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Prologue: The Blowup
“When I need you to tell me how to do my job or run a case, DiNozzo, I will let you know. It’s not your place, or your responsibility to tell me anything. Now get back to work, and see if you can manage to contribute something useful instead of sitting around sticking your nose in my business!”
Tony was standing in front of his boss’ desk staring at him in disbelief. Ever since the older man had come back from his latest injury, nothing the SFA did was good enough. Their relationship had been on a slow, steady decline ever since they brought Ziva back from Somalia all those years ago. Recently, though, it had become almost completely intolerable.
He had never been the type of agent, to just sit back and bite his tongue when he felt his boss was out of line. Sure, he’d taken plenty of insubordination from Ziva and McGee over the years. When he felt that they’d truly stepped over the line procedurally, he hadn’t kept his mouth shut. He may not have gotten any support for his complaints or had anyone listen to his reprimands, but he couldn’t control other’s reactions to his protests.
More often than not Gibbs either told him to suck it up or told someone to ignore him. When he truly was worried though that they’d crossed the line legally, he’d always at the very least told Gibbs. Quite often he had also put a bug in the ear of someone at JAG so that they could prepare for any legal difficulties.
Fortunately, for the most part, Probie had shaped up his act without Ziva there whispering gleeful insubordination in his ear. Bishop was a promising rookie who Tony felt had a huge upside. So, they weren’t the problems, and complaining to Gibbs now wasn’t an option given the issue was the Supervisory Special Agent himself.
This current situation with Gibbs though hadn’t even been one of those situations. There had been no previous arguments, and Tony had no issue with legally how the case was coming together. He’d simply suggested that possibly the man’s laser focus was too narrowed on one particular person, based on the new evidence that he’d found. Before he even had a chance to tell Gibbs what he’d found, though, he’d basically been told to sit down and shut up.
Just as he was about to turn and go back to his desk, he heard the Director call to him from the walkway above them. “Special Agent DiNozzo, if you could join me in my office, I would appreciate it.”
Looking up, Tony nodded to indicate that he understood, and moved to his desk to lock his computer before doing as asked. Before he even crossed the aisle, though, Gibbs was bellowing back at his boss. “Leon, I don’t need your interference. I can discipline my own team! We’re in the middle of a damned case, and we don’t have time to be pussyfooting around in your office.”
Tony froze and turned to look in disbelief at Gibbs. While the statement was true, as the man saw it anyway, he wasn’t sure calling your boss out in front of the whole floor was the way to go. Not to mention, since Vance was the ultimate boss just underneath SecNav herself, he could pretty much stick his nose in anything he would like. Slowly, he lifted his gaze to see him glaring angrily down at Gibbs’ desk.
“I don’t recall suggesting that your presence was either wanted or needed, Supervisory Special Agent Gibbs. Since you just basically informed the whole floor that you feel your SFA is pretty much worthless, I feel confident that you can do without him.”
Hurrying, Tony locked his computer as he had previously intended, and hurried around the divider to climb the stairs. He was not getting in the middle of this goat rope, especially when the Director didn’t seem to be done with his reprimand.
“And for the record, Gibbs, as the Director of this agency, I feel that it is the responsibility of every SFA working under me to voice any objections he or she may have with their direct supervisor when it comes to anything case related. That is as long as it is done in a respectful manner, of which I observed SFA DiNozzo attempting to do. The only person out of line at the moment that I can see is you. Check your email later. There will be a scheduled meeting with you and me tomorrow morning. Be sure you’re not late.”
Hoping that he didn’t look as wide-eyed as he felt, Tony took a quick peek down at his team. McGee was firmly focused on his monitor, and there was no way that wasn’t Abby that he was chatting with. Poor Bishop looked like she wanted the floor to swallow her, and Gibbs’ clenched jaw and murderous gaze suggested that it was going to be a very long rest of the day.
When Director Vance patted him on the shoulder and then moved around him to head to his office, glanced his way and then looked down over the bullpen one last time. He hoped that this meeting would make up for the shit storm that was gonna hit once he got back to his desk. Not for the first time since his boss’ return from being shot, he wondered if NCIS was really the place for him. He felt like he’d not only outgrown his team but his position.
He’d stayed this long because of a need for family that he felt that he was getting from this group of eclectic and sometimes dysfunctional people. He’d also stayed because of Gibbs himself. The early years of their relationship had planted the seeds for deep-rooted loyalty and affection for the man. Just because he didn’t always agree with him didn’t mean that he didn’t see the man as the closest thing to a real Father he had.
It was no secret that Senior was a craptastic Father, despite what Abby, Ziva, and Tim wanted to convince him of otherwise. Gibbs though had been someone that he’d quickly found he wanted to be like. He liked his morals and rules. He wanted to emulate his work ethic, and unwillingness to stop until the innocent got their justice. He wasn’t so crazy about the thought of long hours and endless nights spent in a basement building boats he was just going to destroy. However, convert that to movies in an entertainment room, and he could totally get on board.
Ever since Tony had returned from killing Daniel Budd though, there was no affection twinkling in his boss’ eyes when he struck out at him verbally. Now, there was just anger, resentment, and sometimes something else that he was afraid to name. The words were sharper and meaner, and there were no signs of silent apologies given later in the form of coffees or a nod and a shrug.
Until now, when shit hit the fan and Tony got hit in the face with the splatter, he had been able to convince himself at night that this too would pass. He was pretty sure though that tonight when he went home, it would be harder than ever to convince himself that was true. Especially when he looked his little boy in the eyes, and had to justify inside of his head how the treatment he was receiving was still ok.
Taking a deep breath, Tony turned away from the railing and followed Director Vance to his office. It was time to find out what the older man wanted, and how it would affect Tony’s life. One thing he knew from the years he’d spent under Vance, they weren’t just going to be shooting the shit. Something in his gut said that his whole life was about to change. He just hoped that it was for the better, and not another repeat of the agent afloat disaster.