- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Canon Divergence
2 July 2009
Tom Morrow approached the park bench where Gibbs was already waiting for him with his usual cup of coffee in hand. The location provided good field of vision, and it’d be easy to see if anyone were close enough to overhear even the loudest part of what they might say.
He took a seat at the opposite end of the bench. “Gibbs,” he acknowledged.
“Sir.” Underneath his perpetual stony expression, Gibbs looked tired. Tom wanted to have pity on him if for no other reason than the many years they’d worked together, but he had a hard time mustering any emotion but anger.
“Tell me about Tyler Owens.”
Gibbs went very still. “Sir?”
“You and Vance seemed to think no one would find out, and the dirt you two had on each other certainly sheds some light on things. It’s possible you didn’t know conclusively, but that’s because you didn’t care to confirm. It didn’t take us long.”
Gibbs glared at him.
“That doesn’t work on me, Gibbs. I’m not the one who screwed up, and you don’t have anything on me. What makes me truly angry is that you’re both going to get away with it. We can’t take Vance down the way we’d like to because it could compromise every case he’s worked at NCIS, not to mention every case he oversaw. So, he’ll be retired quietly with the understanding that he’d better keep his mouth shut for the rest of his life.”
“Which has nothing to do with me.”
“But you knew, and you let it slide. Let him put his signature on more case reports, more official documents, and corrupt more cases. Which told me he had something on you. And that didn’t take DCIS long to figure out after a thorough review of your cases. A few people close to you kill someone, and you miraculously can’t find evidence? It was pretty easy to figure out that you were covering for Franks and Ziva David.” He shot Gibbs a hard look.
Gibbs bristled, but Tom ignored it.
“Vance certainly knew about your convenient blindness when anyone close to you wound up standing over a dead body. Your little pact of mutually assured destruction will now be working against you.” Tom ignored Gibbs heated glare. “I recognize that we’re not going to be able to do anything substantive with that because we need some leverage to keep you quiet.”
“Are you threatening me, Tom?” Gibbs said softly.
“Yes.” He gave Gibbs a hard look. “It’s also an absolute assurance. And, interestingly, we were contacted by an official from the Mexican government about a cold case they’d like help with. Dead drug dealer named Pedro Hernandez. They’ve got a round they want forensics to look into. Interesting thing is that this dead drug dealer has a connection to you.”
If looks could kill, Tom would have exploded.
He ignored Gibbs wrath and continued. “While I can’t say for certain what they’ll find, it’s safe to assume we’ll uncover everything, and that’s just a little more leverage to keep you in line. So consider that before you act. And if you don’t want us tearing Franks’ life and his whole career apart, you’ll play ball.” It was cold and calculating to go after a third party, but they needed it in this situation. Besides, Tom was sure Franks had killed someone, and Gibbs then let him get away with it.
Gibbs stony silence said plenty.
“McGee and Sciuto are not going to be hit with criminal charges since they did their hacking on your order. McGee legitimately thought DiNozzo was in jeopardy when he hacked the Department of Transportation, and it’s unfortunate that it will end his career in law enforcement. Even though he won’t face criminal charges, the reprimand is such that no agency would hire him. Still, he’s talented enough to do well in the private sector.” Tom made a dismissive gesture. McGee had useful skills, but he was a minor loss.
“Miss Sciuto was also reprimanded, and her volatile reactions and threats during the course of the investigation were such that not only will she not be eligible to work in the public sector again, she’s gone on a watch list. The first time she does something inappropriate, follows through on her cyber-related threats, she’ll be arrested, and she will go to jail.”
He gave Gibbs a hard look. “I don’t personally care if she faces jail time, but if you care about her the way you’ve always professed to, I suggest you make your one benevolent act in all this being getting her under control. We will be watching both of you.”
Gibbs’ jaw clenched, and he stared off into the distance.
“As for you, former Agent Gibbs, you harbored a fugitive. That is not going to go away. We may not be able to nail you for accessory to murder because of your damn leverage, but you’re not getting away scot-free. So, here’s the deal—and I truly suggest you take it because I’d be delighted to make the case that you’re guilty of treason for your efforts to aid a foreign spy in stealing classified material.”
“That’s not what happened,” Gibbs said hotly.
“I’m not finished!” Tom barked. “You will plead guilty to the charge of aiding a fugitive. In return, you’ll be on probation for five years. You’ve already passed mandatory retirement age, so they’re not going to go after your pension as long as you cooperate. And then you will fade quietly into the background and never speak a word about any of this. You will take your secrets to the grave. The minute you break this deal, they’re going to throw accessory to murder charges at you, Gibbs, and you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison. Not to mention what will happen to Franks; I will personally go after him first. Also, I’ll make sure treason gets tacked on so you’ll spend the rest of your life in a dark hole somewhere.
“So, I suggest you think long and hard before you do anything rash or try to wiggle your way out of this. There is no going back. The house of cards has fallen. Vance is retired, your team is gone, you’re gone. They’re bringing in a new director from outside the agency to clean up the cluster fuck Shepard and Vance created.”
Tom got to his feet. “You were going to let someone who murdered one of my agents walk away just because he was fucking one of your surrogate daughters. Here’s a bit of additional information for you, Jethro, that might open your eyes to how you’ve been nothing but a pawn. Eli David sent her here to murder her own brother to ingratiate herself with you.”
Gibbs stared, eyes narrowed, expression full of disbelief.
“Ask Vance if it makes you happy, not that I think he wants to talk to you. But that’s how we found out—Vance told us. Eli made an arrangement with Shepard that he’d pass her intel on Benoit if she put his daughter in her agency and gave her access to classified intel. Shepard had tunnel vision, and she didn’t care that Ziva profiled your team to determine which team member Ari should kill so she’d have a spot.”
“No. You’re lying.”
Tom decided not to respond directly to the accusation. “Because it’s less headache for everyone, I’ll even arrange a meeting between you and Ziva so you can hear it directly from her traitorous lips. She arranged for the murder of my NCIS agent so she’d have a spot to fill, which was on her daddy’s order because she profiled the way you seek out surrogate daughters. She knew how you’d react to her, and she played you perfectly.”
He felt his fury bubbling hot and close to the surface. “The way you betrayed DiNozzo disgusts me, and I feel like the agent, the man, I thought I knew in you was all a lie.”
“DiNozzo betrayed us,” Gibbs snarled.
“Get your head on straight, Gibbs. DiNozzo refused to be a pawn in the game you and Vance were playing with Eli David. His only supposed crime was trying to arrest the man who murdered one of my Homeland agents. How dare you sit there and think you’re so godlike that you’re allowed to impede justice? That you get to decide which justice to dispense.”
“Like all of you are doing with your deal?”
“That deal isn’t what any of us want. We’d like justice to be truly served by you and Vance rotting in jail for at least fifteen years. But it’s the only thing we can do to prevent an untold number of cases from being contested because of the fraud at the top of the agency. Which would in no way serve the victims of those crimes.”
“And it’d be a terrible scandal, right? Can’t have that.”
“Careful, Gibbs. Letting the leverage you and Vance had on each other serve to keep you both quiet is the nice option at our disposal. But if you think they won’t drop you both in a deep, dark hole you’re very wrong. You’ve made a lot of powerful people very angry. You might not want to push to see how far they’ll twist the letter of the law to make you disappear.”
He turned to walk away but paused. “I’m sure Mexico is a logical place for you to go, and I don’t disagree. Some time on the beach licking your wounds is a good strategy—it’s worked for your before, no? But think twice before you make waves here and then try to run to Mexico. If you do that, there will be a sniper sent with a bullet engraved with your name. And if you get Franks involved, they’ll just add another round.
“Consider yourself lucky that you’re keeping your freedom and make the graceful exit. But know that we’ll be watching.” Tom had taken three steps before Gibbs called after him.
“Does DiNozzo know about your little deal, Tom?”
“No,” Tom replied without turning around. “He’d better not find out. Anthony DiNozzo is frankly too justice minded to be able to stomach the back-door deals we have to live with in these ugly situations. And he’s been hurt enough by you. Every day since this began, I’ve wished I fought harder to take him with me when I left.”
* * *
3 July 2009
Tony replied to another email, declining another interview. He was more than a little stunned over the number of job offers that had come in since he’d left NCIS. He’d only sent out a few resumes and posted to one board, but he’d gotten offers from very disparate places. Aliens and robot cats rattled around in his head as he considered what path he wanted to take in life. He had the list of yeses and noes he’d worked and reworked. And he’d probably do it again as some things had more time to settle.
However, he was certain he wasn’t interested in running in-house security for a pharmaceutical company, so he fired off a politely worded “fuck you” on that one, wondering yet again how his resume had gotten out to some of these places.
The vibration of his phone only marginally caught his attention as he read an offer from a private military company. The salary was obscene. He slipped his phone from his pocket and absently answered, “DiNozzo.”
“Agent DiNozzo, it’s Tom Morrow.”
“Sir.” Tony sat up straighter, email forgotten. “It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. Though I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s not ‘agent’ any longer.”
“That may not be precisely true.”
Tony frowned. “Oh?” His paperwork should have definitely gone through by now, though he’d been so busy he’d failed to follow up and ensure his severance from NCIS.
“Would you be available to meet this evening?”
“I’ve always got time for you, sir. Is there something I should be worried about?”
“Not exactly, but I’d prefer to explain in person. I can come to you if you’d prefer.”
“You’re certainly welcome, but I’m happy to meet you.”
“How about Quill at The Jefferson? Seven o’clock?”
“I’ll be there.” Tony hung up, wondering what was going on and if he had a new problem to worry about.
* * *
Tony entered Quill two minutes before seven. He knew a lot of movers and shakers in DC liked Quill, but it was too pretentious for him. He checked in and was shown to one of the few private rooms.
Morrow was already waiting with two glasses on a small round table between two wingback chairs. Getting to his feet, Morrow smiled and extended his hand. “It’s good to see you, Tony.”
“You too, sir.”
Morrow gestured for him to sit. “You must be healing well.” He nodded to Tony’s arm.
“Fracture healed quickly, yes. Got out of the cast early, and I haven’t even needed the brace in several days.”
“That’s good to hear. I read your initial injury reports, and I was concerned that you’d need several months to heal. I’m glad your cat-like ability to land on your feet hasn’t deserted you.”
Tony smiled. “I’m burning through those nine lives at a dangerous rate. I’ll have to slow down a bit.”
“It’d do this old man’s heart good if you would.” He gestured to the table. “I think I remembered correctly.”
Tony took the glass and sipped, smiling at the familiar taste of Balvenie 21. “Well remembered.”
“They put us out to pasture because we get too old to be tackling people on sidewalks, but the mind is sound,” Morrow said with a quirk of his lips. “Now, DCIS planned to brief you on the status of the investigation, but I offered to handle it when we met. I have a little more latitude in what I can say than someone directly involved in the investigation.”
Tony smiled, knowing his expression was tight. “I’ve been curious but have been resisting the temptation to ask. But, first, what’s this about me still being an agent?”
Morrow held up a hand. “You gave one-month notice with vacation in lieu of, and turned in your credentials, but the investigation into NCIS basically froze everything. The acting director wanted nothing to be processed until the Inspector General was finished and the new director, someone from outside the agency, had been appointed. I’m sure you’re aware there’s a new SecNav…?”
“I saw the mention on the news, yes.”
“The new SecNav has instructed the new director, a guy named Foster, to attempt to keep you at NCIS, so they put you on medical and administrative leave and held your resignation.”
Tony felt instantly irritated. NCIS couldn’t be bothered to contact him, but they’d decided to hold his paperwork? “They haven’t called me.”
“I’m sure that was an oversight or crossed wires. In any case, my suggestion is that you allow the administrative leave to stand until you’ve made a decision about next steps. If you decide to take an offer with one of the alphabets, it’d be easier if you were not processed out—transfers are significantly less trouble. Not to mention the hassle with FERS if you quit and then start with us again.”
“I see your point, and I concur. However, I’d like something official stating that I’m on medical and then administrative leave so that NCIS can’t process my paperwork out of spite when I turn them down.”
“And you plan to turn them down?”
Tony nodded. “It’s been too much, sir. I can’t…” He shrugged. “And I’m in the eye of the storm, so to speak. I’m sure there’s going to be resentment about the shakeup, and I don’t want to catch the flack. I’m honestly tired of it all.”
“Understood. I’ll get your administrative leave authorized and have a copy sent to you.”
“I appreciate it. I know the investigation must still be underway…” he said leadingly.
“Not as much as you might expect. Certainly, DCIS has some more to untangle at NCIS, but we have some level of resolution on much of it. At this time, neither Miss Sciuto nor Mr. McGee will be charged for their hacking of the DoT system since they took those actions under orders. Illegal orders should be reported not followed, of course, but allowances were made. However, both were released from employment with NCIS for cause with severe reprimands in their file. Neither will be eligible to work for the federal government again.”
Tony winced. He was sorry Abby and McGee were caught up in the bullshit, but everyone had to account for their actions. The Rivkin mess would always be on Tony’s record, and even if people didn’t blame him for Rivkin—since Tony hadn’t actually sought him out—anyone with an ounce of sense would notice that he’d gone to see Ziva without backup.
Morrow’s look was sympathetic. “While Miss Sciuto was quite hostile and colorful in the transcripts of her interrogations, Mr. McGee was more concerned for you. He seemed to bear little ill will over the situation and would probably appreciate hearing that you’re all right.”
Tony nodded, taking it under advisement. He’d wondered about contacting Abby or McGee, but he could just imagine Abby’s vitriol. It was a relief to hear that McGee might not blame Tony for this whole fiasco. “Ziva?” he asked, not wanting to dwell on McGee and Abby any longer.
“She was transferred into the custody of the FBI, specifically National Security Branch, to investigate the counterintelligence aspect of everything. I can’t get into too much detail about that part of the investigation, but I can say that there were initially some demands that she be released and returned to Israel. However, since her father was replaced as the head of Mossad, Israel has officially washed their hands of her. What will happen remains to be seen.”
Tony blinked, not even sure what to say.
“If you’re harboring any loyalty or concern for Ms. David, I feel I should tell you some things our investigation uncovered.”
With a sinking sensation in his stomach, Tony set his scotch down. “Okay.”
“Much of this is highly classified, but you’re already read in on the most classified aspect, which is the true nature of Shepard’s death.”
Tony just nodded, not liking that anything related to Shepard was coming up.
“Shepard struck a bargain with Eli David before she even had her first day as director. She knew she’d been short-listed as my replacement and made plans accordingly.”
“So, she brought Ziva in as part of a bargain?”
“Yes. Eli would feed her information related to Benoit and, in return, Shepard would give the access she needed to enable Ms. David’s espionage.”
Tony’s mouth fell open. “Shepard facilitated Ziva’s—” he cut himself off, rubbing his hand over his mouth. Shepard had committed treason. “Okay, then.”
“I’m afraid it gets worse. Shepard needed Ziva close, and she needed her on a team that had the highest security clearance, and therefore the broadest access.”
“And there’s only one major case team in the DC office.” That sinking feeling in Tony’s stomach had turned into a lead weight. Tony’d had no idea until they were investigating the Rivkin mess that Ziva had the same access level as the rest of the team. It hadn’t even occurred to him since she was an officer of a foreign agency, and Gibbs was the only team member who knew everyone’s security clearance level.
Morrow nodded, looking regretful. “Gibbs historically has always tried to have one woman on the team…”
Tony held up a hand, needing a minute. He didn’t need it spelled out for him. Ziva had profiled the team. If she was making a spot for herself, she’d have told Ari exactly who to kill. Tony wanted to down the scotch and order a whole bottle, but he refused to use alcohol to deal with this problem.
After a couple of minutes of silence, when Tony started to relax a little, Morrow asked, “Did you know that Ziva David killed Ari Haswari?”
“Yeah, of course. I mean, doesn’t everybody? I know the party line was that Gibbs did it, but those trajectories don’t exactly match up if you bother to look.”
“The official report says Gibbs was the shooter. There are no contradictory trajectory measurements.”
Tony frowned. “I knew the official report was sealed by Shepard. Gibbs said it was to protect Ziva.” He shook his head. “Are you saying Gibbs falsified the real report?”
“Yes. He was grateful to her for saving his life and agreed to lie. Unfortunately, Eli David had engineered the encounter. He knew Ari wasn’t truly in his control and had to be handled. Ziva was in the U.S. with orders to kill Ari after his last mission. She was told to use Ari’s death to ingratiate herself to Gibbs and his team.”
Tony laughed, though he wasn’t amused; the sound was bitter and jaded. “Of course she did. Wow, she really played us all.”
“I wish there was something I could say to ease your burden, Tony, but I’m afraid that’s something only time can do.”
“I’m going to become paranoid at this rate.” He rubbed his hand over his head. “I’m almost afraid to ask about Gibbs.”
“This morning, Gibbs pled guilty to harboring a fugitive. It was part of a plea deal that he’d be quietly retired and serve five years’ probation if he basically went away and never stirred up problems. The number of charges he could have been hit with would have landed him in prison for life, so it was a good deal.”
Tony sat back heavily in his chair, not even sure how to process that. His whole team had gone up in flames because he’d called Rabb rather than go to Edwards for a flight to Israel. He mentally smacked himself for thinking of it that way. Their bad acts—treasonous acts in some cases—were not his responsibility.
“Vance has been quietly retired for ‘personal reasons,’” Morrow added. “He won’t be able to work for a federal agency again. While, in many ways, he got off the lightest in terms of long-term consequences, anyone with any real power knows he’s tainted. He’ll never hold a position of responsibility again. Secretary McCord is still peeved with him, so it may not quite be the end of his consequences.”
“That’s all kinds of… I don’t even know.”
“I understand you’re in touch with Mr. Palmer?”
Tony shot him a curious look.
“Everyone who had even passing association with the MCRT was interviewed by the FBI and DCIS. It was in the case notes that Palmer had spoken to you.”
He nodded. “Sorry. When I last talked to Jimmy, it was early days in the investigation, and he didn’t really have anything to say. I’ve been out of town for a while, so it’s been only email lately. Last one, he said there’d been a lot of changes and Ducky had taken a few weeks off but that he was doing fine.”
“I spoke to Dr. Mallard myself. I’ve known Ducky for many, many years. More years than either of us would care to admit. He was rather dogged in his defense of Gibbs in all this, so I took it upon myself to try to help him get some perspective before he said something unfortunate to the wrong person. He took some time away to come to terms with the situation, and perhaps grieve for what’s been lost.”
Tony blew out a breath. “I’m glad. I’d thought about calling him but, frankly, I’m not feeling like shouldering anyone else’s angst right now. I’m already fed up with my own.”
Morrow chuckled. “But I hear you you’re being courted by quite a few agencies.”
“And a couple really skeevy PMCs.”
Morrow blinked. “That’s…interesting.”
Tony snorted. “You’re a master of the understatement, sir. It’s a good thing I don’t need the money because the offer was ridiculous. Seven figures.”
Morrow whistled lowly. “May I ask what they wanted you to do?”
“They were vague, but something about planning ops and vetting intel.” Tony waved his hand. “It was crazy.”
But Morrow’s expression was tight. He set down his glass. “Tony, you have quite a reputation in certain circles for your facility with information analysis.”
“I do? That’s… I don’t know what that is. I’ve always been good with puzzles, but—”
“Exceptional with them, actually. Which is the last reason why I’d wanted to speak with you.”
“Am I about to get the pitch?” Tony asked with a grin.
“Yes, you are, son, so just sit still and deal with it.”
Tony finally laughed with real amusement. “I’m eager to hear it.”
“First, just a bug in your ear that DCIS will be offering you a job as well, but Wright can’t make such a move in good conscience while the investigation is open. But it will be there if you’re interested.”
“Huh. Okay.” He only vaguely remembered Wright because Tony’d been tired, hurting, and suffering from a head injury at the time, though he’d spoken to the man on the phone in the days since. Tony liked that Wright was showing ethical boundaries about how he planned to approach Tony.
“In terms of my offer, if you want to come to Homeland, the door is open. We’ll give you your own team in one of our criminal investigation divisions. Or, and I do hope you’ll consider this quite seriously, you could join a new program I’m putting together. Sort of an elite, second-tier intelligence analysis unit.”
Tony blinked in shock. “You want me to be an analyst?”
“I think you’d be exceptional at it, and I’m not the only one who thinks this way. The only reason you haven’t heard from the CIA is because the enmity between you and them is rather well known. The director is more than a little irritated with the agents who created the problem.”
“Maybe he’ll put a leash on them, teach them about winning friends and influencing people by not blowing up their cars,” he muttered the last under his breath.
“I personally yelled at the director of the CIA when Kort took such a risk with your life. That the op was unsanctioned prevented further, more official involvement from my side, but he assured me that Kort was taken to task for his behavior.”
“Truthfully, sir, even if there wasn’t so much water that it washed out the bridge, I can’t really see me at the CIA.”
“It’s unfortunate that they’ve not worked harder on their reputation,” Morrow noted. “But their loss will hopefully be another agency’s gain. I would like you to at least consider the intelligence unit. You could come in, see how we work, and make the decision from there.”
“Sure, I’ll come in. It seems like an odd fit, though.”
“Perhaps, but I personally think you’ll be surprised at how perfect it might be.”
They talked for a good thirty minutes about what Morrow’s vision for the unit was and how it would work differently from other intelligence projects. Tony found the idea intriguing, but he still thought it seemed like a weird thing for a field agent. Still, he decided to reserve judgment until he’d checked it out in person. Tony had a trip to the UK coming up, but he could squeeze in Morrow’s request before he left in five days.
When they got to the door, they found Agent Morris from the FBI waiting. “I didn’t want to interrupt your meeting, so I waited until you were finished. Can we go back in and speak for a few minutes?” Tony noted Morris’ partner sitting at the bar with a bottle of water in hand, keeping an eye on the whole bar.
Yeah, this wasn’t good.
They went back into the room. Morris and Morrow had obviously already met.
“Agent DiNozzo, there’s been some intelligence chatter and an arrest made that has us concerned with regard to your safety.”
“Israeli national, former Mossad on our blacklist, was arrested attempting to sneak into the country. Based on the interrogation and the aforementioned chatter, we believe Eli David has entered the country along with several other former Mossad operatives. We don’t know why at this time. But it’s possible that…” she trailed off and arched a brow.
“That they might come after me,” he concluded. Fan-fucking-tastic.
“We don’t have specific information about a threat to you, but he has no reason to be here other than his daughter or some misguided notion of revenge.”
“I assume you’re here to place Agent DiNozzo in protective custody?” Morrow asked.
“The lack of specific threat makes my assistant director hesitant to force the issue.”
Morrow looked pissed. “Now see here—”
“And the day I volunteer to go into protective custody,” Tony interjected, “is the day I start drinking blended whisky.”
Morrow gave a startled bark of laughter.
Before anyone could get insistent about it, Tony said, “Between the three of us and those who need to know, how about I put off my appointment at Homeland until I return from the UK, and move up my trip?” He considered the ramifications briefly. All he had to do was make sure JAG knew he wouldn’t be available. He’d had to testify on an NCIS case two days ago, but there wasn’t anything else on the docket that he was aware of for at least a month.
Morrow nodded. “You’d be doing an old man a favor if you’d let Agent Morris escort you home to pack your bag and then adhere to a check-in schedule while you’re away.”
Tony really didn’t want to agree to that. Because if he were going to head to England a few days early, he planned to take some time off and just relax. Having a check-in schedule was no one’s idea of fun. But he didn’t want to quibble with Morrow over something fairly reasonable.
“I should probably cover my tracks getting out of the country. At least not tip them off right away that I’m gone in case Eli David or his goons really are watching.”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
Tony cocked his head. He didn’t usually go for over-the-top indulgences, but he was really fucking fed up with everything and figured he’d earned one. “Know anyone who could secretly charter a private plane and keep my name out of it? I can arrange payment from—”
Morrow waved him off. “I’ll get it taken care of quietly, and then email you the account number to reimburse. I’m more than aware of your family’s financial holdings, so it’s of no concern. It’s a good idea. It won’t stall them forever but, if they are after you, it’ll give us a little more time to investigate.”
They covered a few more details then Tony shook Morrow’s hand, saying goodbye and promising to set up time to come see this new unit when he returned.
Morris and her partner followed him back to his place. By the time he’d finished changing and packing, he had a text confirmation of his flight in ninety minutes. He ordered a taxi and set about getting his apartment fixed the way he always did when he left for a trip. He made a habit of leaving things in specific ways so he’d know if anyone entered while he was gone.
He shut off the light and locked the door, heading out to see what was next. He hoped Eli David left him alone because the whole idea made him feel mentally exhausted just as things had been looking up.
“I really need a few days off,” he muttered as he shouldered his bag and headed downstairs for the taxi waiting to take him to the airport.