AUTHOR: Nix (keparker AT shaw DOT ca)
SUMMARY: Future fic. Before Jenny Shepard there was Tom Morrow. After Jenny Shepard there would be Simon Matthews.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Not making money.
Notes: This is a part of a future fic that I will probably never write in it's entirety, largely because the bunny insists on being entirely from the point of view of an original character. But I do like the meat of the idea, so I decided to flip into Gibbs's POV and let a little piece of the larger idea live here.
NOTE ON TIME LINES: Since canon is so inconsistent on this point, I feel a need to clarify. In Hiatus we are told that Gibbs had lost 15 years worth of memory, which takes him back to the period during which he lost his first wife and daughter and, shortly thereafter, joined NCIS. So I'm assuming (despite his time in service being listed on the CBS site as 19 years as of 2003 and despite his statement of 19 years of service in Ice Queen/Meltdown) that he'd been with NCIS for 15 years as of the end of season three.
Jethro Gibbs had known three Directors in his twenty years at NCIS. The first, Randall Warshawski, he'd hardly been aware of. A probie on an average team, even a probie with an extensive military background, didn't run into the Director much. By the time Gibbs had clawed his way far enough up the ranks to rate official notice, Tom Morrow had replaced Warshawski as Director.
Morrow had never demanded unsupported respect. He'd earned the regard of every one of his agents, and by the time he moved on in his career, Gibbs had been proud to call him 'friend'. He only wished he'd kept in touch...if only the ask Morrow what the hell he'd been thinking of when he chose his replacement.
To give Tom credit, there really wasn't any way to know what sort of Director Jennifer Shepard would be until she took up the post and settled into it. The NCIS Directorship wasn't a particularly prestigious position for someone with administrative ambitions, which meant that it was regarded primarily as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. That meant that those who came into it generally had no previous experience in the role. Not even Warshawski or Morrow had. In that, Shepard was no different.
But where Morrow had worked hard at establishing himself with his agents, Shepard had walked in and demanded a seamless transfer of loyalty, as if the position trumped the person who held it. Maybe she honestly thought it did.
Gibbs had been irritated, but willing to cut her a little slack. She was new, she'd been handed the job during difficult circumstances, and she was a woman learning to play ball in what was still primarily a man's world. Gibbs was uncomfortably aware that he was making excuses he wouldn't have made for one of his agents, but the Directorship was a different sort of job--one he knew he couldn't manage--and he knew Jen. Maybe a little too well.
In any case, he'd waited for her to settle in and learn the ropes. He'd expected her to call him into a few discreet meetings to pick his brain about the various agents under her command the same way he would have expected a smart, but green, officer to seek the advice of his senior non-coms.
But when she got over her initial nervous hovering over his cases and learned to use her office, she didn't seem interested in his expertise. At least, not his professional expertise. Their discussions consisted of orders to do things he'd already begun, statements of the obvious, and subtle power plays, all of which were merely a thin disguise for some of the most ham-handed flirting Gibbs had ever experienced.
Five years of side-stepping her advances, when things were going smoothly, and take out dinners in her office, when he needed a little extra leeway in his investigations, and Shepard had finally moved onto a new agency. She'd given him her home phone number when she left. Gibbs had "filed" it in the trash, as he had dozens of times before. Of course, he knew her home number--for professional emergencies--but she seemed to place significance in giving it to him, so he responded with an equally symbolic gesture. The last time, he'd even been able to do it where she could see him.
And now the fourth Director of Gibbs's tenure at NCIS had called him upstairs. Simon Matthews had held the position for two weeks now, and aside from a single mass meeting during which he'd introduced himself, Gibbs had seen neither hide nor hair of the man. He wasn't sure if that was good, in line with Tom Morrow's hands-off approach, or bad, as Shepard's systematic neglect of the field agents had been.
At least I'm safe from the seduction attempts, Gibbs thought wryly as he entered the anteroom to the Director's office. If the man was gay, he'd have to be discreet to do well in a military organization. Which might actually be an advantage to Gibbs. Maybe I ought to hope he does flirt.
Gibbs glared at the Director's secretary as he strode toward the inner office doors. He hadn't had a chance to break this one in yet. She smiled at him before he even passed in front of her desk and said, "Go right in, Agent Gibbs."
Gibbs didn't falter in his aggressive march towards the doors, but internally he smacked himself upside the head. He'd transferred the habits he'd developed with Jen to the new Director automatically. Sloppy.
With that in mind, he stepped into the Director's office and carefully shut the door more politely than was his habit. "You asked to see me, Director?" Gibbs said neutrally.
Simon Matthews was standing behind his desk, peering down at an open folder on top of it. He looked up sharply, as if surprised, but his expression was perfectly composed as he met Gibbs's gaze. "Yes. Please have a seat, Agent Gibbs." Matthews gestured toward the pair of chairs arranged in front of the desk and flipped the folder shut casually.
Gibbs ran a critical eye over the new Director as he took his seat. The man was younger than Gibbs, though not by much. His black hair was liberally threaded with gray and the crow's feet at his eyes were pronounced, though the lines around his mouth were light, as if he had little reason to either smile or grimace. Gibbs could see that he and Matthews were of a height, though Matthews' stockier frame made him seem shorter. He wore rectangular, black wire-framed glasses and the eyes that met Gibbs's gaze through them were a faded green.
Seating himself, Gibbs glanced at the file on the desk and paused minutely as he saw that it was his own.
Matthews seated himself, scooted his chair close to the desk, and rested his hands on top of the folder, fingers laced together. "I'm curious, Agent Gibbs," Matthews began. "Why aren't you sitting on this side of the desk?"
It took all of Gibbs's control to prevent his eyebrows from reaching for his hairline. "I'm not qualified for the job," Gibbs said calmly.
Matthews raised his eyebrows. "According to this," he tapped the file, "you have twenty years of experience, the highest solve rate in the agency, and the best record with probies. Regardless of your brief resignation in 2006, how are you not qualified to lead this agency?"
Gibbs noted the choice of words. 'Lead,' not 'run.' "I'm not politically savvy, sir," he answered.
"Bullshit," Matthews said flatly. "We're a military agency and you're an expert interrogator. If you didn't have a firm grasp of politics, both global and domestic, and a sound bead on human nature, you wouldn't have amassed a file like this." He tapped the folder sharply. "Be blunt with me, Agent Gibbs." Matthews raised his eyebrows. "I promise, I can take it."
Gibbs considered the man on the other side of the desk for a long moment. "I don't have the patience for the interagency political bullshit," he clarified at last.
"Hmm." Matthews leaned back in his chair, looking thoughtful. "If Shepard was selected for her political skills, a few things suddenly become much clearer," he said cryptically, not appearing to expect a response. Gibbs waited until Matthews refocused on him. "I've noticed something in the past two weeks, Agent Gibbs. Not a single operational objection or complaint or simple request for clarification has come across my desk. Just progress reports and final case reports."
Shit. Gibbs carefully concealed his reaction. Shepard had treated every one of his cases as her personal pet project--an excuse, he quickly learned, to trot out her attempts to seduce him--but she could have cared less about the details of other teams' work, as long as they were properly resolved. When she did involve herself, for whatever reason, she rarely distinguished herself. The field agents' trust in her had eroded over the years, but they still had to bring those operational details to someone. Gibbs had found himself filling the gap without ever intending to. Trust and seniority at work, no doubt.
But none of that changed the fact that he'd been operating considerably outside of his officially designated boundaries. He'd essentially usurped the Director's authority, not that Shepard ever seemed to notice.
Matthews had noticed.
Dancing around the issue wasn't going to do Gibbs any good, even if he felt particularly inclined to try. "I've been taking care of that sort of thing," he said evenly.
Matthews nodded, unsurprised. "As a field agent, you may not be aware of this," he said, "but Director Shepard did an exceedingly good job in building this agency's currency with its counterparts. The connections between NCIS and the FBI, the ATF, the press, the administration, and other divisions of government are all stronger than they have been in decades." Matthews paused, presumably to let Gibbs absorb that. "But everyone has weaknesses to match their strengths. That bridge building seems to have happened at the expense of the internal authority of this office."
"I wouldn't put it quite that bluntly," Gibbs commented.
"I would," Matthews said firmly. "Director Shepard may have done the job she was brought in to do, but she's left her successor--me--with a hell of a mess to sort out. I don't intend to be a figurehead for you, Agent Gibbs. I want that absolutely clear. You are currently wielding an authority to which you are not entitled. I want it back where it belongs: in this office."
The corners of Gibbs's mouth curved upward briefly. "I'm fine with that, sir," he said frankly. "I'm a field agent, not an administrator. But it's not going to be easy to redirect the other agents."
"They trust you and they don't know me from Adam," Matthews agreed. "But that's the other reason why you're here, Agent Gibbs. If you aren't going to fight me for control of this agency, I'm going to need your help patching up the relationship between the office of the Director and the field agents under its authority."
"If you're serious about that, sir, then the first thing you need to do is to give up this notion that the Directorship and the person who holds it are separate and independent entities," Gibbs said frankly. "That was one of Director Shepard's first mistakes. She assumed being the Director automatically granted her the same respect that Tom Morrow earned from his agents. She never proved herself worthy of that respect."
Matthews tilted his head. "I'd've thought a Marine would have more respect for the chain of command itself, regardless of the individuals occupying the positions in it."
Gibbs didn't even blink. "NCIS is a primarily civilian agency, Director."
Matthews snorted softly at the evasion, but seemed inclined to let it go. "And the second thing I should do, Agent Gibbs?"
"Know your agents. Your senior agents in particular," Gibbs said immediately. "Although you seem to be up on that already." He nodded to the stack of folders in the basket on Matthews' desk.
"This isn't the only interview I have scheduled for today," Matthews confirmed. His forehead wrinkled minutely before smoothing out again.
Gibbs could sympathize with that brief and subtle sign of displeasure. Interviews were an excessively formal and artificial way to get to know one's agents. Ideally, the new Director would simply have interacted naturally with his new agents during the course of their investigations. But the past two weeks had obviously been enough to demonstrate that such interaction had ceased to be natural, expected, or welcome in NCIS.
"Mind if ask who's next on your list?" Gibbs asked.
Which implied that Matthews was proceeding in order of seniority, despite his stated reasons for seeing Gibbs first. Maybe he simply didn't know which agents would be the most useful to him. "You want my advice?" Gibbs asked, rhetorically. "Talk to DiNozzo next."
"DiNozzo?" Matthews' eyes narrowed. "Hasn't he been denied an increase in pay grade twice?"
"Director Shepard didn't like the way he works," Gibbs said bluntly, "but he's the second best agent you've got."
"And what makes you think I'll like the way Agent DiNozzo works any better than Director Shepard did?"
"He closes cases," Gibbs responded. "Faster and with better evidence than any other team." Gibbs's mind raced. Why was Matthews pushing this? He'd already made a point of noting that his priorities were different than Shepard's had been. "Including mine," Gibbs finished. He'd been saddled with a lot of probies over the past five years. Usually more than one at a time.
Matthews leaned forward. "And you aren't biased at all."
Gibbs frowned, wary. "DiNozzo is hardly the only field agent I've trained."
"That's not exactly the kind of bias I meant," Matthews said flatly.
Ah. So that was why he'd pushed. He'd been looking for an excuse to bring this up. "My personal relationship with Tony doesn't change the fact that he's an excellent agent," Gibbs said calmly. If Matthews expected to use Tony against him, he was going to have to live with disappointment. Just because Shepard had never looked beyond her own hormones to see what was right in front of her didn't mean he and Tony hadn't planned for the possibility. "On top of that," Gibbs went on, "he's on a first name basis with nearly all the personnel in this agency. I can help you out with your authority problems, but DiNozzo can help you know your people."
"You've been trouble shooting and coordinating just about every operation in this agency for years now," Matthews observed, "so I can hardly argue that your relationship with Agent DiNozzo is interfering negatively with your job. Nor am I the type to fix something that isn't broken. But you have put me in a difficult position, Agent Gibbs. These people are taking their lead from you, and they'll continue to do so long after I've regained the authority Shepard let slip away from this position. If I make an exception for you and Agent DiNozzo, what do I tell the next couple that wants an exception made?"
"The same thing you just told me, sir," Gibbs responded briskly. "You don't need to fix what isn't broken. But if it interferes with their work, then you'll have to take steps."
"And who decides when it interferes with their work?"
Gibbs smiled slightly. "You do. Unilaterally. It would be...entirely within your authority as Director."
Matthews snorted. "I do require one thing of you and Agent DiNozzo if I'm going to let this go," he said. Gibbs arched an inquiring eyebrow. "DiNozzo will give up the apartment which he is presumably maintaining as cover," Matthew stated.
Gibbs frowned. "Most of NCIS doesn't know that we're together, Director. Doing that, and filing the subsequent change of address form, would mean coming out for us. That could have repercussions."
"I suspect more people know you're together than you think," Matthews said. "But frankly, I wouldn't care if it was a shock to all their systems. I refuse to appear obtuse to those who know and I will not lie to agents whose trust I am attempting to regain." He fixed Gibbs with a hard look. "You got into this relationship. You'll deal with any repercussions that crop up. Better to handle them now, when they're expected, then at some undetermined but potentially sensitive point in the future."
"And if the Director after you isn't so pragmatic?" Gibbs asked.
Matthews leaned back in his chair, apparently entirely relaxed. "I plan to be around for a while. You'll have time to work it out."
In other words, not his problem. "Understood, sir."
"Good. You can go." Matthews nodded at the door. "But we'll be talking again."
Well. The next few years were certainly going to be interesting.