We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.
~ Harrison Ford
Tony sighed as he sent the last of the reports to Gibbs and the printer finishing this case. There was still a couple of hours left in the workday and, hopefully, the team was far enough down the rotation list not to be called in this upcoming weekend. Tony just hoped they weren’t called out again today.
“Good work today, people’” Vance walked up to Gibbs and glanced around at the premier MCRT team, “Gibbs, I’ve taken the your team out of rotation for the weekend and placed all of you on leave for the rest of the day. McGee, there is an opportunity I’d like to discuss with you at 0900 Monday morning.”
“Yes, sir,” McGee replied clearly startled as Gibbs glared at the director. Vance nodded at McGee and met Gibbs’ glare with one of his own before walking away.
“Gibbs,” McGee hesitatingly said, “Do you know what the director wants?”
“Don’t worry about McGee.” Gibbs snapped, “I’ll take care of it”
“I’m outta here before he changes his mind,” announced DiNozzo as he locked his desk, “Everybody enjoy the time off and don’t do anything I wouldn’t.”
“I am not interested in doing anything you would do, Tony, but I will enjoy doing things mature adults would do.” responded Ziva.
“You don’t know what you’re missing, Ziva.” Tony replied just before the elevator doors closed.
Tony let himself into his apartment and sighed two days off without having to worry about being called in and part of a third to relax, what to do with this unexpected boon? Pasta, he decided, pasta and sauce from scratch and enjoy a glass of red wine with a home cooked meal.
As Tony worked on the pasta, his mind wandered back to the Military at Home case and how it was increasingly becoming more difficult to work with Ziva and McGee. Since they had left him without back up while doing voice prints, he was struggling in trusting them. He wanted to trust them but his gut was constantly reminding him that they would leave him out to dry if they became annoyed with him. This feeling was making him question how he did his job and not just the jokes and movie references but almost every facet. What if he gave one of them an order and they just decided not to follow it?
His dreams were filled with examples of problems that his hesitation and distrust and their … disrespect. Tony closed his eyes at the realization neither Ziva or McGee respected him. It was the crux of the issue. They don’t respect him, not as Senior Field Agent, not as a teammate, not even as a co-worker and that hurt. He had documented the lapse in duty in his case notes but no one reads those. He had also confirmed that Abby had transcribed them admitting they turned off comms but she hadn’t reported the lapse in procedure as required and that stung. The combination of these two things, if reported, would result in disciplinary action for all three but Tony was reluctant to upset his ‘family.’
Tony started rolling out the dough and focused the pasta. He let the familiar routine soothe him. He felt the stress drain out of him as he started stirring the sauce. The rich scent of the red sauce filled the room and he decided to have some of the Italian coffee he had purchased the last time he went to the specialty Italian grocery store. The espresso had just finished when he heard a knock on his door. A quick glance through the peephole showed a face he hadn’t seen in years.
“Johnny!” Tony exclaimed as he threw open the door.
“Johnny?” The man next to Tony’s best friend from RIMA questioned with a smirk. John flushed and said, “Yeah, Tony’s the only one who still calls me that. Even after I’ve asked him to stop.”
Tony laughed at John’s glare, “Come on in. I’m just about pour some espresso. Would either of you like some?
“Yes, please,” the man Tony didn’t know quickly replied. His hair was thinning, his mouth croaked and he looked a little high-strung.
“No, thank you, better give mine to Rodney.” John was a laid back as ever but a little grayer than Tony remembered.
Tony smiled and looked between the two men meaningfully as he poured the espresso. Rodney inhaled the smell of the coffee and sighed happily. “Okay, I forgive you for not stopping at Starbucks on the way. This is better.”
John chuckled, “Tony, this is M. Rodney McKay, Ph. D., Ph. D, Ph.D.”
“Nice to meet you Rodney McTripledoc, Tony DiNozzo. John and I graduated from military high school together.”
John laughed at the look on McKay’s face. “McTripledoc?” Rodney said as he and Tony shook hands, “The espresso had better be worth the nickname.”
“It will be,” Tony grinned at him and turned to John, “What brings you to my door after 6 years of almost no contact?”
“We want to offer you a job,” McKay answered, “That isn’t why we originally decided to visit though. We came to talk you into accepting a promotion and assignment to a new Resident Unit.”
At Tony’s incredulous look Rodney continued, “We work on a highly classified project at a remote base. Due to the level of clearance required to work there, we don’t have a dedicated law enforcement department. The powers that be decided we needed a one since we will be increasing our personnel ten fold. We are an international project as well as a combination of military and civilian. We have three former cops on the civilian side and they came up with a list of qualifications for the person to head this new department.The PTBs don’t want the US to dominate the base so we reviewed LEOs in various organizations and countries for candidates. You were the top of the pile.”
Rodney paused and watched Tony carefully as he drank some espresso moaning obscenely at his first taste. Tony frowned and turned to John, “Your doing?”
“Nope,” John replied popping the p.
“John was not involved in the selection process, other than proofing some equations. We didn’t realize you knew each other until the meeting where we discussed recruiting you. We were actually quite disappointed that you were with NCIS because, as per our agreement with the US DoD, it meant we had to accept NCIS on base. We are only allowed to offer you a job if NCIS rejects our request for a Resident Unit.”
Tony’s eyes narrowed, “Rejects?”
“Yep,” John popped the p again.
“Yes, this morning we received the paperwork we sent for a Resident Unit with you as SSA back as denied by Director Prance.”
“Vance” both men corrected Rodney. He waved a hand dismissively, “What the fuck ever. That means we can offer you a contractor position as director of our security forces.”
At Tony’s puzzled look, John said, “The project is run officially by the USAF but they use Marines as the ground forces.”
Rodney reached into the bag he had carried in with him and pulled out an envelope. “In here is a copy of the employment contract with the classified parts redacted.”
Tony pulled out a sheaf of papers with black lines through most of the first page. “Yes, yes, lots of black,” Rodney waved impatiently, “but the salary and benefits aren’t. Most of the duties have some black but some don’t. “
“Read the other duties section,” John suggested with a smile.
Eyebrow raised, Tony flipped to that section and began to read. HIs mouth dropped open and he gave a smirking John a quick glance. He re-read the section again slowly and looked at Rodney. “You want me to be on the committee that decides what movies will play? And start a film club?”
“Yeah, we want to pay you for your movie knowledge,” John said triumphantly, “Isn’t that cool?”
Rodney rolled his eyes at John. To Tony he said, “Your Master’s in film studies will be unique on the base. Much like your experience in law enforcement will be and your degrees in criminology. You won’t be the only lawyer though.”
Tony sat back stunned. This was the first time his hobby was an asset in getting a job. Sometimes it would become an asset later but to be partially recruited because of his love of movies? That was a new and pleasant sensation, he picked up the contract and began reviewing it from the beginning. “Holy shit!” He exclaimed, “Is there one too many zeros in this salary?”
“Nope,” both men popped the p in unison.
“I think your water’s boiling,” Rodney pointed at the stove. Tony jumped up and dumped the fresh pasta in the water saying, “There’s enough for three, I was going to freeze some of this and the sauce. Do you guys want some?”
“Lemon?” John asked. “Or any citrus?”
“No to both. Why?”
“Fatal citrus allergy,” both men said as John pointed at Rodney.
“That sucks,” Tony replied.
Tony got plates, wine glasses and silverware and set them in front of John. “Set the table for me as I get the pasta.” John nodded. Rodney started gathering up the contract, “If you decide to take the job, we’ll have to go to a secure location to sign the NDAs. The organization we work for will help you with the transition. You’ll be assigned on base housing but,” Rodney looked around, “it will be better than this. You can take the piano. Moving costs are covered.”
“Is it dangerous?”
John and Rodney shared a look and John spoke, “Yes. We can’t explain how because that part is classified.”
“I should pack for a hot and arid climate?”
Rodney snorted, “No, more like the beach. But after you’re read in you’ll want to go shopping.”
“I love my job.”
“What do you love about it?” Rodney asked.
“I love helping people, figuring out the hows, whats and whys,” Tony shrugged.
“Well, the project we work on is very much into helping people. Most people don’t know what we do but they all benefit. We don’t have investigators currently and looking back there have been a couple of times when we could have used someone trained as one. We haven’t had major crimes but rather a bunch of small ones that we have had to ignore because we did not have someone trained to investigate and couldn’t spare the people we did have to investigate.”
John snorted, “Right, and it takes more than yelling threats and insults at people to find out who is stealing the coffee.”
Rodney snapped his fingers several times, “Yes! I put off vital work while trying to find out who took my coffee! I would have eventually found them but people could have died if I hadn’t started working my regular duties again.”
“Yeah, buddy, I know,” John shared an amused look with Tony as he served them, “We need someone, Tony, and you are the best.”
Rodney took his first bite and moaned, “Okay, what do I have to do to get you to come and cook for us? At least once a week?”
Tony laughed, “Who will I be working with?”
“We have decided to begin with three full-time positions. The other two will be your choice but you’ll have to chose from the ones we’ve pre-approved. There is one retired Detective Inspector from the UK and a former Interpol agent who have agreed to be part-time if you feel they are needed. There is former Detective Sergeant who used to work with the retired DI and a former CSI from Las Vegas who will consult on an as needed basis only.”
John grimaced. “Don’t worry,” Rodney assured John, “I’ll keep him far away from you.”
“What are your positions on base?” Tony asked.
“I’m the Chief Science Officer, and John is the Ranking Military Officer.” Rodney replied.
“Really? What are you a light bird in the USAF these days?”
“Ah,” John blushed and looked at Rodney for help.
“He’s your friend,” Rodney pointed out then rolled his eyes when John gave him a forlorn look. “Damn puppy dog eyes,” sighed Rodney before turning to Tony, “John resigned from the USAF about nine months ago. He’s a full bird colonel in the RCAF.”
At Tony’s blank look, he clarified, “Royal Canadian Air Force.”
“Canadian?” Tony gaped at Rodney.
“Yes, Canadian. The unenlightened US military doesn’t approve of his choice of spouse.”
Tony’s head whipped around to stare at John, “You got married again? You swore you would never marry another woman!”
Rodney laughed and John blushed, “I didn’t.”
Tony looked at John with his mouth hanging open. Rodney stopped laughing and took pity on them both. “Remember how I said the committee doesn’t want the US to dominate the project?”
At Tony’s nod he continued, “Right, so nine months ago, they removed the USAF Lt Colonel” he pointed at John, “from the position as RMO. Rather than accept re-assignment John resigned and went to Cal Sci to finish his doctorate under Dr. Charles Epps. About three months later just before his defense came up, I resigned as CSO because the PTBs had their heads shoved so far up their asses they couldn’t see even with flashlights. I went to LA to celebrate with John and took the bottle of Fortaleza.”
“No,” Tony whispered horrified, “you can’t give John tequila. It makes him talk about his feelings.”
“I know that,” Rodney arched a brow, “Now.”
John gave a sexy little laugh, “Best decision I ever made, Rodney, drunk or sober.”
Rodney smiled fondly at John and focused back on Tony, “He declared his undying love and said I was the thing he missed most about the project and wished we could get married.”
“And he said,” John picked up the narrative and Rodney’s hand, “ we could in Canada and if I wanted an answer, I needed to ask properly.”
“He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.”
“He said yes.”
Rodney nodded, “And then he passed out. I spent the next 2 hours planning our trip to Vancouver, BC to get married and then passed out myself.”
“About 16 hours later, we kissed for the first time in front of the wedding officiant,” John said as he grinned at Tony.
“A little more than 48 hours later, the general in charge of the project, the civilian in charge of the base we work on, and the Canadian representative to the committee knocked on our hotel room door. They brought a new contract for me and commission papers for John. The mission is important and we were glad to sign back up. Especially with higher pay for me and higher rank for John.”
John leaned forward, “We are re-grouping right now but before we head back,” his eyes flicked to Rodney and back to Tony, “I’ll be promoted again to Brigadier General.”
“We are hoping for 1,500 military assets and an equal number of civilians plus another 300 to 500 in support roles for a target population of around 3,500. Although to be frank, we would both prefer twice that. We need a police force of some kind. The military will be assigning various personnel to the department but we’re looking right now for a core of three experienced officers to head the department.”
“We’d like you for the head position, Tony.” John said earnestly.
Rodney nodded, “The three cops we have on base came up with a list of ideal qualifications. We never expected to find someone who fit our needs as well as you do. The fact you know John and he likes you is a bonus.”
Tony scrubbed his hair, “Gibbs will be pissed.”
“No doubt. Jethro never dealt well with change,” Rodney stated and at Tony’s reaction he continued, “We’re first cousins. I’ll deal with him. I’m the scariest cousin.”
John snorted at Tony disbelief, “He really is the scariest cousin.”
Rodney smirked, “Ask Jethro yourself. He’ll agree.”
Tony chuckled “I’ll do that.”
John stood up and gathered the now empty plates. Rodney gave Tony an intense penetrating look, “Are you happy with your job right now?”
Tony stared at him and he continued, “The reason I ask is because, well, when Prance denied our application he included a note about how unsuitable you were for the position. I got the impression that he hates you because your record doesn’t support his claims.”
“What?” Tony looked stricken.
“He said that you were immature and did not have enough of the right experience for a leadership position. We reviewed his suggested replacement and rejected them because, unsurprising, Prancer doesn’t know what we need but still he was damning in his letter. None of the information in your official file supports his conclusions and, well, I can only assume he hates you.”
“When I reviewed your official file, I found at least three instances where he has blocked you being offered promotions or other opportunities since he became director and at least one from before,” Rodney looked uncomfortable as John sat down, “I’m a terrible boss but even I haven’t done what he’s done to you. I may hate some of my staff but if they’re good I don’t undermine them the way he has you.”
“No,” John agreed, “You’ll announce to the whole lab that they’re an idiot and berate them publicly but your assessments are always fair and you give solid advice on career development. Even to Kavanagh.”
Rodney made a face. “So, Tony, are you happy with where you are at NCIS?”
Tony covered his face with his hands and sighed, “No. I’m not happy.”
John put his hand on Tony’s shoulder, “Then come with us. You can sign the NDAs and review the employment contract. It won’t be the same but maybe that’s a good thing. When I read your file, I realized you are hiding behind masks.” Tony dropped his hands and looked at John desperately, “This is a chance for you to be you.”
“When Jetro ‘retired’,” Rodney used his fingers for the air quotes, “you took over the MRCT. Closure rate stayed the same, which considering the hours put in by other members of your team dropped by 25%, is a clear indication that you can do the job. Your SFA wasn’t doing the work required by him so not only were you leading the team you were also doing what about 80% of the SFA job as well?”
At Tony’s nod, Rodney continued, “My only concern is this is you not knowing how to delegate but based on the reports, I don’t think that’s it. I think it was more disrespect for you as team lead, which considering you are one of the best investigators at NCIS reflects poorly on your team mates rather than you. Look, we want you. We want you because you have the education we need, because you are an excellent investigator, because you are a walking font of movie trivia, because we don’t have anyone to coach a basketball team. We have really cool toys, won’t you come and play with us?”
“Yeah, Tony,” John cajoled, “come and play with us?”
“If I sign the NDAs and get briefed, am I required to sign the employment contract?” Tony asked.
“No,” Rodney said,”but you won’t want walk away. It will change the way you look at everything.”
“Yeah,” John agreed, “Nothing is quite the same afterwards.”
“All right, I’m in.” Tony stated firmly.
“Good. Let’s go. I’ll drive.” Rodney said as he stood.
“No,” John scoffed “you won’t. I’d like to survive the trip.”
Rodney made a face as Tony laughed.