AN - Final Chapter

The Onion

Chapter 7

He was concentrating on the computer screen in front of him, typing vigorously. He'd been going at it for the past forty-five minutes. He didn't know what he was typing. None of it made sense. It was just a mass of jumbled letters and numbers. But he knew that he couldn't stop. If he stopped he would have to look, and Gibbs would be there.

The brick he'd fought so hard to push back in had been viciously yanked out by his boss an hour ago.

He could see, from the corner of his right eye that Gibbs was watching his every move. He also knew that Gibbs knew that he was watching him. Damn. He hadn't been able to stop it. A quick glance in his boss's direction and Gibbs blue eyes had caught his own, trapping them fast. He couldn't look away.

The silence was deafening. McGee had stopped typing and Ziva had paused mid phone conversation. It was too quiet. The lump started to form in his throat as Gibbs very deliberately and very slowly rose out of his chair and drew himself up to his full height, never once losing eye contact with Tony's green eyes.

"With me, DiNozzo"

He swallowed hard. Well he'd been expecting it. Better get it over with.

"Now, DiNozzo!"

The strong tone made him jump and he was round his desk following Gibbs in a second. They walked silently towards the elevator… and straight past it.

What… where were they going? DiNozzo was about to say something when Gibbs broke left towards the conference rooms. He was taking him to a conference room. Oh… this was going to be bad. He preferred it when Gibbs used the elevator or tore a strip off him in the squad room. At least there it'd be over quick and even Gibbs couldn't keep an elevator out of action for very long without someone complaining.

Gibbs opened the door to conference room 2 and motioned for him to enter.

He walked nervously past his boss and into the room feeling the hot piercing stare of those blue eyes still on him, burrowing into the back of his head. He heard the door close behind him. He stood waiting, shifting uncomfortably. Gibbs was an expert at making him shift uncomfortably. He didn't know what to do with his hands. He laced them in front of him. Then he put them in his pockets. Then decided that putting his hands in his pockets just as Gibbs was about to give him the dressing down he thoroughly deserved was probably not in his best interests. He removed his hands from his pockets, locked them firmly behind his back, wincing as that particular movement gave rise to a sharp pain in his right arm, and stared straight ahead waiting for Gibbs to let rip.

"Sit"

What the…? This was different. DiNozzo pulled a chair from the table and sat.

No arguments Gibbs thought. Good. He's listening.

Gibbs moved to within DiNozzo's field of vision and perched himself against the edge of the table crossing his feet at the ankles. Folding his arms, he glanced down at the agent hoping that the mixed signals he was employing would unnerve him enough to talk about last night and why he had disappeared like that. He knew that not being invited to Ziva's dinner had hit Tony hard. After all, he put a lot of effort into his 'life and soul of the party' image and rejection by friends was something that Tony didn't handle very well. What was Ziva thinking? That was a bad decision on her part and he wasn't impressed. But did Tony really not think it was pretty poor of him to go AWOL just after the rest of team had spent the best part of the day trying to find them?

"Talk DiNozzo"

The tone implied an order.

He didn't know what to say. He tried to find some words but nothing came. He opened his mouth and promptly shut it again. Panic started to rise from within him and he felt sick. If he didn't say something soon…

"Tell me about yesterday, Tony"

The tone was softer, reassuring. This he could do.

"Um, well we arrived at the…." Tony started to reel off his report.

"Start from the part when you said you were going to the head", Gibbs firmly steered.

He could see Gibbs looking directly at him now. He wasn't going to make this easy. He squirmed in his seat. He didn't know which was worse… 'shouty, mad, angry Gibbs' or 'split personality, could go either way at any moment Gibbs'.

He sighed, "I'm an idiot, boss".

Gibbs smiled, "Yeah, and?"

Tony hesitated.

Gibbs nodded his head and raised his eyebrows. Go on. The eyes were encouraging him to speak.

"It shouldn't have happened". They both knew what he was talking about.

"Why did it?"

"Look boss, I'm sorry…"

"Aw hell Tony"

"Apologies… sorry, sorry. I think it was the painkillers" he deflected.

"DiNozzo!"

"Right… yesterday". He thought, carefully, for a few seconds before stating matter of fact, "I lost something boss!"

"You what?!" Gibbs growled, wondering what the hell DiNozzo could have lost that made him disappear without a word to anyone.

Tony could see Gibbs beginning to lose his patience and quickly followed up, "Yeah, boss. I know it sounds lame".

"Sounds DiNozzo" Gibbs was finding the urge to whack him across the back of the head almost impossible. Almost.

"It was really important. I lost it and I needed to find it".

"And did you find the something you'd lost?" Gibbs clipped the words, wondering where the hell DiNozzo was going with this. He was straining to hold back his anger. Damn it, if DiNozzo didn't give him a straight answer soon he'd let rip with all he had.

"Yes"

"Where, DiNozzo?"

"In my car"

That was it. He'd had enough of this crap. Gibbs stood up, ready to give DiNozzo the bollocking that he'd meant to give him when 'fury' and 'concern' were fighting last night and 'fury' had won…

"I needed some time, boss. I know I shouldn't have let it get to me but I did and I needed to sort myself out. It had been a hell of a day. Not that that's an excuse… I know how you feel about excuses. I know I should have asked but I didn't. Not very professional was it?" Tony paused and lifted his head to look directly at Gibbs standing over him "It won't happen again boss". Tony sighed and, averting his eyes, waited for what he was sure was coming next…

"I thought sorting you out was my job DiNozzo". Gibbs half smiled before continuing, "And how did that go?"

He could see the agent physically beginning to relax. Good. It was working.

"Well, Musty and I had a chat… said I was taking things too personally and that who Ziva invited to dinner was her decision and quite frankly none of my business. Said I ought to make more of an effort with my colleagues. Then perhaps they wouldn't think of me as such a bad person".

Now we're getting somewhere. "You think Ziva thinks you're a bad person?" Gibbs asked, raising his brow.

Tony could have kicked himself for letting it slip. Idiot. But then that was what they all thought of him. It was what he had told him. Ashamed, the unspeakable childhood memories darting in and out of his head, he tried unsuccessfully to deflect. "No… I suppose not… not really".

Gibbs pushed him further, "Who then Tony? McGee?... Abby?... Ducky?... me?"

Tony shifted, obviously not comfortable with this line of questioning.

"Tony", Gibbs asked softly, "Do you think you're a bad person?"

"Me?… Come on boss. I may be an insufferable idiot at times but I'm not bad…"

He was protesting too much.

"… I mean, I have so much love to share and…"

It worked. The look he had just given DiNozzo had stopped him dead in his tracks. Noticing DiNozzo's subtle reworking of the question, he placed his right hand firmly on Tony's left shoulder and looked directly into the green eyes staring back at him.

"Tony", Gibbs spoke the words slowly and carefully, "you… are… not… a… bad… person". He let his hand rest on the man's shoulder a few more seconds before he removed it. "What are you?"

"An idiot", the words fell out of his mouth before he could take them back. Anticipating a slap he closed his eyes and screwed his face tight.

"And…" Gibbs, let it slide.

"Not a bad person" Tony embarrassedly responded, correctly this time, but still not quite allowing himself to believe it.

This was good Gibbs thought. This he could work with. It wouldn't happen overnight, but it was a start… a step in the right direction. He'd opened up. Well done DiNozzo. Not wanting to push the man further he reined in the emotional blood letting.

"Good. Glad we've cleared that up".

"Sorry boss".

DiNozzo was a little disconcerted. Gibbs had been very reasonable about the whole thing really.

It had really shocked him when he'd found out that he was the only one who hadn't been invited to Ziva's dinner. She hadn't offered any reason but then she didn't have to give a reason and he hadn't really let her. Who she had decided to invite was her decision. And he had to respect that. Why did he take these things so personally? He'd let his guard down and his emotions had got the better of him. That was not what a federal agent did. That was not what he did.

He knew he had to stop acting like a spoiled brat. He needed to work on righting the wrong that Ziva had seen in him that had made her not want to invite him to dinner. Since he didn't know what that was, it was going to be an uphill struggle. Still, he really did need to work harder at his relationships with his team mates.

He eyed his boss with a half smile. How did Gibbs do that? One minute he could be tearing a strip off him, in front of everybody, for being three minutes late and the next, when he'd really screwed up he'd talk to him one to one, calmly and with compassion. He didn't get it. He almost wished that Gibbs had been there when he'd gone back to the office the previous night so he could have talked to him sooner. He stood up ready to leave.

"DiNozzo, where the hell do you think you're going?"

Gibbs eyed the puzzled expression on the agent's face. "We're still talking about the little matter of your behaviour last night".

DiNozzo stood motionless. He'd half forgotten. The unwritten rule. He'd broken it. He'd defied Gibbs and undermined his authority, and the rest of the team would have seen it. His eyes drifted towards the floor. He knew better than to think Gibbs would let that one go.

He'd better mortar that brick in quickly or Gibbs was going to do it for him.

And so, straightening his shoulders, swallowing hard to rid himself of the lump that had formed at the back of his throat, and lifting his head so that his green eyes met the steely blue eyes of his boss he mustered all the strength he had.

"Yes, Sir"

The sound of Gibbs's hand connecting with the back of DiNozzo's head echoed around the conference room.

Yep. The brick was firmly back in place now, thought DiNozzo, as Gibbs began to let rip.

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The end.

Hope you liked it. This was my first NCIS fan fiction piece. Start small, build up.

Love to hear your thoughts on what worked, what didn't, suggestions for improvement etc.

And thanks again for reading. Makes a real difference. Love you all!

Now, where's my Pizza?