- Character Bashing
The New Agent
‘Come over here, DiNozzo, and watch. We’ve got a dial-in from Atlantis, and some folk are coming back to the Mountain. I think you’ll enjoy it.’
Tony raised his eyebrows at the exuberance of Jack O’Neill who’d been eager to greet him and read him into Earth’s most top-secret programme. It made no sense to him. Sure, he was as excited as the next man about the fact the US had its own spaceships and that travel to other planets wasn’t just some theoretical dream, but it didn’t explain why General O’Neill was so excited personally. Surely a dial-in from Atlantis was all part of the job to him.
‘Come on, DiNozzo. You’re going to miss it.’
Filing his thoughts away for later, he strolled over to the window overlooking the Embarkation Room and the Stargate itself, the inner ring of which had begun to rotate with the strangely marked chevrons lighting up as each correct glyph was reached. A voice from somewhere called out the number of chevrons reached – encoded, he told himself – and Tony took a step back in shock as a pool of what looked like water suddenly erupted from the centre of the Stargate with a kawoosh noise, then settled back into a rippling pool of blue.
Receiving Colonel Sheppard’s IDC, the hidden voice announced, making Tony frown. Colonel Sheppard? Surely not…
His unspoken question was answered as the pool rippled and four people stepped from nowhere onto the gridded ramp.
‘Hi, honey, we’re home,’ a grinning John Sheppard called out and looked up to meet Tony’s eyes. The bastard then waved at him.
O’Neill was now bouncing on his toes. ‘Get checked out by medical, AT1 and join us in the conference room,’ he said into the radio Tony hadn’t noticed. ‘And hurry up. I think your cousin’s about to throw a fit, Sheppard.’
‘Will do, sir.’ John waved again and grabbed hold of the tac vest of one of the men with him who was engrossed in his cell phone and towed him down the ramp.
‘What the hell, Sheppard! I’ve got like fifty texts to read.’
‘And they’ll still be there in a few minutes,’ John told him. ‘Come on, Rodney. I thought you wanted to meet my cousin?’
‘He’s pretty enough,’ the tall, leather-clad dreadlocked man commented, grinning up at Tony who flushed.
‘We can hear every word, guys,’ O’Neill said with a grin and laughed at the look of shock on Dreadlocks’ face.
‘Then I am sure Ronon will wish to apologize to Mr DiNozzo as soon as possible,’ the tiny, honey-skinned woman said sharply, poking Ronon in the side with an apparently sharp finger if Ronon’s wince was anything by which to go. ‘Come along, boys.’ She pushed past John and Rodney and led the way out of the view of the two men in the conference room.
Tony turned back to watch the General who had returned to the side table to refill his coffee mug.
‘We need to get refills if McKay’s here,’ O’Neill commented, surveying the two full and one half-full carafe on the table.
‘Won’t there be enough there?’
‘Nah. McKay and Danny can drink a couple apiece, and Sheppard always complains when McKay does that. I’d rather not watch the kids fall out in front of guests.’
A movement at the corner of his eye had Tony turning to watch a Master Sergeant appear at the top of a staircase he hadn’t noticed, two extra carafes and a plate of fresh pastries balanced on a tray.
‘Well done, Walter,’ O’Neill told him. ‘Is that enough Danishes? We’ve got McKay and Ronon here, you know. And Danny’s joining us.’
‘The kitchen is preparing another tray and will deliver them as soon as they’re ready sir,’ Walter replied, setting the carafes and pastries out on the table.
‘Excellent.’ O’Neill rubbed his hands together. ‘Have you—’
‘I’ve already put the files on the far table, sir.’
‘On your desk.’
Walter sighed and glared at the General. ‘They’re being brought up by Dr Jackson.’
‘Okay, good, excellent. Thanks, Walter. I can always rely on you.’
Walter nodded and disappeared down the stairs again.
How did I miss them? I’m a trained investigator for fuck’s sake. And what’s with the Walter O’Riley character?
The door to the corridor burst open, and another tall, good looking man came in, his arms filled with files and books, most of which looked about to slip on the floor. Tony stepped forward to help before they scattered everywhere.
‘Thanks,’ the newcomer gasped, setting down several large tomes. He glanced at General O’Neill and sighed. ‘I’m Daniel Jackson, by the way, as Jack appears to have lost his manners.’
‘I’m Anthony DiNozzo, Tony for preference.’
‘Ah, yes. John Sheppard’s cousin. Jack mentioned you were joining us.’
‘I…ah…I haven’t actually been asked to join you,’ Tony said, a mite uncomfortable. ‘I’m an NCIS Agent, not AFOSI. I doubt—’
‘Tony, you old bastard! Great to see you!’ John Sheppard, still in tac vest and with a P90 dangling from a clip attached to his jacket, swung his cousin off his feet and hugged him tightly, finally setting him down when Tony battered at his arms.
‘Put me down, you great oaf! And stop maligning my mother like that or I’ll tell Grandma.’
John set him on his feet and grinned at him, bouncing on his toes just like his CO. ‘What do you think of the ‘gate? Fantastic, isn’t it?’
‘It’s certainly something,’ Tony muttered, looking his cousin up and down.
They’d last seen each other several years ago after Tony had just finished a case based on Air Force One and John had returned to the US following an incident in Afghanistan he refused to speak about, but which, reading between the lines, Tony knew had devastated his cousin. John had been a mixture of barely suppressed anger and recklessness, so much so, that Tony feared for what he might be tempted to do. He’d considered speaking to his uncle, John’s father, but as the thought flashed through his mind, he realised the futility of it since the relationship between Patrick and John had never been what might be considered good. Add to that his cousin’s present temper, and it could only lead to further arguments and fights.
As Tony said his goodbyes to John who was shipping out to Antarctica, he wondered if he’d ever see him again, a thought which had remained in his mind as John had apparently dropped off the world. He’d heard nothing from him – and nor had Patrick as Tony had checked – until two years ago when an email arrived bearing a generic domain name which gave no clues as to where John was based or even for whom he was working at that time. Nor did it contain any specific details about what John was doing, other than expressing his satisfaction with his present position and asking what Tony was doing. Since then they’d exchanged occasional emails and rekindled their previous friendship without any discussion of meeting face to face, Tony being under the impression John was stationed on a remote base. Which was, in the end, accurate, except Tony had no idea just how remote the Atlantis base was.
John had changed, was Tony’s first thought, and his second thought was how ridiculously understated his first thought was. John was happy, gleeful even, as well as blooming with health, and obviously very satisfied with his present posting and CO if the grins he and O’Neill were giving everyone were anything on which to go.
‘You’ve been promoted, then?’ Tony asked. ‘Only, last time we met…’ he trailed off, almost kicking himself as his mouth asked the very question it shouldn’t. ‘I mean…sorry, John. I didn’t…’
John simply grinned at him and slapped his back. ‘Only last time we met I was an angry fuck-up about to be sent to the foot of Earth to live out his commission before being retired.’
Tony cringed as John voiced the statement he’d prevented himself from babbling out. ‘Sorry. I—’
‘Nah, don’t be sorry. It’s true, every bit of it. I was lucky, though. I came to the attention of General O’Neill and never looked back. I’ve received two promotions since then and—’
‘And you’ve earned each one of them,’ O’Neill finished his pride in Sheppard very obvious. ‘John’s laid his life on the line countless times for both Atlantis and Earth. Did actually die a couple of times.’
‘Die?’ Tony demanded. ‘Then how…?’
‘This is the Stargate Program,’ Daniel Jackson said with a smirk. ‘We do the impossible every day and miracles once a week.’
‘Most of us have died at least once,’ O’Neill added. ‘I died at least a dozen times in one day when that bastard Ba’al got hold of me.’
‘I’ve ascended three times.’ Daniel grinned at Tony. ‘I do wish they’d stop sending me back naked, though.’
‘Too right,’ O’Neill growled, glaring at Jackson, although Tony sensed he wasn’t really cross. ‘I’ve got caches of clothing stashed around the base now for the next time it happens. I’m sick and tired of everyone getting to look at your…attributes.’
Tony couldn’t prevent his eyebrows raising at that. DADT and all the anti-gay policies had been outlawed for over a year at this point, but it still wasn’t something most of the service personnel he dealt with were comfortable discussing. The SGC was clearly out of the ordinary in more than one way.
The door burst open, and one of the men who had accompanied John through the Stargate appeared, a scowl fixed on his face.
‘Carolyn Lam is after your blood,’ he announced, stabbing a finger at John. ‘And she’s busy digging out one of the larger needles to do it with.’
‘Aww, come on, Rodney. Beckett Two checked me out before we left. I haven’t caught space herpes or anything between Atlantis and here.’
‘Don’t tell me, tell her,’ Rodney snapped, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb.
‘You know you need to get checked out,’ O’Neill scolded gently. ‘Go on, or she’ll be after me for not sending you. I’ve told you before. Don’t piss off the Keeper of the Needles.’
‘S’ good advice, Sheppard.’ The tall, dreadlocked man stepped into the conference room, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he smirked at John. ‘Besides, she’s busy palling up with Teyla and if she gets on your case…’
‘You’re doomed,’ Rodney finished. ‘Now be a good Colonel and let the witchdoctor take your blood, and maybe she’ll give you a lollypop.’
Tony couldn’t help grinning as John’s face paled a little at the threat of Teyla, presumably the tiny female who’d come through the ‘gate with John and his team. ‘Is Teyla really so scary?’ he asked the disparate group of people around him.
Rodney shuddered. ‘Oh, yeah. We’re all scared of her. Even Ronon.’ He motioned in the direction of the dreadlocked hunk who was eyeing Tony up interestedly, and Tony filed the name away for reference.
With a nod towards O’Neill, John scurried away, presumably to have his blood taken for testing.
‘Why the medical checks even between bases?’ Tony asked.
‘We learned the hard way how many things can be picked up off-world,’ Daniel told him. ‘And while someone may appear to be fine on Atlantis, the environmental changes between New Lantea and Earth can have a physical effect on personnel returning here.’
‘But surely it could be a few hours before anything might show.’
‘Yes, which is why anyone arriving back from off-world is restricted to base for 24 hours following their return, except in exceptional circumstances.’
‘A Wraith Hive almost made it to Earth a few months back, and John was sent out in an F-302 to try to take down as many darts as he could and to deliver a nuke to the Hive itself.’
‘I died that day,’ Ronon added, almost casually, as though it wasn’t a big deal.
‘Yes, yes, Conan, but it’s the only time you’ve died,’ Rodney snapped, but there was no heat in it. ‘John’s died at least four times, probably more times than that, and he’s kept quiet about it because he knows I’ll shout at him.’
‘You’re always shouting, McKay,’ Ronon told him. ‘We’ve all learned to tune it out like white noise.’
Rodney glared at him and Tony, not wanting any fights to break out, hurriedly thought of something to say.
‘Is your name Ronon or Conan? Because it sounded like Rodney said—’
‘Ronon. Specialist Ronon Dex,’ Ronon replied, his lips curling into a flirty smile. ‘McKay calls me Conan after Conan the Barbarian because he thinks it’s funny.’
‘It was funny when we originally saw the film, Ronon; you must admit,’ Teyla added, stepping into the room and nodding towards O’Neill. ‘Especially when you chased Rodney through the Gateroom.’
Ronon gave a deep, belly laugh. ‘Yeah, now that was funny.’
‘Do you all work with my cousin?’ Tony asked, interested in the synergy flowing between the three of them.
‘We’re Sheppard’s Team,’ Ronon answered.
‘We are also John’s family,’ Teyla added, gently.
‘And he’s my partner.’ Rodney’s chin jutted up a little as if challenging Tony to say something negative or even homophobic.
‘Awesome,’ was the best Tony could manage, plastering on one of his charming smiles while his head was churning with thoughts of…yes, of almost jealousy that his cousin had what he had wanted for so long, what he thought he had until pretty recently.
‘Who’s awesome?’ John demanded, coming back into the room rubbing the crook of his arm. ‘General, you need to take those big needles away from Dr Lam. She’s a walking WMD.’
‘Told you so,’ Rodney sing-songed, but his smile belied his words.
O’Neill shrugged. ‘Don’t piss her off, then, John. It’s your own fault.’ He turned back to Tony and bounced on his feet again. ‘Now, Agent DiNozzo. Danny was talking about you joining us before the riff-raff returned. How do you fancy it?’
The expression on Tony’s face must have revealed his surprise as Dr Jackson reached over and slapped the back of O’Neill’s head, albeit lightly.
‘Jack! That’s no way to offer anyone a job. Agent DiNozzo doesn’t have a clue about what you want him to do or even where he’ll be based. Start at the beginning.’
O’Neill rubbed his head. ‘Firstly, ow! And secondly, why don’t you do it, Danny? You’re much better at this crap than me.’
Tony wondered how long this would go on and noticed John and his team were ignoring the stage show in favour of helping themselves to coffee and pastries.
‘What’s this, Daniel?’ Rodney asked, holding up his cup. ‘It’s delicious.’
‘Glad you like it. A new roastery’s opened in Colorado Springs, and this is their deluxe house-blend. I thought you’d enjoy it. I’ve bought you a few pounds to take back with you.’
‘Daniel! We’re in the middle of an argument,’ O’Neill complained. ‘You can’t just go and have a conversation about coffee while you’re fighting with me.’
‘Why not? I’m arguing with you, not Rodney or the others.’
‘Oh, cut it out, Jack. You know I always win.’
‘It’s true, sir,’ a new voice added as a beautiful blond woman entered the room carrying what looked like several DVD cases. ‘It’s far easier on all of us if you just give in gracefully and let Daniel have his own way.’
Daniel smirked at O’Neill and Tony wondered if he’d stepped into some alternate reality, especially given what he’d learned that day. He’d never, in all his time in NCIS, come across any base commander or General quite as laid back as O’Neill, or where everyone appeared to treat their CO with such a laid-back attitude themselves.
‘Is it like this on Atlantis?’ Tony asked John who’d slipped into the seat on his right.
‘Worse sometimes,’ Ronon replied, seating himself on Tony’s left. ‘At least here few of the geeks come down this far, and most of them aren’t allowed in this gateroom at all.
‘Something I wish we could introduce,’ Rodney added, sitting down on John’s right-hand side and peering around him to Tony. ‘Ban them all except Radek and me.’
‘What about Miko?’ John asked. ‘Because if you ban her, you can tell her. Just give me notice, and I’ll clear out to the mainland.’
‘And I will join you,’ Teyla added.
‘Me too.’ Ronon quirked an eyebrow at Tony. ‘Miko’s a tiny Japanese ninja. Everyone’s shit scared of her.
‘Sheppard, you either have to monitor Ronon’s TV viewing or stop him from playing with the Marines so much,’ O’Neill called over. ‘I said I’d only let you keep him if you promised to look after him, remember? And this is Colonel Sam Carter, Agent DiNozzo. She and Danny are going to tell you more about the Stargate and the SGC.’
‘And about the role we’d like you to accept if you’re still willing once we’ve explained everything,’ Sam told him with a grin.
Daniel put a DVD into the player, and Tony watched as a large stone circle with engraving on it came into view. ‘It started like this…’
Tony couldn’t help the enormous grin on his face as he entered the bullpen at the Navy Yard. He made his way towards his desk in the centre, nodding towards people on his way and receiving grins and nods from all of them until he reached the area the MCRT occupied.
‘You are very late, DiNozzo. Gibbs is after your skin.’
‘Blood, Ziva. He’s after Tony’s blood,’ McGee corrected, giving Tony a slight nod of acknowledgement, oceans apart from the friendly welcomes he received from the other teams.
‘Blood, skin, what is the difference?’
‘Quite a lot, really,’ McGee began before being interrupted by Leon Vance leaning over the balustrade on the floor above.
‘My office, DiNozzo. Ten minutes.’
Tony nodded back, aware that most of the eyes in the bullpen were upon him, just as Vance wanted, otherwise he’d have used the phone like any normal person.
‘Ohhh, Tony! Have you been a naughty boy again?’ Ziva asked him, her face exhibiting a malicious sneer.
Tony glanced at his watch and didn’t bother responding as he counted down under his breath. Four, three, two, one, bingo!
Right on cue, the lift doors opened and out stepped his cousin and O’Neill, both in full dress uniform, each sporting a chestful of medals, followed by Daniel Jackson and Rodney McKay, both in smart, well-cut suits Tony could tell didn’t come off the peg. He caught a glimpse of Teyla dressed in a long flowing robe, likely an Athosian ceremonial gown while Ronon…Wow! Ronon was wearing a uniform made from leather and what looked like silk, in a pale brown colour that emphasised both his height and his good looks and suited him perfectly. His ensemble was completed with knee height, black leather boots, and Tony found his mouth watering.
He gave himself a quick shake and was about to step forward to greet the party when Balboa bounded to his feet.
‘Medal of Honor on deck!’ he shouted, and the occupants of the room jumped up and came to attention, including Tony and McGee, with the three currently serving Naval personnel saluting John and O’Neill and…crap! Was O’Neill wearing two Medals of Honor?
‘At ease, men,’ O’Neill called out as he and John nodded their thanks, and the room settled back down, McGee glaring at Ziva for not reacting to Balboa’s command, a fact Tony stored away for future consideration.
‘Holy shit!’ McGee then muttered, as the party made their way towards the centre of the bullpen and Teyla came fully into view. ‘She’s beautiful!‘
Ziva scowled at him and tilted her chin up in the air. ‘I do not see it, myself, although her companions are charming.’
‘Flyboys!’ Gibbs said disdainfully, appearing from behind a screen. ‘Probably managed to do up their shoelaces without help.’
Tony remained silent though Ziva gave him a sharp look, and focussed his attention on the approaching group.
‘Hey, Tony,’ John called out, grinning at him.
‘Hey yourself, General Sheppard.’
John eyed him suspiciously. ‘Did you know about this?’ He waved a hand towards his new Medal.
‘I knew about the promotion but not about the Medal of Honor. You’ve more than earned both, though.’
‘I’ve tried to tell him that, but he thinks he hasn’t,’ McKay complained, his lips curving in a hint of a smile and his pride in his partner evident.
‘Indeed, John has more than earned the titles and honours bestowed upon him,’ Teyla added. ‘As has General O’Neill.’
‘We got more medals as well,’ Ronon said gruffly. ‘Mine’s in my pocket.’ He suddenly grinned at Tony and picked him up in a tight hug. ‘I’ll show it to you later, and you can help me celebrate,’ he whispered in Tony’s ear, setting him back on his feet.
‘Right, okay, fine,’ Tony managed to say while the rest of the party grinned at him.
Ziva, never liking the attention to be focused on anyone but herself, stepped forward. ‘Why are you all here? This is the Navy Yard and has nothing to do with the Air Force.’ The last word was spoken with such contempt that even Gibbs was taken aback.
‘Ziva,’ Gibbs began but was interrupted by O’Neill, speaking in an unexpectedly cold voice given his laid-back attitude.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded, using his superior height to glare down at her.
Ziva tilted her chin up even more. ‘I am Ziva David, daughter of Eli David, Head of Mossad.’
‘What the fuck is a Mossad?’ Ronon asked in a loud whisper which was probably heard at the other side of the room.
‘It’s the intelligence agency of Israel, a country in the Middle East,’ McKay told him in an equally loud whisper.
‘So what’s the daughter of the head of another country’s intelligence agency doing working at the headquarters of the US Navy?’ Ronon asked, making Tony stuff his hand in his mouth to prevent himself from laughing out loud.
‘I have no idea, but I don’t like it at all.’ O’Neill didn’t bother with any subterfuge and glared at Gibbs, almost as though he knew who Gibbs was, another fact Tony stored away for later.
‘She’s a liaison between Mossad and NCIS,’ Gibbs answered curtly. ‘Not that it’s any of your business, O’Neill. What are you doing here?’
The reappearance of Vance at the balustrade prevented O’Neill from replying.
‘General O’Neill? Would you like to come up, sir?’ Vance called down.
‘Yeah, in a minute,’ O’Neill called back, not turning around to look at Vance, and Tony hugged himself in glee at the look of shock on Vance’s face.
‘I’m here to offer one of your team a job, Gibbs,’ O’Neill told him. ‘And I only work with the best of the best.’
From the corner of his eye, Tony saw McGee stand a little straighter, his shoulders well back.
‘I’m very flattered, General O’Neill,’ Tim began but fell silent at the look of surprise O’Neill gave him.
‘Timothy McGee, sir.’
‘And why are you very flattered?’
‘Well, you said the best of…’ His voice trailed off.
O’Neill shook his head, a puzzled look on his face, and turned to Daniel. ‘Have you got—’
‘Here.’ Daniel passed a sheet of paper from an attaché case to O’Neill who scanned it rapidly.
‘McGee, right. It says here you’ve got an MS in Computer Forensics.’
Tim smiled, proudly. ‘Yes, sir. From MIT.’
‘Well done, son, but I’m afraid I only employ people with PhDs.’
McGee’s smile faded. ‘But…’
‘What does a PhD matter?’ Ziva demanded. ‘Tim is a brilliant man who could get easily one if you want him to.’
McKay opened his mouth to speak but, much to Tony’s regret, John nudged him and frowned.
‘I seriously doubt it,’ Daniel said mildly. ‘And it doesn’t matter since—’
‘Leave it for the moment, Danny.’ O’Neill gripped Daniel’s hand making Gibbs scowl even more. ‘Vance is tapping his foot so I guess we’d better go make nice with him, especially if we’re going to steal one of his agents.’ He turned to Tony and patted his shoulder. ‘See you later, Tony. Come on, gang. Let’s move out.’
John winked at him, and Ronon gave him a lascivious smirk while Teyla tipped her head forward. Tony, knowing what he needed to do, bent down and rested his forehead against hers and gripped her shoulders to prevent himself from falling over. She’s so tiny!
McKay smiled and waved at him as John grabbed the lapels of his jacket – making Tony flinch at his treatment of such beautiful fabric – and towed him away, much as he had done when they’d first come through the Stargate, and Tony watched John’s team as they trailed up the stairs after O’Neill and his partner.
Much as he expected, Tony was bombarded with a flurry of questions as the door to Vance’s office closed.
‘Who are they?’
‘How do you know them?’
‘What do they want?’
‘What did he mean ‘only employ people with PhDs’? An MS from MIT is worth any PhD from a lesser college. And who here is likely to have a better degree than mine?’ This, obviously, from Tim.
‘General Sheppard is my cousin and…’ Tony began to answer the questions thrown at him – as much as he could – and wished he could be a fly on the wall in Vance’s office right at that moment.
‘How can NCIS help you today, General O’Neill?’ Vance asked after introductions were made. ‘And how do you know the members of my Major Crimes team?’
‘Gibbs and I worked together many moons ago,’ O’Neill replied vaguely, seating himself at the small conference table, his team sitting on either side of him, forcing Vance to move from his power position behind his desk and over to the table, slipping into place opposite O’Neill and setting several files tidily before himself.
‘And Tony DiNozzo is my cousin,’ John added, rocking back in his chair.
‘I see,’ Vance said coldly, looking John up and down then turning his attention back to O’Neill. ‘SecNav called me this morning to tell me you were interested in having DiNozzo transferred to a top secret programme. What can you tell me about the programme?’
The SGC people all stared at him in bemusement.
‘What part of ‘top secret’ are you struggling with?’ McKay asked at length. ‘It means way above your pay grade. Do you understand that?’
‘Rodney,’ John drawled, covering his partner’s hand with his own. ‘Play nicely like we discussed.’
‘I’m willing to play nicely, but not with dunderheads, John. You can’t ask that of me. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.’
‘As Dr McKay so eloquently put it, the top-secret programme is way above your pay grade, Vance,’ O’Neill told him. ‘It’s need-to-know only, and you don’t need to know.’
Vance flushed. ‘I’m the Director of an important Federal Agency and have a top-level clearance.’
‘Not top level enough for my programme,’ O’Neill said with a smirk. He was enjoying this.
‘Regardless, if you want one of my agents to work with you, I’m going to need details of where he’ll be going and what he’ll be doing. He’ll still report to me.’
‘I think SecNav misled you slightly,’ Daniel said in a polite tone. ‘Tony isn’t being transferred; he’s leaving NCIS and coming to work with us. He’ll report to General O’Neill, just as we all do, although his immediate superior will be General Sheppard as he’s the commander of the base where Tony will be stationed.’
Vance sighed. ‘Fine, but you’ve picked the wrong agent for the position. DiNozzo has few qualifications or even skills, and you’ll be much better served with Agent McGee. He has several degrees and many other skills too, and while I’ll be upset to lose him, he deserves the promotion far more than DiNozzo, and I’m sure SecNav will agree with me.’ He pushed a manilla file across to O’Neill. ‘Tim has—’
‘Whoa, slow down!’ O’Neill held up one hand and pushed the file back across the table with his other. ‘As I told McGee downstairs, I only employ civilians with PhDs; the best of the best.’
Vance stared at him. ‘I don’t have any agents with PhDs. Timothy McGee is the most highly educated agent in NCIS.’
‘That’s not strictly true as Hetty Lange has two PhDs at my last count, probably more since that was a few years ago,’ Daniel murmured.
‘And even if she didn’t, your McGee and his MS aren’t much to boast about when you have DiNozzo and his qualifications,’ Jack added.
‘What qualifications? A degree in sports?’
‘A BA in Physical Education,’ John corrected.
‘As well as an MS in Computer Science and Forensic Computing,’ McKay added.
‘To say nothing of his BA in Police Science, and his Doctor of Law.’ Daniel finished the list of Tony’s degrees with a smirk. ‘The best of the best, as Jack said.’
Vance’s mouth had fallen open when Rodney began listing Tony’s computing degrees and had opened further as the list continued. ‘What? He’s lying! None of this is listed in his file. He can’t possibly have that many degrees. It’s impossible.’
‘I have four PhDs,’ Daniel offered brightly.
‘Yeah, in squishy pseudo-sciences and languages,’ Rodney said scornfully. ‘I have three, but mine are all in real science.’
‘I have an equivalent degree in War from my—’ Ronon broke off as John nudged him. ‘From my country.’
‘And I have a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy from Georgetown,’ Teyla added.
John sighed as Rodney glared at him. ‘PhD in Applied Mathematics and a Masters in Strategic Studies.’
‘Masters in Strategic Studies and a PhD in History,’ O’Neill admitted and glared at McKay when he laughed. ‘What!’
‘History? A PhD in History, O’Neill?’ Rodney grinned at him. ‘You kept that one quiet. I thought I’d set up a panel for your PhD in Astronomy?’
‘You did. I’ve not had time to collect it yet.’
‘What on earth do you people do to have so many degrees?’ Vance demanded.
Daniel ignored him and dug around in his attaché case, finally pulling out a blue coloured folder and pushing it over to Vance. ‘This is a copy of DiNozzo’s file from the Pentagon, and all his degrees are fully listed. I don’t know why they aren’t on the copy you have.’
Vance opened the file and scanned the documents inside, then walked over to his desk, leaned down and typed something into his computer. ‘The file on record makes no mention of any of this. It mentions his degree in Physical Education,’ he glanced at John. ‘But nothing else. Why is your copy so different?’
McKay sighed and made his way over to Vance’s desk, pushing him out of the way and seating himself in Vance’s chair. He typed a few commands on the keyboard, and his eyebrows rose. ‘Hmmm. A Jennifer Shepard deleted most of the information about Tony…’ He tapped a few more keys. ‘In November 2005, and his PhD soon after it was awarded in 2007.’ McKay looked up at a scowling Vance. ‘Who is she and why would she do that?’
‘She was the Director of NCIS from 2005 until her death five months ago. As to why she did it, I have no idea, but she must have had her reasons. DiNozzo probably tried to claim he had these degrees and she discovered he was lying.’ Vance shrugged. ‘I wouldn’t put it past him which is exactly why you don’t want him. I’ll begin an investigation, and in the meantime, I’ll suspend DiNozzo.’
McKay remained seated at the desk and looked over to O’Neill. ‘This man’s an idiot. Can’t you shoot him or something?’
‘Sorry, McKay, I can’t do that,’ O’Neill said regretfully. ‘The paperwork would be a bitch for a start.’
With a deep sigh, McKay returned to his seat at the conference table and leaned on his partner. ‘I’m bored with this and with DC, John. I miss the ocean. Can we go home?’
‘Not yet, Rodney,’ John told him, curling his arm around McKay’s shoulders. ‘I agree with you on all counts, but we can’t go…home until we’ve got this sorted. We want to take Tony home with us, don’t we?’
McKay sighed again and was about to speak when there was a tap at the door, and Tony entered.
‘You wanted to see me, Director?’
Vance scowled at him, but O’Neill interrupted whatever he was about to say. ‘We’ll all be leaving shortly, Tony, but do you have any idea why a Jennifer Shepard would erase your degrees from your jacket?’ He tapped the file on the table in front of him.
Tony looked shocked. ‘She did what? Why…’ He fell silent and sighed. ‘I knew she disliked me, but this?’ He waved a hand towards the blue folder. ‘I have no idea.’
‘I’ll have it looked into but—’
‘I’m suspending you with immediate effect, Agent DiNozzo,’ Vance cut in. ‘Until I’ve completed an investigation into your fraudulent claims. Put your badge and your gun on my desk and leave the Navy Yard.’
John got to his feet, walked over to Vance and stood in his personal space, forcing him to look up since John was at least four inches taller than him. ‘Are you calling my father a liar, Director Vance?’
O’Neill appeared at his side with the other members of the SGC and Atlantis right behind him. ‘I do hope not, Director Vance, as Dr Patrick Sheppard is a highly regarded industrialist and a close friend of several important people.’
Vance retreated a step and found himself backed up against his desk. ‘I…I’ve never met your father, General Sheppard. I…I…’
‘My father attended my cousin’s graduation and witnessed him receiving his Doctoral award, Director Vance. Are you now saying he imagined it?’
As Vance struggled to speak, Jack’s attention was drawn to Daniel speaking into the cell phone he’d removed from Jack’s pocket.
‘Secretary Davenport? This is Daniel Jackson…Yes, I’m using Jack’s phone…I’m with him and General Sheppard at NCIS, and we’re discussing Tony DiNozzo’s degrees which appear to have been deleted from his…Mmm…Mmmm…He’s just accused Patrick Sheppard of being a liar…Mmm…Mmm…Hold on, sir. I’ll put you on speaker phone.’ Daniel fiddled with the cell for a moment, and then Davenport’s voice boomed through the office.
—piece of shit! He’s never liked DiNozzo and nor did Jenny Shepard, but to deny the kid his hard-earned degrees is simply crap, not to mention maligning Patrick Sheppard, one of the finest men the US Navy has ever had in uniform. I’d have him back in a heartbeat if the fucker’d agree to it. Still, his youngest is currently in uniform, and I understand his eldest was promoted to General by Henry just this morning. You there, Vance? Speak to me, you bastard!
Vance paled and looked around as though searching for an escape while Jack and John grinned at each other. ‘I’m here, sir, but—’
No but’s, you bastard. DiNozzo has earned his degrees through sheer hard work, and he’ll do a fantastic job as Agent Afloat on Atlant—
Davenport was cut off as several hands tried to grab the phone, Ronon winning as he had the longest reach.
‘You cut off the Secretary to the Navy, you great behemoth!’ Rodney scolded, but his grin belied his words.
‘I’ll call him later and explain,’ Jack sighed. ‘Stupid fucker. I knew we should never have read him into the programme.’ He looked over to DiNozzo who appeared slightly shell-shocked. ‘Have you cleared out your desk, Tony?’
‘Not quite. I need to say goodbye to Jimmy and Ducky as well.’
‘Ducky Mallard?’ Jack asked with a grin. ‘Is the old bastard still going? I thought he was dead. If you’re going to see Ducky, I’ll come with you. Come on, Danny, John, everyone. You have to meet the famous Ducky Mallard. He’s a legend in his own lunchtime.’ Jack caught hold of Jackson’s hand and towed him out of the door, still talking. ‘You should hear some of the stories of his exploits in Nam and the USSR…’
As O’Neill’s voice faded away, Tony found himself alone with Vance and Ronon. He nodded to his – now former – director. ‘It’s been a pleasure to serve with NCIS, sir, but I’ll be under the direct command of my cousin John, and General O’Neill in my new posting. I’ll leave my badge and gun on my desk in my lockbox.’ He gave Vance a curt smile, then cursed as Ronon caught hold of his hand and drew him into a lose, one-armed hug.
‘C’mon, DiNozzo, Let’s get out of here and celebrate your promotion and my medal,’ Ronon ordered, while Tony shrugged his shoulders and allowed Ronon to drag him out of the office and past an astonished Cynthia.
I think I might enjoy my new posting.