AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
CHARACTERS: Gibbs, Ducky, Jimmy, Abby, DiNozzo, McGee, Ziva, Vance
SUMMARY: Tony is surprised.
WORD COUNT: 2,641
SPOILERS: Hiatus, Singled Out and Judgment Day all the way through to South By Southwest
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Gibbs left Vance's office and headed for Autopsy.
"Palmer. Go -"
"And see Abby. Yes, Agent Gibbs."
Gibbs turned to Ducky who was sitting at his desk smiling. "Am I that predictable, Duck?" he asked, moving across the room and sitting down on the edge of Ducky's desk.
Ducky chuckled. "Let us just say that as there was no body for you to be enquiring about, your presence here was not necessary. Thus, Jimmy assumed you wished to talk to me without an audience."
"That'd be a 'yes', then?"
Ducky smiled. "I take it you have news?"
For a fraction of a second Gibbs paused. Then he nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, Duck. Very good news."
Ducky put his head slightly on one side and looked up at him as only Ducky could look at him. "Do I detect a glimmer of hesitation, Jethro?"
"Nah. Not really. No. Not at all. It's time. It's past time. He's stagnating. Worse he's going backwards. I've taught him all I can and he's leaned all he can from me. It's time. What?" he demanded, as his old friend just continued to gaze at him.
"Oh, nothing, Jethro. I was just . . . Well, let us say the term 'the lady doth protest too much' comes slightly to mind."
"That your way of asking me if I'll miss him?"
"Course I will, Duck. He's been with me for eight years and while most days the urge to shake him or slap him is very nearly over-whelming, he's a damned fine agent. Of course I'll miss him. Like I missed Stan and Kate and the other agents I've worked with. I'm not heartless, Duck."
"I never said you were." Ducky spoke quietly, putting his hand on Gibbs's arm.
Gibbs smiled slightly. "You think he's ready, don't you?"
Ducky nodded. "Oh, yes. I share your assessment of him completely. It is the right time. I don't see as much of him, of course, as you do, but you are correct in what you say about him having reached the point of stagnation. No, it will be the best thing for him and ultimately, I have to say, for the team. I'm sorry if that sounds blunt, Jethro, but I really believe it."
"Me too. Told Vance that."
"So when is the news being broken to Anthony?"
"He and I have a meeting with Vance in half an hour. Shouldn't last more than ten minutes, so if you, Palmer and Abbs come up to the squad room in about forty minutes, I'll tell you officially."
"Hey, Jimmy. Have you got something for me?" Abby spun round on her stool and smiled at Jimmy.
"No." Jimmy sighed.
"Ah," she said, patting the stool next to her. "Gibbs is in Autopsy, huh?"
Jimmy sat down next to her. "Yes. Abby," he paused.
Abby waited for a moment, but he didn't go on. "Yes, Jimmy?"
"You don't think . . . Well, I mean I guess there's no reason to think so, but . . . Well, I can't help wondering . . . It's not as if it's just once or twice . . . And . . . Well . . . I know sometimes that I . . . But I always thought Dr. Mallard would . . . But maybe he feels . . . You don't think he does, do you?"
Abby stared at him. "Jimmy," she said solemnly. "I really doubt Gibbs and Ducky talk about you."
He sighed with obvious relief. "Well what do you think they talk about when they send me away?"
Abby shrugged. "Does it matter?"
"I guess not. It's just . . . Oh, I know. It's like when . . . Yes, that's it. Of course it is. How silly of me. That's all right then." He beamed at her.
She shook her head. Unlike his first disjointed speech, this one she couldn't follow. "As long as you're happy, Jimmy," she said and smiled.
Gibbs glanced at his watch. "DiNozzo, with me." He stood up. As he expected, three heads turned towards him.
"Director wants to see us in his office now."
He watched DiNozzo glance at McGee and Ziva, before swallowing hard and jumping to his feet to follow him.
McGee waited until Gibbs and DiNozzo had reached the top of the stairs before looking at Ziva. "What do you think that's about?"
She shrugged. "I do not know. Maybe Tony is getting some kind of award."
She shrugged again. "I do not know. Maybe he is some kind of trouble."
McGee shook his head. "No. The boss knows what it is and he looked relaxed. Well, as relaxed as Gibbs ever looks. Maybe it's another under cover mission."
Ziva looked at him and frowned. "And if it is, you are jealous, yes?"
"No!" She continued to stare at him. "Well, maybe. A bit. Okay, yes. Yes. I am. Just because he's the senior agent -"
"As he never ceases to remind us." She smiled, but there was no malice in the smile or her tone, just the normal day-to-day sibling rivalry they all shared.
At least it was for her. McGee swallowed hard. For him it was becoming a little more than that. He didn't particularly like himself recently, but as he'd told Abby, he wanted to be more than just a walking search engine and sometimes he felt - "Sorry, Ziva," he said, realizing she'd spoken to him.
"I said your time will come."
"Will it?" he knew his tone was slightly bitter.
For a moment she was silent. Then she nodded and said quietly, "Yes. Yes, Tim, it will. Why do you doubt yourself?"
He shrugged. "I don't. Okay, I do, sometimes. And I think maybe Gibbs does and Tony and even -"
"Me?" Again she spoke quietly.
He couldn't deny it. So instead he chose to say nothing.
She watched him in silence for a moment or two. Then she said, "Do not forget, it was Gibbs, not Director Vance, who insisted on the team being brought back together. And you were the first one he demanded to have back. Gibbs wanted you back, McGee. Does that not tell you anything?"
"Gibbs wanted me back because I'm -"
"Good at your job. You should just stop -"
"Trying so hard?"
"Ziva, with Tony here I'm never going to really get a chance, not on Gibbs's team."
"Does that matter so much? Why do you feel the need to constantly prove yourself? Why have you been -" Abruptly she stopped speaking.
"So nasty to Tony recently? Don't you think he deserves a bit back of what he's given me, given us, over the years?"
"Actually, yes, I do. But there have been a few times when you have been - what is the expression? Ah, yes, 'more Tony than Tony'. Is it just the tree fund?"
McGee blinked. "Hedge fund," he corrected her. "Yes. No. Yes. No. I really don't know, Ziva. I hear myself saying things and I don't like it. It's not me."
"Like the comment you made expressing sorrow for the bag rather than the body?"
"Yeah. And when I had a dig at Tony about his relationship with Jeanne . . . That was uncalled for."
"Do not be too hard on yourself, McGee. You are correct when you say Tony does deserve some payback for all the things he has done."
"Maybe I should just do what you do and threaten to shoot him."
"Oh, no, shooting is so messy. There are far better ways of threatening someone."
Her eyes shone in a way they only did when she talked about weapons and threats. Sometimes McGee wondered if he would, if any of them, would ever get to see the real Ziva David.
Suddenly he felt better about everything. He had been being an ass and it wasn't like him. Perhaps he would have a word with Tony later; maybe try to maybe apologize without sounding idiotic or pathetic or defensive.
"Director Vance." DiNozzo fought the urge to look at his boss, who was standing not in front of Vance's desk, by DiNozzo's side, but by the side of the desk.
Vance looked at him for a moment, looked him up and down in silence. Again DiNozzo fought the urge to glance at Gibbs. What had he done? How had he screwed up this time?
Finally he risked turning his head a tiny bit and glancing out of the corner of his eye at Gibbs. However, his boss's face as always was impassive.
He turned his full attention back to Vance and saw that now he had opened a folder and was looking at it. Oh, God, not another case he'd cocked up while Gibbs was in Mexico. "Director Vance, I'm . . ." He trailed off as Vance looked up at him.
"Yes, Agent DiNozzo?"
"Um. Nothing, sir. I . . ."
Suddenly Vance stood up, held the file out with his left hand and offered DiNozzo his right. "Congratulations, Agent DiNozzo," he said, as instinctively DiNozzo took both the file and the proffered hand, silently praising himself for getting them the correct way around.
"Those are your new orders."
DiNozzo glanced at Gibbs. "Boss?"
"Not for much longer, DiNozzo."
"In a week's time you will transfer to San Diego. There will you head up your own team. Well done, Tony," Vance said.
"My own team?"
"In San Diego?"
"But why?" Silently he cursed himself.
To his surprise Gibbs laughed softly. "Because, Tony," he said, moving into DiNozzo's range of vision. "You've earned it."
Now both Vance and Gibbs laughed. "Yeah, DiNozzo. You have," Gibbs said finally.
DiNozzo's palms felt damp and he had to resist the urge to wipe them on his trousers. It wasn't like the offer Jenny had made to him, somehow that had never felt real. But this - Suddenly he found himself speaking without really thinking about what he was saying. "What if I do-"
"Your employment with this NCIS office, Agent DiNozzo, will be terminated a week from today." Vance spoke crisply, coolly even and his dark, distant, cold gaze never once left DiNozzo's face. His meaning was completely clear.
He swallowed hard. "San Diego a week from today," he said. "Thank you, sir. Thank you, bo- Gibbs."
"Still your boss for a week, DiNozzo. And don't you forget that." But Gibbs was still smiling, albeit faintly.
Gibbs led a still somewhat dazed DiNozzo back down the stairs. He'd deliberately avoided making eye contact with his soon to be ex-agent, knowing that even if he didn't think so, it was better for DiNozzo to deal with the news himself, without trying to talk to Gibbs about it.
As expected Ducky, Palmer and Abby were already with McGee and Ziva. Abby was sitting on McGee's desk, swinging one leg and looking totally at ease. Palmer was perched on the very edge of Ziva's desk looking as if he feared she might attack him at any moment. And Ducky . . . Ducky was sitting in Gibbs's own chair, settled back quite comfortably regaling the kids with one of his many stories.
As he took the stairs two at a time, DiNozzo now keeping pace with him, he saw DiNozzo glance at Ducky and back at Gibbs, his eyes widening.
"Listen up everyone," Gibbs called, clapping his hands once, as he reached the bottom of the stairs. "Nah, you stay there, Duck," he said swiftly, waving his hand in a downward motion as he saw Ducky about to get to his feet. Palmer he noticed slid off the edge of Ziva's desk and tried to merge into the background, Abby merely turned and looked in his direction.
As everyone waited for him to speak, just for a moment he found himself lost for words. He'd 'lost' agents before, to promotion and worse to death, but DiNozzo'd been with him for eight years. That was a hell of a time, and as irritating and annoying as he was, Gibbs knew he would miss him.
Finally he turned his attention to Ducky, locked his gaze with the steady, calming, reassuring, patient one and spoke. "DiNozzo's leaving us," he said. "A week today he takes over his own team in San Diego."
He didn't even try to follow the babble as Abby, McGee, Ziva, Palmer and DiNozzo himself all spoke together, their words falling over one another as Abby left McGee's desk and ran to hug DiNozzo, nearly knocking him off his feet. He caught words of congratulations, of 'we'll miss you' or 'a party' and various other things as he crossed to his own desk and sat on the edge of it next to Ducky.
Finally the babble died down and then, and only then, did Ducky stand up. Holding out his hand he walked across to where DiNozzo stood. "Congratulation, my dear boy," he said somewhat formally. "You deserve it."
DiNozzo took Ducky's hand. "Thanks, Ducky," he said, his eyes shining.
"Yeah, Tony," now McGee spoke. "You do." As with Ducky he held out his hand. His tone was earnest, honest; Gibbs smiled to himself.
"Thanks, McGeek. And you make sure you look after the old man, okay?"
"Hey, DiNozzo. Don't forget. I'm still your boss for a week. And I can make that week seem like a month." Gibbs called.
"Yes, boss. Sorry, boss. On it, boss."
Gibbs just shook his head.
"Hey, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs."
"Does that mean Timmy's your senior field agent now?"
"What?" she demanded, turning to McGee. "You want to know and you won't ask."
"Yes, but . . ."
Gibbs couldn't recall a time he'd seen McGee quite so red or clearly looking for the floor to open up and swallow him. Now everyone was looking at him again with anticipation. Even Ducky's look was slightly quizzical, whereas DiNozzo's was akin to a father or older brother waiting to hear what McGee's teacher had to say about his work.
He now looked directly at McGee, who was still trying hard to avoid him and looking as if he might take flight any moment. "Yeah," he said quietly. "Yeah, Tim. It does."
"Hah!" DiNozzo said, thumping McGee so hard he nearly lost his balance. "And that, McProbie, is all down to my teaching. And," he added swiftly, "Gibbs's of course. Sorry, boss."
Gibbs just shook his head again. "All right, everyone back to work," he said. "We've still got cases to solve."
He watched as Ducky, Palmer and Abby walked towards the elevators, Abby between the two men, her arms through theirs, before turning his attention back to his field team. DiNozzo and McGee both looked pleased and equally surprised, and neither had settled down properly at their desks. Ziva, however, had returned to her chair and her attention appeared to be firmly on her computer screen.
He studied her for a moment now realizing that she had taken little part in the congratulations and chatter. Surely she couldn't have been expecting to become his senior field agent? She wasn’t even technically an NCIS agent. So what was it? He dismissed one thought that flashed into his mind, something that Ducky had hinted at quite some time ago.
Instead he grabbed the file of the person who would be his new Probie - Special Agent Dwayne Wilson. He'd been impressed by the young man when he'd been temporarily assigned to him during the bank robbery and murder at Quantico and knew McGee had been too. Yes, he might be losing a damn fine agent, but he had no doubt his team would still be as strong as ever.