Title: Professional contemplation
Character(s): Tony
Genre(s): Gen
Episode(s): Up as far as Bounce, S6
Word Count: approx 1,000

Notes: Written for round 3.02 of the NCIS LFWS community on LiveJournal and was the mods choice for the round. Prompt was "What are your characters thinking about? What are their secret fears and dreams? No dialogue permitted."

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended.

--------------------------------

There were days when I really hated my job.

Oh I know that there's always bad days. Days when all the rapes and murders and all the other shit that one person could do to another would just get to the point where I'd wonder why I even bothered any more. I'd had those sorts of days plenty of times, not just at NCIS, but in Peoria and Philly and Baltimore. Any cop worth his or her salt had those sorts of days. The day you stopped being affected by the worst things you saw on the job, that was the day you needed to hang up your badge. I'd known that for years, and I'd also known that while being a cop might show me the worst side of people, there was always some good to balance it out. And while there might have been a lot more dirtbags than heroes crossing my path, there was still enough of the good to counteract the bad.

No, I could deal with the bad cases, the criminals who got away and the bottom feeding lawyers who helped them. I knew what they were like, so I didn't dwell too often on them when they lived down to my expectations.

What made me sometimes hate my job was when people failed to live up to my expectations. When the people I trusted and cared about, the ones to whom I showed unswerving loyalty; the days when they treated me like a piece of the furniture, a pawn to be used as necessary and then discarded. Those were the days that I hated my job.

There were times when I thought I'd made a mistake in not accepting the offer of my own team. Oh sure I'd dressed it up in my mind, convinced myself that staying was the right thing to do. After all, Gibbs had needed somebody to watch his back, and it'd have been a shame to waste all the buildup that had gone into getting the La Grenouille operation all set up. Besides, McGee and Ziva would have been lost without me. Or so I'd thought.

But Gibbs seemed happy to call on Ziva or Fornell, or God help me, even Mike Franks, rather than depend on Ime/I to watch his back. And the La Grenouille op had ended with one dead arms dealer and Jeanne's life ruined forever. And oh yeah, another accusation of murder to add to my tally. And as for McGee and Ziva, well, most days they seemed to act like my demotion had put me below them in the food chain.

I just didn't get it. Had I really been that bad as a team leader? Because I'd tried, I'd really really tried my best to put my own stamp on the team. I'd known all along that there was no way I could live up to Gibbs. And if I hadn't known, hell, people had been practically lining up to tell me. So I'd deliberately tried to avoid imitating the man. When it came to dealing with my team, I'd first think to myself 'what would Gibbs do', and then I'd do the opposite. I'd held my campfires and encouraged the team to brainstorm on their cases. I'd praised them when they'd found me an answer, and even when they'd struck a dead end, I didn't glare at them and make them feel like they'd failed me.

I'd even brought them back presents from Germany. Well okay, I'd forgotten about Lee, but it was the thought that counted, wasn't it? Maybe though, thinking wasn't always enough. I was pretty sure that my failure to bring Lee a present Ihadn't/I been a contributing factor in her decision to turn traitor. But some days I was just about ready to believe that every bad thing that had happened at NCIS since I'd walked through the doors had been down to me.

Renny Grant would probably have been the first one to agree with me.

And it didn't matter to me that I'd been just one of many links in a chain that had led to Grant's conviction. The bottom line was that an innocent man had spent time in jail and if I'd done a better job on the case then maybe it wouldn't have happened.

Oh sure, I could have blamed it on the fact that it had been my first case in charge. That Ziva and McGee had been still getting used to taking orders from me, that Agent Lee had been greener even than McGee had been. And of course, we'd all been still reeling from the shock of Gibbs's departure – not to mention his coma, amnesia, and oh yeah, the extra wife and kid that he'd never mentioned to me before. But the bottom line was, the buck stopped with me. If I wanted to take the praise when a case got solved, then I had to accept the responsibility when it got screwed.

So I put up with all the comments and the backbiting, and the sudden changes of subject that happened when I walked past. I put up with it; because deep down I knew that I was making a difference. Maybe I wasn't picking up a boxful of medals and commendations. Maybe I'd never get my picture on the TV as a newscaster announced how NCIS had saved the day.

But then, for all my pouting and posturing, it had never been about the fame and glory for me. Sure, I might joke that I'd gotten the job because I'd smiled, or that I'd joined for the guns and girls, but the honest truth was, I did this job because it was the right thing to do. For every Renny Grant, there were a hundred dirtbags who were off the street because of the work that the team and I had done. And so what if my name wasn't the one signing the final report. All that mattered was that the job got done.

And when people told me that I didn't need an alibi for them and that I was making them proud, well, those were the days that I really loved my job.