Positive Space

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Not betaed.

Sensitivity training. It was the bane of any decent agent's existence, in Gibbs's opinion. He had, however, developed a certain skill in getting himself--and his team--out of the damned lectures and workshops. Tom Morrow's sympathy had run in Gibbs's direction, which had helped, but Jen's most definitely didn't. He'd pulled out all his tricks and they'd worked for awhile, but luck had finally gone against Gibbs, which was the only reason he and his subordinates were currently enduring a lecture filled with phrases like "positive space" and "listening techniques" and "opening yourself".

McGee, predictably, was paying careful attention and taking the occasional note. Gibbs snorted softly to himself. McGee needed to be more assertive, not more sensitive. But then, they didn't hold "aggressiveness" training, despite the fact that that was a much more critical skill for a field agent. A lack of sensitivity could get you reprimanded, but a lack of aggressiveness could get you killed.

Ziva seemed both amused and fascinated. Gibbs would bet money the Mossad didn't have sensitivity training. They were too concerned with survival to put up with PC bullshit like "guarding against the unintentional creation of an atmosphere hostile to fellow workers."

The lecturer was careful to emphasize "unintentional", but Gibbs noticed that she shot him a mild frown when she said it. Gibbs pasted an excessively attentive expression onto his face. She might have heard enough about him--probably from Jen--to know there was nothing unintentional about the way he pushed his people, but she didn't know him and she wouldn't know how insincere the expression was, even if everyone else in the room did.

Jen might have forced him to jump through this hoop, but that didn't mean she'd won.

Gibbs didn't even have to glance at Tony, seated to his left, to know what the younger man was doing. This was the fourth time they'd been unable to dodge the sessions since Tony was hired and he'd come out of the previous three with dates. There was no reason to think this time would be any different, given the twinkle in his eye and the faint blush staining the cheeks of the woman whose personal space Tony was leaning into.

The lecturer had moved on from "creating positive space through your own actions and attitudes" and onto "ensuring fair treatment." Gibbs shook his head slightly. He knew what "fair" meant to these people. Their kind of "fair" meant treating everyone exactly the same. It meant not discriminating between employees.

Not discriminating between employees. As if that made any sense at all. There was a difference between bigotry and managing people properly, even if it seemed everyone in a remotely management position had forgotten that. Gibbs had no interest in a heading up a team of idiots with bland, averaged personality traits. His people were good because they thought differently, because they sparked off each other and pushed each other. Gibbs put his energy into encouraging that interaction, not into smoothing it out.

"Special Agent DiNozzo!"

Gibbs followed the lecturer's glare to Tony, who was unhurriedly straightening up from his little flirtation. "Yes, Ms. Fallin?" Tony responded, all but oozing attentiveness.

She frowned, obviously wanting to reprimand him for his attitude toward his seatmate, but just as obviously absorbing the fact that the woman who was Tony's target wasn't exactly upset. Gibbs ducked his head a little as he smiled to himself.

"Have you heard a word I've said, Agent DiNozzo?"

Wrong question. Gibbs's smile turned to a smirk as Tony brightly parroted back her last sentence.

"Very well, then," Ms. Fallin said, disgruntled, and visibly stepped back into her bright and happy attitude as she went on with the lecture.

Tony leaned back towards the object of his attentions. Gibbs sighed internally. Having his team called out in public once was enough. He reached over and gave Tony a light smack upside the head...and promptly found himself the subject of Ms. Fallin's glare. Gibbs met it with a scrupulously neutral expression.

The moment her attention shifted Gibbs glanced back at Tony, who caught his gaze and rolled his eyes. A smile tugged at the corners of Gibbs's mouth as he turned back to the thwarted lecturer.