Tony walked into Georgia Brown’s freshly showered, in a favorite suit and with a brand new tablet in his bag. There was no way he wanted any miscommunication with what he knew would be a very important conversation with Director Walter Skinner. He knew it was probably best that he couldn’t speak because then he couldn’t tell anyone about the the fox twining itself between his legs as he waited for the hostess to confirm his reservation with Skinner. He’d seen the fox of and on over the last decade, most notably since his bout with the plague, but it’s been growing steady over the last four or five years. Sometimes it weirded him out, sometimes it was a comfort. He didn’t really ignore it, sometimes even speaking directly to it when no one was around. However, bringing up little foxes that that make him feel better that only appear sometimes and can walk through walls didn’t seem like a good idea at any time at all. Ever.
Pushing the oddity out of his mind, even as the fox followed along side him to the private room where Skinner was seated, Tony shook the man’s hand heartily and in immense relief before being seated.
At the raised eyebrow towards the tablet Tony placed on the table, Tony simply turned it on, unlocked it, and presented him with an already prepared summary of his current health and work situation so as to save time. “Always on the ball, aren’t you DiNozzo?” Skinner murmured as he read through the briefing, for that’s what it really was.
Tony took the time to read through the menu, noting the excellent soup choices. His little fox friend seemed to be nodding as he mentally chose the matzo ball soup, so it seemed that was what he would be eating. Maybe he should speak to his lunch companion about his furry friend here; if the rumors were right, Skinner would probably know someone who would be able to help him rather than think he was crazy.
“Right, well, this fits in very well with the plan I have for you. But the paperwork can wait until after the meal.” Walter saw Tony point at his soup choice and nodded, letting the waiter know it was all right to come over and take their order, already knowing his choice. After the waitstaff left, Tony took back the tablet and quickly typed in his imaginary friend dilemma, wanting to get it out there, just in case it made a difference, and just in case there might be a reason he’d been hallucinating for half a dozen years.
“Are you serious? You’ve been seeing – Tony, are you telling me this has been happening for this long and you haven’t said a word?” Tony shook his head in response. “I think I know what this is, and no, you aren’t crazy. And yes, I can say that because I do know you, have followed your career, and I know approximately what was going on when you say this started. I can’t say more here, but I am going to put you in touch with someone who knows more about this who can definitely help you, and it makes my plans for you more final.”
Their first course arrived, breaking into anything more that Skinner might have said. Tony was happy to get the hot soup down his aching throat. As he ate, he wondered at what the Director could possibly have in store for him that he was so excited about.
Director Vance was definitely not having a good day. While Tony left him a mess to clean up, it was a mess that long needed fixing. It wasn’t just that David and McGee fucked up so royally, it was that Abby needed reigning in, as did Gibbs. The entire MCRT needed restructuring. In fact, maybe what he needed to do was retire Gibbs and pick a whole new team? He really needed legal on this before he made those kinds of decisions.
First, he needed to let Gibbs know that DiNozzo was out on medical for two weeks and then let IA do their own thing without DiNozzo getting caught in whatever crossfire was about to happen. It seemed from the paperwork – paperwork that Jenny Shepard had hidden in some creative places – that Jimmy Palmer was the man to speak to about what really went on when the bosses weren’t around with regards to McGee, David’s, and Sciuto’s behavior. So that’s what he would do first. Now how to do that without raising in questions from the peanut gallery?
“Cynthia, please come in here for a moment, I need your assistance.”
Cynthia appeared like magic, as always. “I need to have a private conversation with Mr. Palmer in regards to this whole mess from last night.” He knew he didn’t need to go into detail with her. He had informed her perviously, having called her in extraordinarily early for the exact purpose, to be sure that they wouldn’t be interrupted or overheard by any of the office gossips and so that she wouldn’t be caught off guard – also so that she could be used for moments like this. “I think he has information I need, but considering the other players, I’m afraid that it might be an impossible request.”
“Leave it to me director,” was all Cynthia said, a sure smile on her face as she disappeared just as quickly and quietly as she had arrived.
Sending off an email to Bill, wanting to know if he wanted in on this meeting, he wasn’t surprised at all to see Jimmy Palmer following Cynthia into his office. “Mr. Palmer, please have a seat. Do you think you’ll have any problems fending off questions from your coworkers about being up here or did Cynthia take care of that?”
“Um, well, sir –” Jimmy stuttered. What could he have possibly done to merit the Director of the Agency’s attention?
“Jimmy, you’re not in trouble. In fact, you’re here to help out Agent DiNozzo.”
Jimmy stared at the director for a moment, and then took out his cell phone, quickly sending off a text. The director smiled at the brazen move by the assistant medical examiner. It firmed up the opinion Tony had expressed in his evaluation in the employee’s personnel folder. Upon the seemingly quick confirmation from DiNozzo himself, Jimmy looked up, squared his shoulders and simply responded, “What do you need from me, sir?”
At that moment Bill Ragfeld popped up on the wall mounted screen. “Sorry to burst in, but I figured this would be the only way not to peak anyone’s interest as to why IA was in your office.”
“Thanks, Bill, it’s very much appreciated. This is Jimmy Palmer, and he’s agreed to help us out with any missing information. As we’re both aware, there is much we have probably missed and he might be able to fill in the holes.”
“Right, why don’t I start from the beginning, when I first started noticing issues?”
Gibbs hung up the phone with a scowl, “DiNozzo is out for two weeks, yesterday’s stunt did more damage than we thought. Dr. Pitt sent over a note that he has him on some medications and wants him out of work for some down time, even desk duty to completely rest up. Cold cases for the two of you.”
McGee snorts as he bends his head, muttering as he types on his computer.
“Got something to say, McGee?” Gibbs asks, annoyance in his voice.
McGee doesn’t bother to look up to see the accompanying look on his boss’s face as he answers in the negative, “No, Boss, not at all.”
“He did not seem so bad yesterday. He is probably just clowning it up, like usual,” Ziva chimed in.
Gibbs didn’t bother correcting her as he saw McGee nod in agreement. “Seeing as he has an actual doctor’s note from an actual doctor, I’m going to say that he’s probably actually sick.”
“Well, then maybe I will bring him my matzo ball soup, should make him better in no time,” Ziva volunteered with a leer.
“You will leave him alone to heal until he invites you over, Ziva. You’ll be too busy working, or did I not just give you an order?”
“No, Boss!” “Yes, Boss.” They both replied.
A little dismayed and somewhat alarmed at the responses from his subordinates, Gibbs decided he needed to bend Ducky’s ear for a bit and get a second opinion. He had no idea what just happened here – what had been happening here.
Abby was bouncing from one foot to the other as she typed at her computer furiously, her music at an all time high. So it was no surprise that she didn’t hear Gibbs walk right up behind her. He was already in a completely foul mood after his conversation with Ducky.
He had thought that maybe Ducky would tell him he was imagining things, that two of his team members weren’t completely dismissing health concerns – completely dismissing another superior team member at all. But it was not to be. Ducky dashed those hopes quickly, taking the opening with both hands, as it were, to fill him in on what had been going on right in front of his face for months, if not years. It seemed that Gibbs had been willfully blind, and Ducky had known that the only way to get him to see it was for he himself to open his own eyes first.
One of the hardest things to hear, besides his own culpability, of course, was that Abby was a part of this – but right here and now there was no denying it. Right in front of him was Ms. Abigail Sciuto hacking into NCIS’s own database doing something – he had no idea what – but she was doing something inside personnel files that he knew she had no business doing.
“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Gibbs?” Abby jumped and turned around, not even an ounce of guilt on her face, a smile instead, as if her knight in shining armor had arrived. “GibbsGibbsGibbsGibbsGibbs. You have no idea! IA is totally rooting around in the teams files! The Team’s! What are they doing? What are they looking for? What’s going on? Why didn’t you tell me? We have to tell –”
Gibbs didn’t know what was going on, but his gut was churning. “We don’t have to tell anyone, Abby. But you need to come with me, right now.”
Tony typed away on his tablet of all the concerns he had, things he was afraid would keep him from moving to Los Angeles and starting his new life. Abby and her need to invade his privacy being one of them was top of his list. He knew she would not hesitate to mess with his financials, his move, or even stoop to messing with him on social media to keep him from leaving what she deemed her precious family. Abigail Sciuto did not handle change well at all, and the older she got, the younger she acted. It was something that grated on Tony, and now here was someone that could help him with it. “I don’t want her fired, as that would damage the agency, but I need help with some kind of solution. I don’t want her to be able to access anything related to me electronically, and I don’t want her to be able to damage my reputation.”
Skinner read this over and thought about it a bit. “I do know someone that can help with that. She can protect your files, as well as shore up the FBI walls to protect us from wherever this McGee and Sciuto were constantly getting in. Also, it seems that NCIS needs better protecting itself. I’ll speak with Vance about a phasing out program. I’ll call him while you speak with Blair.”
Tony’s fox had returned and seemed happy with Skinner’s plans for Tony, if his playful pawing at Tony’s legs were any indication. “Another obstacle will be Gibbs. While he might understand my trust issues once he learns what happened, I’m not sure if he will side with me for more than five minutes– he sees Ziva as a substitute for his daughter, and he’s kind of blind when it comes to women overall. But right now, I can’t trust him to have my six. A lot of people owe him markers, though – he might try to pull strings to keep me on this coast.”
“Don’t even go there. As soon as you are on the computer with Blair I’ll be speaking with Vance ensuring that your paperwork is going through, then SecNav and I will have a chat to cement that you’re mine,” Skinner said possessively. There was no way anyone was taking DiNozzo away from him now that he had him. NCIS’s loss was the FBI’s gain.
Arriving at his apartment, Tony shed his suit coat and took out some drinks while the Director set up the video call with Blair Sandburg, making introductions and explaining that Tony knew ASL and his current speech restrictions. Tony did a bug search just to be safe under the approving eye of Skinner before he and Blair starting signing away at each other.
As promised, Skinner started making calls.
“Director, I’ve just been alerted that Ms. Abigail Sciuto has been playing around in our files. She seems to have stopped, but it mostly was concentrated on the files of everyone we’re speaking about today. I’ll have more information soon, our techs are looking to see if she’s done it before.”
Vance reached for the phone with an angry glare, “Mr. Palmer, I thank you for your time. If we have any more questions we’ll let you know. I’m sure we don’t have to tell you that the nature of this meeting is to remain confidential.”
“No, sir, you don’t.” Jimmy left quickly, hoping Cynthia could get him out as quietly as she got him in. He wanted to check in on Tony, give him an update as to what had just happened.
As Vance was about to dial the phone rang. “Vance.”
“Walter Skinner. We need to talk.”
Jimmy walked into autopsy to find Gibbs and Ducky glaring at a crying Abby who was once again playing the part of helpless child. “What has she done this time?” he asked walked over to the desk area.
“Mr. Palmer, if you could find somewhere else to be?” Dr. Mallard asked, even though it came out more like an order.
“No, not this time. I know you all like to keep me out of things, but Abby here has a habit of causing harm to people I care about and then crying her way out of trouble. Just like she is now. So I’m asking again, what’s she done now?” He made sure to stand out of reach of either man, unsure if they would get physical with him. Dr. Mallard, he was sure would probably just try to guilt him into following directions, but Gibbs — Agent Gibbs he had seen get physical with all of his team members, especially Tony.
“What do you mean, Palmer?”
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” exclaimed Abby, stomping her foot.
“See, just like a child. Every time she gets caught doing something wrong, something changes, or God forbid something doesn’t go her way, Abby acts about 20 years younger than her actual age, and all of you let her get away with it. Do you know how sickening it is?” Turning to Gibbs, Jimmy just kept going. His meeting earlier with the director had given him a burst of courage to finally say what had been on his mind these last few years. “When you were on your little vacation in Mexico, your little princess here did her best to make sure to rile McGee up about Tony not being you, made sure Tony knew he was a poor substitute for you, slowed down results on him, put trainee stickers on him, and so on. It was ridiculous. Between her, Ziva, and Tim, Tony was left with no support except for me. Even Dr. Mallard was so far in his own head about your absence that Tony had no solace there. And Director Shepard was using his isolation for her own purposes and he knew it.
“And what happens when you come back? He gives up a chance at a promotion all due to your not being ready to be on your own yet, and you make sure that absolutely no one on the team respects him. Then you all punish him for following orders. You’ve let Ziva divide this team even further with all of her cruel remarks, bringing McGee into it. I’m still not sure how he’s still on the team considering how much work he doesn’t do. Neither of them could investigate their way out of a paper bag without Tony to guide them.
“Great job, Agent Gibbs. Absolutely Excellent.” Jimmy was puffing by this point. He hoped he hadn’t blown anything for Tony, but he just couldn’t keep quiet when Abby was about to get out of trouble with Gibbs again.
At that moment Gibbs phone rang. “Gibbs. On my way.” He gave Jimmy a good long stare before turning back to Abby. “You will stay down here with Ducky. You are not to move until you are called for, Abby. No phones, no computer, nothing tech. Do you understand?”
“But Gibbs –”
“Do you understand me?”
“Fine! But I’m doing this under protest, Gibbs. This is not fair!”
“Oh, grow up, girl! In this Mr. Palmer is most correct,” Ducky reprimanded her. He set out the tea and sat next to her. “You will sit here quietly until we hear from Jethro again.”
Whatever he expected, walked into a meeting with Bill Ragfeld, SecNav, Director Skinner, and Director Vance was not it. Maybe Internal Affairs, but all of these people at once already? How much had he missed?
Vance cleared his throat bringing everyone’s eyes to him. “Since everyone already knows each other, let’s do away with introductions and get down to it. As we speak, Agents McGee and David are being interrogated as to their behavior in the most recent investigation at Royal Woods with Military at Home.”
“You don’t mess with my team with speaking to me first, Leon!” Gibbs burst out, not caring that his boss’s boss was in the room, along with outsiders.
“You work for me, Gibbs, not the other way around. And considering the infractions, it wouldn’t matter what you said, they would be in trouble. Maybe you should shut up and listen to what’s going on instead of throwing the beginning of a childish tantrum the likes of – well, the likes of your forensic scientist, which we will also be discussing. She, too, will be investigated. The SecNav is here because once we started on her it became clear that the entire agency was at risk and we needed to do something quickly. So you will sit there and listen as we fill you in. Do you understand, Agent Gibbs?” The director asked, voice grumbling in anger at his subordinate.
Gibbs whole demeanor had gone cold and everyone could see this was not going to be easy.
“Agent Gibbs,” the Secretary of the Navy spoke up, “this can either happen with you knowing what’s going on or you can be kept in the dark and interrogated with the rest of your team by internal affairs at a later date. Decide now.”
Blair and Tony got along like long lost twins. Tony had barely noticed Skinner leaving for a meeting with Vance, although they had discussed some ideas about what to do with the MCRT and Abby in particular. Skinner wanted nothing to get in the way of Tony heading up this division on the West Coast. They FBI was sorely in need of decent undercover agents, and Tony was just the man to put the rookie agents through their paces.
Blair had already given him the basics of what he was, and what to expect. Tony knew enough about basic meditation that he was going start on some exercises that very evening before bed, work his way up to whatever this “blue jungle” was that Blair had mentioned.
But first Tony had get started on his packing, as Skinner had arranged for the apartment to get packed up and moved. Every since they were alerted to Abby’s hacking and that the IA investigation had started, neither of them thought that the fallout was far behind. As soon as he had the essentials together he was going to be on the first flight out to meet Blair for some R&R, and then on to LA once Pitt gave him the go ahead. There was absolutely no reason he needed to stick around for the abuse — both physical and emotional — that everyone knew would be heaped on him by his former team.