Title: Convincing the World He Didn't Exist

Fandom: NCIS Author: cheekymice

Rating: R for language and content

Beta: willwork4dean. Thanks for whipping this into shape doll!

Genre: Angst (what else!)

Disclaimer: I don't own anything relating to the TV show NCIS sadly. 

Story: Dark fic. Tony DiNozzo shows only what he wants people to see....

Notes: Dedicated to Iantalia as it was her rather fabulous story 'There Loomed an Ogre' that inspired me to actually write in a new fandom. My first NCIS fiction.... so please be gentle! *is nervous as a virgin*

Convincing the World He Didn't Exist

Tony threw his backpack against the wall as he yanked at his tie, pulling it down until it hung in an open noose around his neck. His fingers then quickly worked the top buttons loose on his shirt.

He leant his head back against the closed door of his apartment and took several deep inhalations that made his lungs burn and his head swim. He breathed in the faint scent of leather, pizza and cologne his place always seemed to exude. He hoped that the usually comforting smells would finally chase away the still-lingering stench of the bloated Gunny they'd pulled from under an outcrop in the Shenandoah National Park early that morning.

It didn't.

The greasy, cloying smell of death seemed to hang around him in a fog, clinging to his skin, hair and clothes even though he'd showered at the office. He idly thought it was about time someone invented soap that could effectively take away the scent of corpse. Whoever did would make a killing (no pun intended) from the various law enforcement agencies, but until that happened he guessed he was stuck with it.

He took several more breaths, this time to try and calm his empty stomach as an image of the coyote-ravaged Gunny charged back into his consciousness.

Tony knew what was coming before it happened. It always did when he greedily filled his lungs like he'd just done, but it still took him by surprise. His body suddenly spasmed, and he found himself having to brace his hands against his knees as he coughed and coughed. He cursed out loud to himself as he tried to stem the barks that echoed around the silent room.

The deep tickle in his chest thankfully stopped as quickly as it had started, and he slowly straightened up and banged his chest with his fist to loosen the phlegm that always gathered following a heavy coughing bout. Ever since the whole Y-Pestis thing he'd had to concede his lungs weren't what they used to be. Not that he'd ever actually admit that fact to anyone. Didn't need to. He passed his medical each year, and his fitness levels were still better than was strictly needed to pass muster to be a field agent… but he noticed. Cold mornings always made him hack up a lung on waking, and if he pushed himself too far when jogging the ache in his chest went far beyond the usual burn of a good workout.

He'd so far managed to keep from his colleagues just how much his lungs still bothered him, although he'd almost been caught out several times. The last notable occasion had involved a broken elevator at a crime scene and twelve flights of stairs. Ziva and McGee had laughed as he'd puffed up to the top floor, citing his appalling diet and unhealthy lifestyle as the cause. He'd laughed along and pouted that there was nothing wrong with his diet of pizza and movies when all the time he'd been trying not to pass out as his lungs fought to inflate and black spots swam in front of his eyes.

They were easy to fool. His boss — not so much. Gibbs had stared at him hard when he'd finally reached the top, coffee in his hand and ice-blue eyes boring holes into his face. But Tony had managed to cleanly deflect any questions by making a wholly inappropriate comment about the body hanging from the stairwell, thus earning a pissed look and a harder-than-normal head slap.

He'd long ago learnt that bad behavior was a perfect tool to hide his insecurities. If anyone got too close, too personal, then irritate the hell out of them and they soon lost any impetus to dig further. It had worked as a kid and was still working now. Better people think you an affable fool than show them what a major fuck-up you were. It had been his personal coping mechanism for a long time, thanks to mommy and daddy dearest. He never measured up to their high expectations. His mom wanted a miniature mannequin she could dress up and show off to her society friends, and heaven forbid he get dirty or want a hug. Maybe it was best that she'd died when she had because he was not sure he could have coped with the wearing of sailor suits and Little Lord Fauntleroy shit into his teens. And the less said about his over-ambitious, dominating father, the better.

Tony walked into the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of Jack that sat on the side. He picked up a glass from the drainer and poured himself a measure. He swallowed it down quickly, liking the burn in his throat and sting in his nose as the fumes rose. At least the acrid tang of alcohol chased away the corpse stink. Maybe that was why so many cops had a drinking problem? They were just trying to wash away the stench of the job. Tony took the bottle and glass and slumped down on the couch.

He leant forward and took off his gun, laying it carefully on the table in front of him.

He poured another tumbler and sipped, not taking his eyes off the weapon.

It had been a bad day, a bad week. Hell, who was he kidding? It had been a bad fucking year. He was wound so tight these days his skin felt like it was splitting.

A bit like the fly-blown cadaver they'd found today.

Tony eventually pulled his eyes away from his Sig, mentally shaking himself and focused instead on the amber liquid in his glass. The evenings where the first thing he did was pour a drink were becoming increasingly frequent. He knew that wasn't a good thing, but the numbness it brought was just too damn tempting and he needed something at the end of the day.

Anything to ease the looming explosion he could always feel just building under the surface. That's why he always dated women a lot younger than himself. He knew that Ziva and McGee thought it was purely a shallow thing. Kate had certainly thought he had less depth than a puddle and only went for 'eye candy' girls because it fit his frat boy image but that wasn't the case.

It really wasn't.

You didn't need to wine and dine the girls he dated. There was no real expectation, certainly no biological clocks ticking. They liked the look of you, you liked the look of them, and bam, you had sex. Generally all they wanted was fun and the kudos of dating a federal agent. Tony knew that if he showed up late at night at the door of pretty much any of the girls in his little black book, they wouldn't question why, they wouldn't try to analyze his mood or want to know how his day had been, and that's how he wanted it. That's how he needed it to be. Sometimes they had barely opened the door before he was pushing them back against a wall and unzipping, so great was his need for release. Of course they took it as a compliment, thought it was because they were so irresistible to him. They assumed that he'd been thinking about them all day and that was the cause of his hurried advances. Little did they know his urgent need for release wasn't exactly sexual but born from needing to discharge all the pent-up emotions that threatened to tear him in two.

They didn't care what caused the raw animal show of his libido. They were just happy to be on the receiving end of it. And if they did begin to wonder or question his motives, he had usually moved on to the next girl.

Allowing people to get close was not an option anymore. He'd been there, tried that, and it hadn't ended well.

He still couldn't think about Jeanne without feeling numb and empty. He'd been stupid, so fucking stupid, but he had loved her. He really had allowed himself to think that there was a life beyond his usual lonely existence. But who was he kidding? She hadn't fallen in love with him at all. She didn't know the real him.

She'd loved Tony DiNardo the college professor, not Tony DiNozzo the lying bastard federal agent sleeping with her to get info on her father. Her trying to frame him for murder just proved that the relationship had at best been a house of cards ready to tumble down as soon as she found out he had been working undercover, but for a time it had felt so real, so right.

Then there had been Paula. That had been a love/hate relationship if ever there was, but he had genuinely cared for her. Saw so much of himself in her eyes. That's probably why it hadn't worked out — they were too much alike. But he had seen their relationship as something that would always be there. They'd drift back together when needed, fight and make up throughout their lives, and probably have ended up living in a condo together getting on each other's nerves and having affairs just to spite each other.

Of course, that was before he'd watched her get blown to smithereens by a fanatic's bomb. He was no stranger to a grisly crime scene as a serving homicide cop in Philly, Baltimore, and Peoria (and NCIS had certainly thrown out some shit that would make your eyes bleed), but seeing a woman he'd laughed with, held as she cried, made love to, reduced to what looked like several half-cooked joints of pot roast had been something he never, ever wanted to witness again.

He had almost lost it that day. She'd died to save others, to save him and Gibbs, and he'd wanted to scream, shout, and punch something, anything — a wall, a face, it didn't matter he just wanted to feel pain, punch until his hands bled and yell until his voice grew horse because it hadn't been fair.

He hadn't done any of those things.

Control was the only thing he had, the only thing stopping the crazy getting out, and if there was one thing he was good at it was controlling his emotions around others. So he'd just calmly processed the crime scene and ignored the worried looks the team had given him. Of course, he'd had Jeanne back then, not that he could have talked to her about how he'd felt. College professors who spent their time lecturing students on French film noir and Ingmar Bergman films did not have colleagues who juggled with Islamic extremist's bombs.

And the sad thing was getting blown up wasn't a rare occurrence anymore in his job. It was an occupational hazard now, and just one of many. He'd lost count of how many times he'd been caught in a bomb blast. He'd been shot, stabbed, drugged, tied up, tortured, almost had his throat cut by a serial killer he thought was his friend. Hell, he'd even been infected with the freaking pneumonic plague and the thing was… he didn't care anymore.

He just didn't care.

And not caring was a bad thing in his job.


He knew the signs even if he couldn't do anything about them. He'd witnessed cops going down the same path too many times not to know them. But reaching out to anyone meant you were weak, and if there was one thing his boss hated, it was that. The tough ex-Marine wouldn't pander to his emotional state — hell, Tony would be off his team quicker than you could say psych evaluation.

He drained his glass and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm.

Forrest Gump was a stinking fucking liar…Life was a big ol' crock of shit, and no one could convince him otherwise.

He had to fight the urge to throw the glass in his hand against the nearest wall. He'd been doing that a lot recently too — it kind of went hand in hand with the drinking and self-pity parties — but he stopped himself, mainly because he was running out of glassware but also it meant he'd have to haul his ass off the couch to get another glass, and drinking from the bottle just smacked of desperation. He choked out a laugh. Like routinely smashing glasses against the wall wasn't warning enough. He'd already crossed that particular line.

He checked his watch. He had to be up in five hours and wasn't remotely tired, but if he didn't go to bed anytime soon he'd sit on his ass all night drinking himself to oblivion, and he couldn't afford that. Gibbs was like a bloodhound and would smell the booze in a nanosecond, no matter how much gum he chewed.

He leaned forward and picked up his gun. Feeling the comfortable weight of it in his hand.

It would be so easy.

So very easy.

He bit his lip and with his free hand he poured just enough Jack to cover the bottom of the glass. He drained it quickly, his hand shaking.

With one last look at the gun in his hand he stood and walked over to the table over by his front door. He laid his gun down, ready for when he left for work in the morning.

He'd go to work and smile like everything was fine.

He'd ball up paper and throw it at McGee and see how many times he could call him 'Probie' in a day.

He'd flirt outrageously with Ziva until she threatened to maim him.

He'd piss Gibbs off by playing Tetris while he should be working.

And he'd go and accept a hug from Abby because that's what she did.

He wondered if Gibbs, Abby, Ziva, Ducky, or McGee would ever have guessed that the fun-loving, immature goofball that was Tony DiNozzo went home each night and contemplated eating his gun.

His boss in Baltimore had said it was always the ones you least expected — but there was a reason Tony was a great undercover agent.

He never let people see the real him.

Kevin Spacey said it best in The Usual Suspects.

"The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

That was his favorite movie quote.

He liked to work on the same premise.