A/N – Tag to S6 E12 'Caged' and lead into S6 E13 'Broken Bird'. Tony's thinking about the flippant remark Gibbs made to him in the squad room. He's thinking about a lot of things. Warning: later chapter contains hints of Tony's past and references to the physical abuse of a child. References to S6 episodes 'Broken Bird', 'Caged', 'Murder 2.0' and 'Silent Night', S5 episode 'Internal Affairs', S4 episodes 'Grace Period', 'Friends and Lovers' and S2 episode 'Twilight'. NCIS characters belong to Bellisario, CBS and Paramount.
I'm working on the premise here that the two men are trying to learn how to work with one another again following Tony's return from the Sea Hawk. The relationship between the two of them has changed slightly and neither seems to know how to handle it. I have assumed Tony knows about the 'narcissistic' and 'attitude adjustment' comments in S6 episodes 'Murder 2.0' and 'Silent Night'.
Tony's a bit moody and dark in this but I think it reflects how he seems to have changed somewhat in the sixth season. He does revert later on though.
Chapter 1 – Disappointment
'People can be loved as much for their weaknesses as they are for their strengths'
He'd been teasing McGee. They both had. Ziva was part of it too. Gibbs had walked in half way through the conversation, having heard all of it as usual, but the comment his boss had made was directed solely at him.
'Well then DiNozzo, you must be one very well loved man'
The words stung. Tony took a sip from his mug and set it carefully down on the small coffee table beside the sofa where he sat. He ran his hands through his hair and down the back of his neck working the cricks out before leaning forward, resting his forearms on his knees and lacing his fingers together. He stared at the floor of his apartment.
He wished he hadn't teased McGee. Poor Tim had almost lost a finger, almost had his throat slit and almost... no they did actually 'pepper' spray him, and they did cuff him. Tim had been handcuffed by women... lots of women... in a women's prison...
Anthony... stop it! He cuffed himself on the back of the head. That's another weakness Gibbs will take great pleasure in pointing out to you... again... sometime in the near future. He couldn't afford another weakness. Not right now. He rubbed the sting out of the back of his head and smoothed his ruffled hair.
'Thank you for noticing boss'
Gibbs noticed all his weaknesses... he noticed all their weaknesses too but he noticed his especially. And lately, Gibbs hadn't been holding back in his digs. They may well have been jokes but they were becoming increasingly personal.
He wasn't sure whether Gibbs knew that he knew. He thought he probably did, but that somehow made it worse. The real problem was that Gibbs wasn't being as direct any more. He used to be.
In the past, if Tony had screwed up, he knew about it. If Gibbs had had a problem with something he'd done, he'd made it perfectly clear. But recently Gibbs had been talking behind his back, and not in a nice way. He didn't mind that. How could he mind it? Tony talked about other people behind their backs all the time. You can't complain when you get a taste of your own medicine, Anthony.
It was more the fact that he'd always trusted Gibbs to tell him, directly, when he'd had a problem with him. He had... past tense... trusted Gibbs to tell him, directly, when he'd had a problem with him. But Gibbs hadn't said a word to him... directly... about any of it... and that was bringing forth a variety of emotions that Tony really didn't want to deal with. He didn't know how to.
First there had been the narcissistic comment... then his attitude needed adjusting and now he had so many weakness it would take the boss's other favourite... McHewhoneverscrewsup... a billion computers and a millennium to sort categorise and file them all.
Shit, Anthony... give the poor guy a break. It's not Tim's fault.
No. Tim wasn't to blame for what Gibbs thought or said about him. Tim was an innocent bystander in this little power play. The only person he could blame was the person who was at fault... himself.
Anthony D. DiNozzo.
At least Gibbs had said that last one to him. Actually, he didn't really mind the last one. He had weaknesses, everyone had weaknesses. He just... didn't like showing them. Suppose it comes from...
Tony swallowed and groped at the coffee table for his mug of tea. Finding it, he carefully raised the mug to his lips and took a sip, immediately spitting the liquid back out into the vessel.
"Urgh... cold tea", he grimaced placing the mug back on the coffee table.
Tony eased himself up from the sofa, unconsciously wrapping his arms around himself in a comforting hold and walked slowly towards the window. His apartment was in darkness but the blinds were open and the orange glow of the street lights spilled into his front room giving just enough illumination to allow him to see where to place his bare feet.
He stood to one side of the window and stared through the glass panes at the street below.
Taxi cabs sped through the street carrying their unknown occupants to and from their unknown destinations. A jogger ran on the opposite side of the street, crossed at the lights and then narrowly missed being caught up in a dog lead before continuing on with his punishing schedule. Tony followed the path of the young couple who were walking their dog until he could no longer see them.
Why were things so screwed up? He'd been trying so hard but it never turned out right. He always made the wrong comment at the wrong time, tried to lighten the mood when the mood didn't need to be lightened, teased McGee before McGee could tease him and Gibbs always appeared at the wrong moment. Even when he'd done something right, for once, whatever he did didn't seem to make any difference to the way Gibbs looked at him now.
He saw it everywhere. He felt it too. It was in his eyes... disappointment.
It heard it in his voice... the way Gibbs sighed when he said his name...
The only other person that had seemed to acknowledge what Gibbs was doing was Ziva. She noticed a lot... definitely more than she let on. He knew that. He wondered whether McGee had noticed. Maybe he had... but he didn't acknowledge it.
Tony caught the outline of his reflection in the glass pane. He studied the image staring back at him. There were a few more lines on his face than when he'd first looked through his apartment window several years ago and caught his reflection in the stillness of the night. He still looked pretty good though. He chuckled and leaned his left shoulder against the wall, lowering his gaze to look at his feet. They'd done a lot of running over the years.
He turned, leaning back against the wall and inhaled deeply as he felt the warmth drain from his back and the cool temperature beneath him seep through his t-shirt and spread across his shoulder blades. He pressed back into the wall and slowly lifted his head to look back into his darkened apartment. It was late. There was no TV tonight, no Sinatra or Coltrane playing in the background, the ansaphone was on silent and the cell, tucked in his jeans pocket, was switched to vibrate. He wasn't on call. There was no reason for... and neither did he expect... his boss to call him. Damn you Gibbs! Even after seven years, he still observed rule number 3.
Well not tonight.
He reached into his pocket and brought out the cell. He flipped it open, the bright display illuminating the immediate area around him, and he pressed the red button. A flash of colour later and the brightness was gone.
Immediately, the unease started to build inside him and a tight band of fear gripped his stomach. He forced himself to remain calm. He was not going to turn his cell back on.
The fear began to recede and Tony let out a sigh. Finally, he was alone in his darkened apartment. Only the hypnotic ticking of the clock in the corner prevented silence. Twenty three hundred hours.
The call... and the response.
It was always there.
Well it had been since he'd swapped the batteries for the ones he found in his old DVD remote the other week. The clock had started again when he replaced them but he didn't know how long the new... or rather... old batteries would last.
They were bound to fail soon enough. He ought to get some new batteries from the store. He could keep them on standby in case the Clock's Tick became so out of synch with its Tock that it was unable to carry out its function of capturing the correct time... or worse still, stopped altogether. He didn't even want to think about that. He hadn't a clue what he'd do if it stopped completely and he couldn't get the clock started again.
There was a slight hesitation.
He really needed to change the batteries in the clock and he needed to do it soon.
Perhaps he should be more direct with Gibbs. Confront him. Pull him up on some of the things he said or did. That had seemed to work a couple of weeks ago. Gibbs hadn't apologised... hell would freeze over before anything remotely like an apology was uttered from those thin lips of his... but Tony's wrath had, sort of, cleared the air for a short while, restoring the 'Tick' and the 'Tock' to a more productive synchronism. But the batteries were beginning to fail again.
Maybe he shouldn't really confront him, not yet, not so soon after the last time. Maybe he should just try and talk to him. Tony laughed and shook his head. Talk to Gibbs.
In the past, their connection had been unspoken. They didn't need to talk; a facial expression, the raise of an eyebrow, the way his eyes conveyed a variety of emotions... he'd learnt to understand them and knew how to react to them.
Lately Tony felt lucky if Gibbs actually looked at him... even if it was to show him the disappointment in those blue eyes of his. He had a hard job talking to Gibbs about a case without noticing how Gibbs tended to avoid looking directly at him... and when Gibbs spoke, the words may have been for his ears but they never seemed to be sent in his direction. How the hell would he be able to get Gibbs to talk to him about something personal, which this obviously was? Gibbs didn't really do personal... but then neither did he.
"Weaknesses, eh boss", Tony calmly stated to an imaginary Gibbs. Everyone has them... even you.
'Well then DiNozzo, you must be one very well loved man'
How the hell did Gibbs do that? He wasn't even here and he was responding to his thoughts now. That man had the stealth capability of his neighbour's cat. Damn thing was always hovering somewhere near his front door or on the stairs, ready to bat his ankles with its paw or move swiftly into his path and trip him up. He never saw it coming either. That was another of his weaknesses he supposed.
Some people had more weaknesses than others. He...Tony... definitely had more than others.
Perhaps he should make a list. Write them all down... he could show it to Gibbs in the morning. Gibbs could tick them all off and then... probably add fifty or so more.
What are you thinking Anthony? Do you really want Gibbs to make you feel even more pathetic, inadequate and guilty than you already do now? Strike that idea out of your head right now.
If he did write a list of all his failings; all his weaknesses, well... they could hardly call him narcissistic could they. In that split second he'd decided.
With a renewed energy, Tony pushed away from the wall and headed for the kitchen, making a brief pit stop at the coffee table to swap his cell for his mug of stone cold tea as he went. He stabbed at the switch to the right of the door and the kitchen burst into view. Squinting at the burning intensity of the light, he flicked the kettle on and then flicked it off, the strained hissing sound it released indicating the vital missing ingredient usually required when boiling a kettle. He set the mug down on the counter and opted to fill the kettle first. Placing the kettle back on its stand he flicked the switch again. Better.
As he poured the cold tea down the sink and slowly washed out the mug he couldn't help but laugh. If he was going to list all his weaknesses, and be honest about it, it was going to be a long night. Maybe it was time to break out the coffee.
He reached for the tea bags.
A/N – With respect to the Pepper spray line - I have no idea what she used. It could have been hairspray, deodorant spray, toilet freshener. It's difficult to see on a 4x3 screen sometimes. Sorry... I went for generic.
The SA3s in this follow a short story and they are a bit long. SA3' seems to have gone a little more season 6 SA3' instead of season 2/3 SA3' – well he does in the later ones anyway. A couple of new characters join in later too.
McColleague watched SA3466996 out of the corner of his eye... he was restless, he'd been on edge all day and he was driving McColleague mad. The boss made a move, obviously in the direction of the head. As soon as he was gone McColleague felt a sharp sting on his left temple and saw the cause of it, a small paper ball land on the keyboard in front of him. McColleague sighed and picked up the offensive weapon.
"Hey, McColl", SA3466996 whispered.
"Why are you whispering SA3'?" McColleague replied. "He's not here, you know"
"I know". SA3466996 continued to whisper, "But...you know... very sensitive hearing... the boss"
"What do you want SA3'?" McColleague was getting impatient.
"Can I swap on call duty with you? I'll take your Saturday if you take tonight?"
McColleague pondered for a minute, gently tossing the paper ball from hand to hand. That wasn't a bad swap. Weekend for a weeknight... and it meant he could go and watch Ally and the nuns bowling on Saturday... maybe take her to that new bar afterwards. There had to be a catch.
"Why and who else is on call tonight?" he asked.
"An old boss and Zita", SA3466996 replied.
SA3466996 certainly sounded sincere and those pleading puppy dog eyes were in full force. "Sure, SA3'", he offered as SA3466996 quickly turned back to his monitor. "I'll do tonight for you", he said taking aim and then throwing the paper ball at SA3's head.
Zita, who had be observing the proceedings with interest, chuckled at the duel cries of "Ow!" as both McColleague's paper ball and the boss's hand hit their respective marks.
"McColleague, SA3'... work... or you'll both be on call tonight 'and' Saturday."
"Yes boss", McColleague and SA3' replied in stereo.