Fandom: NCIS, M7
WARNINGS: no warnings yet
Summary: When Tony helps a fellow UC clear his name, he realizes that their situations are somewhat similar — and not in a good way. Maybe it’s time to do something about that — for both of them.
Tony sat in the booth with his beer forgotten trying to make sense of the play sheet in front of him. Luke Cartwright was doing his best to explain it to Tony — and failing — when another random agent walked up to them and intruded on their conversation. It wasn’t such a shock seeing another agent there, seeing as this was primarily a cop bar, but Tony knew this wouldn’t be good. Luke was an Internal Affairs officer at the FBI, and as a result didn’t have too many fans.
“Bringing work home with you now, rat? Who you trying to string up now?” The agent ranted at Luke, not bothering to keep his voice down, calling attention to their table. The bar quieted down.
Tony decided he wasn’t going to just sit by and let his friend take it when he saw the resignation in his eyes. He knew Luke was having a bad time of it lately, even thought they had just closed a case together clearing another former FBI agents name — Ezra Standish — and nailing everyone that had framed him. Tony would be heading out the next day to speak with the man to let him know what had gone down.
“If by string up you mean the five basketball players he’s trying to design a play for, then yes, he’s bringing his work home with him,” he said, showing him the play sheet. “Now, kindly fuck off so we can continue our discussion and enjoy our beer.”
“Who the fuck are you, asshole?”
“The one not making an ass out of himself. Seriously. What do you have against basketball?” Tony dismissed the agent by turning his body towards Luke, who likewise adjusted his body towards Tony and they once again bent their heads over the paper in front of them.
The other patrons in the bar watched as the humiliated agent stood there for a few seconds more before huffing off, and then conversations resumed like normal once again.
Tony breathed a relieved sigh when the atmosphere stopped being so tense. “Whew, we did not need that tonight.”
“No, no we didn’t. I still don’t know why you wanted to come here tonight, you know we could have done this at my place or yours,” Luke commented, the question obvious.
“No, no we couldn’t,” Tony replied. “I think — Luke, I think I have a problem at work and I don’t trust my coworkers not to spy on me. God,” Tony ran a hand over his face in defeat, “I sound like a paranoid freak here, but I found proof of them breaking into my apartment and going through my things. I’m fairly sure that Abby keeps going into my financials and phone records and accessing my GPS – it’s why I left the phone here when I went on your assignment. It’s why I wouldn’t let you share any info with Fornell or anyone associated with Gibbs, why I had that closed door meeting with the higher ups. I think that if I went to my own IA with this, they would let – correction – they would be forced by Gibbs and Vance to sweep it all under the rug.”
“Tony, if what you say is true, that’s — holy shit, I don’t even know what that is. That’s such a violation and degree of corruption, I have no idea how it’s gotten this far without anyone noticing!”
“Well, Luke, when you have Papa Gibbs constantly sweeping things away, and Abby and McGee deleting things from the system, it’s no surprise. Abby actually had all my stuff flagged, but I had a friend sneak in and unflag it all. I have to get them to periodically go in and do it again just to make sure that I am safe. You should see Abby getting all huffy when she realizes her tags are all gone, but she can’t figure out who made them all disappear. Her and McGee really can’t fathom that anyone is better than them when it comes to hacking.
“And when I confront them with all the evidence, I bet you any amount of money that at some point they will use the excuse ‘it’s just Tony’. No joke.
“And the worst part is that once upon a time I really looked up to that man, I really learned so much from him. But after the explosion, something changed. I really think he should never have been cleared to come back to work. I mean, the three migraines have been a problem since long before that, but he compounded it since he rejoined after his little siesta. Not to mention the mess the old director made of things. Ugh, why did I stay this long?”
Luke looked down at the paper in front of them that was obviously a cover for this meeting while he rolled what Tony had laid on me over in his head. “I need to think about how to go about this Tony, there’s a lot to pick apart there.”
“I know buddy, believe me. I know.”
Two Days Later
Tony approached the ATF building at an unhurried pace. He had a meeting with Judge Travis in 30 minutes, and while being early wouldn’t necessarily get him in and out any faster, it would leave room for anything that might delay to still get him to his appointment on time. Murphy’s Law would definitely strike if he aimed to arrive simply on time, he knew.
And of course, he slipped right through security after signing in, noting the security guard trying to read labels on the files he had brought with him. It was all for naught, though, since Tony had the wherewithal to label the files by month and year and not by case name or number. This wasn’t his first rodeo; he knew how office gossip worked and he had used it to his advantage in this case. Tony already knew that the guard would try and slip information to Team 7 if anything remotely connected to it was found on those files and so was careful to not indicate as such. Tony didn’t even give the guard a chance to attempt small talk to fish anything out of him, just stepped through the metal detectors and gathered his belongings and let the person behind him begin their own process. Feigning ignorance had its place.
He had also heard exactly how Agent Standish was looked upon by his team and other members of the ATF. It seemed as though the stain of the FBI frame up had followed him here, no matter that he was never proven guilty. It killed him that yet another man was unable to trust his team. He hoped Standish didn’t feel as alone on his team as Tony felt on his at NCIS.
Riding up in the elevator, Tony contemplated all the different ways this could go and just hoped and prayed for the best.
By the time he introduced himself to the Judge’s administrative assistant, Mrs. Agatha Marchlands, Tony was only fifteen minutes early. It was just by luck that he didn’t have to make small talk with her since the Judge was free to see him, so he just gave her his most charming smile and entered the Judge’s office.
“Special Agent DiNozzo, what can I do for NCIS?” Judge Travis asked as he indicated for Tony to have a seat across from him.
“I’m not actually here on behalf of NCIS, Judge.” At the raised eyebrows of inquiry, Tony continued, “I was loaned out to the FBI to go undercover to do some much needed clean up.”
“Ah, and so you’re here on behalf of them? I’m still unsure what that has to do with the ATF.”
“Yes, well, part of that clean up once and for all cleared one of your agents, an Agent Ezra Standish.” Tony took out the files he had brought with him and handed them over. “These are your copies, sir. I have another set for Agent Standish. I was hoping you wouldn’t mind calling him up here, I figured he would like to hear all this as well.”
“Yes, yes, I think he would love to hear it. It’s long overdue, I would say.”
As the Judge picked up the phone to call his secretary, Tony interjected, “please just tell her to inform him that you need him to come retrieve something or sign something. I — well, I’ll explain more later, but from what I’ve heard, if you say you want to speak with him, I have a feeling you’ll have more than just Agent Standish up here and it should be up to him what he shares.”
Putting the phone down, the Judge frowned at the man sitting across from him. “I think I’d like you to explain that first before we have Ezra up here, Agent DiNozzo.”
“Right,” Tony sighed. “Normally, I’d try to be diplomatic, but I don’t have the time or patience for that in this instance. Here’s the thing, your Team 7 reminds me of my team back in DC as far as personalities go. They are all quick to judge, make no bones about badmouthing teammates to all and sundry, and even though they are famous for getting the job done, so to speak, there is one person that’s left out to dry most of the time. In this case, it’s Agent Standish. Do you know how much trash talk I’ve heard about him that’s originated from that team? I did a little bit of reconnaissance before I came to see you, just to be sure of the rumors that I heard all the way on the East Coast, sir.” The Judge was not a happy looking man at what he was hearing. Whether it was because of what he was hearing or because he didn’t believe, Tony didn’t know. But that wouldn’t deter him from letting this man know what was going on in his building; he wasn’t going to let someone else suffer what he was suffering. From everything that he was told, what he had heard through the grapevine, this man was nothing like Vance.
“All I had to do was sit still on a bar stool and listen as teammates bragged to each other about going through his financials because they could, snarling about how he’s a cheat and a liar and it’s probably why he’s so good at undercover, and so on. And there’s their leader sitting there, not saying a word. In comes Agent Standish and they all make it clear with every word and deed that they barely tolerate him. It’s no wonder he stayed for one drink, what with the glares he received from Agent Larrabee. They keep him because he’s good at his job, and that’s it.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t trust any of them with my six, I was appalled with the way they treated their own team member. And so that’s why I don’t trust that they won’t try and snoop into why you want him up here.” Tony sat back and waited for the man’s final decision on what he would do about this situation.
“All right. All right, I’ll request myself he come up here and tell him not to say anything about why. Just a moment, I have his cell number here somewhere.” The judge fished it out and dialed him up.
“Agent Standish? Please don’t mention who it is.”
“Yes, sir,” Ezra responded. “It’s all right, I’m at home, so there’s no one in the vicinity to overhear. I was just about to get in my vehicle and head to the office.”
“Oh, all right then, that makes it easier. Would you mind coming straight to my office, please? I have something to share with you — good news, don’t worry — and I’d rather that it was just you and not the whole team that came with.”
“I am much obliged, Judge, for your caution in this matter. I will be there in a matter of moments. What shall I tell Mrs. Marchlands when I arrive?”
“Ah, tell her I am waiting for you to sign some papers. I’ll inform her that you are to come right in. Thank you, Agent Standish.”
The Judge looked so relieved, Tony relaxed a bit with him. “I take it that went better than expected?”
“Yes, Ezra was at home so there was no need for subterfuge. He’ll be here in a minute, which means I need to ask Agatha to let him right in. One moment.”
“Agatha,” he called as he buzzed over the intercom, “Agent Standish should be arriving soon to sign some papers. Please just let him through.”
Ezra Standish entered his boss’s office and took in extra man’s appearance with just a glance. Tall, steady, fellow law enforcement, intelligent, masked, fine threads. This man was not to be dismissed.
“Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, call me Tony,” he said with his hand out.
“Agent Ezra P. Standish, at your service, Ezra if you please,” Ezra offered, shaking his hand. As they sat he asked, “From what agency do you originate?”
“NCIS, but that is not who I am representing today.” Tony handed over Ezra’s copies of case files. “These are your copies. I’m sure you remember the kerfuffle that stained your reputation with the FBI and your career as a whole?” At Ezra’s nod, Tony continued. “There were two IA agents that never let it go, who believed your innocence – but had to move to another office to actually get anything done about it. Well, they finally found enough evidence to receive the go ahead for an operation to clean out the whole ring of dirty agents connected to the cover up you touched on. It went way deeper than you imagine, and higher.”
Ezra skimmed through the files, noting the three months of work that Tony had done on this – both before going undercover and during — routing out the bad agents, finding the information, the leaks, the bribes. “How did you get enough time to do all this?”
“My current director has me shipped off as Agent Afloat at the moment. He has no idea where I am. The FBI Director appealed to the Secretary of the Navy who appealed to me. We’re keeping Director Vance out of it for a host of reasons.” Tony wasn’t able to keep the bitterness out of his voice completely, and at this point, he didn’t really care. He was just about done with NCIS and he had ideas about what he wanted to do next. But first, he needed to finish telling Ezra his news.
“So I was borrowed for this operation, which was very hush-hush as we didn’t know who was involved in this cover up. That Councilman Havers case you were investigating was just the tip of the iceberg. There were payouts, bribes, contracts, you name it — connected to politicians, other agents with ambition, et cetera.”
“Contracts as in hitmen for hire?”
“Exactly that. And they had one for you if the frame up didn’t work to push you away from the agency.” Tony slid another file over to him. “Now here comes the tough part, and I’m really sorry for this. Your mother.”
“My mother,” Ezra repeated with a resigned sigh. He knew she had some part in this, it was just inevitable. “Why am I not surprised? Tell me, Agent DiNozzo, what will I find in here?”
Noting the lack of surprise, Tony plugged on. “Your mother was aware of the bribery and timed your birthday present accordingly to make it seem like your were a part of the ring.”
“You speak of the Jaguar I received?” Ezra sighed again and leaned back in his chair, his face weary. “I knew there was a catch. My previous vehicle was totaled the week prior and so I was sorely in need of a new one, yet could not afford one. All of my investments were tied up, and I did not have enough liquid assets at the time to purchase a vehicle outright. So when my mother presented me with this lovely specimen, I could not turn it away. However, I should have known it was too good to be true — in fact, I knew it was. Anything to do with her is. She was never happy that I was in law enforcement and would have taken any opportunity to ruin it for me. She has tried multiple times since I have moved here to do the same. She has the rest of the team eating out of the palm of her hand, with the exception of Mr. Tanner. He has seen through her lies, and it does vex her so.”
“Well, Ezra, what would you like to do?” Judge Travis asked. It shocked him how much he had missed about what was going on right under his nose, but here sat a man who was miserable. In no way would he force him to remain in a place that made him that unhappy — it was wrong, and it was also dangerous to his health.
“Ah, I actually have an idea about that,” Tony volunteered. “It’s been percolating for a bit, ever since the last director of NCIS used and abused my undercover skills — story for another time — and I think since I’ve made the decision that I’m done with NCIS, and I’m not interested in joining the FBI, that maybe it’s time to do something a little different.”
“What sort of different do you mean?”
“Well, I’ve noticed that there is a lack of trained undercover agents, and I mean really trained. They need to have more than a week of this is what to do and then thrown in the deep end. These people need theater training, improv skills, makeup instruction, scenario drills, and on and on.”
“So what do you propose? A school of sorts for prospective undercover agents? For which agency?” Ezra asked, his interest piqued.
“That’s just it. I think it should be for all the agencies. A central school for the alphabets — CIA can refine what they want if they pick from it — and this way no greenies get sent out and killed because they have no clue what they are doing. I heard you’re a master of costuming and accents, would you be able to teach that to others?”
Ezra rolled the idea around in his head. He knew he couldn’t do undercover work forever himself, at some point age does catch up with you and then it wasn’t suitable. But teaching others did sound like something he could do. And on the plus side, he wouldn’t have to trust anyone with having his back in the field, as so many had failed to have lately. He was tired of the snide remarks from his team mates, the looks, the back talk. As if he didn’t hear what they said about him around the office to whomever would listen.
He couldn’t wait until they heard the news about the FBI bust.
“I do think this is something I can get behind.” Turning to Judge Travis, “I’m sorry, sir, but I think –”
“No, Ezra, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t see how miserable you were on Team 7. Why don’t you take a week and go back with Agent DiNozzo to present this to the director of the FBI and SecNav? It sounds like if there are two of you they might just agree to it and let you pick some others to help train some recruits.”
“I think that sounds like a great idea.” Tony was smiling, excited that this plan might actually happen, he might actually escape NCIS.
“I’ll let Chris know that I’m sending you out to do something for me, that I needed your diplomatic skills, and that it’s not a case. Hopefully, they won’t do any snooping for that.”
“I wish you luck, sir.” Ezra replied, though his tone was not hopeful.