Disclaimer: I own an empty soda can, but it isn't in the story.
Spoilers: This season. All of it. I refuse to rewatch every episode looking for the 7-15 seconds when 'Le Grenouille' or 'La Grand Oui' or, as I like to call it, 'Le Grand Season Finale' is mentioned. I don't know anything; I just suspect. And I was gonna watch the whole season anyway, DPB; no need to torture me in the meantime.
Summary: Tony and Jen chitchat about his secret mission. You know, the one that everyone in the agency knows about except the ones we care about. Seriously, 'Danielle the MTAC girl' gets to be in on it, but the super agent and the ninja spy are out in the cold?
"What can I do for you this morning, Agent DiNozzo?" Director Shepard leaned back in her chair as Tony entered her office unannounced.
He stood in front of her desk and hooked his fingers in the belt loops of his jeans. He cleared his throat and bobbed his head nonchalantly to a non-existent beat. "Been nice out lately, huh?"
"Yes, it has been unseasonably warm," she replied, keeping her voice noncommittal. She had asked a lot of him in the past few months; at the very least, she owed him a few minutes of her time to let him work up to whatever he had really come to discuss.
"A lot of rain in the forecast for next week, though." It seemed like it was going to take him a while.
She smiled at his awkwardness. This was not a Tony DiNozzo she'd seen before; he was almost squirming under her scrutiny. "I'll make sure I bring my umbrella."
"I wouldn't recommend it." His eyes shifted around her office before focusing on a point somewhere out the window. "The, uh, weatherman also said it was gonna be really windy."
"I'll keep that in mind." She leaned forward and folded her hands on her desk. "But you didn't come up here just to talk about the weather."
He sighed expressively. "I have…I mean with the…There's…"
"A problem?" she suggested.
"Oh yeah," he said under his breath. He resumed at a normal volume, "Not necessarily a problem. More of…an issue."
She waited expectantly as he scratched his head. He eventually stepped backward, circled her coffee table and sat heavily on the sofa across from her desk. He looked tired. She stood and moved to the chair beside the couch. "Should I clear my schedule?"
He gave a feeble laugh. "That's okay. I guess I just wanted to ask you something hypothetically." She nodded and he continued, "Let's say that I wanted to bring the rest of the team in on this…"
"Just hear me out, Jen. They don't have to be involved, they just have to know that I'm involved. You don't have to tell them anything about the mission, just that I'm in it and they shouldn't worry when I'm late or have to leave early or…"
She interrupted, "Do you think they'll accept that?"
"They will if you tell them. You're the Director, after all." He gave her a toothy grin that she could only assume was meant to charm her into believing his ludicrous statement.
"If I tried that, they would assume they had carte blanche to operate behind my back."
"What makes you say that?"
"Experience." She patted his knee. "We aren't keeping them out of the loop to deceive them; we're doing it to protect them. You can't tell them what you're doing if you don't want them getting involved."
"It was worth a try." He leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees and hung his head. "I just feel…bad, I guess." He scrubbed his face roughly with his hands. "They know I'm lying to them."
"Only because you have to."
"But they deserve better." The pitch of his voice rose. "It's not like I don't trust them enough to tell them about this mission and it's not like I'm doing anything I need to hide. Within the context of the assignment, I mean. I feel like I'm letting them down even though I'm actually doing my job."
"It's hard. I know it's hard. But after it's all over, you'll be able to explain things."
"There's just…there's someone I think I'm hurting. She trusts me and I know that means something. I had to earn that and I feel like I'm throwing it away for no reason."
Shepard met his eyes. He needed reassurance. She took a page from Gibbs' book and followed her gut. "Tony, when it's all over she'll understand."
"How can you be sure?"
"Just explain it. Blame me if you have to."
"I don't know if it'll be enough."
"If anyone's going to understand the necessity of keeping people in the dark sometimes, it's going to be Ziva." He looked at her in surprise. "Sorry, but I was starting to feel a little silly with the 'hypothetical' thing when we both know who we're talking about."
He gave a low, embarrassed chuckle. "Am I that obvious?"
"She's not easy to deceive. The fact that you've been able to do so effectively really speaks to your skill as an operative."
"Yeah." He didn't sound like he found her compliment something to be proud of. He stood and walked slowly to the door. "Sorry to take up so much of your time, Jen."
"Tony?" He turned to look at her, keeping his hand on the doorknob. "Thank you for doing this."
He nodded in acknowledgement and left her alone in her office. She relaxed into the soft leather of her chair, wondering if she'd made the right choice. She didn't like lying to Tony, telling him that his teammates would accept his working undercover without their knowledge as something less than a betrayal. Even when it was destroyed for vaild reasons, broken trust was still broken trust. She glanced around her office, glad she didn't have to confront any curious looks at the moment.