Good golly; the response the first part of this story's garnered has blown me away - and left me feeling not a little nervous about this second part. Thank you all so much for your reviews, your favouriting, your alerting and your reading - I hope this doesn't disappoint.
Disclaimer: Out of this story, all I own is the plot. The rest is borrowed from Bellisario et al with no offence intended and no (well, very little!) harm done.
This story takes place in the Coming Back To Life universe, but is set back in season 6, shortly before Bounce. You can safely assume spoilers for all seasons and some vague references to my story Coming Back To Life. Two shot. Written, in part, to explain the sudden shift in relationship between Gibbs and Tony between Deliverance and Bounce.
No beta readers were harmed in the production of this story.
In Vino Veritas
Paperwork was the bane of Leon Vance's life. It so frequently kept him at the office late - much to Jackie's displeasure - and no matter how much of it he did, there always seemed to be more stacking up. With Jared performing in a school play that evening, however, he was determined to get as much squared away by five so that he could be at his son's school in time to see the curtain up. It was a laudable goal, but one that depended on an uninterrupted afternoon. As the office door crashed back on its hinges, Vance knew that his visitor could only be one person - and that his afternoon was liable to become fairly impressively interrupted.
"Special Agent Gibbs, what do I-"
"You reassigning DiNozzo without telling me, Le-on?" Gibbs cut in, coming to a halt in front of the director's desk.
Vance blinked, startled. Out of all the subjects Gibbs could have brought up, that was the most unlikely. "I've offered him a promotion."
"Without consulting me." This time it wasn't phrased like a question and the glare that backed it up was clearly intended to despatch Vance to his ancestors.
Vance matched the glare with one of his own. "Last time I checked, the job of director was mine, not yours. That means that if I see an agent being wasted, I'll step in to fix that."
"DiNozzo is not being wasted."
"Then explain to me why you left him on the sidelines in favour of a retired agent like Mike Franks."
Gibbs said nothing, but from the way his jaw clenched, Vance judged his words had hit their target.
"From where I'm sitting," he continued, "it looks like you don't trust him. Now, I may not like DiNozzo on a personal level, but I know the man has skills and I can see those skills being wasted. So I'm stepping in. If you don't want to use the talents of a man you spent four months butting heads to get back to DC I know plenty of teams who will."
"He take the job?" Back to questions. Unlike the earlier one, though, Gibbs managed to sound at least faintly contrite and the glare was considerably toned down. At least by Gibbs' standards.
"Not yet. He asked for time to think it over. And, for the record, he was the one who asked me not to tell you about this. Or any of the others." Vance decided to twist the knife just a fraction. It was high time Gibbs understood what was actually going on here.
"Others?" Gibbs looked uneasy.
"Your boy has skills, Gibbs." Vance leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest. "Jenny Sheppard knew that and offered him two separate promotions before she took advantage of those skills herself. Tobias Fornell knows that and regularly tries to poach him. Elements of the CIA would like nothing better than for me to loan him to them-"
"They probably want to finish the job Kort botched," Gibbs cut in with something that might have passed for a glimour of humour.
Vance smiled briefly in return. "Some of them, perhaps. There's a genuine offer in there, too, though. Then there's the captain of the Seahawk who would like to have DiNozzo back as Agent Afloat - in his words, DiNozzo's methods might have been unconventional, but they were sure as hell effective."
Gibbs said nothing, but the uneasiness in his expression had increased tenfold.
Judging his point to be made, Vance straightened in his seat. "Like I said. Your boy has skills. Use them or lose them."
Without saying another word, Gibbs turned on his heel and left as suddenly as he'd arrived, leaving Vance shaking his head in a mixture of amusement and disbelief. There were times when the former Gunnery Sergeant reminded him of nothing less than his young daughter. They could both do a particularly fine line in petulance.
Then again, perhaps he wasn't being entirely fair to Gibbs. Under previous regimes the man had had a fair degree of autonomy - in the case of Morrow, because he'd earned it; in the case of Sheppard, it was so as she could use and abuse him and his team with impunity - and while that autonomy wasn't entirely gone now (and might one day come back), Gibbs had to be that much closer to the line that everyone else toed and that meant actually appreciating the assets he'd got.
Hearing the litany of potential promotions DiNozzo had turned down might just do that trick. God, but Vance hoped so.
That led him to the inevitable next question: who was it who'd finally let the promotional cat out of the bag? It wouldn't have been DiNozzo, that much Vance was certain of. The former homicide detective wouldn't have said a word to Gibbs, given the way the team lead had been treating him lately, but clearly he had confided in someone.
Vance selected a new toothpick from the stash in his top drawer and started to methodically unwrap it as he considered the candidates. Since Abby Scutio hadn't poisoned his coffee or made any veiled - or otherwise - threats to his person, she wasn't in on it. Nor was Agent McGee, if some of the jibes he'd overheard were a fair sampling. Officer David was a possibility, except she seemed a little too keen on joining McGee in ridiculing DiNozzo. Could be a front, but unlikely. Ducky? Wrong generation. That left-
"I'll be damned." Vance chuckled.
Palmer was the obvious answer. Vance just wished he'd been observing the bullpen at the moment the fumbling ME's assistant found the temerity to face down Gibbs.
That Palmer had done something this time out - and Vance was willing to bet that this wasn't the first time DiNozzo had confided in Palmer - suggested that any minute now DiNozzo was going to knock on this office door and turn down yet another promotion. It ought to have annoyed him, but in some ways, Vance was actually pleased by that outcome. When he had first considered the option, it had been a good time to shuffle assets, but there were moves now being made that were making him rethink. Mossad was up to something. And that meant making sure he had his best agents close at hand, for when all hell inevitably broke loose.
Pat on that thought came the knock he was expecting. A moment later and DiNozzo appeared. From the expression he had yet to see Gibbs. Or else the retired Marine hadn't had the humility to swallow a little crow. Vance wasn't sure where to put his money on that score.
Instead, he said, "You're not taking it."
DiNozzo looked mildly sheepish but resolute. "No, sir."
"Mind telling me why?"
"I don't think it's the right time for me to be moving on."
"I see." Vance wanted to add something about giving Gibbs one more chance, but it was never a good idea to give up all your intel if you didn't have to. "All right. I'll accept your answer. I do have an extra job for you to do, though."
Now DiNozzo looked surprised. "Me?"
"The Tokyo office staff is visiting the Navy Yard tomorrow. I need someone to look after them tomorrow evening - show them a little Washington hospitality."
"Me?" DiNozzo repeated, now looking both surprised and wary.
Clearly he'd learned the old Marine adage of never volunteer. "You. As I understand it, you are a leading expert in Washington's nightlife."
From DiNozzo's expression, he didn't have any clue as to how to take that particular remark.
"I'll expect you in my office at nineteen hundred," Vance finished.
And given no choice, DiNozzo made the only response he could: "Yes, sir."
A moment or two later and Vance was alone in his office again. Only then did he allow a smirk to cross his face. He might have accepted DiNozzo's answer - might even be glad of it - but that didn't mean he wasn't going to find the man at least a modicum of punishment duty. And taking the Tokyo boys out for the evening would certainly be that. But then again, the inevitable hangover the next morning would give Gibbs an easy 'in' to fixing things, so it wasn't as if it was all bad.
Vance just hoped it worked.