Underlying Issues

Chapter One

Director Leon Vance shifted slightly in front of the giant plasma screen in MTAC. He and the communications coordinators were completely silent as the object of their attention continued to reprimand Vance for questioning his orders.

"That's an order, Leon. I don't want to hear another word about this. I want all of Agent Gibbs' team to participate," said the Secretary of the Navy sternly, "I don't care what Jethro likes. I have it on good authority that his team is unobtrusively suffering through a serious rough patch. Whatever these problems are, I want them dealt with. That team is the best I've got within the agency and I'm not about to let their petty differences and emotions ruin that. This is not a request, nor a debate, Leon."

Vance stood stiffly before the MTAC plasma screen, facing a very irate looking superior. The SEC-NAV had demanded his presence when Vance came into work. The SEC-NAV had ordered him to accept the change in staff. He was now in the process of trying to renegotiate his orders. SEC-NAV was assigning a new member to Gibbs team without consulting him or Gibbs on the matter. The Secretary of the Navy claimed that she was a therapist. She was to accompany them on all their cases and schedule sessions with everyone on the team weekly to talk about what she observed. This was an order and one that they would get fired for if it was disobeyed.

Leon Vance knew that Gibbs would not appreciate some newbie being added to the team without his knowledge. Jethro Gibbs prided himself on forming and creating his own team. He chose his own people based on his gut and nothing else was good enough. Adding a woman to the team that he hadn't met before hand was going to piss him off royally. The fact that she was a therapist would only make things worse. No member currently on team Gibbs talked openly about their past or their feelings, with the exception of a very hyper-active forensic scientist. This was going to be a nightmare.

Vance had tried to reason with the SEC-NAV about his concerns on this matter, but was being turned down. It was like talking to a brick wall. His opinions just weren't making it through.

Though Leon had to admit, anything that pissed off Gibbs made his day slightly more enjoyable. It annoyed him that Gibbs always got his way, but he couldn't complain about the results. He just didn't agree with Gibbs choices and decisions all the time. He still didn't understand his need to have Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo on his team. That was just one of many things he didn't agree with Gibbs on.

Nodding his head in defeat, "I'll inform them immediately of her arrival and new placement on the team. When can we be expecting her?" Vance asked, trying to keep his voice even and free of annoyance.

"She should be there within the hour. Though I'll warn you, she has a habit of arriving early. The art of surprise is one of her favorite ways to gauge a new target." The Secretary of the Navy said with a grin.

"Target, Sir? I thought you said she was a therapist."

"She is Leon. She has been with the FBI for three years. She is used to struggling with the armed forces, police departments and federal agencies. She doesn't receive very welcoming greetings and so she has taken on a military-like approach to her work. Trust her instincts. Anyhow, she should be there soon. Her name is Special Agent Jessica Keller."

"Anything else I should know about her, Sir?" Leon asked, rubbing his brow at the onset of a headache.

"Yes, Director Vance. She is to be given a NCIS badge and weapon. Though she was not trained for field work, she is still to be treated as a member of the MCRT until this evaluation is over. She will be assigned to NCIS until she feels that the issues surrounding Gibbs team are alleviated."

"Yes sir. I'll see that they follow this order to the letter."

"You are also to participate, Leon. I don't want to hear that you've been ducking out of sessions either. Understood?"

Leon let out a big sigh. He didn't think that he would have to be part of this. What issues did his superiors think he had?

"Understood, Sir."

The SEC-NAV made a kill motion with his hand and the connection died. Leon was left staring at a blank screen. He turned to thank the MTAC coordinator and left the room. He stood at the railing, gazing down on the squad room below. He could see that Gibbs team had all arrived on time. He could see Special Agent Timothy McGee sitting at his desk. He looked busy, typing away at his keyboard. The young man was probably catching up on a case report or looking into a cold case until they had something more current to investigate.

Agent McGee was his pride and joy of NCIS. He saw Tim's efficiency and initiative refreshing. Leon thought that all special agents should be like Timothy McGee. He was good with computers and well versed in most forms of technology. He was a good agent. He was obedient, unlike his counterpart Agent DiNozzo.

He turned his attention to the desk directly next to Tim's. Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo was leaning back in his chair with his arms behind his head and his feet up on his desk. His fingers were laced together and he was currently engaged in a childish banter with his partner, Ziva David. He smiled wide and laughed obnoxiously.

Tony was Director Vance's least favorite agent. In fact, Agent DiNozzo was Leon's least favorite person in all of NCIS. Vance found him annoying, disobedient, and he was lacking in technical prowess. He was insubordinate. He was a clown, a goof off, and he didn't have the drive that McGee did to go the extra mile. He was the least worthy of being a special agent in Leon's eyes, and yet he was the one Gibbs fought the hardest for to keep. He would never understand why.

Vance watched as Probationary Special Agent Ziva David threw a pencil and then a stapler at Agent DiNozzo. Tony caught them both and pretended as though neither act bothered him in the least. Although in his case, it probably wasn't pretending. Not much bothered the hot shot agent. He simply laughed louder and made some childish comment that Vance couldn't hear from his current location.

Ziva David was a good agent. She had a lot to learn, but she showed a great deal of potential. She was studying to become a citizen and then would be a full time Special Agent on team Gibbs. She was strong, powerful, and stealthy. As a former Mossad Operative, she was already well trained in combat. She didn't need help with target practice or hand to hand fighting. She wasn't as computer literate as McGee, but she was better with computers than DiNozzo. She at least attempted to work on her weaknesses.

He then watched as the last member of the team strode into the squad room. He had a cup of his ever present black coffee in his hand. He had probably just come from visiting Abby in her lab. She was another member of Gibbs team, though not an agent. She was the overzealous forensic scientist that helped them crack their cases. She was always his first stop of the day.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs sat heavily in his desk chair and opened his email. The second he entered the squad room, the banter between Tony and Ziva stopped. They gave each other warning looks and then proceeded to look busy. He knew that Gibbs was aware of exactly what had been going on a minute ago, but he said nothing.

Vance walked casually down the stairs and entered their domain. He didn't even glance at DiNozzo as he walked past his desk. He couldn't stand the man. He gave Ziva a kind glance and smiled proudly at McGee. He walked up to stand in front of Gibbs desk and cleared his throat to get his lead agent's attention.

Gibbs looked up at Director Vance and knew that whatever he wanted, Gibbs wasn't going to like. Vance never brought good news to him when he was bringing it in person. It was either something he was going to hate or something he didn't want to do. The last couple of times Leon Vance came to him in person, he told him that his team was going to be split up. Then he was told that Tony was not to return from his duty as agent afloat. After that, their relationship was constantly strained and it only went downhill from there. He decided to keep things civil for the time being.

His facial expression was even and showed no kindness. He simply asked, "What can I do for you, Leon?"

Vance, annoyed by Gibbs complete lack of respect for him, pursed his lips in a unappreciative scowl. If Gibbs wasn't the best damn agent NCIS had to offer, Vance would've fired him a long time ago when he first took up the position as Director.

"I thought I should warn you that SEC-NAV is sending us a new agent. She's going to be joining you and your team for a while."

Vance waited patiently for the explosion, clasping his hands in front of him. Even though Gibbs was his subordinate, he was still rather intimidating, but he didn't let it show. Vance stood his ground and when it came, he didn't flinch or take a step back.

Gibbs did, indeed, explode. He stood up abruptly and came around his desk in a flash, forcing his way into Vance's personal space. At first Gibbs fumed silently. He simply glared at Vance, his eyes screaming their indignation at the idea of adding a new agent to his team without his knowledge. It was his job to form his team. If he had felt that another member was needed, he would have seen to it. As it was, he didn't feel that adding another member to the team was necessary.

"Why?" Gibbs demanded, he voice low and controlled.

"Apparently, he's aware that there are a few problems with your team as of late." Gibbs screwed up his face at this. It was obvious he didn't agree with that statement, "There are issues that he feels need to be dealt with. She will be joining us as an NCIS agent, but she's also a therapist. She's going to be observing your team. We're all to participate when she schedules weekly sessions with us."

Gibbs said nothing, but he squinted his eyes at the last part. He hated therapy and the people who studied it. He didn't want to talk about his feelings or his past, and he didn't want to have to explain why he did things the way he did them.

"Yes, you heard me right, Gibbs. She's a therapist. She's going to be observing your entire team: Miss Scuito, Dr. Mallard, Mr. Palmer, and myself included."

Gibbs glowered a little more forcefully at Leon, stepping a bit closer.

"It didn't come from me, Gibbs. I had nothing to do with this. SEC-NAV made this decision based on some insider information I know nothing about. As much as I disagree with this, he said that this was a direct order. We don't have a choice in the matter."

Vance heard DiNozzo huff and complain adamantly behind him. He watched as Gibbs eyes flicked briefly toward his Senior Field Agent with concern. He wasn't sure what that was about, but those small mysteries about Gibbs and his team were bound to come up soon anyhow. Perhaps having everyone spill there guts wasn't such a bad idea after all. Maybe this would help shed some light on the more annoying things that Vance hadn't figured out about his MCR team.

Ziva made no noise on the subject. She was former Mossad, she followed orders regardless of how she felt about them and he knew that McGee would rise to the occasion just to please Gibbs and Vance no matter what. If it was an order, he could count on McGee to do exactly as he was told.

"When does she get here?" Gibbs asked, rubbing the bridge of his nose as the headache behind his eyes grew worse.

"She should be here shortly. I would ask all of you to be polite and don't make us look like fools. I expect you all to uphold the image of this agency."

Gibbs cocked his head at this and returned to his seat. He took one last sip of his coffee and then dropped the now empty cup into the trash can beside his desk. He slammed his fingers on his keyboard in frustration, bringing up the last cold case he was working on.

Before Director Vance had the opportunity to leave, they all heard the tell tale ding of the elevator. The group looked up to see several people exit and move on to their destinations. The last person coming out was a woman. She was average in height and well built from what they could tell. She was slim and had long blond hair. She took her time walking toward them, her heeled boots clomping on the carpeted floor. She was clad in slim fitting jeans with a butterfly on the front pocket and a simple blue blouse. A small cross hung around her neck and swayed as she walked. She stopped just outside their work space and smiled warmly at them.

"Hello. I'm looking for Director Vance." She said, addressing everyone in Gibbs' work sector.

Her voice was soft and pleasant to the ear. She had a pretty smile and a kind disposition. She tried not to appear like a threat. Most people hated therapists. It was one of the downsides to her job. She walked into a room and most people tend to walk right out. It was almost like they flee from the room in fact.

Vance stepped forward, only to have Agent DiNozzo cut in front of him.

"Hi, I'm Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo." He said cheerfully, reaching out to shake her hand, which she took with a grin at his forwardness.

Vance tapped him on the shoulder and glared at him. Tony, realizing a little too late at what he had done, backed away and resumed sitting behind his desk quietly.

Director Vance shook his head and prayed for the day that he could ship DiNozzo off to the farthest NCIS office. He heard Spain was looking for a new field agent. He turned once again to the woman in front of him. He knew this was going to get bad as the day went on. He didn't have to like it, but he was going to pretend to. He extended his hand to shake hers. She accepted it immediately, her smile still held in place. As she shook his hand, she made it a point to make eye contact with the other people in the room. These were most likely the people that she was to observe.

"I'm Director Vance."

"It's nice to finally meet you. I have been reading about you and this team for quite some time. I have also heard a lot about you and this team. I look forward to working with you." She said, her attention returning to the man directly in front of her.

"Yes, as do we. Let me introduce you to the members of the team you'll be joining. This is Special Agent Timothy McGee. Probationary Agent Ziva David. Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo."

"Hello. I hope to learn a lot from you while I'm here."

"I bet." Gibbs said quietly from his seat, but she heard him. She smirked at his remark and walked around Vance and forward to greet him.

"You must be Special Agent Gibbs." She said, holding her hand out to shake his hand.

He looked at it for a moment. He wasn't going to make this easy for her. He then ignored her hand and looked back up at her.

"Didn't catch your name."

"I see you really don't like outsiders, Agent Gibbs. Or is it that you just don't like therapists?" There was another moment of silence, "That's alright," she withdrew her hand and sweetly answered his question. "Special Agent Jessica Keller."

Gibbs looked to Leon and the two shared a look of annoyance. It was one of the few times that Vance and Gibbs ever agreed on anything. There was silence and then Vance decided that they should all get on with their work.

"Well, I'll leave you to it. Make sure that she meets the good doctor and Miss Scuito. Agent Keller, I will expect an email when you have scheduled sessions. Have a good day."

She nodded in response and they all watched as the Director bailed on them. She turned back to look at her new team and sighed. She had been briefed by Special Agent Fornell all about this team. Their dynamic was usually carefree and good natured. They had the highest success rate of closing cases and the entire team was highly regarded by most of the fellow agencies.

Apparently, in the past month or so, there seemed to be a rift forming between a few of the members and the team wasn't performing as well as it should. She would have to be quick. These individuals didn't take kindly to strangers in their midst.

"I'll just use one of the desks there at the end if that's alright with you, Agent Gibbs?" She made sure to form the sentence as a request. She had the feeling that he liked to dictate. His body language was that of a leader…a strong, driving force. He didn't like people making decisions without going through him first. She decided it was wise to give him that courtesy.

He simply nodded and kept his eyes on her as she moved. She heard a cell phone ring and stopped mid step. She watched as Gibbs answered with a curt 'Gibbs.' He listened intently and the others were already grabbing their bags and holstering their weapons.

"Grab your gear. We got a dead Petty Officer in Arlington Virginia. Tony, gas the truck. David, call Ducky. Let's go." Gibbs gave out his orders and then headed for the elevator.

The team moved swiftly she noticed. They were prepared for him. They had already anticipated his moves and orders. They were half way through their tasks before he even finished his sentence. The team was a well oiled machine. As far as their job was concerned, she didn't see a problem. There must be something deeper that the SEC-NAV wanted her to check into. This was, after all, only her first day. New ideas on their discord would come to light as the weeks went on.

She followed them to the truck and found that there was not enough room for her. Gibbs caved with an over exaggerated huff and the pair of them took the sedan to the crime scene, while the rest of his team drove there in the truck. She kept quiet throughout the entire ride there after several attempts at converstation. She learned that he didn't like to engage in even polite chit chat while his mind was on a case. This would certainly prove to be a very educational assignment. She was looking forward to it.