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Inevitable Conclusion

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Tony DiNozzo walked away from his meeting with SecNav and knew he needed to have his meeting with McGee as soon as possible. The younger man was likely on edge owing to the fact that the boss of their agency was in the building and a major meeting had occurred and now both Gibbs and Tony were missing from the bullpen. Tony had a sinking feeling if he waited much longer, the younger agent would try to find the information for himself by hacking the NCIS systems, a bad idea all things considered.

Tony entered the bullpen and found McGee obviously contemplating just that move as he was on the phone with Abby and saying something about the firewalls around the camera feeds.

“Get off the phone, McGee. You're with me.” Tony turned and began walking down the hallway, while McGee scrambled to his feet after mumbling a quick excuse to the phone. The newly appointed Team Lead led the way to the small break room on the floor, a room with two snack machines with stale chips and candy, a rickety table that hadn’t set flat the day it was built, three folding chairs that wouldn’t fit around the small table, and three large coffee machines by the small sink and water cooler. The room was rarely used by anyone for longer than it took to grab a coffee or a snack. The agents on this floor mostly ate at their desks or went out to a restaurant or food cart - if they skipped the small cafeteria on the main floor of the building. Other floors had better break rooms - for a given measure of better - but their floor had the best and most numerous coffee machines in the building.

Once McGee slid by him, Tony closed the door firmly and gestured to the rickety table and chairs. McGee stood by one, chin stuck out and lips pressed together. “Tony, what’s going on? Where’s Gibbs? He went to a meeting and then you went to a meeting and the bullpen was empty, Balboa and Garner were missing and so were Majors and Tindale. Even their junior agents weren’t around. Why did you bring me in here?”

Tony sighed internally but kept a mask of imperturbability on his face. “Take a seat, McGee.”

McGee shook his head. “Something's going on. Abby and I were going to get into the cameras and find out. I have things to do.” The younger man walked toward Tony but the Italian didn’t move from in front of the closed door.

“I won’t tell you again, Agent McGee. Have a seat.” Tony’s arms were crossed on his chest and he glared lightly at his junior agent.

McGee rolled his eyes and let out an exaggerated sigh. “This is stupid, Tony. Stop joking around.”

Tony simply stared McGee impassively in the eyes and waited. A few seconds was all it took for the other man to begin squirming and before Tony reached a mental count of twenty, McGee had slid into the farthest folding chair.

Tony sat across the table from him and laid a folder on the surface, keeping his hand on it. “I told you this morning that SecNav was in the building. I warned you that the circumstance were odd. Gibbs agreed and we told you something was going to happen. And, unfortunately, I was right. I’ve got a lot to tell you and I don’t feel like taking all day to get this done, so we’re going to start with the bullet points and get more in depth with your questions afterwards. And you will have lots, just keep them in your head for now or the sun will be down before we get finished.”

McGee opened his mouth with a pouty look but after meeting Tony’s eyes, he simply nodded and murmured, “Got it.”

Tony sat back in his chair and began a rundown of events, “When Director Shepard was killed by James Dempsey, it wasn’t as open and shut as we thought or hoped. The investigation branched out a lot, and I can’t tell you everything due to security clearances - both yours and mine - but the President himself got involved. The agency is being restructured, you can read all about it in the interagency web when we’re done but for the highlights that directly affect us:

  1. NCIS has been brought under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, jointly with the SecNav.
  2. The Director of NCIS is now going to actually be one of the Deputy Directors from Homeland - for our luck it is currently Tom Morrow - and will be stationed at the Pentagon with an Executive Assistant Director.
  3. The Deputy Director of NCIS will be stationed here at the Navy Yard and Vance has been given that position. He has an Executive Assistant Director to oversee operations here at the yard and on the East Coast. That’s Owen Granger. He’s not a bad guy, I met him a few times.
  4. Overseeing the day to day running of NCIS here at the Yard and all of the teams and divisions, there will now be a Special Agent in Charge of Operations. You know him, McGee. Stan Burley.
  5. And finally, more personally, Gibbs has been - retired. I don’t know the specifics but I do know that this is coming from SecDef if not higher. He’s out. I’m not sure what he’ll be doing but he won’t be leading the MCRT anymore. And Ziva, I can’t get into specifics, Tim, but she’s gone, too. She’s in a lot of trouble, far more than we thought, and we won't see her again.

As for the team, SecNav has appointed me as Team Lead. You’re still my junior agent.”

Tony held up a hand, stopping the indigent explosion he could see building on McGee’s face.
“You are nowhere near ready to be a Senior Field Agent. For one, you don’t have enough time in as a field agent and you’re only just out of probationary status. This is not me trying to put you down or stand in your way or whatever scheme you have given me in your little mind there, McGee. These are the rules and standards for the agency. The good news is you’re still on the MCRT. Don’t push it. This is from over our heads. We’ll be getting a new SFA soon and then in a week or so, a new probationary agent. We’ll deal, we’ll solve cases, we can do this. And once you have more experience under your belt and are eligible, you can move up the ladder. If nothing ruins it beforehand.”

McGee settled back in his chair and frowned. “What do you mean, if nothing ruins it, Tony?”

Tony sat forward and placed his arms on the tabletop. “That’s two things I was informed of regarding you, McGee. One of them should be easy, the other one is problematic.” Tony tilted his head. “Actually both are problematic but one is more easily fixed than the other.”

McGee narrowed his eyes. “What issues, Tony?”

“First off, and this is coming directly from SecNav’s mouth, the hacking has to stop. At least, the hacking just for your convenience, without any legal authorization. You’re supposed to be a white hat, McGee, but Gibbs was sometimes too impatient to let legal deal with things and you’ve gotten into the habit of jumping the gun. Case in point - when I walked into the bullpen a bit ago and you were trying to hack the camera feeds because you felt slighted by not being in the know about the various meetings today. In the future, that kind of thing can and will get you black marks in your file and too many times will get you fired or even arrested, McGee. Fair warning.”

McGee stood up, “Tony, no! I’m a federal agent, a good guy, I’m allowed to hack to get evidence.”

Tony slouched back in his chair, unconcerned, “You’re supposed to be a good guy, but just like searching a house, you need a warrant, probable cause, or permission. With electronic evidence, you even need legal permission in exigent circumstances, to an extent. Have you never wondered why in some of the cases you got evidence by hacking, the evidence was never brought up in court?”

McGee sat back down and his forehead scrunched up. “I just figured I was too technical for the lawyers and juries. I figured you and Gibbs explained things in more regular terms.”

Tony shook his head and took a deep breath, counting to five in his head to keep from exploding. “No, McGee. It's because the evidence was thrown out due to the fact that it was illegal. We had similar issues with Ziva and her lock picks. So, if you start waiting for legal permission before hacking, you should be good. See, problematic but easily solved.”

“Okay, I guess, but -”

“No, no buts, McGee. No more jumping the gun with hacking unless the permission is from higher up - like Vance or Granger or SecNav. Got it?”

McGee nodded. “Fine. I’ll - fine. Whatever. What's the second issue?”

Tony opened the folder on the table. Inside was an advanced reader copy of a book. It was entitled Deep Six and written by Thom E Gemcity. McGee’s eyes widened when he saw it. “How did you get that?”

Tony huffed a laugh. “SecNav handed it to me. I haven't had a chance to do more than skim a few of the passages he pointed out, and you should know that Legal has a copy as well. This is a huge problem, McGee, and depending on what Legal says, it could be bigger than I think. But you can’t use real people in fiction, McGee. It’s even an iffy line if it is fanfiction but this is supposed to be a mainstream novel. And you’ve barely changed any names and haven’t changed any physical descriptions or many characteristic behaviors - like boats in the basement or being Mossad on an NCIS team. I don’t like what I’ve seen of your Agent Tommy but the character that is going to get you in the most trouble is Jimmy. Or - what did you name him? Pimmy. Right. The necrophiliac autopsy assistant.”

McGee sat forward. “The characters aren't based on real people! It is fiction!”

Tony scowled. “Don’t bullshit me, McGee. Unless you’ve actually bullshit yourself and believe that. In which case we have bigger problems. This is pure Real Person Fanfiction masquerading as a crime novel. And if it hits the shelves and I were Jimmy, I’d sue you so hard your great grandparents would feel it. Regardless, the SecNav, who has read the entire thing, wants it stopped. I suggest you talk to your agent and editor and publisher and let them know the problems and get it delayed if not stopped completely. If Legal sees some of the problems SecNav suggested, you may end up in jail for espionage or breaking your confidentiality agreements by leaking classified information, McGee.”

“I can’t tell my publisher to stop the book. That’ll make me look like an idiot.”

“Better an idiot than broke and in federal prison, McGee.”

--

Tony rounded the corner into the bullpen having left McGee in shock in the break room. As he spun to slip behind his desk his head took a second turn and he stopped dead. Something had been different, his instincts had reared up with just a quick glance and a longer look showed he was more than correct to worry.

Ziva’s desk was empty of everything except the blotter, even the computer and its monitor were gone. And beyond her desk, Gibbs’ area was also different. The personal items were gone and the posters - mostly old wanted posters and bulletins on cold cases - were missing. That entire half of the bullpen was obviously no longer occupied.

Tony sat in his chair and looked at Gibbs’ desk. He had been expecting it to happen but he thought it would be while he was here, able to say - whatever he felt he needed to say at the time. Tony had been planning on winging it but he knew there were lots of things that needed to be said. On both of their sides. But Gibbs had obviously slipped in while Tony was off explaining the new facts of team life to McGee. Tony only wondered how deliberate the timing of that choice was on the older man’s part. Tony put the odds at better than eighty percent he had been waiting until the bullpen was empty to clear out.

Hmmm. I wonder if he thought of everything ? Tony reached down and slid open his bottom most drawer and, taking a deep breath, he looked inside. It was still there. The lockbox full of Gibbs’ medals and commendations was resting in its normal spot. Tony lifted it out and slid his chair back, laying it on his lap as he grabbed his keys and opened the box. It was full. Did he forget about them? Or just not care? Tony smiled lightly. Or did he leave them deliberately as a message? Or an invitation?

Tony relocated the box and laid it in his backpack beside the desk. Well, whether he meant it as one or not, I am taking it as an invitation. I’ve never really needed an excuse to go to his house but under theses circumstances… Yeah, returning the medals, best bet to head off a growling bear. His demeanor is gonna depend on what his next position is. If he’s gonna be behind a desk all the time, Gibbs’ is gonna be raging.

As Tony ruminated on his evening’s plans, his new direct boss, the Navy Yard’s new Agent in Charge, Stan Burley, walked down the steps from the mezzanine and entered the bullpen, leaning lightly on the divider that separated Tony’s desk from the windows. Tony had seen him from the corner of his eye and turned in his chair to face the blond man.

“I spoke to McGee about the bare bones of what has gone down. I'm sure more will come up as time goes by, but for now he knows the score. And I noticed that both Ziva’s desk and Gibbs’ are empty now.”

Stan nodded. “That's why I came down to talk to you. Your new Senior Field Agent will be reporting tomorrow at 0900. You know her, Agent Cassie Yates. As you know, your new team will have rotating Senior Field Agents and probationary agents, lasting twelve to twenty-four months or so. Agent Yates has experience as an SFA previously and has worked on her own as a specialist in undercover for various Resident Agencies. She just needs a bit more experience in leading younger agents before she’ll be given her own team. Her previous SFA duties were with a Lead Agent and short term TADs. Between you and I, don't expect to keep her even the full twelve months. From what I know, they're planning on offering her an opening that is expected to be available in about seven months if all goes well here. And your first probationary agent will be assigned in a week.”

Tony nodded. “Cassie will be a great fit. And she's a great agent. I think if Chris Pacci hadn't died, she would have been moved up before now. But I know that she had been on TAD for an undercover op when he was murdered and there wasn't really a place here afterwards. I’ll get her ready, Agent Burley, in six months if needed.”

Stan smiled. “I know you will Tony, you're a great agent, were a great SFA and will be a great lead agent. And call me Stan when it is just us or when no junior or probationary agents are around. I'm not really a hard ass, you know. But there does have to be a line with this place as problematic as it has been. I was brought in to essentially help clean the place up and herd the cats. And while the MCRT has a problem child, it isn't you.”

Tony huffed a laugh. “Before Director Shepard was killed, the MCRT would have been called a team made up of problem children.”

Stan shook his head. “You forget, I worked with, or more like for , Gibbs for five years, Tony. I know where the problems stemmed from for the most part. And I’ve worked with you, too, a bit. Your style of work might not be standard but it gets results, and they stay gotten, if you are backed up. You’ve told me things over the past few years, T, you can't bullshit me.”

Tony sighed. “That is unfair. Having a boss who used to be on my level and a friend that I bitched to about my team lead is dirty pool, Stan.”

“Maybe. But I need all the insider help I can get. So, get your team in line and you’ll start working hot cases and be on rotation at 1400 tomorrow and your team is on call the weekend after the upcoming weekend and will be on call on weekends every third weekend thereafter and as backup the weekend after your on call weekends. Your team is the only true Major Case Response Team we have but the late Agent Cassidy’s team is being reworked to be a secondary one with a third team in the works as a general team but one that can handle the major cases when needed.”

“Got it. We're the lead team but we're getting more help than before.”

“Exactly.”

“Can I ask, who will be leading Paula’s team? I just - I feel kind of responsible a bit, that handoff should have been ours. Would have been if the whole Dempsey/leak/Ziva mess hadn't happened. And once upon a time Paula and I, well, we had a thing. It didn't last. She was more interested in her career and really wanted a fun thing more than a boyfriend but we were still close friends.”

“James Nelson will be the Lead Agent, at least for now. He really impressed the Powers That Be with his actions during the situation. He kept his head and killed the bad guy rather than going to the bomb site and his boss first. He focused on finding an anomaly - a man jumping off a burning ship in the dark - rather than freezing or worrying about the explosion. He trusted his team to handle that. Some might call it a bit cold but he stopped the plan of a terrorist before it could be more than started.”

“Yeah, Nelson is a good guy. I don't blame him for doing his job. It isn't like he could have helped Paula. By the time they knew anything was wrong, the bomb in the laundry room had exploded and she was dead instantly according to Ducky.”

“So, you can work with him if necessary?”

Tony nodded. “Sure. I can work with just about anyone, even if I hate their guts and would love to feed them to a wood chipper.” Tony grinned. “Even if they accused me of murder on flimsy and non-researched evidence, like Agent Slacks of the FBI.”

“Even I know his name is Sacks, Tony, not Slacks. Emails, remember? And that weekend rant when I was in port?”

“Hey, Fornell is his team lead and he calls me DiNoteso. So, I call his agent Slacks. Turnabout is fair play and what goes around comes around on the federal merry-go-round.”

Stan shakes his head. “Don't change too much with the new responsibilities Tony. Be yourself, just tone it down a bit unless an agent needs it. Don't try to be Gibbs, be DiNozzo. Gibbs is gone for some very good reasons.”

“Got it, Stan. Turn the volume down to a three or four.”

“Or maybe just remove a few of the masks?”

“Damn, having a boss that is a friend - and isn't a functional mute - is really a pain.”

“Fine, I'll stop for now. And put on my boss hat.” Stan stood up straight next to the divider. “As Team Lead, you need a bigger desk area. You have two choices: 1. If you prefer being in this spot due to the sight lines and history, then the setup will have to be rearranged to fit the extra desk area over here. Or 2. Move your stuff over to the current Team Lead space.”

Tony mirrored Stan’s posture when his position changed. “I’ll move over to Gibbs’ old desk area.”

“Fine. You also need to decide where your other agents will be. Do you want Agent Yates here at this desk as the SFA? Do you want Agent McGee to move to Officer David’s old desk or stay where he is? Keep in mind your probationary agent will need to be in a desk in a week. Where would be the best place for a probie to go? Consider this your first executive decision as Team Lead.”

Tony nodded and looked around the bullpen, his mind running through scenarios. He got to his feet, grabbed his bag and moved to sit behind the Team Lead’s desks. He looked around again from his new vantage point as Stan watched from the bullpen entrance.

“For now, I want Yates at my old desk. And I’ll keep McGee next to her. I want the new probie to be next to me, at least to start, so I can train them easier. Down the line that could change, but for now, it is a solid thought.”

“Fine by me. Come transfer the rest of your things to your new space.”

Tony rose to his feet and crossed the room once more, grabbing his personal mementos from his desk to start with. He would need to go through the filing cabinets as well but that was a longer task. As he was picking up his Mighty Mouse stapler, McGee turned into the bullpen and walked toward his desk only to stop dead when he saw what Tony was doing.

“Tony, did you get fired, too, now, like Gibbs and Ziva? Does that mean I am senior agent? Wow.”

“No, McGee. I'm moving across the bullpen to the bigger desk that I, as Team Lead, need.”

“Gibbs won't want you taking over his desk, Tony.”

“McGee, you're always touting your smarts but you're being dim about this. Does your circuit board need defragging? Gibbs is gone. He is never leading the team again. It wasn't his choice to leave; the decision was made by SecDef or maybe even higher. I am the permanent team leader. It isn't just until Gibbs comes back or until they find someone better. The SecNav himself told me this is my job. Now and forever. Amen. I am Team Lead, you are the junior agent, our new Senior Field Agent will be reporting tomorrow morning and our new probationary agent will be assigned next week. Control ‘S’ that info.”

“Whatever, Tony. You're getting a big head. And Gibbs won't like it.”

Tony groaned. “Do you want to stay on the MCRT, McGee? Because you aren't acting like it.”

“You can't reassign me, Tony, stop being so bossy.”

Stan cleared his throat and McGee’s head spun around from where he was looking at his keyboard. “Agent DiNozzo, Lead Agent of the Major Case Response Team certainly can transfer or even fire for insubordination any member of his team, Junior Agent McGee.”

“Who are you? Is this one of your frat buddies, Tony? Because he doesn't understand.”

Tony huffed a sound between a laugh and a groan. “No, McGee, this is Special Agent in Charge of the Navy Yard NCIS, Stan Burley.”

Stan smiled grimly. “You have issues with seeing things as you want them to be, Agent McGee. Or is it McGregor?”

“My book isn't based on any real people.”

“I’m sure that's the line your publisher told you to spout but we all know the truth. And while we are on the subject of your literary disaster, Legal has informed me they will need some time with you tomorrow. And possibly the next day. Or more. You will report to the legal department tomorrow morning at 0900 to hear their - concerns - and to answer their questions. And as a good faith gesture, I think you should contact your publisher before then to let them know of your issues. I'm sure they would rather hear it from you than from our legal department.”

McGee stood with his mouth open while Stan turned to Tony. “If Agent McGee’s meeting runs long and you catch a case, I’ll get you a TAD. But your team is back on rotation tomorrow afternoon.”

Tony nodded. “Thank you, Agent Burley.”

Stan walked back to the stairs while Tony laid his things on his new desk and McGee resembled a goldfish, his mouth opening and shutting.

“I warned you, McGee. This is the big leagues now.”

--

Tony grabbed the lockbox from the passenger’s seat and walked up to the front door of the house in Alexandria. He placed his hand on the knob of the front door and took a deep breath. This would be the first test of Gibbs’ mood and attitude. Would the door be unlocked as usual or had the older man changed the habit and tried to lock out the world?

Tony let out his breath in a long exhale as the knob turned easily under his hand as it always did. He entered the house and glanced around. The living room was empty - not an unusual state for the room. And he didn't smell any food odors so the kitchen was likely also empty.

Tony smiled wryly to himself. He knew the almost certain location of Leroy Jethro Gibbs right now and he strode to the door that led to the basement with no more hesitation.

He walked down the wooden steps and heard the familiar sound of sandpaper scraping a wooden boat rib. He reached the concrete floor and stared awkwardly at the older man he knew was aware of his presence. “Hey Boss.”

Gibbs stopped his sanding and turned to face the younger man. “Not your boss anymore, DiNozzo.”

“You’ll always be my boss, Boss. Just like McGee will always be my probie. The feelings behind the moniker don't change due to changes in circumstances. And you brought me here to work with you, to learn from you, when I was at one of my lowest points. You believed in me and told me you wouldn't waste good. Well, neither will I. And us, our relationship, whatever it has been over the years, however it changed and grew and morphed, it is good. Just because you aren't leading the team at work, doesn't mean I'm going to drop you like you're diseased, Boss.”

Gibbs tightened his lips, Tony knowing he was hiding a smile behind his usual stoic mask. “Sappy much, DiNozzo?”

“Yes, Jethro, I am.”

“Fair enough.”

Tony walked up to the boat and leaned against one of the sawhorses, though just as a balance and not shifting his weight. He held out the lockbox. “I brought you your medals.”

“Figured you would. Don't suppose you want to keep ‘em? Ain't like I'm gonna display ‘em now anymore than I would before.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

“They give you the team?”

Tony nodded. “Yep. What there is of it. You're gone, Ziva’s gone, McGee is hanging on by a thread. I'm getting an new SFA tomorrow, Cassie Yates. And a new probie next week.”

“I heard about Ziva's being gone. Didn't tell me everything and I know it ain't got much to do with the drug dealer she killed. But what's wrong with the Elf Lord?”

“Can't tell you anything about Ziva you don't already know or can't figure out, but McGee, well they aren't happy with his hacking without warrants, but I can get a handle on that with no problem. The real problem is that he finished that book he was writing and it is nearly a mirror to the team and some recent cases. It's about LJ Tibbs, Agent Tommy, Agent McGregor, Officer Lisa of Mossad, and side characters Dr Goosey, Tech Amy Sutton, and Pimmy Jalmers. I haven't read more than an excerpt yet but if it had actually hit the shelves, lawsuits by the team would have been the least of his worries. Pretty sure he included sensitive and privileged information, maybe even classified.”

Gibbs shook his head. “Stupid.”

Tony sighed. “Yeah.” He slid down to sit on the floor and leaned against the shelving nearby. Tony glanced up at his former boss. “So, where’d you end up? They told me you’d be fine, weren't going to jail or nothing. But that was it.”

“Gonna put my ‘obsessional nature’ to good use, SecNav said. Fugitive hunt and retrieval. Working with the FBI and US Marshals. Some time teaching the sniper course and guns at FLETC but that won't be til they trust me not to hit ‘em.”

“Just don't get tunnel vision and become Captain Ahab again.”

Gibbs grunted.

“Yeah, I know. It's a consequence of your obsessional nature. Still, tunnel vision lets the perp have the upper hand. Rule 16. Keep it in mind.”

Gibbs nodded and sat on a stool.

“So, you're gonna be out of town a lot. All over the country, all around the world?”

“Guess so.”

“Keep in touch, though.”

“Ain't planning to cut you outta my life, DiNozzo.”

Tony bit his lip and looked down.

Gibbs shook his head and slid down to sit next to the younger man. “Tony.”

Tony raised his eyes to meet the older man’s blue eyed gaze. “Yeah?”

“Don't know what to call what we are, what we've been. Don't talk much, don't talk about feelings crap at all. You're a good man, a great agent, a strong, dedicated person. You wouldn't stand for your partner’s corruption. You couldn't turn him in under the circumstances but you didn't turn a blind eye. I know how much Wendy’s actions hurt you when she left you at the altar. But it was for the best, Tony.”

Tony laughed. “Yeah, got some great comfort sex out of it, didn't I, Jethro?”

“Good times, Tony. Never have been sure how much you actually remember, you were pretty drunk.”

“Never been so drunk as to black out in my life. Rarely been drunk at all since college. Fake it? Sure. Actually falling down drunk? Nope. Never modeled my father in my life. Not gonna start with that behavior. I wasn't as drunk as you think. I just let it mellow my emotions and drop my filters.”

“Good to know.”

“And it isn't like we haven't since then, Jethro. I know we aren't dating or boyfriends or love’s true lovers. We knocked boots, let off steam after tough cases, we're friends with benefits. I'm under no illusions that I could measure up to what you lost. Never have been. Never been the kind that people stick around for or want for the long haul. I'm the good times guy.”

Gibbs narrowed his eyes and Tony sighed.

“Honestly? Yes, Gibbs. I know. I never brought it up once I realized no one knew. But after Danny? I wasn't about to trust my instincts about you. And the information wasn't hard to find. I didn't even use law enforcement databases or contacts. Just a simple intent search on your name brought up the newspaper articles about them. I won't make you try to talk about it, Jethro, but I know. And I know I can't compare, just like none of your exes could. Difference is I never tried to. Don't shut me out. Even though we aren't working together anymore and you’ll be out of town often, I still want to see you when I can. I'm your friend, even if we never exercise the benefits side again.”

Gibbs nodded. “Don't have so many friends that I can afford to throw one away for being the smart investigator I always knew he was.”

Tony grinned. “Won't turn you down if you do want some exercise, though, Boss.”

--

Tony strode into the empty bullpen and ended up doing a little hitch step that likely looked as if he was starting a line dance. He still wasn’t used to walking to his new desk, even after three days.

Cassie Yates had reported on time and was in his old desk but they hadn’t caught a case until late Friday afternoon. It seemed fairly straightforward thanks to an eyewitness who fingered the perp, but while Tony might have issue with some of the Rules *cough* Rule 6 *cough*, he did believe in Gibbs’ Rule 8: Never trust, always verify. Or thereabouts.

And he had heard from the legal department McGee would be back at his desk today. It would be his first day being in the bullpen since Gibbs had been forced out and Tony promoted to Lead Agent. Which was great because while the TAD Stan had assigned had been perfectly good at running background checks and basic computer searches, she hadn't been a computer genius like Tony’s first probie. And this fraud case was heavy with computer evidence.

If McGee had to spend another day with the lawyers, Tony had planned to turn the computer stuff over to Abby. He would have given it to her before but she had been busy on evidence for a multiple homicide for Balboa’s team and a serial rapist for the FSVU. She wouldn't have had time to get to it until today anyway.

That backup was a reason for the current restructuring of the Forensics department the new Director had begun. A secondary forensic lab was being built down the hall from Abby’s lab and several other forensic scientists were being interviewed and hired. Vance wanted to staff the forensics lab with two shifts, operating on a rotating day off basis, available seven days a week.

Abby wasn't happy with the changes since it meant she was being forced to conform to more strict lab standards. Her lab would soon be behind a reception area and no agents would be allowed in the evidence processing area. And to put the cherry on top, Vance, Granger, and Burley didn't feel she was to be trusted to head the new expanded department, so Abby would have a direct boss over her, one of the new scientists. Abby hated change and had been pouting and throwing tantrums - which had gotten her nothing except a talking to and then a warning that she wasn't irreplaceable.

The only reason the medical examiner’s department wasn't being similarly expanded was that it was very rare to have more bodies at one time than Ducky and Jimmy could deal with. But Vance was hiring a standby ME for those rare occasions when NCIS was swamped with dead bodies.

As Tony contemplated the changes, one of them walked into the bullpen and put her things down behind her desk. Special Agent Cassie Yates, the MCRT’s new Senior Field Agent had arrived, twenty minutes early. It was something Tony had noted since she'd been appointed. Cassie arrived twenty to thirty minutes early every day. Since Tony himself had taken to arriving an hour early and thus always beat her in, he had decided to use the time to touch base with her about anything that had occurred since the workday ended and to plan out the upcoming day, one way or another. He considered it part of training her up for an eventual team lead of her own.

“There was no movement over the weekend on the fraud case and Abby finished processing for the other cases but McGee is due back at 0800 so once up to speed, he can run the financial info. Our new probie should be arriving this morning, as well. I'm going to take her around and show her the ropes while you and McGee work the case. Until we know how solid the computer evidence is against Grant, there isn't really anything for four of us to do. I'll be turning over a lot of Agent Lee’s training to you, but I have no plans to be hands off. And I know you have a court appearance tomorrow, so rather than confuse the poor thing, I won't turn her over to you until you're done with that. Keep it consistent until there is reason for it to be otherwise.”

“Got it. What's the deal with the new probie? Just out of college? Transfer from the FBI or police departments?”

“Michelle Lee, finished FLETC five months ago and was doing time as a paralegal in the legal department downstairs until an opening for Field Agent came up. She's 25, went to FLETC straight from law school, though she never took the Bar, nor from what I can see did she have any plans to ever do so. She is very much a rule follower and fairly uptight about it, so she should do well in the current environment here with everyone being watched so closely right now. We’ll still have to calm her down a bit from the utter strictness though. Breaking laws is bad, but all law enforcement has to sometimes bend them a little. And I don't know how she’ll deal with crime scenes, especially brutal ones. She doesn't have a background that would inure her to messy scenes, so be prepared for that when we get our first one.”

Cassie nodded. “Got it. One green as grass probie, coming up.”

“Everyone of us was green once, Cassie. To make the best agent, they have to grow into it.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll behave. At least until we see what she needs.”

Tony smiled. “Exactly.”

As Cassie began to go over the team calendar for the week, Tony heard the elevator open and turning his head, he saw his new probationary agent approaching. He gave his head a quick jerk and Cassie looked over and saw what he had seen. They both rose to their feet as Michelle Lee entered the bullpen.

Tony headed into the aisle and held out his hand. “Agent Lee, I presume?” At her nod, he continued, “Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, Team Lead of the Major Case Response Team. Good to meet you. This is Special Agent Cassie Yates, my Senior Field Agent. Our junior agent isn't here yet. This is your desk, next to mine.”

Agent Lee shook both of their hands and smiled shyly. “Thank you.”

Tony inclined his head and walked back behind his desk. “Why don't you get yourself settled in and in a bit, we’ll take you to get everything else you need.”

Lee sat at her desk and mumbled, “Thank you, Agent DiNozzo.”

Tony huffed out a light breath and decided it wasn't worth it right away to push her to be less formal. She might  never cross that line - some people were just always excessively formal except with those they were familial with - but there was no reason to determine it right now. “You’re welcome, Agent Lee.”

Cassie met his eyes and understood, “If you need anything, let one of us know, Agent Lee. It's part of our job to train you and help you find your feet. And the MCRT is a crazy place to begin with.”

Lee nodded again and smiled lightly as she reached into her bag and began to unpack it.

Cassie continued with her recitation of the weekly calendar and the workday began as the clock ticked over to 0800. As Cassie finished describing the team movements for the week, Tony glanced at the clock on his desk. It was now 0822 and McGee still hadn't arrived. He decided to wait until 0830 before calling legal to check if plans had changed.

At 0828, McGee stepped off of the elevator and into the bullpen. “You're nearly thirty minutes late, McGee.”

McGee grimaced and waved his hand. “Whatever. I’m here. It's no big deal. You’ve been later than this before, Tony. At least I’m not hungover.”

Cassie spoke up, “You are stepping over the line into insubordination, Agent McGee.”

McGee blinked and looked at her. “Agent Yates? What are you doing at Tony’s desk?”

Tony sighed, loudly. “I told you last week that Agent Yates was the team’s new SFA, McGee.”

“Are they firing you, Tony?”

“I don't - McGee, did you have a mental breakdown? You were told by me, then by Special Agent in Charge Burley, and then by me again, that I am the new Team Lead. Gibbs has been given a new assignment and will not be back. He cannot come back, even if he wanted to. NCIS has been restructured and lots of changes are happening, most of them choices that were made way over our heads. Seriously, McGee, get it through your skull before you follow Gibbs and Ziva out the door. Gibbs isn't God. Change happens.”

McGee shook his head and pulled out his chair. “Uh huh.” As he began to sit down, his eyes fell on Agent Lee and he leaped back up. “Oh, God, what are you doing here? Do they need me in legal again? I thought we got it all straightened out! I spent an entire day with the NCIS lawyers and then a day with my agent and the lawyers and then a day with the publishers, their lawyers, my agent and the NCIS lawyers. The publishers agreed to pull the book from publication and I had to repay my advance and my agent said not to call her unless I wrote a book in a completely different genre, not a thriller, not even a mystery since she said most publishers of one of those publishes the other one, too, and the publisher was definitely going to blackball me in the industry but she said maybe I could try light fantasy or she said she thought that my best bet, with my style, would be contemporary romance!? I can't believe I she thinks I should write romance but she said that with my lack of imagination but flights of fancy at the same time, it would be perfect. She said they all liked my sex scenes the best but they weren't erotic enough to be counted as erotica. I don't know what to do. I can't figure what else the lawyers need from me. I understand Rule 13 about lawyers. What do they want from me?”

Agent Yates scowled. “Slow down with the the verbal diarrhea, Agent McGee. That is way more information then we need. If you had gotten to work on time, you would know that Agent Lee is the team’s new probationary agent.”

“What?” McGee sank into his seat as Lee smiled and waved a little wiggle of her fingers.

Tony sat forward. “Well, you're finally here now and we need to get you up to speed on our case. It needs your computer expertise.”

“Why didn't you take it to Abby since I wasn't available?”

“She had two high priority cases already that were time sensitive. She wouldn't have been able to deal with it until this morning anyway.”

“We're the MCRT, Gibbs’ team. She’ll always give our case priority over the other teams, Tony.”

Tony shook his head. “No, she won't, McGee. And if she did before, she shouldn't have. Balboa was chasing a murderer who killed eight people and Sorenson in the FSVU was chasing a serial rapist who raped twelve sailors in the past seven weeks. Our case is just a fraud case, not overly urgent or time sensitive.”

Cassie leaned toward McGee and spoke sotto voce, “Gibbs doesn't have a team anymore, McGee. The MCRT is Agent DiNozzo’s team now. Did you know that the Secretary of the Navy told Agent DiNozzo so, his own self? In person? And scuttlebutt says the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States told SecNav to do it. I know, hard to believe that the power players know who Tony is. And they love him. That part is easy to understand for most people. And they know who you are, too, McGee. And their feelings aren't nearly so positive in your case.”

Tony waved a hand and just pretended Cassie’s fake whisper hadn't been perfectly audible throughout most of the floor. “Okay, so we have lots of money stolen from the Navy. And a witness who says he saw Renny Grant do it. I want you to go over the logs and check them for discrepancies and anything hinky. Also, see if you can trace where the money ended up. I'm going to take Agent Lee to get her credentials, badge and gun. Then we’ll hit the shooting range so she can qualify to carry. When we get back, you can present your findings so far.”

Tony stood, grabbed his gear, and waved Lee to follow him. “One of the things you need to do tonight, Lee, is make a ‘go-bag’ with extra clothes and gear in it. We’ll get you the things from here that need to be in it once you have it. Needs to be easy to carry, a backpack or zippered tote or gym bag, though you may want to save the gym bag for the gym when we get to hand to hand training.”

Agent Lee nodded and hurried after him, “Should it be more formal clothes in the go-bag, sir, or -”

--

“That was very impressive shooting, Lee. Doesn't do to judge a book by its cover, something you need to remember. Don't take things for granted or get caught up in your initial emotional impressions of anyone. It can cause tunnel vision, so to speak, and that can get people hurt or killed.”

The two members entered the bullpen and went to their desks. Tony removed his gun and holster and held it up toward Lee on the flat of his palm. He then opened his drawer and laid it inside. The probationary agent nodded and copied her superior with her new firearm. “Okay, kids, let's gather round the campfire and talk the case out.”

Tony took his chair and wheeled it into the center of the bullpen aisle. Cassie joined him and after a moment, Lee followed their lead. McGee rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, behind his desk. “That is so stupid, Tony. That isn't how Gibbs did things.”

“I’m not Gibbs, McGee. And you should be glad in a way. I’ll write you up for insubordination. He would just head slap you into next week. Now, would you like another write up to accompany the one you received this morning for your tardiness? Or are you going to join us?”

McGee rolled his eyes but complied with Tony’s order. Tony nodded to him. “On some cases Ducky and Abby will join us via video conference for these meetings but this case doesn't have a body and McGee handled the computer forensics. So, McGee, do he logs prove Grant did it? And did you trace the money?”

“The witness saw Grant do it.”

Tony nodded lightly. “So I told you.”

“So, the end. We know who did it. The logs look legit. And the money is gone.”

Cassie sat forward. “You were over there typing on your computer for the last two hours and that’s all you have? Grant has no crazy tech skills but you can't trace the money at all? And how legit is legit? Specifics, Agent McGee.”

Tony nodded. “You don't need to walk us through every step you took, McGee, but a general idea is best.”

McGee cleared his throat. “Well, I read the witness statement that gave the date he saw Grant take the money and the logs support it. But there is no sign of the money in the system that day.”

Cassie nodded. “So, the witness was either mistaken or lying.”

“What? I didn't say that.”

Tony leaned back. “Well, if you spent most of two hours trying to find the money in the system the day the witness said he saw the theft by Grant and couldn't find a trace, then Cassie is right. The witness is wrong. That puts him on our suspect list. Doesn't take Grant off of it, but widens the field.”

McGee shook his head. “I didn't spend two hours looking for the money. Maybe ten minutes. You have a witness. You don't need me to find the money.”

“Yes, McGee, we do. In fact, I ordered you to do it. Witnesses are human. They lie. They make mistakes. They forget or misremember details. The logs and money trails are more reliable. You aren't actually a probie anymore, no matter what nickname I may call you. You should know by now that a witness statement isn't the be-all and end-all of our existence. You may recall the waitress who helped point us toward Sacco but turned out to be the serial killer who was locking Marines in the sewers? Along with yours truly?” Tony shook his head.

Cassie gave McGee a sideways look. “What were you doing on your computer for the last hour and a half if not trying to trace the money and go over the logs?”

McGee squirmed in his seat for a moment. “Looking for a new agent. I think I can fix the book and get it published but my agent refuses to shop it around.”

Tony exhaled slowly, “You were trying to get your crap published on my time when you were supposed to be using your highly touted computer degrees to find clues to a crime?”

“You don't need it. The witness told you what you need to know. I have priorities and it isn't like you're Gibbs. You're not my boss, Tony.”

Tony stood up and rolled his chair back to its place behind his desks and turned back to face the junior agent. “You know what, McGee? You’re right. I’m not your boss. I tried to save you but you have no place on the MCRT and I won't have you on my team. We're going up to see Agent Burley. If you're lucky, you won't be fired outright but rather reassigned, maybe to the cyber crimes unit. But I wouldn't count on it. Cassie, take the evidence down to Abby to process please, and take Lee with you and introduce her.”

Tony headed up the steps while McGee stood dumbfounded and the two women headed toward the elevator.

Everything was changing and it really was a new day for everyone.