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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.”

Chapter Text

Nick Pomeroy rubbed the back of his neck and then took another swig of his americano, his third this morning. He and his partner, Kevin Daniels, both needed the caffeine today. Daniels had called him at 11pm the night before to tell him about Dr. Sciuto’s visit to Anthony DiNozzo’s apartment. They’d spent an hour discussing what needed to be done before Dr. Sciuto’s scheduled interview at 9am.

Nick has been in the office since 5 am, pulling past complaints filed against Dr. Sciuto, contacting the licensing agency for the evidence lab, meeting with the emergency inspector they sent out, and calling all the lab assistants who had worked, all of them very briefly, with Dr. Sciuto.

As more and more issues come to light, Kevin Daniels has been reduced to grunts of four letter words as he prepares a report on Dr. Sciuto and all the lab violations that the inspector pointed out. NCIS has 24 hours to submit a plan of action and 14 days to implement it in order to keep their credentials. If they fail to keep their credentials, every criminal ever prosecuted using evidence processed by the lab will suddenly have grounds to appeal. “This is a goddamned nightmare.” Kevin mutters for the hundred and fiftieth time since last night.

Nick drinks more of his americano and nods in agreement as he goes over the questions they’ve compiled for Dr. Sciuto.

_______________________

Abby checks her phone again and is disappointed to see Tony still hasn’t contacted her. She’d tried to go into the lab early to get started on a few things to help Ziva and Tim, but security told her that IA had bumped her interview earlier and she had to report there immediately.

Annoyed she is tapping the table with one hand as she scrolls through her phone. She’s been sitting in this stupid interview room for over an hour. Her scheduled interview of 9am should be starting in 15 minutes. Bumped earlier her foot! Gibbs is going to hear about how IA shoved her in a room for almost 90 minutes as an intimidation tactic. Don’t they know she’s very busy? Don’t they know she has evidence to process and her family to save?

Abby huffs and thinks about just storming out of the room and going down to her lab. They made her wait, now she can make them wait. But just as she stands to go, the door swings open and two agents enter.

“Dr. Sciuto?” the younger one, with the kind face, asks as he holds out his hand.

“Oh, please. Just call me Abby.” Abby replies and shakes his hand.

“I’m Nick Pomeroy and this is my partner Kevin Daniels. We appreciate you making the time to talk to us today.” Nick says as he and Kevin both take a seat across the table from Dr. Sciuto.

“About that. Do you know how long…” Abby began only to be cut off by the older agent.

“Sorry about that, Dr. Sciuto. That was my fault. We had planned to bring you in earlier and then I ran into a personal situation this morning with my dog. And in the midst of it all, I forgot to inform security that we were going to interview you at the normal time.”

Abby’s heart melted. This older agent was just like her Gibbs. All tough looking and stern on the outside but with a good heart on the inside.

“Oh no! I hope your dog is ok!” Abby says.

“He’s just fine now. I thought he’d gotten into my son’s candy stash and eaten chocolate. But, thank goodness, it was a false alarm. Thank you for your concern.” Kevin said warmly.

Kevin turns on the tape recorder and the video recorder. He gives his name, Nick’s name, Abby’s name, and the date and time for the record. He asks Abby if she’s aware that she has the right to have a union representative or attorney present. She dismissively waves her hand and says “I don’t need one one. I just want to get this whole thing over with so Gibbs and his team can get back to work.”

Nick opens a file, sorts through some papers, and says “Several of the questions we have to ask today are routine. They are things where we all know the answers, but we have to ask in order to officially have them on the record.” Nick flashes his charm-the-politician’s-wife smile at Abby and continues “We know it can be tedious but really appreciate if you can just answer them for us so we can get through the paperwork parts.”

Abby nods. Nick is like a more charming McGee she decides. She can see the Boy Scout who wants to be liked in his smile. This is going to be a piece of cake. Since Tony hasn’t responded, this will be the perfect time lay some groundwork about Tony possibly being corrupt. She’ll need to give the older agent, Kevin, her best little girl lost eyes. They always work on Gibbs. And she’ll give the younger agent, Nick, some verbal belly rubs. Those always work on McGee. At least the morning won’t be a total waste.

“Great!” Nick says and passes a hand drawn schematic of the lab and Abby’s office across the table. “Is this an accurate map of the equipment in your lab and office?”

Abby takes a look. And says “Yes.”

“Excellent. You are known for having your own style. So, I have to think you probably redecorated a bit when you took over the lab 10 years ago. Is that correct?”

Abby leans forward giving her best you’re-a-good-boy smile and says “Of course! When I arrived the whole area was a mess. They had my office in the front part. And they had all the equipment locked away in the back. It was impossible. I work all the time. I’m almost never in my office. It meant that Gibbs had to stand there and wait for me to buzz him in with my Caf-Pow. And often I didn’t hear the buzzer over my music. So he’d have to call my pager which would vibrate to get my attention. It was a stupid system.

So I held a moving party. Pizza and beer for some of the crime techs, lower level agents, and a few guys out of the driving pool for the Navy Yard. We moved the equipment into the outer area and moved my office into the locked area.”

Kevin leaned forward and said, “I didn’t get an invite. Why no beer and pizza for me, Abby?”

Abby giggled her best little girl giggle and said “We hadn’t been introduced back then. But I would absolutely invite you both to a moving party today.”

Nick makes a few notes while Abby is looking at Kevin. Then Nick starts the next question, “Ok, so when you moved the equipment, the new room wasn’t wired with intercom speakers or venting like the old room. Who did the electrical: putting in speakers, ensuring steady power for the equipment like the mass spectrometer, and setting the fire and smoke sensors?”

“Well, I did, of course. I wasn’t going to trust that stuff to anyone else.” Abby scoffs.

“That makes sense. I change the oil on my classic mustang for the same reason.” Kevin says. “I wouldn’t let anyone else touch my baby.”

“Exactly!” Abby exclaims “I’m not going to trust Major Mass Spec to some random Navy contractor.”

Nick nods as he makes more notes. Then says “And the inert gas fire suppression system that was present in the room that’s now your office. Were you able to move that to the new room?”

“That was a little more tricky.” Abby admits. “For an inert gas system to work, the room needs to be pretty air tight. The new room has all those windows and the door system is different. Also, I often leave the outer door open because it feels more welcoming. So I installed my own version of a Hydrofluoro Compounds fire suppression system. It’s a better match for the new room. It also works faster than an inert gas system.”

“Wow! So you actually upgraded and improved the new system out of your own pocket? That’s amazing. We have people filing expense reports when they bring their own pen into the office.” Kevin says.

Abby blushes and says “Well, my friend Fred does all the repairs to Major Mass Spec. And he helped me with the system. So I had him bill me for a repair in order on Major Mass Spec for the amount of the new system. That way I didn’t have to wait forever for the paperwork to go through here. You know how they can be with mid-year requests. It’s all ‘but that wasn’t in the budget submitted for this year’ even when you know your department has the money, it’s just set aside for other things.”

Nick and Kevin share a look before Kevin does his agreed upon “good cop” routine. “That’s a really smart way to cut through the red tape. But what would you have done if you really needed that money later to repair your mass spectrometer?”

Abby smiles. These guys are eating out of the palm of her hand. “I would have told Gibbs that I couldn’t process his evidence because accounting wouldn’t let me get Major Mass Spec repaired. Gibbs would make them give me the money. He’s great like that. No one says no to Gibbs.”

Kevin smiles and chuckles. “I bet.”

Nick asks the next question “Ok, so you took care of the electrical and fire suppression. How did you move the fume hoods and get them vented properly? The navy yard is an old brick building. I know in the other room they took advantage of an old coal chute to run the vent out and up the side of the building. Don’t tell me you’re a brick mason too on top of being a PhD, electrician, and woman of many talents.”

Abby makes herself laugh at the lame joke and puts her hand on his. “Of course not silly!” she then lifts her hand off his and twirls her pigtail while smiling at Nick from under her eyelashes. It’s a move that always makes McGee stutter. “I ran coated stainless piping up from the hood and across, above the dropped ceiling, to connect into the existing exhaust ductwork. Then I added a stronger fan to make up for the additional distance. No need to make any holes in the beautiful brickwork.”

“Abby. You are everything your reputation says and more. Did you get all that done in a weekend?” Kevin asks.

“It was a long two days but entirely worth it. By that monday I was able to blast my music through decent speakers instead of that awful intercom system. Gibbs and Ducky could walk right in to see me without stupid doors and having to stop to buzz people in and all that. Plus now I can keep my office locked to keep Bert safe and keep McGee away from my computer. And when Tony is being annoying, I can lock the door and pretend I don’t hear him. Since the office door has the extra security layer due to being the old lab, his badge won’t unlock the door.” Abby glances at both agents to see if they caught that bit about Tony. First brick set in the wall of Tony is terrible.

She sees Nick and Kevin give each other a look and knows that it scored. Excellent. Serves Tony right for trying to ruin her family! There’s more where that came from but she’ll have to drop those hints slowly. She wants the agents to think it’s their idea that Tony might be the bad guy.

Kevin can’t think of something that sounds praise worth to say to that. So instead he says “Who is Bert? Do you have a pet you keep in your office?” Frankly, at this point, he wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Sciuto giggled while explaining that she only cooks the very finest quality meth in her off hours in the lab. He is horrified by the sheer number of code violations, evidence handling violations, and fraud this woman has admitted to in the last few minutes. All while twirling her pigtails and blushing like a demented twelve year old.

Abby says “No! Of course not. Bert is my farting hippo. Sometimes things get grim and scary on cases. But Bert always makes me feel better. I know not everyone can understand that. I brought Bert to the hospital when Tony was recovering from the plague. And Tony was very dismissive of Bert's comforting powers.”

Nick has been furiously noting all the different violations and items Abby confirmed that matched the lab examiner’s report. Kevin gives him a little more time by saying “That’s terrible. I would be touched if someone brought me a farting hippo if I was in the hospital. I hate hospitals, but Bert sounds like he would be a fun companion to see me through.”

“See!” Abby exclaims, “You understand! In the worst places, you need something silly and irreverent. Even Gibbs smiles when he sees Bert. Well, not a smile that you can actually see. But I can tell he’s smiling on the inside.”

Nick finally finishes his notes and finds the next item on the list. “So Abby, you mentioned that Gibbs often brings you Caf-Pow while you’re in the lab. And I know when we talked to some of the other team leads yesterday they also mentioned bringing you Caf-Pow. What do you do when you get more than one at once? I love Caf-Pow, but I need mine to be ice cold. So I can’t imagine letting one sit around while drinking the other.”

Abby fakes a gasp “Room temperature Caf-Pow is sacrilege. Bite your tongue, young man!” she wags her finger at him. “If I have one when Gibbs arrives, I put my current one in the fridge and drink Gibbs’. His are just better somehow. It’s like they’ve absorbed some of his Gibbsness.”

Nick follows up “Oh, so you have a fridge in your office?”

Abby snorts “I do, but that’s for my lunch. I can’t have my Caf-Pow that far away. What if I’m on the very edge of a breakthrough with some evidence and just need a little caffeine to put me over the top? I wouldn’t want to lose my focus walking all the way to my office, badging in, going to the fridge, you get the drift. I cleared off the second shelf of the specimen fridge. That’s my emergency Caf-Pow storage.”

Kevin leans forward and conspiratorily says “This one” nodding to Nick “would be the exact same way with his espresso. Never seen a man who loves the stuff as much as this guy.”

Nick shrugs as if to say “what can you do,” and continues with his next question, “Great. Now we’ve heard from other teams about ‘Abby’s point system for evidence analysis’. Can you explain what that is and how it works?”
“Oh sure!” Abby says. “So there’s only one of me and whole bunch of teams working cases. So I needed a way to organize what evidence gets worked in what order. So Gibb’s requests are automatically 100 points, front of the line, top priority. Because his team works the most important cases. Plus, he’s Gibbs. He gets really grumpy if his stuff waits around.

For other teams, murders are 90 points, rape or sexual assault are 80 points, suspected accidental deaths are 70 points, suspected suicides are 60 points, assaults/fights/bodily harm cases are 50, property crimes with an officer involved are 40, other property crimes are 30.

Then there are ways to earn extra points: bring Abby Caf-Pow +5 points, tell Abby about a new awesome local band +5, take the sisters out shopping on the weekend so Abby can work +10 points. I like to reward good behavior. So anytime someone goes out of their way to make me happy, I award a few bonus points.

Of course there are also ways to lose points. It’s the carrot and stick method. So when people decided to be meanie-heads, I deduct points: keep bugging Abby about when something will be processed -5 points, file a complaint about how long Abby is taking -30 points, tell Abby about an awesome new local band but the band actually sucks -5 points.

The evidence with the highest point value is what gets worked next.

I have a whiteboard in the lab with all the cases listed and their point values. That way teams with low values know they should put in a little effort if they want their stuff worked any time soon.

It’s a great system. Everyone knows where they stand and people have stopped filing ridiculous complaints simply because Gibbs stuff is worked first. Gibbs is a legend. His team closes cases. He needs that information yesterday so he can go stop the bad guys.”

Nick is pretty sure Kevin’s head is going to explode. He’s really glad Kevin got “good cop” for this interview. Nick has no idea how he would pretend what he just heard was remotely ok. If Kevin breaks and can’t stop himself from shouting at Abby then Nick wins their bet and Kevin is paying for coffee the rest of the week.

Kevin is clenching his fists under the table and counts his breath slowly. “In, two, three, four. Smile. Out, two, three, four. Nick drinks damned expensive coffee. Do not break! In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. Ok, think of something nice to say.” Kevin opens his mouth and says “I like that you have it written where everyone can see it. If everyone knows where they stand, then they have a fair shot of earning Abby points to get their evidence worked.”

 

“Thank you!” Abby says. “Director Shepard was really unreasonable about it. Thankfully Director Vance just said ‘I don’t want to hear anything about it’ in his gruff ‘I’m the director and I chew on toothpicks’ sort of way.”
Nick, still shocked that Kevin maintained, blurts out, “Does Gibbs know about the point system?”

Abby grins at him and says “Why would he need to know? His stuff gets worked first and that’s good enough for him. It’s one of the reasons Gibbs is my favorite. He brings me Caf-Pow without even needing to earn Abby points. He does it just because he’s Gibbs and he wants me to be happy.”

 

Abby is having fun now. She’s managed to tally two points in the Tony’s a jerk category and several points in the Gibbs is awesome category. It might have been worth waiting around 90 minutes for this interview to start after all.

“That’s great, Abby.” Nick says. “Now you mentioned there’s only one of you and a number of teams. Looking at your file it seems you’ve had lab techs off and on over the years. But none of them stuck.”

“Well.” Abby replies. “One of them wanted to work here so he could use his badge to, uh how do I put this delicately, get up close and personal with Ducky’s patients after hours. And another one was a murderer trying to cover up his crime. It makes it hard to trust people.”

“Sure” Nick says. “But one tech named Kenisha Green states you locked her in your office with a giant snake after she told you she had a phobia about snakes. That can’t be right, can it?”

Abby laughs. “The expression on Kenisha’s face was priceless. She had been all ‘Oh my God! Let me out! Let me out!’ and pounding on the door.” Abby finally stops laughing wipes the tears from her eyes and says “That was just good timing. My friend Mistress Victoria was traveling with her plus size burlesque troupe and needed me to feed her boa constrictor, Lance, for a few days. Lance is a really sweet snake. He’d never hurt anyone. So I figured a little exposure therapy would help Kenisha get over her phobia. Once she realized how nice Lance is, she wouldn’t judge every snake by the way Hollywood portrays them. But it takes repeated exposure to work and Kenisha refused to come back to lab after I let her out of my office. I think she hurt Lance’s feelings. He seemed a little depressed after that.”

Kevin says, “I understand. You were just trying to help Kenisha.”

“Absolutely” Abby replies. “Besides, I take our non discrimination policy very seriously. I’m not going to work with someone who’s a species-ist. Animals are people too. Lance can’t help being a snake any more than I can help being human. It’s not ok to hate him for something he has no control over.”

Nick makes a note and says, “I’m glad we got that cleared up. There was another tech, Pedram Mehdian, who says you poisoned him? Did he make fun of Bert?”

Abby snorts and says “Of course not! If he’d made fun of Bert no one would have found his body.” she winks at Nick to let him know she’s joking. “Pedram was grossed out by my Caf-Pow being in the same fridge as the lab specimens. So he kept moving it from the specimen fridge into the fridge in my office. A woman’s bond with her Caf-Pow is sacred! So I put some methylene blue in his coffee. It gave him a headache, some stomach cramping, and turned his pee bluegreen. It was a practical joke, not a poisoning. Pedram threatened to file charges and Director Morrow found him a managerial position at the FBI crime lab to make him go away.

It was for the best. I am just better working on my own. Major Mass Spec is very particular and doesn’t like strangers in the lab. Yes, there’s a lot of work. But crime techs tend to be soooooo picky.” in a mocking voice Abby continues, “Can you turn down the music? I don’t think your caf-pow should go in the specimen fridge. That’s not how I was taught to run this test in school. Should the lab door be left open like that? Shouldn’t we be testing evidence instead of making a get well diorama for Agent Burley? Isn’t all that jewelry against regulation? Aren’t those shoes too tall for the lab? I thought we weren’t supposed to have any food or drink in the lab. Why are we making Christmas cookies in July?” Abby sighs and goes back to her normal voice. “It’s exhausting to work around that much negativity. Things go a lot faster and better when I’m allowed to groove to my own vibe, you know?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Kevin says, “It took quite a while for me to adjust to working with this character.” he gestures towards Nick chuckling. “This guy never met a regulation he doesn’t love. Even ones that were written decades ago that just don’t apply to a modern investigation.”

“Guilty.” Nick says going along. “It took me a while to learn which regulations are iron clad and which ones are leftover dinosaurs that just haven’t been weeded out yet.”

“See, you guys understand me!” Abby beams. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. We handle evidence and it’s important to cross every t and dot every i. But some regulations are ridiculous. Like my lab is supposed to have a special secure door. That would make sense if we were part of a police station or FBI office where members of the public could just walk in.

But we’re in the Navy yard. So there are two layers of security before people even make it into the building. Having a secure door on my lab too is needless inconvenience.”

“Great! I think that gets all the routine stuff out of the way. Thank you for being so patient, Abby.” Nick says as he closes one file, shifts it to the bottom of the stack, and opens the next file.
Abby prepares herself. Now will be the time to get these guys interest away from Tim and Ziva and over onto Tony.

Nick passes the file over to Kevin and Kevin picks up his pen.
Kevin looks at Abby with a serious expression and says “I’m sure you’ve heard rumors of an investigation into an incident on Gibbs team. I would like to state again for the record that you’re welcome to have your union representative or a lawyer present for this questioning. Would you like us to stop the interview while you secure either?”

“Of course not. I am happy to tell you anything I know. I’m just so sad it’s come to this. I’ve know Tony was heading in a bad direction for a while. But I didn’t expect him to make this kind of scene to try and get out of it.”

Kevin and Nick exchange a look. Nick says, “Could you elaborate on that, Abby? What you you mean Tony was headed in a bad direction?”

Abby leans forward, like she’s telling Kevin and Nick a secret. “It’s not Tony’s fault. He’s had a really rough few years. Getting the plague, getting director Shepard killed, his fiancee leaving him. Lately he’s been erratic, moody, poorly groomed. I’ve been concerned that he might have an issue with drugs or alcohol.”

Kevin says, “That’s terrible. Did you say anything to anyone about this? Did you confront Agent DiNozzo at anytime about it?”

Pleased the agents are interested Abby leans back and starts weaving her web for them. “It’s so hard. I love Tony like my brother. I didn’t want him to get in trouble. When I tried to talk to him about it, he got very angry. He yelled at me. He,” Abby pauses and makes her chin quiver then takes a big breath “he really scared me. I thought he was actually going to hit me for a moment.”

Nick reaches across the table and takes Abby’s hand in his. It’s his turn to play good cop, for just a little bit. “That must have been very frightening.”

“It was!” Abby confirms. Then she has a brilliant idea. “Not just that but I’ve noticed Tony and Jimmy, that’s Jimmy Palmer, Ducky’s autopsy assistant, acting really weird. Like going into the evidence room at odd time and pulling boxes without signing them out. I don’t want to believe that anything is going on there. But I have been meaning to do a full inventory of the evidence room just because it doesn’t feel right.”

Kevin says, “Really? James Palmer from the morgue?” he makes a note like this is vital information he’s going to follow up on rather the Abby driving the nails into her own coffin.

“Yes. Even weirder, I heard that Tony gave Jimmy his attorney’s information right before Tony turned in his resignation. It’s almost as if Tony knew Jimmy might need a lawyer. Just thinking that the two of them might have been up to something makes my stomach hurt. I don’t want to believe it’s possible.”

Nick squeezes Abby’s hand and releases it. He says “Of course you don’t. None of us want to think our friends and colleagues would betray us and their own oaths to uphold the law.”

Abby nods emphatically. “Yes. Exactly. I don’t want to think Tony and Jimmy could be capable of tampering with evidence, or skimming drugs or money, but when all this blew up I can’t deny it’s possible. I think Tony saw this as his chance to make big waves and confuse things so no one would catch on to what he’s been doing.”

Kevin says “When you say Tony saw this as his chance, what do you mean by this?”

Abby replies, “I mean the practical joke Ziva and Tim played on him by turning off the sound in the car during the Military at Home case. Tony often plays practical jokes on people. He pushes boundaries, and plays around, and breaks the rules all the time. But as soon as he had documented proof of Ziva and Tim doing the same to him, he literally decided to make a federal case out of it. I mean, he didn’t just quit here, he involved the Secretary of the Navy’s office and the Office of Special Counsel. He took a practical joke and blew it up to make as big a distraction as possible.”

Kevin says, “So you heard the recordings Agent DiNozzo made, as well as the recordings of Agent McGee and Agent David in the car leading up to them turning off their ability to hear Agent DiNozzo’s wire when reviewing the evidence for the Military at Home case, correct?”

Abby knows she’s on thin ice here so she cautiously says “Yes, I skimmed through the recordings to hear what was on them and get them logged for the case. I vaguely remember Ziva and Tim conversing about not being able to take listening to Tony go on and on. I figured it was best to just stay out of their team dynamics and just log the evidence. If Tony had a concern, he could bring it to Gibbs or address it directly with Tim and Ziva since he is, I mean was, their SFA.

I certainly didn’t expect him to use it as a grenade to try and destroy the careers of everyone around him just to cover his own tracks.”

Nick nods and says, “So you never considered editing the tapes? I mean, the team dynamic stuff really doesn’t have anything to do with the legal case. You could argue there’s no reason to include it in the evidence since it’s outside the scope of the case.”

Abby mentally does a fist pump. Nick just gave her the perfect opening to cover her booty on the whole Ziva asking her to delete that portion of the tape thing. “I can understand a layperson looking at it that way, even an agent might look at it that way. Ziva asked me the same thing, actually. She thought the practical joke might not look professional in a court setting. But something as innocuous as editing that tape could actually give the defense wiggle room to accuse us of malfeasance. I know it has nothing to do with the case, you guys know it has nothing to do with the case, but if I deleted it, we wouldn’t be able to prove it has nothing to do with the case.”

Kevin and Nick look at each other and smile. There it was. Everything they needed and all of it willingly given.

Kevin drops his smile and looks at Abby. He says, “To be clear, you are stating Agent David requested you delete the evidence of her and Agent McGee turning off the sound of Agent DiNozzo’s wire.”

Abby sees how serious Kevin looks. She glances at Nick and realizes Nick isn’t smiling either. Suddenly both the IA agents are looking very unfriendly. “No. I mean, she didn’t really know what she was asking. It was more that she wanted to make sure the evidence would be in the best order for the case than trying to cover anything up.”

Kevin reiterates, “Agent David did come to you and suggest you alter the recording. Yes or no, please Dr. Sciuto.”

“Yes, but you’re trying to twist it to make Ziva look like the bad guy. She’s not. She was trying to help the case.” Abby says, looking at Nick. Pleading with her eyes for him to back her up.

Kevin continues, “Did you report Agent David’s request for you to falsify evidence to anyone?”

“No” Abby snaps “Because she didn’t want me to falsify evidence. She just asked if it would be better to edit out the parts that had nothing to do with the case. It was a harmless question.”

Kevin makes a note and then asks “You listened to the recording from the car and heard Agents David and McGee discuss turning off the speaker and then actually turn off the speaker leaving Agent DiNozzo in the field without backup. Did you report this to anyone?”

“No” Abby says petulantly. “As I said, it was part of their team dynamics to prank each other. Agent DiNozzo returned without any harm coming to him. He’s a seasoned agent and was never in any real danger. I didn’t see any reason to hurt good agents’ careers over a harmless practical joke.”

Kevin puts his pen down and looks Abby in the eye. His eyes are hard and his jaw is set. “Harmless practical joke. You are aware that Agent DiNozzo was looking for a domestic terrorist who had killed at least three people when he was left without back up, correct?”

“Why are you being so mean all of a sudden? It wasn’t like that.” Abby replies.

“Please answer the question Dr. Sciuto, were you aware that Agent DiNozzo was trying to obtain the voiceprint of a domestic terrorist who had murdered at least three people at the time Agent DiNozzo was left without backup.” Kevin says evenly.

“Yes, I was aware. But Tony can handle himself. He’s a good agent. And nothing bad happened to him.” Abby replied.

“He’s a good agent?” Nick jumps in “But just a minute ago you said he was erratic, possibly a substance abuser, and implied he and James Palmer were stealing money and drugs from the evidence room. How does that make him a good agent?”

“Well, that doesn’t. But before that stuff Tony was a really good agent. I mean. I just. You’re twisting this all around and getting it wrong.” Abby huffs.

“Ok.” Kevin says. “Let’s go back to your suspicions about Agent DiNozzo. You say he yelled at you and you thought he was going to hit you. Can you provide a day or time for that? We’d like to pull video of the incident.”

“No” Abby says feeling her stomach start to churn. “It was after work one night. I met with him as a friend away from the office. I don’t remember the date or time. Sorry.”

“That’s fine.” Kevin replies. “What’s the name of the place you met. We can pull credit card statements or maybe they’ll have surveillance.”

“I paid cash for both of us. I don’t remember where it was. But I’ll testify that it happened.” Abby says weakly.

Kevin pick up his pen, makes a few notes, and continues “You say Tony was acting erratic. You suspected substance abuse. Erratic how? Was he coming in late, was he disappearing for long lunches, was he leaving early, was he inappropriate with witnesses, what sort of behavior made you think possible substance abuse?”

“Um, it’s hard to say. I guess, yeah, he was not always on time. And he’s often inappropriate, that’s part of his charm. I can’t really point to a specific incident. Just, as someone who knew him really well I could tell something was off.” Abby says.

“You could tell something was off but can’t think of a single verifiable incident? Ok. We’ll put a pin in that. You say you suspect Agent DiNozzo and Autopsy Technician Palmer of stealing evidence. Can you provide any proof of that?” Kevin asks.

Abby thinks “No, because when I was supposed to be creating that proof this morning I was stuck in here waiting for you!” but she says “No, but I’ll start an inventory of all the evidence in the evidence room as soon as we’re done. I’m sure I’ll have something for you in the next day or so.”

“I don’t think so.” Nick says. “You will not be going anywhere near the evidence room Dr. Sciuto.”

“What?” Abby says. Dread filling her. “Why not?”

Kevin stands up, “Please stand Dr. Sciuto.”

Abby stand up. Her knees start shaking and so do her hands. This all went really wrong somewhere. It had been going so well. They were right in the palm of her hand. But then they weren’t. And it all went left somewhere.

Kevin walks around the table and says, “Dr. Sciuto you are under arrest for fraud, evidence tampering, and blackmail.” Kevin handcuffs the stunned woman as he continues, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided for you. Do you understand these rights?”

“You can’t do this. Gibbs won’t let you do this.” Abby says.

“Do you understand your rights Dr. Sciuto?” Kevin repeats.

“Yes. I know my rights. But you can’t do this. I didn’t do anything wrong!” Abby starts to cry. She can feel the sobs shake her whole body. This is so unfair. They can’t do this. They just can’t.

Kevin takes the sobbing woman out of the room and hands her off to the Agents who will process her and book her.

Nick looks at his watch “Interview completed 10:37am. Ending audio and video recording.”

Chapter Text

“She just admitted to it? To all of it?” Agent Michael Hanson shook his head in disbelief as he looked across his desk at agents Nick Pomeroy and Kevin Daniels.

“Yes. She proudly talked about changing the configuration of the lab so the evidence and equipment were no longer behind a secure door. She confirmed doing the electrical wiring, fire suppression system, and ductwork for the fume hood without pulling any permits, filing updated plans, or securing proper permissions. She admitted to filing a false expense report for equipment repair in order to pay for the new fire suppression system.

She was very candid and casual as she admitted to trapping a snake phobic coworker in her office with a boa constrictor and poisoning another coworker with Methylene blue.

She admitted to breaking lab protocol in dozens of small ways from unsafe dress to keeping beverages in the specimen refrigerator. She also gave a detailed accounting of the system of personal bribery she implemented in order for teams to get their evidence processed.

The evidence of this system is plain as day on a whiteboard in her office.

Agent Gibbs as well as multiple agency Directors squashed complaints, bullied agents and team leads, and enabled all of it.” Kevin Daniels confirmed.

Michael looks down at his agents’ preliminary report and wants to scream. This is a nightmare. “Even if NCIS hires contractors to rush through permits, change the configuration of the lab back to how it was designed, and hires a new lab director to uphold the most scrupulous professionalism, I don’t see how we can avoid an absolute circus.

We will have to fire her for gross misconduct. The fraud, terrorizing her coworker, poisoning her coworker, we have her on tape admitting to destroying evidence that Agent Gibbs murdered Pedro Hernandez. We know she hacked into the system to pull Agent DiNozzo’s emails from the day he resigned. Some of that is bound to end up with criminal charges. Those proceedings will be public record. The lab being run in such a manner will be public record. Defense attorneys will start crawling out of the woodwork to file appeals for every criminal ever convicted using evidence processed by Dr. Sciuto.”

Nick nods and says, “I’ll admit. I’m glad to be just a grunt on this one. Because it’s an epic shitshow and everyone’s going to get splattered.”

Michael shakes his head and says, “I owe you both an apology. Heads are going to roll over the next several weeks and mine will probably be one of them.

Complaints about Gibbs team should have all gone to you. You would have identified trouble before everything blew up. Instead I shuffled the requests around to offsite teams out of a misplaced sense I owed Agent Gibbs for saving my daughter. In doing so I let myself down and I failed Agent DiNozzo who also saved my daughter.”

“Gibbs handed your daughter back to you after she was kidnapped. That makes for some pretty extenuating circumstances.” Kevin replies.

“With all the fallout that’s coming, it won’t be enough to save me. I’m low enough on the totem pole they’ll throw me on the chopping block and never think twice. And I deserve it. I’ll fight the good fight for as long as I’m here. I have your backs 100%. But I want you guys to know, I am going down. So be smart. Cover your own backsides. Make sure none of this falls on you. Don’t do anything stupid when asked questions about my assignment of these complaints. I don’t want you smudged out of some misplaced sense of loyalty to me. Do your jobs, be thorough, be competent and be smart. Understand?” Michael gives both men a hard look.

“Yeah.” Kevin says. “We understand.”
Nick nods.

“Good.” Michael says. “Now brief me on the interviews you have set for this afternoon.”

_____________________________________

Tony’s alarm goes off at 5:00am as usual. He turns it off and lies in bed looking at his ceiling. He should probably get up. Go for a run. It’s the first day of the rest of his life. He should seize it.

But he just lies there. He feels… empty. There is stuff to do. He could start returning phone calls. There are going to be endless rounds of interview and paperwork.

Ugh. Why did he think this was a good idea? Yeah, Tim and Ziva couldn’t be trusted in the field and he needed to make sure no other agent would be left in harm’s way. But just thinking about all the questions he’s going to have to answer is exhausting. There will be pointed accusations behind some of those questions.

Why didn’t you file official complaints sooner? These reports you included show you had cause.

Why did you allow this to go on for so long? The reports you included show you had ample opportunity.

Why did you allow Ziva David to access evidence, crime scenes, and classified information for years without getting your concerns to someone who would listen? Are you always so cavalier about national security?

And what can he say? They were my team. I thought I could fix it. I thought things would get better. I thought we were a family.

Family.

Yes, Tony DiNozzo, you are a fool to think family could mean anything but disfunction and neglect. Didn’t Senior beat that into you? Didn’t he make it clear by leaving you in a hotel room at 12 and then shipping you off to military school?

Unhappy thoughts swirl and move into unhappy dreams. Disjointed images and words with sharp edges and shadows chase him through hallways that are his childhood home but aren’t like any hallways that actually exist. Suddenly he opens his eyes and the sun is up.

Glancing at the clock it’s 7:22am. Tony gets up. Forget the run. He’s an unemployed and probably soon to be disgraced agent. This calls for pancakes and bacon.

A quick shower and shave. Tony throws on a pair of chinos and a simple light blue button up shirt. He heads to the kitchen starts his coffee maker. He turns on another Fred and Ginger movie for some light hearted background noise and gathers his breakfast ingredients.

He throws on an apron, because bacon splatter isn’t a good look for anyone, and whips up more pancakes and bacon than any one man could possibly eat. He loads the food onto a tray and places a couple bowls upside down over the plates to keep the food warm.

He pours the pot of coffee into an oversized thermos. He grabs a daisy from the flowers on his dining room table. They’re a few days old but not wilted yet.

He cuts the bottom off the stem, and drops the daisy into a bud vase with some fresh water.

He slides on a pair of penny loafers, adds the bud vase and thermos to the tray of food, snags his new keys to his apartment, turns off his tv, and head’s down the hall to Martha’s apartment.

He knocks on the door and waits. Hoping she’s home and not covering a shift at the gallery today or out to brunch with one of her friends.

__________________________________

“You come to my door with pancakes but no syrup? Were you raised by wolves, young man?” Martha teases as she nukes her bottle of maple syrup. It’s always better warm.

Tony has grabbed two mugs for the coffee, the butter dish from her sideboard, and is busy setting the table for their impromptu breakfast party.

She can see the shadows under his eyes. Yes, he’s smiling and charming and being ridiculous in his offering of the single daisy representing his purest of intentions. But she can see the cracks in the facade. Tony’s pain is leaking around the edges of his hail fellow well met mask and it is breaking Martha’s heart. She wishes she could kiss it better like a little kid’s skinned knee.

Sadly, kids grow up and their problems are no longer so easily defined or solved.

Tony has a bit of feral cat in him. The fastest way to get him to run would be to show gentleness and kindness. Instead she does her part of keeping up their normal witty banter.

They eat far too many pancakes and way too much bacon. Tony insists she keep the leftover bacon for sandwiches.

Martha insists that she has to walk after a meal that heavy or she’ll risk sinking through the floor. They wrap the leftover pancakes in a napkin and bring them to the park to feed the ducks.

Standing at the corning waiting for the light to change, Martha closes her eyes and tilts her face up towards the sun. Her right hand is threaded through Tony’s arm. The cars drive by. People are talking on cell phones and walking past each other. She takes the moment to just be. To really exist in this place, at this time. No thoughts or judgements. Just the sun on her face, the city she loves bustling around her, and a good friend by her side.

“Where’d you go?” Tony asks when she opens her eyes.

“No where. I was right here, standing with you.” Martha smiles at Tony. “Why would I want to be anywhere else when I have a fine Italian stud escorting me to the park? I’m pretty sure in Victorian England this would be the precursor to our engagement announcement.”

“You’re breaking my heart, you tease. You say that, yet you always turn me down when I ask.” Tony puts on an exaggerated pout.

“What can I say?” Martha replies with a laugh, “Come back when you bank your first billion and I’ll reconsider. I have to make sure you can keep me in the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed.”

“I’ll hold you to that, Cara mia” Tony replies as the light turns and they walk across the intersection.

_____________________________________________

Standing in the park with Martha throwing pancakes like little frisbees to the ducks, Tony has a surreal moment of thinking “Is this it? Is this what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Wander down to the park, feed the ducks, wander back to my condo?”

Martha tosses the last pancake with a big whoop and laughs as the ducks all push each other around trying to get a piece.

Tony works to put on his best company smile and tries to think of something witty to say.

“All right. Enough, Tony. Come sit down and tell me what’s wrong.” Martha pulls Tony to an empty bench and they sit side by side.

Martha looking at his face in profile, Tony looking at his hands clasped together and resting on his knees.

“I quit my job.” Tony says. He waits for Martha to gasp or say something. But she just waits.

Tony opens his mouth and it all comes pouring out. How Kate’s death changed everything. How Ziva got worse and worse and pulled McGee along with her over time. How Gibbs changed, got more distant after his accident and amnesia. Jean. Director Shepard and that entire disaster. How his concerns about Ziva were ignored and actively dismissed. Rivkin. Being dragged to Israel without any backup or real support. Leaving Ziva behind then saving Ziva from Saleem Ulman only for it to make things worse instead of better. It seemed to fuel her resentment and need to belittle Tony. Ziva and McGee turning off the sound leaving him without backup. His resignation. Everything that happened the day before.

By the time he’s done, he’s so worked up he is actually panting like he ran a race.
He waits. Martha doesn’t move.

He finally risks looking at her face.

She wraps her hands around his and pulls them towards her. Both her hands clasped around his. “Oh Tony. You take on your burdens plus the rest of the world’s. This isn’t your fault. You did the right thing. Yes, it’s going to suck while things shake out. That’s how the universe works. The dam breaks, there’s chaos, and finally a whole new topography is revealed.

You are a good man. You made your best call at each turn. You gave your team every possible opportunity to get their heads out of their asses and act like decent human beings. What consequences they face will be of their own making.”

 

“I know.” Tony says. He does know. He’s not a martyr. Gibbs, Vance, Tim, Ziva, even Abby all made their own beds. “But what am I going to do now? All I’ve wanted to do is be a good cop and a good agent. Now that’s over. Where do I go from here?”

Martha smiles. “Oh, that’s simple. We’re going to walk back home. Then you’ll return some phone calls and schedule some interviews. Easy peasy.”

Tony rolls his eyes. “Yeah. Sure. But long run. I have no idea what to do with my life if I’m not an agent or a cop.”

Martha laughs. “Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. You resigned from NCIS. You’re going to be busy for at least the next week or so with all the investigations you kicked off. You don’t have to plan your next career move right this second. And if things get really tight, I’ll hire you to take off your shirt and mow my lawn.”

“We live in a condo. You don’t have a lawn.” Tony laughs.

“Kids these days. Just don’t understand euphemisms. I blame it on the poor state of public education.” Martha snarks at him.

“I’ll have you know I went to one of the finest military schools for rich delinquents on the east coast. They just didn’t prepare me for such salty language and innuendo from a lady.” Tony snarks back.

Their banter continues all the way back to the building.

Tony drops Martha off at her door and returns to his apartment feeling better, settled somehow. He’s ready to start returning messages and setting up appointments.

______________________________________

Ziva David watches Tony and his elderly neighbor walk back from the park laughing as though they don’t have a care in the world.

She feels her anger, white, hot, flashing through her. He ruined her career like it was nothing. Now he’s taking leisurely strolls through the park and laughing.

Ziva’s father had a Mossad agent drop a burner phone at her apartment last night. He told her how disappointed he was. But that, of course, he would get her out of the country and bring her back to Israel.

She’ll have to renounce her American Citizenship and he’ll work to make it difficult for the US to extradite her. It’s not like she murdered anyone so the state department won’t fight too hard.

It is too bitter a pill for Ziva to swallow.
She was finally free.
She was out from under her father’s thumb.
She was out from under the direction of the man who ordered her to kill her own brother.
She was building a new life as her own person in the USA.
And Tony had to ruin it all.
He had to ruin everything.
It wasn’t enough that Gibbs chose him on the tarmac in Israel.
It wasn’t enough that Gibbs kept him as SFA even after Ziva became an American Citizen and clearly had more knowledge and training due to her Mossad background.
No, Tony wasn’t happy until he had completely destroyed her life.

First he murdered the man she loved.
Now he murdered her hope to build a new life for herself.

Why couldn’t he have just taken his own team and transferred out?

Ziva knows he’d been offered his own team before.
All he had to do was file a request and he could go off and be his own Gibbs.

Ziva used her skills to ensure Tony was miserable on the team. Making Gibbs feel insecure that he was fully recovered. Playing into Gibbs need to protect daughter figures, making him feel guilty for her time in Saleem Ulman’s hands. Teaching McGee to turn his own insecurities into aggression and bullying. Making him feel powerful with her at his back but weak when on his own. Playing the older sister to Abby. Pushing Tony out from every angle. Pushing him out of the nest so there would be a place for her at Gibbs’ side.

But, no. Tony just refused to go.
And now he’d burned down the whole tree rather than letting Ziva have the life she’d worked so hard to build.

17 hours.

Ziva has 17 hours before a Mossad team shows up to extract her back to Israel. Back to a life under her father’s thumb. Back to being his weapon and tool. Back to her life being so easily tossed aside if it suits his ambitions.

Well, if Ziva is to lose the life she worked so hard to build, it doesn’t seem fair to let Tony keep his.

Ziva turns on her heel and heads towards a local Mossad safehouse and command outpost. She’s going to need a few things.

Chapter Text

Timothy McGee is very stressed.

He returned to the office after going to see Tony only to be told he was under investigation by IA and suspended without pay until further notice.

Head spinning he went home to answer a phone call from his publisher, Liza Miller. An attorney had contacted her on behalf of Jimmy Palmer. Jimmy is threatening to sue. Liza explained that if the character really is as close to Jimmy as it appears, then Tim is in breach of contract. The publisher will be forced to break ties to protect themselves and Tim will be held personally liable in the suit. The publisher will also file their own suit against Tim if Jimmy’s lawyer pursues action against the publisher.  

 

Liza suggests Tim offers a substantial settlement from his own pocket and hope that satisfies Jimmy. If Jimmy insists on a public apology, a portion of the profits, and/or the books pulled, then Tim is going to be spending all his time and money with lawyers for the foreseeable future.

 

Everything was fine when Tim woke up this morning and now his world is spinning out of control. He still doesn’t know why Tony quit. He doesn’t understand why he’s been suspended and is under investigation. Now Jimmy, Jimmy of all people, is suing him?

 

IA advised Tim to have no contact with his team nor anyone at NCIS besides the IA investigators who will be in touch to interview him soon.

 

And how is he supposed to mend fences with Jimmy and avoid a lawsuit when he’s not even allowed to talk to Jimmy?

 

Plus it means, Tim can’t call Gibbs, Ziva, or Abby to ask what is happening. Ziva was suspended at the same time he was, but Gibbs wasn’t even in the office when it happened. Is Gibbs suspended too? Or was he just to mad to be there when when Ziva and Tim were relieved of their badges and guns? Tim knows he should call his agent and his lawyer. He should tell them about Jimmy and the possible lawsuit. While he’s at it he needs to ask for referral for a criminal attorney to sit with him during the IA interview.

But he is paralyzed by the weight of everything coming undone. Like he’s been playing at being a competent adult and someone finally shouted “Hey, man, you’re naked!”. Like his father was right, was always right, that Tim isn’t a man, not really. That he’s never had what it takes to succeed in life. That being smart isn’t enough and Tim never learned how to be anything but the smart kid with his hand in the air knowing the answer and begging to be called on by the teacher.

Tim changes out of his suit and into boxers and a t-shirt. He orders a pepperoni pizza, buffalo wings, extra ranch dressing, cheesey bread sticks, jalepano poppers, a brownie, and two 2-liters of Mountain Dew. It was his standard order at MIT and what passes for comfort food when how alone he is in DC comes crashing down on him.

He shed the extra college weight a few years ago. Normally he is meticulous about tracking his calories so he doesn’t feel like the fat kid in elementary school when chasing down a suspect. It’s bad enough being on a team with “At twice your age I can still kick your ass” Gibbs, “I could have gone pro in two sports” Tony, and “I could kill you with my pinkie” Ziva. He’s always going to be the weakest physically. Being “husky”, as his mom always called it, just added insult to injury. Not to mention all the “McMuffin”, “McBurger”, “McFries” jokes Tony made when he first joined the team.  

 

So he buckled down and cut calories until he was right in the middle of the “ideal weight range” on the NCIS physical charts. But he’s giving himself a pass tonight. Being sued in one job and under investigation in the other justifies a night of comfort food and video games.

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

It’s a little after midnight, Tim is doing some mindless grinding to level up the skills on an alt when he receives an in game message:

FaeryQueenLab92: Hey, I can’t call your phone because of stupid Tony. Are you ok?


GemcityLord87: I don’t understand what’s happening. Tony quit. Ziva and I are suspended. Jimmy is suing me. How did everything blow up in one day?

FaeryQueenLab92: It’s all Tony’s fault. He reported you to IA over the stupid Military at Home recordings. But don’t worry. I have a plan.

GemcityLord87: The Military at Home recordings? He’s the one who took the voice prints. How did I get suspended over recordings Tony took?

FaeryQueenLab92: Not the voice prints. The recording from the car.

 

Tim feels his stomach drop. He’s completely put it out of his mind. Turning off the sound so they wouldn’t have to listen to Tony prattle on and on and on about nothing. Pretending to be all suave and cool while intentionally being as annoying as possible.

 

GemcityLord87: He turned us into IA!!??!!!???! WTF? Tony pranks me all the time and I never once turned him in for it!

FaeryQueenLab92: Don’t worry. I talked to Tony tonight. I told him to make this go away or else. He has until I talk to IA in the morning to make this right. Or Mama Bear Abby will come out!

GemcityLord87: Do you think that will work? I have enough to worry about with Jimmy suing me. I can’t lose my job at NCIS too.

FaeryQueenLab92: Timmy, I swear, I have it under control. By this time tomorrow everything will be back to normal.

GemcityLord87: Thank you Abby! You’re the best!

FaeryQueenLab92: I know. Ok, I better go. I have to get in early to do some stuff in the lab. Good night!

GemcityLord87: TTYL

 

Tim breathes a huge sigh of relief. Abby is going to fix things. It’s all going to be ok.

 

________________________________________________

 

Gibbs is several shots into a bottle of bourbon, aggressively sanding a recently finished panel when Fornell shows up.  

 

“Did you eat dinner or just dive right into the self pity drinking when you got home?” Fornell asks while dumping the screws out of a mason jar and wiping the dust out with a shopcloth.

 

Gibbs ignores him and keeps sanding.

 

“Just the bourbon then. Good thing I brought sandwiches. I left them in the kitchen so we can eat at a table like civilized men.” Fornell pours himself a finger of the cheap bourbon and heads for the stairs.

 

“Come on, Jethro. Dinner first then you can go back to drinking yourself to death in your basement like a drama queen.”

 

Gibbs wants to tell Tobias to go fuck himself, but it would only lend credence to his drama queen comment. After years of dealing with Tobias he’s learned the best thing is to give into the mother hen routine and then make his escape back to the basement after they’ve eaten.

Why Tobias thinks divorcing the same woman makes them friends, or comrades-in-arms, or whatever this is has always baffled Gibbs. Tobias showed up one week after divorcing Diane, punched Gibbs in the face, and then said “Pancakes? I know a good diner about 10 minutes from here.”

Gibbs got up off the ground. Punched Tobias back and said “Is the coffee any good?”

 

Tobias nodded from the ground. Gibbs offered him a hand up and said “I’ll get my coat.”

Since then Tobias shows up semi-regularly with food and conversation.
Gibbs suspects one of them is lonely and the other is being charitable, he’s just not entirely certain who is which.

 

Tobias is at the table unwrapping hero sandwiches and putting spoons into a couple styrofoam containers. “I got macaroni salad, coleslaw, and baked beans. I also got a little container of the hot peppers in case you want to add indigestion to that hangover you’re working on for tomorrow.”

 

Gibbs washes his hands at the kitchen sink. He snags two beers from the fridge, opening them with the bottle opener, and brings them to the table. Gibbs adds some of each side to his plate and says “You get dish duty.”

“Typical!” Tobias huffs “I bring you dinner and you expect me to do the dishes too. I’m your friend, not your maid.”

 

“Consider it payment for the gossip you’ve come to get.” Gibbs replies before starting in on his sandwich. It’s good. He was hungry. He’d forgotten to eat with everything else going on.

 

“So rumor has it DiNutzzo went full nuclear option. That heads are rolling and everyone is scrambling to cover their asses. How bad is it really? Are you in trouble here, Jethro?”

Gibbs keeps chewing his sandwich and thinks about it. His career is over. The years of reports Tony included in his email ensured that. If Tony had only sent it to IA, Gibbs might have enough pull with Hanson to get out with some suspension, retraining, etc… But considering the additional accusations about Ziva’s access to intelligence; not one but two directors compromised with Mossad to one extent or another; painting a picture of possible espionage happening under Gibbs’ nose; Tony’s belly aching about it in black and white and being ignored by Gibbs, the director, and legal… Gibbs knows the espionage charges are bullshit. Israel is an ally and Ziva wouldn’t be that dumb. Plus she’s too loyal to Gibbs to put him in that sort of situation.

This is going to be months of interviews, hearings, finger pointing, and people throwing each other under the bus as they try to get clear with their own careers intact. Gibbs has some strings he can pull and some favors he can call in. Best case scenario, he’ll be able to put in for early retirement. Worst case, well he’s pretty sure he can avoid any jail time, but he might lose his house and retirement fund to lawyers and fines. Could be worse. He’s pretty sure Mike still has a spare hammock in Mexico.

 

“No. I’ll be fine.” Gibbs finally responds to Tobias’ question. “Tony has really fubar’d the situation, but it’s temporary. Vance, Ziva, Tim, Me, are all going to get the axe. Vance will be able to push enough of the blame off on Jenny to wiggle out from under any criminal charges. Director David will get Ziva out of the country before anything too bad can fall on her. I’ll negotiate for early retirement. Tim will have to go make a fortune in the private sector or write some more books. It’s going to be a pain in the ass. But nothing I can’t weather.”

 

Tobias nods and doesn’t say anything. The gossip he’s hearing is a lot darker than Gibbs is saying. There’s talk that Morrow, Vance, even Sec Nav are looking at criminal charges and Congressional Hearings. On top of that, CIA has put out the word they are looking to deal with Ziva. That in exchange for everything she knows about Mossad operations plus five years as an analyst for them, they’d get her immunity from espionage charges. Fornell shudders to think about what sort of suicide missions the CIA would send her on should she be dumb enough to accept their offer.

 

Fornell finally says “Kort left a message on my cell. He’s looking for Ziva. He’s got an offer for her.”

 

Gibbs snorts. “I bet.”


They eat in silence for a while. Fornell finally says, “Nationals are playing the Mets tonight.”

 

“Ok.” Gibbs says, “I’ll put the game on the radio in the basement, but you’re still doing the dishes.”

 

Tobias balls up his napkin and throws it at Gibbs head.