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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.”

“Right.”

“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.”

Chapter Text

Tony thought that his meeting with HR had probably been one of the most painless meetings in HR history. He’d been expecting to have to spend a few hours filling out form after form, but instead they’d simply had him sign a few forms acknowledging that he was accepting a new position in the agency and then he was done. It was strangely anti-climatic.

However, the lack of drama was more than made up by his team’s reaction to his promotion. It made Tony glad that he’d had the forethought to take them out for coffee before spilling the news.

“Assistant Director?” Asher asked loudly, looking completely poleaxed. “They’re making you the AD?”

“That’s amazing, man!” Francis enthused, clapping Tony on the shoulder. “Congratulations!”

“Have they meet you?” Asher asked, his tone obviously teasing. “Or were they just pulling names out of hats.”

“I know, right?” Tony agreed in good humour. “I’m half convinced they just threw darts at a list of personnel.

“So, when are you leaving us?”

“Today.” Tony admitted apologetically. “I’ve only got three weeks to try and figure out what the hell I’m doing, so I figured I should probably make the most of that.”

“Today?” Francis repeated, with a confused frown. “But what will we do? I’ve almost finished my report already.”

“We’re smooshing you guys together with the first MCRT.” Tony explained. “Agent Marshall will be your acting Team Lead.”

Asher looked pleased. “Good for Andrew.”

Wardle frowned. “Does that mean that we will be working with Officer David?”

“No,” Tony assured her quickly, remembering how badly the two women had clashed over the last few days. “Officer David will be taking a few weeks leave. I imagine that she’ll take the time to visit her family in Israel.”

“Hopefully she’ll remember how much she likes it there and not come back.” Wardle muttered.

Tony raised a surprised eyebrow. He hadn’t thought his probie had it in her to be so catty. “Did something happen that I should be aware of, Wardle?”

Wardle considered that. “Are you asking as my Team Lead or the Assistant Director, sir?”

Tony sighed, he thought he’d gotten Wardle out of the habit of constantly calling him ‘sir’. “Does it make a difference?”

“It kind of does.” Asher answered for Wardle. “Somethings just aren’t worth escalating to the AD.”

“Right,” Tony acknowledged. “But I don’t technically start for another three weeks so share with the team, Wardle.”

Wardle’s jaw tightened. “She is awful, sir.”

“How?”

“She’s convinced that she’s better than everyone else in the agency.” Francis answered, to Tony’s surprise.

“Except Gibbs.” Asher pointed out. “She kept going on and on about how wonderful he is.”

“She ignores all the regulations.” Wardle put in. 

“She’s like a walking weapon, and she’s not afraid to constantly brandish it threateningly.” 

“You remember when you and Andrew told her that she couldn’t help interview the crew?” Asher asked. “For a moment there I thought she was actually going to attack you.”

Tony did remember. David had practically vibrated with rage and there had definitely been a point at which Tony had wondered whether he was going to end up in the hospital next to Gibbs.

“And she definitely doesn’t like Agent Marshall.” Francis put in.

“She doesn’t like you either,” Wardle added. “Though she never actually came out said anything in front of us.”

Raising a hand to still the flow of complaints, Tony tried to figure out what he should say. As much as he agreed with them, he couldn’t exactly come out and say that. Not now that he was going to be the Assistant Director.

“I can’t promise that you will never have to work with her again, but I will do what I can to make sure that it won’t be a regular thing. Officer David’s liaison position at NCIS is important to Director Shepard, and it is our duty to ensure that her time as a liaison goes as smoothly as it can. That being said, you will always be within your rights to stand up against any person who you see behaving inappropriately.”

There was a long pause, and then Asher chuckled. “No wonder they picked you to be the AD. You’re a natural.”

“You’re the second person today to tell me that,” Tony admitted, with a shake of his head. “But I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“You will.” Asher said confidently. “Shall we head back now?”

Tony glanced down at his watch, before pushing himself to his feet. “Yeah, let’s go. Oh, and don’t say anything to anyone until the official announcement comes through.”

“Any idea when that will be, Tony?” Francis asked as they all began the walk back to the Navy Yard.

“Should be today.”

Francis looked relieved. “Good. I’m not very good at keeping secrets.”

Tony quirked a smile at that. Francis was not wrong. “You’ll be fine. Just avoid talking about me for a few hours.”

“Right,” Francis nodded determinedly. “I can do that.”

“‘Course you can.” Asher agreed. “Now, how about you and Wardle go on ahead. Tony and I’ll be right behind you.”

“Uh, sure,” Francis looked confused. “Everything alright?”

“Everything’s great.” Asher assured him. “I just need to talk to Tony about something.”

“You got it.” Francis agreed, with a bright smile. “But you might want to hold back a bit. Wardle has little legs, so she can’t really walk fast enough to go on ahead.”

Wardle’s mouth dropped open in outrage. “Little legs?”

Francis looked completely unapologetic as they two of them continued to walk ahead. “What would you call it, Wardle? You’re more than a foot shorter than I am.”

“Because you’re a giant!” Wardle accused.

Tony grinned at their backs. “She’s come a long way.”

“She has.” Asher agreed, as he and Tony began walking again at a slower pace. “Training a probie can be a rewarding experience.”

“Or a soul-draining one.” Tony pointed out, remembering McGee. “It depends on the trainer.”

“It depends on the probie.” Asher corrected. “You can’t still be blaming yourself for McGee.”

“Not blaming exactly.” Tony hedged. “Just acknowledging where I could have done better.”

“You should have become a monk,” Asher groused. “At least then people would appreciate your obsession for self-flagellation.”

“I don’t think monks do that anymore.”

Asher huffed. “Maybe they’re onto something.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“I’m really happy for you, Tony.” Asher said, his tone brimming with genuine emotion. “And, despite my initial surprise, I can’t imagine anyone better for the job.”

“Thanks,” Tony acknowledged, his insides squirming with discomfort. “I appreciate that.”

“That being said, don’t you dare try and give me your job.”

“What?”

“I don’t want the Team Lead position. I remember you saying last year that you thought I should take it, and I want to make sure that you won’t offer it to me now. I don’t want it. Barb’s due soon, and then I’ll have enough of my plate without having throw in all that responsibility too.”

“You’re serious?”

“Absolutely.” Asher said firmly. “Barb and I have talked about the possibility and we both agree that I should stay as a Senior Field Agent. I like my job, but I really wouldn’t like your job.”

“So you’re just going to stay as a SFA until you retire?” Tony asked.

“Wasn’t that your plan up until Gibbs finally broke the last straw?” Asher pointed out. “Besides, it’s not all that uncommon. Not everyone has what it takes to be a team leader.”

“You’d be a great Team Lead.”

“But I don’t want to be.” Asher said. “At least, not now. Not when we’re about to have our first baby. Ask me again in ten or fifteen years.”

2-2-2

Tony had been looking forward to Andrew’s surprised expression at the news of his new position, so he couldn’t help but be disappointed when the older man didn’t so much as twitch when he saw that Tony would be sitting in on his meeting with Paul.

“I had wondered.” Andrew commented, with a smile that spoke of self-satisfaction. “Congratulations, Tony.”

“How did you know?” Tony asked, resisting the urge to pout.

“I didn’t know,” Andrew answered, as he nodded his greeting to Paul and settled down in the seat beside Tony. “But between the amount of time you’ve spent in this office, and the fact that Paul promised me a Team Lead position by the time he retired, it wasn’t much of deductive leap.”

Paul looked amused. “I imagine you know why you’re here, Andrew?”

“You’re finally going to give me my own team?” Andrew asked, sounding hopeful. “Please tell that Gibbs’ retirement is permanent.”

“It is.” Paul confirmed. “And, yes, HR will be expecting you later this afternoon to finalise your promotion to Team Lead.”

“Congratulations.” Tony smiled.

“Oh thank God.” Andrew breathed out a sigh of relief. “I swear, if I had had to work for that bastard for one more week…”

“I know that feeling.” Tony sympathised, before curling his mouth into a grin. “And I can recommend a therapist to assist you in your recovery.”

Andrew chuckled. “Thanks, but I think I’ll cope. Which team am I getting?”

Paul tilted his head towards Tony. “It was Tony’s decision, so I’ll let him fill you in.”

Tony swallowed nervously as Andrew turned towards him. He’d really been hoping to just observe the meeting. “The final decision hasn’t been made yet, but for now you will be the temporary lead of my old team. Officer David will be taking a few weeks leave until we have decided how to rearrange the teams.”

Andrew looked pleased. “No Gibbs and no David. It’ll be like a vacation.”

Tony grinned. “Again, I know the feeling. I don’t think anyone has been as excited for a stint as Agent Afloat as I was. Unfortunately, I can’t make any promises about Officer David’s future placement.”

“I don’t mind being her Team Lead.” Andrew commented, though his expression gave lie to his words. “I imagine she’ll be a lot easier to manage without Gibbs around.”

Tony wasn’t convinced. From what he’d seen, Gibbs had been the only person keeping her even close to the line. Though, maybe that would be a good thing. After all, every complaint filed against her would only add to his ammunition for his up-and-coming conflict with the director.

But that would only work if she had a Team Lead who wasn’t afraid to file a complaint against her. Which unfortunately meant that he was probably going to have to put her back in Andrew’s team after all.

“Well, you can at least breath easy for a few weeks.” Tony told his friend with a smile. “You’ll be starting with my old team tomorrow morning, so after you’ve squared everything away you can go home early and surprise Marge.”

“”Are you and JJ free tonight?” Andrew asked, casting an apologetic glance in Paul’s direction. “This calls for a celebratory dinner.”

“I’ll give JJ a call after this and let you know.” Tony promised, before turning his attention back to Paul. “Is there anything else we need to tell him?”

Paul leaned forward in his seat. “You’ve done a good job here, Andrew. I’m very appreciative of all that you’ve put up with.”

Andrew nodded in grateful acknowledgment. “It all seems a bit pointless now that he’s resigned in his own steam.”

“Who knows how long that resignation would have lasted if I didn’t have all your reports to help me close the book on his employment here.” Paul said, leaning back against his chair. “Now, go home and tell your wife the good news and I’ll try not to feel too left out about not getting an invitation to this dinner of yours.”

Andrew shook his head with a grin. “Would you like to join us, Paul?”

“Oh, no,” Paul demurred. “Angela promised me that she was making a pot-roast tonight. I love her pot-roast. But I do thank you for the invitation.”

Andrew rolled his eyes as he pushed himself to his feet. “Well, have a good evening then, and thanks again. Tony, I’ll look forward to hearing from you about tonight.”

“Sure,” Tony agreed, staying seated. “Have a good afternoon off.”

Paul waited for the door to shut behind Andrew before speaking again. “He’s a good agent.”

“Yes,” Tony agreed. “I think we should put Officer David back in his team.”

“Why?”

“Same reason we put him in Gibbs’ team. Because he’ll report her for her crap.” 

“You don’t think that’s a bit unfair on him?” Paul asked evenly.

“You heard him. He doesn’t mind having in her in his team.” Tony pointed out. “Besides, ideally it wouldn’t have to last too long. If I’m right, David will go off the reservation without Gibbs around to keep her in check. A few instances like that, and I should have all I need to convince Shepard that she’s a liability.”

 “And who will replace you?’ Paul asked. “Agent Balboa?”

“No,” Tony shook his head. “He told me today that he’s happy as a Senior Field Agent. I think you’d have a better idea about who to put there. I only really know the agents here in DC.”

“What kind of agent would you be looking for though?”

Tony worried his lip in thought. “Someone to promote. Asher’s an experienced Senior Field Agent, so he’d be able to support a Team Lead who was new the position.”

Paul nodded approvingly. “There’s a few that come to mind, but the first one is Erica Jane Barrett. She’s one of two agents stationed at our Resident Unit in London, and she’s showing a lot of promise. I’ll send you her file, along with the other names I’m thinking of, and you can tell me what you think.”

“Okay.” Tony said, his mouth dry at the thought of the responsibility that he’d agreed to shoulder. “Was there anything else you wanted to talk to me about today?”

“No,” Paul looked sympathetic. “Why don’t you get yourself set up on the empty desk near Juliet’s and you can start looking over their files now.”

“Sure,” Tony agreed, standing up. “Thanks, Paul, for everything.”

Paul smiled. “I doubt you’ll be thanking me for long, Tony, but you’re most welcome. And don’t forget to ring that girlfriend of yours.”

“I won’t,” Tony promised, feeling for his phone in his pocket even as he turned towards the door. “Let me know if you need me to do anything else.”

“You’ll have plenty enough on your plate before you know it.” Paul pointed out. “Take the easy afternoon of reading while you can.”

Juliet, Paul’s assistant, was sitting at her desk; but, when Tony stepped out of Paul’s office, she turned towards him with a smile. “Congratulations, Agent Dinozzo.”

“Thank you, Juliet.” Tony smiled. “Will you be staying on after Paul retires? It would probably be good for at least one of us to know what we’re doing.”

Juliet laughed brightly. “Of course, Agent Dinozzo. Though I’m sure you’ll be up to speed in no time.”

“Here’s hoping.” Tony grinned. “But for now I don’t even know where the empty desk I’m supposed to be working from is.”

“Oh, it’s right around here.” Juliet said, hopping to her feet and leading Tony around a corner to a desk that sat by itself next to the wall. “It’s not much.”

“It’s fine.” Tony assured her. “I presume I can just log onto the computer?”

“Yes, it should be all set up for you.” Juliet answered. “Can I get your personal things brought down?”

“Uh,” Tony considered that. “Probably best to wait until the official email comes out.”

“It came out a few minutes ago.”

“Oh,” Tony swallowed nervously. He didn’t know what to think about that. “Right, well, I can probably just get my things myself.”

“You’re the Assistant Director Elect. You shouldn’t be carrying boxes” Julia said, with a small frown. “I can do it, and I should probably do something about that chair. It looks uncomfortable. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Tony blinked at her stubbornness. “Um,”

“I’ll get you one now.” Juliet decided firmly, a bright smile back on her face. “Now do you like Director Stewart’s brand of coffee? Or is there another one that I can buy for you?”

“Uh,” Tony couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so lost for words. “It’s great.”

“Wonderful.” Juliet looked pleased. “I’ll go get you one now then, and you can make yourself comfortable. Or at least, as comfortable as the chair will let you be.”

Tony eyed the chair in confusion. What was so bad about it. It looked the same as the chairs he’d been using since he’d first arrived at NCIS. Still, there were bigger things to worry about than just a chair, so Tony put it out of his mind and pulled out his cellphone to ring JJ.

“Hey there, Assistant Director Dinozzo.” JJ answered in a sultry tone.

“Assistant Director-elect.” Tony corrected with a grin. “Or so my future assistant tells me. She’s making me coffee.”

“Impressive. I wish I had someone to make me coffee.”

“I thought that was my job?”

“Good point.” JJ acknowledged. “But you’re not here right now, are you?”

“No, I’m standing beside my new desk outside Paul’s office and wondering why my future assistant hates the chair. It looks the same as my old chair.”

“Maybe it’s lumpy?”

Tony moved to sit in the chair and wiggled against the seat a few times. “Nope, nothing wrong with it. It’s just a chair.”

“Maybe she doesn’t think it’s worthy of the Assistant Director-Elect?”

“Probably, she won’t even let me carry my belongings down.”

“Oh, poor Tony, being bossed around by his assistant.” JJ laughed.

“Anyway, Andrew’s invited us over for a celebratory dinner. Are we free?”

“Definitely.” JJ said immediately. “I’ll coordinate with Marge, shall I?”

“Good idea.” Tony admitted with a laugh. “I wonder if he’s planning on inviting Asher and Barb too.”

“Probably. It would be a bit strange if he didn’t.”

“Yeah,” Tony grinned. “Anyhow, I’ll see you tonight.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Chapter Text

JJ had been waiting all day for Tony to ring and tell her that the news of his new position was now up for public consumption; so, the first thing she did after hanging up was to make her way downstairs to share the news with Morgan and Spencer.

“Guess what?” She asked with anticipation as she stopped beside their desks.

Spencer looked a like a deer in headlights. He really wasn’t his best when it came to random guessing games.

Morgan’s expression lit up with interest. “You’re pregnant?”

“What?” JJ’s mouth dropped open. “No! Some profiler you are.”

Morgan leaned back in his chair with a smirk, his arms resting behind his head. “I’m a great profiler. I know how to get a rise out of you, don’t I?”

“I don’t know why you get so worked up about it.” Elle put in from her desk. “You seem like the sort of woman who’d want children.”

Biting down on her irritation at Elle’s judgmental tone, JJ ignored her. “No other guesses, Morgan?”

Morgan’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Normally I would say that you telling us now, as opposed to half an hour ago over lunch, means that you only just found out about it, but you’ve been excited about something all day. So you probably just got permission to talk about it.

“It can’t have anything to do with work, or Hotch would be the one telling us, so that that leaves your personal life. So it’s either to do with your family or Tony.” Morgan smiled smugly. “And judging by that reaction, it’s about Tony.”

JJ crossed her arms, regretting her decision to challenge Morgan to a guessing game. “What about Tony?”

“Well, you’re not pregnant or engaged, and you’ve already moved in together.” Morgan mused. “So, if I was going to take a guess, I’d say that he’s going to be NCIS’ new Assistant Director for Criminal Investigations.”

JJ rolled her eyes. “You know, working with profilers really takes the fun out of these things.”

Morgan’s smug expression dropped. “You mean I was right?”

“You didn’t know that already?”

“I really was just guessing.” Morgan defended, before shaking his head in wonder. “Good for Tony. That’s quite the promotion.”

Elle scoffed. “It’s NCIS. How impressive can it be?”

“The last Director of NCIS is the current Deputy Director of Homeland Security.” JJ retorted, more defensively that she would have liked.

“Director? Come on, JJ, aren’t you taking the whole ‘love is blind’ thing a bit far?”

JJ gritted her teeth as she reminded herself that giving into the urge to give Elle a piece of her mind would only make things worse in the long run.

“So Tony must be pretty excited.” Morgan said, his cheer sounding a bit forced. “When does he start?”

“Three weeks,” JJ answered, not wanting to admit that Tony’s response to the new job had been closer to dread than excitement. “But he’ll spend that time learning the ropes from the current Assistant Director.”

Morgan shuddered dramatically. “I don’t know what I would do if they ever tried to saddle me with a desk job.”

JJ glanced pointedly down that the desk he was sitting at.

“An actually desk job, without any field work.” Morgan rolled his eyes. “I want to go out like Gideon.”

“You know Gideon’s still around, right?” JJ asked. “And he’s only just turned fifty. He’s not actually that old.”

“You know what I mean.” Morgan’s expression was one of long-suffering. “He’d never let anyone force him into a job like AD. He’d quit first.”

JJ did know what he meant. “Tony felt the same way.”

“What changed his mind?” Spencer asked curiously, from where he’d been listening behind his desk.

“He remembered that he became a cop to help people,” JJ explained proudly. “And, as much as he loves field work, he’ll be able to help more people from this new position.”

Elle sniffed. “Pushing paper isn’t helping people.

JJ raised an eyebrow challengingly. “What exactly is it that you think I do all day, Elle?”

“That’s different.”

“It’s really not.” JJ retorted, months worth of frustration rising within her. “You think that you’re so superior to those of us who play supporting roles. You swan around the office thinking you’re so important because you’re a profiler, but you couldn’t do half of what you do without us.”

Elle looked taken aback. “What is your problem?”

“My problem?” JJ repeated, gritting her teeth. “My problem is…”

“That you’ve clearly not had enough coffee today.” Morgan finished her sentence as he stood up and quickly moved to stand between them. “Why don’t we go fix that now?”

“Right,” JJ’s shoulders slumped as a rush of shame flushed all the anger away. “I need coffee.”

“I’ll come with you.” Morgan said firmly. “Reid, if Hotch asks after us, tell him that we’ve gone out for coffee and will be back soon.”

“Sure.” Spencer agreed, watching JJ with wide eyes.

“Elle,” Morgan paused for a moment. “You stay here.”

JJ’s mind was flooded with self-recriminations as Morgan prodded her towards the elevators. How could she have lost her temper like that? Not only had it been completely unprofessional but, as a SSA, Elle outranked her. If she couldn’t learn to withstand Elle’s constant digging comments, then it was more than likely that she would end up in a disciplinary meeting with Hotch.

“Stop it.” Morgan said suddenly, as the elevator began to take them down to street level. “That wasn’t all your fault.”

“I can’t believe I let her get to me again.” JJ groaned. “I haven’t lost my temper with someone like that since my freshman year, and now I’ve practically yelled at Elle twice in six months.”

“This thing between the two of you does have a distinctly high school feel to it.” Morgan agreed, with an air of amusement.

“It’s so embarrassing! I wasn’t even this bitchy in high school.”

“Woah, woah, woah!” Morgan frowned. “You’re hardly the bitchy one in this scenario. You aren’t two mean girls fighting to be the Queen Bee. What she’s doing is workplace bullying, and you should be reporting her for it.”

JJ opened her mouth to reply, but closed it again as the elevator doors slid open to admit a group of very junior agents. 

Could she really report Elle? How would she start the report? ‘To whom it may concern, Agent Greenaway has been making mean comments to me….’ It just sounded so petty and juvenile.

“Hey,” Morgan greeted the junior agents piling into the elevator with a friendly nod.

“Hey,” One of the agents replied, looking almost awestruck. “Aren’t you from the BAU?”

“Yup, I’m Derek Morgan, and this is Jennifer Jareau.”

“That’s so cool!” One of the agents whispered.

“You’re from the Major Crimes Unit, right?” Morgan asked.

“Yeah,” Their eyes widened in awe. “How did you know?”

“You got on from the 6th floor.” Morgan reminded them.

“Oh, right.” A few of them actually blushed.

“Uh, sir,” One of the agents started, his expression eager. “Could you show us some profiling?”

“Sorry, agents,” Morgan started, as the elevator dinged to announce that it had arrived their stop. “It’s bad form to profile your colleagues.”

JJ shook her head in amusement as she followed the agents out of the elevators. Morgan and the others always went on and on about how they didn’t profile people on the team, but she’d never actually seen that stop any of them.

“I can’t believe I’m only four years older than them.” She commented to Morgan in and undertone. “They’re just so green.”

“And that’s presuming that they’re all only twenty three.” Morgan pointed out. “We were all like that, at one place or another. I shudder to think of my first few months as a cop. I made such a fool of myself.”

“It’s hard to imagine you as anything other than suave.” JJ admitted, as they left the building and stepped into bright sunlight.

Morgan grinned. “You should see me at my ma’s house. She cuts through my suave with a knife.”

JJ laughed. “Now that I have to see.”

“Never going to happen. What about your ma? I imagine she cuts through your professional demeanor just as easily?”

“Her and Elle both.” JJ groused. “I don’t know why I let her get to me. She’s no worse than any of the other agents before her.”

“It’s Tony.” Morgan said, as they followed the pavement to the left. “You only react when she’s bitching about him. If I had to guess…”

“Profile.” JJ corrected in an undertone.”

Morgan shot her a dirty look. “If I had to guess, I would say that it’s because you’re not used to having a partner, so you’re not used to just brushing off people’s comments about one.”

“That makes sense.” JJ admitted. “So, giver of wisdom, what should I do?”
 
 “Report her.” Morgan said flatly.

“And say what?”

“It doesn’t have to be official yet, but Hotch would want to know what’s going on.” 

“He can’t actually do anything unless I’m willing file an official complaint.” JJ pointed out. “And I’m not.”

“It’s not about him doing anything, it’s about him having the big picture.” Morgan explained. 

“Which won’t change anything.” JJ sighed, feeling ridiculous. She was an FBI agent, for goodness sake, wasn’t she supposed to be strong enough not to feel victimised because she had a colleague that she didn’t get along with.

“You know the agency’s policy. In fact, you probably know it better than I do. You have three options: make a formal complaint, ask for mediation, or start calling Elle on her crap before she manages to get you this upset.”

JJ sighed. “Yeah, I think I’m going to go with option three.”

“And if she didn’t outrank you, that would be enough.” Morgan said. “But you’re going to need to pick one of the other options too. For my part, I’m sorry that I haven’t had your back on this. I should have been calling her on her crap too.”

“You don’t need to.” JJ said, trying to ignore the fact that he thought she needed to actually do something official.”

“I do.” Morgan said firmly. “We’re a team, and what Elle is doing is wrong. Besides, if we don’t get this worked out soon Hotch’ll probably make us take the ‘Workplace Violence’ seminar again and, man, is that thing boring.”

JJ laughed, as they approached a coffee cart. “Thank you, Morgan.”

“Derek.” Morgan corrected. “We’ve been in the same team for two years now, I figure we can probably handle being on a first name basis.”

“Alright,” JJ agreed, a warm feeling filling her. “I’m still just JJ though.”

“Don’t tell me that your family all call you JJ?”

“They don’t.” JJ admitted, as they joined the back of the line. “But there is no way I am letting you call me Jenny.”

Morgan’s eyes lit up. “I knew you had to be a Jenny.”

“My name is Jennifer. How many options are there?”

“That’s definitely a question you should ask around Reid but, off the top of my head? There’s Jen, Iffy, Fer, Enny, Jenn-Jenn.”

“Iffy?” JJ asked incredulously. “What sort of parents would call their daughter Iffy?”

“Ones with a sense of humour?”

“A cruel sense of humour.” JJ retorted, as her cellphone began to ring. “Uh, do you mind making the order for me? I’ll pay you back.”

“My treat.” Morgan insisted.

“Thanks.” JJ smiled, before stepping out of the line to answer her phone. “Agent Jareau speaking.”

“JJ? This is Margie Marshall.”

“Oh, hi,” JJ could feel her smile growing. “I was planning on ringing you this afternoon.”

“Because of this dinner idea that Andrew cooked up, right?”

“Yeah,” JJ chuckled. “I figured it would be easiest to straighten out the details with you than to let the men try and make the plans.”

“Very true.” Margie agreed. “So, I just got off the phone with Barb, and she and Asher are in, but they don’t want to drive all the way across to our place. Which I get, since I’m not keen to all the way across town to their place on a school night either. So either you and Tony can play hosts or we can all go out to an actual restaurant, with glasses actually made of breakable material.”

“Well, Tony and my glasses are all completely breakable.” JJ offered. “But we haven’t been for a proper grocery shop for weeks, so we should probably go for the restaurant idea. Will your kids be coming?”

“They will not.” Margie sounded thrilled.

JJ tried not to feel too relieved to hear that she wouldn’t have to make awkward conversation with teenagers over dinner. “So, did you and Barb have any thoughts regarding restaurants?”

“Barb says there’s a wonderful Thai restaurant near NCIS.”

“There is.” JJ agreed. “Tony and I eat there about once a month. So far everything on the menu has been delicious.”

“Andrew and I are lucky if we go out for dinner once a year.” Margie complained, in good humour.

“Only five years to go until Hannah’s in college.” JJ reminded her.

“True, and by then you’ll probably have your own little rugrats running around so the situations will be reversed.”

“Hey!” JJ protested with a laugh. “I was trying to be nice.”

“So was I.” Margie didn’t even try and sound genuine. “Anyway, I’ll see you at the Thai place around six?”

3-3-3

JJ was the last one to arrive at the restaurant but she figured it was a fair price to pay for her actually having taken the time to get dressed up for dinner. Especially considering how much effort Barb and Margie had obviously put into their appearance. It was never nice to know that you were the worst dressed person at a party.

JJ didn’t think she’d ever been so glad that she had started leaving a set of clothes in her office for the times that she and Tony went out for dinner straight after work. 

When they had first started meeting for dinner she’d just gone out in her work clothes, but then they’d started doing it regularly she had found herself missing the opportunities to dress up. There was something about putting on a pretty dress, darkening her makeup, and slipping into shoes she couldn't run in, that was undeniably good for her mental health. Not to mention that she loved the way Tony’s face lit up when he saw her.

Speaking of which, Tony eyes were practically sparkling. “You look amazing.” He said, standing up to kiss her. “And here I am just in my work clothes.”

“You know you look good.” JJ retorted with a smile. If their impromptu make-out session when JJ had seen him with his waistcoat that morning hadn’t convinced him of that, nothing would.

“I do.” Tony agreed with a hint of smugness. Clearly he was remembering that morning too. “You know what? I think it’s getting a bit warm in here. I might take off my jacket.”

“Don’t be a tease.” JJ admonished as she sat down. “We’re with our friends.”

“Don’t stop him on my account,” Barb laughed from her seat across the table. “I’m always trying to get Asher into a waistcoat. Maybe this’ll be the push he needs.”

“Suits are restricting enough, why would I want to add another layer to my straight-jacket?” Asher complained.

“I’m with Asher.” Andrew agreed. “Waistcoats are uncomfortable and I haven’t worn one since my prom.”

“Waistcoats are hot.” Marge retorted.

“So I’m learning.” Tony said smugly, as he carefully hung his jacket off the back of his chair.

“Hey!” Andrew protested with a laugh. “No flirting with my wife.”

“Can I help it if my waistcoat is too sexy to be resisted?” Tony asked, settling into the seat beside JJ.

“Anyway,” Barb cut in pointedly. “It’s lovely to see you, JJ. You look wonderful.”

“Thanks,” JJ accepted the change of topic gratefully. “You too. How have you been?”

“Pregnant.” Barb answered flatly. “You?”

JJ laughed. “Great and, thankfully, not pregnant. How have you been, Margie?”

“Also not pregnant.” Margie answered, looking amused.

“Thank God.” Andrew muttered beside her.

JJ forced herself not to turn and see how Tony was reacting to the topic of conversation. It had been months since they had last talked about having children. In fact, she didn’t think really talked about it since she’d raised the conversation on one of their first dates and he’d said he was on board with the idea of having children one day. Should they be having that conversation again? Or was it too soon to even consider bringing the subject up?

“Well, I had some of the best news all year yesterday.” Andrew commented. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to hear of someone’s resignation.”

“Mmm, mmmm, mm mm’mm, mmm, mm, mmm.” Marge hummed with a grin.

Barb burst out laughing. “I’ll say!”

JJ tilted her head as she tried to remember why the tune was familiar.

“It’s from ‘The Wizard of Oz.” Tony explained quietly, before putting words to the tune. “Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead.”

JJ’s lips twitched in amusement. “I’m sure there are a lot of really happy people at NCIS at the moment.”

“And not just at NCIS.” Asher commented. “JAG’ll be throwing a party.”

“Not everyone’s smiling though.” Andrew commented. “Ducky looked positively miserable today.”

“Can you imagine how Abby would be reacting if she was still around?” Tony asked with a dramatic shudder. “Talk about Apocalypse Now.”

Asher grimaced. “I don’t even want to think about it.”

“And neither should you.” Margie said firmly. “We’re here to celebrate Tony’s promotion, not to reminisce about horrible colleagues.”

“Tony’s promotion?” Andrew asked sounding put out. “What about my promotion?”

“You want laurels? Become an Assistant Director.” Tony teased. “It comes with laurels and a comfy chair.”

“A comfy chair?” JJ asked curiously.

Tony turned towards her. “I told you that Paul’s assistant didn’t like my chair, right? Well, after she made me a cup of coffee, she disappeared for a while and then came back with a new chair. It is, I kid you not, the most comfortable chair I have sat on in my life. If I knew where they were sold I’d probably buy half a dozen and replace all of our lounge furniture with them.”
 
“No you wouldn’t.” JJ retorted quickly, wincing at the thought of what their lounge would look like filled with office chairs. “I like our couch right where it is.”
 
“Yes, dear.” Tony agreed, as their friends laughed.
 
“So first day on the job, and all you’ve got is that you like your new chair?” Asher grinned. “How shallow are you, Tony?”
 
“Well, the coffee’s pretty great too,” Tony admitted. “And I got to meet SecNav today.”
 
“What’s he like?” Barb asked curiously.
 
Tony paused for a moment. “Well, he has a good handshake.”
 
“A good sign.” Andrew agreed, with mock solemnity.
 
Tony shrugged. “What can you really tell about a man from a five minute conversation?”
 
“Quite a lot if JJ’s colleagues are to be believed.” Asher pointed out. “Good thing they didn’t make you a profiler, huh?”
 
JJ suspected that Tony’s problem had less to do with poor profiling skills and more to do with the confidentiality that came with his new position.
 
“A toast,” She decided, reaching for the water glass in front of her. “To Tony and Andrew, and their new jobs! May they be filled with comfy chairs, good coffee, and a lack of evil witches.”

Chapter Text

Tony wasn’t sure what to expect when he arrived at NCIS the next day. There wasn’t really much for him to do. Paul wasn’t retiring for three weeks and Andrew was taking over leadership of his team as of today. Sure Tony was supposed to learning about what the Assistant Director job entailed, but he was still unclear on what that would look like.

He’d spent the previous afternoon looking through the seven personnel files that Paul had sent him and then moving onto the other personnel files on the system. It was slow going, and he had only just managed to get through the ‘Cs’ before leaving to meet JJ, but he was glad for the time to do it. If he was going to be responsible for the investigative staff, then he wanted to be familiar with each agent’s basic details.

There was no one else in the office when Tony arrived, so he settled down and opened the next file on the list - belonging to an investigative agent stationed in Singapore named ‘Angela Daniels’.

He’d only managed to get through two files when the sound of someone approaching had him looking up to see Juliet approaching his desk.

“Good morning, Agent Dinozzo.” She greeted him cheerfully. “You’re in early.”

“I am?” Tony asked, glancing down at his watch. “It’s eight hundred hours.”

“Assistant Director Stewart doesn’t normally get in for another half an hour.”  Juliet explained. “I always come in at eight so that I can get everything organised.”

“Really?” Tony asked in surprise. “I’ve been coming in at seven for as long as I’ve been an agent.”

“The Major Crime Teams all start earlier, but most of the administrative staff start around eight.”

Tony resisted the urge to wince at her wording. He didn’t want to be part of the administrative staff. He was an agent. An investigator. Not an administrator. He wanted to help people, not push papers around.

Even as he thought it, Tony found himself wincing for a different reason. He could only imagine how JJ would react if she ever heard him voicing those sorts of thoughts. She would be well within her rights to kick his ass.

“Of course you’re welcome to come in whenever you like, Agent Dinozzo, but I won’t be able to come in any earlier than I usually do.” Juliet told him. “I can’t drop my daughter off at her day-care until seven thirty and it always takes me at least twenty minutes to get through the traffic.”

“You have a daughter?” Tony asked, in interest. “How old is she?”

“Sarah’s four.” Juliet smiled proudly.

“That’s great.” Tony returned her smile, though he didn’t think he could have picked a four year old out of a line up of children. “You don’t need to come in earlier. I’ll be alright on my own. I’m sure I can live without a second cup of coffee until eight.” He paused, suddenly realising how that might have sounded. “Not that I think that your only job is to make coffee. I just meant that I can hold of anything that I’ll need your help for until after you come in. I’ll probably just spend the hour reading reports.”

“It’s alright, Agent Dinozzo.” Juliet looked amused. “I understand what you were trying to say. Though, you really don’t have to come in early if you don’t want to.”

Tony shook his head. “I prefer the early mornings. My girlfriend and I both leave for work at the same time.”

He hadn’t actually considered that his new job would come with later mornings and, while the reason he’d given Juliet was more of an excuse than anything, he wasn’t entirely sure he liked the idea of adopting the hours that Paul had kept. The job seemed overwhelming enough without considering that he might have to get it done in just eight and a half hours.

“Can I get you a cup of coffee, sir?” Juliet’s voice pulled Tony out of his thoughts.

“Uh, sure,” He agreed somewhat tentatively. It was still strange to have someone making him drinks at work. “Unless you have other things that you should be doing? I don’t want to get you behind.”

“I’ll be making myself one anyway.” Juliet smiled, before continuing on towards her desk.

Turning his attention back to his computer screen, Tony scrolled down to the next personnel file on his list. He winced as he took in the name. Ziva David was a whole bucket of worms that he really wasn’t sure what to do with. There was no way he could just leave her in her position, but the conversation from the day before had made it clear that he’d have to go through the director in order to get rid of her.

Tony clicked on her name and began to read through the file that was brought up. There wasn’t much to it that Tony didn’t already know. She’d been born in 1982, which meant that she was only twenty four, and was the eldest daughter of the Mossad Director. She had a lot of skills, none of which qualified her to liaise with a team responsible for criminal investigations. 

The most interesting thing about the file was the lack of any kind of evaluations or reprimands. The lack of evaluations weren’t particularly surprising, considering that Gibbs hated filling out paperwork, but Tony knew for a fact that David had earned herself at least two reprimands during the eight months she’d been with them. Which begged the question as to why they weren’t in her file.

“One cup of coffee, Agent Dinozzo.” Juliet announced, placing the mug down on his desk. “Let me know when you’d like your next one.”

Tony glanced away from the screen to offer her a grateful smile. “Thank you.”

“Can I get you anything else?” Juliet asked.

“I’m fine.” Tony didn’t even have any ideas what sort of things she might be asking about. “Do you, uh, am I allowed to know what Paul’s schedule is for the day?”

“Of course.” Juliet said. “I’ll email it through to you, shall I? Do you want me to send you your schedule too?”

“I have a schedule?”

“It’s mostly the same as Assistant Director Stewart’s,” Juliet admitted. “Except the IT department have asked to meet with you this morning so that they can get your new clearance level sorted out, and you have a meeting with Agent Timmons this afternoon at three.”

Tony felt completely out of his depth. “Who is Agent Timmons?”

“She leads the team who works out of the Bathesda office. She was supposed to be meeting with Assistant Director Stewart, but he asked me to put her on your schedule instead.”

“Oh,” Tony was pretty sure they’d met once or twice. “Do you know why she wants the meeting?”

“Assistant Director Stewart meets with her every month.” Juliet explained. “He meets with all the Team Leads in the area.”

“Right,” Tony nodded, he’d known that. “Where will I be meeting her?

“In the Assistant Director’s office. He’s got a meeting with HR. Shall I send you the schedules?”

“Sure.” Tony agreed, trying to ignore the anxiety that was fluttering around his chest. He could do this.

4-4-4

Paul arrived at the office at a few minutes after eight thirty and, as he greeted Tony, he waved for him to follow him into his office.

“Did you have a good evening?” Paul asked, shrugging off his coat and hanging it on the hook behind his door.

“I did,” Tony answered, smiling at the thought of the dinner he’d enjoyed with JJ and their friends. “What about you? Did you enjoy your wife’s pot-roast?”

“It never fails.” Paul said with wonder. “Best thing you’ll ever taste. Have you been here long?”

“I came in at seven.” Tony admitted. “I like the early start.”

“Eight thirty is early enough for me.” Paul sat behind his desk. “It’s getting harder and harder to pull myself out of bed to come into work. Some mornings I’m tempted to retire now and use my holiday days to make up the difference, but I suppose I can manage another three weeks.”

“Don’t even joke about it.” Tony groaned. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“You’ll pick it up faster than you think.” Paul assured him. “So, what have you been doing for the last hour and a half?”

“Reading through personnel files. I’m just about up to the ‘E’s.”

“Have you come across anything interesting?”

“Officer David’s file doesn’t contain any evaluations or reprimands. Not even for the time she broke into a suspect’s house without a warrant in February, or when she broke the suspect’s arm last month. Which is strange, because I know Andrew filed a reprimand for both those incidents.”

“You think Gibbs blocked them?”

“Him or Shepard.” Tony agreed. “I want to ask Andrew to send me copies of the reprimand so that I can keep my own file on her.”

“Good idea.” Paul affirmed. “I’ve put Andrew’s team onto the roster. Normally I’d give them a day to bond as a team, but we’re already a team down.”

Tony nodded. “I looked through those files you sent me yesterday.”

“I presumed you had. What did you think?”

“Agent Barrett looks very capable.” Tony acknowledged. “Though Agent Dayton has been waiting for the promotion for longer.”

“True.”

Tony leaned back in his chair. “I think you’re right though. Barrett would be a better fit for the team. Dayton’s skillset is too close to Wardle, which would lessen h opportunities to learn.”

“We could move Wardle to Andrew’s team.” 

Tony shook his head. “Wardle has only recently started loosening up, and Francis is a big part of that. Not to mention that she and Officer David would probably have it out in front of the bullpen within the first week.”

“I’ll tell the director that we’ve made our decision then.” Paul looked pleased. “Which just leaves us with two spaces to fill in the first MCRT.”

“Dayton might be a good fit for SFA.”

Paul’s expression was considering. “Why?”

“With David on the team, Andrew will need a strong SFA who will have his back.” Tony pointed out. “And Dayton’s navy background would work well with Andrew’s history with the marines.”

“It’s worth getting him to fly out for a meeting.” Paul decided. “Though I don’t know if he’ll want to move to Washington for another SFA position.”

“We can tell him that he’s on the shortlist for the next Team Lead position that comes up.” Tony said. “And, even if he turns us down, this way I’ll have had the opportunity to actually meet him.”

“Alright,” Paul agreed. “Let me know if you come across anyone else you think would be a good fit for Andrew’s SFA. And then we’ll just need a probie.”

“You can’t put a probie on that team.” Tony retorted quickly, and then instantly regretted it. Paul was the Assistant Director, not Tony, and he didn’t want to step on the older man’s toes. What would Paul think of Tony arguing with him on his second day?

Paul’s eyebrows rose. “Why?”

Tony swallowed, in for a penny in for a pound. “David is practically a probie already. She’s still learning the basics, and needs to be watched every minute to make sure she doesn’t break another suspect’s arm. Not to mention that her influence would probably ruin the probie and then we’d have another McGee on our hands.”

Paul nodded consideringly. “So a junior agent then.”

Tony stared at him, hardly able to believe that Paul was just agreeing with him without argument. Shouldn’t he at least be arguing his own opinion?

“Only if that’s okay with you?” Tony hedged carefully.

“You know the team better than I do.” Paul admitted easily. “And you’ll be the one inheriting this all in just a few weeks. I’m happy to follow your lead on this.”

“Right,” Tony swallowed again, feeling the weight and responsibility of his new role settling on his shoulders. “Okay then.”

4-4-4

At five minutes until fifteen hundred hours, Tony tentatively sat on Paul’s chair and tried to get comfortable. The chair itself wasn’t the problem, it was just as comfortable as the one Juliet had procured for him, but Tony wasn’t sure how he felt about the desk. It felt awkward to be sitting behind such a large desk, and it didn’t help that the desk was made out of hardwood and looked as though it ought to belong to a CEO of some kind. His stomach twisted anxiously and he feel himself breathing faster.

Glancing around the office, Tony’s gaze fell on the chair that he usually sat in when he was talking to Paul. The one on the other side of the large desk. The one that Agent Sarah Timmons would be sitting in when she arrived. It seemed so far away. He couldn’t imagine trying to talk to someone from this position.

Standing up, Tony moved around the desk and sat in his normal chair - angling it slightly so it was facing the third chair in the room rather than the desk. Yes, this was more like it. He’d sit on this one, and Agent Timmons could use the chair that Andrew had used yesterday. Reaching out a leg, he hooked it around the chair leg and re-adjusted the angle so that it was facing him.

Tony’s attention was jerked back to the desk as the phone began to ring and he stared at it for a few seconds, trying to decide whether or not he should answer it. Eventually he stood up, reached across the desk, and brought the phone to his ear.

“Agent Dinozzo speaking.”

“Agent Timmons has arrived, sir.” Juliet’s voice came through the receiver. “Should I send her through?”

“Yeah, that’d be good,” Tony answered, through the lump in his throat. “Could you get us each a coffee please, Juliet?”

“Of course, sir.” Juliet replied brightly. “I’ll bring them through in a few minutes.”

Tony had only just returned the phone to the receiver when he heard a knock on the door. Resisting the urge to rub his hands on his trousers, Tony leaned back against the desk with forced casualness and called for Agent Timmons to enter.

Sarah Timmons wasn’t an agent that Tony knew well, but they had spent a fair amount of time in the same room. Bethesda was less than an hour’s drive from the Navy Yard, so the agents stationed there often attended the same trainings and ceremonies as the agents who worked from the main office.

“Agent Dinozzo,” Agent Timmons greeted with a smile. She offered her hand for him to shake. “Congratulations on your promotion.”

“Thank you, Agent Timmons,” Tony shook her hand and waved her to the seat to his right. “Call me Tony. Do you mind if I call you Sarah?”

She shook her head, and gracefully lowered herself onto the chair. “No, go ahead. I prefer familiar terms to be honest.”

“So do I.” Tony agreed, sitting in his seat across from her. “How was your drive in?”

“The traffic was a nightmare.” Sarah grimaced. “There was a while there when I didn’t think I was going to make it in time. I live in Gaithersburg, so I hardly ever have to brave the inner-city traffic.”

“Lucky you,” Tony shook his head. “I face it everyday and some days I can’t help but wonder whether or not it’s worth it.”

“I know what you mean, I’ve considered applying for a transfer here but, in the end, my husband and I decided that the extra hassle just didn’t seem worth it.”

“You’re married?” 

Sarah’s smile brightened up the room. “Three years now. Charles is a electrical engineer.”

“Any children?” Tony asked with forced naturalness. Conversations always felt more awkward when he’d a read a person’s file. It felt strange asking questions that he already knew the answer to.

“Matilda’s nearly three, she’s a bit of a whirlwind really.”

Tony opened his mouth to offer some kind of polite response, but he stopped when Juliet came in with the drinks.

“Coffee for you, Agent Dinozzo,” Juliet handed him a mug with a smile. “And peppermint tea for you, Agent Timmons.”

“Thanks, Juliet.” Tony warmed his hands against the mug. “We appreciate it. Could you close the door on your way out please?”

“Yes, thank you!” Sarah agreed, breathing in the steam that was rising from her tea. “I really needed one of these.”

“You’re not a coffee drinker?” Tony asked curiously, as Juliet left the office.

Sarah grimaced. “I am normally, but I’ve cut back to one a day. I’m pregnant.”

Tony blinked, he hadn’t been expecting that. “Wow, congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Sarah grinned. “Charles, Matilda, and I are really excited.”

“I’m entirely new to this sort of thing,” Tony admitted. “So you’re going to have to help me out here. How did this work last time, in regards to your job?”

“I’ll work up until the last few weeks,” Sarah explained. “But I’ve already started to take a backseat in regards to fieldwork.”

“Sounds good,” Tony nodded. “What do you need from me?”

“Nothing right now,” Sarah admitted. “But eventually my team will need a temporary agent. Leo, my SFA, is capable of leading the team in my absence - and it’ll be a great experience for him - but they’ll need another set of hands.”

“Sure,” Tony agreed, relaxing back against his chair. “I can make that happen. How are the rest of your team going? Any concerns or complaints?”

Chapter Text

The next morning Tony accompanied Paul to the NCIS Resident Unit at the Naval Surface Warfare Centre, Dahlgren, and tried not to feel too awkward when he was reintroduced to the team of three agents based there.
 
He’d met two of them before, since it wasn’t unusual for one of the MCRTs to be called in to take over a case that was deemed out of an Resident Unit’s league, but not since he’d left Gibbs team. It made Tony wince to think that these agents had only ever seen him as Gibbs’ whipping boy. No wonder he could read some doubt in their expressions as they exchanged polite conversation. They probably thought NCIS was scrapping the bottom of the barrel hard.

“So,” Tony started, when the conversation about the weather fell into a natural lull. “What would you say takes up the majority of your time here in the Dahlgren Unit?”

The two junior agents exchanged a glance while their Team Lead, Rob Joiner, frowned. “How do you mean?”

“Do you find that there is enough reported crime to keep you busy?” Tony asked, glancing around the open plan office at the tidy desks. “What sorts of crimes occupy the most of your time? When I was afloat last year I spent most of the time solving petty theft cases and breaking up illegal gambling rings.”

The junior agents glanced at each other again and Tony could tell that they were swallowing down smirks. 

“Way I heard it, he was a one man temperance movement.” Agent Williams muttered, not quite quietly enough.

Tony’s stomach twisted. This was exactly why he was a bad choice for the Assistant Director position. His success at the job depended upon him being respected, and he clearly wasn’t. Not that being disrespected was anything new. He’d dealt with it before, and he’d do it again. At least this time he wouldn’t have Gibbs under-minding him every step of the way.
 
“Should I take it you’re a champion for teen-aged seamen’s rights to get alcohol poisoning while afloat, Agent Williams?” He asked dryly.

Williams’ eyes widened, and his eyes darted toward Rob who was leading back against a desk unsympathetically. “Of course not!”

“But you think that my response to four hospitalised eighteen to nineteen year olds, two of whom almost died, was unnecessary?” Tony surmised.

Williams opened his mouth, before closing it again with a grimace. “Uh, I mean, it’s just a bit of booze, right?”

“Have you ever been on a naval ship, Agent Williams?” Tony asked casually.

“No, sir.”

“You ever considered why the navy might prohibit sailors from drinking intoxicating substances while on a naval ship?”

Williams swallowed. “Not really.”

“Well, better now than never.” Tony told him cheerfully. “Go on, we can wait.”

“What?” Williams blinked, uncomprehendingly. 

“Why do you think it’s against regs for navy personal to drink while afloat?”

Williams resembled a deer in headlights. “Uh…I don’t…um…”

“Agent Kane, can you help Agent Williams out?” Tony prompted.

“Well, there’s a lot of different ways to die on a naval ship.” Agent Kane answered quickly, shooting her teammate a sympathetic grimace. “Weapons, equipment, the ladders between the levels.”

“Not to mention that they could just walk straight off the side of the ship.” Tony agreed. “Why else?”

Agent Williams frowned thoughtfully. “I guess it probably lowers the amount of brawling on board.”

“It really does.” Tony agreed. “Agent Joiner, what have Williams and Kane forgotten?”

“That should a naval ship be attacked, the few hours it would take for a sailor to sober up could be the difference between life or death.” Rob answered easily, as Tony had known he would be able to.

Tony turned back to Williams. “The navy is not a social club, Agent Williams, and it’s not like any other job either. The navy is an essential part of our nation’s defence force. Which means that we need our sailors to be sober and ready for action. Understood?”

Williams swallowed, his eyes on the ground. “Yes, sir.”

Tony watched him for a few seconds before give a quick nod. “Good. So what sort of crimes keep you occupied here in Dahlgren?”

3-3-3

“I’m impressed.” Paul commented, as they drove back over the bridge spanning the Potomac River. 

Tony glanced away from the road to try and read Paul’s expression. What did Paul have to be impressed by? It had been a simple meet and greet. “With what?”

“The way you dealt with Agent Williams. Rob’s had some concerns with his behaviour over the last few months. He’s a bit too familiar with some of the younger marines they come into contact with. From what Rob’s told me, his tendency to identify with suspects has occasionally led to attempts to sweep things under the rug.” 

“Ah,” Tony nodded, it was an easy mistake for junior agents to make. “Do you think he’ll grow out of it?”

“He might, but there’s a reason we have a two year probationary period.”

“My probationary period was only eighteen months.” Tony commented. “Kate’s was only a year long, if that.”

“You were an experienced investigator who came to us with excellent references and several commendations, including one from the FBI.” Paul pointed out. “And I don’t know what Agent Gibbs told you, but officially Agent Todd was still a probationary agent when she was killed.”

“She was?” Tony asked in surprise. “But McGee joined the team a year after Kate. 

“Gibbs assured Tom that the two of you could handle them.” Paul said wryly.

Tony shook his head in bemusement. “Gibbs always did know how to get the brass on side.”

Paul scoffed. “Gibbs knew how to make himself enough of an invaluable pain in the ass that nobody could be bothered going up against him. You should have heard some of the things Tom used to say about him behind closed doors.”

Tony’s glanced towards him in surprise. “Really?”

“Tom would have thrown Gibbs out on his ass in heartbeat if it had been up to him.” Paul confirmed. “But Gibbs has made a name for himself with the brass. They liked his solve rate.”

“But not his conviction rate, I bet.” Tony muttered. “I had no idea that they didn’t get along.”

“It’s one of the golden rules of management. Crap rolls downhill; it doesn’t bounce. If you have to discipline a Team Lead, you do it in private – where no one in their team has any idea what’s happening. Same goes for a Team Lead disciplining their Senior Field Agent.”

“So basically the exact opposite of what Gibbs did.” 

“I think that can probably be said about any aspect of management.” Paul said dryly. “It’s the same principle if you ever have to challenge the director on anything. Do it in private so she doesn’t feel the need to try and save face.”

Tony nodded, that was just common sense. 

“And speaking of the director,” Paul sighed. “Director Shepard has approved Agent Barrett’s promotion to Team Lead of the Third Major Crime Response Team and she is willing to wait on the decision about Andrew’s Senior Field Agent until we have sat down with Agent Dayton.”

“But?” Tony prompted.

“She has someone in mind to fill the junior agent position in MCRT one.” Paul answered tightly. “She’ll meet with us on Monday to fill us in on the details.”

“Ah,” Tony grimaced, the last time Shepard had chosen an agent Ziva David had been placed on the team. “Is that usual?”

“It depends on the director.” Paul hedged.

Tony took that to mean that Tom Morrow wouldn’t have done it, but that Shepard had boundary issues. “So we can contact Agents Barrett and Dayton today then?”

“Yes, we need Dayton here by Tuesday at the latest. Then, presuming he and Barrett both agree to the shift, they’ll have four weeks to arrange their moves to Washington.”

“How long is Officer David’s leave for?” Tony asked. “It would be better if she didn’t come back until Barrett starts in MCRT Two and we’re ready to separate out the two teams.”

“Is there a problem?” 

“Paul, as far as I can tell, the only people in the building who don’t have a problem with Officer David are Director Shepard and Ducky. She is either ignorant of our regulations or purposefully ignoring them; she regularly expresses her disdain for our methods; and I heard her described by a junior agent as a ‘walking weapon’ who isn’t afraid to threaten people, suspects, and fellow agents alike.”

“She’s that bad?” 

“I think I’d rather have Gibbs back than be stuck with David.” Tony said with feeling. “When is she due back?”

“In two weeks,” Paul answered. “So the Monday after I retire.”

“Which gives us two weeks to figure out what to do with her before Barrett arrives to relieve Andrew from leading MCRT Three. Can we send her to FLETC? There’s nothing in her file about her having gone through training and she really shouldn’t be working crime scenes without it.”

“FLETC’s Criminal Investigator Training Programs are usually fully booked a few months out, and I don’t think there’s a new one due to start for another month.”

“Oh, right,” Tony winced. He should have known that. Of course FLETC didn’t start new CITP courses every week. 

“It’s still a good idea though.” Paul mused. “She does need training, even if it doesn’t solve our problem of what to do with her for those two weeks. Why don’t you look into signing her up for a course when we get back to the office?”

“Do we need Shepard’s permission?” Tony couldn’t imagine the director would react well if they organised something like this behind her back.

Paul sighed. “We’ll get the paperwork sorted today and then run it passed her on Monday.”

5-5-5

“Hey, JJ,” Derek’s knuckles rapped against her door. “We’re heading out for drinks in a few minutes, do you want to come?”

JJ looked up from the file in front of her and at Derek who was leaning against her door frame. “Who’s we?”

“Reid, Garcia, and Elle.”

JJ sighed, it had only been two days since she’d snapped at Elle and she’d been avoiding the woman as much as she could. 

Derek pushed himself off the door frame and moved so he could close the door behind him. “Have you talked to Hotch yet?”

“No.” JJ sighed, she should have known that he wouldn’t leave it alone. “What would I’d even say. It all just seems so petty.”

Derek crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s not petty. What does Tony say about it? He’s been an Agent in Charge. I’m sure he’s dealt with this sort of thing before.”

JJ looked away. “I haven’t told him about it yet.”

“Why not?”

“He’s just getting used to the idea of being the Assistant Director, I don’t want to give him extra things to worry about.”

Derek frowned. “That’s crap and you know it. This Elle thing has been going on way longer than that. What’s the real reason?”

JJ sighed. “You have no idea the kind of workplace bullying that he’s had to put up with at NCIS. Compared to that, this thing between me and Elle just seems so juvenile.”

“I’ll make you a deal,” Derek suggested. “You tell Tony what’s been going on and, if he doesn’t think it’s a big deal, you don’t have to tell Hotch.”

“And if I don’t?” JJ asked, mostly out of curiosity.

“I’ll talk to Hotch myself.” Derek said seriously. “Like I should have done months ago when I first noticed that she was a problem.”

JJ’s mouth opened in surprise. “You’d do that?”

“Do you want me to?”

JJ considered it. On the one hand, if Derek talked to Hotch then she wouldn’t have to; but on the other hand, she didn’t want Hotch to think that she hadn’t been strong enough to come to him herself. “No, I’ll talk to Tony.”

“Good.” Derek’s grin brightened up the room. “So, drinks?”

“I’ll see if Tony’s keen.” JJ decided. “He should be finishing about now. Can I let you know in a few minutes?”

“Sure,” Derek opened her office door. “We’ll be leaving at five fifteen.”

JJ glanced down at her clock; it was five past. “Sounds good.” She watched Derek leave, before picking up her phone and finding Tony under recently called.

“Hey, JJ,” Tony’s tone was fond when he answered after just a few rings. “What’s up?”

“Hey, Derek just invited me out for drinks with him and some of the others. Are you interested?”

“I could go for a drink.” Tony agreed easily. “At the same place as last time?”

“Last time?” 

“Just before I went afloat,” Tony reminded her. “When you introduced me to your team.”

“That was eight months ago.” JJ realised. “How have I not invited you out for drinks with my workmates since then?” Did she spend so little time with her friends outside of work? 

“Maybe we should have them over for dinner sometime?” Tony suggested.

JJ winced, she really didn’t want to have Elle over, but she could hardly invite everyone except her. “Maybe.”

“So same place as last time?”

“I don’t know,” JJ admitted. “I’ll text you the details in a few minutes. We’re leaving here at five fifteen, so in six minutes.”

“I’ll probably be another ten minutes,” Tony admitted apologetically. “I’ve got some paperwork I need to finish up before Paul and I meet with Shepard first thing Monday morning.”

“I’ll see you soon then.” JJ smiled into the phone.

“See you soon.” 

After hanging up the phone, JJ switched off her computer and quickly place the files she’d been reading in the locked drawer in her desk. Then she took a minute to reapply her lipstick, before locking her office and heading down to where the others were waiting for her. 

“Is Tony coming?” Derek asked.

“Yeah, he’s just got some things to finish up and then he’ll join us.” JJ answered, ignoring Elle’s sour expression. “Where were you thinking? I said I’d text him the address.”

“How about the place we met him last year?” Penelope suggested. “We can finally get him to try a cosmopolitan.”

JJ blinked in confusion, before she realised what Penelope was talking about. “How do you remember it so clearly? All I really remember is having to say goodbye to him afterwards.”

“Are we going or what?” Elle asked, her arms crossed.

“Can I get a ride with you, Penelope?” JJ asked. “I’ll leave my car here for the weekend.”

“Of course you can, sweetness.” 

5-5-5

JJ hadn’t realised how much she’d missed spending time with her friends until she was sitting around a table with Spencer and Penelope watching Derek flirting with a woman at the bar. They’d used to do this regularly to unwind after a difficult week. She wasn’t sure when they’d stopped.

“Look at him,” Penelope sighed, staring at Derek. “He’s just so smooth.”

“He’s a ladies man.” Elle agreed, before turning to Spencer. “What about you, Reid? Do you ever chat up women?”

Spencer looked down at his drink, his entire body signaling his discomfort. “Uh, um…”

“Reid’s too much of a gentleman to chat anyone up.” Penelope answered for him. 

“Yeah,” JJ agreed, resisting the urge to glare at Elle for making Spencer uncomfortable. “He’d never do anything so crass.”

“What’s crass?” Derek asked, suddenly dropping down onto the empty seat beside Penelope.

“You apparently.” Elle answered, with a smirk.

JJ was hard pressed not to roll her eyes; Elle was such a stirrer. “We were talking about how Spencer is a gentleman.”

Derek raised an eyebrow; humour dancing in his eyes. “And I’m not? 

“You can be,” JJ allowed, before gesturing towards the women that Derek had been flirting with. “But do they think you’re a gentleman?”

Derek smirked. “They’re hoping I’m not.”

“Exactly.”

“Ooh, Tony’s here,” Penelope announced. “And he looks yummy in that suit.”

JJ turned around to watch Tony weave his way through the between them. “He does, doesn’t he? You should have seen him on Tuesday; he was wearing a waistcoat.”

“Oh,” Penelope fanned herself with her hand. “He must have looked smoking.”

“Isn’t a waistcoat a bit over the top?” Elle asked.

JJ ignored her as she stood up to greet Tony with a kiss. “How was your day?”

“Alright,” Tony answered, which was one of the most positive answers he’d given all week. “Yours?”

“Productive,” JJ kissed him again. “We ordered you a cosmo.”

Tony blinked. “Why?”

“Because you liked the Pina Colada that JJ got you last time we were here.” Penelope answered, seemingly completely unembarrassed to have been listening in on their conversation. 

Tony glanced towards the table suspiciously. “It’d better not have an umbrella in it.”

“No umbrella,” JJ promised, returning to her seat and pushing the cosmo in front of the empty seat beside her. “See?”

“A curly piece of fruit is just as bad.” Tony grumbled, moving the empty seat closer to her. Then he sat down and wrapped his arm around her. “Did you at least get me a proper drink too?”

“I got you a beer, man.” Derek said, gesturing to the full glass in the centre of the table. “You’ll need to something to wash the taste out.”

“Hey!” Penelope lightly slapped Derek’s arm. “Have you even tasted a cosmo?”

“Not from a glass,” Derek admitted, wiggling his eyebrows.

Tony still hadn’t touched the drink in front of him, so JJ reached out and plucked the curled orange peel off the glass before popping it into her mouth. The combination of the sweetness of the sugar and the tartness of the orange peel made her smile in pleasure. “Is that better?”

“Can’t I just drink beer?” Tony asked, even as he picked up the glass. “This is pink.”

“Red.” JJ corrected. “Come on; just one sip and, if you don’t like it, I’ll finish the rest of it.”

Tony’s sigh was long-suffering, but JJ knew he didn’t really mind. “Alright, here goes.”

“You’re actually going to try it?” Elle asked incredulously, as Tony brought glass to his lips.

JJ watched his expression; grinning when his eyes widened in surprised enjoyment. “I told you that you’d enjoy it.”

“It’s delicious, right?” Penelope asked excitedly. 

“It isn’t bad.” Tony acknowledged, taking another sip. 

“I think you mean mouth-wateringly scrumptious.” Penelope told him. 

Tony chuckled. “I wouldn’t go that far, Penelope. It’s tasty, but I’d rather a beer.”

“Heathen.” Penelope accused him, sipping at her own cosmopolitan.

“Tastes better from a women’s mouth anyway.” Derek commented, watching Penelope meaningfully.

JJ rolled her eyes; sometimes Derek and Penelope’s friendly flirting was just ridiculous.

“Oh, yeah?” Tony sounded interested. “Here, JJ, why don’t you have a taste?”

JJ glanced down at the glass that he’d nudged towards her. “Seriously?”

“You wanted me to enjoy it.” Tony reminded her with a grin.

JJ shook her head, but picked up the glass anyway. “I can’t believe we’re doing this. Aren’t you the assistant director of a federal agency or something?”

“Not for another fourteen days.” Tony’s smile was wicked.

JJ sipped at the glass, before turning towards Tony expectantly. He didn’t disappoint as he pressed his lips against hers with a passion and urgency that she’d only ever experienced in private. JJ practically dropped the glass onto the table, before sliding her fingers through Tony’s hair to pull him closer. Tony’s arm, which she’d almost forgotten was wrapped around her, pulled her closer until she was on the edge of her chair - only held steady by his arm.

Derek’s wolf-whistle drew JJ back to reality, and she could instantly feel heat traveling up her neck and into her face. She broke the kiss, but didn’t draw away from Tony. Instead, she buried her face in his neck in embarrassment. She couldn’t believe she’d forgotten herself like that. The last time she’d kissed anyone like that in public had been as a junior in college.

“So?” Derek asked expectantly.

“You’re right,” Tony answered, sounding smug. “It definitely tastes better that way.” 

Chapter Text

JJ yawned as she tried to bury her face deeper in the pillow beneath her. It was like burying her face in a cloud. She didn’t think she would ever get used to the softness of the expensive sheets Tony had bought for their bed. She also didn’t think she’d ever get used to the idea spending more money on sheets than she’d spent on the first mattress she’d bought herself.

Cracking open her eyes, JJ saw sunlight trying to creep their way around the edges of the black out curtain. She bolted upright - she and Tony would be late for work! - before remembering that it was Saturday, and they both had the weekend off.

Tony’s side of the bed was empty, which wasn’t surprising since she’d never seen him sleep past seven in the morning. JJ glanced at clock and was surprised to see that it was almost nine. She hadn’t slept this late in months. 

After glancing in a mirror to ensure that her hair wasn’t too bad, JJ pulled on her summer dressing gown and went to find Tony. 

Stepping into the living area, JJ smiled at the sight of sunlight pouring through the windows. The last weekend they’d both had off had been cold and wet and they’d been stuck inside for both days. Maybe today they’d finally be able to do one of the hikes they’d been talking about.

“Good morning,” Tony greeted, standing at the stove with a fish-slice in his hand. “Did you sleep well?”

JJ brought up a hand up to cover her yawn as she wandered closer to the kitchenette. “Wonderfully. I don’t even remember going to bed.”

“Probably because you’d had a few too many drinks.” Tony grinned. “You should be glad that you don’t get hangovers. I bet Penelope isn’t feeling nearly as cheerful as you right now.”

“I got drunk?” JJ asked, feeling her stomach drop like a rock. “How drunk? Did I do anything? Did I say anything to Elle?”

Tony’s smile was replaced by an expression of concern. “It’s not big deal, JJ. You didn’t do or say anything bad.

Relief flooded through JJ. “Oh, thank God!”

Tony still looked concerned. “What’s going on between you and Elle? I know the two of you don’t exactly along but you seemed extra tense last night.”

JJ sat down on one of the bar stools at the kitchenette’s island. “What are you making?”

Tony shot her a look at her obvious attempt to change the subject, but then he turned around the flip whatever was in the pan. “French toast. I woke up with craving for it so I picked up some bananas on my run. There’s some coffee brewing too.”

JJ narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the pan. “Why do you need bananas for French toast?”

“That’s what you put on French toast - banana, bacon, and maple syrup.”

“Banana and bacon? I’ve always had mine with berries.”

Tony winced. “Oh, well, we don’t actually have berries, but I’m pretty sure we have some kind of berry sauce in the fridge. Would that work?”

“Better than nothing,” JJ agreed. “Not that I can complain, since you’re the one actually making me French toast. I might even try a bite of yours.”

“You won’t regret it.” Tony promised, using a hot mitt to pull an plate piled with French toast out of the oven and adding the one he’d been cooking to the pile. “That’s the last one. Do you want to get the sauces out of the fridge?”

A couple of minutes later, JJ was watching in fascinated horror as Tony poured maple syrup over the bacon and sliced bananas that he’s piled onto his French toast. She couldn’t imagine how it would taste, and she wasn’t sure that she wanted to. 

Tony groaned in appreciation at his first mouthful. “You should definitely try this.”

JJ used a fork to smear the berry sauce over her French toast. “I think I’m good.”

“I tried that drink last night for you.”

“All the drink had in it was a couple of liquors, lime juice, and cranberry juice. You’re trying to feed me banana and bacon at the same time.” 

“Because it’s delicious.”

“It’s a food crime! And to think that I thought you had good taste.”

Tony laughed. “It’s actually pretty popular. I’m not the only one who does this.”

“I know it is. I’ve seen the option on menus. I just never knew what kind of person would even try it.”

“Try it.” Tony urged, offering her a loaded fork. “It might surprise you.”

JJ eyed the fork suspiciously, before leaning forward to take the food into her mouth. It tasted odd. As though the food couldn’t quite decide whether it was savory or sweet. She chewed the toast, wincing when she could taste the salty bacon and sweet maple syrup at the same time.

Tony chuckled. “No need to ask what you think. It’s written across your face.”

JJ swallowed the mouthful and quickly took a gulp of coffee. “Food shouldn’t both sweet and savory.”

“I had no idea you were such a food prude.” Tony teased, before taking another bite and letting out an obnoxious moan of enjoyment. 

JJ rolled her eyes, as she prepared herself a mouthful of her own French toast. “I had no idea you knew how to cook French toast.”

“I didn’t,” Tony admitted. “But I found a recipe online, and it didn’t look too complicated. Pretty much all the steps were things that you’d already taught me to do.”

“So this was your first time?” JJ asked, looking down at her plate with new appreciation. “It tastes great! Well, my one does.”

“I know, right?” Tony looked proud of himself. “Who would have thought that all those cooking lessons would have paid off?”

JJ took another mouthful, enjoying the way the berry sauce tasted alongside the sweetness of the toast. Fresh berries would have been better, but it was still way better than Tony’s. “Any plans for the day? I was thinking we could go for one of those hikes we’ve been talking about.”

“Sure,” Tony agreed easily, glancing towards the windows that looked out to a beautiful day. “I actually have something to give you first though.”

“You do?” JJ asked, in surprise. Her mind racing to try and figure out what he could be talking about. 

“Yeah,” Tony pulled an envelope she hadn’t even noticed out from where it was half hiding beneath his place mat. “Here.”

Accepting the envelope, JJ studied Tony’s expression to try and figure out what he was giving her. He seemed excited about something, but that didn’t really give her many clues.

“Open it.” Tony urged.

“What’s the occasion?” She asked, as she opened the envelope with as little tearing as possible.

“Nothing special. It’s just an ‘I love you’ gift.” 

JJ looked up from the envelope with a smile. “I love you too.”

“I know you do. Now open the present already.”

JJ laughed, as she pulled the contents of the envelope out. Then her laughter caught in her throat. She was holding two Club level Redskins season tickets for the Redskins. She’d never sat in a Club seat in her life - just buying the cheapest season tickets had been a stretch some years. “Is this for real?” 

“I was going to get you Dream seats,” Tony explained, as though it was no big deal. “But then I did some research and apparently you can’t actually see the game properly from there. Apparently it’s worth it for a game or two though, so I got us Dream seats for the preseason game against the Falcons tomorrow night.”

“You what?” JJ didn’t know when she’d last been so excited. “Tony, this is amazing! I can’t believe you did this.”

“I’ve had the season tickets for a couple of months,” Tony admitted. “But I wanted to surprise you. I only bought tomorrow’s tickets last week when I realised that we’d both have the weekend off.”

JJ looked back down at the tickets. “Thank you so much, Tony.”

“You’re welcome.” Tony looked pleased. “Do you still want to hike today? We could do one of those Rock Creek Park ones we were looking at.”

“Rock Creek Park is on the way to FedEx Stadium,” JJ pointed out. “We could save the hike until tomorrow, have dinner somewhere, and then head to the game?”

“Sold.” 

6-6-6

Tony had never been to Rock Creek Park without a murder to solve, so it was a nice change to be able to focus on the scenery for once. He’d made sure they chose one of the paths which wouldn’t lead him him past a past crime scene, but there was a part of him that half expected there to be a dead sailor around each corner.   

“I love being able to hear frogs chirping.” JJ commented, as they walked past a small pond. 

“Are you sure that noise is coming from a frog?” Tony asked sceptically. “I thought they croaked.”

“They’re Peeper frogs.” JJ explained, as they left the sound behind them. “They only make that noise in Spring.”

“Why do you know that?” 

“I grew up in a town of less than a thousand people.” JJ reminded him. “There were some woods just a few houses down, and my friends and I used to go out there play. There was a pond not far in, and we used to spend hours trying to catch the frogs. We’d come home covered in mud, but I almost always managed to catch at least one.”

Tony grimaced at the thought of all the mud. “What did you do with them?”

“We let them go again, but every Summer we would catch some tadpoles and take them home. Dad found us an old fish tank that we put them in. Then we’d get to watch as they grew legs and lost their tails. It was great fun.”

Tony tried to imagine how his parents would have reacted if he’d come home covered in mud or, worse, if he’d wanted to grow tadpoles into frogs in the house. He barely managed to hold in his flinch.

“You didn’t do anything like that?” JJ asked.

“We had a swimming pool?” Tony offered. “But I wasn’t allowed to swim in it. Clark, our gardener, sometimes let me help him with new plants, but I had to make sure that I didn’t get any of my clothes dirty.”

“That sounds awful.” JJ sighed. “So you weren’t allowed to get dirty?”

Tony couldn’t help but remember the sailor-suits his mother had dressed him in. “When my mother was alive she didn’t like me going outside. Then, when she died, Senior shipped me off to boarding school. At least I was allowed to play sport there.”

“Basketball?”

“Lacrosse.” Tony snorted. “And golf. It wasn’t until I was at my fourth boarding school that I was allowed to play basketball. Oh, wait, I did get dirty when Senior took me to his Civil War Reenactments. I had to carry the poop bucket.”

JJ looked disturbed. “That’s awful.”

“Explains a lot about me though, right?” Tony joked.

“We’ve never really talked about your parents.” JJ said, sounding cautious.

Tony sighed. “There’s not really much to talk about. You know my mom died when I was nine, and that she was the one who came from money. You know that Senior’s a conman, and that he disowned me when I was thirteen. I don’t really know what else to say. Oh, except that mom was an alcoholic. She loved movies though; both her and Senior did.”

JJ was quiet for a few seconds. “What are your clearest childhood memories?”

Tony considered that. It was hard to choose between his mother’s death, Senior telling him he was sending him to boarding school, and getting the letter that told him he had been disowned.

“None of them are good.” He warned. 

“That’s so sad. What is your happiest childhood memory?”

“Probably mom teaching me how to play the piano.” Tony remembered. “Or Rosa letting me help cut out the cookies.”

“Rosa?”

“Our cook.” Tony answered, before realising how strange that probably sounded to JJ. “She was great. All our staff were. They were the first people who taught me Spanish.”

“I can’t imagine growing up like you did.” JJ commented. “I find it weird enough that you pay someone to come in and clean our apartment.”

“I don’t have to,” Tony said, not for the first time. “It’s just that I’m normally so busy that I don’t really have time to keep everything clean.”

“I’m not saying I don’t love not having to clean.” JJ assured him. “It’s just so different from what I’m used to.” She paused for a few seconds. “While we’re talking about serious stuff, can I run something by you?”

Tony glanced at her worriedly. “Of course. Is everything alright.”

“Yes, no, I don’t know.” JJ sighed. “You asked about me and Elle this morning.”

“She was sending you some pretty dark glares last night.” 

“Yeah, she does that.” JJ sounded frustrated. “Remember how I told you how Penelope and I think she’s trying to prove herself to be one of the guys by putting us down?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it seems to be escalating. When you were framed for murder, she really got into my face about how I couldn’t trust you; and how I couldn’t really know if you were innocent.”

“I remember.” 

“Yeah, well, what I didn’t tell you was that I snapped at her and she threatened to write me up for insubordination. Derek’s intervention was the only thing that stopped it.”

“That was months ago.” Tony pointed out, hurt spreading through him. “Why didn’t you tell me about it then?”

“It wasn’t really that big of a deal.” JJ defended. “Besides, you had a lot going on with Gibbs and Abby.”

“I don’t want you to ever think that the stuff I’ve got going on is more important than you.” Tony said, with forced patience.

“I guess I’m just not used to having someone to tell this stuff to.”

“And I am? I thought we had the kind of relationship where we told each other this stuff? I’ve been telling you all my stuff, and you’ve been keeping yours secret.”

“I’m sorry!” JJ snapped, before taking a deep breath. “I really am, Tony. It just all seemed so petty compared to what you were dealing with at work. I didn’t want to sound whiny.”

“You never sound whiny.” Tony told her, forcing his hurt aside. “You said it’s been escalating?”

“Yeah, she’s getting worse and now Derek’s saying that if I don’t report it to Hotch, he will.”

Tony stopped in the middle of the path, reaching out for JJ’s hand to stop her too. “What’s she doing?”

“It’s all stupid petty stuff.” JJ said, turning to face him. “Muttering under her breath; glaring at me. Just high-school stuff.” 

“What happened this week?”

What makes you think something happened?”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “You said Derek’s threatening to go to Hotch. Something must have set him off.”

“That’s the thing,” JJ sounded frustrated. “It’s so stupid. All she did was make a few insulting comments about you and NCIS and then about how admin roles don’t help people. But I lost my temper and Derek had to intervene again. I don’t know what to do. It seems like high-school all over again. Derek wants me to go to Hotch, but I have no idea what I’d even say.”

“You tell him that Elle is regularly making your work environment feel unsafe.” Tony said seriously, having to force down his anger at the situation. “It might seem petty, but it’s actually pretty typical for female bullies.”

JJ sighed. “So Derek’s right? I should go to Hotch?”

“Absolutely.” Tony said seriously. “Especially since Elle seems to be baiting you into reacting in a way that would get you in trouble. Derek won’t always be there to intervene.”

“Maybe I just need better self-control.”

“Maybe you need a safer workplace.” Tony retorted. “Hotch can’t do anything about this unless he knows about it.”

“What can he even do though?” JJ sounded frustrated.

Tony reached for her hand. “Shall we keep walking?”

“You’re the one who stopped.” JJ reminded him lightly, linking her fingers between his.

Tony squeezed her hand. “If I were Hotch, I’d arrange a mediated meeting between you and Elle so you can work this stuff out.”

“What if she plays the victim? She could deny all of it.”

“Not with Derek backing you up.” Tony reminded her. “Besides, the point of a mediated meeting isn’t to make a judgment. It does two things, first it lets you lay down boundaries in a mediated situation so that other people can hold you both accountable; and second, it gets the situation on paper. Which reminds me, you should be recording all this stuff. Time, date, what was said, and any witnesses to it. Complaints always have more weight behind them when you can give specific information.”

JJ sighed. “I really wanted you to tell me that it wasn’t a big deal. No wonder Derek told me I had to talk to you. He probably knew you’d be on his side.”

Tony ignored the spike of hurt that came from knowing that JJ hadn’t talked to him about the situation voluntarily. They’d been dating less than a year. It wasn’t her fault if she didn’t trust him as much as he trusted her. 

“He’ll make a good team lead one day.” Tony predicted. 

“You think?” JJ sounded surprised. “It’s hard to imagine him doing Hotch’s job.”

Tony laughed. “Yeah, well I still find it hard to imagine that I was a Team Lead and now I’m about to be an assistant director.”

“You were a great Team Lead.” JJ reassured him. “How are you feeling about it all?”

“As though I’ve signed up for a game of politics.” Tony grumbled. “I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to work with the director. I’m half convinced that she only agreed to my promotion because she thinks that I’ll be easy to push around.”

“You won’t be though.” JJ pointed out.

“No, but I might need her to think that I am. At least for the first couple of months. Except, I don’t want to set a bad precedent that I can’t come back from.”

“What sort of power does she have over you? Can she fire you?”

“Not without permission from SecNav, but that doesn’t really mean much since she’ll be whispering into his ear.”

“Sounds like you’ll just have to make yourself so popular and invaluable that she wouldn’t dare.” JJ commented.

Tony winced. “Which would be hard enough even if I didn’t have the reputation of being a ‘one man temperance movement’.”

“Someone called you that?” JJ sounded amused.

“A junior agent.” Tony sighed. “I don’t know what Paul was thinking.”

“Probably that you’d know exactly what to do when you were faced with a situation like what’s going on with me and Elle.” 

Tony paused, he hadn’t considered that. “That’s pretty standard management stuff.”

“You’re going to be great, Tony.” JJ promised. “You know people, and you know how to make them behave the way you want them to. Just think of what you did with that mob guy last year. You had him exactly where you wanted him. You just have to figure out where you want the director, and how you’re going to get her there.”

Chapter Text

Tony spent the rest of his Sunday with JJ’s words swirling around and around in his brain. 

“You just have to figure out where you want the director, and how you’re going to get her there.” 

He hadn’t considered using his undercover skills during his interactions with Shepard before JJ had said anything, but now he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What did Shepard want? What was driving her? What was her weak spot? 

The problem was that Tony had never bothered doing much research into her background. He knew that she had been the Assistant Director for Intelligence and Information Sharing for two years before being promoted to Director, and he knew that she’d worked with Gibbs at one point, but that was it. 

Which he now realised was a serious oversight on his part. How was he supposed to figure out how to work with Shepard, if he didn’t even know what sort of background she had?

So, the first thing he did when he arrived at the office on Monday morning was to look to see if he had access to the director’s file. He wasn’t surprised when the file was restricted, but it did mean that he’d have to look elsewhere for his answers.

The best source for information was probably Paul but, since the retiring agent wouldn’t be in the office for at least another hour, Tony figured he’d start with a google search.

It took all of five minutes for Tony to start to feel a headache coming on.

Jennifer Shepard (born 1963) had a graduate degree in political science and she had joined NCIS in 1998 after having been the Legislative Director for Republican Congresswoman Priscilla Frachette. Which, by Tony’s calculations, meant that she had only been an agent for five years when she’d been made Assistant Director. 

Which was quite comforting in a way, since it was the same amount of time that Tony had been at NCIS - and he’d had eight years law enforcement experience before that. Maybe he wasn’t as horribly unqualified as he’d feared. Either that, or Shepard was just as unqualified as he was.

But that wasn’t what was causing his headache. He was less worried with Shepard’s experience at NCIS, and more concerned about what had brought her to the agency in the first place. Why would someone leave a successful career as a Legislative Director and join NCIS? Not only did it seem like a strange career shift, but it would have meant her salary would have halved.

It didn’t make sense. NCIS had all sorts of people join the agency: cops, lawyers, geeks, marines, professional sport players, etc; but this was only the second time he’d ever heard of a politician making the shift. Somehow Tony doubted Shepard’s motivation was less altruistic than Stan Burley’s had been.

Tony gave his head a shake to try and refocus it. As puzzling as Shepard’s motives were, and as relevant as they were to figuring out what made her tick, he just didn’t have the information he needed to even speculate on the matter. That would have to be a question for another day.

For now, he’d have to work with the information that he did have. Two details seemed the most relevant. First, that Director Shepard’s background was in politics and legislation; and second, that her experience with law enforcement was very limited. 

Which said a lot, especially given how much she kept trying to micro-manage the Criminal Operations Division of the Agency. If Shepard had been half as clever and confident as she looked, she would have trusted her agents’ experience and let them do their jobs. The fact that she wasn’t likely meant one of two things, either that she had an agenda that she wasn’t willing to trust anyone with, or that she felt so insecure in her position that she needed to keep reminding people that she was the director.

Personally, Tony suspected that it was a little bit of both options. Combined with her inexperience, Shepard’s habit of constantly forcing herself into cases screamed of insecurity, but her decision to bring Officer David into the agency indicated that she had an agenda. Not to mention the fact that she had apparently decided to appoint an agent of her choosing to Andrew’s team. Tony was looking forward to hearing who the chosen agent was - he suspected that alone would give him plenty of information to go on.

7-7-7

As Tony followed Paul up the stairs to Shepard’s office he reminded himself of the game plan that he had decided on. He couldn’t afford to get on her bad side, which meant that he needed to play her game - especially if he was going to be in a position to figure out her agenda. But he wasn’t willing to be reduced to her ‘yes man’ either. He’d seen first hands the problems that had resulted from Paul’s willingness to let Shepard call all the shots. He didn’t want to let another Gibbs situation develop, let alone a situation like they had with Officer David.

 Which meant that he was going to have to play his role exactly right in order to be able to do his job without getting Shepard’s back up. He was going to have to be at his most charming; competent enough that she’d be confident in his ability to do his job, but humble and self-effacing enough that she didn’t get defensive. It was enough to make him wish he could just be going undercover with the mob again. That would have been easier.

Why had he agreed to take the job again?

Tony offered Cynthia a smile as they walked passed her desk, before following Paul in to the director’s office. It felt strange to be walking in as though he belonged there.

“Paul, Tony,” Shepard stood up from behind her desk with a wide smile. “It’s good to see you.”

“And you, Jenny.” Paul said, pausing near her desk. “Thank you for taking the time to meet with us.”

“Of course.” Jenny moved around the desk with a file in hand, and gestured for them to sit at the table. “I only have a few minutes today, but I thought that we ought to meet. We really do need to get these positions filled as soon as possible. I understand that you’ve already spoken to Agent Barrett about her promotion?”

“Yes, I spoke to her on Friday.” Tony answered, after glancing towards Paul to check that it was alright. “She needed to think it over, so I gave her until lunch time today to make her decision.”

Shepard frowned, straightening the file she had placed on the table in front of her. “Three days seems like an rather excessive amount of time, considering our current time pressure.”

Tony thoroughly disagreed. You couldn’t expect a person to make the decision to uproot their lives and move to a different country without giving them time to process the idea. Even three days seemed unreasonably short a time. But he couldn’t exactly say that.

“I didn’t speak to Agent Barrett until after you had signed off on our proposal on Friday, ma’am, and I didn’t think there was anything that H.R. could have done to process her transfer over the weekend.”

“Call me Jenny, Tony.”

“Thank you, Jenny,” Tony offered her a pleased smile. “If you would like, we could discuss our options for if she turns the promotion down? That way Paul and I could get contact our second choice this afternoon.”

“Who did you have in mind?”

Tony glanced at Paul to see if the older agent wanted to the answer. “Agent Cassie Yates. She was a probie and then a junior agent under Agent Pacci. Then she spent three years as a junior agent at the Resident Unit at Norfolk. She’s spent the last two years as the Senior Field Agent of the Narcotics Suppression Team in Anacostia.”

“Cassie Yates,” Shepard looked thoughtful. “She’s the one who assisted Agent Gibbs with a case a few weeks ago?”

“Yes, Agent Gibbs asked for her assistance when you were kidnapped.” Tony confirmed. “She had investigated the Dempsey brothers in the past.”

Shepard turned her attention to Paul. “She’s who you would recommend, Paul?”

“I’d prefer Agent Barrett but, if she’s not available, Agent Yates would be a fine choice.” Paul answered evenly.

Shepard nodded. “I’ll have a look over her file this morning and let you know my thoughts on the matter.”

Tony nodded agreeable, as though it was perfectly reasonably that the director of NCIS insisted on micromanaging basic HR issues. 

“I understand that Agent Dayton is flying in for an interview this week?” Shepard asked.

“Grant will be here tomorrow and Tony and I will sit down with him at eleven. He already has a Senior Field position at the Newport Naval Station, so I’m not all that confident that he will be willing to move out of state for this opportunity.”

“I have a meeting on the hill tomorrow morning. Could you move the interview to the afternoon?”

“I’m sorry, Jenny, but he’s only here for a few hours. He’ll be back on Rhode Island that afternoon.”

Shepard looked put out. “I see.”

“We’ll be sure to represent you well, Director.” Tony promised. 

“I’m sure you will, Tony.” Shepard’s smile seemed genuinely pleased. “Thank you. Do you have suggestions in case Agent Dayton says no? Perhaps Agent Yates would be a good fit? Or Agent McGee?”

“Agent Yates and Officer David have had some trouble working together in the past.” Tony offered neutrally.

“Ah,” Shepard said knowingly. “I see. Agent McGee then?”

Paul sighed. “Agent McGee still has one month left in his probationary period, Jenny. He won’t be eligible for that kind of promotion for another two years.”

“Still, exceptions have been made in the past.” Shepard said, her eyes on Tony. “I know you have had some difficulties working with Agent McGee in the past, Tony, but I hope you won’t let you personal feelings interfere with your professional judgment.”

“Tony had over seven years of law enforcement experience before he joined us, four of which he spent as a detective.” Paul pointed out. “Agent McGee graduated with his masters four years ago, and he has only spent two years in law enforcement since then. It would be unfair to him to give him so much responsibility this early in his career. He’s only twenty eight.”

Shepard crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair. “So who did you have in mind?”

“Agent Thom Herring, from our Southwest Field Office in San Diego, would be my second choice.” Paul answered. “He spent a decade as a Seal before joining NCIS.”

Shepard pursed her lips. “From what I remember, Agent Dayton spent fifteen years in the Navy. Is there a reason you are focusing on agents with military experience? I would have thought that Agent Marshall’s twenty years as a marine were enough military background for one team.”

“You’d be surprised how many of our more experienced agents have military experience, Jenny.” Paul said. “Often their military experience is what has given them the experience they need to lead a team. Agents Brown, Marshall, and Dayton were all honorably discharged with non-commissioned ranks that more than qualify them to lead teams.

“I see.”

Tony really hoped that she didn’t because, while Paul’s explanation  was true, they were mostly just trying to give Andrew the support he’d need to manage Officer David.

“I understand that you’ve chosen an agent to fill the fourth position in the first MCRT?” Paul asked.

“I have,” Jenny said, flipping open the file in front of her and sliding it across the table to Paul. “Agent Nick Torres. He’s one of our deep cover agents who has just finished a six month assignment. A place in one of our Major Crime Response Teams will be good experience for him.”

Tony glanced towards Paul to see what he was thinking, but the older man was focused on the front page of the file in front of him. From the look of the picture, Agent Torres looked to be in his late twenties. 

“He has no investigative experience.” Paul said, not looking up from the file. “At first glance, his skill set seems to be very similar to Officer David’s.”

Shepard leaned back in her chair. “Tony’s new position leaves our office without a skilled male undercover operative to call on. There will be roles that Ziva cannot play simply because she is a woman.”

“Agent Balboa is capable undercover.” Tony commented evenly. “He assisted me when I was working with the FBI earlier this year.”

Shepard’s expression tightened. “Yes, well, Agent Balboa may be able to assist in undercover operations, but Agent Torres’ skill set is by far superior. He will be a asset to this office.”

“I have no doubts, Jenny.” Tony said, offering her a smile to put her at ease. “I look forward to meeting him. Has he accepted the transfer?”

“Yes, he’ll be here in two weeks.”

“We won’t have a Team Lead for our second MCRT for at least a month.” Tony reminded her. “I was hoping to be able to keep Agent Marshall as their acting Team Leader until then - especially since the first MCRT’s Senior Field Agent will probably start at the same time.”

“That will leave the roster one team short.” 

“Yes, ma’am,” Tony acknowledged. “But better that than two teams short several members.”

Shepard raised an eyebrow. “At my count both teams would only be one member short. Ziva will be back by then.”

“Torres has no investigative experience and he’s only been out of FLETC for eighteen months. He’s a probie.” Paul said, shifting forward in his chair. “Meanwhile, Officer David has never attended FLETC and so is a legal liability to the chain of evidence.”

“Ziva is a trained Mossad officer!” Shepard snapped. “Not to mention that she’s been trained by Gibbs for nine months. She is not a liability!”

“Officer David has many skills that are a credit to Mossad.” Tony agreed calmly, hoping that Paul wouldn’t mind. “As you alluded to earlier, her undercover skills alone are an asset to this office.”

“We’re lucky to have her.”

Tony hummed non-committedly. He wasn’t willing to go that far; he was trying to avoid lying through his teeth. “However, while we know that Officer David is a skilled liaison, I’m concerned that a defense lawyer might convince a judge to only see her as an Israeli ex-pat who hasn’t received the required training. Officer David’s liaison position at NCIS could be jeopardised if evidence is thrown out due to her having handled it. But that’s easily fixed. We just need to ensure that all of our ducks are in a row.”

“Which means what exactly?” Shepard asked, sounding more curious than angry.

“With your permission, we’ll sign Officer David up for a FLETC course.” 

“Such as?”

“I think the Criminal Investigation Training Program would be the best fit.”

Shepard pursed her lips. “Ziva has been training with Gibbs for most of a year. I don’t think a three month course is necessary.”

“I’m not suggesting that Officer David needs it personally, Jenny.” Tony reassured her. “But if we can show a judge that she has completed the appropriate training program then we can protect her from any possible fallout.”

“Surely a shorter course would be enough.”

Tony sighed. “If she’d been English, or even Australian, then it might be , but we all know how unreasonable people can get about ex-pats from that area of the world. We want to be sure that we can protect her from anything other agencies might want to try and throw at her.”

“You mean you want to protect NCIS.” Shepard accused, but she didn’t sound too upset about it.

“That is part of my motivation,” Tony admitted. “But I have dedicated my life to justice, Jenny - and that includes justice for Officer David.”

Shepard studied his expression. Tony wondered what she was seeing. He figured her next sentence would say a lot about whether or not she was buying his act.

“Thank you, Tony,” She said eventually, with a pleased smile. “I’m glad to have your support on this.”

“Of course, Jenny.” Tony said, returning her smile. “Now, I know we discussed Officer David’s paperwork last week so I’m hesitant to bring the subject up again, but I would feel much more capable of protecting her if I knew what agreements had been put into place.”

Shepard’s smile became strained. “I’m perfectly capable of protecting Ziva from this office, Tony.”

“I don’t doubt that for a second.” Tony assured her. “But you are responsible for the protection of over two thousand employees, spread over forty countries.”

“Forty one.” Shepard corrected, already smiling easier.

“Forty one countries is a lot!” Tony said, with feeling. He leaned forward with an earnest expression. “You have a lot on your plate, Jenny, trust me to help you protect the people who I’m responsible for.” 

Paul cleared his throat. “Sounds as though I could retire two weeks early after all.” He sounded amused. “I told you he was right for the job, Jenny. He doesn’t start for another two weeks and he’s already going to bat for our people.”

“Yes,” Shepard was still smiling. “He is, isn’t he? I believe we’ll work well together, Tony.”

“I’ll do my best to be the assistant director you need.” Tony promised sincerely, and he would to. He just doubted that he would be the assistant director that she wanted.

7-7-7

Paul didn’t say anything when they left Shepard’s office a few minutes later. They walked down the stairs in silence, and then Tony silently followed the older agent into the elevator. By the time the elevator let them out onto their floor, Tony’s stomach had twisted itself into knots. He knew it had been a risk to begin playing his role with the director when Paul was there, but he hadn’t had a choice. It had either been now or never.

“Two coffees please, Juliet.” Paul said, his first words since they had left Shepard’s office.

“Yes, sir, coming right up.”

Tony followed Paul into his office, and then took the initiative to shut the door behind them. 

Paul didn’t waste any time. “What happened up there, Tony?” He asked, standing beside his desk. “That wasn’t what we had discussed.”

“No, sir,” Tony admitted, relieved to see that Paul seemed more confused that angry. “I’m sorry. I should have let you know what I was planning on doing.”

“Yes, you damn well should have.” Paul said frustratedly. “You lied straight to the director’s face.”

Tony’s stomach twisted uncomfortably. He was going to get fired. “No, I didn’t. I was very careful not to.”

“You and I both know that David is not an asset to this agency!” 

“No, she’s a liability.” Tony agreed. “But there have been occasions when her undercover skills have been useful to us.”

“You said you didn’t think she needed a FLETC course.” 

“I said that I wasn’t suggesting that she needed them.” Tony clarified. “Which I wasn’t, because I knew  that Director Shepard wouldn’t listen.”

Paul sighed as he moved around is desk and sat down. “Those are semantics, Tony, and you know it. If Jenny knew that you’d lied to her… Well, I think we can both imagine how she might react. Sit down already.”

“You knew I wasn’t a fan of Shepard when you promoted me, Paul.” Tony reminded him, sitting down and leaning forward in his chair so his elbows were on his knees. “I will do everything I can to defend this agency, and the people in it - even if that means defending them from the director.”

Paul frowned. “I know you don’t like her personally, Tony, but Jenny wouldn’t do anything to hurt NCIS.”

Tony rubbed his hand over his face. “I hope not, but right now there are too many things that don’t add up.”

“Like Officer David.” 

“She calls her Ziva.” Tony exclaimed. “Not to mention the fact that she is insisting on Agent Torres for MCRT one. I want to know why she wants an undercover agent so badly.”

“Undercover agents are useful to have. You know that first hand.”

“But I’m still here.” Tony pointed out. “I’ll still be available to go undercover if need be - it isn’t as though this is a high profile position. Besides, there are several other agents in the officer who are more than competent going undercover for a few hours. So why does she need someone like Agent Torres? I’ve never heard of an undercover agent joining a MCRT team before.”

Paul frowned. “You think she has a reason?”

“How often has she chosen a new agent without giving you any say in the matter in the past?”

“She’s only been here for a year, but just Officer David.”

Tony nodded, that was what he’d been expecting. “Aren’t you a little suspicious about what is so special about David and Torres?”

“Surely that doesn’t have to result in your performance up there.” Paul waved toward the ceiling. “It was as though you were pretending to be someone else.”

“She’s a politician, Paul.” Tony reminded him. “Worse, she’s a politician with an inferiority complex. Just being me wasn’t going to work. Besides, we all behave a little differently at work - that’s just common sense.”

Paul shook his head with a sigh. “I knew you’d be good at this role, Tony.”

“But?” Tony prompted, when Paul didn’t continue.

“But nothing - unless it’s that I think even I underestimated how good you’d be. It makes me glad to be retiring. You’ll do better than I ever have.”