Warnings and story information can be found on the Master Post
“I feel like Ziva joining the MCRT is where everything went wrong for NCIS. I’m not willing to compound that mistake by going with her to Germany when we all know she has no plans to bring him back alive. I’m not repeating the Rivkin debacle.”
Ziva sneered at him from her spot next to Gibbs, but Tony, for the most part, ignored her. After Gibbs ordered him to go with her, Tony quickly refused, which led to a meeting with Gibbs, Ziva, and himself in Vance’s office. None of the other three were happy with him, but Tony didn’t care. He wasn’t going, and not just because Jack would kill him if he even thought about it.
“I don’t recall it being a request, Special Agent DiNozzo,” Vance growled from his seat behind his desk. Tony just barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. “The last time I checked, you are not the one who determines what operations you are assigned to. I am ordering you to go with Ziva to apprehend Bodnar.”
“And when she disobeys the order to bring him back to the US and simply kills him?” Tony asked, wishing that Gibbs would speak up and point out how insane this all was. After the last several years of being let down by his boss and one-time friend, Tony knew better than to expect that though. “Who is being held responsible when she just simply kills him?”
“The last time I checked you were my SFA, DiNozzo,” Gibbs growled, most likely upset that he couldn’t head slap him. Tony had deliberately chosen to stand away from Gibbs and Ziva for that very reason, though. “He doesn’t come back alive and that will be on you. Ziva will do what she’s told. Unlike you, she knows how to obey orders.”
Tony gaped at his boss not believing those words were actually coming out of his mouth. “Since when did Ziva learn how to obey orders that came from someone other than dear ol’ daddy? Even that was questionable, and now that he’s dead there’s no chance that she’s following anyone’s orders but her own. I repeat I am not going to Germany. I am sorry Eli is dead, but frankly, it’s his own fault. I get that you three are just ignoring the fact that he killed that man, but I’m not doing it. Had Ziva done what she was supposed to do, Eli would be in a cell right now, and Jackie would be alive.”
“I will kill you for speaking that way of my father!” Ziva shouted and tried to lunge at him but was caught by Gibbs just in time to stop her.
“I suggest that you keep my wife’s name out of your mouth, Special Agent DiNozzo,” Vance growled standing up and slapping his hands on the desk. “I am ordering you to go with Ziva to apprehend Bodnar, and if something happens to him, you’ll find yourself in a jail cell. Am I clear?”
“Oh, your position is crystal clear,” Tony shot back, and after tried to mentally pull himself back from the edge. It was obvious at that point that there was no way he was changing their minds. The most that he could hope for was to get out of the building and to Jack. He knew that his partner would call Morrow if he asked him to. While he wanted to go home and have a nice quiet evening with his partner bitching about his co-workers, Tony had a feeling that they’d be having company.
“For the record, I had a great deal of respect for your wife, Director,” Tony went on as he moved towards the door making it clear he was done with the conversation. “She was an incredibly classy lady, and something important, something that I think the world needed was lost that night. You and your children have been in my thoughts since I heard the news. No matter what happens from here, I regret that we had to lose her for it to happen.”
“What’s going to happen is that you’re going to be on the next flight I can find to Germany,” Vance growled, and Tony just tilted his head to one side without responding.
“Don’t go pulling any funny shit either, DiNozzo,” Gibbs ordered, as Tony opened the door, and took a moment to study the man he’d at one time had a great deal of respect for.
“You know me, Boss,” Tony said before walking out, and as he was passing by the secretary’s desk, he heard Gibbs speak and paused.
“I think we’re going to have a problem,” Gibbs warned, and Tony heard Ziva scoff.
“He is a backless goat,” she sneered, “he will do as you order and if he does not, he will pay. Nothing will get in my way.”
When Tony didn’t immediately hear a response, he headed off not wanting to get caught. Stopping briefly at his desk, Tony picked up a few items that he didn’t want to lose. If he had his way, this would be the last time that he was in the bullpen as an employee of NCIS.
“Tony? What’s going on?” McGee asked, and Tony’s head jerked up. He hadn’t been aware the other man was still in the building and had apparently been too far into his head to hear him walk up.
“Tell me, McGee, how far are you willing to go to sit at the cool kid’s table?” Tony asked zipping his bag closed and then after grabbing his duffle of spare clothes out of a filing cabinet drawer, stepped close enough to McGee so they could talk quietly without having to risk being overheard. “How many rules and laws are you willing to break to be included or to get that Director’s chair that you have your eye on? How many of your morals are you willing to set aside to climb the ladder?”
“I don’t,” Tim started, but he trailed off and didn’t finish.
Tony had no clue why he was taking this chance. He wasn’t sure he could truly trust McGee, but damnit the man was his Probie and there was something that made Tony sick to his stomach at the thought of not giving it one last chance. “Right now, McGee. Right this very second you make a choice. Them or me? You stay here and take their side and end up in Germany where Ziva will kill Bodnar, or you go with me. I will be straight up that I don’t know how much I can trust you. I have no clue where your head is at, but you choose right now. Them or me.”
“I,” Tim started and stopped. Tony was about to walk away, but Tim quickly grabbed his arm. When Tony looked back at McGee, there was a different glimmer in his eyes. “I called my girlfriend while you guys were up in Vance’s office. She works for the Department of Defense, and I haven’t told you guys about her yet because I think I really like her. She told me she’d kick my ass all over DC if I went to Germany. Delilah hates Ziva and practically spews venom anytime we talk about her. When Delilah found out what I was doing for her, she really let me have it. I… I don’t know what’s happening, but I choose you. I think… I think that I need to choose you, or I’ll lose her, and that’s something I just can’t risk.”
Tony took a few seconds to study Tim before nodding. “You stay on my six when we leave here. You turn your phone off so that it can’t be tracked. You keep your fucking mouth shut about what you’re going to hear with everyone but Delilah. That goes triple for Abby. I’m taking a chance here, Tim. If you stab me in the back, I will fucking burn your entire world.”
Tim nodded quickly, and Tony turned to continue his path to the stairs. He wasn’t taking the elevator because he wanted out of the building as quickly as possible. It was possible that no one in the Director’s office figured out that he wasn’t changing his mind, but he doubted it. Just as he headed into the stairwell, Tony looked up to the walkway one last time and wasn’t surprised to see Gibbs there watching him. The expression on his face was unreadable, and for once, Tony wasn’t going to take the time to figure it out. At least, not there.
Slamming the stairwell doorway open, Tony ran down the stairs, hoping McGee could keep up. They didn’t have time to waste. The clock was ticking, and Tony wasn’t sure that it was on their side.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Three months prior in Quantico, Va, Spencer Reid was sitting in the team’s conference room listening to Section Chief Erin Strauss trying to justify her splitting up of the BAU team. Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner was on a completely bogus suspension, at least as far as Spencer was concerned, after the events that led to Maeve’s death. Strauss had been trying to justify her suspension of Hotch and convince them how splitting up the team was better for everyone.
“And when Unit Chief Hotchner returns from his suspension we will assign him to a new unit. There’s an opening in Los Angeles that I feel he will be much better suited for. SSA Morgan, you will be leading the new BAU team that I will personally be forming. Congratulations on your promotion.”
“Not a chance in hell,” Derek drawled, and Spencer turned his head to study his best friend. “Ma’am,” Derek added almost snidely, and Spencer didn’t even try to contain his snort of amusement. At this point Strauss deserved none of his respect, and he wasn’t going to even pretend that she did. Every day was a struggle, and he hadn’t even bothered to pretend he wanted to be there. All Spencer could think of was that Maeve was dead, and he felt like he was drowning in his guilt.
“Excuse me?” Strauss snapped, immediately dropping her pleasant tone as it took on a much sharper edge. “I suggest you watch your tone with me, SSA Morgan, or you’ll find yourself suspended alongside your Unit Chief rather than promoted. Now, I understand that these changes…”
“With all due respect ma’am, you can take your promotion and shove it,” Derek shot back interrupting her, and this time it was Alex and JJ who let loose their sounds of amusement. “If you think that there’s a chance on God’s green earth that I’m taking some kind of blood promotion, benefiting from a bullshit suspension after Maeve’s death, you’re insane.”
“Unit Chief Hotchner failed to follow protocol and turn the case over to the local authorities when it was determined Ms. Donovan’s circumstances,” she tried again, but once more Derek cut her off. For once, Spencer didn’t even try to save his friend from his temper, because this time Spencer wholeheartedly agreed with him. Taking out his phone, Spencer sent a text message quickly, as he could already see where this whole debacle was going.
“I don’t give a hairy rat’s ass what you suggest,” Derek said standing, and when Garcia let out a distressed squeak, Derek flashed her a comforting smile before continuing.
“If you think that there’s any chance, I am ever working underneath you again you have lost your ever-loving mind. You have got to be the ineptest and most emotionally compromised Section Chief I’ve had the misfortune of working under since I started working with the FBI. Your hatred for Hotch is known by every person in this building, and the fact that you’re using Spencer’s grief and Hotch’s guilt to tear up this team is disgusting.
“I’m not taking your promotion. I’m also not standing around here while you demolish Hotch’s team when he isn’t here to defend himself. I have other options, even if it means leaving the FBI completely. You’ve been trying to take Hotch down a peg or two for years but couldn’t do it because frankly everyone including your own bosses like and respect him more than they do you.”
Spencer thought Strauss was going to have a stroke right there at the conference room table. He couldn’t help but think that maybe it would be best for everyone if she did. Heavens knows that Derek wasn’t the only one done with her after this. The timing of her attack was the last thing that Spencer needed to deal with at the moment and losing the team on top of Maeve made him want to just crawl into a hole and not ever come out. Hearing Derek continue his rant pulled Reid out of his head.
“I’ve seen a lot of sick people during my time on this team, but you may just be one of the worst. We all know that on top of his guilt, Aaron’s struggling with the similarities between Maeve’s death and how Haley died. Like a freaking vulture, you’ve seen that Hotch was down and swooped in to scavenge the carcass. Spencer lost the woman that he was in love with to a woman who had made Maeve’s life hell. Now, you’re going to take away the only family structure that either Aaron or Spencer have left? I always knew you were a bitch, but I didn’t know that you were one of those slimy, stab people in the back types.”
Shoving his chair back, Derek stalked toward the door, and Spencer watched quickly going over his plan of action one last time to ensure that it was the way he wanted to go. Then, deciding it was, he turned his attention to the rest of the room.
Rossi would be fine, and from the expression on his face, the little love affair that had been brewing between himself and Strauss was going to come to a fiery end. Garcia had another boss besides Hotch who adored her and would fight to the death for her. While mostly she just dealt with the BAU Unit Chief, she did have someone else that she reported to. Williams was a good man and there was no way that he’d let Strauss screw Garcia over.
He felt a pang of regret at leaving JJ behind. After Derek, she was his next best friend, but the higher ups loved her, and like Garcia, he knew she’d land on her feet. Besides that, Rossi would look after her, and there was a chance that she’d get to stay right where she was at. JJ was relatively unthreatening to someone like Strauss.
Alex was a 50/50 situation. With the way things with her husband were going, there was a good chance that she would also leave the FBI altogether. Either way, she didn’t need his protection. There was very little chance that Strauss would mess with her again. Their previous entanglement was already too well known.
Spencer hated the idea that Derek was giving up his job because it felt like it was his fault. Reid knew his best friend well enough though to be aware that there would be no talking Morgan down. Maybe once Spencer was back on his feet, there would be a place for his friend wherever he ended up.
Having made up his mind, Spencer turned his attention back to Strauss who was bitching about something. Whatever it was had pissed Alex off enough that she was arguing back with her. From the slight slur in the Section Chief’s voice, it was easy to tell that she’d started nipping early in the day, again. Spencer was sure that her drinking problem was a contributing factor to whatever was going on. While he sympathized though, she had crossed a line with him that couldn’t be backed away from. So, allowing himself to feel his own anger, finally, Spencer stood and looped the strap of his bag over his head in preparation to leave.
“I did not excuse you, Special Agent Reid,” Strauss snapped, and Spencer just snorted.
“Frankly, Scarlet, I don’t give a damn,” he shot back as his anger surged through his blood like fire. Hearing the responding sounds of surprise from the rest of the room, he almost eye rolled at them, but was too busy letting himself be angry.
It always amused Spencer how even the people in his day to day life didn’t understand him. While it was true that Spencer sucked at interpreting social queues, didn’t always get pop references, and could care less about gossip therefore leaving him often in the dark about what was going on with the people around him, he wasn’t an emotionless robot. He had emotions. He wasn’t some unfeeling sociopath. He just more often than not locked his feelings away because he knew from firsthand experience how distracting they could be.
Being born to a mother who suffered from schizophrenia, he’d learned two things very early on in life. The first thing being how to read someone. His early day to day survival, even before his father deserted them, depended on him being able to read how his mother was feeling from one moment to the next. The second was that his own emotions could either get him comforted or put him in terrible danger, and one never knew which it would be because it all depended on what was going on in his mother’s head.
Because of that, he’d learned to lockdown his own emotions and feelings so that they couldn’t distract him from whatever he was trying to accomplish at that moment or disrupt whatever situation that he was in at that time. The result was that people often misunderstood his lack of reaction and just assumed that he only felt things in the most extreme of times, except Hotch and sometimes Derek. His mentor and his friend were the two people best at seeing what he was trying to hide from the world, which was why he held them in such high regard. It was also why he was about to scorch the FBI landscape for one and take the other with him to his next destination in his life’s journey.
“I have had just about enough,” Strauss snapped slamming her hands down on the table, and Spencer just let his lips spread into a smirk that drew another surprised meep from Garcia.
“You’re slurring, ma’am,” Spencer interrupted snidely and was pleased to see the way the woman paled and sat back down heavily in her chair.
“You can’t fool another addict, Section Chief Strauss,” he continued as he stepped away from the table and moved toward the doorway. Before walking through it though for what might be the last time, Spencer stopped and looked back at her.
“You know, one of the things that Jason Gideon taught me while he was here that I have held onto was a lesson on making enemies. He told me that I should be careful what enemies I made and where I made them because sometimes the unsubs that we locked up were much less dangerous than the enemies I could make in my professional life. Therefore, before I burned a bridge, I should make sure that it was what I absolutely wanted to do.
“Jason may have hated playing politics, and more often than not ignored the whole thing leaving that game to people like Rossi, it didn’t mean that he was unaware of them or incapable of playing them. In this moment, I know a few things with absolute certainty. I know that you are an alcoholic who has made her last and worst misstep allowing your drunken paranoia to harm a man I think of as family while the woman I loved is dead and Hotch is fighting the memories of his wife’s murder. I know that I am the smartest person that you will ever meet, because most people smarter than me work for organizations you will never get the security clearance to even dream about let alone know that they exist.
“I know that not even your budding relationship with Rossi and the power and influence he holds will save you from this bullshit. I know that last one because of the final thing that I am absolutely confident of. I know that I hold cards of influence with someone who, without any doubt in my mind, will believe everything that I am about to go and tell him. So, know this. I have not even a single fear or concern over the bridge that I am about to burn between you and me. And, not only am I gonna burn it, I’m gonna torch that bitch and everything around it.”
“Holy shit,” JJ breathed loud enough that he could hear her in the otherwise silent room. “Go Spencer!”
Flashing her a sad smile, Spencer quickly looked back to Strauss, “I’d tell you to have a good day, but I know for a fact that it’s about to be the worst day of your life. I’m not even a little bit sorry about that.” Then, after looking around the room and offering smiles to his friends, and receiving nods of understanding from all, including Rossi, which he appreciated, Spencer walked out of the BAU conference room and onto whatever journey life was bringing his way. He only hoped that it would finally be the place where he could stay.