o o o
One second he was crouching to retrieve evidence from the pavement, the next second…he was still there. That was the point: it was just a second. McGee didn't have to sound so exasperated.
"Tony, you might want to snap out of it before Gibbs finds you daydreaming down there."
Tony blinked, then frowned. His eyes felt dry, and he was staring at the shattered glass from the victim's car window. Come to think of it, the way it sparkled in the sun was oddly mesmerizing. Rather a pathetic thing to have noticed, but hey, how much intelligence could you expect from someone who'd gotten a measly three hours of sleep? Tony suspected Gibbs got a sort of evil enjoyment out of waking his agents up early to go to crime scenes.
"Tony, what's your problem today?"
McGee again, sounding even more irritated.
Tony stood quickly, then winced when his knees and back protested. "Ouch."
"Well, you've only been hunched down there for the last five minutes."
"Five minutes?" Hardly.
"Yeah, Tony, five minutes." He glanced at his watch. "Over five minutes, actually."
"Not one of your most subtle ways of avoiding work, if you ask me," Ziva commented breezily, as she strode up behind McGee.
"Ah, c'mon guys, since when have I done that?" Tony protested, annoyed when it came out sounding petulant and in need of affirmation. It was unfair though; he pulled his weight. Maybe he didn't always appear particularly serious about it, but still…
McGee and Ziva exchanged glances, but didn't argue any further to the contrary.
"Team bonding later. Report now."
You didn't ever quite get used to Gibbs' abrupt appearances, but you did learn to keep from visibly jumping—at least most of the time—if only to preserve a few shreds of dignity.
"I have just finished photographing the scene," Ziva replied first, with equanimity.
"Yeah, Boss, I'm done too," McGee seconded. "Got the blood samples and hair strands for Abby."
Gibbs nodded. "DiNozzo?"
"Oh…uh, yeah, Boss." Man. He was stuttering like McGee. And the geek even had the nerve to look smug about the role reversal. Tony cleared his throat, and automatically found himself displaying the evidence bag he was holding. "Got this."
That was when he realized he'd never actually put anything in the evidence bag.
"It looks like…nothing," Ziva commented, peering at it studiously.
"It is rather insubstantial," McGee concurred sagely.
Gibbs scowled, but didn't directly reprimand Tony. "You three get your acts together. Let's go."
Ziva and McGee gave Tony dark looks.
"Way to go, DiNozzo," McGee rhymed, stressing each syllable of his name. "As if the day wasn't already shaping up to be a pleasant one."
"Some people will do anything for attention, even when it is negative. Or so I have heard." Ziva smiled benignly.
"I did not do that for attention." Being a glutton for negative attention was one thing, but purposefully bringing down the wrath of Gibbs on your own head was another.
"Come on, move out!"
Gibbs voice moved them into action, but Tony found himself trailing uncertainly behind his teammates. He was feeling more bewildered than he cared to let on. Five minutes? It couldn't have been that long. And yet, his memory grew fuzzy after his initial arrival at the crime scene.
The truth was, he didn't want consider the idea that he might have spaced out. He might have gone blank on his team at a much more crucial moment. He might've gotten someone killed.
What really scared him, though, was that it wasn't the first time something like this had happened.
o o o
When Tony, with uncharacteristic sobriety, had asked to speak with him privately, Gibbs hadn't been surprised. He'd known something had been eating at his agent for several days. Gibbs was a little surprised, but not overly so, when DiNozzo began the conversation with, "I think I might have to resign, Boss." When DiNozzo couldn't hide the fact that something was eating at him, something bad was brewing. Exactly what that something was, he would know by the time they left the empty conference room they were currently using.
"I just thought I'd let you know. You know?" Tony hedged further when Gibbs gave no indication that he did "know." "You know…just giving you some warning in advance."
"I don't expect a farewell party, or anything. I mean, I don't need one to know you guys'll miss me."
Gibbs stared, hard. Tony sat.
"Better." Gibbs paced, eyes never leaving off in their scrutiny of the younger agent. "You want to tell me what this is about?"
"Well you see, Boss, Ziva insulted my tie the other day, and McGee agreed. Today it was my shoes. I don't think I my fragile ego can take much more of this hostile work environment."
"Stop babbling, DiNozzo."
"That long pause was me waiting for you to say something that makes sense."
Tony's smile was looking a bit worn around the edges. "Sense?"
"Save the act. Why do you think you might have to resign?"
"I just don't want to get anyone killed, that's all," Tony explained nonchalantly.
Gibbs waited. Tony had seen enough Gibbs-style interrogations to recognize his tactics for making his subjects of examination squirm, but they still seemed effective enough on him. Patience had always been Gibbs' best and favorite ally, and he was content to watch the other man avoid direct eye contact for while
"Look, Gibbs, I've been messing up on the job."
"Yeah, you have been," Gibbs agreed, without accusation. "What I want to know is why."
"Too many years in one place? Stress of the job?" Tony shrugged. "I think it's just getting to me."
"You really expect me to believe that?"
Tony managed to meet his gaze evenly for a moment, as if by doing so he thought he was proving his sincerity. But Gibbs saw him waver, and Tony saw that Gibbs saw. DiNozzo looked away with a sigh.
If Tony had been delusional enough to think, even for a minute, that he could pull the wool over his eyes, Gibbs knew something out of the ordinary had to be distracting him.
"Spill it. That's an order." He held up a finger in warning before Tony could open his mouth with some quip about resigning on the spot, and no longer being under his jurisdiction. "I'm not in a mood to humor you, DiNozzo."
It was his no-second-chances tone, and Tony knew it. He seemed to respond to it despite himself, as if still debating whether he should say anything, but reacting automatically to the command more out of habit than conscious decision. God knew he didn't look willing, but he was talking, which was all Gibbs expected.
"Yeah, Boss, yeah... You want to know the truth? I'm no good out in the field anymore. I'm a liability."
Gibbs silence was an unvoiced "continue." It had been known to convince Abby to pour her heart out. It made Tony sigh again, but he obeyed nonetheless.
"I'm distracted. I can't focus sometimes, and other times it's like…"
"It's crazy, Boss."
Gibbs gave him a raised eyebrow and a just-try-me expression. They all worked with "crazy" every day. Whatever Tony had to say, it could hardly be much more shocking than what they dealt with. He was being delusional, again, and naive, if he thought so. Of course, Gibbs did know it was more than that. While he said "it's" crazy, what Gibbs saw in his posture—and had caught a glimpse of in hastily averted green eyes—was a fear that Gibbs would think that Tony was crazy.
Tony seemed resigned now, however, as he wearily dismissed whatever inhibitions he'd had. "I've always had good eyesight, but lately it's been ten times better—a hundred times better." He snorted, ruefully. "And smells, too…they're bothering me like they never have before. Don't even get me started on hearing. I keep getting these terrible headaches. It's like I'm on overload, and it's setting me on edge. If someone surprises me I'm likely to snap their neck. The not being able to focus thing isn't any better. The other day, at the crime scene, I just…"
"Zoned out," Gibbs supplied.
"Yeah. Good name for it. I just got there, started examining the shattered glass, and the next thing I knew McGee was on my case for wasting five minutes. I swear, Boss, I don't have a clue what's happening, but it's something weird, and it's scaring the—"
"I'm not paid to be oblivious, DiNozzo. This isn't the first time it's happened, either."
Tony relaxed a little, responding to Gibbs' unperturbed and matter-of-fact reaction. "You remember that? It was years ago."
"You froze up and nearly got yourself killed." Fortunately, Tony's vacant stare had creeped out the guy with his gun aimed at them as much as it had Gibbs.
"I always wondered why you didn't fire me right then and there," Tony mused with a frown.
"You were at your best during that undercover operation." Other than that one, near-fatal incident, that is… Gibbs had never seen him quite so driven. Unforeseen disaster after disaster had seemed determined to ruin their mission, but they'd survived. Tony had seen things from impossible distances, and heard things coming long before they arrived. There'd never been a good opportunity to question him about it at the time. Gibbs had accepted the edge Tony's sudden abilities had given them, and used them to stay alive and accomplish their goal. And afterwards…well, Ducky never would've forgiven him for interrogating Tony in the hospital. And they'd both spent far too much time at Bathesda after that run, Tony in varying states of consciousness.
"Those weeks are a blur," Tony said softly. "Afterwards, I hardly thought half of it'd really happened." And he'd probably been too grateful for Gibbs lack of questions to ask Gibbs any himself. "But now it's happening again. I'm not the desk-job type—but I won't be a risk to the team, either."
"You won't be."
"I can't be out in the field if I keep…zoning."
"We're pretty good at solving things around here," Gibbs pointed out mildly.
"Yeah, but I don't know where to begin looking for ideas, and, no offence, but Google's not your strong suit."
Gibbs smiled faintly, exasperated and amused at once. "What about McGee? Abby? Ducky's been known to be fairly insightful in the medical field." You ever stop to think how far some of us might go to help you? To keep you from leaving?
Tony didn't look quite as if the idea had never occurred to him, but if it had he'd never taken the thought too seriously. "I don't know, Boss…
Yeah, well I do. "We'll figure this out. Keep the resume."
"Keep it handy, you mean?"
That really deserved a whap across the head, but Gibbs was already on his way out. He settled for a warning look. "There's plenty of paperwork to do in the meantime, DiNozzo."
o o o
A/N: I wrote this a while ago-just working on the editing-so I should be able to post regularly. I've only written a few short Sentinel pieces, and never written NCIS before, so I would really, really, appareciate any feedback from readers/authors with more expirience than I. Though I don't usually go back and edit fanfiction I've already posted (of course there are those mistakes that simply have to be seen too... *cringes at self*), it would be helpul to get feedback on what I did or did not do right with characterizations so I can write 'em better in the future. ;)
Let me know your thoughts!