OK, this is the last one in what didn't actually start out to be a series anyway! Many thanks to AZAMIKO for the suggestion.
And When He Got There…
Tony dropped Bob off at the Army and Navy Club, where he would be staying until the trial was over.
"Good luck, Commander. You nail the bad guys, OK?"
Bob Broadfield gave his usual unrestrained chuckle. "Sure will, Tony. Hey… can a guy buy you a drink, say thanks for the long-distance taxi?"
Tony almost said yes; he just knew an evening spent in the company of the quirky Lieutenant Commander would be entertaining.
"I'm tempted, Bob. But I – "
"I know, son. It's been a long day, and you're hurting."
"Damn. Is it that obvious?"
"Tony, it'd be strange if you weren't. Why does it matter if it's obvious?"
Tony thought of going into detail about his team, but it was too long a story, and he didn't want to grumble to a man whose sore eyes meant he had enough to complain about himself. "I don't like fuss," he explained.
"Not even from that beautiful girlfriend of yours?"
No, especially not from her. Not when he didn't deserve it. Not when it would be Professor DiNardo who was being fussed, by a wonderful girl who didn't know Tony DiNozzo existed. Enough. He suddenly found himself fighting an overwhelming urge to pour his heart out to his unexpected friend, but squashed it down under a tired smile. "She's at a conference," he said, which was true.
"Ah… hot bath and a good night's sleep, then. Off you go, son."
Tony watched the likeable little sailor walk away, and sat for a sad moment thinking of the last time he was here, before putting the Mustang into gear.
Hot water and plenty of it. A long, hot soak tonight, and a scalding shower in the morning should do the trick. There was no way he could reduce the bruising he was sure was there, but hey, no-one was going to see it. He'd think of something to tell Jeanne later. So all he had to do was not appear stiff or sore, and nobody would be any the wiser. Tony made a few predictions to himself, as to what the others would say if they knew about his latest little adventure.
Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo bounced out of the elevator at six forty-five, striding across to the bull-pen with a bright "Good Morning" to anyone around to listen, which there wasn't. He'd intended to be the first of his team to arrive, and was pleased when he didn't see any of his colleagues cars as he parked his. The Princess didn't have power steering; he knew some Mustangs of that age did, but the absence of it hadn't seemed to matter when he bought her. It was only now, as he sat waiting for the ache to leave his shoulders, that he wished, just a little… no, it was like cheating on her just to think it.
Ziva was next to arrive, around seven fifteen, and Tony hid a smile as she did a double-take. Any other time he might have considered teasing; telling her that her Mossad poker face was slipping, but today he wanted to stay under her radar. The truth was, his right shoulder was still troubling him a little, in spite of his best efforts, and the last word he wanted to hear was "Ducky". He was pretty certain it was just bruising; but even a hairline fracture would have kept him at his desk for a week or more – stuff that!
He hoped no-one would remark on the fact that he was wearing his shoulder holster; it was easier to draw his gun from than the usual clip on, as reaching across his body hurt less than reaching back and down to his right side. Never mind, he had a DiNozzo answer ready – it fitted the cut of his jacket better. (He'd stood in the elevator practicing his draw and knew it was fine; thank heavens the oft threatened cameras had never been installed.)
He gave Ziva a polite, cheerful greeting; she looked at him suspiciously as she returned it, but she saw nothing untoward, because Tony didn't let her.
McGee didn't seem to think anything at all about who was there ahead of him, he just sat down with a smile at his colleagues and powered up his computer. He did glance across at Gibbs' desk; it was unusual for all three of them to arrive before the boss, but he'd seen the team leader's car as he'd parked, so he must be around somewhere.
Tony closed his eyes slowly, then just as slowly opened them again. The bark from up on the mezzanine outside MTAC told him that all his careful planning had been in vain. He braced himself. Prediction one; Gibbs' reaction: a head slap, rolling of eyes in exasperation, the word "idiot", pronounced "DiNozzo", thrown his way.
"You want to explain to me why some New Jersey police department or other wants to talk to you? And why they can't find a Lieutenant Commander Broadhurst?"
"Well, they can't have listened to him properly, since the name is Broadfield, boss. He's the guy I brought back from Trenton last night for Agent Balboa. The witness in his fraud trial. I should think he gave them his phone number – and told them where he was staying."
"And where's that?"
"The Army and Navy Club." Tony decided to go on talking; distraction was always worth a try; maybe Gibbs would forget his original question. "Real swish place, Boss… I mean, we only saw the golf course before, but when I dropped him off there last night I took a closer look, and –" Yes, there was the head slap. Oh, and there was the rolling of eyes. "Boss, I don't know why they can't find him. Unless he's already left for the courthouse. I'll call them if they left a number."
Gibbs took a deep breath, as he tossed a memo note with something scribbled on it down on Tony's desk. "You do that. But first you might tell me why a call for you comes through to NCIS, goes through to the Director's secretary, who then calls me, instead of simply calling you in the first place? And what do they want?"
"Ah. Well, I only gave them the NCIS number, although I've no idea why it went to Cynthia. I didn't want them ringing my cell phone. They've got my statement; I didn't really want them ringing me at all."
"DiNozzo," It was hissed through Gibbs' teeth, as if he didn't want to say it aloud, but simply couldn't resist. There we go, Tony thought. Prediction one, right on all three counts. He snatched up his desk phone, and dialled before Gibbs could stop him. The boss muttered a prayer for patience, and stood listening to one side of the conversation.
"Yes, this is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, you wanted to speak to me? Well, that's because it's Broadfield. No, you won't find him at home, if you recall we were travelling on the southbound carriageway… he's in DC. Well he may not have his cell phone with him, or it could be switched off, you have to do that in a courthouse…" He was enjoying this far too much, and there came an explosion of impatience from Gibbs. A hand was stuck in front of his face, the boss just about restraining himself from snatching the handset, and Tony handed it over meekly. The game was up. Maybe they wouldn't mention the physical stuff….
"This is Supervisory Special Agent Gibbs. You want to tell me what the hell's going on?"
Gibbs listened for some time, only saying one thing. "Baseball bats." He glared at Tony, who spread his hands apologetically. When he put the phone down, the glare softened, but only slightly. "They read me your statement, which didn't mention you being attacked wit a baseball bat, and then the Lieutenant Commander's, which did" He looked his SFA over critically.
"Did you hit your head?"
"Look, Boss, I'm fine. They were punks. It – "
"Tony," Gibbs said with weary patience – where had that come from? – "They're going to fax the statements over, so I'll find out." Gently, "Now, where were you hit?"
What do you know? Poppa Bear Gibbs. "Shoulders. Back." He should have known he could never out-do Gibbs in the monosyllabic department.
It wasn't enough that he was sitting, shirtless, on the edge of one of Ducky's tables, but knowing that his colleagues were all standing behind him seeing what he couldn't see, and passing comment, that was too much.
"Wow, Tony, your back looks like a map of North and South America!" McGee told him enthusiastically. Tony pulled a sour face, knowing that Tim couldn't see it anyway. Prediction two: Ducky would be mildly disapproving, and tell a story to illustrate his displeasure.
Ziva disagreed. "No, McGee, that bit is Spain, and underneath is India…" Tony put his elbows on his knees, and rested his chin on his hands. He hadn't been surprised when his two team-mates had risen and followed him and Gibbs to the lift, clamouring for the boss to tell them the story. He had simply grunted something about reading the fax.
Ducky was tutting under his breath. "Really, Anthony, am I such an ogre that you wouldn't come to me straight away?"
"No, Ducky, but – "
"I recall a young man in Glasgow who didn't tell his girlfriend that he'd bruised his back – she put her arms round him and he yelled out in pain. It frightened the poor girl so much she fled out of the door and he never saw her again…."
Prediction two right on, Tony thought guiltily. "Please tell me it is just bruising, Ducky," he sighed, only really wanting to process that bit of the story.
"Oh, I think so, dear boy," the ME said, going over to the light box, where Jimmy was putting up the X-rays they'd taken earlier. "Hmm, yes… no fractures that I can see, but some fairly deep bruising to the right shoulder. I'll give you some – " he stopped as he turned back to look at Tony. "You didn't mention that," he said reproachfully, looking at the large bruise in the dead centre of Tony's chest.
The agent glanced down, only really noticing it for the first time. "Oh… he said vaguely. "It doesn't hurt." Nevertheless it set up another five minutes of prodding and testing from Ducky, who finally pronounced himself satisfied, and told him he could pt his shirt back on. "Take him away, Jethro. And try to persuade him to accept help occasionally."
Struth, at last, Tony thought. And no desk duty. "I'm sorry, Ducky," he said quietly, and waited for the "Never apologise" speech from Gibbs, which never came. The boss did, however, jerk his head at Tim and Ziva, who nodded and headed back to work.
"Ducky's right, Tony."
"I know, Boss."
"You need to get it through your head that you matter. If desk duty –"
"How did you know I was thinking about – "
"It's what you always think. If that was what you'd needed, that's what you'd have to have accepted." Whack, but gentle, "Don't try to fool me!"
"No, Boss." Tony turned away a little as they waited for the lift, to hide a small smile. Prediction one: dead right, and also dead wrong. But he'd never let Gibbs see how much he loved the Poppa Bear treatment.
Prediction three was another thing altogether, and only a matter of time.
"Hell, no, I just came to see how the kid's doing…." a familiar voice was saying as Gibbs and Tony stepped out of the elevator up from autopsy.
"Hey Bob!" Tony called delightedly. "I thought the trial started today."
"Well, son, they're doing opening submissions," he made quote marks with his fingers, "So I'm not needed yet. I just came to see that there were no lasting effects."
"That's kind, Bob, but I'm fine. Boss –" Tony performed the introductions, aware that Bob Broadfield was eyeing Ziva appreciatively, but getting the same reaction from Tim and the Mossad officer as he'd originally had himself, and he internally blushed with shame. Never judge a book by its cover, Anthony.
"Special Agent Gibbs – " Bob shook Jethro's hand – "You've got a fine boy here." Gibbs just smiled. He didn't dare agree aloud, as Tony was already grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Bob looked round. "D'you know what he did?"
Tim brandished the faxed statements. "Sure do, Commander." He sighed inwardly; he didn't grudge Tony the recognition for what he'd done, but he feared that the Senior Field Agent was going to be insufferable for the rest of the day. McGee's train of thought was interrupted by a goth missile.
Brace yourself, DiNozzo, here comes prediction three.
He winced at the hug, but it wasn't too painful, all things considered, and Abby hugs were to be treasured, not rejected.
"Gibbs, why didn't you tell me Tony was hurt? Jimmy said that Ducky had been taking X-rays, and that's not good, is it? He took on three robbers, Gibbs! Shouldn't he be resting? Should he be sitting down? Tony, you should be sitting down, Gibbs, tell him!"
Bob Broadfield was watching her, mesmerised, as most people were when they first met Abby. Tony introduced them, and observed with affection how utterly unselfconscious they both were at the fact that Abby towered over the Navy man. She smiled down at him with the instant acceptance that she did so brilliantly, and he looked up at her with eyes twinkling. Bless you, Abs, special girl, you never would judge a book by its cover. Which reminded him, sadly, of prediction four.
After a short time, the Lieutenant Commander said well, he could see they had work to do, and took his leave. Abby returned to worrying about Tony.
"Are you sure you're all right? You took on three crooks!"
Tim spoke before he could think to hold the words back.
"Actually, Abby," he said, waving the faxed statements, "Tony only got two of them."
Oh, yeah, prediction four. McGee and Ziva will laugh that I needed help. Tony held his peace.
Ziva said, "So, Tony, you needed the help of that little jackie of a man to get the third man."
"I think you mean jockey, Ziva, and no, I didn't need his help to get the third guy." He paused, then said proudly, "He got him all by himself."