[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

The Team Redux

"Hey, Probie, how are you doing with the money trail?" Tony asked as he came down the stairs. Verbally sparring with Shephard had felt good in part because the old Tony—the class clown—never would have done it. Tony felt like he was shedding a too-small coat and just starting to really enjoy the freedom.

Tim looked up from his computer. "You've only been gone forty minutes," he complained.

Well his resolve to do better hadn't lasted long. Tony stopped in front of Tim's desk and stared at him. After a few seconds, Tim's face started to turn red.

"I'm still working on identifying the terminals used to alter the logs," Tim said. "Whoever made the changes knew the system. I asked Garcia to send me the software she used to identify the altered dates. I'm making some headway."

Tony nodded. That was a better answer. "You don't have a lot of experience with banking records. Get someone from financial crimes if you need it." Tony could see in the way Tim pressed his lips together that he didn't want to do that, and he was fighting an urge to argue about it. Gibbs had given Tim a chance on a field team, but he had also encouraged Tim to become too insular. As a cop, Tony had turned to anyone with resources to help. The problem was that Gibbs was just so damn good that he rarely needed the help, but the rest of the universe lacked the ability to intimidate a suspect into telling the truth. It was funny, but when Tony had tried to use Gibbs' tactics, suspects usually laughed at him. But the most hard-nosed marine took one look at Gibbs and decided that Gibbs wasn't bluffing.

Tony went to his desk and secured the disciplinary paperwork he'd picked up from Cynthia in his top drawer. "Tim, with me," Tony said as he headed toward the hall that led to the conference rooms. He didn't look to see how Tim was taking the order because he didn't want to see it if Tim rolled his eyes.

Tony got to the conference room a good minute before Tim. "I really am working on this as hard as I can," Tim said as he came down the hall. Tony gestured toward the room. "Seriously. I will ask for help if I hit a wall, but this is going to take time," Tim said as he headed into the room.

Ignoring Tim's insecure defensiveness, Tony said, "I took a job with unit three of the BAU." He closed the conference room door and turned to find Tim staring at him open-mouthed. "Way to look clueless McFishface," Tony said drily. He didn't need someone else acting like he couldn't handle a job in a top unit.

Tim snapped his mouth shut. “The BAU? The FBI's BAU? Seriously?”

“Consider how offensive your tone is before you say anything else,” Tony said. “I will only be your boss for two more weeks, but I can still file a reprimand.”

Tim glared. “Way to be insecure, Tony.”

Tony crossed his arms. “Really? And if Gibbs were here announcing that he had taken a position at the FBI would you use that tone?”

“Gibbs at the FBI? Yeah, yeah I would.”

“To his face for the same reason?” Tony asked.

Tim had the grace to blush. He knew the difference, and trying to gaslight Tony wasn’t cool. “It's just that they're profilers and doctors of psychology and you're more of a working in the field agent.”

“I can work in the field and still have a lot of hours in psychology. In fact, I do have a lot of psychology coursework. When I first started getting interested in the criminal mind, I took a number of courses in adolescent deviance offered as part of my PE degree.”

Tim gave him an incredulous look.

“Always check, Probie. You assumed a PE degree had electives in basket weaving, but a hell of a lot of coaches work with underprivileged and delinquent youth. I've been offered a job leading a field team for the crimes against children division.”

“But you don't even like children.”


Tim opened his mouth and then closed it again without saying anything. Tony raised his eyebrows and waited. Eventually Tim threw his hands up. “And I don't know. You are springing all this on me, and my brain is a little stuck. I mean, I know you’re good at your job. If you weren’t, Renny Grant would be on trial right now. So yeah, you’re good.”

“That's not the only case I've solved in ten years,” Tony said dryly. Either he was irrationally irritated with Tim or everything the man said had an undercurrent of disrespect. Tony was good because he solved one case as opposed to being good because he had brought down gun runners and terrorists. He was one of the youngest detectives in Baltimore and had completed undercover assignments that would have chewed up and spit out other cops. Sure, Tony had regrets and mistakes in his past, some of which haunted him, but he was a damn good investigator and agent.

“Of course not. I just mean that you were right when the rest of us were wrong, so you have better instincts.”

“I have more experience and more training in criminology and criminal psychology,” Tony corrected him.

“Are you going to take everything I say the wrong way?” Tim asked without hiding his aggravation.

Tony sighed. “Maybe. I’m still struggling because as much as I failed as a leader, you failed to have my back. You dismissed my concerns and had me convinced that I was being an unreasonable bastard for asking you to do your job.”

“God, I know. I kept expecting the director to call me up and suspend me for three days.”

“Not her call. I work for her, but you’re under me. I should have ordered you to finish that search.”

“And I should have done it without the order, but that’s water under the bridge. I know we can work together. I know I can change my attitude, so you don’t have to go taking a job with kids.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ll be working with adults.”

Tim threw his hands up before collapsing into a chair. “You know what I mean. You don’t like kids, and you’re going to be in the crimes against children unit. That can’t be a comfortable fit.”

“It actually is, Probie. Again, you have to stop assuming. Why do you think I hate kids?”

“Um, because you always say you hate kids and you make me do the interviews with them.”

Tony sighed. He was uncomfortable around most kids because they were spoiled. They didn’t know what really mattered in life, and they assumed the world revolved around them. Tony had given up that delusion when he’d outgrown the sailor suit his mother used to show off her picture perfect son. The suit and the illusion that a child could be perfect had both gone out with the garbage. Clearly Tim hadn’t noticed that pattern, though. Of course it wasn’t easy since Gibbs tended to hover over any children. “I know how to work with young victims, Tim. And they deserve justice as much as the military victims we serve now. I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”

Tim looked down at the table. “You’re looking forward to working with a new team.”

“Maybe a little,” Tony admitted. The look of shock on Tim’s face made it clear he had expected Tony to reassure him. “I’m looking forward to being myself without having to live in Gibbs’ shadow or act a certain way because that’s what people expect. You never saw through my masks, Tim, and that worries me. You’re an investigator. Don’t take everything at face value. Now, get back to work.”

“Tony.” Tim’s voice was colored with guilt.

Tony held up a hand to stop him. “Nothing more to say. You have work to do, and I have people to tell because within a day, this is going to be all over the damn building.”

“Oh God. Abby.” Tim turned ashen.

“Yeah, exactly,” Tony agreed. “But first I need to tell Ziva.” They hadn’t worked together as long, so Tony didn’t know how she might take it.

“I’ll go get coffee so you have some privacy,” Tim offered. At first Tony didn’t understand why he felt the need, but then it occurred to him that Ziva would probably refuse to go to a conference room without Tony explaining the reason why he wanted to talk to her privately, and that would make the conference room moot. Ziva was an interesting one.

“Thanks,” Tony said with a smile. Tim nodded and headed out. If Tony had decided to stay, Tony figured they could have worked it out. At least half their problem was that Tony had worn his clown mask for so long that it was indistinguishable from the real Tony DiNozzo. Sure, Aaron Hotchner could see under the illusion, but Tim wasn’t a profiler. Tony resented Tim for not noticing that there was more to him, but Tim didn’t have the experience, the psychology background or the undercover work to recognize a cover story when he saw it. Tony needed to forgive and never forget the lesson he’d learned during this clusterfuck.

And one of the lessons he’d learned was to fix his problems. That meant telling Ziva before heading down to deal with Abby in person. He was not looking forward to that drama. He nodded at Cooper as he headed back to his desk. Ziva was clicking through something, a look of utter disinterest on her face. Tony had thought she might volunteer to work with Michelle on handgun qualifying, but she hadn’t shown any interest and Tony hadn’t wanted to order her to go. After all, Michelle didn’t deserve a resentful Mossad officer hanging over her shoulder.

“Can we talk?” Tony asked. He grabbed his chair and pulled it around the desk so he could sit closer to her.

She raised an eyebrow. “You are talking now, yes?”

“Yes, yes I am.” Tony took a deep breath and tried to figure out where to start. Eventually Ziva turned her chair and started to study him curiously.

“Talking requires talk.”

“And again, you’re right. You’re a part of the team—my team—so I wanted to tell you that I’ve taken an offer to run a field team for the BAU.”

Ziva narrowed her eyes. “The BAU?”

“The Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI. I’m going to work on becoming a profiler, and in the meantime, work with profilers and run a unit.”

“I do not understand. You failed at your position, earned a suspension, and yet a more prestigious organization has recruited you?” The way Ziva lined up all those facts, they did sound strange. “Is this not illogical?”

“Well apparently the FBI feels I have skills to bring to the team.”

“That is a suggestion that we did not respect your skills, yes?” Ziva asked. “Despite what you might think, I was not opposed to your leadership. I would prefer you to stay.”

Of all the things she could have said, that was the one Tony had not prepared for. “Really? Because you did a good job of not doing your job.”

“I never refused an order,” Ziva said in an offended voice.

“You never carried my orders out the same way you carried out Gibbs' orders.”

“Everyone said Gibbs was unreasonable. If I am to work for you, is it not in my best interest to ensure that you do not become equally as unreasonable?” Ziva clearly admired her own logic. She had a self-satisfied look on her face that nearly drove Tony to homicide. She had intentionally manipulated and undermined him in order to improve her working conditions.

“So, your minimal effort had nothing to do with the fact that you have no respect for me?”

She shrugged. “I would not say I have no respect. Your investigative skills are superior although in other areas you lack necessary talents.”

“That is what we called damned with faint praise.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that I have ten years of experience, and you damn well should have respected me. You should have talked to me about your work effort instead of trying to manipulate me into giving you a lighter workload.”

“It is difficult to respect someone who plays boy.”

Tony had no idea if she meant he was a playboy or that she was complaining that he acted like a child, but he found he didn't care. "A good investigator would have seen through my facade."

“I am well aware of your skills.” Ziva’s sharp tone made it clear that she resented his implication that she had missed something. “However, in Mossad, we do not allow such insincere or immature behavior. I find it unbecoming.”

Tony stood and pushed his chair back to his desk. He was not going to get through to her, not ever. She thought of him as a man child. She might flirt with him, undermine him, or partner with him, but he would never get an ounce of deference or respect out of her. “Well good for you. If you keep talking about Mossad, someone is going to suggest you go back there if you like it so much.”

“I did not say I wished to return there.”

Tony sat behind his desk. “Then stop trying to compare everything and find a way to be an investigator instead of a Mossad agent.”

Ziva bolted out of her chair. “You are being unpleasant because you do resent that McGee and I made you look less than competent.” She stood in front of his desk and crossed her arms.

“I made myself look less than competent. I'm being unpleasant because your choices contributed to Renny Grant nearly going to prison.”

“I did not do the computer search.”

Tony leaped to his feet. A little voice in the back of his head whispered about all the people who were watching and listening, but he had crossed some line into a land of no longer giving a fuck. “No, but you were part of the general attitude around here. You encouraged McGee's bad behavior. You forgot that this job is not about us, it's not about what's easy for us, it's not about having a reasonable boss or predictable hours. This job is about victims. You have to do whatever is best for them.”

“You often complained that Gibbs was unreasonable,” Ziva said in an accusatory tone.

“He was,” Tony nearly shouted. “I still did my damn job. And yes, sometimes what is best for victims is having an investigator who has gone home and gotten enough sleep to think straight. But I will tell you right now, Ziva, if I stayed, I wouldn't have continued to put up with your attitude.”

“It is easy to say one will change. I do not think it will be that easy for you to put off this boy thinking.”

“Change is hard, and that's why I'm leaving. But when the new boss comes in, just remember what I said about making this about the victims.” Tony turned to walk out, and he found a good quarter of the investigators all looking at him. Most of them stared with wide eyes, but Cassie Yates gave him a thumbs up. Great. With the audience they had up here, Tony had milliseconds to get to Abby and talk to her before the scuttlebutt reached her. He kept his chin up and tried to avoid making eye contact as he hurried toward the stairs.
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