[personal profile] lit_gal
My Post-Hiatus story



Illusions Lost
Our experience is composed rather of illusions lost than of wisdom acquired.
Joseph Roux



NCIS/Criminal Minds
Gibbs has left for Mexico, and Tony’s gut is telling him he’s in trouble. Abby is too distracted by her grief for Gibbs to back Tony up, so he decides to go to the most Abbish person he knows for help: Penelope Garcia. Abby introduced them after the two women met at a forensics seminar for federal agents. So Tony asks Garcia if she will do a little digging, but bringing Garcia in means bringing in other members of the BAU. After all, if Garcia thinks a friend is in trouble, she’ll always turn to her Derek, trusting him to do the right thing. Tony just isn't sure that having Derek Morgan on his side is going to help when he has a director making unreasonable requests, a team doing the minimum required for their job and an overwrought Abby to deal with.

Earlier chapters HERE





Chapter Four: Tim’s Moment of Truth



Tony stood outside of the NCIS building and dialed McGee’s number. If he tried taking on the terrible duo together, he was going to have a war on his hands. He had charted out his attack plan, and McGee was the weakest link, or in this case, the member of the You’re-Not-Gibbs brigade who was most likely to see the truth when it hit him in the head. “Hey McGee, are you close to work?”

The voice on the other end of the phone was annoyed. “Yes, Tony. I’m only five minutes out. Don’t assume I’m going to be late.”

Tony took a deep breath to calm his nerves. “I wasn’t. I was going to invite you to go for a coffee before work.”

“Yeah. Right.” McGee laughed.

“McGee,” Tony said slowly and deliberately. Then he fell silent and waited.

“What?” McGee finally asked.

“Do you want to go out for coffee or do you want me to reserve a conference room so we can have a private conversation in the building?” Tony hadn’t intended to get into the bossy portion of the conversation so quickly, but the McGee of his imagination hadn’t been such a pain in the ass about grabbing a coffee.

“What are you talking about?”

“I gave you two choices. Pick one.” Tony pretended this was an undercover job, and he was Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo, a calm and cool boss who handled issues quickly, decisively, and without ever forgetting that he held all the power. Sadly Tony had less in common with this character than he did with Professor Tony DiNardo.

McGee sighed dramatically. “This had better not be a setup for some elaborate joke.”

“Agent McGee, I promise you that this is not a joke, and I won’t ask you again.”

“Geez. Fine. I’m pulling into the lot now. We can go for a coffee.”

Tony hit the disconnect button and took a deep breath. Had he ever talked to a boss like that? Then again, had he ever had a boss who put up with even a fraction of that disrespect? And yet Tony’s stomach was in knots. He knew how to confront bad guys, but confronting good guys who were acting like shits was so much harder, especially when he actually liked the shitheads in question. And speaking of shitheads, McGee came around the corner.

Tony didn’t want to have a conflict so he started walking toward the Navy Yard coffee shop. McGee was cutting it close this morning, so the place was fairly quiet. People were checking in with teams and starting work, so the coffee shop would be quiet for a short time. Let people get settled, and a second wave would be down for refills. Tony wanted to be done by then.

“So, what’s so important that we can’t get settled at our desks?” McGee asked. “I have a search going on the Anderson case.”

“We need to talk about the Renny Grant case,” Tony said.

McGee stopped six feet from the coffee shop door. “I am not going to listen to you imply I can’t do my job. When you want to talk about a real case, come and get me.” McGee turned around.

Tony had to raise his voice, which unfortunately made them the center for too much attention, but Tony had to take charge quickly. “Agent McGee, you will come back or I will write you up for insubordination.”

McGee whirled around. “You wouldn’t.”

Tony held up the file folder he held. It wasn’t a standard NCIS folder and he counted on McGee’s curiosity, even if McGee didn’t have a healthy respect for Tony’s willingness to use the internal disciplinary system. “After reading this, I would, so we can talk about this or I can file the paperwork with the director’s office.” And with that, Tony turned and headed into the coffee shop. Two secretaries had heard, and both watched them with open curiosity, but when Tony gave them his best imitation of a Gibbs glare, they both took their coffees and left. Tony was going to need antacids by the truckload before this was over. He was starting to understand why Gibbs cultivated his second-b reputation.

“Fine. I’m here,” McGee said as he got in line behind Tony. Tony finished order his order for coffee before holding the folder out. He didn’t trust himself to talk so he accepted his coffee and headed for a table.

“You had someone check my work?” McGee demanded loudly. Clearly he hadn’t gotten that far into the file because he had his indignation going strong. “I can’t believe you.” Abandoning the coffee counter without ordering, he came over to the table Tony had chosen. “What sort of power trip are you on? You pulled in the FBI? Did you even have the director’s permission?”

“Nope,” Tony admitted easily. “But then I’ve picked up one or two tricks from Gibbs, like rule 18. I’ll ask for forgiveness for my sins, but I suggest you keep reading.”

“Why? So you can prove that someone else found the damn money you were so hot to find? Christ, Tony, no one expects you to be Gibbs. You don’t need a confession, a smoking gun, and a bow tied around every case, okay?” McGee practically threw himself into the chair across from Tony.

“You done?”

McGee slammed the file down on the table. “Yeah, I am. Get over this inferiority complex you have, Tony. You don’t need to be Gibbs.”

“Read the file.”

“I’m going to work.” McGee went to stand, but Tony slammed his hand down on the table, startling him before he could rise.

“I’m not Gibbs, which is why I’m on the verge of filing official insubordination paperwork that Gibbs didn’t even know where to find. Your supervisor has ordered you to read a file with paperwork relating to a case and you will follow that order or you will suffer a very black and white charge of insubordination.”

McGee stared at Tony, and there was this huge part of Tony that wanted to smile, to say it had all been a joke. That way Tony would never need to damage his friendship with Tim. Sure, it wasn’t a great friendship, not now anyway, but Tony liked Tim and his gut churned at having to play the heavy. However, the alternative was that more suspects like Renny Grant could end up getting railroaded. Tony wouldn’t purchase his own peace of mind at that cost. And if he found out about Renny by accident, that was just one more reason for him to step up to the leadership plate now before something horrible happened. So he was playing Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo and he couldn’t afford to break his cover.

McGee reached for the folder, a scowl on his face. After one last unhappy glare in Tony’s direction, McGee settled down to read.

The worst part of all of this was that McGee wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. He just honestly thought Tony was being unreasonable and that Tony’s instincts weren’t worth following. Tony considered that the team just might be too broken to put back together. When Gibbs came back, and Tony knew he would, Gibbs was going to head slap Tony into the next century.

McGee flipped a page, and sat up a little. His gaze darted across the paper and he flipped faster and faster. “Oh my God,” he started saying softly at first and then louder as he continued reading. “Oh my God. Oh God. I didn’t—” McGee looked up with anguished eyes. “I never thought… If I’d had any idea.” McGee stopped, his mouth still open.

“I know Tim. You didn’t mean for any of this to happen, but we need to talk before Director Shepard gets that report.”

“I’m dead.” McGee’s fingers twitched as though desperate for something to do. “She’s going to kill me for missing this.”

“No, she won’t.”

“Tony, you don’t get it. I should have followed the money. You asked me to keep going, and I decided I’d done enough work. Director Shepard is going to kill me.”

“No, she’ll kill me,” Tony snapped.

McGee’s gaze snapped up. “What? Why would she blame you?”

And that was the perfect example of what was wrong. Tim still saw them as equals: equally competent, equally culpable. Tony leaned forward. “She would blame me because I am your boss. It is my responsibility to make sure that screw ups like this don’t happen. Because I have ten years of experience to your two, I should have done more.”

McGee reared back in the chair and stared at Tony like he’d grown a second head.

Tony kept his tone neutral. “When I asked you to keep tracking the money, why did you tell me that it wasn’t necessary?”

“We had a witness. The money went through Grant’s account. It seemed like overkill.” McGee threw up his hands. “Tony, now is not the time to try to play boss. We can talk to the director about this together.”

Tony grimaced. “Every time you offer to help, I start thinking one of us needs to transfer off the team. We aren’t equals and we won’t do anything together. I am the senior supervisory agent whose name is on that report.” Tony forced the words out even though he wanted nothing more than for the two of them to be teammates dealing with a cranky Gibbs. But that world was gone. Gibbs had ripped that away by leaving with nothing more than a “you’ll do” and Tony was moving past being hurt by that betrayal and quickly developing a good case of rage.

Despite that, Tony had to take charge because Morgan had been right about one thing—a failure to fix this was nothing less than negligence. The next time Tony looked Morgan or Garcia in the eye, he wanted to be able to say he’d stepped up and acted like a leader. He wanted that more than he wanted to be friends with Tim, and so he braced himself to dish out ugly truth.

“As your supervisor, I never ordered you to continue the computer search. That is my mistake. Now I need to figure out where we stopped communicating well and I need to make sure it doesn’t happen again, or we cannot work together on a team.”

McGee leaned forward. “Tony, you’re freaking me out a little,” he whispered.

Tony ignored the comment. “Why did you disagree with my request that you continue searching?”

When McGee looked around the room nervously, Tony braced himself for something truly damning. “I had somewhere to be,” McGee finally said, which seemed a little anticlimactic for all the nervous tics he was displaying.

“Where?”

“That’s personal!”

Tony leaned back. “How can I trust your judgment if you think going on a date is more important than a case?”

McGee’s expression turned dark. “Oh, that’s rich, Tony. You’re going to accuse me of womanizing? Seriously? Have you even looked in a mirror lately?”

Tony stared at McGee, and slowly twin red spots started appearing on McGee’s cheeks. Only then did Tony speak. “I have never left work because of a date, but you’re right that my various complaints about having to cancel dates were unprofessional. Your criticism is duly noted. Now, did you leave the Grant case because of a date or were you simply so unimpressed by my request that you didn’t think it important?”

“I thought you were trying too hard to be perfect,” McGee said.

Tony let the silence continue. There was more to the story, and Tony had more patience than McGee. Ten years of stake outs and interrogation rooms had given him skills McGee couldn’t match, just like McGee had technical and computer skills Tony had no hope of developing. McGee started fidgeting after three minutes. At six minutes, his neck was red and the blush was deepening on his face. At eight minutes, he cracked.

“I’ve been doing some work on the side, and I had something to finish, but I would never leave an active investigation. I thought you were trying to prove you were as good as Gibbs, and another night I probably would have stayed just to make you happy, but I was cutting it close on an important deadline.”

Tony wasn’t sure where to even begin with that mess, but he was undercover, so he let that persona he’d created take over. Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo calmly and efficiently got the job done, and Very Special Agent Tony would go home and process the fact that Tim had zero respect for his investigative skills later. “Have you filed paperwork with personnel letting them know the nature of your additional income?”

That seemed to flummox McGee. “What?”

“There are policies about outside work, Agent McGee. Have you filed the correct paperwork with the personnel department?”

“Um, no.”

Tony nodded. “Do that this morning. Also set aside four hours this afternoon to work on SFA paperwork. As of today, you will do all paperwork related to the SFA position or you will use the four hour window to write Director Shepard a letter resigning your promotion so that you have more time for outside projects. It goes without saying that you need to make sure to file your paperwork with the personnel office before you give the director anything referencing that work.”

McGee stared at Tony with his mouth open. “What? We have the Anderson case.”

“Which will be solved by noon. It’s not a difficult case, McGee, and how your time is allotted in the office is at my discretion not yours. Those four hours this afternoon are non-negotiable.”

McGee crossed his arms. “So I can do that entire mountain of paperwork you didn’t finish before Gibbs left?”

“It doesn’t matter what was or wasn’t done when Agent Gibbs resigned,” Tony said emphasizing the last word. In reality he had neglected some paperwork because he’d been chasing down terrorists, but that was the nature of the SFA position. Some months he had lots of down time, and other months it felt like he was constantly racing the clock and working so late he didn’t bother going home. “You are SFA, and all SFA paperwork is your responsibility.”

McGee started to shake his head. “Oh no. You do everything you should have done up to the day my promotion came through, and then I’ll take over.”

“Is that your final answer, and before you say ‘yes,’ keep two things in mind. First, I will write you up. Refusing to do a task as directed by a supervisor is over the line. Second, there is every chance that Director Shepard will either fire or transfer me when she sees this report.” Tony actually figured that she would be more upset about his refusal to go undercover as DiNardo, but McGee didn’t deserve to get dragged into that clusterfuck. Tony still felt guilty that Garcia was involved and texting him every two hours to make sure he was safe and not going after arms dealers by himself.

“She wouldn’t,” McGee was quick to say, but he sounded unsure. At least that was a start. McGee was beginning to understand the depth of the shit they were all swimming in.

“She would,” Tony said. “She may demote me back to the SFA position, in which case you will have done all my paperwork. It’s unfair, and you really don’t have a choice because I’m your boss now and I’m ordering you to do it. Her other option is to put me on probation and transfer me to a team that handles less sensitive caseloads.” Tony got the feeling Morgan was actually in favor of that. He talked like Tony needed a mentor, and while Tony would put his investigative skills up against anyone, he was starting to think he might need more support to develop comparable leadership abilities.

“McGee,” Tony said as gently as he could, “you’re damn good with computers and you learn new skills faster than anyone I’ve worked with. One day you are going to be one of the best agents in NCIS. But you aren’t that good right now. If I’m off the team, the new lead is going to expect a lot. We have to get you up to speed on as much of this as possible before that happens. If you run to me asking for help filing the month-end reports or asking for names with the local LEOs because you don’t have contacts, that’s going to put your promotion in danger. Technically we shouldn’t have counted your time at Norfolk as field experience, so a new team lead might decide that your lack of experience doesn’t even qualify you for the job.”

“You’re talking like everything is going to change.” McGee looked truly upset now, so maybe he got it.

“I’m giving it 60-40% odds that it will, and those odds are not in our favor. We didn’t just fuck up a case, we proved that we are incapable of working together efficiently. Our teamwork resulted in a clusterfuck of epic proportions.” Tony tapped the file. “The program the FBI used, do we have access to it?”

“Financial crimes would,” McGee admitted after a second.

“And I didn’t ask that question before closing the file,” Tony said unhappily. “One last question. Did you tell Abby that she should refuse to check your work?”

“What? No!” The indignation was real, but then Tim slowly started sagging. “Although I might have said that you make me feel like a kid who can’t be trusted to walk down the street without holding his mother’s hand.”

Tony winced. That was not a ringing endorsement of Tony’s leadership style.

“I resented you for making me feel like that, because that’s how Gibbs used to make me feel,” McGee quickly added. “We used to get along better, and I didn’t like that I got out from under Gibbs only to have you start hovering the way Gibbs did.”

“And yet you never refused to do work he asked you to do,” Tony said. “And if you had, he never would have accepted ‘no’ for an answer.”

McGee didn’t have an answer for that. Tony stood and reclaimed the damning file. “Do not brief Ziva on this discussion. Tell her that personnel is all over you about screwing up paperwork. Tell her about your second job even if you don’t trust me enough to tell me what it is.”

“It’s not like that!” McGee protested.

Tony held up a hand. His new cover persona wouldn’t care about McGee’s motives—only his results. “It’s not my business, but at twelve-thirty sharp, you will be at your desk, lunch finished, ready to do every bit of SFA paperwork. Make sure you take notes so you can complete it all without me next month. If you want me to arrange an informal barbeque and invite some of my law enforcement contacts, let me know and I’ll introduce you around. Between the Anderson case and this, do you have enough work to keep you busy while I deal with the director?”

McGee stood. “Tony, we’re team. You don’t have to be like this.”

Tony sighed as he studied his probie. “Look at the mess we made Tim. We both have to change or we’re not giving the victims the justice they deserve. Now stay away from Abby’s lab until I have a chance to talk to her, and like I said, do not read Ziva in on this situation.”

McGee nodded mutely and Tony headed out the door. Once he was in the street he realized he’d left his coffee behind, but he was too damn tired to care. Being Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo took more effort than Tony had anticipated.


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