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Learning To Soar

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“It’s good to finally meet you, Agent Dinozzo.” Secretary Davenport’s handshake was firm. “I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about you.”

“Thank you, sir,” Tony acknowledged with a dip of his head. “It’s good to meet you too.” 

“I’m glad to hear that you have agreed to step into Paul’s position. He wouldn’t hear of us offering the position to anyone else.”

Tony shifted uncomfortably. He still wasn’t sure what Paul saw in him. “It was an honour to be considered, sir.” 

Davenport nodded. “Yes, you’ve made quite the jump through the ranks, haven’t you? Senior Field Agent to Assistant Director in less than a year. That’s quite something.”

Tony swallowed heavily. “Yes, sir, but I am confident in my ability to do the job.”

Davenport’s narrowed eyes made Tony swallow nervously. Had the SecNav seen through his bald-faced lie? Would he change his mind and retract the job offer? It wasn’t as though anything had been made official yet, so it would be easy enough for them to choose another candidate for the job. 

Davenport nodded. “As am I, Agent Dinozzo. I look forward to seeing your progress.”

The relief that flooded through Tony was a surprise. He wasn’t that attached to the job, was he? It had been less than twenty four hours since he’d decided to accept it, and he still wasn’t convinced that he’d made the right decision. He would have thought that the possibility of being let off the hook would have come as a relief.

“Thank you, sir.” Tony made sure to slip some gratitude into his expression. Men like Davenport liked to be admired and, while he didn’t know what he would need from Davenport in the future, it couldn’t hurt to get the other man on his side.

Davenport’s smile was pleased as he turned toward Director Shepard who had been quietly watching their conversation from her seat behind her desk. “A pleasure to see you as always, Jenny.”

“Thank you for making the time to come down and meet Tony.” Director Shepard said, with the same alluring smile that Tony had seen her give Gibbs. 
“Of course.” Davenport seemed to straighten proudly under her smile. “Let me know if I can do anything to assist you.”

“Well, there is one matter,” Director Shepard said, moving out from behind her desk and laying a hand on Davenport’s arm. “But I’ll speak to you about that another time.”

Tony leaned back on his heels, suppressing his discomfort so that it wouldn’t be seen on his expression. Did all of the director’s interactions with older men involve this much sexual tension, or were Gibbs and Davenport the exceptions? He was tempted to glance towards Paul, to see how the current Assistant Director of Criminal Investigations felt about the conversation happening in front of them, but he didn’t want to draw any attention to himself.

“I look forward to it.” Davenport promised, before turning towards where Paul was standing. “Good to see you, Paul.”

“You too, sir.” Paul agreed evenly.

“You’ll be missed from here, I’m sure. Are you sure you won’t consider staying on for a few more years?”

“I wouldn’t dare.” Paul said, with humour. “Angela tells me that she’s been looking forward to the day of my retirement for nearly forty years.”

Davenport grimaced. “Yes, well, wouldn’t want to upset the wife.”

There was a moment of awkward silence, before Davenport gave a brief nod. “Well, I ought to be off.  I’ve got a morning of meetings ahead of me, and I don’t want to hold you up. All the best, Agent Dinozzo.”

“Thank you, sir.” Tony said, forcing as much sincerity into his tone as would be believable. He might not be able to compete with Director Shepard’s flirtatious manner, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t still do what he could to earn points with SecNav.

“I’ll see you out.” Director Shepard offered, touching SecNav’s arm again. “Paul, you and Tony can take a seat. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Tony watched the two of them leave, before turning towards Paul. “So that’s the Secretary of the Navy.”

Paul nodded wryly. “I was surprised to hear that you hadn’t met him.”

“Senior Field Agents don’t tend to spend a lot of time meeting the brass. Though, I did meet his predecessor a few times. Secretary Peters seemed like a good man.”

“He is.” Paul agreed confidently. “In fact, if you have any problems that you don’t think can be solved using the normal channels, he should be your port of call.”

Tony raised his eyebrows sceptically. “You think I should call the Deputy Secretary of Defense?”

“Only if the situation requires it. But he’s someone you can trust to do the right thing.”

“Here’s hoping I never have that kind of situation.” 

“Here’s hoping.” Paul agreed, though he didn’t sound particularly hopeful.

Tony sighed and wondered, not for the first time, what he’d been thinking when he’d agreed to take the job. “So what exactly does this job entail?”

Paul looked amused as he pulled out a chair from around the table and sat down. “Don’t you think it’s a bit late to be asking those sorts of questions?”

“I have a rough idea.” Tony defended, sitting down opposite from Paul. “You’re responsible for all criminal investigations here, around the world, and afloat.”


“Which includes forensics and autopsy?” 

“Yes, we have thirteen forensics labs and thirteen autopsy facilities. One in each of our major field offices. Each major field office has an agent who is responsible for the day to day management of the agents, lab technicians, and medical examiners in their office, and all subordinate offices. You have oversight, but you won’t be as hands on with them as you will here in DC.”

Tony swallowed nervously. “Thirteen field offices.” He’d known that of course, he just hadn’t really considered what that might mean for him.

“Thirteen major field offices.” Paul corrected. “There are ninety seven Resident Agencies and Units.”

“Ninety seven?” Tony winced at the high pitch of his voice.

“Not all units and agencies fall under your purview.” Paul said reassuringly. “Some of them are exclusively dedicated to Counter Terrorism and Cyber and, as I said, the Special Agents in Charge of each major field office manage most of the day to day issues from their subordinate agencies and units.”

“But I will be directly responsible for the management of everything here?”

“Everything relating to Criminal Operations, yes. Both here, and the six subordinate offices.”

Tony’s chest tightened and he wondered if he was going to start hyperventilating. “Bethesda, Quantico, Annapolis, the Pentagon, and…?”

“Patuxent River Air Station and Dahlgren Surface Warfare Centre.” Paul finished the list for him. “Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll take you for a drive around to all five. We don’t have time for me to take you to each of the major field offices in the continental US, but you should aim to visit them all in the next six months.”

The tight bands around Tony’s chest were not loosening. “How do you fit it all in?”

Paul sighed. “I don’t. Why do you think I let the situation with Gibbs get so out of hand? I’ve had to prioritise things and Gibbs’ bullheaded behaviour just didn’t make the cut.”

Tony shook his head, as he leaned back in his chair. “And you think I can do this? Paul, I wouldn’t even know where to start. The only management experience I have is the six months I just spent leading a team of four people.”

“You’re forgetting all the time you spent managing Gibbs’ team.” Paul reminded him. “Not to mention how efficiently you work. I’m getting old, Tony, and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m not as fast as I was a decade ago. Have you got things to learn? Yes, but I have no doubt that, once you’ve gotten a handle on things, you’ll be far more efficient than I ever have been.”

“Work smarter, not harder.” Tony muttered quietly, before running a hand through his hair in agitation. “I know that I’m still supposed to be running my team for another three weeks, but I think it would be better if I spent that time with you.”

“What do you want to do with your team?” Paul asked. “We can’t afford to take them off rotation now that MCRT One is all but gutted.”

“Could we combine the two teams for now? Andrew told me that you’ve promised him a  promotion to Team Lead, so he can start by temporarily leading my team until we decide on a final solution.”

Paul nodded slowly. “And Officer David?”

Tony’s exhale was loud. “What is she even doing here, Paul? I know that she’s supposed to be a liaison, but how is her working in one of our MCRTs facilitating any kind of close working relationship with Mossad?”

“She’s here because I want her here, Agent Dinozzo.” Director Shepard answered, as she re-entered the room. “And the specifics of the situation are none of your business.”

Tony barely managed to swallow down a wince. Why hadn’t he waited until he and Paul were somewhere private before asking that question? Now he either had to stand his ground or let the matter slide, and neither option was particularly palatable. He didn’t want to start his working relationship with Shepard combatively, but neither was he willing to ignore the fact that there was a Mossad Officer swanning around the office every day. It was bad for moral - not to mention national security.

Paul cleared his throat. “With all due respect, Jenny, as long as Officer David’s position at NCIS relates to Criminal Investigations the specifics fall under my purview.”

Director Shepard’s expression was wounded, as she moved to sit at the head of the table. “I thought you had agreed to trust my judgment on this matter, Paul.”

“I did,” Paul acknowledged. “But maybe I shouldn’t have. Tony is right, how do we know that she isn’t passing confidential information back to her father?”

“Ziva understands the trust that is being afforded to her.” Director Shepard did not sound happy. “And she is fully aware of the terms of her liaison position with NCIS.”

Tony couldn’t help but note that neither statement made any kind of assurance that Officer David wasn’t taking advantage of her position.

Paul didn’t look convinced either. “I can’t have someone in one of my MCRTs who I am not responsible for. Last year I sent a request to legal for her paperwork and was told that you had marked it as confidential.”

Director Shepard pursed her lips. “This hasn’t been a problem in the past, Paul. I thought you trusted me.”

“Checks and balances are important, Jenny.” Paul commented evenly. “You know that.”

“And yet you were willing to trust me until Agent Dinozzo entered the picture.”

Tony resisted the urge to duck his head under the heat of the Director’s glare. So much for not starting off combatively. 

“No, I was willing to let things slide.” Paul corrected. “But now I’ve got three weeks left and I find myself with nothing much to lose. The last thing I want to do is drop Tony into a wasp nest of my own making.”

Director Shepard arched an eyebrow. “And I am a wasp in this scenario?”

“Of course you’re not, but Officer David might be.” Paul leaned forward in his seat. “Jenny, last week she was alone with a suspect when he died and no one was even surprised.”

“She was proven innocent of that mess!”

“That’s not the point. I don’t even know what security clearance she has.”

“You don’t need to know.”

“I disagree.” Paul sounded frustrated. “If you want her to work with one of our MCRTs then she is my responsibility. If you don’t want her to be my responsibility, then have her liaise with a counter-terrorism team. That would be a much better fit for her skill=set anyway.”

Jenny shook her head, looking wounded again. “I don’t know if I can have an Assistant Director who doesn’t trust me.”

Tony barely managed to contain his flinch. That had to be a record. He was about to be fired from a position three weeks before he’d even started. 

“My job isn’t to trust you,” Paul said, his tone gentler than it had been all conversation. “It’s to assist you by running the Criminal Operation aspects of NCIS, and sometimes that means challenging you on things. You don’t want to surround yourself with ‘yes men’, Jenny; and, if you do, then you’re not the director that I thought you were.”

Shepard’s shoulders slumped as she leaned back in her chair. “I think I liked you better when you were willing to let things slide.”

Tony watched her skeptically, not buying her repentant expression for a moment. That had been far too easy. People didn’t just fold like that. They didn’t get themselves all worked up and defensive and then just give in gracefully. She was trying to manipulate them and, judging by the way Paul was relaxing in his seat, she was at least partially succeeding.

Paul chuckled. “I’m sure you did. Give Tony a chance, Jenny. He’ll be a better Assistant Director than I ever was if you let him.”

Tony swallowed down a grimace. Why did Paul have to go and say something like that? It was just going to make the director all the more defensive. Not to mention that it was complete and utter bull.

“You’re too hard on yourself, Paul.” Director Shepard said warmly. “It’s hard to imagine this place without you around. You will certainly be missed.”

“Thank you.” Paul sounded pleased. “Though I can’t promise the same. I’m rather looking forward to the quiet life that retirement brings.”

Shepard smiled. “Well, you’ll always be welcome to pop in for a visit if you change your mind. Now, I believe we have some things to discuss.”

“Yes,” Paul agreed. “Tony and I have agreed that he will step down from leading his team immediately to give him more time to learn the ropes. Agent Marshall will act as a temporary team lead until more permanent assignments are decided.”

Shepard’s eyes tightened minutely, but she nodded amiably. “And Officer David?”

“We’ll put her on leave for a few weeks until we decide how to restructure the teams.” Paul answered. “It’s been more than nine months since she was in Israel. I’m sure she would appreciate the opportunity to see her family.”

“That still leaves us a MCRT down.” Shepard pointed out. “Wouldn’t it be best to leave Agent Dinozzo where he is, and bring Agent McGee back to serve as Agent Marshall’s Senior Field Agent.”

Tony’s mouth dropped open. “McGee hasn’t even finished his probationary period yet. He won’t be eligible for that kind of promotion for years.”

“Those requirements can be waived under extenuating circumstances.”

“There’s no need to pull Agent McGee away from his new team.” Paul said evenly. “I spoke to Agent Vance a few weeks ago and he said that McGee has settled into San Diego well. It would be a shame to move him again so soon. Our rotation can handle being a MCRT down for a few weeks which will give Tony and I plenty of time to restore the first MCRT to full capacity.”

“I want to be consulted regarding any staffing decisions.” Shepard said, with an edge to her tone.

“Of course,” Paul answered easily. “But I know how full your plate is. You can trust Tony and I with these decisions.”

Shepard opened her mouth and Tony knew that she was just dying to throw their lack of trust in her back in their faces. Unfortunately for her, she had made such a show of letting the former argument go that she could hardly go back on it now.

Instead, she smiled stiffly. “I’m sure I can make the time for such an important decision.”

“We’ll keep you informed then.” Paul agreed easily. “I presume your office will be sending out a agency wide announcement regarding Tony’s promotion today?”

“Yes, and I understand that Agent Dinozzo has an appointment with HR to get everything squared away?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Tony acknowledged. “I’ll head down there after we’re done here.”

“Call me Jenny, Agent Dinozzo.” Shepard said, with a smile.

“Tony.” Tony corrected, with a fake smile of his own. Hopefully she believed his smile more than he trusted hers.

“Well, I look forward to working with you, Tony.” Shepard said, and Tony was discomforted to see a glimmer of allure in her smile. Didn’t she know any manipulation techniques that didn’t involve flirting? Still, if that was the language she knew, well, he could work with that.

“Likewise.” Tony agreed, widening his smile charmingly.

Paul cleared his throat quietly. “Was there anything else, Jenny?”

Shepard startled slightly, as though she’d forgotten Paul was even in the room. “No, I believe that is everything. Thank you, gentlemen. Please keep me updated on any progress.”

Paul stood up. “Of course. Thank you for your time, Jenny.”

Tony nodded politely towards the director, before following Paul out of the room and then onto the balcony that looked over the bullpen.

“What was that?” Paul asked, in an undertone as they began to make their way down the stairs.

Tony didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “I was just speaking her language.”

Paul shook his head, but he didn’t look upset. “You really are going to do well, Tony. You’re a natural.”

Tony didn’t think that was a good thing. “Shall I come and find you after HR have finished with me?”

“Take some time to update your team first.” Paul suggested. “They should hear it from you rather than read it in an email.”

Tony nodded in agreement. “And Andrew?”

“We’ll both talk to him after lunch.” Paul decided, glancing over to where Andrew was working at his computer. “That should give him some time to finish up most of the paperwork from the case.”

“Speaking of paperwork,” Tony lowered his voice and glanced around to make sure that no one was within hearing range. “Have you filed Gibbs’ paperwork yet?”

“It is in process.”

“Because I think she’s trying to put his team back together.” Tony commented lowly. “There’s no other reason for her to try and get McGee involved.”

“I picked up on that too.” Paul admitted. “Don’t worry, Tony. I’ll get that paperwork filed if it’s the last thing I do here.”