Warnings: Well this time I guess I should warn McGee fans who might be offended by parts of this chapter and also by the next one as well although I really have to ask why you are still reading chapter 10 if you are offended. I guess Gibbs fans might also be offended by this chapter too although I find many of them have a great sense of humour. *grin*

Gratuities: As usual I have to thank Arress for wrangling my irritating commas into submission and being a sounding board for the story. This chapter and the next are much indebted to my beta for her suggestions and support. And I guess you know the drill by now...any boo boos are my bad.

A/N Thanks to everyone who left feedback, faved or alerted. I appreciate your support.

FYI there is one more chapters to follow this one. One review that fired my imagination and was the cause of much mirth and emails flying back and forth between myself and Arress, was a request for an epilogue on where all the story's protagonists would be five years hence in this 'verse. It was so much fun I thought I'd invite you all to share your suggestions too. I might even borrow them, with appropriate attribution of course ;)

What a Difference a Year Makes: 8760 Little Hours

Chapter 10

Susan watched Tony and the woman he referred to as Lovely exchange an amused glance when the light bulb finally went on.

"So, you actually discovered him that night?" She asked curiously.

"Yeah I guess you could say that." The Hollywood publicist conceded. "Turns out I was right. I'd hazard a guess that all his experience working undercover is what made him such a great actor, although he still has a slight problem with minor technicalities like pointing out the flaws in the plot to the director," She teased.

Looking embarrassed he got up, heading for the kitchen returning with plates and silverware before disappearing again out to the fridge to retrieve dessert. Returning bearing a glossy looking chocolate concoction, Susan noticed that Ceinwen looked slightly flustered.

Cassie's eyes lit up when she spied the desert. "Wow, Ceinwen, that looks amazing! I love chocolate cake."

Nodding, the blonde was quick to explain, "Me, too, but I didn't make it. Thank Tony for it." She passed around slices until everyone had one and poured everyone glasses of the dessert wine they bought to go with the cake, one with subtle cherry under notes that would complement the luscious richness of the sweet.

Nikki Jardine took a bite and groaned orgasmically, much to everyone's amusement…well, apart from her own as she blushed with embarrassment. "Gosh, Tony, this is AMAZING! Please, can I have the recipe…plu-ease? I don't care that I'm going to be spending hours on the treadmill to pay for this. It's sooo worth it."

Everyone seemed to agree and Nikki, Jimmy and Balboa all requested a second piece. Seeming pleased that the cake had been well received, Tony grinned goofily.

"Glad that you like it so much, Nikki and of course you can have the recipe. My personal trainer Matt gave it to me. He said if I was going to indulge tonight that it was a healthy option since I'm supposed to be in training for my next movie." He frowned, "But we nearly didn't get dessert tonight. One of the so-called hero ingredients disappeared on me. Bought a large jar of crushed walnuts, a pound's worth, and do you think I could find the damn things when I went to make the cake? Spent over an hour turning the pantry upside down and couldn't find them anywhere. Had to run out and buy some more."

Susan, listening to the story, found herself watching the dinner guests. People watching was an occupational hazard for a shrink and one that she had difficulty switching off in social situations. She noticed that Ms. Ceinwen Davies looked decidedly uncomfortable and Rocky Balboa initially looked bemused and then seemed to make a mental leap, staring intently at the blonde publicist who caught his eye and shrugged self-effacingly. The experienced agent gave what looked like a nod of…approval before a mischievous gleam appeared in his eyes, and the shrink wondered what the heck that was all about. Before she had too much time to contemplate the interchange, Ceinwen rushed to change the subject.

"Hey, Babe, tell them what the other hero ingredient is, or better yet, let them try and guess," she dared the group.

After five fruitless minutes trying to guess, the group was getting grumpy and threatened to beat Tony senseless if he didn't spit it out immediately. Laughing, he reminded them that he was a trained interrogator, but that he would take pity on them. "Well, it's a flourless cake, but it's got dates and agave, although you can use maple syrup, plus organic cocoa, but it's the frosting that's gonna blow you all away. It's made mostly with avocados… is that wild or what? I mean it's also got chocolate and very ripe banana for sweetness, but between the omega fats from the walnuts and avocados, no bad trans fats and no processed crap. Matt swears it's a really healthy cake, and the best thing is it doesn't taste like the tofu crap that Cate used to try to make me eat." He joked, although a flicker of pain shadowed his face when he joked about his dead former partner.

When everyone expressed their surprise that the ingredients that he'd listed were in the cake that everyone had thought lived up to the death by chocolate description, Tony returned to a subject that was clearly bothering him. "Hey, Lovely, are you sure that we bought the walnuts when we went shopping for the party? I can't figure out how they just disappeared."

Rocky grinned at his friend. "Hey, Man, you need to let it go and cut me another slice please."

Frowning as he cut a third slice for Balboa and passing it over, Susan could see he was going to say something more and she wondered why Eric and the delectable Ms. Davies seemed intent on changing the subject. What was the deal with the walnuts for goodness sake?

Ceinwen moved slickly to change the subject. For the second time that night, Susan noted automatically.

"Should I put some coffee on, Tony, so we can tell them your news?"

Nodding he stood up and began to gather up plates and silverware and taking it to the dishwasher to load it up. "Good thinking, 99."

She shot him a grin. Oh, we have to have a Get Smart marathon, Tony. I love that show," she laughed.

Cassie looked at her, evaluating her seriously. "And why would that be, Ceinwen?" She questioned the woman politely.

Susan decided that the female members of the group were more territorial and definitely more judgmental than the guys when it came to welcoming the newcomer into their midst. The guys on the other hand, seemed to have accepted her on trust, seemingly because Tony obviously adored her. Although the sceptical scientist in her cynically decided that it might also help that she was extremely pretty, beautiful even. And possibly that was part of the reason why Tony's female friends had immediately distrusted her, since she seemed too damned good to be true. But Susan also liked to think that it wasn't just that they were reacting to her appearance, but that they were all concerned that Tony was so open and vulnerable with her, unlike anyone had seen him before. If Nikki, Faith and Cassie were anything like Susan, they wouldn't want him to be hurt any more than he had been already. Well, that's what she told herself, and it was a pretty darned good theory, more palatable than the alternative anyway!

Ceinwen laughed good-naturedly before explaining, knowing she was being tested by Tony's female friends. "Okay, because apart from the laughs and the historical context when it was made and that it was poking fun at the whole Cold War paranoia mindset…"

"Gotta love the shoe phone and the Cone of Silence and Hymie and Fang…" Tony interjected.

Ceinwen giggled but continued with her analysis. "It was a show ahead of its time because it had a female lead that was way smarter than the star, not to mention competent and sexy. It was a real rarity back then in its portrayal of women as equals. Along with Star Trek, which also had a female officer who wasn't just smart, sexy and competent, but she was also African-American, and Captain Kirk wanted to sleep with her. That was controversial for its time… although probably the best show of that era was The Avengers. You guys would like that one since it was about MI6 and was a spy-fi that was funny and intelligent."

Tony nodded appreciatively. "Oh, yeah, Steed was a bit of a dandy, but his partner Mrs. Peel was damned hot and she could totally kick ass." He looked at the confused faces staring at them. "Are our English roots showing here do ya think, Lovely. Seriously, none of you have heard of The Avengers… the television show not the comic book characters? Ran from 1961 to 1969, made around the same time as the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and in the same tongue in cheek style but without the misogynistic attitude to the female cast…anyone? Okay, Ceinwen, we have to organise a marathon, Emma Peel and John Steed versus Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo and we'll take a time-out with Max and 99 and Lieutenant Nyota Ahura and Captain James T. Kirk."

Jimmy piped up, "I've seen the Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ever get the feeling that the Russian guy is really, really familiar?" Seeing the confused looks he sheepishly changed the subject. "Hey, Tony, have you told the guys your big news, yet?"

"Which one, Black Lung?" he quizzed fondly.

"Your next movie?"

"Nope, you can tell them while we organise the coffee. Go sit on the sofas everyone. Make yourselves comfortable; Jimmy you know where the alcohol is. There's cognac and whiskey or port if anyone wants it." He instructed his friend, mindful of his role as host.

What a Difference a Year Makes

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

seeing my other suggestions didn't meet with your approval, i've been thinking taylor lautner has the brooding intensity to pull off the role of agent mcgregor.

i read the latest draft you sent and personally I think that there is way much too much emphasis on officer lisa and scientist amy bossing mcgregor around all the time like he is some sort of toadie. have sent in a draft of my own for you to read.

looking forward to your thoughts

thom e gemcity

From: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

How's it hanging Thom E?

Producers feel that Taylor Laytner doesn't have the right vibe for the movie, too dark and brooding. They're going to try out an actor that did one hell of a job playing a corpse. His name is Chad Murray.

Oh and while they loved the scene where Agent McGregor loops the video on the classroom full of hostages and Tibbs, saves their lives and catches the perps without firing a shot, they think that it is a bit implausible and that it is a rip off of Speed. Although they thought the scene where Tibbs tells McGregor he brought a family back together and he's the best young agent he's ever worked with was cutesy quaint. Lurved it 2 bits.

Anyhoo, things to do, places to be…

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

hi carter,

i've never seen murray's work and with all due respect to the producers even if he's a corpse with exceptional talent I think agent mcgregor needs someone to play him that has emotional depth. and with regards to looping the footage to free the hostages well I happen to know that it is completely plausible since it really happened.


thom e. gemcity

From: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

Hey E. Thom

FYI Tom Selleck's first big break was playing a corpse on the film Coma that starred Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold in 1978. The scene where he's in the morgue is outstanding so don't be too quick to rule Chad out. Everyone's gotta start somewhere.

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

What a Difference a Year Makes

Shooing them in and telling them all to park their butts on Tony's comfy leather sofas and easy chairs, Jimmy Palmer, newly graduated and shiny fresh medical intern, bustled around getting after-dinner drinks for those people who were drinking. He settled down as his audience waited expectantly.

"C'mon, Jimmy, don't leave us in suspenders," Cassie Yates joked teasingly, while Tony who was carrying cups of freshly brewed coffee entered in time to hear her quip.

"Had you pegged as more of a leather G-string type of gal, Yates" he flung over his shoulder as he returned to get more cups as the agents collapse in laughter at the classic DiNozzo humour while the lawyer and psychologist choked on their cognac.

Jimmy jumped into the breach. "Yes, well anyway… you'll never guess who Tony's going to play in his next movie?"

"Stringfellow Hawke?"


"Stringfellow Hawke from Airwolf."

"James Bond?"

"Rick O'Connell in The Mummy?"

"Harry Longabaugh?"

"Who the Hell is Harry Longabaugh when he's at home?" Faith demanded incredulously.

Rocky shrugged nonchalantly as if everyone should know. "The Sundance Kid."

"Sam Spade?"

"Rick Blaine"

"Rick Blaine?"

"Rick from Casablanca."

"Ah… didn't know he was a Blaine… thanks."

"Indiana Jones?"

"Johnny Hooker."

"Rhett Butler."

"Hans Solo?"

"OMG are they really remaking Indiana Jones… that would be amazing." Nikki beamed. "Tony will make an awesome Indie."

"Bruce Wayne, that's why he's in training so he can get into the latex suit," Cassie teased getting one back for the underwear joke.

Tony and Ceinwen came in, surveying the melee with amusement. Handing over the coffees Tony whistled to get everyone's attention. "Not even close. Tell 'em Jimmy," He instructed.

"Thomas Magnum on the big screen remake of Magnum PI… and get this guys, Tom Selleck is playing his Dad. Is that cool or what?" Jimmy revealed excitedly.

What a difference a Year Makes

Ceinwen found herself cornered oh so politely by the burly special agent Tony called Rocky, although apparently his given name was actually Eric. The spook come publicist thought he was going to have a deep and meaningful conversation warning her about not hurting Tony, so she was caught off guard when sotto voce he asked, "It was you, wasn't it?"

Not really having a clue what he meant, she gave him a look that clearly said, 'Should you be out without your keeper?'

Grinning, he clarified. "You, Gibbs, bullpen, crushed walnuts, what gives?"


Gibbs was stomping around the bullpen yesterday roaring at his team as they were working at their latest case; another DB out at Rock Creek Park, but this time not a Petty Office but an Ensign Seamus O'Shaunessy who'd been strangled. McGee had stuttered and stammered his way through his recitation of the facts about the young Ensign's life history as was his wont these days. The SFA Adam Hayes grabbed the clicker and began expounding on his theories about possible suspects and motives. It seemed that neither agent had impressed their fearless leader overly much. Gibbs yelled at both Agents for not being able to come up with any credible scenarios all the while becoming steadily redder in the face, and Balboa wondered if the scuttlebutt about his hypertension might be on the money. As the former Marine hit his stride with his sarcastic observations on his team, Jane Doe No. 7 looked like she was about to wet her pants as she stared at the infamous Leroy Jethro Gibbs as he set about tearing a new one… again, for his underlings.

Balboa watched the terrified expression on Gibbs' latest probie, and was already revising his estimate of how long she would last before she requested a transfer or Gibbs chucked her off his team. Rocky sniggered, wondering if he could change his selected time in the inter-office pool that was now a reoccurring bet on the length of time Gibbs' probies would spend on the team. Rather surprisingly, their new Medical Examiner conducted the pool, and while Gibbs' team never joined in the wagering process, Special Agent Fornell had a standing bet that was 7.5 hours and won the prize pool at least once. Occasionally, someone cleaned up when a probie stuck around for a week, sometimes two, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

On average, it was never all that long as evidenced by the fact that ever since the departure of Ziva David, the probies who replaced her shuffled through with alarming regularity, to the extent that no one bothered to learn their names anymore. Female probies were uniformly designated Jane Does and the males were unsurprisingly christened John Does to save everyone time and energy. So far, the males were slightly ahead with eight of them cycling through the MCRT. Jane Doe No. 7 really looked like she was already making contingency plans for alternative employment prospects in the immediate future and Balboa cursed. Damn, he'd had three days five hours, but at the rate Gibbs was going today, No. 7 wasn't going to last that long.

Although Gibbs' histrionics directed at his team when they didn't get the information he wanted to solve a case, to a great extent he had become white noise on the floor of the bullpen as most people tried to tune him out. Still, everyone pricked up their ears at his mention of Tony DiNozzo, former senior field agent for Gibbs before their spectacular fallout. Balboa, being a particular buddy of DiNozzo, immediately tuned in to the conversation to see what else he was blaming Tony for now.

"Damn it, ya can't even find me a single pathetic clue, what good are you?" He demanded of his agents. "DiNozzo would have come up with a dozen theories and leads by now and called in all his police contacts and informants to get me something decent to follow." He glared at the three hapless agents. "Damn it, if he's not better than all three of you put together. I need to get him back again, he's definitely weakening. I could feel it…it's just a matter of time," he muttered, but loudly enough that the whole floor heard him and raised shocked eyebrows as they looked at Balboa. The senior agent shook his head, letting people know that it wasn't going to happen.

Right at that moment, like it had been meticulously choreographed, Lenny from the mail room appeared with a parcel, stopping in front of Gibbs' desk, shuffling from foot to foot like a child trying not to pee themselves as he gingerly held out the package to Gibbs. "Um, Special Agent Gibbs…Sir, this is for you. It's been cleared so it's safe to open," he stated before fleeing to the stairwell and escaping from his encounter with the feared senior agent.

Balboa watched curiously as Gibbs ripped the packaging off the parcel, wondering why the team lead blanched as he stared at the jar and looked suspiciously around the bullpen. Shoving the jar containing a generous amount of crushed walnuts into the bottom drawer of his desk, Gibbs took off to get a ubiquitous cup of tar masquerading as coffee. Meanwhile, the room all exchanged bemused looks wondering what just happed.

Balboa wondered at the hidden menace behind the 'gift.' Was some dirtbag threatening him? Gibbs didn't exactly scare easily. Even though he was still pissed at the senior field agent, Rocky resolved to make sure that no one was trying to intimidate Gibbs. He was still a professional after all and never let it be said that he didn't have his colleague's back if he was in danger.

Still, when he tried to bring up the topic with Jethro later on in the break room, Gibbs acted very hinky and claimed it was from a girlfriend. 'Yeah, right, like he believed that for a minute. Still, what more could he do apart from keeping his eyes open?'

What a difference a Year Makes

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com


have to say that while murray might be on the brink of an outstanding acting career i still think that playing agent mcgregor is too important to risk giving it to someone who has yet to prove himself. shia labeouf would be someone with a proven track record in handling the action side of the role and I think is worth considering.

talk soon

thom e. gemcity

From: Carter Johnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

Hey Thom,

Look, I'm sure that LaBeouf is a fine actor but the producers just don't feel he has the right vibe. Actually, our scriptwriters felt we need to balance the female to male ratio and rework Tim McGregor as Tara McGregor. The producers are also thinking the idea has merit. Someone suggested an actress from Pretty Little Liars. She plays Spencer Hastings, I believe. That also fits in nicely with McGregor's obsessing with his epidermis and dermatologist.

Okay…due at a production meeting. Talk again

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com


really hope you're joking about the gender swap thing. it would be terrible and totally wreck the ship between amy and mcgregor. and fyi there's nothing unmanly about bubble baths. not his fault he's got dry skin.

btw not sure that gates mcfadden is right for director penny jepard. thinking that she is a little mature but have you thought about amy yasbeck?


thom e. gemcity

From: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

Hey Tommy G,

Have ta say that everyone's pretty excited by the gender swap thing but perhaps you're right. Maybe McGregor should be a transsexual.

Anyhoo not to impugn your writing but we focus-grouped the so called 'ship' between Amy and McGregor and to be blunt there isn't any sexual chemistry there. Sweet, cute, safe, familial, brother and sister, incestuous, puppy love were the tone of all of the comments we collected.

I'm thinking that McGregor's antipathy to Agent Tommy is unrequited lust/love since Agent McGregor is clearly bisexual. I think we can work with this whether McGregor is Tara or Timothy wanting to be Tara. It would create an interesting love triangle between Officer Lisa and McGregor fighting over Tommy in the bull pen. Hot stuff!

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com


is this some kind of joke because I am so not laughing. mcgregor is not transsexual or bisexual and i would rather cut off my arm than contemplate sex with agent tommy who may be swashbuckling but he is also completely socially repugnant. no… not just no but hell no…over my dead body.

thom e. gemcity

What a Difference a Year Makes

Ceinwen regarded Balboa calmly. "Not against the law to give someone a jar of walnuts, is it?" she asked innocently.

Shaking his head, he watched her carefully, trying not to grin. "Depends on what you meant by it, really. Just wondering why Gibbs would go pale as a ghost when he received it before he raced off to get a cup of coffee."

She looked at him with big wide puppy-dog eyes. 'Oh, she was good, no doubt Tony had been giving her tips on looking innocent.'

"Maybe he wasn't feeling well," she offered sympathetically.

"Ah huh," he replied. "You got eyes in the bullpen?" he asked, finding the timing of Gibbs' stated intention to get DiNozzo back to NCIS and then the arrival of Ceinwen's 'gift' far too coincidental.

She smiled demurely at him. "Being a well-known Hollywood publicist people always want favours. You'd be surprised how many people want me to read a movie script they've written," she shrugged.

Eric Balboa wondered briefly if McGee was her stooge, but he quickly discounted that possibility. Satisfied that a) Gibbs wasn't being threatened by terrorists or criminals and b) that Tony's publicist and girlfriend was looking after her client, or was she acting in her capacity of erstwhile girlfriend, although it didn't really matter which, he allowed himself an approving smirk. Clearly she was more than just a pretty face and he felt that she definitely had Tony's back.

"I take it that Tony doesn't know about your little…gift?" He pressed her.

"Not yet, we've been busy," she demurred as she looked at the assembled guests all babbling excitedly as they discussed Tony's upcoming stint as Magnum.

Joining the others as the hubbub had died down somewhat, Tony looked at Ceinwen and smiled. Clearing his throat he grinned at his friends, some of them he'd even come to think of as family, but the good kind. "Um, since we don't get much chance to hang out anymore I thought I'd let you know about a couple of things that are close to my heart…"

He looked over at Jimmy and grinned, "It's my great honour to present to you all Dr. James Palmer, MD, who got his degree last month." He raised his glass of cognac, "Congratulations, Jimmy," he toasted the new doctor, proud of his friend's achievement. "And for those of you that don't know, Jimmy has been working at DC's top alcohol and drug treatment facility for the past year with some of the best addiction specialists around."

Susan glanced around and noticed that most people looked surprised at this news, although Faith wasn't one of them. Curious… did she already know and if so, why, or was she just adept at maintaining a poker face? Susan figured that keeping her reactions unreadable was probably a necessary evil for a lawyer. Still, she was smiling at Jimmy, Tony and Ceinwen, so the quartet was up to something.

As if reading her mind, Tony continued talking. "One or two of you might already know that I decided to take some of the filthy lucre that I'm being paid these days and do some good with it. Decided to set up a charitable foundation in Ensign Carlie Weber's name to help young teens and early twenty something's serving in the military that have drug and alcohol issues. Have somewhere they can go to get help with the sort of issues that they face without fear of a dishonourable discharge. Hopefully, the foundation will not only be an education, advocacy and support system for kids like Carlie, but perhaps we can develop innovative programs that help prevent addictions, come up with better ways for them to cope before they actually get into trouble."

Susan looked at the DiNozzo support team and she was starting to get a feeling that this dinner hadn't just been a catch up between old colleagues. Most people looked shocked… in a good sort of way, but definitely blind sighted. Faith looked pleased and excited and that thrilled the psychologist, too, while Nikki was the other person who looked really pleased. It occurred to her that with a brother who had served she would realise how much good such an organisation could achieve. Cassie and Balboa looked interested and Jimmy and Faith were exchanging proud looks…hmm, they were up to something.

Tony smiled at them both before continuing. "Well, although Jimmy has to complete his internship obviously, he has agreed to become our medical advisor and has persuaded some of his colleagues to help advise us on setting up the foundation. Carlie's parents are going to be the public face of the foundation and serve on the Board and last but not least, Lieutenant Commander Faith Coleman is going to help us with the legal aspects of setting up the Carlie Weber Foundation." He finished, flashing a grin at his co-conspirators.

Faith looked at Tony, smiling tentatively. "Actually, Tony, I have something to announce, too. When you first asked me to help you set up your foundation, I thought you were crazy. Honestly," she told the group, "This idiot snuck in on me and I thought you were a dangerous lunatic when you turned up in disguise with your coloured contact lens, dyed hair and looking totally bad-assed, but anyway, I went away and did my research. And then I went and talked to the JAG and requested a six-month leave of absence so I could do this thing justice. Just setting up the charitable status is going to be complicated and I'm determined to do it right the first time. And when he heard why I wanted the time off, JAG pulled some strings and organised funding to pay my salary while I'm on leave, so I guess you're stuck with me," she finished looking happy and excited.

Tony gave her a hug, exchanging a satisfied look with Jimmy and Ceinwen. "That's the best news I've heard all week, Faith. There's no one I trust more to make sure we have dotted our I's and crossed our T's and," he teased her gently, "to ensure our pencils are properly sharpened." He burst into laughter as she punched him playfully in the gut.

Rubbing his abdomen ruefully, he grinned. "Who'd have thunk it, Faith? We didn't exactly get along in the day, did we?" He smirked as she proceeded to tell them about how he had made it his business to get under her skin, upsetting her pencils and how they'd bashed heads over a certain bona fide war hero. "Is Ernie still alive, do you know, Tony?" she enquired.

"Yeah he is, but he's getting pretty frail, I'm afraid."

"So, you still stay in touch?"

"Try to. He's a great old guy, even if he hadn't been awarded the Medal of Honour. He's seen so much in his life."

Susan watched as the party broke up into groups as they digested news that Tony had just shared. Looking at Faith she was relieved to see a lightness about her that had been missing for a long time. Jimmy was clearly very friendly with Ceinwen Davies, so she gathered that they had met before because she knew that Jimmy was rather shy. He was still quite tongue tied around her even after years of working at NCIS, although he was more assured than he used to be.

Cassie grabbed Tony and dragged him to the beautiful baby grand piano, "Are you going to play for us, Tony?" she begged since she didn't know he could play until she'd come to his place.

He looked embarrassed and the shrink in Susan wondered why. "Yeah okay, if Jimmy agrees to play, too," he countered. Sitting down, he began playing, surprising Susan, who expected him to improvise some jazz as he had at the Morrows', but he shocked her by launching into Mozart's Fantasia in D Minor and Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp Minor. He finished by launching into John Lennon's Imagine, shocking them by singing extremely credibly before turning the piano over to Jimmy, who chose to play Chopin for them.

As he made his way from the piano, Susan waylaid Tony. "You are quite a surprise packet, Tony. You have real talent, you know?"

He shrugged, "Not exactly comfortable playing in front of people, Doc. Dredges up memories of me as a kid dressed up in dumb-ass sailor suits my mother used to make me wear and being trotted out to perform like some trained poodle for my parents' dinner guests. Yet the idea that my father might actually come to a recital to see me play or watch a ball game never entered his head. So, I like playing for me, but don't enjoy an audience," he confessed awkwardly.

Nodding, she added another piece to the puzzle that was the enigma that she knew as Tony DiNozzo. Knowing that he was feeling exposed, she moved the conversation onto other subjects. "I'm glad that Faith is going to get involved in your foundation. I think it might be cathartic for her."

He smiled. "Yeah, she's been busy beating herself up this last year, but hopefully this will help everyone if we can make a difference. Then some good will have come out of a crappy situation." He looked at the psychologist appraisingly. "I was hoping that once she got her teeth into the foundation that she might think about taking a few weeks off, but I didn't think it would be this easy to persuade her."

She patted him on the arm, "You did good, Tony. I've been worried about her, too, but she just keeps pushing herself. You're right, she needs this I think, and what of you? It must have been tough on you as well. I know how much you enjoyed your work."

Tony bit his lip as he considered what to say. "I…ah have had an interesting year. I can't lie and say that I don't miss my job; I was good at it and I made a difference, but I don't miss other parts of my life like the insubordination and thelack of respect. And," he commented cheekily looking across at his publicist, "there has been some great compensation."

"She seems nice, Tony. Are you happy?"

Dropping his shield for the second time since she's known him, he smiled at Susan and it was a very different smile from the one that everyone called his megawatt grin. This was more restrained, shy even; one of an introvert with a complex internal life who played piano with such sensitivity and feeling, not the superficial frat boy that he played to the world at large.

"I am, Susan, and I didn't expect that I would fall for her or that she would be attracted to me. We haven't been together all that long, but she does make me happy… which also scares the hell out of me to be so vulnerable, but we have a lot in common." He looked at her closely, not speaking, just watching her. "Why do I get the feeling that you're upset with me, Doc?" he quizzed.

She smiled; he definitely hadn't lost any of his skills. "Maybe a little bit miffed. What am I, chopped liver?" She joked. "How come you didn't ask me for help in setting up your foundation, too?" She asked, aiming for playful, but she couldn't help feeling a bit hurt.

Her companion laughed, patted her shoulder consolingly (so maybe she didn't pull off playful so well after all) and yelled out, "Hey, Black Lung, what was I going to ask Doc tonight?"

Over his playing he called back, "For her help with all the 'psychological crap for the foundation', quote unquote."

He smiled at them and Tony yelled back, "Thanks, Jimbo. So, what say, Doc? Know anyone that can help us out?"

As he dragged her off to his study to get the packet of information in a fancy folder with her name on it, she felt a bit foolish. Suggesting that they get together along with Jimmy ASAP to hash out the important stuff, she felt excited. "You know, Tony, this could be a really great thing that you're doing…"

"That we're doing, Doc," he interrupted her gently.

Acknowledging him, she nodded. "Okay…us… but it would never have happen if you hadn't left law enforcement. Have to say there was scuttlebutt around the traps that the spooks were after you, and I really thought that you'd take them up on their offer.

Tony laughed. "Flattering, Susan but a) Trent Kort is a spook and that kinda put me off the profession and b) I'm just a simple cop. Not smart enough or sneaky enough to be a spy. But at least I can still help people with all the money I'm going to make playing my childhood idol."

Susan shook her head, knowing that anyone who underestimated Tony's intelligence did so at their peril.

What a Difference a Day Makes

From: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

Hey there Thomass,

No... no joke, it's all about giving the punters what they want.

Sending you the latest changes that the scriptwriters have come up with. They have been changing up some of the bio details of Agent McGregor for comic relief. The feeling is that Agent Tommy gets used for that purpose far too much and it gets a bit old especially with the Agent Tommy fans.

Good talking to you

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com


I've read the new draft and i have to say that messing with mcgregor's college admittance is not an option. his father never pulled strings to get him into mit with a large donation to their research program. this absolutely never happened!


thom e. gemcity

From: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

Hi Gem E.

Yeah you're right! After more thought, I agree that his father would probably not have bought his son's way into college. He would want him to attend Annapolis Naval College not MIT. Instead his stepfather will pull strings and get him his/ her job at the Agency.

It works better too, more believable since his lack of experience in the military or law enforcement makes it dubious that he'd be drafted into the agency's premier investigative team as a rookie. Also explain how he'd score a plumb promotion to Senior Field Agent after just one year as a probationary field agent and then a further year as a junior agent. Clearly, a case of nepotism going on there methinks.

Oh and re the actress to play Penny Jepard, we're actually thinking that one of our producer's wives (his fourth and current one) Vivienne Bellisario would be perfect for the role.

Gotta go now. Talk later,

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

From: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

To: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

look carter,

let's get one thing clear, mcgregor did not get any assistance from his father or his stepfather either. mcgregor is a brilliant agent with mad computer skills who graduated first in his class at fletc and furthermore i deserved that promotion.

thom e. gemcity

From: Carter Johnson carterjohnson realityillusions. com

To: Thom E. Gemcity thomegemcity idriveporsche. net

Ouch Thom-e

Hit a nerve did I? What's it to you if McGregor's career is helped by his connections?

Getting nervous here…anything you want to tell me?

Carter Johnson

Reality Illusions Production Co

End Notes

Advice from my beta is that I need to mention for anyone that doesn't already know:

Chad W. Murray is Sean Murray's brother, who played Seaman Russell McDonald in the season one episode 4 'The Immortals.' He also works as a producer for NCIS.

The actress mentioned in Pretty Little Liars - Spencer Hastings - Troian Bellisario is Sean and Chad Murray's step sister who played McGee's sister Sarah McGee in Twisted Sister and is Sean and Chad Murray's step sister.

Vivienne Bellisario is the fourth wife of Donald P. Bellisario and mother of Sean and Chad Murray, also the stepmother to Troian and Michael Bellisario. She also appeared in various episodes of NCIS in season one as L.J. Gibbs' mysterious redheaded girlfriend who frequently picked him up in the silver coloured convertible and was once seen in his basement.

Oh and if you ever get the chance to watch Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in The Avengers it is not to be missed. She was a fashion icon who popularised the cat suit and was the epitome of style and grace. She spawned quite a few songs, was a feminist, a martial arts expert, not to mention being a genius. Mrs Peel saved John Steed's butt as often as he saved hers but she never stooped to gratuitous violence or threats and definitely was never cruel or demeaning. She really was a role model that has endured for decades and was one extremely cool and classy female. I grew up watching her in reruns because my dad had a huge crush on Diana Rigg.