The Price

Disclaimer: Alas, they're not mine.

Spoilers: Yes. S5 Internal Affairs and odd moments of S4.

A/N:A short tag for S5 Internal Affairs, Gibbs provides support for Tony after that heart breaking scene by the elevator.

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Gibbs opened the door to the interrogation observation room and hesitated when he saw his Senior Field Agent.

On the small TV screen, the recently taped discussion between Director Jenny Sheperd and Jeanne Benoit played; the accusation and pain in Jeanne's voice, sharply contrasting with the low almost conversational tone used by Jenny.

The younger man stood bent over, his hands balled into fists on the desk, his head hanging despondently, unable or unwilling to watch the woman he had loved accuse him so vehemently.

Stepping inside, the Lead Agent closed the door softly and stood with his back against the wall.

"Thought I might find you here," Gibbs voice broke through Tony's reverie and he turned his head to see the older agent standing patiently waiting.

Gibbs noted the lack of colour in Tony's face, troubled green eyes standing out starkly against his pallor as he absorbed the blow that Jeanne's word's had inflicted on his soul.

"I really screwed this up, Boss," he said, the words wrung from him in a whisper. "She must really hate me."

Gibbs expelled a slow breath and pushing off the wall, came to stand by the younger man's side.

"She needed someone to blame," Gibbs offered.

Tony gave a short derisive bark of laughter. "Well, I certainly deserved it. I mean, I used her, lied to her, made promises that I knew I couldn't keep."

"Was it all lies, Tony?" the older agent asked, already knowing the answer.

"At first? Yeah, I did what I had to do, said what I had to say to get close, to establish my cover," Tony gave a self-deprecating grimace and continued, his voice laced with anger and defiance.

"I was a good little agent and I did my job. Hell, I was so eager to show the Director that I could handle it that I pulled out all the stops. But then…"

"Things changed," Gibbs supplied, more a statement than a question.

"Yeah, things changed," Tony admitted, raising a hand and pinching the bridge of his nose. "I screwed up, Boss. I broke the cardinal rule of undercover work and fell in love with my primary target."

Unable to listen to the hurting in Jeanne's voice any longer, he turned around and flicked the stop button on the recorder and the screen went blank.

"Trouble is…I knew I was losing control. Could feel myself getting in over my head and I knew that Jeanne felt the same way," he exhaled and shoving his hands deep inside his pockets rested his butt against the edge of the desk. "Why didn't I stop?"

"You were following orders," Gibbs reminded.

"I should have told the Director to shove it, to get her information about La Grenouille some other way but by then, I don't know. I suppose I thought that maybe, I could find a way to make it work. I wanted to make it work."

He listened in silence as the younger man vented his pain, trying to make sense of the whole tragic mess and Gibbs' anger toward his former partner mounted far beyond what he'd felt when he'd first learned of the undercover assignment and how Tony's life had been threatened, exposed.

Jenny had a lot to answer for. Her inaction when she realised that Tony was in over his head was unforgivable. She'd allowed her own fixation with the arms dealer to devastate two young lives - and for what?

"Jeanne didn't deserve this, Boss," angry now Tony straightened up and his voice shook with resentment. "She was an innocent bystander, used like a pawn in the Director's mad obsession with René Benoit!"

"You were both collateral damage," Gibbs agreed.

Tony was silent as he digested his Boss' succinct words and how, to Jenny, hurting Jeanne and Tony had paled in significance to exacting the revenge on La Grenouille she craved.

"She told me that….she told me that she wishes we'd never met," Tony confided tightly, the thinning of his lips an indication that her words had dealt a heavy blow.

Raising both hands, Tony dragged his fingers roughly through his hair as though he could erase the memories that continued to haunt him.

"I don't know. Maybe she's right. Maybe it would have been better if we'd never met, never got involved in the first place."

"You really believe that, Tony?" Gibbs asked, staring intently at the junior agent.

"How do you do it, Boss?" Tony asked suddenly. "How do you lose what you had and still manage to get out of bed each day?"

Gibbs took a deep breath and sighed deeply and for a moment, Tony thought he'd crossed the line but the older agent thought for a minute before replying.

"You and Jeanne, you had some good times, Tony?" he asked.

Tony thought back to the laughter, the candlelit dinners and rock climbing, the movie nights and all those nights where they had just stayed in and held each other close. He remembered the warm glow he'd felt inside that someone as wonderful as Jeanne had loved him, that he, if only for a short time, had been the centre of someone's universe and allowed a small smile to cross his face.

"Oh yeah, there were some good times, Boss."

Raising a callused hand, Gibbs placed it on Tony's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

"You hang onto the good times, Tony. Remember them often. Cause sometimes…the pain is the price you have to pay."

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A/N: Hope you liked it and thanks for reading! Thanks to LB & GB for the inspiration.