AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
SUMMARY: Gibbs is in Stillwater and Tony is temporarily in charge of the team when he realizes a case in which they are involved just might be an FBI case. Without Gibbs to 'do his thing' with Fornell, Tony doesn't quite know what to do.
WORD COUNT: 2,730
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
THE SQUAD ROOM
Tony sat at his desk frowning at the information on his computer screen - or rather frowning at the lack of information. He sighed softly and glanced up and looked at McGee, who was pointedly avoiding looking at him and instead was working conscientiously on the task Tony had given him.
Tony realized at the time he'd gleefully handed the pile of files over to McGee and pointed to the other two boxes that tying up their computer expert with such a trivial and meaningless task was more than a little foolish, especially when his skills were needed elsewhere, but he'd given the job to McGee simply because he could. However, now with the benefit of hindsight (such a wonderful tool) he deeply regretted being so - So childish, he forced himself to admit.
He stared hard at McGee willing him to look at him, to catch his eye so that he could - So that he could what? Apologize? Admit to being wrong? Confess to McGee just why he'd given him the menial task? Yeah, right, like he'd do any of those things. His gaze travelled to Ziva; she too had her head down working hard on her own task, which while not as trivial as McGee's really wasn't what she should be doing. Both jobs were things that didn't actually need to be done.
He sighed again and returned to looking at his screen; he was staring at basically nothing. For something to do he pressed a couple of keys and then another couple and then - His screen went completely blank. He opened his mouth, about to automatically call McGee and tell him to sort it out, but quickly shut it again. Instead he nonchalantly rebooted his computer, held his breath, crossed his fingers and hoped.
When the computer had finished rebooting he was pleased to see it looked just as it looked every morning. Of course the work he'd done on it in the last hour had vanished, but then there hadn't been anything of note anyway.
Once more he glanced at McGee. This time his glance coincided with McGee looking up to grab another file. "Did you want something, Tony?"
Tony quickly shook his head. "No. I'm fine; everything's fine. How's it going? Have you finished yet?"
McGee's eyes widened and a look Tony realized he never wanted to see again crossed over McGee's face. "Have I finished?" he asked, his tone flat. Tony just stared at him. "Have I finished? Do you know -" He cut himself off, sighed and simply said, "No, Tony, no, I haven't finished." And with those words he turned his attention back to the file.
Adding 'idiot' to 'childish' Tony pushed his chair away from his desk, stood up and went out of the squad room. As he went past McGee and Ziva he muttered, "I'll be in Autopsy."
"Hello, Ducky," Tony called, going into Autopsy. "I've brought you a cup of tea."
Ducky glanced up from his desk and stared at Tony. "Hello, Anthony, and that is very kind of you. To what do I owe the -"
"How sick is Gibbs's dad?" Tony spoke quickly, knowing if he let Ducky ramble on he'd never say or ask what he wanted to say or ask.
Ducky stared at Tony and took the tea Tony was still holding out to him and put it on his desk. "Very," he said softly, "why do you ask?"
Tony took a deep breath. "I need to talk to him. I need to -"
"No, Anthony," Ducky said firmly in the tone Tony knew even Gibbs never argued with. "I am afraid I simply will not allow you to call Jethro."
"But, Ducky -"
"I said 'no', and I meant it." Ducky glared at him and Tony sighed softly. Then Ducky's expression softened for a moment. "Sit down, Anthony, I shall make us a nice pot of tea and you can tell me what the problem is."
"But I brought you - Oh," Tony said, "that bad, eh?"
Ducky chuckled softly. "Yes, Anthony, I'm afraid it is indeed 'that bad'. But the thought is very much appreciated." And with that Ducky stood up, squeezed Tony's shoulder and went across the room to where Tony noticed a kettle and a teapot stood. He decided not to tell Ducky he really didn't like tea, well not hot tea anyway. He could drink it this once - especially as he both wanted and needed Ducky's advice.
"So, Anthony," Ducky said returning with two mugs of hot tea. Tony took his and tried not to stare at it in disgust, "do tell me what is on your mind and quite why you had the idea of calling Jethro at a time when he does not need to be disturbed.
Tony took a sip of tea and swallowed, making sure he didn't shudder. "There's this case," he said, "the Garret case."
"And I think, well, actually I'm sure but I don't have any proof, that it's a case the FBI is involved in and I don't want to risk treading on their toes. If Gibbs was here it would be easy, he'd just call Fornell, they'd do their thing and everything would be all right. But with Gibbs not being here . . . It's not like I can call Sachs, is it?"
Ducky laughed softly. "No, I imagine that would not go down well."
Suddenly Tony had an idea and he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. "I don't suppose you could -"
"No, Anthony," Ducky said firmly, sipping his tea, "I cannot, well of course I could given I am quite capable of picking up a phone and . . ." He fell silent as Tony just stared at him; he knew Ducky was speaking English, but what he was saying was lost on Tony - well apart from the fact Ducky had said 'no', which meant he had to come up with another idea. "I will not call Agent Fornell; I'm sorry, Anthony, I would like to help you, but I do believe that would be going too far - as you well know."
Tony sighed and took another small sip of tea. "Yeah, Ducky," he said, "I know. It's just -" He fell silent for a moment before swallowing hard and saying, "I don't know what to do, Ducky."
To his surprise Ducky smiled at him and even patted his arm. "Well done, Anthony," he said, somewhat cryptically. "Well, it you do not mind my interfering, shall we say -"
"Oh, interfere away, Ducky," Tony said in a heartfelt tone. "All interference will be much appreciated."
Ducky smiled. "I shall remind you of what you just said." Tony gave him a weak smile. "There is one way you can find out if the case is an FBI case without the need to talk to anyone - but you know that, do you not?"
Tony sighed and for something to do took another sip of tea; this time he realized it wasn't quite as bad as he'd thought. "I do know, Ducky," he said, "but I can't ask."
"And why not?"
"Because McGee, or Ziva come to than, doesn't respect me. They don't like me being in charge."
Ducky stared at him. "May I be honest with you, Anthony?"
Tony stared back at Ducky and shrugged. "I guess so."
"I mean really honest." Tony just shrugged again and nodded. "I like you, Anthony, you are a good agent and a good person. You have your faults, just like all of us, but you are loyal - sometimes to a fault - and you care, even if you do have a very strange way of showing it at times. You often lack judgment, or rather you lack good, sensible, logical judgment."
Tony felt his cheeks become a little heated. "Thanks, Ducky," he said, now taking a bigger sip of tea, it really wasn't that bad. "So what's the 'but'?"
Ducky smiled. "Respect has to be earned," he said softly. Tony frowned at him. "If you wish Timothy and Ziva to respect you, you have to firstly show them respect and secondly earn their respect. They will do whatever you tell them to do, you know that, do you not?"
Tony nodded. "Yes, but -"
"Is there anything you've told them to do they have refused to do?"
Tony shook his head. "No."
Ducky nodded. "As I said they will do what you tell them to do, but that is not the same as respecting you. Part of it is sibling rivalry, shall we say, but part of it is, I'm afraid, Anthony, your attitude at times."
"Go on," Tony said, wondering if he was going to live to regret what Ducky was saying, while at the same time wondering why he wasn't angry that Ducky was over-stepping the line of what was right, given he was not Tony's superior.
Ducky next words made Tony jump; he would have sworn that the only person Ducky was capable of mind-reading was Gibbs. "I know I am speaking more than a little out of turn, Anthony. I am not your boss; I am not in the line of command, and as such you have every right to tell me to be quiet or ignore me or simply leave."
"Yeah, like I'm going to do that."
Ducky frowned. "If you mean you wouldn't do those things because you believe I would tell Jethro, I assure you I would not. So do you wish me to continue or do you wish to leave?"
"Go on," Tony answered without hesitation.
Ducky smiled and again patted Tony's arm. "Have you ever heard Gibbs say 'I'm the boss'?"
Tony slowly shook his head. "Not exactly, no."
"Well then . . ." The way Ducky was looking at him made Tony aware he was waiting to see if Tony understood.
"Oh," he said. "I get it; at least I think I do." He sighed.
"You know, Anthony, Timothy and Ziva are both quite aware that you are senior to them, you do not have to keep on reminding them. And when Jethro is here and you are all working on a case, aren't you a team? Do you truly feel superior to them?"
Tony shook his head. "No. I feel the opposite."
To his surprise Ducky nodded. "And why is that?"
Tony shrugged. "They're both better than me."
Ducky sighed. "In certain ways, yes, they are. Timothy is far better with computers than you will ever be and Ziva has skills and knowledge that you really don't want to have or know. However, Anthony, in other ways you are 'better' - not that I like that term - than them."
"You are a fine street-detective. In some ways you are even better than Jethro and you are far better than Timothy or Ziva will ever become, no matter how many years they work for NCIS. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"
Tony sighed. "Yes, I do, Ducky. I just don't know - I gave McGee a really trivial task this morning. I was gleeful about it; I even laughed to myself knowing I could get him to do it, whereas I should have let him do the computer work on the Garret case while I did the file stuff."
"And why did you do that?"
Tony stared at him. "Because I could." He spoke quietly as he looked away from Ducky.
He heard Ducky sigh and felt his hand on his arm again. "Oh, Anthony. Well, only you can put this right. I suggest you go back to the squad room and find a way of asking for Timothy's assistance."
Tony sighed. "All right, Ducky," he said, standing up and putting his mug, which he realized to his surprise was empty. "Thanks for the tea."
Ducky smiled at him.
THE SQUAD ROOM
On his way back to the squad room Tony had run a number of ideas through his head as to how he could get McGee to help him without really asking for his help. However, he'd dismissed them all and had decided to go with the simple, straight-forward idea.
"Tim," he said when he reached McGee's desk.
McGee looked up. "I still haven't finished, Tony," he said.
Tony shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he said. "You can leave them. I need your help with the Garret case. The thing is I think the FBI already has a case involving him and - well, if Gibbs were here -"
"He'd call Fornell and they'd do whatever it is they do and we'd all know." Tony nodded. "So you want me to hack into the FBI's system?"
Tony glanced at McGee and saw his eyes were actually shining. "Could you?"
McGee nodded. "Yes. You see I've got this new -" He fell silent and looked away. "It doesn't matter," he said.
Tony touched his arm. "No, go on, Tim, tell me, I'd like to know."
Five minutes later he wasn't any nearer actually knowing, but McGee was smiling and excited, both of which Tony thought were good things. "Okay," he said, picking up the pile of files and turning towards his own desk. "So you'll get on with that and I'll get on with these."
"The thing is - Well part of the reason it was taking me so long is that . . . Well, that I had an idea to speed things up, well at least for the future. I've set this program up that will really benefit us. There's a lot more work at this stage, which is why I hadn't finished, but in the future all we'll need to do is click a button." Suddenly he stopped smiling and looked away. "But no doubt you'll think I've wasted my time."
Tony put the files back down on McGee's desk. "No," he said, "I don't, Tim - it's just the opposite. It's a great idea."
McGee stared at him. "You really mean that?"
"Yes. Yes, I do. Can you show me how to use it?"
McGee nodded. "Yes, of course. It's really simple. I made sure it was . . ." He trailed off and flushed.
Tony laughed and put his hand on Tim's shoulder. "Simple is what the rest of us need, Tim. Thank you."
McGee stared at him for a moment or two and then opened a file on his computer and two minutes later Tony knew what he had to do - it really was simple. "Gibbs'll love this," he said. "He'll be pleased with you."
McGee smiled. "Thanks, Tony," he said, sounding happier than he'd sounded since Gibbs had taken off to go and visit is dad in Stillwater.
"Would you like me to help you, Tony?" Ziva asked, standing up. "That is if more than one person can work on the program at the same time." She looked at McGee.
He nodded. "Yes, they can. I made sure of that."
She smiled. "In that case I shall assist Tony."
"You don't have to, Ziva," Tony said quickly. "I can do this."
Ziva gave him a gentle smile. "I know I do not have to, Tony, but," she paused for a moment and then said, "I wish to. We are all on the same team, are we not? We help one another?"
Tony looked from McGee to Ziva and back again and swallowed hard. "Yes, Ziva, we are and we do." For a second or two he hesitated wondering if he needed, if he should, apologize, but then he realized it wasn't necessary to say in words what he'd actually already done.
Thus instead he grinned and looked across at McGee. "Well the, McGeek, what are you waiting for? Do your thing."
McGee beamed at him, "On it, boss," he said, turning back to his computer as his fingers began to fly over the keyboard.
Tony watched for a second or two, feeling more than a little envious and then he headed over to Ziva's desk and gave her a pile of files. As he went back to his own desk and sat down he realized that deciding to go and see Ducky earlier was probably the best idea he had ever had.