Follow up to Body Language. Angsty at first, ends on a lighter note.
Still don't own NCIS, and nobody's sent me an AC Cobra.
DRIVING TO TRENTON
Princeton University imposed a low speed limit on campus roads; so Tony was able to look in his mirror several times before Josh disappeared from sight. He saw him looking at the card he'd given him, and he saw Anne-Marie approaching, and he thought that the young man would be OK.
He hoped Josh didn't notice just how hastily he'd left. The lad was very quick on the uptake, and while he'd been gulping and filling up, did he spot that Tony was too?
"You're a good man, Tony DiNozzo."
You're a good kid, Josh. Gibbs thought I shouldn't call you that, but compared to me… (sigh) You don't know me. You think you do, because somehow, mercifully, I knew what to say when your dad died. You think I'm a good guy, when all I did was bother a bit. You don't see that you're the sort of guy people would want to make an effort for. Anyone with an ounce of brain could spot the potential.
I bet Anne-Marie spotted it the day you met. Some time I might get a chance to tell you how much I liked her. You'll say Special Agent Dolly Levi or something, and tell me I make a lousy matchmaker. You'll ask how I could tell so much from meeting her for about five minutes, and I'll tell you I don't know. But hey, I knew you were the best first time I met you, so why shouldn't I recognise the same thing in your girl? I mean, I looked in my rear view mirror and there she was. Ready to support you. Ready to take away your pain. She'll always have your six. Listen, I'll even come to your wedding, how's that? If you're not still together in twenty years time I'll be surprised.
He sighed again. Thinking of the knife-edge he was living on right now he wondered if he'd be around in twenty years, or even one year, to see the nice kid he'd liked so much fulfilling that potential. So why had he taken such care with Josh? His face twisted, he knew the answer and it hurt. It was better to care for someone who'd just lost a loved father, than to be jealous because he'd never had such a thing. He trod savagely on the gas pedal, and the Mustang, unoffended, surged happily forward. Tony recalled the speed limit, and guiltily slowed again. The Mustang complained with a throaty velvet growl.
"You're a tosser, DiNozzo, even your caring for other people has a down side."
"You're a good man, Tony DiNozzo."
"You don't know me, Josh. You don't know the things I've done for my job, you don't know the things I'm doing."
Jeanne... lovely, vibrant Doctor Benoit who thought she was dating a professor. Who thought she'd met the man of her dreams.
"You don't know about the beautiful doctor I'm playing like a fish – sleeping with, for freaks sake, because I've been told to…"
He left the campus and turned onto the main road, and began to push his beloved car up to speed. His thoughts returned to Jeanne and he sighed again. Why had he got so prickly at the thought that she wanted a raincheck? Why was he bothered at the thought that she had another man somewhere? Wouldn't that help when he came to the point that he had to extricate himself from the situation? Why did it matter? Why did he care?
He didn't want to go there, and he deliberately thought of another woman instead. He'd had no intention of upsetting Josh by telling him the details of his early morning. He'd phoned first out of courtesy, and Mrs. Cooper met him at her door. She was dressed in a cheerful pink and turquoise print shirt, and white trousers. Her hair was well styled, and she wore make up, and she gave him a welcoming smile. He recognised instantly the battle camouflage of a courageous woman, and he pretended not to see that she'd lost weight, and that her eyes were bleak. When he'd told her his news, he'd had to wrap his arms round her to prevent her collapse; he'd led her to the sofa and held her while she cried, until Nadia arrived. He'd assumed, accurately, that the formidable neighbour would see his car, and guess rightly.
Gillian Cooper had pulled herself together quickly. As they sat drinking coffee, and she wrote a hasty letter to her son, she paused and lifted her head. "I'm glad he's dead," she said softly. "He can't get anyone else, and he would have done." She took a deep breath. "From the day I first met Josh's father," she went on, "I'd been prepared for the day when a superior officer would come to my door…. I just thought if that happened I'd be told he'd died in action. I wasn't expecting it to be while I had him here, and home, and safe! If I had to lose him, why did it have to be to some twisted thing who robbed him of the chance to be a hero?"
"The Colonel did two tours in Iraq, ma'am," Tony told her softly. "That makes him a hero as far as I'm concerned."
When he'd left, she'd shaken his hand, stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "Thank you," she'd said. "You're a good friend."
"You're a good man, Tony DiNozzo."
Am I, Josh? I'm heading for hurting a good woman, and the truth is, I'm not even clear why any more.
It had seemed so plausible when it had begun. There was no Gibbs to lie to, he was answerable to no-one but Jenny, and befriending a beautiful girl seemed a great way to go about bringing down an arms dealer. But she was falling for him, the person who didn't exist, (or probably; Tony hadn't forgotten the mystery man,) and he was falling for her…. Oh, damn, there was no point in not wanting to go there, he was there already. He wished he'd said yes when Jenny had asked if there was a problem; but that was before he realised how driven she was, and when he still thought that his duty to bring a dangerous man down was more important than anything else. And now Gibbs was back, and Jenny knew the position she was putting Tony in, and how he hated it. So why didn't she allow the boss into her loop?
He knew why; if Gibbs knew, he'd be telling her to stop, that she was obsessed. And if he thought that was what Gibbs would think, then if he was honest, it was because it was what he thought himself.
That's the most convoluted thing I ever thought. Come on, DiNozzo, lighten up!
Tony let his thoughts drift for a while, watching the landscape go by, but after a while he found himself caught up in a kind of stream of consciousness, replaying snatches of memories of four women, in no particular order.
Pain… that's what links them… one who couldn't cause pain if she tried; one who's in pain, one who's going to be if I can't find a way to prevent it, and one who it seems doesn't care how much pain she causes, as long as she gets what she wants. I don't seem able to do anything about that either. Great. Some Special Agent.
He hunted for something to raise his spirits, as Trenton got nearer, and thought again of Dolly Levi – Streisand in her huge hat with the feathers. He mentally put the hat first on Abby's head, then Ziva's, trying to decide which woman looked more fetching in it. It balanced on Abby's pig-tails, but Ziva had such a small head it fell down and rested on her ears. Tony felt the black mood lift more when he put the hat on McGee, and then on Gibbs. Somehow Gibbs had a rapier as well and morphed into one of the Three Musketeers. This was better. He tried the hat on Jenny, but she was too busy staring at the screen in MTAC to notice. Damn – nice move, DiNozzo.
He'd come to the point where he needed to be using his SatNav, and was grateful for the distraction. A short while later, he drew up outside a rambling, one storey house in a suburban street. A man rose from his seat on the porch to greet him, and Tony stared. The Lieutenant Commander he'd come to escort was of below average height, had a small amount of wispy hair, and rather prominent ears. He was wearing something long, rumpled, and of an indeterminate colour; it could have been a gardening smock. The poor guy's eyes were so swollen that they appeared to be heavily hooded.
As Tony climbed out of his car, he 'accidentally' dropped his keys, and took his time picking them up, to hide a completely silly grin until he could get rid of it.
Well I'll be… they've sent me to escort YODA!