozzo, she’d been caught well and truly off guard. Not only off guard but with no contingency plan to counter it, which in chess, was stupidly suicidal. Her father would have been so disappointed in her, although to be honest, she wasn’t sure that even if she’d manage to anticipate their threat of mass resignations, there would have been a counter-attack she could have planned.
The bitter truth was that she couldn’t afford to raise any suspicions – having all her supervisory staff resign was guaranteed to get her noticed and not in a good way. Their actions would make it virtually impossible to avenge her father’s murder and ruination of his reputation, which arguably for her father, was an even worse insult.
There was only one thing to do in order to carry off her plans with Rene Benoit. She had to shelve them again and focus on fixing the MCRT so that the rest of the supervisory agents would back down. And hopefully, then everything would return to normal. She had waited this long to avenge her father, she could wait a little longer but if she lost her job, all her years of planning would go up in smoke.
All her machinations to get into the top job would be for nothing and her master plan would be impossible to execute if SECNAV fired her for this debacle. There was no way for her to justify promoting an agent with two years’ experience to such a prestigious and crucial role as SFA of the premier team handling all the major crime investigations. Especially after Jenny had gone through his jacket after the mass revolt.
Should Philip Davenport examine it, he would see a rookie who was implicated in the wrongful death of a Metro PD detective, his questionable levels of fitness and his psych evals describing him as exhibiting passive-aggressive tendencies. Both his supervisory agents noting his difficulty in standing up to dominating types, particularly females, were red flags that Philip would zero in on and demand to know if she was out of her gourd. Especially since there were other much more qualified agents she could have – should have appointed instead of McGee.
So, it was imperative to fix what she had broken in her eagerness to progress her personal agenda. That meant Director Shepard needed to eat a large serving of crow, all thanks to the revenge-obsessed daughter’s misreading of the situation.
Director Shepard knew what she had to do. She needed to persuade Tony to withdraw his resignation because if he left the team when Jethro came crawling back (and he would), he would be furious and suspicious. She couldn’t afford Gibbs to be suspicious and sniffing around her private business – the man was a pit bull when you stirred him up. He latched on and refused to let go.
No, come tomorrow she was going to be eating a lot of humble pie along with the crow, which pissed her off because she hated to back down. However, she could wait a little bit longer to execute her grand plan which had been more than nine years in the making. She had no choice!
When Jenny got into the office in the morning, she had her personal assistant, Cynthia Somers, a woman who epitomised cool calm efficiency, schedule in a meeting with Tony. She included three of the senior SSAs and three senior SFAs in the meeting and arranged to hold it as soon as practical since they needed to get this settled ASAP. Something like this was impossible to keep quiet and besides, if she was going to break Gibbs’ Rule Six, she wanted to get it over and done with as fast as possible. As the DC office got underway for the day, leaks seemed to be springing all over the place with the threat of mass resignations, as several department heads, as well as regular agents, added their names to the list of people threatening to leave.
Director Shepard was glad she’d already decided to apologise. and was pragmatic about it. She. Was. Okay. With. It. No really, this was just what she had to do to make it through this mess.
Daughter Jenny was less accepting or forgiving, wanting revenge on DiNozzo for backing her into this corner. Yet she knew she couldn’t afford that luxury right now. Revenge for her father was way more important than her loss of face. But she could wait. One day she would make Tony pay.
First off, she needed to make sure that Rene Benoit rued the day he murdered Colonel Jasper Shepard. It had been her raison d’être for too many years, so there wasn’t a chance in Hell she’d endanger her plans just because she had to accept a humiliating loss of face. Considering all the ass kissing she’d done over the years, it was just another in a long list of indignities she had to endure.
“Thank you for making time for this meeting,” Jenny stated as she smiled her politicians smile at DiNozzo, Ric Balboa, Carrie Abbott and Taryn Lacey who were representing the senior supervisory agents. She turned and treating the senior field agents, Ray Dayton, Luisa Morales and Daniel Lim with the same smarmy insincere grin as well.
“After my consultation with Special Agent DiNozzo, I went home last night and reviewed the personnel files of everyone on the MCRT. I realised that there wasn’t enough field experience on the team, based upon the proposed appointment of a probationary agent, since apart from Special Agent DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva collectively had three years’ experience between them. So, therefore, I’ve decided that the MCRT requires another experienced agent to join the team rather than a probie.”
The representatives all glanced at each other speculatively and Balboa and Abbott smiled triumphantly. It pissed Jenn off that they thought they’d won, but she couldn’t afford to worry about their petty little victory – hers was a long- term war. The director did notice that Tony was eyeing her speculatively but his body language displayed distrust. Not good. It was going to be an uphill battle to gain back his trust. Damn it!
Sighing mentally, she got back on track.
“So, given that I’m going to appoint an experienced field agent to the team, clearly this agent should fill the position of senior field agent, not McGee. Tony, I went home and reread his file including his psych profile and I agree that he would have difficulty supervising Officer David. She wouldn’t respect him because while she doesn’t have much investigative experience either, she certainly has a lot of military and miscellaneous combat skills that he doesn’t have.
“So, I have instructed HR to forward a list of candidates in line for the senior field agent position and I will be reviewing them over the next 48 hours. I’ll naturally be seeking Special Agent DiNozzo’s opinion and input into who would be the best candidate to fit into the existing team,” Jenny flashed a flirty smile at Tony and did a hair flick – getting a flinty stare in return.
Turning to the group, she smiled her political smile that was as insincere as a used car salesman. “I trust that this will reassure everyone and resolve this small misunderstanding?” She asked, although it was more of a statement, daring them to contradict her as she sat at the head of the table pretending that she hadn’t just caved massively to her subordinates.
Balboa nodded seriously. “I think so, although we will have to go back and consult further with our other colleagues, Director.”
Jenny nodded – it was as good an outcome as she expected. “Of course. Please do so ASAP, Agent Balboa.”
She turned her attention to Tony. “And you Tony? Would you be willing to reconsider your resignation? NCIS can’t afford to lose two such highly qualified investigators as yourself and Gibbs. You ARE the MCRT and while I’m sure we can recover from losing one of you, we can’t if you both leave,” she buttered him up, knowing from his psych profile he craved validation from authority figures.
So, she was bitterly disappointed to see him regarding her with a decidedly distrustful expression. Damn, damn, damn it!
Speaking cautiously, he responded. “I might be willing to reconsider resigning, but it would totally depend upon who was appointed as SFA of the team. It would need to be someone who I trusted to have my back in the field, Director.”
Jenny had been hoping for more but clearly, he wasn’t going to rescind his resignation, not without knowing what he was committing too. She could understand that, but she’d been hoping he’d be more malleable.
Still, beggars can’t be choosers. At least she had a shot at getting out of this mess so that she lived to fight another day. If he was in the agency, her hopes of having him help her bring down La Grenouille remained intact.
She was about to end the meeting when Carrie Abbott coughed theatrically. “I may have a solution to the SFA position, Director.”
Shepard wasn’t sure whether to feel irritation or relief that the pushing female agent was helping to solve the impasse. “Go ahead, Carrie. What’s your solution?”
The veteran agent pulled a file out of her voluminous handbag and put in out onto the conference room table. “My senior field agent, Keshia Lincoln is an experienced agent. She’s been SFA for almost four years and the plan is that she’ll be applying for the vacancy as SSA when I retire. I suggest that Lincoln transfer over to become SFA on the major crime response team”
Carrie glanced around the room. “Lincoln is keen on getting experience in working high profile crimes. In addition, she would get a chance to work with Tony who has lots of expertise in different types of investigations due to his police background.”
Carrie noted that everyone was listening intently and smiled, happy her idea was being considered as a serious option.
“That leaves your team short a senior field agent, Carrie,” Rocky observed.
“And that’s the beauty of this plan,” she enthused. “Reese Jenkins, my junior agent could step up to SFA and would have 18 months to grow into the role before I retire. Then if and when Keisha takes over the team, he doesn’t have to deal with being the new SFA and she doesn’t have to train a new SFA or a probie.”
The other SSAs were all nodding in agreement.
“Maybe Michelle Lee could come onto my team since I still have Reese and Karen, so a probie will have much less impact on us than she would have on Tony’s team. It’s already extremely top heavy with two inexperienced investigators.”
Layne had another suggestion. “Or maybe Officer David could go to your team, Carrie and Tony could take Lee. Although she has a year of investigative experience, there are lots of things that a foreigner counterintelligence agent isn’t permitted to do, like questioning persons of interest and make arrests.”
“Not to mention gathering evidence and serving search warrants,” Balboa interspersed.
Taryn nodded. “True. Lee, even though she has no field experience will be well acquainted with NCIS rules and regs. By doing a sideways transfer, both teams will benefit from the arrangement since David can help train more agents in combat and martial arts skills.”
Balboa was nodding approval. “That’s pretty slick thinking, Taryn. Plus, it gives Tony time to settle in as the lead of the MCRT and a chance to look around for the right person to step into the senior field agent role in eighteen months if Lincoln gets promoted.”
Privately, Jenny was certain that Gibbs would return before then but obviously, she wasn’t going to share that with the minions. Thinking about it, the plan was actually a pretty good one; it was one she could spin to lessen her humiliation. With the except of Ziva, since she didn’t want to have to transfer her back to the MCRT when Jethro came back with his tail between his legs. She smiled at Carrie appreciatively.
“That could work with Agent Lincoln,” she conceded. “Tony? How do you feel about Lincoln as senior field agent? She picked up her jacket and read through it briefly. “She’s been an agent for nine years and a former MP in the Marines.” She passed the file over to him to read. “Look it over and give me your recommendation by close of business, today. If you’re not happy with her, then we can consider some other candidates.
He nodded briefly.
“As to the decision about swapping Michelle Lee and Ziva David, although it has some merit, I’m not sure that it is warranted. I’ll consider the situation carefully and make a decision before the end of today.” The truth was that she needed Ziva where she was to keep Jenn in the loop about what the MCRT (particularly Tony) was up to. There was no way she would transfer her over to Abbot’s team.
She and Ziva also needed to figure out where they went wrong with Tony so they could come up with a new way to gain control over him. How did they underestimate his reaction so badly? Something had to have changed since Ziva collected her Intel. on him.
Perhaps she should encourage Ziva to have another try at seducing him – aim for a softly, softly approach at first as friends. DiNozzo was critical to her plans to seduce Rene Benoit’s daughter.
Jenny looked at her watch. “I have a call in MTAC in ten minutes. How about we all reconvene back here at 1700 and report back on your decisions.”
She watched them leave her office, convinced she’d managed to cauterize the haemorrhaging of personnel that would have sounded the death knell on her career. And more importantly to her, her vendetta.
At 1800 Jenny called to let her housekeeper Noemi know she would be home soon. She was planning on celebrating her close call today. She’d directed the servant to open one of Jenn’s favourite bottles of wine so it could breathe, and she’d also organised a bootie call for later that night.
Sometimes she picked up a pretty but dumb college kid, a waiter or exotic dancer but when she needed to be discreet, she’d invite Ziva around. They’d take care of each other – like they’d done in the Middle East when they didn’t know who they could trust. While she wouldn’t have previously described herself as bi-sexual, Ziva had definitely made her question her perceptions.
With as much ass-kissing as she’d been forced to do in the last few years, she’d endured a lot of lovers who were anything but skilled or generous. While she preferred having a lover with a ripped male body, when she was feeling vulnerable or needing to surrender her control (on very rare occasions) she needed someone she trusted. Plus, Ziva was extremely skilled sexually – taught by the best courtesans and sex therapists that Mossad had. So, with her planned celebration tonight, Jenny should be feeling a lot more mellow by tomorrow and able to deal with the messy situation with McGee.
Thankfully, the whole box and dice contingent of DC supervisory agents had been mollified by her humiliating back down over appointing McGee as SFA of the MCRT. Even Tony had agreed that he would withdraw his resignation and stay on as the team leader with Keshia Lincoln as his SFA. Director Shepard had breathed a huge sigh of relief. She needed DiNozzo – needed him to keep the team running and solving cases obviously, but she also needed him in the agency with his undercover skills in order to keep her plans alive. She still had to make La Grenouille rue today he messed with Jasper Shepard – in the end, nothing else – no one else mattered.
She might be celebrating a victory at work, but she also knew she had her work cut out turning Tony into her lapdog instead of Gibbs’. He was wary of her – she could see it in his eyes. Her stupid lapse in hiring Charles Sterling and now her choice of an untrained and unqualified agent as SFA had damaged her credibility big time. She had to believe not irrevocably though. She simply couldn’t afford to have him offside.
Perhaps it was just as well that she was delaying her plan for a while. Her private investigator who was keeping an eye on Jeanne Benoit periodically, had reported that she and her fiancé had broken up recently when she found out he was sleeping with her best friend from college. Sending in someone to seduce her right now would have been extremely difficult, even Tony.
Perhaps what was needed at this time was a new best friend…a girlfriend who could provide a shoulder to cry on. Someone she could eat chocolate ice cream with, and equally, to trash talk men, together. Maybe she’d arrange for Ziva to makes friends with the reportedly heartsick doctor.
Yep, the last thing Jeanne would want right now would be DiNozzo drooling all over her. She’d talk to Ziva about it tonight.
Tony left the office at 2000 after sending the ‘kids’ home, telling them to come in fresh in the morning. They’d found a link, there was a series of robberies in Newport News, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Elizabeth City that matched the MO of the ones on the base. All in all, there had been seventeen home robberies that looked to be carried out by the same perps and Tony was waiting on the files and evidence to come in from the various PDs and Sheriff Depts.
Obviously, if these burglaries were connected, then NCIS would take point because of the homicide of Juliet Truscott. Murder exceeded burglaries hands down when it came to jurisdictional issues. While they waited for the additional evidence to come in, there wasn’t a lot they could do, so Tony had called it a night and sent everyone back home to sleep and eat.
Besides, he’d promised a good friend he’d call round tonight. He stopped off and picked up a tub chocolate-chip ice cream and some cookies and cream ice cream. Tony was learning that when it came to heal a broken heart, chocolate and ice cream were just what the doctor ordered. Of course, it also added at least an extra mile to his morning workouts too because while it might make you feel good, it sadly, also headed straight to his gut.
He would follow his normal routine (okay his new normal routine for the past 12 months or so) whenever he was going to socialise with people outside of work. It involved some security measures, including passing by numerous traffic cameras on the way home to his apartment so there was ample evidence he’d gone home. Once he’d established his presence by turning on his music or his television and switching on the lights, Tony would grab a shower, don casual clothing which would disguise his identity from any cameras and then head down to the basement where he kept his motorcycle in a parking spot, he rented from one of his neighbours. It was registered in one of his alias’ names, not his own, to conceal its existence and Tony would drive off to catch up with friends.
Some people might describe his behaviour as paranoid, distinctly odd or maybe both, but Tony had a damned good reason to go through such an elaborate ruse. Last year, someone had gone to inordinate lengths to set him up, so that he was charged with murder. Charles Sterling (or Chucky, as Tony liked to call him) had abused his position at NCIS, collecting evidence to help fake a crime scene. Although it was entirely circumstantial forensic evidence, if it didn’t convict Tony, at the very least it could have seen him fired from his job and barred from working in law enforcement.
Chaffing still at the ordeal of having every aspect of his home and his life minutely investigated to try to implicate him in a totally manufactured crime, Tony vowed that he would make a concerted effort never to be an easy target again. He was super vigilant about ensuring his alibis were easily verifiable, making sure he left a trail of breadcrumbs proving where he’d been.
The whole affair had made him realise just how vulnerable other people were who were close to him. People like Abby and Jimmy, neither one a trained law enforcement professional and therefore vulnerable. There were other friends or anyone he might be dating who would be at risk to anyone wanting to get back at him.
He’d pissed off his fair share of people in his career, sometimes without even being aware of it. Classic example being Charles ‘Chuck’ Sterling who’d blamed Tony for him getting fired in a Baltimore lab and yet, Tony had no idea of his existence. He conceded that hurting people he cared about would be the best form of revenge against him though. If anything happened to an innocent person, simply because he had been doing his job and going after a criminal, he would never forgive himself.
So, when he went out or socialised with people who weren’t colleagues or fellow law enforcement personnel, Tony felt obligated to ensure that he didn’t make it easy to lead his enemies to his friends or lovers (although there were far fewer of those than people would believe, particularly of late). Thus, the whole complicated rigmarole of hoodies, sunglasses, avoiding CCTV cameras if possible when he left home on his motorcycle and even using an alternate form of transport to his beloved Mustang.
Truthfully, no one at work, not even Gibbs knew about his bike. Of course, the helmet made a good disguise and with the bike being owned and registered in one of his alias’ name, it was difficult to track back to him.
It had become second nature to establish alibis every time he left work and similarly, to guard the people he was close to, and protect them from Chuck and those of his ilk who blamed him for doing his job and wanting to get even with him. Of course, it had become second nature to him but tonight, he was weary. All he wanted was to head straight over to Jeanne’s apartment, order Chinese takeout and forget about the annoying subterfuge of going home and switching modes of transport.
Then he remembered how Abby had been threatened by Chuck when she finally figured out Sterling was responsible for setting up Tony on a murder charge and how close he’d come to stabbing her. Fortunately, Abby had a few self- defence lessons to call upon (thanks to her unorthodox lifestyle and choice of dodgy clubbing venues), managing to overcome Chuck and leaving him trussed up like a roast turkey waiting to go in the oven. But it so easily could have been a very different outcome.
Chris Pacci had been a trained agent, a veteran federal agent and he still ended up eviscerated, dead in an elevator nonetheless. Tony was not about to let that happen to someone he cared about, just because they knew him.
Sighing resignedly, he forced himself to head home, following his complicated routine before proceeding to Jeanne’s place anonymously.
Parking his bike and keeping his helmet on, he made his way up to the apartment, glad to have someone to share a meal with and vent about work. It was still new, having a best friend to share stuff about his life that he normally dealt with on his own.
After a lifetime of basically looking after himself – even as a kid he practically brought himself up – he had someone who cared about what happened to him and he had someone to care about too. He wasn’t completely sure which one was better. It was weird (in a totally cool kind of way) having someone he could open-up to, who seemed to see beyond the artifice of his masks. A person who didn’t judge him for it; or tell him to grow up. Someone who didn’t expect him to change himself because she thought he was good enough as he was.
Tony had always thought when he was with Wendy that she accepted him unconditionally until she left him on the eve of their wedding. He felt like such a fool, he’d been duped into thinking that what they had was unconditional love which would last a lifetime but lately, he’d started to realise that you couldn’t recognise what you’d never known. How could he tell if it was real or not when he’d never experienced it? His only knowledge of that stuff was from watching cheesy television shows as a little kid.
Then one-day Detective John Carson joined the basketball team and DiNozzo’s whole life changed. Now he had a best friend who accepted him, warts and all. He fished around for the key he’d been given, making his way into the apartment and looked at the drunken figure of his friend on the sofa with dismay.
Cursing furiously, he figured it was going to be one of those nights. Tony put the ice cream into the freezer and started the coffee maker, making it strong – Gibbs’ double strength – because it was going to be a long night. When it was finished brewing, he poured a mug and took it into the living room. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
Sitting down beside her, he shook her gently. “C’ mon Jeanne, you need to drink this coffee and sober up.”
Finally, he managed to rouse the petite woman who moaned before opening her eyes. “Tony?”
“Yeah, Jeanne. I’m sorry I’m late.” He apologised, feeling guilty that she’d been waiting for him and drinking alone.
This last few months had been bad ones and he’d tried to be there for her. After all, he knew what it felt like to be dumped. Admittedly Jeanne’s ex-fiancé had cheated on her, sleeping with her best friend, Clare. At least Wendy had just dumped him. Still, he knew how painful it was to think you had your future all mapped out and then to get your heart broken into tiny pieces.
“C’ mon, Sweetie, drink this coffee.” He directed his best friend, taking in the red eyes and the dried tear tracks on her face.
Seems like he wasn’t the only one to have a crappy day today. Tony really thought that Jeanne was doing better, finally. It had been a rocky road, but things had seemed to be settling down. After encouraging her to drink the super strong coffee he’d made, he managed to persuade her into taking a shower and changing into fresh clothes. It was clear she’d come home and started drinking, not even changing out of her work clothes.
He grabbed some soft cotton PJs for her and left them in the bathroom while she was showering before coming out and making a call. He talked to Carly Marcano, one of the nurses Jeanne was friendly with at Munroe University Hospital where she worked as a resident. At least after a brief conversation with the young nurse, he figured out what had caused Jeanne’s emotional meltdown. They’d lost a young boy today who’d been in an MVA. He’d seemed to be doing okay but then he’d suffered an embolism and died. He was six years old and Tony knew how much his friend cared about people.
Some people became doctors because of the money or the prestige or because it was expected of them. Either because it was a generational occupation or because they had the grades and money to get into medical school. Although Jeanne’s mother was a doctor, she’d become a doctor because she wanted to help people.
It was one of the reasons why Tony admired her so much – since she felt a similar sense of duty to his own. They both wanted to help other people. Even though Jeanne had grown up as a privileged little princess who could have chosen to work in some shallow, materialistic occupation, she’d chosen medicine. Once she finished her training, she was talking about doing humanitarian work in third world countries.
Tony figured that losing that little boy had sent her mood spirally over the edge. No doubts she was second-guessing her actions and beating herself up professionally and it had probably led to her questioning herself on a more personal level. Tony knew all about that too. He and Jeanne had a lot more in common than having their heart’s broken!
While she was cleaning up in the bathroom, Tony looked at the beer still in her fridge since she’d been drinking cognac. Deciding to forgo alcohol, since he figured one of them should stay sober, he grabbed some iced tea from the refrigerator instead. He felt sad for his friend – losing kids sucked!
Still, he needed to eat – tomorrow was going to be a very long day. He’d have to deal with the rescinding of McGee’s appointment as SFA, plus the reassignment of Keshia to the team. It would be interesting to see how Ziva reacted to having another strong female on the MCRT, especially giving her orders. Something told him it wouldn’t go down well.
Tony knew that McGee was going to be disappointed, but he surely had to realise he wasn’t ready for such a huge responsibility after just two years as a field agent? Then there would be the jurisdictional nightmare of working with multiple police and sheriff’s departments. It was probably lucky that Gibbs has resigned, or World War III was likely to erupt, since he’d never had any patience for cops. Which made it strange that he’d recruited Tony.
He noticed Jeanne emerging from the bedroom, dressed in her soft cotton sleepwear, her hair towel- dried and looking pale but much more lucid. Coming around and sitting next to him on her sofa, she hugged him.
“Feel better, Ma Belle?” He asked her gently.
Jeanne nodded. “A bit, Tony. Thanks. And thanks for getting my favourite PJs for me. That was very thoughtful of you. How did you know?”
Tony chuckled. “Are you kidding?” he quipped, noting that she’d snuggled into him for comfort, so he slipped his arm around her automatically.
Jeanne had taught him a lot about snuggling and how awesome it was. Over the last couple of months, he’d gotten pretty good at being a safe shoulder for her to cry on. Of course, there were benefits too. It wasn’t all tears – they talked for hours about stuff, movies and books and yes, he did read books but that wasn’t something the clown prince of the MCRT could admit to. (Not that they’d believe him if he did).
He and Jeanne also had discussions on world politics, current events and even law enforcement and social welfare issues. Hanging around with cops after hours, plus her work at the hospital dealing with junkies and overdoses, sex workers and the homeless, domestic violence and victims of violence – they had a lot of common ground, professionally.
He smiled at her gently. “I haven’t sat through a heap of movie marathons with you in the last couple of months to not notice which ones are your favourite PJs, Jeanne. I’m a trained investigator after all.”
“My Papa gave them to me, Tony. I guess I feel safe when I’m wearing them.”
Tony hadn’t heard her speak of him before. The only thing he knew about him was he was a rich businessman living in France and that snippet came from John the Jerk, her former fiancé.
“Well, you’re welcome, Mademoiselle. You want some dinner?” he asked, deciding to stick to a safe topic since he wasn’t sure what her relationship was like with her father.
“Just some dessert,” she whispered seductively, shifting into his lap and wiggling provocatively as she kissed him in a manner that wasn’t platonic.
Tony sighed. He knew the signs since he done the exact same thing after Wendy left him. When he was feeling insecure, he’d go out and find someone for a one-night stand to reassure him that he wasn’t completely repugnant. He would go looking for some physical comfort and the feel-good sex hormones to chase away the awful emotional and mental pain and emptiness for a while. In fact, until recently he still did it whenever he was suffering from self-doubt.
Being around Jeanne and watching her deal with the betrayal and breakup of the love of her life was insightful. He got to see his own self-destructive actions through new eyes.
Deliberately misunderstanding Jeanne’s attempt to seduce him, he gently extricated himself and wandered out to the freezer and retrieved the chocolate chip ice cream and a spoon and placed it on the coffee table.
Crying, Jeanne demanded. “Am I so hideous? Is that why you aren’t attracted to me, Tony?”
“No, Bella, you’re beautiful and John is an idiot for cheating on you,” Tony reassured her quickly.
“Then why won’t you make love to me?” She demanded tearfully.
“I would be taking advantage of you, Jeanne. You’re feeling vulnerable and worthless because of what John did to you. But you’re too good for him.”
“But I need you. I need to feel desirable again.”
“I know you do but trust me, Babe. It is only a temporary fix and leaves you feeling even emptier after you’re done.”
She stared at him, angrily and he knew she didn’t believe him because right now, she just wanted that temporary fix – like a junkie. But Jeanne had, over the last few months become a good friend to Tony, a best friend. He cared about her and if there was one thing that he was, it was protective and loyal to the people he loved.
He remembered how he’d first met the gorgeous Dr Jeanne Benoit. At their Friday night basketball games, Tony noticed a beautiful woman arrive with a guy who screamed cop. Andy introduced him to Detective John Carson, and he’d introduced his companion as his fiancée, Dr Jeanne Benoit and Tony was right. Up close, she was a stunner with the most incredible eyes. (He reckoned that she’d have patients crushing on her constantly).
They won their game that night and it soon became the team joke that while John was just a fair-to-middling player, she was their lucky charm. John and Jeanne became fixtures on the team, and she became the team mascot/ cheer squad and chief medical officer, only missing games when she was rostered on at the hospital.
Everyone thought they were a terrific couple and treated Jeanne as a kid sister – even if most of them were half in love with her. No one could believe it when they broke up, but general consensus on the team was that Carson was a jerk and a real douchebag to cheat on her with Jeanne’s best friend.
The team really missed her when she’d stopped coming to the games. It also wasn’t surprising that John left the team too, since most of the team were cold if not artic to him once they found out he slept with Jeanne’s best friend. Sure, he was drunk at the time, but it didn’t excuse what he’d done.
Tony reminisced about the first time he’d got to experience Jeanne’s healing hands. He copped a foul from the massively built agent from the Homeland Security squad, the guy who’d been dogging on his ass, defending the goal. He ended up colliding with the goal post – (well his head did) and getting knocked out. When he regained consciousness, he found Jeanne gently manipulating his thumb back into its socket. Seems he’d landed on it as he went down and dislocated it, so Jeanne wanted to reduce it before he regained consciousness. Then she’d insisted on driving him to the hospital – her hospital and organising a CT scan because he’d lost consciousness.
He suffered a full-on panic attack when they’d injected him with the contrast dye medium, all courtesy of his new needle phobia that had developed after the plague. Jeanne talked him through it without making him feel like a stupid baby. Then when they’d wanted to keep him under observation for 24 hours and he’d tried to abscond from the ER in nothing but the hospital gown, she’d offered to watch him herself. Jeanne had bullied John into going to Tony’s apartment and they’d slept on the couch, watched movies and went in and did concussion checks every two hours to make sure he was fine.
Tony couldn’t believe that she’d done that for him, and it wasn’t as if she knew him well. She shrugged when he thanked her, saying she could see he was seriously conflicted about being in the hospital. He’d chuckled and explained about his sojourn in Bethesda for Pneumonic Plague and pneumonia that left him with a phobia to needles and severe panic attacks.
He’d totally lived to regret that moment of honesty with the beautiful young doctor because she turned into a real mother hen from that point on. If he so much as wheezed or coughed she was on his ass. If he copped a blow to the chest, she insisted on checking out his stupid lungs, telling him he needed to be alert about a possible pleural effusion. He hated people fussing over him, wasn’t used to it and didn’t know how to cope. Which was why he much preferred to slink off and lick his wounds in private.
Unfortunately, Jeanne had decided that she needed to watch his six, medically, and he ended up getting friendly with the couple. Until a couple of months ago when they broke up. Jeanne stopped coming to the matches and although all the guys agreed that John was a damned fool and a stupid bastard for throwing away the best thing in his life, the other cops still had to work with him. So, it was left up to Tony to tell John a few home truths about his behaviour because he wasn’t a cop, and if he might have punched the louse in the nose as he was leaving, well… he figured that Jeanne deserved that much, if not a lot more.
He’d had no qualms stopping off at Monroe University Hospital to see Jeanne and offer her his support and a shoulder to cry on. He felt empathy for what she was going through and wanted to help if he could. So, he’d been hanging out with her, watching movies together, even sappy rom-coms – a sign of true friendship as far as he was concerned and eating heaps of ice cream. Which meant he had to run an extra mile most days to stay in shape.
He also welcomed the excuse to hug Jeanne because he was a tactile person – ready to offer people who were in distress physical comfort if it was appropriate, of course but he shied away from being cuddled himself. As a child, his father made his feelings plain when his mother, granted it was on very infrequent occasions, was physically demonstrative towards her son, He would scold her for turning Tony into a weakling. Senior stated that DiNozzo men didn’t cuddle.
His former fiancée, Wendy Miller was only really fussed about demonstrations of affection if it eventually resulted in sex. Afterwards, she would sometime permit them to curl up together and Tony felt ashamed that he liked it so damned much. In some ways, it felt just as good as the sex…maybe better.
After the wedding was called off, he missed the physical closeness and touching. Probably one of the reasons why he went out looking for one-night stands was because he missed the physical contact with someone else. Well, that and he deliberately avoided getting into long term relationships. That way he wouldn’t get attached to anyone and have his heart broken if he got too close to them.
Five long years after breaking up with Wendy he was still actively avoiding commitment but fooling himself that short-term casual relationships were making him happy. When he thought about Jeanne (who he thought of as a really good friend) he knew that he didn’t want her to head down the same superficial, unfulfilling and lonely life he was living. So, he tried to be there – to give Jeanne a shoulder to cry on and hugs, so she didn’t try to sleep her way out of the depression and betrayal with the first guy to pay her any attention.
Tony hoped that with support, she’d find her self-esteem again. Then he hoped she would meet someone she could be with who deserved someone as kind and wonderful as she was.
He looked at his friend pensively. She was probably his best friend despite Abby previously claiming the role of his bestie. Yet increasingly over the years, Abs seemed intent in joining in with Cate, McGee and later Ziva in their personal and professional attacks on him which he sort of figured broke the bestie code of conduct. Little wonder then that Jeanne had replaced Abby in his heart and mind.
He wished more than anything that he could take away all Jeanne’s pain. Over the last few months, he’d found himself spending most of his free time keeping an eye on Jeanne. He was also becoming more estranged from the team, who he was starting to understand, wasn’t so much his loving family as he used to think.
Now looking sadly at the broken woman before him, who was trying to persuade him to have sex with her, he felt as if someone was holding up a mirror to himself and it wasn’t a pretty sight. He thought he was protecting himself from being hurt again but the truth was for the past five years, he’d been giving Wendy a huge amount of power over him. He’d been deliberately missing out on happiness, even if he hadn’t been with her since she’d left him right before their marriage. How pathetic was that?
Meanwhile, his friend became more distraught as he refused to take advantage of her for what he knew would only be a temporary fix. In fact, she became increasingly convinced she was unlovable and ugly until finally, he wussed out. Tony ended up lying to her and immediately hating himself for it.
It was a white lie to bolster her shattered self-esteem, so he told himself that he shouldn’t feel too guilty about it. He told her he was in love with someone so he couldn’t sleep with her and it worked like a charm. She stopped insisting that he make love to her, thankfully.
Just as he knew it would. He was glad it dissuaded her – because it made him feel uncomfortable seeing himself in her desperate behaviour. There was no way he could take advantage of her, as hot as she was. Still, it wasn’t a foolproof solution as Jeanne immediately proved by wanted to know all about her.
So, he was forced to lie…again, since he hadn’t been seeing anyone for ages. He hadn’t even been out on a real date since he started hanging out with Jeanne, but he wasn’t about to tell her that and make her feel guilty. Besides, much to his surprise, he found he hadn’t missed dating – he guessed being a good Samaritan was rewarding in its own way too. Perhaps by providing a shoulder to Jeanne, he was finding a way to heal his own betrayal. But he didn’t feel happy he was lying to her – even if he was quick on his feet.
“Tell me about her, Tony,” Jeanne whispered wistfully.
Wincing, because he really wasn’t good at all this emotional touchy-feely stuff, he wanted to kick himself. How did he get himself into this situation? Plus, he was feeling guilty that in order to not damage her self-esteem he’d ended up being a bone head and lying. What an idiot!
Against his better judgement, he started describing his mythical girlfriend.
“What do you want to know, Jeanne?”
“Is she beautiful?”
“Um… yeah, she’s gorgeous. She’s really strong, capable and smart too.”
“Is she kind? You deserve someone who will care about you, Tony. Most of the women you go out with are selfish and only interested in number one.”
Tony conceded that she was right, but he tended to deliberately choose shallow types since they usually were too in love with themselves to fall for him and thus expect a commitment from him which he couldn’t give it to them.
“Smiling guiltily, he nodded. “Oh yeah, Ma Chérie, she’s really kind and caring. She wants to help other people.” He assured her.
“I’m glad, it’s about time you found someone who was good enough for you” she nodded before wrapping herself around him and letting him hug her as she broke down in tears again. Finally, after she’d vented about losing the little boy, she fell asleep on his shoulder, exhausted and he’d carried her in and put her to bed. Jeanne had woken up briefly as he was making her comfortable, begging him to stay with her so he’d changed into the sweats he’d left at her place and slept on top of the covers, snuggled up next her.
When he woke up the next morning, he recalled the white lie he’d told to preserve her feelings when he refused to have sex. As he considered the fictional girlfriend he’d concocted, he reviewed all the qualities he’d described and realised with a start that he’d basically been describing Jeanne.
He wondered what that meant – he thought of her as his friend, a good friend and he cared about her – a lot. He wasn’t in love with her. Wait – was he?
No, he couldn’t be. Jeanne was too broken-hearted and fragile and apart from that, she was way too good for someone like him. He’d only end up breaking her heart.