[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 Five: Abby and the Minor Meltdown

“Hey, Abby.” Tony walked into the church of the almighty Gibbs. Pictures of the man were set up on the wall of the lab like a shrine. Tony had seen one or two set ups like this one in the homes of serial killers.

Abby whirled around. “Tony! What are you doing here? Do you have another case? More evidence? Gimme! My babies are ready, willing, and able to hunt down all doers of evil.” She was so joyful, and lately that wasn’t common. Tony had to fight his own instinct to smile back and pretend that everything was okay. Honestly, he probably would have except he now had evidence of his culpability in nearly convicting an innocent man.

“No new case,” Tony said. He wasn’t sure how to transition into the rest.

She gave him a little frown. “Then why are you here? You must have closed the Anderson case by now. If we have any more evidence against him, my lab is going to collapse under the weight of it and we’ll have a black hole down here.”

Tony crossed the room and caught her by the hands. “I need to talk to you, and I need you to put on your all-science, all-about-the-facts lab coat for this.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Tony, what’s wrong?” Abby squeezed his hands.

“Just promise me you’ll read the whole thing before reacting.”

She pulled away and gave him a suspicious look. “What? Why?” She made a grab for the file Tony was carrying under his arm, but he jerked it away before she could claim it.

“No, you don’t get this until you make that promise and pinky swear it.”

Abby planted her hands on her hips, which was never a good sign. “Hand over the… whatever it is you have.”

Tony mentally girded his loins. “No. I need your word.”

Abby went from hands on hips to arms crossed. “I’m not making a promise like that without knowing what you’re asking me to read. Now stop being annoying.”

The direct approach wasn’t working. After a second, Tony admitted, “You’re going to read about how I screwed up a case.” Oh, Tony knew that McGee and Abby both had their hands in this mess, and he resented that neither of them had gone the extra mile for him the way they would have for Gibbs, but in the end, he was the lead agent. He could have ordered Abby to check McGee’s computer work, but again, he’d been too afraid of damaging friendships. To be honest, he was afraid she’d pick McGee and he’d have to face the fact that Tony DiNozzo was not nearly as important to others as he liked to pretend.

Abby’s face contorted with sympathy. “Oh Tony. You’re new. Sometimes things happen.” She closed in on him as if to hug him, and Tony backed away fast. Then he looked over that the shrine to Gibbs plastered over a good quarter of the lab.

“Did it happen to Gibbs?”

She rolled her eyes. “Well of course not to Gibbs, but he’s Gibbs. You’re like Trainee Gibbs, and you’ll one day be as great, but for now, you’re going to make mistakes sometimes. I make mistakes sometimes. It’s okay.” Her encouragement was going to drive him to therapy.

“Abby.” Tony sighed. He had no idea how to be undercover Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo with her, and if he tried, he was going to hurt her feelings. Worse, she would emotionally gut him and leave his body out as a warning to future team leads to not fuck with Abby. The woman was like a big teddy bear stuffed with napalm and shrapnel. “I need you to look over these results. Promise to read the whole report before you say one word.”

She stood up a little straighter and drew a cross over her heart. “I swear I will read every word, and I’m guessing that afterward I’m going to take you out for drinks so I can remind you that you are still Very Special Agent Tony and awesomer than the awesomest of awesome superheroes.” She then held out her pinkie.

Tony solemnly pinkie shook before handing over Garcia’s report. While Garcia’s name wasn’t on it, it was from the FBI, and Abby knew her friend’s writing style. She might figure it out, so Tony pulled out his phone and started texting while Abby read.

--McGee is chagrined, he texted.

He got back a series of symbols, and it took Tony a second to realize they were a narrowed eyed side look via emoji. Clearly Garcia was not impressed with chagrin. Abby’s frown was reaching epic proportions and she backed up to sit at her evidence table. When she looked up, Tony held up his pinky to remind her that she’d given her word. She huffed and went back to reading.

--Abby knows I got FBI help

--Team leads do that.

Garcia definitely wasn’t showing much sympathy. Tony hoped that didn’t damage Garcia’s friendship with Abby. The two women enjoyed each other’s company and Tony would never want to make either of his girls unhappy.

--You okay? Garcia texted.


--That bad?

--Waiting for explosion

--Keep fire extinguisher handy

Tony didn’t have an answer for that, so he stared at the text without responding. It was so weird to be relying on two FBI agents for reality checks, but lately it was as if he couldn’t talk to his own team without seeing this twisted up version of himself. Maybe he played the class clown, but he was a damn good investigator. But every word that came out of Tim or Ziva or Abby made him start to question that. He had actually signed off on the Renny case even though his gut had told him something was off. It hadn’t helped that Shepard wanted him available to work on her undercover op, that’s for sure. At least she had respect for his abilities. Either that or she didn’t care if he died in a shootout between the CIA and arms dealers. The jury was still out.

Abby’s frown had deepened and she was reading faster now. Tony felt like he was sitting on a bomb and watching the timer tick down.

When Abby turned over the last page, she looked over at him, horror on her face. “Oh poor Timmy. What are we going to do? We can’t let the director see this.”

“What?” That was so far outside what Tony had anticipated that he didn’t even know how to answer.

Abby clutched the folder to her chest. “You’re the team lead now. You have to channel your inner Gibbs and protect your team. Oh God, and we can’t let Tim see this. Well, maybe we’ll have to, but only after we build up to it slow, and it’s good that the FBI analyst didn’t find the money because we can have Tim do that part and it will help him get his mojo back. Tim can’t be mojoless. You have to fix this.”

Tony stared at her, his mouth open.

“Tony!” she cried, her voice wavering with emotion. “You have to save Timmy.”

Tony reached some critical mass that he hadn’t known he was approaching. Rage was a hot poker sinking into his skin and searing his flesh. “I’m far more concerned about Captain Grant—the man sitting in a prison cell right now.”

Abby reared back. “Are you suggesting I don’t care about Grant?”

“I don’t know. All you’re talking about is McGee.”

Abby punched him in the arm. “Because I trust you to make sure Captain Grant doesn’t go to prison, and I’m worried about McGee. Don’t you dare make it sound like I’m a monster who doesn’t care about justice. I swear, I don’t know you anymore.”

Tony felt something inside break. She was worried about Tim—she wanted Grant freed—but so far she had shown zero interest in him. Either she was just like McGee and never had and never would think of him as a team lead or their friendship didn’t mean much. Tony’s head suggested the first was true, but his heart worried over the second. “If you were so worried about McGee, why didn’t you do anything to head off this disaster?”

“Me?” Abby sounded indignant.

“Yes, you. You were the one who refused to do this work that I had to take to the FBI.”

“So if I don’t double check everyone, then it’s my fault if there’s a mistake in processing evidence?” Abby pressed her lips together in an angry line.

“If the team lead asks you to check the processing and you refuse, then yes. You refused to do this work. Worse, you never went to McGee and said, hey, your team lead really wants this computer work done. Maybe you should take a couple of hours and do it.” Tony’s voice had grown louder until he was nearly shouting. He took a quick step back and slowed his breathing. Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo. He had to channel the part.

Abby’s face was ashen, but she had twin red spots in her cheeks, which was a clear sign she was angry. Angry, not remorseful or regretful or even chagrined. “Ever since Gibbs left, you run around and make everyone feel bad about themselves. I don’t like to say that because I love you, but it’s true. You’re focused on being negative and I’ve tried to stay out of it because I know you’re hurting with Gibbs leaving us. He was like a father to you, and that means I’ve tried to be patient, but if you don’t stop criticizing everyone, then people aren’t going to like you very much.”

Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo. Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo. Tony chanted that in his head before he answered. “What you perceive as negative, I perceive as directing my subordinates to complete work that should have been done correctly the first time. Did you or did you not refuse to complete the computer forensics work I requested?”

“Because you were being negative and making Timmy feel all insecure. He was stuttering again.”

“So I should ignore a possible miscarriage of justice because my senior field agent has hurt feelings?”

Abby pointed her finger at him. “Don’t you dare turn this around on me or Tim. You have no idea how devastated he’s going to be. We have to figure out how to talk to him about this. Then again, maybe you shouldn’t. You’re all negative Nancy, and he’ll need more positive energies around him.”

Tony rarely got angry, but right now he was using every bit of self-control and every undercover skill he possessed to avoid doing or saying something completely unprofessional. Abby was telling him that he had no right to even speak to the agents on his own team. There was no way she would say that to any other team lead, but she was so focused on Tim and his fragile feelings that she couldn’t see anything else. Tony might love Abby, but right now he also hated her a little bit.

“He’s not as incompetent as you’re painting him. He was upset; however, he also understands his mistake and he’s committed to being a better SFA.” At least Tony hoped that was true. If Abby and Ziva got to him, they would probably convince him that Tony was the center of all his problems and he’d be fine with any other team lead. Newsflash, he wouldn’t be. Gibbs wouldn’t have put up with this behavior for one day.

“You told him?” Abby sounded horrified.

“I ordered him to read that same file.”

The bright red marks on Abby’s cheeks got a little redder.

“But I didn’t write Tim up despite the fact that he admitted that he didn’t do the additional work because he had something else to do that night. Instead I’ll take the blame for this. I didn’t order Tim to stay and finish. I didn’t order you to do a second forensics examination of the computer. I asked both of you for those things, but I didn’t sit you down and point out that as a team lead I have every right to assign the work I want done on a case. And because I didn’t make it an order, I will take every bit of blame for this.”

Tony felt like he was putting his soul out on a table to bleed, but Abby rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic. You aren’t the computer person, so no one is going to blame you.”

“I’m the team lead. I’m responsible for everything my team does, and the responsibility for this does land on my doorstep. Director Shepard very well may suspend or demote me.”

“No she wouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because Tim made the mistake. Now stop being so selfish and focus on protecting your team. We should have Tim go back and use this information to recreate the decrypting. Then we could say that Tim reconsidered your request and found this on his own.”

“So we should falsify federal evidence,” Tony said flatly.

Abby punched his arm again, this time harder. “I would never do that. This would be more like a replication study, and in a replication study, both sets of data are equally valid.”

Tony detoured around Abby and picked up the file. “If you keep treating Tim like he’s some little boy, he’ll never develop the balls he needs in this job.”

“Wait, where are you going? We haven’t decided what do to about Tim.”

Tony reached the door and turned around. “I have a meeting with the director. At this meeting, she will rip me a new asshole for being unable to run my own team. She may or may not demote me. She may or may not suspend me. I don’t think she’ll fire me, but I’ve been wrong before. Meanwhile, Tim is finishing the Anderson case and working on SFA paperwork. If you want to help him, stay away from him until Director Shepard decides how angry she is. If you want to sabotage his career, go running up there and in front of Ziva and every other agent offer to protect him from all the bad things in life that he can’t handle. I’m sure Ziva will get a good laugh out of that even if the other agents don’t. And after Director Shepard comes down on my head, don’t show up and offer your sympathy because I’m too angry at you to want it.”

“Tony DiNozzo, you’re just being mean!” Abby said with fury in her voice.

“Yep,” Tony agreed. He didn’t know how to be nice and get the job done, so he couldn’t disagree. As he left he heard the common refrain that if Gibbs were here things would be different.  Tony headed out the door and checked his watch. He had twenty minutes before he had to speak to the director.

By the time he reached the bullpen, Tim was already on the phone, his face bright red. “No, seriously, it’s okay.” Tim gave Tony a ‘help me’ look that Tony ignored. Supervisory Special Agent DiNozzo did not get involved in stupidity.

He stopped in front of Ziva’s desk and dropped the file in front of her. “Read fast, we only have a few minutes.”

She gave him an odd look, but then she opened it and started reading. In some ways she would be easiest because she saved her worst machinations for when he wasn’t around. He still had no idea what her game was. Sometimes he thought she got off on playing emotional and sexual games with people. Other times he thought she was so wounded herself that she didn’t know any other way to relate to human beings. It was rare that he couldn’t get a read on someone, but in the end, he supposed it didn’t matter.

“Abby, no!” Tim said loudly. “I’m not the one to feel sorry for.” Tim covered the mouthpiece of the phone and looked at Tony. “Could you—”

“Nope,” Tony said. He’d already fought and lost that battle.

Tim cringed, and part of Tony wished he knew what Abby was saying. Part of him wished he could move to Alaska and take up ice farming.

“So, Renny Grant is not guilty. Are we taking the case back?” Ziva asked.

“I don’t know. I just know the director will not be pleased with us.”

Ziva closed the file. “I was not involved with the inadequately processed evidence.” She glanced over toward Tim. Luckily he was too busy fielding Abby’s crazy to notice his partner shoving him under the bus.

“No, that was Tim, and I was the one who failed to give a direct order that he should dig deeper. Clearly Tim and I need to make changes in our handling of cases.”

Ziva looked smug. Tony had no idea if he was still going to be the MCRT lead in an hour, but if he was, he was going to put himself in a better position as a leader. When he saw Morgan next, he was going to be able to say he'd taken steps to fix the mess he'd helped create.

“So, from now on when I tell you to bag and tag out to eighty feet, you will not refuse, you will not cite the standards from the handbook, and you will not tell me I am unreasonable. The quality of your field work will return to the level it was at when Gibbs was here, and if you come up short on another bag and tag, I will personally stand over you as you do a full fingertip search on your knees. I need to be more authoritative, so this is your official warning. I am the boss until Director Shepard says otherwise. Every time you disagree, I will write you up until you either transfer and are someone else’s problem or until you learn to respect chain of command.”

Ziva stood, her face dangerous in its lack of emotions. “So you plan to be an aristocrat?”

Tony took a second to run that through his Ziva filter.

“I don’t plan on marrying a princess, but I do plan on turning into an autocrat, although dictator would be the more common term. Tim, do you have any problems following my orders?”

Tim looked up and then hit the mute button. “Honestly? I probably will screw up and forget you’re the boss. But maybe you could stick with verbal reprimands until I can get myself turned around. I don’t need a stack of written reprimands in my file. Are you sure you can’t talk to Abby?”

Tony snorted. “I already did. That’s why she’s that mad.”

“And you think you can tell us what to do?” Ziva demanded. Tony took the file back from her desk.

“As long as I’m the boss? Yes. Yes, I do. When I’m not the boss, someone else will come in here and tell you what to do. That’s what it means to be on a team where you’re not the team lead. And since my name is already Mudd after nearly playing a part in convicting an innocent man, I can write you up fifty times a day without looking any more inept as a leader than I already do." Tony turned his attention to McGee. "Tim, you’re the SFA, please remember that and don’t let forensics techs take all your time when you have work to do.”

Tim's eyes got big. “Right. Okay. I can do that.” McGee looked at the phone like it was a snake that might bite him. He was a federal agent and the SFA on the top team in the building. He’d figure it out or he wouldn’t, but Tony had other business. He headed upstairs feeling like he was walking to his own funeral.
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