I would like to thank all of you for sticking in there with me through this story. This is the final chapter. Thank you to my new beta Becky. She re-read the whole thing to make sure I wrapped it all up.
I own nothing. This story is for entertainment only and I make no profit from it.
Gibbs exited the elevator early in the morning. He wanted to check the area and be certain nothing was out of place. He had listened to Tony's concerns over
returning to work. The closer the day came the more anxious Tony became, he wasn't sure what his reception would be upon his return.
"I mean, how does anyone expect me to be able to just walk back into my job after what has happened? I was accused rather loudly of being a cold-blooded murderer and then paraded out of the bullpen in handcuffs. With everything that happened, I just… can't believe it's going to be all easy as pie as you all seem to think."
Gibbs understood Tony's concerns. He, too, had a nagging feeling about Tony's return. Late last night he had called Tim and told him to meet at 0800 in the office. They were going to scrub Tony's computer and make sure there were no surprises for him. Gibbs wanted the transition of the team to be as smooth as possible. They had had enough turmoil.
Monday 0730 had found Gibbs walking into the bullpen. He started with Tony's desk, checking the drawers and inventorying Tony's personal items. He was slightly disgusted to find the desk chair had been tampered with; Gibbs almost fell when he started to sit down.
His next stop had been the break room. Everything there appeared to be fine. There were no signs of trouble, and for that Gibbs was grateful. When he returned to the bullpen, he found Tim sitting at Tony's desk.
"Good morning, Boss. I've already started working on Tony's email accounts. He hasn't accessed them since all of this started. I'm checking all emails to make sure they are on the up and up. I'll print hard copies of anything I find out of the ordinary and report them to you immediately."
"Good job, Tim. I have a couple of other things to do before Tony arrives. He said he would be in by 0830. Will you be done by then?"
"Yes, I should be. I saw what happened with his chair. I replaced it with Ziva's. I'll work on getting a new one for Ziva's old desk."
"I'll be back shortly. Keep working. I want everything done before he gets here."
Gibbs made his way to the locker room. Other than the chair, nothing else had been done. He couldn't say for sure the chair was a deliberate act, but he did know he wasn't taking chances. His mind was made up when he entered the locker room and saw the look on Tony's face.
15 minutes before….
Tony pulled into the parking lot and took a deep breath. He needed to settle down before he started his day. He decided to come in a little early and hit the gym. He figured a couple rounds with the heavy bag would work off his tension. He didn't want anyone to realize how badly this had affected him.
Entering the building, he discovered his first hurdle; security. Though they had been told he was cleared and returned to full status, they appeared to have an issue with him. It took him ten minutes to be processed through. Finally, he was allowed to enter. He quickly made his way to the elevators and went down to the gym.
He couldn't remember what he had in his locker; therefore, he had packed for the day's workout. When he opened his locker, he was shocked. He fell back sitting on the bench and stared into the locker. An 8x10 copy of his mug shot was hanging from the shelf. He couldn't believe it. It didn't seem to matter that he was not only exonerated, but there hadn't been a crime to begin with, no one seemed to care. The other problem was even if it was meant as a joke, that wasn't how he was taking it.
Tony sat there with a growing sense of nausea threatening to overwhelm him. He wasn't sure how long he had been sitting there when Gibbs sat down next to him. "I don't know what to say, Boss. I…I just can't believe someone did this."
"Tony, I want you to take a deep breath. I will get to the bottom of this. This behavior will not be tolerated." Gibbs was determined to find who did this to his son.
Tony and Gibbs entered the bullpen and found Tim sitting at his desk. "Good morning, welcome back. I was just finishing some work. I have to be at class at 0900. I should be back at 1600." McGee was glad he was going to be leaving the office. His search of Tony's email had been productive. He had scrubbed them off Tony's computer, written up a report and tracked the emails before putting it all together in a file for Gibbs. He didn't want to be around when the shit hit the fan. He knew heads here at NCIS were going to roll.
"Thanks, Tim." Tony answered absent-mindedly. He knew Tim going back to classes was a big deal, but now he had other things on his mind. The office was still relatively quiet, but he knew that wouldn't last much longer. The other teams were due in at any moment.
Tim beat a hasty retreat. Gibbs picked up the file on his desk and headed to the director's office. He needed to get this under control quickly before Tony decided it wasn't worth it and quit. "Tony, I have a meeting with Jen this morning. I shouldn't be long. Stay here and start looking through these files." He handed over a second set of files, which were personnel files on prospective agents for the team.
Tony didn't say anything, but nodded. He began to pick through the files and separate them into piles. A few of the agents he knew and was able to form an opinion before spending a lot of time on them. Others he would need to read and interview before he would consider them. After what he saw in the locker room, he was hesitant to take on anyone he didn't know well.
Gibbs walked straight into the director's office without so much as knocking. "We have a problem."
Jennifer Shepard was accustomed to the MCRT lead agent making such an entrance. What she wasn't used to was the look on his face. Someone was about to get it and it sure wasn't going to be her. "Jethro, I'm sure they got the best sentences they could get without having to make Tony testify. His father has been sighted. Fornell is en route to pick him up now. With the evidence he and his team have found, DiNozzo Sr. won't see the light of day ever again. I've already explained to them there will be no plea agreement. Fornell has discovered some additional information for Tony. Apparently Tony's mom must have had some inkling that Senior was a bad egg. She had a will drawn up and money place on the side for Tony. She had wanted him to be able to go to college without any worries. Senior knew about the will but could do nothing about it. There is evidence to show he knowingly and willfully obstructed the lawyers from disclosing this information to Tony. He also attempted to embezzle funds from Tony's account multiple times through the years. I have already contacted the firm and given them the information they needed to contact Tony however I told them to give us a week to inform Tony and to make certain Senior was behind bars."
Gibbs let out a sigh of relief. Tony had been worried about what Senior's part in all of this had been. He couldn't understand what Senior's motives were and why he choose now to attack him. He was well aware Senior's financial downturn. He had been called by multiple creditors looking for payment. Senior had tried multiple times to put his debts off on to Tony, of this Gibbs had only recently become aware.
"Tony and I both agree that without having to testify those were the best sentences, and the fact they won't hold federal or other law enforcement jobs again is helpful. I will talk to him about Senior and notify him of the law firms need to contact him. Give me their info and I will let him contact them when he is ready. What I came in here for was to tell you we have an internal problem. Here is a copy of the emails that were sent via interdepartmental email and here are the copies of what was done to Tony's locker. Abby is processing the locker as we speak. Tim scrubbed the computer and generated that report. He didn't have a lot of time, but we didn't want Tony to walk into anything like this. Jen, this has to stop. It was bad enough the FBI did their part, but this is from our own people."
"Let me review this. I'll call you back up as soon as I'm done. Stick close to him for a little bit and start working on finding a new team member."
"Thanks, Jen. Tim went to class, so Tony and I are going to go through the files."
Tony was still working when Gibbs came back down. He tried not to feel like he was being watched, but after this morning he was having a difficult time. He just wanted everything to go back to the way it was, but that wasn't going to happen. He tried to concentrate on the files, but he couldn't stay focused. He knew he had read Rita Moreno's file twice already. She was new to the agency and he didn't know her. As he read and re-read the file, he couldn't decide upon her. He placed her file in the questionable pile.
He had known things would be difficult for him coming back. Hell, they had been difficult when he had started at NCIS. He was placed directly on the MCRT with the most coveted boss around. He had done well and had proven himself on more than one occasion, but unlike the others before him, he stayed and found a place to call home. However, now he found himself feeling much like he did in those early days; like he needed to prove himself once again.
Shaking his head, he got back to work and started to go over the files with Gibbs. He explained the piles he had and immediately he and Gibbs got to work.
Jethro was right. This needed to be stopped. First thing she needed to do was to call a departmental meeting and get Tony and Gibbs out of the office. She couldn't believe the cruelty of her own people. This was going to stop now.
Abby was furious. She was desperately trying to work on her relationship with Tony. As she read the emails, she began to understand a little more about Tony and how tough things were for him when he was first hired. She couldn't believe this had all resurfaced.
The emails were vile. They accused Tony of everything from sleeping with his boss to get the job to killing someone. They even had the audacity to insinuate he was a dirty cop; the rumors about Baltimore had made more than one round at NCIS. How was it that no one understood who Tony really was, a smart, considerate man.
Abby took a step back and decided she wasn't much better and, in fact, was worse than those she was chastising. She knew Tony and look at how she had treated him. She needed to help Tony, to make things right.
It was after lunch when Gibbs was called back up to the director's office. He hadn't been able to stay in the loop with the investigation into Tony's emails and locker. It was driving him to distraction. He was glad they weren't out in the field.
"Jethro, have a seat. We need to discuss the findings and decide where we go from here. I would like your input, but remember I am the director and ultimately have the final say." After a bit of grumbling from Gibbs, Jen continued. "We were able to get prints off the pictures in the locker. It looks to be just one agent. The emails originate from the same agent."
"WHO WAS IT?!" Jethro was furious, but also glad that it seemed that it was only one agent and not several. He didn't want to think it was the whole department.
"Agent Peter Wall." Jen waited for the explosion, but was sorely disappointed.
"Who?" Jethro had no idea who she was talking about, Wall? He wasn't good with people, and was worse with the people that weren't on his team.
"Wall has been with the department for about 15 years. He has previously attempted to be transferred to your team. He has been rejected each time. According to the reports in Agent DiNozzo's file, Wall was behind some malicious attacks on Tony when he first came to NCIS."
"WHAT?" Jethro was beside himself. "I… I will be talking to Tony. He never said a word. I knew he had been hazed, but I wasn't aware he had been hazed to the point of filing a report." Why wouldn't he say something?
"According to the report, it wasn't by choice. It appears Tom Morrow discovered the incidents, which went beyond the normal hazing, and forced Tony to file a report. 'It is under protest that I write this report.' Quote, unquote from DiNozzo's report." Jen was impressed that even as a new employee, Tony showed little fear of his superiors when he thought something was wrong.
Jen handed the report over to Gibbs. After reading the report twice, he shook his head. "I can believe he didn't want to report this to Morrow, but I don't quite know why he didn't report it to me or why Tom didn't inform me."
"Is there any way you can get yourself and Tony out of the office? I am going to call a department wide meeting and I don't want either of you to be present. I am going to suspend Wall for one month without pay for the emails. On his return, he will need to repeat all harassment courses and failure will result in termination. If he has any repeat offenses, he will be terminated. I'm also going to inform him there will be no contact with Agent DiNozzo for the locker room incident. Since Tony is not aware of the emails, I will not inform him of them."
"Agreed. Tony and I will be leaving shortly to go home and continue with the files. I don't think it necessary for him to be here for full shifts if we aren't working any cases yet. Inform Wall if he screws with my son again, Abby will be paying him a visit." Gibbs was fuming. Once again, Tony had surprised him. Once again, the agency had covered up something that hurt his son. This definitely needed to stop.
"Let's head home. We can look over the files more there. I'll cook tonight since you cooked last night. I'll meet you there in 20." Gibbs didn't leave any room for questions or protest. Tony was starting to get used to it. He was sure there was more going on than he was aware of, but figured Gibbs would tell him if he needed to know.
He closed down his computer and cleaned up his workstation. He never got his work out in this morning so he wouldn't need to go back to the locker room. Picking up his bag, he made one last look at his desk. He was glad he was back, but he was glad to be leaving. The need for peace and quiet was overwhelming. He had felt like he was in a fishbowl all day. Now, he would be able to close the door and close out the rest of the world.
One hour after the departure of Gibbs and DiNozzo, a message was sent to all agents and personnel, on-duty or off.
All personnel are to report to NCIS auditorium no later than 3 pm. By orders of the Director. Failure to comply will result in suspension without pay.
3 PM NCIS Auditorium
Director Shepard made her way to the center of the stage. Everyone could see that whatever was about to happen was serious. Never before had they been called up to return to work regardless of their duty status.
"All team leads and department heads please report to the stage immediately." Shepard waited for the requested personnel to respond. She then took an attendance and made note of those who weren't present and their excuses.
"As team leaders, it is your responsibility to be aware of the activities of your team." She then turned to look at the audience, "As team members you should be aware that your activities are a reflection on your leadership. Over the years, we have all participated in harassment and discrimination classes. We are all trained investigators, analysts, or scientists. As such, we should all be aware of the problems with false information, failure to properly investigate, and presumptive impressions. I would now like to direct your attention to the screen to the right. On it you will find the description of a Senior Field Agent and Supervisory Special Agent."
She paused to give everyone a moment to read the descriptions. "I would like you all to direct your attention to the screen on the left." On it was a description of Anthony DiNozzo's qualifications, history, and education. It did not contain Tony's name. "I would like to know how many of you feel that you are equally qualified as this candidate, in both experience prior to joining NCIS and in education. Please raise your hands."
Only two people raised their hands. "That is correct. Only two of you out of 100 employees have equal qualifications."
"Madam Director, is this someone we are bringing in to the agency?"
"No. This is someone we have employed here already. Please see the screen to the right once again. Here is a list of the commendations he has received since arriving at NCIS. You will also find he has continued his education, please note the additional degrees. Is there anyone here who can state they have equal qualifications now?"
Not a single hand was raised, including the Supervisory Agents. "That is correct. If you look around, you will see there isn't a single hand raised. This agent is highly decorated, highly educated, and has assisted numerous times with other teams and their cases while taking no credit. He is also highly sought after by other agencies and is frequently asked for assistance by other law enforcement personnel."
She let that information sink in for a moment before continuing. "Yet somehow we have people here within our own agency that have decided to bash his character, and when that didn't work, directly attacked the man. I am here to tell you this behavior will not be tolerated!
"For those of you who are a little slow on the uptake this afternoon, the agent who's credentials you have just viewed is none other than Senior Field Agent Anthony DiNozzo. While all of you are more than aware that he was recently taken into custody because of incompetence on the part of the FBI, apparently you aren't quite up to date on the total of their incompetence. Agent DiNozzo was arrested on circumstantial evidence of a possible crime. As you are all aware, Abby Sciuto's lab assistant aided in doctoring evidence to incriminate Agent DiNozzo."
She paused for a moment because she knew she was going to have to be careful about the next portion of the discussion. "By circumstantial, I would also like to make sure you are all aware that no real crime ever occurred. There was no murder to investigate. There was no evidence. There were no suspects because there wasn't a crime. While Agent DiNozzo's record has been expunged and the FBI agents have been sanctioned, it has come to my attention that a certain agent in this agency has decided to extract his own brand of justice. Jealousy…short sightedness… However, while one of you has been direct in his attack, others of you have been just as ridiculous. I want you to understand a couple of things; Agent DiNozzo is an example to compare yourselves to, to strive to be like. He had been on sick leave, but has been returned to full duty. He and Agent Gibbs will be looking to add a new team member to replace Officer David. I expect upon his return tomorrow that you all… get your heads out of your asses and treat him with the respect he deserves. If you don't, start looking for other jobs. Dismissed."
"Agent Martin, a moment please." Jen waited until the auditorium cleared. "I would like you and Agent Wall to report to my office. I will explain more when you arrive."
Thirty minutes later Agent Wall was being escorted out of the office.
Gibbs was busy in the kitchen when Tony arrived. He knew this was going to be a difficult conversation. However, the more he thought about it, they'd had worse. Tony quickly started to make a salad after looking over Gibbs shoulder to see what was cooking. Tony knew something was up and Gibbs would tell him when he was ready.
They sat down to lunch and talked about the files. Afterwards they had decided upon three candidates. They would each be brought onto the team for a week trial period. That week would be spent evaluating their skill sets and seeing how they interacted with the team, Tony's new role and Gibbs attitude. Tony sat back and smile it was going to be an interesting month.
"So, are you going to tell me why we are here in the middle of the day? What's going on?" Tony had had enough; he wanted to get the conversation started as it seemed Gibbs was hesitant.
"Wall. He was the one responsible for the locker and for some emails I had Tim look into. Sheppard is dealing with him. Apparently he's not happy with me 'overlooking' him. I guess he's tried to get on the team a few times and I blew it off."
"Wall, he's always been a jerk. I can understand why you would have ignored his request. He's not a very good investigator. He's lazy and unobservant."
"She told me you had filed a report against him over some hazing when you were first hired. Why didn't you come to me about it?" Gibbs was kind of hurt that it appeared Tony didn't trust him.
"You know I wasn't in a great place when I first came to here. Having a partner turn out to be dirty… I've been hazed at every school I was transferred to, the fraternity, the academy and three police departments before I got here. It wasn't anything I hadn't heard before. Hell, Wall wasn't very creative. I tried to ignore it. I checked my desk and locker every day. Sometimes I found stuff, sometimes I didn't." Tony shrugged. "Morrow just happened to be walking through the bullpen one morning when I wasn't quite awake. We'd been on a case for three days straight and it was the first time I had been back to the office. My desk was a disaster, my chair was broken…hell, he even poured crap aftershave on my locker gear."
"How'd Morrow find out who it was?"
"He asked if I had any idea. I respectfully declined to answer. He threatened to go to you, I folded. Wall was called into his office and confessed within a couple of minutes. He was suspended for a week. I talked to him when he came back. That was the end of it until now I guess."
"Well, he's about to be suspended again. Jen is taking all of this seriously. People need to learn about the consequences for their actions." Gibbs paused long enough to give Tony the creeps. Something big was up. "Senior has been spotted and Fornell is on the way to pick him up." Gibbs went on to explain everything they had discovered and what Jen was hoping for in regards to his sentencing.
"I can't say I'm surprised. I never knew about the money. Senior always was coming to me for money. I have more IOUs then I care to admit. Guess that's all up in smoke. Not that I really expected him to ever pay me. He was nothing more than a sperm donor, a leech. I won't be sorry to see him behind bars. He'll finally pay for ev…" He couldn't complete the sentence. He didn't want to open that can of worms.
"You don't have to say it. I know. I've always known. He needed to pay back then for what he did to you. Now, he'll pay. Justice is slow sometimes but I think he'll get what he deserves." Gibbs didn't want Tony to have to dredge up all the old memories, they'd had those conversations before. "Okay son, let's look at these files once again. See if we've missed anything."
Tony's arrival the following morning was much different. Agents who were not present the day before greeted Tony with a friendly welcome. Security behaved as they always had, the guard from the previous morning was terminated once their supervisor was made aware of his actions. Numerous other agents had witnessed the guard's performance the day before.
Tony felt the knot in his belly loosen. Slowly over the next couple of weeks things returned to normal. He no longer felt like he was on display. He knew something had happened, but no one would tell him what.
As their evaluations progressed Team Gibbs became stronger.
Six Months later…
"Gear up! Dead marine in Rock Creek Park." Tony didn't bother to look to see if his fellow agents were following him. "McGee, call Ducky. Moreno, gas the truck."
Gibbs watched the scene before him and knew things were going to be alright. It had been a struggle. Many agents had been interviewed, but the only one both Gibbs and DiNozzo could agree on was Moreno. She was green, inexperienced to NCIS, and came with no preconceived ideas about her team and her co-leads. She was young, eager, and willing to listen to directions from all of her teammates.
Tim was finally able to accept Tony as his lead agent. His attitude had done a complete turn around. His new openness allowed him to learn more and become a better agent. He was still trying to repair his friendship with Tony, but he wasn't pushing it. He wanted to earn his team leader's respect, both Tony and Gibbs.
Abby also had made a change in her attitude. She and Tony were slowly able to work towards repairing their friendship, but it was never like it had been. Tony was more distant and guarded. He stuck closer to home and spent more time with Gibbs. On those few occasions she was able to get him to go out, Gibbs always accompanied them.
It wasn't that Tony needed a chaperone or even felt the need for an alibi any longer, he just didn't feel comfortable around those he once called friend. The passage of time had lessened the hard feelings, but he knew it would never be as it once was with Tim and Abby. He remained professional and maintained the peace in the bullpen, but he rarely participated in their after case activities.
Tony was still living at Gibbs' house. The two men had decided they didn't want to live by themselves any longer. Tony's inheritance had been substantial but he didn't want to make any sudden changes. He enjoyed Gibbs company. They came and went as they pleased, nothing was forced between them. Fornell was a frequent visitor in recent weeks. His friendship with Gibbs had been strained, but it was with his help that Gibbs was able to get the help Tony needed.
No one knew what became of Ziva. But as time passed it was no longer a concern. Her time with their team had caused long term damage. They hoped she was out of their lives for good.
Jen looked over the balcony as the MCRT was called into the field. All doubts about a co-lead team had dissipated as the months had passed. Their solve rate remained high. Tony continued to assist other teams with their investigations when he was asked. However, there was a new air about him. Confidence. Strength. Everyone noticed it.
The end…a new beginning.