A/N: Hey everybody, this is my first fic, actually my first ever completed fictional piece of any kind. Just thought I'd warn you all now! Hopefully it's not too bad, definitely open to constructive criticism.
Also spoilers for Dead Air.
Tony had decided the night before that he had to do something about McGee and Ziva. He had thought after they told him they'd turned down the volume on the feed from his wire that he could let it go, that it wasn't that big a deal. He'd tried to take it the way they'd said they intended it- as a joke, but he couldn't seem to get past the fact that it had been an incredibly dangerous thing for them to have done while he was supposed to be trying to get voiceprints to identify potential terrorists, for crying out loud.
Any number of things could have happened in that period of time when he was without backup. And that's not even taking into account the disrespect inherent in such an act, not only to him personally, but also to his position as senior to them within the team.
He'd always known they never really respected him, McGee had certainly made that clear enough every time he'd made it a point to mention his education, and Ziva had certainly never kept quiet about how much better at, well, everything than him she was thought she was.
But regardless of those things, he'd thought they still had some respect for his position as Senior Field Agent. Yeah, so they'd never seemed to acknowledge the fact that he was senior to them on the team in the normal day-to-day, but he'd thought when it came down to it, in the field, they'd have his back. He could've ignored it, he supposed, if it had just been another of their slap-downs in the office.
But when it came down to it, he needed to know that in the field they had his six, especially considering the number of times Gibbs paired him up with one of them lately. Which normally he wouldn't have a problem with considering it made sense to pair the two more senior and experienced agents with the less experienced junior agents. But considering what their actions on the last case had shown to him, he'd decided that he couldn't risk them deciding to pull something similar in the field again.
So now he was here waiting at his desk for Gibbs to come in so Tony could hopefully talk to him before McGee and Ziva got in. And, with his usual impeccable sense of timing, the elevator dinged, and Gibbs came striding in.
"Morning Boss," Tony said.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs replied, "you're in early."
"Yeah, I, ah, was kind of hoping to, ah, to talk to you about something, Boss." Now that it had come down to it, he wasn't sure if this was such a good idea. In the past, he'd never actually had to confront any issues with coworkers like this; he'd just moved on and found somewhere new. But he had found that he enjoyed working with Gibbs too much to move on quite yet. They made a good team, and despite Gibbs being a demanding taskmaster and somewhat difficult to get close to, he found he had developed a fond affection for the man who had taken him out of a difficult situation in Baltimore and who'd had his six and never lost faith in him through everything that'd happened since. So despite his anxiety and insecurity in actually having to confront the issue, he decided he needed to just go through with it and hope Gibbs would have his six in this as well, and that they would be able to come up with a solution to the problem.
"Yeah, DiNozzo," Gibbs asked, "what about?"
"Our last case, something happened that at the time I thought I could let go, but I, ah, I think you should know after all."
"Yeah? You okay, Tony?" Gibbs asked, concerned. His voice was still a bit hoarse from that allergic reaction during the case after all.
Tony laughed, a little nervously, "Yeah, Boss, good to go. It's about Ziva and McGee actually," Tony replied, trying to work up the courage to just tell Gibbs.
Now Gibbs was really starting to look worried. He got up from his own desk and walked over to Tony's, nudging him back a bit and sitting on the edge in front of Tony. Tony didn't usually want him to interfere with any of the myriad of small problems he may have with the others on the team, so he had to know that this must be something pretty big for Tony to actually be going to him with it.
"What happened, Tony?" Gibbs demanded, and even though he sounded like his usual brusque self, Tony could also detect a faint undercurrent of what seemed to be protectiveness running through his tone. Tony didn't usually hear that tone aimed at him unless something dire was happening, and it sent a spark of warmth through him that a man like Gibbs had let someone like him close enough to feel protective of him. There weren't too many other people in his life that had worried about him, not even when he was a kid.
"When we were out at that neighborhood and I was getting those voiceprints, I got back to the car and they told me they'd turned off the volume on my feed," Tony rushed. "They left me without backup, Boss."
"They tell you that?" Gibbs asked.
"Yeah, Boss. Said they got tired of listening to my voice so they turned it off. Thought it was some great joke. I thought I could let it go as just that. But, Boss, I don't feel like I can trust them in the field now and I . . . don't know what to do about that Boss," Tony said, distressed. He leaned forward, next to where Gibbs was perched on the corner of his desk, and put his head in his hands, elbows leaning on the desktop.
He felt like the idea was only just now finally processing in his mind, and the consequences were just hitting him. He'd thought they were all friends, and maybe they were to a certain degree. But he didn't know how to reconcile his feelings and perception of friendship with their actions and behavior.
"If they can't have their partner's six, then they can't be on our team. I've gotten rid of people for a hell of a lot less than that before," Gibbs declared, putting his hand on the nape of his neck and leaning in closer. "We'll speak to them about it when they come in, that'll decide whether they stay on in the agency or whether they'll be looking for new jobs."
"Are you sure you want them off the team, Boss?" Tony asked hesitantly, raising his head from where it was still resting in his hands. "I know you like the team we've got, Boss. We could figure something else out."
"Tony, I'm not going to compromise your safety and I'm certainly not gonna make ya go out into the field with people you don't feel ya can trust backin' you up. And I may like the team, Tony, but this team was never supposed to be four people anyway. Not permanently."
"Dismissal's a bit of a reach though, isn't it, Boss? I mean nobody got hurt."
"If they'd been in the military discharge would have been the least of their worries with dereliction of duty, DiNozzo. They understood what their jobs were supposed to be, yet they willfully ignored that duty and did the complete opposite. They'll have to face the consequences of those actions now, whether they were meant to be a joke or not," Gibbs reminded.
Tony knew that, of course, and told Gibbs so, he had just hoped that maybe they'd have been able to find a solution that wouldn't involve breaking up the team.
"OK, Boss. They should be in soon I'd think," Tony replied, resigned to what was going to have to happen.
Almost as if on cue the elevator dinged a few seconds later, and McGee and Ziva both came walking in. They'd only just got to their desks and were stowing their gear and securing their firearms when Gibbs spoke up.
"McGee. David. Conference room. Now," Gibbs curtly demanded. Then he turned and strode off deeper into the building in search of an open room they could use, not having to look to see his team following along behind.
Ziva and McGee exchanged confused looks before hurrying to follow, not knowing what they could have done to irritate the man already when they'd only just gotten in and weren't working a case.
Once they got to the conference room Gibbs ordered them to sit and indicated to Tony to close the door once he entered.
"I need the two of you to explain to me what the Hellyou thought you were doing when you left Tony without backup on the last case. Now!" Gibbs demanded angrily.
"What, ah, um, Boss—'' McGee started, before being interrupted by Ziva.
"What are you talking about Gibbs? We never left Tony without backup!" Ziva exclaimed.
"Of course we didn't," McGee finally finished, with a side look to Ziva for interrupting.
"Oh, so Tony's mistaken then. You didn't tell him you'd turned off the radio while you were supposed to be covering him while he got voiceprints of potential terrorists?" Gibbs asked sarcastically, knowing they were just digging themselves in deeper by either not recognizing the folly of their actions or not caring.
"Well, um, we did do that, Boss," McGee answered slightly indignantly. "But it was just a joke!"
"Yes, Gibbs. It was a joke; we had gotten tired of having to listen to his voice for so long while he was chattering everyone up. We were there the whole time of course, so he was never without backup, despite what he may have told you," Ziva stated impassively.
"A joke would have been telling him you turned the radio off when you hadn't, not actually doing it. Anything could have happened to him while you were sitting on your asses, twiddling your thumbs. And unless you can tell me you had him in view the entire time that radio was off, yeah ya left him without backup, David."
"It won't happen again, Boss," McGee declared confidently.
"Yeah. I know it won't, McGee," Gibbs stated. "Cuz you're both off my team effective immediately. I'll be speaking to the Director in a few to inform him and decide what'll be happening with you both. Until then I want you both at your desks finishing up any outstanding paperwork you have and to clear out your desks. You are not to leave those desks until we get back down and tell you what your new assignment will be. Go."
McGee and Ziva both looked stunned, not sure how things had changed so quickly from when they walked off the elevator what seemed like only minutes ago. They got up slowly, and left the room, too stunned to make any more attempts at defending themselves.
Gibbs and Tony got up and left the room after them, heading directly upstairs to go talk to the Director. Once up there, Gibbs barged right in, Tony not far behind. Thankfully Vance had seemed to have gotten used to that over the last couple of years, so Gibbs was able to start right in on what brought him up there.
"McGee and David are off my team, Leon," Gibbs said abruptly, before turning suddenly and sitting in one of the chairs in front of the desk.
"You'd better have a damn good reason why you suddenly want two good agents off your team Gibbs. Especially considering how badly you wanted them back just a few years ago," Vance countered, pulling out a toothpick and placing it in his mouth, already looking aggravated.
"They intentionally left DiNozzo without backup on the last case when they were supposed to be listening while he got voiceprints in that neighborhood. Turned the radio off, then said it was supposed to be some kind of joke and that they'd gotten tired of listening to his voice," Gibbs responded, pissed. He stood again and started pacing agitatedly. No matter how calmly he'd spoken to Tony about it downstairs, he seemed to be taking it understandably hard. The team had felt like family to both Tony and Gibbs, and now it was turning out it had been a more dysfunctional one then they'd have suspected.
"That's a serious violation of procedure," Vance stated, becoming angry now himself. "Alright then. What would you like to happen now?"
"They're off my team for sure," Gibbs maintained. "Tony doesn't feel he can trust them in the field, and I can't say as I blame him. Not sure I feel any differently."
"I think as a condition to their staying on at NCIS," Tony interjected, "they should have to retake all training at FLETC and relearn all policies and procedures. Then I would recommend they be given non-field agent status. I can't see too many other agents jumping at the chance to work with them in the field once this gets out."
"That seems reasonable enough," Vance agreed. "Any suggestions as to where I should reassign them should they choose to stay on and go through the retraining?"
"Put McGee in cybercrimes, it's where he's always done best anyway. That way he can help out all teams as needed and won't be able to find an excuse to get put back in the field," Gibbs decided. McGee had come a long way as an investigator, but he'd always done best when he could rely on his computer and technology to help him out.
"I'd say put Ziva where she probably should have been right from the start. She was allowed a bit too much leeway in terms of investigating for us when she had no authority here and it's let her think she can get away with doing whatever she sees fit and however she sees fit. And especially now that she's cut her ties to Mossad, she should have no difficulty in being assigned as an intelligence specialist on the Middle East desk," Tony recommended.
It was true. While she'd still been only a Liaison Officer attached to Mossad, with her main loyalties going to Mossad, she should never have been allowed access to classified information or ongoing investigations. Now that she was an official agent as well as a citizen, that didn't matter anymore, but she could still do the most good where her intelligence on the Middle East could be utilized.
"Alright," Vance conceded. "That makes sense. Send them up when you have a chance and I'll inform them. I'll get you files to look over as soon as possible for replacements, Gibbs."
"Not necessary, Leon," Gibbs assured, standing to leave. "I don't want replacements. Tony and I can work as a two man team. We've done it before."
"I'll allow that for now, Gibbs," Vance declared, skeptical. "But if the two of you start having issues keeping up with the caseload, or your solve rate drops too far, I'm gonna have to assign you someone."
"That won't be necessary, Leon. But it seems fair," Gibbs responded, before turning to leave, indicating Tony should follow. They headed back downstairs to the squad room, finding McGee and Ziva still working on paperwork.
"When you're finished the director wants you both in his office," Gibbs told them. "Clearing your desks can wait, but I want that paperwork caught up first. With me, DiNozzo." That said he turned and headed for the back elevator.
The elevator down was silent. It seemed to be an unspoken decision that they would tell Ducky what was going on first before trying to talk to Abby. They both knew that Ducky would be understandably upset with the circumstances, but Abby would be a whole new level of upset that they both felt they needed to prepare themselves for a bit more.
"Duck. Need to tell you something," Gibbs said as he walked through the doors to Autopsy. He didn't want to drag this out.
"Yes, Jethro?" Ducky responded somewhat worriedly, looking up from his own paperwork he was in the middle of. It wasn't often Gibbs walked in wanting to talk, after all.
"McGee and Ziva are off the team, Duck. They're gonna be sent for retraining and be reassigned once they complete that," Gibbs said.
"Why ever for, Jethro? Things have seemed to be running rather smoothly of late. I haven't heard of anything that would warrant such actions," Ducky objected, looking surprised.
"It's kind of a new development, Ducky," Tony replied. "I only just filled Gibbs in on what had happened this morning. They left me without backup on the last case when I was getting voiceprints. Turned the radio off and then tried to pass it off as a joke when they told me about it when I got back in the car. They said they were tired of listening to my voice."
"Oh my! What a horrible thing for them to do, Anthony. I would have thought Timothy and Ziva knew better than to do such a reckless thing as that!" Ducky exclaimed.
"Yeah, well, so did I, Duck," Gibbs cut in. "But they did, and now they're gonna face the consequences of that. Tony and I are gonna continue as a two man team for as long as Vance allows it."
"Well, that would seem to be a prudent idea, considering how you go through new agents, Jethro," Ducky decided. "You and Anthony seemed to do well enough before Caitlyn came along anyway, so I don't foresee any problems popping up."
"The director's gonna be speaking with the two of them as soon as they finish their outstanding paperwork. I wanna go get Abby up to speed before it's all over the building," Gibbs declared, before turning and striding out of Autopsy.
"Good luck, Anthony," Ducky said as Tony turned to follow. "And I'm terribly sorry about how this has all turned out, as well. I never would have thought the two of them would do something so incredibly intolerable."
"Thanks, Ducky," Tony replied, mustering a small smile for his kindness. Then he turned to catch up with Gibbs on the elevator.
Gibbs walked into Abby's lab and headed straight to turn down her music.
"Hey!" Abby exclaimed, before turning and seeing it was Gibbs. "Oh! It's you Bossman! And Tony too! What brings my two favorite guys down to my lab? Do we have a new case?"
"No new case, Abs," Gibbs said.
"Ziva and McGee are off the team and are gonna be sent for retraining before getting reassigned, Abby," Tony stated wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible, explaining to her what had happened on the last case.
"Oh my God! Why would they think that was funny!" Abby exclaimed. "You could have gotten hurt, Tony."
"I know, Abs. I don't get it either," Tony said, dejectedly.
Abby crossed the few steps between them and gave him a giant hug.
"I'm so sorry, Tonyboy. I know how much it means to you to be able to trust people."
"Thanks, Abs," Tony whispered into her hair as he returned the hug. They stayed like that for a few more minutes before they pulled back.
"Come on, Tony. We've gotta get some work done today at some point," Gibbs declared. He just wanted the day to be over with already, so they could start to put this behind them.
They headed back up, and settled at their desks to start in on wrapping up their own paperwork. The rest of the day seemed to go by fast after that. McGee and Ziva both went up to see the director as soon as they both finished their paperwork, and came back down not long after looking much more subdued. They'd cleared their desks of their personal belongings not long after and then left. Whispers had started not long after that, of course. Tony and Gibbs had then finished out the day, pretending the entire time that they couldn't hear any of it since neither one of them wanted to explain it all again. Once 1700 hours came they both started packing up for the day, shutting down their computers, grabbing their gear, and heading for the elevator.
"With me, DiNozzo," Gibbs ordered, once they got down to the garage. Tony didn't put up a fight, just went over and got in the passenger seat. They spent the rest of the night not really talking that much. They both knew it would take time for both of them to come to terms with everything that had gone down that day. But they also knew that they could still trust each other unconditionally, and it was the strength of that that would see them through it. Gibbs made cowboy-style steak and they had a few beers each with the meal before moving down to the basement. Tony sat on one of the bottom steps while Gibbs worked on one of his small projects. It was a routine that relaxed them both and allowed them not to think too hard about any one thing if they didn't want to.
The next few months were difficult, of course. But they soon settled into a routine working the cases with just the two of them. Surprisingly to Vance, their solve rate didn't change much and they were able to handle the caseload pretty well. They had always both pretty much lived the job anyway, so handling the caseload didn't prove to be that difficult. If they needed extra help on a case for a stakeout or something like that they'd get another team in to help, or get a couple agents assigned TAD for the duration of the case. All in all, things seemed to have worked out better than it had seemed they would back on that morning Tony was so nervous about telling Gibbs. Though they'd heard McGee and Ziva had finished their retraining and were back in the Navy Yard, they hadn't run into them at all and were actually hoping it would stay that way.