AN: This one is set somewhere in the second season. I think that Kate really gives Tony a hard time for no reason. (I'm not a shipper-TATE- so I don't buy the sexual tension theory.) I just think she was being a witch. Please read warning before proceeding!

For those of you who do not like certain stories, please don't read this story and then complain about the contents.

Do you go to Italian restaurants and complain because they serve pasta? Or Chinese restaurants and complain about the rice? Come on people!

FYI: It is NOT bashing if the character actually does what is described. It shows the character in a bad light. But it is not bashing. For those of you who have gotten this far, and are still not convinced that this is not bashing …the warning is below.


"It's time, Gibbs." Tony replied. "It's time."

"I don't think so." Gibbs replied. "You're not ready. I'm not ready." He said in a rare moment of weakness.

"I can't have all the discussion every time I give an order. I can't have that. And the kicker is, if you had given them the exact same order a second later, they would follow it…without hesitation." Tony replied, resigned.

"Tony…that's…." Gibbs started.

Tony nodded. "It is true, you know it. You've seen it. I know you didn't say anything. You were hoping I…we could work it out. But…but it's not happening. There is no switch I can flip to make them respect me. I'm not willing to get killed because they refuse to obey and order." Tony paused. "I don't know what else to do."

"Tony there's…."

"You've been a great teacher, Gibbs. I've learned a lot…" Tony said. "…thanks to you."

"I still have more to teach. You still don't know all the rules." Gibbs stated.

"No," Tony smiled. "…but I do know the Marines didn't teach you those rules. I know the 'rules thing' was Shannon's idea."

Gibbs grinned. He knew Tony had figured that one out long ago. "They both still have a lot to learn." Gibbs said, referring to Kate and Tim.

"You can teach them." Tony replied. "You need to learn to be patient anyway."

Tony winced when he received the blow to the back of his head.

Tony's transfer request, approved by Morrow, was waiting on Gibbs' desk the next morning when he came in. He reluctantly signed it and took the request up to the director personally.


Tim noticed Tony's mood. "What's the matter, some co-ed turn you down last night?" He sneered.

Tony just looked up at Tim, but didn't reply. He had to finish up all his work for Team Gibbs before he transferred and he had not realized, until that morning, that he had so much to do.

Kate noticed Tony's lack of response. "It must have been bad, Tim. Tony's never speechless." She grinned smugly.

Tony still didn't respond, concentrating on the work he had to finish before his transfer.

Tim opened his mouth to speak again. But Gibbs stopped him. "What did you two find out?" Gibbs asked.

"The gunny hadn't been on the payroll long, just a few weeks. He kept to himself. His co-workers said he even ate lunch alone. They didn't really have a lot to report." Tim said.

"His service record was spotless. No complaints about any of his work. He came to work on time and did his job." Kate stated, looking at the file. "We couldn't even find a reprimand." She paused and looked at Tony. "Unlike some people we know." She replied, looking for a fight.

Tony looked up at her and cleared his throat but didn't speak. He held his tongue. He wanted to leave the team on as good a note as possible.

Both Kate and Tim snickered. They both knew Tony had been reprimanded for minor offenses, nothing that would get him into serious trouble. But Kate wanted to pick, and she had found a sore spot and was, almost joyfully, picking at the scab.

"What else!? Gibbs demanded, trying to draw the vultures off their target.

"Nothing else…he just did his job, acted his age. That type thing." Tim completed, grinning.

Tony looked at Tim for a long moment before he got up left the bullpen.

Gibbs glared at both of them after Tony left. "You two…stop it!" Gibbs said, angrily. He then stormed off to catch up with Tony.

Tim and Kate both shook their heads, each of little jealous of the favoritism Gibbs showed to Tony.


"You need to tell them." Gibbs said after he and Tony entered the elevator and Gibbs flipped the switch.

Tony shook his head. "They won't care. You know they both have been after my job." Tony paused. "Which one is getting it?"

Gibbs shook his head. "Neither one…I've asked Morrow to line up some candidates."

"Oh, " Tony said sarcastically. "They are going to love that."

"You need to tell them." Gibbs repeated.

"You can tell them. That's kind of your job anyway. You approved my transfer."

Gibbs sighed. "Only because I knew you would leave, regardless."

"This is going to be better for everybody, Gibbs." Tony rationalized. "I get a team who will listen to me. You get a team who doesn't fight like kids on a playground all the time." Tony paused. "It's a good trade off."

"What if I don't like this new guy?" Gibbs asked.

Tony smiled. "You won't. He'll be nothing like me. But you will get used to him…or her."

"I'll get reprimanded for head-slapping him."

"Most likely." Tony replied.

"We can go back to the two man team. It worked in the past." Gibbs offered.

"What will you do with Tim and Kate?" Tony asked, curious about Gibbs' answer.

"Tim can go to Cyber Crimes, and I'll ship Kate over to the FBI. Let her be Fornell's problem." Gibbs replied.

"Morrow didn't like the two-man team."

"I can convince him." Gibbs stated.

"…because you have such excellent people skills." Tony said sarcastically.

Gibbs glared but didn't speak.

"Look Gibbs, I deserve the respect. I've earned it. I'm not getting it here, on your team, with them. I need to find it elsewhere." Tony paused again and shook his head. "I know how I act. I know I'm annoying. I know all that. But I expect the people I work with to want to get to know me…to, at least, try to get to know me."

"I still think the two-man thing will work." Gibbs replied.

"Look, you've got me for another week."

"I know." Gibbs sighed. "And I'm glad. It's…."

"Aww…you're gonna miss me." Tony said, rubbing the back of his head.


"It was already 9 a.m. Tim couldn't be the only one who noticed the empty desk. He looked around him. Gibbs and Kate seemed to be hard at work.

"Where's DiNozzo? Late…again, I suppose." Tim assumed.

Gibbs looked up. "No, actually he's not McGee."

Tim looked around the bullpen and the rest of the office confused. He had not seen Tony this morning.

"Then where is he?" Kate asked. She had looked up when McGee had asked his question.

"He's with his team." Gibbs said, not adding any explanation.

"His team?" Tim asked, very confused. "What do you mean, his team?"

"Morrow has offered him his own team in the past, a few times. This time when he offered… Tony took him up on it." Gibbs explained, as if Tony leaving and getting his own team was an everyday occurrence.

"But…he…what?" Kate rambled, too surprised to speak coherently.

Tim and Kate sat in stunned silence for just a few moments. They were too busy processing what Gibbs had said.

"Why didn't he tell us? Why didn't he tell us he was…leaving?" Kate asked.

"Where did he go?" Tim asked. "Is he still here…here in D.C.?"

"He took over Chris Harriston's team." Gibbs explained. "Chris is retiring next month. He is going to work with Tony until he leaves. Tony's learning his new job right now."

There was more silence from Kate and Tim as they considered this new information.

"Why didn't Tony take those other jobs?" Kate asked.

"He didn't think he had learned all he could from me. He wasn't finished teaching the two of you. I'm not sure, you'll have to ask him." Gibbs stated.

"But he…he can't just leave you…leave us." McGee was dumbfounded.

"He's not finished. He can't just leave. I…there's a lot I still don't know." Kate admitted. "Who's going to…?" Kate looked at Gibbs, realizing who was now going to be her teacher.

Gibbs and Kate just looked at one another for a moment.

"Not you!" Kate hadn't meant to voice her thought. She backtracked. "That's not what I meant, Sir, Agent…Gibbs. I'm sure you're a good teacher."

Gibbs sighed. "Tony said I needed to learn patience."

"He got offered his own team." Tim replied, shaking his head.

"Yes, Tim." Gibbs said, growing irritated. "Tony's good at his job, great in fact. He deserves respect for that. If he can't get it here, from his own team, he'll get it elsewhere. His co-worker's, his friends, should care enough, and should want to get to know the person behind the jokes and the wise-cracks. They should care enough to want to do that. You never take anyone at face value." It was more than either had heard Gibbs say, at one time, since they had known him.


Kate and Tim saw Tony, with his new team, across the bullpen. They knew he had been talking to Gibbs, regularly. But he had not really spoken to them, except for the occasional hello. Now they both stopped him, trying to get him to talk. They had him cornered in the back hallway.

"I don't have time for this." Tony said, realizing he was cornered.

"You don't have time to talk to us. You knew you were leaving two weeks before you did. You didn't have time to tell us?" Tim asked.

"I didn't think you'd care." Tony admitted.

"Not care? You were my partner, Tony, my partner." Kate added.

"I was also your punching bag and the butt of your jokes." Tony replied. "I got tired of defending myself."

"So…that's why you transferred?" Tim asked.

"That…among other things." Tony replied.

"What other things?" Tim asked.

"You don't respect me." Tony started.

"It's hard to respect somebody who…." Kate broke in.

"You don't respect me." Tony repeated. "I was your Senior Field Agent." Tony noticed the looks on their faces. "And I know I told you that all the time. But that doesn't make it any less true. You were supposed to listen to me when Gibbs was away. But you didn't. You questioned my orders." He paused. "I don't need that from the people who are supposed to be subordinate. I will not get killed because you two can't follow a simple order."

Both Kate and Tim opened their mouths to speak.

"You both know that that could happen…the situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes a leader needs to make split-second decisions. There is not time for debate." Tony paused, again. "But that's all I got with you two. I just…I don't need the headache, or the aggrivation. You're both very lucky I didn't write you up all those times. I would have been well within my rights to do so. Even Gibbs doesn't know about all the times we had…conflict. And I would rather keep it that way."

Tony started to walk away, taking advantage of the shocked looks on both their faces. "Besides, you two were Jonesing for my job. Which one of you got it?" Tony knew neither had gotten it. Gibbs had told him, but he wanted to make them both aware of the fact he knew they believed him unfit for the job. He, they believed, was too immature and undereducated.

Kate and Tim just looked at him.

"You both thought you would do a much better job than me. And see, Gibbs doesn't even agree with your assessment, or one of you would have that job. You weren't ready. An MIT degree or a psychology degree doesn't make a good investigator. It takes a combination of skills. You two are so smart, or at least think you are. Why haven't you figured that out yet?" Tony shook his head. "Look, I'm smarter than you give me credit for. I'd have to be. I would suggest that the both of you take a moment and look at the requirements for a SFA and a Team Leader. You will probably be surprised." Tony said after he had turned back around. "And just so you know, it's hard to juggle a full-time job and a college classes, but I've managed to do so. I will be graduating with my master's next month." With that, Tony turned around again and walked away. Tony paused and turned back around. "And just so you know…it's not in Physical Education."

This time Tim and Kate were truly speechless.


Tim and Kate returned to the bullpen moments later. Both were quiet or a moment, deciding if they should ask Gibbs.

Gibbs knew what had happened in the back hall, and he answered their question. "Yes, I know Tony was going to school." Gibbs started. "I knew he was taking a pretty heavy class load. I even give him time to study when we weren't busy with cases a lot of times…any more questions?"

Both Tim and Kate shook their heads.

"Good, then get to work!" Gibbs replied, before he returned his attention to the folder in front of him.


After about 2 weeks Agent Jason Williams was finally getting the hang of things on Team Gibbs. True, he was no Anthony DiNozzo, but Gibbs liked him anyway. He was very good at his job. He was a competent SFA, and he got along, fairly well with Tim and Kate.

It was obvious to Gibbs though, that Kate and Tim still missed Tony. They tried to joke with Jason. But his humor was just not the same as Tony's. He was not one who liked practical jokes. And he reported Tim to Gibbs when McGee played one on him.

Tim and Kate realized now how big a buffer Tony had been between them and Gibbs. Tony took a lot of the flack that Gibbs had intended for the two of them. With Tony gone, Gibbs directed his anger and displeasure directly at them for their screw-ups. Tony was no longer there to deflect. Also, Tim and Kate found out how much work Tony had had to do in his job. They also learned how much of Gibbs' work Tony had done. Jason elected to delegate some of his SFA work to both Tim and Kate while he concentrated on helping Gibb with his work load. It took them no time to realize how efficient and good Tony had been in his role as Gibbs' SFA.

From all appearances, Tony was enjoying his role as Team Leader. He had been on his own for a little over 2 weeks. His team members really liked him, and they all enjoyed his sense of humor. They were, of course, very nervous about Anthony DiNozzo being their team leader. His reputation, after all, was well known. But Tony was a competent leader. He cared about his team and he respected every individual on it. They, in turn, appreciated his care and respected him for his competence, his knowledge, and his attentiveness.

CONTINUED by popular demand (Thanks Guys!)