- Character Bashing
- Discussion - Murder
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Crime Drama
Chapter One: The Problem
Tony was at his wit’s end and was smart enough to reach out for help – he couldn’t do this on his own. He just needed the right leverage in the situation. As soon as he thought it, he picked up his phone.
“DiNotezo this is a surprise.”
The mispronunciation of his name made his eye tick but he bit back his reply knowing that he wanted Tobias’ help. “Yeah, well I need a favour and Gibbs has ridden off into the sunset.”
The silence on the end of the phone told him, that he at least had Fornell’s attention. “Go on, Kid. I hear what is going on at NCIS, you know there is a place at the FBI as soon as you say the word.”
Tony sighed. “I am so close to saying word it is unreal.”
Fornell was intrigued now because he was well aware that despite his teasing most of the agencies were sniffing around DiNozzo – only they had all been ignored. He was loyal to Gibbs and that was also well known in Washington – except Gibbs had stormed off to Mexico in some type of mid-life crisis. Oh, Fornell knew all about the amnesia but he would call bullshit any time of the day.
Fornell knew enough about the circles they ran in to say. “Let’s meet for a drink. You can buy and tell me all your woes and then we’ll figure out what to do about them.”
Tony chuckled. “You’re alright, Toby, don’t let anyone tell you any different.”
Fornell finished his conversation and could admit to being intrigued. He couldn’t wait to find out what was the straw to break the camel’s back for DiNozzo. No matter how much he teased the agent, he knew the amount of crap and situations DiNozzo had managed to fight himself out of and he respected the hell out of the kid.
Tony picked a bar that Fornell recognised but it was not one where the NCIS crew tended to hang out – so that let him know that it was probably work related. Fornell sat at the bar, deciding a pint of ale while waiting was a grand idea.
DiNozzo walked in, he was not dressed in a sharp suit like at work. It was casual, well, as casual as Armani jeans could be.
“How are you?” Fornell asked with genuine concern. He didn’t need to be a trained observer to see the guy was tired.
“Exhausted, and fighting everyone to get even an ounce of work done,” Tony replied.
Fornell sighed. “Still under the Gibbs’ spell?”
Tony snorted because that was probably the aptest way of describing it. “Abby is acting like her favourite toy has been taken away. Ziva and McGee are being lazy insubordinate twats and are so blind to their faults that I am not sure they’re real… but when I report them I’m blocked at every turn by Director Sheppard who is encouraging them. Having been run ragged for the last three weeks, Jenny then asked me to take on an undercover mission, while still running the MCRT as normal, to go after The Frog by seducing his daughter.”
Fornell frowned not liking where this was going. “But whilst you’re not out at work it’s no secret to the higher-ups that you’re gay.”
Tony snorted because he was well aware. “Oh she doesn’t give a shit, she all but told me to lie back and think of NCIS. Only the mission is unsanctioned and she is getting unhinged about asking me. I’m worried that if I don’t do it… she will con some other poor bastard into doing it for her.”
Fornell glared. “No, hell no. You are a Federal Agent and Jenny Shepard is not your madam. She has no right to ask it of you.”
Tony sighed because he was well aware of the fact he shouldn’t have to do it. “She is reckless. I am worried she will order an operation for the MCRT where I conveniently end up dead in the line of duty.”
Fornell rubbed his face because damn, this was more than one problem. He’d figure it out but first he would help Tony rest, Christ the man looked tired. “Okay, first thing – bartender, two whiskey’s, top-shelf.”
Tony smirked. “So any ideas?”
Toby nodded. “Oh, more than one. Here is what is going to happen and in this order, Tony.”
Tony frowned because he couldn’t recall Fornell calling him by his first name ever. He had nothing to lose and friends were in short supply at the moment, or at least that is how it felt. “Whatever you say, Toby.”
Fornell grinned, “You will be coming home with me and you will get eight hours sleep in the guest room. I will be phoning your doctor and organising a health note for a week on grounds of exhaustion.”
Tony frowned but if he was being truthful he could do with a week off. He’d worked 110 hours at least in the last week alone. “Okay. What else because it sounded like you have a list of demands?”
Fornell snickered. “I want you to take a liaison position with the FBI whilst I deal with Madam Witch. Let me tell you, you will be doing me a favour. I have wanted to go after her for a while.”
Tony sighed. “But what about the team?”
Fornell rolled his eyes. “Son, I hate to be blunt, but what team? That is not a reflection on your abilities but you cannot keep going on the way you are. Not when you are being blocked at every turn. A real team has your back, you may have forgotten that but I will show you how it is supposed to be Tony.”
“You have a daughter Toby, you don’t need to look after me.”
Fornell shook his head. “I choose who to care about, so you let me worry about it … besides Emily is going to take one look at you and want to adopt you.”
Tony doubted it because in his experience, children tended to hate him. “If you say so.”
“Just you watch.”
Tobias hated when good people were treated like crap. He wasn’t naive as that happened every day but if he could step in and help – he would. He dragged Tony to his taxi and took him back home. In a twist of fate, Emily was actually at home but had gone over to a friend’s house. When she got back home an hour later she studied the man sleeping on the couch for a minute then dragged her father into the kitchen. “Daddy, who it that?”
“That is Tony. He is a Special Agent I am friends with Em’.”
She sighed. “Why does he look sad?”
You had to hand it to kids they always had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. They had also yet to develop that filter that stopped people from asking those type of awkward questions. “His friends have not been kind and he needs your help Em’. You’ll help me remind him that people care.”
She nodded excited by the prospect of helping her Daddy and she hated to see how sad the pretty guy looked. “Will he be like a big brother?”
Toby wouldn’t say no to the idea. “You’ll have to ask him Em’ but I have never known anyone immune to your pout.”
She yawned. “I’m tired so I am going to bed.”
Toby kissed the top of her head. “Goodnight kiddo.”
He waited until his house was quiet before he made the necessary call to someone – it was better there were no witnesses because the mollycoddling treatment of Gibbs was over. The man had had long enough for his Mexican siesta – it was time to remember his responsibilities.
Fornell waited until the phone had connected. “It is time to come back and fix the mess your ex-redhead is causing.”
Gibbs growled. “I’m retired. DiNozzo can handle her.”
Fornell snorted. “You had a bash to the head, Jethro. You never told me you lost your guts.”
“How dare you!” Gibbs shouted down the phone but was more telling was that he didn’t put the phone down.
Still, if Gibbs though that was bad – Fornell was just warming up. “I dare because DiNozzo is your son in all but blood. The boy has been run ragged by his supposed family as they can’t handle the fact you ran away and left them all on their own. He is practically the MCRT on his own for all the effort the other two are putting in and every citation DiNozzo or any of the other team leads attempt to write up for McGee and David are blocked by your ex-bitch.”
“Why is she trying to isolate DiNozzo?” Gibbs asked as that behavior could only be explained in such a way.
“Oh, this is the best part. She asked him to be a part of an unsanctioned operation to go undercover and seduce the Frog’s daughter.”
Gibbs memory was shaky at best right now but the conversation had allowed some things to shake free even though they were all jumbled up. He thought he hated DiNozzo as he seemed to remember every head-slap he’d given the agent. This was a completely different conversation, he knew Fornell and the man had never lied to him and a few things were becoming clearer. As they were speaking and Fornell said that DiNozzo was all but his son – he flashed to a hospital scene. DiNozzo, no Tony, had been dying from the plague. It had terrified him, just the thought Tony might die. That was not the feelings you had for someone you hate.
As the conversation continued and Fornell mentioned the operation Jenny was trying to launch, he recoiled. “DiNozzo is gay. She is not that much of a bitch.”
Fornell snorted. “Oh but she is, after all, Grenouille is the one who she blames for her father’s death.”
Gibbs did remember how rabid Jenny was about her Dad’s death and subsequent label as a traitor. In that context, yes he could believe she would order a relationship and operation. “She is abusing her position?”
“Almost certainly, Gibbs I just all but ordered Tony’s doctor to put him on a week’s leave. The kid has been working hundred-plus hour weeks just to keep the MCRT afloat and as the lead team.”
Gibbs snorted. “He would, not wanting to let go of the title. Is he getting no support from any of them? Not even Ducky?”
Fornell wanted to punch the man, he was stubborn but not usually obtuse. “Gibbs, they are taking their anger out on him for you leaving. He acts like a hardass, they say he is not you. If he leads his own way then they tell him, that is not how Gibbs would do it. It’s a wonder that the only thing he is suffering from is exhaustion.”
“Where is he now?”
Fornell rolled his eyes, it was a little too late for Gibbs to play the protective role. “He is asleep on my couch and Em’ is looking to adopt him.”
Gibbs sighed realising just how much could go wrong in such a short space. “You’ll look after him?”
Fornell growled. “Of course I will but it should be you!
Gibbs growled right back. “I’m on my way but watch his six until I can.”
Fornell was not finished with his phone calls, he had one more to make, to Charlie, his boss. “Hey Charlie, so I need to make something happen and I think you will like it.”
The FBI director could hear the restrained glee in his Deputy’s voice. “What is it?”
“I need to force the issue of DiNozzo being a liaison for the FBI. You’ll love this because right now he will agree.”
He knew that would have Charlie’s attention because it hadn’t been the first time the FBI had made overtures to DiNozzo. “Why? What is going on?”
Fornell snorted. “It seems there is something rotten at the heart of NCIS, I will be investigating it but DiNozzo may end up as collateral.”
Charlie could hear the protectiveness in his old friend’s voice that was his papa bear voice. “I’ll make the phone call, in fact, he could help with the threat against Aaron Hotchner.”
Fornell would be delighted to introduce Tony to the BAU as it would be a good fit for his skills. “I will take him there myself and let Hotchner know he doesn’t have a choice.”
Oh, Fornell was about to cause a ruckus – he was going to have as much fun as possible for all the bullshit and politics he was going to have to wade through. There had to be some advantage to the situation. Oh, and that and having to watch Gibbs squirm his way back into DiNozzo’s good books. He was going to make sure DiNozzo doesn’t let the guy off too easily.
Chapter Two: Gibbs is back in town.
Tony woke up in the morning to see a curious red-head staring at him. “You must be Emily.”
She nodded her head. “And you’re Tony.”
He sat up, shaking off his covers. “Yes I am, Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo at your service. How can I help you on this fine morning, My Lady?” with a small bow.
She giggled. “Well, I am hungry and Daddy can’t cook.” She whispered the last part like it was a big secret. Tony chuckled at the grave face. “Well, that is terrible, we can’t have that. Let’s go and see what we can cook up.”
She tugged his hand and all but dragged him into the kitchen obviously keen on the idea of a well-cooked meal. Tony just enjoyed the normal domestic nature of it, he wanted to thank Fornell for his help and this was an easy way to start. He looked in the food cupboards that the little redhead pointed at. “Well, it looks like we have the stuff to make pancakes and bacon.”
“Yay! Can I help?”
Tony loved her enthusiasm and was more than happy to teach her his special recipe. Tony knew that Emily was about ten years old so could take part in making the pancakes as long as he kept an eye on her around the stove. “Sure thing, Miss Emily.”
She shook her head. “I am Em’ to family.”
Emily nearly squealed at the big grin that earned her. Agent Tony no longer looked sad, it was sad though, that she had to say that to get a grin. Any and all thoughts disappeared whilst she listened raptly to how much concentration was needed to make the right fluffy pancake. She couldn’t wait to tell her mom, she would be so jealous as she was always harping on about her Dad not cooking her food.
Emily grinned still pleased. “Daddy, Tony is definitely going to be an awesome big brother. He can teach me to cook.”
Tony ducked his head, trying to hide how pleased he was by Em’s reaction to him. Fornell wouldn’t let him hide though. “Good. He can also help me keep all the boys away from my little girl, she may be ten but I need to be prepared.”
“Boys are icky so you don’t need help.” She said solemnly.
Tony and Toby shared a grin because as much as it might pain Tobias, it would soon change. Tony looked to Tobias and got a nod. In part, Toby was curious as to what Tony would say. The younger man leant down. “Oh Em’, that won’t be how you always think. We just want to make sure that whoever you like treats you right.”
There was a pout on her face but it soon went when she tasted the pancakes. “Daddy you have to try these. Never mind that horrible drink you drink, this is how you should wake up.”
Fornell smirked because he dearly wished he could see Dianne’s face when Emily told her this.
“Yeah, well adults need an extra kick in the morning hence coffee kiddo.”
“It tastes like tar.” She was firm and resolute on this point, she’d asked to try it wondering why her mom and dad made a big fuss about it. She had definitely not liked the taste no matter what benefits it might provide.
Fornell finished his delicious breakfast before handing Tony a piece of paper. “Oh, and this has been faxed to Ducky and Shepard to say you are having a week off effective immediately.”
Tony looked a little lost at the thought of a week off although he knew it was the way it worked. You can work off adrenaline for only so long but after that, the crash was always a bitch. “No work?”
Fornell smiled. “No work, Tony. Relax and rest because you are no good to anyone if you keel over with exhaustion.”
Tony estimated then he would have a day before the others would start to freak out and demand answers as his team was off rotation for the day.
“Do you have work today?” Tony asked Tobias.
Toby nodded, Emily was an unexpected pleasure as Dianne had work outside the city. “Yeah I do, turns out the deputy directorship comes with even more paperwork. Plus, I want to get the ball rolling on your liaison paperwork.”
Tony could see Em’s face fall at the idea of a day at the office. “Do you like sports, Em’?”
She nodded and explained. “I wanna make the girls soccer team but I need to practice … it is frustrating as my friends think it is a boys game.”
Tony grinned back. “Well if your Dad is agreeable, whilst he deals with his paperwork I can take you to the park for some soccer practise and then we’ll find the zoo or something else you might want to do.”
Tony wanted to repay Tobias for his help last night and even if it went pear-shaped, Tony now knew that someone knew the whole story and where he stored his backup files. If the bitch was going to ice him to keep her secrets then he would bring her world down around her knees.
Toby chuckled at the twin pouts being directed his way. “It seems that Tony wants to dive into his big brother duties but Em’ – remember he needs to rest as well so if he looks tired, make him take a nap … or something.”
Tony hi-fived Emily. “We got this.”
Fornell grinned. “I have no doubt you have, and I am going to start a modern day witch hunt. We all have our hobbies.”
Tony, knowing that a certain Madam Director was the source of the witch-hunt, decided it was more than okay with him.
Gibbs had ended his phone call to Fornell and looked in the mirror. For the first time in a month, he didn’t hide from what he saw. He shaved the mustache off because it looked ridiculous. He phoned the airport and arranged the first flight out of the capital. It may take him an hour to get there but it was the shortest flight time home.
He stepped on the plane and thought back to his conversation with Tobias. They’d been friends for a long time, to the point where Gibbs had warned Fornell not to marry his ex-wife. It turns out, that he was right but their friendship seemed to grow by sharing an ex-wife. The man was gruff and took no prisoners and always fought for justice. Until yesterday evening, Gibbs had never seen that anger directed at him. Tobias was protective of his SFA, Tony, and there was a part of his brain that protested it was his job – only he had fallen down on the job hadn’t he?
He wouldn’t apologise but he would make it right. That was his way. Would it be enough?
When he landed back in Washington, he tried Tony’s phone and it was off. He bit back his annoyance at his SFA being unreachable – after all, Tony wasn’t officially required to be available while on sick leave.
Gibbs didn’t ask for help off anyone at NCIS, if even half of the things Fornell hinted at were true then he wanted to keep a low-profile until necessary. If Tony was anywhere, it would probably be Fornell’s place so he headed off for a taxi in that direction.
Tobias had a nice enough house, especially considering the amount of time he stayed at work. Still, Gibbs got it, the home was for Emily when she stayed, not Tobias. He knocked on the door which was opened by a giggling little red-head. “Hey, Uncle Gibbs, we’re cooking and it’s edible.”
Gibbs did snicker at that because he was well aware of his friend’s talents as an Agent but culinary skill eluded him. “Who is cooking?” He guessed he already knew the answer.
“Oh, Tony is, he says it is his duty as my big brother to teach me how to make pasta the right way.” She solemnly announced like it was a serious issue. Then again, Gibbs did know that for Tony, pasta was a serious business. Emily had decided she was done with the conversation and ran back to the kitchen letting her father talk to Uncle Gibbs. After all, it was more fun in the kitchen with Tony and the music.
“Well, well, look what the cat dragged back from Mexico.” Was all Tobias said by way of a greeting.
“Leave off, Tobias. I’m here, aren’t I?” Gibbs growled.
Fornell just smirked at him. “If you want people who will kiss your ass then NCIS is where you should go.”
Gibbs grunted. “No thanks, so while our kids are distracted let’s talk.”
Fornell snorted at that. “Oh, I am going to tell Tony that one.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well I need to make things right before I can even hope to have that conversation. I forgot in my grief that I had people who cared.”
Tobias nodded, satisfied that Gibbs had at the very least pulled his head out of his ass. “Good, now as long as you understand that if you hurt DiNozzo again I will let Dianne at you with a golf club for hurting Em’s big brother.”
Gibbs asked out of curiosity. “When did that happen?” His fractured memories gave him an impression that Tony was terrified of children.
“When I dragged him home after our drink.” Fornell responded, letting him realise just how quickly the two had taken to each other. He had hoped Emily would be there as a way to bring him out of his funk, not ever expecting the last two days.
Gibbs just stroked the back of his head. “I’ll bear that in mind.”
After that the evening took two paths. The first part was the dinner all the adults had with Emily, where the conversation was kept light. Gibbs got to hear about all the mad skills Tony has with a soccer ball and how much fun they had at the zoo. Tony was cool there too because he knew the answer to all the questions Em had about the lions and tigers as those were her favourite animals.
Once Emily had settled down to sleep, Tony, Tobias, and Gibbs settled back down at the dinner table to have a serious conversation, sure in the fact that no one would be able to overhear them.
Gibbs started it off. “So what is going on? Start from the top…”
Tony looked at him. “Are you sure boss, because I’ve bottled up a lot in the last few weeks.”
Gibbs quirked an eyebrow. “I can take it DiNozzo. Tell me everything.”
So Tony did, he told him how the team had taken the ringing endorsement. Tony mentioned his fury at the way Tim and Ziva were being insubordinate twats. He had no problem with them pushing the boundaries as he expected it – what was pissing Tony off, aw well as the other team leads, was the fact he was being stopped from disciplining them by Director Shepard. Tony told both of them about Deep Six and how that had been okayed.
“McGee has written a book about us?”
Tony nodded. “Yes, and the Director has said it is fine. In fact, I think she wanted McGee to publish it and do the book tour to drum up publicity for NCIS.”
Gibbs was stunned. “I’m guessing from your anger … real cases were used?”
Tony nodded. “Not only that boss but the characters are us, well, how McGee views us. I come off looking like an idiot clown and Jimmy’s a necrophiliac just for starters. Oh, don’t worry. I’m having the book tied up in litigation hell from two different directions. The first is JAG now has a copy and they are reviewing it against the files and one of my frat brothers is married to a stunning lawyer – so she is taking the case free of charge.”
Gibbs smirked. “Now that is what I expected. So tell me about Jenny and what she is up to.”
Tony explained everything and then handed over a copy of a black book. Gibbs knew the idea originated in the Mafia but it made damn good sense for him to do it. “This is every meeting, request? Etc?”
Tony nodded. “Yes, it is. It was one useful tip I learnt while under in the Mancuso’s – files are power.”
Gibbs couldn’t disagree, Jenny was so far off the deep end that it wasn’t funny. The trouble was – her being a director of a federal agency meant she had considerable means to cause trouble should she wish to. “Do you have a plan, Tobias, to keep Tony safe while I deal with Jenny?”
Tobias nodded but he was honest especially with DiNozzo’s luck. “Recent chatter picked up suggestions that Special Agent Aaron Hotchner, one of the Unit Chief’s within the BAU is about to be targeted by the Reaper. There is nothing concrete but Hotch and Foyet have had previous dealings.”
Tony shrugged. “They are the profiling team, right?”
“That’s the ones.”
Tony smiled. “Cool, I get to use my p.HD studies and Gibbs gets to sort out the shrine that people have left out for him since he was gone.”
“Are you shitting me?” Gibbs demanded in horror.
Toby and Tony were laughing at the look on his face and the tone in his voice. Tobias couldn’t resist teasing some more. “Oh, I assure you, Abigail’s shrine is so very tasteful, or so I have heard.”
“I hate you both.” Gibb’s groused.
All he got in return were twin snickers so no sympathy there.
Jenny Shepard got into work to a lecture from Ducky both for her own health and for letting young Anthony get into such a state that he had to take a week off from work.
“Well, you are his primary physician, shouldn’t you have seen the signs?” She asked tartly. Ducky looked saddened but he was an old man and long since stopped trying to hide his follies. “Yes well, I will be apologising to him in due course. I am not infallible Madam Director.”
Jenny inwardly winced because it was a stupid move to take out her frustrations on him. “I’m sorry Doctor, that was uncalled for. I just wish DiNozzo had said something to either of us.”
Jethro had seen this trick one too many times. It wasn’t quite earnest enough to be believed but it was a perfect time to announce himself back. “Jenny, I leave you my agents for one month and you break the best one of them?”
“Jethro, what are you doing here? I thought you had retired.” She said, looking as pleased as punch that he was in her office.
Gibbs sighed. “I tried it Jen’, I did, but I am bored and I need to take the scum off the street now more than ever.”
Jenny got a phone call that she had to take, you don’t ignore the Director of the FBI. Stepping away from the two men she answered “Shepard.”
“Good morning, Jenny. How are you today?”
Jenny was happier than she had been only five minutes before. “Better as an old agent is back in town.”
Charlie chuckled. “You mean to say Gibbs wasn’t quite as ready for retirement, just like you predicted.”
Jenny smirked right at Jethro. “What can I say? I know my agents.”
Charlie got right to the point as he wasn’t going to listen to the woman prattle on, or inflate her ego any further. “Well, it is fortuitous timing as I have a delicate situation and have presidential permission for this.”
Charlie chose not to waste time and said it. “DiNozzo, and I am afraid it is classified. On the books, it will look like a liaison but it is a matter of national security and I need a man of DiNozzo’s skills.”
Jenny wanted to scream in frustration, she had spent the last few weeks working on DiNozzo to have it come to nothing. Then again, she could tell even with all the pressure he was facing it was still a hard sell. If he was out of the way, she could manipulate one of the others. “I see, well, with Jethro coming back it would be fortuitous.”
Charlie rolled his eyes over the phone not that she would be able to see it. “Thank you for your cooperation, Jenny. I will phone Tony directly but wanted you to stay in the loop.”
Jenny ended the phone call. Her first thought she had said out loud. “Just how the hell is DiNozzo on speaking terms with the FBI director?”
Gibbs snorted. “If you read his real file you would know that.”
She flushed. “Of course I have.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow letting her know that he didn’t believe her. “He knows Morrow, Charlie, the ATF Director, and both SecNav and SecDef.”
Jenny really wanted to pale because that was a lot of friends. He wouldn’t be wise to her plan. He’d been on the brink of collapse according to Dr. Pitt who had signed the medical note. She could rest easy, her plan had a setback, nothing more.