Title: Dreamer (Working title, subject to change...)

Disclaimer/Challenge Info: Possible entry for the NFA Movie Madness Challenge Response (if I can get it completed in time...) The plot for this story is based on the movie "American Dreamer" by Ann Biderman (story) and David Greenwalt (writer).

Genre(s): Humor. Movie Parody. Friendship. Alt Universe

Rating: FR13

Pairings: Not really. Tim/Tony/Abby friendship (a bit flirty at times, but no real pairing...)

AU-ness...most of the characters are as expected, but Tony never became a cop/NCIS agent but instead got married and put his Phys Ed degree to use. As a result he's not the same Tony we know and love (or loathe as the case may be). Otherwise, the "cast" is pretty much where they were at the very end of Season 5 and the beginning of Season 6.

Spoilers: Seasons 1-6. Things from season 6 are really non-specific and/or completely skewed—mostly I've just used character names because I needed a few names to populate the Mossad a little bit.

There are acceptable losses, Agent Tommy silently mulled over the callous comment FBI Agent Slacks had made that morning as they'd sifted through the burnt out remains of Tommy's apartment building. His home and his belongings, he now realized, were indeed acceptable losses when compared to some alternatives. At least he'd escaped with his life.

The same, he feared, might not be said of Agent Lisa.

Agent Tommy struggled in vain against the restraints binding him to the gurney. He should still be in there! Maybe there was still a chance to find her. To save her. He hadn't found her body. Maybe she hadn't been home. Maybe she got out before the bomb went off. Maybe…

"Found a body!" he heard a grim voice call out as the paramedics loaded him into the waiting ambulance.

He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut as tight as he could. It wasn't enough to stop the lone tear from escaping, clearing a path down his soot-streaked cheek. For a few moments he stopped fighting the burning and dizzying affects of the smoke he'd inhaled during his frantic search. Perhaps it wouldn't be the worst thing if his previously damaged lungs couldn't deal with this new trauma. There were acceptable losses. But this…this was not one of them.

"Hang in there, Buddy," he heard a distant voice. "Gonna put this mask on you. It'll help you breathe, but you're going to have to fight."

He didn't want to fight. What was there left for him to fight for? He had no family and the number of people he considered true friends could be counted on one hand. His record with women had lead only to heartache and grief as he'd lost first Kristin, then Patty, and now, just when he'd started to think they might have a future...

He felt himself starting to drift, felt himself nearing oblivion and he welcomed it.

"You will not die," he heard the familiar voice of L.J. Tibbs sounding as though it was coming from miles away. "You hear me? You. Will not. Die."

In that instant, he knew it was true. His mentor had never once lied to him, and he knew that the man wasn't about to start now.

"On it, Boss," he rasped, struggling to force his eyes open again. Despite the pain and the sorrow that ravaged his body, he knew it was the right decision. The only decision. Lisa wouldn't want him to give up. She'd want him to fight.

She'd want him to get her revenge.

The End.

Anthony DiNozzo let out the breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding as he watched Ellen, his wife of nearly ten years, finish reading the final page of his story.

"So…what'd you think?" he asked, eager for her opinion. He'd spent every available moment over the past two weeks working hard on the story and he felt that it had turned out far better than he expected. He'd completely nailed Thom E. Gemcity's characters, and once he'd gotten the idea, the story had practically written itself.

He'd been unusually drawn to Gemcity's books ever since he'd stumbled onto a copy of Deep Six a couple years back. It had been so compelling; between the exquisitely flawed but likable characters and the absorbing mystery that always kept him guessing, he'd read the entire book in one sitting. It had been a long wait until the bookstores opened that next morning so that he could go out and procure the rest of the series. He'd never really been much of a reader, but Gemcity's books were almost like a drug to him. He just couldn't get enough of them. They made him feel somehow…more alive than he'd felt in years.

"It's…nice, honey," Ellen finally gave her verdict, though it would have been impossible for Tony to miss the disinterest, or if he were honest with himself the actual distaste, in her tone. Nor was it impossible for her to miss how his face fell, the light going out of his eyes. "Oh, sweetie," she sighed patronizingly as she reached out and gave his shoulder a single pat. "I'm sorry, it's just…"

"What's wrong with it?" he asked, wanting to know what it was he needed to fix.

"I'm sure it is good, but…"

He wasn't sure he wanted to hear her response, but prompted her anyway. "But…?"

"I just don't understand why you'd waste your time on this stuff."

He brightened a little bit. Maybe it wasn't his story that had her bothered. Maybe it was the amount of time he'd spent on it when she didn't realize that there actually was a payoff. "It's for a contest," he blurted out, reaching for his copy of the latest Gemcity book so he could show her the notice. "You're supposed to write a story based on the series," he explained quickly. She only stared at him blankly. "The winner gets $10,000--" He grinned as she perked up a little at the mention of money. "--And a trip to DC to meet Thom Gemcity and take a tour of the Navy yards and meet some of the agents that inspired the--"

"Uch. Why would anyone want to do that?" Ellen cut him off dismissively. She sighed again as his jaw clenched shut. "It'd be boring, Tony. Seriously. Everything they talked about would probably go completely over your head anyway." He blinked, hurt by her assumption. "Oh come on, Tone. You're not like them. You're not some sort of…Secret Agent."

"They're not secret agents, they're Special A--"

"Does it matter? Come on, honey. And what would you have to talk about with that author guy. Says here," she pointed to the mini-bio on the back of the book, "that this guy graduated from MIT and Johns Hopkins. You're nowhere near his league. You're not a writer. You're not even an English teacher; you're a gym teacher for God's sake."

And there it was. The biggest sore spot in their marriage. He'd become a teacher for her when she'd told him that she wouldn't date a cop. Despite his degree in Phys Ed, he'd chosen to follow his childhood fantasy of becoming a police officer. He'd gotten through the academy and had graduated top of his class. But when she'd told him she couldn't marry a cop and live in fear each and every time he left home, he'd given it all up for her.

And she'd never respected him for it.

"Well, it's a free vacation, anyway," Tony made another desperate attempt to sell her on the idea. "A week in DC. We could visit the Capital, do all those fun touristy things…" He was fighting a losing battle and they both knew it.

"When is it?" she asked, taking pity on him.

"The deadline's this Friday and the winner should be announced in a few weeks. The trip is in July, so school will be out."

She actually did look a little bit sorry when she shook her head. "I just don't think I can get away for that long. We just landed the Dempsey account and if I ask for vacation now Lymon will give it to D'Arcy. I can't risk that when there's no chance that you could actually win this thing!"

Tony blinked, feeling as though he'd just been slapped. It wasn't that he didn't already know that his chances were slim, but he hadn't been prepared to hear it. After holding onto it for just a few more moments, he felt the fight go out of him. "You're right. It was…just a stupid idea," he reluctantly conceded.

"It's not that it's bad writing, but it's not what you're good at! Besides, you killed off one of the main characters! That's not exactly going to win this guy over, you know."

"She isn't dead," Tony mumbled, knowing it wasn't important anyway. Ellen was right, the way he left the story it did appear that way. Still, it wasn't like Gemcity didn't leave cliffhangers similar to that one all the time. "They just think she is; the body isn't Lisa's…"

Ellen let out a small huff of pity, halting his explanation. "Aw, sweetie…" She smiled and gave his shoulder another pat. His heart sank further as he watched her flip through the pages in her hand one more time before she unceremoniously deposited them into the garbage can next to his desk. "I'm sorry, honey. If you really want to go to DC, we can save up and go for a few days next year or something."

That just wouldn't be the same as winning a trip, he figured. And he wouldn't get to observe a real investigation or meet his favorite author…

He waited until she left the room before he pulled the pages back out of the garbage, smoothing the creases out of the pages as best he could before tucking them all into a manila envelope. As he filled out the contest entry form, he used the contact information for his office at the school instead of his home address. He knew Ellen wouldn't be happy if she knew what he was doing, but he decided it was worth it to at least try. He wouldn't win. Deep down, he knew that. But he'd regret it if he didn't at least try.

After quickly copying the contest address onto the envelope and applying the stamps he tucked the envelope into his shirt so that he could sneak it out. Ellen would only remind him that he was wasting stamps if she realized what he was up to.

He pulled the envelope out a few minutes later as he arrived at the corner mailbox. He hesitated, though, having second thoughts. Ellen was right. He wasn't going to win anyway. He was just…making a fool out of himself. What was he thinking? He wasn't a writer. He was just a small town gym teacher. Stuck in a life that was going nowhere, he added with a sigh.

What the hell had happened to him? He used to do exciting things like mountain climbing. He used to be so…confident and fun.

Ellen was what happened, he admitted to himself. He'd given up so much of himself to please her. The worst part was, he wasn't sure it made a bit of difference. They were just so different. He wasn't ready to give up just yet, but…neither of them had been happy for a long time. Still, they could make it work. They just needed to do something together. Something fun. Something to remind them of how they used to be when they first fell in love. Something like taking a vacation. Ultimately, though meeting Gemcity and getting to observe an actual investigation would be fascinating for him that was why he really wanted to enter this contest. A chance to save his marriage.

Here goes nothing, he thought as he opened the mailbox and dropped the envelope inside.