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Author's Chapter Notes:
When a face from the past resurfaces, NCIS must race to save one of their own.
As the group broke up, he walked over to Abby, giving her a hug. –You okay, Abbs?”

–Fine, you get me the evidence, and I’ll make it all go away, Tony.” Abby may not have always been a big fan of the director, but Abby had finally opened up and found that the older woman could be a wonderful friend if given the chance. –We can’t let her reputation get hurt by this. I don’t know why they went after Madame Director, but they’re going to regret it. We aren’t letting her go to jail.”

–We’re not. You want to follow me over to Gibbs’ place or ride along with me?” He wanted to let Abby know that he was the new boss alone, rather than with everyone else. –Come on, ride along with me. I could sure use the company.”

–Sure Tony, I could use a ride. Gibbs doesn’t like it when I park the hearse out in front of his place anyway.” Abby held out her hand for Tony. He seemed a lot more tense than he should be today. Yeah, they were going to figure out this puzzle and get Jen out of whatever trouble she was in, but Tony had to know that was what was going to happen. –You going to tell me what’s up? You’ve been acting weird, and when I say weird, I mean weird even for you. What’s going on DiNozzo, if you don’t tell me something, I have no problems breaking out the tickle torture.”

Tony led Abby out to his car and started the engine before speaking. He rested his hands on the steering wheel and looked at her. –I’m interim NCIS director, Abby. I think they offered it to Gibbs and he turned it down. I don’t know how to handle all this responsibility, not with Jenny’s neck on the line. And I have to deal with Jeanne too…”

If he screwed up, he could lose the best thing in his life.

–I’ve got your back Tony, and you know Gibbs does. If he didn’t think you could handle it, you wouldn’t have gotten the offer. It’s obvious you’re well respected by your peers, and you’ve lead your own team which is one of the essential things to take over. It’s not like you won’t have guidance either. Jen’s going to be on one of your random cell phones checking in with you, and Gibbs isn’t going to let you do anything to embarrass him. You’ll be fine.”

–The team doesn’t respect me, Abby. They tolerate me. At most. And Gibbs? Out of everyone at NCIS it should be him, not me.” Tony ran a hand through his hair. –La Grenouille is back, dead this time. They think Jenny…I mean, the director…did it. She didn’t, she couldn’t have, but the FBI will be humping her leg for answers. They’re still ticked off that we were right about Ari.”

–Tony, you can call her Jenny. I’m not going to report you to the SecNav for calling her by her name and not Director Sheppard.” Abby knew this was going to be difficult for everyone, not just Tony, but he was taking it especially hard. –Sure, Gibbs would have been a good choice, but you’re more than capable DiNozzo. They never would have considered you if you weren’t. I don’t see a line of people saying they turned down the job. So if you were their second choice behind Gibbs, that’s a pretty good place to be. And you’re going to be an awesome director. They may not let Jen back in the door once they get a load of you.”

–They will. They have to.” Tony pulled up to Gibbs’ house, glad to see the older man’s car and Ducky’s were there already. –Show time, Abby. I’m pretty nervous right now.”

–Just imagine everyone naked, and you’ll be fine. Well, maybe not Ziva, you might start uncontrollably drooling, and that would be bad. But everyone else.

At least she didn’t mention Jenny, who he loved looking at naked. Or Gibbs, who he had a hard-on for years for. –Come on up, Abby. Better get this thing started.”

–Well, aren’t you sounding all bosslike? You’re stepping right in and Jen would be proud of you. I can’t wait to see how you handle Gibbs. You going to make him call you boss?”

–Not happening. Gibbs is still my mentor, and I like living. I have to work here after Jenny is reinstated.”

–I still wouldn’t mind seeing his face when you tell him that’s what you want. Do you have your camera in your pack? I’ll be the official team photographer. You say it and I’ll snap a picture to save for your office when you move on to your bigger and better position next time around. I’ll even have it blown up and framed.”

–Not today, Abbs. Maybe when things are a little quieter.” Tony was feeling too serious himself to make light of any of this. He tried to give her a smile but knew that the worry was etched into his features.

–Fine, I understand. And I’ll try to behave, but only because it’s your first day and I absolutely adore you.”

Ducky had followed Jethro to his home and while the other man banged about in the basement, Ducky set to making sure the living room was in order. Sure enough, there wasn’t a speck of dust to be found. He rummaged around the kitchen and unearthed some glasses still in a box, and a canister of powdered iced tea, probably left over from the Stephanie era. He made a pitcher, started some double strength coffee for Jethro, gathered the glasses, set everything out on the coffee table, and waited, either for Jethro to return or for someone to arrive.

Jethro clomped up the stairs after spending ten minutes in his basement, only to find Ducky settled on a couch as if he’d always been there. Jethro motioned to the pitcher. –What is that? Iced tea? I’m gonna get some coffee and order some pizzas.” He knew the team did their best work when fed.

He ordered in four pies and some bottled soda for Abby, and noticed Ducky had made some coffee. He trotted downstairs, grabbed his mug and returned just as someone rapped on the door. –It’s open!”

–Isn’t it always open?” Ziva came through the door, bring with her a pale McGee. –Even after a terrorist corners you in your basement, you leave your front door open. If that doesn’t make you find the keys to your front door, what would?”

–Just get in here, willya, Ziva, McGee?” As Tony and Abby hurried up the walk, Jethro nodded. –Director, sir, Abby. Get in here. Pizzas are on the way, Ducky made some iced tea and coffee is almost ready. And yeah, Abbs, caffeine for you is on the way too. You want to brief ‘em Tony, or should I?”

–You do it?” Tony said, pouring a glass of iced tea.

Tim crossed the room, leaning against the wall, while Ziva sat on one side of Ducky and Abby on the other. Gibbs and Tony stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

–We have problems. Jenny’s being investigated for the murder of René Benoit, La Grenouille. His body was found this morning. The FBI is gunning for her, she’s been removed as director. Your interim director is Anthony DiNozzo.” Jethro waited for everyone to absorb that.

Ducky responded first, shooting Jethro a concerned look, which he advised his friend with his eyes to squelch. –Congratulations, my dear boy. Well deserved after your team leadership of the past.”

Tony gave the older man a faint smile. –Thanks, Ducky. It should have been Gibbs’ but he turned it down.”

–Irrelevant, Director DiNozzo.” Jethro crossed his arms over his chest. –They chose you. You’re the interim director. I’m not hearing any more about who you think should have had the position or not. They thought you could lead, and I agree, so lead.”

Tony sighed inwardly. –Okay. So, yeah, they named me temporary director, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be involved in helping Jenny. Everyone in this room needs to be sure they want to help. If not, nobody will hold it against you. But if so, we’re in it to clear her name, regardless of personal cost. Am I understood? Gibbs, you’re in. Don’t need to ask. McGee? You in or out?”

–In, of course. Tonyâ€"–


–Congrats.” Tim said softly.

–Thanks, McGee,” Tony said in the same quiet tone of voice, extending a hand to Tim, who shook it firmly. He turned his attention to Ziva, waiting to see if she was with them. She wasn’t officially NCIS, and she had a lot more to lose.

–I have some contacts that might be able to help. They’re just slightly outside of what might be considered legal, but the intel will be reliable.” Ziva had no intention of watching her friend get railroaded, not if she could do something. –I can also talk to some of my former colleagues, see if they’ve picked up any chatter. If someone is really gunning for Jennifer, somebody will have heard about it.”

–So, you’re in, Ziva?” Tony asked, and she nodded. –Ducky?”

–You don’t even need to ask, my dear boy. I won’t have the director take the blame for something she didn’t do.” Ducky flushed slightly. –I mean, Director DiNozzo.” He lowered his voice. –You wear the title well, sir.”

Tony nodded, giving the ME a small smile. –Abby? You in?”

–Told you, boss, you get me the evidence, and I’ll make it disappear. Same thing with any bodies that need hiding. I am one of the few members of the team that can hide a body and never get caught. Ziva might be able to pull it off, but I know I can.”

Tony didn’t speak as the doorbell rang and Jethro brought the pizzas and drinks in, Everyone ate hurriedly, aware of the clock ticking against their friend.

–Abby, she isn’t guilty. Let me make that perfectly clear. The director did not do this. Anyone who thinks she did needs to walk out that door and not look back. I’d stake my career and life on it.” Jethro looked at DiNozzo, who nodded.

–Gibbs is right. And I don’t care what your personal feelings are on this, I am your boss for the time being, so everything comes to me, not Gibbs, unless we make other arrangements. If you can’t respect the SecNav’s decision, you can’t be a part of this.”

Tony met their eyes, one by one. Nobody even flinched. –Okay. This is all strictly off hours, strictly away from NCIS. There are way too many cameras, microphones, et. cetera. If you don’t have a prepaid cell, Abby can hook you up. We’ll make a master list of numbers and contact details, destroy any copies or computer filesâ€"McGee, you can handle that, right?”

–Yeah, and we shouldn’t use NCIS-issued laptops.”

–Right. So, here is where we stand. Gibbs, get in contact with Fornell, see what info you can get out of him. Abby, hook everyone up with cell phones, and work with McGee to get a phone list out. McGee, can you track Jeanne Benoit? I don’t want to get a nasty surprise and she obviously knows where I live. Ducky? Can you work the ME network and see how Benoit died, time of death, an autopsy report or a sit in if one hasn’t been done hyet? Ziva, work your contacts and line up a protection detail for Jenny. Let’s meet back here tonight, twenty-one hundred. I’ll check in with Jenny and see what help she can offer, but for now, I pretty much have to be goddamn NCIS figurehead.”

He looked at Gibbs. –I see why you turned it down.”

–No, ya don’t. I turned it down because you’re much better than I am, DiNozzo.” Jethro said softly, turning to the team. –Yeah, I was offered the job, but Tony is much less blunt when he needs to be. I support him a hundred percent and you should as well.” He clapped Tony on the shoulder. –I’m going to see Fornell, boss. Lock up when you leave. Don’t want anyone to have the opportunity to plant anything here.”

Tony nodded and Gibbs left, his tires screeching. –Any questions?”

–Can we have cool code names? I think this is a mission that requires something like that.” Abby winked at Tony, trying to get him to smile a little. –And this mission needs a name. Something fantastic to make it stand out. I know this is old hat to you guys, but it’s not often that I get involved at this level on a case. We’re going to solve this, no doubt but shouldn’t us lab rats be able to have a good time while we’re doing it?”

Tony rolled his eyes. –Okay, Black Widow, Inky, or Goth Girl. You choose.” He waved as Ziva and McGee left and watched Ducky pack the food and iced tea up. Once he and Abby were alone, Tony slumped slightly, letting out a long breath. –This authoritative crap is damn hard, Abbs.” And he was so worried about Jenny that he could barely think.

–You’re good at it though, Tony. Ziva wouldn’t just jump in and offer help for anyone. It helps that you’re doing something for Jenny, but she could run off and do something stupid on her own without us. Don’t think she wouldn’t if she didn’t accept your new position.” Abby walked over to give Tony a hug, slapping him on the ass, hoping to bolster the boss’ ego. –I’m gonna call you booty boy, cause you’ve still got one of the tightest backsides of anyone I know. Only good thing about me getting shot at is finding out that little tidbit.”

Tony tried to smile but he couldn’t quite manage it. –Any time you want a de-inked clean cut boy, I’m your man.” But his heart wasn’t in it and he knew she knew it. –I’m worried about her, Abby. I should go to see her and get back to the office, huh?”

–Her Jen? She’s going to be fine. I’ve never met a stronger woman, and she’s got all of us fighting for her.” But that wasn’t all that was going on with her friend. He had a look about him, and he was taking this all more seriously then she would have thought. No joking, no typical DiNozzo smartass remarks. –What’s the story, Tony? Something more than just your sudden promotion is going on.”

–No, I’m just worried and stressed. I don’t want to screw this up. Jenny’s career is on the line.” Tony couldn’t even pretend to be anything beyond what he was right now, incredibly worried about his soul mate. At least nobody knew they were involved. He couldn’t handle that. –I’ll come see you when I’m back, okay? We’ll talk more then. Crap… I drove you here. Can you get a lift with Ducky?”

He didn’t wait for her to answer, knowing she’d love riding with Duck. –Ducky has a key to this place. You guys lock up.” He kissed her cheek and rushed out, driving right to Jenny’s place.

Abby didn’t mind being left. It was obvious that Tony had a ton on his mind. Sneaking into the kitchen, she watched Ducky cleaning up from the door. –You want more to do, you could always come over to my place and clean my kitchen for me, Duck. Hope you don’t mind, Director DiNozzo dumped me in your lap. He’s apparently got director duties to take care of.”

–Director DiNozzo, he wears it well. Did you see him draw up with such pride? Quite impressive, my dear.” Ducky finished wiping down counters and turned to give Abby a small reassuring smile. –The boys leading the investigation will be the best thing for the director. They’re both driven and will go to the ends of the earth to find the truth.”

–I know that. I can’t believe the FBI believes that she could have done this. If anyone can prove it, Gibbs and Tony can. And we’re going to do everything we can. You let me know what you need from me, Ducky, and I’ll make it happen. We can’t lose another team member. It’s not acceptable.”

Ducky squeezed her hands and then pulled her into an embrace. –I worked with Jethro and the director in the field. They’re brave and resourceful and tough. Why there was one time where Jethro and I were stranded and…” He sighed. –You don’t want to hear this. Just know to the very marrow of your being that they we have a very capable team and we have incredible motivation. Why don’t we get a cuppa and sit down and figure all of this out in a neutral setting. Have you had afternoon tea?”

–No, and I could use some. It has enough caffeine to calm my nerves.” Abby looked around the sparse kitchen, and it was so Gibbs. –Does he even have tea here, is there something we don’t know about the boss? He doesn’t strike me as a tea type.”

–Oh no, my dear. I want to take you to a proper tea service, with sandwiches and sweets. Certainly not here in Jethro’s home, where the only tea he seems to have is that of the powdered variety.” He offered her his arm.

–Mental health hour, dear, since we’ll be working well into the night.”

–More like well into tomorrow night. I don’t see us getting a break anytime soon.” Abby had never had a proper tea, at least not to the extent that Ducky was speaking of. She’d had a tea party with his mother once, when Mrs. Mallard had come to stay at the Navy Yard, but even that she wasn’t sure if it was proper, or what the dementia-riddled woman though was proper. –I’d love to go somewhere, that sounds like a lot of fun. I wish I was at the lab, I have a hat and some black lace gloves, to dress up a little.”

–You are fine just as you are, Abby. I’m taking advantage of your mind, my dear, not your body.”

Jethro drove to Jenny’s house, leaning on the doorbell. He had to make sure she was okay before he went to Fornell and wanted to assure her that DiNozzo was doing well.

When she heard the doorbell, Jen quickly arraigned her silk robe, showing just the slightest hint of lace beneath it. Tony had a key, but it seemed he was taking his role as delivery man seriously, and if that was part of his fantasy she’d do it up for him. –I wasn’t expecting you so soon, I thought your meeting was going to last a little longer…” When she didn’t get any response she looked up and found that it was Jethro and not Tony she was currently flashing.

–Oh, you’re not who I was expecting. Sorry about that, Jethro.” Pulling herself up straight, she quickly adjusted her robe so she was fully covered. –Please come in, and it’s not what you’re thinking. Well, it might I would rather you weren’t thinking it. I’m sure I can explain if you give me a chance.”

Jethro looked her up and down, swallowing his desire. –What was I thinking, Jenny? Who were you waiting for?” That creamy expanse of shoulder, and was that a nipple pebbling against the robe, were working on him, and without thinking, his hands moved to her chest, fingertips barely brushing over the silk. He flicked the hard nubs, her soft moan shooting right to his cock.

–Will I do, Jen?” he asked hoarsely.

–Any other time, you’d more than do Jethro.” Jen reached out to place her hand over his heart, feeling how fast it was beating. –But I’m seeing someone, and I thought that you were him. He said he’d be coming over this afternoon or early evening.” She had never been much of a tease, but that was exactly what she was doing right now.

–Come in, we’ll talk. I want to hear about the meeting. Did everyone on the team take it well?”

Jethro was bitterly disappointed that she was seeing someone. –Lucky guy, Jenny. Damn lucky guy. He someone I know?” She winced and he realized she was uncomfortable discussing this. –Jenny, if it is Fornell, I’ll have to kill him, you know that, right?”

She gave him a faint smile and he realized he was still cupping her breasts. –You expect me to talk when you have me this revved up?” He let out another frustrated groan and tried to breathe slowly and evenly, finally releasing her flesh. –But dammit, Jen, you fit perfectly in my hands.”

–Meeting went well. The team is a thousand percent behind you and DiNozzo is a force to be reckoned with. He’s got me tracking down info from Fornell, Abby working behind the scenes to get everyone set up with untraceable cells, do you need one, by the way? Tim is tracking down Jeanne. I think Tony’s pretty nervous about that cropping back up. Ducky’s been ordered to find out what he can about the autopsy, and Ziva’s going with her network and getting you a protection detail. Everything seems to be under control. Now, what about you?”

–What about me? I’ve been playing good girl. Stuck in the house, although I did have coffee with Tobias on our way back here. It’s not him, I know at least that much. I don’t know who it is that wants to frame me, but I know at least one of the people it isn’t. That’s a relief, I know he’s not my best friend by any stretch of the imagination, but I always thought that we got along better then this.”

Jen moved away from the hallway, toward her study. She had liquor there, and some calming music on. They could both use that right now. –You do realize I’m going to shoot down a protection detail. I’m already going to have a bunch of FBI agents tailing me where ever I go until this is over. I don’t want to take any NCIS agents off of their assignments to follow me. It doesn’t make sense.”

–You don’t get the choice, Jen. Let Tony make the decisions, unless you don’t trust him. And I didn’t think Fornell was involved directly. That isn’t his way.” Jethro hung back, wondering where she was going, but then the door was flung open and he automatically drew his weapon.

Tony must have broken land-speed records in his haste to get to Jen. Screw the food, he’d order in. He just had to see her, and hold her. There was no parking on the street outside her house, so he pulled in a couple of blocks away and jogged to her place, throwing the door open then slamming it shut behind him.

She half turned and he stopped still, taking in the robe. He stalked toward her, a man on a mission, and pulled her to him by the shoulders, kissing her deeply, passionately, molding her body against his like any romantic movie hero would. When her lips parted under his, he held her tightly, kissing deeper yet, moaning into her mouth.

He turned around in shock when someone cleared his throat behind him.
Chapter End Notes:
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