Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS or the characters portrayed on television. The story is mine.
A/N: This was inspired by JackiLeigh's story Agent Afloat Series found here on . My story starts at the end of the show when Gibbs rejoins his team after talking with Vance.
A/N: This story has not been betaed. Please let me know about any mistakes so I can fix them. Thanks and enjoy the story.
Summary: Vance chose to send Tony back to the as the Agent Afloat instead of reassigning him to Gibb's team. What would the reaction of Team Gibbs be?
This Agent Doesn't Float
Gibbs' gut had been screaming at him since he'd seen the smirk on Vance's face before walking down the stairs to be with his team. Before he got the chance to ask Tony about the Director's answer Abby came running yelling "Tonee" into the bullpen before hugging the stuffing out of Tony. Gibbs listened as Abby asked if Tony was back. Tony looked down before looking at Abby and shaking his head, all good humor was gone from his face. Dammit, why was Vance so set against DiNozzo being part of Gibbs team? He had made it clear to Vance that he wanted, no needed Tony back on his team and wouldn't accept anyone else as his Senior Field Agent. Was Vance lying when he said that making Tony the Agent Afloat wasn't a punishment? Maybe it was something else.
Gibbs' attention was brought back to his team when a clearly upset Abby exclaimed. "What do you mean no? You have to be back! Team Gibbs isn't Team Gibbs without you!"
"DiNozzo. What did Vance say?" Gibbs interrupted Abby before she could begin rambling and more than likely threaten the director who was watching the whole scene.
Tony scowled. "He's sending me back to complete the tour Boss! Says it's a promotion and that I should accept it gracefully." Tony finished voice dripping sarcasm.
"No!" Abby cried. "You don't belong there, you belong here." She clung to Tony, who hugged her back just as tightly.
Vance was surprised to note that Tim and Ziva looked equally distressed at the news. He thought they'd be happy that the slacker would be gone.
"I can't go back Boss. It's not a promotion, it's a nightmare." Tony whispered before taking a deep breath. "I'm a field agent, and a damn good one. I was following Sheppard's orders; her death was not my fault. If I have to go back I'll resign. I can work for the FBI; Fornell has offered me a place there several times. That way I might be able to work with you guys once in a while."
Silence greeted Tony's announcement.
Gibbs wasn't all that surprised at Tony's announcement. He knew that his Senior Field Agent was wasting his time as Agent Afloat. The team needed Tony, his humor, his insights and Gibbs needed him on his six. He needed Tony to stop him from shooting people, particularly Vance at this moment. Gibbs had been angry when Vance broke up his team, now he was livid. He couldn't lose his best agent, especially not to the FBI; Fornell would never let him live it down. Gibbs didn't even want to contemplate the possibility of losing his friend. He'd missed Tony these last four months; he tried not to think about the time he spent in Mexico. "My office now people!" Gibbs stalked to the elevator with the others following.
Vance watched the group head to the elevator. He could almost feel the anger radiating from the group. He shrugged. They'd get over it. DiNozzo was a goof off and a poor example of an agent. He didn't belong as part of MCRT or at NCIS either for that matter. Vance hadn't agreed with SecNav's idea of placing DiNozzo as temporary lead of Pearson's team while she was out on medical leave he had better candidates for that so had made DiNozzo Agent Afloat. It got the wannabe investigator out of the DC office. He just couldn't understand how DiNozzo lasted in NCIS this long. Having DiNozzo quit was an unforeseen bonus. Gibbs might be a problem, but McGee and David would see sense.
Vance headed back to his office confident that things would work out the way he wanted. Too bad he hadn't bothered to read Tony's file properly or take the time to view the stats for Team Gibbs. He was messing with the top team in NCIS and there were those who would not take kindly to losing this team. He was also messing with Gibbs, a man who's well known for being a bastard. And messing with those he cares about was a sure fire way to get Gibbs' boot in the ass.
Vance really should have taken the time to review Gibb's history at NCIS before and after DiNozzo, he would have realized that his actions were counterproductive for NCIS. He didn't know Gibbs as well as the thought he did. He also thought he had the upper hand being the director. Vance figured Gibbs didn't know how to play the game since he remained a field agent. He didn't understand that Gibbs chose to remain a field agent because he hated the idea of sitting behind a desk all day. Just because Gibbs didn't play the political game didn't mean he couldn't. Vance didn't understand the dynamics that made Gibbs' team the best. He assumed that McGee and David would be happy to be rid of DiNozzo. He should have talked to them before deciding he knew what they wanted. He would have found out that they wanted Tony back on the team as well.
Meanwhile in the elevator Gibb's hit the emergency stop before turning to Tony. "You're right DiNozzo; your time's being wasted. I made it clear that I wanted you as my Senior Field Agent that I wouldn't accept any of the 'qualified' agents Vance had lined up. I don't know what Vance has against you but I won't let him get away with this. I especially don't want to lose you to the FBI, Fornell would be insufferable."
McGee spoke. "I don't want to work without Tony on the team, not like this. It would be different if one of us was promoted, but forcing Tony off the team isn't right. If you can't fix it Boss, I'll resign too. I've had lots of offers over the years."
Ziva nodded. "I could work for the FBI or CIA easily. Both agencies have made requests for me to join their anti-terrorist task forces before. My father would not be pleased to learn that I was leaving NCIS, it could cause problems between the US and Israel. McGee is right, what Vance did and is still doing to this team is not right."
"I'm with them." Was all Abby said still clinging to Tony.
Gibbs was proud of his people. This could actually work in their favor. "I'll retire for good this time. I've put in enough years."
Tony was looking around the group flabbergasted. Nobody had stood up for him like this before. He wasn't worth what they were planning to do. "No, you guys can't do that because of me. I'm not worth you guys leaving NCIS. You love your jobs."
The head slap wasn't as hard as some he'd received. "We can and we will. Ah, you'd do the same for us and you know it. Why shouldn't we want to do it for you DiNozzo?" Gibbs knew Tony's attitude had to do with DiNozzo Senior. The man had a lot to answer for as far as Gibbs was concerned, but that could wait. "You're an important part of my team. I chose you and I have never regretted that choice. You're family, and I'll choose family over NCIS any day."
"We do love our jobs, but we love you more Tony. Like Gibbs said, you're family. Ziva's right too, what Vance is doing is just wrong." Abby stated emphatically.
Tim looked Tony in the eyes when he spoke. He'd been waiting for a chance to apologize for his behavior during Gibbs' sabbatical. He'd learned how much Tony did contribute to the team while Tony languished as Agent Afloat. Gibbs was right; Tony's talents were being wasted. "I wouldn't be half the agent I am today if it weren't for you Tony. I'm sorry that I gave you such a hard time while Gibbs was on sabbatical. Now I see how much you contribute to our team. I'm ashamed that I didn't see that before. You're also my friend. I won't let you down again."
"I too am ashamed of how I behaved while Gibbs was away. He made you Team Leader and I should have respected his decision. I like Tim see you as a friend; I will not let you down again." Ziva contributed. This was also a way for Ziva to let Tony know that she believed in his abilities as an agent. Like Tim, she learned the hard way that Tony was a very capable agent and an important member of Team Gibbs.
Gibbs hadn't realized that Tony had such a tough time while he was gone. He'd have to get Tony to talk to him about it later. He looked in Tony's eyes before he spoke. "It might not come to that DiNozzo. SecNav has been impressed with your work at NCIS. He wouldn't want to lose a good agent. He really wouldn't want to lose an entire team."
Tony looked at Gibbs trying to see if his friend and mentor was being completely honest. He could see the sincerity in Gibb's eyes. He was overwhelmed with the sentiments expressed by the others, particularly the functional mute known as Gibbs. He could also tell that Gibbs had a plan. "Okay, what's the plan Boss?"
Gibbs smirked, Tony could still read him. "This is what we're going to do." He laid out the plan for his team. The group left the elevator smiling heading for their desks. Except for Gibbs, who headed to autopsy to tell Ducky the plan. He was sure that his old friend would go along with it. Actually, he knew Ducky would have volunteered to retire along with Gibbs if he'd heard Tony's news in the bull pen. Ducky valued Tony just as much as he valued the others on the team.
The next day, Vance was called to see SecNav ASAP. He canceled his afternoon appointments and arrived less than an hour after receiving the request. Vance was led into the SecNav's office and offered a seat.
Secretary of the Navy Philip Davenport watched Vance as he entered his office. He'd been shocked when Special Agent Gibbs had given him the reason he showed up at his office unannounced the day before. Davenport was not pleased with what he learned from Gibbs.
Davenport's secretary buzzed. "Yes, Veronica?"
"Special Agent Gibbs is here to see you. He says it's urgent. I told him you were busy but he insisted that I let you know he's here." Veronica answered.
"It's alright. Send him through, hold all my calls." Despite his calm but deliberate strides, Gibbs was radiating anger. Davenport wondered what had upset his old friend. He stood making his way around his desk to shake hands with Gibbs. "Jethro, it's been awhile. Take a seat. What can I do for you?" He got straight to the point knowing this wasn't a social call.
The two men sat down, Gibbs holding a folder in his lap. "How much do you know about what Vance has been doing with my team recently?"
"Well, Leon moved your people around so you could work with three agents one of which was a mole. With Langer's death your original team members should be reassigned to you. What's the problem other than messing with your team Jethro?" Davenport didn't like the direction this talk was taking. Gibbs only called Leon by his last name when he was pissed. Gibb's team was the best of the best. And Gibbs did not play well with others so it was better to let him have the team he chooses now that the mole had been found.
Gibbs scoffed angrily. "That's mostly true. Everyone has been returned to my team except my Second in Command and Senior Field Agent DiNozzo. Vance is making DiNozzo remain as Agent Afloat for another three months."
Davenport interrupted Gibbs. "Wait a minute; Vance assigned Agent DiNozzo as the Agent Afloat?" Gibbs nodded. Davenport's brow furrowed. He turned to his computer pulling up his file regarding the mole incident, he was sure that all but David were supposed to stay in Washington but he wanted to be sure. Davenport read his instructions for Vance and scowled. "Agent DiNozzo was supposed to be placed on Pearson's team temporarily. As you know her Senior Field Agent was just promoted and she was going to be out on medical leave. DiNozzo was to act as lead agent while she was out and provide training for her new Senior Field Agent as needed. That way he would be available to help you find the mole. Instead you're telling me he was assigned as Agent Afloat and hasn't been reassigned to DC and your team. Did Vance give you a reason?" It better be a good one Davenport thought to himself.
"No reason. I thought that Vance might have used the search for the mole as an excuse to punish DiNozzo for what happened to Director Sheppard. He claimed that it wasn't a punishment. I don't believe him. I think that it's either a punishment or a way to get DiNozzo off my team. What I do know is that DiNozzo will leave NCIS if he's sent back."
Davenport sat back, growing angry. Not only had Vance circumvented his orders, his actions would cost NCIS a valuable agent. He studied his old friend's face. "That's not all is it?"
Gibbs shook his head as he placed his folder on Davenport' desk tapping it. "This folder contains resignation and retirement letters for my entire team, including Dr. Mallard, Ms. Sciuto, and Mr. Palmer. DiNozzo is an important member of my team, none of us will put up with losing him for any reason other than a promotion to lead agent with his own team. If he goes, we all go."
Davenport scrubbed a hand over his face. This was a disaster. What on earth is Leon thinking messing with Gibbs? DiNozzo was the only agent that had been able to truly last with Gibbs. Never mind the fact that Gibbs recruited DiNozzo specifically for his team. With the exception of Burley and DiNozzo, Gibbs chased, scared or otherwise got rid of any other agents that were assigned to him within months, a couple left after a couple of days. Even Burley had requested to be transferred. DiNozzo worked well with Gibbs and didn't seem to mind the former marine's gruff attitude. It was better to let Gibbs pick his people; they had a tendency to be able to handle him. Davenport had read DiNozzo's file in order to decide the best place to put the agent during the mole hunt. He'd been impressed. The young man may seem to be a goof off, based on rumors, but he was very good at his job. More to the point, Gibbs would never have kept him if he wasn't. Gibbs didn't tolerate incompetence. He pulled the folder towards himself but didn't open it. "I'll take care of it Jethro. Tell Agent DiNozzo that he's been reassigned to DC and to your team effective immediately and that he has a couple days off to get settled on land again. I'll find another agent to take his place as Agent Afloat."
Gibbs stood up reaching out to shake Davenport's hand. "Thanks Philip. I appreciate it."
"Not a problem Jethro. I have to make sure that NCIS' best team can keep doing the job it does so well." Davenport watched his old friend leave the office before requesting DiNozzo's file and the latest stats on MCRT from Veronica so he would be prepared before meeting with Vance.
Vance approached Secretary Davenport diffidently. He had no idea why he was here. "You wanted to see me Secretary Davenport?"
Davenport nodded. "Yes I did. Have a seat Director. How are things with MCRT now that the mole has been found?" He sat back wanting to see how Vance answered the question.
Vance made himself comfortable, feeling a little more confident. He was sure he'd done the right thing. "Things seem to be getting back to normal. Agent Gibbs has his team back and should be getting back on track."
Davenport looked at Vance thoughtfully. Vance didn't seem worried or aware that things weren't as good as he thought. "I see. You say Gibbs has his team back?" Vance nodded. "If that's the case, can you explain why I received a report yesterday that Agent DiNozzo is Agent Afloat? My instructions were that he was to be moved to Pearson's team during the mole hunt than returned to Gibbs' team when it was over." Davenport spoke quietly, looking at Vance coldly.
Vance cleared his throat trying to act nonchalant. "Another lead agent needed a short assignment before being sent overseas so I made him temporary lead for Pearson's team and there was a need for a new Agent Afloat. So I assigned DiNozzo the duty. He's been performing very well as Agent Afloat. The experience has been good for him. I decided he should see the duty through until the end of a normal tour. I have two fine agents available to be promoted to Senior Field Agent that could benefit from working with Gibbs."
Davenport stared at Vance shrewdly. "Is that the only reason Leon? I get the impression that you're not telling me everything."
Vance kept himself from squirming in his seat by sheer willpower. At this point he knew that the truth was the only way to go. "DiNozzo's a slacker, a rich playboy who decided he wanted to be an investigator. He really doesn't contribute that much to cases, just messes around looking like he's working. He doesn't belong as part of MCRT. So I assigned him as Agent Afloat and kept him there. I'm sure that McGee and David will be happy that they don't have to put up with him anymore."
"DiNozzo's a slacker Leon? He plays at being an agent? Then why has Gibbs Team been the best team in NCIS since DiNozzo began working for Gibbs?"
Vance shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "DiNozzo must be taking credit for McGee's or David's work."
Davenport's eyes narrowed as he listened to Vance. "That is a serious allegation Leon. Perhaps you can explain how DiNozzo could take the credit for another agent's work when Gibbs and DiNozzo were a two-man team for a full year before Agent Todd joined them?"
Vance swallowed but didn't answer. He was beginning to realize that he had made a tactical error in his dealings with DiNozzo.
"Did you ever read DiNozzo's file or the history of MCRT when you became Director? I have to wonder if you really know Agent Gibbs at all even though you've worked with him in the past. The man is well known for not putting up with incompetent agents, especially on his own team. Do you really believe Agent Gibbs would not only keep DiNozzo on his team but make him his Senior Field Agent, if he was any of the things you claim?" Davenport paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "Well, I have read DiNozzo's file, again. He has a master's degree in Criminology to go with his Bachelors in Phys. Ed. He speaks three languages fluently and is highly proficient in computers. He has several commendations; two of them put forth by Gibbs himself, a man not known to hand out praise lightly. What I'm about to tell you will not leave this office. Agent DiNozzo was disinherited when he was twelve. He put himself through school. Can't be a rich playboy if you're not rich, can you?"
Vance stared at Davenport, flummoxed. He hadn't seen anything of that nature in DiNozzo's file. "Sir, I did look over DiNozzo's file, I don't remember seeing any of that information in it."
"Then you didn't read it very carefully. You have also misjudged DiNozzo's importance to the members of Team Gibbs and those who work closely with him." Davenport picked up the folder given to him by Gibbs. "In this folder I have letters of resignation from Agents DiNozzo, McGee and Officer David. Evidently they don't share your opinion that they would be better off without DiNozzo. I also have resignations from Abby Sciuto and Jimmy Palmer. Last, but not least, letters of retirement from Agent Gibbs and Dr. Mallard."
Davenport placed the folder on his desk placing his folded hands over it. "You have single handedly managed to alienate the best people NCIS has to offer. I thought you knew better than to go by appearances Leon and to see what's hidden under the surface. That has always been an important part of an investigator's job. Perhaps you've been out of the field too long and have forgotten how to look beyond the surface. I'm not going to lose these people Leon so I have reassigned DiNozzo to DC effective yesterday. Now I have to decide what to do about you. I believed you had real promise as Director of NCIS, but you've just shown me that you either aren't ready, or just unfit to be Director."
Vance didn't know what to think. DiNozzo was smart, and competent. He wasn't a rich playboy. It just didn't fit with his image. Damn, image, it was an act. Davenport was right; he should have looked beyond the surface and read through his file as thoroughly as he had McGee's and David's. It was time to face the music and hope that by being honest he can save his career. "You're right. I really didn't spend a lot of time reading DiNozzo's file, not like I did for McGee or David. I let myself be taken in by the image that DiNozzo presents. I won't make that mistake again. I would like the opportunity to make up for my mistake."
Davenport looked at Leon carefully. He knew the man was smart and capable. "Alright Leon. I'll give you another chance. You will be on probation for the next two years. Any major decisions will go through my office even if you have to do so after the fact. Furthermore, leave Gibbs' team alone if you want your life and career to stay intact. Try to remember that it's best not to mess with Gibbs. He's known as a bastard for a reason."
Vance stood up knowing a dismissal when he heard one. "Thank you Secretary Davenport. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from my mistake."
"See that you do Leon. See that you do." Davenport watched Vance leave the room. He decided to start looking through potential replacements for the Director's position just in case. He made a quick phone call to let Gibbs know that everything had been straightened out and that Vance was still Director, but was on probation for at least the next two years.
Two days later Gibbs entered the bullpen at 0700 to find Tony at his desk already. "Trying to impress your boss by coming in early DiNozzo?"
Tony smiled winningly at Gibbs. "Don't need to impress the Boss, he loves me."
Gibbs snorted, hiding a smile as he head-slapped his second lightly.
"Ow. Love you too Boss." Tony responded.
"Good to have you back DiNozzo." Gibbs said quietly before sitting at his desk powering up his computer.
Tony stared at Gibbs surprised at hearing the words before smiling brilliantly at Gibbs. "Thanks Boss." He returned to his work. The paperwork for his position was horribly backed up and he was having trouble finding things. What did Langer do while acting as Gibb's second?
Less than an hour later, Tim and Ziva arrived. They both greeted Tony with smiles and jokes. Happy to have their friend back where he belongs.
Gibbs phone rang at 08:30. His team looked up to see if they were being called out. Gibbs snapped the phone shut glaring at it. "Vance wants to talk. I'll be back."
Tony looked concerned sure this meet was about his "return".
Gibbs caught the look. "Vance can't do anything DiNozzo; your reassignment came from SecNav personally."
Tony nodded smirking. "I would've liked to have been a fly on the wall during that meeting."
"Me too." Gibbs replied smiling slightly.
Vance's assistant Cynthia waved Gibbs through as soon as he arrived. He nodded in acknowledgement before entering Vance's office. Gibbs moved to stand in front of Vance's desk and just looked at him.
Vance stared back before speaking. "I believe I have you to thank for getting in trouble with SecNav." It wasn't a question.
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "I suppose you do Leon. I didn't have to do much though. Philip wasn't happy when I told him you had made DiNozzo the Agent Afloat when he was supposed to be assigned to Pearson's team and then placed back on my team when the mole hunt was over."
Vance narrowed his eyes at Gibbs. "And you just happened to have a folder containing letters of resignation and retirement from your team plus the ME and forensic scientist I suppose."
Gibbs smirked. "I had those because all of us were ready to leave with DiNozzo. Those letters were no bluff. You would have lost an entire team if DiNozzo hadn't been reassigned to DC. I told you that the team needed him; you chose not to believe me. You should know me well enough to know that I don't lie, or exaggerate and I protect my people."
Vance's shoulders slumped some. Gibbs was right; he shot straight from the hip. Vance nodded in resignation. "Get back to work."
Gibbs left Vance's office without another word heading for his desk. His phone rang just as he reached his desk. "Yeah Gibbs." After listening he hung up. "Grab your gear people. Dead marine on Massachusetts Ave."
The four grabbed their guns and bags heading for the elevator together. Team Gibbs was back in action.