Like many fans of the series, I had a real issue with the way Gibbs came back in season 4 and the way everyone treated Tony, so here is my one-shot about what I think Tony might have (justifiably) been feeling after the events of 'Singled Out.'
Re-edited to try and fix any errors and a few sections I was a little unhappy with.
Tony was pissed - no scratch that, he was beyond pissed as he packed away his things at his desk, his old desk, McGee's desk…who knew?
He was known throughout NCIS for his affable manner but few realised that he actually had a relatively short temper fuse, probably because unlike his boss he was actually able to control himself long enough to bite his tongue and keep his knee-jerk reactions in check behind whichever one of his masks was most appropriate at the time.
There were certain things that really pissed him off: dirty cops, criminals avoiding prison terms because a rookie policeman made a procedural error somewhere down the line, being judged by his father's name alone, to name but a few. However, what currently had his body pulsating with barely controlled waves of anger involved his team and their blatant disregard of any and all sentiments on his part.
His overactive, Hollywood infused brain was conjuring up images where all of NCIS (and quite possibly a large section of the surrounding Navy Yard for good measure) erupted in a ball of flames with a satisfying boom to accompany it!
Ok, a little melodramatic, even for a movie buff like himself who was used to Hollywood's frequent over use of plastic explosives, but still…his anger needed an outlet and a fiery ball over NCIS was a welcome visual, at least until he could work off some of his wrath during a fast run or on an unsuspecting punch bag, (although he thinks a certain Probationary Agent would work just as well and probably be just as unsuspecting!).
Tony had been at NCIS working in the MCRT for several years now and over that time he had experienced a wide range of teams.
Vivian Blackadder was such a nonentity that she almost wasn't even worth thinking about, all she'd really done was increase both Gibbs's and Tony's own mistrust over all agents FBI-related.
Of course, there should have been a cautionary tale somewhere in there with her failed attempt to avenge her dead brother…a task which nearly ended Gibbs's life. As it was, her revenge-fuelled quest and its consequences were entirely forgotten by the time Ari Haswari came onto the scene; Gibbs might need a pair of glasses to read the small print, but his tunnel-vision seemingly provided him with an excellent ability to focus.
Three became two and Tony was forced to bear the full brunt of Gibbs's frequent bouts of anger and frustration; the amount of head-slaps alone that he received over those months had caused quite enough headaches! He had undoubtedly learnt a lot during that period, but facing 'the Wrath of Gibbs' solo was a harrowing experience that he wasn't overly keen on repeating.
When Kate had joined the team bringing the grand total back up to three, Tony was dubious; she was an attractive woman to look at from across the bull-pen, sure, and she was Secret Service which had to stand for something, right?
She was an intelligent woman with a broad knowledge on all sorts of subjects, but a skilled investigator?
She had only the very basic of investigative skills that anyone who read a Conan Doyle book could pick up; when it came down to it at the end of the day, the most valued skill in her last job was to throw herself in between the President and a bullet - noble, sure, but not so great when you're trying to discover why a Petty Officer was brutally murdered five miles off base in the middle of an empty field.
Then three became four with the appearance of McGee and Tony once more had his doubts. He was positive that the MIT geek would come in handy with all his techno-speak, (although they did already have Abby for that), however…McGee was greener than the greenest grass, greener than the greenest thing imaginable!
He almost threw up looking at bodies, he had no idea about how to run a crime scene, he ran scared from Gibbs and local LEO's alike and ducked behind the nearest NCIS Agent when coming face-to-face with a pissed off Marine, which, let's face it, when working for NCIS, it does tends to be a frequent occurrence.
Ziva came in as quickly as Kate had left.
At first it had been hard not to hate her, she was Mossad, she was looking to secure the safety of her 'asset', Ari, despite the fact that the guy was a terrorist who had killed Kate for no other reason than to piss off Gibbs, and on top of all of that, she wasn't telling anyone anything!
Unlike the other two, Ziva came into the job with more investigative skills than basic training at any law enforcement academy provided; however, she did lack a certain legal understanding needed to make a legitimate arrest, or the ability to find viable evidence without using sharp implements and bodily threats. Plus, her driving left a lot to be desired, (never had Tony said so many 'hail Mary's' as when Ziva drove!).
They all made a good team…eventually.
They adapted and learned to cover each other's shortcomings, they learned to trust each other out in the field, knowing without hesitation that their partner had their back, they even watched each other's six when it came to a certain pissed off, decaffeinated team leader.
But one of the things that pissed him off was that it was all attributed to Gibbs.
The man who expected everyone to anticipate his every wish through some sort of psychic osmosis phenomenon!
Now, Tony had a lot of respect for Gibbs and over the years he had learnt a lot from the man, but it had been a slow process.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was not a man who liked to explain his way of thinking to anyone, even his superiors, a sentiment which beggars belief for such a staunch Marine; he did, however, expect you to follow his logic without questioning him, and any questions that were asked were met with a head-slap, an angry 'focus, DiNozzo' and a disapproving glare…as if any idea of self-preservation was a bad thing, and yet Tony was the one with 'suicidal impulses' in the psych profile of his jacket!
Tony wanted people to realise, just once, that he too had a hand in shaping the team. He wasn't looking for a 'thank you' or a congratulatory pat on the back, as he was just doing his job after all, but an acknowledgment would be nice, some recognition that the 'Legend of Gibbs' was more myth than fact and that people other than Gibbs put work went into achieving the results the NCIS brass liked to brag about.
With Kate it had been easy; their constant back and forth that seemed to define their working relationship was something he had enjoyed and the gentle teasing on both sides helped to soften any criticisms they had about the other. Kate was a quick study and through explanations both patient and playful, her investigative skills quickly improved.
With McGee, he had had to be far more aggressive in his manner in order to teach the timid little Probie to grow a backbone. His tactics might not have been FLETC approved, but the results were undeniable in that McGee not only learned to face up to hostile Marines, but also to territorial local LEO's.
Ziva was admittedly a work in progress as far as he was concerned; her basic understanding of US Law Enforcement requirements had undoubtedly come on by leaps and bounds, but her ability to follow through an investigation without breaking out those beloved lock-picks of hers or questioning a suspect without playing with her knife in full view had not yet asserted itself.
He, Tony, had been a major player in getting them up to scratch and without barking out such ridiculous phrases like: 'if you had paid attention in the first place then you wouldn't need my help!'; he'd also managed to do so without referring to fifty rules and the infamous Gibbs Mentality that, more often than not, hindered them in their job rather than aided them – the amount of times information had been delayed or flat out gone missing simply because too many people were desperate to avoid 'Second 'B' for Bastard' Gibbs were too many to count!
Ok…time out…Tony knew he was ranting, and he was being a little harsh to his team-mates; no matter how angry he was at the situation right now, he owed it to them to be fair.
He looked around the bull-pen,
Ziva was talking in hushed tones over the phone; harsh, angry Hebrew showing that her contact had nothing for her.
Gibbs was hunched over his desk, pretending he didn't need glasses.
McGee was stapling together some pieces of paper, which he then deposited on Gibbs' desk.
Tony heard a muttered 'Good work, Probie' before it was followed by an angry 'DiNozzo, you done yours yet, or do you need some more time to day-dream!' that built his ire right back up.
Here he was, sorting through the mess on his desk, a desk overflowing with files that Gibbs himself had unceremoniously dumped in a disorganised pile not even a half hour ago and the bastard had the temerity to be upset at Tony taking the time to sort out the mess that he, Gibbs, had made!
He shoved the last of his cold case files into his middle draw before slamming it shut with a satisfying bang before he turned to meet the eyes of his teammates, unwilling to let them see him cowed by it all.
Gibbs's attention had already moved off him, having judged his Senior Field Agent unworthy of any more attention. McGee gave Tony a smug, almost condescending smile, glad to see Tony's removal from Team Lead back to his seemingly natural place as Gibbs's whipping boy, while Ziva didn't even attempt to hide her amusement, the joy of seeing her partner receiving a dressing down apparently enough to counteract any irritation her tense phone call had previously not a moment ago.
Screw being fair!
Kate never got him, not really; for a profiler, Tony had thought she was pretty oblivious. She missed a lot that went on right in front of her face, and she certainly never saw past the playboy façade that was such a fun and easy mask to wear.
She could never quite come to terms with the fact that a man she deemed inferior in intellect, education and job capability ranked above her. Tony couldn't deny that he liked to rub her nose in it every now and then, because he had more than earned his superiority through his years with the PD and NCIS.
Kate would snipe at him, and belittle him, sometimes cruelly which made Tony all the more eager to brag about her inferior position on the team, but the back and forth had been fun and he missed the easy banter.
You couldn't do easy banter with McGee. He had been far too sensitive and very defensive right from the get go; maybe it was just that the Probie didn't get sarcasm, or maybe it was the fact that Tim was a big brother himself and that had meant he was unwilling to be subjected to Tony's big brother posturing: half overprotective, half domineering, mostly mocking.
Unlike Kate, McGee's ripostes were almost always aimed for below the belt, like that 'temporary team-leader' crack that had been the clearest indicator of how McGee really viewed his Senior Field Agent yet.
Tony was happy that McGee had finally learnt to stand up for himself, and he could hardly complain about the barbs being tossed around the bullpen given his own propensity for doing the exact same thing, but he was disappointed that Tim apparently only ever felt the need to use those cruel ripostes with Tony, while everyone else was offered a witty retort and a grin.
He knew that he mocked the man one step too far every now and then, but he was not the only one; Kate had nearly always joined in, having found McGee's geeky tendencies just as amusing as Tony, and Ziva had done the same almost from the start. Even Abby and Gibbs got in the occasional slights, but apparently McGee only ever heard Tony's comments.
McGee didn't seem to understand that he was the kid brother on the team and that came with the merciless teasing as much as it came with the fierce over-protectiveness; the younger man certainly didn't seem to mind it when Tony protected him from their Boss's wrath.
Tim also didn't seem to comprehend just how easy he had it at NCIS.
When Tony had been a rookie back in Peoria, the hazing hadn't just been the odd joke taken too far, it had been an unrelenting onslaught and never limited to just his partner or even just his precinct – dumpster diving for evidence had been the least of his worries during those first two years.
Tony certainly knew Tim didn't understand how or why Tony was Gibbs's Senior Field Agent; there were times when, based off Gibbs's own behaviour towards him, Tony didn't understand it either.
As Senior Field Agent, Tony had more demands on his time than his Junior Agents and a large part of that demand was, of course, a bigger paperwork load; not that his extra duties were ever acknowledged by his teammates. His own personal motto of 'work smarter, not harder' seemed to baffle those around him, who could never understand how he managed to get all his work done while keeping up a paper-ball war with McGee and stalking Kate's personal life. He tried not to mess with Gibbs like that; he wasn't suicidal, and he wasn't anywhere near as stupid as people thought.
The current mess was created not out of his own stupidity or recklessness, but because Gibbs, the man he respected and the Agent he strived to emulate, had basically thrown a temper tantrum about the inadequacies of a bureaucratic system. Things hadn't gone the way Gibbs wanted them to and his personal beliefs, as well as (and perhaps more importantly) his pride had taken a serious hit; so he stamped his feet about a bit, damned the politics of the job and left…left with nothing more than a 'you'll do'.
Hardly a ringing endorsement; it made it sound like Tony was some kind of consolation prize that was utterly pathetic but better than nothing.
What did that even mean anyway?
That there was no one better who was available? That the man even lacked the energy to find a proper replacement? That he only just passed muster? Because that sure as hell seemed to be the way everyone in NCIS was determined to take it!
Tony had never been the most popular guy in the building, his flirty nature, his unstinting loyalty to his own team and his seemingly polemical mood swings had burned several bridges over his stay with the Agency.
However, over the course of his career with NCIS he had earned the respect of several of his fellow agents, even if not that of his own team.
The others who filled the SFA posts celebrated the victories as well as commiserated with him over the many loses they had all suffered through. He had the respect of several of the other Team Leaders, if only for the fact that he had not only survived Gibbs, but thrived under him. Some of the Probies were struck with awe at the mere mention of Team Gibbs, but other more seasoned agents recognised Tony's own skills without attaching all success to his legendary boss.
So Gibbs hands over the reins with a few meaningless words and runs away and leaves everyone else to deal with the mess…no, leaves Tony to deal with the mess.
He might have been able to handle losing his mentor, losing his team leader, losing the man he respected and losing respect for the man…except…his team made it impossible.
Everyone kept telling him that he wasn't Gibbs even after he had given up ever wanting to be the man, because the man he wanted to be would never have run away in a fit of pique and abandoned his team.
He didn't want to be Gibbs, but it sometimes seemed like the only way the team would do anything at all was if he tried to channel the man and his actions, only to be rebuffed for it further down the line.
He wasn't the only one with issues about Gibbs's departure, and he had tried to hold onto that understanding so desperately during the sometimes public disagreements at crime scenes, when his team insisted on trying to show him up in front of local LEO's and fellow NCIS agents alike. However, he was given the position of Team Lead and it was his job to think of the others first.
Abby's constant bouts of weeping almost undid him, but then she plastered pictures of Gibbs everywhere and talked about nothing but him coming home, ignoring all the reasons why she should be angry at Gibbs; he understood denial and all that, but Abby was supposed to be smart…the smartest person he knew. She didn't treat him like she treated Gibbs, and that was fine, but she no longer treated him like she used to either.
He thought he would be able to rely on her, that they would be able to support each other through the inevitable changes that would occur with Gibbs's absence, but she had been throwing barbed comments his way along with the others; she would constantly compare him to Gibbs and clearly found him wanting. He had thought they were close, but those four months forced him to re-evaluate that assessment.
Ziva was being difficult, pissed off because she thought she was smarter and more deserving of the post, and believed the only reason for Tony's new-found position was seniority and the fact that she was still, in fact, an officer of Mossad and not an agent of NCIS. She made it clear that she didn't trust Tony to do a good job, nor did she respect him, but given that Gibbs apparently never had done either, he could hardly find that surprising.
McGee was continually telling Tony that he wasn't Gibbs, as if he needed reminding! Add to that McGee's smugness about the ease in which he filled the position of Senior Field Agent and Tony wanted to punch him, burn him with acid, anything to remove that stupid, superior bloody grin.
Tony had been tempted on several occasions to show McGee all the extra paperwork he really should be doing, but he decided against it; he needed the team to run smoothly and so had planned on introducing McGee to the full responsibilities of the post gradually, giving him time to adjust rather than drown him in a sea of gibberish, bureaucratic paperwork as had been Gibbs's method when he'd first come into the role as SFA.
It had been a constant struggle to be their Team Leader and be the former SFA that they already knew; being boss, as well as continuing on with some of his former duties as SFA and the extra work Jenny had him doing, had meant that he simply didn't have much time to goof off every now and then. Maybe that was why the other two had reacted so severely; they simply didn't know how to take a serious Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo.
Their refusal to acknowledge him not only as Team Lead but as a good one at that led to one too many confrontations; surely the fact that the case closure rate had never once dropped, even during those first few tumultuous weeks, should have proved that he knew what he was doing, but they were determined to see only what they expected to see.
The team had certainly not run smoothly, no matter what he tried; he sometimes thought life would have been far easier if Shepherd had simply stuck him with a whole load of Probies.
Lee…poor agent Lee! She was nice, but timid as a mouse, and as faithful to the law as Ziva was unfaithful, and she was greener than Probie was when he first joined, and that's saying something! However, she was the only one who treated Tony with the respect a Team Lead deserved, and followed his orders unflinchingly…unless, of course, they were anything less than strictly legal.
Her and Jimmy's rather weird relationship was something to grin about though…sex in a morgue…autopsy gremlin indeed!
Jenny Shepherd was a completely different story; Jenny was Tony's superior, and Gibbs's former protégée and red-headed lover. She rarely mentioned Gibbs and Tony never knew whether it was because she was angry or indifferent, because, let's face it, Gibbs's decision to leave gave the Director a free rein with the team, and boy did she grab it.
The first few undercover operations were fine, they were easy and required little leg-work, but the last new one, La Grenouille, well…Tony knew right from the start that it was something different, something big; he only hoped that he managed to get his head back in the game before he screwed it up royally.
Ducky was the only one Tony understood…understood and sympathised with. One of
Ducky's oldest and most loyal friends had left, left without any preamble and with no contact after his departure. Who wouldn't be pissed off, hurt and depressed by that?
He sometimes wished that Ducky would recognise Tony's own feelings about it too instead of submerging himself in his misery alone in the morgue, because throughout his time at NCIS, Tony had often relied upon the older man for a solid shoulder, a good listening ear, and sensible advice; it was something he sorely needed when Gibbs pulled his little Houdini act.
But then Gibbs came back because of Ziva's inability to trust him, Tony, her Team Leader!
Tony had shoved the resentment and the disappointment deep down in order to help out his teammate and solve the case.
Then Gibbs left, as swiftly as he did the first time and with just as little warning, only this time, there wasn't a four month hiatus.
Gibbs came back again and just threw Tony to the side, completely ignoring all that the younger man had done to hold the team together in the absence of the venerable, very Special Agent Gibbs. 'Second 'B' for Bastard' indeed!
He could almost have been happy, accepted it even, but there were too many reasons why Tony couldn't be the affable, easy-going agent that NCIS knew him as.
Gibbs had lost Tony's respect for running away, for not being as strong as he said he was, for ignoring the effect it would have on everyone else, for being selfish and arrogant, for worrying about his damaged pride…for being exactly like DiNozzo Senior! He let his affronted pride take precedence over the job, and even if Gibbs needed four months to recover from his loss of faith in the Brass, Tony was going to need more than four months to recover his previously absolute faith in Gibbs.
Tony knew that the team seemingly needed Gibbs like they needed air; after all, they had certainly spent the last four months telling him that! But Tony had needed Gibbs then too…perhaps even more so than the rest.
He needed advice on how to lead a team, on how to get Ziva to trust him and McGee to respect him; how to get them both to follow his orders out in the field instead of questioning his decisions and his methods leading to a potentially fatal incident for one or all of them.
He needed advice on how to shape Lee into a competent agent; how to get her out of her Legal Department frame of mind and to get her thinking like an NCIS Investigative Agent.
He needed advice on how to cheer up Abby and keep her focused on her job and not on her plasma screens that were plastered with pictures of a missing loved one.
He needed advice on how to reach Ducky through his anger and pull him out of his depression.
But most of all Tony needed Gibbs to tell him what to do about Jenny, about La Grenouille, about Jeanne.
Tony needed help and advice from the one man that Tony had once yearned to be.
But when Gibbs came back, without any explanations and completely unapologetic about his actions, that destroyed the last remnants of faith Tony had in his former mentor, so much so that Tony couldn't go to Gibbs with his problems as he simply didn't trust him enough not to destroy whatever of the shredded respect lay intact.
Gibbs had a whole hell of a lot of work to do to start earning back Tony's trust; the staunch, naive faith he had once had in the man's seeming infallibility now seemed so ridiculous that Tony wasn't sure how it had even come about in the first place.
But he knew that he couldn't do or say anything; he couldn't risk upsetting the team dynamic any more than it already had been.
And that was why Tony was so pissed…here he was, drowning in the confusing mess of Agent DiNozzo and Professor DiNardo, struggling to reclaim his dignity from the brutal blows delivered by his so-called teammates, reeling from Gibbs betrayal and abandonment and the man's casual disregard for him…and Tony still put the team first.
But no-one would ever acknowledge that and now he was left with a broken team he no longer trusted, an undercover operation he didn't understand, a doomed relationship and so many doubts and questions he could barely think straight.
Most of all, he was wondering why the hell he had turned down Rota.
Yeah, so a little more anger than we usually see with Tony, but most of it is boiling beneath the surface rather than actually being expressed, and let's face it, at this stage, Tony really does have a lot to be stressed about.
I know English is not everyone's first language, so here are some terms that some of you may struggle with:
Rookie – term for a new policeman, while 'Probie' in the context of this story is short for Probationary Agent.
MCRT – Major Crimes Response Team.
Conan Doyle, Arthur – author of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a research university specialising in technology, science and engineering.
LEO – Law Enforcement Officer.
Jacket – term for personnel file, usually in regards to Military or Law Enforcement slang.
SFA – Senior Field Agent.
Thanks for all the reviews, much appreciated!