- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Canon Divergence
- Crime Drama
3 August 2009
Tony DiNozzo walked into the diner, immediately spotting Jubal Valentine sitting in the back booth. Grinning, Tony crossed to his long-time friend.
Jubal got to his feet and took Tony’s extended hand, pulling him into a quick hug. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too. Sorry I missed you my last trip to New York.” Tony slid into the booth.
“That was on me, man.” Jubal took his seat, flagging the waitress. “The case we were working was a mess.” The waitress came back to bring them coffee then they both ordered. “So, what brings you back to the city so soon?”
“I’d promised Tom Morrow that I’d do a sit down with one of his teams after I got back from Europe. He decided he wanted it to be the team in New York; I spent the last ten days with them.” It was only supposed to be a day or two, but Tony had gotten caught up in the terrorist profile they were working on and had stayed the course.
Jubal grinned. “Yeah, I hear you’re being courted by every agency imaginable.”
“I can’t even.” Tony huffed. “I have no idea where this reputation even came from.”
Jubal rolled his eyes. “Come on, Tony. People started noticing you back in Philly.” The Macaluso case was when Tony and Jubal had met. Jubal had been the senior agent from the FBI that had been brought into the case while Tony was undercover. “You brought down a mob boss, and yet he liked you so much that he not only didn’t try to kill you, he offered to let you marry his daughter.”
Grinning, Tony sipped his coffee. “Well, there’s still that kill-on-sight order.”
“Within the city limits of Philadelphia.” Jubal rolled his eyes. “You guys still keep in touch.”
“Yeah.” It was probably weird that Tony exchanged letters with a mob boss he put in jail, but such was his life. “One of the reasons I do well undercover is that I lie as little as possible. So when I started to actually like Macaluso, it wasn’t feigned. I mean, if he wasn’t a fucking criminal, he’d be considered a pillar of the community.”
“Oh, believe me, I know. I interrogated the man. He’s charming and cares about his hometown. If it wasn’t for the whole illegal weapons sales and drug trafficking, he’d be a beacon,” Jubal said dryly.
Tony shrugged. “I miss the chess games.”
“I remember Mike saying he trusted you because of the chess games, but I never understood that.”
“I don’t know why. I admitted to him when he asked me if I played chess that I knew the rules but sucked at it. He asked why I sucked, and I said it was probably because I’d never played more than two games. He decided to teach me. We had a lot of conversations while playing. And, when I got better, I never shied away from taking the win when I could.”
Jubal nodded, looking thoughtful. “Powerful men get a lot of suckups around them. He probably found your honesty refreshing.”
“I don’t know. We write about current events and general things like that. He’s never asked about the operation that brought him down, and I sure never poked at the issue.”
“You have such a weird way with people.”
“Hey!” Tony laughed. “So, what about you? Since the last time I saw you, I know you got promoted. Congrats, by the way.”
Jubal made a face.
“Uh-oh. Why the long face?”
“I don’t think I’m ever getting out of the assistant part of the assistant special agent in charge. I put in for the agent in charge spot when Solberg left, but…” he trailed off and shrugged.
“They brought in Mosier?”
“Yeah, she’s good. I’ve got no complaints.”
“You know, your reputation for running the JOC so effectively means you might have pigeonholed yourself a bit.” Running the Joint Operation Command with Jubal’s level of effectiveness was beyond a learned skill, you had to have an ingrained talent.
“Don’t be dense, Jubal. I’ve been on the wrong end of a badly run joint op, and you’re exceptional at keeping everything and everyone coordinated while helping put the case together. When they find someone who can run a critical role, they don’t like to see them move on. And you can’t run the JOC and have a higher rank than you do.”
Jubal sighed. “Are you saying I’m so competent that I’m never getting promoted?”
Tony chuckled. “It sounds terrible when you put it like that. No, I’m just saying that if you ever want out of that role, you may have to put in for a transfer.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He made a dismissive gesture. “I’m not unhappy, and Mosier is fine. You know her?”
“I met her on a case once. Serial killer case she was the lead profiler on. One of the vics was a Marine, and we crossed paths long enough for Gibbs to throw a tantrum about having to cede jurisdiction.”
Jubal’s brows shot up. “You want to talk about that?”
“That?” Tony repeated. “Which that are we referring to?”
The waitress arrived with part of their food, briefly halting their conversation.
As soon as they were alone, Jubal pointed his fork at Tony. “Don’t play dumb, man. The shit that went down at NCIS. Your director offering you up to a foreign agency like a fucking lamb.”
Tony threw up his hands. “Why does everyone know stuff they shouldn’t know?”
“Please. You know how gossipy federal agencies are. An empire got toppled over that shit.”
“An empire. Hyperbolic much?”
Jubal snorted. “I wasn’t talking about Vance, though that would be gossip-worthy on its own. I’m referring to David’s stranglehold on Mossad. People wanted to know what happened. I can’t say that every agent on the street knows, but most of the senior management in the alphabet soup is informed. In one way or another.”
Tony sighed and rubbed his forehead. “That’s just great.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tone. It doesn’t have any reflection on you. Except maybe how MI6 had to save you from the big bad Eli David.” Jubal batted his eyelashes. “You’re such a pretty princess, DiNozzo.”
“Ass.” Tony threw a piece of toast at Jubal, who ducked it with a grin. “At least that part of this whole mess is over.”
“Yeah, now all you have to do is pick a place to work. How have the interviews been?”
“Interesting. In some cases, maybe too interesting.” He chuckled and shook his head. “But it’s been good to get away from NCIS and see what’s out there. Not to mention the mental reboot time has been…helpful.”
The conversation drifted from topic to topic while they ate. Tony mentally chastised himself for allowing contact with his friends to become so sporadic. Reconnecting with people had been one of the better parts of his sabbatical, and he promised himself not to let things go like that again. They even talked about Jubal’s sobriety, and how Jubal had been a little worried about Tony’s drinking habits after Shepard’s death. Which was fair since Tony had started to worry about his drinking habits back then too.
Jubal got a text just as Tony was finishing up his pancakes. He made a face at the screen.
“Work?” Tony guessed.
“OA and Maggie are bringing in a guy we’ve been looking for; we think he’s part of a terrorist cell. There was some intel we’ve been following up on about possible chemical attack in New York.” He shot Tony a look. “You know we run down a ton of these every year, but this one looks like it just got legs.” He pulled his wallet out and threw some bills on the table. “This one’s on me. Sorry to eat and run, but I think my day off just got canceled.” He got to his feet. “When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow morning.” He and Jubal had planned to hang out all day. “But I can always bump up my flight.”
Jubal cocked his head to the side. “No, come with. This could go nowhere, and then we could get on with our day. And if it’s something, well, your security clearance gives you access to the JOC as long as Dana’s okay with it. You might find it entertaining.”
Tony considered for a beat then slid out of the booth. “It’s sad that you think I’d find watching the coordination side of an operation to be entertaining, but okay.” He winked at Jubal.
“You really are an ass.”
“It’s one of my finer qualities.” As they reached the door of the diner, he asked, “OA? Like Overeaters Anonymous?”
* * *
“Tony,” Dana greeted with a big smile, shaking his hand. “It’s good to see you again. I’m glad to see that you’re fully recovered.”
“Nothing keeps me down for long.” Jubal had brought him to the observation room where Special Agent in Charge Dana Mosier was watching two of her people interrogate a suspect.
“I’m glad Jubal brought you down. I’m sorry we had to interrupt your day, but perhaps this will turn out to be nothing and then you two can get on with your trip to the Smithsonian.”
Jubal was leaning against the edge of the two-way mirror, watching the action in the room. He pointed to the two agents. “Maggie Bell, OA Zidan.”
“You still haven’t explained the OA…” Tony took in the two agents and blinked a few times when “OA” turned toward the mirror. “Wow. He’s hot like burning.”
Jubal choked, but Dana just grinned.
“What? I don’t work with him and, objectively, he’s hot as hell.”
“Jesus, Tony.” Jubal laughed.
“Omar Adom,” Dana supplied. “Goes by OA. Former Army, did two years undercover for the DEA, recruited by the FBI. One of the brightest rising stars in the agency. He deals with the biases against him for being Muslim with more grace than I would.”
Tony nodded. “I’m glad he’s got you guys in his corner. I know neither of you would even passively tolerate that kind of bigoted crap.”
Dana nudged him with her shoulder. “It’s really good to see you, Tony.” He and Dana had only kept in touch in the most basic ways since he’d met her a few years ago—back when Morrow was still running NCIS. But they’d had drinks at Tony’s favorite jazz club after the ugly case from hell ended, and they’d had an instant and easy rapport.
She nodded to the room. “What do you see?”
“Am I working, Dana?” he asked with a grin.
“Hell yes, you are. I’m using all resources at my disposal, and you’re standing right here. Now tell me what you see.” She raised the audio from the interrogation room. “And hear.”
Tony watched and listened for about ten minutes. “They’re never going to get anywhere with him like that.”
“Oh?” Dana gave him an inquisitive look.
“He’s too much of a narcissist to fall for the whole ‘protect yourself by rolling over on those above you’ thing.” Tony stepped a little closer to the glass.
“Where do you get narcissism?” Jubal asked.
“If there’s one personality disorder that I can spot in a minute, it’s that one,” Tony said softly. Gibbs had once joked about Tony being a narcissist, but that was pure projection. Plus, Tony’s experience with his own father made spotting narcissism in all its forms easy for him. “It’s in his micro expressions and what he does and doesn’t react to.”
“You want to take a shot?” Dana asked.
“I’m game.” He ruffled his hair, making it stand on end and untucked his button-up shirt, quickly undoing the buttons and slipping the shirt off, leaving him in T-shirt and jeans. “Good thing I’m not in a suit.” He unhooked his sunglasses from his shirt and put them on. “Get your agents out of there. I’m going to leave the door open to interrogation, so watch what anyone says in the hall.”
Dana grinned and tapped on the glass.
Zidan looked frustrated at being interrupted, but Bell was much more inscrutable.
They all met up in the hallway, and both agents shot Tony unimpressed looks where he slouched against the wall. Dana gestured for quiet and pointed everyone into the observation room. Tony waited a minute then strolled into interrogation, leaving the door open about a foot.
He flopped into one of the interrogator chairs, propped his feet on the table, and pulled out his cell phone. He’d been playing a game for a full two minutes before the suspect couldn’t take it anymore.
“What are you doing?”
Not looking up, Tony absently replied, “Fruit Ninja.”
“I just got the dragon blade. Shh.”
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Shh. I’m concentrating. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get all these strawberries?” He flipped the switch so the room was filled with the sounds of the game, including the bomb he just sliced in half.
“What are you doing?” the man yelled.
Tony huffed. “I told you. I’m playing Fruit Ninja.” He flashed the screen. “I paid for upgraded strawberries, man, and your yammering messed up my mojo. Now hush.”
“I will not be silent! Who are you?” The guy’s nostrils were flaring.
“Special Agent Babysitter to you. I mean, I guess I’m on my boss’s shit-list or I wouldn’t get the crappy duty of babysitting your useless ass.”
“You know nothing!”
“Uh huh. Quiet now. I’m upgrading my peaches, too, and I don’t want to screw up.”
Tony had sliced two peaches and a kiwi when the guy lost it. “Where are the other agents?”
“They went to go find a fish to fry. I’d normally say a bigger fish, but you’re no kind of fish, so I think they’re looking for any fish. And I’m stuck on babysitting duty until,” he made a negligent wave, “due process and all that. Whatever. It’s supposed to be my day off but here I am with minding the store while my high score is in danger.”
“You think I am not involved in whatever this thing is your agents arrested me for?”
“Meh.” He sliced six fruits and the sounds of his combos racking up filled the room. “I love this dragon blade.” He shot the guy a bored look then back to the game. “I’m sure you’re involved, you’re just not useful. I mean, really, you’re not the kind of guy the actual big fish tell the real deal to, right? We’ve been down this road too many times and guys like you never know anything useful. Yes! Take that, demon fruit! I hate kiwi.”
The suspect thumped his fists on the table, making the handcuffs rattle. “You know nothing!”
“So you keep saying. And, man, don’t thump the table. I just sliced through a bomb.”
Tony huffed and looked up from his phone, the sunglasses allowing him to hide how often he’d been paying more attention to the suspect than the game. All he had to do to keep the noises happening was keep moving his finger. “You totally messed up my game. I was going for a new high score.” He set his phone down. “So, what do you want? You’re not going to convince me that you know anything. You’re not going to convince me that you have useful intel. And you sure aren’t going to convince me to let you play my game. So why don’t you sit there, be a good little boy, and be quiet while people more important than you are doing more important things.” He picked up his phone again and started a new game.
The guy slammed his fist on the table again and started yelling at Tony in Arabic. Tony’s knowledge of the language was spotty, but he was impressed by the number of swear words.
Tony made a face at one of the slurs. “Dude, really? My sister’s vagina? I don’t know the language that well, but I’m pretty sure that’s what you just said. It’s a good thing I don’t have a sister, but why would you even say that? Is this like your version of ‘Your mama’?”
The rant escalated while Tony continued to needle the guy, being dismissive of everything he said.
“You will see! You will all see,” the guy screamed, spittle flying from his mouth. “At your baseball game. Your America’s sport. You will see.”
Tony felt the first flush of victory at having gotten the guy to crack, but he couldn’t afford to let up yet. There was a baseball game tomorrow. “Really, Yankee Stadium? Come on. No one’s going to buy that. I knew you were disposable to these guys. They fed you misinformation because you were utterly useless. They’re not going after a sporting event. I mean, that kind of thing is way above your paygrade, sport.”
The guy started swearing again, and Tony kept pushing until the guy had let slip enough details that they could find where the bomb with sarin gas was being put together. The target was actually a game a week out.
Not wanting to let the act end in case they needed to revisit this, Tony grabbed his phone and got to his feet. “I cannot get a good game in with you yammering away about all the things you clearly don’t know. Blah blah blah. I’m going to go see if anyone’s back from lunch who can come babysit you. I have more important things to do…like slicing digital watermelons. I wonder if the file clerk is busy…” He pulled the door closed behind him.
Dana and Jubal met him in the hall.
Jubal was grinning. “You can be such an irritating prick. Nicely done.”
Dana smiled and patted his arm. “Nice work, Tony. OA and Maggie are gearing up to execute some warrants. Come up to my office so we can have a chat?”
“Ah. Is this that moment?”
“If you mean am I about to ask you to consider joining my team? It’s exactly that moment. Man up and get up there and listen to my job offer. Then you can watch Jubal work his magic in the JOC while we shut this terror cell down.”
“We need to come up with a better acronym. ‘Watching Jubal in the JOC’ just sounds so wrong.”
* * *
Tony looked up from where he’d been reviewing some surveillance footage as a favor to Jubal to find Agents Bell and Zidan standing in front of him. Wrapping up the operation that had gone hot had taken up the entire day and it was now well past the dinner hour.
Tony got to his feet and extended his hand to Maggie first. “Agent Bell, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She smiled. It was fatigued but genuine. “Likewise. And call me Maggie. Thanks for the assist in the interrogation.”
“You’re welcome.” He extended his hand to Zidan. “Agent Zidan.”
“Agent DiNozzo.” The handshake was firm, and Tony was struck again by how attractive the guy was. Tony would never hit on someone at work, but damn.
“Tony is fine.”
“OA.” He agreed, shoving his hands in his pockets. “You were good in interrogation.”
“I’ve had some practice.”
Maggie grinned. “More than a little, I’d think. I’ve heard you’re also good undercover.”
“That too. Been doing this enough years to be well rounded.”
“We’re going to grab a quick bite to eat before heading home,” Maggie said. “Would you like to join us? We asked Jubal too, and he’s game.”
“Yeah, sure. I was just waiting for him to finish up, but the more the merrier.” Tony closed out of what he was working on.
OA fell into step beside him as they walked toward the elevators. Jubal was laughing at something Maggie said. “Do you mind if I ask you some questions about your approach in interrogation?” OA asked, entirely too seriously in Tony’s opinion.
“Sure.” As soon as they were in the elevator, he fished on of his cards out of his wallet. “And if you have questions later, you’re welcome to call.”
OA blinked. “Call?”
“Email? Carrier pigeon. I’m not fussy.” He tapped the card. “I’m just saying don’t hesitate.” He grinned at Maggie. “You either.”
“Don’t I get a card?” She winked at him.
“You’ll just have to share with your partner.”
When they stepped out onto the street, Jubal slung an arm around Tony’s shoulders. “It was a good day.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“We take the good with the bad and keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
“One day at a time.”
Jubal smiled. “That’s all any of us can do.”