The second time Toni saw Admiral Chegwidden, Kate was with her and Toni’s not so quiet, “Hubba hubba,” had made the other woman choke.
“Toni!” Kate hissed with mortification. “He’s not deaf!”
“What?” Toni replied, green eyes admiring the tall JAG officer, “He fills out those whites very well,” she replied, then yelped in concert with Kate because Gibbs had sharply slapped the back of their heads.
“I can’t help it boss,” Toni replied, falsely contrite, then flushed as the Admiral caught her eye and looked her up and down and raised an eyebrow. His mouthed, ‘Hubba hubba?’ made her smirk.
“Flirt on your own time,” Gibbs snapped. “Rule 13, DiNozzo!”
“What’s Rule 13?” Kate asked already bringing out her notebook.
“Never, ever involve lawyers,” Toni promptly replied. “But what if he’s a military lawyer, boss?” she called after Gibbs.
Harm and Mac exchanged a hilarious look and A.J. bit back a smile at the saucy NCIS agent.
They’d dated for about six months but between their busy schedules it didn’t work out and they parted amicably, if reluctantly.
Toni’s dark honey colored hair was shifting out of its loose bun and she absently fixed it while listening to Madame Director natter on about what was surely an illegal undercover operation to spy on an arms dealer.
“It will be perfect for your undercover skills,” the Director finished with a sense of smug satisfaction.
“Mmm,” Toni hummed non committedly, “Who is going to take over MCRT? Surely not Probie or Ziva.”
“Oh,” the Director waved that silent objection away, “You can do it and work at the same time.”
Not bloody likely, she thought darkly, but pasted a bright smile on her face. “Let me get back to you in the morning, ma’am. I do have a life outside of NCIS and I need to see if I can rearrange some things.”
“Excellent,” the woman behind the desk smiled, “we’ll talk in the morning.” Her eyes glittered and she had pinpoint pupils. Toni was certain that the other woman was high as a kite, whether it was a pain killer or just drugs it was still suspicious as fuck.
“If we don’t have a case,” Toni pointed out.
“Of course, of course,” the Director said, virtually guaranteeing that there would be no cases assigned to MCRT. That, in and of itself, was suspicious as hell.
Toni headed down the stairs, her mind going a thousand miles a minute.
“What did the Director have to say?” Ziva sked.
Toni snapped back to the present and eyed Ziva as she sat down at her desk. “If you weren’t invited to the meeting then you can assume it’s noneyo.”
“Is this another American saying?” Ziva asked peevishly. McGee made a face.
“It’s not a saying, Ziva,” he replied uncomfortably.
Ziva’s head swiveled back to Toni, who only smiled. “Tell her McUrbanDictionary.”
“Do I have to?” he whined. Toni merely raised an eyebrow and he sighed. “Noneyo means it’s ‘none yo business’.”
Toni snickered as Ziva spun to pin her with a nasty glare. “Exactly what he said, Probationary Agent David.”
“You do not have to keep calling me that.”
Balboa caught Toni’s eyes and his resultant face and eyeroll made Toni choke back an irreverent laugh. “Just a reminder that you’re low probie on the totem pole. Don’t forget it.”
“You’re not Gibbs,” Ziva spat and Toni sighed.
“Nope, I’m not. My boobs are bigger,” she said and got to her feet, ignoring muffled snickers from other teams. “I’m going down to see Ducky for a minute. Those cold cases that you’ve covered up with other things are what you’re to be working on.” At McGee’s and Ziva’s rebellious faces, she pointed a manicured finger.
“Don’t complain. If you’ll act like ‘real investigators’ you’ll have noticed that everyone in the bullpen is doing the same thing. So don’t be assholes and do your job.”
Toni got onto the elevator and stared impassively at Ziva, then smirked, the elevator door closing as Balboa shot the Mossad agent a sharp reprimand.
Toni bypassed Abby’s lab, still at odds with their Goth lab queen. The ‘prank’ of the trainee tag that had been placed on Toni had hurt, frankly. Toni had been Gibbs’ right hand for years, and second in command and being treated like dirt didn’t sit well. She’d pulled Abby aside and told her off, then she’d snatched the shrine of Gibbs off the wall and stalked out, ignoring Abby’s hurt feelings. Plus it was weird, especially after what had happened.
Once inside autopsy she saw that the men were busy, Ducky catching up on paperwork and Palmer going through equipment, getting ready for the next autopsy. She caught his eye and jerked her head to the door. He nodded and said, “Dr. Mallard, I’ll be right back,” he said and left with alacrity.
Ducky looked up and smiled, “Antonia, what I can do for you this morning?”
Toni sat down in the seat by his desk and regarded him soberly. “You can tell me the truth.”
Puzzled, Ducky nodded, “Of course, my dear. Regarding what?”
“What is wrong with the Director?”
Ducky paled. “I’m sure that I have no idea what you mean,” he lied, right to her face.
“Cut the bullshit, Ducky,” Toni replied with a groan. “I’ve been a trained investigator for ~ten~ years, for Christ’s sake. I was just up in her office and she’s stoned out of her tiny little mind. What. is. wrong. with. her?” she enunciated.
The doctor got up, clearly flustered and went to his tea area and fumbled around for a moment, clearly trying to get his thoughts in order. “Antonia,” he began and turned, making a frustrated face, “Toni, there are clear areas regarding privacy…”
“Wow, you never treated me with the same respect,” Toni returned bitterly. She got to her feet and left, ignoring his stammered protesting.
Back in the bullpen she pulled her keypad to her and began to type an email to herself, encrypted because despite what McBackstabber thought, she was computer literate, she’d handled everything for Gibbs, hadn’t she? She typed her conversation the Director verbatim, then her conversation with Ducky and all of the infractions that McGee and David had committed, adding the attachments of all of the reports she’d submitted and that had been summarily dismissed. She also added all of the reports/complaints from other teams and shot the whole mess to her secure email.
The rest of the day crawled by, Toni eating at her desk as she completed the team leader paperwork. She tossed back incomplete reports to Tim and Ziva, ignored their resultant bitching, consulted with Martinez on an attack on a sailor, spoke to (flirted with) King over the phone as he touched base with her, letting her know she was welcome in New Orleans anytime, and if she could ignore her sore heart she’d be on the next plane to the Big Easy and climb Dwayne Pride like a tree.
She texted a couple of people, ignoring Abby who came up to the bullpen with a report for Balboa’s team. At 4:30 she cut her team loose, ignoring the way Abby threw pouty looks over her shoulder as she, Ziva and McGee left, apparently with plans. Toni had her own plans, emphasized by the looming figure of the Director as she grabbed her purse and left.
Once she left, instead of turning left to head home, she turned her Miata right and headed straight to the Pentagon.
SECDEF was sprawled out in his chair, suit jacket on the back of the door, shirtsleeves rolled up when his Chief of Staff knocked, “Sir, it’s Admiral Chegwidden.”
“Send him back,” Jack called and rolled to a cabinet, ignoring the man who entered his office as he pulled three glasses and filled two with ice and splashed a generous amount of Irish into them before rolling back and offering the other man the one without ice, knowing his preference.
“Sir,” Chegwidden said, nodding his thanks for the drink.
“How fucked up do you think this is?” Jack asked the other man rhetorically. He’d known Toni for years, dated her for a short time and knew she would never call a meeting like this if it wasn’t important.
A.J. threw back his drink before rolling the heavy crystal thoughtfully between his palms. “DiNozzo is a good investigator, I’ve dealt with her in court cases over the years and while Harm hates Gibbs he respects her. I wish I didn’t think this was bad, but I hate to lie to you, sir.”
“Gee, thanks,” Jack replied dryly. “That’s appreciated.” A.J. laughed.
Toni breezed in, dropping her purse and visitor badge on the corner of Jack’s desk before going over and pouring the glass full of Irish, drinking a big gulp before she turned to the two men.
Jack eyed her with concern, Toni normally was bright and funny and serious and sharp as a blade, but right now she looked puffy, pale and tired. “Rough day at the office, dear?”
His concern ratcheted up as she turned sheet white and threw a frantic hand over her mouth. Both men lunged to their feet as she dashed to his private washroom and proceeded to throw up everything that she’d eaten in what felt like the past week.
Jack strode back to his desk and called the on-call physician and A.J. helped Toni get cleaned up, putting a wet washcloth on the back of her neck as she leaned against the wall, a hectic flush on her pale face. “Toni?”
“I think I ate something bad at lunch,” she replied, rubbing her stomach. “I’ve felt a little off all day and drinking on top of it was the wrong thing to do.”
A knock made him let the Navy doctor in and he and A.J. withdrew as the Captain Wheeler took her blood pressure and had a low-voiced snippy conversation before he helped her to her feet and to one of the couches. Wheeler looked at Jack, “For the 30 second exam she let me do, it’s ‘probably’ stress, she’ll be okay.” Then he looked at Toni, “See your doctor, Agent DiNozzo.”
Toni rolled her eyes, “Yeah, yeah,” she replied with a dismissive handwave. Wheeler rolled his own eyes, well-versed in people not following his directions and left, closing the door behind him. She drank the water A.J gave her and sighed. “I am a little sick of my own drama, let me tell ya.”
“Tell me,” Jack ordered softly, and after he and A.J. heard her out, including her proof that SECNAV was in Mossad’s pocket, which, wonderful fucking news in addition to the rest of the bullshit, he eloquently replied, “Crap.”
Toni leaned back and closed her eyes. “Bet you regret fucking me now.”
A.J. choked on his water, his eyes wide as he regarded the Secretary of Defense and the NCIS agent. He’d casually known the man for years, the Pentagon was a small world and even smaller when you were in the upper echelons, but dating the same girl? Kind of awkward.
Jack O’Neill, Secretary of Defense, snorted. “You introduced me to Danny. I know you remember Danny said you’re welcome anytime.”
It was common knowledge that with the demolition of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the Secretary of Defense had been the most high-profile member of government that came out. Chegwidden hadn’t realized that DiNozzo had been involved but then Jack O’Neill had always been self-contained, even in the Air Force.
“I’d fight you for him,” she teased, “but I have my heart on A.J.”
“Why fight when we can share?” Jack leered at both of them playfully.
A.J. really needed to learn not to drink when they were talking. He coughed again and nodded his thanks when DiNozzo handed him a napkin, green eyes dancing at his discomfort.
Jack scrubbed a hand over his head, then took a deep breath. “All joking aside, we need to replace the Director and SECNAV, we need to check David’s computer without her figuring it out and if necessary, detain her but not let her daddy know. I need to contact Jeffers of the CIA about Shepard’s thing, and we need the FBI as well. Am I missing anything?”
“Davenport has a lot of powerful friends,” A.J. warned.
“So do I, but at least I’m not a puppet with Eli David’s fingers up my ass,” Jack remarked back with asperity, causing Toni to giggle for a minute.
“We need a room with internet access,” Toni said after she'd settled down from her laughter, “I’d like to get this done tonight.”
Jack reached for his phone. “Get over to NCIS and get David’s computer. Your well-known penchant for coming in after hours is going to come in handy for a change,” he said, ignoring Toni’s middle finger as he ordered a secure conference room to be readied.
It was nice, Toni reflected, to be unconditionally trusted. She smiled at Burke, the night guard, asking about his kids and making sure everyone was gone before heading to IT. No one questioned her because Jack was right, she did have a habit of coming back into the office after hours if inspiration struck. It had been a sore spot between them, but she still teased Jack that she’d trained him to accept it because Daniel was a 100% worse about getting inspired and getting up in the middle of the night to head to the Smithsonian to work on a translation or whatever.
In IT she grabbed an identical computer tower and took it upstairs, unhooking Ziva’s before hooking up the new one. She then grabbed one of her green Whole Food bags to carry the suspect one in. Once that was taken care of, she searched Ziva’s desk and took numerous thumb drives and hit paydirt with the password to the computer written on a taped piece of paper in the desk drawer. “Ziva, Ziva, Ziva,” Toni chided, “You’d think you’d have a better training in opsec than that.” She left it but snapped a picture with her phone before gathering up her bag and purse and heading out.
“Short night, Toni?” Burke asked genially.
“Found what I was looking for,” she replied with a cheeky smile. Once in her car she took a deep breath, checking her surroundings before heading back to the Pentagon.
When she walked back in, lugging the computer tower which was heavier than it looked, CIA Washington Chief Mike Jeffers, a gray eyed, gray haired man with a truly atrocious mustache who’d been with the CIA forever, looked up from the report she’d made. Jack or A.J. must have printed it off, and he made a face at her. “You bitch,” he accused and Fornell snapped to his feet but Toni waved him back. She didn’t need anyone defending her.
“Good to see you too, Mike. How’s Joni doing at school?” Mike’s daughter was attending Ohio State and Toni had helped with questions that Joni had. She’d also helped get her into the same sorority that Toni had been in, members of whom were still some of her best friends.
Tobias sat back and watched as DiNozzo, whom he’d only known as Gibbs’ loyal St. Bernard, schmoozed comfortably with the CIA and SECDEF. Apparently there was a lot he didn’t know about the woman, besides the crippling crush Sacks had on her. After a few minutes she sat beside him with a smile, “Toby.”
“I really thought you only hung around with Jethro and the probies,” he said.
“Well, ‘Jethro’ is gone on his Mexican siesta and at least one of the probies is a spy, so there’s that,” she said, a little bitterly.
They were interrupted by Jack who held a bottle of water out to her and she smirked, “I still regret letting you go, you know.”
“Ha, you just liked me because I’m house broken,” Jack riposted with a smile, though his eyes were sharp.
“A.J is too. I just can’t seem to keep a good guy,” she mused. A.J. sent her a speaking look, and boy, he still rang her bells.
Jeffers had his head bent with the computer expert, a Colonel Carter that SECDEF trusted. “Jesus, motherfucking..” the CIA agent spat and Carter sat back, mouth grim as they both looked at the computer.
“Yeah?” Toni asked, taking a drink from her water as Jack and Fornell went over to see what caused the CIA to cuss like a sailor. The door opened for the last time and the head of the FBI, CIA and the VP came in. The show was about to start.
The men who knew Toni weren’t surprised by her professionalism as she led them through her suspicions and then her investigation for the facts to back up what she said. She answered every question with proof and after an hour and change, the VP sighed and rubbed his nose.
“Okay, Jack, what are you going to do to minimalize fall out from this clusterfuck?” The reason why he tapped SECDEF for this is he’d known Jack for almost two decades and knew the man already had a plan, and a back-up plan for the plan. They’d served together in the Air Force many years before.
Jack leaned back and tapped his pen. “Davenport is gone. Chegwidden is ready to retired, make him SECNAV. Shepard is gone and depending on what we find, is being brought up on charges. David is gone, I’d rather not have a trial, I vote we hogtie her and ship her back to Israel with the caveat she is no longer welcome in the US, and that includes her daddy. His power base will shrivel up due to our official displeasure with his pimping out his daughter and the fact he sent his psycho serial killer son here.”
Both FBI and CIA nodded and the VP thought about it and nodded, “Who is going to run NCIS?”
Toni, who’d taken that moment to take a swig of her water began to sputter and choke. The men all chuckled as she wiped her face and glared. “What? Are you kidding me?”
“Why not?” Jack asked. “You can clean house. You’ve worked there for six years and know the players, Toni. You have connections, not just in DC but in most of the major police forces around the country.”
Toni’s cheeks were pink at the compliment but she raised a shoulder in acknowledgement because it was true.
The meeting wrapped up and everyone got ready to go, making small talk. Jeffers shook Toni’s hand, “Thanks for the heads up. Without getting into details, we already have a long term op that would have been fucked if you’d decided to take the job.” He and his boss headed off.
Fornell came over and shook her hand, “Heard from Gibbs?”
“No,” Toni said evenly, “It’s only been a couple of months since he realized his wife and daughter were murdered.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, before shuffling his feet, “I don’t buy his retirement.”
With a shrug, Toni nodded. “We’ll see. He’s doing okay, Franks is watching him, though there’s someone I’d like to see getting hit by a bus.” She still held a grudge.
Fornell threw back his head and laughed before heading out with his boss.
Jack herded out everyone else and Toni sagged in her seat, holding the ice water to her cheek in shaky hands. This was it, the end of everything and she abruptly felt like she failed. Logically she knew it wasn’t all her, that it went back to Gibbs and his unrealistic expectation that it was his way or the highway. Not backing her up, after Kate died, and frankly, the rot had started with him. Her stomach lurched again and Jack sat on the coffee table in front of her.
“Could you be pregnant?”
“What, no, what? Of course not, I can’t get…” Toni trailed off in horror. “Oh, fuck.”
“When?” Jack asked quietly.
“Oh god,” she said, mortified. “I slept with Gibbs right before he was blown up and left for Mexico. Fuckety fuckety fuck.”
Jack chuckled, “Oh kid, you have the worst fucking taste in men.”
“Bite me,” she replied petulantly.
Brown eyes dancing, Jack got his feet and hauled her up and pulled her into a hug. After a minute she sighed and pressed her face to his shoulder. “I’m an idiot,” she said, voice muffled.
“Nah, it ~could~ be stress.”
“Not with my luck.”
Another chuckle and Jack stepped back, “See a doc after all of this shakes out.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she muttered, her opinion on doctors known far and wide after she’d contracted the plague.
Thankfully Toni slept like a baby (hah, points for irony) for the 6 hours she’d allowed herself. She was dressed in her Elie Saab power suit, dark grey with a thin black pinstripe, over a dark green camisole. She was wearing black wedges that she could run in if needed and she kept her make up minimal, except for some concealer for the bags under her green eyes.
Always early, Toni sat tensely, noodling around on her computer as she waited for the show to begin. Slowly teams trickled in and she was aware that the Director had arrived upstairs. McGee came in but Ziva was late as usual.
“McGee,” she greeted and he nodded but didn’t say anything, and looked tired. The elevators opening got her to her feet.
Jack O’Neill, Secretary of Defense strode out, his bodyguard by his side. A.J. Chegwidden and Fornell followed and all headed up the stairs to the Director’s office. The elevator opened again and Ziva came in, her eyes shooting daggers at Toni. “What is going on?”
Toni shrugged, “You’re late, Ziva. And all I know is that the internet is down again.”
“Toni, that wouldn’t have SECDEF, JAG and Fornell come to NCIS!” McGee exclaimed with exasperation.
Right on time the elevator opened again and several agents with CIA windbreakers stepped out and at the same time there was the sound of shouting upstairs. Ziva’s face went pale and she immediately tried to sign in on her computer but couldn’t. The four agents walked over and one pulled a set of cuffs. “Ziva David, you’re under arrest…” he stopped because Ziva threw herself backwards and tried to run towards the stairs, but Toni knew her and was already in her path.
Ziva snarled and Toni raised her gun and fired, dropping Ziva to the ground. The dart had hit her right in the chest and knocked her out with the secret sauce the CIA had devised.
“Toni!” McGee was staring in shock. The other agents on the floor were watching with less surprise.
“Stay seated, Agent McGee,” Toni snapped. The agents cuffed Ziva, hands behind her back and also shackled her before carrying her out like a felled deer.
As they entered the elevator Abby shot out of the stairwell and tried force her way into the elevator but Balboa stopped her, pulling her back while she struggled.
“Abby, stop it,” Toni snapped, holstering the dart gun.
“How could you?” Abby shouted, jerking free of Balboa so she could stomp over to Toni. A commotion on the stairs got their attention and they watched as Fornell frog-marched the ex-Director down the stairs, SECDEF and JAG behind.
Shepard stopped when she caught sight of Toni. “Couldn’t you have just done as you were told?”
Toni smiled slightly. “Nope. Breaking the law has always been my line in the sand.”
Fornell escorted the steaming mad redhead to the elevator, JAG getting onto the elevator with them, meeting Toni’s stare with a slight smile that made her heart thump.
Jack glanced around, “Where’s David?”
“I darted her like a bear and the secret agents took her.”
“Good deal,” he said. He looked at Abby quizzically, “Why are you up here Ms. Sciuto?”
Abby’s mouth snapped shut and she stomped her foot. “Gibbs isn’t going to like this.”
“This?” he asked silkily. “Treason and unauthorized operations and the fact that laws and rules were being ignored or broken?”
“If Toni told you that is what happened, then she’s lying,” Abby snapped.
Hurt, Toni stood up straight and was about to reply but Jack held up his hand. “Ms. Sciuto, you are on 30 days suspension, beginning now. Aht!” he stopped her from replying. “You are not to contact anyone at NCIS, current or former, you are to attend mandated counseling and if at the end of 30 days you don’t see reason and realize that breaking the law is ~wrong~ then your employment will be terminated. Do you understand?”
Abby fumed for a minute before spinning on her heel and stomping away. Jack tilted his head and his bodyguard followed the tech into the stairwell. He turned to Toni and smiled brightly, “Well, hell Director DiNozzo, what are you going to do now?”
Toni groaned. “Maybe you should announce it officially instead?”
Jack grinned and clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention, which was pretty unnecessary as everyone already was.
“Director Shepard is no longer director, for a long list of reasons, none of which you need to know. However, I’m leaving you in good hands, Agent Antonia DiNozzo is being promoted to Director. I know that you’ll support her and listen to her. She has been with NCIS for six years, the majority of that as second in command of the MCRT. While she’s been solving cases she has received both her masters and doctorate in Criminal Justice from the American University. She’s been offered her own team at different locales all over the world at least 6 times but turned them down to stay here, so hoist by her own petard, here she stays.”
Toni rolled her eyes at him but the sound of cheers and clapping made her smile and she shook hands with everyone in the bullpen, smiling hard at the genuine support and congratulations. After a minute Jack whistled loudly, “I’ve got to go do some real work. Everyone continue to do a good job and make us proud,” he said and waited for A.J. to shake Toni’s hand before they left.
“Well, Director,” Balboa began, smirking at her sticking out her tongue at him. “Ah ah, not very director like. What’s next?”
Toni smiled. “Thank you everyone. I need a synopsis of cases that you’re working on, any questions or requests that you have and make sure any vacation requests are up to date with Cynthia. Martinez, do me a favor and have Dr. Palmer check the lab over to make sure everything is okay. I’m going to call the Smithsonian to borrow one of their scientists until things with Ms. Sciuto shake out.” She stopped and huffed out a breath. “I guess I’m going upstairs.”
“Toni, I mean Director,” Martinez said, “How about we get someone from facilities to come up with a box and a list of what we have in stores so your office can be changed out.”
Toni nodded, Shepard’s taste was a little overwrought. “Good idea,” she said, eyes on the stairs. “Okay,” she dithered and Martinez rolled her eyes and grabbed her by the arm with Balboa on the other side and they headed upstairs together.
Cynthia stood and gave Toni a hug and a muffled congratulations before stepping back.
“Is there anything I need to know?” Toni asked gently. She’d felt the other woman’s shaking and wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing.
“No, just, I’m glad that she’s gone.”
“Ah,” Toni said softly. Martinez stayed with Cynthia and Toni opened the door to the office and wrinkled her nose.
Balboa was behind her and he snorted. “Victorian excess comes to mind.”
“Yikes,” Toni replied. She’d been in there before, of course, as had every team leader but the heavy wooden desk, the dark book cases and the large bouquets of flowers on the credenza was just, no. The dark plum wall color had to go as well.
She leaned out, “Hey Cynthia, I need the schedule for MTAC so I can schedule meetings with other offices.”
Toni narrowed her eyes, “Really, Cynthia. Really?”
Cynthia laughed and felt lighter to Toni, “Toni, but I’ll call you Director in official things.”
“Fine whatever,” Toni pouted.
A month later and there had been a lot of changes. Toni dropped her purse on her desk and looked around again, still stunned she was in charge. She’d chosen a simpler desk and kept the bookshelves but moved them to the end of the office. There was a small couch with an ottoman that had a wooden tray. The walls were a light gray which did a lot to lighten up the room, that and changing all of the bulbs to LED and adding a couple of lights. Her college books filled the shelves along with photos of her teams and tchotchkes she’d brought from home.
While she’d been clearing out Shepard’s detritus she came across what looked like a book galley. “What the fresh hell is this?” Toni asked rhetorically. She’d already come across several things she’d rather had not known about the former Director.
She opened it like you’d touch a snake and as she began to read, she groaned. She kept reading because the book was like a trainwreck and you couldn’t look away.
McGee came up the stairs and sat down where Cynthia pointed. After a moment the door to the Director’s office opened and Toni beckoned him in.
“Have a seat, Agent McGee,” she said.
He came in and sat across from his former team mate-still pouting that he’d been sent back to Cyber crimes like a child. “What to you want, Toni?” he asked.
“Director, McGee,” she corrected but waved it away. “Interesting book. The continuing adventures of L.J. Tibbs.”
“It’s not based anyone you know,” McGee snapped defensively.
Toni’s eyebrows raised, “Oh no? How about Agent Antoinette DiTorio? Also known as Nettie? Still not like anyone I know?” She flipped the cover open and let it drop shut. “You might as well just called me Slutty McSlut.”
“Don’t be narcissistic, Toni. It wasn’t based on you!”
Staring at him for a long moment, Toni sighed. “Okay, here’s what is going to happen. Tell your publisher that JAG is going to touch base with them because the Navy wants to check the book out first.”
“What?” he exploded and jumped to his feet. “Why?”
“Because Agent McGee, you have included NCIS procedures that are proprietary information that we generally don’t like criminals to know.”
McGee scoffed, “Oh please, you’re just making me part of your vendetta.”
Toni rolled her eyes. “McGee, you’re being ridiculous. Go away, and don’t forget to let your publisher know.”
When the younger agent stomped out, Toni put her fingers to her burning eyes. He used to be her probie, and now he was this jerk that she didn’t recognize, or like. She blamed Ziva for a lot of things and this was one of them.
Ziva had been punted back to Israel and her father was out as the head of intelligence there. He’d tried to come to the US a couple of times before he ‘disappeared’. Ziva had sent a long expletive, Hebrew laden email that Toni had forwarded to the FBI and then had IT block.
It was discovered that Shepard had an aggressive malignant brain tumor and she was hospitalized. No jail time for her due to the advanced tumor, but she was restricted to the hospital/hospice due to her mental condition. Davenport ‘resigned’ and retired to the Hamptons. A.J. was in process of making waves as he cleaned house, much like Toni.
It also turned out Toni was indeed pregnant, and now she was just starting to have to wear elastic topped slacks. (and still felt queasy every morning, damn it) She had camped out at Jack and Daniel’s and for a week see-sawed back and forth on whether she was going to keep the baby but decided that she’d never have another chance at motherhood and inexplicably found she was kind of excited about it. She still smiled when she thought of Jack’s insistence on being called Uncle Jack.
“Toni, Metro is on the phone for you,” Cynthia called. Toni always left the office door open, she believed that an open door policy avoided the kind of secrecy that Shepard fostered.
“Director DiNozzo,” she answered briskly.
“Director?” the man on the other end asked, “When did that happen, Toni?”
Toni smiled and leaned back, then grimaced, she had to pee again. “Very recently. How are you, Bill? How are your kids?”
“Fine and belated congratulations, I guess I did hear that there was a new Director but that’s it. I have a case for you,” he began.
As soon as she hung up and forwarded the case to Agent Edwards team (she was always calling them ‘Team Edward’, much to Robin’s chagrin). Despite being Director Toni could never resist a case that had so many angles. When she discovered that Franks was still running agents she very pointedly called him and told him he was so very officially retired, as in not in the business anymore, ever, and that if he couldn’t remember that she would send a SEAL team with some stinger missiles to remind him.
Of course, she should have suspected that Gibbs would show up, but she was off her game these days.
“Toni, Mr. Gibbs is demanding to speak to the Director,” Cynthia told her from her doorway.
“Ugh, for real?”
Cynthia laughed. “Apparently Burke isn’t letting him in the building.”
Now Toni laughed. “Call Burke and tell him to give Gibbs a visitor’s pass. I have to go to the bathroom again.”
Toni was washing her hands when she heard Gibbs voice in her office. “Jen, what the hell is going on?”
Taking a deep breath, Toni stepped out of the washroom.
Gibbs gaped in surprise. “DiNozzo?”
Toni nodded and went to sit behind the desk. “Yep, Director DiNozzo. Hi B..Gibbs, have a seat.”
Gibbs sat and stared at his former team leader, not expecting this change at all. “What the hell happened while I was gone?”
“I’m fine, how are you? Is your head screwed on straight? I threatened to send a SEAL team after Franks, or did he already tell you?” she fired back.
He grimaced and sighed. “I’m doing better. My memories are a little spotty and the doc says I may or may not get it back completely. And no, I haven't heard from Franks since I left. Tobias seems to have forgotten to add some details.”
Toni laughed a little. “That’s Toby for you. So, what do you want?”
Gibbs regarded her curiously, like he was trying to shake something loose but couldn’t quite capture it. “Can you fill me in? ”
“No one else called you?” she asked.
Gibbs shrugged, “I deleted a bunch of phone calls, it was getting kind of ridiculous. None from you though.”
“I had no reason to call,” Toni lied through her teeth.
“Apparently. Are ya going to tell me what happened?”
So Toni told him, starting from the beginning of Shepard’s fall from grace, and Ziva’s creeping insubordination that was hiding her spying for Mossad. She touched on Abby’s melt down and suspension, and Ducky’s suspension for hiding Shepard’s medical crisis.
“I guess I should have answered my phone,” he said, a little stunned.
Toni tilted her head, “You being here wouldn’t have changed even one of my decisions.”
Stung, he asked. “Is Abby back?”
“On probation. I have Dr. Fields from the Smithsonian supervising, he’s done a great job for us. I tried to hire him until Dr. Brennan called and threatened to both beat me up and sic her ex-Ranger boyfriend on me.”
“I guess I better go down and see her. Is Ducky here?”
“Gibbs,” she began, seeing him heading down the tracks on his guilt train, “Jethro, you don’t have free run of the place. If you want to come back as an agent you need to take the abbreviated course at FLETC and get cleared by the doctor.”
“Toni,” he countered but she held up her hands.
“Nope, you were blown up and lost your memory. That’s the deal. Now go on, I have to go to MTAC and talk to Rota. Nice to see you, Gibbs,” she said and got to her feet and herded him out like a sheep-dog.
Gibbs walked slowly down the steps, watching the room and seeing every one in a different light. There were smiles and it seemed lighter. It was like seeing the bullpen when he’d first dragged DiNozzo down from Baltimore.
“Gibbs Gibbs Gibbs!” Abby shouted as she streaked out of the elevator and hit him with a thump.
“Abby, how are you?” he asked with a smile. At least some things never changed.
“Oh Gibbs, you wouldn’t believe everything that’s happened!” she said, voice high with indignation.
“Actually he would since the Director just told him,” Balboa said, “Ms. Sciuto I know the Director told you that you can’t be up here.”
“But it’s Gibbs! He’s back, he’s going to fix everything!” she pouted.
“Abby, I don’t know if I’m coming back,” Gibbs said, trying to step out of her arms but she was wrapped around him like an anaconda.
“What?” she shrieked. “You have to! I need my lab back! We need Timmy back, and Ziva is unhappy in Israel.”
“She’s lucky she isn’t in prison,” Balboa pointed out with asperity but as usual, anything outside of Abby’s rainbow world zipped right past her.
“Gibbs,” she repeated plaintively.
Unnerved by her fervor, he finally unlatched her fingers and stepped back. “Abby, go back to work. I’ll be around even if I don’t come back.”
With big, wounded eyes she headed back to the elevator and when the doors closed Gibbs looked at Balboa, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Yeah, I’m not going there. Welcome back, Gibbs.”
At his house Gibbs looked around and had to shake his head. Only DiNozzo would hire a housekeeper to make sure his place didn’t fall to pieces. He dumped his go bag on the floor and sank onto his couch, resting his head and wondering if he’d made a mistake coming back.
His phone buzzing in his pocket made him wince but when he checked the number he realized it was Fornell. “What.”
“So, did you meet the new Director?”
“Nice ambush, not appreciated at all.”
Fornell laughed gleefully in his ear. “She’s a bombshell in a tailored suit. She swept through NCIS like a battering ram. It’s solve rate and reputation are a thousand percent better. Metro adores her and SECDEF is all handsy with her, dropping by at odd times to check on her and see if she needs anything. Rumor is they dated once upon a time.”
“I think I remember that. She also dated Chegwidden?”
“Rumor has it he’s lassoed that pony again.”
Gibbs was irritated for no reason he could discern, Toni’s lovelife was hers.
Ducky was back at NCIS and after a most sincere apology to Antonia he felt like he was back on steady ground. At the moment he was weighing a young Marine’s heart from a homicide that Agent Martinez’ team had caught.
“Ducky Ducky Ducky!” Abigail shouted, scaring the haggis out of him and making him almost bobble Sgt. Carter’s heart.
“Abigail!” he snapped.
“Gibbs is back! He’s back! Everything will go back to normal!” she caroled.
Ducky’s eyebrows rose and Palmer rolled his before going back to his paperwork.
“Abigail, I want you to listen to me,” he began, and held up a bloody glove to stop her waterfall of words. “Antonia is Director. Timothy is back in cybercrime and Ziva is gone. All of it is final. Now whether Jethro decides to come back is his choice, but even if he does, nothing is going back to the way it was.”
It seemed like it finally had gotten through to her because she looked at Ducky sorrowfully. “Oh Ducky, are you sure?”
“I am, my dear,” he replied quietly.
She nodded and left but both men frowned after her because something didn’t seem right.
Abby walked thoughtfully to her lab but stopped when her phone buzzed. Gibbs! When she checked her face fell because it wasn’t her Silver Fox, but the person was important to her plans. By hook or by crook everything was going to be fixed.
~ A.J. looked over his glasses as Toni came in the doorway. She seemed pale, stretched thin and he put aside the report he was working on and walked over to her and folded her in a hug. He could feel the slight bump of the baby and pulled her tighter as if he could shield her from her worries.
Gibbs is back,” she murmured.
He stiffened and stepped back. “How do you feel about that?”
Toni rolled her eyes. “It was a one night stand, A.J. Not a grand romance a la Love Story.”
“But you loved him,” he reminded her.
Taking his reaction for what it was, she toed her shoes off and shoved them to the side before padding to the kitchen for a glass of water. She took a long drink and placed a hand on her belly, low where it was starting to bump out. She took another drink and sighed. “I did, once upon a time. But it was more because he was safe,” she finished with a laugh. “Hah, condoms would have probably made it safer. I still cannot believe we didn’t use one. I mean seriously, look how old we are!” she held out her arms in disbelief and A.J. laughed.
“Did you tell him?”
No,” she answered immediately. “It was clear he didn’t remember. Heck, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to attend FLETC and be reinstated as an agent with everything so changed.” The regrets of her actions that caused the changes clear in her voice.
“Toni, what you did was right. If you hadn’t, if you had taken the undercover assignment, had lost yourself in that murky world you might have been killed. You know it, Jeffers knew it, O’Neill knew it and I’ll bet you that Shepard knew it. She could see Gibbs affection for you and felt like she could kill two birds with one stone, get rid of you and Grenouille.”
The conviction in his voice, the bullseye analysis made Toni look at him in surprise, because she could feel the truth in what he said as well. It was an angle she’d never considered until that moment. “Whoa, shades of Fatal Attraction. Good thing she’s in the hospital or I’d be worried.”
“C’mon, let’s eat dinner. Plus I thought you wanted to finally pick a paint color for the baby’s room.”
Gratefully accepting the change of subject, Toni waved a hand. “Oh, I’ve picked one. Also Brad wants to come to my doctor’s appointment. They want to check a couple of things with my lungs before the baby starts smooshing them.”
Just how many ex’s do you have in the DC area?” A.J. asked her mildly as he pulled out container of home made mac and cheese. He put it on the counter and eyed her as she pretended to count on her fingers. “Very funny.”
“He’s coming as my pulmonologist, not as an ex and you know it,” she scolded.
“Uh huh,” he replied. It still amazed him that all of her exes were still her friends.
Nineteen weeks along and Toni was eyeing the blazer she wanted to wear with disfavor. Her boobs were getting too big to be camouflaged, the blazer wouldn’t even meet in the front anymore.
“Crap.” She stood there in her cami that was very snug and eyed her sweaters, and then was inspired, she grabbed a turquoise sweater (it was only a little snug) with a coordinating scarf and her turquoise earrings which were a gift from, hmmm, one of her exes.
She slid her feet into nude pumps with low heels and strode out to the kitchen. A.J.’s eyebrows rose.
A.J. chuckled at her. “Your ‘cat’ is about to burst out of that bag. FYI.”
She groaned, “I don’t want to wear mumus to work!”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Oh sure,” she complained as she ate the oatmeal he set in front of her.
The sunrise was lovely on Toni’s drive to NCIS. Her mind was on her to do list as she drove, things she needed to decide about the baby, Agent Lewis’s retirement and who to put in charge of the Seattle office. What the fuck was she going to do with Gibbs now that he’d graduated FLETC, though FLETC’s reports on Gibbs had made her laugh. As she suspected, he blew the curve and he’d been pretty tart with the instructors. She pulled into her parking spot and grabbed her bag and headed inside.
MTAC was quiet and the tech greeted her quietly as she settled in to speak to the AIC of Naples.
It was close to 9:00 am when Cynthia smiled at Abby. “She’s in MTAC currently but she should be done soon. Do you want to wait or come back later?”
“Oh no, I’ll wait!” Abby said brightly.
In hospice care Jen Shepard burned inside and out. She pushed the button and the head of the bed raised until she almost upright. It made her dizzy, a combination of the drugs that they forced on her and lying flat for so long. She disconnected the i.v. and even that bit of effort made her pant with exertion. Jen took a deep breath to martial her resources because she was going to teach the bitch a final lesson in not fucking with the Director.
Gibbs wandered around to familiarize himself with NCIS before he went to talk to DiNozzo. He stopped and chatted with Martinez and Balboa, catching up on team gossip, then headed down to touch base with Ducky and Palmer before he stopped by the labs to see Abby.
A.J. smiled at the text filled with poop emojis from Toni. He knew she was stressed about the weight gain, (She still looked sensational) and Gibbs returning to NCIS.
Toni peed, again, and washed her hands. Time to face her demons, beard the dragon, face the father of her child. Gah. She checked the mirror and aside from her boobs betraying her and a slight rounding of her face, she felt like she looked okay. She ran a comb though her hair before clipping it back. The woman in the mirror looked happy, and Toni thought she really might be.
Gibbs didn’t find Abby so he decided to head to DiNozzo’s office when he heard someone call his name. He turned and smiled, “Dwayne Pride, what brings you to the swamp? I thought you had plenty of your own down south?”
Dwayne laughed and gave Gibbs a boisterous hug. “You’re looking good my friend. How was FLETC?”
“I’m thinking of telling Toni that I want to run FLETC but then I remember that I hate Georgia.”
“I think you’d be great there, but wouldn’t you miss solving crimes?” the NOLA agent asked.
“Yeah, but maybe part time, like Edgerton.” He shot a smug smile at Dwayne, “I busted two of his records. He sent me a rude email.”
Dwayne laughed again, “I’ll bet. So, you here to see our lovely Director?”
“I’d forgotten you’d dated her too,” Gibbs replied sourly.
“Ah, we never dated. I was still married, remember? She flirted up a storm though, that’s what you probably remember.” Dwayne sighed, “Though she’s a firecracker and that’s attractive.”
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “She’s a helluva investigator being wasted in an office, is what she is.”
Toni stepped out and frowned in puzzlement at Cynthia. “I thought you said Abby was here to see me?”
Cynthia got up and shook her head, “She said she’d wait, maybe she was called back to the lab.”
“Huh, weird,” Toni said, dismissing it. If Abby wanted to talk she knew where to find her.
She went to the stairs and had to smile. Dwayne Price and Jethro Gibbs were down in the bullpen shooting the breeze. Gorgeous Alpha Males. Well, she certainly had a type. She smiled when both men looked up and saw her. As she started down she made sure to take the handrail since she still got lightheaded sometimes (thanks, kiddo) when she looked up to see alarm in Gibbs eyes.
It happened so quickly that Dwaye wasn’t sure he believed his eyes. Abby Sciuto appeared out of nowhere and quickly trotted down the stairs behind Toni when she raised a black booted foot and kicked hard, catching Toni squarely in the back, making her go airborne.
Toni felt the kick but her mind couldn’t wrap around the fact that she was falling. She knew how to fall, taking years of marital arts had taught her how to fall but she had the baby and in that split second forwent protecting her head to protecting her belly, twisting to fall on her side, hitting the metal railing once before landing, badly on her right side and feeling her arm snap.
“Toni!” Gibbs was immediately at her side as the bullpen erupted into chaos. ‘Call Ducky!” he snapped, his fingers going to the side of Toni’s neck and feeling relief as he felt her pulse beating strongly.
“I hope you die.’ Abby’s voice startled him and when she repeated, “I hope you die,” she spat and didn’t resist when Dwayne reached her and took her into custody. “I hope you die, Toni! I hope you DIE!” she shrieked as Pride led her away.
Gibbs was shaking, Abby’s meltdown and attack and Toni lying in front of him had scared him beyond belief. He couldn't lose anymore people.
“Gibbs,” Toni wheezed, barely heard over the noise as Martinez and Balboa checked her over. Ducky bustled up and ordered Martinez to make everyone back up.
“What happened?” he demanded even as he began his exam, “Antonia, can you hear me, my dear?”
“Abby pushed her down the stairs.”
Ducky froze and looked at Gibbs with horror. “What? Surely you’re mistaken?”
“Don’t call him Shirley,” Toni whispered, and winced as Ducky pressed on her arm.
Gibbs sighed with relief, if she was being a smartass... “Really DiNozzo?” He turned to the bullpen to bark, “Martinez, case is yours. Figure out what the hell happened and figure out why. You’ll work with Pride.”
“Case, hah,” Toni whispered, crying out when Ducky carefully checked her neck and head.
“Likely a concussion,” he said gently.
“Ducky, my baby,” she said urgently. “Make sure my baby is okay.”
“Baby?” he asked absently, attention on her spine even as corpsman rattled off of the elevator with a gurney. He shot orders at the corpsman and they placed her in a C-collar before gingerly rolling her onto a backboard.
“I’m pregnant,” she said and Gibbs and Ducky stopped and stared at each other in shock. When the corpsman lifted the backboard, Toni cried out at the sudden movement and passed out from the pain.
“Dr. Mallard, are you coming with us?” the lead corpsman asked.
Ducky shook off his shock. “Yes. Jethro, you find out what happened here,” he ordered and trotted after the gurney that carried a seriously injured Director.
Cynthia hurried down the stairs and sprinted to the elevator, carrying a bag. She squeezed in as the doors were being shut.
Gibbs stood and stared for a long moment before getting his head in the game, “Everyone who saw something write up a statement and sent it to DiNo…damn it, send it to Pride’s email. If you’ve noticed something off with Sciuto include that in your reports. Then back to your cases but be available if needed.”
The agents all went back to their desks and got busy and Gibbs took a deep breath. He had to call SECNAV, also known as Toni’s boyfriend and wasn’t looking forward to that call.
Dwayne stared across the table at Abigail Sciuto, his mind sifting through what he knew, what Toni had told him had led to her promotion to Director. He’d already read her rights to her and was pondering how to go about this.
“Tell me why?”
Her head tilted and her pig tails swung to the side, her dark eyes clear but intense. She reminded him of a crow.
“Why? Because she messed everything up. Toni would never be good enough to fill Gibbs shoes.”
“SECDEF made her Director. He seems to think she would do a good job,” he pointed out.
One of the hands cuffed to the table waved that off, “Pffft. She’s fucked him. She’s fucked everyone and they’re all pussy blind when it comes to her.”
“I’ve never slept with her and I think she’s doing a great job,” Dwayne replied mildly.
“She uses her feminine wiles,” Abby replied earnestly, “She’s like a witch that way. She lures you in and makes you do her bidding.”
Martinez was in the room outside listening, ‘Wow, she’s gone completely and utterly fucking round the bend. When did that happen and why didn’t anyone see it?”
Her team lead made a face, “Remember, she always was pretty obsessed with Gibbs and everyone knew that Toni was his favorite.”
“Yeah, remember the ‘shrine’?” They both shook their heads.
Dwayne felt sick and got up, “I’ll be right back,” he said and left the room. His eyes met the others and he could see his shock reflected back at him.
“What the fuck,” he said, running a hand through his hair.
“I think we should look at her phone,” Martinez said thoughtfully. “Every time I was in the lab she had it on her.”
“Do it. I’m calling Gibbs to check on her condition,” he said, striding away.
Martinez and her team lead looked at Abby. She was smiling to herself, humming a little tune beneath her breath. Like she hadn’t just try to kill a former friend.
Toni opened her eyes and her breath hitched because she fucking hurt all over. “Owie,” she croaked.
“Toni?” Gibbs face hovered over hers and she made a face.
“Thirsty.” She tried to move but cried out in pain and decided she’d just lay still.
“Don’t move, you idiot.” He gently gave her an ice cube in odds with his irascible tone.
She sucked on the ice before she remembered. “Baby?”
“Doc said the baby is fine. You need to take remedial falling lessons though,” he scolded. His blue eyes fierce and worried at the same time.
“Had to protect the baby,” she whispered, tears of relief that she couldn’t help seeping from her eyes and rolling down her temples.
“Where is she?” A.J.’s voice thundered down the hall and Toni sniffled and smiled.
“Here comes trouble,” she said and the door popped open and A.J. stood there, face pale and his eyes wild.
“Toni, Jesus Christ, what in the hell happened?” he asked, moving quickly to capture her left hand, his eyes roaming over her casted right arm, bruised face and the soft cast on her right leg. She looked like she’d been hit by a truck. He could see her tears and gently wiped them away, even as she continued to cry.
“Abigail Sciuto tried to kill her,” Gibbs replied grimly.
“What?” he demanded and Gibbs told him the whole ugly tale.
“Indeed, and Antonia is the luckiest person on the planet,” Ducky added as he swept in, Dr. Pitt on his heels with a clipboard in his hands. ‘How are you feeling, my dear?” he asked, perfunctorily checking her new cast and bandages while his eyes were sharp on hers.
“Like I fell down the stairs. Hi Brad, what’s the damage?”
Brad Pitt, no relation, looked at her with exasperation. “Mild concussion, right arm broken in two places, severe deep tissue bruising in your hip, but no breaks that we could see. Your bad knee is damaged again, but we think with rest the swelling will go down. The baby is fine, though if you want, we can tell you the sex now.”
She looked at A.J. startled. “Do I want to know?”
A.J. snorted, “Don’t look at me, it’s your decision.”
Toni pondered for a moment, “We’ll wait. Maybe. For right now.”
Brad chuckled, “Way to be decisive , Buckeye.”
“Ha Ha,” she replied. “I’ve just had my life flash before my eyes. I want to worry on one thing at a time.”
“Frankly, I’d like to give you something for your pain,” Ducky began but made a face as Tony already was mouthing no, “But,” he overrode her, “Until we can decide what we can give you that won’t react badly to or be deleterious to the baby, we’ve decided on acetaminophen for now.”
“It won’t hurt the baby?”
“No, it’s fine, Toni,” Brad assured. “I swear.”
Reassured Toni took the acetaminophen and kicked everyone out. “I’m not a goddamned Snow White, I don’t need anyone watching me sleep.”
A.J. hesitated, reassured though he was at her usual bitchiness at being helpless. “Can I get you anything?”
“Can you hand me my bag?”
He gave her the bag, watching as she rustled through it one handed and pulled out chapstick. “Ha!” He laughed and gave her a kiss good-bye. Once he was out of the door she pulled out several items and slipped them under the sheets beside her, blessing whoever brought it with her.
Gibbs dragged A.J. out of the room, “She’s planning something.”
“She’s flat on her back after being pushed down the stairs! What could she be planning?”
“My memory might be spotty but I recognize DiNozzo’s ‘nothing to see here’ face when I see it. I’ve known her for almost seven years, Admiral. Trust me.”
A.J. bit his tongue wanting to tell Gibbs something he ~didn’t~ know but knew Toni would kill him. “What are you going to do?”
“Going to find out why Abby went off the rails. Investigate.”
“I’m going to the house to pick up some clothes for her then.”
“You do that,” Gibbs replied, “I’m going to beef up security.” he said and waited to circle back to DiNozzo’s room. He listened for a long moment before walking in.
“Boss,” Toni greeted sleepily then realized what she said and sighed. “Gibbs.”
Gibbs snorted. “You don’t think Abby did this on her own.”
Toni turned her head and he could see the pain in her eyes. Toni and Abby used to be thick as thieves and if pushed his memory he thinks it changed, or rather, Abby changed when Kate was murdered.
“No, I think something cracked and we didn’t catch it, and someone widened the crack until she broke. But I don’t think she broke by herself.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Toni. I’m heading back over to NCIS. Between Pride, Martinez and I, we’ll figure it out.”
Toni sighed, then looked at him. “Did anyone call Jack?”
“Damn it,” Gibbs complained. “No, I’ll do it though I ought to make Chegwidden do it.”
“It’s because you’re cute but expendable,” Toni replied cheerfully and Gibbs laughed all of the way to the security station.
“Okay, here’s the report from her cell phone records. They don’t have an i.d. on the number of who was texting Ms. Sciuto but it’s definitely encouraging her to do something to Toni,” Martinez said, handing it to Dwayne.
“I’ve seen this number but sacre bleu, I’m so tired I can’t make heads or tails from this,” Dwayne sighed.
Gibbs strode in with a coffee. “Abby’s decided to get a lawyer.”
“Did you recommend it?” Pride asked evenly, taking a sip of his water.
“McGee has apparently been down to see her, and he’s not DiNozzo’s biggest fan either. When she burned down NCIS he got singed in the crossfire and is pretty resentful being punted back to Cyber crimes.”
“She’s a lot more understanding than I would have been, that insubordinate baby,” Martinez replied. “I’d have fired his ass and banned him from government work for ever more, no matter who his daddy is.”
Dwayne understood why she didn’t. Team used to mean everything. “Man, try to be a nice guy.”
“Toni’s great but she fell into that damn cult you fostered, Gibbs. Family first and you spoiled the hell out of Sciuto, practically treated her like a daughter and let her get away with murder, no pun intended. Then David came along after being indirectly responsible for Todd’s death and you treat her the same way, but Toni pushed back so you start treating her like crap. Frankly, I lay the blame for some of this bullshit at your feet,” Martinez finished calmly.
Gibbs looked stricken and Dwayne sighed. “She’s a grown woman, Charlene.”
“She had a Gibbs shrine in the lab until Toni tore it down, Dwayne,” she replied tartly.
Unwilling to get into this fight, Dwayne thrust the phone records at Gibbs. “Tell me you recognize that number.”
Derailed, Gibbs pulled his glasses out of his pocket and read through the text transcript, frowning thoughtfully, “Isn’t this Shepard’s?”
Martinez’ feet dropped off of the table as the penny dropped and they all scrambled out of the room.
Toni kept attempting to rest but running the case through her brain was keeping her awake. The sound of the door opening made her turn her head and the sight of a pale as death Jen Shepard in a wheelchair, cobalt colored robe, multi-colored scarf wrapped around her head and bitter hatred in her eyes made the penny drop for Toni.
“Well, if it isn’t little Miss Perfect Agent,” Shepard spat, rolling the rest of the way inside. As she turned to close the door Toni started her phone on record.
“Well, if it isn’t former Director Jen Shepard who tanked her career because she tried to recruit the wrong person for her illegal crusade,” Toni replied just as tartly.
“I’m still the Director, you’re just a usurper. You look rough, Agent DiNozzo,” the crazy woman pointed out gleefully, cementing Toni’s theory of what had happened.
“Well, I can’t play piano but I can run rings around you.”
“Really? With a cast on your arm? I understand your leg is broken too. Such a shame.”
“It really is,” Toni agreed, not bothering to correct the details. “It must have burned your biscuits when Jethro didn’t fall back in your bed. That he spent so much time with me.”
“Shut up. He would’ve come back to me eventually,” Shepard spat.
“Yeah, too bad about the brain tumor,” Toni sarcastically replied.
Jen pressed her lips together. “It doesn’t matter now, but killing you will go a long way to making me feel better.” She pulled a pearl handled derringer out of her pocket.
“Oh wow, what a girly gun. Abby get that for you?”
“It doesn’t matter what it looks like,” Shepard smirked. “It will still kill you.”
“Well, since you’re getting so much satisfaction from this moment, it seems right to tell you that I’m pregnant with Jethro’s baby,” Toni smiled meanly as the other woman went even whiter with rage.
With that final arrow Toni whipped her hand out and using the dart gun she’d conveniently forgot to give back to the CIA, she shot the former Director of NCIS. Unfortunately, because she was using her left hand, the dart hit Shepard’s eye and she dropped like a rock, her girly gun clattering to the floor.
“Whoops,” Toni said, because geez, that was a ~terrible~ shot.
The sound of footsteps thundering down the hallway made her smile, and the sight of the door banging open and Gibbs, Pride and Martinez along with hospital security barging in with guns drawn made her smirk.
“Hey, I solved the case,” she said brightly.
“Well, cher, it certainly seems so,” Dwayne beamed and put his gun away while Martinez checked the drooping frame of the woman in the wheelchair.
“Is she dead?” Gibbs asked gruffly.
“I really can’t tell,” she said, her hand hesitating over the dart that was still sticking out of Shepard’s eye. “So gross, Toni.”
“Right? I need to practice shooting left handed because that was a terrible shot!”
A doctor came rushing in and stopped at the sight of Shepard’s body slumped in the wheelchair. “What in the hell happened here?” He immediately went to check her pulse, shaking his head.
“What in the hell is one of your hospice patients doing tooling around the hospital with a gun?” Gibbs challenged. He picked up the derringer and emptied it of bullets before sticking in a bag that Martinez held out.
Dwayne looked like he wanted to laugh. “Well, ya’all are never boring, that’s for damn sure.”
A.J. came back to chaos outside and inside of Toni’s hospital room.
“No one though to call me ~after~ you were shoved down the stairs to let me know that you were in danger? What the hell, Toni?”
“Listen, Jack, Gibbs and Pride had it covered!” Toni replied earnestly even as she looked like the star from a Hallmark movie about a battered wife.
“Covered?” Jack asked, eyebrows almost to his hairline. “By which you meant that you let yourself become a target?”
“Gibbs knew,” Toni said, throwing him under the bus.
“Gibbs has ~brain damage~!” Jack practically roared.
“Hey!” Gibbs interjected but when Jack pointed at him, showed surprising self-preservation and stopped talking.
“What happened?” A.J. asked, stepping inside the room.
Toni smiled brightly, wincing slightly. “I solved the case!”
“Oh boy,” he replied. “Do I want to know?”
Jack snorted. “Your worse half was sure whomever Sciuto was working with was going to show their hand, and they did. It was Shepard. Who is dead, her body is heading to NCIS morgue to see if it was natural causes or your worse half’s terrible aim.”
“You had a sidearm in the hospital?” he asked mildly.
“Nope, I had the CIA’s night night gun. Unfortunately I need to practice with my left hand ‘cause I shot her in the eye. By accident!” Toni rolled her own eyes. “But Mr. Drama here is causing a scene.”
“That’s Secretary Drama to you, pain in my ass,” Jack replied with a huff.
Brad swept into the room at that point and shooed everyone out so he could check on Toni.
A.J. sank into a seat and sighed. “Fuck you both,” he told Jack and Gibbs.
“Hey, I told you she was planning something,” Gibbs replied, “She applied Rule 16.”
“Rule 18!” Toni’s voice caroled from inside of the room. “Ow, geez Wolverine!!”
The three men looked at Gibbs, who shrugged. “Better to ask forgiveness than get permission.”
Jack started to chuckle, “Oh A.J. you have your hands full.”
Gibbs watched sadly as Abby was brought in. Was Martinez right? Was this whole fuck up his fault?
“Gibbs Gibbs Gibbs!” she tried to go over to hug him but the agents kept her back and forced her into the seat before connecting her cuffs to the table.
“Hey Abby,” he replied, sitting down at the same time her lawyer bustled in. He watched as the man greeted her and sat down.
Gibbs read Abby her rights. “Abigail Sciuto, do you understand your rights as I have read them to you?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied brightly. “My Silver Fox wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.”
The lawyer sighed. “Ms. Sciuto.”
“It’s fine,” she said with confidence, “He loves me.”
Gibbs didn’t reply, just looked at her. “Why did you try and kill the Director?”
The door opened and Martinez came in with a folder in her hands. She settled beside Gibbs and raised an eyebrow. “I’d like to hear the answer to that too.”
Abby smiled, “Toni’s not the director. She’s just a faker. Director Shepard is getting out of the hospital soon and since Gibbs is back it will be all cleared up.”
The lawyer held up a hand, “As you can see, she’s not able to discern fantasy from reality.”
“Attempted murder is not a fantasy, counselor,” Martinez responded tartly.
“Abby, Jen is dead. She’s not coming back,” Gibbs said gently.
Abby shook her head, her smile not wavering. “Nope, she’s not.”
Martinez cleared her throat, “If you’d like we can take you to the morgue to see her. Ducky has her body.”
The first uncertainty crossed her face and Gibbs pressed on. “DiNozzo ~is~ the director, and while I’m here today I don’t know where’s she’s going to assign me. Shepard is ~dead~. Ziva is ~never~ coming back, and McGee is on thin ice. The team is never going to be back together and I don’t know ~where~ you get off thinking that we’d do what ~you~ wanted! What the hell, Abby! Where did this bullshit come from?”
Gibbs voice had kept rising and he ended on a shout, making both the lawyer and Abby flinch. Abby had tears in her eyes and she shook her head. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” she whispered.
“No kidding!” Gibbs said and pushed back from the table. “Rule #51, Abbs,” he said and stormed out.
The lawyer was confused, “What’s rule #51?”
“Sometimes, you’re wrong,” Abby recited brokenly, still shaking her head.
“We’re claiming diminished capacity,” her lawyer jumped in.
Martinez shrugged, “Claim whatever you want. We’re pressing charges for attempted murder and involuntary manslaughter for the death of Jennifer Shepard, formerly the Director of NCIS.” She handed the papers over to the lawyer and stood up. “You should have worked through your issues by talking to the Nuns instead of this fantasy life that you’ve made, Ms. Sciuto. Now you’ll have a long time to think about it,” she said and exited the room as well.
The next morning Toni was feeling slightly loopy because they’d finally found a pain med that she could tolerate while being pregnant after a bad, pain filled night. Now she was loopy, tired as fuck and her room was crowded with A.J., Gibbs, Pride and Ducky.
“Report, people. I want to sleep,” she snapped.
“She’s on pain medication,” A.J. explained placidly.
Ducky sighed. “My autopsy ruled her death by natural causes, hastened by stress and the drugs that were supposed to incapacitate her.”
To which Toni quipped. “Being crazy as a rabid raccoon would be stressful, I guess.”
“My dear,” he said reproachfully while Pride smothered a chuckle and Gibbs rolled his eyes.
“What? I’m stuck in this bed for another couple of days, I’m gonna go stir crazy.” Toni pouted.
Gibbs and Pride added their reports and pretended that Toni didn’t get glassy eyed over Abby’s being charged.
Gibbs cleared his throat, “How’s the baby?” he asked gruffly.
“The baby is fine,” A.J. said, “She’s still not decided whether to find out the sex.”
“Sex is what got me into trouble in the first place,” Toni grumped. She looked at A.J.
“It’s probably time,” he replied gently to her silent question. He squeezed her left hand and she squeezed it back.
“Can I sit up?” she asked and Ducky raised the head of the bed slightly.
“Jethro,” she began and he startled at the unfamiliar use of his first name. “The baby is yours.”
Shock, stunned, Gibbs could only stare at her. “What?”
Toni smiled gently. “You don’t remember but just before the explosion I came to see you to let you know I was going to ask for a new team. We were idiots and didn’t have the sense that God gave an oreo cookie and use a condom.”
“What?” he asked again. Dwayne snorted before he clapped him on the shoulder like you would a stuck record. “Congratulations, my friend,” he said with a smile before kissing Toni on the cheek.
Ducky beamed. “Congratulations to both of you.”
Gibbs was still staring in shock, which made Toni giggle then yawn widely and wince.
“Okay, everyone out so Toni can rest,” A.J. ordered sternly, shooing them out before sitting back down beside her.
“Wait, call Gibbs back in,” she ordered and he got up with a grumble and stuck his head out, only to stop short upon seeing Gibbs standing motionless in the hallway.
“Gibbs, step to. Toni wants to talk to you for a moment.”
Shaking himself out of his fugue, Gibbs went back into Toni’s room.
“ ‘Fore I forget, you’re in charge until I get back,” she ordered sleepily.
“What? Toni, no!”
“What, Gibbs yes!” she replied huffily. “Think of it as checking up on me. You’ve done it enough in the past, find out the stuff I need to do. Now go away,” she said as her eyes slipped closed and she konked out.
A.J. wanted to laugh at Gibbs shocked and annoyed face but manfully suppressed it until the man left, muttering under his breath.
Toni was back at NCIS after a month, she’d always been a fast healer. She still had a brace on her right arm but her fingers were free so she could type, and flip Gibbs off when she needed to.
She was rummaging through her desk, chucking stuff that belonged to Gibbs on the desktop when the man himself knocked on her doorframe. “Hey,” he said, smirking when she scowled at him.
“You’re not funny, you know,” she said. She picked up the plastic spider and held it up.
“Palmer’s idea,” Gibbs said promptly.
Toni snorted, then gestured at the 1,001 pencils, “Let me guess, Ducky?”
“Oh wait,” Toni said dryly as she held up the metacarpal bone with the red string tied around it like it was trying remember something. “Ducky?”
Gibbs smiled and sipped his coffee. She sighed and stretched her back. “Your kid is sitting on my bladder and I can’t drink coffee and it’s all your fault.”
“Takes two to tango,” he replied comfortably.
She got to her feet and was to anyone with half a brain you could tell she was pregnant. “Yeah and I apparently had brain damage first.”
Stepping into the office fully, Gibbs shut the door and sighed. “I’m sorry I don’t remember,” he said quietly.
Toni snorted. “It was dynamite, I ain’t gonna lie. So there’s that comfort for you.”
Gibbs laughed and rubbed his face, cheeks pink with a blush that charmed Toni.
“Hey, what was your mom’s name?” she asked, the subject change jerking Gibbs around. It was always something that annoyed him about Toni, but made her an effective investigator.
“Martha Grace Gibbs,” he replied.
Toni smiled and came around the desk to lean against it and crossed her arms, an impish smile on her face. “So, our daughter’s name is going to be Grace Genevieve DiNozzo Gibbs.”
“A daughter? We’re having a girl?” his voice broke and her eyes filled. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him.
“We’re calling her Gigi,” she said. “She’s going to be beautiful and be President.”
Gibbs laughed a little wetly and stepped back to pull a handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe his eyes. “Thank you. I know she was a mistake but you could have not kept her and I never would have known.”
“Ask Jack. I stayed on his couch for a week while waffled about keeping her, but really, I knew I was going to.” Toni shrugged. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant, you know. I had bad endometriosis in college. So, Gracey is a miracle for both of us.”
“Wait a minute, did you just name her right this second? You didn’t know my mother’s name before?”
Toni smirked. “Yep, when inspiration strikes you just gotta run with it.”
Gibbs sighed and leaned forward to press a kiss to her cheek. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you, Antonia DiNozzo,” he whispered. He grabbed a handful of pencils and strode out, a lightness to his step that she’d missed.
3 years later-
Gibbs glanced over at the steps and smiled. Gigi was sitting on the same step that Toni chose to always sit on when she’d come over when she was his second in command. Their daughter’s brown curly hair framed a round face with chubby cheeks and dimples to die for. She was cute as a button now, and Toni was right, Gigi was going to be a knock out when she was older. She was also smart as a whip, just like her mother.
“Yeah, Sweet Gee?”
“When we going to play?”
Gibbs swept off the miniature boat he’d build for her and eyed it critically. “I think I’m done, kiddo. Go upstairs and I’ll carry this out.”
Gigi scrambled up the stairs and Gibbs carefully lifted the small boat and maneuvered up the stairs. “Hold open the back door, G!” he called.
“ Kay, Papa!” and he could hear her open the back door.
With careful movements he got, what was really a flat bottomed dingy, out and went over the mulch covered play area and sat it down. Gibbs took it by the sides and shook it to settle in the mulch and stepped back. “Okay, G! Ready to fish!”
With a cheer Gigi grabbed her plastic fishing pole, scrambled into the tiny boat and pretended with all of her heart to be like Papa.
“That is so stinkin’ cute I may vomit,” came Toni’s voice from the gate. She was holding her youngest, a wriggly one-year old Alexander Jethro DiNozzo Chegwidden in one arm and an overflowing diaper bag in the other. Gibbs went for Alex, swinging him up in his arms.
Alex gave Gibbs a bright smile and Gibbs couldn’t help but smile back. “Hey pal, how are you?” He was a cutie too, dark eyes and dark hair that swirled over his little head and deep dimples. He was a chunky baby with more dimples in his elbows and knees and the best baby laugh.
Gibbs, Toni and A.J. had this weird tripod parenting thing going, and it worked really well for them. In fact, Toni and A.J. had bought a house three houses down, then Toni had cursed when the one next door to him had come up for sale, and she snapped that one up as well. After a thorough renovation (The kitchen needed it, Jethro! I can’t cook without space!) had moved into that one and rented the first to a new JAG officer and his young family.
After the last move A.J. and Gibbs had cut an opening in the fence-line so they, and at the time they’d only had Gigi but as soon as she began to walk (at ten months, why) could run back and forth unimpeded.
“Mommy, I’s fishin’!”
Toni smiled indulgently and put the bag down to go over to her daughter and kiss her soundly on the cheek. “I see that you’re fishin’. What are you catchin’?”
“Sharkies,” was the surprising reply.
“Huh, can we eat sharkies?”
“You betcha,” Gigi said and Toni shot an eyeroll over her shoulder at Gibbs. That was the clear influence of Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack and uncle Daniel and Jackson Gibbs spoiled the kids as rotten as their parents would allow.
Gibbs snorted and pressed a zerbert onto Alex’s cheek, making the baby giggle delightedly.
“I want to go real fishin’, Papa,” Gigi called.
“We can do that, G. We’ll have to ask Uncle Jack because last time we went fishing and he didn’t get to go and he pouted like Alex when he doesn’t get a cookie.”
“You’re so silly Papa,” Gigi giggled. “I want Unca Jack to come too.”
Toni’s phone rang and she turned away, her face serious. “DiNozzo.”
Gibbs scooped up the bag Toni had brought in and went up the steps into the kitchen, keeping a weather eye on their daughter. He put Alex into the highchair, and pulled a small container of baby snacks out of his fridge and gave Alex a few, to the delight of the baby who ate like a horse. He leaned out of the door slightly, “Hey G, want some bananas?”
“Nope, thanks, gonna have sharkie,” Gigi replied, casting her little plastic line, her little face serious.
“Good luck with that, baby,” he replied with a laugh. He grabbed his phone and fumbled the camera on and took a couple of pictures that he sent to Jack.
Toni came into the kitchen, “That was MTAC, there’s a situation in Seattle.”
“I’ve got the kids,” Gibbs replied and at her hesitation, he added, “Well, don’t just just stand there, go on.” He flapped a hand at her. Alex babbled from his high chair like he agreed.
Toni’s deep smile caught him by surprise. “I love you Jethro Gibbs, I’ll let A.J. know.”
“I’ll be fine,” he replied, watching her skip down the stairs and out of the back gate.
“I caught one, Papa,” Gigi squealed and pretended to fight in her little dingy like she was fighting a big fish.
“Good job!” he called out and was rewarded by the identical smile he’d just got from her mother.
“I am the luckiest guy on the planet,” he said to himself before he quickly rescued another cut up piece of banana about to be jettisoned to the floor from the giggling baby.
Chapter 2: Jackson Gibbs
Jackson says it was his idea, but if Toni hadn't called he'd have missed out.
"Hi, is this Jackson Gibbs?"
"Well, that answers my question. You ~must~ be the father of the most opinionated, stubborn, Mr. 'It's my way or the highway' pain in the ass man I've ever known!"
Jackson laughed, "I see you've met Leroy."
"Leroy?" the woman pealed a laugh. "I call him Jethro, but yeah, you could say that we've met."
"What can I do for you..." he trailed off meaningfully.
"Oh, sorry. NCIS Director Toni DiNozzo, currently eight and half months pregnant with your granddaughter. See, the reason I'm calling is that you have to get your head out of your posterior and come here and make nice with your hard headed son. I want my daughter to have grandparents and that means you."
Jackson stood silently for a long moment. "I'm sorry, you're having my granddaughter?"
"Yep, apparently 'Leroy' and I forgot how to use a condom and I'm pregnant."
"You're seeing my son?"
"Oh, no. I'm dating A.J. Chegwidden. But Jethro and I, well, you get the picture I hope. Anyway, when can you come and visit? I know there are two sides to the story and Jethro refuses to talk about it so..."
"I'm closing up my store right now and I'll be there in a few hours."
"Sounds good, go to Jethro's. We live a couple of houses down."
Jethro glared peevishly up the stairs. Someone impatient was knocking on his front door. He was busy with GiGi's cradle and everyone important knew they could just come in. Another flurry of knocks made him growl and stomp up the stairs. He whipped the front door open, about to give whatever Jehovah's Witness (he though he'd scared them all away) a piece of his mind, only to stop dead.
"Leroy. Something you want to tell me?" Jackson inquired archly.
Jethro groaned, this had Toni written all over it. "You might as well come in. If we don't try then Toni will never let me hear the end of it."
Inside Jackson looked around curiously. Much of the house was the same, but pictures of the girls were gone, except the one on the mantel.
He turned to see his son glaring at him, but this son was older, hair almost as silver as his own, more lines but his blue eyes just like his wife, were the same. "I'm sorry. Betsy knew how tore up I was about the girls and wanted to be there for me. I was insensitive and understand why you were mad at me," he blurted.
Leroy sighed. "Have you been seeing a therapist, Dad?"
"Maybe," Jackson scowled. "Maybe I missed my family and I wasn't doing too well. Annette said she's stop seeing me if I didn't get my act together, so I drove over the mountain to the VA." He sighed and rubbed his head. "It helped, I guess. Your mother would say it took me long enough."
Gibbs looked at his dad for a long moment, "Put your stuff in the spare bedroom. I'm going to call and yell at Toni for being a busybody."
"Hey, what's the matter with you, by the way! You get a gal pregnant and don't marry her?" Jackson asked.
Gibbs threw up his hands. "None of your business, Dad!" he shouted as he headed into the kitchen to look for his phone.
"I've brought some things for the baby," Jackson shouted back and Gibbs groaned.
"I'm going to kick your ass, DiNozzo!" Gibbs shouted and was rewarded by gleeful laughter in his ear. He pressed end and turned to see his Dad smiling at him. "C'mon then, we're walking over so I can shout at her in person. You may as well meet her."
"Can't wait. Sounds like a real firecracker."
"Ugh!" Gibbs groaned, sounding like a teenager and not someone who was rapidly seeing the backside of his 50's.
Toni stepped out on the front porch and couldn't help her smile as she watched the two men walking down the sidewalk, bickering loudly. She put a hand over the baby and smiled when Jethro looked at her with exasperation.
"Totally worth it," she said.
Chapter 3: Francesca Paretti aka Chessie
Francesca meets her siblings
Francesca hefted her carry-on and shuffled off of the airplane, nodding politely to the aircrew and ignoring the admiring look from the pilot. She strode down the concourse and followed the signs to baggage and smiled and waved when she caught sight of her father. "Papa!"
"Frannie," he replied and caught her in a hug when they met. "I've missed you, Bella."
"Oh Papa," she replied, wiping her eyes.
"How many suitcases do you have?" he asked her as the baggage machine began to jerk and cough into life.
"Only three," she said and laughed at his expression.
"Francesca, you're here for two damned weeks! Why do you need THREE suitcases?" he asked with exasperation.
"Papa, you wouldn't understand," she replied blithely and pointed out a large suitcase covered in flowers. She'd learned long ago that everyone else had black suitcases and if you didn't want to spend an hour trying to find your own, you had to be unique.
“Good thing I brought the big car,” he grumped, making Francesca smile. She’d missed him dearly.
Once in the SUV and the suitcases stuffed in the back, Francesca turned to her father. “Tell me about them?”
“Toni is amazing. She’s the director of NCIS and has yanked the whole place into the 21st century. She’s got a firm morale code, green eyes and she has as many shoes as you do,” he rolled his eyes and smiled at her.
Francesca laughed. “She’s Italian, of course she does.”
“You two will probably get along fine. She actually reminds me of your mother, but Jesus, don’t tell her I said that!”
She snorted. “How so?”
A.J. thought about it for a minute, easing onto the freeway and heading towards home. “She’s tough, but her feelings can get bruised easily by the people she cares about. She looks like a girly girl and people that don’t know her are always surprised when she punches them in the face.”
Now Francesca threw her head back and laughed, “Oddio, exactly like Mama!”
“Right?” A.J. said with wide eyes, “I have a type I guess.”
“What about the bambinos?”
A.J. smiled, “Ha, no. I’m gonna let you meet them for yourself.”
Francesca threw herself against her seat and pouted.
Pulling up to the house, she smiled at the neighborhood. It was a quintessential American neighborhood that she’d see on TV a thousand times. Getting out of the SUV she could bicycles tipped over on the porch, small shoes in a pile beside them.
The house itself was a soft sage color with cream trim. Francesca followed her father up the steps and into the house and stopped abruptly at the wall of sound.
“Ma-ma!” a little boy called as he thundered past in bare feet, before he stopped and grinned. “Papa!”
“Alex,” her father replied gravely, hands on his hips.
The little boy wasn’t dismayed and held up his hands, “Papa papa, guess what!”
Francesca could only smile. The little boy was the cutest thing she’d seen, and she lived in Italy where cute little Italian boys were everywhere. His hair was full of curls and he had lively brown eyes and the deepest dimples in chubby cheeks. He was wearing a dirty t-shirt and shorts with bears romping on them.
“Chessie is here!”
A.J. snorted, “No kidding?” he swept the little boy up, ignoring the dirt and turned to Francesca, “Alex, this is your big sister, Francesca.”
Alex grinned,” Chessie!”
“Close enough,” Francesca replied, and kissed him on each cheek, making him squeal. “It’s nice to meet you, Alex,” she greeted him with a smile.
Toni came into the foyer and smiled too. “Francesca, Benvenuto nella nostra casa!” She walked over and offered cheek kisses as well.
Francesca had spoken to Toni over the phone, and had seen photos of her but was still surprised at how beautiful she was. Even after two children.
“Gigi! Your sister is here!” she called and they could hear a ‘thump’ and the patter of feet.
“Francesca!” Gigi called and collided with her legs, a huge smile on her face. “You’re here!”
“I am!” Francesca replied. Gigi was as adorable as Alex, big dimples but with big blue eyes. She bent down and kissed her cheeks, making her little sister giggle but return her kisses like a true Italian.
Both children peppered her with questions, about her mother, Italy, what her favorite movie was, what was her favorite game, until Toni intervened.
“Okay, kiddos. Let’s leave Francesca alone for a bit. Go play in the backyard.”
“Can I see if Papa is home?” Gigi asked as she yanked on her polka dotted tennis shoes while Alex sat on the floor and carefully tied his Chucks, his tongue between his teeth as the ‘bunny’ went ‘round.
“Sure, honey. Tell him dinner is at 6:30, okay?”
Both kids finally got their shoes on and thundered out, voices raised in excitement.
“Are you going to have more?” Francesca asked curiously.
Toni tilted her head, eyeing Francesca, “I don’t think so. Alex is almost four now but between you and me and the fencepost, I’d like one more.”
“I’ll be one hundred when the kid is in college,” A.J. complained as he came in and pressed an affectionate kiss to the top of their heads.
“Oh please,” Toni replied. “Now Jethro, maybe…” she added, making A.J. laugh.
“I’m gonna tell him you said that.”
At dinner, having been thoroughly charmed by her young siblings, (GiGi's dimples were to die for, and Alex was the sunniest little boy she'd ever met) Francesca caught Toni looking her way, her pretty face watchful. "Just so you're aware, I will not call you Mama."
Toni broke into giggles even as A.J. choked on his wine. "Jesus, I hope not! I'm only a couple of years older that you!"
Gibbs smothered a chuckle into his napkin even as A.J. recovered from his choking only to groan, cheeks unexpectedly pink. "Gee, thanks honey," he wheezed.
"Is Francesca being funny?" Gigi asked, twirling her spaghetti but not getting very far. Jethro leaned over and helped her out.
"Everyone's being funny, G," Toni replied to her daughter. She poured A.J. more wine.
"Papa said you only think you're being funny, Mommy," Gigi replied innocently and now Francesca began to laugh.
"Hey! I can be funny!" Toni protested, throwing a napkin at a laughing Jethro which he dodged. Alex started laughing too because everyone else was and Toni threw up her hands.
"Sure, DiNozzo," Gibbs riposted dryly.
"Mommy, no throwing things at the table," Gigi admonished and smirked, just like her father.
"Be quiet, you," Toni pointed a finger at her, making her giggle.
Leaning back, Francesca watched the family and saw how happy her father was, and glad for him. He deserved to be happy.
Chapter 4: Times when Toni schooled the ignorant because she was all out of fucks to give
Men consistently under-estimate women. Toni has been there and she will no longer stand for it.
Toni was waiting to pay for her gas, her toe tapping to the tinkle of terrible music that was playing. Her mind was on a case that was playing out in Hawaii when she heard an asshole.
“Hey you Muslim fuck, get outta the way.”
Toni turned to see an dark skinned older man with a head covering trying to get out of the way of a younger white guy, 6 ft, brown and brown, who was wearing a camo baseball cap and a jean jacket with patches that could be construed to be racist.
“Hey, instead of showing your ignorance maybe shut your mouth,” Toni snapped. “The gentleman is obviously a Sikh, not Muslim, you backwards redneck.”
The guy blinked in shock at her and the Sikh man gave her a gracious head nod of acknowledgement and a smile.
“What’s a ‘seek’?” the moron asked.
“It’s not my job to educate you. I suggest that if you can read, go to a library and do your research on who you think you’re being an irredeemable, racist fuckwit to.”
The moron decided to leave since he couldn’t continue to be an ignoramus and bully someone.
The clerk behind the counter didn’t hide his grin as he took Toni’s money. “Still a bad-ass, Ms. DiNozzo,” he said admiringly.
Toni had been going to the same gas station for 10 years and knew the owner and every clerk. She’d once disarmed an armed robber, who’d been higher than a kite on meth, before he could use the pistol he’d been waving around.
Toni rolled her eyes. “Battle of wits, my friend.”
Toni would be the first to tell you that she occasionally would speed. Most of the time it was for a good reason, but normally, because she now had small children, she’d drive the speed limit.
Sans kids, she had the top down on her vintage Mustang and was blaring music but her head was working on a case so she was preoccupied. She was also driving only about five miles over the limit and was peripherally aware that the person behind her kept zooming up but was trapped by her and the other car next to her.
After a couple of minutes the car in the other lane turned left and the impatient jerk behind her whipped around her and zoomed off at high speed, only to be stopped by the red light.
He leaned out his window. “Jesus Christ, lady! Could you go any slower?”
Toni slid her sunglasses down on her nose to eye the man disdainfully. “Are you paying for my ticket?”
“Oh, you mean you’re going to pay for my insurance when it surely goes up because I’ve gotten a ticket?”
“No,” the guy said gruffly.
“Then go jump in a lake, pal. Maybe it will wash the moron off of you,” Toni replied tartly, slid her sunglasses back up and drove off as the light turned green.
Toni loved her Mustang, no lie, but the minivan was on it’s last legs (no, Jethro, I’m not blaming you but if the lead shoe fits…) and they needed a new vehicle to tote the kids, friends, sports equipment etc around town in. Currently she was standing in front of a massive SUV that could masquerade as an FBI chase vehicle but for its green color. It was a hybrid and she was interested in seeing how it ran.
“My name is Bill. Welcome to Anacostia Cars and Trucks,” the big man smiled around his mustache and Toni immediately wanted to sigh. She knew what was going to happen next.
“Hi, I’m Toni. I’m looking for a new vehicle,” she replied politely.
The man chuckled. “Wonderful, where’s your husband?”
Toni rolled her eyes, “Thanks for your time,” she said and turned on her heel and walked out.
“Ma’am! Ma’am!” The salesman scrambled to catch up as she strode to her car.
Getting into her Mustang, she rolled her window down and looked at the man who looked baffled by her behavior.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…” he trailed off as she held up her hand.
“You lost a sale because you didn’t think a woman could figure out how to buy her own car. Let me tell you something, sir. I’ve run a federal agency and bought my own cars for YEARS. I work on my own cars if I have the time. You need to go to a class on how to treat women because frankly, you suck at it.” She rolled up her window and drove off with the roar of a well-tuned V-8 engine.
Bill shook his head. “Women.”
“Wow, Bill. Way to miss the message, ” a fellow salesman pointed out incredulously.
“Shut up, Marty,” Bill barked and walked back inside.
Toni sat in on many intelligence briefings. She never brought an aide as she was proficient in shorthand and Cynthia could type it all up for her. A bit old school but she preferred not to have top secret things on a networked computer, especially after Ziva.
Several Generals and an Admiral had retired, and there were a couple of new Generals and political appointees that she mostly hadn’t met since she’d missed the last meeting due to a crisis in Alaska. The group was a solid mix of women and men, and there was usually an informal round of introductions before a meeting but today’s agenda was jam-packed so they’d just dove right in.
They’d covered most of the agenda when one of the new Marine Generals said, “Okay, there’s a couple of classified items pertaining to Iran that we need all of the extra folks to leave for.” There was a rustle as several aides and interns left through one of the doors.
Toni was checking her phone when the man cleared his throat. “You too, honey.”
The sudden silence in the room made Toni look up and she caught the new guy looking at her expectantly. Everyone else was watching her avidly to see how she’d react to the man.
“Oh, you were speaking to me? My name isn’t honey,” she said blandly.
The man’s cheeks reddened. “I asked for all of the aides and secretaries to leave.”
Toni kept her face still but widened her eyes, “Aaaand?” she drawled.
Admiral Beth Thomas snorted and began to chuckle. “Toni, I swear.” A couple of more women covered laughter.
Toni winked at Beth and stood, “Sorry. You must have me confused with someone else. I’m Director Antonia DiNozzo of NCIS. I’m NOT one of the secretaries or aides, not that I don’t think they’re important to the smooth running of the government, because I do. However, just because I’m not a woman in uniform doesn’t mean you can talk down to me. Are we understood? Because if we’re not, I can meet you at the gym, or the range, either one.”
SECDEF laughed softly. “Apologize, Brett. Toni would kick your ass, trust me. Her husband, Retired Admiral A.J. Chegwidden would hold her coat.”
The General blanched and stood. “Please accept my apologies, Director,” he said seriously. “It wasn’t my intention to be a misogynistic ass. My name is Brett Summers and I just rotated back from Iraq. And normally I’m a pretty decent guy.”
Toni nodded her head. “Nice to meet you, Brett. Let’s continue, no reason to hold up the meeting.” She sat back down and Admiral Bennet nudged her with a smirk. She responded with an eyeroll. It was like working with teenagers.
After the meeting Toni was gathering her things when she turned to see Gen. Brett Summers standing there, looking like a scolded school boy.
“Seriously, you’ve already apologized.”
“This is going to sound worse,” he warned her, “I thought you were too pretty to be in the meeting and obviously you were one of the extra people that officer’s bring from their command. I extrapolated that you might have been a secretary since you were handwriting notes. I’ll reiterate that I’m an ass.”
Toni regarded the tall, blond man. He had the typical high and tight Marine cut and was wearing his pink and greens, his chest candy showing he wasn’t a chair warmer. She met his gray eyes, “Do better.”
“I will. I actually once served with your husband. Give him my regards, would you?” he asked.
Toni laughed, “Oh, he’s definitely hearing about this. Expect a personal visit.”
Jack came up and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “So, pistols at dawn? Do you need a second?”
Toni shoved an elbow into his side. “No, because we’re actual adults and talked it out, Jack.”
Admiral Michaels gathered Summers up and escorted him away with a smirk for Toni, while Jack turned to look at her.
“You Ms. DiNozzo, you remind me of Danny every time you get your snark on,” he said with a grin.
Toni laughed, “Oh no, Danny is much better at it than I am because he looks so academic and serious that when he starts in it’s such a surprise.”
With an ‘after the kids are finally in bed’ glass of wine, Toni told A.J. what had happened, making him laugh.
He toasted her with his wine glass. “Good for you, sweetheart. It’s why I fell in love with you. You take absolutely no bullshit.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Toni said, but pleased that her own husband thought she was a badass. She knew she was, it was nice to have other people think so.
The building was larger than Toni liked and everyone was on radio silence. It was also darker than a witch’s cunt and she felt like she was breathing too loudly and her heart was beating hard in her chest. She was holding her gun up and straining to hear anything in the area around her.
Jackson Parks was somewhere in this building and he was not getting away. He was a brutal child killer, a Navy Commander who’d obviously gone off his rocker and thought solving his professional issues with colleagues by murdering their children was a good idea.
NCIS had several teams in the building, along with local LEO’s and they were all hunting. Toni was hoping that her request for a MWD from the base would be approved if they didn’t find the bastard.
A noise, a mere susurration of sound made her stop breathing. Toni knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Parks was around the corner from her. She carefully inched closer to the corner, and she could smell sweat and blood and bared her teeth.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” his voice sang out softly and Toni granted his wish.
She rounded the corner in a rush and punched him right in the nose, causing him to reel back in shock and blood to gush. Following up with a roundhouse kick made Jackson Parks drop like his strings were cut. Toni panted as she rode the adrenaline rush.
“Suspect down,” she said into her radio, prudently staying back with her weapon trained on the man.
Multiple voices came over the radio and now she could hear noise as the radio silence order had been obviously lifted because of her call.
Even in the gloom of the building, she caught the moment when Parks surfaced back to consciousness.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” she ordered and he stopped trying to play possum and smirked around the blood on his face.
“You see, I only said suspect down. If you’re dead it’s the same thing,’ Toni continued conversationally. “But dead isn’t what I want, I want you to suffer. So instead I’d shoot your dick off.” She ignored the shocked outrage on his face. “Of course, it still might kill you but probably only sever your spinal cord and you’d have to shit and pee in a bag. Oh, and be in a wheelchair. But I’d have the satisfaction of watching you suffer.”
He opened his mouth, but the sight of flashlights and sudden increase in noise alerted them both and suddenly Gibbs was there along with his team, including Agent G. Callen and several police behind them.
“Good job, Toni,” he said and kicked Parks over to handcuff the man. Of them all Toni thought Jethro had suffered the most with this case. The last little girl had looked remarkably like GiGi and it tore them both up.
“Thanks,” she murmured.
On his feet, Parks glared at her until Gibbs smacked the back of his head.
“Knock it off, Parks,” he barked.
“I’m an officer!” Parks yelled, “Show me respect.”
“You’re a deviant, amoral monster,” Toni corrected and slid her gun into her holster. “You aren’t worthy of respect.”
“Let’s go,” Gibbs and G frog-marched the man out of the derelict building and once outside Toni gulped in a deep breath of the salty, grimy air on the docks.
Agent Sam Hanna came over and eyed her in concern, “Are you okay, Director?” he asked.
Toni flexed her hand thoughtfully. “I think I broke my hand on his face,” she said and he took her hand and manipulated her fingers gently.
“Yeah, I think you’re right. C’mon, I’ll take you to the infirmary.”
“It’ll wait. I want to get that piece of shit booked. I want every I dotted and every T crossed. He’s not going to slither out of this on a technicality,” she vowed.
Sam smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”
At the brig as he was getting booked, Parks was complaining volubly about Toni’s threat. The booking Master-At- Arms petty officer’s ‘uh-huh’ was absently given as he continued to get prints verified by the Live-Scan equipment.
Captain Harmon Rabb was there as JAG representative, and he looked like he was ready to beat the Commander mute.
Stepping inside, Toni smirked. “What’s the matter, Parks?” she enquired archly. “Did it hurt your feelings that you got your ass kicked by a girl?”
Harm’s laughter was contagious in the room and Parks turned red with rage.
“I won’t forget you,” he promised darkly.
“The feeling is mutual,” Toni confirmed.
“Stop poking the serial killer, ma’am,” G said.
“I know, I know,” Toni replied, tongue in cheek. “It’s not fair to challenge someone to a battle of wits when they are unarmed.”
G snorted and escorted her away. She was as bad as Hetty.