So, I joined a Last Fiction Writer Standing competition. Our first challenge was a Fornell one. Why I'm doing this, I don't know. But here's the fic, for better or worse.
Title: Cigarette Smoke
Character(s): FBI Agent Tobias Fornell
Word Count: 1,915
Leaning back in his recliner, a game on the television, a beer in his hand, Tobias was a happy camper. Nothing was missing in his life: he had a great job, a solid house, good friends, and, in a few days, a beautiful wife.
Yep, he couldn't think of anything else he wanted or needed. Well, maybe a child one day, but he'd like to be married a few years before that bun came out of the oven.
Sighing in contentment, he pushed back the chair, saying, "Tobias, you're doing good, ole man," giving himself a verbal pat on the back. As he took a long drink from his cold bottle, a pale corner on a nearby table caught his eye.
Letting his hand fall to his lap, not spilling his drink, he eyed the enveloped suspiciously. It had come a few days ago, NCIS to FBI mail. Couldn't really call it inter-office mail, since NCIS and FBI couldn't be more different. Inter-agency would be a better description. But it was what was inside the envelope disturbed him the most.
A warning. Some bastard at NCIS had sent him a letter, warning Tobias against marrying Diane. Said he was her ex-husband, knew all about having her for a wife. Humpf. Probably just wants her back. Thinks if I call off the wedding, she'll go running back to him. Ha! Fat chance!
He was lucky to have convinced Diane to marry him. There was no way some cowboy over at NCIS, who had the balls to only sign his name 'Gibbs,' would get him to ruin a good thing.
Downing the last of his beer, he tossed it into a trash can at the end of the coffee table, signaling an end to that. He'd get rid of the letter. Toss it or shove it in a box. But the wedding was on, all twenty feet of flowing fabric apparently. Who needs that many flower girls anyhow?
Grown men didn't pout. FBI agents sure as hell didn't pout. But if grown, male FBI agents didn't pout, Agent Tobias Fornell was certainly doing a pretty good imitation of one.
He was sitting in his gray apartment, with its gray walls and gray carpeting, and his dingy, graying chair. Even the blasted smoke from his cigarette was making the air gray around him.
Taking a deep drag from his cigarette, Tobias put the smoking gun back into the ashtray, though at that point he didn't care if he burnt the whole place down around his ears. Blowing out the smoke, adding to the grayness surrounding him, he picked up his glass of Scotch and took a long drink from its cool depths; the only sound in the room was the ice, cold and hollow, the only color the amber swirling around the frozen water.
His gaze hardening at the letter clenched in his other hand, he felt his teeth clamp down together. A warning? "Ha!" he laughed out loud, bitterness coating the sound. "Should have damn well gone into some more detail about how the psychotic the witch got, you bastard!"
The letter, a yellowing paper with a faded signature, still bore the warning a 'Special Agent Gibbs' had given him before his marriage to Diane years earlier. Tobias didn't know why he had kept it, didn't know why he didn't throw the blasted thing away. But he held onto it. And now it was probably the only thing he got to take with him from his house…his home. A crappy letter and a broken marriage.
He wondered if he'd ever meet the bastard, the one who put the doubts in the back of his mind before the marriage had even had the chance to get off the ground. And if he ever did, Tobias didn't know if he'd shake the man's hand or take a swing at him.
The hardest part was leaving his little girl behind. His heart still ached for that. Marriages broke up; it was the way of society. And while his pride may have been mauled by Diane, his heart had been broken when he had to leave his child, his Emily, behind.
And now he sat, in his gray apartment with his pride and his graying letter.
Too many cigarettes, too many Scotches drunk alone in the dark, too many long nights had turned Fornell into an unfeeling bastard. At least, that's what he'd been told. Granted, the bitterness of life's disappointments hadn't really helped in that department either.
People in higher positions than he had seen his failed marriage to Diane as a sign of weakness in the up and coming FBI Agent. So, instead of flying up the ranks of the Bureau through his hard work, Fornell had seen other, weaker coworkers promoted above him. But finally, finally he was starting to get somewhere.
For the past few years now, he'd been heading up his own team of agents and support personnel. Though that should have happened years ago, he grumbled to himself. But his advancement came at a heavy sacrifice for the isolated agent.
More times than he wanted to count – or admit to, in any case – Fornell had had to make the choice between his daughter and his job. With his job being the only consistent force in his life, the only thing that guaranteed his baby the life she deserved, he'd chosen that route, often having to call his ex to cancel his weekend plans with their child as a case had run too long, or a lead was just too hot. And his beautiful little girl, his Emily, the only light in his gray life, was made to suffer, to grow up with an absentee father.
And damn if Diane didn't LOVE it when it I had to call, gloating and bragging about how SHE always puts our daughter first. Let's see her actually GET a job and have to make sacrifices…instead of living in the house I bought and off the alimony check I send. The bitterness would swallow him whole, one day if he wasn't careful. Who was he kidding? It'd already had.
And now, here he was, on some tarmac, in some Godforsaken town in Kansas, waiting on a medical examiner that was taking his sweet, blasted time. Instead of seeing his little girl for their weekend together, one of the few times he actually did get with her, he was out in the cold, with a dead body on Air Force One, getting pissed as the minutes ticked by.
Storming up the movable stairs, he had decided to try intimidating the County Coroner one more time. Though Fornell had to admit that he was secretly impressed with the way the man didn't budge. Most people would have let him have his way by now.
Truthfully and even more secretly, he also had to admit that the Secret Service agent, Caitlin Todd, had impressed him too. In his experience, some woman in her position tended to bow down to a higher authority. But as he tried to browbeat the Coroner, all Agent Todd did was spout of smart-ass comments from her chair. Yep, he could appreciate that.
Hearing a Scottish accent coming from behind him, Fornell sighed. Finally, we can get this moving. Maybe I can have at least one day with Emily. We could go to the park or something…
But then another voice grated along his nerves. "All these LEOs are contaminating the potential crime scene."
Gritting his teeth together, Fornell stood his ground. He wasn't leaving the crime scene. Not with a possible murder that came too close to the President. Not for some backwoods, medical examiner's assistant. When that same backwoods assistant asked them what had happened, Fornell took a good, hard look at him. Something wasn't right with him. Nothing about this man said 'assistant.' Everything about him screamed that he was used to having his orders followed.
His eyes narrowed as he studied the man, trying to figure out what was going on. But when the medical examiner released the body, Fornell didn't care. He wanted this case wrapped up and on his director's desk. He wanted to spend time with his daughter. Calling out to Kate, he headed back down to the tarmac, wanting to leave the Kansas dust as soon as possible.
As he filled out the forms to release the body, the Coroner standing over him like he'd never filled out forms like these before, Fornell noticed a suspicious absence. Looking around, he couldn't find Agent Todd. The nagging sensation that something wasn't right returned full force, and he headed towards the plane.
Just as he reached the top of the stairs, he called for Agent Todd. Instead of the female Secret Service agent, the second assistant to the medical examiner – what M.E. has two assistants?– started to close the door, giving him a lame excuse of "Oh gosh, I'm sorry. We, uh, overbooked the flight."
Impotently, he could only stand there and watch as the former Air Force One pulled away as he yelled after it. "What the hell are you doing? What's going on? Stop!"
Walking into an apartment that had only improved over the years thanks to the colorful light that was his daughter, Fornell threw his briefcase onto the couch and headed for the kitchen. Color was finally an eye-catching addition in the otherwise dull apartment. His little girl was always bringing over drawings, paintings, flowers, toys, anything she could find to make daddy's place special.
Though the stream of items was never ending, Fornell couldn't bear to get rid of anything, no matter how trivial or repetitive. Instead, he was constantly transferring older items into storage bins in a spare room. It helped to have the colors, the memories around when his loneliness got the better of him.
Tossing back two-fingers of Scotch, he threw a meal into the microwave and headed towards the living room. Pouring another tall Scotch, neat, Fornell finally opened up his briefcase, fishing out the final report from NCIS.
The report was just a detailed outline of what had ended being an embarrassment to the FBI. Throughout the case, it almost seemed like he had no clue what was going on. Every time he thought he'd strong-armed the agents from NCIS into a secondary position, every time Fornell believed himself to be in charge, that bastard at NCIS forced his hand and shoved him aside.
Bodies switched without his knowledge. Evidence discovered by a team other than his. Even in the end, he'd been kept out of the loop. He hadn't even been on the damn plane when the terrorist had tried to kill the President.
Sipping on his drink, content for the moment not to knock back another one, Fornell's eyes drifted to the signature at the bottom of the report.
"Son of a bitch," he growled, sitting up in quickly from his relaxed position. The signature was only too familiar, had only been burned into his brain.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
The man who had been showing him up during the entire case was the same man who had sent him a warning about Diane all those years ago. He'd never learned the other man's name, had never even thought if it as mattering. But now…
Bet that bastard even knew who I was. Throwing his glass across the room, he could only yell, "Damnit!" as the thing broke into a thousand pieces.