Author note: I don't own anything pertaining to NCIS... not even a snazzarific hat. This is my first attempt at fanfiction of any kind so go easy. ...Or don't. I've made a habit of learning from my mistakes.
"Please," Tony pleaded. "Please, just tell me your name."
The girl looked at him with wounded eyes. God, he thought, I've never seen anyone with eyes filled with pain like that unless they were physically hurt or bleeding.
"It doesn't matter anymore," she finally said.
Tony was actually grateful when she cast her eyes downward: He was relieved to not have to see her pain. Stop, he thought. I have to help her.
"Why do you say that?" he asked, making his voice as gentle as possible.
He was surprised when she laughed scornfully. The sound was harsh, totally at odds with her appearance. She was probably about 17 years old, physically small with dark brown hair and soft blue-gray eyes. Her eyes weren't red; she hadn't been crying. He wished she would just start bawling. He could handle crying. What he couldn't handle was her stoic, deadly calm demeanor. He recognized it for what it was: She had given up.
She said, "Don't act like you care. You don't know me. You're just doing your job right now." She paused, cocking her head to the side thoughtfully. Then she continued without letting him speak. "You're right. You will need my name."
He didn't like her tone and knew what she was going to say before she said it.
"You'll need it for your report when I'm dead."
She backed closer to the waist-high barrier surrounding the rooftop, and his heart sank.
"Please," he cried, real panic entering his voice. "Don't."
He heaved a sigh of relief when she stopped, leaning casually against the concrete, like someone waiting for a bus.
She laughed again, the sound still harsh.
"Is it a long report?" she asked conversationally. "How long do you think it'll take? All night? You don't look like the paperwork type. That must suck. Actually, would it be better if I just jump now? Maybe you'd get home at a decent hour then."
She watched him through long lashes half-closed over her pretty eyes. Her despair lessened during her little speech. It seemed to Tony more like rage building, and he was glad. Anything was better than the deadness that had been in her voice earlier.
He took a deep breath, pissed at himself for what he was about to do. "You sound angry. Who are you mad at? Think you've got the market cornered on pain?"
He didn't give her a chance to answer, but he did notice her spine stiffening at his change in tone. "You know where I was before we got a call that a girl was about to jump off this building? I was investigating a murder—of a Navy petty officer. She wasn't much older than you. I had to tell her parents that their daughter, who had chosen to serve her country, had been raped and murdered and left to rot in an abandoned warehouse.
"What the hell is he doing?" McGee asked.
"Being smart," Gibbs replied. "She's suicidal. Feeling empty and dead. He's pissing her off to get some sort of reaction from her. Anything is better than her feeling nothing."
McGee sighed, wondering why he hadn't thought of that and, more importantly, if he would have thought of that had it been him on the rooftop. For the first time, he was glad it was Tony over there and not him.
He hadn't questioned Gibbs out loud when the lead agent ordered Tony to the rooftop to talk to the girl and McGee and Ziva to join him on an adjacent rooftop. They had surveillance gear and could see and hear Tony and the girl as well as if they were merely feet away. McGee could understand why Gibbs and Ziva would be better off not interacting with a suicidal teen, but he felt that he would be better than Tony at talking her down. McGee at least had a sister. But now, considering Tony's strategy, he marveled at Gibbs' ability to hand out assignments so well.
"So what do we do, Boss?" McGee asked, focusing binoculars on the girl.
"Wait. Give Tony a chance to talk to her. Fire and rescue is setting up an airbag below."
Ziva spoke for the first time since arriving on the rooftop. She was mad that she wasn't the one on the rooftop with the girl, and she was wondering for the thousandth time why everyone thought her so cold and emotionless. True, she was Mossad, but she had changed somewhat, adapting to her surroundings. And damnit, she was trying, fighting her training.
"Like it'll do any good," she scoffed. "That's a ten-story drop. She goes over the edge and she's dead."
Gibbs put down his binoculars and looked at Ziva. "Right. But we need to trust Tony to do his job."
"If she went up there to jump, she'll jump. No matter what he says," Ziva said in her usual matter-of-fact tone.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes, his only outward sign of his inner turmoil. Ziva was right. He shouldn't have sent Tony up there on what was most likely an impossible mission. He should have gone himself, but he hadn't wanted to, in all honesty. After he lost Shannon and Kelly, he'd had his own thoughts of suicide and didn't think himself the best person to talk someone down. He'd picked Tony because of the younger agent's vitality. The world could be going to hell around Tony and he'd make a joke.
Gibbs only hoped he had picked correctly this time.
The girl didn't verbally respond to Tony's words, but her posture changed. The anger left her completely and she visibly deflated.
Tony cringed inwardly. No, he thought, I screwed up.
He maintained his outward calmness as his panic ratcheted up a notch when the girl ventured her first look over the edge. He watched her as he stood about ten yards away, reading her reaction to seeing just how far down the street below was.
No. No, no, no.
There was nothing in her face—no emotion, no panic, not even sadness anymore. She looked like Abby looked when she was doing a calculation.
"That'll do it," he said, his voice soft again. "If you jump, you're dead."
"I know," she said. "I took physics. I understand gravity."
He almost laughed, but the deadness in her voice turned his insides to jelly. He wondered what had happened to her to lead to this moment. He panicked again when he realized he had nothing to work with. He didn't even know her name. He tried to think, to clear away the panic and focus. He had to find some sort of common ground. He mentally ran through the minefield that his childhood had been, but he couldn't settle on any one experience. He had no idea what this child had been through and he didn't want to risk picking something that would set her off.
She looked up at him quickly. He knew the anger in her eyes was suddenly directed at him, and it pierced him to his core.
"You said 'we' earlier," she said, her eyes full of recrimination. " 'When we got this call.' There's more of you. They put that silly, useless airbag down there. They're watching?"
He recognized the question in her tone, and thought quickly about how to answer. "Yes," he admitted. "My team is on that rooftop watching."
"Listening?" she asked, emotionless.
"Your team," she said, pensive. "Must be nice."
Tony cheered inwardly. Finally. Something to work with.
"You feel alone," he said and was surprised when she nodded. Her head stayed down as he continued. "You don't have to feel that way. Not forever. I know it's hard right now, but I believe that you can get through this. Whatever it is."
"You don't know anything about me," she practically spat. "You have no idea how hard it is right now."
He ignored her mocking tone and said gently, "You're right. I don't know. Talk to me. Tell me what's going on and I'll do everything in my power to make it right."
She looked up at that.
He flinched at the pain her eyes.
"There's nothing you can do to make it right," she whispered. "Nothing will ever be right again."
He waited, silently willing her to talk. He knew it was touch-and-go and didn't want to break the spell by opening his big mouth and saying the wrong thing.
She heaved a sigh that seemed too big for her small size. "She's dead."
"Who?" he asked, his voice low, not wanting to break her out of her reverie. "A friend?"
"My mother," she said, tears slipping down her face.
The words hit him hard even though he knew they were coming. Here we go, he thought, flooded by memories of his own mother. He saw her as he usually did, the visions progressing from a smiling woman doting on her little boy to his final sight of her, her limp body hanging by the neck from a rafter in the family's barn. To this day, the sweet scent of hay made him puke every time.
"How did she die?" he asked, forcing the words past the lump in his throat.
She didn't answer. She only narrowed her eyes at him, looking at him as though seeing him for the first time. The September sun beat down on his black suit jacket.
"Aren't you hot?"
He smiled for the first time since opening the door to the rooftop. "Yeah."
"You have a nice smile," she said, quietly and wistfully, it seemed. "Why haven't you taken your jacket off? You must be roasting."
"I didn't want to scare you with the movement," he said.
"Liar," she said simply, without malice. "You didn't want me to see your gun."
"You are a very smart girl."
He slid the jacket off, slipping the holster off his hip with it, smoothly depositing the gun out of sight under the heavy black material. He watched her watch him as he unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled the sleeves halfway up his forearms.
"I hate this," Ziva said, her voice showing her anger.
McGee looked at her, watched her pace. Her frustration was eclipsed only by Gibbs'. The boss hadn't said a word since his earlier exchange with Ziva, but McGee could read his mood.
"Me, too," McGee said. "But there's nothing for us to do but watch and wait."
"Like hell," Gibbs said and stormed off toward the door.
McGee and Ziva exchanged a look, silently agreeing to stay put. Neither had any idea what Gibbs was thinking, but they knew better than to ask or to leave their post.
Ziva sighed and picked up her binoculars, watching Tony roll his sleeves.
Gibbs waded through the crowd of gawkers, using his elbow with more force than necessary on the curious. He scanned the sea of people and found the face he was looking for.
"You," he said, inches from the man's face. "You're in charge."
The man looked at the agent in front of him and nodded even though he knew it wasn't a question.
"I'm Shane Malone, captain with DC Metro." He didn't bother extending a hand.
"Gibbs. NCIS. I need a sniper."
"She died when I was four," the girl began. "I barely knew her, but I knew I was safe with her."
Tony watched the girl remember happier times. He didn't speak, giving her a chance to let it out. Finally, he thought, she's going to talk.
"Then she was gone," the girl's face lost all traces of the faint smile. "She went to heaven and I went to hell."
"A sniper? Are you nuts?" Malone looked at Gibbs with wide eyes.
"Do you have one or not?" Gibbs asked evenly. "Do you have a rifle? I'm a pretty good shot myself."
Malone asked, "Who are you suggesting we shoot? Is she in danger? I thought that was your agent up there with her? Who the hell is he?"
Gibbs ignored the rapid-fire questions. "A rifle?"
Tony flinched again at the girl's tone. He had never seen anyone so young in pain like this. His heart leapt to his throat when the girl climbed up onto the concrete, balancing her tiny frame ten stories above cold pavement. He prayed she wasn't done talking.
"Please," he begged, not bothering to mask the panic in his voice. "Don't. Please. Just tell me your name. You don't have to tell me any more. Just … Please. Don't. Jump."
"If I'm not going to talk, what are we going to do? Stay here and stare at each other? It's over. It was over the day she died and left me with him."
She turned sideways on the barrier, not willing to turn her back to him. She knew what would happen if she did. Keeping him in her peripheral vision, she looked down. It was time.
"My mom killed herself and left me with a monster." Tony blurted the words out without even thinking, just trying to do something to maintain the tenuous, fragile bond he had been working so desperately to build. He spoke again, acutely aware that his whole team could hear him. "I found her after she hung herself. In our barn—my favorite place. She wanted me to find her."
The girl barely looked at him. She was still looking over the edge. Her words were flat, dull and utterly emotionless. "Stop. Don't open your old wounds for me. I'm not worth it and it's already over."
She swung her legs over the edge just as Tony charged at her, knowing she was already dead.
Gibbs watched the scene unfold a rooftop away through the borrowed sniper scope. He heard the long-buried pain in Tony's voice as he told the girl about his mother. Gibbs hadn't known she had killed herself. He knew she died when Tony was young and wondered just how powerful a family the DiNozzos were to have covered up that fact. The report said accidental death, Gibbs knew. A second thought hit him just as the girl swung her legs over the abyss: He was sorry he sent Tony up there and couldn't begin to imagine how hard this must be for his agent.
He erased the thoughts from his mind and fired the rifle, knowing even as he pulled the trigger that it was too late. The rubber bullet he had planned to take the girl down with would arrive too late.
The girl was dead.
McGee gasped as he watched the girl slide from her precarious perch and go over the edge. He was still reeling from Tony's heart-wrenching admission about his mother. He knew Ziva was just as stunned. Neither had heard anything from Tony about this before; the man had never even hinted at the horror he must have felt finding his mother dead by her own hand. Nothing in his happy-go-lucky demeanor ever spoke to the wounds he suffered. McGee thought back to every suicide they'd ever worked, but he couldn't find any sort of clue. It occurred to McGee that Tony must be a master of disguise and a damn good actor for them—especially Gibbs—to have not noticed what had to have been brutal experiences.
Ziva heard Tony's words and they confirmed what she had long suspected: Tony wore a mask, never revealing his true self that hid behind the frat-boy persona he so carefully constructed.
She saw the girl turn and slip over the edge. She was ashamed when she felt no emotion, even knowing the girl was dead.
Tony launched himself at the low retaining wall, gasping in pain as his hips slammed into the concrete. He flung his hands and upper body over the edge, thinking he was too late and already cursing himself for being too slow.
He gasped again, in surprise this time, when he felt fingers catch his left hand. He looked down at the girl dangling ten stories above a crowd of enraptured onlookers. He saw fear in her eyes and felt her fingers digging into his wrist.
She wanted to live.
He reached down with his right hand to get a better hold on the girl and barely registered the bullet whooshing over his shoulder. He gripped the girl's fragile wrists, wincing, knowing he was hurting her.
"Don't worry," he panted. "I've got you."
"You really do care," she said, sounding amazed.
He smiled fleetingly, his relief fading as he realized she was slipping from his grasp. He started to pull her up, only to feel her slip in their sweaty grasp.
"My name," she began, meeting his brilliant green eyes. He held her eyes as he struggled to hold on to her hands. Because he was looking directly into her eyes, he saw the exact moment she knew neither of them could hold on any longer. Her nails left a bloody trail down his wrist as she slipped from his grasp.
"… was Amie."
Tony watched the girl fall ten stories. He heard her terrified scream. He felt their combined sweat on his hands. He saw her body impact the pavement below. He heard the collective gasp of the crowd watching the drama play out.
He drew a shaky breath, unable to move, to think.
Gibbs, McGee and Ziva all converged on the rooftop at the same time. They opened the door to find Tony hadn't moved an inch. He was still leaning over the edge, staring down at the girl's lifeless body. Gibbs motioned his agents to stay put and slowly walked toward DiNozzo. He almost let McGee go to him. Gibbs had no idea what to say.
His voice was soft. "Tony?"
Tony straightened but didn't turn around. He didn't speak.
Gibbs moved closer and put a hand on Tony's shoulder. He could feel the tremors running through his agent's body. He watched Tony rest his hands on the ledge and saw the bloody streaks that ran from the middle of his forearm to the knuckles on his left hand.
Gibbs reached out to inspect the wounds, but Tony batted his hand away. "Don't."
"All right," Gibbs said, eyeing the wounds that oozed fresh blood.
Guess he'll have physical scars from this, too, Gibbs thought sadly.
Gibbs glanced down at the street below and saw medical personnel preparing to bag the girl's body.
"You don't need to watch that, Tony," Gibbs said, gently taking Tony by the upper arm and pulling him away from the wall.
Tony allowed himself to be led away. He didn't really want to watch, but he felt he owed the girl something.
"Amie," he whispered without realizing he had spoken. He looked down at his bleeding wrist, watching the blood drip from his fingertips and willing it to hurt. He couldn't feel anything. Neither could she, he thought. This was her life. This was it. Just numbness.
Tony's knees buckled and he landed hard in a kneeling position. He was vaguely aware of Gibbs yelling at someone to get Ducky, probably Ziva or McGee. They know now, said a voice in his head. They know everything. Well, not everything. At least he hadn't embarrassed himself by going into detail about his monster of a father. He was okay with them knowing how little the man cared about him, but he wasn't sure he could deal with their sympathy if they ever found out how badly he had been abused. If they found out about the beatings, the guilt laid at his feet over his mother's suicide…
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs practically shouted in his ear.
Tony looked up at his boss's face. "Yeah?"
"Ducky needs to look at your wrist," Gibbs said softly, feeling increasingly worried about his agent's mental status.
Tony hadn't noticed Ducky crossing the rooftop and kneeling beside him. He didn't even flinch when the medical examiner gingerly took hold of his injured hand.
"I know," Ducky said empathetically, wiping away the blood to reveal three long trails where the girl's nails had gouged his skin. "I know that hurts."
Ducky turned Tony's wrist over in his gentle hands, probing the fourth gouge, from the girl's thumbnail. It was the deepest cut and the most worrisome because it crossed the delicate veins just below the skin. "You're going to need a few stitches in this one. The others will just leave nasty marks."
Tony's face didn't register any reaction to the words. McGee and Ziva exchanged a look, expecting Tony to protest. They just stared when it never came. McGee was worried. He had never seen his friend like this and it scared him. Tony was the rock of the team. Nothing shook him—he could even stand in face of Gibbs' formidable rage and not blink.
Gibbs was equally worried. The agent's physical injury was superficial but the psychological damage was obviously extreme. Tony didn't just fall apart. He kept his head—always—and usually made a joke or two no matter what the circumstance.
Gibbs offered a hand to Tony, suddenly needing to get him off the roof. Maybe that would break the spell. "Come on, it's over. Let's go."
That finally brought Tony out of his trance. He stood, hands balling unconsciously into fists at his sides.
"Over? It's over?"
There was venom in his voice, and Gibbs backed away slightly from the agent's sudden rage. He held his hands up, showing he wasn't a threat.
"You're right," Tony spat out. " 'It' is over. 'It' being her life. She was what? Seventeen, eighteen? She should be picking a college right now, not having the splattered contents of her head picked off the ground by some stranger."
Tony had been slowly advancing on Gibbs as he spoke, and for the first time, Gibbs backed down. When he didn't respond, the fight seemed to go out of Tony all at once, and he brushed past Gibbs, not making eye contact with anyone as he stalked off the rooftop.
Gibbs watched him go, heard the heavy door slam behind him. Gibbs stood stone-still, completely at a loss for what to do. He suddenly wished he hadn't backed down from Tony's rage. It probably would have been better for him to push the agent, let him try to pummel the crap out of his superior. Perhaps it would have released some of his anger. Gibbs knew him well enough to know that Tony would turn that rage inward, holding it in until it festered into all-out self-loathing. That snapped him out of the spell and he barked to his team: "Go find him!"
McGee and Ziva scurried off the rooftop in time to hear the door at the bottom of the staircase slam shut.
Tony hung a right out of the building, fighting the urge to go to where Amie's body lay and touch her, offer her some sort of comfort. As if she weren't beyond comfort. But he knew he couldn't. The sight of her broken body lying in an ever-widening pool of blood had been seared onto his retinas. He barely saw the car in front of him because of the ghostly vision, but he got in, slammed it in gear and drove away, knowing exactly where he was heading without even considering the options.
McGee and Ziva ran out of the building just in time to see the government-issue sedan pull away. McGee instantly had his phone in his hand, dialing Tony's cell. A second later, they both saw the mobile phone sail out of the driver's side window and smash into a thousand pieces on the pavement.
McGee would have laughed at the sight had he not been so worried about his friend.
Ziva looked around, ready to steal a car to follow her partner. All she saw was Gibbs standing outside the building, eyes following the departing vehicle.
"Let him go," Gibbs said.
"But, boss," McGee protested, "he tossed his cell. We won't be able to track him now."
"We can track the car," Ziva said, her eyes lighting up as she pulled out her cell to call Abby.
"Put the phone away, Ziva," Gibbs said. "We're not tracking anyone. If he needs to be alone, then we'll leave him alone." A pause. "For a little while, at least."
"Best thing you can do for him right now," Ducky agreed as he walked up to the group.
"But what about his wrist?" McGee asked. "He left a trail of blood on the stair railing."
Ducky answered, putting a hand on McGee's shoulder to steady the wide-eyed agent. "The injury is not life-threatening, Timothy. Not as it is, anyway."
The doctor's quiet addendum drew the gazes of the team. No one seemed ready to put into words what the doctor may have meant.
Ziva finally spoke, her voice showing uncharacteristic uncertainty, "You don't think he would …"
She trailed off, unable to complete the question.
"No," Gibbs said with certainty. "He's hurting right now, but he wouldn't. He would never. He just needs some time alone to clear his head. I'm sure he'll be back at his desk tomorrow morning, just like he always is."
And if he's not, Gibbs thought, there's going to be hell to pay.