This one will have slight spoilers for Cloak & Dagger.

As usual, I don't own NCIS or any of the gorgeous stars.

Employee Assessment


It was late. The NCIS building was dark and silent, a large contrast from the bustling that occurred during the day. The only thing that could be heard was the humming of the machines as they continued to work.

Vance leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes. He had decided to stay late to try and finish up paperwork so that he would be free over the Christmas period to be with his wife and children.

He sighed as he rolled his neck around a few times to try and dispel the crick that had built up.

It hadn't been an easy week. Discovering that there was still a mole at NCIS and trying to make a plan to catch them without arousing any suspicion was no easy task, especially when Gibbs refused to tell him everything that was going on.

He stood up suddenly, deciding he needed to stretch his legs a little before continuing with the paperwork. He walked out of his office and along the long balcony that was over the squadroom.

There were very few agents there at this hour of night. Most would be taking advantage of the chance to rest and unwind before another day of dealing with the horrors of their society. There were one or two that were finishing up paperwork. Johnson's team was still working on an active case, and takeout boxes littered their desks.

His eyes roved around taking it all in as he leant on the railing. His gaze went across to the desks of his best yet most troublesome Major Crimes Response Team. He looked there lazily before blinking hard in surprise, looking taken aback.

That particular bullpen wasn't empty. DiNozzo was there. He wasn't making a sound, just quietly and diligently filling out forms with his dark head bent over his desk, propped up by one hand.

Why the hell was DiNozzo here so late? Their team had just finished a very difficult case and Gibbs had sent them all home early to unwind after the events of the last few days. DiNozzo and David, in particular, were meant to take the leave as they weren't still fully recovered after the fight with the guards.

He would have expected DiNozzo to go and find some women to forget about things for tonight, not to come back into the office at 0200.

As he watched, the former cop signed the papers with one final flourish and then closed the file, moving it over to one of the shelves next to his desk. He grabbed his backpack and span around for a moment to turn off his computer.

Vance watched for a moment before making a quick decision and getting over to the elevator, pressing the button before he had a chance to change his mind.

He had read DiNozzo's personnel file just two weeks ago, and ever since then he couldn't deny that his mind had been buzzing to try and work out exactly what was up with Gibbs' Senior Field Agent. He had discovered, much to his surprise, that DiNozzo was no where near the frat boy that he portrayed to the outside world.

What he hadn't discovered, however, was the true inner working of Anthony DiNozzo. Vance prided himself on being able to read people very well, always being able to see beyond the surface. But with DiNozzo, he had taken him at face value. Even after LA, when the frat boy attitude had completely disappeared, he had still considered him to be only a mediocre agent.

After reading his file, Vance had understood more. But the idea of the frat boy persona being a mask had only really hit home after the last case. After the disastrous break-in that had left DiNozzo and David injured, DiNozzo had turned into a completely different man. Vance stepped into the elevator leaned against the back wall, crossing his arms, continuing to muse on his current enigma.

Throughout the entire case, not a single joke had been cracked, and the ever present smile had all but disappeared. While not there himself, Vance had also heard about the argument between Gibbs and his senior agent.

A lot of yelling had been involved. That in itself was a shock; he would never have expected Gibbs to take that kind of thing from his subordinates, he certainly didn't tolerate it from Vance, who happened to be his boss.

Vance schooled his features as the elevator doors slid open, so that DiNozzo wouldn't realize that he had done this on purpose.

"Director," DiNozzo said, his voice sounding slightly surprised as he stepped into the elevator, somewhat hesitantly upon realizing who he would be riding with.

"Agent DiNozzo," Vance greeted in return, nodding at him once.

An awkward silence descended down on them as the elevator closed. Vance took the opportunity to truly scrutinize the younger agent for the first time.

His shoulders and jaw line were tense, and the glimpse he had gotten of his eyes had revealed a hidden anger.

The lack of a smile and the carefree air he usually portrayed made DiNozzo seem far older and sharper, more like a hardened, street smart ex-cop turned federal agent then an overgrown college kid.

Vance frowned, wondering which one of the two personas was closer to his actual personality. Having read the file, he had been leaning more towards the hardened investigator side that liked to act, but the fun-loving side hardly seemed like it could be a mask. He knew what had occurred to the younger agent in college, knew what a heartbreak it must have been when his fiancé broke things off after his career in pro ball had finished, but he wondered what an effect his younger years had had on him.

Vance wished he knew a little more about DiNozzo's actual childhood. He knew DiNozzo's father was rich as hell, and with DiNozzo being an only child, he would most likely be set to inherit it all. Why decide to work for the federal government? Vance didn't believe the answer of 'hot girls'. With money like his he could get that anywhere. Why law enforcement? He might have previously believed the answer of 'shooting people, travel, etc', but after studying him for a little while he just couldn't coincide that image with the man standing before him, the man who had been part of a team that had broken into a top secret government facility without setting off a single alarm.

Somehow, Vance knew, that if Lee hadn't have broken in at the same time, DiNozzo and David would have made it through to the end.

"Did you want something, Director?" DiNozzo asked, breaking the tense and awkward silence as he turned around, his expression stony and holding none of the laughter and friendliness that usually encompassed his whole manner. It was something Vance had become used to, and he had to admit that it was unsettling to see the man completely devoid of it.

He knew that DiNozzo didn't like him, he was always more formal in their few dealings together, but even then, Vance could always sense some friendliness there. He was surprised to see how much it affected him that it was no longer there.

"You've been staring at me since I got into the elevator," the senior field agent clarified upon getting no response to his first query.

Vance shifted a bit, while having somewhat expected this he didn't exactly have a plan for it. "Just wondering what you're doing here at 0200, especially since your orders were to go home and rest," the Director said, after a moments of silence.

"I'm sure Gibbs knows I'm here," DiNozzo said coolly, not giving anything away. His body was tensed even more now, as though he were gearing up for a fight.

"Trying to get the paperwork out of the way," Vance offered, almost as a peace offering. Contrary to what he was sure the younger man was thinking, he was not out for a fight. It was just plain, annoying, curiosity. Of course, it wasn't surprising that the Italian had taken it the wrong way, their 'relationship' wasn't exactly the best.

"Yeah," DiNozzo said, confused as to why he was being questioned by the Director of NCIS, who also happened to be showing none of the slight hostility or superiority that usually accompanied their conversations, but didn't let any of that show in his body language.

"Doing the same thing. My wife will kill me if I miss Christmas. You planning on spending yours at that family mansion?" Vance asked, not really knowing why he was continuing the conversation, but somehow feeling the need to, somehow feeling as though he had to repair – or, really, build it up, as there had never really been anything to repair – this relationship. As much as he had hated it before, and now tolerated it, DiNozzo was Gibbs' senior field agent, the only one that the ex-marine would even consider to have his back and Vance had to accept it. He knew that things with Gibbs would be easier if he accepted his decisions. But to accept them, he had to understand them.

"No," DiNozzo responded to the question with a hard tone, his jaw tensing. The elevator opened at the carpark at that moment. "Have a good night, sir," the agent said, turning around and leaving without another word.

Vance stayed in the elevator as the doors closed, wondering exactly what buttons he had pressed that had caused such a hard tone and shuttered look.


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