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Valedictory

Chapter Text

Tony spent over 10 years building his life within NCIS. It takes him less than 90 minutes to raze it to the ground.

The Military at Home bombing had been prevented the night before. The team was given 72 hours downtime as a reward for thwarting the home-grown terrorists.

Tony ignores the order to stand down and arrives just before 7am the next morning to do what needs to be done.

He highlights the appropriate portions of the recordings from the car for IA and sends off an official complaint regarding being left in the field without backup by his partners and junior agents.

He also includes dozens and dozens of reports he’d filed, signed by Gibbs, highlighting sections where he made note of incidents Ziva and McGee were insubordinate and/or broke protocol in the field. One or two of these incidents alone could be seen as a fluke. But several years worth of reports highlighting the issues, with nothing being done, and culminating in leaving a senior field agent without backup while he was interacting with suspected terrorists that had already killed at least three people; that is damning as hell.

He lays out his concerns about Ziva’s system access including the logs he’d made when he ran the team of her accessing intel on overseas operations that had nothing to do with their cases. He includes the emails from Vance and Legal telling him to mind his own business when he’d brought this potential security breach to their attention. He also documents everything he knows and suspects about Ziva’s involvement in Kate’s murder, her covering for Rivkin, and his being dragged to Israel to be interrogated by a foreign agency without protection or counsel. He includes everything he knows about Jenny’s relationship with Ziva and Vance’s relationship with Eli David.

He sends the entire package off to IA, the Office of Special Counsel, and SecNav. He cc’s Gibbs and Vance so they will know the storm is coming. Finally, he makes a copy to a thumb drive and drops it in an envelope addressed to Dana Priest at the Washington Post. With her years of reporting on intelligence and counterterrorism, he knows she’s use it thoughtfully and will get confirmation from other sources before going to press with anything. Most importantly, she won’t let SecNav or anyone else sweep it all under the rug.

He emails Jimmy Palmer the information for his lawyer, Ellenor Frutt, who has agreed to sue McGee for defamation, pro-bono, should Jimmy want to do more than just complain about McGee portraying Jimmy as a necrophiliac in the Gemcity novels. Considering the potentially career crippling effect that could have on Jimmy should people take it at face value, Tony really hopes Jimmy gives Ellenor a call.

That done, Tony heads down to the basement. He drops off letters for Abby, Jimmy, and Ducky that basically say thanks for being awesome; sorry I had to bail.

Finally he returns to the bullpen dropping his letter of resignation, his badge, his ID card, and his weapon on Gibbs’ desk. He should feel bad about blindsiding Gibbs like this. But he’s just too worn out to care. At some point the demeaning comments, head slaps, and tacit approval of Ziva and McGee’s outright disrespect had broken the trust and friendship between him and Gibbs. He hadn’t even noticed when it actually broke. But he knew it was well and truly gone when McGee and Ziva laughed about leaving Tony without backup and Tony’s first thought was “How can I do this job without backup?” rather than “Gibbs is so going to fire both of you.”

Because he realized Gibbs wouldn’t fire them. Gibbs would yell a bit. Then Gibbs would blame Tony for not “earning their respect” or some other complete BS.

Tony was a cop and has been an agent for a long time. He’s always been willing to lay down his life to protect others. But he isn’t willing to do that while also having to look over his shoulder because he can no longer rely on his partners to have his back. That is a sure way to end up bleeding out on the pavement somewhere.

Tony knows this is the end of his career. Ratting on his fellow agents, even in a case this egregious, means that no other law enforcement agency will take him. He didn’t hold the line and that’s a liability.

They will most likely pull his security clearance. So that will stop him from getting work at any of
the private contractors in DC or with any of the fixers. Heck, he doesn’t even really like DC.

He has some money socked away from the trust his mom left him. He’s been max funding his Thrift Savings Plan. He has resources to take a little time to decide where to go and what to do next.

Tony packs the few items he wants to keep from his desk into his go bag. He slings it over his shoulder and heads down the stairs.

Gibbs hears the stairwell door close just as he steps off the elevator and heads to his desk.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Tony stops at his favorite little bistro for breakfast. A cappuccino with a buttery croissant and a side of bacon have him feeling a little less numb. Of course that means the dread is settling in now.

He did it. There’s no going back. He can’t say he’s sorry about it, because it was necessary. Ziva and Tim were a danger to any agent in the field with them. But the cost won’t be just their careers. It was his too, and it will probably be Vance’s and Gibbs’ before everything's said and done.

The waitress drops by with his check. Her phone number is scrawled along the side. He offers a flirtatious smile, folds the receipt and puts it in his wallet as he takes out the cash for his meal and the tip. She’s refilling another patron’s coffee by the time he gets to the door; he winks at her and heads out into the mid morning sunshine. Time to figure out what comes next.

Chapter Text

Tony pulls into the parking garage under his apartment building to find Gibbs car sitting in the visitor space. “Damn it.” He expected a confrontation, but he didn’t think it would come so early.

As Tony pulls into his space, Gibbs barrels out of his own car and stomps over. Tony opens his door, steps out of the car, and Gibbs pushes into his space. “What the hell is this, DiNozzo?” Gibbs shouts, slapping Tony’s resignation letter against Tony’s chest.

Tony stands completely still, looks down at Gibbs hand shoved against his chest, then back at Gibbs face, and back down to Gibbs hand.

Gibbs makes a frustrated growl and pulls his hand away letting the letter fall to the pavement. After Gibbs takes a step back, Tony calmly opens the back door to his car, takes out his go bag, shuts the door and locks the car.

“Well?” Gibbs says “I’m waiting for an explanation, DiNozzo!”

“The letter was very clear, Gibbs.” Tony responds and turns to walk towards the elevator. “I’ve resigned from NCIS effective immediately.”

“Yeah, I read the letter, DiNozzo.” Gibbs says following Tony to the elevator. “What I don’t understand is what you’re playing at. Ziva and McGee act out in the field so you decide to take your ball and bat and go home?”

Tony pivots around so quickly that Gibbs almost runs into him. “Acting out? You call them leaving me without back up while I’m looking for terrorists who had already killed 3 people, acting out? This is why I’ve left Gibbs. If any other agent had left their partner without backup, you’d be the first person baying for that agent’s blood. You’d quote a few of your rules and expect the agent to be tossed out. You’d fight to have them thrown in a deep dark hole. But when it’s Ziva and McGee leaving me without backup, it’s just ‘acting out.’ I was your partner for 10 years and your SFA for 6. Why is my safety in the field not a priority for you, Gibbs?”

“Oh, come off it. Poor Tony. Ziva and McGee were mean to you.” Gibbs says in a mocking tone, then continues, “Most of the time you are a damn fine agent. You can handle yourself in the field. And if you can’t handle a little razzing from Ziva and McGee then maybe you’re too sensitive to be SFA.”

“It doesn’t matter how fine an agent I am. I’m not bulletproof. No one is.” Tony realizes his voice is raised so he takes and deep breath and continues at a more conversational level. “That’s why we have partners to watch our back. That’s why regulations insist on agents not working alone. This wasn’t some mean spirited prank. They turned off the sound and sat there for hours, reading, while I was knocking on doors hoping to root out a terrorist network. Even if I didn’t come across a terrorist, we don’t let our canvassing teams knock on doors alone because there is alway the risk of stumbling across the wrong person at the wrong time: interrupting a drug deal, riling a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks the CIA is trying to murder them, knocking on the door of someone with outstanding warrants who’s decided they are not going back to jail, etc… You know this. Stop being so willfully blind. Why the hell have you been so willing to protect Ziva and McGee’s bad behavior while tossing me to the wolves?”

Gibbs clenches his teeth and says “That still doesn’t explain resigning. If Ziva and McGee need to be slapped down, I’ll take care of it.” Gibbs points at the resignation letter on the ground. “There is no reason for that!”

Tony feels his frustration and anger climb. “You haven’t handled it for the past 6 years. You have slapped my head plenty of times, but you’ve never once made any effort to reign in Ziva and McGee. You’ve signed off on report after report where I’ve outlined their insubordination and refusal to follow procedures. And you’ve done nothing to address it. You’ve never made it clear that I’m their SFA in actuality, rather than just in name. Instead you’re determined to make us compete with each other for scraps of your approval, making us competitors instead of a team. It made Ziva and McGee so comfortable about leaving me twisting in the wind that they laughed about it to my face. They didn’t even try to cover their tracks. They left the microphone in the car recording and turned the tapes into Abby where they discussed how much they hate me and the conversation they had when decided to turn off the sound of the receiver in the car.”

“You should have brought this to me and trusted me to take care of it! I chose you over Ziva in Israel. Of course I would have held Ziva and McGee’s feet to the fire over this.” Gibbs says with his jaw jutting forward and an angry expression on his face.

“Really?” Tony asks “So you filed for Ziva’s and McGee’s dismissal before you drove out here to see me?”

“Of course not. I”m going to put both of them on dumpster duty for the next three crime scenes. Then I’ll make McGee go a few rounds with me in the gym to knock some sense into him. And I’ll put Ziva on filing duty for a month because she hates it. That will remind them why they have to follow my rules in the field.” Gibbs responds.

“Filing duty” Tony echoes hollowly. Tony’s stomach drops. He hadn’t even realized that he’d been nurturing a small bit of hope that Gibbs would do right by him in the end. But that little bit of hope dies with Gibbs’s version of “handling” things.

“You should go back to the office and read your email, Gibbs. You’re about to be far too busy to miss me. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. Ziva and McGee are a threat to any agent in the field and they have to be held accountable. IA is probably trying to reach you.”

“IA? You turned rat on us, DiNozzo?” Gibbs says with disgust.

“I did what I had to in order to protect any agent in NCIS that might find themselves in the field with Ziva and McGee. Have a nice life Gibbs. Don’t feel you have to keep in touch.” Tony says turning on his heel and heading towards the elevator. He hears Gibbs stomp back to his car and peel out of the parking lot while waiting for the elevator to come.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Tony makes it to his apartments and pulls out his cell phone. 17 missed calls and 4 messages. He’s glad he decided to turn it on silent before breakfast. Tony’s finger hesitates over the voicemail icon. It can wait, he decides.

He changes into shorts and a t-shirt,slides his spare key onto his shoelace, pulls up his favorite guilty pleasure songs playlist, and heads out the door for a nice long run.

He struggles for the first mile. His legs feel like they’re encased in concrete. He can’t find the right rhythm for his breath. His mind keeps replaying the conversation with Gibbs. What he said, what Gibbs said, what he should have said… Finally somewhere in mile two things click together. His stride lengthens a bit, his breathing falls into rhythm with his steps: in, two, three; out, two, three, four, his mind stops churning and it’s just the music in his ears, the sun warming his back, the thud, thud, thud, of his feet on the jogging path. Tony finishes eight miles just before he hits his block. He slows to a walk. When he reaches the bike rack of his apartment, he uses it to stretch.

Running always makes him feel better. It’s a coping mechanism he learned in that military academy Sr. shipped him off to at twelve. Tony smiles as “Eye of the Tiger” starts playing as he rides the elevator to his floor.

Tony takes a long hot shower. Indulging in having no where he has to be this very second; no case demanding his attention, no reports to file, no reports to re-write because Ziva can’t be bothered to stick to English in hers and McGee feels that the only things needed in his reports are highlights of computer searches that helped lead them to the killer. Tony snorts and thinks “That’s where all that Gemcity stuff came from. If you read McGee’s reports as he writes them, you’d think the rest of us just sit around all day waiting for McGee to solve the case.”

Tony rinses the conditioner out of his hair, he cares about touchability and shine so what, and he decides to spend the afternoon making up a big pot of beef stew and some crusty rolls.

He can freeze some one serving containers of it to heat up when he doesn’t feel like cooking. And some of it he’ll take down the hall to Martha. Martha is a fit and vibrant woman of 82 who flirts with Tony in an outrageous manner anytime the cross paths. It used to make her husband, Joe, laugh himself sick and say “Martha, you’re scaring the young man. Besides, you’d break him in two if he ever took you up on the offer.” Martha would make a big show of pouting and say “You’re right dear. Poor boy. I guess I’ll just have to go home with you again Joe.”
Sadly, Joe came down with pneumonia eight months ago and passed away after two days in the hospital. Since then Tony tries to bring over a meal at least once a week and flirt with Martha to make her smile. Martha’s grandson had tried to convince her to move out to Arizona to stay with his family. But Martha refused. She told Tony that she loves her great-grandchildren, but DC is her home. She has a full life here. She’s on several charity boards, she is a silent partner in a gallery downtown, she plays bridge with a group of ladies every Tuesday morning, and she teaches a yoga class on Wednesday and Friday morning. She misses Joe. She misses him with every breath. They’d been married for 63 years. In the first couple of months after he died, her heart ached so badly she was sure it would just give up the ghost and she’d join Joe. “But,” as she said to Tony a couple months ago “the only good thing about getting old is no matter what happens, it’s not the worst thing that ever happened to you.”

So a few months after Joe’s death, she’d gone through his things. She shipped boxes of mementos to her grandson and his family, she donated a bunch of items to charity, and she decided on the few things she would keep to remind her of him. Then she hired a couple strapping young college students to help her rearrange the furniture, hang new curtains, and paint the walls new colors. She would not turn her life into a museum of her life with Joe. She might live another twenty years. Who knows, she might find herself with a gentleman caller or two and it wouldn’t do to have them hang their jacket up next to her dead husband’s.

Tony really admires Martha. She lost all four of her children. One died in infancy. One fell out of a tree and hit his head at eight. He had trouble talking and horrible seizures as a result. He died in his sleep a little less than two years later, Her oldest son was drafted right at the end of the Vietnam war. He was 18 and died on his second day in country. Her daughter grew up, went to college, earned a doctorate in particle physics, and married a man she met while doing her post-doc work. Then at age 43 she died from an aggressive form of breast cancer that had spread through her organs before she knew anything was wrong. Leaving behind a devastated husband and son.

With all that tragedy Martha is still one of the most positive, outgoing,and energetic people Tony has ever met. Tony asked her once how she did it. How she was able to move forward and build such a happy and full life. Because Tony still carries his mother’s death like a boulder. He feels it in the core of him. This immovable sadness that most days he can ignore and work around, but that never really goes away.

Martha slipped her hand into his, looked him in the eye and said “Tony, I would change it if I could. If there was a single possible way in this universe I’d do it. I’d travel back in time and save each one of them so I could hug them today and see the adults they would have become. But there is nothing for me to do. No amount of weeping or rending of garments will ever bring them back to me. So I have to build a life with what I have. I choose to be happy. I choose to fill my life with passion, friends, art, and love. Because it’s the only way I know how to live.” she squeezed his hand and gave him a little nod. Then she got up and brought a plate of lemon bars to the table and proceeded to kick his ass in cribbage.
Tony continues to ignore his phone as he makes the beef stew, bakes the crusty rolls, and basically dance around his kitchen. He drinks a glass of the full bodied red wine before adding the rest of it to the pot to add depth to the stew. While the stew is simmering and the dough is proofing, Tony gets some much needed cleaning done. New sheets and pillow cases on the bed. A quick dusting of bookshelves, table tops, the piano, knick-knacks, and the top of the tv. Then he sweeps the wood floors and vacuums the rugs. He’s folding his second load of clean clothes out of the dryer while the crusty rolls are baking in the oven.

It’s only three in the afternoon by the time the stew and rolls are done. Tony portions out two very generous bowl fulls into a tupperware and ties up four of the crusty rolls in a clean kitchen towel. He carries it over to Martha’s apartment and knocks on the door.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Martha is delighted to see Tony. She was doing a little house cleaning herself while listening to a new Swedish punk band she’d stumbled across online. She has no idea what they’re yelling about, but it gets the blood moving and makes housework go very quickly.

“You saved me a trip!” Martha says, grabbing a Tupperware of gingersnap cookies out of her pantry. I was going to return this container from the lasagna you brought over two weeks ago. I know how much you like my gingersnap cookies. Want to sit down? I’ll make some tea.

So Tony spends the afternoon on Martha’s couch eating far too many cookies and laughing about some guy, Marvin, who keeps slipping Martha his number at bridge. “He’s deaf as a fence post. I tried calling him the first time and he spent the entire call shouting ‘Hello?’ down the line. I tried to text him, but he has texting blocked because he’s a luddite. I need to find a nice young man I can train properly anyway. The ones my age all break too easily. You displace one guy’s hip and suddenly you get a reputation around the senior center.”

Tony is feeling much better when he bids Martha goodbye around 4:30pm. As he walks down the hall towards his apartment Martha shouts“Don’t let anyone know I gave you those panties! I don’t want to develop a tawdry reputation!”
“I am the soul of discretion, cara mia! I never kiss and tell.” Tony yells back as he unlocks his door.

Chapter Text

Tony unlocks and opens his door to find Ziva and McGee sitting on his couch.

 

“Tony!” McGee exclaims and immediately stands.
Ziva continues to sit with her arms crossed and her feet up on Tony’s coffee table.

Tony puts his keys and cookies down on the table by the door and pulls out his phone.
“Agent McGee, Probationary Agent David, this is being recorded. It is 16:47 on October 19, 2010. Please state for the camera that you know you are being recorded.”

“Come on Tony. There’s no need for that.” McGee says looking to Ziva for support.

“You’ve broken into my apartment and you are both armed. I believe there is every reason for this. Now please state for the camera that you know you are being recorded.” Tony says still standing in the open doorway of his apartment.

“We did not break in.” Ziva says. She unfolds one arm and a key ring with a single key is dangling off her index finger. “Gibbs gave us the key. Now put away that ridiculous toy you call a phone so we can get this over with.”

“I’m going to need an acknowledgement of the fact you are being recorded first.” Tony says.

“Tony, this is stupid. Obviously we’re being recorded. Your phone case is bright red and you’re holding it in plain view.” McGee says, still shifting nervously from foot to foot while glancing between Tony and Ziva.

“Very good Agent McGee. Probationary Agent David, please acknowledge you are being recorded for the camera.” Tony says.

“Fine!” Ziva says pushing herself to her feet and pointing directly at the cell phone “I am being recorded, and if you don’t shut up about it I will put that camera where the sun doesn’t burn!”

“Shine” McGee says “Where the sun doesn’t shine, Ziva.”

“Shine, burn, whatever. Either way it will be very uncomfortable.” Ziva huffs “Now can we please just get on with this?”

“Sure” Tony responds “you were explaining why both of you were sitting in my locked apartment, without an invitation, while armed.”

“It’s not like that.” McGee says. “We got tired of waiting in the hall. Ziva was thirsty. And Gibbs had given us the key. So we decided to wait for you in here. Since your car is in the parking garage downstairs we figured you wouldn’t be gone long.”

Tony looks around his apartment. There is a half full glass of ice water making rings on his teak side table. And his laptop has been opened and is sitting on his breakfast bar.

“Agent McGee, I see while Ziva quenched her thirst you had an urgent need to use my computer. Farmville crop going to wither? Did some girl from Geeks Gone Wild swipe right on your profile and then your phone died?”

“Oh, uh…” McGee flushes red “Gibbs said you sent an email we should read. So I was going to read it while we waited but there didn’t seem to be anything of interest in your sent box.”

“So, let me get this straight. While you’re supposed to be on 72 hour stand down Gibbs called you; gave Probationary Agent David the key to my apartment; ordered you to enter, even if I wasn’t home; and ordered Agent McGee to look through my private computer. Is that what you two are telling me?” Tony asks.

“You are being ridiculous!” Ziva says “Gibbs gave us your key and told us to come over here and apologize so you will stop being an infant and come back to work.”

“And you thought the best way to apologize was to let yourselves into my apartment and go snooping through my personal things?” Tony asks.

“Well…” McGee looks at Ziva and back at Tony. Nervously he clears his throat and says “We don’t actually know what we’re supposed to apologize for, Tony. When I asked Gibbs he told us to ‘Figure it out’ and then slapped the back of my head. I’d overheard Vance screaming at Gibbs about some email you sent this morning. So I thought if I could find it on your computer we’d know why we should apologize.”

Tony is one hundred percent done with today. They have no idea why they should apologize.
“If you really have no idea, you could start by apologizing for entering my home without an invitation and invading my privacy, Agent McGee.”

McGee laughs a little at that.

Then the completely serious expression on Tony’s face stops him. It makes a knot start to form in his stomach “Oh wait.” McGee says “You’re serious.”

“Yes, Agent McGee. I am serious.” Tony response.

McGee swallows hard. “Tony, we’re sorry. You’re right. We should have waited in the hallway. I’m sorry for looking through your computer while you weren’t here.”

Tony nods and looks at Ziva.

“I was just following Gibbs instructions like a good agent. I don’t see why I should apologize.” Ziva says.

“Probationary Agent David, please return my key.” Tony says holding out his hand.

Ziva’s eyes harden and her chin juts out. “This is Gibbs key. He trusted me with it. You can get it back from him. Come on, McGee. We’re leaving.” She shoves Tony out of his apartment and into the hallway to get past him and then stomps away.

McGee looks a little sheepish as he slides past. “Sorry again Tony. Whatever it was, I hope you’ll come back to work soon.”

“McGee!” Ziva shouts from the door of the stairwell.

McGee jumps and scurries to catch up with Ziva.

Tony checks his watch and says “The time is now 16:53. Recording off.” and he turns off the video app on his phone.

He uploads the video to a large file share site and he emails the link to IA, the Office of Special Counsel, and SecNav along with a brief description of his encounter with Gibbs in the morning and explaining the link with take them to video footage of his encounter with Ziva and McGee from this evening. He states that any further direct contact from Agent Gibbs, Agent McGee, or Probationary Agent David will be considered harassment and he will contact a lawyer.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0

“Christ! What is wrong with these people?” Agent Kevin Daniels takes off his headphones and turns to his partner.

Nick Pomeroy shakes his head and says “I can’t figure out if they are stupid or just supremely confident that there will be no consequences to their actions. They both actually acknowledged the recording was being made, which makes it admissible, and then acknowledged trespassing. Normally it’s the kind of thing you’d see on world’s dumbest criminals.”

Kevin Daniels and Nick Pomeroy have been partners in IA for three years.

Kevin is a fit man in his mid-fifties going a little grey around the edges. He started as an MA in the Navy and NCIS was a perfect fit after he put in his 20 and retired. A year in as an NCIS agent, Kevin turned in his SFA for skimming money and drugs from crime scenes to fund a prescription pill habit that had formed after being injured on the job. Kevin felt bad for the guy, but he just wasn’t built to look the other way. After a few anonymous “You better hope you never need back up” notes left in his locker, Kevin applied for a transfer into IA.

Nick is in his early thirties and comes from an accomplished military family. His father is a One Star in the Army. Nick earned a criminal law degree from Stanford and then joined NCIS to get some federal law enforcement experience onto his resume. His dad is still mad that he chose NCIS over JAG, but Nick wants to build his own reputation without people thinking his daddy pulled strings for him. The plan is 7 years in NCIS, he’s got two more to go, then move back into law as a federal prosecutor. IA ensures he’s building a reputation for not allowing people to abuse their authority. After working as a federal prosecutor for at least 5 years, he plans to start running for office. He’s not saying he’ll be President one day, but he sure wouldn’t mind.

 

“Gibbs has a reputation for being a bit of a cowboy, but nothing that would explain this. He’s always been a bulldog about solving cases and is incredibly protective of ‘his’ people.” Kevin says.

Nick nods. “Including Dr. Mallard and Dr. Sciuto. I think half the complaints I’ve investigated where Gibbs is mentioned has to do with Doctors Mallard and Sciuto prioritizing Gibbs cases at the detriment to all the other teams at MTAC.”

Kevin rolls his chair over to the large filing cabinet at the back of the room. He pulls out a drawer and grabs several files, Then pushes it closed and pulls out another drawer and several more files. Eventually he’s got almost 20 files in his lap. He rolls back to his desk. “These are the complaints from other teams regarding Gibb’s team that I can think of off the top of my head. Most of them were marked as ‘complete - no action needed’ by Director Sheppard or Director Vance. We should cross reference these complaints with Agent DiNozzo’s reports outlining the insubordination and infractions in the field by Agent McGee and Probationary Agent David. It’s possible some of the other team leaders were trying support DiNozzo’s complaints by filing their own reports.”

Nick grabs half the folders and brings them back to his desk. “I’ll run system searches to make sure we have all of them. There might be some cross-agency complaints as well. I know DiNozzo filed one against an FBI agent after he accused DiNozzo of murder twice. So we may have some from from other agencies about the wonder twins here.”

They create a timeline starting with the death of Agent Caitlin Todd and moving forward. There are an uncomfortable amount of complaints against Ziva David for aggression and assault both in her time as a Mossad liaison and as a probationary agent. There are also three separate orders from Director Sheppard to IA stating all complaints against Liaison David should be forwarded to her office because any disciplinary action would need to come from Mossad.

There are interagency complaints about Agent McGee as far back as his first week on Gibbs team. Complaints from the FBI, CIA, NSA, the Pentagon, local police departments, international banks, etc… related to his hacking their databases and programs. Many of the complaints show the team never even attempted to get a warrant or go through proper channels for the information. Responses to these complaints from Agent Gibbs range from “Stop whining because we caught a serial killer that you refused to believe existed” to “If you think you were hacked; prove it. Unlike the NSA we don’t hire people dumb enough to leave a trail.”

“This is a disaster.” Nick says. “How can there be so many complaints closed without a single mark on either of their records?

Kevin rubs his hand over his greying buzz cut in a frustrated gesture. “I have an answer but I don’t like it. Our department head Michael Hanson has been running interference for them.”

“No way.” Nick replies. “Hanson has a ruler permanently implanted up his backside. I’ve never seen him willing to bend on even the slighted infraction.”

“About 10 years ago, Hanson’s six year old daughter was kidnapped. This was when Gibbs and DiNozzo were a two man team. They saved Hanson’s kid. That’s not the kind of action any father can take lightly.

Apparently he was willing to do Gibbs a favor with these complaints. Technically he didn’t stop the complaints from being investigated. But this is really bad.” Kevin is furious. This is exactly the sort of abuse of power and position their department is supposed to weed out, not perpetuate.

Kevin continues “This doesn’t just make Gibbs and Vance look bad. This make NCIS look corrupt to its very core. Look at how IA rotated through investigators for these complaints. You and I should have been given all of these within the last three years because we’re the main IA investigators for MTAC. Instead Hanson intercepted them and farmed 75% of these complaints to other offices with notes that we were overwhelmed with cases and needed help. This email from Hanson actually states ‘We’ve found this complaint to be without merit, but with Agents Daniels and Pomeroy buried in other investigations we’d appreciate your help dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to close this complaint asap.’”

“Fuck.” Nick replies grabbing the folder Kevin holds out open to Hanson’s email. “This entire investigation is going to be career kryptonite. We haven’t even started to touch on the access to classified information that Ziva David has had for six years, first as a Mossad Liaison and now as a Probationary Agent. If she’s been allowed to openly pass classified information directly without any vetting or oversight, we’re looking at congressional hearings and possible charges ranging from espionage to treason.”

“I’m going to start throwing things if I don’t cool down. It’s close to quitting time, but I really want to finish our timeline before I leave tonight. Are you ok with working late?” Kevin asks.

“Yeah, lets at least get the timeline done tonight so we can make a game plan tomorrow.” Nick replies.

Kevin nods and grabs his coat. “I’m going to head over to Thai Basil and put in a dinner order so we don’t have to resort to cannibalism. Plus, it will give me time to cool off before jumping back into things. Spring rolls and Ginger Duck for you, right?”

“Yep, and a Thai Iced Tea.” Nick pulls $20 out of his wallet and hands it over to cover his share.

“Be back in 15-20.” Kevin says as he walks out of the door.

Nick heads to the storage room and drags two white boards back to the office. He sets them up right in front of the file cabinets. It’s a tight fit, but they’ve made it work before when an investigation gets complicated. There are just too many incidents to fit all of them onto a legal pad. Hopefully having them written out across the white boards will help them pinpoint which incidents will need the most attention as they build their case.

Chapter Text

“Tony! What is this letter? Ziva and Timmy screwed up, but you can’t just leave. We’re family. That means we work things out; we don’t abandon each other. Get back in here before Gibbs reads this and explodes. You’re lucky I came into the lab early. I can get Tim to retrieve your emails before they get read, but we have to act now. Call me.”

“Agent DiNozzo, this is Agent Kevin Daniels with internal affairs. We’d like to set up an interview to get everything down on the record as we begin investigating your complaint. You are welcome to bring a union representative or attorney. Please call me back at the office 202-555-6734 ext 2250. If I’m away from my desk, you can reach me on my cell at 202-555-9943.”

“Tony, I will be at your place in 15 minutes. I expect an explanation for this nonsense I found on my desk this morning.”

“Agent DiNozzo, this is Sarah Talbot from the Disclosure Unit at the Office of Special Counsel. I’d like to set up a phone interview to discuss your email. Please call me back at 202-555-9123 ext. 4512.”

“Tony, just a heads up, Gibbs is on a warpath. He came back from your place and called Tim and Ziva to come into the office. He’s grilled both Ducky and Abby to see if they knew you were leaving. Luckily he still sees me as part of the furniture in autopsy so I’ve been spared. I called Ellenore like you suggested. She seems really nice. Thank you. I hope we’re still on for trivia night on Tuesday. Call me if I can do anything to help. I’m happy to talk to IA or whatever. Ok. I’ll talk to you soon.”

“DiNozzo, you always have to go big, don’t you? Gibbs called me and he is hot. The terrible duo have been suspended without pay. Both Gibbs and Vance are on paid administrative leave. It’s like the Saturday Night Massacre over there at NCIS. As always, I admire your style. The offer at the FBI still stands. Call me, DiNutzzo, you know I’m in your corner if you need it.”

“Well, I hope you are happy with yourself, Tony. Timothy and I have been suspended without pay. You are such a baby. You prank us all the time. We prank you back once and you try to get us fired. I will not forget this. You should sleep with one ear open. I still have Gibbs key to your apartment. He was too distraught to ask for it while taking my and Tim’s credentials. I’ll be seeing you.”

“Tony? It’s Tim. I don’t understand what’s happening. You quit and now Ziva and I have been suspended without pay. Apparently IA is investigating us for gross negligence. What did we do? I’m sorry Tony. But you didn’t have to do this. You could have just talked to me. Please call me.”

“Tony, it’s Michael Hanson. I’ve made sure your complaint has gone to my two best investigators: Kevin Daniels and Nick Pomeroy. I wish you’d come to me years ago and let me know how bad things had gotten. I owe you and will always owe you for saving Macy. I would have made sure, well, if I’d known you and Gibbs were on a different page I might have done things a little differently. If you have any problems or concerns with Kevin and Nick, please let me know. You have my full support in this investigation. I won’t let anything get swept under the rug. I just wanted you to know. Call me if, well, if you need anything. Thanks.”

“Tony, my dear boy, it’s Ducky. You have certainly caused quite a ruckus today. Jethro is crashing about like a bear with a sore paw. I’d steer clear of him for a couple of days until he cools off. You’ve tossed quite the rock into this pond and you won’t be able to control all those ripples. I do hope you won’t come to regret your actions this morning. Well, that die is cast I suppose. The next few weeks and months are going to be very stressful. Please call me if I can do anything to help or if you need an ear. I’m always here for a bit of tea and sympathy.”

“DiNozzo, it’s Borin. I’m not usually one for gossip, but I hear you may be looking for something new. CGIS is always looking for good investigators. Call me if you’re interested.”

“Agent DiNozzo, Dwayne Pride. It would be a shame for NCIS to lose such an experienced agent. It normally takes a couple days to process a resignation through the system. Call me if you’d like to change it to a transfer. We’d love to have you here in the Big Easy, brother. It’s a small team but every one of them would lay down their lives to protect each other. Hetty and I played rock, paper, scissors for which one of us got dibs. I won, but if Los Angeles is more your speed, Hetty has a spot for you. You can reach me on my cell at 504-555-6571. Take care, brother.”

“Mr. DiNozzo, this is Elizabeth Schroder from the office of the Secretary of the Navy. I would like to speak to you in regards to the email you sent this morning. Please call me to set up an interview as soon as possible. I will be in the office until at least 7pm tonight. My phone number is 202-555-3312 ext 2745.”

Tony writes down the numbers he needs and deletes the rest of the messages.

 

It’s been a long day.

The building super, Jim, came over within an hour of Tony’s call. He changed out the deadbolt and handed Tony a new set of keys. Tony gave him a six pack of the local microbrewery’’s pale ale and a couple of Martha’s cookies in thanks for swinging by same day.

Tony changes into shorts and a soft cotton tee with a plan of eating popcorn and watching a couple movies. He’s halfway through the popcorn and about twenty minutes into “Swing Time”, one of his mother’s favorite movies that always makes him think of being bundled up on the couch for the rare days he stayed home sick from school.

His mom would heat up chicken and stars soup and play VHS tapes of classic movies. She’d sit in her chair and point out the graceful lines of the dancers or how the lighting created patterns of shadow to create atmosphere. She’d talk about the camera placement and make-up completely transforming how the actors appear:
“See how they’re lighting him from below? It makes his eyes look small and dark. You can tell he’s the villain from a single frame.”
“Listen to the music now. Hear the way the violins swell? This is the moment they’re falling in love.”
“Look at how she sits in the chair. How the camera pans up her legs. She is beautiful but deadly. Tsk, tsk tsk. The hero would be wise to stay clear of that one.”

Tony finally relaxes a little, wrapped in the quilt from the back of his sofa and the bittersweet nostalgia of his mother’s memory. Fred and Ginger dance across the screen. Tony loses himself in their grace and the light hearted love story. His mother loved Fred Astaire. She’d always say “Fred Astaire’s first screen test was marked with ‘Can’t act. Can’t sing. Can dance a little.’ By a five years later, someone at RKO was feeling very foolish. You see my Antonio, you cannot listen to the critics. They are small, cynical people blinded by their own egos. Pay them no more mind than the quacking of ducks.” Tony’s eyes are closing. The smell of his mother’s perfume and the sound of the ice clinking against the side of her gass drifts across his mind in that twilight between waking and sleep.

The peace is broken by a pounding on his door. “Tony! I know you’re in there. Let me in!” Abby shouts from the hallway.

Tony briefly considers tying his bedsheets together and repelling out his bedroom window.

“Come on Tony!” Abby kicks the door a couple times. “Stop hiding and answer the door!”

Tony kicks the blanket off and pauses the movie. He grabs his phone, checks the time, and turns on the voice recorder. He opens the door a few inches and says, “Abby, it’s after 10pm. I’m exhausted. Can we do this some other time?”

Abby shoves the door the rest of the way open and stomps into the apartment. “No, we can’t do this later. Tony. This is serious. Ziva and Timothy could be in real trouble. Why haven’t you returned my calls?”

Exasperated, Tony responds, “Because I don’t want to have this conversation.”

Abby pivots on her platform boots and gives Tony a glare. “We’re a family Tony. And what you did today might tear that family apart. It’s not right. You don’t get to blow up our family and refuse to even talk about it.”

“We’re not a family, Abby.”

Abby gasps, obviously offended.

“We’re co-workers. And once I would have said we were friends. But at the very heart of it, we’re co-workers.”

“You don’t mean that! You’re just upset.” Abby takes a deep breath and flounces over to the couch. She flops down next to the arm and says, “Ziva and Tim were wrong. They shouldn’t have turned off their sound. But nothing happened. You are ok.”

Tony feels a headache forming behind his right eye. Today has been hell on his blood pressure.
“Is that supposed to make it ok, Abby? The fact I didn’t end up bleeding out in the street without any backup is like a magic wand that erases the fact they left me twisting in the wind?”

“Of course not! But you didn’t have to go all nuclear option about it. You should have talked to Gibbs. Let him fix it.”

Tony can’t help the snort that escapes from his nose. “Sure. Gibbs would have fixed it. Let’s ignore the fact Gibbs has been greenlighting their bad behavior for the past 6 years. Let’s ignore the fact I have filed report after report detailing their attitudes, insubordination, and rule breaking for Gibbs to sign and ignore. Let’s even ignore all the times I’ve tried talking to Gibbs only to have him insist that their bad behavior is always my fault somehow.

Did you know that for the past 8 years I have consistently put in 70-90 hours a week? Last year I actually lost 3 weeks of paid vacation time because I had accrued too much and didn’t take it in time. I show up and work with bullet wounds, concussions, and even the plague. I have followed Gibbs into ridiculously dangerous situations regardless of how stupid just to make sure he has someone on his six. I file my reports, file Gibbs reports, correct and amend both Ziva’s and McGee’s reports. I often arrive within 5 minutes of Gibbs in the morning and I stay an hour later than the rest of the team. The teams’ continuing education requirements, cross departmental memos, report changes, and procedure changes have all become my responsibility.

Gibbs seems to remember I’m a highly skilled and accomplished agent when it comes to tasks he doesn’t want to do. Then he’ll turn around in front of Ziva and Tim and treat me like I’m a buffoon who can barely tie his own shoes. The head slaps, digs at my personal life, encouraging Ziva and TIm to compete against me as if we’re equals completely ignoring my SFA status and how that affects the team’s chain of command.

What Ziva and McGee did wasn’t some isolated mistake. It was the culmination of years of their disrespect and contempt for me. A disrespect and contempt that was nurtured by Gibbs actions and inactions.”

Tony runs a hand through his hair in frustration and continues, “It doesn’t matter. I’m to blame as well. I let things slide day after day. I kept waiting for Ziva and McGee to realize how toxic things had become. I kept waiting for Gibbs to fully recover from his amnesia and almost retirement. I fooled myself into thinking that if I just held things together for a little longer everything would turn around.

Ziva and McGee leaving me without backup forced me to face how bad things really are. They didn’t just leave me in danger, Abby. They did it with such casual disregard that they felt free to mock me when I joined them in the car. When they let themselves into my apartment today, Tim honestly couldn’t think of the reason Gibbs told them to apologize. If they can be that casual about leaving another agent without backup in the field, they are a danger to everyone.”

“That’s not fair, Tony. You know they wouldn’t do that to…” Abby suddenly stops talking and looks away.

“Go on and finish that thought, Abby. They wouldn’t do that to anyone else? And that’s supposed to make it ok? So they can leave me to bleed out on the pavement because of why, Abby? Because we’re ‘family’?” Tony says.

Abby’s eyes fill with tears. “It’s not like that. You’re twisting things, Tony. If you really thought Tim and Ziva were a danger, fine. Report them to Vance and Gibbs and make them know you’re serious. But you crossed the line. You contacted IA, the Office of Special Counsel, and SecNav. Making the investigation that big affects all of us. And then you just quit. Leaving us to deal with the mess while you run away.”

Tony’s eyes narrow. “Abby, what did you do? There’s no way Gibbs, Vance, or IA would have told you I contacted the Office of Special Counsel.”

Abby points at Tony accusingly, “You left that letter and then didn’t answer your phone! I had to hack into your profile and see the last email you sent before IA got to your desktop and pulled everything.”

Tony sighs and walks over to his chair. “That was a dumb move, Abby. They’ll notice that ‘I’ logged in after I turned in everything and left. You could get in serious trouble for that.”

Abby angrily gets up and starts pacing,”And whose fault is that, Tony? IA has pulled all our files. They are setting up interviews with Ducky, Palmer, me, and just about everyone else that works anywhere near you guys at the Shipyard. Two of the MTAC techs have been scheduled for interviews. Even Delores Bromstead in HR is getting called in by IA. Agent Daniels strongly suggested I should have my union rep present tomorrow! Don’t you see, Tony? It’s not just Ziva and Tim who might get fired. You put everyone’s job in danger. And don’t even get me started on encouraging Palmer to sue Timothy. That is not the action of family. That’s not even the action of a friend.”

“Friend to whom, Abby? You’re so full of righteous indignation on behalf of yourself and Ducky, and even Delores Bromstead being inconvenienced by IA interviews. But not for Palmer. Where was your ‘stop being a bad friend’ speech when Tim used our lives as fodder for his writing career? Where was it when he risked Ziva and I never being able to work undercover again? Where was it when he presented Palmer as a necrophiliac? Where was this righteous anger on my behalf when you heard the tapes of Ziva and Tim turning off the sound in their car, leaving me alone in a neighborhood with at least one suspected terrorist that had already murdered 3 people? Why are Jimmy and I the red headed, stepchildren in this supposed family you’ve built?”

“UGH! Why are you twisting things?” Abby yells in frustration “I didn’t delete the recording like Ziva asked, did I? No, I made sure it was saved on the system for you so you could take it to Gibbs. But then you go and ruin everything. Forget ZIva and Tim for a moment. Gibbs is probably going to get fired and probably Vance too. How could you do that Tony? And then you just quit, like a coward. Leaving me a Ducky alone to pick up the pieces after this all shakes out. You didn’t even think about us!”

“Ziva asked you to delete the recording?”

Abby stops her pacing suddenly and gets a really distressed look on her face. “No?” she says hesitantly.

Tony stands up and crosses his arms.

“Ok, yes. When she returned the equipment she said that she and Tim played a prank on you during the op. And she’d appreciate if I didn’t log those portions of the tape into evidence because she didn’t want to muddy the waters for the court case. But I didn’t do it. I left the tape intact. Because I trusted you!” Abby shouts “But you betrayed that trust. You betrayed all of us!” She bursts into tears..

“You weren’t the one betrayed.” Tony says quietly. Resisting the urge to go comfort the crying woman. “You didn’t tamper with evidence in a terrorist case. That doesn’t earn you any special gold stars, Abby. That’s your job. You need to tell IA that ZIva asked you to erase portions of the tape. It shows that Ziva knew what they did was wrong and tried to hide their tracks.”

“Screw you, Tony! I won’t hurt Ziva and Tim like that. I came here to make you see reason. But it’s like you want to destroy the team. So fine! If we’re not family then you’re just the guy trying to tear my family apart! I will protect my family. You should remember how far I’m willing to go to protect my family.”

“What do you mean by that, Abby? Are you threatening me?”

“No, I’m reminding you that, unlike you, I care more about protecting my family than anything else. Certainly more than my job. I destroyed that stupid bullet casing to cover for Gibbs in Mexico with the whole Pedro Hernandez thing. When I got my report back, the one that would have condemned Gibbs, I realized I had been wrong. Family is more important than the truth. The truth would have landed Gibbs in prison. He’s a good man, a good agent, he catches killers and saves people. He doesn’t deserve to be prison for a mistake he made more than 20 years ago. And he doesn’t deserve to lose his job because you’re mad at Ziva and Tim.”

Tony closes his eyes and takes a deep breath to maintain an outer layer of calm.

“The difference is, I didn’t do anything wrong Abby. I’ve never asked you to cover for me on some crime. I did the right thing and followed procedure reporting Ziva and Tim.”

Abby stomps to the door. “You say you haven’t done anything wrong. But evidence goes missing all the time, Tony. What if the money and drugs from the cases where you signed off on the evidence suddenly comes back a little light during this investigation Tony? I mean, you wouldn’t be the first agent to skim a little off the top. And what if I find that the recording you sent to IA had been tampered with? Well suddenly you’re the dirty agent trying to cover your butt by getting your team members investigated and fired. Suddenly you’re the dirty agent trying to discredit the people you feared were getting too close. Evidence tells a story, Tony. And I have the power to edit this story in order to save my family. Sleep on it. If you’re ready to be reasonable and part of my family again, call me tomorrow. Otherwise, you may want to let Jimmy know your lawyer’s going to be way too busy defending you to help him sue Tim.” With that Abby struts out of Tony’s apartment and slams the door behind her.

Tony’s hand shakes a little as he reaches in his pocket and pulls out his phone. He stops the recording and plays back the last part just to make sure it captured everything Abby said. It did.

Tony expected Abby to be upset. He expected tears and shouting, maybe even a slap. But he can’t believe she threatened to fabricate evidence against him. To frame him as dirty in order to save Ziva and Tim.

Tony sits in his chair staring at his phone as his mind races.

Finally he grabs the legal pad where he wrote down all the numbers from his voicemail messages and he dials a number.

“Hello, agent Daniels? Tony DiNozzo. I’m sorry to contact you so late and at your home, but I really don’t think this can wait.”