- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Canon Divergence
24 July 2019
Tony sat in front of his laptop, going through his emails. Over the past four days, Jack Carter had sent him twelve cat memes and thirty funny cat videos. His latest American Express statement had come in, and he was still wary of looking at it, thanks to Ezra. Tony was even wary of opening any email at all when he thought about Harold Finch and the AI over watcher he’d created.
And there were still more email offers coming in from around the country and around the freaking world.
Tony’s recent jaunt across the pond had just increased the ones from other countries, mostly private companies wanting him for various positions in their security divisions. But he felt like this was spreading insanely wide. It was beginning to feel like a joke and Tony was the punchline and the booby prize.
Tony was still getting plenty of domestic offers, too. His latest batch included several that, while technically within his wheelhouse, would be steps down rather than up or sideways like most of them.
There was an offer from a sheriff’s department in a small town in Northern California whose department had recently been attacked by a high school student and lost a large number of their deputies. The sheriff, Noah Stilinski, offered him a position as detective deputy sheriff and trainer if he joined their force and helped build it back up.
There was another offer from a tiny town for a position as an assistant sheriff with a promotion in a year when the current sheriff retired. It was a tiny, dinky, little town on the coast of Maine. But Tony’s research had shown a disproportionately high number of homicides in Cabot Cove and its surrounding area considering the small population.
And the kick in the teeth, the icing on the insanity sundae of his life since he called Harmon Rabb, was an offer to be the sheriff of Stillwater, Pennsylvania and basically staff the entire department except for two deputies. All of the rest were currently in jail, either awaiting trial or already convicted.
The charges ranged in severity. Almost everyone in the department was arrested for at the very least accepting bribes or evidence tampering. There were two deputies, an evidence clerk, and a secretary who ran a small-time blackmail and extortion ring, shaking people down for protection money. Like they thought they were the mafia. And the former sheriff’s conviction for accessory to kidnapping and murder was the big kahuna.
It was a laugh, but there was no way in hell Tony was going to work in Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ hometown.
Tony closed out of his email program after sending off several negative replies with thanks and scheduling a few interviews for upcoming days. He had dashed off a quick reply to Jack, including links to several robot apocalypse memes and screenshots from the second Terminator movie.
No matter what he chose or where he ended up, Tony was glad for the new friends he had made along the way. Tony hoped today would be a normal day. No aliens or AIs or attempted hits or spies.
It had been an interesting week at SHIELD, but he was tired of always being tested. So many of these agencies who wanted him to work for them seemed to want a demonstration of his skills first.
And Tony was incredibly tired of ambush interviews—at diners and various restaurants and cafes, at bars and clubs, at airports and train stations, and just on the street. It was refreshing that today’s interview was actually going to be straightforward.
It was an interview for a position with the Secret Service. Tony wasn’t enthused at the prospect, based on what he knew about what the agency handled, but he was giving them a chance to make a pitch, in Kate’s memory if for no other reason. The memory of blue lights and a soft smile and blood and brain matter on his face made that a lock.
* * *
Tony walked into a conference room in the Secret Service HQ building and was a bit surprised to find two men waiting for him. They rose to their feet and shook his hand, introducing themselves. His interview was with the Assistant Director of the Secret Service Office of Protective Operations, Ron Butterfield, and his counterpart, the Assistant Director of the Secret Service Office of Investigation, John Miller. Tony figured they must really want him; these weren’t just two flunkies, they were each two steps from the head of the whole shebang.
After they took their seats, Director Miller began. “We know you’ve been to a number of interviews since your departure from NCIS. And we feel that we at the Secret Service have a good position to offer you that would utilize your skills efficiently.”
Director Butterfield offered, “We each have an offer for a position in our respective departments. Because your position at NCIS was as a field agent and investigator, Assistant Director Miller will present his offer first. Then, I will give you my offer. Just know that if you decide to accept one of our offers, the option to transfer to the other offer is an open one.”
Tony nodded. “Understood, sir. I’m all ears.”
Miller smiled. “Well, as you know, the Secret Service Office of Investigations handles numerous things. While our original mandate was to deal with the rise of counterfeiting after the Civil War, our duties have expanded largely over the decades, especially after 9-11 when we were transferred from the Treasury Department to Homeland Security.”
Tony caught Assistant Director Butterfield rolling his eyes discreetly as Assistant Director Miller continued. “The job I am offering is as a head of one of our DC units investigating terrorism and working closely with the Joint Terrorism Task Force. You would travel around the country and the world as needed per your investigations. Your unit would consist of nine members and two or three rotating liaisons from other agencies. We know you are adept at working across boundaries and are not territorial. You are known for your liaison work with local law enforcement and other federal agencies during your time at NCIS.”
Tony nodded amicably. “It was necessary when working with Gibbs. He doesn’t play well with others. What kind of fieldwork would the position have? Would my job as unit chief keep me behind a desk full time? Or would I get my hands on, so to speak?”
Miller tilted his head. “You wouldn’t be a field agent, per se. However, investigations happen swiftly once things start to come together. I would guess, based on our other teams, that you would get into the field regularly. Perhaps not as much as when you were a full field agent, but we wouldn’t waste your field skills by keeping you in an office.”
Tony noticed Butterfield frown swiftly but listened to Miller’s offer. “You would handle most of the interrogations and interviews while training others on your team in your—unique methods. And, if needed, your undercover skills would still be valuable.”
“Okay. So, essentially like an expanded Major Case Response Team but with a smaller area of investigation and a wider, occasionally global, focus.”
Miller nodded. “That would be the gist, I suppose. You would also have investigations into cybercrime as it related to your major focus.”
“Terrorist funding on the dark web and through counterfeiting and money laundering?”
“Okay. That’s an interesting idea. How much would I be liaising with the FBI? CIA?”
Miller pursed his lips for a moment before replying. “One of your rotating liaisons would typically be an FBI agent. The CIA doesn’t like to share intel unless forced or unless what they get in return is better for them than what they lose. You would also have rotating liaisons from DEA and ATF and, more rarely, AFOSI, NCIS, or Army CID.”
Tony nodded. That was pretty much how he had read the job description. “Okay. And now to the Office of Protection.”
Ron Butterfield grinned for a single moment before his face returned to its stoic setting. “First, my specific offer is coming, but I want to preface it with the fact that an open offer of a place on a permanent protection detail, whether for the President or otherwise, is on the table. From my reading of your file and what my contacts have told me, I don’t think you are interested in that, but if I’m wrong, feel free to let me know.”
This time, Tony saw Miller frown and his eyes flick upwards as Butterfield kept talking. “The offer in my pocket is for you to head the unit assigned to investigate threats against protectees. There are multiple units in this area, and you could pick from several of them, whether you wanted to remain in this area or otherwise. Also, you are a natural profiler, and we’d like you to profile assets with access to our protectees. Not like the FBI with trying to think like a serial killer and then write a book about it and go on tour.”
A quick glance saw Miller stifling a grin.
Butterfield concluded with, “But stop people with negative agendas and intentions from being able to be in positions to harm our charges.”
“How active would the job be? That is, how much time in the office versus otherwise?”
Butterfield sighed. “Unless you took me up on the protection detail offer, the job would keep you in an office quite often. More than Assistant Director Miller’s offer.”
Tony watched the man in question smirk for a moment before the professional face returned as his colleague continued his pitch. “But you wouldn’t be permanently fixed there like some upper-level agents are in other agencies.”
Tony held back a smile at the quiet contempt the men had for the FBI.
“But, frankly, the investigations just don’t require as much fieldwork as you would be used to. Not for an agent of the level you would be. More scut work for your junior agents than real fieldwork. Mostly.”
Miller murmured lowly, seemingly not thinking the remark would carry across the table to Tony. “He’d be in the office 95 percent of the time. Working with computers and interviews.”
Tony’s eyebrows raised as Butterfield hissed back, “Well, your investigations are more in-country than global, and you know it. And lots of cyber work.”
Tony sat back as Miller turned his head and whisper-yelled, “At least we don’t stand back while people ride their bicycles into trees!”
Butterfield didn’t even bother to whisper. “That was over a decade ago, and we can’t stop the protectee from living their life! He was angry because of bigots who threatened his preteen granddaughter and wasn’t focused on what he was doing. We can’t get between the President and his diet, either.”
Tony chuckled internally, recalling saying something like that to Kate when they first met.
Butterfield continued his rant, “And at least people know what we do, we don’t get calls asking for extensions on our taxes or telling us we need to audit someone’s neighbor!”
Tony could practically see the man fighting the urge to say, “So there!” and stick his tongue out. It was fascinating.
Miller glared and huffed out a breath. “You know a lot of people still think we’re part of the Treasury Department which, to them, equals money equals the IRS! Our move to being under Homeland wasn’t well-publicized to the general public, it was lost in the shuffle of changes post 9-11. And our agents don’t help the people we’re protecting to kill themselves slowly, keeping cigarettes on hand and hidden for them!”
“No, your agents just miss huge sources of counterfeiting coming into the country and pass the buck to other agencies with faulty intel.”
“Your agents have to resign for sleeping with people they shouldn’t or having parties on the government dime!”
Tony shook his head and knocked on the table. The two men pivoted in their chairs to face him again and their faces took on sheepish looks more likely to be found on a teenager who missed curfew than on a pair of assistant directors of a federal agency. “And I thought inter-agency cooperation was bad. What was this? Am I on candid camera? Is Ashton Kutcher around here somewhere? Am I being punked?”
Miller bit his lip. “Sorry for our unprofessional behavior, Agent DiNozzo. It isn’t often we interact on a non-personal level.”
Butterfield sighed and licked his lips. “We’re stepbrothers. When we were both twelve, my mother married his father. Our sibling rivalry is the stuff of legends in the family.”
Tony laughed. “I’ll bet. Can you tell me who thought it would be a good idea to have the two of you together presenting the different job offers rather than separate interviews, one for each of you? Or one person, higher up, to present both offers at once?”
A door behind the two men opened and the Director of the Secret Service entered the room. Tony stood as the man held out his hand, and they greeted one another. “That was my call, I’m afraid. It was even odds as to whether they’d be able to be adults about it all. Lost me twenty bucks on their behavior. But, even if they weren’t professional, as did indeed hold true, well, it is well-known that you are used to working with—eccentric personalities. And wouldn’t hold it against us.”
Miller nodded. “We really aren’t just men in black with no personalities. Only in public, on the job, do we have a stick up our ass.”
Butterfield momentarily grinned. “And not always then.”
Tony burst into laughter. “Obviously I’m not the public, then.”
The director shook his head. “We know that even though we call this a job interview, it is more you doing the interviewing than us. You’re a hot commodity, Agent DiNozzo. You have been for years, but now you’re an available hot commodity. It has rather gone to a lot of people’s heads, I’m afraid.”
Tony nodded. “I’ve gotten that idea over the past several weeks, yeah.”
The director nodded. “Well, regardless of their sibling catfight, the offers are genuine. whichever branch of the agency you’re more interested in. Frankly, you aren’t even constrained by these specific offers. If you see a place you want, as long as it isn’t my job, you can write your own ticket.” The man flicked his eyes at his two subordinates. “You have impressive skills and talents, and we’d like to use them for the betterment of our agency and the country.”
Tony smiled, stifling his inner howling laughter. Who knew the Secret Service was so funny? You wouldn’t have guessed it by Kate, that was for sure. “Thank you for that. I will definitely keep it in mind, Director Casper.”