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Always Watch the Watchers

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This was not his job… or at least not the job he was supposed to be doing.

He was only supposed to be establishing a presence. Not even the meet cute. Not yet. Just a familiar sight out of the corner of Jeanne Benoit's eye when she visits her favorite coffee shop.

But, he's had a bad feeling since the director put him on this irregularly organized op, where he wasn't assigned back up or authorized to use an unmarked car from the small (very small) fleet of them NCIS keeps or authorized to use bugs or surveillance equipment or taken off rotation and his regular work schedule (so he wouldn't - you know - actually be seen entering and leaving a Federal Law Enforcement office building)... Or any of the other little details that were SOP for covert operations… the kind of bad feeling that he thought of as that 'hung-out-to-dry' feeling or maybe the 'worm-on-a-fishhook' feeling… where he was pretty sure that the director was hoping her target would bite. (Not that Jeanne Benoit, herself, was Director 'Call-me-Jenny's target.) No, Call-Me-Jenny was much more interested in Jeanne's very dangerous gun running daddy, who would no doubt be having some of his favorite thugs keeping an eye out for creepers (and you know federal agents who might be looking to get to him through her) hanging around in his daughter's vicinity or you know favorite hangouts - like coffee shops... Thugs who wouldn't be fooled by the fake name of a professor who isn't listed as offering courses at any of the local colleges or universities (which had taken roughly 17 seconds to confirm by Google) when said fake professor went home to the apartment listed in the name of a federal agent (whose picture may or may not be one of the promotional pictures on a federal agency's website) and who happens to work in same previously mentioned federal office building that said fake professor happens to visit for the length of a roughly standard work day and can be caught coming and going in the company of identifiable federal agents… and that there was a very good chance that Call-Me-Jenny was banking on said thugs coming to the blatantly obvious conclusion and electing to take some form of corrective measure (that he might or might not survive) but which could be used to justify an actual authorized operation against Daddy Benoit… because Tony suspected he would stand a better chance buying 10k worth of penny stocks with negative market growth than he would have betting in favor of the 'honeypot' op the director had him running on Jeanne Benoit having been sanctioned.

So, yeah, with that 'worm-on-a-fishhook' feeling firmly entrenched in his guts, Tony's been watching out for said previously-mentioned thugs… and with all the regular scanning of his surroundings that he was doing, it didn't take long for him to spot someone watching the coffee shop. It only took a little longer for him to recognize that while the watcher was watching the coffee shop, said watcher wasn't actually watching for him or for Jeanne… and if he'd been the good little lackey that Call-Me-Jenny wanted him to be, that would have been the end of his involvement in said nosy-thug's business… but before Gibbs made his 'you'll-do-pig'* exit-stage-left to Mexico, he'd been Tony's mentor longer than any other boss he'd had over his entire career in law enforcement, and among the many rules his retired 'no-such-thing-as-a-former-marine' mentor had successfully drilled into his head (thankfully without the use of hand tools) was "you always watch the watchers".

And, with that sage directive in mind, he called the director (and ignored the excitement in her voice when he stretched the truth a bit telling her he'd spotted a tail - but leaving out the fact that the tail wasn't actually tailing him), informed her (AKA lied about where he was going to be - saying...) that he'd be heading to the nearest campus and getting lost in the library to throw the tail off (also ignoring her encouragement to ignore the tail and just 'come in', because was he seriously expected to believe that blowing his own cover would have been the most rational thing to do -- if he had been - actually - being tailed?), and agreed to submit a leave request (And, seriously? Asking him to use one of his paid vacation days - presumably (according to what she knew) to evade a potentially hostile stalker while engaged on an assigned covert operation... That was just the hallmark of good management!), then took his SIM card out of his phone and proceeded to watch the watcher.

While he hadn't been authorized any gear on NCIS's dime, Tony had been on too many UC details not to have gotten his own kit, which he'd kept 'conveniently' (by a very loose definition of convenient) charged up and taped into the thin gap between the underside of his trunk lid and the headrest of his back seat. And when he just happened to notice the beginning of the watcher's (painfully-amateur) attempt at setting up a meet-cute, it was painfully easy to be in place (because - unlike Tony- the watcher wasn't actually watching out to see if he was being watched), and plant both bugs and trackers on the watcher and his unfortunate watchee, who seemed to be a charmingly bubbly blond, who was only too happy to help the seemingly unfortunate watcher recover the presumably missing documents to be flirted and flattered into accepting watcher-thugs card, and coaxed a little less receptively into possibly accepting a date, before she and her good nature bustled off to work… quite curiously in the FBI building, a place he was growing uncomfortably familiar with thanks most recently to Slacks and Formell.

And, with his bugs and trackers in place, and the watchee tentatively ID'd as an other law enforcement fed, Tony couldn't really stop himself from listening in (and wincing) when one of her colleagues fumbled his attempt to be both supportive and reasonably cautionary (especially given that the sweet-natured-document-rescuing-Fed was actually being stalked meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug) and inadvertently slingshotted her right into accepting the ill-advised-dinner-invite from said meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug.

And, this invariably lead to a great deal more wincing, as he followed them through their Ill-advised-date (occasionally groaning at the meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug's ham-handed attempts to simultaneously impress and distract her while misquoting civil procedure and ape-ing dating etiquette that a semi-trained monkey would have been embarrassed of.

Which, in turn lead to Tony following them just a little closer as the bad feeling that had been hounding him for days was joined by another equally bad feeling that whispered that whatever the meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug wanted from the sweet-natured-document-rescuing-Fed, it wouldn't last past the end of the night, and the meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug didn't impress him as the kind of gentleman who'd walk her to the door and part ways with a kiss on the cheek and an evening's worth of fond memories… especially not the fond memories. Too much of his painfully ham-handed blathering had been directed at distracting her from figuring out who he was … and when said sweet-natured-document-rescuing-Fed worked in the same building with professional sketch and facial reconstruction artists and software...a face was good as a name.

Sooo, when the ham-handed meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug called to the sweet-natured-document-rescuing-Fed to get her to turn around, saying, "Hey, Garcia, I've been thinking about doing this all night…", Tony already had his answer ready: "So, have I," squeezing the trigger even as the meet-cute-manipulating-nosy-thug was turning shocked eyes and his too-slow gun hand (toward Tony) that couldn't hold the not-at-all-date-appropriate-revolver said thug had decided to end the date with, once Tony's bullet pierced the homicidal-thug's shoulder.

Thankfully, the close call convinced Garcia, the sweet-natured-document-rescuing-Fed, to go inside and call the police when Tony told her to; although, she might just have called the FBI while one of the out-of-the-window-looky-looers called the police, because at almost the same time as the LEO's pulled up and mostly tried to ignore the badge and credentials he was waving at them while they shouted at him to put his gun down… (a couple calling the newly renamed homicidal-thug by his first name, which was apparently Jason)… black SUVs screeched onto the scene and a dark-haired man who seemed to take charge of the scene simply by breathing, stalked between Tony and the agitated LEO's (which would have made a really strange 70's band name) jerked homicidal-thug-Jason to his feet and cuffed him, while ordering a Morgan to and a Prentiss to guard homicidal-thug-Jason while the medics looked over him, and a runway-model-thin Reid to take Tony's weapon and credentials, and a Rossi and a J.J. to take care of the LEO's before he called Garcia, the sweet-natured-document-rescuing-Fed and told her it was clear and safe to come out, which apparently meant she had his permission to throw herself at Tony and wrap him up in rib-breaking hugs until the dark-haired, LEO's-scene-stealing-FBI-man pulled her away and 'escorted' them to the SUVs, which Tony suspected was FBI speak for getting them away from Homicidal-thug-Jason's angry LEO friends, which was just fine with him.

Sooo, that was how Tony found himself back at the FBI building in one of the BAU's 'interview' rooms, laying it all out …(with a huge helping of why-dont-I-throw-in-some-career-suicide-while-i'm-at-it) in full detail ... from the director's hinky op to the hinky end of the ill-advised-date, then handing over the miniature-digital recorder with the recordings of both his work notes and the entirety of the ill-advised-date right up to the dark-haired-LEO'S-scene-stealing-FBI-man's order to get into SUV's… complete with homicidal-thug-Jason's threat that 'He'd-be-back' to finish what he'd started, which seriously had nowhere near Arnold's quotable panache or ominous overtones.

How he found himself stretched out on Rossi's couch, under a Venetian-rose-embroidered-over-sized throw with a golden-age-recorded-açtual-vinyl record of Sinatra crooning in the background, homemade lasagna settling in his stomach, and the vestiges of a silver-labeled scotch still-tingling on his tongue ...well he wasn't quite certain how that happened ... because when you're 36 hours into a day that starts with the night-before's staying-late-into-the-morning to correct and finish Mc-so-not-an-sfa-probie's half-assed version of a monthly case resolution summary before heading off to Benoit's favorite coffee shops to establish a familiar presence and ends with giving testimony against a possible-hero-cop-wannabe-serial-killer AKA homicidal-thug-Jason… and possibly his former boss AKA Call-Me-Jenny, because yeah he's putting his two-week-notice in the morning… well, things start to go more than a little bit blurry. One thing he is sure of though is that for the first time in days he doesn't have that 'worm-on-a-fishhook' feeling roiling in his gut, and he's almost sure he can get some actual sleep and figure it out in the morning.

And while Rossi's 'You-did-good-kid' isn't quite as tactile as Gibbs' 'attaboy'-head-pat, it leaves him with the same kind off warm relaxed contentment.

It may not have been his job or the job he was supposed to be doing, but when he closed his eyes he was content he'd done it well and done it his way. (Sleepy pun on Sinatra fully intended).