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You don't get to do that (The Curse)

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Tony had enjoyed how Gibbs’ questions had put Owens on the spot. To say that there had been a mutual dislike ever sine the SFA had laid eyes on the man, was putting it mildly. Even though it could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, the guy after all lived the whole Magnum dream with his posting in Hawaii. Bad thing though that every single word out of his mouth proved, that he had not earned it.
His initial investigation into the theft of one point two million US Dollars and the disappearance of the Disbursing Officer, Lieutenant Schilz, had been flawed and barely deserved to be called superficial. The cop in Tony simply could not stand law enforcement officers/agents, who could not be arsed to do the freaking job they had signed up for.

Gibbs was similar, only that he hated to work with anyone but his own people on general principle on a good day. But since they had to pick up Owens’ slack here, the man was to stay around until they had squeezed out even the last of his sub-par knowledge about the case. It had started to get on the boss’ nerves.

They had to retrace all steps, no information available was to be seen as reliable. That’s why they found their way into the Disbursing Office of the USS Eisenhower to see the location, interview remaining personnel of those days, spurring the memory of the Agent Owens. It led them to check the personnel files, since the noob actually remembered a pertinent detail.
Since it had been a tense day, Tony had tried for a little levity while searching the files of those days long gone for the flight captain, who just turned out to have been the lover of the female person of interest, a Lieutenant Toner, and went for an oldie but goldie. Talking with Gibbs about his unclear age – Tony would never fall into the trap of simply trying to gain access to the personnel file of someone who still was occasionally was an operational asset, he really liked to keep his job – had triggered some light teasing about the man’s need and subsequent avoidance of his reading glasses.

The head slap had connected hard and unsuspected. Tony had reeled from the shock rather than the pain, but it had been enough for him to loose his train of thought here for a moment. His brain only got online again once they headed back to headquarters.

He was still shocked, but the longer the car travel lasted, the more pissed he became. It was not just the head slap, which in and off itself was a huge problem, it were all the small things that had kept piling up since not only the beginning of this case. And Tony just about had it.
He had given two years to this agency, but more importantly to his direct superior. Gibbs definitively knew the implications of that. But for whatever reason the man had decided to treat Tony like a junior agent, keeping him office, when not he was not out doing legwork, which was then proven to have been utterly redundant, working on the cold case file and having to deal with the original investigator, while Kate got to do the cool stuff like get the witness statements. And that was only the recent case. The last couple of weeks added a nice variety of probie work, uncensored put-downs and generally just a bad feeling about things on top. He felt like he had blinked and missed Kate getting a promotion instead of just a job.

On their way to the crime scene Gibbs had ordered Tony to gas the truck, which was a little bit below the usual duty for a senior field agent, but the boss at least had later balanced it out by ordering Kate to ride back with the cargo pod on the flatbed. It would have not registered as problematic at all, if it had not been interspersed with the remark that hiring Tony had seemed like a good idea at the time to Gibbs, when he had brought up his upcoming – and now past – anniversary. Something that apart from this moment no one acknowledged.

Maybe Tony was a little petty right now, but it smarted, even though the boss probably meant in a teasing manner. It was just that this day had been somewhat of a milestone for him.
Two years of uninterrupted employ in one position. Not even Baltimore had managed to beat that, and he had been with the Baltimore Police Department for around three and a half years. But he had made detective and had been reassigned to the Homicide division there. Definitively a nice change of scenery after walking the beat for six years in three different departments.
Being able to remain stationary for that long after what had happened…
Added to all the emotional trauma that working with Gibbs could inflict on someone, he simply had expected more. Nothing major. No party with streamers and rousing speeches, he was not spoilt. But a nod, a clap on the shoulder, a whispered “good to have you” would have been nice.
Instead he got take-downs, probie tasks and being made to feel like he needed to compete with a guy who had not been able to do his freaking job in the first place! All while Kate lorded the fact that she had been able to go out in the field unsupervised over him.

What was she doing out there alone anyway?
Regulation was very clear on that matter. Probationary agents have to be under constant supervision until such a time that their evaluation concludes that they can advance a pay grade. Obviously nobody expected a team leader to hold the lamp when a probie was made to gas or restock the truck or do relevant paperwork, but it was understood that the supervisory agent or someone able to stand in their stead should always be in close enough quarters to help and correct when necessary. And that was for stupid, every day tasks. A probationary agent was actually prohibited from going out in the field alone. Not just because of the lack of supervision, it also was a lack of backup, that was concerning. Special agents ideally always operated in teams of at least twos in the field.

The vibrations of their transport flight from Norfolk to DC did nothing to ease his increasing headache. Everything about this case just irked him wrong and he really didn’t need added personal drama. Because if Tony questioned Kate, she would probably immediately go the “sexist, chauvinist, card-carrying member of the old-boys-club” route and would reiterate for the thousands time how she had protected the President of the United States of America. Not that anyone on the Navy Yard still needed the reminder, thank you very much.
It didn’t help that Gibbs leadership style was fairly hands-off, as long as they brought results. Kate however had not yet learned – or more likely accepted – that hands-off did not mean flaunt the rules. It meant that Gibbs relied on his expanded team to know the rules and work the system.

With Viv it had been easier. Transferring from the FBI she already had inhaled the rule book, she only needed to be brought up to speed to the way Gibbs likes things to go. The whole issue with anticipating his needs so he does not need to waste time to order you around.
With Kate it appeared to be the other way around. She was scarily fast at learning to anticipate, but she could not get it into her head that this only flew as long as she never broke the rules. Because things had to be done in a certain order and certain way to be legal, to be admissible in court, to not having a suspect who just confessed walk out scot-free because the evidence, that was presented, broke him was tainted.

Upon landing on the Navy Yard’s helipad, Tony knew he had to say his piece now, if he ever wanted to get a chance. So while Agent Owens, Gibbs and him moved away from the aircraft, he lightly touched his boss’ arm. Gibbs turned towards him with a slightly impatient, questioningly raise eyebrow.

“I would like to speak with you, Boss. Privately,” Tony answered to the unasked question.

“Now, DiNozzo? We’re in the middle of the case,” the older man was ready to brush his subordinate off.

But Tony knew how to dig in heel: “Yes, now, Gibbs.”

It must have been something in his voice, that convinced the boss to go along and to wave the agent on loan away to head to headquarters, before both man headed straight towards the small waterfront park.
Once they reached their destiny and Gibbs assured himself that no curious ears were around to hear, he grunted: “Talk.”

Tony knew his boss. He was fluent in Gibbs, still he needed to take a fortifying breath before he started: “You don’t get to do that.”

Gibbs’ raised eyebrow was enough indication for him, that the all-knowing boss for once was at a loss.

“You don’t get to head slap me, Gibbs.”

Seeing the incredulous look of his superior he added: “I have warned you two years ago to not make a habit of that, but it seems not to have stuck. So I’m telling you again. Consider this your last warning. I don’t care if that’s what you did to however came before me or if that was a method they used on you in the Corps. I consider it assault. So you do that again, I’m gonna bring you up those charges. Don’t cross that line.”

For a moment it seemed like something inherently contrary in Gibbs wanted to argue or bully his second into submission, but then the tension left his body and he conceded: “Understood. I was out of line, won’t happen again.”

Tony released the breath, he hadn’t realized he had been holding. Since this had gone over relatively painless, he decided to mention his other problem too.

“One more thing, Boss,” by using the title he made sure Gibbs understood that this was purely about work.

Gibbs twirled his index finger in a small ‘Go on’ motion.

“Is it correct, that Kate has now been in the field twice during this case without either you or me present?” Tony asked, even though he already knew the answer.

His boss’ eyes flitted fast from side to side in a motion that indicated accessing ones memories, probably counting his orders to Kate in his head. It only took a couple of seconds until he offered a confirmation, just like Tony had know he would.

“See, boss, there’s a problem with that. Big breach of protocol. Not for her going out without either of us, but with her not asking for someone else to accompany her. And as much as I have wracked my brain, I don’t remember her mentioning anyone else with her when she came back from interviewing Schilz’ widow. Don’t know about now obviously. You talked to her, but you’ve been in the field with her before heading to Norfolk to meet up with me and Owens. So you tell me,” Tony looked expectantly at the former Marine.

“Son of a…,” was the muttered reply.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Tony offered resignedly. “You know we can’t let that set a precedent. Those rules exist for a reason. And it doesn’t matter that Kate’s a big girl with balls of steel. She has to follow them like anyone else, no matter how much she bitches and moans. Which by the way she does, constantly. It’s only been a couple of weeks, early days. But we let that fester, that woman becomes a problem. And you know what I think about partners who can’t be arsed to follow the rules.”

A resigned, nearly sad expression from Gibbs’ steely blue eyes met his gaze: “I’m gonna set her straight. No need to remind me, that you would rather walk.”

“If she straightens out – and you mind reminding her, that I am in fact her superior and not some pseudo-feminist punching bag. That would be very welcome, too. - If she straightens out and you don’t relapse, then we’re cool. Just a friendly reminder, that I am always aware of my options. Two year mark or not,” Tony raised a challenging brow.

A soft smile played on Gibbs’ lips as he softly shook his head: “You’ll never let me live that down, won’t you!? If you want to know, I got steaks in the cooler, but thought it best to postpone the festivities until we’ve wrapped the damn case.”

A rare true DiNozzo smile was his dazzling answer.

“So, what about it, Tony? We head back in there and see that we get Owens out of our hair and the case wrapped, I’ll throw the rule book at Kate, and seeing as we’re working the weekend, we’ll take a couple of days. Cowboy steaks, beer and a John Wayne classic. I’ll even let you tell me all about the production details,” Gibbs deadpanned.

The resounding whoop could be heard all over the Navy Yard.