Set just after 'Cloak' but also a sort-of follow-on from my other story, 'Quiet Anger' which some people wanted to see continued.
Tony's had enough and has decided there are no more options left open to him.
I am fully aware that Tony is a highly flawed character, but this story will primarily be from his point of view and will therefore, naturally, focus on his feelings. This is angst, and Tony's musings on his team are being drawn out in a moment of great anger and frustration, at a specific moment in time. This is not going to be an 'I-Hate-Everyone-No-One-Understands-Me' story - as the story develops and his anger calms down, so too, will his real feelings.
Tony had been having a bad week…no…scratch that, a really bad couple of years! But apparently, this was the week to finally push him over the edge of the cliff he had delicately been balancing on for what felt like decades. Before this week, the team had been working almost non-stop cases for just shy of a month – none of them had been straightforward and all had required plenty of legwork and even more paperwork. It had been a truly exhausting period.
When the back-to-back cases had finally died down, they weren't given a few days to catch up on lost sleep or to relax, even for a measly twenty-four hours. No, Vance, the Toothpick Nazi, wanted them to catch up on paperwork and wrap up a few cold-cases while they were at it. Even his 'work harder, not smarter' approach had proved ineffective against the wall of bureaucratic bullshit that Vance had thrown their way.
As the Senior Field Agent, naturally he had more paperwork to do than Ziva and McGee (Gibbs's apparent allergy to anything even remotely technological meant that Tony had extra duties there, too!) but that had not stopped the smug little remarks being tossed his way when they rather predictably managed to finish before him.
Oh, how he wanted to hit something! The Ninja and the Probie had gone home over an hour ago and Gibbs was…Tony looked quickly around the bullpen…Gibbs was not here – probably out getting coffee or working up some other super-secret scheme with the Toothpick-man upstairs that he would not be made privy to, despite being the one to face the full force of the consequences.
He got up slowly, trying to ignore the bruises – the whole exercise might have been thought up without the intention of any violence being carried out, but reality was a tough mistress. He slung his jacket on the back of his chair and headed to the gym – he really needed to hit something!
After a quick change into a ratty old OSU t-shirt and some sweats from his locker he headed over to the punch-bag and, without even hesitating to warm up, pummelled it with all his might, bruises temporarily forgotten as he worked out his anger. He was glad for the late hour and relative quiet in the gym – his uninterrupted and unself-conscious unloading helped to work some of the tension out of his body. Unfortunately, his mind was still stuck in high gear.
Everything was a mess, and had been for a while – since Jenny died, since Jeanne and the whole La Grenouille fiasco, hell…since Gibbs ran away to Mexico. And Vance (the punch-bag received its strongest blow yet), stupid, arrogant, smug arsehole of a toothpick-chewing fuckwit – I hope you swallow that damn toothpick and choke to death, Tony thought darkly.
His punches increased in intensity as he allowed himself to dwell on the bitterness and the anger that was overriding all sense of rational thought. The effort was so great that his air-hungry lungs were beginning to burn with sheer physical exhaustion, silently begging for a reprieve.
He thought about Vance – thump – who had never once tried to hide his complete and utter disdain for Tony – thwack.
He thought about Ziva – thump – who had seemingly lost some part of herself when she was forced to return to Tel Aviv – thump – and who he could not help but look at differently despite desperately wanting to get back to the status quo in their partnership – thwack – stupid conflicting emotions!
McGee – thump – thump – the Probie was all grown up and finally in possession of a fully formed backbone and a newly developed, overly confident demeanour that could lead to all sorts of tragedy out in the field if he didn't rein it in. He was, under the tutelage and praise of the Director, fast on his way to becoming a mini-Vance – thwack – smug, condescending and arrogant. These days the ripostes were never said in jest, always containing an undercurrent of superiority and an element of cruelty – 'temporary team leader' – THWACK!
Lee, his Probie, the one he had helped train up from the beginning – thump – how could he not have seen it? How could he not have known? He had liked her – sure, he had found her overly timid and far from being the most effective field agent, but she was great with the paper-trails and she had always had a good heart. Poor, heartbroken Jimmy – thump.
Gibbs – thump – thump – thwack – Tony even kicked the bag for good measure. Vance, he could understand – Vance had always hated him, had always, right from day one, made it clear just how little he thought of Tony's contributions to NCIS. But for Gibbs to lie to him like that, for Gibbs to betray him like that – thwack – that was unforgiveable!
First he ran away to Mexico – thump – betraying all that he had once stood for, and leaving Tony high and dry with a team that apparently didn't trust him to lead them in any direction but Hell, and certainly hadn't trusted him – thump.
Gibbs comes back with no thanks and no apologies – thwack – he didn't even have the decency to talk to Tony before dumping all of his belongings back on his desk in a very public display of contempt for his Senior Field Agent – thwack.
He threw himself headlong into the Maddie Tyler case with no regard whatsoever for his so-called team – thump – and certainly not for Tony's plague-riddled lungs.
This fake little set-up of his was just the final nail to Tony's coffin – a coffin that contained his faith in Gibbs as well as all respect for the man – a coffin that contained irrefutable proof of just how little Gibbs valued him as a team-member – a coffin that contained his confidence in the benefits of a team – a coffin that contained his trust in NCIS – a coffin that contained his belief that his life was worth more than being some expendable commodity – a coffin that would eventually contain his body if he didn't do something.
"Ow…goddammit!" he nestled his right hand to his left shoulder briefly, breathing through the pain. Once his breathing had evened out slightly he spared a glance at the self-inflicted damage. His favoured right hand had taken most of the damage – he couldn't even remember when the skin had broken and the blood had started to slowly seep through the cracks. Where the skin was still intact, it was rubbed raw around the knuckles, red and angry and inflamed. His left hand was not bleeding, having been spared the more forceful punches, but it was also red and angry and likely to bruise.
On the positive side, the bruises Tony had earned at the military facility were no longer at the forefront of his mind. Even his concussion had melted to a somewhat bearable level, and when he caught some slight movement in his peripheral vision, turning to investigate did not unleash a barrage of crippling pains.
Gibbs was standing in the shadows by the exit – Tony would not be able to leave without passing him. His boss's eyes held some emotion that Tony could not, and probably would not want to be able to read. He contemplated carrying on with the punch-bag so he could both prove a point and avoid Gibbs's probing gaze, but his hands were screaming for a rest and his burning lungs were equally in need of respite.
Gibbs looked at his Senior Field Agent and saw that the man had reached his limits – his t-shirt was drenched with sweat and his unprotected hands were suffering the effects of his quick, harsh workout. No doubt DiNozzo would head out for the night with the aim of losing himself in a different girl at a different bar – he would be back to normal before the next working day started.
He didn't regret keeping Tony in the dark about the DOMINO play. He wanted…no…he needed to find out the truth about Langer – the man had been a member of his team and therefore it was up to Gibbs to clear his name and find justice for the dead man. He did what needed to be done.
He had seen the younger man's anger bubbling away and he knew that, despite the shouting and the heated words, DiNozzo's anger hadn't really erupted. A lot of what was bothering DiNozzo was, as usual, kept firmly beneath the surface.
Tony studied Gibbs studying him, but saw nothing in the man's expression that Tony wanted to see – no remorse and no apologies – typical Gibbs. He supposed the fact that his boss came looking for him said something, but he'd be damned if he figure out what that was, and to be honest he just couldn't find it within himself to care.
He'd been used and abused by two NCIS directors, he'd been royally screwed over, numerous times, by his boss, and treated with casual indifference or outright disdain by his team-members more often than he cared to count.
Eight years…eight! And where had that gotten him? What had that gotten him? Plague-ridden lungs, a concussion every other week and greater trust issues than when he started, and that was saying something!
He looked at his boss, trying to find some semblance of the man he once knew, of the agent he used to want to be, of the leader he had willingly followed to DC from Baltimore – but in that moment he saw nothing, no sign that Gibbs even felt he needed to redeem himself in Tony's eyes. The younger man shook his head in disgust – that man's pride knew no limits.
He walked passed Gibbs, ignoring the raised eyebrow and the small quirk on his lips, he ignored the older man's footsteps that dogged his every move towards the changing room, he particularly ignored the man's quietly amused 'never too old to sulk, eh, DiNozzo?' Ha! Like he was one to talk – Mr I-Didn't-Get-My-Own-Way-My-Pride-Has-Been-Hurt-So-Now-I'm-Going-To-Run-Away-To-Mexico Gibbs!
He moved to go around his boss, desperate to escape the inevitable confrontation while his temper was still boiling beneath the surface – he was in no mood to play nice and cater to the other man's ego. Apparently, Gibbs wasn't satisfied with the silent treatment from the usually verbose man, and reached out, grabbed Tony's arm and forcefully turned his agent towards him in an effort to get the angry young man to say something.
Tony was furious. He had worked with Gibbs for eight years and the guy grabs him when he's that worked up? Does the man not know anything about me? Tony thought mutinously. He wrenched his arm free from Gibbs's vice-like grip, threw his best lethal glare at the older man and headed for the bullpen, ignoring Gibb's sharp 'DiNozzo' as he went.
Tony had had enough. Maybe it was the anger at the God-awful day he'd been forced to endure by his manipulative boss, maybe it was the concussion, maybe it was simply everything all crashing together, but he had had more than enough!
Gibbs could not believe that Tony was acting like such a child – he was the boss and therefore he would decide what his team were and were not made aware of, it was as simple as that! He briefly wondered whether or not he had done the right thing in bringing Tony back from being Agent Afloat, but quickly stomped that thought down, knowing it was one conjured by his anger and did not reflect his true feelings on the matter.
He by-passed the elevator and took to the stairs after his wayward agent, desperate to make sure he didn't miss him. Gibbs was relieved to see Tony at his desk when he finally made it into the bullpen – the young man was sitting down at his desk, rifling through the mounds of paperwork awaiting his attention. Perhaps if DiNozzo was going to spend the night at work, Gibbs could give him a couple of hours to calm down before talking to him.
However, unknown to Gibbs, Tony was only sifting through his desk in an effort to find his keys. He was going home, but before he did that, he needed to give something to Gibbs. He went into the bottom drawer of his desk and removed the box of medals – underneath sat two narrow, white envelopes with 'Special Agent Gibbs' on one and 'Director Shepherd' on the other.
Ok, so he'd need a new envelope but in all fairness they had been written a while ago. He quickly fished out another envelope and simply put 'Vance' on the front – he could not bear the thought of putting in 'Director' front of that name! He had the same letters on his computer and sent both of them via e-mail, too.
He looked at Gibbs – the man seemed to be settling in for a long night and was currently attending to his own paperwork, avidly pretending he did not need glasses. With him temporarily distracted, Tony went up the stairs to Vance's office and slid the envelope under the locked door. Returning to his desk, he picked up the other envelope and headed over to his boss's desk. Gibbs was openly watching him with both curiosity and confusion, which only deepened when he was handed an envelope.
"This is my resignation from NCIS. You have two weeks to find another Senior Field Agent, because after that, I'm gone," Tony informed the shocked man with little to no emotion before returning to his desk and gathering his things together.
"I won't accept it!" came Gibbs's steely response.
"Drop the bullshit, Gibbs," Tony retorted, not even trying to feign any politeness or patience for the Senior Agent. "It's not your call!" Tony spat out, his words full of bitterness even as he saw Gibbs wince at the direction the conversation was taking. "The Director makes any final decisions regarding my contract, not you, and I think we both know what the Toothpick will say, don't we!"
He turned towards the elevator once again, determined to leave before his anger drew him into any other impetuous decisions, like punching a highly trained Marine Scout Sniper. He saw Gibbs move to follow him. "It's been a hell of a week and I feel like crap, so no late night visits, ok?" With that, he headed out, his anger still bubbling away and feeding into his decision to leave.
Gibbs was shocked into total stillness. Tony couldn't quit – he wouldn't, would he? He looked at the seemingly innocuous envelope still clasped firmly within his grip, his mind refusing to comprehend just what it was he was actually holding. He slipped it, unopened, into his desk drawer, turned off his computer, grabbed his jacket and headed for the lift. He had two weeks to talk his agent out of his God-awful decision, starting tonight.
Let me know what you think or if you have spotted any mistakes – thanks!