A/N: Just a quickie, then I'm finishing up the next chap for Unconditional. Thanks a million for all your reviews and favoriting/alerting. Thank you beta Bunny for all of your help!


Gibbs ignored the emails until they began to get threatening; get his agents' evaluations written and turned in to Vance or else. He had already finished McGee's, had gotten a good start on Ziva's, but what to do about DiNozzo's? Even after almost eleven years writing the damned things for his SFA, he still agonized over them. Yes, agonized.

The longer he knew DiNozzo, the more he'd learned about the man's insecurities and vulnerabilities. Writing up a detailed report of the younger agents behavior and performance on the job was a veritable land mine, and had him spending nights drinking and sanding in copious amounts.

There was always room for improvement with any agent, even himself, but Gibbs found it nearly impossible to tread the fine line between 'could use some work' and 'needs complete re-training in this field' - not because he couldn't tell the difference, but because DiNozzo couldn't.

Anything less than a verbal A+ on any of his eval categories, and the SFA was angsting out of his pants over it for days, making everyone else around him edgy and irritable. Was the Director going to fire him? Or worse yet, send him back to his Agent Afloat status? Gibbs knew that even though DiNozzo joked about his days on those ships, he privately still had quiet nightmares about being back there.

Or maybe, as Gibbs had been told by Ducky once, what Tony feared most would happen - loss of confidence and respect of his Boss. If he didn't have that, there was no hope forhim. If Gibbs couldn't find that in him anymore, no one could, least of all himself. And then what would he do, who would he be?

Just another schlepping federal agent in a sea of mediocrity. Not even a reason to get out of bed and go to work every morning. Might as well flip burgers or clean pools. Maybe start a lawn-mowing business. That's what DiNozzo had told Ducky one day in an unguarded moment. And the M.E. had thought it earth-shaking enough to report it to the young man's Boss, who in turn had since, through the years, endeavored to tread lightly when it came to evaluations that were written, read, and kept indefinitely in DiNozzo's personnel file.

Thus came the conundrum for the lead MCRT agent - if he wrote too harsh of an evaluation, DiNozzo would be beside himself for weeks, and falling over himself to rectify his 'failings' in his Boss's eyes. If he wrote an over-glowing report, he would be accused of favoritism not only by Vance, but by his other agents, who in turn would torment and snipe at DiNozzo until the younger man 'shut down' and Gibbs had to intervene with gross amounts of pizza, booze, and general kid glove treatment. He hated all of it; it was expensive, fattening and—worst of all—oft times embarrassing. He would do it nonetheless, but only under protest and duress. And maybe a tiny helping of fondness for his senior agent.

So what was there he could use to 'dirty up' an otherwise pristine performance evaluation. Because as agents went, DiNozzo was a damned good one, with very little to no fault in his actual job skills or qualifications. He kept top scores on the shooting range, passed physical exams with flying colors in spite of his past injuries and damaged lungs, and had a way with both interviewing witnesses and interrogating suspects that put any of them to shame. And of course there were his intuitive investigative skills. No one could hold a candle to Gibb's SFA when it came to getting to the bottom of hinky cases.

Gibbs sighed. This would end up having to get personal. No other way around it.

Much as Gibbs himself was proud of his surrogate son's on-the-job abilities, they did come with a caveat—Tony's often irritating personality. And while Gibbs had, over time and gentle prodding, come to understand most of the reasons behind DiNozzo's provoking ways, others didn't, including his own teammates.

So Gibbs latched on to the first, most conspicuous offense - his SFA's motor-mouth. It was the least offensive, yet most obvious misdemeanor to offset an otherwise pretty much faultless evaluation. He knew he'd end up having to smooth over, even puff up the peacock's ruffled feathers with a private declaration of appreciation for the fact that the 'yabba yabba' very often came in handy. Hell, it was essential for solving a lot of their cases. It needed to be done on occasion anyways. This was as good an excuse as any.