Chapter Four: A Little Tough Love Goes A Long Way
Gibbs was finishing the dishes and talking to Tony, who was about to leave for work. He had only been able to get the bare bones of Balboa’s case, and he’d gotten a few ideas overnight that he was excited to check out once he got to work. Jethro was just finishing up the last coffee cup after Tony took the last swallow from his morning joe when the front door opened with a bang.
“Gibbs! Gibbs! Where are you? What the hell is this nonsense?”
Sighing, Gibbs hung his head for a moment, as his partner chuckled softly. Looking up, he saw his lover watching him obviously amused with one eyebrow arched. The night before the younger man bet him that they’d have an early morning visitor.
“There’s no way that McWhiney won’t run right to her to complain about how I manipulated you and destroyed his career. She’s gonna spend all night working herself up, and there’s no way that she won’t be here bright and early. I’ll be happy if we get to finish breakfast and our coffee before she storms in demanding justice.”
Gibbs was sure that the Goth would wait to talk to him in her lab at the Navy Yard, and as he hollered out to her that he was in the kitchen, Gibbs admitted to himself that he should have known better. Giving his life partner a half smile and a head tilt acknowledging he’d lost their bet, he leaned in and stole one last kiss before they started their workday.
“Gibbs! We need to talk, Mister. What… DiNozzo! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The Team Leader heard screeched and pulled his head back just in time to see Abby’s closed fist swinging toward Tony. Just in time, Gibbs reached out and caught it, holding on firmly as his partner and new co-Team Leader jerked backward. When Abby tried to pull her hand back starting to complain, Jethro silenced her with a glare and a sharply ordered, “shut it!”
Turning his head to Tony to see how his partner was mostly resigned to their current situation and was surprised that he didn’t see more hurt in his lover’s eyes. Gibbs thought that it painted a dire picture of the state of Tony and Abby’s friendship, and doubted that the woman even noticed. “Have a good day, Tony. Can you let Vance know that I got delayed this morning? I doubt it will matter since I’m the only one that will be there this morning. Give me a call if you or Balboa need something. No reason I can’t back you up if needed. McGee’s helping Fornell with something.”
“Got it, LJ,” Tony said, and Gibbs caught a sparkle of mischief in his eyes before another quick kiss was stolen. “Love you, Babe. I will let you know if I’ll be home for dinner, but don’t count on it.”
Then, Gibbs watched Tony back away to where his suit jacket was hanging and left the room without even acknowledging Abby’s presence. Turning his head toward the younger woman, Gibbs gave her another angry glare and held onto her wrist until he heard the front door shut. “I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing, Ms. Sciuto, but you are so far out of bounds, I doubt you even know where they are.”
When she opened her mouth to reply, once more he glared her into silence. “No! You intruded on where you weren’t invited or frankly, wanted. So, you can keep your yap shut until I give you permission to speak. In case you didn’t notice, I’m pretty damned unhappy with you. So, you can take yourself into the living room and sit your butt on the couch. When I’m ready to deal with you, I’ll be in.”
When Abby tried to give him a pout to get herself out of trouble, Gibbs just hardened his glare sending her off scurrying. Putting her out of his mind for the moment, Gibbs turned back to the sink and finished his chore washing the pan Tony had cooked the eggs in and then set about wiping off all the counters and the table. Once he’d wasted enough time and thought that his temper was settled, Jethro headed out into the living room. He really wanted to loom over her, but this wasn’t an interrogation, and as mad as he was at the moment he didn’t want to do something rash that would damage their relationship.
At the same time, his usual way of dealing with her wasn’t an option. Sitting beside her and cuddling her as she cried was not going to fix the mess that he’d created. While it was true that he did see her as a daughter, when Tony asked Gibbs if he would have let Kelly get away with some of the bullshit Jethro allowed Abby pull, Gibbs was forced to admit he wouldn’t have. While he adored his daughter, he would have tanned her butt if she pushed someone just because she was mad or didn’t like something they’d said. It was true that he wanted Abby to be able to defend herself if needed, he didn’t want violence to be used as a means of retribution when she was in one of her pouts.
Instead of sitting next to her on the couch, he moved to sit on the chair, which was at the opposite end from where she’d set down. When she went to move, he pointed a finger at her and threw another hard glare at her. “Tony said that McGee would run straight to you last night, and from your current temper tantrum, I can see that he was right.” Instead of continuing right away, Gibbs took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling for a moment letting his anger ebb away. He didn’t like it, but he knew that the situation with Abby was his fault. Tony had been following his lead for years, while in private trying to tell him that Gibbs was creating a monster. He hated it when Tony was right, and it happened more than Jethro’s ego liked.
“I’m sorry, Abs, I’ve created this mess, and I in some ways it wasn’t fair to you,” Gibbs started, and barely held back a sigh at the look of triumph on her face. It was obvious that she thought that once again she was going to get her way. It made him sad because it really emphasized how far she’d fallen from the woman that she’d once been. “Some changes are being made, and I’m afraid you’re not going to like them very much, but I think they’re for the best.”
“Gibbs!” Abby inserted but fell silent quickly when Gibbs narrowed his eyes at her.
“I’ve come to realize that you’ve fallen into some bad habits. It seems like some of the best parts of your personality have nearly vanished, and some of the lesser attractive traits have taken over. You seem to think that everything revolves around you. You demand answers to questions that are none of your business. You’re quick to lash out verbally and physically when you don’t get your way. Hitting people, Abigail, is never called for, and the next time I see you do it, I will personally make sure there are consequences. None of us owe you any kind of information on our lives, no matter what kind of business or personal relationship we have. That little stunt in the kitchen a bit ago is exactly what I’m talking about.”
When her eyes misted over, Gibbs hardened himself from giving in knowing how often she used them to her own gain. “Those crocodile tears are part of what I’m talking about and aren’t going to work with me anymore. I realize that I have contributed to how spoiled you’ve become, and that’s why I’m the one having this talk with you. So, what is going to happen is that there are going to be some barriers put up between you and the team. There will be no more personal visits to the lab, and no more caf-pow for results. Only Tony or I or the new SFA will come for test results, and you will only be welcomed in the bullpen for case related necessities. In addition to this, I am recommending to Vance that your lab is moved back to the required standards. It seems to me that you and McGee are feeding off each other negatively. I can’t control whom you talk to in your off time, but I can manage who you have access to at work.
“Personally, there will be a lock put on the front door, and the only people with keys will be myself and Tony. I love you like you were my own, Abby, but Tony is and will always be the most important thing in my life. I never imagined that I’d have a second chance at love after I lost Shannon and Kelly, but he gives me that. The fact that you’re scowling right now at that tells me that I’m making the right decisions. I think you need therapy. I never thought I’d recommend it, but I’m going myself. Tony knows my therapist and made arrangements for the partner in her office to see you. That way it’s someone we know that we can trust, but it will be completely separate from my own therapy. I think you’re still a good person at heart, Abs, but right now you’re not acting like it. In fact, some days it’s hard to see any of the good bits of you.”
The tears were freely flowing down the younger woman’s face, and Gibbs’ heart clenched at the sight. “I know this is hard for you. If you want the day off, Vance is willing to give it to you. Since it’s obvious that McGee came to see you, I don’t need to tell you about Ziva. You can clearly see and talk to who you want, but as someone who cares about you, I would recommend that you limit your exposure to her. She’s not good for herself right now let alone anyone else. I think you need to take a day or two and spend it with your nuns. I hope you’re honest with them and really listen to what they have to say to you. I love you, Abs, and I will miss you, but I don’t like the person you’ve become. I hope you take the opportunities presented to you to turn yourself back into a better person.”
Falling silent, Gibbs waited for Abby to speak, when instead she just stood up and ran out of the room, he let his head drop. The sound of the front door slamming made his shoulders tighten, but he reminded himself that his relationship with Tony was more important than anything.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Tim had been in a conference room with two of Fornell’s agents. One of them, Agent Jonathan McDonald, he was familiar with, but the other one, Agent Danny James, he didn’t know. Jonathan was Ron Sack’s partner for years before Sacks moved on. Because of that, Tim felt comfortable with filling him in on everything that was going on with the team when the other man asked. He mostly didn’t pay attention to Agent James but assumed that she’d go along with his view on Tony. Evidentially, that hadn’t been the case.
“For the love of God, will you shut the hell up, and take some damned responsibility for your own actions?” Agent James snapped, and Tim knew that his jaw dropped open from the shock. When he turned to Agent McDonald for support though, he was even more shocked to see the man smirking at her, but making no effort to stick up for him.
“In case you weren’t paying attention, Special Agent McGee, I am the Second in Command on this team, and let me be frank. Had you been on my team, your ass would have been written up a long time ago if you talked that way to me.”
Tim scoffed at her writing her words off as not understanding how Gibbs runs things. “You just don’t understand Gibbs. Don’t act like you’re better than me. If the FBI were so great, you wouldn’t need me here to solve your case.”
“Solve our case?” Danny snapped flopping back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest. “Are you kidding me? You haven’t found anything useful that we didn’t already have, and we didn’t ask you here. Gibbs called Fornell and asked for a favor to get you out of his hair for a few days. Everything you have come up with we already had and more. For a supposed computer genius, you’re not all that great. Let me give you a reality check.”
When the SIC leaned forward and rested her arms on the table, Tim forced himself not to flinch backward. “The Chain of Command shouldn’t be optional, and if your boss ever thought it was then, he’s a moron. You’re not any better than anyone else. This isn’t academia, and no one cares what your degrees are in. For that matter, you can find computer geniuses all over this country, and most of the ones here actively work at keeping their skills current either through classes or working with each other to learn the latest things. If you don’t qualify for a Senior position, then you don’t qualify. No one gives a shit about your ego or what you think you deserve.
“Ambition is great, but no one is going to hand you what you want. You actually need to work for it. People around here do talk about Special Agent DiNozzo, and I’ve yet to hear anything that isn’t positive outside of Sacks who is just generally sour grapes. You, on the other hand, I hear a bunch of bullshit about like you think the law doesn’t apply to you. Like for instance when you decide to hack into shit instead of taking the legal routes like getting warrants or requesting information. Fornell is about as computer illiterate as I hear Gibbs is, and when I explain to him why our computer tech can’t just “get” the information he gets it. Maybe you need to learn to use your balls and speak up when this guy demands information instead of folding like a bad cot.”
When the agent just snorted at him and leaned back again, Tim stayed frozen where he was not sure it was safe to move. “Frankly speaking, I think you’re a disgrace, and there is no way in hell I’d work for you, or that anyone in the FBI would want you. Agent DiNozzo though… Him they’d love to have. Including in a supervisory position. Now, I think it’s time you went back to NCIS. You’re not needed here.”
When he turned to look at McDonald the older man just rolled his eyes at him. “Don’t look at me to support you, McGee. I think you’re a moron. Sacks hated DiNozzo, but even he’d never support even a quarter of the bullshit you’ve been spewing. We don’t need you here, and my guess is NCIS doesn’t either. It sounds like you had an excellent opportunity, and let your head be swelled by someone with an agenda. Good job. Way to blow your shot. I doubt anyone outside of that team would want you right now. Scurry back to NCIS and beg DiNozzo for forgiveness. It sounds like he’s your last chance. Ironic, huh?”
An hour later, Gibbs looked up from the report that he was working on completing to see Tim standing in front of him looking more than a little uncertain. “Boss, can we talk?” Leaning back in his chair, Gibbs took off his reading glasses and looked at the younger man. Tilting his head to one side, he stood and lead the way to a conference room. Hopefully, this talk would go better than their last.