Chapter One: Self-loathing at 4 O'Clock?

The ship was imposing and Tony got it as this was one of the warships of the Navy. He could get lost on board here with the six thousand souls that ran it to perfection. Sixteen weeks was a long time but it would allow him to wallow in his grief, drink himself into oblivion and then pick up the pieces. He'd done it before when he'd left Baltimore and his almost marriage to Wendy - he could do it again.

The Captain was there to meet him. "Hello Sir," Tony greeted him, shaking his hand. He didn't feel he warranted a greeting from the Commander of the ship but he wouldn't be rude.

"Nice to meet you Agent DiNozzo and welcome aboard the Seahawk ... I run a tight ship but I do already have a job for you."

Tony frowned as he'd assumed that this was going to be a milk-run, mind-numbing, boring assignment meant as a punishment. "Okay, I'd like to stow my stuff and then I will be ready for a briefing at your discretion."

Owens smiled. "I'm going to like you I can tell."

Tony knew how to play the game with the best of them. He'd done military school and he could keep up with a hardass Marine. He would show Vance that a character was only one facet of someone's personality. In truth, Tony had played so many roles over the years, he wasn't sure who he was at his core anymore.

An hour later, Tony was in the Seahawk's comm centre. "Stand by for the Secretary of the Navy."

Tony had a second to compose himself, wondering if this was going to be where he finally got chewed out and told to find another job. "Hello, Mr Secretary."

"DiNozzo, I am glad to see you are on the mend. Now, I know you think this is a punishment duty but I am taking advantage of Vance's stubbornness."

Tony stood a little straighter and paid attention because The Secretary of the Navy does not give jobs to screw ups. They don't risk their own job like that or they didn't stay in the job that long. "Sir, how can I help?"

"You remember the terror/trafficking case you made a report on?"

As Tony thought back he remembered the one, and it had been a weird day. Gibbs was having his siesta and McGee and David were both 'sick.' As a result, Jenny had taken advantage of his higher security clearance and made him put together the intelligence clues being brought in by one of their overseas units. Jenny had never bothered to inform him that his report had broken open a terror/trafficking ring in the Pacific. NCIS ignored his brilliance on the matter but Davenport had made a mental note. He didn't like Gibbs' maverick moves but he could respect DiNozzo's desire to see the bad guy arrested, regardless of whether it was the hard or easy course. "Yes sir. I gave my report to Director Sheppard."

"I know son, what she didn't tell you was that we busted open the network thanks to that report."

Tony didn't know what to say so he stood waiting to hear about the job. He knew he had difficulty handling praise right now but he couldn't pretend it wasn't like a balm to his soul. If you are told you are a clown and crap at your job often enough, then you start to believe it.

"Your job is to read through the intelligence being sent to this terminal and find me a location for Han Ji-Woon or his goon, Anton Hesse."

Tony knew there was no other response than. "Yes sir."

The feed cut out and Captain Owens looked at his new Agent Afloat, "Dinner in my cabin. 7 O'Clock."

Tony wanted to salute but resisted as he was separate from the command structure as he had to be. He couldn't do his job if he reported to the Captain of the ship. "It would be my honour."


Dinner was less of polite conversation than a therapy session. Tony thought it was probably supposed to be an interrogation to find out all the Captain could about the new member to the ship. Tony might be down but he could still lead people on a merry dance when he wanted to.

The dinner was excellent and so good Tony actually finished it. "So am I going to have an orderly need to sweep your office for alcohol?"

Tony sighed, "I won't lie, I intended to come here, do my job and in my off hours climb into a bottle of whiskey until I could deal with all my emotions."

Owen shrugged. "I am not judging you as I know more than a few soldiers who use the same method but it ain't healthy."

"The Director was killed whilst I was supposed to be her bodyguard."

Owens could understand survivor's guilt and figured maybe he could hammer a few points home. He wasn't arrogant enough to believe he would be able to fix all the Agent's problems overnight but a task, and a distraction would be a good start. "Were you the only guard?"

"No my partner who was ex-mossad was there too but she sent us away," Tony couldn't hide his frustration.

"So you are guilty because she refused her protection detail then that's on her."

Now that got a reaction from the Agent, Owens saw him deflate. He pressed, "Has no one said that to you?"

Tony shook his head, "Nope I get the impression I should have ignored orders and stayed with her."

Owen snorted because that was wrong and he wasn't afraid to say it. "Then they are insubordinate and need to get with the programme, not you DiNozzo."

"Call me Tony, if you are going to act as my shrink you should call me by my name."

Owens chuckled. "How about I act as your friend as you seem to be in short supply of those and I am less of a headache then Mr Jack will be."

Tony laughed even if it was brittle and he knew today was going to be a turning point. He still had a way to go though. "So come on then, tell me who I should watch out for?"

Owens snickered. "The ship right now is scared of me. I've got SEAL Team 6 coming on board tomorrow. In fact, I would appreciate if you can keep an eye on them."

Well, Tony didn't have much right now but he did have his skills. "Sure thing Captain."

The next day Tony was watching from the upper deck and damn, the Commander of the SEAL team was oh so fine. He would have no problem watching his ass any day of the week. Tony sighed because as fun as ogling the very fit SEAL was he did have a job to do. He would figure out the accounting error in the infirmary and then he would get back to the Secretary's problem once the new intel came in.